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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Fix Her Up by Carey Heywood

Blurb:
34229481Fall in love with this hot and hilarious new romantic comedy from New York Times Bestselling author Carey Heywood!

Finley Reeves is the queen of bad mistakes. Fresh off a bad divorce, she decides to rebuild her life from the ground up – starting with a fixer-upper that’s got more leaks than the Titanic. Deciding to tackle this project alone might be her biggest mistake of all…. That is, until Noah Thompson shows up at her front door like a knight in a shining tool belt and makes her an offer she’d be crazy to refuse.

Noah’s sexy, rugged, and good with his hands, but Finley swears she doesn’t need his help – in the basement, or in the bedroom. Can this unlikely couple build a future together? Or will this be one fixer-upper that is better off left alone?

(A fun and sexy Contemporary Romance, ages 17+)

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

This was just a good old fashioned adorable romance.  If you want a romance that’s gonna leave you feeling happy and basically like the world is awesome, then this is the book for you!  I LOVED Noah and Finley’s love story.  It was just cute, and fairly uncomplicated, and sometimes that’s just what you need, you know?  It’s not that they didn’t have a few pitfalls here and there, but they were pretty minor, so it was mostly just a feel-good read.

I loved how strong and motivated Finley was.  She really had something to prove to herself, and I think she accomplished that.  And seeing her tackle all those projects just screamed girl power!  I loved that she was wary of Noah’s offer of help too, it fit with her character, and come on…it does seem a bit too good to be true, you know?  I will admit that near the end I was growing a bit tired of her continual skepticism of Noah, not that I don’t think it could happen based on what she went through, but I think I needed a bit more diving into her past in order to make me really feel how slowly she was to warm up and trust.

Noah was just all around goodness.  Maybe a bit too good to be true, but honestly I’m not complaining.  And I loved that there really wasn’t anything hugely wrong with him, he didn’t have any hang ups, it really honestly was a case of him not meeting the right girl before Finley.  He was gentle and kind, but forceful when necessary.  He was supportive of Finley, and it just came naturally to him.  I loved the complicated relationships he had with his siblings, it wasn’t all sunshine and roses, but you could still feel the love.

And I really loved how slowly the relationship progressed.  Not that there wasn’t a part of me that was impatient for a kiss or for something more, but the other side of me was so happy to see them developing the friendship first, it made me really believe in the pace their relationship developed.  And when we finally got to the steamy scenes, they were so satisfying and worth the wait!  Occasionally I wanted to see a bit more of their conversations and connection beyond the renovations, it felt like that got skipped over at times in the time jumps, but it wasn’t enough to make me unhappy with it.

Obviously great side characters.  I loved both sets of parents, they were quirky but very loving.  And I’m so hoping that this series is going to follow all the Thompson siblings, b/c I’ve fallen in love with most of them.  If I’m right, then I’m especially looking forward to Asher’s story and Abby’s story.

All in all a great straightforward read!  Honestly, the only thing holding it off a full 4 stars is me wanting a bit more depth in both characters, but I’m greedy like that.

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Hook by Elisabeth Grace

Blurb:
29379163From USA Today Bestselling Author, Elisabeth Grace, comes her most suspenseful, sexy, and thrilling book yet!

Women loathed me without even knowing my name. Men coveted the very idea of me.

Escort. Call girl. Prostitute. Hooker. Wh*re.

I’d heard it all. Done it all.

Over the years I’d felt a lot of things about my occupation…but not regret–never regret. I had my reasons for doing what I did and nothing and no one had ever made me question them.

UNTIL MARCO VALENTI.

He’d changed me and I’d naively fed into the fairy tale.

But Marco wasn’t my Prince Charming. He had secrets of his own. Secrets that would eventually rip away everything I held dear.

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My Review:
3.5 stars — OK, so I will admit that I tend to shy away from mob/mafia feeling books, and with a name like Marco Valenti and a guy with secrets, I had a hunch something like that would appear.  It’s the same as I shy away from Motorcycle Club books, I just have a hard time falling in love with a hero who does questionable things.  But the hooker part intrigued me.  And since the author is going to be at a signing event I’m attending, and gave away this book for free, I figured I’d give it a shot.  And I must say, I was actually pleasantly surprised for the first more than half!!

