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RFG Recommends: Until We Touch by Susan Mallery

14 May

Until we Touch Susan Mallery

I received this ARC from the publisher via NetGalley

After a family tragedy, former football hero Jack McGarry keeps the world at arm’s length—a challenge now that his PR firm has moved to neighborly Fool’s Gold, California.

Larissa Owens knows where she stands—Jack sees her as just another one of the guys. No matter what her heart wishes, Jack’s her boss, not her boyfriend. But then Larissa’s big secret is revealed…by her mother!

When Jack discovers the truth about Larissa’s feelings, her touch suddenly becomes tantalizing, and he’s not sure he wants to resist. But if he gives in to desire, heartache is sure to follow. Friendship or true love—will Jack go for the ultimate play?

I am a big Susan Mallery fan girl. Her Fool’s Gold series in particular is a comfort read for me. I love small town contemporary romance. In one corner of my mind, Fool’s Gold is alive and well three hours out of San Francisco and next time I visit one of my favourite cities in the world I will simply take a weekend to drive out and visit some of my favourite characters. Her stories are warm, heart-felt, funny and make you feel like you had some really good champagne afterwards- all bubbly and effervescent.

This is the story of Larissa and Jack, who we met in the previous books in this series. It’s an interesting dynamic between the two of them as they are best friends and have an employer/employee relationship as well since Larissa is Jack’s personal assistant (PA). She is also a trained masseuse and provides massage services for all the management team at Score, the PR firm that Jack part owns and Larissa works for.

While I am talking about their work backgrounds let me get the stuff that I DIDN’T like out of the way as it is almost all related to the work part of the book. I was a PA for 2 years when I first moved to Australia so I found the fact that Jack was Larissa’s boss AND best friend interesting as the dynamic between a PA and her direct report is very different to that of say a junior marketing executive and the marketing director of the company. The job of a PA is ALL about making the life of your boss easier. Your entire existence at the company pretty much revolves around him or her. While I have been very friendly with my supervisors in the past, that line between employer/employee is a pretty firm one in that particular role and makes the balance of power in that relationship very uneven. It was interesting that it wasn’t more of an issue, but I was able to brush that aside as it is a small town and a small company so things may have been more informal.

I DID have a problem with her being their masseuse AND Jack’s PA. Seeing her boss naked on a regular basis? Seeing all the other partners naked and having her hands all over them? Having one regularly get erect when she massaged him? Don’t get me wrong it was actually fodder for a lot of very interesting and funny scenes but it took me out of the story a little bit as I found it very strange and something I NEVER would experience in normal corporate life. Again, this is just my opinion and I think it is largely due to the fact that I WAS a PA and couldn’t imagine seeing any of my previous employers naked (Ugh).

Now onto the things that I DID like- and there were quite a lot of them. The story of Jack and Larissa is a best friends to lovers story which is one of my all time favourite tropes. I LOVE the shared history, the friendship, the knowing all the bits (even the unattractive ones) about each other. I felt that there was a genuine affection between the two of them and could believe their happily ever after at the end because of the way they interacted before they fell in love.

The opening scene of the book where Larissa’s mom interferes and talks to Jack and then blithely announces that Larissa is in love with him made me laugh and cringe at the same time. It was also, I thought, a really good way to not only start the book with a good laugh, but also a great way to move the two of them from friends to a couple. It worked for me because really, while they both protesteth their love for each other too much it did get the two of them thinking about it ALL the time. I think of it as similar to telling yourself NO I don’t want that chocolate bar, I DON’T want that chocolate bar, I don’t NEED that chocolate bar and… mmm, DAMN that chocolate bar was GOOOOOOD  Except in this case it was all sexual tension and love and longing and it was a lot of fun to read. Oh, and some really sharp and funny dialogue. I loved how the two of them would talk to each other.

The conflict in this book was largely internal and had to do with both Larissa and Jack distancing themselves others and the different ways they do it. There were no explosions or hold ups or kidnappings just a lot of rescued animals and mixed dog breeds (chiweenies, who knew?). I liked that they both had to work on and realise things about themselves before they could be together.
Jack, was a very likeable hero all the way until he hit that wall of all his past issues and boy, when he started burning his bridges he did it in a BIG way. I winced through that whole section of the book, but it did make the ending all that much sweeter and heartfelt in the end.

