Jacob’s Ladder: Gabe by Katie Ashley

Blurb:
36287261As the lead songwriter for Jacob’s Ladder, the last thing Gabe Renard needs is a debilitating case of writer’s block. After years of meaningless one night stands, he’s finding it hard to pen the love-filled ballads the label is requesting. In an effort to clear his mind, Gabe takes his jeep off-roading in the North Georgia Mountains. When a wrong-turn leads to him getting stuck more than just creatively, he’s forced to call for help. To his surprise, the “Ray” who has been sent by Hart Wreckers to his aid is actually “Rae”—a sexy-as-hell spitfire in a pair of tight-as-hell jeans. The combination of Rae’s sassy mouth and rocking body might be the inspiration Gabe needs. But for the first time since becoming a rock star, his advances have been shot down.

Reagan Hart has never been a fan of musicians. In fact, just the mention of one might cause her to throw a tire tool. Her disgust for them started when she was just eight and her mother ran off with a traveling country singer, and it only worsened when at seventeen, her rocker boyfriend knocked her up before blowing out of town. As a single mother taking care of her family’s collision business, Rae doesn’t have time for hook ups, much less a relationship. And if she did make time, a musician would be last on her list, even one as good-looking as Gabe Renard.

Can Gabe find the words to prove not only to Rae, but himself, that she’s the only one for him?

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My Review:
2.5 stars — I received a free copy in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

I’ve never read a book by Ms. Ashley, and I have a feeling we are just not a match.  It happens.  I do believe she’s a very popular author, so take my review with a grain of salt.  From what I could tell, this appears to be a spin-off book of another series of hers, so for fans I’m sure this is much anticipated!  I just can’t help but be sucked into celebrity stories, so that was my draw and the reason I requested.  Especially celebrities that fall in love with “normal” people.

In the end I didn’t really like either character that much.  Don’t get me wrong, they both had great moments, but in general I just couldn’t empathize with either.  And oddly, the sweet moments felt inconsistent with the other moments where Gabe seemed like a huge egotistical self-absorbed entitled dick, and Rae seemed like an overreacting irrational witch with a b.  I think I’m just not meant to read books about characters with volatile emotions.  I also tend to prefer more subtle characteristics, occasionally they felt like caricatures if that makes sense.  Just a bit too over the top and didn’t strike me as completely realistic.  Or maybe it’s just that these are not the type of people I would want to hang around with.  Again, this is really just a personality conflict between me and the story.  Won’t necessarily be a problem for others.

There were a few moments where I really felt the chemistry between Gabe and Rae and it worked for me.  I LOVED the scene where they were baking brownies, and everything that happened afterwards (other than the overreaction).  But that was about it for me.  The book felt very sex focused.  I didn’t really feel the falling in love part as much.  I didn’t swoon over the comments that Gabe made, quite the opposite…which is probably why the steamy stuff didn’t really work as well for me.  Again, just not a good fit.

One thing that actually really surprised me is that I LOVED Rae’s son Linc.  I’m not a kid person usually, but he came across sweet, but still a realistic 9 year old.  I loved how he colluded with Gabe, and I really loved some of the scenes at the end (especially the first epilogue).  Rae’s sisters also seemed pretty cool, as did her Aunt Sadie.  And while I’m not interested in reading any more in this series, Eli intrigued me.  I’m sure fans of this author will look forward to his story.

I will note that my advanced copy was LITTERED with mistakes, it did not read like a final copy.  And while ARCs aren’t always the final copy, this felt *quite* rough.  There is the possibility that after sending out the ARCs, the author sent this to a proofreader and the final copy will be more polished.  But I feel like that’s unlikely.  So if this kind of thing really bothers you, proceed with caution (maybe try the sample).

So yeah.  I know this seems like a really bummer review.  I was kind of bummed.  But it wasn’t a horrible book, it just wasn’t a me book.  It wasn’t a book I devoured.  And it wasn’t a book where I fell in love with my main characters, which I kind of need to truly enjoy a book.  But it was also not awful by any stretch, hence the rounding up.  It really was mostly just a case of the reader not matching up with the author’s writing.  I hope others have more luck.

