Scoring Mr. Romeo – AM Madden & Joanne Schwehm

 

This would be a great book for readers who love sweet, romantic stories. But that’s not me. I like my books to have a little more angst and bite and this book didn’t do this. It’s the story of an executive whose two best friends had already succumbed to matrimony but he’s not on the lookout for a relation. He has a best friend who happens to be a woman, and he’s doing great hanging out with Cassie and enjoying evenings with their circle of friends. He inherited Cassie as a bestie because she’s friends with his male best friends’ wives.

So one day, he goes by Cassie’s school (she teaches Kindergarten) to pick her up for dinner and gets painted on by a precious little kid, five years old, Mikey. Then his mother arrives and tries to fix the splotch of paint that Mikey left on Luca’s crotch and it’s the cause of hysterics for Cassie. For Luca, it meant that he was hit by a 4 x 4 when he saw this beautiful woman. He wasn’t looking for love and it hit him in the face at the least expected place and moment.

He connects with little Mikey through their mutual love of soccer. He falls in love with the little boy, and then with the mother. Through all this time, we also have frequent appearances of Kyle and Jude, his best friends, their wives, and Cassie, who also becomes a good friend to Sabrina, Mikey’s mom. I realize this is a series and there are previous books about Kyle and Jude’s love stories, but if they are as simple and sweet, no thanks.
The book is very well written, has a slow pace but a great balance between dialogues, action and prose. However, the romance progresses at a snail pace, and it is so bland. I didn’t feel any passion, I wasn’t riveted. Halfway through the book I was desperate to be done. It took me three days to read it when I usually read a book in one and a half days. However, those who like feel-good, simple and sweet romances may find a liking for this book.

Posted in ARC sent by promoters, Contemporary | Leave a comment

Corrode – Ella Fields

 

This book was not as wonderful as the previous one, but it was still a great read. The author has a great writing style, and I like that she writes anti-heroes. Her male characters are not billionaire playboys, or successful lawyers, or rockstars, just run-of-the-mill guys, blue collar, and bad boys too. They have a little bit of tender and a little bit of lawless, and they know what it is to live on the wrong side of the tracks and the law, but strive to be good. This story was a second chance romance story and there’s a beautiful baby boy involved.

Magdaline was raised in a strict home and didn’t usually go to parties. One night her best friend wanted to go to a party on the wrong side of town to meet with her boyfriend of the week and dragged Maggie with her. There Maggie sees Felix and Sam, who is begging Felix for a chance at love. Felix rejects Sam and meets Maggie and is instantly smitten. They start dating and start a love story that covers more than eight years in this book.

The author had a very interesting way of describing their story. It starts with the day Felix leaves jail, is greeted by Sam, who has visited him every month he’s been in jail but he doesn’t accept her lift, and is picked up by his younger brother Jared. Then Jared informs Felix that he had found Maggie. The story then makes a flashback to eight years before, when his story with Maggie begins.

Maggie has been dating Felix for a while and they have plans to be together forever. Maggie’s parents don’t know about her boyfriend and when they learn, she’s given a choice: go to New York, get a good degree and a good job; or leave the house if she chooses the boyfriend. Since the ultimatum was given with a backhand to the face, she goes to Felix and he moves her in with his foster father and Jared.

They struggle through several years, where Maggie tries studying and waitressing but it’s too hard and tiring. When she gives up her studies and later gets pregnant, Felix gets desperate to give her a good life and gets involved with the wrong gang and is caught and incarcerated. Maggie had forewarned him that if he proceeds with his lawless plans she would leave him, and she did. While Felix was in jail, she never came back to see him or bring the baby to meet him. Fast forward two years and Felix is free but Maggie nowhere to be found.

