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Currently Browsing: contemporary romance
Oct
3

Review: Only by HelenKay Dimon

Review: Only by HelenKay Dimon Only Author: HelenKay Dimon Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: I really was excited about reading Only, the second title in Helenkay Dimon’s Holton Woods series. The first book, Mercy, was fabulous as well. They do need to be read sequentially. If you don’t have the background from the first title, you’re going to miss stuff in this one. I really wish I had more time to just sit down and read. Like, all day. This is one of those titles that I was happy I had digitally. I read for five minutes here or ten minutes there every time I had a moment. If I’d had one uninterrupted chunk of time to read the whole thing? Yup. I’d have done it. Only picks up where Mercy ends, pretty much. It doesn’t seem like much time has passed. One of the great things about this book is that there are TWO happily-for-nows. Two! Isn’t that spectacular? Readers of the first title in the series will recall the horrible break-up of Wade and Eli. It. Was. Ugly. And well-worth reading Mercy to get even just this part of the story line. What I like about this subplot was that the guys seemed realistic. Their thought patterns mimicked those of REAL DUDES. *boggle* And, they’re both so … He-Man, I guess. They’re masters of their own fate, and independent, with muscles to match. But seeing their vulnerability when it came to the other was refreshing. This is one of the reasons I like reading M/M stories. They can be all alpha-male and thumping their chests, but they actually show how much they need one another in a much different way. Wade and Eli are no exception. Sebastian, a.k.a. Bast, is a smooth-talking lawyer that can manage to get himself – and others – talked out of pretty much anything. He negotiates with the likes of the CIA to make ‘deals’ regarding persons of interest. In Mercy, those people were Becca, Jarrett, and Eli. Only has him negotiating with the feds for Natalie’s safety, as she was recently canned by the CIA. I really think this part of the plot only serves as a cover for all the work Bast needs to do, and the reason he doesn’t stay with Kyra 24/7/365. He’s completely enamored with her, and he’s scared to tell his closest friends because Kyra is Wade’s little sister, and they all look out for her. Because of...
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Oct
2

Review: Echoes of Scotland Street by Samantha Young

Review: Echoes of Scotland Street by Samantha Young Echoes of Scotland Street Author: Samantha Young Reviewer: Luisa (Guest) Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Echoes of Scotland Street begins with a flashback of fifteen-year-old Shannon MacLeod briefly meeting gorgeous boy-next-door Cole Walker, while she’s visiting her grandmother in Edinburg. Their chemistry is tangible from the moment they see each other, however the spell is quickly broken as Shannon has to return to Glasgow. Fast forward ten years, Shannon is back in Edinburg, and this time she’s there to stay. Back at home, Shannon has left her family and friends, only taking with her a lot of guilt and plenty of insecurities. With just a few belongings and not much more to her name, Shannon is desperate for a job that can help her start over and forget everything she left behind. Life is all about second chances and as Shannon finds a job and housing arrangements, she is ready to give herself a second chance at being happy—which includes swearing off men for good—that is until she meets (once again) that gorgeous boy from so long ago, Cole Walker. The moment Cole sees Shannon, he recalls the moment they met. Even though many years have passed, Cole remembers their first encounter like it was just a few days ago. While Cole is ready to pick up where they left off, Shannon reminds herself that she is no longer interested in gorgeous boys, especially the tattooed, dangerous kind. Shannon and Cole have a few things in common and plenty of chemistry to make up where they may lack, but is that enough for them to take advantage of this second chance, and make it last? … You’ll definitely will want to find out! Samantha delivers once again a tantalizing story. From the moment I started this book I knew I was in trouble, lucky me, I’d cleared my schedule and I had a whole day to devour this novel. Having read all her previous novels in the On Dublin Street series, I had very high expectations, however this novel not only exceeded said expectations, but I’m convinced that this novel is now one of my favorites, only second to the original On Dublin Street. Old fans and new fans alike, are in for a treat. If you haven’t read any of the other books in the series, you have nothing to worry about, Echoes of Scotland Street stands on its own from start to finish. This definitely a...
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Sep
26

