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Feb
12

Review: Fire on the Ice by Tamsen Parker

Review: Fire on the Ice by Tamsen Parker Fire on the Ice Author: Tamsen Parker Reviewer: Jen Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Blaze and Maisy shared three days of debauchery at the SIGs four years ago, so good that neither could forget. But it was just for fun, so they never sought each other, until they both arrive in Denver for another round of Snow and Ice Games. Picking up right where they left off, the pair shares a greedy lust, spending almost all their private time together. But each knows it’s only for the duration of the games, and real feelings aren’t an issue… right? Fire on the Ice is the fourth tale to come from the Snow and Ice Games series. This time around, the story features Maisy, the shy, mostly closeted figure skater and Blaze, the loud and proud, polymorous short track speed skater. Blaze and Maisy are polar opposites, yet so much the same. They both work hard for the sport they love; never in the top but always close. They both are sexually insatiable and enjoy being with one another. But whereas Blaze basks in the public eye and loves attention, Maisy shies away, hoping to stay off the radar. I liked the pairing of Blaze and Maisy. Both have to learn to be better versions of themselves to make the relationship work. They both grow and give, and I enjoyed watching how their union developed over the short, but intense time they spent together. They both make missteps, but instead of these mistakes ending things, they help to bring the couple closer together. I also appreciate the author’s focus on the importance of strong and open communication being the key to a solid relationship. The only real negative for me was the shear volume of graphic sex. I didn’t ever think I’d write those words, but honestly, after a while, I just skimmed the scenes because I wanted more of the story outside the bedroom. However, the scenes are not gratuitous because the couple’s sexual nature is important to the story. The sex scenes are used to show the common bond and ultimate trust each woman has with/for the other. They are used to show how the pair grows increasingly closer and intimate. But for me, it got to be too much and overshadowed the rest of the story. Overall, Fire on the Ice is a solid story and sexy romance. I love how strongly Blaze and Maisy support one...
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Feb
7

Review: Rewritten by Bronwyn Green

Review: Rewritten by Bronwyn Green Rewritten Author: Bronwyn Green Reviewer: Jen Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Forced to work together, Eliza and Angus soon become friends and realize the value in a partnership. Angus needs inspiration and motivation to finish the final and highly anticipated book in his hit sci-fi series, and Eliza is just the one to help bring it all together. It’s a good thing he realizes this within the first week of working together. However, the sexual chemistry only builds as the pair grows closer, and not only is engaging in a relationship bad business practice, but Eliza is hiding a secret so big, it is bound to tear them apart and ruin Angus’s career if word got out. Rewritten is a wonderful romance that hits all of my emotional buttons. I love Eliza and Angus as a couple and found Angus simply amazing and too good to be true; a real dream man. I love Eliza’s strength and how she is stronger with Angus because he believes in her and helps her. The couple has incredible sexual chemistry that boils off the pages; yet the situation warrants much caution, giving their romance an incredibly hot slow-burn. However, once they get to it… *fans self* Ms. Green not only writes characters I care about, but also ones whom I would want to call friends in real life. They come alive in my heart and mind, keeping me connected and engaged in the outcome. She also writes beautiful imagery that brings the story to life. One of my favorites: “With precious little encouragement, it [her submissive nature] was unfurling within her and reaching for him like a vine growing toward the sunlight.” Eliza is the victim of abuse, which shades her actions and reactions. I appreciate that the author doesn’t sugar coat it, or have problems go away once Eliza finds herself in love with a good man. And while I didn’t love how much of a martyr she is a times, it is real. She would feel that way after everything she’s been through. In the end, Rewritten is a steamy, hot, emotional love story. I found myself lost in Eliza and Angus’s story, caught up in their journey. I love that Ms. Green writes books about couples who are perfect matches and people I’d want to befriend. I highly recommend Rewritten. My Rating:  A- Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: Betrayed and completely exposed, she’d sworn off kink. Hell,...
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Feb
6