I already recommend this series to everyone I know who loves contemporaries and this addition to it is another one I would wholeheartedly recommend.

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Review: Tamed by Rebecca Zanetti

2 Apr

tamed-ebook

Caleb Donovan was never meant to be a prophet. At heart he’s a conqueror, his appetites far more carnal than spiritual. He’s not inclined to repress his passions and surrender to fate. After all, that’s what cost him Lily–three centuries ago. She married another, because it was ordained. Now that he’s in the same benighted calling–and forced into proximity with her–all the old desires are roaring back to life. . .

After widowhood and centuries of celibacy, Lily is eager to explore the wild side of life, except now she’s vulnerable to another forced relationship, with an enemy. But this time she’s determined to choose her own path. And if hot, furious Caleb comes charging to the rescue, it might just change both their destinies. . .

Rebecca Zanetti has become one of my autobuy authors and this novella reminds me of all the wonderfully wicked and funny reasons why. Even though I love all her books, I have a special fondness for her Dark Protector Series as they were the books that introduced me to her.

For those of you familiar with the series, Tamed is the story where we finally see Lily and Caleb get together after hundreds of years of unrequited love (squee!). For those of you who haven’t read the Dark Protector books, I strongly suggest you read the previous books first (start with Fated). This novella is not a good point to jump into the series as there is a LOT of back story that would be difficult to understand if you are not already a reader and besides, the previous books are seriously awesome and I highly recommend them.

I’m not a big fan of novellas as a lot of authors tend to go for the love at first sight or insta-love trope to try and fit the romance into a relatively small word count. One of the things I really liked about this novella was the way RZ seeded bits of their relationship through the other books. As a reader, I knew that Lily and Caleb have known each other for 300 years and were in love way back when but Lily felt she was forced to choose duty over love and married someone else. The reason why this is not a good book to start the series with is the reason this is such a good novella- the love story between Lily and Caleb was very believable because there is such a back story there.

The dialogue in this story was sharp and downright funny- two things I really enjoy. Lily, who I always pictured as somewhat overly proper and mousy comes into her own in this story. She learns to let go of her image and duty and lets herself just BE. I do think that Caleb forgave her marrying someone else a little too easily as that must have really hurt at the time. In spite of this, I was rooting for them to get back together and ended the novella believing that they could have a happily ever after -in spite of all the mayhem and war and destruction around them.

I found it interesting that the time in this world has moved forward considerably in the last two books. The overarching plot line is finally coming to a resolution and I CANNOT wait. I would highly recommend this book to those readers who love alpha men, strong women and dry humour.

Disclaimer: I received this book as an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley