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Merrily in Love by Melissa West

Blurb:
36313195The Littleton brothers are as much a part of Crestler’s Key as the sun and surf, living the single life without a care. But love has a way of changing even the most determined bachelor’s mind . . . 

Brady Littleton has left his reckless youth behind to become a man his brothers can count on. When the family dive shop needs to expand, he’s got the answer: buy the Christmas shop next door. Except the retiring owner’s goddaughter, Kylie Waters, has come back to town. She was Brady’s first kiss—his first everything—and she doesn’t want to sell. He’s got a solution to that too. Whoever makes the most sales by Christmas Day can take over the shop, fair and square.

Kylie resolved to put the youngest, wildest Littleton brother out of her head when he abruptly ended their relationship years ago. But the steady, gorgeous man he’s become is impossible to ignore. Especially once reminiscing leads to a kiss as hot and heady as mulled wine. Their deal means that one of them is going to lose out on a dream…unless Christmas Day brings the gift of a sweet, surprising second chance…

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My Review:
3.5 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

This one had its ups and downs for me, but I finished it with a smile on my face, and shed a few tears (well, more than a few, but I’m blaming PMS for the overreaction), so I’m calling it a win.

Both Kylie and Brady spent a lot of time aggravating me.  But I also felt for both of them.  Kylie with her fear of abandonment issues.  Brady with his over the top sense of guilt when it came to his family.  So while I wanted to smack them for some of the decisions they made, and how long it took for them to grow, I also felt for them and how their past and choices had scarred them.

And even as aggravating as they both were, they were also really endearing!  They could be really sweet, and some of the moments when they were together actually had me sighing in happiness and swooning.  You can’t go wrong with swooning.

Honestly, the only reason it’s not a full 4 stars is that I always find it aggravating (jeez, is that like my word of the day or something?) when authors elude to something in the past, but don’t just explain it to the readers.  Like in this book, we know something happened to break up our characters, break both of their hearts, have them each blame the other, and develop some animosity.  But the author just kept teasing us with it, occasionally dropping breadcrumbs.  Eventually it was basically explained, but it’s the kind of literary technique that just makes me want to abandon a book…because I spend so much time wondering what happened, that I just want to skip pages to find out.  Not always, I do get that there are certain instances where it makes sense, but I honestly don’t understand what the point was of keeping the reader in the dark in this case.  But I’m about to get ranty about something that’s really rather small, so I’m gonna stop.

I must say, I did NOT like either of Brady’s brothers…they were kind of selfish and not understanding.  I got their worry, but they were kind of dicks about some stuff.  However, Brady’s parents were da bomb.  And Franny and Ally rounded out our fabulous secondary characters nicely.

So yeah.  Some aggravation, but a WHOLE LOT of swooning too.  I mean come on, the whole ending was one big swoonfest.  So all in all a winner.

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The Jingle Bell Bride by Scarlet Wilson

Blurb:
36183707New York wedding planner Jessica Christie always goes above and beyond for her clients. So, stopping in Alaska to pick up the famed Jingle Bell flower for her famous client’s bouquet doesn’t seem too outrageous–until she ends up stranded there.

Matt Holden has spent the last five years since his fiancée died, living in a virtual bubble in Alaska. His research work as a botanist and assistant at the local reindeer farm keep him busy during the holidays.

But when Jessica Christie bursts into his life, all bets are off. Her stay is definitely temporary, but the feelings she ignites aren’t. Could Ms. Oh-So-Wrong actually be Mrs. Right?

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My Review:
3 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

Hmmm…well, this one started off pretty good.  I was intrigued, I thought the premise seemed interesting.  But at some point my interest waned.  And I never really got it back.  It wasn’t a bad book, but it was very very meh.  If I wasn’t reading towards a challenge and this wasn’t a NetGalley ARC, I probably would have just abandoned it in favour of something that would better keep my attention.

