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New Autobuy Author: Mariana Zapata

28 Aug

I read Wall of Winnipeg (WoW) at the end of last year and all I could think was: How could I not have discovered Mariana Zapata before this?! Her writing style really, really works for me. In a few short months, I’ve bought her entire backlist including audiobooks and have read all of them – TWICE.

WoW is the story of a girl named Vanessa and it starts with her being the long suffering personal assistant of the greatest defensive player in the fictional NFO (An American Football League). Aiden Graves, the Wall of Winnipeg, is a fantastic football player but a really meh boss.

She resigns and he tries to get her back not as a personal assistant but as his wife because he’s Canadian and needs to marry an American to stay in the country and play. There are no big surprises in terms of the plot and it kind of sounds like that movie “The Proposal” with Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds but with the roles reversed. But you know what? I picked up the book and could not for the life of me put it down.

This is the thing that I think many non –Romance readers don’t understand about the Romance genre; yes plot is important and a lot of them may seem similar but there are so many different ways to tell a story that even though things may look similar on the surface there are thousands of extraordinary journeys you can take to get to the end of the tale. MZ really delivers on the feels- the ups and downs and laughs and sighs- I actually hugged my iPad to my chest when I finished the book and then proceeded to text all the other romance readers in my life to tell them to buy it.

I went on to read Wait for Me and loved it even MORE than WoW and then I bought Kulti and was thrilled to see it was about a female soccer player. I could not have been happier. Many dollars and only a few days later I was very money and sleep deprived but boy did I have stars in my eyes. And all those people I texted? They also went out and started buying her back list.

I LOVE her slow burn style of asshat into swoon worthy hero. She builds the relationships between hero and heroine piece by piece and scene by scene until the sexual tension is screaming off the pages. At the same time, you see how much the main characters like and respect each other so genuinely that the HEA is a deep sigh, heart hurting kind of moment. And the dialogue? Laugh out loud, snort through your nose funny or heart wrenchingly real. This is an author whose work I will buy without even reading the back blurb on the book. It’s an A for all the books on her back list.

 

 

 

 

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RFG Recommends: The Obsession by Nora Roberts

27 May

The Obsession NRoberts

I have made no secret of my love for La Nora. The woman is a romance writing MACHINE. For a full list of her very impressive collection of work you can check out her website here:

http://www.noraroberts.com/

She writes stand-alone romance/romantic suspense novels, series books that are straight up contemporary romances or those with a paranormal twist (I think the Smart Bitches Trashy Books site calls them, ParaNoras, heh) as well as an Urban Fantasy series that she writes under the pen name JD Robb. This UF series centres around a cop in a New York of the future named Eve Dallas who may be one of my absolute favourite urban fantasy heroines (along with Kate Daniels) and the hero, Roarke well, if he isn’t one of your ultimate book boyfriends after reading these books then… we can no longer be friends. Really.

The Obsession is one of her stand-alone romantic novels with a suspense element. Let me preface my love for this book by stating that NR has published around 33 stand-alone novels and although my love for her work is (seemingly) boundless I have to admit that of the 33 there were some that were awesome (Birthright, Montana Sky, The Search, Angels Fall among others) and some that were good but I probably didn’t bother re-reading (Black Hills, The Liar, The Reef). This probably comes down a little bit to personal taste and a little bit to the fact that she is such a prolific author that some of her books may come off as a little more formulaic than others.

I was afraid to read this book as I didn’t particularly like the last stand-alone book she published, The Liar, as it didn’t grab my attention the way a really good book is supposed to. Also, the premise of The Obsession book is dark- very dark. So if kidnapping and rape is a trigger for you keep far, far away. NR handles it very well and descriptions aren’t too graphic but the book IS about a serial rapist and murderer so Rainbow Bright this book is not.

“She stood in the deep, dark woods, breath shallow and cold prickling over her skin despite the hot, heavy air. She took a step back, then two, as the urge to run fell over her.” 

Naomi Bowes lost her innocence the night she followed her father into the woods. In freeing the girl trapped in the root cellar, Naomi revealed the horrible extent of her father’s crimes and made him infamous. No matter how close she gets to happiness, she can’t outrun the sins of Thomas David Bowes.

Now a successful photographer living under the name Naomi Carson, she has found a place that calls to her, a rambling old house in need of repair, thousands of miles away from everything she’s ever known. Naomi wants to embrace the solitude, but the kindly residents of Sunrise Cove keep forcing her to open up—especially the determined Xander Keaton.

Naomi can feel her defenses failing, and knows that the connection her new life offers is something she’s always secretly craved. But the sins of her father can become an obsession, and, as she’s learned time and again, her past is never more than a nightmare away.

