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Currently Browsing: contemporary romance
Apr
26

Review: Back Piece by L.A. Witt

Review: Back Piece by L.A. Witt Back Piece Author: L.A. Witt Reviewer: B. Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: To say that Colin Spencer—gorgeous, fit, and with a body full of tats—has lived an interesting life so far is an understatement. Most would never guess the truths that exist behind the sturdy exterior he presents to the rest of the world. Colin has demons he can’t escape, and enough heartbreak to cure him of ever wanting to lose his heart to someone again. But, everyone has secrets beneath their skin, and the young sailor who’s given Colin a glimpse of his own fears and dreams might be more temptation than he can resist. Daniel Moore is twenty-six years old, semi-closeted, and really wants a tattoo. Good thing he’s just met the perfect guy for the job: the striking civilian tattoo artist who left him tongue-tied and wanting after their first chance meeting. Soon, he can’t think of anything else. But, Daniel is terrified of his own truths, and hiding from the very people who should know him best. What would a man like Colin possibly see in someone like him? Although there is plenty to think about in Back Piece, I believe some of its strongest moments are when Colin and Daniel’s beliefs and opinions—both about themselves and others—are challenged. The author makes quite a few significant points, not the least of which is that very little is as easy or as clear cut as it seems. Colin has a wonderfully supportive, accepting family, but still has serious issues that he’ll have to work through for the rest of his life. Daniel’s, on the other hand, is the exact opposite, yet Colin recognizes that, in some ways, they’re good as a unit. This is just one example, but I appreciated that there was so much to consider here. Another plus is the honesty that exists between Colin and Daniel almost from the beginning. There are a couple of wobbles early on in their relationship, but neither is willing to let the secrets that might be exposed in a given situation linger long enough to become huge problems. This sense of integrity opens the way to mutual acceptance that felt as right as it was sweet, and saved the entire story from the often-overused burden of lies. As much as I liked the attention the author gave to the rest of the narrative, I couldn’t help but be somewhat conflicted in one particular area at the...
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Apr
19

Review: Home Fires by Kate Sherwood

Review: Home Fires by Kate Sherwood Home Fires Author: Kate Sherwood Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: I’ve had the pleasure of following the Common Law series from the beginning, and I believe Home Fires to be the best yet. While I had a couple of random issues early in the series, this story brought everything together far better than I had anticipated it might. And though my fondness for Wade hasn’t lessened one bit, I’ve now fallen for Jericho, too, and feel that both men got an ending to the story that suits them very well. While the more suspenseful elements have consistently been my favorite moments of the series, Home Fires has a few that I think excel over the others. In what is arguably one of the better confrontations in the Common Law stories, whatever uncertainty still existed in Jericho’s mind is thoroughly destroyed, and I enjoyed reading it tremendously. It’s certainly among the best showdowns I’ve read in a long while. Despite the inherent battles Jericho and Wade fight within the shades of gray that surround them, the affection and wanting that simmers and flares between them is undeniable. Often teasing, but hardly ever explicit, their relationship is born of scars and memory and is as restless as the characters themselves. They’ve earned their resolution and I was glad to see them have it at last. Besides, there were plenty of other things to fight in Home Fires, so why bother? Still more to like about Home Fires is that there’s plenty of humor, albeit as dry and sarcastic as ever, if not more so. The citizens of Mosely really are Jericho’s people, and the comfort he finds in accepting it is both evident and welcome. No longer the prodigal, he’s his best self now, especially with Wade at his side. Or watching his back. Or blowing up the evidence room at the police station. Whatever they’ve figured out between them works—not just for them, but the whole town, as well. After four books, I’ve become attached to this series, and I’m very sorry for it to end. The author set a nice pace throughout, making the culmination of steps Wade and Jericho have taken seem justifiably rewarding—for the readers as well as the characters. Each story is both manageable and engaging, and I absolutely recommend reading all the books, rather than any of them as standalones. Home Fires made for a perfect ending, and I think starting the...
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Apr
17

