Review: Down and Dirty

Reviewed by Allison

In the second book of the Dare Me series, we meet Galen’s sister, Cat Thomas, the wild child from Down for the Count. Cat is hanging out with her brother and her bestie, Lacey, when in walks a blast from the past, Shane Decker. Shane was her bossy shadow in high school after her brother moved away…but he’s also her unrequited childhood crush. Unfortunately, every detail of his rejection floods the front of her mind as soon as she sees him, and she knows he’s nothing but bad news for her heart – no matter how good looking he is.

Shane has been away for far too long. Cat is all grown up and he can only hope that she is finally ready to commit – preferably to him. He’s waited years for her and now that they’re finally in the same place, the time has come for her to come to her senses. What he doesn’t realize is just how hard he’ll have to work to convince her of their shared destiny.

I really enjoyed Shane and Cat. Cat was a little hard to read at times because she was so stuck in her mother’s past, letting it stop her from having everything and almost losing it all with her stubbornness. She’s got a sexy, attentive, committed man, and all she sees are ties that bind her from being herself, from having a life. Right before you want to smack her upside the head, her mom knocks some sense into her – just in time!

Down and Dirty is a great follow up and I look forward to getting to know the next couple!

Grade: B+

*ARC Provided by Entangled 

Click to purchase: Amazon
Down and Dirty
by Christine Bell
Release Date: February 23, 2013
Publisher: Entangled

Review: Close Enough to Touch

Reviewed by Allison

Grace Barrett, makeup artiste extraordinaire, is running away. As she runs from her life in LA (and the ex boyfriend intent on making her life as miserable as possible), she runs to the only place she can find shelter, Jackson, WYO where her great-aunt lets her stay in an apartment building she owns. Although her aunt is quite prickly, she is grateful for the roof over her head…even if the floor is her mattress. Right off the bat, she meets her neighbor, Cole Rawlins – an honest to goodness cowboy. Even if the purple hair and dark makeup didn’t scare him off, she figures eventually her personality will. It always does.

Cole is absolutely intrigued by his new next door neighbor. He’s on the mend from a serious horse riding accident and she’s a welcome distraction. Although he doesn’t have the best memories of city girls, he can’t help but be drawn to her. He loves her tough exterior but is convinced she’s not as hard as she seems and each moment, no matter how fleeting, that he sees her vulnerability peek through, he falls even harder for her.

I adore Cole. He’s been through so much and yet each day he chooses to be positive, chooses to believe that with hard work, his dreams have not escaped him yet. Plus – he’s a sexy cowboy! Grace was another story, however. Talk about your tortured heroine. You can tell she’s just had it really rough in life and after so many punches, you have a harder time rolling with them. Still, as much as I liked her and rooted for her, the darkness and constant self-berating was a bit much to read.

All in all, I still enjoyed the first book of Victoria Dahl’s new series and look forward to reading the short stories in between before getting to Grace’s BFF Merry’s story! If you’re looking for an emotional yet sexy read, check the Jackson Hole series out!

Grade: B+

Click to purchase: Amazon
Close Enough to Touch
by Victoria Dahl
Release Date: August 28, 2012
Publisher: Harlequin HQN

Review: Chasing Mrs. Right

Reviewed by Allison

Ian didn’t want a Welcome Home party. He wasn’t ready and he didn’t know half the people in the club anyway. After 10 years active duty, there are things you can’t unsee. And those things mess with a man. But, as he fled the scene, he bumped into a miracle on legs (sexy ones at that.) The woman he ran into and subsequently patched up had a unique talent – she brought him peace. A simple touch could calm his anxiety like nothing before.  He knew she was special and he had to keep her in his arms longer. A one night stand is a good start…

The strange but beautiful man that ran Roxanne over and proceeded to bandage her scrape, lit her on fire like never before. He made her feel things she never thought she would.  He made her want. Best thing to do for a commitment-phobe like herself? Get him out of her system. All she needed was just one night. Love would only lead to pain and hatred anyway, but lust on the other hand was fun. And her plan was working magically…until he said his name and she realized that she was in bed with her best friend’s older brother.

Ian and Roxanne had a LOT of growing to do. They both had inner demons to fight: his, a product of war and hers, a product of a very selfish and unhappy mother. Even though Ian was dealing with “almost PTSD” (even though I’m not sure that you can almost have something like that) he came around to the idea of he and Roxanne a lot quicker than she did. She did her best to push him away, convinced that it would only lead to tears and heartbreak. He seduced her into spending more time with him and then won her heart by opening up, trusting her, and needing her. It was hard at times to watch someone push the best thing in their life away so fervently, but I was also glad that they didn’t get over such huge fears so quickly either. I think the “I love you” came a bit too quickly, but it certainly wasn’t easily which made up for part of it. Still, through all the misunderstandings, Ian and Roxanne are a couple you root for and pray they see the light, so they can be the gooey happy couple hiding in the corner pawing at each other at parties.

