Carnival – Jane Harvey-Berrick

 

Bittersweet, because it’s the last book of the Traveling series. Yummy sweet because that Zef is some sweet and sexy hunky guy. And sad because there is loss in the book too. The whole family comes together in this book, we get to visit with all our favorite friends and get to see where they’re at and can anticipate where they’re going. It was such a poignant read!

This author has a brilliant writing style. It journalizes a story but it goes swift, always riveting. My all-time favorite of our carnie friends is Kes and we get a lot of Kes in this story. I had a feeling early on that Zef had some back story and when I realized that he’s the big brother in Dangerous to Know and Love, I had to go back and re-read that book. He’s a druggie in that book but he’s also a loving and concerned older brother. He ended up in jail, and when he got out, he went to sort out his life. I was so glad that he got his second chance and a good life with the carnies. He feels unworthy yet he’s a stand up guy and all his friends care for him. He’s admirable, helping others, anticipating needs. Proof of his worthiness is that Bo loves him so much, and animals are the best character judges.

Zef is a little doldrum because he sees all his friends established in relations and he’s feeling a little lonely. His sometimes girlfriend, Mireille, got pregnant with another guy, so she’s out of the picture. It’s not a big pain, more a nuisance, but it means he’s alone again.

Then they find they have a stowaway in their rig. A young girl, very pretty, scared. She keeps saying she’s sorry. Zef was initially annoyed with Sara, but Aimeé convinces him that she needs friends. So he accepts her into the group and quietly helps her when he sees her struggling. Aimeé finds work for Sara with Zach, helping with publicity for the Daredevils. Sara takes to follow Zef around like a lost puppy, and we learn that he’s partially the reason she stowed into their rig. She wanted to escape her problems and she was also very attracted to Zef when she watched the Daredevils show and after, when she spied on him as he took an outside shower at their campsite.

Later on they learn she’s pregnant and has no intention of returning home to her parents, the baby’s father or telling anyone who is the father. Little by little she’s absorbed into the daily life of the carnies, and with a camera, takes great photos of the carny life.

There’s a big age difference between them; Sara is eighteen and Zef thirty-three. This difference bothers Zef, Sara not at all. Initially, I found Sara to be immature, defensive and snarky. I really didn’t see the attraction for Zef, and the relation didn’t make sense to me at first. Sara was beautiful, goodhearted, talented and intelligent but she was sometimes very juvenile. He loved her sassiness and her understanding, but he was sometimes taken aback by her youth and innocence. It contrasted too much with his past history of drugs and addiction and the fact that he is an ex-con. Eventually, she sorted her feelings, and as she felt competent in her job, she started to behave more mature, and their relation made more sense to me. Their relation was good because she gave Zef redemption, she made him feel worthy of love and a better person. However, the secrecy on Sara’s part about her past and her reasons for hiding were an obstacle for Zef to let go.

As Zef and Sara develop their relation, Zef starts to lower his walls more than before, and he realizes the depth of the acceptance and support of his brothers. The feeling of being a big family intensifies and solidifies in his heart. There’s a reunion with Dan, his little brother that tears at your heart. It’s so heart wrenching to see a guy who lost his way, got burned by his bad choices, and then see the path he took to redeem his mistakes, then find a good place with good brothers and a work he enjoys. His redemption is completed in this book and it’s a joy to read.

“We sat in our folding chairs, ate breakfast under a perfect blue sky, sheltered from the California heat by the shade of the towering tree. And we were surrounded by friends who were family. It was pretty damn perfect.”

Eventually, life intervenes and Sara’s past comes up to visit her. She had made some bad choices and made some mistakes. There’s a lot of things happening in the book but I don’t want to spoil all the wonderful surprises to be read. The story is riveting all the time, and it moves forward smoothly and inexorably into a new reality for Zef and Kes and all the other carnies. There is loss, confusion, happiness, brotherhood and a lot of life and acceptance in this book. I cried and I laughed and I rejoiced. And then I decided to re-read the whole series because it is that good.

“I’d been down as low as a man could get: addicted to alcohol and drugs, selling shit that fucked up people’s lives, spending time in prison with the dregs of humanity, evil fuckers … and men like me who’d taken a wrong turn in life. It’s not easy to claw your way back up, but the carnival had done that for me, given me a second chance in life. And now I had everything I could want, which isn’t so much as it turns out. I had my friends and family; a woman who loved me, despite all my flaws and failings; I had a son that I’d lay down my life for. And I had the carnival. Life was good.”

