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Currently Browsing: contemporary romance
Jan
9

Review: Hooked on Trouble by Kelly Siskind

Review: Hooked on Trouble by Kelly Siskind Hooked on Trouble Author: Kelly Siskind Reviewer: Jen Rating: B/B- What I’m Talking About: It’s been sixteen months since Raven and Nico shared something special that fateful night in Aspen, and now that she’s living in his city, she needs to forgive his broken promises and move on. With a fresh start in Vancouver, Raven plans to find a job she loves, start a planning business with her two best friends, and find her older sister, Rose, who left home 17 years ago when Raven was only nine. Nico acknowledges that Raven has every reason to be pissed and hold a grudge after he promised not to hurt her back in Aspen, yet he walked away without an explanation. He desperately wants her and needs to get her alone so he can tell her about his family’s troubles and why he broke his promise. And maybe this time, they can explore and deepen that special connection they both felt. After absolutely loving the first two books in Ms. Siskind’s Over the Top series (A Fine Mess is my favorite read of 2016!), I was eager to read Raven and Nico’s story. Unfortunately, Hooked on Trouble became the victim of too much anticipation and unfair expectations on my part. While I enjoyed the book, it just didn’t grab me like the previous books did, and I found myself unfairly comparing the other couples’ stories to Raven and Nico’s tale. Even with my frustrations, there were many things I enjoyed about Hooked on Trouble. What I did love was the unadulterated attraction Nico and Raven shared. It went well beyond physical. They both knew right from the get go in Aspen they had a connection that was special. I liked how open they were together; the sharing makes their relationship special and unique. I loved that Raven could not hold on to her anger when Nico was around her. I also liked Nico and his family. Ms. Siskind uses his interactions with his mom, brother, and sister, as well as his inner-monologue, to showcase the type of guy he is, including his own fears and insecurities. While not fair, I couldn’t help compare but Raven and Nico to the previous couples; however, Nico and Raven are DARK with DARK histories. They are not light and silly. They are sarcasm and tattoos. I think this darker side and seriousness weighed down the story too much. While I adored their chemistry and their cutsie...
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Jan
9

Review: It Happened in Scotland by Patience Griffin

Review: It Happened in Scotland by Patience Griffin It Happened in Scotland Author: Patience Griffin Reviewer: Nima Rating: B What I’m Talking About: I have a soft spot for stories set in the British Isles.  When I think of some of the movies I love, it’s no surprise that The Quiet Man, P.S. I Love You, and the wonderfully quirky The Englishman Who Went Up a Hill But Came Down a Mountain are in the top ten.  The scenery is as significant as the story—even part of the story.  I was inclined to like It Happened in Scotland by its location alone. Griffin made a bold move by setting her story during the cold winter months that do not hold the scenic glamor of spring and summer. The bitter winds off the ocean fit the sad, if hopeful beginning to It Happened in Scotland. Rachel had a bad marriage to Joe, Brodie’s cousin.  The two were as close as brothers, and both loved Rachel.  Rachel, not really knowing her own mind at the time had come to Scotland for the wedding.  That’s when she met Brodie and fell in love with him.  Still, she went through with the wedding and lived to regret it.  The couple were in the process of getting a divorce when Joe died unexpectedly. Years later, Rachel is returning to Scotland so their young daughter can get to know her father’s family and country. Rachel realizes almost immediately that she wants a second chance with Brodie who has been simultaneously missing and hating her for six years.  I wanted more about Brodie besides his broken heart and the guilt he carries about loving his cousin’s wife.  What’s Brodie doing out on his fishing boat?  In January?  What does he do with his haul each day?  There’s a discussion about him being able to support a wife and family, but in what manner?  Does he smell like fish or the ocean?  We needed more Brodie details. At its heart, this is a story of second chances.  There was a lot of denial, questioning, and not enough romance between main characters Brodie and Rachel.  It needed about 50% less angst and 30% more description of the scenic town that was so dear, Rachel wants to call it home.  Where’s the verbal brochure? (Probably in the first five books.) Still, Griffin is occasionally wonderfully insightful and I liked her writing style. In the strictest sense, It Happened in Scotland can be read as a standalone book,...
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Jan
6

