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Currently Browsing: contemporary romance
Apr
30

Listen Up! Audiobook Reviews: Kowalski Family Series 3-4

Listen Up! Audiobook Reviews: Kowalski Family Series 3-4 Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook reviews: Kowalski Family series Author: Shannon Stacey Narrator: Lauren Fortgang Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Kowalski Family #3 & #4 Genre: Contemporary Romance Source: purchased Yours to Keep (Book #3) Sean Kowalski is finally home from a 12-year stint in the Army, most currently serving overseas in Afghanistan. Not ready to go to the family lodge in Maine, Sean makes a stop over in New Hampshire to visit his aunt, uncle, and cousins. To his surprise, he finds out that Emma Shaw considers Sean her “fake” finance, telling Grandma Shaw in Florida that Sean is living with her and helping take care of her large New England home. Emma and best friend Lisa Kowalski made up her fake relationship to pacify Grandma Shaw’s concerns over leaving Emma alone when she moved to Florida. Now Grandma is coming to visit for a month and Emma wants Sean to move in with her and pretend to be the fiance Grandma believes he is. I cannot express how much I absolutely adored Yours to Keep and continue to enjoy the Kowalski family. I was a bit concerned that moving away from the original family after only two books would be too soon, but Ms. Stacey intergrates new-comer Sean perfectly into the Kowalski fold. Emma and Sean’s story is utterly adorible and simply lovely. While the fake-fiance trope could have been silly, instead, the story was full of humor and heart. At times I was laughing uncontrollably at the antics of trying to keep the various secrets straight and in place. The light-hearted humor and Kolwaski antics make this wonderful romance a perfect story. After getting over the initial shock of suddenly being with one another under false pretenses, Emma and Sean realize that they cannot hold back their mutual attraction. Of course, spending so much time together, coupled with indulging in some extracurricular benefits, the pair begin to fall in love, all the while ignoring and denying the obvious signs they are happy being a couple. The pace of their romance and the overall story is perfect, keeping my earbuds firmly planted in my ears. I fell in love with the couple as they fell in love with one another. The side plot involving Emma’s grandma, Kat, finding potential romance with old friend Russell is sweet and adds dimension to the overall story. The best side plot, however, is Aunt Mary and Kat coming together with their own, well-intentioned scheming. At more than...
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Apr
23

Listen Up! Audiobook Reviews: Kowalski Family Series 1-2

Listen Up! Audiobook Reviews: Kowalski Family Series 1-2 Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Kowalski Family 1 & 2 Author: Shannon Stacey Narrator: Lauren Fortgang Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Kowalski Family #1 & #2 Genre: Contemporary Romance Source: purchased Exclusively Yours (Book #1) I just adore Shannon Stacey’s voice and storytelling. After reading a couple of her stand alone novellas, I was excited to finally start the Kowalski Family series. I started listening to the first book, Exclusively Yours, and pretty much consumed it within 24 hours of starting. It was just that good and well-narrated. Keri Daniels and Joe Kowalski have a history. Once high school sweethearts and lovers, she broke his heart when she left their small New Hampshire town for the bright lights of California. After 18 years of living on the West Coast, she’s come home to see Joe with hopes of getting an exclusive interview with the now famous (and reclusive) author. Forced into the situation by her editor and her job on the line, Keri agrees to Joe’s requirements that she go on the two-week Kowalski Family camping trip in order to get the interview. Once on vacation, the pair’s passion reignites, confusing what should be a simple 2-week professional interview. Ms. Stacey writes feel-good, happy romances, and this book fits that bill perfectly. But don’t mistake feel-good for emotionally shallow because Exclusively Yours is anything but. Full of three-dimension characters who are gritty and real, the tale has both highs and lows, laughs and tears. While the story focuses on Joe and Keri’s personal journeys and eventual love affair, we are also treated to the marital and family drama of his three siblings. I appreciate and enjoy how real and touching each sibling’s story thus far and look forward to seeing where life takes them in the books ahead. Joe and Keri make for a special couple. While the word sweet comes to mind when describing their romance, so does sexy and passionate. Rekindling an 18-year old flame happens quickly and naturally, but there are bumps in the road. I fretted over what would happen and celebrated their successes as I listened. And mostly, I enjoyed the honest emotions and true character growth that infused the tale. The narration by Lauren Fortgang was superb! After listening to her as Gin in the darkly wonderful Elemental Assassin series, I wondered how it would translate to this light-hearted contemporary romance. I was pleased that from the moment I started listening, I...
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Apr
21