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Roomies – Christina Lauren

 

A marriage of convenience to a brilliant musician? Why not, if it’s to ensure that he stays in the US and can perform in your uncle’s Broadway play? It’s the perfect basis for a great book, with many layers of plots to entertain. I loved this book with just a couple of reservations, that I will disclose later on.

Holland is fascinated with this busker guitarist in a subway stop. For months she’s been stalking him, making unnecessary trips just to pass by the station and listen to him perform. One day she gathers her courage to leave him a tip and praise his music and when he raises his face and looks at her, she’s hooked even more. With green eyes, beautiful face and virtuoso music coming from his fingers, he’s her dream crush, nicknamed Jack for lack of more information.

Holland is the six child in her parent’s marriage, and as such she was sort of lost in the children shuffle. Her mother’s youngest brother Seth and his husband Robert fell in love with the baby and decided to help raise her. They had a close hand in her upbringing and they are now her favorite persons in the world. Likewise, she’s the daughter they always wanted to have. Her uncle Jeff is a financial analyst and her uncle Robert is a musical prodigy and composes musical plays. They moved to New York so Robert could fulfill his dream job, writing and directing a musical play. Holland followed them and they are helping pay for her apartment and found her a job. She works at her uncle Robert’s theatre and when the principal violinist has a tantrum and leaves the show, she knows just the person to fill that position, her busker crush guitarist. She drags her uncle to listen to him play and the cast on “Jack’s” future is cast.

Jack, whose real name is Calvin, aces the audition but there is one obstacle: he’s an illegal immigrant. Then Holland has the brilliant idea to enable him to stay and work: get married. Calvin is Irish, with a lovely accent, lovely body and beautiful face. He’s such a brilliant guitarist that Holland feels the compulsion to help both her uncle and Calvin. Living with such a hottie and nice person would not be a chore. So she makes the crazy proposition to Calvin and he accepts because performing in Robert’s play is his life ambition.

This marriage starts as a convenience marriage but then it turns into so much more. As their feelings deepen, and their marriage turns into a real marriage, Holland is assailed with so many feelings. She sees her uncles achieve success in life, and she sees Calvin finally doing what he was born to do, and she suddenly starts questioning her place in their life. As her uncle Jeff said once: “she sees herself as a supporting character, even in her own life story”. She has an MFA in writing and she used to write all the time, it was as necessary as breathing. But after she graduated, her creativity left her, and she felt like she was just existing, being a witness to other’s lives. Also, she has doubts about Calvin’s feelings, and several instances where the past intervenes increase that uncertainty.

There’s not a lot of sex, thank you authors, but there’s lots of feelings, heartfelt and warmhearted. I loved Holland’s relation with her uncles and even more their love and devotion to their niece. Even though Robert is her uncle by marriage, he’s the one she identifies more with, because even though she’s not a musician, she lives music, understands it and loves it. She’s generous, loves to help, and is insecure about her place in life. Calvin is a bit more obscure as a character. He’s lovely with Holland, and prodigiously talented, a Juilliard graduate, and very grateful to Holland and her uncle for the opportunity. Some of his actions leave a lot to be desired, and thus one questions if he’s feeling gratitude and lust, or real love.

And this is where I have one reservation. If there had been chapters with his POV, the reader could have a better understanding about his thoughts and feelings. My other reservation was that the end came suddenly and I was expecting an epilogue. I wanted to see what was done about Lulu, who was supposed to be Holland’s best friend but was sometimes her worst enemy. But these were small reservations and the whole of the book was fabulous, entertaining, riveting, at times hilarious, and all over fantastic.

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Team Player – Adriana Locke & other authors

 

Ten yummy stories about star athletes and the women they fall for. This book stars players of hockey, baseball, basketball, football, and soccer. Some are humorous, others angsty dramatic, but all are riveting and entertaining. All are novellas but some are surprisingly very well developed and felt like a full novel. It was fun to read one after the other and experience the difference in writing styles.

The End Zone, by LJ Shen: this was a friends to lovers story, starring Jolie and Gabe, who were best friends since they were ten years old. The fact that he asked her to be his fake girlfriend was a fluke because immediately they felt like real. They were in their last year of college, they lived together because Gabe has his own rented apartment and a new truck. He shares everything with Jolie since forever. He loves her because she was his heaven during a horrible childhood with parents who fought all the time. He’s the university’s beloved quarterback but he’s never uppity or conceited. His plan was to prevent Jolie from taking up with a team brother, but then they were stuck into something more than friendship. This was steamy and fun.

