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Currently Browsing: contemporary romance
Jun
14

Review + Excerpt: Too Close to Call by Tessa Bailey

Review + Excerpt: Too Close to Call by Tessa Bailey From New York Times bestselling author Tessa Bailey comes TOO CLOSE TO CALL, a novella in her Romancing the Clarksons Series published by 1001 Dark Nights! Grab your copy today! Too Close to Call Author: Tessa Bailey Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: When we met Kyler Tate in Too Hard to Forget (Peggy & Elliott’s book) he seemed to be the sweet and innocent star on Elliott’s team. Um. Sweet and innocent are not words I would use to describe Kyler. That boy’s a dirty talker. And, he’s tenacious. That’s the thing that set’s Kyler apart from the norm. He knows what he wants—Bree—and he doesn’t stop until he gets it. We’re not just talking a booty call, either. Bree, however, makes him work for it. Not on purpose—but because it was her call to break up when he left for college. With her own set of issues to work through, Bree is…pretty much a hot mess. In Tessa Bailey fashion, things appear darkest before the dawn. And, even though Bree & Kyler were younger, they are old souls. They’re both wise beyond their years, and that makes them relatable for even this ol’ lady. Readers of Ms. Bailey’s Clarksons series won’t want to miss this one! It’ll tide us over until Too Beautiful to Break, Belmont and Sage’s book, hits the shelves in September. My Rating: A, loved it. About the Book: All-American wide receiver Kyler Tate’s life is about to change. A fairytale college career skyrocketed him to the NFL draft. Adoration and opportunity are thrown in his direction wherever he goes, thanks to being chosen in the first round by the Los Angeles Rage.  None of the accolades mean anything, though, without his high school sweetheart, Bree Justice, by his side. Four years ago, she walked away from Kyler, choosing a quiet life over the flash and notoriety his career would someday bring.  Now he’s back in their Indiana hometown, refusing to leave for Los Angeles without her. Demanding she give their life together a shot. Her heart never stopped bleeding for the love of her life, but Bree’s decision was final. Too bad their wild attraction has only been amplified by their separation, and Kyler won’t quit until Bree is wearing his ring.  Release Date: June 13, 2917 Publisher: Evil Eye Concepts Series: 1,001 Dark Nights, Romancing the Clarksons #3.5 Genre: Contemporary Romance Format(s): e-book Book Source: blog tour company Purchase Info:  Amazon...
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Jun
7

Review + Blog Tour: Mature Content by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell

Review + Blog Tour: Mature Content by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell Mature Content Author: Megan Erickson & Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: From the very beginning, the Cyberlove series has been an unflinching and welcome rebuttal to the notion that the connections, and lives, we find for ourselves online are invalid. Mature Content goes further in that the characters’ challenges, opportunities, and relationships play out where the distinction between “real life” and the internet is no longer distinct—or even relevant in many ways. Zane Brody and Beau Shields are two popular YouTubers in the LGBTQ community whose already overlapping circles are about collide—spectacularly. Beau’s online persona, Beau Starr, isn’t a lie exactly, but rather the version of himself he wants to be. Informative and validating, he tries to be the positive presence that was lacking when he was trying to figure things out for himself. The problem is that living means making mistakes, and Beau has his share like everyone else. But, the past is never very far away, and I was reminded of the Confucius quote “No matter where you go, there you are.” It’s simply too much for Beau to shoulder on his own, and the steadily increasing weight of it all was tangible as the story progressed. Zane, on the other hand, decided long before to live his life openly, his “TrashyZane” identity being the truest version of himself that he could possibly be. He is incredibly strong, unrepentantly sexual, and has an enviably good heart to go with it all. He is sometimes (justifiably) wary, but honest to a fault, and his determination not to hide who he is means that there’s nowhere for him to hide when he might have need of such. I adored Zane from the beginning, and still can’t think of a single thing I didn’t like about him. In terms of sex, the aptly titled Mature Content has plenty, and I thought these scenes were some of the best I’ve read. Entire lifetimes could be spent unsuccessfully searching for the kind of sexual compatibility Zane and Beau share. That they despise one another makes the fact as perfect as it is annoying (for them, at least), but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t find their mutual struggle with that reality as riveting as the encounters themselves. Saying that these two are “smoking hot” together wouldn’t be wrong, but it would be sadly inadequate for the chemistry that Ms. Erickson and Mr. Hassell manage to bring to...
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Jun
6

