Tag Archives: Contemporary Romance

Review: Until We Collide by Charlotte Fallowfield

19 Oct

I love romantic comedies. Janet Evanovich’s Stephanie Plum series, Kristen Ashley’s Rock Chick Series and Bridget Jones’s Diary are some of my favourite books of all time. When I was approached by this author and asked to review her romantic comedy book it would be fair to say I was pretty excited.

until-we-collide

What do you do when the guy you’re in love with is seeing someone else?

That’s the dilemma facing Paige Taylor. All of her life she’s only ever had eyes for the gorgeous Alec Wright, but despite their undeniable chemistry, their timing has always been off. Fast approaching her thirtieth birthday, Paige despairs of ever finding love and a happy ever after. Her best friend Poppie tells her that she can either watch life pass her by, or grab it with both hands. She convinces Paige to throw herself back into the dating pool, or she could be waiting for Alec forever.

What Paige didn’t expect was the catalogue of dating disasters to follow. A neck brace, jelly fish, stitches, flashing and an encounter with a gorilla were some of the most memorable. Despite some downright hilarious, humiliating and cringe worthy dates, her biological clock is ticking and Paige is determined to keep trying until she finds the one.

Was Alec Wright always her Mr. Right, or is he still out there waiting to be found?

Join Paige in her quest to find the ultimate prize. Love.

This book starts off with a very young Paige Taylor, still in her last year of high school and already madly in love with Alex Wright. Both are from a small town in England and I thought the author set the scene very well. I could picture the quaint village and smell the crisp, clean air. She also sets up the characters in the story right from the start and it soon becomes apparent that poor Paige is a bit of a klutz and that the humor in this book was going to be very slapstick, at the expense of our poor heroine who can’t seem to catch a break where embarrassing situations are concerned.

Throughout the book, and Paige’s life she and Alec keep bumping into each other but the timing never seems quite right and I did keep going until the end wondering if she was going to end up with Alec or if someone else was going to swoop in and grab our heroine’s heart. I enjoyed the story and most of Paige’s little mishaps made me smile and chuckle.

There were however, a few things I didn’t like about the book. I’m a huge dialogue girl. Give me a hard to believe plot line where reality has to be suspended and I can go with it as long as the dialogue is smart and funny. Bad dialogue takes me out of the story faster than most anything and there were parts of this book that took me right out of the story.

“I just graduated from Leeds University, fingers crossed I’ll achieve my BA honours degree in photography. My portfolio was so strong that I’ve already been offered a job in the fashion industry, training under a prolific photographer, John Graves…”- This made me snort a bit because I don’t know many people who talk like that. Although I can see what the author was trying to do here as with a couple of sentences you do learn a lot about the person speaking.

On the next page though, the author pulled me back in again with this little piece of dialogue:

“Please, I’m Paige calamity Taylor. You’ve seen me in action. I’m the girl who gets sprayed with cow poo, falls in rivers and gets coated with mud, and snorts water all over her date. I’m not model material.” That was funny and again, gives a lot of information about the character but in a more fun and easy way than in the previous page.

Here are the other things that I DID like. The book was well-edited in that there were no glaring grammatical errors or typos. I liked the premise of the book and there were parts that were straight out HILARIOUS. Some of the fixes that Paige got herself into made me laugh out loud. I really liked her relationship with her best friend Poppy and how there was never a time that she forgot her friend or neglected her because of romance.

I don’t want to give away too much as a huge part of the fun in this book is wondering the whole way through if Paige and Alec are going to end up together and you’ll have to read it to find out. All in all, it wasn’t a perfect book but it was an enjoyable one.

Final Grade: C+

 Note: I received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

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.