Slapped into Love, by Rochelle Paige: one of my favorite stories in this book: Ryan plays hockey and his coach hires a power skating coach to improve their speed and increase their chances for winning the championship. Turns out that the new coach was a woman, Tamara, and they had a one-night-stand several years ago, and she disappeared right after. He felt like their night was more, but her disappearance didn’t let him explore options. Now that she’s here working for his team, he had his second chance and he wasn’t going to waste it. Yummy, sweet and sexy read.

Full Court Press, by Kennedy Ryan: this was my favorite story. Angsty and heartfelt. Avery and Decker first met when he was a rookie basketball player. He was a little too cocky and came on to Avery, and things didn’t end well. Ten years later, he’s retired due to an injury and is invited as temporary co-host in Avery’s television show. This time, both have baggage, he’s divorced with a daughter and a bitchy ex-wife who makes seeing his daughter difficult. She had a fiancee who died. She still hasn’t gotten over Will and has trouble overcoming her problems even though she’s soooo invested in Deck. I loved this book, it had all the feels, all the angst I love. Both characters were fabulous.

Out of Formation, by Ella Fox: this one was a little shallow but no less entertaining and fun to read. A friends to lovers plot, and the athletes are a cheerleader Elena and ex-football player, Colin. Elena, the main character, was fun, sweet and next door nice girl. She’s a cheerleader and I learned some stuff about them. They are true athletes and have a strict regimen of exercise and diet to be able to perform at peak. The university sports coach was fired under a misconduct: have an affair with a student. They are all in a meeting when the new coach is introduced; he’s the grandson of a couple who she loved and considered like grandparents. He is also the man who rejected her months before, using their difference in age as one of the excuses. Now they’re going to be in close contact. She was still stinging from their last encounter, so she was avoiding him. Colin was having none of it and made sure to require her presence at the house they had both inherited from his grandparents. This book is written using the flashbacks trope, so we learn what happened before which explains their actual situation. Colin is determined to have his woman so he has to overcome Elena’s concerns about the University stand on professor-student relations. The plot resolved quickly, or it felt quickly because most of the action was taken by the flashbacks and we didn’t see the couple in present time working on their issues. It was nevertheless entertaining.

Sweeping the Series, by Kate Stewart: Another favorite! Angsty second chance romance! Ren was playing his rookie game when he saw this girl. He approached her and as he looked into her eyes, he saw his destiny. She shot him down and he convinced her with a great show of shuffling his deck of cards. Fast forward three years later and we see Ren is a womanizer player with a real bad rep that is causing PR problems to his reputation and to his team. They hire a PR person to shape him up, and surprise, it’s Erica, the love of his life and the woman who left him with a broken heart. The reason why she left him two years before after a wonderful year of love is a mystery that will be revealed later on. At first Ren is angry and Erica reluctant to deal with him, but her job depends on the success of this project. It’s a steamy yummy ride as they clear out the problems and Erica’s issues are cleared up.

Back in the Game, by Meghan Quinn: At first the language in this novella was a little stilted and I had problems believing that a mad bad hockey player would dress as Wanda the Fairy and take his daughter to eat at a public restaurant. But destiny awaited at the restaurant in the manner of the perfect woman for him. They have a wonderful straight-forward romance, with some sexy scenes. It was funny, sexy and sweet!

Yard Sale, by Charleigh Rose: A snowboarding romance! This is my first and loved learning new idioms. Camden Hess, bad boy star snowboarder meets Mollie in a bar where he comes on to her and she tricks him and leaves her hanging. He follows her and they have an explosive one-night stand with a condom failure. Five months later, they meet again and Mollie is five months pregnant. Turned out she had been taking antibiotics and the pill didn’t work. Cam accepts his responsibility and they develop a relationship. This was a short story but I loved it. Cam was immediately taken with the idea of being a father and he was there for Mollie for all the issues related to pregnancy. He also took advantage of the chance of having unprotected sex and Millie’s sexual appetite. Sweet and sexy!
Sin Bin, by Mandi Beck: Stella Cruz is the pitcher in the woman’s softball team and Jason is the captain of the Chicago NHL hockey team. Both are in the college therapy room, where Jason is visiting old friends. Jason meets Stella, falls in lust and they have a one-night stand, and again, we have a story about a pregnancy. In this case, Stella did want to inform Jason early on and went to visit him but he blew her off, not wanting his friends to find out he had sex with a 20 year-old college student. Later, when he finds her heavily pregnant, he does the right thing and takes responsibility. He takes her to see his family and she’s welcome into the fold, so it’s like a family love story too. This was another good one!

