Archives for June 2013

Review: Lick

Reviewed by Janell

Holy cow, you guys. This book. This is the book. Grade: A

Oh, you want more? Fine. Evelyn spends her 21st birthday in Las Vegas, planning to get drunk and have sex. Instead, she gets very, very drunk and marries a rock star. She wakes up in her hotel bathroom with a giant diamond ring on her finger and a hot shirtless guy watching her. With no memories of the night before, she freaks out, vomits, and makes her new husband angry enough that he storms out, planning to annul the marriage.

This story works because of the characters. It’s narrated by Evelyn, and she is not stupid. She knows that getting married at 21 is a bad idea and would interfere with her career plans. She’s also observant, self-aware, brave, and self-deprecating (“If I were him, I’d divorce me and never look back.” “Marriage sucked and husbands were the worst.” “How horrible, being forced to live in the lap of luxury with my wonderful husband. Poor me. I needed a good slap.”).

David, the wonderful husband in question, is not the typical tortured, angsty, alpha male. He has issues, but no big tragedy that he wallows in. He’s not overbearing and controlling. He will punch a guy who touches his woman, but he’ll also listen to his woman explain the touching without going all rage Neanderthal on her. He has a temper, but he also likes to cuddle. He is awesome.

I was so pleasantly surprised by all of the conversations Evelyn and David had. They honestly wanted to figure out a way to make their crazy relationship work. There were no big secrets or silly misunderstandings. Evelyn even knows that withholding information is lying, and that, “if [she] had to demand his faith and affection, it didn’t mean a damn thing.” She’s so opposite of the too-stupid-to-live heroine that it makes me giddy.

Of course they have hot sex all over the place. It takes a little while to happen but then makes up for the delay. Of course they run into some bumps and break up. The fallout is realistic, the make-up is fantasy. I know, the whole plot is fantasy, but the way it’s written made it seem so believable.

I could go on and on, but I don’t want to ruin the experience for you. Just go. Read it. Go on now.

Rating: A

*ARC Provided by Momentum

Click to purchase: Amazon
by Kylie Scott
Release Date: July 1, 2013
Publisher: Momentum

Review: Love at First Date

Reviewed by Janell

This is a cute fairy tale disguised as a contemporary novella. Ellen, recently turned 30, is ready to marry and have two children. Her mother, now on her third marriage, has drilled into Ellen the mantra that compatibility is the key to a successful relationship. To that end, Ellen has joined an online dating service to screen out anyone who might prefer paragliding over walks on the beach, and to include only honest, successful men ready for marriage.

As the story opens, Ellen has narrowed her choices down to two matches. She is prepared to meet them face to face and begin her lifetime of shared goals and political views. But wait! First she has to dog-sit for her best friend, which leads to an evening at the vet, which leads to dog-training school and Henry. Henry is an unscreened, unknown, dog-rescuing, gray-eyed hottie in sweatpants. What should Ellen do?

Ellen forces herself to meet the two appropriate men, all the while daydreaming about Henry. Because he has nice eyes and a nice dog. What’s not to love? Over three nights of dog training she dreams, she doubts, she focuses, she despairs. In the end, everything works out, yay!

This is a short romance, I read it in about an hour. It introduces other characters who have their own full-length novels in the series. Based upon the writing style, the other books should be light, breezy, and fun. This story was pretty much building up to a kiss at the finale, so the heat factor was almost zero. I wonder how steamy the other books are? I probably won’t read them because I felt this story was too fluffy, too “waiting for Prince Charming”. But I bet my fourteen-year-old self would have fallen for it completely.

Rating: B

Click to purchase: Amazon
Love at First Date
by Susan Hatler
Release Date: October 31, 2012
Publisher: Hatco

Review: Deja VooDoo

Reviewed by Carrie

This is the third book in Elle James’ Cajun Magic series but the first one for me. I didn’t have any trouble hopping in and understanding the world. The book is set in the atmospheric swamps of Louisiana’s Cajun country in the small town of Bayou Miste where alligators are kept as pets and the local Voodoo Queen is revered. Alexandra (Alex) Boyette is trying to keep her head above water while running her gym and helping her mom care for Alex’s 19 siblings. Ed Marceaux is an undercover Baton Rouge cop in town to protect a high profile witness. When Alex’s scheming Mama pairs them up at a family dinner, an instant connection is made.