 

 

 

 

 

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

Books I Was Reading When I Should Have Been Writing July 2014

15 Jul

Waiting on You K Higgins A murder of crows It happened one wedding Magic Bites I Andrews Then Came You

I’ve been on a bit of a contemporary and paranormal kick lately and can’t seem to drum up any enthusiasm for historicals although I have a fair few in my kindle just waiting to be read. That said, I’ve read a few really, really, really (REALLY) good books lately:

It Happened One Wedding by Julie James– First of all it really must be said- SQUEEEEEEEEEEEE! This book was amazing! I cannot begin to recommend it highly enough. For those of you who may not have discovered her yet, Julie James is an author of contemporary romances usually centring around the lawyers of the US Attorney’s office and the FBI agents that they work with. Although most of her books are excellent this one had a little special something going for it that truly blew me away. The way JJ wrote the slow build romance between the hero and the heroine who by the way started out disliking each other and then liking each other very much was just clever and beautiful. Sidney, the heroine in this story completely rocked as a kick ass investment banker. She’s a strong powerful woman who knows her stuff (work wise at least) and she OWNS it. Vaughn is a tough, alpha FBI agent who is funny, smart and knows himself really well. Both of them, even when they were at their bitchiest to each other were supremely likeable and the dialogue between them was so sharp and funny. It has to be said again- I can’t recommend this book highly enough.

Murder of Crows by Anne Bishop- I am a huge romance fan girl but I am also a big fantasy/ urban fantasy fan. The books that I love are the ones that meld the two together seamlessly. This is not the case for the OTHERS series of Anne Bishop as it’s still really light on the romance, although you can see the build up to it and just that build up is enough to give me the tingles. But you know what? This is another series that I cannot recommend highly enough. This is the second book in the series following the first book, Written in Red. The world building in this series is done very well. Interestingly enough from a purely objective standpoint, AB does not give us anything ground breakingly original. There are vampires and shifters and elementals and there are the prophets and humans and everyone is just trying to get along and live together. Enter a young woman who is trying to make her way in the world and you have a pretty familiar trope. Familiar though does not in any way mean ordinary. This series for me is proof that it’s not all about the story but how the story is told. In the hands of a skilful writer, the familiar becomes new and cracktastic. There is action and magic and hot shapeshifters all in a very interesting world. I can’t wait for the next instalment in the series.

Then Came You by Jill Shalvis– I went on a bit of a Jill Shalvis reading spree and read the last 2 books of both her Lucky Harbour and her Animal Magnetism series in a week. If you like your contemporary romances with a lot of humor in them you have to read her. Her Lucky Harbour series is set in a small town in the NorthWest while her Animal Magnetism books centre around the lives of a veterinary practice in a small town in Idaho. You can’t pass by JS when you want a feel good, small town romance. Of the books I read my favourite has to be Then Came You- the story of Emily and Wyatt. The laughs start with the premise of the story- what do you do when you show up to your first day at a new job and realise your new boss is that hot guy that you had a one night stand with? The one that you thought you would never see again? There were several laugh out loud moments and anything with a bunch of animals in them can never go wrong for me. The conflict was largely internal and had to do with both Emily and Wyatt having to learn to bend and let go of preconceived notions of what they want out of life. It’s a solid 4 out of 5 stars for me for this one. As an aside, I follow Jill Shalvis on Facebook and twitter and she is as funny and crazy in real life as her characters. Which leads me to another crazy writer that I like who is a very good friend of hers…

Waiting on You by Kristan Higgins– When I want funny contemporaries that will make me laugh and then make my chest hurt while giving me tingles throughout the rest of my body there are a few authors I turn to: Susan Mallery, Jill Shalvis, Susan Elizabeth Philipps and Kristan Higgins. KH writes hilarious contemporary romances with witty dialogue. Her latest in her Blue Heron series is a great addition to a really fun series. One of her great skills is in writing heroes who have issues but never cross over into Oh-God-Get-OVER-Yourself-Already territory. Colleen O’Rourke is the part owner of the local bar in her small town. As the resident bartender, she is also the resident matchmaker who sets other people up successfully but mysteriously doesn’t manage to do it for herself until her first and only love pops back in town and into her life. Shades of Emma this book is another example of a familiar trope made entertaining and different in the hands of a skilful writer.