For one, it was nice to have a woman in a questionable profession who isn’t some virginal girl, but who owns the choices she’s made to get where she’s at.  And who doesn’t regret them.  And when you learn why she’s chosen this path for her life, I could buy it.  A son with MD can NOT be an easy financial burden, especially as a young single mother.  And I think that’s particularly where our heroine shines, in her love for her son Daniel.  I really felt her love for him, her worry, and you could see the different choices she was making to truly give him the best life possible.  And I LOVED that she had goals outside of that too.  Like, with the amount of money she was making, she could have just coasted, but she was going to school, and she had dreams of something more.  It really made her a more interesting and 3 dimensional character.  That caught me by surprise, and I was impressed with that.

Marco was a bit harder to love, but I also didn’t hate him.  He had some spectacular moments (such as how he handles Daniel), and I loved how forceful he was about reminding our heroine that she is not just her profession.  I thought the balance was good.  He could be a bit…emotionally volatile?  Or something.  That wasn’t really a turn on for me.  But he had lots of sweet moments as well.

Honestly, I almost rated this one a full 4 stars because I really enjoyed the first part, even despite some reservations…  But I started to get a bit impatient/bored near the end of the book, b/c I had forgotten that it was a duet, and so I was wondering when we were going to get some resolution.  Answer?  We weren’t.  Cliffhanger.  Which is fine.  It was my fault for forgetting.  And so it just lost a bit of the good steam it had going.

So what were my reservations?  Well, what exactly drew Marco to her in the first place?  He was quite infatuated.  That was mitigated in that at least we got to see them get to know each other, so I could accept the development of the relationship past that point.  The name thing was a bit weird too…it went on longer than I was anticipating.  And it did pull a few things directly from Pretty Woman, which I didn’t feel like it had to be so close (the kissing thing, the opera).

And then we get to the ending.  Well, I’m a bit of a skeptical girl, so I don’t buy it all.  It felt a bit like a cheap play on emotions.  And I REALLY don’t like where that takes our heroine and hero.  In fact, the ending didn’t make me super keen on continuing on (despite the fact that having a cliffhanger is supposed to do the exact opposite).  So I read a few bad reviews for the next book, and I know darned well that my personal tastes are going to run towards that end of the spectrum, so I think I’ll just leave it at this.  Once that decision was made, I read some spoilers so I could at least have a question answered.  No regrets.  Enjoyable book, just not quite in my wheelhouse enough to continue on.

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Perfectly Imperfect by Harper Sloan

Blurb:
27512229Mirror, mirror … who’s the fairest of them all?

I still cringe when I hear that line. A fairy tale that had girls pretending they were the fairest, the most beautiful, and the most entitled. A fairy tale most couldn’t grow out of turned my haunted childhood memories into a living nightmare. Girls who grew up believing that pile of garbage became the meanest of all ‘mean girls.’

And those mean girls were right – it was a line meant for all the beautiful people in the world – and I knew the answer would never be me.

The women with long legs, flat stomachs, and perfect chests.

The type of women Kane Masters gravitated toward.

Well, that’s definitely not Willow Tate.

No. That will never be me.

Because I’m completely imperfect.

And … I hate myself.

I have no idea what Kane could possibly see in someone like me when he could have them.

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My Review:
2.5 stars — So I should have DNFd this one.  Honestly, when I started reading the first chapter, I was a little bit put off by the style.  Not to be rude, but I got a little bit bored.  There was just a lot of the story taking place in the characters heads.  I forged ahead, b/c the premise of the story really intrigued me, and I wanted to know where it was going to go.  And there were little glimmers of things that I enjoyed, so you hold out hope that those parts will take over the story somehow.  But they didn’t.  By 60% I honestly contemplated DNFing, but by that point I wanted to know the mystery of Mia and Kane (even though I had my theories, and those actually came pretty close to the truth).  So I finished it.  But I will say, if you read the sample, and you’re reading the first chapter and you’re not really feeling it, then it might not be the book for you either.

Basically, as I told my husband, it was just too many words.  WORDS WORDS WORDS.  Talking and talking.  *sigh*  And if it wasn’t that, then it was sex.  But damn, I was excited after the first kiss (because that was hot), but then we got to the first more steamy scene, and even that got interrupted by words.  *heavy dramatic sigh*  I started trying to skim (which I’m terrible at).  I need more plot I guess.

