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Currently Browsing: contemporary romance
Jul
12

Review + Blog Tour: All Wheel Drive by Z.A. Maxfield

Review + Blog Tour: All Wheel Drive by Z.A. Maxfield All Wheel Drive Author: Z.A. Maxfield Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Diego Luz had a plan of his own before an accident caused a spinal injury that cost him the use of his legs. Losing his vibrant, wild, beautiful mother shortly afterward was too much for him to take. Relocating to Bluewater Bay was the perfect way for him to start over—and hide from his mother’s legacy. At least, until a haggard, broken survivor shows up on his doorstep looking for some shelter of his own. Born a genius who always knew the direction his life would likely take, Healey Holly wasn’t prepared for the day that script would be utterly destroyed. Now, hurt and lost, he’s struggling to get back to a place where things make sense, even though his “home” belongs to someone else. But, some families are just as good without a permanent zip code, and even a heart that’s been shattered can love again. As should be expected from this series by now, All Wheel Drive left me with a lot to think about. Having first been introduced to Healey in Hell on Wheels, I couldn’t help but be extremely curious about Nash Holly’s intriguing twin brother. Officially meeting Healey as he is in the beginning of this story was a shock, and I felt off balance (in a good way) for the duration. There was nothing easy about Healey’s experience, but I think the story wouldn’t have meant as much any other way. Diego Luz is just as complex, if not more so, but in vastly different ways. Between his heritage and upbringing, his pride and independence, and the obligations he struggles with, he’s a complicated character, and I liked him a great deal for it. He’s unapologetically cynical for much of the story, making his grudging willingness to open his heart and life to another even more remarkable. As has been the case with many of the Bluewater Bay stories, All Wheel Drive tackles some exceptionally difficult topics that most series wouldn’t attempt. As a paraplegic, Diego’s sexuality could have been approached in ways that might have been more “delicate,” but wouldn’t have made nearly the impact as it did here. Healey is absolutely the perfect match for Diego in that respect, but the candid nature of the discussions and mechanics involved felt both necessary and right. Despite the importance of the message of this story, All Wheel Drive still...
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Jul
6

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Dating You / Hating You by Christina Lauren

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Dating You / Hating You by Christina Lauren Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Reviews Dating You / Hating You Author: Christina Lauren Narrator:  Shayna Thibodeaux and Deacon Lee Audio Listening Speed: 1.25x Series: Standalone Genre: Contemporary Romance Source: Simon & Schuster Audio What to say about Dating You / Hating You? I really, really wanted to love this book, but I didn’t. Christina Lauren authors some of my favorite titles, but this unfortunately isn’t one of them. And rather than continue to listen to it, I decided to call it quits at the 57% mark (through Chapter 15). Let me tell you why… Carter and Evie are wonderful characters who have a beautiful initial chemistry. They are adorable together, both a bit shy and unaware of how sexy they are. And while their jobs as talent agents in LA have kept each from relationships in the past, the instant connection the pair feels compels them to make a go of things. They have one great date and a hot make out session until everything falls apart. When Evie’s firm buys out Carter’s firm, the pair is forced to compete to keep a job in the LA offices. While it isn’t certain either would be let go or asked to relocate to New York, their asshole boss, Brad, along with their individual competitive natures creates bitterness and conflict, setting up the need to vie for the job. And things fall apart quickly from this point. Carter and Evie are both underhanded, doing things to make themselves look better while potentially sabotaging the other. It’s not horrible at first, but a poke here and a poke there creates such animosity that I cannot stand to listen to it. I finally gave up after a rather silly, yet cruel exchange of pranks involving coffee and hand lotion. It was a tough decision for me to stop listening. The narration is actually part of the reason I went as long as I did. Both Ms. Thibodeaux and Mr. Lee are fantastic! Both have very clear, sharp voices that are simultaneously relaxing. Ms. Thibodeaux gives weight and maturity to Evie, while Mr. Lee brings manages to get adorkable for Carter. Both narrators have excellent narrative voices and a range to fit a variety of both male and female rolls. In the end, Dating You / Hating You had too much Hating You and not enough Dating You. I’m guessing at some point, the couple works out...
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Jul
5

Review: Pounding Skin by L.A. Witt

Review: Pounding Skin by L.A. Witt Pounding Skin Author: L.A. Witt Reviewer: B. Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Picking up shortly after Back Piece, the first story in the Skin Deep, Inc. series, Pounding Skin introduces readers to jet pilot Jon Russell and inker Matt Huffman, whom we briefly met before. Although the pairing of a member of the military and a civilian employee of the tattoo shop is the same, the characters are so different that there’s very little repetition. While familiar within those parameters, this sequel feels brand new in plenty of other ways, making the entire series better overall. Even more than the first story in this series, Pounding Skin is a tale in which “opposites attract.” Jon throws his candor, which was downright abrasive on occasion, before him as if it were a shield he can hunker down behind, while still feeling blameless for anyone else’s hurt feelings. Matt, on the other hand, seems so genuine—even when he’s clueless—that I worried for him for the duration of the novel. Of the two, I couldn’t help the fondness I felt for Matt from the start, nor the protective irritation that was repeatedly inspired by Jon’s behavior. Nearly all of the emotional ballast is on Matt’s side, but it ended up working out well that way. Although I enjoyed Pounding Skin as a whole a great deal, there were some instances that I found distracting (but not particularly troubling). The sudden reversal of Matt’s old, alcohol-induced amnesia about an important moment with his college roommate; certain phrasing that’s repeated nearly verbatim; the suggestion that women are more easily “charmed” than men when it comes to sex, etc., did pull me out of the narrative on occasion. These moments are few, however, and are nicely balanced out by the more positive aspects of the story. Pounding Skin is a well-crafted second in the Skin Deep, Inc. series, and one I feel certain I’ll revisit soon. While I was never able to fully sympathize with Jon, I felt that Matt was a truly wonderful character. More than a romance, however, Pounding Skin examines the ways we are shaped by our experiences, sculpted by many other hands in addition to our own. I was also very glad to see more of Colin and Daniel from Back Piece, and every bit of the affection I have for them both was not only remembered, but magnified. The tattoo shop seemed like a real family this time around,...
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Jun
29

