Review: Stripped

I wanted to like this book. I really did. And it had a lot of great qualities. Some of the banter was really fun, and there was some good-ish female friendship stuff, but a lot of it for me got bogged down by poor characterizations and the focus was not on the parts that I was interested most in.

Zac Fallon is a male stripper, touring with a group of guys. He’s starting to feel a bit at loose ends. He’s older than the other guys (except for the manager who no longer strips? Maybe?) and now he feels like maybe he wants to settle down. He is definitely interested in the hottie that lives on the floor directly above him.

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Review: One and Only

I’m not going to lie. Part of the reason that I loved this book so much was because it was set in Canada, and referenced a lot of Canadian things and used Canadian ways of speaking. It was like going home to a place you love after a long time away. (Literally, in my case.)

Jane is in the wedding party of her dear friend Elise, who is driving them all a little insane with her Pinterest-perfect wedding plans. So of course, it’s defcon-1 when Elise realizes that her future brother-in-law is unexpectedly coming home after abruptly being discharged from the Canadian military, she decides he needs a babysitter to make sure that he doesn’t cause drama. And who else to do it but Reliable Jane?  Continue reading

Review: I Flipping Love You

The third installment in Helena Hunting’s Hooking Up series takes things in a somewhat different direction. While the first two are more solidly set in New York, this one lounges around the beachfront houses of the Hamptons. Pierce is Amalie’s brother, a lawyer and the current whipping boy of the family after an unfortunate paperwork mistake at his job as patent lawyer for his father’s doll company. He’s hiding in the Hampton’s with his brother, flipping houses, when his fancy car is hit by a woman who drives off after seeing what she’s done. When he thinks he’s found her in a random grocery store, he confronts her, only to find out that she is the twin of the person who actually hit his car.

Rian (pronounced Ryan) is worried about her financial situation, so she writes him a check and hopes that is the end of it, but apparently, Pierce decides that he is going to pursue her. And pursue her, he does. Somewhat relentlessly, but it’s okay, because she’s totally into it. I think. Continue reading

Review: All-American Cowboy

Dylann Crush is a new-to-me author and I have to say, I really enjoyed this book. I don’t typically gravitate towards “western” or cowboy romances, but I liked the look of this one, so I gave it a shot. And I’m glad I did!

All-American Cowboy is a fantastic fish-out-of-water romance novel. Beck, or Beckett Sullivan Holiday III, is in the lineage of the founders of Holiday, TX, a little podunk town that appears to be somewhat close to Hill Country (a region of Texas around Austin, San Antonio, and San Marcos, the latter of which is mentioned as the nearest city) that gets its income from the “oldest honky tonk in Texas”, the Rambling Rose. (Apparently, the actual oldest honky tonk is in Gruene — pronounced Green — and seems to have a similar charm.)  Continue reading

Review: Do Over

The hardest reviews to write are for books that we just kind of meh. I didn’t like the structure of this book, so that really made it go downhill for me. There is a lot to commend it for, the characters seem to be pretty fleshed out, which doesn’t always happen. But the entire back-and-forth non-linear structure really didn’t work for this book.

We start with Jack (although we don’t find out his name for like two chapters or something, and it’s really weird, and at one point, his son is accidentally referred to as Jack instead of Gabe, and that really threw me), who works construction with his two buddies, who are given just enough backstory for me to know they will be getting their own novels later. Jack is watching his son on a weekend that’s not his usual weekend, because his son’s mother has a work thing. I have to admit from the lackluster way that he refers to the baby mama, I had no idea that we were getting a romance between the two of them until the next chapter, which is through her POV (that’s the magic way to know, I guess).  Continue reading

Review: The One You Can’t Forget

Stories about school shootings are sadly never not relevant. In fact, the premise behind the tragedy that is the backdrop for the second installment in this series by Roni Loren is scarily prescient. I began reading this book the day of the Santa Fe shooting in Texas, trying to grapple with my own feelings about being so close to this latest preventable tragedy. The motive behind the fictional and the real murders appear to be unimaginably similar.

This book is barely about the shooting, however, and that’s how it should be. Tragedy shapes lives, but it doesn’t define them. Rebecca has to deal with a lot of the guilt that she has carried throughout the years, not only of being one of the few survivors, but also of her role in being the supposed inciting incident of one of the gunmen. There’s a lot to unpack here, which Loren doesn’t really spend much time on, but would make excellent discussion for a book group. Rebecca’s big secret shapes most of her life. She focuses on her career, trying to be the perfect daughter and career woman, taking pride in her efficient mask of productivity. The only problem is that she’s completely removed passion from her life in an effort to atone for past mistakes.

Wes Garrett has his own demons that he’s running from, but they are slightly less dramatic. After a series of poor choices, he’s now broke, teaching cooking classes at an alternative school for troubled youth. He was on the cusp of opening a fancy restaurant, having his photo in all the high end trade magazines, when a divorce completely knocked him off his feet, leading him to drown his sorrows in alcohol abuse. The catch is that the lawyer that represented his ex-wife is none other than Rebecca.

