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Currently Browsing: contemporary romance
Sep
16

Review: Pure Wicked by Shayla Black

Review: Pure Wicked by Shayla Black Pure Wicked Author: Shayla Black Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: A What I’m Talking About: I’ve read a handful of the 1,001 Dark Nights books, to include Forever Wicked by Shayla Black (Goodreads Review), and I have honestly enjoyed the stories, regardless if I’ve read the original series. Such is the case with Ms. Black’s offerings. Written to be completely stand alone, I had no troubles jumping into Ms. Black’s Wicked Lovers world and the Pure Wicked novella. Jesse McCall is a world-famous pop star who has been selling out shows since at the age of sixteen. Twelve years later, he’s still doing the same; however, a year ago the party life almost ruined him, so he’s been sober since. Unfortunately, his bandmate Ryan didn’t clean up his act, leading to a horrible tragedy, which is used as the opening scene for the book. Now Jesse must lay low until the media circus quiets down. Bristol Reese isn’t having the best day. Forced, due to southern society’s rules of hospitality, to attend the engagement party of her ex-boyfriend and her own sister, she’d rather be anywhere. So when a handsome stranger offers to be her new pretend beau to get her mom off her back, Bristol decides to play along. Yet once the pair spends a few hours together, they realize their attraction is something worth exploring. Pure Wicked is wonderful romance and absolute joy to read. While limited by a shortened length, the story is fulfilling and emotionally rewarding. Ms. Black is able to condense a whirlwind romance effectively, leaving me content and happy at the end, which is not always an easy thing to do in a novella-length story. There is just enough conflict and satisfying character development to create a complete romance. Jesse and Bristol work well together. The author does a great job setting up Jesse’s character as one who is clearly ready for a change. He’s already 90% through the metamorphosis, and it just takes a tragedy, followed by meeting Bristol, to bring him all the way around. Meanwhile his sheer enthusiasm for life and Bristol left me satisfied that they will make it past the paparazzi and demanding lifestyle of a rock-and-roll star. Pure Wicked is the perfect afternoon read. It is simple enough to blaze through, yet filled with enough complexity to leave me satisfied. And the pair has off-the-charts chemistry, which is important in a novella-length romance. I highly recommend this little...
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Sep
7

Review: Taking the Heat by Victoria Dahl

Review: Taking the Heat by Victoria Dahl Taking the Heat Author: Victoria Dahl Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Taking the Heat is one of the books that I eye’d for review, but knew I’d be over-stretching myself, so I passed it up. But the reviews were so good, I ended up one-clicking it from Amazon and found some time to read it. OMG! I am SOOOO glad I did. I just loved this story. Gabe and Veronica have the I-couldn’t-put-it-down kind of romance that got me to fall in love with the pair. Gabe and Veronica are so freakin’ cute and completely real. I easily related to both characters in more ways than one, creating complete investment in their wellbeing. I wanted them to grow, succeed, and fall hopelessly in love. While the overall story is nearly predictable, I couldn’t stop the flow of tears, trembling hands, and pounding heart reactions to many of the key moments. Simply, I was touched and moved by these characters and their story. Ms. Dahl turns something that could easily have been ordinary into something sublime and special. Veronica is insecure and feels she is a fake in her job as a newspaper advice columnist. But what she doesn’t see is that she’s really, really good at what she does. While her insecurities could have been a put off, the author doesn’t overburden the reader (or Gabe) with non-stop self-flagellation. She lets out just enough of her doubt, both orally and privately, to let us know her fears and concerns without creating someone with no self-respect. Most of us have been where Veronica is, and she pulls it all off with charm, a sparkling personality, and genuine compassion. Gabe. Sigh. A hunky yet nerdy dreamboat. And he’s totally smitten with Veronica. He has a caring soul, which gets him into trouble. He’s so concerned with making sure others are happy that he tends to leave out details he finds uncomfortable or difficult. He’s not perfect, and I think that’s what puts him over-the-top attractive, and also what adds the ideal amount of heartbreak. Watching the pair struggle and figure it out added an emotional depth that a lot of lighthearted contemporaries are lacking. Additionally, the pair’s passion burns off the pages. They have palpable chemistry and enthusiasm, making for some steamy scenes. Overall, I absolutely adored Veronica and Gabe, making Taking the Heat one of my favorite reads of 2015. It hits all the right notes...
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Aug
27