Review: Hope Burns by Jaci Burton

Review: Hope Burns by Jaci Burton Hope Burns Author: Jaci Burton Reviewer: Nima Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Hope Flames, book one in the Hope series, brings Emma Burnett and Luke McCormack together in a romance that introduces us to the little town of Hope.  The time for the wedding has come and Emma’s little sister Molly is expected, finally, home for the festivities.  Hope Burns, book three, follows Molly’s journey through the healing of old wounds as she returns from a twelve year absence from family and friends to participate in the wedding.  Molly loves her sister, but does not want to return to Hope because it will mean seeing her ex-high school sweetheart, Carter Richards, and that’s just too painful to think about.  So painful, in fact, that even though she’s the Maid of Honor, she shirks nearly all of her duties and crawls into town, almost literally because her car is dying and slow death, at the last possible moment.  Her plan is to get in, smile, and get out. I think stories of redemption and growth are my favorite stories.  I hate stagnate, one dimensional characters that can’t see past themselves.  Unfortunately, Molly is so defined by her past relationship with Carter and the suffering accompanying it, that she comes off this way initially.  We spend several chapters enduring her pain, old pain.  After twelve years, it felt like she should have been able to share it, deal with it, and move on rather than moving constantly from place to place in a futile effort to run away from an ache that she can never shake.  As a result, she came off as whiney more than hurt.  It takes nearly the first third of the book to get the hostility of twelve years out of her system and we the readers have to endure it. Carter, unlike Molly, did get on with his life even though he undoubtedly endured some injury from their separation as well.  He grew up, opened several successful auto repair shops, bought a house, and continued to date.  It’s no surprise when it’s he who chooses to be the grown-up and tries to fix what was broken between himself and Molly all those years ago.  Molly’s plan was just to continue trying to avoid him. An incident comes up that requires Molly to stay on much longer than the weekend of the wedding, and I was pleased to see her rise to the occasion.  My only...
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Sep
24

Review: One Funeral by Kat & Stone Bastion

Review: One Funeral by Kat & Stone Bastion One Funeral Author: Kat & Stone Bastion Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: Devoured. That’s how I read One Funeral, the second title in Kat & Stone Bastion’s No Weddings series. This humorous, yet oh-so-serious series is already on my list of favorites, and I can’t wait for the next title, Two Bar Mitzvahs. I’m eager to see what happens between Hannah and Cade. First, if you haven’t read No Weddings, the first book in the No Weddings series, READ IT FIRST. There’s no option, really. Otherwise, a reader would be hopelessly lost. The backstory is quite important to the plot of book two, and while things are hinted at, I don’t think they’re explicit enough to get a reader up to speed. Besides, you won’t want to miss a second of Cade & Hannah goodness anyway. This title is narrated by Hannah, while No Weddings was from Cade’s POV. I was floored by how much I got out of things from Hannah’s perspective. I kinda like this alternating narrators thing the Bastions have going on with this series. I thought I knew Hannah from the first title in the series, but I found that I really didn’t know her, I just knew what Cade saw. I really like Hannah now. I mean, I liked her before. Now? I could totally go hang out with her for an afternoon, acting as though we’ve known one another for our entire lives. I like the way that Hannah attends therapy to work through her issues. Instead of relying on Cade to always make everything better. The fact that she’s a strong, independent woman was driven home even harder throughout One Funeral. And… *gasp* she has a life outside her man! What kind of blasphemy is this? Oh, and he doesn’t get jealous of all the time she spends doing business, either. Getting to know Hannah better – especially her past – really solidified her for me as a character. It gave her credence as a legit participant in the story – not just a created entity that was secondary to the plot. Hannah is definitely a major participant in the novel and series. I think that reading a title from her perspective will help me to have her ‘voice’ in my head when I read the next title, Two Bar Mitzvahs. Her perspectives and views on her non-dating friend, Cade, were fresh and introspective. Even when she questioned things,...
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Sep
19

