Review: Bane by L.J. Shen

Reviewed by Joanna

One of my favorite tropes is the wounded hero who is self-aware, even as he repeatedly messes up his life. Roman ‘Bane’ Protsenko is one of those guys. A mixture of cocky and resigned to his choices, he’s a prostitute, hired by rich women to satisfy their needs, but he’s also a businessman, he runs a protection racket, and lastly, he surfs. Naked. There isn’t much this guy won’t do to make his mark on the world. You’re probably thinking what an unappealing chap he is, and to some extent, you’re right, but he becomes sympathetic. He’s funny, too, in a way, and ballsy despite his sad background.

His redemption comes when he happens across Jesse Carter. This woman has been through the most awful, traumatizing events (trigger warning for rape), and doesn’t go out anymore, except to her therapist’s. She’s anxious and scared, taunted, unsupported, and wounded beyond help. Her despairing step-father hires Bane to bring her out of her shell. [Read more…]

Review: Melt For You by JT Geissinger

Reviewed by Joanna

Joellen, a NYC-based editor, has zero self-esteem. In love for a decade with her boss at her publishing house, she can’t believe the guy would ever look at her twice, even if he’s about to get a divorce and has started hanging around her desk. She’s thirty-six and considers herself old, overweight and unattractive. Her life gets worse when her annoying new neighbor, a giant of a Scottish sportsman, plays rap music until the walls shake. Joellen has no problem giving him a piece of her mind, even if every time he answers the door, he’s half-naked (top half, silly. Where did your mind just go?)

To get him to shut up, Joellen bribes him with home-cooked meals, and for comfort-starved Cameron, this is a deal he can’t refuse. Despite Joellen’s frosty snark, they become kind of friends, and she confides in Cameron about her unrequited love. Overconfident Cameron, who’s constantly trying to get Joellen to admit she fancies him, decides he needs to teach this woman to kiss. After all, the boss is starting to pay attention, and she’s out of practice. [Read more…]

Review: Small Change by Roan Parrish

Reviewed by Joanna

Ginger manages a tattoo parlor. She is a small woman with a huge personality, and is angry at just about everything and everyone. In her few hours of spare time, she paints, and that’s about it. She doesn’t cook, have delicate hobbies, nurture anyone, or make any concessions for the badass she is. I loved this woman.

Fortunately, someone else intends to, too. Enter Christopher. He owns the local sandwich shop, and he has a thing for the feisty woman he sees around his locale. This is where it’s interesting. Christopher is a super sweet red-headed nurturer. He cares about everyone, likes people, is genuinely interested in how they are, and doesn’t have an ounce of snark in his body. The polar opposite to Ginger, and a nice reversal from traditional gender role expectations. And the guy is hot. Smoking. [Read more…]

Review: Brooklynaire by Sarina Bowen

Reviewed by Joanna

I’ve been waiting (not all that) patiently for Nate and Becca’s story forever. Over the course of four books they’ve been in the background, him following her every move with adoring eyes. Her unknowing competence keeping him well managed. Becca has been Nate’s office manager for seven years, and never have they crossed the streams, but now, finally, things change.

Oh, before I dive in, this *is* a billionaire hero story, but he’s neither flash, mean, nor alpha. Phew, right? Nate is a happy, work-obsessed geek, whose favorite social mores are inventing palindromes and eating takeout food with his best friend Becca.

When he first hired her, his tech start-up was a small fish about to turn full whale. Then in the midst of inventing a ton of money-making technology, Nate also buys a hockey team. After an event Becca can’t for the life of her work out, Nate moves her from by his side to work for the team in the Brooklyn office. Hmm, can anyone think of a reason he might not want her around? [Read more…]

Review: Screwed by Luke Prescott

Reviewed by Joanna

I saw this recommended, via a Facebook group, as a short, sexy, OTT romance and, in some respects, it didn’t disappoint. Mostly because it gave me a good laugh. Without meaning make fun, as for a while I assumed it was intended to be a parody, I can summarize the opening of the book thus:

Guy: I’m back in town and pissed at my dad. *screws hot blond in the bar’s bathroom* Ah, that’s better. Now I’m going to go to see Dad and give him a piece of my mind.