Review: The Wrong Billionaire’s Bed by Jessica Clare

Review: The Wrong Billionaire’s Bed by Jessica Clare The Wrong Billionaire’s Bed Author: Jessica Clare Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Shhh. The Billionaire Boys Club books are my secret crack. Once I get my hands on one, I can’t put it down! Jessica Clare has created a wonderful secret society of powerful men that have one element missing in their lives: a woman they feel completes them. We’ve met both Audrey and Reese in previous titles of this series, and I’m going to be totally honest. I thought Audrey would end up with Cade. Yup. Didn’t happen. Thus, the apt title The Wrong Billionaire’s Bed. Readers of the series will remember Audrey’s twin, Daphne—the rock star needing an extended stay at a very strict rehab facility. She plays a huge role in this title, but I don’t think we’ve seen the last of her. We also get to see Gretchen, Audrey’s older sister (and a glimpse of Hunter…rawr!). I didn’t know whether I was going to like The Wrong Billionaire’s Bed at first. We all have this image in our head about what our ‘true love’ should look like. From the time we were little, many girls have dreamed about their ‘happily ever after’. Sometimes, we assign the role of Prince Charming to one person that has been kind and attentive to us, even though we never did anything to warrant their attention. We think we’ll end up living in the cute house in the suburbs with the white picket fence with 2.5 kids and a dog sitting primly on the front porch waiting for our betrothed to return home from a harrowing day at work. Dinner will be on the table, and you’ll be wearing June Cleaver pearls and an apron. However, it’s never that easy. Love, and most importantly, passion sneaks up on us when we least expect it. And dang, it’s a shock to the senses when the reality sets in! Reese is the epitome of Mr. Playboy. He sleeps with women to improve his social status and further his business. He is a self-made millionaire, working diligently to hit that billionaire status the rest of his ‘bros’ covet. The term man slut comes to mind. Even though we don’t see Reese gettin’ it on with some starlet or heiress, it’s evident that’s what he does. Until Audrey. I really enjoyed Reese’s transformation. The way we watched his thinking shift as he got to know Audrey, and the way she responded...
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Apr
20

Review: Everything Changes by Melanie Hansen

Review: Everything Changes by Melanie Hansen Everything Changes Author: Melanie Hansen Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Carey Everett and Jase DeSantis have been best friends for years—through combat training, the tightrope that was DADT, the irrevocable effects of war, and the struggle to adapt and heal after coming home. Nearly inseparable since soon after they met, no one could know either man any better, their unshakeable devotion to each other having saved them both time and again, regardless of what they faced. But, some battles have to be fought alone, especially the one Carey has to fight within himself, and, no matter the outcome, things will never be the same. Opening with a heart-wrenching flashback that, cleverly, isn’t attributed to a specific character, it is apparent from the start that Everything Changes won’t be light, frothy reading. As someone who enjoys m/m fiction, as well as stories that support our military and show respect for the sacrifices they make, I was very eager to read Everything Changes when it was recommended to me. It not only met every expectation I’ve come to have of books that fit that description, but also provided an unexpected viewpoint into what the aftermath of war might be like for some of these returning heroes. Though it is told from the perspective of both of the main characters, the first third of Everything Changes is mostly about Carey. Memories of Carey’s injury and recovery. Jase’s feelings for Carey. Carey’s confusion as his feelings for Jase seem to change, and so on. While that sounds a little one-sided, the patience shown by the author when revealing these precise details actually allowed me to feel a deep familiarity and sympathy for Carey. As a result, by the time we begin to see how serious Jase’s own struggles are, the blows Carey experiences as he starts to realize what his best friend is going through made a bigger impact on me as a reader than they might have otherwise. Not only a story of survival, Everything Changes is just as much about accepting love as you find it. While I liked getting to know both of these characters, it was Jase who won me over completely. His devotion to Carey, even though he always puts his own needs aside, was simultaneously frustrating and romantic, and waiting for Carey to come to terms with what his heart already knows was more than a little torturous. Once Carey realizes that it is...
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Apr
14

