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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Quick Reviews No. 4

The Confessions by Tiffany Reisz

This is a must read for all Original Sinners fans, particularly if you’ve completely all 8 books in the main series. It’s pretty much an ending to it all, although the first half takes place somewhere around the timeline of The Saint.

Part one is Soren’s confession to Father Ballard, immediately when he meets Eleanor the first time and realizes the temptation before him. Part two is Nora’s confession years later, when she finds a photograph in Soren’s Bible that brings up all kinds of conflicting feelings. And then there’s a fun interview with the author at the end.

Readers Advisory: I mean, obviously if you haven’t read the rest of the Original Sinners series you should start from there with The Siren.

The Bourbon Thief by Tiffany Reisz

I love a good crazy-pants plot, and this one was totally bananas. But in the best way. Combine VC Andrews with a bourbon distillery and this is what you get. It’s Southern Gothic, and has lots going on. CW for incest and attempted rape. But trust me, if you can handle those, this book is totally a ride you should take, because it wraps up completely wonderfully in the end.

Readers Advisory: Criminal podcast did an episode on Pappy Van Winkle recently and it is paired perfectly with this book.

Rookie Move by Sarina Bowen

I love hockey romance, and I knew I would love this series. I’d actually heard a lot about book two, and decided to start from the first one, just because I was that confident that I’d love it, and usually I find that reading in published order makes for a better reading experience. I did, in fact, very much enjoy this book!

The heroine is the publicist for the Brooklyn Bruisers, a fictional hockey team set in–you guessed it!–Brooklyn, NY. The hero is a new trade from a college team, and the heroine and hero have some unfinished business from the past. The romance was great and I loved it!

Readers Advisory: Rachel Gibson’s See Jane Score wasn’t a hockey romance that I loved, but the heroine is a reporter, so it’s kind of similar.

Hard Hitter by Sarina Bowen

The second Brooklyn Bruisers book was by far my favorite (although once no. 4 comes out I may change my mind!) Here we have an aging player who is having some physical issues and a yoga instructor/massage therapist who needs to help him, although he has experienced trauma and doesn’t like to be touched. It’s incredible, and also the heroine has a lot of baggage from an abusive relationship that she needs to overcome.

The romance was sizzling hot and I loved seeing the hero come out of his shell and embrace some vulnerability.

Readers Advisory: Hard Knocks by Ruby Lang also has a hockey player with physical challenges and a health care professional, although this one is a neurologist and he has concussions.

Pipe Dreams by Sarina Bowen

This as-of-yet latest book in the series was maybe my least favorite of the three, but that’s like having to rate your three favorite candy bars. Someone’s gotta be in last place, but that definitely doesn’t mean you would toss it!

This one is another second chance romance where the hero and heroine were once together but the hero ends up going back to his estranged wife after she is diagnosed with cancer. You’ve got a single dad and a heroine who decides she’s done waiting for love and going to have a baby on her own. Can the hero win her back or is it too late?

Readers Advisory: For another hockey player romancing a woman who is planning to have a baby without a man, check out Maybe This Love by Jennifer Snow. Isn’t it funny when you can find books that have such similar plot threads but are so different?

Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

This was our book club pick for August. It took a really long time for me to get into the story, but once it picked up, it was really good. I liked all the little threads and how it all came together, but it is quite long. I’ve only watched a little bit of the mini series from HBO and wasn’t hooked enough to continue. This book has all the content warnings though. Domestic abuse, murder, a teenager attempting to auction off her virginity on the internet, etc.

Readers Advisory: This is going to be a out-of-nowhere recommendation, but I just finished the podcast In The Dark, and if you like drawn out mysteries revolving a crime and larger societal issues that are at stake, you will definitely enjoy it. (CW: for child rape and murder.)

I just finished a batch of reviews from advanced copies, so check those out. I’ve been reading a lot more than I’ve been reviewing, so I still have lots of books lined up for quick reviews. I should have a few more full reviews before the end of the year, so keep an eye out!

Review: Holiday Baby Bombshell

tl;dr: sweet Christmas story full of tropey goodness

The Story:

This story picks up almost immediately after Pregnant by the Billionaire, and follows the sister of the main character from that book as she deals with her pregnancy post-breakup to someone who she was falling in love with but has told her in no uncertain terms that he is not relationship material.

Charlotte Locke wants to get her life turned around. She’s been the family party girl all of her life, and now she wants to get serious about her real estate career and make a living so she can provide for her unborn baby. Her plan is to use her family connections to be the agent responsible for the luxury condos on the top floors of her brother’s hotel. There’s a giant wrench in the shape of her former lover thrown into the mix, however, as Michael Kelly is the agent that her brother has already picked for the listings.

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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: Follow

tl;dr: too much going on and not enough explanation in this dirty talk explosion

The Story:

Our story begins with Teresa Valentini, aspiring filmmaker and petty criminal, realizing that her younger brother has somehow gotten tied up in the seedy underbelly that had once claimed their father. Both of their parents are deceased, but while they were alive, they moved the family from New York to Los Angeles, escaping their shady past and starting over.

Teresa hops on a plane to rescue her brother, but Silas, the kingpin mafia don boss or whatever, refuses to let Nicholas go back to his former life. He instead makes a deal with her: she can retrieve his wayward son Will who took off on a road trip with his Great Dane, bring him back to New York, and only then will he allow Nicholas to leave his employ. Teresa feels she doesn’t have much choice, although she’s disturbed by Silas’ intimation that she’ll basically sex the son up enough to drag him home.

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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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Review: Play Dates

tl;dr: Undeveloped heroine but cute love story nonetheless

The Story:

When Monica Rayburn strikes up a conversation with a hot “Saturdaddy” at the park, she gets more than she’s bargained for. Colm asks her out to dinner and she accepts, but he makes a strange request: they don’t talk about their children and they keep it no-strings. Monica makes a half-hearted effort to correct his misconception—Emma is her niece, not her daughter—but then decides not to. After experiencing a super hot night together, Monica feels conflicted about the deception, although she believes that based on their agreement, she’ll probably never see him again. But Colm has decided that he likes Monica a lot, and wants to pursue things.

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