When he finally finds her, she’s a shadow of her vibrant previous self. Moreover, she lives in a two-bedroom guesthouse in the backyard of Jake and Warren’s house, and she seems to be their protégée, same as Archie, their little boy. What follows is the struggle for Felix to understand and forgive Maggie’s absence during his two years in jail and keeping his baby boy from him. For Maggie, it means overcoming the trauma she suffered after he left. It’s a beautiful love story of forgiveness and redemption, with strong feelings, passion and angst. Sam keeps making appearances, always trying for a chance with Felix, and in a plot twist later on, she’s a key element in Maggie’s trauma. This book feels like two stories, pre-jail and post-jail, with different characters. Felix and Maggie are changed by their experiences, and have to get to know each other again. The love never faltered, they just had to deal with their anger and abandonment issues.

The story is made lively with Jared interventions, who is smitten with his Frost, Archie who is precious and in love with cars, and the two crazy Vera besties, who add an element of funny crazy to some scenes. The book is riveting and heartfelt, I loved it although not as much as Cyanide. And now I’m off to find this author’s other books!

Posted in Contemporary, Purchased by blogger, Second Chance | Leave a comment

Full Contact – Kathy Coopman & HJ Bellus

 

Reading this book was difficult, for various reasons. One, the writing was choppy. Two, some parts didn’t make sense or the logical sense of a scene didn’t flow smoothly. Three, the plot refers to a Mafia family who owns a football team and stadium and presents a united front with law-abiding co-workers. My mind boggled.

Justice and Liam were college sweethearts. After one year of being together, Justice left Liam because she’s a Mafia princess and she felt that association with her family would harm Liam’s future as a quarterback. It breaks her heart and she never recovers from the pain and the desolation this action caused her.

Seven years later, her family and the Diamond Empire have purchased and constructed a huge football stadium in Boise, OH, and made Justice the General Manager of the football team. And the quarterback they’ve drafted is none other than Liam.

When they meet, there’s a lot of anger but also a lot of heartbreak. Liam is angry because Justice didn’t give him a chance to make a choice. Justice spends a lot of time either in tears or anger, Liam spend almost all his time in anger. Liam has a great family, and they love Justice. When they meet again, they welcome her with open arms. She had never presented Liam to her parents. Even though she loves them dearly, she was ashamed of her family’s business dealings. Even so, they all start to mingle as Justice and Liam start to manage their relation. Once they get together, then we get another complication in the manner of a stalker.

The book needed tightening and smoothing out the dialogues. It was not a smooth and enjoyable book to read, plus it was somewhat predictable. The only surprise I got was the stalker identity because he hardly appears in the book.

In the end, the fact that there were Mafia people dealing with regular law-abiding citizens was presented as a very normal thing. I have no idea if this is common, but I have a little problem with normalizing what are people outside of the law. I’m sure they are loving parents but they are still outside the law.

Posted in ARC sent by promoters, Contemporary, Second Chance | Leave a comment

Hot Shot – Karina Halle

 

Thank you author, for writing the best book of the trilogy last! This was the best book of this set of brothers, a hero who fights forest fires, but who hates himself and is all broken up. How can he love a woman if he doesn’t love himself? A true story of redemption and the loyal woman who loved him throughout all his journey to redemption.

Fox is the oldest of the Nelson brothers and he’s also the one with the biggest childhood trauma. He was there when his mother left the house and drowned herself in the river. He was seven at the time and he knew something was wrong, but like a little boy, when his favorite waffles were not ready and his little baby brother is crying all the time, he took it against his mother. Once he realizes his mother will never come back and that he was the last one who saw her and he was hateful to her, his future was cast. A man in torture.

Del has always been in love with Fox. When they met she was six years old, and even then she knew he would be a special one in her life. She always looked up to him. Likewise, when Del came into Fox’s life, his anger and darkness were alleviated by her lightness. She is his best friend, his special person, the one he needs to calm the raging black fire that burns in his soul. However, he cringes from love and wants nothing to do with it.

