The Difference Between Us by Rachel Higginson

Blurb:
35002568I’m cursed.

At least when it comes to finding Mr. Right.

I’m tired of men that only want one night stands or blind dates that are nothing but awkward and uncomfortable. I’m tired of avoiding inappropriate text messages and the constant disappointment of always meeting Mr. Wrong.

After all these years of dates that lead nowhere, I can admit that it’s me. I’m the problem. I’m shy and picky and cursed. Definitely cursed.

So I’ve decided two things.

The first? I’m giving up dating and relationships and men in general. Maybe, possibly, forever.

The second? I’m going to have to try harder to avoid Ezra Baptiste.

If I couldn’t hack it in the kiddy pool of dating, I certainly can’t swim in his deep end. He’s too successful. Too intense. He’s all man when I’m used to nothing but boys pretending to be grownups. He’s everything I’m afraid to want and so far out of my league we might as well be different species entirely.

So he’ll need to find a different artist to paint his mural. And a different graphic designer to help him with his website. He’ll need to find someone else to glare at and flirt with and kiss.

It can’t be me.

We’re too different.

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My Review:
4.5 stars — I did receive an earlier copy of this book as a beta, in exchange for my oh-so-amazing opinions, and stellar typo catching (yes, there is some sarcasm there).  But I’m obviously going to write out my honest opinion, b/c I have one of those too (and it’s wholeheartedly unbiased).

There’s a reason Ms. Higginson is one of my favourite authors of all time.  While there may be elements here and there that don’t always jibe with me personally, I ALWAYS get a story where I fall in love with the unique and VERY REAL characters, and where I spend an inordinate amount of time smiling unexpectedly, truly laughing out loud (usually accompanied by snorts), and swooning left, right and center.  And isn’t it weird how you forget all about that enchantment in between your favourite author’s releases?  Like, you convince yourself that they’re not as good as you remember, or you’ve blown the memory out of proportion.  And then you get a few paragraphs in and it’s like coming home to an old friend.  THAT is what this book was for me.  I totally get that I *just* read The Opposite of You a mere 4 months ago, but from that first snort of laughter, I’m right back where I want to be.  And where I want to be is in Molly’s head.

I have wholeheartedly admitted in the past that my heart generally lies in dual POV books, so it always amuses the crap out of me that one of my favourite authors writes almost exclusively in single POV.  But again (because I feel like I’m repeating myself from my review of TOOY), she manages to convey so much through the heroine’s story, that I don’t even feel that gypped.  I’m still absolutely able to fall in love with the hero too, even without being in his head (though I would never sneeze at a bonus POV scene, *hint hint*).

Molly is exactly as hilarious and sassy and snarky as I expected her to be, but she’s also so much more.  Honestly, I really connected to her because I feel like she is a soul sister.  She’s a bit shyer, outside of her inner circle she prefers to blend into the background, she loathes confrontation, and she has a hell of a case of imposter’s syndrome (which my hubby constantly tells me I have).  And you know what?  I wanted to high five her for each of those characteristics, because she really felt like me.  I know strong forceful heroines are all the rage, but there is also something to love about a girl who has moments of meekness and insecurity.  And I really loved the glimpse we got into her family, and how her upbringing influenced her in so many ways.  It made it so that at parts where I was cringing for her decisions, I also got how she got there.  You know?

Molly’s story has so many elements, and not all of them were easy to read.  Particularly the sexual harassment she endures at work.  It’s so easy as a reader to be able to see what’s going on, but it’s SOOOO much harder to deal with it in real life when you’re faced with consequences and uncertainty when it involves your livelihood.  I had a REALLY hard time with that part, I wanted to scream at Molly so many times and it all made me feel very uncomfortable.  But at the same time I felt like it was really brave of Ms. Higginson to confront this issue, and shine a light on how complicated it is…and have Molly NOT make the black and white decisions.  It made the situation more REAL you know?

And then there’s the romance, which was a slam dunk for me.  I absolutely loved that Ezra managed to bring out a completely different side to Molly.  Their courtship made me laugh, it made me swoon, and it tugged at my heartstrings.  It was seriously just so odd you guys, but I was in love practically from the first e-mail.  I wasn’t sure what I was going to think of Ezra, b/c he’s kind of hard to pin down…but I thought Molly got to the heart of him, and we got to see what made him tick, and why he appears the way he does.  And their chemistry was amazing.  My only niggle is that I’m not huge on the flip-flop, and Molly did have a bit of that.  That would be what caused the half star loss for me.

Of course the secondary characters were beyond amazing.  My heart was so happy with the reappearance of all my favourites (Vera, Killian, Wyatt, and Vann), and I totally fell in love with Ezra’s half-sister Dillon as well.  Their addition just takes a great story and levels it up.  I tried petitioning for a certain pairing, but apparently I got the matches wrong.  To say I’m excited for more from this crew is an understatement.

And there you have it.  Essentially a fangirl review.  What are you gonna do?  We all have our favourite authors for a reason, and I’m a sucker for Ms. Higginson’s characters, and she writes banter that has my highlight finger going crazy.  It’s as simple as that.

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Misconduct by Samantha Kane

Blurb:
33100746The Birmingham Rebels play both sides of the field, proving that the hottest action isn’t always in the arena.