This was a good follow up to the first book in Ms. Robert’s series, Wrong Bed, Right Guy. I really enjoyed visiting with our first couple since Ian is Elle’s brother, we get a glimpse life after their “HEA”. These stories are solidly entertaining reads, very spicy, and my favorite part – the MAN chases the WOMAN! Pretty refreshing change of roles in romance.  I love that she tells us that not all men are afraid of commitment, nor are all women ready to hop into marriage at every turn! I’ll definitely be tuning in for the next chapter to see who Nathan (also introduced in Book 1) is bringing to Elle’s wedding!

Rating: B

*ARC Provided by Entangled

Click to purchase: Amazon
Chasing Mrs. Right
by Katee Robert
Release Date: March 25, 2013
Publisher: Entangled

Review: Howl

Reviewed by Allison

Howl is a short story about a werewolf, a vampire and a blood slave. Essentially, Rand the werewolf comes to Hayden the vampire’s castle in order to negotiate hunting rights on their shared property. While there, he samples Hayden’s goods (Scarlet, the blood slave) and falls in love. Scarlet falls head over heels with Rand, but finds herself yearning for Hayden as well. She explains she can’t really leave anyway because she made a deal with a witch to keep her from madness (schizophrenia) as long as she doesn’t leave the castle. They all get really sad because they can’t have what they want. Then they decide that sharing is better than not having any so the vampire, the werewolf, and the blood slave all live happily ever after.

Not sure if you can tell by my book report above, but I did not enjoy this short. I don’t mind the wham-bam-thank you-ma’am in 90 pages, but there was nothing that made me enjoy the characters. I didn’t feel anything. I was supposed to feel bad for Scarlet and her craziness, but I didn’t. I was supposed to feel for the werewolf who feel in love overnight, but I didn’t. I was supposed to feel for the stern vampire gone softy for his blood slave, but I didn’t. Both men were ridiculous and wanted to own her. Scarlet herself was a bit of a contradiction because she wanted to be free but at the same time loved her arrangement with Hayden.

So, long story very very short – don’t bother.

Grade: F

Howl
by Cynthia Rayne
Release Date: September 28, 2012
Publisher: Ellora’s Cave

Review: Voodoo on the Bayou

Reviewed by Allison

This book was very intriguing. Think “The Frog Prince” mixed with some Voodoo magic, shifting, & a dash of N’Awlins charm.

Craig Thibodeaux is a lawyer from New Orleans who came to help out his uncle on a “business vacation” to the small town of Bayou Miste. When he goes out with and turns down the wrong girl, her grandma, Madame LeBieu, comes a looking for him. While she has him tied down and chants over him he thinks it’s all a joke his buddies are playing on him… until he wakes up a frog!

“By day a frog, by night a man, ’til de next full moon, dis cunja will span… A woman will answer Ezill’s call, one who’ll love him, warts, and all… He’ll watch by day and woo by night, to gain her love, he mus fight, to break de cunja, be whole again, transformed into a caring man”

When he transforms back into his human form, he realizes that he needs to find a girl to fall in love with him, stat. However, Bayou Miste being a small town, the pickings are slim! That is until Elaine Smith comes to town. A scientist from the city, freshly dumped by her jerk of a fiance, she’s on a mission to find out why the Bayou is becoming toxic and be an environmental hero. If only she could get over her fear of water…

Although the timeline was a bit quick for my taste, it was fun to see Craig and Elaine drawn together, no matter how hard they fought it. I loved to see the commitment phobes fall so hard! Each night that Craig took Elaine out to hunt frogs was another chance they could get to know each other, so that by the next full moon, they were both head over heels for each other. I think the mystery could’ve been fleshed out more, because it was actually pretty interesting and relevant. It was a gripping twist that would’ve been really fun to follow further. I also would’ve enjoyed seeing the couple after the curse was over to see how they fared back in the big city together.

All in all, it was an sexy and compelling interpretation of a popular fairy tale and a happy ever after I was delighted to read!

Grade: B+

*ARC provided by Entangled

Click to purchase: Amazon
Voodoo on the Bayou
by Elle James
Release Date: February 18, 2013
Publisher: Entangled

Review: Fever

Reviewed by Allison

Let me preface my review by saying that I loved Ms. Banks’ Sweet series. I think she’s a talented writer and I have always enjoyed reading the relationships she creates. That being said, this book was hard to get through.