Listen Up! Nice Girls Don’t… #Audiobook Review Part 2

Listen Up! Nice Girls Don’t… #Audiobook Review Part 2 Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… What I’m Listening To: Title: Nice Girls Don’t Date Dead Men Author: Molly Harper Narrator: Amanda Ronconi Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Jane Jameson #2 Genre: Paranormal Romance, Contemporary Chick-Lit Source: purchased/Audible Audiobook Review: Nice Girls Don’t Date Dead Men Nice Girls Don’t Date Dead Men picks up the story of Jane Jameson’s newly turned vampire life shortly after the conclusion of the previous book. Listeners discover that Jane’s BFF, Zeb, and his beloved, Joelene, are getting married, and Jane is the maid of honor. We also discover that Jane and her mom have found some sort of peace, but that her sister is suing her. The book generally follows the day-to-day going-ons of Jane’s crazy life, tossing in Jane’s familiar humor and quirky observations. Overall, I enjoyed the second offering in the Jane Jameson series. I love Jane’s snark and the general humorous mood of the story. Jane’s life is one crazy event after another, and generally, she handles everything with a sense of humor and a few tears. However, both Jane’s and Zeb’s family are overly cruel, making some of the story difficult to digest with the lightness intended in the story. Jane’s grandmother and sister are outrageous and mean. The same goes with Zeb’s mom, Ginger, who does everything and more to get Zeb and Jane together. It got to the point where I could no longer listen to her manipulations; they went beyond outrageous and straight into despicable. Although Jane handles herself with her typical sarcasm, it got to the point of annoying, and I was frustrated at how much Jane put up with. Don’t get me wrong, I really did like the book, and fortunately, those scenes weren’t as numerous as the good ones. I did like seeing Jane learn how to maneuver in the vampire world and learn to stand up more for herself. I also liked seeing her somewhat odd romance with her sire Gabriel evolve and grow. My favorite parts of the book were those interactions between Jane and her boss/surrogate-grandfather, Mr. Wainwright. Additionally, I found Dick Cheney to be my favorite character as he matures just enough to be lovable but retains his core personally. Amanda Ronconi turns in another excellent portrayal as Jane, along with the host of other southern characters. She nails both the charm of a southern lady, as well as the guilt of the southern mama. And the few things that slightly bothered...
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Aug
27

Review + #Giveaway : Broken Play by Samantha Kane

Review + #Giveaway : Broken Play by Samantha Kane Broken Play Author: Samantha Kane Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: C What I’m Talking About: Broken Play is the first book in a new erotic romance series by Samantha Kane. The series follows the players of the fictional Birmingham Rebels NFL expansion team. Cass Zielinski, captain of the Rebels, leads this team full of misfits and has-beens who know this is their last chance to make it. Beau Perez, Cass’s best friend, is a recovering addict. Cass will do anything to protect his friend, and the pair do EVERYTHING together. The final piece of Broken Play’s menage is Marian Treadwell, the Rebels new female assistant coach. Marian has many secrets, including the fact that her father is a famous college coach. While Broken Play holds a lot of promise, it was more about hot and erotic sex scenes than a lot of substance. It is a menage romance, and there is some emotional growth and development between Cass, Beau, and Marian, but it’s mostly framed by sex. There are promising external dynamics… like a last-chance football team looking to make its mark and a female coach in a male-dominated profession. However these side stories get little attention, and there is no plot development to go along with them. Additionally, conflict in the form of a homophobic player comes up once, yet is never addressed again. If these aspects of the book had been developed more, I think the book would have been stronger. What the book does have going for it are super erotic, multi-partner sex scenes. However, I feel it necessary to give a small warning to those “no lube” critics, lube is never once mentioned during the rear-entrance scenes. Additionally, the mention of condom use is sporadic and inconsistent. Regardless of the condom and lube issues, the scenes are very hot, and while they are going on, I can mostly forget my concerns over the professional relationship aspect. However, the fact is these people are teammates and she is a coach, so it did bother me. My biggest issue with the entire book is the portrayal of Marian as a coach. I get that she has massive demons to exorcise. I understand that she’s non-conventional and has spent her whole like suppressing who she is. I have no issues with her desires and applaud her journey of self-discovery and acceptance. However, she is one of the team’s assistant coaches, which should come with job standards and an expectation...
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Aug
25

