Review: In His Hands

tl;dr: amazing story about love, faith, and doing what’s right

The Story:

This series so far has been one hundred percent my jam. It combines a real plot with hot and steamy romance, the characters well-developed and the conflict completely absorbing. All three of Adriana Anders’ books in her Blank Canvas series take place in Blackwood, West Virginia, a small town settled in the mountains. Anders weaves interesting stories around a small but growing cast of central characters. However, each book is completely stand-alone, and reading them out of order won’t ruin the enjoyment of the books at all. It’s fun to see characters you’ve seen before pop up again, but you never feel like you’re missing large chunks of the story if you haven’t read them all.

In His Hands is the story of Luc Stanek and Abby Merkley. Luc owns a vineyard that is adjacent to a plot of land inhabited by a strict orthodox protestant cult. Abby is concerned about the lack of medical attention for the children, in particular an adolescent boy named Sammy. He exhibits signs of epilepsy and also has Downs Syndrome (which is identified by other characters since medical care is not part of the cult’s ethos), and she wants to earn money to get him out of there and get the care he needs. She asks Luc for a job, and he isn’t too keen on the idea as he is escaping his own demons and wants to be left alone.

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Review: Sexsomnia – Sleepless in Manhattan

tl;dr: some spice but a smidge too skeezy

The Story:

Consent is sexy.

It’s really not possible for non-consensual acts in a romance novel to ever be okay, at least in my eyes. In modern romance novels, the rapist doesn’t get the girl. (As he shouldn’t.) While rape isn’t particularly the problem between the hero and heroine in this book, the lines blurs where informed and enthusiastic consent can be given. And that part of it turned me completely off of this story and I just can’t redeem it.

The description of the book was entirely misleading. I assumed that the reason that Abigail withdrew her application from the administrative assistant position was due to the sexsomnia, but instead the plot is completely focused on how Abigail just thinks that Jayden is a huge jerk. Which, he is. He only becomes less of a jerk when he is jealous of her being within 50 feet of any other man and decides he has to commit to her in order to chill out his caveman self.

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Review: A New Leash on Love

tl;dr: story with life, loss, love, and adorable animals

The Story:

I have gotten a lot of stinkers since I started reviewing books for NetGalley. I don’t expect to be able to get access to the really amazing and established authors, but when I first signed up, I hoped to be able to read some less famous but equally good writers. Coming from fanfiction, where there are so many amazing amateur authors, it really makes you realize that not all the great writers are published. And that there are more authors than just those that wind up on the bestseller lists. The flip side of that, of course, is that sometimes published works are terrible, and not just because I didn’t enjoy them. I can fully acknowledge that some books I did not like were well-written and good; because I didn’t like them doesn’t mean they were terrible. (See my reviews for Eleanor & Park and The Royal We for books that are deserving of kudos but not my jam.)

That was a lot of rambling for me to say that my faith in my original mission of discovering amazing new writers has been restored. I loved this book. I don’t think I would go so far as to rate it as high up there as Tiffany Reisz (which, you all know, is my gold standard these days), but it was heartfelt, well-written, well-plotted, not entirely predictable, and just lovely. It had heart and lightness, it was both sad and happy at times, and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it.

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Review: The Red

tl;dr: completely insane but satisfying erotica fantasy

The Story:

If you are unfamiliar with Tiffany Reisz, you may want to mentally prepare yourself. This book is bananas, but in the best possible way. The Red is about a young woman named Mona, who comes from scandalous beginnings (her mother was a free love kinda gal, and invited a man to impregnate her without any strings because she wanted a child) and is now faced with a arduous task of saving her late mother’s gallery from financial ruin. She’s gone over the books, and the prognosis in grim. Right at the moment she decides she can’t fight it any longer and needs to sell it, a mysterious man shows up, and offers her the money it will take to bring the gallery back from its debts IF she agrees to submit to his sexual appetites with a carte blanche agreement.

Mona is intrigued by the man, and really doesn’t want to sell the gallery, so she agrees. They embark on a year-long steamy affair, where she is given hints about their encounters from a variety of paintings. He shows up every few months for many hours of debauchery, which begin to become strange and twisted, and nearly unbelievable. She wonders if her imagination is that good, or if he’s drugging her somehow.

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Review: The Cartographer

tl;dr: start from the beginning of this series for a wallop of a finish

The Story:

I have found that even when a series of romance novels tends to be a collection of “standalones”, reading previous books is an asset to the enjoyment of all followups. The books build on each other, creating a universe of world-building in a small section of the world, introducing people, places, and a sensibility that carries through to the rest of the books.