Review: The Virgin’s Night Out by Shiloh Walker

Review: The Virgin’s Night Out by Shiloh Walker The Virgin’s Night Out Author: Shiloh Walker Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Gotta be honest. No one. NO ONE. writes tortured heroes like Shiloh Walker. The Virgin’s Night Out is novella-length (another short, Tempt Me, is offered with the e-book purchase, but not reviewed here); when I reached the 60% mark of the file and the story ended, I was bereft. Even during the few pages I had to spend with them, Sloane and Boone crept into my heart and I didn’t want to leave them. I mathed for y’all. The Virgin’s Night Out is around 158 pages—plan to read it one sitting, because there’s no good place to put this one down. This is going to be short, because I don’t want to spoil Ms. Walker’s well-crafted plot. Let’s just say The Virgin’s Night Out has these elements: secrets, amnesia, hot dude, independent woman, close family, stitches, hot sex, and an over-all feel-good vibe. What I loved about Sloane was the fact that she knew what she wanted for herself, and she wasn’t afraid to make it happen. On her terms. Without interference from anyone. Boone, however, crept into my heart slowly and deeply. It wasn’t until about half-way through that I cried for the first time. Boone’s part of the story will get ya like that. I barely stifled an ugly cry over part of this book. I think, however, I’m super sensitive to certain topics. Plan for some sniffles, at least. Boone just…he *knew* she was special. Even though his consciousness wanted to deny that, deep down he couldn’t shake Sloane. See? No spoilers! Not kidding. If you’re a fan of Shiloh Walker’s other work, definitely pick up The Virgin’s Night Out. If you’ve not read Ms. Walker yet, this is a great intro to her contemporary romance style. And the good news? She’s got an awesome backlist! My Rating: A, Loved It About the Book: Sloane Redding is the shy one, the timid one. The morning of her wedding, she’s dumped by the man she’d thought she’d spend the rest of her life with. Humiliated, she turns tail and runs, leaving Nowhere, Alabama for a job in the city. Sloane sets out to remake herself. She succeeds…on the outside. On the inside? Different story. She still the shy Redding. Still quiet, still more interested in standing on the standlines. But all of that is about to change. The night before her brother’s...
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Apr
9

Listen Up! Audiobook Review: No Matter What by Erin Nicholas

Listen Up! Audiobook Review: No Matter What by Erin Nicholas Welcome to our weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: No Matter What Author: Erin Nicholas Narrator: Rebecca Estrella Listening Speed: 1.0x Reviewer: Una No Matter What is the short and sweet story of Jaden and Adam.  Though it was somewhat of a whirlwind romance and a slightly clichéd love story, it was an enjoyable listen. First, let me say that overall, I did like Jaden and Adam’s journey.  I really like them as characters.  Though I enjoyed Jaden’s mental struggle between her attraction to Adam and her strive to be professional, I did find it funny that the temptation of Adam usually won.  Every time she got herself under control and walked away…she just couldn’t resist him.  Adam was more interesting.  I found it odd that he had no problem hiring Jaden and immediately succumbing to his attraction to her by flirting.  Since he was so concerned and overbearing about his daughter and her well being, I was surprised he thought he could just have both; Jaden the lover and Jaden the physical therapist for his daughter. I liked how time passed between the interludes of unprofessional flirting, giving them time to get to know each other and think about the situation.  However, it was a bit of a whirlwind romance.  But for those that enjoy a contemporary that indulges a hopeless romantic fantasy, this is entirely up your alley!  As we approached the end, however, I was surprised by the seemly abrupt twist that pulled them apart as well as how they reunited.  I really loved how the story ended.  Absolutely loved it! I liked Rebecca Estrella’s narration overall.  Though her voice differentiation wasn’t as strong between the male characters and female characters, I was able to follow the story for the most part.  There were only a couple of instances where I had difficulty discerning who was speaking.  Since I was listening via iTunes and I couldn’t figure out how to tell my phone it was not “music” but an audiobook, I was unable to alter the listening speed.  I might have enjoyed it more if it had been pushed up to 1.25x, which seems to be my usual listening pace. Though No Matter What was a fairly simple and somewhat straightforward contemporary romance, I liked the story of Jaden and Adam.  The romance had a strong initial attraction and then allowed time to build up the romance.  I was a little put off...
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Mar
30