Rookie running back Tom Kelly loves the perks of football stardom. Men, women—there’s no shortage of companionship for a pro athlete who’s hot, young, and willing, and Tom is definitely willing. But deep down he wants a committed three-way relationship, especially if the female in the middle is Carmina de la Cruz. The undeniably sexy Army veteran may not say much, but her body speaks loud and clear.

After a traumatic tour in Afghanistan, Carmina is struggling to regain her speech and rebuild her life. More than anything, she wants to feel like a woman again. Tom may be a wholesome All-American, but he knows just how she needs to be touched—and he’s not the only Rebel who arouses her interest. With his scorching intensity, Tom’s best friend leaves her wondering if two players might be better than one.

Danny Smith is no stranger to his team’s kinky reputation. He gave in to temptation once, but he’s not going down that road again. Sure, Carmina’s curves promise pleasure, but her eyes guarantee it comes with baggage—and Danny has enough of his own. Still, giving up control can feel so good. And when it comes to everything Danny craves, Carmina and Tom make the perfect team.

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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.

*heavy sigh*  So, I enjoyed this book.  I enjoyed it more than the previous book in the series (and I’ve only read books 3 and 4, not the first 2).  I came out at the end of it entertained, I thought the character development was pretty good, and I thought the steamy scenes were deliciously…well…steamy.  I even initially pegged this one as a 4 star for me.  And I’m going to round up, b/c I’m trying to keep true to *my* personal feelings at the end of it.

I thought all the characters had something to offer, and I particularly liked the goofiness and just, well, like-ability of Tom.  Like seriously, I really loved him, and his humour, and he was just so adorable.  And I loved the way he pushed both Danny and Carmina, recognizing what he wanted was a relationship with both of them (all three of them together), and after recognizing interest from both of them, I enjoyed how he pushed them out of their comfort zones to get them to that place together.

I thought Carmina’s storyline was interesting, particularly since I didn’t see her past with Richie coming.  I had been looking forward to learning more about her brain injury, b/c she fascinated me in the previous book, and I was a bit bummed that besides putting herself down about it, we didn’t really get as much out of that as I’d wanted.  But I did like seeing her grow more confident, and I appreciated a glimpse into some of the challenges that she faces (particularly in trying to reenter the workforce, and dealing with well-meaning friends/family).

I thought Danny was probably the one I learned the least about, and probably had a few reservations about.  He came across kind of homophobic (even though he ended up being bisexual), and while I understood his hangups about his sexual preferences in light of his past with Marian, I still had a hard time with it…I always have a hard time reading about characters that feel ashamed of what they like, even though I think it’s a valid storyline b/c I’m sure many people go through this.  I’m not sure how much I liked the scene between Tom and Danny in the hotel room, particularly consent-wise, but I let it pass…and I’m not sure what that says about me.

And here’s where the sigh comes in.  I decided to glance at other reviews of the book.  And I realized that, as a white woman, I didn’t see a lot of things surrounding the race of Danny and Carmina that others might.  I subscribe to the philosophy that everyone’s a little bit racist, and I was bummed that I had yet again failed to see the far reaching consequences of some of the elements in the story.  Also, while I am trying to be more conscious of slut-shaming, consent, and all the other little sexual tidbits that crop up in books, I tend to forget about them in eroticas sometimes…is it suspension of disbelief?  I don’t know.  So I guess what I’m trying to say is that while reading other critical reviews, I could see some of the points that they were making, but they hadn’t bothered me while reading, and so I’m going to maintain my rating, b/c it’s how I felt and I’m reviewing my personal experience.  But if you are sensitive to these issues, then you might want to read some other reviews to help you make a better decision.  And hopefully you won’t judge me too much.

Anyways, I do want to say that I did enjoy how the football game against the Rough Riders went at the end there.  I was proud of all the boys for growing and learning and eventually helping each other to do the right thing in such a hard situation.

So yeah.  There you go.  I enjoyed the book.  *shrugs*  I guess I just don’t think as hard as other readers, especially when it comes to eroticas.  And here I was excited that we got so much diversity in this story.  Whatcha gonna do?  Learn and grow I suppose.

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Eye Candy by Jessica Lemmon

Blurb:
34317683Don’t trust lust at first sight. One woman chooses reality over fantasy in this friends-to-lovers romance, a steamy standalone by “an author to keep your eye on” (Katee Robert).

Jacqueline: As an adult woman–and the vice president of a marketing firm–I shouldn’t be waiting by my office window to ogle the mystery man who jogs by every morning at 11:45. Sure, he’s a gorgeous, perfect specimen of the human race, but I can’t bring myself to hit on a total stranger. However, my best friend-slash-colleague Vince Carson thinks I should do more than talk to the guy. In fact, he’s borderline obsessive about “getting me laid.” (His words.) But the more time we spend together, the more it’s clear: The one I’m falling for is Vince.

Vince: Jackie Butler’s got it bad for some pompous, over-pumped A-hole who struts his stuff past her window. That doesn’t bother me. I know she deserves nice things. What does bother me is that she friend-zoned me big-time last year, so I can’t ask her out myself. But what if I set her up with Mr. Steroids? Then, when he breaks her heart, I can swoop in and save her like the nice guy I am. Everything’s going according to plan . . . until we share a ridiculously epic kiss. And suddenly anything is possible.