Review: Relief Valve by JL Merrow

Review: Relief Valve by JL Merrow Relief Valve Author: JL Merrow Reviewer: B. Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Still recovering from the last case he helped solve, as well as trying to settle into his new relationship with Phil Morrison (a private investigator and former bully), psychically-gifted plumber Tom Paretski could really go for some quiet time and a pint or two at his favorite pub. But, between his best friend’s engagement, the death of a family friend, and his sister’s poisoning (at her own engagement party, no less), he’s not likely to find peace anytime soon. Good thing the pints are a viable option, at least. As much as I liked Pressure Head, the first in the series, I had a truly excellent time reading this story. Despite the grim circumstances surrounding the darker aspects of the narrative, I thought Relief Valve was downright hilarious. Tom’s at his best when he finds himself trapped within the failings of etiquette in the face of death, literary duplicity, and romance, and I couldn’t help snickering and cackling all the way through at his expense. I even guiltily found his discomfort with regards to his own affections nearly priceless. Not just a funny bit of storytelling, Relief Valve is also a gratifying suspense. With questions surrounding the target of the crimes in addition to the identity of the perpetrator, there’s plenty to here to keep readers guessing for quite a while. Although I wasn’t really shocked by the ending of the story, getting there was definitely entertaining. One of my favorite things about this story was the developing romance between Tom and Phil. With their backstory a little less glaring, it was easier for me to more readily support them both, even though I could still appreciate the apprehension expressed by Tom’s family and friends. Tom is an endearing character, making their protectiveness seem more understandable. Speaking of wonderful characters—Darren and Gary continue to be two of my favorites, transforming every scene they appear in into a delight. There’s no way to do them justice here, but I absolutely adore them both. Tom’s sister, Cherry, won me over early, as well, and I even developed a reluctant fondness for the “Worryingly,” “Helplessly,” and “Terrifyingly Reverend Greg” (there are twelve of these constructions in my copy—each more amusing than the last). One of the best sequels I’ve read in a long time, Relief Valve is a strong addition to what has so far been an intriguing series....
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Feb
5

Review: On the Edge of Scandal by Tamsen Parker

Review: On the Edge of Scandal by Tamsen Parker On the Edge of Scandal Author: Tamsen Parker Reviewer: Jen Rating: B/B- What I’m Talking About: Bronwyn is on the U.S. woman’s hockey team at the Snow and Ice Games (SIGs). She’s earned her spot as one of the best college players. Her boyfriend since age of 14, Brody, didn’t make the men’s squad, but he’s there to support his girl… Or is he? The guy’s a jerk, always making things about himself, and Bronwyn wishes he wasn’t in Denver. Being asked to coach the U.S. woman’s team is an honor for Ash, who loves the finesse of the women’s game. Everything is going well, except he HATES Bronwyn’s boyfriend, who makes a nuisance of himself. Ash would like to tell him to take a hike, but he doesn’t want to upset his star player, who, by the way, Ash feels deserves so much better than Brody. On the Edge of Scandal is the third love story of the SIG games from Ms. Parker. Once again she finds a great pairing that is just a bit on the outside of the norm. It’s also the third story with a significant age difference between the two main characters. While I don’t necessarily mind it, I am getting a bit tired of reading that particular theme. I blazed through the story, which captured me right from the start. Because Bronwyn has a boyfriend, and since Ash is her coach, the romance takes some time to develop, which is a good thing. Each genuinely cares for and about the other, with Bronwyn’s attraction falling into place after she breaks up with her boyfriend. Their story is compelling, which made for quick reading. So here’s the thing… Ash is her coach, and even though their relationship is completely consensual, there is still a huge power dynamic in play, no matter what Ash and Bronwyn think. I struggled with their relationship, just as Ash experiences the same concerns and doubts, driving home the taboo nature of their attraction. Then there are times that Bronwyn shows some immaturity, which really strikes home the age difference and the whole coach-student/athlete concern, amping up the ick factor for me. And honestly, timing is probably part of the issue, because I read On the Edge of Scandal as the Larry Nassar trial was going on, and it really poisoned me to the impacts of a person in power abusing his athletes. In the end, I enjoyed On the...
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Feb
2