Had the plot stuck to this storyline, I feel like the book could have succeeded. At the beginning of the book, the Voodoo Queen gives Alex a gris gris bag that turns Alex’s dog, Sport, into man to supposedly help cure her loneliness. This was supposed to be the charming and quirky part of the book but, unfortunately, it just seemed out of place and kept me from enjoying the main story.

Ed was a good fish-out-of-water character being the city cop trying to pretend he’s a backwoods fisherman. The author doesn’t get too heavy handed with his troubled childhood backstory and instead focuses on how good a family man he could be and I appreciated that.

Alex, on the other hand, was tiresome. She complained that she was lonely, but adamantly refused to entertain any idea of a relationship. This fact was reiterated every other chapter. Oh, but then she runs into handsome Ed in town, has sex with him about two seconds later and promptly runs away from him because she can’t possibly have a relationship and maintain a business. I will say the sex scenes have good tension and have the right amount of heat.

The main suspense story was ok, if completely predictable. The cops are hiding the witness. The bad guys start attacking Alex and Ed rushes to protect her and insta-love happens. Never mind that they have only had one conversation out of bed. Perhaps Alex & Ed had conversations in the previous books that would’ve made their relationship make more sense.

I was really looking forward to reading this book, because I love the unique culture of the Cajuns and the swamps really are a little bit magical. However, the voodoo in the book was just downright corny and not needed. I had a hard time with the writing in general and kept putting the book down and forcing myself to pick it back up. If you’ve read the previous two books, then you probably know what you are getting in to, but for me, this one didn’t work and doesn’t inspire me to pick up the others.

Rating: C-

*ARC Provided by Entangled

Click to purchase: Amazon
Deja VooDoo
by Elle James
Release Date: June 24, 2013
Publisher: Entangled

Review: Spartan Frost

Reviewed by Jen

I have to say, I was so excited when I found out we were getting a novella from Logan’s POV. I’m always down for getting in the head of a series hero, but this one was even more tempting to read because of the angsty way the last book ended. After all, the dude tried to kill his girlfriend!  The emotional impact should have been huge.  Only, it wasn’t really.

Yeah, Logan feels like crap for what happened. He blames himself. He doesn’t trust himself. And he wants revenge on the Reapers.  But if you’re looking for anything deeper than that, you’re SOL.  This is novella is really short. A third of it focuses on recounting the events of Crimson Frost, a third of it focuses on a battle with some Reapers, and the rest is a look at Logan’s relationship with his dad (and a really descriptive scene involving the contents of their breakfast.)

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoy Estep’s writing (and her foodie scene always make me hungry.) But this was pretty superficial and didn’t show me anything new about Logan as a character.  It wasn’t a bad read, but it felt I could have gotten just as much out of this if it were pared down and delivered as a web short.

Just ok.

Rating: C

*ARC Provided by Kensington via NetGalley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Spartan Frost
by Jennifer Estep
Release Date: June 28, 2013
Publisher: Kensington

Review: Hope Breaks

Reviewed by Shelly

This is the first in a series about Hope Jones. Hope’s job as a photographer doing romance novel covers could be construed as the lush life, but Hope will beg to differ because she can’t seem to produce a cover that the publisher’s star author seems to like. She’ll be lucky if she can keep her job. I wasn’t expecting such a banger (no pun intended) of an introduction. I thought Bello would ease us into Hope and her life, but no, she brings it straight to the heart of the matter. I gotta say that I like it, I like it a lot.

Hope is what I like to call a hot mess. She’s not really sure what she’s doing and the inner monologue makes her that much more likable – she’s witty and sarcastic. Waking up one day to the trial of finding a male model so she can take some scintillating pictures, Hope goes to the local Wal-Mart looking for painkillers to fend off that headache she’s working on. While she’s isle hopping, she meets Drew. Bingo! Perfect Wal-Mart experience: you walk in for one thing and walk out with something a little extra. Now all Hope has to do is make sure that Drew shows up for the photo shoot.

In the parking lot her trusty steed, okay it’s really a Ford Taurus, has decided that Hope needs to find another way home. Once she gets her car over to the Tire and Lube Express area, she meets hunkalicious #2, Jake Troy. Turns out that Jake remembers Hope from high school and from what happens later, that’s not a bad thing. The chemistry between these two was really good. Jake is a flirt and he knows it, but I’m not convinced (yet) that he’s a player, just a guy who knows what he wants. There’s a vibe that there are things that Jake is not giving away this early in the game and I can’t wait to find out what they are in the next story.