Review: Rock Addiction by Nalini Singh

Review: Rock Addiction by Nalini Singh Rock Addiction Author: Nalini Singh Reviewer: Jen Rating: A What I’m Talking About: Molly Webster has lived her entire adult life in fear of being reckless or worse, becoming addicted to love. At sixteen, after her “family-values” politician father was caught in a compromising situation, Molly’s life spun out of control. Living in the spotlight was not for her, and she became determined to live a quiet, ordinary life. So when mega rock star Zachery Fox shows interest in Molly, she doesn’t know how to make her feelings fit into her orderly life. Fox, the lead singer for the world famous band, Schoolboy Choir, wants Molly completely. From the moment he laid eyes on her and realized her genuine nature, he knew she was the woman for him. Now he’s determined to find a way to be with Molly and get her to live the life she’s been afraid to experience. I’m not going to lie… I really, really enjoyed Rock Addiction! There was just something about the book that drew me in and kept me glued to the pages. And the characters stuck with me days after I finished reading it. I’d get a smile on my face just thinking about Molly and Fox. Rock Addiction is a (mostly) light-hearted, happy tale with some knock-your-boots-off sex scenes. One major factor that contributes to my complete enjoyment of this book is the characters. Ms. Singh creates such amazing, multifaceted characters that right from the beginning, I found myself attached. I cared what happened to them. I ached because they ached. I worried because they worried. While both Molly and Fox, as well as the numerous supporting players, are not the average Joe’s you’d meet in town, they have many qualities that makes them feel genuine and everyday. They may have problems, but they find ways to work through them and move forward. Which brings me to another reason I adored Rock Addiction… Life isn’t necessarily easy for any of the characters, but Molly and Fox take the time to work through every issue that comes their way. I appreciate that through everything, the characters continue to be themselves, experience powerful emotions, deal with personal demons, etc., but talk to each other and work it out. Sure, they had their arguments, but they were honest with one another and determined to make it work. They fought through the rough and didn’t break. We watched them truly grow and nurture a...
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Sep
5

Review: No Weddings by Kat & Stone Bastion

Review: No Weddings by Kat & Stone Bastion No Weddings Author: Kat & Stone Bastion Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: I’ve known about the No Weddings series for a while. I can’t believe it’s finally here, though! I was excited to read the newest by Kat Bastion, and her co-writer and otherwise duly noted partner in life, crime and fiction, Stone Bastion. And if I fan-girl a little bit during my review, forgive me ☺ This series is about the development of a relationship. A sturdy, solid, for-the-long-haul relationship. We don’t have insta-love here, folks. And we get book 1 of the series completely from Cade’s point-of-view. Male. Point-Of-View. I loved his narrative voice and the way we got to see the inner dude and how hard he was falling for Hannah. His inner turmoil. How he wrestled with his own demons. How he has tender and thoughtful moments. Most of all, how he is patient and thoughtful. Cade, a.k.a. Kincade, is an anomaly in romance. He’s not all caveman, thumping his chest to impress a woman, outwardly. At the onset of the story, Cade is Mr. No-Strings-Attached with a list of booty-calls. On a STICKY NOTE. He’s the epitome of bachelor-dom, living with his friend, Mase, and has another friend – Ben – that seems to casually drop-in whenever the mood strikes. I think that he lives in a pseudo man-cave, but there’s a hint of civility that seems to be infused into his domain. And humor. So much humor, my face hurts from smiling as I read. One of the most poignant passages I read made me stop and think: “Life didn’t have to be good or bad. We didn’t have only one predestined road to follow. Life existed not in the black and white, but in the gray.”  And it’s significant because I think it shapes the way everything evolves for Cade and Hannah. It’s realistic, and wrought with emotion if one stops and thinks about how it applies to themselves. As the synopsis states, Cade owns and runs a bar. He’s successful and the bar is a success. He’s also starting up a party planning business with his three sisters. One of the rules established was that Cade couldn’t sleep with the help. And when Cade has to go into negotiations to contract with Hannah to exclusively use her baking talents to supply confectionary goodness for their parties, he spouts off this gem: “A trifecta of sibling code, business code,...
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Aug
11