Review: Toughest Cowboy in Texas by Carolyn Brown

Review: Toughest Cowboy in Texas by Carolyn Brown Toughest Cowboy in Texas Author: Carolyn Brown Reviewer: Jen Rating: C What I’m Talking About: Lila Harris and Brody Dawson were teenagers in love, albeit quietly and secretly. But the night he stood her up and she left town was then end of their romance and friendship. Twelve years later, Lila returns to Happy, Texas, to help sell the cafe her mother once ran and still owns. When Brody shows up, they realize their chemistry hasn’t faded after all this time, but can broken hearts be mended? Toughest Cowboy in Texas is a sweet cowboy romance, but not necessarily right for me. Although I’m not a “cowboy romance” fan, I’ve read and enjoyed other books about cowboys (Lorelei James), working on a ranch (Jill Shalvis) and farmers (Alice Clayton). Yet Ms. Brown’s storytelling and subject matter just didn’t gel with me. First, she relies heavily on country music references, and since I absolutely do not like country music, this not only annoyed me, but left me confused as I didn’t understand the references. She used songs and lyrics to help set the mood or explain feelings, all which was lost to me. Second, there were references to events, like one of the town’s folk disappearing years before, which were written in a way that confused me – wondering if it was something from another book/series – and why it was even part of the story since it seemed to have little impact. There was another scene that featured Lila’s former boyfriend, who is her boss, that also felt contrived and unnecessary. Finally, I didn’t care for some of the side characters – like both “mamas,” who feuded with one another and disapproved of Lila and Brody’s relationship. I felt their reactions and snide remarks were over the top. With that, I did enjoy Brody and Lila together. I loved that they were able to look beyond the their pasts, right the wrongs, and work on a relationship like the adults they are now. Both had matured a lot, yet kept their youthful joy. Brody’s work on the ranch gives him responsibility for his actions – something he knows now he messed up in the past. And Lila had to learn to stand up for herself, that she’s normal and not some messed up, crazy teenager. In the end, Toughest Cowboy in Texas will probably hit all the right notes for many. It’s a sweet story about forgiveness and second...
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Jun
5

Review + Blog Tour: Small Change by Roan Parrish

Review + Blog Tour: Small Change by Roan Parrish Small Change Author: Roan Parrish Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Having first met Ginger in In the Middle of Somewhere I was very happy to see her get her own story. Small Change follows a parallel timeline, but to say that it is the same narrative from a different perspective would simply be untrue. Titled after the name of her tattoo shop—which is itself named after a Tom Waits album and song—Small Change introduces readers to Ginger’s world, and all the wonderful characters in it, amid a significant upheaval. The absence of her best friend, changes at the shop, and the addition of someone she’s beginning to care for (despite her reluctance to believe the truth of it) all have her off balance, but it’s precisely this unsteadiness that made Ginger seem more substantial and genuine than a lot of other characters I’ve read. Something that I particularly enjoyed about Small Change is that Ginger and Christopher’s dance towards one another raises some excellent questions that I think many will find familiar in some way. Can she be honest with herself? How much of herself will Ginger lose if she lets Christopher into her heart? If the hurts that have toughened her are flung outward in defense when someone gets too close, who else might she hurt, in turn? Ginger has spent so long fighting for everything she has—and then having to guard it against anyone who would negate those accomplishments—that she is understandably terrified about what loving Christopher could mean. Interestingly, we get to know Christopher not only by his interactions with Ginger, but through his emails to his brother, Jude. Most of the narrative is strictly from Ginger’s first person point of view, but these one-sided messages are extremely telling, and allow the reader to understand Christopher by the complexity of devotion evidenced within them. They are filled with love, hope, sadness, anger, and even loneliness, proving that he truly is as good as he seems. I also thought it especially appropriate that Ginger must face her hardest truths via Jude—who I found absolutely fascinating. Ginger identifies as queer and has dated both men and women to varying degrees of success, and I loved that there wasn’t any drama about the fact on Christopher’s part—or the story as a whole, come to that. Though the tattoo shop owes its current uptick in business to the publicity it received for being “queer-friendly” as well as...
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Jun
5