Kate Daniels audiobooks by Ilona Andrews– This entry has already gone on for way too long and writing about all these books that I love has made my heart start pounding so hard in my chest I’m scared I’ll give myself an aneurysm if I continue but I simply cannot let this entry end without talking about the Kate Daniels audiobooks. I’ve written about Ilona Andrews and how much I love this series before. I thought I couldn’t love this series any more than I already do but hot damn was I WRONG. I thought I could listen to these books in traffic/while on the treadmill/while cleaning to keep my mind entertained. I purposely chose books that I already read since I would be doing other things and didn’t want to be too distracted. Instead, I became obsessed (obsessed I tell you!) with these books all over again. A wonderful side benefit is that my house has never been cleaner! It made the monotony of doing chores SO much easier and just for that I could build a shrine in gratitude to Ilona Andrews . I’d already read all the books in the series more than once because I love them. Listening to the books instead of reading them gave me a whole new perspective though and there were bits that I missed while reading that suddenly became more apparent while I was listening. While I’m talking about these books, I have to give props to Renee Raudman who is Uh-MAY-Zing!!! I now hear HER voice in my head when I read the books. Her “voices” are so distinct and never overdone or exaggerated. Even if you’ve already read this series do give these audiobooks a try you won’t regret it!

RFG Recommends: The Promise by Kristen Ashley

2 Jul

Blog Tour Graphic (1)

I used to HATE first person point of view, if it was written in first person I’d put the book down no questions asked. Reading Kristen Ashley books has made me do a 360 so fast I accidentally whipped my arm around and slapped myself silly for having such an unfounded prejudice.

I now thoroughly enjoy first person point of view when it is done well as it gets me so deep into a character’s head and way of thinking that I always feel the need to take a few deep breaths to return to reality when the book is done. I especially love being in the heads of KA’s female characters. I thoroughly enjoyed being in Frankie’s head – every single dramatic, kind, smart, passionate, hot-blooded part of it.

Here’s the blurb at the back of the book:

Since his brother’s death, Benny Bianchi has been nursing his grudge against the woman he thinks led to his brother’s downfall. He does this to bury the feelings he has for Francesca Concetti, his brother’s girl. But when Frankie takes a bullet while on the run with Benny’s cousin’s woman, Benny has to face those feelings.

The problem is Frankie has decided she’s paid her penance. Penance she didn’t deserve to pay. She’s done with Benny and the Bianchi family. She’s starting a new life away from Chicago and her heartbreaking history.

Benny has decided differently.

But Frankie has more demons she’s battling. Demons Benny wants to help her face. But life has landed so many hard knocks on Frankie she’s terrified of believing in the promise of Benny Bianchi and the good life he’s offering.

Frankie’s new life leads her to The ‘Burg, where Benny has ties, and she finds she not only hasn’t succeeded in getting away, she’s doesn’t want to.

As you can see from the blurb above, this is the story of Frankie and Benny (and doesn’t that sound like a movie title?). We first met Frankie and Bennie in the book “At Peace” which is the story of Violet and Cal and is one of my favourite KA books of all time. Frankie and Benny have a long and complicated history- Frankie is the former live in girlfriend of Benny’s dead brother. Did you get that? Frankie was the girlfriend of Vinnie Junior, Benny’s older brother. Now, Frankie loved Vinnie very much but Vinnie was one of those guys who always wanted MORE. A result of this wanting more was that he got himself tied up with the mob and a result of THAT is that he got himself killed.

