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Review: Bending Bethany by Aria Cole

7 Aug

I knew I had to read this book when I saw that it was about a soccer player. It’s been a long time since I’ve participated in a book tour or requested an Advanced Readers Copy (ARC) of a book due to  real life getting in the way of reading and reviewing as much as I would like to. However, the premise of this book was too cute to pass up so with pictures of hot soccer players kicking goals in my head (Ole, ole ole!) I put my hand up to do a review.

The words on the cover of the book pretty much explain the plot:

bending bethany A Cole

The story is about Bethany, a shy Biology major, and Jensen, a star soccer player. They have a one night stand and the rest of the book is about Bethany being pursued very ardently by Jensen.  I’m not a huge reader of New Adult books but I found myself liking this book in spite of its genre.

I liked the relationship between Bethany and her sister Taylor, and how the whole big sister/little sister dynamic was different from usual in that Taylor was the older sister but was actively encouraging her little sis to get into more trouble. I liked that Bethany was shown to still take her studies seriously- there was no throwing it all away for love. Without giving too much away, I like how Jensen wooed Bethany so well. There were more than a few very sweet moments/grand gestures in the book that made me smile.

bending Bethany 8

There was a stark contrast between the sweetness of the way Jensen pursued Bethany (and really pursued is the word, the boy worked hard for it) and how racy the language got in the sex scenes. On the spice-o-meter I’d put this book just over the 50% line where the orange starts turning into red.

If there was one thing I do wish is that there was a little more character development for Jensen, I would have liked to see more of his soccer playing and his back story. That said, this read like a long novella so the length of the story didn’t lend itself to much of a backstory for either character. What you DO come away with though is that Jensen is a really good guy, not afraid to go after what he wants and work hard for it.

Overall, this was a very enjoyable book that was easy to read, was well edited and BONUS had an epilogue which showed their happily ever after. It wasn’t perfect, but the story was so cute and the characters so likeable I devoured the book in one sitting on a Sunday night. This is my first book by Aria Cole but she caught my attention with this book and I will definitely be looking out for her next one. B-

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Review: Suddenly Last Summer by Sarah Morgan

20 May

Suddenly Last Summer
Fiery French chef Élise Philippe is having a seriously bad day. Not only have the grand opening plans for her beloved café fallen apart, but Sean O’Neil is back in town and looking more delectable than ever. Memories of the electrifying night they shared last summer leave Élise very tempted, but she knows all too well that eventually Sean will be leaving…again.

Being back in Vermont—even temporarily—is surgeon Sean O’Neil’s worst nightmare. Returning home to the Snow Crystal Resort means confronting the guilt he feels about rejecting his family’s lifestyle years ago. But discovering that Élise is still in Vermont and still sets his blood racing is a very welcome distraction! Remembering last summer and how good they were together is going to make walking away more difficult than he could imagine….

This is book 2 of Sarah Morgan’s O’Neill brothers series and is set in a family resort in Vermont. I haven’t read the first book, and although it was apparent to me while reading this book that there was a previous book in the series, it was easy to start with this book as all the back story was very well explained. As mentioned above, this is the story of Elise, the French chef who works for the O’Neil family at Snow Crystal Resort and Sean O’Neil, a very respected surgeon.

This was a lovely book about relationships. The relationship between Elise and Sean starts off as all fire and burn and sexual tension and develops slowly into something deeper. I have to say though that as beautiful as the romance was, just as beautiful were all the other relationships in the story such as the one between Sean and his grandfather, between the three brothers, between the women in the family – all the people in the book were so wonderfully interconnected.

The dialogue between the brothers in particular was a lot of fun to read- the affection very apparent in a “Hey, look at knucklehead over here” way that only men seem to do. The tension between Sean and his grandfather as a result of his grandfather’s all encompassing love for the resort and Sean’s passion for surgery was also very well navigated and I felt in the end that the two resolved their differences really well. I love small town and big family romances because of how connected everyone is with each other (whether they want to be or not) and feel that Sarah Morgan did a really good job of it in this story.

While there were funny moments in the book, I wouldn’t necessarily call it a light contemporary in the vein of Jill Shalvis or Susan Mallery. There is a lot of emotional angst in this book and some pretty serious emotional issues particularly with Elise’s back story. I really liked how individually they had to work through their own problems before they could get together. I did feel that Sean’s personal development was better described and resolved in the story than Elise’s but was happy with how things worked out for her in the end. I also really like how Sean had to really put himself out there and work for the girl instead of the other way around.

All in all it was a very good contemporary romance with likeable characters and interesting interpersonal dynamics. It will be published on 24 June 2014.

I received this ARC from the publisher via NetGalley.

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.