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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 started off AWESOMELY!  The humour and wit was just spot on, both characters were just my kind of hilarious and snarky and sassy, and I just fell in love!  Seriously, I was smiling to myself and giggling at some of their inner thoughts right from the start.  Jackie was an intriguing mix of sassy and reserved…it was a strange mix that didn’t always work for me, but I really loved her drive and how her meticulousness could be seen in who she was both at work and at home.  And Vince was a strange book boy too, he was such a guy guy sometimes, but I loved that he wasn’t the typical ultra-successful businessman.  His work wasn’t his life, but he enjoyed it all the same.  And I really appreciated seeing him admire Jackie at work, and acknowledge that she was on another level from him.

As the book progressed I felt like we got to see more of what made each of them up as individuals, and normally I love that extra depth…but these two were a bit too human at times, and I became somewhat less enamoured with them.  I didn’t fall out of love per say, I was just disappointed in some of their childish moments, and the usual introduction of the lack of communication trope.  And honestly, there were a few moments where I felt like both characters got a bit hypocritical (Jackie with JT, and Vince with Jackie at the end), and so it ended on a lower note than it started.  BUT!!  While this all bummed me out, the rest of what I fell in love with was still present…  It made for a bit of a quandary in my feelings for them both, because I still loved them, I just didn’t always like them.  Like real people I guess.

I will say that their chemistry was freaking SMOKING.  Like honestly, I had all of the tummy butterflies, and the wave the hands on my face-ness.  Like that scene on the stairs is responsible for a happy hubby…tmi?

I kind of wish we’d seen more friend interactions for Jackie, with either Bethany or Kayla…didn’t really get to know much there.  BUT I LOVED what we got to see of Davis, and I’m very intrigued about his story.  He’s an odd one.  But I appreciated his friendship with Vince, it felt very real.

So yeah.  Basically this was mostly a 4 star read, it just lost some verve in the latter half of the book, and hence the bump down a half a star.  I have a feeling Ms. Lemmon is an author I would enjoy reading more of.

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Pounding Skin by L.A. Witt

Blurb:
35101031A Skin Deep, Inc. Novel

Fighter pilot Jon Russell never sleeps with the same man twice. Known for his lack of shame when it comes to hooking up, Jon has no interest in commitment—even friends with benefits sounds like too much work.

Matt Huffman has slept with lots of women. He’s had loads of girlfriends. So why does the hot as hell pilot getting a tattoo as the result of a lost bet stop his breath? And how come he can’t stop thinking about him, even after he’s gone?

When Jon returns to Skin Deep the second time, he doesn’t want another tattoo. He wants to hook up with the gorgeous artist he spent hours agonizingly close to, and Matt wants to explore some curiosity about men. Fulfill the desire he can’t stop fantasizing over. And he wants to do it with Jon.

As their casual hook up becomes more than just skin deep, both Matt and Jon are faced with questions they don’t want to answer. Matt understands he’s bi—but are these feelings he has typical of hooking up with a man? Or is it only Jon that can make his heart pound? If Jon wanted nothing more than a fling, why does he find himself needing not just Matt’s body, but all of him? And can their relationship withstand the hardships that makes Jon avoid them in the first place?

The Skin Deep, Inc books can be read in any order—come enter a world where gorgeous tattoo artists and hot Navy men find passion, pleasure, and a happily ever after together.

L.A. Witt also writes under the name Lauren Gallagher.

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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 finished this one last night, but was just so freaking tired I just sort of stream of consciousnessed out some thoughts before going to bed.  Now I need to figure out what I wrote and make it make sense.  All of which I really didn’t need to include in this review, but in case I miss something and it sounds jumbled, that would be why.

This was a solid read, definitely leaning more towards the erotica end of the spectrum…  I can never figure out what the line in the sand is for when a romance is labeled an erotica.  Like, this book definitely had romance, but there is a LOT of sex in it.  I actually forgot just how much sex was in the first book, so it caught me off guard in the beginning of this book.  And funny story, I always bring my Kindle everywhere, and when I was on the bus taking me to the football game on Friday, I pulled it out, but forgot I was in the middle of a sex scene and I had to keep tilting it away from the guy beside me.  I took a picture to show my hubby (because he was standing near the back), and he laughed and told me if they peak over my shoulder, they get what they get!  And what they would get is a LOT of c*ck!!  ROFL.  OK, enough of these asides…

Let’s talk characters!!  I felt a stronger connection to Matt than Jon in this particular story.  I did feel like we jumped into his story at a weird point, I almost wish we’d actually seen the scene where he has the threesome, instead of seeing him ponder it.  Even if it was a flashback.  Then again, maybe not.  It just felt like we jumped into the middle of a story sometimes.  BUT!  I loved how Ms. Witt portrayed Matt’s struggle with coming to terms with his newly discovered bisexuality.  I loved the way his past played into him being in the closet for so long, and being so genuinely surprised when he figured it out.  I loved the discussion about how his father’s toxic masculinity really influenced him heavily.  I also liked that they addressed how his constant vehement denial could hurt people (like Troy).  I will say I was not too keen on the fact that it seemed no one was surprised when he came out.  Not that that isn’t necessarily realistic, but we never really find out what exactly gave it away for them.  Having SOMEONE be surprised would have been nice.  Or at least not sitting there saying “we were just waiting for you to say something.”