Review: The Thing About Love by Julie James

Review: The Thing About Love by Julie James The Thing About Love Author: Julie James Reviewer: Nima Rating: B What I’m Talking About: FBI agent Jessica Harlow likes her job and wants to be the best. From the early days of her training, she’s been trying to overcompensate for her diminutive size and any perceptions of weakness because she’s a woman. Agent John Shepherd came through her same class at Quantico. Always at odds for top marks, they became bitter rivals. Years later, they end up in the same field office and get assigned to the same case.  They will have to work to put aside their competitive natures if they are to collaborate successfully.  With the focus on the operation, the story has a substance in what would otherwise just be a fluffy romance of rekindled passions.  James gives us a lot of context for their history and relationship which added a depth that improved it. The banter and wit James is known for, like, “She who nearly climbeth the man like a tree must owneth it” rounds out the corners and makes this a strong addition to her FBI/US Attorney series. I wish we had had the chance to see John in action. He’s basically a superhero without the cape. James doesn’t take advantage of the character she’s created to show off his mad skills.  I also took issue with the ending.  She wrapped it up with a tidy bow, but before getting there, her own character, Jessica offers up an alternative ending.  Frankly, I liked that one better. As usual, the families James creates around her characters are wonderful and I enjoyed their intrusions into the storylines.  They make these overachievers relatable to the rest of us ordinary humans.  Even though there are things I would change, I can definitely say I liked this book. My Rating: B, Liked It About the Book: FBI agents Jessica Harlow and John Shepherd have a past. The former lawyer and cocky Army Ranger clashed during their training at Quantico and gladly went their separate ways after graduating from the Academy. Six years later, the last thing either of them expects is to be assigned to work as partners in a high-profile undercover sting. For both of them, being paired with an old rival couldn’t come at a worse time. Recently divorced from a Hollywood producer and looking for a fresh start, Jessica is eager to prove herself at her new field office. And John is just one...
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Apr
5

Review: By Her Touch by Adriana Anders

Review: By Her Touch by Adriana Anders By Her Touch Author: Adriana Anders Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: I’m an ink junkie. Anyone that knows me will tell you that. From the time I was old enough to appreciate tattoos as art, I’d wanted one of my own. I wasn’t able to get my first until around the time I’d turned forty, and now I have…a lot. ☺ They tell a story of who I have been, who I am, and who I will be. So, when I had the opportunity to read the first title of the Blank Canvas series by Adriana Anders—Under Her Skin—I jumped at the chance. I wasn’t disappointed. I was eager to read the next installment in the series…and O…M…G. I don’t think I’ve ever read a tortured hero like Clay. While George was a wonderfully rounded-out character and I was able to connect with her, have my heart break for her and her losses—her situation. The road she’d traveled to get to this moment in time that brought Clay into her life hadn’t been all sunshine, lollipops, and rainbows. She’d known pain. But, when we look at George as a reflection of ourselves, she had been merely a husk of a person. Seeing her character grow gave me that warm, fuzzy feeling. So. Clay. When I read a book about a guy that was trying to do the right thing and basically got screwed over, I always get a little indignant on his behalf. Why can’t the good guy ever have an easy time of it?!? Hahah. That’d be too easy. Without pain, the pleasure isn’t quite so sweet. And Clay had had plenty of pain. Emotional pain, physical pain—you name it, he’d had it. One of my thoughts was, “How can a man that’s gone through so much in his life be ready for a truly committed relationship?” Truth is, it’s hard to tell. Oftentimes in a situation like that, one can’t even recognize themselves. It’s like digging out of a pit—having to gently slope the sides to climb out and have a chance to be whole. Doing all the hard work—the digging and climbing—is part of the process, so even when someone tosses down a rope ladder, it really isn’t helping matters, much. What really drew me to Clay, though, was the fact that he carried the story of his past, present, and future. Whether he realized it or not, he bore the marks that...
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Apr
3