In the end I think I just wasn’t that enamoured with our characters.  Maybe I just didn’t quite understand what made them tick.  I just wasn’t able to fall in love with either of them.  Jessica was SOOOOO high strung, and I couldn’t understand the disconnect between her celebrity wedding planner life and her supposed dream of a bookstore.  Like they were pretty far apart, so she kind of felt like 2 different people.  I did like when she was sweet, and how understanding she could be with Matt.  And she felt very child-like at times.  I just don’t get how that child-likeness remained in the life she led.  *shrugs*

And Matt had his own good moments, but he was also kind of dismissive of certain things about Jessica, poo-pooing her job and certain aspects of her personality.  I get that that wasn’t necessarily the “real” her, but then again, it has to be somewhat her.  Just seemed kind of dick-ish.

And their chemistry was only OK for me.  It was slow slow slow, and then all of a sudden it kind of turned really fast.  And while they acknowledged that the love was fast, that just felt like lampshading…saying it was fast doesn’t discount that it was honestly unbelievably fast.

I liked the magic of Alaska though, and that atmosphere.  I enjoyed the reindeer, though I can always stand for more reindeer…as my husband said, could use more ungulates.

So yeah.  Not a terrible book by any means, just didn’t capture my attention.

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Deck the Halls by Donna Alward

Blurb:
35965582With shades of It’s a Wonderful Life, one man must face his past to find his future this Christmas.

In the last year, George’s life has drastically changed. The formerly homeless veteran now has a job he likes, a family in the residents of Darling, VT, and for the first time in years, a home. But while his present is good, he’s still haunted by the past, a past that appears shortly before Christmas when the older sister of his brother-in-arms hunts him down and finds him in Darling, working at the Ladybug Garden Center.

Amy’s looking for closure for her family after her brother’s death in the Middle East, but the serious man she finds working in Vermont doesn’t resemble the soldier she remembers from years before. This man is hardened and yet somehow fragile, too, and in her desire to find out what really happened to her brother, she learns more about George than she ever expected.

With a little Christmas magic and the whole town supporting them, can these two bruised hearts make a future together?

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My Review:
4 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

I have never read any books by Ms. Alward before, and thus none in this series.  But I had no problems following along with everything.  I will say that if you are a fan of the series, I think you’ll love this book too as many of the other couples appear in it (and it sounds like George made appearances in many of those books as well).

This was a solid Christmas romance, with a great redemption plot.  It touches on many serious subjects, from what it’s like for returning veterans, survivor’s guilt, homelessness, and the struggle to climb out of being homeless.  I especially enjoyed that last bit, as I think we forget that there’s so much to overcome mentally and emotionally.  We really got to see how being homeless affected George’s self-esteem and his sense of self-worth.

George was a bit of an oddball hero for me.  We meet him when he’s so very damaged, and he came across quite meek a lot of the time.  Sometimes I just had a hard time getting a read on his personality outside of his damage, if that makes sense.

Amy, on the other hand, was very straightforward!  I loved how strong she was in so many things, how she wouldn’t give up on George no matter how many roadblocks he tried to put between them.  And I liked that when they would have disagreements, she never held onto a grudge, and she was quick to try to see things from his perspective and adjust her expectations.  But at the same time, she wasn’t afraid to push him a bit.  I also appreciated that she had her own bit of damage, but that she was a bit further along the healing path…not healed, but with more mental tools I guess.

All in all this was a sweet love story, with a very satisfying ending.  I was a bit bummed that there wasn’t more to the “It’s a Wonderful Life” bit that is mentioned in the blurb, but there was enough else in the story to make up for it.

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Hooking Up by Helena Hunting

Blurb:
35048632Amalie Whitfield is the picture of a blushing bride during her wedding reception–but for all the wrong reasons. Instead of proclaiming his undying love, her husband can be heard, by Amalie and their guests, getting off with someone else. She has every reason to freak out, and in a moment of insanity, she throws herself at the first hot-blooded male she sees. But he’s not interested in becoming her revenge screw.

Mortified and desperate to escape the post-wedding drama, Amalie decides to go on her honeymoon alone, only to find the man who rejected her also heading to the same tiny island for work. But this time he isn’t holding back. She should know better than to sleep with someone she knows, but she can’t seem to resist him.

They might agree that what happens on the island should stay on the island, but neither one can deny that their attraction is more than just physical.

Filled with hilariously scandalous situations and enough sexual chemistry to power an airplane from New York City to the South Pacific, Hooking Up is the next standalone, laugh-out-loud romantic comedy from Helena Hunting, the New York Times bestselling author of the Pucked series and Shacking Up.