Review: Royal Ruin by Jessica Peterson

Review: Royal Ruin by Jessica Peterson Royal Ruin Author: Jessica Peterson Reviewer: Jen Rating: C+ What I’m Talking About: Ten years ago, Emily was an honor student at big economic school in London. Her TA was none other than a prince – and a big one, as in the Queen’s grandson. Kit is enamored with Emily, but stays away because she’s his student and she has a boyfriend. However, when Emily comes to his office, a mess after finding out her boyfriend back home was cheating on her, he gives in to temptation. Flash forward to present day and Emily has a trendy interior design firm, that is losing money. She’s going on one last interview for none other than the Royal family. While she ends up with the design contract, she also receives a proposal from Kit to be his fake fiancée for a few months. In exchange, he’ll save her failing company. Royal Ruin was a mixed bag for me. There were parts that I absolutely enjoyed, but there were parts with which I struggled. First the good: I loved how much Kit admires Emily right from the start. He falls head over heels not just because of a physical attraction, but he appreciates her brilliant mind and wit. They make a good team when they gel. And when the pair get real with their feelings and passion, the story is wonderful. However… I had an issue early on with Emily and it never really went away. First, ten years ago, her world falls apart because the love of her life cheats on her… so what does she do? Uses her TA, and he still has the condom on when she talks to her BF and decides they want to work it out. My thoughts went to Rachel and Ross’s “We were on a break” – one of the worst storylines in the sitcom’s (Friends) long life. Then when time moves to present day, I felt Emily continued to make some poor decisions. For example, why hasn’t she blocked her ex from the ability to call or text her? They went through a horrible divorce, yet she still has his number in her cell. And don’t get me started on the ex storyline, which felt forced and contrived. Then there is the Royal family. In one breath we learn how important appearances are, and in the next, they are having obnoxious family squabbles in front of strangers. And when the Queen just says...
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Jan
31

Review: Love Game by Maggie Wells

Review: Love Game by Maggie Wells Love Game Author: Maggie Wells Reviewer: Nima Rating: A What I’m Talking About: I am so the target audience for the this book, I feel like I need to issue a disclaimer upfront.  Love Game, the first book in Maggie Well’s Love Games series takes on love, women’s sports, and broadcasting.  I was a journalism major, played not one, but two sports in the NCAA at a D-1 school, and coached professionally for over fifteen years.  As far as I’m concerned, Wells wrote this one for me. That being said, any woman who loves a smart, driven, dedicated, take-no-prisoners heroine, will love Kate Snyder.  She puts the “hero” in heroine as she fights for her job, her players, women’s sports, and the love of her life. Kate, openly inspired by Pat Summitt, is a four time NCAA national women’s basketball champion coach.  She’s a former Olympian in her own right, but there’s that caveat that rankles all female athletes the world over, “women’s” fill-in-the-sport.  Billie Jean King may have proved our point when she beat Bobby Riggs, but ultimately that didn’t have much effect on funding, did it?  Even in 2017, the big bucks still go to men’s sports.  I can’t tell you how many times I heard about how the men’s sports, especially football, fund the women’s sport programs. But I digress… Even women who aren’t in the athletic industry will appreciate and relate to the fight women have in male dominated work places. Kate’s love story with Danny McMillan was hot and steamy, but almost secondary.  Wells could have left out the explicit scenes and still had a solid story. What they add is a demonstration of the intensity of these two characters, consistent in all parts of their lives.  In that way it makes them more authentic. As indicated in the description, Love Game has alternating points of view.  It is my preferred format in the contemporary romance genre as we get let into the what each character thinks about the other and when. Maggie Wells is a new author for me and her writing style is tight. She has intentionally inserted a fun sportscaster-like lingo and zingers into her characters’ dialog. Their banter is as competitive as their personalities and it creates heat.  Blessedly, they know when enough is enough.  It’s not about always having the last word or the harshest barb.  Wells never crosses the line over into mean.  By the end I was...
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Jan
30