Review: His Every Need by Terri L. Austin

Review: His Every Need by Terri L. Austin His Every Need Author: Terri L. Austin Reviewer: VampBard Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Ohhhh. Myyyyy. When reading Terri L. Austin’s novel, His Every Need, I was reminded a LOT about several other novels I’ve read. While it’s reminiscent of the contemporary erotic romance that’s all the rage right now, there’s definitely something unique and fresh in Ms. Austin’s voice and the plot for this title. First, I love Allie, the main character. She’s sassy, impertinent, and responsible. Something not easily written in today’s contemporary romance. With the responsibility for her siblings after her mother’s death from cancer (god, I hate cancer…), and a father that had basically checked out, Allie had her hands completely full. With responsibility comes a bit of selflessness, as readers will discover as they breeze through this well-written novel. Trevor is the epitome of selfish a$$hattery. I think he believes the sun rises and sets with his every whim, and that he’s above reproach. This billionaire has earned respect in the business world by running a tight ship. And while he disowns his family verbally, by his actions, he still seeks their approval. This is the ONE thing that endeared Trevor to me as I read. There were so many times I just wanted to slap him, it wasn’t funny. I really liked the element of Trevor’s parents being in his home. While their presence was unwanted, it helped us learn about Trevor’s backstory a bit. There’s still several questions I have about Trevor, and would have liked to see more. We got the basics of what makes him tick, but delving deeply into the man’s psyche wasn’t something that happened in this book. I really did like His Every Need. The way Ms. Austin presented the peon-turned-mistress-turned-significant-other trope was definitely a new take on making your man change into something that is acceptable in today’s society. We look at rich dudes and think their eccentricities are all okay as long as they have money. Well, it’s not. Teachers and parents work every day to ensure that kids are going to be valued members of society. When the billionaire books come out, we see a LOT of guys that are basically only socially accepted because they have a ton of money, and they’re sought-after as suitors because women long to be their eye-candy and have access to their bank accounts. What I find so fresh and different about His Every Need is the...
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Aug
4

Review: Taking it All by Maya Banks

Review: Taking it All by Maya Banks Taking it All Author: Maya Banks Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: What can be more beautiful than a man willing to fight for a love that is as important to him as life itself? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. Maya Banks has written a spectacular conclusion to the Surrender Trilogy. It’s been a long time since I’ve read something as poignant and real that deals with marriage as the conflict in this title. Whether the marriage will survive. Whether both parties are willing to fight to keep their marriage. And whether a marriage can survive a serious breach of trust. I’m not going to lie. I have eagerly anticipated Taking it All this summer. I’ve been looking at my reading schedule and counting down the books until I could finally glom on to it. After reading the prior titles in the trilogy, I was giddy about reading Chessy and Tate’s story. Maybe a little TOO eager. I devoured it in a day. I even went to work and slept a little. Even though I really didn’t want to. Damn responsibilities are getting in the way of my reading. First things first, even though you could probably read Taking it All without having read the previous titles in the Surrender Trilogy, you probably don’t want to. Knowing the other characters and being able to appreciate their changes are part of what makes this novel have such an impact. Joss and Dash, Kylie and Jensen – they’re all part of this story, and those that haven’t read the first two titles will be missing the importance of some of the things these characters communicate to Chessy regarding Tate. The obvious growth of these characters, primary in previous titles and secondary to this one, are major plot points for the over-all arc of the series. So, read the first two books first. They are excellent! Talking about Chessy and Tate is…difficult. Anyone that has been through a rough break-up, or simply felt neglected in a marriage will be able to identify with Chessy’s plight. Ms. Banks doesn’t sugar-coat it, and she doesn’t simply wave a magic wand to make things all better between the couple. They both have to work for it. Especially Tate. I think that a significant part of this story was set-up in previous books, and makes the build-up more intense for the reader than someone simply picking up Taking it All. In the previous titles, we learned...
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Aug
1