I felt like Matt’s financial struggles were added in at the beginning, and then didn’t really go anywhere.  Like the story got too cluttered, so that thread just got dropped unsatisfactorily.  I really hate that, because I was interested in seeing how it was going to be resolved because it seemed to be building up to something, but then it just…fizzled, I guess.  So then why was it there at all?

On to Jon!  Jon was harder to warm up to.  I never could figure out where he got his negative view on relationships.  I guess some people just are that way, but in books it’s nicer to read them having some incidence that leads to it (a rough childhood, divorced parents, no good role models, bad early breakup, SOMETHING).  So that was a bummer.  However, I loved that he was so confident in his sexuality, and very forthright about what he wanted, and very comfortable in his own skin.  I loved that he was very good at his job and loved it, and they conveyed how smart he was.  I also loved seeing some of the interactions with his squadron, but that fizzled a bit too…would have liked even more.

And Matt and Jon had amazing chemistry, and the steamy scenes were spot on (if prolific).  I really did feel their connection and insatiability in the bedroom.  But not at the expense of other connections.  I felt friendship, and even romance too.  I liked that we got to see their relationship slowly developing over time.  You could tell they cared about each other.  Frankly, it made the constant talk of casualness really grating on this romance reader.  I think that was the point, but it’s not something that this reader enjoys.  I get it was the whole conflict of the book leading up to the climax, but it got tiring.  And the turnaround in the end was a mite quick.

As for side stories, the subplot with Nate and his husband really broke my heart.  It kind of threw off my mood, and if you know me as a reader at all, you know I HATE cheating.  So it was hard to see it happening to a secondary character that was so important to one of our heroes.  I get now that it was setup for book 3 though.

I liked getting glimpses of Colin and Daniel, but still wish we knew what happened to Daniel’s family (particularly his relationship with his sisters).  I guess nothing.  That’s the impression we’re given.  And I hated how they made Daniel sound like he was always so calm and cool and there for Colin, when often I felt like he was oblivious to Colin’s problems.  But that’s a problem with a different story in the end.

All in all a solid romance that leans more towards the erotica end.  I think the relationship was more satisfying than Colin and Daniel’s from book one, but I enjoyed the extra elements in the first book’s story a wee bit more, so they kind of balance out in the end.  I will say I’m looking forward to the next book in the series though!  That sneak peak was tantalizing!

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The Director and Don Juan by Katy Regnery

Blurb:
32721297The Director and Don Juan is the second of four books about the Philadelphia-based Story sisters who are all on the look-out for love.

Heiress Alice Story left her father’s company three years ago in a blaze of glory, inviting all of his employees to jump ship and join her, but only one accepted her offer: mail room clerk, Carlos Vega.

While Alice spent the next three years getting her own company off the ground, Carlos became her indispensable right-hand man — executive assistant and office manager, loyal counsel and trusted co-worker.

And all the while, they were quietly falling in love with each other.

When Alice is offered a lucrative business deal in Puerto Rico, island-born Carlos is the perfect person to accompany her on her trip as translator, but as they travel together from Philadelphia to Santo Domingo to Ponce, two unlikely co-workers will discover that during their three years working together, their feelings for each other have grown far deeper than they ever could have guessed.

And though business-minded, proper Alice will try her very best to ignore the longings of her heart, scorching hot, insanely sexy Boricua, Carlos, has no intention of letting her go.

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

I love it when you dive into a favourite author’s new book and she reminds you that YES you do love reading, and YES that last book just wasn’t right for you!  Because I can wholeheartedly say that I was sucked into Alice and Carlos’s story from the first page.  It’s funny how it’s hard to articulate what style of writing you love, but you just know it when you do…and Ms. Regnery’s writing is always just smooth like butter, I can just consume it and devour it and I’m captivated instantly.

One of the things she does so well is chemistry between characters.  And Alice and Carlos definitely had that going for them in spades.  It’s funny, b/c this one is a bit more of a slow burn romance, we don’t get to the steam until like 70% I believe.  But all that anticipation is pretty delicious in itself, and then once the romance delivers, it’s beautiful and tummy tingling!  I loved the way the romance between Alice and Carlos developed, from a deep abiding trust and respect, with a side of friendship, to acknowledging that more had developed, sometimes without them knowing.  And then just facing that moment where you couldn’t ignore it any longer, and it was time to go for what you wanted.  While there was a bit of angst and drama, it wasn’t drawn out for the sake of being drawn out, and it resolved as I would expect it would in real life.