One Good Man, by Emma Scott: This author always write compelling stories. Janelle is studying journalism and she wants to write gritty stories, she wants to be in the action, not writing from afar or writing pretty stories. She was arrested for getting into a Vietnam war demonstration trying to get a good story and her father sends her away from trouble, to study at the Sorbonne in Paris. Little does he know that Paris was also ravaged by the Vietnam war and there are good stories here too. She’s given the assignation to write about a soccer player Adrian, who is a star and the promise of his team to win in the league. She scorns at the job but has no choice to do the story. Little did she know that in so doing she found the love of her life and also a great story about Vietnam and the losses it causes in a family. In looking for the story within a story, Janelle achieved her goal and Adrian found his freedom to live the life he wanted versus the life he was forced to live. A great book with a great message and a feel good story.

Switch Hitter, by Sara New: This was a fun book and had a lot of Spanish, which I loved. Two twins, one is flighty and the other is serious. The flighty one gets into trouble, double booking a date, and gets the serious one to go on her behalf to the guy she considers boring. Turned out she did a favor to her twin, because her twin found her soulmate. I got a kick out of the meetings with the date, who turned out to be a Latino guy. He’s a serious guy and he didn’t like Lucy very much, but she was so insistent and stalked him so much, he gave in but had plans to break it up in this third date. Then he got all confused because the girl who went out with him was fantastic and totally his type and the kind of girl he would take him to his mamá. Luckily, he’s a smart guy, and Amelia, the serious twin, is a bad actress, and Lucy, the flighty twin, is flighty but loves her sister and wishes her well. It was entertaining and fun.

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Crave – Shanora Williams

 

Forbidden love, sneaky love, Sundays spent in a hotel room having monkey sex. This is what this couple had, a work relation where he was the boss, the owner of an architectural firm, and she was his executive assistant. At work, he worked hard and long hours, and she was competent and efficient. Then Sundays would arrive and they would feed into the craving they had for each other.
This book is a novella, so there’s no room to get really deep into the plot, but enough that we see that Judas is obsessed with Jenna but keeps it closed, confidential, away from his family. His parents came from a blue-collar environment, made it rich and now are pretentious and want to marry Judas to a rich family heiress to improve their social and financial position. Judas is strategizing to improve the company’s finances but is still doing a song and dance to keep his family and Jenna apart and appeased. The only problem is that Jenna has fallen hard for Judas and wants more, and seeing Judas court the woman chosen by his parents to marry is not sitting well with her.
So the story starts with a steamy Sunday frolic but continues into the deepening of what was initially a sex fling into something more. Jenna is understandably insecure about her standing with Judas and the disapproval of his parents is not very reassuring.
The book is entertaining with hot, steamy sex and a couple who didn’t know they loved each other until things got sticky. It doesn’t go very deep but it does get the job done in presenting all the issues of a couple from very different walks in life and how they overcome the obstacles that separate them. Hot and sweet!

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Always You – Denise Grover Swank

 

A very sweet love story! This author’s books are warm in sensuality, not hot, but so very lovable. This one has a great story of second chance with funny scenes, so entertaining. I had a great time reading this book and ended up in a great mood.  I’ve read other books by this author and they are always the feel-good type of story.

Matt is a soccer coach for little kids. He has a five-year-old nephew who lives with him while his sister pursues her studies in medicine. He’s on the soccer team and they were on the first practice of the year. This first practice was funny in two parts: first, all the single moms wanting a piece of Matt. Second, when he’s explaining soccer to the kids and demonstrating moves, the practice deteriorated to a melee where one mother was hit on the nose, the coach hit on the head and all the kids rioting for balls. It was a great hilarious first scene, and very effective because right after that arrived Noah’s best friend Toby with his mother, who turned out to be Matt’s ex-girlfriend, the woman who broke his heart twelve years ago.

Anna was back in town because her elderly widowed father broke his leg and needed help. So Anne took a leave of absence from her work in International Finance in London, took her son out of school and flew to Blue Springs for a few months to assist her father get back on his feet. The last thing she expected was to take Toby to soccer practice and face Matt, the only man she had ever loved and had to leave, right after college, for her job in London.