When this book starts, Fox is just starting a relation with a new girlfriend, Julie, and Del is devastated by jealousy and hurt. She can’t stand to be in the same room with Fox and girlfriend and this causes tension in their friendship. Fox relies a lot on Del and this confuses him. He doesn’t realize that Del is in love with him, clueless like a man! Julie does see the love between them and bows out but then Del and Fox are in a quandary. Del loves him, she wants everything, Fox only goes as far as friends with benefits. His work takes him away a lot of the time and the stress and losses suffered have increased the darkness in his soul. He is slowly going in a downward spiral, made more urgent by Del’s reluctance in formalizing a union just to make the best of things.

I hadn’t realized that Fox was so broken. I had seen in previous books that he had problems and that he and Del had an unrequited love, but I was sure that they knew their feelings, just hadn’t taken the courage to act on them. This book had Del as a supporting friend who secretly loved him, until she wanted everything and then lost everything for a while. Then Fox had a very hard journey to take to find himself and find love in himself, forgive himself for his guilt toward his mom and make amends with all the family members he had alienated.

It was a great angsty book, I read it in one day, it was so good.

Posted in ARC sent by promoters, Contemporary, Friends to Lovers | Leave a comment

Now That You Mention It – Kristan Higgins

 

Sublime! Reading one of Kristan Higgins books is like gaining confidence in humankind again, believing in the goodness of people, knowing there are good ones around. In the beginning of the book, I thought that this character was a masochist, outlining all the people who were mean to her., all the bad things that happened to her Yet, as the story unfolds, we see a character who is so strong and loving and giving and who wins everyone to her side by sheer loving force.

The beginning of the book is quite painful. Dr. Nora Stuart was having a normal successful day at the hospital, where she practices as a gastroenterologist. She has a very handsome boyfriend, Bobby, who is the ER doctor and king in his domain. Lately their love live has been doldrum and she’s feeling sorta grey about it. Then she’s called to a consult in ER, then after her consult she’s invited by Bobby and his ER gang for pizza and on the way to get the pies, she’s hit by a van. Once in the ER, between groggy and conscious, she hears her boyfriend hit upon the attending nurse. All her feelings coalesce into needing to go home, so she dumps the boyfriend, gets a long sick leave due to her many concussions and fractures, and heads back home, to Scupper island, offshore from Maine. Once she’s back home, she has several goals, get closer to her sister, improve her relation with her mother, and get to know her beloved niece.

When she gets back home, she finds her flighty sister is in jail, her niece is in a permanent black angry mood, and her mother is as dour as ever. She also decided she wants to find out what happened to her father. She and her sister had a magical childhood, where their father was this fantastic figure, full of fun and games, and their mother was the voice of doom, always ruining their fun. When Nora was eleven years old, her father left and never came back. Her sister turned angry and stayed like that. They were never close and loving as before, but Nora always maintained that love for her sister. The mother is expressionless, she does her duty but that’s all. No loving gestures, no welcoming posture. It was a dismal homecoming but Nora is perpetually optimist and determined.

What happens during the course of this book is due to the sheer loving force that Nora emits. She is kind, considerate, generous, and persistent. She was a good student and worked hard for her grades. She competed with (brother of Sully) and she was so determined to win the scholarship that would lead her away from home that she did a little trickery by finishing an additional work and sort of obliterating the assignment on the blackboard. She won the scholarship over Luke and she always felt guilty. He was so angry over losing that he went on a drunk bender and had an accident where his brother Sullivan was seriously wounded.

Once back in Scupper island, she meets Sully and his daughter and they struck up a friendship. The love part of this book is very subtle and grows slow. The family part of the book, the development of Nora’s relation with her niece, and the other friendships she starts with the doctor practice she joins temporarily are the trademark of what makes this author’s books so heartfelt and fulfilling. Conflicts with Luke and his mother, who blame Nora for Luke’s failures in life add color and tension to the book. Great pace, great storytelling, great characters, some hysterically funny scenes, the mixture of sadness and hilarity, it all works to make a fantastic read. This author is an automatic buy for me, always.

