Review: Chase

tl;dr: mistaken identity story remains listless on the page

The Story:

Chase Garrett has rearranged his whole life for his fiancée, whom he catches cheating on him with his best friend in the opening pages of the book. With no property to go back to, he decides to be reckless and join the IBR, the International Bull Riding circuit, and doesn’t look back. On one of his rides, a little boy dashes across the arena, thinking that he is his late father. Riley Barrett doesn’t understand that this Chase is not the same man, due to some physical similarities and how similar his name is to his dad’s.

Madeline Barrett, on the other hand, feels overwhelmed at being a single mother. It’s been many months since her husband died while bull riding, and she is trying to plan for their financial security. She has a ton of brothers, all of whom want to help, but she won’t let them because of pride. When she sees Chase and the way that he connects with Riley, she begins to feel all those stirrings that she’d avoided in the months since her husband’s passing.

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Review: So Wicked

tl;dr: it was confusing in some ways and still confusing in many more ways

The story:

So Wicked is the third in a series of so-called Bad Behavior novels, although I think “nonsensical behavior” may have been more apt. Marshall and Alexis run into each other at the bar that Marshall is opening, with the financial backing of her ex-husband that she abandoned, along with her infant daughter, 6 years before. Marshall has a visceral reaction to seeing her again, and lets loose in a string of profanities that could turn a gal’s hair white. But sparks fly between them, and leads to something more. So far, interesting premise, right?

Spoilers follow, because I don’t think I can fully explain the bizarre trajectory of this novel otherwise.

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Review: Burn

tl;dr: weak heroine but great whodunit

The Story:

Someone is setting fire to an array of buildings set along the Riverfront district in Ridgefield, Connecticut, and it’s a veritable who’s-who of whodunits. That’s where the story begins, between a quivering real estate developer with a past and a handsome firefighter with a hero complex.

Chloe is trying to forge ahead with her career as a real estate wunderkind, flipping old abandoned warehouses into useable spaces with businesses on the ground floor below modern condominiums, revitalizing old with new. (An apt metaphor for her life.) Unfortunately, the building that is her current project goes up in flames, and she is considered a person of interest as all the evidence points to arson. Ryan was on the scene for the fire, and he’s training to be a fire inspector or something, so he is abreast of all the evidence that paints Chloe in a not so great light. Also, when he meets her, despite their immediate attraction, she’s pretty skittish and his spidey sense is alerted that she needs saving.

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Review: Love on Tap

tl;dr: okay novel that’ll leave you more thirsty for beer than romance

The Story:

You know that feeling you get when you see characters in a TV show eating something, and suddenly you are craving it like nobody’s business? This happened to me with this book. I’m dying for some beer. I’ll probably be running out to the store later, but first, I’ll tell you about this book.

Love on Tap brings two characters together from opposite sides of the supply chain. Wyatt Montgomery needs a spectacular beer to reinvigorate his struggling gastropub in Denver, and Bec Dempsey needs some capital to fuel her craft brewery after her ex took off with the funds and her heart. After Wyatt hears some whispering about a so-called legendary brew called Zoria, he packs up and heads to the town of Antero to find it.

Once he meets up with Bec, she sends him on this bizarre quest that has him tracking down the items needed to create a new barrel of beer, and all of the suppliers in turn send him on other errands. It begins to feel a bit like a video game racked with side quests. There’s even an evil villain by the name of Threadgood, who has slicked-back greasy hair and acts like a mafia don, who also wants to lay his hands on this legendary brew.

During the events of the quest, Bec and Wyatt begin to spend a lot of time together, and one thing leads to another… Of course, since Bec feels like mixing business and pleasure is a recipe for disaster, she keeps her emotional distance. Or does she?

Technical Elements:

The plot was fine, if mediocre. I didn’t expect the direct sabotage to the Zoria from Threadgood, and honestly, it didn’t make much sense. His character was too mustache-twirly to be believable; he wasn’t a well-rounded character at all. But neither were Bec and Wyatt, for that matter. They were cardboard cut-outs, and there was a lot of “telling” rather than showing. This book uses a lot of italic asides, in order to have some sort of weird back and forth in the minds of the characters, as if they were arguing with themselves. (“Did he really think that? No, he didn’t.”)