Review: When to Hold Them by G.B. Gordon

Review: When to Hold Them by G.B. Gordon When to Hold Them Author: G.B. Gordon Reviewer: B. Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Some people are their own brand of trouble, regardless of whether they mean to be or not. Though he has a good heart and is trying hard to make amends after being put in jail because of his gambling addiction, Doran Callaghan easily falls into that category. Talented and artistic, yet often aimless, what he really needs is someone strong to look after him and help keep him on the right path. But, wishing they could fight your battles for you and having them beside you while you face your problems yourself aren’t the same thing, and learning to stand on his own might be the only way to hold on to the most perfect relationship he’s ever had. Resilient, protective, and strong-willed, Xavier Wagner was always taught to stand his ground with a gentle hand. More comfortable in the forest where he works as a park ranger than among the residents of Bluewater Bay, he keeps to himself for the most part, content in his loyalty to the land and his parents. But, something about the young, secretive, hoodie-loving web designer with a serious crush calls to darker desires within Xavier, and redefining what it means to be a “good man” could very well give them both everything they desire. One of the things that made When to Hold Them different from other stories that explore BDSM I’ve read is that the two main characters are just beginning to discover that they possess an inclination towards either dominance or submission. For Xavier, who is kind and generally conscientious in most areas of his life, acknowledging that he might have a sexually dominant nature is an extraordinarily difficult thing to do. Doran, on the other hand, doesn’t experience any internal conflict over his desire to submit to Xavier as much as a profound relief that the man he’s attracted to is actually a thoughtful and nurturing lover. Their biggest problem is that, while Doran may crave the feelings he gets when he gives himself to Xavier, the latter isn’t at all convinced that he can still be a “nice guy” while indulging his own newfound urges. The combination presented an undeniably erotic dilemma for them both, and I enjoyed watching them work their issues out. While I enjoyed this aspect of the story a great deal, When to Hold Them is about far more...
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Aug
24

Review: Heat Exchange by Shannon Stacey

Review: Heat Exchange by Shannon Stacey Heat Exchange Author: Shannon Stacey Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Shannon Stacey starts strong with the first book in her new Boston Fire contemporary romance series. Bringing her trademark small town feel to a big city fire department, Ms. Stacey creates a world full of wonderful characters and a story filled with passion and charm. Lydia Kincaid comes from a family full of firefighters, was even married to one, and that’s something she tried to escape when she moved from Boston to Concord, NH, after a bitter divorce. However, when her sister, Ashley, calls and asks her to come home to help their retired dad run his bar so she can deal with her own marital issues, Lydia packs up and heads home. Now she finds herself right where she was trying to avoid, and falling for her little brother’s best friend, Aidan. Scotty Kincaid is like a brother to Aidan Hunt, so Aiden shouldn’t have feelings for Scott’s big sister. However, when Lydia returns home, Aiden decides it’s worth the risk to kiss Lydia. Now he is lying to his best friend, and he’s lying to himself if he thinks he can keep his feelings under wraps. I absolutely adored almost every moment of Heat Exchange. The characters and their stories grabbed me from the start, and I couldn’t put the book down. Lydia and Aidan’s romance was heartfelt and genuine. The fact that they “shouldn’t be together” gave the entire story an added urgency and edge. However, it is the depth of their emotional growth and their sincere passion that stole the show. Ms. Stacey created likable, relatable characters that gave my own heart a tug a few times. It helps that Aiden is everything a girl could want: sexy, alpha, yet gentle and loving. He’s got great communications skills, and he helps Lydia get past what her ex did to her emotional well being. Additionally, the side story of Ashley and her husband Danny’s separation gave added depth to the book. I like the parallels and differences drawn between their marriage and what Lydia has gone through. Ashley also brings the voice of honesty to Lydia, even when she doesn’t always want to hear it. All in all, Heat Exchange brings together a handful of entertaining and well-written stories, with three-dimensional, enjoyable characters at its core. Other than one too many outrageously awful parents that I could have done without, the book...
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Aug
18