Review: Cooking with Kandy by Peggy Jaeger

Review: Cooking with Kandy by Peggy Jaeger Cooking with Kandy Author: Peggy Jaeger Reviewer: Jen Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Cooking with Kandy is the EBC’s number one food show, making Kandy Laine a highly successful woman, and apparently a target. Kandy is self-driven with high standards and an incredible work ethic. While she is extremely busy, family always comes first; she is giving, caring, and would do anything for those in her inner circle. So when threats on Kandy’s life grow more serious, she’s honestly perplexed that it could be coming from someone close to her. Josh Keane was hired to protect Kandy and get to the bottom of the threats. While he has always put his job first, his instant attraction to and growing friendship with Kandy messes with his head and heart. Will getting to the bottom of the danger signal the end of his time with Kandy… or will it start the beginning of something more? Cooking with Kandy is an enjoyable combination of sweet romance and light mystery/suspense. As the first title in Ms. Jaeger’s new Will Cook for Love series, readers are introduced to Kandy and her entire extended family, ninety percent of which seem to work for her in some capacity. The author has created a warm, genuine environment, which should serve well for the series setting. Kandy and Josh are two peas in a pod (food reference intended!); both are driven individuals who have their own fair share of baggage. While each has found success and happiness with their career paths, it isn’t until they are put together that they truly see some holes and loneliness in their lives. Although they are forced by circumstance to be together, they develop a genuine bond, and the nature of the events surrounding their pairing lends itself to a rapid opening up and sharing of innermost thoughts and desires. Josh and Kandy are sweet together. They are like the couple that finishes each other’s sentences. And while it took a little while for the steam to build, once the couple allows themselves to indulge in desire, the heat factor raises quickly. Kandy’s world is full of characters, and at times it was difficult to remember who was who. This is important because not only is the book a romance, there is a pretty serious mystery which gives way to a bit of suspense. Ms. Jaegar establishes a solid problem, complete with clues and red herrings. I enjoyed piecing together the...
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Mar
29

Review: Royally Roma by Teri Wilson

Review: Royally Roma by Teri Wilson Royally Roma Author: Teri Wilson Reviewer: Ang Rating: C What I’m Talking About: I was super excited to read Royally Roma. It’s advertised as a retelling of the classic romance Roman Holiday – a movie I ADORE!!!!!  It’s clear the author loves Audrey Hepburn as much as I do and that she has a major crush on Prince William, which I can totally respect—I mean he’s a cutie pie. But I felt like rather than work with the romance & chemistry that Roman Holiday offers, Ms. Wilson relies way too much on sexual references. I understand that Julia and Nico have massive chemistry. That is clear from the open scene when he’s lying asleep and naked in her bed, but I felt like much of the story was missed because they were so caught up in the heat that was between them. References to her pert, round bottom and his arousals were plentiful, but I felt like they weren’t necessary. I mean, I understand that we are dealing with a couple hot and horny millennials; however, I feel like a well placed kiss and a side-long glance, at least in a few places would have relaid the same message as him needing to adjust his expensive trousers to hide evidence. I’m sorry, maybe I’m a bit old-fashioned, but I feel like sex in a story should be like sprinkles on a cupcake. They offer, color, texture, maybe a little flavor, but no one wants to bite into a cupcake filled with hard, crunchy, weak-flavored sprinkles that distract from the fun & flavor of the cake and frosting. Royally Roma had some great cake and frosting to offer along side of some seriously beautiful scenery. Ms. Wilson does an AMAZING job describing Rome. The dialogue both inside the main characters’ heads and between the pair is fun and witty and lets us see a side of Nico we’d all like to see of Prince William. But overall, the book relied so heavily on sex that I missed the story for the sprinkles, and that’s a bummer because Roman Holiday really is a wonderful and classic story. My Rating:  C, Finished It – Liked some, didn’t like some   About the Book: In this charming, modern retelling of the classic Audrey Hepburn film Roman Holiday, a royal prince tries to escape his hectic and rigid life and ends up leading a young graduate student on a chase through the Eternal City. Julia Costa...
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Mar
28