Review + Blog Tour: Long Shadows by Kate Sherwood

Review + Blog Tour: Long Shadows by Kate Sherwood Long Shadows Author: Kate Sherwood Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Jericho Crewe spent more than a decade trying to shed his past and the legacy of the father who drove him away. Though he lost a lot in the attempt, his new life in LA has made leaving his best friend and lover behind worth it. Mostly. But, a single phone call is enough to bring him running back, and, despite his efforts to reinvent himself, he quickly learns that home won’t let go so easily. I found Long Shadows interesting in many ways, not the least of which is its main character, Jericho Crewe. He’s at once resilient, uncertain, loyal, stubborn, independent, compassionate, and so on. He’s also dealing with a sizable case of denial when it comes to being back in Mosely, Montana, and Wade Granger, in particular—which I thought were some of his best moments. While he didn’t leave as vivid an impression on me as Wade did, I think Jericho has a lot of potential to develop over the course of the series, and am looking forward to seeing how he handles his new situation. My undeniably favorite thing about Long Shadows is the re-acquaintance of the two main characters. Rather than bogging the narrative down with regret, most of the scenes involving Jericho and Wade are touched with awareness, companionship, and a nostalgic fondness that reaffirms their story isn’t nearly as finished as Jericho would like to think it is. I’ve read a good many tales where the temptation that exists between reunited characters is laid out plainly, but this is one of the few that actually made me believe it. While it’s a somewhat familiar situation in different genres, the author doesn’t use the “desperate times call for legal infractions” sort of economy that’s present in Mosely, Montana as the cause of every bad thing that happens in the story. But, neither is it a blanket excuse for it. Rather, most of the characters walk a wobbly line between convenience and necessity when it comes to the law, and I found that ambiguity perfectly acceptable in Wade and Kayla’s cases, in particular. Another great thing about Long Shadows is that there’s so much more to it than any of the relationships that are involved. It is a suspenseful narrative that involves different government agencies, as well as local law enforcement, secrets and cover-ups, covert alliances, and a solid application of...
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Jan
5

Review: Nico by Sarah Castille

Review: Nico by Sarah Castille Nico Author: Sarah Castille Reviewer: VampBard Rating: B What I’m Talking About: I was going to start off 2017 with a DNF. It’s super rare that I do that. I’m sure the NetGalley version I received for review needed some polish before hitting the shelves. Normally, I can turn off my editor brain—and maybe it’s really not any more than normal, it’s just that I’m super sensitive to awkward wording, extra words in sentences that should’ve been deleted, and missing words. I found myself rephrasing sentences in my head several times, which interrupted my reading flow. Or, maybe I’m just irrationally irritated by stuff right now. I liked the story so much I took a peek at the sample on Amazon. **blinks** The dozen or so errors I’d marked by the time I’d reached 13% weren’t there, for the most part. So, I bought a copy. I liked the characters and the plot enough to care. Still found some stuff I couldn’t let go of as I read, but the story was good enough the couple dozen or so things I did find didn’t bother me quite as much. Part of the reason I paid for a copy when I wasn’t sure I’d 100% be able to make it through the book was because I **really** liked Mia. Her strength and bull-headedness reminded me of the me I wanted to be. That Dee in my brain. The one who was the little devil on my shoulder egging me on to do something outrageous or to buy an outfit that would make me stand out instead of blending into the crowd. Although, I don’t know whether I would’ve stood out in a good way or not. I can identify with Mia regarding her family situation, too. I am definitely on the fringes—I use a pen name when I write because it would be embarrassing to my family, and I don’t want my parents to have to explain away their smut-writing daughter. I felt a kinship with Mia that made me root for her—and her relationship with Nico. Seriously? A Mafia boss? I haven’t really read a lot of Mafia fiction. I did my fair share of researching, watching biopics, and basically stalking Al Capone during a period in my life, though. I have an affinity for Sinatra, Sammy, and Dean (and thank god for Michael Buble for the revival!). I’m all about the couture of the 50s and rockabilly, too—my...
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Dec
22

