Review: Too Beautiful to Break

tl;dr: too little explanation for character hangups

The Story:

The fourth and final book in the Romancing the Clarksons series, Too Beautiful To Break, finally gives us the romance between Belmont and Sage, a relationship that’s been simmering since book one, so obviously, I was looking forward to it.

But I was a little disappointed by this book. I felt like a lot of the trials in the previous books were handled better, but in this one, Belmont and Sage both have mental anguish and hang-ups that aren’t clearly defined in ways that make sense.

Let’s start with Belmont. He had a horrible event happen to him when he was young, where he spent several days at the bottom of an abandoned well. Belmont closes himself off from his family, and more specifically his younger brother, because of this. The reasons for why he feels like he has to do this make sense, but what doesn’t track is why Sage of all people can magically cure his anxious episodes. Aside from her being slight and pretty and somewhat dainty, she doesn’t seem to have a specific thing that makes him calmer. I also feel like Belmont’s general “I hate change” phobia doesn’t make as much sense as his apparent and understandable claustrophobia.

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Quick Reviews Edition #3

By Her Touch by Adriana Anders

I very much enjoyed this book, and it may have been my favorite out of the three in the series. It begins with Clay Navarro, an undercover cop, being discovered by the motorcycle gang he’s infiltrated. After barely escaping with his life, he finds Dr. George Hadley, a dermatologist that specializes in tattoo removal, particularly in the tattoo was not consented to (as we saw in the first book, Under Her Skin). Clay doesn’t want to be involved with her as he is still in danger, but obviously, love wins. The climax of the book was edge-of-your-seat fantastic.

Readers Advisory: Obviously, I highly recommend all the other books in this series. Dr. George plays a significant role in the first book, and Sheriff Clay Navarro turns up in the third.

Play by Kylie Scott

The circumstances leading up to the hero and heroine getting together did stretch my suspension of disbelief a little, but otherwise, the story was interesting and fun. There was a little drama to keep the plot moving, and part of it seemed a little melodramatic. Is that common with New Adult? It was definitely a lighter read than what I typically enjoy, but the characters were vibrant and the chemistry was hot.

Readers Advisory: There’s a smidgen of fake-relationship for publicity in this one, so if that’s a trope you love, check out Act Like It by Lucy Parker. You won’t regret it.

The Woman in Cabin 10 by Ruth Ware

This was our book club book for August. It took me a really long time to get invested into it, mostly because the story uses an unreliable narrator plot device, and I’m starting to get burned out on those. There were also a lot of characters to keep straight. One thing that I did really like about this book was how it handled the main character’s anxiety, and her reliance on medication to treat it. Many of the other characters are dismissive of that, and it really helps shine a light on how that feels, and how people who are anxious are sometimes unfairly dismissed as crazy.

Reader’s Advisory: This book was eerily reminiscent of The Girl On The Train, but in different ways. I have a feeling that many people who liked one will like the other.

Perv by Dakota Gray

I love a good erotic romance, but there was something about this book that just seemed a little bit off to me. The character motivations and abrupt turn around for both on how they felt and reacted to things seemed a little strange. It was a huge girl-wants-revenge plot, that got kind of crumpled up and tossed aside quickly. And the hero just completely changed his entire outlook on relationships because of one girl that got under his skin. Playboys that meet their kryptonite, and all it takes is for the girl to play hard to get, don’t really work for me.

Readers Advisory: For a really amazing girl revenge book, I highly recommend Sugar Daddy by Sawyer Bennett. Holy moly that was a great trilogy. The hero also loves giving head, if that’s one of your catnips.

Crazy Pucking Love by Cindi Madsen

Now, a forbidden love story with two people who are in sync both romantically and as people, and the reason they can’t be together is an overbearing older brother? That I’m into. I enjoyed this story very much because there’s a lot of backstory for both characters (that I believe may be addressed in previous books, I’m definitely planning on checking them out) that completely made sense for the plot and why the two main characters were resistant to be together. Also, I’m a sucker for a hockey romance.

Readers Advisory: I just finished reading the first three books in Sarina Bowen’s Brooklyn Bruisers series, so if you like hockey romance, I highly recommend you check those out.

Misbehaving by Tiffany Reisz

This was a short novella that was funny and cute, about a woman who writes a column about sex toys and needs a partner for a weekend to ‘try out’ a book all about sex positions. Who better to help her out than the one that got away? There’s not a lot of substance to this one, but it was short and cute and I always love all the funny jokes and asides that Reisz injects into her writings.

Readers Advisory: Tiffany has many of her short stories available for free on her website, so you should definitely check those out.