So while The Cartographer is a fantastic book, with a solid arc for both characters, a rich world, and sexy smut, there’s something missing for someone that begins reading a series from the final book. However, this book is simply fantastic, and I will be going back to read the previous 5.

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Review: Pregnant by the Billionaire

tl;dr: quick and cheesy read that’s fairly light hearted and sexy

The Story:

When Sawyer Locke experiences multitudes of setbacks trying to restore a hotel that’s been in his family for generations, likely due to his own father’s sabotage, he decides it’s time to hire a new PR team. It so happens to be the employer of a one-night stand he had that was apparently pretty great, but not so great that he called her after their night together. When they meet up again, he is game to go for another round, but Kendall is not so keen. Particularly when one of her colleagues just got fired for messing around with a client.

She doesn’t put up much of a fuss though, because she’s been really tired and horny lately. They end up embarking on a secret affair, and then Kendall finds out she’s actually pregnant from their tryst of two months before. Sawyer doesn’t think he’s dad material, of course, and Kendall is already on thin ice when her boss discovers she’s been banging their high profile client, and so Kendall cuts him off from her. In a series of sweeping gestures, they come together and decide to get engaged and have a real relationship.

Technical Elements:

The first thing about this book is that it’s totally fine. It’s a nice romance that doesn’t have much to complain about it. It’s a little cheesy. Some of the dialogue between the characters feels forced and unnatural. I felt that the absence of minor symptoms that could have been red flags for the pregnancy (sensitive nipples, etc) was unfortunate, because tiredness and sex dreams are barely the top of the iceberg, although it was nice that she didn’t just start hurling suddenly, as often is the case for accidental pregnancy stories.

My biggest complaint is that the mystery of who has been sabotaging the Grand Legacy’s construction is never truly revealed. There’s a scene between Sawyer and his father where the Mr. Locke asserts that his late first wife (Sawyer’s mother) had ties to people who were maybe on the dangerous side, but that plot is completely dropped. It seems that maybe the story will continue in another novel, but that seems ambitious for a category romance.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, this was a pretty fun read and I was engaged and interested in the two leads getting to their happily ever after. It wasn’t entirely rushed, although it could have been flushed out a teensy bit more. I would have liked more explicit flashbacks to their one night tryst, but the smut scenes we got were decent.

Find it at your local library!

Looking for more knocked up mamas? Maybe This Love by Jennifer Snow has a fun little twist on a pregnancy storyline. And there’s always the classic Susan Elizabeth Phillips novel Nobody’s Baby But Mine.


Review: My Roommate’s Girl

tl;dr: interesting twist on a ‘Jesse’s Girl’ type plot

The Story:

The plot of this book surprised me, because I envisioned that the chase would be the bulk of it, and while that’s sort of true, it’s not really. Aiden is your average asshole, who sees a pretty girl and decides he has to have her. He sets in motion a pretty awful plan to get a hooker to seduce her boyfriend, who happens to be his roommate. But this plot only covers the first few chapters. Once he finally seems to be making inroads into getting into her pants, Aster stuns him by revealing that she spoke to the hooker and she knows everything.

But before this big revelation, Aiden has been trying harder than he’s ever tried to get a girl. He remarks to himself a few times how strange it is that he can’t seem to let go of the chase, even if she doesn’t seem totally interested. Normally, he doesn’t continue chasing a girl that doesn’t seem interested in his advances, but something about Aster spurs him on. The flip side to that is that he actually begins to see her as a person instead of an object, and then, well, there’s feelings involved.

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Quick Reviews Edition #1

Apparently once I am on kid-duty 24/7, my time to review books goes completely out the window. But luckily I am still able to get some reading done, so here’s a quick recap of what I’ve been reading lately.

By The Hour by Roni Loren

The second book in the Pleasure Principle series, I didn’t love it as much as the first one but still very much enjoyed it. Elle is a very complex character and it was interesting to see her arc from bitter and cold shrew into vulnerable woman in love. Many times, I see these “woman betrayed and now don’t believe in love” stories and think, really? Some time and distance from that would probably make it not that big of a deal – but Elle’s past makes her present seem wholly justified. Geez. Plus, Lane was sexy as hell.

Readers Advisory: You would think sex workers in romance fiction would be more common, but the only example that comes to mind is Thorny from Tiffany Reisz’s The Queen, which is excellent.

Fool Me Once by Katee Robert

I had high hopes going into this one because the story involves a heroine that is a gamer and has a crippling social anxiety disorder, but despite how hot and sexy the smut was, I felt like the writing was a little amateur. Part of it was that clearly some establishing plot had taken place in the previous book in the series and was not well integrated into this one. Second, the opening scenes were rough and it was hard to get a good reading on the characters until the story was well along. The hero was a bit of an enigma, and I didn’t really get his character except that he was apparently very muscled and cocky, and also hated his parents.

