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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Review: The Ones That Got Away

tl;dr: a very touching story about love BLOOMING from the ashes of tragedy

The Story:

The Ones Who Got Away centers around a tragedy that happened 12 years before this book begins: the most deadly school shooting in America. It happened in the tiny fictional town of Long Acre, which is outside of Austin, TX. There’s a documentary being filmed about the incident, and so several of the survivors are coming back to talk on camera (or off camera) and be interviewed by the documentarian.

Olivia Arias and Finn Dorsey are two of those survivors, and this is a bit of a second-chance romance for them, as they sort of secretly dated in high school. In fact, they were “nearing second base” in a janitor’s closet when the shooting began. When the two heard the gunshots, Finn left the closet looking for his actual date, and he always has regretted this because he thinks it led Joseph, one of the gunmen, to Liv. However, Joseph didn’t shoot Liv, he just left her locked up in the closet. Instead, his mark appears to have been Finn’s date, Rebecca.

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Review: Dance With Me

tl;dr: great friends with benefits story that has a bit of a draggy middle

The Story:

Dance With Me picks up a few months after the end of Take The Lead, and brings us to Natasha’s life post-Gina. The first book in this series ends with Gina, Natasha’s roommate, best friend, and coworker on The Dance Off (a fictional Dancing with the Stars analog) leaving behind the realm of reality TV to star in a Broadway musical and hop around the world with her former dance partner and lover, Stone. It becomes clear pretty early on in the book that Natasha depended on Gina for a lot of things, and now that her support system is gone, she’s scrambling to pick up the pieces of her life and make her own way.

Natasha feels her life caving in on itself when the roof of her apartment literally caves in, destroying much of her clothing and furniture and leaving her home unlivable. She is struggling to pay her bills, she’s teaching half a dozen (or more) dance classes, and she keeps making questionable choices regarding money and men. When her frequent booty call partner, Dimitri, calls her up in the middle of her cleaning up the wreckage of her apartment, she snaps at him, something she doesn’t tend to do.

So Dimitri shows up at her place, hoping to use the opportunity to show her that he’s more than a good time guy. He convinces her to move into his giant house and lavishes her with attention, although he continually puts his foot in his mouth and makes her feel like a tramp. Natasha is nervous about the whole arrangement, because if word gets to the producers of The Dance Off about her shacking up with not only a coworker, but one of the judges, she’ll be in danger of losing her job.

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Review: A Cruel Kind of Beautiful

tl;dr: love story between two young adults is cute, but overall, lacking in chemistry and believability 

The Story:

By night, Jera is the drummer for The Red Letters, a rock band in Portland, Oregon. By day, she’s a struggling student, living in her late grandmother’s ancient house, and has completely sworn off relationships for one reason: she sucks in the sack. A newspaper tossed through her front window changes all of that, because Jacob, a fellow student with his own dark secrets, crashed into her life and she finds it nearly impossible to stick to her no-romance rule.

The book follows her push-and-pull with Jacob, discovers his back story, and also the rise and fall and rise again of her band, with her bandmates own troubles in the background. Jera tries to fill her time with concern over her classes and her band, and relegates Jacob to a friend in order to protect herself. Her last relationship went awry when she was apparently so not-turned-on in bed that it caused her ex-boyfriend to be unable to perform, even after they broke up, and his haunting confessional voicemail that she keeps on her phone as a reminder makes her want to avoid going there with Jacob.

Technical Elements:

My biggest issue with this book is that there’s too much going on, and that not enough time is taken to fully develop any of the characters. I didn’t feel like Jacob himself was a real character, and he just was there, with this slowly revealed tragic backstory. The Jacob we’re introduced to at the beginning doesn’t vibe with what we’re told about him, and the difference is so stark, that I had a hard time melding the two Jacobs together. I also didn’t really feel the connection between Jera and Jacob.

The bad-at-sex plot was also uneven. We get some pieces of why she feels that she’s bad at sex, but then once she fully gives herself over to Jacob and the prospect of a relationship, she’s suddenly cured. I didn’t buy into that at all. It was too convenient. Here’s the thing: this is a new adult romance. Jacob himself isn’t even old enough to buy a beer. I just don’t have the suspension of disbelief that a guy this young is that good at sex. Now, if the story had gone the way that I was sort of thinking, that maybe Jacob was incredibly kinky or even maybe had a dark secret as a male escort (truly what I was starting to think, with his secrecy over his schedule and not allowing Jera into his bedroom), then I would have maybe believed he could cure her of her supposed frigidity. But as the story stands, I didn’t feel it.