One thing that puzzled me a little was Colin. He’s the financial backer that took off. I fully expected him to return, maybe full of regrets, throwing a wrench between the couple before they could arrive at their HEA. But no, he’s mentioned, but never appears. It felt a bit like Chekhov’s ex-lover, he was given a lot of weight in the beginning of the story, but it never pays off in a real way.

Final Thoughts:

The most vibrant thing about the book was the craft brewing aspect, which was just enough detail to get a sense of it without being overwhelming. The romance wasn’t entirely convincing, and I had a hard time buying into it. I felt like Wyatt came on really strong, almost pushing Bec into a relationship she clearly didn’t want. But if you’re in the mood to read about falling in love over beer making, then this is probably a good bet, as long as you don’t think too much about it.


Not sure if this book is available at libraries, but you can see where it is available from here.

I can’t think of any other books that involve craft beer (a niche!) but for other pushy heroes, try Susan Elizabeth Phillips’ Nobody’s Baby But Mine.


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Review: Only Forever

tl;dr: paranormal romance with unclear mythology but interesting character arcs

The Story:

Anyone who knows me is aware of my rather myopic preferences on romance novels. I like contemporary romance. I don’t typically read any other sub genre, including but not limited to westerns, paranormal, science fiction, fantasy, and especially not historical. This also extends to other forms of media, including television and movies. I say all this up front because it colors how I feel about this book.

When I first began reading it, I was pretty surprised to find a very strong paranormal or magical element to the story, since the publisher’s description does not accurately represent this side of the story. It was glaringly obvious from the second chapter that something was afoot. There are some protestors outside of the archeological dig site that most of the book takes place at, and the leader of the protesting group shares a weird glance between herself and Sabrina, one of the main characters.

Sabrina gulped for air, realizing she’d been holding her breath for the moments she’d been trapped in the woman’s gaze. The discomfort that had enveloped her faded the farther they got from the gate, but a ghostly after-feeling remained, as if the encounter had dug up and resurrected something ancient inside her that had been buried deep eons ago.

I almost threw in the towel in that point, because I do not enjoy paranormal romance, particularly since I didn’t think it was supposed to be one. But let me be clear–this is a paranormal romance, with some sort of Celtic mythology about soulmates. This mythology is not explained very well, and actually, the author spends more time discussing the archeology setting than the paranormal premise of the novel, which is that Sabrina, despite being married to Dominic, is one half of a soulmate pair with Ian, her husband’s best friend.

The push and pull between the two soulmates was executed well, and the anguish they feel about having to stay apart is palpable. It dragged on for a very long time, though, and I felt like the impetus for them finally coming together was somewhat out of character for how Dominic is supposed to be (logical, hardworking). The jealousy and hurt feelings by everyone made sense, even for the other people on the dig who weren’t directly related, since it affected the whole environment to have hostilities between people who had leadership over the group.

In general, the characterization was mostly good, but I think that the similarities between Ian and Sabrina, and then between Dominic and Meggan, could have been a little more obvious, with more time spent on that than yet another sex scene that didn’t serve to further the plot. I also felt that the story maybe could have benefitted from some kind of prologue, maybe giving some explanation into the soulmate thing, giving a clear mythology to extrapolate the rest of the story from.

The conclusion was good, and left a fitting bookend to the story that was satisfying, leaving the reader able to imagine the new normal for all the main players.

Technical Elements:

I found the smut to be too crass and explicit. I’m not a huge fan of certain crude words for body parts, and this book was overloaded. There are 321 instances of the f-word. It was pretty gratuitous at times. A little can go a long way.

Some of the writing was also a little awkward, where some sentences weren’t as clear as they could have been. Example:

Dominic’s comments fisted Ian’s hands at his sides, but he held his anger in check.