In spite of the dark subject matter of the book I really, really loved it. The story sucked me in and the pacing was really good. There were quite a few chapters devoted to Naomi in her growing up years and it never felt like an overly extended introduction or padding for the book but a natural progression of her development from that pivotal moment in her life when she discovered her dad was a serial killer to how that then reverberates through her life in so many ways and for so many years.

Naomi was one of the best things for me about this book. I adore books with strong female leads (hence my love for romance novels) and this one is a doozy. She’s naturally cautious as life has taught her to be but never falls into brittle or bitter. Every time I think about the chapter where she is only 12 years old and discovers her dad’s victim it gives me goosebumps. The fact that she didn’t then curl up into a whimpering ball in horror and instead helped the victim speaks volumes about this character at an age where her only concern should have been getting her first pimple.

NR does the tough but reluctantly kind heroine very well and this one gets dragged kicking and screaming into making friends, being part of a community and having a dog. Speaking of the dog- some of the BEST scenes in the book revolve around that dog. In spite of the dark history, there are laugh out loud scenes in this book that make it so easy to read.

Aside from my love of the heroine, I think what also makes this book so good is the cast of secondary characters, from the builder and his wife, to Naomi’s uncle and his partner all the way to the darn dog there was so much likeability built into this book it almost fell into the too cute for words category. Of course then you have Xander Keaton, mechanic and band member. Xander falls into the more gruff, tough talking NR hero mold than the affable, easy going one but somehow manages to charm the literal pants of cautious Naomi anyway. Here’s an excerpt of the two of them having a disagreement in Chapter 20 of the book:

He crossed over, sat beside her again. “You’d have slept with me. I saw that the first time you came into the bar.”

            “Oh, really?”

            Not yet settled but getting there, he picked up his beer again.

“I’ve got a sense about when a woman’s going to be willing. But if you believed all that crap all the way though, this wouldn’t have turned into a thing.”

            “It wasn’t supposed to.”

            “A lot of good things happen by accident. If Charles Goodyear hadn’t been clumsy, we wouldn’t have vulcanized rubber.”

            “What?”

            “Weatherproof rubber-tires, for instance, as in Goodyear. He was trying to figure out how to make rubber weatherproof, dropped this experiment on a stove by accident, and there you go, he made weatherproof rubber.”

            Baffled,she rubber her aching temple. “I’ve completely lost the point.”

            “Not everything has to be planned to work out. Maybe we both figured we’d bang it out a few times and move on, but we didn’t. And it’s working out all right.”

            The sound of her own laughter surprised her. “Wow, Xander, my heart’s fluttering from that romantic description. It’s like a sonnet.”

And then there’s this funny interaction in Chapter 24:

“As a matter of fact, I’ve been looking at grills online.”

            You can’t buy a grill online.” Sincerely appalled, he stared at her –with some pity. “You have to see it, and-“

            “Stroke it?” She offered a bright smile. “Speak to it?”

            Appalled pity turned on a dime to a cool disdain that made her want to laugh. “You have to see it,” he repeated.

Rating: A 

RFG Recommends: Fae, Fashion and Fun with Coyotes

9 Apr

Fighting Fae Series by Amelia Hutchins

First off, have a look below at the covers of the books. Aren’t they pretty?

I don’t remember how I first heard of these books. Due to several really bad experiences I’ve been a little leery of spending my hard earned money on a new author. I was intrigued by the back cover blurb of book one though and there were enough good ratings for me to give it a try. I’m SO glad I did.

AH has a way of sucking you into her stories. Her characters are larger than life, emotions are high and there is enough of an overarching mystery going through the books that I just had to keep reading- I think I finished all 3 books in less than 5 days. Afterwards? Definite book hangover territory. I must have started and stopped 5 different Urban Fantasy books looking for the same crackalicious hit and not getting it.

This is an urban fantasy series that centres around Synthia (Syn for short) and her dealings with the Fae, in particular, a Tall, Dark and Sexy Fae named Ryder. In books and movies I’ve found that Fae fall into either of two camps- the small, cute tricky ones and the ones that are like Legolas in Lord of the Rings but on steroids like a 2.0 version. AH’s fae definitely fall into the Legolas 2.0 category.

Word of warning: don’t leave these books around where curious little minds may find them and try to sound out the words. These books are sexy and oh-so dirty. They made me blush and there’s not a lot that can make me blush nowadays. You have been warned!