Review: Dragons Don’t Cry by D’Elen McClain

10 Apr

Dragons Don't Cry

Summary at the back of the book:
One pint sized human female who’s had too much to drink, not enough sleep, and absolutely no patience meets one stubborn dragon shifter with an attitude.

Bastian claims Acasia, his unwilling bride, after she spends the night carousing with friends. She’s not happy, he’s pissed off, and with a curse from a goddess thrown in, you’ll see Bastian breathe fire.

Add secrets, treasure, and unimaginable heartbreak for an emotionally humorous read and discover why Dragons Don’t Cry.

I had never heard of this author before but have a particular soft spot for dragons (Thank you, Anne McCaffrey) so decided to ask for this book on Netgalley. I like that the back blurb made the book sound like a GA Aiken style humorous paranormal. It didn’t quite get there for me but I did enjoy reading the story.

The story starts with a little background setting of how and why the dragons are cursed. One of their kin killed a daughter of Hera and as punishment she cursed them to live alone until they find their true mate- which will happen only once in a hundred years. There’s a bit about another goddess who is sympathetic to the dragons and vows to help them… but I found that she had a much smaller role than what it seemed in the prologue. I wasn’t sure the prologue was needed at all actually as the story gets explained again later in the book. Anyhoo, on to the main story…

Acasia is offered up as one of the maidens in a virgin sacrifice ceremony to the dragons. This ceremony happens once every 25 years and is met with dread and weeping and tears as you can imagine. She is of course picked by Bastian, the red dragon and carried away to his lair where she thinks he’s going to eat her- only he doesn’t. Their relationship slowly progresses after a rocky start and they fall in love (as you do in romance novels of course).

One of the more interesting parts of the book was the whole virgin bride sacrifice. It seemed that everyone in this world saw the dragons as these big, hungry beasts and their “brides” as poor victims who are never seen again because they are eaten or something as equally terrifying. The reality of course was that the dragons loved their brides and enjoyed their company and had to live with their brides becoming old and dying on them over and over again since only a true mate could become an immortal dragon. The author portrayed how painful that was by introducing the other 3 dragons, one who had just lost a bride and was mad with grief, one with a very elderly bride and one with a middle aged one.

In spite of this, the author was able to imbue a fun sense of ridiculousness to the story. It wasn’t quite over-the-top crazy sauce but there were fun, humorous bits that were enjoyable. I DID get confused when in the beginning of the book Bastian in human form was described as wearing jeans as the realm the dragons lived in was decidedly not Earth or modern times as we know it but that was later on explained when Bastian and Acasia would travel to Earth to save dying humans. These humans would then be brought back to the dragon realm in order to save their lives but would never be able to speak again. I found the whole back and forth through realms and humans not being able to speak a little weird. I know weird is expected in paranormal/fantasy books but I didn’t see the point in it except as a plot device to add friction to Bastian and Acasia’s relationship.

If I had to highlight a negative aspect of this book it was that the world building was weak. As I mentioned before the prologue didn’t seem needed, there was the tried and true virgin bride sacrifice trope and then there was jumping between realms which I think could have been fleshed out a little more.

However, I did enjoy the humour in the book. The ending in particular startled a giggle out of me. The romance was sweet and I liked how the hero and heroine got to know each other before falling in love.

I didn’t LOVE this book enough to recommend it but I didn’t hate it either. I would definitely buy another book from this author as I’m curious to see how her other stories turn out.

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

Review: The Last Hour of Gann by R. Lee Smith

18 Mar

The Last Hour of Gann

Lizard people. Must read the book about Lizard People. I remember telling myself this over and over again when I first heard about this book. I mean really, lizard people, lizard people planet, lizard person hero who is also some sort of PRIEST, which of course leads to lizard people sex, crashing spaceships, and douchebag humans all trying to survive aforementioned crashing spaceship- it seemed really bad B movie in book form and had my inner sci-fi geek panting in excitement (also I wanted to see how many times I could write lizard people in one sentence and I think I did pretty well there, don’t you?). What I got was something so completely different I found myself sitting on this review for 2 weeks because I simply did not know how to write about this book. I hated and loved parts of it in equal measure. I would have to grade it both A and an F; which doesn’t make sense but completely describes how I feel about this book.

Quick summary of the plot: Amber is the heroine of the story. Being a down on her luck human in a dystopian future Earth she decides that she and her sister would take their chances on the very first ship to leave Earth in order to go colonise another planet. Things don’t go as planned and they crash onto another planet, Gann. Gann is a planet inhabited by, yup you guessed it, lizard people. They’re a pretty violent race and religion governs pretty much all aspects of their society. Meoraq is the hero of this book and is a Sheulak or warrior priest. This position is a really big deal in local society and Meoraq can pretty much do whatever he wants as long as it falls under the auspices of being Sheul’s (God’s) will. This is a very simple explanation that doesn’t completely encompass how complex the world building and plot of this book really is.