Readers Advisory: For more ladies that enjoy stereotypically male things that are on the geeky side, check out Forever Mine by Erin Nicholas.

Sugar Bowl 1-3 by Sawyer Bennett

I was blown away by the first book in the series, and I have to review them all at once because none of these works as a standalone. I will say, heavy content warnings apply for this series because it begins with a horrific rape flashback, includes suicide attempts, and there is a revenge murder plot. But holy hell, it was intriguing and I was hooked from the first page. The chemistry between the hero and heroine is also topnotch and their reluctant romance is well plotted. There are few times I’m rooting for the bad guy to be killed dead, but this time, I wanted that sucker to go down.

Readers Advisory: This is an unusual pairing, but I just finished listening to You Must Remember This podcast‘s series on Dead Blondes. Highly recommend, particularly for the last episode in the series, on Dorothy Stratten, where the commoditization of beauty is a theme of the series.

Under Her Skin by Adriana Anders

Continuing in my deep, dark romance reads, this book was incredible. Content warning for domestic abuse and rape, and very brutal at that. The thing that I most loved about this story was how the hero was physically large, but she was able to use their romance as a way to begin her own healing, as she took on a more sexually dominant role in order to take back her power. Yes, their encounters were sexy, but there was also a lot of both characters doing some personal discovery, about how they could overcome destructive cycles and move forward.

Readers Advisory: There are two other books in this series which may be a good place to start (the third comes out this summer and I have the advanced copy — EEE!)

Too Hard To Forget by Tessa Bailey

I’d had this book on hold for quite awhile after reading some early reviews that stated the sex starts off right at the beginning. That’s not exactly true, in that there is at least one chapter of set up, but while it takes awhile for the hero and heroine to move forward with their relationship, there are plenty of flashbacks to tide you over. It’s a bit of a May/December romance, with a bit of single dad thrown in. This book obviously builds from the previous 2 that came before it, but in a way that doesn’t detract from the story at all.

Readers Advisory: When it comes to a coach and a buxom blonde, is there anything else to recommend other than the classic Susan Elizabeth Phillips novel It Had To Be You?

The Undateable by Sarah Title

Is there a more perfect feminist heroine than a librarian? They have the smarts, and can be either fully comfortable in their sexuality or maybe need a little coaxing to bloom. Now, if you’re looking for hot sexy times, this book doesn’t have it, but it was a very sweet and funny story that I enjoyed. It has fake dating, librarians, and memes. What more can you ask for? I know, you can ask for more smut. Sorry. You can’t have it all.

Readers Advisory: For a sexier version of fake dating with librarians, check out Sweet Surrender by Nina Lane. Plus, the librarian is the guy and he also builds cars.

I also have a couple of full length reviews coming up for Netgalley and Author-provided reviews, so stayed tuned for those!

Review: Heat

tl;dr: save yourself some pain and stay far away from this garbage fire

The Story:

I picked up this book because I got a publisher email. If you’ll recall, I also reviewed the author’s last release, A Fare To Remember. I didn’t think it could honestly get worse than that one. I figured it would be a quick read, a few laughs, and then I’d write a review that was essentially a rehashing of the last.

This book was so much worse than the one before it. I don’t even want to review it. First, the review copy that they sent me was barely readable. The formatting was awful and random words and numbers were inserted throughout the book. I had the worst time following it because of those things. And not only that, but the story itself was the most bored I’ve ever been while reading erotica. The prose was infantile and awful. The characters were worse than paper dolls.

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Review: The Wedding Date Bargain

tl;dr: sweet and sexy chemistry overrides the few technical faults

The story:

When reading the title of a book, a reader generally has some expectations about what’s to follow. But when it comes to this book, toss them. I have no idea why the book is titled ‘The Wedding Date Bargain’. The wedding is a 3 page non-event, and I don’t even know where the bargain comes from.

This is the actual story: college friends Max and Sarah reconnect after 8 years, and then reconnect AGAIN one week later. Sarah has always had the hots for Max, and the feeling is mutual. She threw herself at him in college, but apparently he has a White Knight complex and refused to tarnish her virtue, so they spend 8 years mooning over the one that got away. When Sarah ends up working for his friend Sean’s chain of hotels, she AGAIN tries to seduce him and he AGAIN says he can’t be the guy to pop her cherry, because it would give her the wrong impression or something. But when Sarah agrees, and decides she’ll find someone else to fix her ‘problem’, Max goes 110% caveman and offers himself as tribute, because he can’t stand the idea of anyone else touching her.

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