I had couple of time related issues – I’m not sure of Hope’s age, it’s either 37 or 26. I’m hoping it’s 26 because that would make sense and but some of the (Def Leppard/Van Halen) concerts mentioned wouldn’t. Maybe it’s the version I received?

Suffice it to say, that didn’t take away from the story enough that I didn’t enjoy it because I did and will be reading the others in the series. Be warned, this does not have an HEA or HFN.

Happy reading folks!

Rating: B-

*ARC Provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Hope Breaks
by Alice Belo
Release Date: June 14, 2013

Review: An English Bride in Scotland

Reviewed by Jen

If you are in the mood for a light and sweet historical, you’ve come to the right place.  This is a pleasant, enjoyable, and fast read… featuring a daughter no one wanted, finding happiness in the life that her sister threw away.

Annabel was sent to live at an abbey at the age of seven and has lived there ever since, trying to make the best of her lot in life.  She hasn’t done well in her training. She enjoys life too much, enjoys food, laughter, and simple joys.  But the abbey is all she has ever known.  So when her mother appears out of the blue and whisks her back to the home she hasn’t seen in more than a decade, she has no idea what to make of it.

It turns out that her parents promised the hand of their eldest daughter to the son of an old ally.  Unfortunately, Annabel’s big sister Kate ran away with the stable boy and that leaves Annabel to take her place.  She resigns herself to do her parents’ bidding, despite the fact she is completely unprepared to be a wife or to run an estate.

Ross is attracted to Annabel right away.  He sees her beauty on the inside and out, and their marriage of convenience quickly becomes one in truth. It’s really very sweet. There’s not really an internal conflict; no lies or stupid choices.  No big misunderstanding.  We just get to watch these two fall in love.  Ross is a noble and good leader to his people. He is a caring and understanding husband.  Annabel is pure of heart. She wants to be a good wife to her new husband and a good lady to his people. How could you not root for these two?

It’s not all smooth sailing. Someone is trying to kidnap Annabel.  The big issue of the book centers on keeping her safe while figuring out who is after her and way.  When all is revealed, it’s a fairly satisfying conclusion.  It’s not very deep.  By that, I mean, it is not in anyway emotionally taxing or challenging.  But sometimes, a feel good story is what you need.  The love story is nice; the sex is good; and the plot wasn’t overly predictable.  There were times some of the characters stretched close to caricatures, especially members of Annabel’s family.  But overall, I found it an enjoyable read.

Rating: B-

*ARC Provided by Avon

Click to purchase: Amazon
An English Bride in Scotland
by Lynsay Sands
Release Date: June 25, 2013
Publisher: Avon

Review: A Brother’s Honor

Reviewed by Shelly

My favorite Brenda Jackson story is Delaney’s Desert Sheikh from The Westmoreland Series. Yes, I’m dating myself, but I remember reading that story and thought the story line was great and fresh and I fell a lot in-like with the author’s writing. Over the last five – seven years, I’ve noticed that the majority of the stories that I’ve read from her have the same theme – the hero (usually a millionaire or billionaire) comes from a privileged background and the heroine is involved in the family’s business and some other predictable things that if you’ve read her you’ll know what I’m talking about here – and unfortunately this story is no different. I can’t tell you the predictable things because I will not do a spoiler. Anywho, after a lengthy absence, the Granger brothers have returned to Virginia at the request of their dying grandfather. Coming home means they’ll have a lot on their hands – a failing family business and their imprisoned father.

The first in the series is Jace Granger’s story. Jace works as an attorney for his local California government with a scheming and devious ex-wife to boot. She provides her own entertainment but that wasn’t too surprising. You know what would have pleasantly surprised me – if she was nice. Moving on, even though he’s the oldest of the brothers, Jace seems to take a very laid back approach as the head of the family, considering their father is in jail for killing his wife (their mother) and their grandfather is dead. After taking over the family business, Jace decides to hire Shana’s consulting firm to help his brothers and him find out why the business is failing.

A majority of this story is about Jace and his family; the heroine Shana doesn’t even get an introduction until about twenty percent in, which for me is too long. Shana is a nice enough character, not too soft and not too rough, but I can’t say that I rooted for her because I just couldn’t click with her –or Jace for that matter. I don’t know what was missing, but I didn’t feel the chemistry between these two – just a convenience of storyline. I was hoping for something more once the plot picked up and things started happening, but then the predictable stuff started coming at me left and right.