 

Anything by Lauren Layne

How did I not hear of this author before?! I started with her Stiletto series books and LOVED them. They had everything I look for in a contemporary novel- humor, heat, great dialogue and enough female friendship moments to warm the heart.  The Stiletto series centres around 4 women who work in a popular glossy women’s magazine (Cosmopolitan is what immediately came to mind) and their lives and loves. Each book tackles one amazing heroine and her journey to her HEA. These girls are cool enough that you love reading about them but are imperfect enough not to be annoying.

I then moved to her New York’s Finest books which have the very suggestive titles of Frisk Me, Steal Me and Cuff Me. Don’t be fooled by the risqué titles though – LL does great relationships. This series centres around one family and the byplay between siblings and parents (and one very feisty grandma) was just as delicious as the hero and heroine’s journey towards happily ever after. This series centres around brothers who are cops and a sister who is a defense attorney so there is an element of suspense/mystery as compared to her Stiletto series but the main focus is always the relationships.

If you’re a fan of Jill Shalvis and Julie James I HIGHLY recommend this author. I was thrilled to realise I had a backlist to go through and they’re a perfect pick me up after a hard week of work.

 

The Fae War Chronicles by Jocelyn Fox

I started the first book of this series because it was free and it had the word Fae in it. Clearly, my expectations weren’t too high at the outset. I wasn’t sure I would like it as the first few chapters read a little contemporary YA but things start to get interesting a quarter of the way into the book and you have an epic, fantasy setting with an evil (?) queen, quests, strange creatures and warriors. There is a bit of a romance but it’s more of the build towards one than an actual romance.  The writing and editing of the book is polished and there are no glaring mistakes or typos that will take you out of the story. In the end, offering the first book free was a great marketing tool as I proceeded to buy the second book and started following the author on Facebook just so I would know when the third book was released.

Here’s a short description of the first book, The Iron Sword :

Tess O’Connor has never fought in a duel, ridden a Fae steed descended from a dragon, or touched taebramh, the magical substance that gives mortals dreams. She has never faced down a garrelnost or traveled the hidden mysterious pathways between the mortal world and the realm of the Fae. She has never felt a magnetic attraction to a perilously handsome Sidhe knight with eyes as deep and impenetrable as the ocean. Tess O’Connor stopped believing in fairy tales as a child when her father died…but all that changes when she discovers that her best friend Molly is half-Fae—and has been summoned to the Unseelie Court by Queen Mab herself. The Queen of Night and Winter sends Finnead, one of her trinity of Named Knights, to escort Molly to Court, willingly or unwillingly. Mab believes that Molly is the fulfillment of a prophesy, the half-Fae child foretold to become the bearer of the Iron Sword, a legendary weapon that could mean the difference between victory and defeat for the Fae in their struggle against an ancient evil. While Tess quickly learns she is no match for the shadow spreading through the Fae world, she refuses to let her best friend face it alone; and as the first mortal in Queen Mab’s court in over five hundred years, she must use all her quick wit and tenacity to keep herself and Molly alive in the beautiful, dangerous Fae world as they hurtle toward the war that could destroy it…

I loved the second book from the get go. I found it an even stronger book overall and it really starts delving into epic fantasy territory which I love. The third book is due out soon and I can’t wait.

Patricia Briggs Mercy Thompson and Alpha and Omega Series (audiobooks)

No, I HAVEN’T been living under a rock. I have been aware of the sheer awesomeness of Patricia Briggs and her Mercy Thompson world series for some time now but I have to admit that I discovered the books, read the first six in the series in maybe a fortnight and then put them aside for a while (long enough for books 7,8 and 9 to be released apparently) but THEN I bought the audiobooks and wow, am I loving me some Adam and Mercy all over again.

I’m not even going to describe the books themselves because if you read Urban Fantasy then Patricia Briggs is probably someone you are already familiar with. Anyone familiar with her writing knows that her world building is fabulous and just that touch dark, her heroes and heroines are imperfect but so very good at the core and her dialogue is always sharp and well written.

What I will say (which I have said before) is that listening to a book is a very different experience from reading it – at least for me.  I hear things I may have missed reading and I find that I end up liking books even  more after listening to them and this is the reason why I only ever buy audiobooks that I’ve already read.

These books are narrated by Lorelei King and I love her. She has a very understated way of speaking that never seems overly dramatic or overwrought although poor Mercy doesn’t have an easy time of it in these books. Her male voices in particular are really good. Knowing that she is narrating a book would definitely make me think about buying it.