Posted in Contemporary, Humorous, Purchased by blogger | Leave a comment

Prince Charming – CD Reiss

 

Ok, time to start gushing! The word I would give this book is delicious. It was like when you go out on a beautiful day and have wonderful weather and a great lunch, and it was all delicious and enjoyable. This book was like this, a delicious treat to read. I loved both characters, not just the infamous Keaton Bridge, AKA Alpha Wolf. In King of Code, Alpha Wolf was a spooky, scary character. In this book, he starts as an impenetrable fortress of a man, yet when he meets FBI Special Agent Cassie, he develops chinks in those impenetrable walls. I loved, loved, to see him develop a weakness for Cassie. This was an incredible story of opposite ends meeting, a former black hacker who wants to go legit and a FBI agent who is sworn to put down the infamous Alpha Wolf. And the best part of this story is that Cassie was not one of those intractable stubborn women who stick to their guns until the very end. Not that, in this book, we see both characters develop a vulnerability in their armors and a tenderness to the other. It was bliss to read this book. Favorite scene: when Cassie went to the hospital to see about agents shot in the course of duty and Keaton arrives, screeching tires and squealing brakes in his black Lexus, and comes in running to the ER, all disheveled and frantic, thinking she had been the agent shot. And then, that crushing hug, relieved she was intact. For me, that was the sublime scene in this book. And the start of something wonderful. It was a great love story and with a stunning plot twist at the end. Not to be missed!

Posted in ARC sent by promoters, Contemporary, Enemies to Lovers | Leave a comment

Cyanide – Ella Fields

 

This book was recommended by an author I follow in Facebook, and boy, am I glad I read that post. This author’s writing is brilliant, and I will be sure to look up more books written by her! There are so many layers of feelings and love and loss and yearning and angst in this book. It’s one of those book that you read, and after you’re done, you go back to the beginning to re-read because you want to savor and maybe catch some detail you missed in the first reading.

The main character, Vera, was the most complicated character of the two, but Jared was compelling. An ex-bad boy who embraced responsibility but never lost the hotness. Vera and Jared are from opposite sides of society, she’s a rich socialite and he’s a poor mechanic and yet, their relation is explosive, hot chemistry, nuclear love.

Vera lost her mother when she was a little girl. Her mother left her and her father to run after a younger man. Vera was left alone with a workaholic father who delegated her care to nannies and housekeepers. She had everything a little girl could have, all her wishes were met and she was given all she asked for. She thought she was living the life she thought she was destined to live, but she always felt the lack of love and acceptance. Once when she overheard her nanny and the cook discuss her, she realized she’s not seen as the good little girl she thought she was. She grew with a black hole in her soul, always feeling that she lacked something, that she was not good enough. She was the epitome of a poor little rich girl.

When Vera was older, she was living the life she was destined for: rich boyfriend, limitless spending in her credit cards, active social life with airhead socialite girlfriends. Until one day, her boyfriend fed her up and she blew up big time. He left her on the side lane of a highway and a motorcycle rider dressed in black leather picked her up. Convinced he could be a serial killer but without any other choices, she accepts a ride to her apartment building in the good side of town. He was crass and crude but he made her tingle like no other man had.

There was an important man in Vera’s life: the owner of a shabby book store in the poor side of town. She had been going there since she was twelve years old, and she found in this old man the acceptance she didn’t have from her father or the employees who served her family. He was her support system, counsellor and old friend. Whenever she was upset, she would visit “Badger”, as she called him and the musty atmosphere in Badger’s bookstore would calm her upset spirit. One day, after one such visit, she visited a nearby coffee shop and encountered the biker with an attitude.  It took several more encounters, more rejection from Vera and more insistence from Jared, plus increased frustration with her empty life, that led Vera to give Jared a try.

