Tag Archives: romance book reviews

Review: Darkest Before Dawn by Amelia Hutchins

23 Oct

DBD release 2

I was very excited to be asked to participate in this blog tour as I recently discovered Amelia Hutchins as an author through her Fae Chronicles series. Major book crack for me this author- complete with book hangover which saw me scrounging around Amazon looking for and failing to find similar books. I think I read the first three books in 5 days I couldn’t put them down!

Darkest Before Dawn takes us completely out of the world of the Fae and into a post- apocalyptic world whose population has been mostly decimated by a virus. Here’s the blurb at the back of the book:

Going through an apocalyptic event doesn’t mean the end of the world.

My dad is a modern day Noah, you know building an ark, trying to save folks and getting my brother, and I ready for the impending end of days – whatever that means.

Nothing in his prepper manuals had us ready for what actually happened.
I had nothing to prepare me for Jaeden and Lachlan. Heck, I don’t know of any girl that would have been prepared for those two.

There was nothing to prepare us for the things that go bump in the night or zombies, although now that I think on it, zombies might have been easier to deal with than what really happened. No, an apocalyptic event is just a set-up for things in our world to be shaken AND stirred.

What will rise from the ruins remains to be seen.

I’m not usually a fan of post apocalyptic stories as I find them too dark and depressing. AH manages to balance the inherent darkness of this kind of setting though with enough action and little snippets of humor that the story keeps rolling without falling down the well of being utterly depressing.

Some things that  bugged me a bit about the book:
• Although AH is self published I found that her Fae Chronicles books were very well edited. I DID however find a few typos/grammatical errors in this one. They were extremely few but if you’re a grammar nazi, then you’ll definitely pick up on them
• I love that AH writes kickass, tough heroines but I felt that Emma did sometimes cross over into being argumentative for the sake of being argumentative which occasionally annoyed me. She does however, have other redeeming qualities which pull her back into being a likeable heroine.
• There’s a bit of a love triangle and for the love of all that is holy I am OVER love triangles. This is a personal pet peeve though so if you don’t mind love triangles then this shouldn’t bother you at all. I felt that Emma clearly preferred and had more chemistry with Jaeden and Lachlan was almost a bit of an afterthought so didn’t see the point of throwing the possibility into the mix. Girl having to choose between a vampire and a werewolf just brought too many uncomfortable Twilight flashbacks for my liking.

Things that made me do a happy dance:
• Although there may be other more technically perfect writers out there AH has this gift of sucking you into a story and I found myself almost frantically reading and flipping pages wanting to find things out
• As with the Fae Chronicles there is that story arc of the heroine being a little more than she thought she was and who doesn’t love that kind of Cinderella story?
• Emma, although very headstrong and argumentative does balance this out by being extremely capable and compassionate. I like that she was the leader of the Ark and that it was a female dominated group. She doesn’t take stupid chances with herself and her crew and she can shoot really well.
• Here is something that may be good or bad depending on the kinds of books that you read: The steamy, sexy factor? Through the roof. Although I found the Fae Chronicles a lot racier, this is definitely not a closed bedroom door kind of book. Multiple, graphic sex scenes and orgasms ahoy, captain! Don’t say you weren’t warned!
• AH does tall, handsome and brooding alphahole heroes so if that is your catnip then prepare to squee. Jaeden is still a bit mysterious but as this book is very obviously the first in the series I have to say that he was interesting enough to catch my attention. I really also liked Lachlan, my aversion to love triangles aside. A special mention must be made of the supporting men who were really fun to read- I found it very entertaining to picture huge Scottish brogue speaking, kilt wearing men who happen to turn into wolves. The other men were Vikings. Scots and Vikings all in one book in Western America, gotta love it!

I do recommend this author as I believe she is a great storyteller and has a gift for sucking you right into her stories. I adored her Fae Chronicle series so if you haven’t checked them out yet please do. I am definitely looking forward to the next book in either of her series. Below is more information about the author and relevant links. Enjoy!

About The Author

Amelia lives in the great Pacific Northwest with her family. When not writing, she can be found on her page Erotica Book Club hanging out with her favorite book junkies. She’s an avid reader of everything paranormal romance.

 

Website – http://amelia-hutchins.com/

Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/authorameliahutchins

Twitter – https://twitter.com/AmeliaAuthor?utm_source=fb&utm_medium=fb&utm_campaign=AmeliaAuthor&utm_content=395219382722244608

Pinterest – http://www.pinterest.com/ameliahutchins/boards/

Goodreads – http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7092218.Amelia_Hutchins?from_search=true

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Good Books, Weird Covers and Weird Girls

1 Sep

I’m reading and enjoying some books by authors who may not necessarily as well known as some of the other authors I’ve reviewed in the past.