Review: Love After All by Jaci Burton

Review: Love After All by Jaci Burton Love After All Author: Jaci Burton Reviewer: Nima Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: I’m not exactly sure how to review Love After All, book 4 in the Hope Series.  It is a very predictable narrative because there’s virtually no plot.  Parts of it are even cliché for the regular romance reader. There is a quote from the book that sums up the plot in its entirety, “For them, it had just…happened.”  So why on earth did I give it a B+?  Why did I even finish the book? Because I just… liked it. Chelsea Gardner and Sebastian “Bash” Palmer have known each other forever.  Their love story is probably more like real life than any romance novel I’ve read: two friends become more than friends and then live happily ever after.  There was one part that was supposed to be painful, but was resolved so quickly I didn’t have time to mentally go get a bandage.  Perhaps the “happily ever after” is the most unrealistic part of the book.  It’s really the only thing that’s ever in doubt—until it’s not.  Well, that and Chihuahua that acts like a golden retriever rather than every nervous, barking wreck of a small dog I’ve ever met. I liked Chelsea and Bash.  As characters go, they’re comfortable and readable.  We’ve already gotten to know them a little from the previous books so a lot of set-up wasn’t necessary.  In a nice change of pace from the common romance novel, we get to see them just fall and be in love with each other.  We get to be in love with them being in love.  It’s a delicious hiatus, and probably was for author Jaci Burton as well, from the angst and annoying self-doubt that is typical of contemporary romance.  Maybe the timing on this one was just good for me.  Maybe it will be for you too. My Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot About the Book: High school math teacher Chelsea Gardner has the perfect plan. She’s tired of dating all the wrong men, and after years of frustration, she’s developed a foolproof list of requirements for finding “The One.” Bar owner Sebastian “Bash” Palmer finds Chelsea beautiful, smart and fun, but he thinks her list is ridiculous and unnecessary.  Intent on proving Chelsea is looking for love in all the wrong ways, he offers to help her find the “perfect” man. Chelsea knows Bash isn’t the right guy for her—he...
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Mar
24

Review: London Bound by Jessica Jarman

Review: London Bound by Jessica Jarman London Bound Author: Jessica Jarman Reviewer: Jen Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: 40-year-old Meg Stevens has been widow for six years. Since her beloved husband passed, she’s spent the time raising her children, working, and being alone. Knowing she needs a break, her near-adult children and family send Meg on a six week trip to London, where she meets Nathan Harris, her sexy, younger neighbor. After a night of conversation and a few drinks at the local pub, the pair explore their strong attraction and realize they can give each other exactly what the other needs… and more. London Bound is a lovely erotic romance that hit all the right buttons for me. The author explores a healthy D/s relationship between two consenting adults without making the sex about a troubled up-bringing or the need to cleanse a damaged soul. Meg is a grieving woman who isn’t quite ready to give up on life. Nathan is able to bring her out of her dormant shell and teach her she can love again. Their chemistry is hot and the love feels genuine. Early in the story, I had a few issues with Meg. While her nervousness and uncertainty are warranted, especially given the time she’s been alone and her age difference with Nathan, I found that at first she comes across almost immature or too young when she is with Nathan. It isn’t her submissiveness, but rather that she is overly needy and unsure. However, soon enough Meg finds her footing and those traits seem to disappear. She stands as an equal to Nathan; a submissive to his Dominant, and I was able to forget my earlier issues. I appreciated her real-life concerns and worries of why things wouldn’t work once her vacation is over. Over the course of the book, Meg became very real to me-her struggles authentic-and I wanted to hug and reassure her. Nathan is perfect. Seriously. Pretty much too perfect. He’s healthy, well-built, handsome, well-off, and he’s head-over-heels for Meg. His firm but gentle ways of caring for and loving Meg are ideal, and he holds nothing back. It’s easy to see why Meg feels it’s all too good to be true, because I felt the same way. But as Meg gives herself over and immerses herself into the situation, determined to enjoy her short time with Nathan, I too was able to enjoy and indulge in his perfection regardless of how “real” he may or may...
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Mar
18