 

 

 

 

 

RFG Recommends: Wicked Ride by Rebecca Zanetti

7 Jul

Wicked Ride R Zanetti

Rebecca Zanetti is one of those authors whose books I buy without even reading the summary at the back of the book (or the summary in the middle of the Amazon page as the case may be). She has 4 series out at the moment: The Dark Protectors Series, The Sin Brothers Series and the Maverick Montana Series. Wicked Ride is the first book in her 4th series, the Realm Enforcers Series which is a spin off from her Dark Protector novels. Although some individual books are better than others, I would wholeheartedly recommend any of her books to anyone looking for suspenseful and/or paranormal romance and this book is no exception. Here’s the summary:

Alexandra Monzelle is a hard-fighting, heat-packing Seattle vice cop, and she’s not much interested in being protected. Her short skirt and sex-kitten heels are tools to lure her suspects into talking about the deadly new drug hitting the streets. She can take care of herself and then some. Unfortunately, she can’t seem to get that through to Kellach Dunne.

Kellach is a fresh import from Dublin, and he’s landed at the heart of a vicious motorcycle club that deals in guns, narcotics, and mayhem. He’s all male, all rough power—and all interference in her damn investigation. Maybe he’s one of the good guys. Maybe not. Lex knows an affair with an immortal like him would risk everything. No matter how delicious he looks…

The premise alone of a series based on bike riding, leather wearing, magical badasses was enough to make my inner book nerd do a happy dance. And that cover? Wow. Just wow.

I loved Kellach Dunne as the hero of the novel. He was alpha without crossing over into alphahole territory and I really have a soft spot for anything that has a “brotherhood” theme going for it- which also has the added perk of setting up future books in a series.

Alexandra on the other hand, was not one of my favourite of Zanetti’s heroines. Although her reactions were understandable given circumstances, I found myself getting a little frustrated with how she repeatedly painted Kellach’s actions in the worst light. This is a particular little pet peeve of mine so it may not bother everyone. Admittedly, she was a cop and Kellach was undercover at a biker gang so I could understand where she was coming from especially as she was painted as a very strong, independent woman. I love nothing more than a strong independent woman but found Alex a little too prickly and argumentative for my taste.

Everything else though was RZ gold. Snappy dialogue, bursts of humor and good action sequences make this book a really promising start to a series. I LOVED that some characters from the Dark Protectors series made appearances and not in a brief celebrity cameo way either but properly in a way that moved the story forward. That said, you could start reading RZ’s books with this one but I strongly suggest reading her Dark Protectors series first to really appreciate Wicked Ride.

Overall, a solid first book to what promises to be an excellent series. B

RFG Recommends: Rock Hard by Nalini Singh

10 Mar

Rock hard 3 tour

How much did I love Rock Hard? Oh baby let me count the ways…

ONE: I loved it for its totally likeable hero and heroine both of whom I would love to have as buddies.

TWO: I loved Gabriel for being a strong, take charge man without crossing over into alphahole territory. Here’s a little excerpt:

Rock hard 2

THREE: I loved Charlotte for being the kind of heroine you root for- one who isn’t annoyingly perfect or too stupid to live but one that has been through something terrible and found the strength to overcome it. I also liked that she was shy but was also very smart, snarky and extremely capable.

Rock hard 4

FOUR: I loved it for its boss and secretary trope which is romance catnip for me.

FIVE: I love that there wasn’t hot sex with the hero’s magic wang in the first chapter that miraculously cured all traumas in the heroine’s past no matter how big the trauma was.

SIX: I loved the scenes with secondary characters that showed me again just how likeable these characters are.

SEVEN: I love how the book was able to make my hurt heart and at the same time laugh out loud several times while reading it.

EIGHT: Have I mentioned the hilarious dialogue? Both to each other and when they were thinking to themselves

NINE: I LOVED the slow build to romance and intimacy where the sexual tension and anticipation just kept building and building… phew!

TEN: But at the same time I LOVED how NS through her brilliant writing managed to make me feel that the characters really LIKED each other and didn’t just have sexual attraction holding them together and therefore would have a really kick ass happily ever after.

I really cannot recommend this author and this book enough – a solid A+.

Note: I received this book as an advanced reader’s copy in exchange for a fair review

Rock Hard by Nalini Singh Cover Reveal!

13 Feb

Nalini Singh is one of my all-time favorite authors. Her Psy-Changeling and Guild Hunter series are some of the very best in the Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy genres. I wrote a little love letter to her last Guild Hunter novel and you can check it out by clicking the link here: https://romancefangirl.com/2013/11/25/review-archangels-legion-by-nalini-singh/

Anyhow, as if she wasn’t fabulous (or busy!) enough she recently branched out into contemporary Rock Star romances and I am so THRILLED to be part of the cover reveal for her latest book.