Vinnie’s family, a close-knit, slightly eccentric Italian family, loved their son ( he was a bit of a douchebag but a very loveable one from all accounts), were grieving and somehow ended up blaming Frankie for Vinnie’s unfortunate choices. Poor Frankie was cast in their minds as the money hungry girlfriend pushing their son/brother to have more, do more, be more because it was easier than dealing with the fact that Vinnie was lovable but weak. Frankie, being Frankie loved them and took the blame for 7 years. SEVEN YEARS y’all! That is a very long time to be putting up with that kind of treatment and as this book opens Frankie is well and truly over it.

Unfortunately, she had to go and do something heroic- she saved Violet from a mad man and got shot for her efforts. I won’t go into the whole family history here because that’s part of “At Peace” and if you haven’t read it yet, you really should. This book reads so much sweeter if you did read the previous book as it ties in nicely, but if this is the first Kristen Ashley that you are reading then:

• You’re fine as the back story and all the other characters are explained really well anyway so you can start here
• You are one lucky duck as KA has a MASSIVE backlist that you can now go through. Hurrah!

As I’m sure you can guess from reading the background of the story, a lot of the conflict here is internal. It’s Benny and Frankie getting over their shared and respective pasts to try and be together. The fact that Frankie was dating one brother and then another was one of those issues and I’m really glad KA did not gloss over how awkward it was or what other people thought about it. Frankie in particular had a lot of old issues that she needs to deal with as her family life was extremely dysfunctional. Frankie for me was a quintessential KA heroine in that she may have been a little messed up and imperfect but underneath was a heart of pure gold.

But let’s talk about Benny for a moment. Benny was described in the book as having chocolate brown eyes, dark hair and a ripped body. Throw in close family ties and the ability to cook and I think I may have just found me my newest book boyfriend. If I had a complaint it would be that when I read the book the first time I found him to be almost a little TOO perfect in the beginning. But when I read the book the second time (yes, I have read it twice I enjoyed it that much) I realized that I was seeing Benny through Frankie’s eyes, Frankie who had her supremely narcissistic douchebag father and ex- kinda douchebag boyfriend as male role models. There’s a scene in the book where Benny’s looking for something for her and she freezes in place expecting him to blow up and get frustrated and angry with her when he can’t find it. Instead he finds it, hands it to her and goes off to work. It’s a small thing and most women would probably take that for granted, but Frankie having the history that she does, doesn’t.

Benny is terribly affectionate and understanding especially in the first part of the book where Frankie is still recovering from her gunshot wound and the whole Bianchi family is still feeling very guilty about their past treatment of Frankie. Don’t get me wrong, KA doesn’t write beta heroes. Benny is still 100 percent pure alpha who knows what he wants and is not afraid to demand it, but he doesn’t have any asshole moments as big as Joe Callahan for example. If you’ve read the Rock Chick series I would say he would be closest to Ren – not because they’re both Italian but because they both understand their women very well and work very hard to keep them.

What I love about Kristen Ashley books is the way she balances out realism and pure fantasy. On one hand you have serious emotional and psychological issues that each character has to work through. On the other, you have these larger than life characters that manage to run you through a gamut of intense emotions through some oftentimes improbable scenarios.

Along with the drama and fire and flash, there are little pockets of realism like Benny keeping Frankie’s lip gloss in his pocket because she didn’t want to bring a bag to their date or Frankie making sure that she had a lot of chips in her house because Benny has a fondness for them. The importance of calendars in Benny’s life is also something that I found very beautiful in its simplicity.

My biggest complaint about the book would be that I wasn’t sure that the external conflict at the end of the book was really needed. I really enjoyed seeing Frankie and Benny with each other without the bad guys being thrown in. That said; I did appreciate how the external conflict meant that I got to see some characters that I love from previous books. I won’t spoil the surprise and tell you who shows up but I have to admit that I squealed like a star struck teenage fan girl in the presence of her favourite boy band when I read some of the familiar names on the pages of my e-reader. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. This was another cracktastic KA book for me! The Promise will be published on July 8, 2014 and pre-order links are up at most e-book sellers.

Disclaimer: I received this book as an ARC in exchange for a review