Initially, the reasons for the breakup are not known but as the book progressed I sort of guessed. And I also figured that Matt would be clueless and resentful. There are several relations that are in progress in the book and I loved to read how all of them dealt with their issues. Anna’s father was such a grumpy old man, very bad-tempered and mean mouthed. Her little boy was terrified of his grandfather. Anna had to reason with her father so he would relent and be more agreeable. And then we see the development of the relation of Toby with his grandpa. And we also see a father who is trying…  Anna has to deal with his father’s future since it soon became evident that he wasn’t progressing and would need to get into assisted living.

Matt initially was furious with her but then started understanding and dealing. Anna was realizing that her love and her heart and her life belonged in Blue Springs and with Matt but there were legal issues that tied her to stay in London.

The boys Toby and Ethan playing together and being best friends was precious to read. All the innocence and feelings of little boys who need love and attention. Poor Toby was getting very attached to Matt because for the first time in his life he was getting the attention of a father figure.  Regardless of his feelings about Anna, Matt was big enough that he gave Toby the attention and care he deserved and won, because he was a delight of a little boy.

And finally Matt and Anna. Anna was a clear cut character, she loved Matt but she needed to get away. Then life got in the way. Matt needed to understand a lot of things and his mother played a pivotal role. He also had a huge decision regarding Ethan’s custody, since his sister was going to be away for ten years until she got her degree. I loved Matt’s character, it was full of integrity, tenderness, good humor, and protectiveness. No alpha man here, but a man of substance and strong presence. His generosity of spirit in accepting Ethan into his home and adapting his life to include his nephew was exemplary.
There was lots of growing and sorting out feelings and that’s why this was such a great book. It’s not just a love story, but a family story. It was entertaining all the way.

Posted in ARC from NetGalley, Contemporary, Second Chance, Small town romance | Leave a comment

Behind the Bars – Brittainy C. Cherry

 

This book was so special, so lyrical, poetical, musical. I enjoyed the heck out of the characters and the setting. Most of the action takes place in New Orleans, and that city is very special to me. I spent my honeymoon there, thirty years ago. To me, that city is magical, and it has a special ambience. As the book says, music is part of its soul. And music is the soul of this book, too.

No woman can only fall in love with the music of jazz. She always quietly yearns for the musician behind the bars.”

Jasmine Greene only wanted to make her mama proud. To this end, she took countless classes of dancing, singing, and acting. She was homeschooled until she was taken to live in New Orleans for her senior year. She fell in love with New Orleans and with the music that was in the air. She fell in love with jazz and discovered that her happy place was to sing soul.

Her mother was a ruthless ambitious woman, who couldn’t achieve the stardom she wanted for herself, so was determined to get it through her daughter. They lived with the mother’s boyfriend, Ray, and he was much kinder to Jasmine than her own mother. He’s one of the special characters in this book, full of love and generosity towards a girl who was not of his blood but his daughter by heart.

In school, Jasmine befriended this boy who was constantly bullied. He was thin, caramel-skinned, shy, and he stuttered. But when he played the saxophone he made the most beautiful music. She sought him out and they made an unlikely pair, but it worked for them.

We were complete opposites in so many ways. I was the popular new girl, and he, the bullied shy boy. Where I was outgoing, he was tame. Where I was lost, he was the roadmap home.”

Then her mama took her away to London, to another producer, with more promises of stardom. They left Elliot behind, and Ray, because he had outrun his usefulness. After six years, and after a lot of abuse, even though Jasmine constantly denied it, Jasmine got fed up and flew back home to her father of the heart Ray and the city that was home for her, New Orleans.
Back in New Orleans, she tried to find her way, back to her soul, back to Elliot, but when she finally found him, he was a different person. Bulked up in muscles, closed, hard, cold. Not a trace was left of her beloved old friend, except for his beautiful hazel eyes. He has suffered such a tragic loss that he felt guilty of, that he decided he didn’t deserve to live happy. So he only worked, exercised and kept closed off from everyone except his friend Jason.

Another important person in this book was JT. He was Elliot’s neighbor, and when Elliot’s father deserted them, he stepped in and was a father to Elliot and his sister Katie and a brother to Elliot’s mother. He helped them and saved them. He was also Elliot’s music teacher. When Jasmine returns to New Orleans and finds Elliot’s darkness, she found JT and formed a close friendship with him. JT brought the soul music back to Jasmine. And jasmine brought life back to Elliot.

I loved all the characters, they were all so special. Except the bad ones, of course. Elliot was the anti-hero, shy, stutters, thin and weak, yet courageous. I loved him! Jasmine wanted soul, but her mother forced pop music. She deferred to her mother’s wishes because she wanted to make her proud and have her love. She was always smiling but there were storms inside her.