Review: Due South by Tamsen Parker

Review: Due South by Tamsen Parker Due South Author: Tamsen Parker Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A  What I’m Talking About: Interested in a thrill-of-discovery / new exploration book? Due South might be just what you’re looking for. This is the secret-office-romance trope—and man, I love it. Especially when it’s taboo! The blurb gives us the basis for the plot, but what it doesn’t mention is how DEEP these characters are. Ms. Parker has done a phenomenal job with her other Compass titles, and I didn’t expect anything less from Due South. Here’s a run-down on my connection to the characters. Lucy is the typical corn-belt girl gone to make the big time in California. Her innocence is accentuated as she learns about herself and her sexuality. It’s not that Lucy is completely innocent—she’s not. She just has had less-than-stellar experiences with sex because she’s had selfish lovers. I like Lucy, and I found myself connected to her for a variety of reasons. First, I adore her fashion sense. Stockings and garters should be an every-day occurrence. Second, I admired her because she put her upbringing behind her and allowed herself to form her own expectations—even though sometimes she was at war with herself. Evans. OMG. I may have crushed really hard on his geeky uncertainty and second-guessing his words and actions. But… Oh, mama. The way he could turn on the charm? The way he was so caring right from the start? **swoon** And, that bit about family? Seriously. The man is a catch, and nobody knew! Top it off with his brain? Quadruple-threat, folks. The sex was…thrilling. I really loved the way each encounter was presented, and how the emotional aspect was front-and-center for both Lucy and Evans. Because really, the best sex happens when there’s an emotional connection of some sort. Ms. Parker definitely gave us that connection. An excellent addition to the Compass series—one you won’t want to miss. If you’ve not read the series, this title will function as a stand-alone. My Rating: A, Loved It About the Book: Lucy Miller has worked her way up from coffee-fetcher and copy-maker to invaluable assistant. She’s proud of her accomplishments, but she’s looking forward to a break from her demanding boss; a visit home is just the Christmas treat she needs. Diligent and unassuming, Chanoch Evans has avoided relationships not just out of shyness, but because he doesn’t feel like he has anything to offer—most of his resources are devoted to his war-veteran younger...
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Dec
21

Review + Blog Tour: No Small Parts by Ally Blue

Review + Blog Tour: No Small Parts by Ally Blue No Small Parts Author: Ally Blue Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Born and raised in LA, Rafael Cortez isn’t exactly at home in the rugged isolation of Bluewater Bay. Still, he’s more than willing to put in the necessary time as a PA if it helps him become a director in his own right. Meeting someone he can see himself becoming serious about certainly hadn’t been part of the plan, but there’s just something about the brooding, defensive Nat that Rafael can’t resist. Bluewater Bay local Nat Horn never expected his tiny part on Wolf’s Landing to turn into anything more than a way to pay the bills after his father’s logging accident. When he’s offered a larger role by one of the directors, he jumps at the chance to make both their lives easier. Developing a few friendships of his own in the process, particularly with the irresistible personal assistant of his former crush, is a risk he can’t help taking—even though he’s sure he’ll lose him in the end. I was both surprised and pleased to note that this is the sixteenth book in the Bluewater Bay series, since it really doesn’t feel like there have been so many. As has been the case with most of the others I’ve read, No Small Parts seemed both familiar and unique, and reminded me why I continue to be drawn to these stories. Nat and Rafael do follow a somewhat recognizable pattern, given the polarity of their personalities and backgrounds, but Ms. Blue composes their tale around a distinctive framework that allows it stand just fine all on its own. As far as the main characters go, I thought that Nat and Rafael were an intriguing couple, and I enjoyed Raphael’s patience while Nat consistently strove to find steadier ground beneath his feet. Their respective backgrounds are different enough to make the pairing seem farfetched on the surface, yet their personalities somehow made them a perfect fit for one another. I also felt the “outsider vs. the locals” aspect of some of these stories worked especially well in their case, as the roles are reversed depending on whether a scene is taking place within the “Hollywood”-ness of the show, or the Bluewater Bay that exists outside of it. Overall, I feel that No Small Parts is a sweet, thoughtful addition to the Bluewater Bay series. As it focuses once again on the television show that is...
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Dec
16