I LOVED Carlos’s patience with Alice.  I loved that he knew not to push it too fast, but that he wouldn’t give up.  I loved his optimism in the face of potential obstacles.  I loved how clearly he cared about Alice and was thoughtful over her needs.  I loved that he was charming as can be, but not too much of a dog (though perhaps I would have liked a better resolution with Leticia and Lena).  I loved that he had a multi-faceted personality — alpha when he needed to be, but happily beta in other aspects of his life.  And I really felt like that juxtaposition was well placed, b/c Ms. Regnery was not afraid to address the gender roles and pressures that men face as well (and in this case, particularly in the latin community).  As a romance reader, we often see the struggles that women face in their professional lives (and I love that), but how often do we see a man deal with criticism for somewhat less ambition, or being happy serving a strong woman.  I don’t know if I’m making sense, but I just really loved that.

And on the other side of the coin, I loved Alice’s ambition, and her unwavering desire for both a career and a family.  She was such a strong heroine, and someone to be admired.  But I also loved that she needed someone like Carlos to take the reins in their intimate settings, so she could just feel and experience.  They were such a great match.  I kind of appreciated that she was a bit awkward socially, b/c she had spent so much time trying to live up to her father’s impossible expectations, and focused on her professional pursuits, that she had let some of her personal relationships slide (like with her sister’s).

And that is the crux of why I love Ms. Regnery’s Blueberry Lane series.  EVERY SINGLE ONE has a completely different set of characters.  We get to see and fall in love with all types of people, and we get to learn of each of their struggles.  From the shy to the bold, from the family oriented to the career oriented.

Honestly my only problem with this novel is that it *felt* short.  I don’t know why.  Maybe it was because I was interrupted in the middle of my reading, and couldn’t get back to it for a whole day, and so I fell out of the pacing?  Or maybe b/c I wanted to see more at the end after they were together.  I LOVED the epilogue we got, but a part of me was curious to read the scenes with her sisters when she told them about her new relationship, or at the office once they were back, or again, what happened with Lena (is their relationship strained now?).  It just ended with me wanting a tiny bit more.  Hence my 4 stars instead of more.

So yeah.  It’s so nice to read a book and get what you’ve been missing.  It feeds my reading soul or something.  Can’t wait to see what happens with Elizabeth and Jane.

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Stay by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy

Blurb:
34080660Can you fall in love with someone you’ve never even met?

Hailey Taylor Emery has a hunch that her favorite client at Fetch–an anonymous virtual assistant service–is actually hockey star Matt Eriksson.

Although it’s against the rules for her to check his file, she’s 95% sure she spends at least part of each day texting with her lifelong crush and catering to his every need. Still nursing a wounded heart thanks to her recent breakup, Hailey is perfectly content with some harmless online flirting…until she has to meet her client. Face to face. Cue: utter panic.

Matt Eriksson is no stranger to heartbreak. He’s still not over the destruction of his marriage, and it sucks to be the only guy on the team who knows the truth–that hockey and long-term relationships are a toxic mix. He barely sees his kids, and dealing with his ex makes him feel insane. The only person in his life who seems to understand is someone who won’t show her pretty face.

But it’s nothing that a pair of fourth row hockey seats can’t fix. Hailey can’t resist the offer. Matt can’t resist Hailey. Good thing he doesn’t have to. Fire up the kiss cam!

Warning: Contains rabid hockey fans, misunderstood dick pics, hockey players at the opera and exploding ovaries.

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

Oh you guys! Matt and Hailey were my kind of characters.  They were both dealing with something, be it insecurities or other damage, but they were also full of sass and it made for such a fun courtship to follow!!  I totally fell in love with them both, and with them together.

Hailey was my kind of girl, just the kind of female character that I gravitate towards time and time again.  I loved that while she was a bit worse for wear following her divorce, it wasn’t horribly damaging.  She just lost her hutzpah, you know?  She was thrown for a loop, and was taking a while to figure out how to get back to *her*.  But I loved that her relationship with her ex wasn’t toxic.  In fact, this book was interesting in that it showed two completely different relationships that declined, in different ways.  And that it can be hard no matter what.  I always appreciate when we don’t always hate an ex, you know?  As a reader I mean.  It’s refreshing.  And Hailey was just sweet, and sassy, and so smart and driven!  I loved that about her.  And I loved that she didn’t put up with too much crap.  She picked her battles, and with some encouragement from friends, she pushed back when she needed to.  I was totally rooting for her.

Matt was adorable to the extreme.  My heart hurt for how damaged he was following his divorce…he definitely had a toxic relationship with his ex.  It made him unsure of himself, and it was nice to see an alpha male suffer from his own insecurities too.  I was so mad at Kara, and yet Ms. Bowen and Ms. Kennedy made just the right moves to resolve that in a way that felt real.  I love that.  No black and white evil characters (well, except maybe Mr. Emery), but *flawed* characters.  And I loved seeing Matt finally get a hint and stand up.  WOOHOO!!!!  So much cheering.  And on the other side, he was sweet, sensitive, patient and caring, a fantastic father, and his dirty talk was spot on!  😛

And with two fabulous characters, we get a fabulous romance/relationship.  I didn’t even mind all the uncertainty about what kind of relationship they had, b/c it made sense for their characters.  And the two of them together just made me laugh, right from the first date.  I really felt like they matched up perfectly.