JT was wise, kind, so musical. His phrase: what’s your truth? He would turn you inside out and get your music from your storms inside. Elliot’s mother was brave, generous, kind too. When karma was served at the end of the book, she was a gentle warrior. Ray was there, always, loving his daughter of the heart, protecting her, helping her. He gave her a home when her mother wouldn’t.

There were so many feels during this book, elation, laughter, sadness, bereavement, anger. This book took me through the grinder and after I finished it, I still had to process for a while, re-read some scenes, get over the sadness that I had finished it. It was a great book, no swoony hunky man, but a man with a lot of heart and courage. The feel of music was in every page, the love of jazz, it reminded me of my wanderings around the French Quarter and the moving statues and the music in the street. It’s a musical love story, with the sadness and joy of music that touches your soul.

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The Right Direction – Kathy Coopmans

 

This book has a lot of darkness, violence and sex, apart from a very strong love story. This is a second chance love story, since the couple were foster children from very young up to senior year of high school. Then Roman left to pursue his dreams of being a rock star, and Joslyn stayed to pursue her dreams of studying at the University of Michigan. Even though they were supposed to stay in contact and get together again after she finished University, a tragedy happened that split them apart and it’s not until eleven years later that they meet again.

Roman was thrown in prison for attacking a paparazzo. He’s just in the throes of divorcing his wife who is a supreme bitch when the slimy jerk asked him a question about Joslyn. He never shares information about Joslyn. Never ever. So when the paparazzo mentions Joslyn, he knows his ex-wife must have found the information about the only woman he’s ever loved and fed it to the press. He went postal and got thrown in prison. Since he fired his lawyer when he realized the lawyer never submitted the prenup that allowed his ex to wipe him out, he’s sitting there, stubbornly refusing the court-appointed lawyer. And guess who arrived to help him out? Joslyn, who is now a flaming lawyer in the city of Los Angeles.

There are several conflicts in this story. Roman has a hate relation with Hollywood. He hates all it represents, the relentless pursuit of the press, the many made-up stories, the make-believe world of appearances, and the viciousness of the fans when they find their prey. When he finds Joslyn, and knows the press if going to have a field day with her, he went into full blast protective mode, bodyguard, brought her to his home, didn’t want to let her leave.

He has a hate relation with his ex-wife Gwen. After he lost contact with Joslyn, he went into a frenzy of women and booze, but always kept away from the press. Then at a photo shoot, he met the photographer’s assistant. He married the woman because she appeared so sweet and next-door girl nice, but she changed into a barracuda who was never satisfied, no matter what Roman gave her. She cheated and he served her divorce papers and she started up a tweet storm against Roman and Joslyn.

In the middle of all this storm, the paparazzi are pursuing them everywhere, Joslyn is stubbornly insisting on continuing to work, and Roman is insistent on them having some time apart and alone to re-establish their second chance.

There’s an element of danger because there seems to be someone trying to hurt Joslyn, too. The feeling you get is that there is a maelstrom of violent feelings, of lust and love from Roman to Joslyn, and of hate and revenge from Roman to Gwen. His emotions run all over the place, and they are all expressed with a lot of passion and violence.

There was one element of joy and positiveness, related to Joslyn and her past, but I don’t want to spoil the happy moment for the readers. Just know that it’s there and it’s a tear-jerker moment.

I felt a lot of darkness in this book. I felt that the author wrote in circles, going back and forth in present and past stories, and it was a little confusing. Also, she spent a lot of time in her characters’ heads, expressing their emotions in a very passionate manner, violent when it was Roman’s thoughts. I read a lot of repetition about their issues and feelings and resolutions. Also, Roman spent most of the book with an erection, and he was thinking about sex, talking about sex, planning sex, Skyping sex and sexting. And the sex scenes were miles long. I didn’t get the feeling that the characters grew or dealt with issues, more like rollercoaster over them. The overriding story of this book was the lasting love between Roman and Joslyn, how sad and guilty they felt about their separation years ago, yearning about how life could have been if they had dealt with issues head on at that time, and the resolution that their someday was here to stay and they would defend their love no matter what.