Review: Lessons in Letting Go by Jessica Peterson

Review: Lessons in Letting Go by Jessica Peterson Lessons in Letting Go Author: Jessica Peterson Reviewer: VampBard Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: NO! It can’t be over! I’ve been reading Jessica Peterson’s Study Abroad series, and I’ve adored it. While I might be a woman of a certain age, I could identify with the characters and I found myself rooting for the characters to overcome their conflict throughout the story. After I told some of the characters to pull their head out of their behind. I really liked coming back to Laura & Rhys’ story. We’ve caught glimpses of them through the first two titles in the series, and I’ve been champing at the bit to get to their story. Seriously. Is it only me, or are soccer players—especially those with a Welsh accent—super hot? I did have some issues with the ending. I felt the resolution moved too fast—but I’m a huge pacing geek. Don’t let this little, tiny thing deter from picking up this title. With that said, the grand gestures Rhys did to win Laura back seriously melted my frigid Michigan heart (yes, we’ve had a quantity of snow already). Laura came to Spain to find herself. Basically. She made a bucket list and everything. There were a few things about Laura that made me pause. First, she’s got… issues. Issues big enough that I wanted to know more—but my brain filled in the blanks. Second, I really like that she realized she was losing herself in Rhys. Lastly, Laura was a REAL ‘GIRL’. I’m sure most of us can see a little of ourselves in Laura, which made me connect with her even more that just her ‘issues’. Rhys. Not gonna lie. I kinda wanted to slap him through a good chunk of the book. But, you guys, when he started to redeem himself? I. Fell. Hard. I also connected with Rhys on a few levels. I know what it’s like to have a knee injury. I could imagine everything he went through. The hours of PT, the appointments…and I know what it’s like to be a soccer mom (I was never the mom with the Juicy Coture yoga pants—promise!). While the writing about soccer was detailed enough to not insult someone knowledgeable about the game, it was well-explained enough so novices wouldn’t be lost. If you’re looking for a thoughtful contemporary read with college-aged characters, I highly recommend the Study Abroad series. I’m going to miss these characters…but might we see...
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Dec
13

Review: The Grinder by Stephanie Julian

Review: The Grinder by Stephanie Julian The Grinder Author: Stephanie Julian Reviewer: Jen Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Allison Martin is working at her job in the billing office of the Reading Health Center when the hottest guy she’s ever seen comes in to ask about a bill. She’s taken aback by her insta-lust, never having felt this way about a guy before. So when he asks her to come to his hockey game and go out for drinks after, she’s shocked to hear herself say “maybe,” while thinking “yes!” Riley Hatch, newest hockey player on the Reading Redtails, asks Aly to come to his hockey game and out for a drink. After playing the field for the past seven years, he realizes he’s ready for a commitment rather than a string of one-night-stands. He’s totally taken by Aly and likes that she doesn’t come on to him like a hockey bunny. In fact, she knows nothing about the sport. The Grinder is a delightful romance between two individuals who feel an immediate spark and recognize what they have could lead to something special. Riley is a seasoned veteran, but he’s still waiting for his big break that will take him to the NHL. Aly is a no-nonsense, play by the rules kind of girl. Together, the pair are explosive, and it was easy to lose myself in their passion. While set in the same world as the previous book in the series, The Grinder is completely standalone. Overall, The Grinder is an enjoyable, quick read filled with sexy romance and all the good feels that come when you find your special someone. Aly and Riley worked well together, both in and out of the bedroom. With life experiences under their belts, they have some maturity when making decisions; however they are still insecure enough to have those same doubts many of us have experienced ourselves. They are open and honest when it most counts. I appreciated how both had set plans for their lives, yet when meeting that special someone, they took the time to question their preconceived plans, then adjusting them to fit the other, rather than either sticking with said plan or completely tossing it out the window. The Grinder is a feel good, happy novella. Sexy and smart. Enjoyable and entertaining. My Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot About the Book: Riley Hatch is a fast-talking minor-league hockey player with a reputation as a grinder. He goes in deep, hits...
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Dec
7