Review: Home the Hard Way by Z.A. Maxfield

Review: Home the Hard Way by Z.A. Maxfield Home the Hard Way Author: Z. A. Maxfield Reviewer: B. Rating: A What I’m Talking About: When Dare Buckley left Palladian, he was a golden boy in mourning, and the town was a place of personal tragedy and loss. Going away meant starting over, and moving on wasn’t something he’d ever allowed himself to regret. As with all things not fully understood until much later, however, leaving usually means leaving someone behind, and Dare soon finds that the secrets that shaped the former children and the community he once knew run far deeper than he could have ever imagined. Isolated and stigmatized from the moment he arrived in town, Finn Fowler has never had it easy. Small and unmistakably “different,” he was targeted and bullied, briefly finding acceptance and friendship with Dare, only to lose everything all over again when Dare and his mother left Palladian. But, time and circumstance have redefined Finn, and the man he’s become has been getting along just fine on his own. At least, he was until his former protector’s return threatens everything, especially the walls he’s so carefully built around his heart. As much as I loved Home the Hard Way, I never quite figured out how I felt about Dare. While his past is certainly tragic, and grieving is a process that is unique to every individual, I really didn’t like him at first, and was never thoroughly convinced of his worthiness. Still, he is necessary on many levels, and provides an excellent lens through which to watch the story evolve. His assumptions about Palladian and all the people in it compared to the reality of what he finds when he comes home in disgrace are important, and serve as a painful testimony about selfish actions. His befuddlement over the changes in Finn, especially, but the rest of the town as well, was more than a little insulting, considering his abandonment of the boy he’d sworn to protect, yet I found the entire situation intriguing and darkly entertaining. I may not have liked Dare, but I very much wanted him there, learning and, yes, hurting a bit as he decided how to handle the second chance he was given. Regardless, Dare is a vivid, crucial component of the narrative, and I can’t imagine this story being as meaningful without him. Finn, on the other hand, is a wonderful character, and I absolutely loved him from the start. He has a seemingly infinite...
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Jul
16

Review: Stranded with a Billionaire by Jessica Clare

Review: Stranded with a Billionaire by Jessica Clare Stranded with a Billionaire Author: Jessica Clare Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: I think I’m a in a groove with the contemporary romance titles! I was excited when I was offered the opportunity to read a title by Jessica Clare (the alter-ego of Jill Myles). She’s been on my ‘author’s to read’ list for a while, and finally the stars aligned! All the awesome stuff I’ve heard about Ms. Myles is true. FABULOUS stuff! In doing my research for this review, I believe that we’re seeing a re-release of this series – or quite possibly the launch of mass-market paperback. Either way, I highly recommend! When I first started reading Stranded with a Billionaire, I was a little puzzled. Um. Hurricane?!?! What good can come out of such a destructive natural disaster? But when all the pieces fell together for me, BOOM! I fell in love with Logan and Bronte. Together. Individually. I just love those two. Ms. Myles’s storytelling was splendid, engaging, and completely enchanting. I didn’t want to like Logan. Really, I tried not to. I’m not into deceit of any form in a relationship. ‘Oooh! If I can get him/her to like like me, none of the lies will matter. However, Logan completely redeemed himself for me. By bringing her in to a clandestine part of his world – and giving her the power to topple several empires – he proved his love and his trust for her. This was especially important as Logan had his head messed with in his previous relationship. Ms. Myles even gave her readers a glimpse into his infamous ex. Quite well done. I had a soft spot for Bronte from the beginning. What a unique name, right?!? Well, this philosophy-spouting, independent woman definitely wasn’t looking for a sugar daddy. As matter of fact, one of the things I loved most about Bronte is that she had a marked distaste for the ‘Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous’. I also identified with Bronte in many ways. Living paycheck-to-paycheck, never able to take a vacation, and markedly responsible and ethical. Probably her philosophy-roots showing. However, I didn’t always agree with Bronte’s reactions to plot points. That is, until the end when everything had a shiny red bow tied around it. The supporting characters were well-introduced. I was able to identify people from my own life that paralleled these characters, which made the reading all that more fun. Sharon, Bronte’s...
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