Review + Blog Tour: Somehow, Some Way by Jennifer Probst

Review + Blog Tour: Somehow, Some Way by Jennifer Probst Somehow, Some Way Author: Jennifer Probst Reviewer: Jen Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Architect Brady Heart has been a series background character as a partner of Pierce Brothers Construction. In and out of different scenes, I’ve always seen Brady as a nice guy, good friend type of character; however, reading Somehow, Some Way, I got a whole new sense of who Brady is. He is a control freak and has some pretty “traditional” views of what he seeks in a marriage. And the man is ready to find that perfect wife to marry and raise his children, like yesterday. On the other hand, I feel we got a good look at Charlie Flower’s free-spirit in Any Time, Any Place, where she played a pivotal role for Dalton. Charlie is determined to make it on her own, and reluctant to accept help. So when her new family at Pierce Brothers insists that Brady help Charlie on a renovation in a dangerous part of town, she is anything but cooperative or appreciative. I honestly did not see how Brady and Charlie were going to work at first. Frankly, Brady was an arrogant ass. He looked down on Charlie, even though he respected her work ethic and felt an insane attraction to her. His views on dating an woman were very 1950s, yet he never pushed his views on marriage, only asking she respect what works for him. However, I completely sided with Charlie as he continually seemed so condescending. I didn’t like Brady much at all. Yet, as the book moved forward, and he grew closer to Charlie, I saw him open up and change. I loved the point when Brady realized he could no longer ignore his obsessive attraction to Charlie. The whole story turned on edge as the pair began to work together and argue less. They were playful, rather than mean-spirited, and they enjoyed being with each other. That was when the real emotions began to develop and grow. Brady’s self-examination of his long-held views and Charlie’s ability to finally let someone in and help her gave the story depth. Their unlikely romance blossomed. Somehow, Some Way is an enjoyable, fun novella set in the Billionaire Builders series. It is a treat for fans of the series; however the book can be read and enjoyed as a standalone by those new to the series. My Rating: B, Liked It About the Book: Bolivar Randy Heart (aka Brady)...
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May
31

Review: Lessons in Losing It by Jessica Peterson

Review: Lessons in Losing It by Jessica Peterson Lessons in Losing It Author: Jessica Peterson Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: I’m not even going to pretend I’m confused by how awesome Jessica Peterson’s Lessons in Losing It was. It was fabulous. The fourth title in the Study Abroad series is—like the other books—able to be read as a standalone (although I suggest reading them in order because there are characters mentioned from previous titles and they make a bigger impact if you’ve read them). There’s a special place for authors who write books about hot soccer players. Choirs of angels sing there and inspire them to write more books. I’m super sad this is the last Study Abroad title, but the back matter said there MIGHT be a spin-off series. **crosses all the things** I really like Ms. Peterson’s voice and the way she tells a story. The first person, present tense, POV is well-done and doesn’t irritate my soul. She remains solidly in one POV—even though they alternate—in each section. And, it’s truly great to get perspective from both main characters. Rachel is an ambitious woman who knows what she wants from life—professionally. It’s easy to choose what we want to do in life, but who we want to be is a little more difficult. The biggest question is who we want to spend our lives with, sometimes. When the brain overrides the heart? Well, that gets messy. My takeaway from Rachel’s character: don’t let anyone tell you who—or what—to be. It sucks way less that way. Fred? OMG. Be.Still.My.Heart. He’s such a sweetheart! I fell for him almost immediately. The way he was so honest with himself—and Rachel—instantly endeared him to me. Mostly because I want to believe I can be as authentic as he is. Fred is a great character because of his brutal honesty. Sometimes, it really sucks—if one reads to see truth—but it’s all good. He’s a true introvert and it isn’t often we see them accurately portrayed. I loved Fred and Rachel. There was something comfortable and unpretentious about them. Natural. Neither felt the need to be someone they weren’t when they were together. THEY were refreshing. And get a fire extinguisher, because they.are.hot! I look forward to reading more by Ms. Peterson in the future, and have thoroughly enjoyed her Study Abroad series. While all four titles can stand alone, I think they’re best read in order. The first title of the series, Spanish Lessons, is available...
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May
30