RFG Recommends: Ilona Andrews Kate Daniels Series

9 Feb

Magic Rises

I recently bought Magic Rises which is Book 6 in the Kate Daniels series and because of this I went back and re-read the 5 books in the series that came before (as you do). I am now totally kicking myself for not adding Ilona Andrews to my first autobuy authors list as I love their writing.
(Quick sidenote: for those who may not know, no the use of their instead of her wasn’t a massive grammatical error. Ilona Andrews is actually the pen name for a husband and wife writing team, how cool is that? )
The Kate Daniels series is the series that automatically springs to mind when talking about IA. It’s a fantastic urban fantasy about a mercenary named (you guessed it) Kate Daniels. I don’t want to put too much detail in as I don’t want to inadvertently spoil anything for anyone who hasn’t started the series yet, but I CAN tell you that Kate is a totally kick ass, strong female lead. What I love about her is that IA manages to make her strong and kick ass without crossing over into the mad at the world, ornery for the sake of being ornery stereotype. Kate is strong and has been through a hell of a lot, yet manages to be kind and well, likeable.
The Kate Daniels World is a post-apocalyptic type world with a twist. Technology in this world is no longer reliable due to “waves” of magic that suddenly come and go. People have to adapt to having tech one minute and then not having anything work in the next during a magic wave. This applies to everything including lights, cars, phones and even guns. Because of this folks in KD world Atlanta have two of everything to ensure that they have things that work during tech and during magic such as regular electric lights and magic lights, guns and swords, normal cars and cars that run on magic- the world building is fascinating and provides plenty of avenues for IA to stress out their poor hapless characters.
But what I love about this series is the writing. The stories and plot points just flow very naturally and nothing feels forced or contrived. All the characters, even the secondary ones are interesting and multi-dimensional. My favourite part though has to be the dialogue. I’m a big dialogue and character girl and this series (and the other series of this author) is GOLD when it comes to witty dialogue.
I love the romance between Kate and her man (who I will not specify as there may be a FEW people who may not know who it is). My only complaint as a romance reader is that in some of the books I would have liked a little more on the romance- but that’s really nitpicking.
Magic Rises is my favourite book so far of the series. It’s hard to get into too much of the storyline without massive spoilers but let’s just say there was plenty of magic and good old fashioned sword fighting and ass kicking by Kate and the cast of secondary characters who are just as big a presence in the book. It had that perfect blend of romance and action that great urban fantasy books have: the relationship stuff that made me tingle (and at one point I burst out laughing in my darkened bedroom surprising my poor baby girl in the cot next to me) and oh my goodness so much edge of your seat action I stayed up WAY past my bedtime finishing it. It’s an A for me for this book and this series generally. What’s your favourite Kate Daniels book?

Review: After the Storm (KGI Series) by Maya Banks

13 Jan

After the Storm MB

Okay, the title of this entry may also have to be disappointed fan girl as I wasn’t particularly enamored with this book. Aaack! That almost feels like I’m blaspheming as I love this author! That being said, Maya Banks is still an autobuy author for me and the KGI series in particular is a series that I love and pre-order. If you haven’t read this series yet, I highly recommend it… just don’t start with this book.

KGI stands for Kelly Group International and it was started by a group of brothers whose family name is, yup you guessed it, Kelly. There are 6 brothers who have all served in the armed forces in some form or another before joining the family company. KGI is made up of male and female badasses who go on righteous (their words not mine) missions such as rescuing kidnap victims, hostage extractions etc all over the world. This is book 8 in the series, with the previous books telling the stories of 4 of the other Kelly brothers and the other members of the team.

Although each book is a stand alone I really recommend that you read this series in order. This is because one, I am slightly obsessive compulsive about reading series in order (there was a reason they were written that way dammit), and two it is nice to see how the relationships between family and team members grow and develop as the series progresses.

The books are romantic suspense done well with a lot of exciting parts without the romantic elements getting lost in the mix or added as an afterthought. Action aside though, my favourite thing about these books are the relationships between the brothers. The dialogue between them is often funny and done very realistically with them teasing and joking each other in between moving heaven and earth to keep one another safe.

Donovan is the third eldest brother who features largely in all the previous books and is portrayed as the one with a soft spot for women and children. Hmmm, hot former Navy guy with a soft spot for kids and a brain like a computer? Excuse me for a moment while I check that my knickers haven’t spontaneously combusted… Could you tell that I was really looking forward to Donovan’s book?

I liked the premise of the book- Eve and her siblings are running away from her evil step father. Her half brother ends up working in the Kelly’s hardware store and through this connection, Donovan or Van ends up meeting Eve and her sibs and falling taut ass over head in love with all of them.

While the dialogue and relationship bits of the book do not disappoint there were several plot tropes that were used in this book that I don’t particularly like, and while I feel that this may fall under the heading of personal taste, I do think that they have to be discussed. First of all, this was the least action packed book in the series. The other books had kidnappings, drug lords, high powered weapons and bombs. This book was positively tame in comparison.

The next thing that I had a problem with is how quickly Van falls in love with both Eve and her siblings. While I know that romance novels are fiction, I still have a hard time with the love at first sight/over the span of hours trope- especially when this love extends to young children. Protectiveness towards and overwhelming attraction to I can understand but truly in love over a span of 3 days beggars belief. This was also an issue for me because the fact that Van loved women and children was stressed several times in the book and it did lead me to wonder whether or not he really loved them or the IDEA of them. MB gets around this problem by having one of the Kelly bros confronting Van about this specific issue but because everything happens so quickly there is that little niggle of doubt that remains- at least there was in my mind.