From a one-night stand that was supposed to have no future, Vera and Jared clicked. I loved their interactions, they were funny, carnal and tender. Vera can’t help being a rich bitchy girl and Jared was perfect for bringing her down from the heights of bitchiness. He was able to dig into her façade and find the good and kind girl who just wanted love. She loved shopping and clothes, and I got a kick out of the descriptions of her clothes. It had a bit of the Clueless movie flavor. There were also two girlfriends, Ilsa and Cleo, who were airheads, socialites, with a sort of Dumb and Dumber vibe, yet they were loyal and loving friends. They added so much fun flavor to the book.

Of course, when you have an ambitious workaholic father who wants world domination, having a daughter who dumps his choice for a boyfriend and opts for a poor mechanic from the wrong part of town, forces him to make some hard decisions. When said father puts his foot down and forces his demands on his daughter, Vera has to decide what is important and true for her.

Vera and Jared face several hard moments during their relation. Vera was a little stubborn and Jared was too defensive. He had abandonment issues, so his first impulse when faced with relation problems is to strike out and hurt. The second part of this book was fraught with drama and angst and some stubbornness. I loved all the growing up that these two characters went through. They were forged in heat and came out warriors. There are more layers to this book, other side issues that the characters faced and overcame.

Great reading!

Posted in Contemporary, Purchased by blogger | Leave a comment

Big Daddy Seal – Mickey Miller & Jackson Kane

 

Jackson Kane’s books show a lot of promise but IMO he still has to hone his craft a little more. In this book, some parts were more amateurish than other books I’ve read written by him The story is a good one, the pace was great, but some of the character’s thoughts processes were rough, needed some refining.

The main character, Cade Houston, is returning to his hometown after an absence of eight years. He had left, straight out of high school, to join the Navy Seals, abandoning an abusive home situation with an alcoholic father. He was estranged from his brother, who was killed with his wife in a car accident and left everything to Cade. Now Cade came to town to deal with his brother’s house and estate and found out that he also inherited a six month baby girl Emma.

He also returned to see the girlfriend he had left behind when he joined the Navy. Genny had taken over her parents’ soap factory and is making ends meet, but barely. She’s having a hard time and her sister is not helping at all, but rather sabotaging her efforts. When she saw Cade, she was not very happy to see him.

Cade asks for help dealing with Emma and Genny accepts, in exchange for a hefty compensation. Being together brings back memories of how well they got along, and re-kindles their chemistry. There were some ghastly sex scenes; after I read the first one, I skipped the other ones. I didn’t like the language and some references to size. The sex scenes needed a lot of refinement.

I found Cade a negative character. He had problems with his brother, something about the brother abandoning the home situation, which was not very clear in the story. Consequently, they had a rift and when his brother tried to renew contact, Cake blew him off. Now that he has custody of his niece, he has guilt feelings about making amends. I hated the fact that he didn’t want to get attached to his beautiful niece and was calling her Baby instead of Emma so he wouldn’t form a relation with her and start loving her. He had plans of giving her away and started calling his brother’s friends to see who would take her. I found this such a despicable act! I got the impression he was an excellent soldier, but needed to learn to be a regular citizen. He had good intentions, but he was truly clueless on some concerns.

The scene I loved best in the book is when Genny confronts her sister, evicts her from her house and burns her clothes. It was a savage act, but so releasing, and so well-deserved. I really liked the plot about Genny and her work woes and her family relations better than the story about Cade and his conflicts about his brother, his desire to return to his military life versus accepting responsibility for Emma and his feelings about Genny. IMO, this had all the elements for a good plot, but the execution lacked technique and better phrasing.

Posted in ARC sent by author, Contemporary, Military, Second Chance | Leave a comment

Long Shot – Kelly Jamieson

 

This isn’t a bad book but it’s not brilliant. I could leave it and go do other things in the house and it would not call to me, keep me riveted reading it. Actually, when I started to review I realized I hadn’t finished it, so did a quick read to finish. It’s not a brilliant plot but its a nice story. I think the reason it didn’t excite me is that there are no strong feelings. The characters have issues about happenings in their past but I didn’t get the sense of passion or angst. The writing is good and the pace is good, but it felt superficial. I know there are other books that this author has written that I have liked, like the Aces Hockey series, but for some reason this series is not working for me.