Review: In Bounds by Bronwyn Green

Review: In Bounds by Bronwyn Green In Bounds Author: Bronwyn Green Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: After finding out her school principal husband was having an affair with the mother of one of her students, Ivy Wright decided to take an extended vacation helping out her best friend’s family in England. While Ivy enjoys tutoring Charlotte’s children, she hopes that Charlotte’s younger brother doesn’t remember her… the drunken woman with whom he had a hookup in the coat check at Charlotte and Caleb’s wedding reception. Will Darby has been sidelined from his professional soccer (football) career due to a knee injury. With mandatory time off, he’s hoping to re-connect with Ivy, the one woman he hasn’t been able to forget in the past twelve years. And when he sees Ivy again, he knows he needs to explore their mutual attraction… and kinks. In Bounds is another wonderful, sexy romance in the Bound series, a set of loosely connected, standalone BDSM-lite stories from Bronwyn Green and Jessica Jarman. I love that the books, In Bounds included, embrace healthy relationships, focusing on couples that enjoy sex and exploring mutually satisfying kinks. While there may be bumps in the road and issues to overcome, they don’t dominate the pages of the story. Will is a man obsessed. He’s never forgotten Ivy or how much he enjoyed their brief encounter. Twelve years older and wiser, Will has taken the time to learn how to please a woman and what he wants for himself. He’s cocky, but not overly arrogant, and completely direct. He tells Ivy pointblank how much he wants her and what exactly he wants to do to her. Such direct talk is refreshing and thrilling. And while he gives Ivy space to deal with her own issues surrounding her ex-husband’s actions and detrimental attitude, he supports her both emotionally and physically, almost willing her to recover and commit to him. Will is understanding, patient, sexy, and kind… almost too much so. But who doesn’t need a bit of perfection in their lives now and then? Ivy has issues, but she doesn’t dwell. She’s determined to enjoy her time with Charlotte, but as the book progresses, we see how lonely Ivy truly is. She carries her baggage, and Will wants to take it from her. It’s heartwarming to see how much Will gets her to open up and trust again, after some back and forth, of course. While Ivy’s biggest concern during the entire...
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Dec
5

Review: A Kiss Under The Christmas Lights by Peggy Jaeger

Review: A Kiss Under The Christmas Lights by Peggy Jaeger A Kiss Under The Christmas Lights Author: Peggy Jaeger Reviewer: Jen Twimom Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Set to take the CPA exams and start her career, Gia San Valentino is thrown for a loop when she finds herself instantly attracted to and completely taken with the wrong man. Unable to shake her feelings, Gia is emotionally torn because of an unknown, yet simple misunderstanding. Constantly surrounded by her family, Gia is worried the horrible truth will soon come out. A Kiss Under the Christmas Lights is a delightful holiday novella centered on a large Italian family and its traditions. I thoroughly enjoyed the hustle and bustle of Gia’s life. The author invests time developing the San Valentino family, bringing heart to the story, and Gia’s loving, meddling family provides tender moments with a healthy side of humorous embarrassment. Told from Gia’s first person POV, we get to experience every laugh, fear, and joy along side her. While this story isn’t an instalove tale, it is evident right from the start the Gia and Tim share something special. The love-at-first-meeting attraction comes across as right and true. However, due to a misunderstanding, Gia is emotionally wrecked and guilt-ridden over her attraction. After a while, it became stressful for me. It’s obvious to the reader what is going on, but Gia thinks she’s got the hots for an unattainable man. While the author does a great job of keeping Gia’s physical attraction appropriately compartmentalized, after their third meeting, I wanted her to be able to enjoy her feelings for Tim without the guilt. With that said… the author successfully keeps the mood light, even when the book deals with serious situations. And while the romance is a huge part of the story, there are other things going on in Gia’s life, keeping the focus off her guilty conscience. A Kiss Under the Christmas Lights is a sweet, light-hearted read. This holiday novella is a perfect gift to enjoy snuggled on the couch with a cup of hot cocoa. My Rating:  B+ Liked It A Lot About the Book: With Christmas just a few weeks away, Gia San Valentino, the baby in her large, loud, and loving Italian family, yearns for a life and home of her own with a husband and bambini she can love and spoil. The single scene doesn’t interest her, and the men her well-meaning family introduce her to aren’t exactly the happily-ever-after kind. Tim Santini...
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