Review: All Wound Up by Jaci Burton

Review: All Wound Up by Jaci Burton All Wound Up Author: Jaci Burton Reviewer: Nima Rating: C+ What I’m Talking About: Ok, this is book ten.  Burton successfully does what she’s done the entire series.  All Wound Up continues to deliver what her readers have come to love and expect with this series. More of the same isn’t a bad thing, especially if this is your reading groove.  For me, however, the Play-By-Play series has become formulaic.  Like other books in this series; All Wound Up is predictable with an anti-climactic finish. There’s nothing especially original about this plot, it’s the “nobody is good enough for my daughter” plot.  The fact that the couple in this rendition are a pro-ball player, Tucker, and a doctor, Aubry who happens to be the only daughter of the team’s owner, doesn’t make it any more enticing except on some fantasy level that appeals to those who wish they were rich and famous.  Ultimately, the problem isn’t the problem.  That’s brought out into the open in a matter of a dozen pages.  The problem is how Tucker and Aubry handle the problem.  If they’re entirely immature, no one would buy that they’re successful in their chosen, demanding careers.  If they behave completely mature then the conflict really wouldn’t exist at all.  Burton does achieve a realistic balance between the two as they resolve their issues. And then it ends. The end.  I liked Aubry and Tucker enough to want more for them and from Burton. Where there could have been more story, there is a lot of sex, I think more so than some of Burton’s other books—which is saying something.  In the beginning, this seems to be the book’s entire focus.  If we weren’t already in fantasy territory with an incredibly hot major league baseball player and a seemingly endless supply of money and social connections, eight orgasms on the first date is probably the best give-away.  Even for a pro-athlete and a doctor who maybe knows something anatomical that the rest of us aren’t privy to, eight seems to belong to the paranormal world where different rules apply to vampires and werewolves.  To quote Rory Gilmore, “What? Were B-12 shots involved?”  Aubrey’s best friend Katie sums it up well when she says, “You get off, he gets off, there are no emotional entanglements to clutter up your already busy life.  Everyone’s happy.” Unfortunately it seems that a lot of contemporary romance is taking this concept as basis and...
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Aug
13

Listen Up! Nice Girls Don’t… #Audiobook Review Part 1

Listen Up! Nice Girls Don’t… #Audiobook Review Part 1 Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Review: Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs Author: Molly Harper Narrator: Amanda Ronconi Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Jane Jameson #1 Genre: Paranormal Romance, Contemporary Chick-Lit Source: purchased/Audible What I’m Listening To: Jane Jameson lives a pretty low-key life in her hometown, Half Moon Hollow. She loves her job as the juvenile librarian at the local library, so when she’s let go due to budget constraints, Jane has one too many drinks at the local bar. Although a mysterious stranger helps her sober up, on the way home, Jane is mistaken for a deer and shot dead by another local. Luckily, Gabriel, the stranger, was following Jane to make sure she made it home, and he offers her the choice of eternal life as a vampire. Rather than die, Jane accepts his offer and begins her life as one of the undead. Having already read and/or listened to the Molly Harper’s spin-off Half Moon Hollow series, I’ve already met Jane, Gabriel, her BFF Zeb, and most of the other characters who appear in Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs. So it was a bit odd at first, listening to Jane talk about becoming a vampire and having so many awful things happen to her. And she does run into a lot of bad luck within the first few months of being changed over to a vampire. Someone is out to get Jane, but who? and why? It took listening for a few hours to feel comfortable with Jane’s persona and how she tells her tale, and I think that’s partly because I’ve read/listened to books that chronologically come later in the world, but it’s also Ms. Harper’s narrative style. It’s as if Jane as ADD and jumps from one subject to another while telling her story. At first I didn’t like when Jane would suddenly jump into a recollection or, worse, telling us something that was yet to come, but by the midway point, this jumpy story-telling didn’t happen as often and/or didn’t seem to bother me at all. Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs is the story of Jane’s life after being changed into one of the undead. There is romance involving her sire, Gabriel, but it’s not the primary storyline. Gabriel finds himself fascinated by Jane and doesn’t always understand her crazy ways, but he’s completely head-over-heels for her. Unfortunately, he just doesn’t know how to let Jane know this in a way she understands....
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Aug
5