Review: The Enforcer by Stephanie Julian

Review: The Enforcer by Stephanie Julian The Enforcer Author: Stephanie Julian Reviewer: Jen Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Jess Gardiner has hockey in her blood. With the best scout in the NHL for a father, Jess learned the game inside and out at a young age. The problem is, women aren’t scouts in the NHL. So she works as the promotion manager for the Redtails, honestly loving her job, and feeds her scouting side by making recommendations to the coach on the side. Will is a veteran player without much time left playing the sport he loves. However, after a recommendation to give him a look, the Redtails pick him up to be a leader for its young team. And from the moment he meets the intriguing Jess, he’s hoping he’ll stay with the Redtails for a while. The Enforcer is a quick, enjoyable story with equal parts romance and hockey. Hockey isn’t just a setting for the book, but rather the story is infused with the ins and outs of the sport. It’s clear that Ms. Julian understands and loves hockey as much as her heroine, Jess. Right from the start, Jess and Will experience a strong pull and mutual attraction, accompanied by the sudden realization that something has been missing in their lives. However, Jess was burned by immature hockey players in the past, and she’s worried about the impacts to her credibility on the job if she dates someone on the team. Yet, she cannot deny herself the joy of being around Will. Similarly, Will recognizes he’s getting older and doesn’t want to play games when meets a woman he really likes. Yet, he is respectful of her concerns and willing just to be friends because he enjoys her company – totally swoon-worthy. Their romance is quick, sexy, and sweet, and I really enjoyed their story. My biggest issue with The Enforcer is the number of apparent continuity errors within the storyline. I can adjust to one or maybe two issues, but I found a handful of situations that seemed in clear conflict with something stated later in the story. For example, in a scene early in the book, Will discusses an upcoming game with teammate Justin and how a player named Mason will cause Will problems. Mason plays for Syracuse. Yet later in the text, we find out that the Redtails are playing Milwaukee. While not important to the overall story, continuity issues like this drive me nuts, and I...
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Mar
27

Review: All You Need by Lorelei James

Review: All You Need by Lorelei James All You Need Author: Lorelei James Reviewer: Jen Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Annika Lund has an Ice Queen reputation because she works hard for her family’s company, always doing what is best for the family, even if her personal life takes a back seat. But until she started spending time with Axl, she hadn’t been with a man who was worth the distraction. Now she’s found a guy who matches her word for word and makes her toes curl in the process. If only she could share it with others. Axl Hammerquist is much more than the handsome, rough, playboy hockey player he portrays, but why let anyone see the real man when they don’t expect anything more from him? However, when his agent insists on a public image makeover, it is his attraction to and respect for Annika that gets him to change his mind. So when his agent decides it’s time to publicly end Axl’s PR relationship with Annika, he realizes he’s in way more than he ever planned. All You Need is a wonderful, feel-good romance that hits all the right notes for me. Axl and Annika are equals from the start, and while there is some minor jockeying for position, their relationship isn’t a power play struggle for dominance. I admire that both have serious careers and neither has to compromise his/her work ethic or ambitions, rather, both support the other along the journey. But their story is far from all work and no play! The couple starts off on the wrong foot, as Axl drives to challenge Annika’s PR abilities, causing trouble just to see how she’ll react. He recognizes her intellect and admires her strength, and he has fun creating situations for her just so he can watch her work. Their silly name calling and hockey puns give rise to entertaining conversations. Equally enjoyable is their mutual attraction which creates wonderful sexual tension. While there are several things that worked for me in the title, it’s the fact that once Annika and Axl became a couple, they stayed a couple, that made their story shine. Although these two alphas butted heads at the start, they were upfront not only about their issues with the other, but their mutual attraction as well. Yes, they did try to fight the sex appeal, creating wonderful sexual tension and moments of witty banter, but they both recognized right away that they weren’t going to be...
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Mar
22