The romance between them goes in fits and starts, with both of them immediately recognizing their attraction to each other but trying to ignore it, while they are continually shoved into situations together out of coincidence. There’s great tension between them, from the agreement to be “friends who kiss” to the eventual “casual hook up” that turns into anything but.

Throughout the book, Wes has to deal with his tendency to run and hide in a bottle, and Rebecca has to come to terms with her PTSD and guilt over the shooting that occurred over a decade before. It all comes to a head with both of them having to set their fears aside in order to help a troubled kid.

If you are looking for tragedy porn here, look away. This book is not going to get into all of the whys and hows of school shootings, or any mass gun violence. This book focuses on the people who survive. And that’s where our attention should be.

free copy courtesy of NetGalley for review

Review: Easy Bake Lovin’

Georgia owns her own bakery, one that specializes in risque treats in the shape of certain anatomical areas, as a way to separate her life from her stuffy political family. Mike is just trying to get through the days since his ex-wife decided she didn’t want to be a mother anymore. When Mike goes to set up a security system in her bakery, the attraction is palpable. They quickly embark on a secret affair, and Mike is reluctant to bring her into his real life since he feels like he has to protect his kids.

Overall, this book was fairly enjoyable. The stakes are low and the whole thing is sorted out very quickly. It’s a short read. The most interesting part comes at the very end, when Mike’s sister comes back into town, bringing havoc and chaos with her. I imagine we’ll see more of her in the next book because she is also the ex of Mike’s co-worker, James. However, that little plot point had next to nothing to do with Mike and Georgia, except a tiny but of conflict where he admits something and his sister runs with it in an evil, kind of bitchy, way.

I did feel like this book had too much going on and not very much substance. There is a lot of plot, but most of it goes nowhere. Georgia’s high-powered and influential family is sort of an obstacle but not really. Mike’s kids are kind of making him reluctant, but not really.

It’s a cute, spunky story. I think it would make a great romantic comedy, but it was a little light on substance for a novel.

Review: Sit, Stay, Love

Kelsey is the lead adoption coordinator for High Grove Animal Shelter, and is feeling like she’s at a crossroads in her life. She left college abruptly after a humiliating post-coital rejection from her best male friend that sent her into a major depressive episode, but has been more or less content with her job. Her boss, Megan (who’s story was in the first book), has noticed her unease and a major project has fallen into her lap, and she eagerly assigns Kelsey to the task. What is the project, you ask? Rehabbing dozens of dogs who were in a cruel fighting ring.

Of course, Kelsey can’t do this alone, and ex-Marine Kurt ends up stepping in to help after an unfortunate meeting at the warehouse where the dogs are being temporarily held. (Yep, she barfs all over his shoes after being completely unprepared to see the injuries these poor pups have.) Kurt is just as reluctant to be rehabbed post-military as some of the dogs, but Kelsey’s calm nature and the old mansion that becomes the dog rehab headquarters begin to win him over.

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Review: Love Game

tl;dr: sexy banter but what is the hero thinking?!

The Story:

I read a lot of sports romances, but I’m not sure this one entirely counts as one. The hero and heroine are two coaches for teams that aren’t connected except for the university they both belong to, and the entire story takes place during the off-season of both sports. Kate coaches the women’s championship winning basketball team, and is a celebrated sports star in her own right, felled by an injury that led her to coaching at Wolcott. Danny has fallen from grace, a former coach for a high ranking college team who got caught in a recruitment scandal that cost him his job, his reputation, and his girlfriend, who jumped ship and married his younger brother.

Fresh off of Kate’s team’s latest championship win, she’s blindsided when she finds out that not only did the school hire a new football coach with a sordid past, but they also offered him double what they are paying her. She’s frustrated and angry, but she can’t deny the sparks that fly when she spars with her newest coworker. Her friend Millie, who also happens to be the publicist for the university, is egging on the rivalry because it gets lots of page views and clicks since it’s obvious that they have raging chemistry.

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Review: Barrelled Over

tl;dr: forgettable novel with too many characters and not enough heart

The Story:

Ava Grace Landy is a country superstar who rose to fame after winning a televised singing competition: essentially, she’s Carrie Underwood, although in this universe, she is competing with Ms Underwood for dollars and fans. Her new management team at her record label are threatening to kick her to the curb if she can’t reel in some male listeners, as apparently her entire fanbase is female.

In order to appease the directive, she decides to partner with her friend’s husband’s friend’s (phew!) bourbon distillery. It’s a unique boutique distillery, located in San Francisco rather than Kentucky, where most bourbon is made. Ava Grace decides rather quickly that she just has to have Beck, the guarded friend of her friend’s husband, who co-owns the distillery with two of his other friends (who no doubt have their own books complete with HEAs on the way).

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