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Buns by Alice Clayton

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Buns by Alice Clayton Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook Reviews: Hudson Valley Series Buns Author: Alice Clayton Narrators: Elizabeth Louise with Jason Carpenter Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Hudson Valley #3 Genre: Contemporary Romance Source: Purchased Clara lives for her job, going all around the world, rebranding and restoring resorts to their former glory. Her latest job is in the Catskills at the Bryant Mountain House. She excited to tackle the project, but the owner’s son, soon to be sole manager, Archie, fights Clara at every turn. Luckily she’s near her two besties, who have settled in nearby Bailey Falls. Archie’s life is the Bryant Mountain House, and ever since his wife passed from cancer, he doesn’t do anything but ensure this regal resort runs smoothly. So when an outsider comes in and not only starts making all sorts of changes, but ignites feelings that he’s not experienced since his wife, he can’t help but butt heads with the gorgeous, vivacious Clara. Now he must decide if making changes is the only way to survive in modern times. The third book in Ms. Clayton’s utterly delightful Hudson Valley series, Buns takes readers on a journey of friendship, romance, and love. Both Clara and Archie have strong reasons not to trust or get involved, so when they start to have the feels for one another, it’s conflicting, sweet, and sexy all at once. Despite (or maybe because of) their constant bickering, Archie and Clara are soooooo hot together. They both want the forbidden sexual fruit. Their constant tango of attraction and stepping back rivets the sexual tension to such incredible heights. Each feels something more than attraction and lust, and it scares them both. Yet once they give in and start a secret affair, they still hold so much back. It truly hurt my heart to listen to Clara refuse to open up, choosing to keep her guard firmly in place, even when Archie tries his best to coax her out. Their romance is genuine and the connections strong, but it’s two-steps-forward-one-step-back until they finally realize what each wants out of life. Jobs and the hotel are important, but so is friendship and love. Elizabeth Louise’s performance is solid and highly enjoyable. I’ve not listened to her work before, but she sounds very familiar. She’s easy to listen to, reminding me a lot of Amanda Ronconi, but without the southern twang. The familiar feel allows me to connect to Clara quickly. Ms. Louise...
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Jun
15

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: The Goal by Elle Kennedy

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: The Goal by Elle Kennedy Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: The Goal Author: Elle Kennedy Narrator: Susannah Jones & Andrew Eiden Audio Speed: 1.25x & 1.5x Series: Off-Campus #4 Genre: NA Contemporary Romance Source: purchased After the pregnancy bombshell delivered at the end of the previous book, The Goal actually goes back a bit in time and begins when Tucker and Sabrina first meet. Readers/listeners relive certain scenes and moments from the The Score, with a new perspective and focus, as well as several new scenes. Tucker is probably the most likable, easy-going guy we’ve met thus far in Ms. Kennedy’s Off-Campus series. He’s genuine, and while he’s easy on the eyes, he’s not all about scoring with the ladies. When he first lays eyes on Sabrina, he senses she is something special. I adore everything about this guy. He’s nearly perfect and has the patience of a saint. He never takes his eye off the end goal of making Sabrina his, but he allows the ebb and flow of life to take its course along the way. On the other hand, all we knew about Sabrina before this book is that she is Dean’s educational nemesis, and his perception is that she is a cold-hearted bitch. Ms. Kennedy removes that mantle from Sabrina immediately, by showing us Sabrina’s deplorable home life and the motivations behind her desire to achieve perfection at Briarwood. I fell for Sabrina’s flawed character hard. She’s driven and sometimes too focused, but she has a heart of gold underneath the layers of protection she’s built. Sabrina and Tucker make a great couple. There is insta-lust and sexual chemistry big time, creating an immediate interest in the pair. I like that they have time to fall a bit for one another before the baby news comes. I also appreciate that there are several ups and downs. It’s very realistic with a happy ending. While I enjoyed their story, and I’m thankful to finally have Tuck’s book, I was overwhelmed by the amount of focus on the pregnancy/baby storyline. Don’t misunderstand, Ms. Kennedy does an amazing job with the baby storyline; she didn’t sugar coat what it’s like to be pregnant and have a child. She also didn’t minimize the impacts on the parents’ lives and their relationship. However, it’s too much baby for me. I am just not a fan of baby-romances. Generally, the narration is good; better than book 3, but still not as great as the first...
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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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