And you know what else I loved??  The tiny side plots!!  MrEightInches!!  BWAHAHAHA…  And seeing all the characters we’ve fallen in love with!!  And the extra development of the WAGs!!  I love those girls!!  And Jenny was a fantastic friend!  And I’m even intrigued about OC, which part of me expected, b/c these authors know how to make you love even the most awful characters.  But I didn’t expect to be clamouring for his book!  And even the girls were cute and not annoying (which is a bonus for me)!

So yeah, not only did we get a fabulous romance, we got just a great all around, FULL story.  Can’t wait for more in this series (because there has to be more!).

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I Knew You Were Trouble by Lauren Layne

Blurb:
31306110New York City’s hottest bachelors are stirring up trouble in this fun, flirty Oxford Novel, as a love triangle forces a feisty beauty to choose between winning back Mr. Right or giving in to Mr. Wrong.

Taylor Carr has it all—a sleek job in advertising, a stunning Manhattan apartment, and the perfect man to share it with: Bradley Calloway. Even after Bradley dumps her for a co-worker on move-in day, Taylor isn’t worried. She’ll get her man eventually. In the meantime, she needs a new roommate. Enter Nick Ballantine, career bartender, freelance writer—and longtime pain in Taylor’s ass. Sexy in a permanent five-o’clock-shadow kind of way, Nick knows how to push Taylor’s buttons, as if he could see right through to the real her.

Nick’s always trying to fix people, and nobody could use a good fixing more than Taylor. Sure, she’s gorgeous, with mesmerizing silver eyes, but it’s her vulnerability that kills him. Now that they’re shacking up together, the chemistry is out of control. Soon they’re putting every part of their two-bedroom apartment to good use. Then Taylor’s ex comes crawling back to her, and Nick figures she’ll jump at the chance to go back to her old life—unless he fights for the best thing that ever happened to him.

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

This one honestly is probably even maybe a 4.5 stars (rounded down), but for reasons I cannot explain, I just was not having a good reading day today, and so I kept getting drawn out of the book.  I honestly don’t think it was the book this time, but I still rate based on personal enjoyment, hence I’m sticking with 4 stars.

OK, weird caveat out of the way, I LOVED Nick and Taylor!  I had no idea what to expect from them given the few glimpses we got from them in Someone Like You, but I do suppose I expected a bit more animosity.  And we did get a bit of that enemy vibe, with them snarking back and forth.  But it didn’t go on too long.  It was always mixed with curiosity and good feelings.  It was like they needed to each be smacked.  Yet somehow they managed to smack themselves, without too much help.  What I found interesting about their “dislike” is that there was, sort of, a bit of meanness there.  It wasn’t intentional necessarily, it was like bantering gone too far, or barbs that unintentionally hit too close to home, you know?  I’m not always a huge enemies to lovers trope reader, but I appreciated that it wasn’t fake animosity, you know?  Unintentional, yes.  Fake, no.

I feel like we got a bit more from Taylor than Nick in this book.  And I really ended up feeling a lot for Taylor, she really broke my heart.  She had kind of a tragic upbringing, in a totally different way than I’m used to reading.  And it really damaged her, despite good intentions.  And I think that’s where the real heartbreak comes in, her Aunt wasn’t trying to damage her, and with no other influences, Taylor was really left floundering, unable to fully conform to who her Aunt tried to raise, but not feeling as though she should be pursuing anything other than what she was used to.  Not sure if that makes sense.  But I really did hurt for her, and while I cannot personally vibe, I felt like Ms. Layne really exposed Taylor’s underbelly and made you understand her.  Taylor really ended up being such a strange heroine, because she was part strong, snarky, forthright mixed with vulnerable, damaged, and with so much love to give.  My only gripe is that I wanted to see more done to showcase her turnaround on the major obstacle in her and Nick’s relationship.  I didn’t quite buy it, and I feel like there was a bit of a missed opportunity there.

And while we didn’t get quite as much from Nick, he really did have his own damage to overcome.  Perhaps it’s that we didn’t learn he had damage until maybe the middle of the book, and so we kind of didn’t get to know all of Nick up until that point.  It doesn’t really leave a lot of time, you know?  But I did enjoy his gruffness, his cockiness, his sweetness.

And I truly felt like they complimented each other as a couple.  I loved their interplay, I loved how they didn’t let each other get away with shit.  And I definitely felt their chemistry, though honestly their steamy scenes were some of the moments where my mind wandered as mentioned above.  So take from that what you will.

And I can honestly say that I appreciated the climax and resolution more in this book than in the past few.  It felt less campy, and while still quick, I didn’t feel quite as rushed.

I loved that we got to see a few of the characters we’ve fallen in love with (the Lincoln, Cassidy and Nick exchange in Lincoln’s office was gold), but that we weren’t overwhelmed by the whole cast of characters.  AND I loved that we got new characters to fall in love with!  My fingers are crossed for a Brit & Hunter novel, and I would personally love to see Ms. Hayes get a HEA as well.  She deserves it after Bradley the douchecanoe.

So yeah.  Thoroughly enjoyed myself, despite my brain’s efforts to derail me.  🙂  You can always count on Ms. Layne for solid romance goodness.

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Someone Like You by Lauren Layne

Blurb:
51dKECkN6LLLauren Layne’s bestselling Oxford Series continues with the poignant, heartwarming story of New York’s most eligible bachelor, Lincoln Mathis, a man who’s living a lie—until his dream woman takes away the pain.