Woman: how super! I’ve got Mom and Stepdad’s house all to myself. *rubs own nipples in the shower and wishes for hot sex* Wait! Who is that handsome stranger in the kitchen? [Read more…]

Review: Under Her Skin by Adriana Anders

Reviewed by Joanna

Someone hold me. This story has a lumbersexual, big ole hero, who lives at the edge of the forest and works as a blacksmith. He’s got ropey muscles. And a beard. And he saves stray animals. Oh mummy.

BUT, then the publisher had to go spoil the book by doing something stupid with the Kindle edition. More on that later.

Uma is on the run. She fled her ex with little more than the clothes on her back, and her clapped out car. Desperate, she finds an advert in a small town newspaper and takes up a job as live-in carer for the crotchetiest of old ladies. That woman is as mean as the day is long. She’s awful to poor, broken Uma, but our heroine has no choice but to stay. See, she needs to remain in this town for a very specific reason. Her ex, the vile Joey, hurt her by marking her skin, and there’s a doctor there who provides free treatment to such patients. [Read more…]

Review: Beautiful Potential by J Saman

Reviewed by Joanna

Alert! Wounded hero who can’t be with the heroine but can’t keep away Klaxon! Sigh. This is my absolute favorite trope, and Dr Finn Banner is just sumptuous in the alphahole role where I wanted to simultaneously throttle and hug him. But as I also want to be best buddies with the heroine, I imagine she might not be so keen on that. Hmm.

Anyway, let’s start at the beginning. Gia Bianchi has just graduated as a midwife, having already qualified as a nurse. Her parents don’t show for her graduation ceremony, and when she calls them she finds her father is in hospital having had a heart attack.

He doesn’t make it, and Gia is given the facts—and a bit of comfort—by a handsome doctor, who tells her how his own father died. They share a little moment of bonding, then go their separate ways. [Read more…]

Review: The Ones Who Got Away by Roni Loren

Reviewed by Joanna

This tale deals with the second chance romance of Liv and Finn—survivors of a high school massacre where two other kids took their deadly teenage angst out on their fellow pupils.

While the tragedy of that event frames this story, it isn’t the core focus, as the story picks up several years down the line when our protagonists reunite for a documentary being made on their experience.

Liv runs into Finn—her secret ex-boyfriend—at the filming, and the trauma of it all triggers her panic attacks and she flees. Later, in the bar with friends she’s drifted apart from, the women open a time capsule they buried after the shooting, and Liv reads the words teen-her wrote to herself. The full life she expected with passion and adventure is far from her overworked existence, and she realizes all she’s missing. Then she sees Finn again, and the two come together. [Read more…]

Review: Neanderthal Marries Human by Penny Reid

Reviewed by Joanna

This is the wedding book that goes after the romance-getting of book one. It is not a standalone, so can’t be read as a complete story in its own right by any stretch of the imagination. Rather, it slots somewhat awkwardly between the first—Janie’s story of meeting Quinn—and the second, which charts the romance of one of her friends. But it spoils part of book two, so I don’t think it should be read in number order.

Do you like these point-five kind of stories? Infill bits that don’t make sense on their own but give extra scenes and carry on the love? For the right couple I love them, but this tale was fifty fifty. [Read more…]

Joanna’s Favorites of 2017

With so many great and excellent reads published this year, I had a hard job settling on a short list. Some of my favourite authors have been knocking it out of the park with their releases, and I’ve made brand new finds who I’ll one-click forever.

How about you? Found a book that’s given you joy? Let me know.

Burn For You by J.T. Geissinger

Chef Bianca Hardwick goes head to head with rude, gorgeous and damaged Jackson “The Beast” Boudreaux in this tale set in the Deep South. It’s all accents, sumptuous recipes and fiery tempers, with a dollop of an arranged marriage. And I adored it. [Read more…]