This is the second book in the Breathless series, the story of Jace Crestwell and Bethany Willis. Jace is a self made millionaire who sees Bethany at his sister’s engagement party from across the room and wants her immediately. Bethany is a homeless woman forced to do odd jobs to keep money in her pocket, since no one will hire her on a continuous basis. When Bethany is confronted by Ash, Jace’s best friend and the man he shares his women with, what she sees for the evening is a guaranteed place to sleep and a warm meal for free. She agrees to go upstairs with them both, even though Jace doesn’t seem 100% on board. After they spend the night together, Jace wakes up to find Bethany gone and goes crazy. He spends two weeks tracking her down and eventually finds her in a women’s shelter and steals her away.

This story is very unique in that I’ve never read about a homeless heroine, and it was very interesting to get inside her mind and watch her face situations most people don’t have to. However, I was less than impressed with Jace. He completely took over Bethany’s life without thought to how she might feel about it. Granted, she didn’t have much of a life to live, but for me, a woman’s choice is one of the most important things she has to hold on to. Which brings to me to my biggest issue with this story.

I understand that there is a delicate balance between building trust and taking care of the person you love while being the dominant partner in the relationship. However, I felt that the dominance went over board. Jace was more than just “demanding” or “exacting”. He was a pushy jerk.

“Do you understand that I would be in absolute control over every aspect of our relationship, Bethany? Do you really get that? That every decision will be made by me. Where we eat, what we eat, where we go, where you go. When we have sex. When we don’t have sex. What you wear. Who you talk to. Are you getting it yet? I’m a controlling bastard and that won’t change. Are you really willing to sign on for something like that?”

I don’t mind a man taking care of me or not having to think about things for a while, but since when did becoming an all out asshat become a good thing in a hero? He crossed the line so many times it was hard to count.

As soon as Jace had taken that step in exerting his dominance, a part of her had sighed in relief. It had been so freeing to hand over responsibility to someone who cared about her. Someone who took care of her and was insanely protective of her. It gave her a measure of security she hadn’t enjoyed until now. It made her feel… safe.

How can I argue with that? If that’s what it took to make her feel safe, who am I to judge? It’s just not my thing. My mind rebelled the whole way through. I liked Bethany a lot, even when her constant self hatred got tiring, I wanted her to have a better life and a better future.

In the end, I think this may simply be a case of “not my cup of tea” – but it may be yours, who knows? Either way, it’s a breathtaking cover; I still enjoy the author, but I won’t be following up with this series.

Grade: D

*ARC Provided by Berkley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Fever
by Maya Banks
Release Date: April 2, 2013
Publisher: Berkley

Review: Love Irresistibly

Reviewed by Allison

Julie James’ fourth installment of the FBI/US Attorney series was a lot of fun to read! I’ve read this series since the beginning and was so excited to get the chance to read an ARC of Love Irresistibly – plus, what a cover! Does it leave anyone else with a sincere urge to run out & find that sexy red dress?!

Ms. James reintroduces us to AUSA, Cade Morgan. We first met Cade in About That Night when he was the representative of the State against the hero, Kyle Rhodes (aka, the Twitter Terrorist). Now, he’s back with a vengeance working with the FBI trying to take down some big names in politics. In his most recent case, he’s looking to get audio and visual proof of bribery but needs an in at the restaurant where the men in question are meeting. Enter, Brooke Parker. As general counsel for the high end restaurant company, Cade can’t make any moves without her help. Luckily, she’s willing to play ball.

Although the love story was a bit slow moving between the two, I did enjoy the other aspects of the characters’ lines from a surprise half brother to a big career decision and both of them learning what really are priorities in life. Work/life balance is something (now that I’ve joined the corporate world) I was truly able to relate to. The struggle between having the career you’ve always wanted and making time for the family and friends that will always be more important than money is definitely a real topic and was explored well.

Although there were times I wanted to knock their heads together and tell them to get over their baggage and trust each other, I’m glad they took the time they did. I felt justified in the end and was that much happier to see them together. Plus, we got a mini update on previous couples!

This is definitely a favorite contemporary series and this chapter keeps with the tradition of quality characters and a swoonworthy romance. Highly recommended, ladies!

