Tag Archives: romance book blogs

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: 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

Review: Looking for Trouble by Victoria Dahl

22 Jun

Looking for Trouble V Dahl

Description
A good reason to be bad…

Librarian Sophie Heyer has walked the straight and narrow her entire life to make up for her mother’s mistakes. But in tiny Jackson Hole, Wyoming, juicy gossip doesn’t just fade away. Falling hard for the sexiest biker who’s ever ridden into town would undo everything she’s worked for. And to add insult to injury, the alluring stranger is none other than Alex Bishop—the son of the man Sophie’s mother abandoned her family for. He may be temptation on wheels, but Sophie’s not looking for trouble!

Maybe Sophie’s buttoned-up facade fools some, but Alex knows a naughty smile when he sees one. Despite their parents’ checkered pasts, he’s willing to take some risks to find out the truth about the town librarian. He figures a little fling might be just the ticket to get his mind off his own family drama. But what he finds underneath Sophie’s prim demeanor might change his world in ways he never expected.

I’ve been reading romance novels since I was 12. There’s not much in the genre that will surprise me ( I think my shock gene was killed when I read the series about the time travelling, magician Vikings) so when I DO read something that I haven’t read before I am very pleasantly surprised. Although there were no Vikings or magicians in this story, it does deal with the mental illness of a secondary character and how profoundly it affected the leading man’s life.

I think a lot of people automatically imagine Gotham’s asylum when mental illness is discussed in fiction and it was refreshing to see this decidedly UN-sexy subject covered subtly in a romance novel. There are a lot of psychopaths and sociopaths in fiction, but particularly in romance novels, there’s not a lot of stories (at least not that I have read) that deal with the other mental illnesses- the ones where patients don’t necessarily need to be institutionalised but where the illness still has a real effect on the patient and their family.

Alex Bishop is back in town for a memorial for his father. He hasn’t been back in years mainly because his mother has a borderline personality disorder and is obsessed with the memory of his father. Alex’s father disappeared 25 years ago and he spent his childhood being dragged to the ends of the continent while his mother searched for father dearest. So as soon as he could get out of town he did and is only back now very reluctantly as they found the body of his father and are having a memorial service for him. Turns out he didn’t run away all those years ago, rather he and his mistress got into a bad car accident on their way to a tryst and died in a secluded ravine.

The mistress of Papa Bishop turns out to be Sophie Heyer’s mother- Sophie being the heroine of the story- can anyone say AWKWARD? Both Alex’s and Sophie’s lives were shaped so profoundly by their parent’s affair with Alex getting the hell out of dodge and Sophie suppressing her inner wild child to become the picture of decorum. In spite of this very unfortunate family history, they are drawn to each other. They both know that getting together would be a bad idea but can’t seem to help themselves. Their chemistry is combustible. If you like your books hot then definitely give this one a read as the sex scenes were habanero spicy and very well written.

While the sexy times happened often and quite early on in the story it took a while for them to realise they were falling in love and I really like that slow build into real affection. I’m a little over the whole sleeping together and great sex equals undying love trope that I’ve been reading so much of lately. It was nice seeing the two fall in love in spite of themselves and their families.

Another point in the book that I found equally infuriating and interesting was how differently the town viewed Papa Bishop and Mama Heyer and as a result how they viewed Alex and Sophie. While the males remained largely unscathed by the affair, poor Sophie grew up being labelled the daughter of THAT woman who was of loose morals etc etc. While Mama Heyer DID do wrong, it was frustrating that everyone shrugged off Papa Bishop’s part in the affair in a well, boys will be boys manner while she was pretty much thought of as the town harlot. There was a definite imbalance and double standard there and I’m glad Victoria Dahl addressed it in the story.

If you like your contemporary romance with a lot of emotional angst and some very spicy love scenes then definitely give this book a try. It will be published on July 29, 2014 but I did take a peek on Amazon and it is already available for pre-order.

I received this book as an advanced reader’s copy (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.

More Sex Scene Funnies

29 Jan

Late last year wrote a blog entry about some things that I found strange, disturbing and hilarious about sex scenes: https://romancefangirl.com/2013/08/ . One of my absolute favourite romance blogs, Smart Bitches Trashy Books recently published an article on sex scenes that had me rolling-on-the-floor-oh-my-goodness-I’m-going-to-wet-my-pants laughing. I then read all the comments that other romance fan girls like me made on the article and there commenced another round of undignified snorting and snickering. Any long time reader of romance novels is sure to have her (or his) particular pet peeve when it comes to these scenes.

Anyway, here is the link to the article:  http://smartbitchestrashybooks.com/blog/10-things-i-hate-about-sex-scenes. Enjoy y’all. If both these articles left something out that has you rolling your eyes when you read it, I’d love to hear from you!