Lincoln Mathis doesn’t hide his reputation as Manhattan’s ultimate playboy. In fact, he cultivates it. But behind every flirtatious smile, each provocative quip, there’s a secret that Lincoln’s hiding from even his closest friends—a tragedy from his past that holds his heart quietly captive. Lincoln knows what he wants: someone like Daisy Sinclair, the sassy, off-limits bridesmaid he can’t take his eyes off at his best friend’s wedding. He also knows that she’s everything he can never have.

After a devastating divorce, Daisy doesn’t need anyone to warn her off the charming best man at her sister’s wedding. One look at the breathtakingly hot Lincoln Mathis and she knows that he’s exactly the type of man she should avoid. But when Daisy stumbles upon Lincoln’s secret, she realizes there’s more to the charming playboy than meets the eye. And suddenly Daisy and Lincoln find their lives helplessly entwined in a journey that will either heal their damaged souls . . . or destroy them forever.

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My Review:
4 stars — This one started off *amazing*, but for me it fizzled about halfway through.  Still enjoyable, just no longer 5 star-y, you know?

It’s always hard to read a book about a character that’s really really intrigued you.  Because he probably intrigues each reader for different reasons, and as a series goes along you start to form theories in your own mind about what his story is going to be.  And Lincoln was the ultimate in mysterious characters we adore, but are mega-intrigued by.  And while I’m super satisfied by the mysterious tragedy in his past (I actually feel like I had that theory, but I’m not sure if maybe I inferred that from teasers for this book, not necessarily from previous books?), it really altered *who* Lincoln was, and it didn’t always fit with who I’d fallen in love with.  It wasn’t his unbelievable good looks (which I just can’t picture, b/c I’m a personality makes a guy good looking kind of girl, I have a hard time being into a guy based on physical appearance alone).  It was those moments of vulnerability that you spotted along the way in the series that sucked me in.  His kindness, his understanding.  And I felt like I got more of that in the first half of this book, and less in the second.  Which, due to the nature of the story and what occurs, I can kind of understand.  But I just wasn’t as in love with the real Lincoln as I was the Lincoln in my mind.  It’s just expectation vs reality, you know?

Now all that’s not to say that Lincoln wasn’t a solid book boy.  He broke my heart, made me cry, and really just gave me all the feels.  But at a certain point in Part II and beyond, I just felt like I was missing some depth or something.  The problem with maintaining a facade and putting on a performance is that I start to wonder what people liked about the real Lincoln.  Who were they friends with?  Where was the playfulness?  It was there, but it also wasn’t anymore.  Like was that who he was, or who he was pretending to be?  GAH, too much thinking!!  Honestly it had to be missing somewhat, he goes through a very big upheaval.  But…I just…wanted…something.  I needed something more, and I really can’t articulate what it was…obviously.

Daisy was a pretty solid book girl, sassy but damaged.  A good combination.  But I felt like something was missing from her too…like I wanted more depth.  I don’t know.  Maybe I was having a bad brain day?  I just had a hard time getting a super good feel for her.  Like I got a wavy feel for her, but not a solid feel for her.  I don’t even think I’m making sense anymore, I’m abandoning this line of thought.  I think I was expecting a bit more from her damaged past, and I thought I was going to get it, but then it was kind of glossed over fairly quickly and I didn’t necessarily buy her growth and change.

I LOVED Daisy and Lincoln in Part I.  I loved the way they seemed to see each other and recognized a fellow damaged person.  I felt that connection.  I also loved the banter they had together, it was so perfect!  I was highlighting sections all over the place!  I loved how Lincoln let her in, how that was safe for him.  And I enjoyed them together in Parts II and III as well, just not as much as in Part I.  Like I was missing that spark.  And not heat, b/c when we finally got to the steamy parts, my tummy was doing plenty of tingling!  I just wasn’t as invested for some reason.  And quite frankly, I wasn’t super impressed with the climax and resolution.  It was kind of meh.  Rushed and a bit cheesy (and felt like it had been done in other books in this series, so regurgitated too).

So this is a review of confusion.  It sounds like a bad review.  That’s my bad.  I really enjoyed this book and plowed through it, I just lost steam at the end, and I’m trying to explain how it went from 5 stars down to 4.  I really need to stop doing that, it’s probably odd to read about.  Maybe it should be a 3.5 in reality, but I just loved that beginning so much that I’m giving it a boost.

So there you have it.  A solid Oxford novel, and I loved getting glimpses of the past characters, even if they’re getting to be a large and unwieldy bunch.  And was it just me, or does anyone else think there was a Wedding Belles cameo in there?  Great emotions, great chemistry, FANTASTIC banter, just needed something more at the end.

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Sunlit Surrender by Jess Dee

Blurb:
35209988Bianca Rogers is ready to forget her worries for a while and celebrate her brother’s wedding at the exotic Bandicoot Cove resort. The last thing she expects is to be knocked off her feet—literally—by Brody Evans.

The chemistry between Brody and Bianca is undeniable. She’s everything he wants in a woman. She’s sexy, warm, friendly…delicious, and overwhelming attraction quickly grows to full-blown lust.