Review: Kissed by a SEAL by Cat Johnson

Review: Kissed by a SEAL by Cat Johnson Kissed by a SEAL Author: Cat Johnson Reviewer: Jen Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Kissed by a SEAL is the fourth book in Ms. Johnson’s delightful Hot SEALs series, which follows the lives of former Navy SEAL teammates who have remained close friends. While each book is a standalone romance, almost all of the characters are featured in each of the stories, giving readers the opportunity to better know the players involved from the start. Darci Mann, sister of former SEAL Rick, is often present when the guys get together. She has long lusted after Zane (to his ignorance), and she was a bit heartbroken when he found love with Missy (Book 2). Meanwhile, Chris Cassidy, retired SEAL, stood by and watched the woman he cared about give her attention to his friend who didn’t deserve it. Hiding his true feelings for Darci behind jokes and friendship, Chris never made a move. Kissed by a SEAL is another hit from Cat Johnson’s sexy Hot SEALs series. Chris and Darci’s story was exciting and sexy, especially when shared from his POV. The author does a wonderful job establishing Chris’s long standing feelings for Darcy, and it is laughable just how clueless she is. The fact that I’ve watched both individuals interact in previous books made their hookup more all the more satisfying. I completely adore Chris and LOVE the fact that he is *gasp* forty years old! Mature and sexy! While the author does an amazing job sharing how much Chris cares for Darci, I wanted more time to see Darci’s change of heart from being caught up on the wrong guy to realizing she cared about Chris. I wished that transition would have started earlier in the book so that I would have had more time with the pair as a couple. With that said, I still enjoyed their romance. Additionally, watching GAPS (the group’s private security firm) begin to take off and see a mission was satisfying. I look forward to reading more about the team and would love to go back and revisit the couples who are just starting out in their fledgling relationships. Overall, Kissed by a SEAL is an entertaining, sexy romance. My Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot About the Book: Retired Navy SEAL Chris Cassidy knows the bro code—no messing around with teammates’ sisters. But, Chris never was one for following rules. Besides, Rick’s gorgeous sister Darci is worth breaking a few rules...
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Mar
13

Review: Rock Hard by Nalini Singh

Review: Rock Hard by Nalini Singh Rock Hard Author: Nalini Singh Reviewer: Jen Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Gabriel Bishop, former pro-Rugby player, was hired as CEO of Saxon & Archer to turn around the failing department store chain. He’s very good at what he does and always gets what he wants. Charlotte Baird, long time Saxon & Archer employee, continually allows her supervisor, Anya, to use her talents for her own gain. So when the new CEO fires Anya and offers Charlotte a promotion, Charlotte must learn to get over her fears and work with Gabriel, aka. T-Rex. Rock Hard is the second full-length romance in Ms. Singh’s Rock Kiss series (and third overall story). Although there is overlap with the earlier titles, this book can be enjoyed as a standalone. Charlotte and Gabriel have a tough road, both professionally and romantically. While turning around Saxon & Archer is Gabriel’s primary focus when at work, he cannot stop thinking about Charlotte. Recognizing she’s been hurt in the past, and the fact that he’s her boss, Gabriel takes things slowly in an effort to woo Charlotte. This translates into a slow start to the book, and for a bit, I did wish for things to pick up, all the while wondering how they would hookup without it backfiring on them. Generally, Gabriel and Charlotte’s romance is both sweet and sexy. Charlotte has a messy history, so I am thankful at how Ms. Singh takes time with pair, and why, in the long run, the slow start didn’t bother me. I also appreciate the pair’s openness and honesty with one another. Having the luxury of “hearing” both character’s POVs allows the reader to embrace the larger picture. And while their path had a few bumps that caused a sniffle or two, I love how they got to their HEA. Their first time together (sexually) was completely sweet and yet erotic. I appreciated how Gabriel listened to Charlotte and was able to pick up her non-verbal cues and signals. In the end, I’m glad it took time. In addition to the romance, both characters have issues from their pasts that must be addressed in order for the pair to move forward. While I enjoyed the complexity each matter brought to the story, I felt in both cases, things were resolved a bit too easily. And in the case of Charlotte, I was a bit disappointed at how predictable the matter became over the course of the...
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