Now, I know that the author here intends to describe how Dominic’s words caused Ian to feel anger, and therefore tighten his hands into fists, but the way it’s written here is as if comments could become sentient, grab hands, and manipulate them. There were a few of these scattered around, phrasing that I had to read and reread before I understood what they were supposed to mean.

Overall, I felt like the book could have done with some trimming of excess to make it a little tighter. I also felt like some themes were introduced in early chapters and completely dropped until the end; for example, Sabrina’s adventurousness in bed and Dominic’s preference for more straight-forward sex. In the entire middle of the book, it’s a non-issue, and I think that would have been a good way to show the divide between Sabrina and Dominic, and emphasize the similarities between Sabrina and Ian, but instead, it’s a non-issue until the very end. Even the growing chasm between the newlyweds isn’t apparent until the author points it out, instead of slowly introducing it over time, because all of a sudden, Dominic has no time for Sabrina anymore.

Final Thoughts:

I didn’t hate this book. That doesn’t sound like a glowing endorsement, but considering that I really dislike paranormal romance, and even more so that I didn’t feel like the mythology was well-explained at all, it’s a fairly positive reaction from me. Someone who enjoys Celtic mythology and adultery plots would probably really enjoy this, especially if they have a high tolerance for highly explicit (bordering on pornographic) smut. There were a lot of interesting interactions between characters, but I needed more. More explanation, more nuanced plot development, and maybe less sex. (Did I just type that? First time for everything, I guess.)


If you’re hoping to snag this book at your library, I think you’ll be out of luck. Keep an eye on editions here, and other places you can purchase it!

Looking for another book that contains adultery and a character named Megan? Try The Girl on the Train which is definitely NOT a romance. [Read my review!]


*** EBOOK PROVIDED BY NETGALLEY IN EXCHANGE FOR HONEST REVIEW ***

Review: Master Professor

tl;dr: fascinating setting for drawn out forbidden romantic tension

THE STORY:

There was already plenty of buzz about this book by the time I got my hands on it. And for good reason. The premise is titillating and unique, and has a forbidden romance that promises lots of sexytimes. Andie Lincoln has decided to get submissive training at an exclusive BDSM school, which is so exclusive that there are only ten spots for students. Her Hollywood boyfriend had to pull strings to get her in. Of course, her professor is sexy as all get out and things heat up between them fast.

Under his tutelage, she begins to learn a lot about herself and what she actually wants. Her initial questions are answered (yes, being a submissive works for her, really really works), and she begins to question whether or not her Hollywood boyfriend is really the man for her, after all.

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Review: A Bolt From The Blue

tl; dr: sweet and sexy romance that I’d love to see expanded

The story:

Even as a person merely in my early thirties, I’ve been noticing more and more than I’m older than most of the people in the novels I read. For some reason, it seems to be accepted as fact that 20-somethings are the only type of people that have interesting things happen to them, particularly in romance novels. Is that because it’s too depressing to envision people in their 40s and 50s and still unattached? Rather than depressing, we should find it hopeful–it’s never too late to find love.

A Bolt from the Blue is a ‘second-chance’ romance, since it is the second ‘love of your life’ for Hope Elliot. (See, even less depressing! Two true loves in one lifetime!) After nearly a lifetime away from the city she grew up in, Hope has to return to settle her late parents’ estate and deal with the personality clash that happens to be her sister. Things heat up–literally–when lightning strikes the house and starts a small fire, causing some damage to the house’s outdated electrical system. Hope is evidently a brazen old broad, because she wastes no time seducing Mick, the master electrician recommended to her by the first response unit. They embark on a sordid affair, one that Hope makes no secret is limited-time-only, since she fully intends to return to her home in France.

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Review: Maybe This Love

tl;dr: great story mired in awkward prose – less picky readers will love this

The story:

I hadn’t realized that hockey player romances were such a widespread phenomenon, but in the past few weeks, I’ve read 3 of them, all by different authors, and to varying degrees of enjoyment. I tend to compare most sports romance to Susan Elizabeth Phillips and her wonderful Chicago Stars series, which centers on a pro-football team and all the varying people involved in it. The thing that is particularly striking with that series is that the books don’t really need to be read in publication order. The stories stand on their own.