But they’ve come to the island with baggage that can’t be ignored forever, and their previous mistakes and the circumstances that have led them to the island soon demand attention. As desire transforms into love, it’s time to see if the past is going to get in the way of any happy-ever-after there could be in their future.

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

OK, technically I did get to the end of this book.  But at 34% I started skipping to get to a point, and after that I skimmed to the end.  This book’s “hook” did NOT work for me.  Not only did it not work for me, it actually made me irrationally angry.  I’m not even kidding.  I started reading, got to the point where our heroine and hero meet, started getting REALLY confused, had a theory, then read something that nullified that theory, then got more confused, then wondered if my theory was correct despite inner musings that made it truly unbelievable, and finally couldn’t take it anymore and started skipping until I could confirm my theory.  Then I got really really mad because the way the heroine’s inner thoughts were written, it did NOT make sense.  So not only did I not like this hook (my theory) in general, but I felt like it was not done well.

The stupid thing is, I’ve read a few books by this author before, though granted they were a few years ago, so I’d been anticipating an enjoyable read.  But despite all the anger from above, I was actually pretty bored.  Bored with the characters, even bored with the sex!  And being bored with the sex is not a good sign for an erotica type book.  Maybe I was bored because I didn’t like the characters, or because I was already so irrationally angry; it’s a distinct possibility.

And after my theory was confirmed, I started skimming to see where this all was going to go, and got mad at the miscommunications that were continually perpetuated for no reason I could understand.  And I just didn’t care about their problems.

Take all this with a grain of salt.  I can’t divulge the hook, b/c that would be spoilery to the extreme, but not everyone will have a problem with it.  And since I think that affected my enjoyment of every aspect, it kind of makes the rest of my opinions null and void outside of that.  Sometimes I just get heated, you know?  And yesterday was definitely a day for that.  Since I did skim to the end, if I rated it it would probably be a 1 star for me.  But since I didn’t honestly read the whole thing, I usually don’t give a rating.  I can’t decide if the skimming was enough to validate my opinion.  I almost think it was.  *shrugs*

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The Nanny Arrangement by Rachel Harris

Blurb:
29561320Soft-spoken and shy Hannah Fisher is determined to make the man she’s loved her entire life finally see her as a woman. With the help of a makeover, a new mission—Operation Find My Happy—and the convenient forced proximity of a tour bus, she vows to win her best friend Deacon’s heart.

Former bad boy and current fiddle player Deacon Latrell has the world at his fingertips: a new gig with a famous band, plus his best friend on tour as his son’s nanny. Life couldn’t get much sweeter. Now if only he could stop imagining kissing the daylights out of his childhood BFF…

With one friend set on pushing the boundaries and the other afraid to rock the boat, one thing’s for certain—their story would make one heck of a country song.

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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.

Mmmm, I love me a good friends to lovers story.  I was hooked from the prologue too, I just felt Hannah’s voice in her 14/15 year old self, and how much she put on the line to approach Deacon.  And I felt his overwhelming loneliness and despair.  Honestly, it was so good I was bummed for a tiny second that I wasn’t getting the young adult novel of their story.  😛  I will admit that that prologue was a full 5 stars for me, and that it was sort of on a different level.  But saying that, the story that followed was still all sorts of satisfying and grin inducing.

I really enjoy these romances from Ms. Harris.  They just have the perfect blend of sweet characters, great chemistry, steamy scenes (even if the books are fade to black, there are still tummy tingling hot spots), fabulous supporting characters, with just the right hint of strife without going overboard.  I can honestly say I was worried that Deacon’s inability to trust would wear on me…and it almost did.  It rode the edge (probably more than I would have liked, it got a bit frustrating).  But I was satisfied that the turnaround was short, so I didn’t have to be disappointed in him for long.  And it’s always so satisfying to see a reluctant hero nudged in the right direction (go Sherry and Arabella!).

I was also concerned with the kid aspect, b/c I’m not really a kid person.  And while the kid speak didn’t really work for me (sue me, I’m not won over by “wovins” and “mes a cowboy”), I did really appreciate the way Hannah was with the kids.  I respected the hell out of her, she really seemed to genuinely love the job, and it made her happy, and she treated them with respect and encouragement.  I love seeing positive adult role models…or parents…or whatever.

Hannah was a bit of a contradiction.  I loved the strong parts of her I saw, and I felt for her shyness and insecurity.  I LOVED the friendships she formed with Sherry and Arabella, it made my heart happy.  And when she finally made her move (in the limo) I loved the passion in her and the way she stood up for herself and Deacon…  I will admit that I wish I’d seen more earlier on, but I’ll take what I can get.  It seems both my hero and heroine had awesome bits, but the things that they clung to and allowed to get in the way got a bit frustrating.

As a side note, while it’s not required to read any other books in this series (or the related one), if you have read Tyler & Sherry’s story and Charlie & Arabella’s story, you will be very satisfied with the glimpses you get into their lives!!

So all in all, it was a great read!  Especially if you’re looking for a solid, Harlequin-esque romance (the Harlequin Romance line, not the Blaze line.  😛 ).  I wonder if it will be Nate or Miles next?

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