My biggest frustration though is the whole misunderstanding leading to awful things trope. This one drives me absolutely mad. I did at one point end up screaming at my IPAD “Just ASK him about it for GOD’S SAKE!”. This very strong dislike of painful experiences that could have been avoided if characters in a book would just TALK to each other is one of the reasons a lot Shakespeare’s plays drive me batty. I can’t really talk about it more without including some major spoilers so I’ll leave it there but let me just add a few more exclamation marks to convey my frustration one last time !!!!!

That being said, I cannot repeat how much I love this author and this series in particular. My expectations were very high for this book and I have to say even though I was a bit disappointed it’s still a better quality book than a lot of others out there.

Autobuy Authors 1

2 Nov

I started this entry thinking, “This should be easy, I LOVE these authors.” Four days later I have finally come to the realisation that because I LOVE these authors so much I’m having a really hard time writing short blurbs about them when in reality I want to squee like the ridiculous romance fan girl that I am across the whole page. This is just a short and sweet entry on who my autobuy authors are (and this is another reason it’s taking me so damn long I am now stressing out that I will forget a favourite and want to shoot myself AFTER posting the damn piece) and what kind of books they write generally. I’ll probably do recommend pieces on most of them later on. At least, that is what I am telling myself so that I actually finish this list…

Nora Roberts: La Nora is a GODDESS and I will buy anything and everything she writes. This includes her Eve Dallas/ JD Robb books and I have to note that Roarke must be one of my favourite alpha male heroes EVER. She writes mostly contemporary romances although some of her later stuff has her branching out into romantic suspense and romance with paranormal elements. At the end of the day, she is a highly prolific author whose not so good stuff is better than some other people’s good stuff. Enough said.

CL Wilson: If you love your romance with a lot of fantasy then you HAVE to read CL Wilson’s Fading Lands/ Tairen Soul series. Think epic fantasy on the scale of Lord of the Rings with an even more kick ass love story. This is one of my absolute favourite series of all time and has made me such a fan she is on my autobuy list. Be warned though, she is NOT a prolific author and her last book was published back in 2010 (!!!). Her next book is due out late 2014 but trust me, she is SO worth the wait.

Nalini Singh: Both her Psy-Changeling and Guild Hunter series are autobuys for me. She has amazing world-building skills and with her Psy-Changeling series in particular, is very good with continuing an overarching storyline through multiple books. Both series are based in alternate versions of our current reality. Her Psy-Changeling series is about shifters and humans and a human like psychically powerful race called the Psy, who have also instituted a protocol called silence (complete emotionlessness) in order to deal with their psychic capabilities. Her Guild Hunter series is about Angels and Vampires and Guild hunters and starts off with the story of Elena, a guild hunter (hunter of naughty vampires in other words) and Rafael, the Archangel of New York.

Christine Feehan: Christine Feehan was probably one of the first paranormal romance authors that I read and I LOVED her Carpathian series before I got all vampired out. She also has a Jaguar Shifter series, Drake Sisters and Sisters of the Heart Series (witches) and the Nightwalker series which is about psychically enhanced super soldiers. I love and buy them all. Her books tend to be quite intense and are not as light hearted as some of the other authors that I have on this list.

Julie Garwood: Although my first ever romance novel was a Judith Mcnaught book, the author who made me fall in love with the genre is Julie Garwood. Her historical romances, especially the Highland ones are HILARIOUS and very very romantic. You’ll find that I like funny, romantic books best of all. My apologies to those who love the darker authors- I’d rather laugh my way through a romance than cry through it. Even though she has moved to contemporaries, and I don’t think most of them are as good as her early historicals, she is still an autobuy for me.

Julia Quinn: Another historical author with tickle your funny bone and pull at your heartstrings romances. I loved her Bridgerton series because I loved the interplay between the siblings but all her books are good. She has a way with funny dialogue and making you believe that the hero and heroine of her novels actually like each other as well as love each other.

NB: This is just part 1 of autobuy authors. I just had to give myself a cut off or I would never end up posting this entry! So many wonderful authors and not enough time to talk about them all!