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My Review:
3.5 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

I think I wanted to like this one more than I actually did, mostly because I know people who loved it.  But in the end I try to look at how sucked in I am by a book, and if I don’t find myself clamoring for any spare minutes to read, then it’s not likely a “loved it” book.  I will note that I have not read Shacking Up yet, and while this book is not listed as being part of a series, it does appear to be an unofficial series (in that our hero and heroine were likely introduced in Shacking Up, and the hero and heroine of Shacking Up appear quite a lot in this book).  So do with that information as you will.

Can I just say that I find it really silly to request that the hero’s name not be mentioned in the review?  I mean, what’s the likelihood that’s actually going to work?  If it’s not a series, then what would it matter if people knew his name?  Aha!  Caught you.  😛  I shall call him Hottie Hook-up, but honestly, others have already mentioned his name, so it seems a pointless exercise.

This book started off really good actually.  I LOVED the prologue, loved the way Hottie Hook-up and Amalie first meet, and thus am heartbroken when stupid Armstrong gets his claws in there.  And for the first half of the book, I actually was pulled in by the chemistry between Amalie and Hottie and the humour, even if I had other qualms.  But as the book went on, my qualms remained (and got worse) and I became concerned with the lack of development of an emotional relationship between Amie and Hottie.  Honestly, I became frustrated with their relationship in general.  I guess I just didn’t like how it all played out in the end, and I wanted things that weren’t happening.  And then the ending left me ridiculously confused.  Like, the last chapter before the epilogue, I thought they were sort of breaking up…ish.  And then I turn the page and it’s the epilogue.  And then I get a glossed over recap of what’s been happening, and how things developed and were “resolved”, and basically I was soooooo unsatisfied.  And that’s when my rating changed from rounding up to rounding down.  Perhaps it’s even just a solid 3 star at this point, but I still enjoyed Hottie, so he earns the half a star.

So what were my qualms?  Uh, am I the only one that basically felt that Armstrong was really mentally/emotionally abusive?  Telling her what to wear, how she should appear in public, basically planning her whole life around him.  I mean, there’s bad guys and then there’s Armstrong.  He was too evil.  Why?  Because he should be getting psychiatric help, and no one seems to want to do that.  You can have him be a dick and have that relationship dissolve without making him out to be what is essentially a sociopath.  And because I felt that he was abusive, while I applaud Amie for sticking to her guns and getting out of the relationship (showing strength at each turn that he screwed with her), she was still IN an abusive relationship for what sounds like at least a year, and so she probably could have used some counselling.  Or someone who understood that.  I don’t know.  I was really disturbed, and I just felt like the matter wasn’t treated with the gravity it deserved.  Either it needed to be toned down, or it needed to be addressed.  At least in my opinion.

And in a similar vein, I never really felt I saw Amie’s growth.  I’m not sure she did grow.  We’re told she did, but I didn’t see it or feel it.  I also really don’t know all that much about her.  I mean, she’s sassy, she has a healthy sexual appetite and a sense of adventure (which again, just goes to show how abusive Armstrong was), and apparently she has some aptitude for makeup.  But what else was there?  Did I miss it?  She wasn’t really my favourite.  She does a lot of running, a bit of using of Hottie, and by the end she’s still kind of uncertain and insecure.

Hottie was a more likeable character for me.  I was still fairly unimpressed with his history with Armstrong, and his inability to do something about Armstrong (well, for his whole family’s inability to just draw a line in the sand with that sociopath…like, really, they’re still going to invite him to functions?  No).  Basically Armstrong brought out the worst in Hottie.  And quite frankly, I wasn’t always impressed with the way his own desire for Amie would result in him pushing her past her comfort zone with basically no regard for her mental well-being.  At least he actually showed growth in those things though.  BUT, when you remove those two aspects, Hottie was actually super sweet, dirty, sarcastic, thoughtful, hardworking, and we actually got to see his personality a bit more.  He saved a lot of this book.

As for their relationship, well it was very sex-focused.  We were told they had lots of moments where they just talked and basically dated, but we, the readers, didn’t actually get to see any of that happening.  And so I don’t quite understand what they love about each other.  They definitely love the sex.  But isn’t that just lust then?