To a certain degree, the multiple storylines in the story for me was distracting, mainly because I wanted to know about Jace and Shana, not everyone else. There’s a subplot with Dalton the youngest and playboy extraordinaire of the brothers. After Dalton was denied his trust fund at 25 like his brothers, he decided to spite everyone and through a series of calculated investments became a self-made billionaire. Seems to me, he wouldn’t have worked (if investments are considered work) at all if his money was handed to him. But aside from that, Dalton is a complete brat whose ‘my daddy didn’t love me’ complex has driven every decision and choice he’s made, including the type of women he associates himself with. I really didn’t like him at all. Maybe I’ll come around when his story is told more. Caden, the middle brother is a musician and came off more of a jerk than anything else to me. His past relationship with his ex-best friend who happens to be a girl seems to be his motivation.

Of the Grangers, Sheppard, the father of these three, has the more interesting story. He’s in prison for murdering his wife and there’s a whole back story there that’s full of secrets and intrigue. I think that’s going to be a good one once it’s panned out. Shana’s father, a retired cop, had his own story line. His new love interest sounds like she’s not going to fall easily and it sounds like the way he’s going to have to woo her might make an interesting read. It would be nice to read a romance where the hero doesn’t have six-pack abs.

Overall, this is a good story. If you like Jackson’s previous work I’m sure you’ll like this one also.

Happy reading folks!

Rating: C-

*ARC Provided by Harlequin MIRA

Click to purchase: Amazon
A Brother’s Honor
by Brenda Jackson
Release Date: May 28, 2013
Publisher: MIRA

Review: After Dark

Reviewed by Jen

This anthology features two novellas: one which was previously published by Gena Showalter as part of her Lords of the Underworld series; the other a prequel to Kait Ballenger’s new Execution Underground series.  I’d read the Showalter short before.  If you didn’t catch my review on it the first time around:

“The Darkest Angel” – Gena Showalter seamlessly connects the dots between The Darkest Whisperand The Darkest Passion with this super sexy short story.  Our heroine is Bianka, sister to Gwen, and a fellow Harpy.  As our story begins, she is kidnapped by the angel Lysander. It turns out, she is his one true temptation and he thinks to neutralize the threat she poses. Ultimately, they each prove to be more temptation than the other can resist. But can they overcome their huge differences?

The great thing about this short story is that it hyper-focuses on the romance. And by “romance,”  I mean spectacular sexual tension and payoff. –Yeah, you could skip this short story and still understand what is happening in the next book. But honestly, why would you want to? It was a great story. (I’m still fanning myself.) And unlike some of the other short stories set in the LotU world, this one actually features the Lords, albeit in supporting roles.

Rating: B

“Shadow Hunter” –  This was a story with an interesting premise.  Damon is a vampire hunter, part of an elite fighting team called the Execution Underground.  He is trying to kill Caius, the vampire responsible for the death of his best buddy Mark.  Damon feels responsible for Mark’s death and has lost more than his friend. He also lost Tiffany, Mark’s sister and the woman he has been exchanging letters with for years. Damon has no idea that Tiffany, too, has been hunting Caius, until the two come face to face on the job.  The spark between them is instant and they explore their relationship as they work together to find justice for Mark.

There were problems for me from the start.  One: Tiffany is 22 years-old, gorgeous, and has never even been kissed. COME ON.  So unnecessary to the story and immediately had my eyes rolling.  Two: the instant overwhelming attraction between Damon and Tiffany (who each had no idea who the other was) was something you would expect, maybe, from shifters. But to go from never been kissed to sex with a stranger in the same night? Again, I say COME ON.  Three: Damon’s constant bemoaning about lusting after his friend’s baby sister.  And this was all in the first 25%.

But as trying as all that was for me, the absolute worst part of the story is the ending.  The completely NOT HAPPY ENDING.  I have an expectation of a HEA –or at the very least, HFN, in PNR.  But no. The ending is bad.  Unforgivable.

Rating: D

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon 
After Dark
by Gena Showalter & Kait Ballenger
Release Date: June 25, 2013
Publisher: HQN

Review: Gaming for Keeps

Reviewed by Janell

This book made me so jealous, you guys. I wish I was more of a geek girl, that I knew my way around online multiplayer games, that I could wear costumes and go to conventions. Alas, I don’t have the time or mental energy for most of it. I just consume the mainstream movies and tv shows and wish I had more street cred. Penelope — Pen — is the heroine in this story, and she plays the games, she walks the walk, talks the talk. I wish I was her. Her dog’s name is Worf, she references Supernatural and makes t-shirts printed in binary code. I caught all the references she made, but I couldn’t confidently make all the references myself, and that makes me sad about my life. But this is a book review, not an analysis of my lack of awesome, so I’ll move on.