I also bought more into the chemistry between Jera and her male best friend Danny, and thought they should have ended up together.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, this isn’t a bad book. Personally, I feel like the first person present tense style that it’s written in does a disservice to the story. Third person past tense would have allowed more room for all the characters to breathe. It’s also not the kind of story that benefits from present tense, as there’s not really any real suspense. I had a hard time staying invested in the story because I just didn’t feel the relationship, but other readers may really connect with Jacob and Jera. Also, there’s lots of great music competence porn, so if that’s your catnip, you’ll really like that.

This book is unavailable at libraries. Check this link for ways to purchase from your favorite retailer.

For other musician romance novels, check out Kylie Scott’s Stage Dive series, starting with Lick.


Review: Dirty Scoundrel

tl;dr: the premise alone gets an F from me

The Story:

The synopsis is way too kind on the actual set up of this book. If I had known what I was actually getting into, I never would have picked this up. Clay Price, the hero, is a disgusting misogynist asshole. He completely takes advantage of Natalie, who is down on her luck and desperate.

The synopsis makes it sound like Clay comes in and offers her a legitimate job and the sexytimes are implied. No. He basically tells her that the “assisting” he needs is with his dick. He continually brings up that he paid for her body. She is self-conscious about the weight she’s gained since they first dated, and he brushes her feelings under the rug as unimportant. He essentially tells her that he still finds her screwable so she should be happy with her looks. And then, when she has real and complex feelings about her relationship with her father, he completely dismisses those, too.

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Review: Close To Heaven

tl;dr: cute Christmas story with a too-long epilogue

The Story:

If you have read any of the other books in the Colorado High Country series (which I’ve only read one, and I loved it), then you already know Rain and Joe. Rain is the vivacious waitress at the pub that Joe owns in the small town of Scarlet Springs. I do not recall reading any whispers of Joe and Rain being romantic towards each other in the book I did read, but in this one, the whole town apparently knows about the attraction between the two.

Joe, for his part, doesn’t want to make any advances toward Rain because he feels that as her employer, that would make him an asshole. (He’s not wrong; in general, it’s a shitty thing to do.) But it goes beyond that, as when Rain’s house crumbles under a record-breaking snowfall and needs to seek shelter at Joe’s place, she discovers some journals in his library. Those journals are from Silas Moffatt, the great-great grandfather of Joe, who owned the town’s silver mine and caused a wave of destruction and murder and rape that Joe feels ashamed of.

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Review: Michael’s Wings

tl;dr: wonderful and heartwarming edition to the Original Sinners canon

The Story:

If you have read and enjoyed Tiffany Reisz’s Original Sinners books (which I have), then this novella is a lovely addition to the overall canon. It fills in some blanks that weren’t addressed by the main series about the engagement of Michael and Griffin, the circumstances leading up to popping the question and then some fun times with Mistress Nora in her play room. It’s a sweet story about a lot of things that have come up in Michael’s life; how he’s dealing with them, how the age difference between him and Griffin affects their relationship, and other outside influences.

This book is actually a collection of novellas, but the first story, Michael’s Wings, is a new one for this fan. The other stories were previously freebies on her website (but have since been removed because of this publication). Some highlights include Gauze, where Michael has to overcome something that gives him PTSD to his suicide attempt, and Christmas in 37A, detailing a time where Griffin and Michael went through a bit of a hurdle in their relationship. All are delightful details that really round out the relationship between these two men.

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Review: Totally His

tl;dr: sexy fling between cop and actress thwarted by con man father

The Story:

I was incredibly underwhelmed by the previous book in this series, but decided to give this one a try since I hadn’t disliked the writing of the other book, just the plotting. And while this book suffers from a few of the same problems, the general arc of the story is much more compelling.

Finn Kelly spots a lingerie clad actress trying to sneak back into her burning theater, and follows her inside to make sure that she isn’t in danger. Sophie Birch is desperate to save the only copy of a script she feels will be a game changer for her small theater. Of course, with so much skin on display, Finn is really feeling the heat in the room. And Sophie is really digging the heroic cop display from Finn.

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Review: Take The Lead

tl;dr: sexy Dancing With The Stars-esque romance by #ownvoices author

The Story:

I want to start by saying that I loved this story. It was something I’d heard some buzz about and decided to read because of that. I was so happy that I did! Reality TV isn’t really something I enjoy, but this book really doesn’t require much investment into that, as the settings and characters are so richly developed.

Gina Morales is on her third season of The Dance Off as a professional dancer, and she’s got the trophy in her sight. So when her producers take her into a remote region of Alaska to meet this season’s partner, she’s hoping for some kind of superstar athlete, but instead, meets Stone. Her tongue nearly falls out of her mouth after she spots him for the first time, bare chested and swinging an axe. Stone Nielson turns out to be a mountain man, part of a reality show of his own, that follows his family living off the grid in the wilds of Alaska.

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