So yeah.  Bummer.  I was really hoping to love this one.  I’ll still give Shacking Up a try, as it seems that a few other reviewers who didn’t see the emotions in this one enjoyed that one more.  This book excels at the sex scenes, and the dirty humour (though I tend to cringe with certain terms, like taco), so I can definitely recommend it on those aspects.  But if you NEED a bit more emotional connection, personally it just didn’t work for me.

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Chance of a Lifetime by Marissa Clarke

Blurb:
26136108Sometimes the biggest risk is playing it safe…

Gen Richards is tired of living down to her family’s expectation of the helpless blind girl. Resurrecting her high-school bucket list that begins with “kiss a total stranger” seems just the thing until she finds herself in a panty-melting lip lock with her big brother’s best friend.

Chance Anderson thrives on adrenaline, but Genny’s the one risk he’s not willing to take. His recklessness a decade ago landed her in the hospital and ejected him from her life. He’s bad for her and everyone knows it—especially her big brother.

Chance reluctantly helps Gen complete her bucket list in order to keep her out of trouble. Running through a freezing fountain, playing Spin the Bottle while fending off a mad horde of stinging insects, and skinny dipping with homicidal attack swans don’t hold a candle to the real danger: falling for the one person he can never have.

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My Review:
4.5 stars — SQUEEEEEE!!!!  This was totally my kind of book!!!  I loved the characters, I loved the chemistry, I loved the steaminess!!  It just totally worked for me.

I actually put it higher on the reading queue b/c it fit for a Diversity Challenge theme this month, and I absolutely LOVED what Gen being blind added to the story.  It felt really authentic, and I couldn’t help but wonder how Ms. Clarke managed that…  I was just so immersed!  All the descriptions of sounds and smells and the feeling of things just really added to the authenticity.  AND OMG I grew frustrated not being able to “see” things that were happening when we were in her POV!  Isn’t that crazy??  There was this one scene at the beach house where they walk into a discussion between Chance’s brothers and Claire, and I just wanted to see their body language and facial expressions!  It felt like it really gave me great insight into the life of a blind person…at least, to a certain extent.  So well done on the diversity front.

As I said, I loved both characters, and I loved the growth I saw with each of them throughout the story, but especially at the end.  I appreciated each perspective on how the climax would play out, but I also appreciated what they wanted from the other…and that they each found their way to the middle and each other.  I love it when a book really satisfies that for me.

I loved Gen’s sassiness and sense of adventure, and I really appreciated her journey.  But the star for me was Chance.  I loved his caring nature, and how much empathy he had.

I loved the two of them together most of all though!  They were fun and sassy and the banter was great!  I loved the way they loved each other, and how that love persisted through time and heartache.  And their chemistry was fantastic!!  Like, I can’t tell you the number of times I got huge tummy tingles!!

Honestly, the only part that has me not going full 5 is the resolution with Walter.  Walter felt almost borderline emotionally abusive, and either he should have been toned down, or there should have been more there…because that all was not cool.

So yeah.  I devoured it.  It was good stuff.  Definitely recommend!

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Totally His by Erin Nicholas

Blurb:
51bxFtoLSuLActress Sophie Birch is used to having to look out for herself. So when her theater catches fire and a big guy scoops her up into his arms to save her, she’s going to fight every step of the way. Even if he’s a cop. And really sexy. And his arms feel oh-so-good.

Finn Kelly can’t help but appreciate how good the woman in his arms looks in her sexy pink lingerie. Even if she’s currently resisting arrest.

But as the two get to know each other, they’re both surprised by the things Finn is willing to do to get closer to her. And when Sophie’s estranged father arrives in town and starts causing trouble, the stage is set for disaster…unless Finn can convince her that, for once in her life, she has someone to lean on.

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My Review:
4.5 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

This was a fabulous conclusion to what was a really witty, engaging, and fun series.  And no, you most certainly do not need to read the other books in the series to enjoy this story, but if you find yourself enjoying this one, trust me, the rest are just as engaging.  And what’s great is that each hero and heroine are SO DIFFERENT, but equally lovable.