Reese is working at the Conquistadors Tequila Bar. Her boss is Cade, who deals with the finances and supervises the staff. She’s working as a waitress but is having problems with the food served at the bar. She considers it sub-par, and lets her boss know. The bar cook, Sid, tries but he has no imagination and his offerings are very mediocre. I instantly realized that Reese must be a chef, and of course, she is. She was a coming up chef in New York but something traumatic happened and she had to leave New York and establish herself in San Diego for a while. It’s supposed to be temporary.

Cade is a manwhore, and the woman he had one-night stands with frequently upper at the bar, crying for another chance or for him to accept that they had something special. He always lets them down gently but all this groveling from the women causes scorn in Reese. So now I know that she’s attracted to Cade and the scorn is some kind of jealousy.

When it comes out that Reese is a chef and she starts helping with the menu and the cooking, the sales of the bar start rising. Cade and Reese are working together closely and develop a friendship that develops into lovers. Then we learn about their hangups; Cade had an abusive childhood and Reese had a horrible experience in the restaurant she worked in New York and has PTSD. She has a cute dog called Jack that is a foster and she insists she won’t stay with him, since she’s temporary there. Yeah, right.

The story was predictable and the good thing in the book was the chemistry between Cade and Reese. The sex scenes were skimmed over but the good times between the three friends and their girlfriends were enjoyed. It’s a good book, just not great.

Posted in ARC from NetGalley, Contemporary | Leave a comment

Infraction – Raquel Van Dyken

 

This is the sequel to Fraternize, a book I liked a lot. This one, not so much, not because the writing was not good but because I didn’t feel much liking for Quinton Miller. He felt like an undecided guy who stomped on Kinsey’s heart because he just couldn’t make up his freaking mind.
In the previous book, Emerson and Quinton were childhood friends and later high school sweethearts. Some events took them apart and when they saw each other for the first time in years, he was hostile to her and she was devastated. Then Grant Sanchez claimed Emerson and in that wonderful book, a gradual shift happened and eventually Sanchez got the girl. And I cheered…
There’s another girl in the cheerleaders, Kinsey, who befriended Emerson when she joined the cheerleaders. Kinsey’s brother is Jax, the Bucks quarterback. Jax is extremely protective of his little sister, and he threatens death and dismemberment to any team player who dares approach her. She lives a pretty sheltered life, quite controlled in her social life, thanks to her brother. Even so, seven months ago Kinsey had a one-night stand with Miller one weekend in Las Vegas. They swore to keep it a secret. When the book starts, Jax is determined to send Kinsey to Europe for the summer, to get her away from an abusive ex-boyfriend who has just joined the Bucks team. And Miller helps Jax pack Kinsey off! Jax wants her away for the summer so he can concentrate on their training for the preseason. And off Kinsey went to Europe…
When she returns, she hates Miller’s guts, and yet Jax wants them to assume a fake boyfriend/girlfriend relation to stave off Anderson’s attentions. He’s the abusive ex, and Jax wants to make sure Kinsey is protected. Jax is the team captain and quarterback and he feels like he has to be the best in all facets of his life. He divides all his responsibilities in compartments and revisits each to make sure he has it controlled and make sure he performs good in all. And he has a hero complex too. Very exhausting to be Jax!
During the book Miller runs hot and cold and he has a hard deciding how he feels about Kinsey. He still has unresolved issues with Emerson, plus he respects Jax and is a little afraid of the repercussions that being with Kinsey will cause his friendship with Jax and the team effort. I could finish the book because I loved all the other characters and wanted to know how it ends. Kinsey set Jax up with one of her girlfriends for an after game dinner party and the two struck up a romance that was actually more entertaining than Kinsey and Miller. For me, these two are the ones who made the book, they had the same charm and chemistry that Emerson and Sanchez had in the previous book.

Posted in ARC from NetGalley, Contemporary, Sports | Leave a comment