Review: New York, Actually by Sarah Morgan

Review: New York, Actually by Sarah Morgan New York, Actually Author: Sarah Morgan Reviewer: Jen Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Unknown to all but four people, Molly is actually the popular relationship expert, Aggie. With a well-liked, successful blog and best-seller to her name, Molly has finally found peace-of-mind after upending her life and moving from London three years ago. As long as nobody discovers her real identity nor the horrors of her past, she’ll be perfectly content with her life and one love, Valentine the Dalmatian. Daniel is a highly motivated, premier divorce lawyer. He loves to be with women – giving them what they want – without strings. And when he sees Molly running with Valentine in Central Park day after day, he goes after her; however, the only way to get her attention is to borrow a dog to walk in the park. Now that he’s got Molly’s attention, he needs to figure out how to get her to open up and let him in. New York, Actually is another wonderful romance in Ms. Morgan’s From Manhattan with Love series. I was concerned at the beginning that I wouldn’t like this book because it has themes that I don’t really enjoy, like dishonesty, holding secrets to “protect” the other, and a set up for potential public humiliation. However, Ms. Morgan eased all my fears and wrote a wonderful story. She never avoided the set up she put in place, but rather allowed her characters to mature and develop genuine feelings for one another. She afforded them the opportunity to feel the angry, hurt, joy, etc. and then let them think about it and come back around. I absolutely enjoyed it! Daniel and Molly are a perfect match. She always breaks hearts and he doesn’t have a heart to break. Due to Molly’s wariness, the couple was forced to take time and start the friendship process before acting fully on their mutual attraction. The missteps and falters were needed, but together, the pair used their hearts, experiences, and their brains to move past the hiccups. I am thankful that Molly’s identity was revealed to Daniel in the middle of the book, rather than at the end. Instead of everything going swimmingly until BAM the big conflict at the end, the pair dealt within increasingly difficult issues until the climax, but by then they were prepared to deal with the issues head on. I also enjoyed all the little tie-ins to the first three...
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May
29

Review: Trust Me by Farrah Rochon

Review: Trust Me by Farrah Rochon Trust Me Author: Farrah Rochon Reviewer: Jen Rating: B What I’m Talking About: At one point, Mackenna (Mack)Arnold was one-half of New Orleans’ Power Couple. But after 15 years of problems and lies, she left her husband. Now she sits on the New Orleans City Council, dedicating her time to helping the city she loves. Unfortunately, her best friend’s little brother, Ezra Holmes, an investigative report, has set his sights on uncovering supposed corruption in Mack’s office. Ezra Holmes is a conflicted, even troubled man. The woman he’s crushed on for years may be using her position on the City Council to line her pockets. Also, he recently trusted the wrong source, costing him his job with the newspaper. So instead of making his way onto the national news spotlight, he’s teaching journalism at a local college. When Mack approaches him about possible corruption in the mayor’s office, he isn’t sure if he can put aside the past and trust that she’s not in it for her own, selfish reasons. The aptly named Trust Me is another entertaining story in Ms. Rochon’s Holmes Brothers series. The book is a standalone romance and story; however, we were introduced to the two main characters in the previous book, where their conflict first came to light. This title is a bit more serious and has a more of an edge to it than the prior title, which took place during a family vacation. I liked the change in scenery and tone; although I worried a bit how the characters would get their “happy ending” with so much at stake. Ezra’s obsession with Mack was a little creepy at the start. The man was determined to prove she was crooked, even while day dreaming about her fine body and beautiful face. I attribute his behavior to a classic case of never being noticed by Mack all those years his sister brought Mack home with her during college. Whether it was misplaced anger or the only way he felt he could “be with her,” I was disturbed by his driven nature to find her guilty. So it was a big relief that the author addressed the issue early in the book, putting the pair on the same page. Although Mack and Ezra shared a passionate desire, they were both extremely cautious with their hearts. Trust was difficult and was only earned as the book progressed. There was a lot of back and forth; give...
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May
17