Review: Scratch Track by Eli Lang

Review: Scratch Track by Eli Lang Scratch Track Author: Eli Lang Reviewer: B. Rating: B+ What I’m Talking About: Though it wasn’t a path he’d actively chosen, Quinn has been taking care of others for most of his life. First by looking after his mother and younger brother, then as a roadie/semi-parental unit for the members of Escaping Indigo, he’s always tried to be the dependable one, the son/brother/friend that had everyone’s back. Even after experiencing an earth-shattering loss, he couldn’t allow himself to rely on someone else for a change—even if it cost him the only man he’d dared to want for himself. But, an unexpected reunion convinces Quinn that he can’t pretend forever, and that he’s loved far more than he ever realized. In Scratch Track, the third in the Escaping Indigo series by Eli Lang, we finally get to know more about Quinn, who, in a sense, started everything off by bringing Micah into the band’s company. Though he was a significant presence in the first story, and an absent sort of anchor in the second, I was very much interested in learning more about him. To say that Quinn is “complicated” is an understatement. As Escaping Indigo’s roadie and manager, Quinn’s role has always the one of the caretaker. It’s such an ingrained part of his personality that he has no sense of purpose without it, even when his younger brother died unexpectedly of an overdose. But, that loss causes him question his ability to care for everyone, which, in turn, makes him feel like an outsider to the “family” he’s nurtured within the band. While grief is absolutely a serious matter, most of Scratch Track circles around Quinn’s doubts with little progress sometimes, although I was glad to see him take steps to try and work through his own. The remainder of Scratch Track involves the interrupted relationship Quinn has with Nicky, the drummer for another band (delightfully named Rest in Peach) who are sharing the recording studio with Escaping Indigo. Despite the somewhat implausible idea that Nicky has successfully kept his two-year-old son a secret from Quinn when the two bands are all friends and former tour-mates, I liked Nicky very much. Within the parameters of their reconnection, however, his passion, honesty, patience, and even justifiable hesitancy about starting over with Quinn made him one of the most relatable characters in the story. As was the case with both previous stories in the Escaping Indigo series, Scratch Track leaves...
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Jan
29

Review: The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory

Review: The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory The Wedding Date Author: Jasmine Guillory Reviewer: Jen Rating: C+ What I’m Talking About: Alexa is on her way to visit her out-of-town sister. Drew is in town for a wedding. The pair get trapped for a short time in an elevator, and they hit if off immediately. While there is definitely mutual desire, both enjoy the easy banter more than anything. So when Drew asks Alexa to be his date for the wedding, she agrees. What happens next is an intense attraction that neither is prepared for. The Wedding Date is a cute story about two successful individuals trying to find their way through life and love. While the premise is adorable and totally up my alley, I really struggled with the characters and overall execution. For the most part, I loved Alexa. She’s real. She works hard, loves her job, has fun, and lives life. She’s smart and successful – both main characters are – so that’s why I was frustrated with the fact that both Drew and Alexa have the emotional maturity of teenagers. They have no self-confidence when it comes to relationships, and they are constantly second guessing and looking for hidden meanings in actions and words (or the absence of either). It’s exhausting. They don’t communicate at all, which I get happens in real life, but I don’t read romances to see an accurate reflection of real life. The conflict in the story was driven by the insecurities of the characters. I was also frustrated with the amount of off-page action. And I’m not just referring to sex. Although, I have to admit, sometimes it was so behind-closed-doors that I missed the fact they even had sex. But In general, there are too many scenes like this one: On the way back to his apartment, they drove by the Santa Monica Pier.  “I haven’t been there since I was a kid,” she said. “It was always so fun.”  An SUV pulled out of a parking spot ahead of him, and he made a snap decision.  “No time like the present.” He reversed into the spot and grabbed her hand. “Let’s go.”  When they got back to his apartment, they were both giddy, sunburned, and exhausted. If it was such a great getting-to-know you experience that helped the couple grow closer, why not share it with the reader? Scenes like this did nothing but aggravate me after a while. Then comes the last 10% of...
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Jan
24