Before I go on though I feel that I have to warn people that this book is terribly, terribly violent. There’s rape, children being killed, more rape, murder of children, a little more rape… and no closed door stuff for R. Lee Smith. No sirree, she explains everything in graphic detail. I have to admit that I felt a little sick after finishing this book. So, if any of the above scenarios are hot triggers for you steer far, FAR away from this book.

I can’t recommend this book wholeheartedly because this book was SO freaking violent and the humans in this book were all people I wanted to burn at the stake- ALL of them, from Scott the head douchebag to Nikki the unbelievably annoying sister. They were so horrible and were basically portrayed as sheep following Scott the leader and totally mistreating Amber because Scott is threatened by her. It was a very exaggerated form of bullying and while you feel that the author is making a point here about human society, it was very difficult for me to read.

But here’s the thing, even with all of that, I HAD to finish the book. The world building was fascinating and there’s a twist at the end that’s really surprising. But strangely enough for such a rabidly violent book? The romance itself was really beautiful. Yes, it was a beautiful romance between a human girl (who by the way was initially portrayed as someone so obese they worried she wouldn’t fit into the space capsule thingy they travelled on) and her lizard man.

Unlike a lot of the insta-love, fated to be together romances out there nowadays, you actually saw the development of the love between Meoraq and Amber. They would have all these wonderful conversations about life and God and religion and you could see them falling in love with each other very slowly and very reluctantly. One of the more fascinating aspects of this book is how R. Lee portrays the characters as actually finding each other physically ugly in the beginning. Meoraq thinks Amber looks strange, soft and ugly and well, Amber thinks Meoraq looks like a lizard which in no culture here on Earth is a compliment. Because the love story was so thoughtfully developed and written, the sex, which I initially thought would squick me out the most actually became a very natural part of the story.

The best parts for me were when Meoraq, a warrior-priest and Amber, an atheist would get into debates about the existence of God. Those conversations were very thoughtful and interesting. I normally am not a fan of putting too much religion in romance novels (haven’t read a single love-inspired book and I can say that I’ve read pretty much everything) but I loved the way the hero and the heroine would talk about their beliefs.

So there you have it- my love-hate-love-hate relationship with The Last Hour of Gann. I am sitting here wondering if I will ever read another book from this author again. I am reluctant as this book was soooooo violent and the rape scenes and children dying… but the beautiful love story and the really compelling storytelling that went with it… Right now I have to say that my abhorrence of some of the more violent scenes in the book probably means I won’t be picking up a book by this author again anytime soon but I wouldn’t say never. Have you read other books by this author? Are they as violent as this one?

RFG Recommends: Uncommon Passion by Anne Calhoun

11 Mar

Uncommon Passion A Calhoun

I was listening to the DBSA (Dear Bitches Smart Authors) Podcast recently, going through all of their old podcasts hoping that I would find a book or books to break this reading slump that I’ve been on lately. One of the books that Sarah from Smart Bitches Trashy Books recommended was Uncommon Passion by Anne Calhoun.
The thing that made me want to read it was the description of the heroine. Her name is Rachel Hill and she is described in the summary as someone who has recently left a fundamentalist commune called Elysian Field. Having grown up in this very restrictive environment, she is a 25 year old virgin. Wanting to rid herself of her aforementioned virginity she buys the hero, Ben, at a bachelor auction thinking that he looks like the kind of guys who could do the job and walk away. Ben, at first, seems to be nothing more than a really hot adrenaline junkie police officer with too many notches on his bedpost.
One of the things that I really LOVED about this book was how thoughtful it was. There were no stereotypes to be found anywhere in the story. A lazier writer could have easily portrayed Rachel as an uber innocent (verging on too stupid to live) traumatised young thing and her father and everyone in the commune as evil and mean. What we do get is one of the strongest heroines I have read in a good long time.
Rachel’s strength is quite different from the outwardly tough, I will kick your ass to the moon and back strength of the urban fantasy/paranormal heroine, but by the end of the book I thought: wow that is one strong, self-aware woman. Anne Calhoun was able to write a character of such quiet inner strength and grace, I finished the book with an incredible amount of respect for the character and for AC as a writer for not turning Rachel into a caricature of what people think “escapees” from cults or communes should be like.
It also would have been easy to just vilify Rachel’s father as this oppressive man and in some ways, he was because of his beliefs. At the same time, he was also the man who baked cookies with her and read her stories and all these other things that show that he was a very loving father. There’s a scene where Ben and Rachel are talking about her life in Elysian Field and she says that people think she left because of the lack of fashion or long skirts but that’s not why she left at all. She left because she wanted to decide things for herself without her father or one of the elders telling her what to think or feel. I found it fascinating that she wasn’t even supposed to be mad or grumpy as this was being ungrateful to God so she had to be serene or cheerful all day.
Ben as a hero seems really simple in the beginning but is actually a really complicated character. I LOVE that he had to work through his issues and come to realizations about himself before he felt he had anything to give in terms of a relationship. I love how the romance developed slowly, completely apart from the steamy sex which would have been about an 8 or 9 in the steamy charts. I LOVE how the heroine , even being inexperienced knew to stand up for herself after a raunchy sex sesh and say you know what? You didn’t treat me right that time, buh-bye. I love how AC made Rachel brave enough to fully accept and experience all emotions even negative ones.
I know I may be repeating myself but it has to be said again; this was a very well-written and thoughtful romance that I will remember in the jumble of all the other meh books that I have read lately. My only criticism is that I didn’t get that ‘chest hurts oh my God this book is ripping my heart out’ feeling that I get with the some really good books. It’s a solid B+ for me though, hope you like it.

