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Currently Browsing: contemporary romance
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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May
8

Review: F*ck Club: Con by Shiloh Walker

Review:  F*ck Club: Con by Shiloh Walker F*ck Club: Con Author: Shiloh Walker Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: If you haven’t read Riley’s book, get on that. It sets up the premise for the series wonderfully. But, here’s what’s going on. Riley & Con are male escorts…with benefits. Their friend, Shame, was part of the operation. Riley concocted this business to make ends meet when he took guardianship of his two younger siblings when their parents died in a car crash as he built up their legit business, a bar. When their sketchy business fell under scrutiny of law enforcement—and Riley had a love interest come into his life (again)—the F*ck Club disbanded and they’ve flown under the radar of the cops. There’s more that happens, but you’ll have to read Riley’s book to find out. 🙂 Con is the middle child, and he’s really in-tune with what’s going on with his sibs. He sees more than people want him to, at times, and he’s learned to keep it to himself, mostly. Then, Shawntelle comes into his life as a bartender in his bar. Unfortunately, Con has vowed to never sleep with their employees (good man, that Con). And their attraction is crazy intense. Boo. But Con’s SpideySenses are all a-tingle because there’s something Shawntelle is hiding. And he doesn’t like it. He dismisses his intuition, though. Gah! It’s really hard to review a Shiloh Walker book without spoilers. What I liked about this little novella was that it was fast-paced. Before I knew it, I’d read the whole thing and had that satisfied smirk on my face. Mr. VampBard pretty much says, “Done with your book? That good?” now. I loved how the story between Con and Shawntelle played out. There were things that surprised me, and things that made me tear up. Seeing the growth in Con—as well as Shawntelle—was satisfying…and the sexy times were HOT! I honestly can’t wait to get my hands on Shame’s book after reading Con’s. My Rating: A, Loved It About the Book: After a run-in with a cop, former male escort Con, along with his brother Riley and best friend Shame, decided it might just be best to hang up their…hats and retire from the business of being paid to pleasure. After all, they have a profitable business going with their new pub. No reason to ruin a good thing and Con is more than happy to keep pleasing the ladies—just…no longer as a job....
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May
3

Review: Too Hard to Forget by Tessa Bailey

Review: Too Hard to Forget by Tessa Bailey Too Hard to Forget Author: Tessa Bailey Reviewer: VampBard Rating: A What I’m Talking About: I may have devoured Peggy’s story in one sitting. I may have actually re-read parts, too. When reading the Romancing the Clarksons series by Tessa Bailey, I’m entranced by the familial connection, the depth of the characters, and the build up to the next book, Too Beautiful to Break—Belmont & Sage’s book. While we’re three-deep in the series already, if one were to jump in right here, there’s some lost backstory and outcomes for two other siblings—and the buildup to the final title in the series—but it could be read on its own. Readers will most likely devour not only this title—Too Hard to Forget—about the little sister, Peggy, and her football coach paramour, Elliott. Who doesn’t like a well-crafted second chance story? I know I **really** like them, and Peggy & Elliott’s story was no exception. Seems like I’m running across more and more titles that push my boundaries as a reader—which is cool. It’s no secret I’m a teacher, and I have some personal rules, if you will, about my reading. I am very careful about teacher/student titles because there’s a squick factor for me that I can’t get around. Just the way I’m wired. Now, while Elliott is NOT one of Peggy’s college professors, he is employed by the university she attends and that’s grey zone for me. But, Tessa Bailey? I’ll forge on. You know, in the interest of dirty-talking, super sexy damaged dudes. In the two previous titles of the Romancing the Clarksons series, Too Hot to Handle (Rita & Jasper) and Too Wild to Tame (Aaron & Grace), we see little snippets of Peggy—who she is, and how she handles watching intimacy. It was obvious for me that she had commitment issues, and in Too Hard to Forget we learn why. Thank the gods. Peggy’s backstory was killing me. I needed it, like, immediately after reading the first book in the series. For those that haven’t read the previous two titles in the series, the Clarksons siblings’ mother died. She kept a diary, and during each leg of this journey they’re taking across the country to do a polar bear dip in the Atlantic Ocean—at her behest—a different sibling learns what their mother thought about them. What she saw beneath the layers. For some reason, Peggy intrigued me from the beginning. And I think that what really drew...
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Apr
26

Review: To Me I Wed by K.M. Jackson

Review: To Me I Wed by K.M. Jackson To Me I Wed Author: K.M. Jackson Reviewer: Jen Rating: C+ What I’m Talking About: Two peas in a pod are Lily Perry and Vincent Caro. Both struggling small-business owners who are happy with their relationship-free lifestyles. Lily is a successful event planner who has pulled off amazing parties for her several sisters, living up to the “always a bridesmaid, never a bride” lifestyle. Vin recently opened his own restaurant in memory of his mother who always shared her joy of cooking with him. The pair hooked up a while back, and even though it was an intense evening, neither called for a second chance. However, when Lily sees Vin at her sister’s wedding, sparks ignite and neither can rest until they see the attraction through. To Me I Wed is the second story in Ms. Jackson’s Unconventional Bride series, and unconventional is the best word to describe Lily’s plans. Doing research, Lily comes across an article how a woman, ready to show the world she’s good just as she is, married herself. At first Lily sees this as a potential business opportunity – which I can appreciate. But then she internalizes it, seeing herself in this woman. She gets swept up in the idea, immediately calling her assistant, Tori, and getting Vin’s restaurant to host it! I have to say, I struggled with Lily. I understood her desire to show the world she’s all good as is. But I had a lot of trouble getting behind the concept of marrying herself. I had hoped it would have been a funny/silly storyline, but Lily was kind of obsessive about her life and the wedding. It was an “I’m gonna show them” kind of thing. She was so serious, not having fun with it at all, which actually made her come off as desperate – not for a man – but for people to believe she’s “okay” as she is. Similarly, we got a lot of how “okay” Vin is, yet he’s clearly still dealing with his mother’s death and his own father-issues. I loved that he genuinely cares for Lily and pushed her until she gave into her desire. But then their relationship coasts… and when one got too close to the other, they would blow up and push apart. As much as they were falling into one another, they both had serious walls. And we didn’t really see them ever open up to one another. They danced around...
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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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