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The British Knight – Louise Bay

 

This book is perfect!! Beautiful plot, perfectly imperfect characters, and a great pace. It’s a book meant to be read slowly, like good wine, so you can savor it and enjoy it to the full. I’m only sorry it ended. Both characters had issues from their past, but they were both willing to compromise for their fling, which pretty soon felt much more than a fling. I loved how the love grew slowly, as their relation grew in depth, as they depended more on each other and needed each other more. It was truly romantic and heartfelt.

Violet King worked hard during her college years, while studying in MIT, towards establishing her own company with her college boyfriend. Right before graduation, when they were about to start their company, she discovered that her boyfriend had only registered in his name, leaving her out of it, and was cheating on her with her college roommate. This betrayal caused her to renounce any planning efforts for her future and she started working on temporary jobs as a waitress in New York. She only lived for the moment, had one-night stands and refused to think or plan for the future. However, after several years of dead-end jobs, there was a hole in her life, a dissatisfaction she didn’t know how to resolve. Until the opportunity to work in England offered her the change she needed.

Alexander Knightley was a total workaholic. He lived his work, worked all the time, including weekends, in a race to equal his father in reputation and accomplishments. His concentration towards his job was total, until Violet King was hired to assist him. He was behind in his invoicing and his office consisted of several towers of papers that needed to be filed. He resisted having an assistant, but Violet overrode his objections and snuck into his office to steal his papers. She broke his concentration and tempted him. The chemistry between them was off-the-charts and with so much closeness it was due to implode.

I loved their interactions because he was so grumpy and she always called him on it. Instead of enraging him, it intrigued and amused him. Once they started their “sex only” fling, he found reasons to take one-hour lunches, picnics in the park, Saturday night dinners, even Sunday afternoons. Violet slowly opened Alex up to life, and in return, Alex imbued in Violet a new sense of ambition, the need to achieve something using her qualifications.

Violet’s sense of betrayal from her ex-boyfriend had caused a freeze on her ambitions and Alex helped her out of that void. Then Violet confronted Alex with the real reason he was working so hard. Alex was shocked and dealing but then the return to his bad habits when he was working a big case ruptured them apart.

These two characters were fantastic. They cared so much for each other, they were so considerate and respectful to each other, their sex was hot and their companionship vibrant. They were willing to look into themselves to improve whatever was wrong so they could be worthy of the other. It was a truly romantic love story. I also loved that the sex scenes were the necessary ones to add to the story, not excessive and not ridiculously long, just right. The emphasis was on the story, the journey that these two characters took to be a couple. Loved it!

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Inseparable – Siobhan Davis

 

This book is a vein cutter! All the emotions, all the romantic book tropes, they are all here. I was in shock for a while after reading this book and had to think and process before writing my review. This is drama at its highest point.

It all started with two boys and a tomboy girl who were inseparable. The awesome threesome! To the point that when they were eight years old they made a pact of being friends forever and they sealed it with their blood. Years later, when they were more sophisticated, they gave permanence to their bond with identical tattoos in the form of an infinity symbol on their wrists. Devin and Angelina were the daredevils so they were all gung-ho to skip school and get the tattoos. Ayden was reluctant, but they badgered him until he caved in. This shows the typical interactions of their trio.

It was a beautiful friendship but as with all perfect things, it had to end sometime. In the case of Devin, Angelina and Ayden, it happened when they were teens and their hormones were too high to control.

Devin and Angelina were in love, like always. Even though Dev always showed his devotion to Ange, there was always some level of separation, plus he was a manwhore around high school, which hurt Angelina no end. Ayden was more of the stoic type, serious and a rule follower. He was equally devoted to Angelina and Devin. I knew there was a triangle in the making and I knew that the real bond would be Ange and Dev and Ayden would be a runner up.

There were things going on with Devin and he seemed to be in a downward whirl. Sometimes he would get very close to Ange, supplicant for her love and attention, then Ayden would barge in and scold, and Dev would float away to another party, to another girl, and to another bender. Until one day all the situations come to an implosion and there is a re-arrangement of the awesome threesome. There is anger, recrimination, separation and a world of hurt.

I don’t want to spoil the plot of the book, but suffice to say that we are subjected to several plot twists, a lot of angst, and a lot of anguish in all three of them. The emotions are explosive, the action is like a freight train with no brakes, and I was riveted and surprised.
About the characters: I liked Devin and felt for him; I suspected his home life was crappy with a mother gone absent and an alcoholic father. The fact that he and his little brother Lucas dined every night in Ange’s house was a sign of something rotten in their house. Ayden was like a plodding horse. He was good in studies, good in football, devoted, serious, good. Ayden was the all American boy to Devin’s bad boy. I liked him so-so, he wasn’t as exciting as bad boy Devin.