My heart broke for Sophie, and how she grew up, and what she saw for her future because of her conman father.  And while sometimes it felt like her growth took a bit longer than I’d like, I did like watching her find her happiness, find her big family, and truly find love.  It was very rewarding.  And I loved seeing how she interacted with big groups, whether it was watching her direct in the theatre, or direct the Kelly family during trivia.  She entertained me.

And Finn was pretty adorable.  I really loved having a hero who was a cop who was quite honestly very different from the usual cop heroes you read so often.  He was protective, he had a very strong sense of right and wrong, but he loved so strongly.  He wasn’t seriously damaged or anything.  I’m not saying he didn’t have flaws, but you got to see him try to work through those himself.  And I just absolutely adored seeing him pursue Sophie when he decided she was the one for him, and she was worth risking broken hearts for (not just his, but his family’s).

And Sophie and Finn had fabulous chemistry…you really felt their draw to each other.  I loved the way they bantered and interacted.  They complimented each other well.

Finn’s family was hilarious and adorable.  I loved what they brought to the story, and how Finn’s Mom was an integral part of Sophie’s growth.  I wasn’t sure how I would feel about Frank, but I was satisfied how that played out.  And obviously the glimpses of Keira, Zach, Maya, and Alex were fantastic.  Actually, I wouldn’t have minded more…

So yeah.  Fun and flirty, with some feels and a super satisfying ending.

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Nailed It by Cindi Madsen

Blurb:
36320335I’m Ivy Clarke. Bartender, best friend, and disbeliever in love.
And now I’m in over my head, trying to flip a house all by myself.
Thanks, HGTV.
I’m not too proud to admit I need some help. Too bad the only one who can help me is the same man I want to throw out this house’s second-story window.
Jackson Gamble and I can’t be in the same room together for more than a minute without devolving into a sparring match.
Except for that one time…
But enough about that. Jackson’s looking for forever, and I don’t believe in love, remember?
Get in. Renovate. Get out. Keep my heart firmly in tact.
Because it’s much easier to fix up a house than a broken heart.

Full of humor and dripping with delicious tension, Nailed It proves that every heart can be ready for a little rehabilitation, if only you’re willing to open it up.

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My Review:
3 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

Well bummer.  This one just didn’t grab me.  I didn’t dislike it, but it was solidly meh for me.  Since this book was entirely from Ivy’s POV, I found I didn’t have as much to go on for Jackson.  What I saw of him I definitely liked, but I have a feeling that I would have loved him even more if I’d had more time with him, or could have seen inside his head.

So really, all I had to go on was Ivy.  And Ivy was NOT my kind of girl.  I think I was supposed to empathize with her past and how that shaped her into the commitment-phobe she’d become.  And it worked to a point, my heart did actually break for the childhood she had, and the way her mother treated her, and how those experiences shaped her.  And if I’d seen some growth and change along the way, I might have tolerated it more.  But I just didn’t buy hers.  I don’t know why.  Honestly, it’s one of those things you just feel from reading, but can’t explain why you didn’t connect.  It’s like…I just couldn’t connect with Ivy along the story.  And when we got to the end, it felt a bit more about-face-like instead of a slow journey.  I think it’s because she clung so hard to her beliefs.  And I just got tired of it.

Along those same lines, this book became a bit repetitive at times…or at least it felt that way to me.  I felt like she would bring up the same incidences from her childhood to explain her relationship aversion.  Honestly, I wanted to start skimming just to see when she would finally figure things out.  I think I’m just not a patient reader.  Especially when I find myself unable to fully empathize with a character.

The other little thing that tweaked me that I wasn’t expecting was the level of steaminess…or something.  I don’t know how to categorize this.  See, I’ll read sweet/clean completely fade to black stories.  And I’ll read erotica.  But I don’t think I’ve read this Entangled imprint before, and this story was somewhere in between.  Like I’d get the early sexy times part, but then when we got to the act it would just be glossed over.  And not to sound like a sex-starved idiot, but it felt like a tease, because I honestly felt like it was going the more detailed way, and then just when we’d get to that part, blah blah blah, generic glossover, done.  Seriously, this is the stupidest thing to complain about, but it just caught me off guard.  There’s nothing wrong with it whatsoever, it’s just not my personal favourite.  Or else I was just in a mood.  Who knows with me.