The first book I read that I really enjoyed is Code Name: Nina’s Choice by Natasza Waters. This is the third book in her warrior series and boy, are these books FUN. The books follow a team of Navy Seals (because in Romance land only the Special Forces count) and the women they fall in love with. The first two books are about Admiral Grayson Thane and Kayla, who is a Canadian analyst that started working for the team and has some serious emotional issues to work through. Aside from the romance, there is an overarching storyline about a serial killer who targets women in the base that the Navy Seal Team Alpha One are stationed at. This third book is about Mace Callahan and Nina- characters who I was introduced to and fell in love with in the previous books. The author does have some sort of background working at the Coronado Base (in San Diego, California) where most of the story takes place so I found the military jargon etc to be pretty realistic.

Everything else though? High emotion, screaming suspense, over the top drama- it’s almost like reading a military based soap opera and I LOVED IT. The characters are very likeable and the whole concept of “no man gets left behind” and teamwork gets taken to almost superhero, GI Joe levels. SO. MUCH. FUN. I actually got a book hangover from this book; it has that special crack quality to it. I may have to stalk this author’s page until the next book comes out. Think Kristen Ashley writing military suspense novels and you get the general flavour of these books.

Another book that I just started and am enjoying is Prisoner by Lia Silver. I discovered this author after listening to Jane from Dear Author talk about it on the Dear Bitches Smart Authors Podcast. This book is about a wolf-shifter marine who gets coerced into working for a top secret government laboratory as an assassin. It was hard to type that last sentence with a straight face but this is paranormal romance, people so realistic does not fall anywhere within our sphere of reading.

I’m only 60% into the book but so far am enjoying the dialogue between the hero and heroine. There is a fun sense of humor threaded throughout the story even though the premise seems a little grim. To give you an example, the hero’s werewolf scent name is Lechon which is Filipino for roast pig which really shows that the author doesn’t take herself or her characters too seriously as that’s about the least sexy code name you can come up with in my humble opinion.
I also like how the hero isn’t this perfect badass who can defeat 25 armed men singlehandedly, all the while never breaking a sweat on his perfect, tall, built, secret billionaire playboy philanthropist’s body. This hero is far from perfect. He’s of medium height (a mortal sin in romance land), suffers from debilitating dyslexia and talks too much when he’s stressed. He’s also kind and strong, darkly handsome and unfailingly loyal. I’m enjoying the slow build into romance and the friendship between the hero and heroine is a lot of fun to read. I can’t wait to finish the book and have signed up to this author’s newsletter so I get notified when the next book in the series comes out.

A sidenote is that the covers for BOTH these books are really ugly, like fugly ugly, and I almost didn’t buy them because of the supreme el cheapo effect of the cover art. In this case, do NOT judge the books by their covers. I’d give a solid 4 out of 5 stars for both them.

Prisoner L Silver Nina's Choice

In contrast, another book that had a pretty decent cover but one that I found to be a bit of a let- down was the third book in the Weird girls series by Cecy Robson, Cursed by Destiny.

Cursed by Destiny C Robson

This is the third book in the series and I really loved the first book and seriously liked the second. This series revolves around Celia Wird and her three sisters who all have strange powers due to a curse that a witch put on their family. Celia is a human who can shift into a tiger but also has the ability to pass through matter (cool right?). I really enjoyed the world building and learning about Celia and her sisters in the first book. I loved the sense of family and closeness and pack dynamics that I got there. I didn’t really like the love triangle between Celia, Aric the werewolf and Misha the master vampire (Twilight flashback). I didn’t mind it so much in the first two books because she clearly was with Aric and Misha was just so much fun to picture in my head. The third book though is where it gets a bit annoying.

Suffice it to say that Aric and Celia have a bit of a star-crossed love going as he is a pure-blooded shifter and must mate another shifter for the good of his race. It’s all very plausible in the context of the story and I really felt for the couple in the first two books. For some reason though, it just annoyed the heck out of me in the third book. I did at one point roll my eyes and wished with all my might that Aric would just get over himself already and that Celia would get over him already for the love of all that is furry. That said, the rest of the book was very well-written and I still am invested enough in the series to want to read the fourth book. So although I didn’t like it as much as the first two books I would still give this one three out of five stars.

Do you have any new authors you’re excited to talk about?

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

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: 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?