ROCK HARD (1)

Releasing: March 10th, 2015

In New York Times Bestselling author Nalini Singh’s newest contemporary romance, passion ignites between a gorgeous, sinfully sexy man who built himself up from nothing and a shy woman who has a terrible secret in her past… Wealthy businessman Gabriel Bishop rules the boardroom with the same determination and ruthlessness that made him a rock star on the rugby field. He knows what he wants, and he’ll go after it no-holds-barred. And what he wants is Charlotte Baird. Charlotte knows she’s a mouse. Emotionally scarred and painfully shy, she just wants to do her job and remain as invisible as possible. But the new CEO—a brilliant, broad-shouldered T-Rex of a man who growls and storms through the office, leaving carnage in his wake—clearly has other plans. Plans that may be equal parts business and bedroom. If Charlotte intends to survive this battle of wits and hearts, the mouse will have to learn to wrangle the T-Rex. Game on. You can pre-order this book on Amazon, Kobo, iBooks and Nook.

Meet the Author NEW YORK TIMES AND USA Today bestselling author of the Psy-Changeling and Guild Hunter series Nalini Singh usually writes about hot shapeshifters and dangerous angels. This time around, she decided to write about hot and wickedly tempting rock stars – and one sinfully sexy rugby god turned brilliant CEO. If you’re seeing a theme here, you’re not wrong. Nalini lives and works in beautiful New Zealand, and is passionate about writing. If you’d like to explore her other books, you can find lots of excerpts on her website. Slave to Sensation is the first book in the Psy-Changeling series, while Angels’ Blood is the first book in the Guild Hunter series. Also, don’t forget to swing by the site to check out the special behind-the-scenes page for the Rock Kiss series, complete with photos of many of the locations used in the books.

nalini

STALK HER:  Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

Audio Book Madness

10 Nov

The Collector N RobertsRock Chick K Ashley

 

I have to admit to being a little bit late to the whole audio book thing. I only started a few years ago when the traffic and commute to work started becoming unbearable and I needed something to take my mind off the daily grind. I THEN discovered just this year that I could download these books straight onto my phone and listen to books WHILE DOING THE HOUSEWORK. My house has never been so clean and I now clean up (semi) cheerfully while someone tells me a story.

As a sidenote, I also like the fact that now I can listen with earphones and therefore don’t have to turn the volume way down during sex scenes because of the very real fear that some stranger will hear the moaning and groaning and look at me like I’m a freak…

I’ve written before about my absolute love of Ilona Andrews and how much I adore the Kate Daniels series- in both the written and audio formats. Renee Raudman, the narrator of this series is so fantastic and I got real book hangover just from listening to these books. After finishing the last book in the series I went in to mourning for a day and then was like a junkie scrounging for the same kind addictive hit. I  decided to go look for a Kristen Ashley book to go for something very different but also has that cracktastic quality and I’m so glad I did!

Audible gave me a big discount on the price of the books since I had already purchased the Kindle version so off I went into Rock Chick land. As Shirleen would say- Oooowee! I glommed onto these audio books and listened to all 8 in one month. Yup, you heard it, all EIGHT in ONE MONTH.

Susannah Jones, the narrator of the books, was very good with handling all the different characters and voices and was a younger, happier sounding narrator which fit into the whole vibe of the books perfectly. She was excellent at injecting the fun neurosis into the female characters- especially their panicked self-talk when they know they’ve gotten into trouble. I have to admit that coming off Renee Raudman’s narration and the way she did all the different voices so distinctly I sometimes felt that Susanna didn’t differentiate characters as well especially between books but that’s more about how good Renee was than any sort of lack on Susanna’s part.

I again went into mourning after finishing the last book, Rock Chick Revolution but cheered myself up trying to decide who of the Hot Bunch was my favourite. Book boyfriend fantasies aside, the next book I put into my phone was The Collector by Nora Roberts performed by Julia Whelan. Props to this reader for doing really good guys’ voices. There is nothing more distracting than a girl trying to sound like a guy and doing it badly but Julia did it so well it added to the story rather than detracting from it.

I am such a fan of Nora’s work but have to admit that I when I first read it I liked this book but didn’t LOVE it the way I did say, Birthright or Angels Fall or Naked in Death. The funny thing is that I am halfway through the book now and am utterly drawn into the story in a way that I wasn’t when I read it. It’s again proof positive that you pick up things listening to a book that you may have missed reading it.

So it looks like this love affair of mine with audio books although a late bloom may end up being an enduring one. I have only ever listened to books I’ve already read so am interested in seeing what happens when I listen to a book before reading it. Do you have any recommendations for audio books?