OK, I feel like all I’ve done is complain.  In general I really enjoyed the bantering and snarkiness between Ivy and Jackson…  Sometimes it felt a bit more hostile than I was comfortable with, but other times it hit that tone just right where I was laughing my butt off, and I could really feel the chemistry between them.  I also really enjoyed the relationship that Ivy had with Savannah, and how their friendship played a role.  And again, what I saw of Jackson I really adored.  I LOVED how he stuck by her, and waited out her stubbornness, and how he saw her…both her flaws and her strengths.

So yeah.  Like I said, it wasn’t a terrible book.  I just didn’t connect with it like I’d been hoping to.  Ah well, not every book is going to be a match.

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Bountiful by Sarina Bowen

Blurb:
34099086No last names. No life stories. Those were the rules.

Once upon a time a cocky, copper-haired tourist sauntered into Zara’s bar. And even though she knew better, Zara indulged in a cure for the small-town blues. It was supposed to be an uncomplicated fling—a few sizzling weeks before he went back to his life, and she moved on.

Until an accidental pregnancy changed her life.

Two years later, she’s made peace with the notion that Dave No-Last-Name will never be found. Until one summer day when he walks into her coffee shop, leveling her with the same hot smile that always renders her defenseless.

Dave Beringer has never forgotten the intense month he spent with prickly Zara. Their nights together were the first true intimacy he’d ever experienced. But the discovery of his child is the shock of a lifetime, and his ugly past puts relationships and family out of reach.

Or does it? Vermont’s countryside has a way of nurturing even tortured souls. The fields and the orchards—and hard won love—are Bountiful.

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My Review:
4.5 stars — I received a free copy in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.

OMG!!  I am in love with Dave Beringer!!  I mean, like, “go to Brooklyn and look for Gingers in the hopes that one is the fictional Dave Beringer” kind of love.  Because I did that.  Today.  I have no shame.

I have not read the previous 3 books in the True North series (though it will be happening soon, I just ran out of time), but I have read the Brooklyn Bruisers books, and so I had an in on that side of things.  And this book just made me want to read the rest of the True North series even more!  Though I honestly don’t know how Ms. Bowen can top this story.  Like, it was f-ing sexy, and funny, and heartwarming, and none of the characters pissed me off (because there was potential, but it didn’t go that way), and even though I read this over a week (which is unheard of) because I am on vacation, so I had to sneak in reading time whenever I could, I still fell in love with it.  Honestly, it just makes me excited for when I reread it and truly devour it from cover to cover.  Probably when I read the rest of the series, b/c I’ll no doubt have a different perspective on Zara.

Zara was her own special brand of stubborn, and feisty, and damaged.  I really enjoyed having a heroine who is really in touch with her own sexuality, but isn’t necessarily comfortable with it…it was a weird dichotomy.  Like, she was interested in sex from a young age, but she was also branded as a slut because of it, so she wasn’t self-accepting, you know?  She just kind of believed the things that people judged her for.  It was kind of heartbreaking.  But I kind of loved it.  Because you know in so many romance novels there’s a girl that gets slut-shamed…  Zara might have been that girl, you know?  So it shows that side of the coin.  But her story was so much more.  She was a product of how she was raised, and she really didn’t have a lot of direction in life.  It was interesting to see the changes that becoming a mother wrought in her, but at the same time she still had a lot of healing to do.

And Dave.  *swoon*  Like, I don’t even know why he does it for me so much.  Maybe because he’s just so unapologetic.  Like he said at one point, he’s a bit slow to learn and grow, but he’s not a dick.  He had his own damage to get past, and I enjoyed that his bachelor ways had a…reason, I guess.  I loved (in a tore my heart out way) learning bits and pieces of his tragic childhood, and how that shaped him.  I loved his relationship with his sister.  Honestly, I wouldn’t have minded a more clear resolution with his past…but I might have missed something because I had to intersperse my reading.  Did he ever tell Zara about his past?  I can’t remember.  ANYWAYS.  I have a soft spot for Gingers (sssshhhh, don’t tell my hubby), and holy *bleep* was his bossy take charge attitude in the bedroom sexy as *bleep*.  Like *fans face*.  AND then there were all the times he grinned during sex.  I can’t even, you guys…like can’t even.