As for our characters, they weren’t terrible, but I wasn’t enthralled either.  I could see good things, but I didn’t really get to feel their growth.  Willow talked and talked and talked about her changing and growing, but I didn’t get to see that growth happen in actions.  And I’m not saying that I didn’t love the scene where she went back to Logan Agencies, that was awesome.  But it was like one minute she has an eating disorder and hates herself, and then some conversation with Kane and then a month later she’s stronger.  That wasn’t satisfying for me, and it didn’t allow me to buy into the growth you know?  Kind of telling instead of showing I guess.

And then there’s Kane.  Yeah, he could be hot sometimes and sweet, but all the what is essentially soul mate talk just had me dibsing out.  It was over the top dramatic and kind of sappy.  Or maybe I’m just cynical, but I got tired of all that too.  (I didn’t even swoon over the epilogue, I rolled my eyes…so much cynicism in this girl apparently)

And then we get to their decisions about the scandal.  I can’t go into it, but I don’t understand how what they decided to do was any better for the situation, it just felt like unnecessary martyrdom.

And finally, if you’re the kind of person who gets annoyed by bad editing (in the proofreading sense), then unless it’s been changed since I bought it last year, this one is NOT proofed well.  So many sentences had mistakes and it made for a jarring read.

OH!  But I will give a huge nod to Kirby, Eddie, and even Kole.  Some funny moments with all of those secondary characters.  They’ve convinced me to round up.

So yeah.  This one wasn’t for me.  I had kind of higher expectations, which probably didn’t help.  Oh well.  One less author for me to visit at my upcoming signings.

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Tanner by Sarah Mayberry

Blurb:
34682642He’s used to risking it all in the ring, but nothing prepared him for love…

After flying half-way around the world to surprise her boyfriend, Evie Forrester finds herself heartbroken and stranded in a strange city. What could be a total disaster becomes something else when a tall, dark bull rider turns out to be a white knight in disguise. Evie isn’t sure she needs saving, but Tanner Harding is a difficult man to deny. He’s even harder to resist…

Tanner Harding can tame a monster bull with ease, but he never expected to be floored by someone like Evie. Sparks fly between them until injury threatens to end Tanner’s career –and suddenly he’s the one in need of a rescue.

Evie can’t turn her back on her wounded hero and, as Tanner struggles with his recovery, she’s not sure she can guard her heart against him either. Tanner knows Evie has slipped under his skin, but she lives in Australia and his future is under a cloud. Can two people with too many reasons to walk away make the bold decision to stay?

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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 made it no secret that I am a huge Sarah Mayberry fan.  Back when I was reading Harlequins like they were going out of style, I found her to be a refreshing voice full of humour and sass, and always unique characters and situations.  And I’ve read a few of her books outside of the Harlequins (she’s had a few with Tule publishing), and she always just feeds my happy romance reader heart.

I was worried that I wasn’t going to fall in love with Evie at the beginning of the book.  She just struck me as really naive, and I couldn’t help but groan at the decision she had made and how she couldn’t see how it was going to end up, you know?  But somewhere along the way, Ms. Mayberry made me love her anyways.  I can’t say I completely understand why she decided on the surprise trip, but I can accept it I guess, you know?  I was OK with what we got from the fallout of that decision (how she dealt with it), and surprisingly didn’t end up hating Troy (the boyfriend).  I kind of feel like that’s a miracle.  And the way that all went down helped to make me believe in her developing relationship with Tanner…I think if it had been any different, it would have rubbed me the wrong way you know?  That was an intriguing balancing act by Ms. Mayberry.

And Evie was just so sassy, I loved her dry sense of humour.  I LOVED the way she handled Tanner after the turning point, she was just perfect.  And you really could see her kindness and stubbornness.  And I loved that we got to see her depth, and I really believed in her love of animals and such.

I’m not always a huge fan of taciturn heroes, but Tanner was so much more than that.  Sure, he could be gruff and grumpy, but he could also be sassy and teasing and he made me swoon with how he stepped in right away with Evie.  He had his lower moments, of course, but I was satisfied with how that all played out.  I kind of wish we could have seen him deal with the plot twist…we got some of it at the beginning, but then it faded a bit.  I just wanted his feelings revisited a bit, it was overshadowed by the romance.