Review: Protected by a SEAL by Cat Johnson

Review: Protected by a SEAL by Cat Johnson Protected by a SEAL Author: Cat Johnson Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Forced into an early retirement after injury while serving as a Navy SEAL, Rick Mann is bored of his day job and misses the action. Although he likes the private security firm, GAPS, that he started with his former teammates and best friends, Rick has yet to experience time in the field. So when GAPS is offered a job providing private security, Rick jumps at the chance to take the job without knowing any of the details. Sierra Cox works hard and respects her bosses, so she doesn’t want to have any time away from her job as an actress. However when it looks like Sierra’s stalker may want to harm her, GAPS insists she gets away for a while. Spending alone time with her sexy bodyguard, Sierra ponders the benefits of a fling with Rick. Overall, I enjoyed Protected by a SEAL, even more than I thought based on the blurb. I was worried that Rick and Sierra would spend a lot of time picking on the stereotype of the other. But other than some mild generalizations, each was respectful of the other’s occupation, which made the story more pleasurable (although around the halfway point, Rick does start to refer to Sierra as “princess,” which annoyed me). However, the pair has wonderful chemistry, and I found myself cheering for them. And while it’s not a complex story, there is enough character development and plot to make it interesting. I did have one thing that really bothered me about the story. When the pair finally have sex, although it was hot and steamy, and the fact that he’s her bodyguard aside, Rick doesn’t bother using a condom. He made assumptions that frankly, were unprofessional and I felt went too far, which kind of ruined the scene for me. Apart from that instance, generally, the story flows well. The action and romance make for a quick and entertaining read. Like the previous stories in the series, Protected by a SEAL has more of an HFN (happily for now) ending than an HEA (happily ever after). Sierra and Rick’s romance isn’t over, and it may never work, but for now it is sweet, sexy, and passionate. I have to take the story at face value and enjoy it for what it is, rather than think about the long-term. It’s tough because I wonder how will...
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Jul
27

Review: Hot Nights with the Fireman by Lynne Silver

Review: Hot Nights with the Fireman by Lynne Silver Hot Nights with the Fireman Author: Lynne Silver Reviewer: Nima Rating: D What I’m Talking About: Lynne Silver is a new-to-me author.  Hot Nights with the Fireman is the first in her Alpha Heroes series. It’s the heated love story of fire fighter Jason Moore and ambitious public relations expert Valerie Wainwright. It should have been a quick read at only 65K words, but I found myself stopping constantly because of technical errors. Typically when reading an advanced reader copy, there is an expectation that the manuscript being reviewed is not yet polished for publication. Allowances are made for missing commas and the odd word that’s gone astray.  Unfortunately, the ARC I pulled down from NetGalley, at the publisher’s request, read like an early draft, not a manuscript nearing public release.  The text was repetitive, contained continuity errors, and too many of the author’s metaphors where off the mark for me.  For example, in chapter six, Jason has been maneuvered into playing in a charity golf tournament. “He stood in front of her holding the large bag of clubs as if they weighed no more than a school backpack.” This was one of many metaphors that didn’t work for me.  If you’ve been around school backpacks in the last decade, you’d know that thanks to school shootings, most schools don’t allow students to go to their locker during the school day; they have to carry all their textbooks around from class to class.  They weigh a ton; so much in fact that a lot of parents have opted to buy their children book bags with wheels, like an airline pilot’s map case. What made this particular passage stand out so much for me, however, was that just a few pages later, Lance, the man Jason was golfing with, “…swung his club bag on to his back as if it weighed less than a school backpack.”  Find a new metaphor. In chapter eight during a charity car wash, “He pulled her in closer, and the thin cotton of her tank top soaked up the water from his body.”  Later in the same afternoon when they have not left each other’s company, “His palms found her breasts over the silk of her dress…”  Which is it? Tank top?  Silk dress?  These errors, and others like them, made it difficult for me to fully appreciate the story. I did like Jason, and Valerie was tolerable, but the story relied too heavily on...
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