Review: Stud by Kelly Siskind

Review: Stud by Kelly Siskind Stud Author: Kelly Siskind Reviewer: Jen Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Ainsley made a wish on her birthday to change her life for the better and to stop helping powerful, adulterous men cheat on their lovely wives. However, she needs the money she earns from her personal shopping business to help her parents with their bills since her dad lost his job. So in order to balance the “ick” factor, she decides to start volunteering at Habitat for Humanity. Owen moved back to San Fransisco from D.C. to get back to his roots. He’s volunteering his time and starting his own woodworking business, leaving the hustle and bustle of D.C. behind. In the middle of an ugly divorce, his ex accuses him of cheating on her and has turned all of their friends against him. He’s had no interest in women for over a year, until he meets Ainsley. Stud is the second heart-warming romance in Ms. Siskind’s One Wild Wish series, which features three best friends trying to make their birthday wishes for a better life come true. The book takes place after the first title, Legs, but is a standalone story. Ainsley and Owen both have been out of the dating scene for a while, and their combination of awkward starts and eagerness make for some funny and cute moments. The best is that Ainsley assumes Owen is gay (for good reasons), so she decides to make the most of her crush by treating him as her “gay BFF,” which includes frank sexual discussions. But when the pair finally gives into their mutual attraction, the heat level goes through the roof! While I love, love, love Ainsley and Owen, unfortunately, Stud uses two “tropes/situations” that I just don’t like. First, I hate stories that use “false accusations” as a means for causing conflicts. I found myself frustrated with Owen’s ex accusing him of cheating, and the helplessness he feels over the situation. Second, Owen continually keeps the truth of his situation from Ainsley, which causes a number of issues. It made me mad because she tells him point blank her trust issues, yet he still thinks hiding the truth is better. Unfortunately for this book, this is one trope I detest. It’s not bad writing or a bad story, it’s just I don’t really care for the trope. In fact, Ms. Siskind does a very good job working around and out of the corners Owen works...
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Jan
23

Review: About That Kiss by Jill Shalvis

Review: About That Kiss by Jill Shalvis About That Kiss Author: Jill Shalvis Reviewer: Jen Rating: B What I’m Talking About: Kylie and Joe have been flirtatious friends, but when the pair share a passionate kiss, neither can forget the sparks it ignited. But Kylie won’t go after “the wrong guy,” and Joe doesn’t “do relationships.” So they dance around one another, that is until Kylie needs Joe’s help to find a stolen toy her late grandfather made for her. As the pair chase down lead after lead, they find it difficult to contain their passion. It’s hard for me to find much fault with any of Ms. Shalvis’s titles, and for the most part the Heartbreaker Bay series has been a huge joy to read. This definitely holds true for the fifth novel, About That Kiss. While I found the first half of the book a bit slow and lacking the emotional grab I was looking for, the second half of the book came with all the usual features I adore about this series. As Kylie and Joe work on the case, they grow closer and share more passionate kisses, as well as personal secrets… Which creates an intimacy that the unsuspecting pair is trying to avoid. In fact, seeing several of their friends pair up and find love over the past few years makes both Kylie and Joe cautious. Which is why I think I struggled a bit with the first half. They were actively working to avoid emotional attachments, leaving the romance flat. I liked Joe and Kylie together, but I wasn’t overwhelmed by their passion. However, I was interested in the mystery and trying to discover what was happening. Once the pair gives into their desires fully, the emotion ratchets up and it gets real. This is the stuff I look for in Ms. Shalvis’s stories: the give and pull of the heart. As Joe and Kylie each try to figure out what they feel and, of course, overthink everything, each discovers that they are more when together. And in the end, I appreciate that they own up to their feelings and fight for what they want. About That Kiss is another delightful romance in the Heartbreaker Bay series. Filled with affable characters whom I’d love to hang out with, the stories bring me joy. My Rating:  B, Liked It About the Book: When sexy Joe Malone never calls after their explosive kiss, Kylie shoves him out of her mind. Until she...
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