But damn people, the romance was smoking.  I really did feel the chemistry and the steamy scenes were very hot.

The other thing I really appreciated about this story is how well she can drop you into an environment and really make you feel it and understand it.  I’ve never had any interest in bull riding, but I felt like we got a realistic glimpse of what the sport is like, with both the challenges and the highs.  I really appreciate that, because then it doesn’t feel like a gimmick, but something that is a really big part of the heroes life.

All in all it fulfilled my romantic heart, as Ms. Mayberry’s stories always do.  And the epilogue gave me just enough to have me grinning from ear to ear.

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Pipe Dreams by Sarina Bowen

Blurb:
31820744A goalie has to trust his instincts, even when taking a shot to the heart…

Mike Beacon is a champion at defending the net, but off the ice, he’s not so lucky. A widower and a single father, he’s never forgotten Lauren Williams, the ex who gave him the best year of his life. When Lauren reappears in the Bruisers office during the playoffs, Beacon sees his chance to make things right.

Lauren hates that she’s forced to travel with the team she used to work for and the man who broke her heart. There’s still undeniable sexual tension running between her and Mike, but she won’t go down that road again. She’s focused on her plans for the future—she doesn’t need a man to make her dreams of motherhood come true.

Lauren plays her best defensive game, but she’s no match for the dark-eyed goalie. When the field of play moves to Florida, things heat up on the beach.

One of Mike’s biggest fans doesn’t approve—his teenage daughter. But a true competitor knows not to waste the perfect shot at love.

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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 one is going to be a hard one to review.  Because I loved so much of it, even if I can see potential pitfalls for others.  There’s a teeny tiny part of me that thinks that things progressed too smoothly, or worked out too well, or was just too convenient at times.  But you know what?  I found I just didn’t care.  Because sometimes life does just work out at the right moments.  It doesn’t have to be all super angsty, sometimes relationships can move forward without huge devastating roadblocks.  Which is not to say that Mike and Lauren didn’t have roadblocks, it just seemed like some of the turns in the plot felt a little convenient.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about Lauren.  I mean, she really comes across as a witch with a b in the other two books.  And I’m not entirely sure I buy the transition to the Lauren we discover in this book, but, again, I’m not sure how much I care.  A part of me wishes I’d known more of what was going on in her head when she was being not so nice to the girls.  There were definitely explanations given for her uptight attitude, and they worked to an extent, I just wanted a wee bit more.  BUT if you ignore her from the other books, then just Lauren from this book was actually pretty awesome.  I hated to read about everything that happened to her as a result of her relationship with Mike and subsequent breakup.  I could totally see it happening too, and how it would irrevocably change her.  But I loved that she was so smart and really went after the things she desired in life.  And I loved that she didn’t compromise those aspects of herself when things started to change with Mike.

Regardless of the bad choices Mike made surrounding the breakup with Lauren, I can still sympathize with him while still thinking he was a bit of a bonehead.  Just like with Lauren, despite how much you hurt with her about the past, he still manages to bulldoze his way into your heart.  He was such an intriguing hero actually.  Such single minded determination yo.  Once he got his head out of his butt, he really turned on the charm and went after what he wanted.  And he was funny, and sweet, and charming, but not in a smarmy way you know?  You just couldn’t help but love him.  He made me laugh, and as such he got away with some pretty outrageous behavior at times.  I keep shaking my head at him, but I’m still sold.

Their chemistry was seriously solid too, making for some epic steamy scenes.  You really just wanted to root for them, you know?

And there was lots of delicious hockey in this one.  As a hockey fan who is currently entrenched in playoff season, this was a perfect read for me.

Fabulous secondary character support as usual.  Loved Hans.  Nice to see all our favourite past characters making appearances as well.  And just so you know Ms Bowen, that wasn’t enough for Nate & Becca.  I still politely plead for at least a novella.  PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!  In fact, I wouldn’t mind a Silas book too…just saying.  You know, not being greedy or anything, noooooo….

So yeah, even though some things felt a little too smooth in the plot, I was still a happy little reader.  Sometimes you just want to read about love winning, you know?

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