More full length reviews to come! Keep an eye out for a new Tessa Bailey and a DNF (sad).

Quick Reviews Edition #2

Another round of quick reviews since this summer has been crazy. I have slowed down a bit on the amount of reading that I’ve been doing and that makes me sad, but I am still enjoying a good book.

The Theory of Attraction by Delphine Dryden

I was pleasantly surprised by this book, and now only because it was set in Houston, near where I live. I found the chemistry between the two leads to be sexy and it was interesting to have a hero that wasn’t completely suave and sophisticated. In fact, Ivan is a bit of a mess in social circles. And it was a fun way to introduce the two characters together. Plus I love fake relationships.

Readers Advisory: For another book that includes a heroine newbie to the BDSM scene, I enjoyed Tara Sue Me’s Master Professor.

The Seduction Hypothesis by Delphine Dryden

This book is the second in the series that The Theory of Attraction is in, but it didn’t work as well for me. The hero is kind of an asshole, and it’s only through BDSM that he’s able to tame that part of himself? Reformed jerks are kind of a hard trope to play well. It’s usually better if he wasn’t a jerk at all, but there was a misunderstanding somewhere. But no, this guy is actually a jerk and kind of embodies some of the worst traits of toxic masculinity. There’s a fun subplot about conventions and cosplay though.

Readers Advisory: Another second chance romance that I enjoyed was Off The Clock by Roni Loren. Both have elements of BDSM, and also both have relative newbies to the scene.

Crimes Against A Book Club by Kathy Cooperman

This was our book club pick for July and it didn’t really interest me that much. The story got to be a little off its rocker and while the plot was somewhat interesting, it just didn’t grab me. I did find some of the overwhelmed stay-at-home-mom stuff to be quite relevant to me, but otherwise the book just didn’t have the power to suck me in. I’d consider it light, fluffy fiction.

Readers Advisory: If you just really like reading about book clubs and the lives of all the members, The Jane Austen Book Club was okay.

Crash Into You by Roni Loren

Now, I loved this book. It has everything I like: an interesting plot, sexy sexytimes, and two leads that are interesting yet flawed. It was a book that I found difficult to put down. The mystery was unexpected, and the conflict between the hero and heroine felt real and earned. Did I mention the sexytimes were sexy? Because they were.

Readers Advisory: I can’t currently think of any other books that have an undercover submissive and a second change romance coupled with a murder mystery, but if I think of one, I’ll update here.

Lick by Kylie Scott

Accidentally married in Vegas? A hot famous rock star and a barista? Sign me up! This has many of my favorite catnips. The only detractor for me was that the book is mostly New Adult, which means these are very young adults (early 20s) and some of the conflict that makes sense for youngin’s is a little old and stale for me. However, the relationship that blossoms between Ev and David is sweet and wonderful and a lot sexy. The rest of the bandmates were also well developed and I look forward to reading them all.

Readers Advisory: I have sadly not read many rock star romances, although I did enjoy the follow up to this one, Play.

Too Hot To Handle by Tessa Bailey

What I loved most about this book was that some normal stereotypes get flipped. In this book, it’s the man that is the “slut”. He’s realized that no one wants to have a relationship with him, all the women in his town see him as is a one-time good time, and a loser that named a bar after a dirty joke (it’s called the Liquor Hole…. say it out real slow). Jasper is trying to turn things around, and starting with Rita, a woman who just showed up out of the blue after her road trip van broke down, he wants to prove to himself that he can have a relationship that is more than just a one time thing. Rita has her own demons, and they fight them together.

Readers Advisory: This is another book that’s so unique I’m having a hard time finding something else to recommend along side it. I’ve been working my way through the other books in the series and so far I’ve enjoyed them!

Many of these books are available at your local library! Use to find a copy near you.

Review: Tempting Fate

tl;dr: a great story about native peoples and culture that I really enjoyed

The Story:

Naomi lives a solitary life, and has taken some time from her busy jewelry business to spend some time alone in the Colorado mountains. Unfortunately, her relaxing vacation is cut short when two escaped cons from a nearby prison accost her and assault her. She manages to get away, but falls and injures herself. She’s found the next day by Chaska, who is an emergency rescuer, his sister, and their “pet” wolf.

Chaska and his sister are members of the Lakota Nation, and slowly, Naomi begins to realize her roots are there, too. The story from there involves a lot of interesting aspects of tribal customs and ceremonies. Naomi gets a lot of questions about her past and future answered, along with the eventual capture of the two cons and a run-in with parts of Naomi’s past that she’d rather not revisit.

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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.

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