Review: His Custody by Tamsen Parker

Review: His Custody by Tamsen Parker His Custody Author: Tamsen Parker Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: I don’t even know where to start. I have to admit I may have had a seriously uneasy feeling at the beginning of this story—until about the halfway mark. But, I trust Tamsen Parker to deliver a deep, thoughtful read that pushes me past my personal limits. And, this title **really** pushed me for a plethora of reasons. There’s a huge age discrepancy between Keyne (pronounced Cain, like Cain & Abel) and Jasper. That isn’t a problem for me, normally. I love me a good May-December romance. This title falls more under the barely legal, though. I deal with teenagers every day, Monday through Friday. I might have gotten a little squicked out. Initially. But I pushed past that and looked at what was really happening in this story. Age took a backseat. Because, really, it doesn’t matter. This. Story. Is. Freakin’. Brilliant. This review, beyond this point, is slightly spoilery. The blurb hints, but doesn’t come right out and say some of the things I’m about to disclose, so if you don’t want any spoilers, go get your one-click on. However, the spoilers aren’t that bad and don’t really reveal a lot you can’t pretty much guess from the blurb. <spoiler> Jasper and Keyne’s parents were life-long friends. Keyne was dating—inseparable from—Jasper’s younger brother. Keyne was the sole survivor of an accident. Yeah. And she was only seventeen, so she needed a legal guardian—and someone to wade through all the emotional stuff something like that would leave behind. My heart literally broke for Keyne. I seriously sobbed a few times. I wondered how Jasper could handle all the crap being thrown at him while wading through his own grief. I wanted to build a blanket fort and snuggle in it with them both. One thing that I thought as I was reading that a tragedy such as this would naturally draw two grieving people together, and I wondered whether that’s what was happening here. Whether something would happen and the spell between Jasper and Keyne would be broken. Because that’s exactly what it seemed like. This magical thing between two people—that when you watch it unfold from the outside, it takes your breath away. <end spoiler> The pacing in His Custody was perfect. I was drawn through every word in the story, and I definitely stayed up reading entirely too late. I was really sad...
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Mar
15

Review: Madly by Ruthie Knox

Review: Madly by Ruthie Knox Madly Author: Ruthie Knox Reviewer: Nima Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: I’ve been anxiously awaiting this book. I loved, loved, loved About Last Night.  While it’s not directly attached to the New York Trilogy, main character Winston Chamberlain is the brother of About Last Night’s Nev Chamberlain.  Winston’s love interest Allie Fredericks is the sister of May Fredericks, from Truly, the first book in this trilogy. Madly is an odd little read. It can be a stand-alone, but is complimented by About Last Night and Truly. Don’t get me wrong, I read it beginning to end in a day because it was compelling.  It just didn’t fall neatly into a typical category.  It’s definitely a romance, but unlike other offerings by Knox that I’ve read, it could almost be called “women’s fiction” as the characters work through significant emotional baggage.  I like Knox too much to stick her with that label though. The characters are completely mismatched by age and temperament—but they work.  Winston is British and old enough to have a college-aged daughter, goes through as much self-discovery as Allie does.  Allie is in her mid-twenties, an insecure mid-westerner, who’s as impulsive as Winston is restrained.  That these two hook up and help each other through significant personal crises, is as unlikely as their continued relationship.  But they do. I adored Winston.  He was Rupert Penry-Jones in every Hallmark and period BBC movie you’ve ever seen.  Allie is likable because she always means well and is more perceptive than she thinks.  Many parts of the book are introspective and Allie comes off as a bit of an old soul when she reassures Winston about his age, “You know you’re just whatever age you are, right?  It doesn’t mean anything except that it’s taken you this many years to be the you who you are right now.”  Think about it for a while.  I liked the thought.  Allie’s father was also an unexpected gem. A lot of the book dealt with the idea of being authentic with yourself and others.  Knox was inspired by an essay by Glendon Doyle Melton which you can READ HERE. It would never work as a movie, I think the self-examination that made it work in print wouldn’t translate to the screen, but I loved the movie in my head. True to form, Knox comes up with a big ending.  It wasn’t as surprising as some of her previous novels since we had a...
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