Pen plays an online game called Heroes of Fallen Gods, and she’s in a guild with her ex-boyfriend. She has a flirtationship with a player in another guild, who invites her to a convention and suggests they meet up in real life. Pen, having been burned by meeting someone offline before, says she’ll be there but doesn’t set a specific meeting time. Once there, a douche trolling for girls pretends to be her gamer friend, so she hangs out with him, but he’s lame and she has to knee him in the crotch. No one is as cool in reality as they are online, am I right?

Meanwhile, Pen’s online buddy Cal is a hot stud / secret agent who just wants to paint himself indigo and wander around as a Dark Elf without being bothered by work. Unfortunately, a Bad Guy is planning Bad Things at the convention, so Cal has to take phone calls and plan things and stress.

Pen and Cal meet in an elevator, but they don’t know that they already know each other! I know, right?! The heat pooling, the sparks flying, the feeling like they’ve known each other a long time, it all happens. Fast. Did I mention this is a short book? On the plus side, Pen and Cal spend a lot of time bantering and kissing before he has to save the world and rescue the girl. On the minus side, I wouldn’t mind if they’d spent even more time together, delving into more obscure sci fi and then rolling around naked.

There’s a clumsy shower scene acknowledging that shower sex is trickier than the books make it out to be. There’s body paint. Fake sword fighting. A discourse on how a person’s knowledge of Firefly tells you everything you need to know to judge their character. Sigh. I’d better stop before I get the sads again. To sum up: fun, cute, hot, awesome. I just wish it had more, went deeper, lasted longer (…that’s what she said).

Rating: A-

*ARC Provided by Entangled

Click to purchase: Amazon
Gaming for Keeps
by Seleste deLaney
Release Date: June 10, 2013
Publisher: Entangled

Review: It Happened One Midnight

Reviewed by Jen

I am a big fan of Julie Anne Long’s Pennyroyal Green series; and I did like this latest installment, but it took me a while to warm up to it.  The romance was a very slow burn and I found myself impatient through the first half, waiting to get to the romance.  It’s a friendship to love story and it seemed like the friendship part lasted a long time.  That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but just as it took our couple awhile to get on board with the lovin’ — it took me just as long to get excited about them together.

Our hero, Jonathan, is the youngest of the Redmond clan.  Few people take him seriously, especially not his father.  But there is more to Jonathan than meets the eye. Behind his good looks and rakish charm, he has a mind for business.  He even has a lucrative venture in mind.   Unfortunately, his father won’t give him the backing he needs. Even worse, he demands Jonathan marry an “appropriate” woman or be cut off financially from the family.

Thomasina –Tommy– exists on the fringe of society. She is no proper lady, but she is no courtesan either. She helps plays hostess to popular parties, and is universally desired by the men who frequent them.  Her carefree and attractive persona is a just a mask she wears, however. She lives hand to mouth, comes from a difficult childhood, and has a higher calling that constantly places her in danger.

In meeting Jonathan, Tommy finds a kindred spirit. They have the same wit and social parrying skills.  They see through each other’s bullshit, frankly, and come out friends because of it.  And it’s a good long while before it progresses beyond that. In the interim, they end up showing each other their true selves… something few others ever see.  By the time they start to see each other with romantic interest, they are so close, they can’t imagine living without each other, despite all the common sense reasons they should be with other people.

I liked the characters. I liked the plot and I thought Tommy’s cause was a great one.  I felt for her as she struggled without anyone to love her. I loved that she maintained her independence and worked to live up to her personal morality.  Jonathan, meanwhile, was sexy and an interesting blend of earnest and jaded.   But I never burned for them to get together.  Sure, it was nice once they did –and the book picked up at that point– but I didn’t feel much tension between the two of them in the first half.  First they were friends; then they were briefly friends with (less than sex) benefits; then true lovers.  I guess the tension was supposed to be in that middle phase but it was underwhelming.  Not bad by any stretch. I just wasn’t excited.

I had hoped to love it more.

Rating: B-

*ARC Provided by Avon

Click to purchase: Amazon
It Happened One Midnight
by Julie Anne Long
Release Date: June 25, 2013
Publisher: Avon