There was just something about the way Dave and Zara fit together that had me on board right from the start.  I LOVED the “past” section.  I fell in love really soon.  And I LOVED the way the present played out, from the start right to the very end.  I loved the secondary characters (and I’ll probably like some of them even more when I get to read their stories).  Basically it was just all sorts of goodness (with a few minor things I was confused on, but again…could be just me — like the car thing).

Anyways.  I want a Dave.  Someone get on that stat.  Thanks in advance.

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Cuff Me by Lauren Layne

Blurb:
27225024Meet New York’s Finest-three hot brothers sworn to protect and serve the city they love . . . and the women who’ve stolen their hearts.

ARRESTED BY LOVE

Vincent Moretti is one of the NYPD’s top homicide detectives-and one of the most eligible bachelors in town. His family, however, thinks he should date his longtime partner, Jill-a sassy, sexy, smart-mouthed blonde who drives him absolutely crazy.

Behind the quiet authority, tough-guy demeanor, and dark aviator glasses lies a man with a big soul-and a hard body that can soften any girl’s heart. After years as his coworker, Jill Henley has given up hope that anything could happen between her and Vin. Besides, loving him would break all the rules. But seeing Jill with someone else triggers feelings in Vincent he never knew he had. Now he’ll have to stop playing good cop/bad cop-and find a way to convince her to be his partner for life. . .

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My Review:
4.5 stars — THIS BOOK!!!  OK, I read the first two books in this series quite a while ago (I got them both as ARCs), and both ones had a lot of promise, but there were just things about them that niggled me and prevented me from loving them.  But THIS was the book I was most looking forward to!  I mean, Vincent and Jill!!!!  But of course I didn’t get an ARC of this one.  And since it was above my personal ebook price threshold, I put off buying a copy.  But since I’m going to be meeting this author THIS SATURDAY, and this is one of the few books of hers where there is actual paperback copies available, I sucked it up!!  AND I’M SO GLAD I DID!!!

These two were everything I was hoping they would be from the glimpses I got of them in the previous 2 books!  And btw, you TOTALLY don’t need to read the other books to read this one, but the Moretti family is pretty fun, and definitely a highlight of the series, so you may find yourself wanting to read them afterwards.  They were just as hilarious and interfering and awesome in this book as in the others.

I was concerned with the subplot of Jill being engaged to another man, but that all played out a little differently than I had been anticipating.  I can honestly say that I’m very happy with how that was dealt with, and what it brought to the story.  I’m very sensitive to cheating subjects, but there were no problems.

I loved Jill and Vin on their own, but I especially love them together.  They just fit together so beautifully.  She was all sunshine and light and fun and teasing, and he was gruff and awkward and more withdrawn and quiet.  But they just worked together, you know?  I loved the way their relationship progressed, and even the stumbling blocks that they inevitably hit weren’t drawn out and didn’t feel cliche.  Vincent actually really got to me, I loved that there was no horrible event that made him more closed off, but that it was an aspect of his personality…and I loved the observations that Mama Moretti had about him, and why he appears the way he does.  And he was so freaking cute in a growly guy way!  When he was trying, I just melted.  And Jill was totally like girl crush territory!  She was just…I don’t know.  Not without flaws, but I would want to be friends with her.

And as with all the books in the series, the Moretti family really stood out.  I can’t even tell you how many times I highlighted their interactions.  And I enjoyed the mystery of the Lenora Birch murder, and not just because it was one letter off from my own name.

Honestly, the only downside for me is that I was thrown off by the pacing.  I expected things to move much faster, and I was always thrown off when I’d start the next chapter and 2 weeks had gone by.  It wasn’t terrible, it just wasn’t what I was expecting.  Add that to the fact that I had to break up my reading b/c of things happening in my real life, it just made for a different reading experience.  And, I kind of wanted an extended epilogue because I’m greedy….

But yeah.  So happy.  Seriously, so happy with this one.  And isn’t it always relieving when the book you’re most looking forward to actually lives up to your anticipation??

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