Grade: B

*ARC Provided by Berkley

Click to purchase: Amazon
Love Irresistibly
by Julie James
Release Date: April 2, 2013
Publisher: Berkley

Review: Nice Girl

Reviewed by Allison

Grace Locke is looking for a change of pace in her life; she isn’t satisfied. When she moves to New York City to complete her Master’s in Criminology, she doesn’t know just how much of a change she’ll get. While scoping out the neighborhood after settling into her new grad dorm, she stumbles into a private investigating firm and after a conversation with the co-founder, gets hired on as their secretary. This works out perfectly because she can watch how the cases unfold, which interests her, particularly because she’s studying criminology.  Maybe more importantly, she can surround herself with alpha males in order to practice confidence with men in hopes of changing her luck with them. At first all is well…until she meets Vinnie. Ex-hit man gone straight, Vinnie is the very definition of bad boy. He is mean, aggressive, and even tried to fire her! But once they get through the first couple of hurdles, they find they can’t stop thinking of each other. Vinnie grows protective of Grace and something begins to develop that takes them a while to even acknowledge. The romance in this story is definitely more of a slow burn, but that doesn’t make it any less hot. Vinnie is sexy, sweet but tough, and a great wounded hero for those of you who enjoy reading them. While it took me a while longer to warm up to Grace (she talks about her BFFs a lot, but they never really drew me in,) eventually you feel proud of her evolution as a character and person. Nice Girl was a solid good girl gets the bad boy story and will definitely steam your windows – enjoy! Rating: C+ *ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon
Nice Girl
by Kate Baum
Release Date: December 5, 2012

Review: No Turning Back

Reviewed by Allison

Helenkay Dimon’s new romantic series, the Hanover Brothers, is going to be a huge hit. In this book, she weaves the story of Leah Baron, a woman who, for her entire childhood, was taught by her father that Charlie Hanover is the devil incarnate by way of conman and that his sons are no better. So, when she meets Declan Hanover, Charlie’s second son, sparks fly – but definitely not in the way she expected!

What I loved most about this story was 1) Declan and 2) the intrigue and town age old mystery with a twist. Declan has been haunted by his father’s terrible reputation his entire life. Threatening phone calls and misguided notions about he and his family are par for the course, unfortunately. However, he learns how to rise above it (with a little military help) and is ready to find a real home when he gets the opportunity to come back to Sweetwater, Oregon, after his grandmother passes away and leaves the house to him and his brothers.

The motivation in this story is Leah trying to keep her dad calm and attempt to buy the Hanover brothers out then chase them straight out of town. Things obviously don’t go as planned. The relationship between Leah and Declan was really interesting to see play out, especially with how hard she tried to fight it. (There may have been some scenes where I wanted to smack her) and the twist at the end – you got me, Ms. Dimon! I did NOT see that one coming!

Although I loved the complication, I think the biggest surprise to me in the end was definitely Callen Hanover. He didn’t surface until midway through but was a very strong and important character by the end. The brothers’ interactions were so much fun to read, I can’t wait to get to know the rest of them!

If you enjoy a well written story filled with a gossipy town, a trio of scorned but sexy brothers, and a heroine who does some honest to goodness growing up – you’ve found your next read! Enjoy!

Grade: B+

*ARC provided by author for review

Click to purchase: Amazon or Enter to Win
No Turning Back
by HelenKay Dimon
Release Date: March 19, 2013
Publisher: Penguin

Review: Highland Games

Reviewed by Allison

I love this author and she knows that even though I don’t read a lot of Highlander stories, I’m always up for one of hers! This one is no different.

Piper Grant is a good friend. Instead of taking her long awaited surf vacation in Hawaii, she’s hopping on a plane to Ireland in her friend’s place as a favor to her. Little does she know – it’s a singles tour! Talk about awkward. But, even faced with immature frat guys, she convinces herself to enjoy the tour and find some fun. As they deboard the bus to revel in the Highland Games at Blair Castle, she feels hope for the first time. But once she’s off, she can’t shake the feeling of someone watching her.

As Colm MacRobert surveys Piper while she strolls the grounds, he can’t believe two things: that he finally found his soul mate – and that he had to go 219 years into the future to find her. Now that he’s found her, he only has a small window of time to convince her not only that they’re meant to be together, but that she needs to leave her entire life behind and come back to 1793 with him to get married and save his entire village. Piece of cake, right?

My favorite part of this novella was definitely Colm. He’s the epitome of the Alpha male without getting into Neanderthal territory. He knows how to kiss a woman and who could be that upset to leave the single life behind for a guy that swoon-worthy? Even if it’s 200+ years earlier. The only thing that drove me crazy was the timeline. I personally have a really hard time buying the whole love at first sight/ let’s get married within 48 hours thing. However, that being said, I really did love Piper and Colm together. They balanced each other out really well. He opened her eyes while she kept him grounded – because, well, Highlanders are notoriously bossy! Plus, did I mention he was a great kisser?

While short, it was a sweet story and I will definitely keep reading Ms. Hunsaker’s Magic of the Highlands series!

Rating: B+

*Book provided by author for review

Highland Games
by Laura Hunsaker
Release Date: December 28, 2012
Publisher: New Concepts Publishing