Meh books and Alphaholes

25 Feb

Reaper's Legacy Knight

I’ve been really disappointed with all the books that I’ve read in the past few weeks. It’s been a good long while since I’ve read any that made me want to write about it squeeing in delight… and I want to squee my way through a book, dammit.
I think the problem with me this past month is that I have gone for the free books and the .99 cent (or so) books on Amazon thinking to save myself some money. What HAS happened is that I have bought heaps of books that I then skimmed and then promptly forgot about or simply did not finish (DNF). This resulted in me spending more than I would have if I had just bought a few really good books at a higher price point that I could really enjoy. It’s like when you’re eating at a buffet with a lot of not-so-good food and you keep eating and eating and eating looking for that taste you’re looking for, not finding it and then feeling slightly ill afterwards. That is how the past few weeks have been for me in terms of reading- too much meh stuff that has left me feeling vaguely dissatisfied.
(This is not to say that you can’t find some really amazing books out there for free or cheap, I’ve just had really crappy luck with them these past few weeks)
The other thing that I am seeing with some of the books that I am reading is the emergence of a breed of heroes I call the alphahole. I know that the whole imperfect, grittier hero is a hot trend at the moment but I find myself getting exasperated with it. What the heck is so wrong about a nice guy? You know, one who does NOT have a stable of prostitutes that he makes his money with or one that does NOT call women bitches or whores?
I’m a HUGE fan of alpha heroes. I love their take charge attitude, absolute belief in themselves and their need to take care of their women. LOVE. THEM. However, lately I’ve found that some authors disturbingly blur the line between an alpha and an alphahole (which is basically an alpha asshole). I get that there is this movement towards realism and angst. I get that they’re trying to portray heroes that are in stark contrast to sickeningly perfect, gorgeous, intelligent, billionaire, philanthropist heroes of the past. For me though, there’s imperfect and tortured and there’s just being an abusive, misogynistic pig.
I’m learning that there are certain things that I just will not accept in a hero. Salty language and dirty talk? No problem. Being derogatory to a woman and calling her a whore, slut etc and then justifying it to the heroine saying it’s okay because I’d never do that to YOU? Not okay. A man hitting a woman? Never okay.
I read a book recently where the hero was absolutely APPALLING to women. He had no respect for them aside from them being receptacles for his magic wang. He would call them bitch and forcibly evict them from his house, throwing their clothes out- after taking them home with him the night before! How in the world is a man like that hero material? This hero THEN goes on to say that yes he would hit a woman if she was “asking for it”. Arrrgh. Just typing that made me so mad! And it makes me even more mad because he then says he would never treat the heroine like that because she wasn’t a slut like all the other sluts he slept with. Given that he actively participated in the aforementioned activity this would make him a hypocrite of the highest level.
Being imperfect, sleeping around, having a tragic past, being surly and not too good with social situations- these are all fine and I can live with those. Being in any way abusive even if that abusive behaviour is not targeted towards the heroine, I’m sorry I simply cannot stomach. As a psychology major the whole “Oh baby I treat OTHER people like shit but I would never treat YOU like that” really pisses me off. I get that some of the romance heroes of old may have been a little too perfect but do I really want to read about a hero who is a pimp? Uh, NO.
There are authors who push the envelope of the alpha male but manage to pull them back right before they cross over that invisible line for me into alphahole. A really good example of this would be Kristen Ashley’s Chaos MC boys who are really rough around the edges but never cross over this line for me versus those in her Unfinished Hero series (Knight, ugh!) and Joanna Wylde’s Reaper’s Legacy which was a good book overall, but there were moments with the hero that left a really bad taste in my mouth. He is SO never going to be one of my book boyfriends. Although that cover is admittedly really nice to look at.
What do you think about this new trend in alphahole heroes?