And then Angelina. At first she was a fantastic girl. Vivacious, a leader, mischievous, loving. She loved Devin from afar, was hurt by his many pickups, but was a good friend for him and his little brother always. Her emotional support were Ayden and Mariah. Then when things got sticky she started to make bad decisions. Once she started, she kept making one bad decision after the other, to the point that on the last plot twist, she went into a place that disgusted me. I thought she was too far down in a hole for salvation, and frankly, this far in the book I didn’t see any of the sweet girl we saw in the beginning of the book. I felt some actions were not redeemable and Devin was a saint to stick around. This last part of the story was a little over the top dramatic for my taste, and there were some disgusting parts, however, the plot picked up, the characters got true to form and a lovely love story was completed.

Siobhan’s books are always fun to read because they don’t have one single plot, they have several sub-plots, or in this case, several plot-twists. Her writing intrigues and entertains, and there’s no way the reader is unaffected by the characters and their dramas. I read it in one day!

Posted in ARC sent by author, Contemporary, Friends to Lovers, Love Triangle | Leave a comment

Van – Sawyer Bennett

 

The only reason I didn’t do a DNF when I started this book is because I requested it from NetGalley and I felt obligated to write a review. So I kept on reading and thankfully, when I was about 50% of the book, it turned into the wonderful love story that I always expect from Sawyer Bennett. I have been a fan of Ms Bennett for some time and have read A LOT of her books and loved them all, so one dud is not a bad thing. I’m pretty sure the book was fantastic for other readers. So I will explain below.

Simone Fournier arrived at her brother’s house, with suitcases, uninvited. She dropped out of college where she was one semester away from finishing pre-med in an Ivy League University. She realized that studying medicine was her father’s dream, not hers, so she dropped out and appeared on her brother Lucas’ doorstep. Lucas lived in a very small house with Van, another player in the Cold Fury hockey team. The house only had two bedrooms and neither of the guys ceded her his bedroom, so she claimed the couch for sleeping. She met Van and she liked what she saw and she decided she wanted him. Thus starts a sexual harassment campaign. She relentlessly pursued him, no holds barred, offering sex, dressing provocatively, in a pushy and constant manner. No matter that Van told her he didn’t want to get involved with her, she didn’t heed his warning and kept pushing, to the extent that Van had to keep away from the house or hide in his room. I can understand that a woman has a right to own her sexuality but if this were coming from a man, it would be called sexual harassment, but coming from a woman, she called it seduction??

Finally Van succumbed to so much temptation, and the sex was stratospherically good. So they agree to a sex only rule, no further involvement. Van has powerful reasons for not wanting to get involved with women, and he’s kept a wall around him all his life. His father was a sociopath, convicted of raping and murdering women. He lived the scandal of the trial and conviction and the aftermath was so vicious for a little boy that he learned to hide within himself and not let anyone in. Until Simone and her pushy ways got into him.
So, once Simone and Van are involved, they were great for each other. After the fact, I realized that if Simone hadn’t been so pushy and corralled Van the way she did, he probably would have kept closed off and never come out of hiding.

Simone had some growing up to do, she needed to figure out what to do with her life and return the money that her parents had invested in her career. I didn’t have a lot of admiration for Simone at first, except that once she had Van, she was a fantastic girlfriend, supportive and understanding.  She helped him a lot in overcoming his issues.

Van was opening up, letting people in and getting involved with what was happening around him. They both needed to grow as a couple, since this was new territory for both.
Once Simone was in a committed relation with Van, she turned into the good girl that everyone said she was. The vibe I got from the book was that she was sex-starved, given the insistence with which she pursued Van. Also, her choice of work and attire. It just did not jibe with the image of a good girl. Nevertheless, once the book got going with Van and Simone as a couple, and they started mingling with the Simone’s brothers and sisters in law, we get to see a Van learning the ropes of social interplay, trying to let people in and wanting to please Simone. He did a lot of growing up, even though he was always afraid of turning into a monster like his father later in life.

A scandal happens, and it will test them as a couple and their commitment to each other.
Apart from the beginning and the distaste I felt for the way Simone pursued Van, it was a great book, like all the other Sawyer Bennett books. Great reading, great hockey family, great pace. In this book, I loved the male character. It was like seeing a guy who was socially stumped, go baby steps into opening his self and slowly approaching happiness.

Posted in ARC from NetGalley, Famous person, Sports | Leave a comment