I think maybe that was the intention with this book too, but there were so many things I felt may have been cleared up in the previous books (which I did not read). This book uses a real hockey team (The Colorado Avalanche) but fails to ever mention which position Ben plays. (I think he might be captain, according to a brief mention of a C on his jersey. That means captain, right?) And much of the personality of the hero isn’t clearly established, leaving me to wonder if maybe his “playboy” persona is more clearly established in a previous book. He does get random calls from women on his phone a lot, but we don’t get a lot of evidence that he’s the womanizer the book claims that he is. (Particularly since they make a point to say he supports 3 children’s charities? Whaaaa…?)

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Review: Coming Home

Ugh.

So the cover is beautiful.

But this was not a novel. Or even a novella.

This was a very rough draft of an interesting story, that started near the very end of it. I wasn’t invested in any of the characters, because all the backstory was filled in by a bunch of info dumps scattered throughout. The characterization, particularly for the heroine, was scattered and hard to follow, and honestly, not very well thought out. I mean, is she tough or not? Can she take care of herself or not? Is she sassy or sweet? And her BROTHERS. OH. MY. GOODNESS. They may have well have bartered for her worth with the hero, because that whole scene was cringeworthy at best.

The emotions didn’t resonate because they weren’t earned. The smut took turns being sorta hot and then being completely weird. (Second book in a row where the lines “and she loved it!” feature during a sex scene. Just… why? If she’s encouraging it to continue, the reader can figure it out.)

A lot of this book made me cringe. “If Kansas were his woman she wouldn’t be walking the streets by herself late at night.” HIS WOMAN?

and

“Kansas was naturally beautiful and didn’t need the layers of makeup some women felt the need to trowel on.” But some women DO need it?

and “He went to her bookshelves and perused what was there. You could tell a lot about a person from their personal belongings.” Or he could ask her?

And then Tobias goes back and forth several times on how his past experiences in the DEA affected him. He says that he hated the man it made him, that it didn’t even help anyone, but in the end he’s proud of the work he did?

Ugh. I just can’t go on.

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Review: The Wingman

Overall, I enjoyed this book. It was a fun romance with some minimal drama, and I was eager to finish it. It wasn’t boring, and the writing is solid.

There were a few things that confused me a little, and partly it’s because I had a really hard time placing the book until about 20% in. It takes place in South Africa, a place I am wholly unfamiliar with. The cultural aesthetic seemed to be in between British and American, and so I kept wondering over and over where exactly this story was taking place. Finally, ‘Cape Town’ was mentioned, and I got it. I think that should have been cleared up within the first chapter. And because of my unfamiliarity with South African culture, some of the words choices may have been spot on but seemed a little too formal or too crude. For example, the words ‘bitches’ and ‘bitch’ were tossing around like pronouns, and it seemed excessive for what I’m used to. But maybe the word *is* tossed around a lot in South Africa?

The middle of the book was pretty good. Lots of believable family drama, and the insertion of Mason into the family dynamics was solid. Where the book lags is in the set up and in the conclusion. The set up was disjointing because there was a lot of exposition in weird asides, things that could have been weaved into the main storyline better. The conclusion felt laggy but rushed at the same time. I didn’t quite understand Mason’s reasons for pushing Daisy away. And of course, Daisy ending up in the hospital caused them to come together which is a little tropey, but it also made sense with the story and early plot developments.

Now, what most of you are here for: the smut. Ah, it needed a little work. Most of the foreplay was great – hot, leaving the reader wanting more, just enough to push the plot forward. But the actual sex was riddled with strange dialogue/thoughts from the characters. Example: “It was crazy, hot, and sexy, and Daisy loved it!” Complete with exclamation point. Also, it takes me aback when male bodies are referred to as “furry” and that’s supposed to be complimentary (in that instance it was his balls. I mean…?).

Overall, it was a quick read and I enjoyed it, despite the minor things that sometimes took me out of the story. Also, there’s a pomeranian named Peaches and a black lab named Cooper who fall in love. That’s excellence, right there.

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