Review: How to Bang a Billionaire by Alexis Hall

Review: How to Bang a Billionaire by Alexis Hall How To Bang A Billionaire Author: Alexis Hall Reviewer: B. Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: Beginning with an enigmatic and somewhat dark farewell, How to Bang a Billionaire explores the inception of the “arrangementship” between Arden St. Ives, imminent graduate of Oxford University, and Caspian Hart, billionaire, immovable personality, and magnet to Arden’s desires. Both men are contradictions—Arden for being completely undone by his own honesty while trying to be someone else, and Caspian for only coming off as “monstrous” while acting on his determination not to be a monster. This would be enough of a puzzle to draw me in, regardless, but there are many other things to consider here, as well. Alexis Hall is one of my all-time favorite authors, and is among the most gifted writers I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. By the time I’ve finished, his books are nearly always covered in highlights (if electronic) or filled with random bits of paper (if in print) which I’ve shoved in at the binding to mark all the things I don’t want to forget. Unsurprisingly, I think How to Bang a Billionaire is a fantastic story, interweaving science, history, philosophy, art, humor, hurt, and sex into a narrative that I found beautiful. For all the above attributes, How to Bang a Billionaire is also incredibly romantic. Arden occasionally envisions his reactions through an old-Hollywood lens, complete with Hepburn smiles, the “flare of amber” warming Caspian’s face in the dark, and so on. Caspian, by contrast is likened unto the harsh inflexibility of metal: “Sculpted in silver and steel, a man so coldly perfect he was barely real at all.” And yet, it is Caspian’s unexpected laughs and bashful grins, and especially the hungry growls and unraveling control, that threaten to steal Arden’s heart completely. Later, it gets even better as they negotiate needs and boundaries, and how much of themselves they might be able to give. There are more than a couple of swoony moments, without a single “precious” in sight. I still tend to skip reviewing the sexual relationships in many of the books I read, but that wouldn’t be right in this case. There’s a lot going on sexually in How to Bang a Billionaire, but Caspian’s struggle with the connection of sex to self, and the importance of being honest about that, was both frustrating and heartbreaking. Additionally, the narrative is prefaced with what appeared to me to be a misunderstanding...
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May
9

Review: Concourse by Santino Hassell

Review: Concourse by Santino Hassell Concourse Author: Santino Hassell Reviewer: B. Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: Amid the shining lights and luminaries of New York, Ashton Townsend glimmers more brilliantly than the rest. Young, rich, and undeniably beautiful, he’s either desired or envied—or both—by just about everyone. He’s also lonely and brutally aware that nobody really knows who he is beneath the façade he’s created. Nobody except his most cherished friend, and most elusive desire, Val. Valdrin Leka, on the other hand, is a broodingly handsome competitive boxer on his way to going pro for all the wrong reasons. His mother’s full-time position as nanny for the extremely wealthy, entitled Townsend family made growing up in their shadow a bitter pill to swallow—the only exception to that opinion being Ashton. But, as much as he’s always wanted Ashton, letting himself fall completely would surely be a one-sided heartbreak waiting to happen. Or would it? While I’ve loved each of the Five Boroughs stories—and have a particularly soft spot for the first two—Concourse is exceptional. I liked both characters tremendously from the beginning, and I could not stop worrying about them throughout the entire narrative. The tension that had been building between Ashton and Val for years off-page was a nearly tangible thing, their behavior towards one another practically screaming its veracity and making their shared history easy to accept. The weight of Val’s secrets was likewise dark and viscous, threatening at any moment to destroy the happiness they were so close to realizing. I also found the writing itself in Concourse to be about as perfect as I could have hoped, and there were quite a few passages that tugged at my heart during my reading. Val and Ashton’s shared hunger for affection is indisputable, and Mr. Hassell once again rips away any artifice with an emotional simplicity that was both irresistible and believable. “There would have to come a point when I drew boundaries about all this touching, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it yet. Not when he was the only person whose touch I actually felt.” In addition to Val and Ashton, Concourse introduced some interesting new characters as well as allowed me to get to know some of the others who have piqued my curiosity for a long time now a little better. Val’s sister Hana, his friend Matt, and even Luis, his main competition at the gym, were all welcome additions. I also thoroughly enjoyed seeing more...
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