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.

images     scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

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.

Lenoreo_small

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.

images     scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

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.

Lenoreo_small

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?

images     scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

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.

Lenoreo_small

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.

images     scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

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?

Lenoreo_small

The Bohemian and the Businessman by Katy Regnery

Blurb:
32721286Priscilla Story, the self-proclaimed “wild child” of the straight-laced Story clan, has always had a knack for getting herself trouble. Except this time, her “growing problem” is going to require a Daddy sooner than later…or she can kiss her inheritance good-bye.

Shane Olson, who previously dated Priscilla’s sister, Margaret, isn’t opposed to a marriage of convenience for the sake of furthering his business interests, but Priscilla – with her wild ways – is just about the last woman he’d choose to marry.

In order to make the marriage look convincing, they end up having to spend more time together than they’d originally planned. When rolling stone, Priscilla, who lives by the seat of her muu-muu, and seriously-ambitious Shane, who’s had his whole life planned since he was eleven, start falling for each other, it’s going to take a whole lot of compromise for this Bohemian and her Businessman to find their happily ever after.

 

images     scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

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

OMG!!!  Stratton has competition as my favourite Blueberry Lane boy!!  Shane was sooooo my type of hero.  He was unsure, and confused, and inexperienced, and sweet, and caring, and SO HOT with the way he loved Priscilla!!  GAH!  Yup, I LOVE me some beta-ish boys.  I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about him after meeting him in Crazy About Cameron.  He was so abrupt, and clueless, and I just didn’t get a very swoony vibe from him at all.  But wow, underneath all that serious exterior is someone who is just so focused on his goals, that he’s let relationships fall by the wayside.  I really enjoyed watching him struggle with his attraction to Priscilla, and his conflicting feelings about where he thought he was going, and where his path ends up taking him.  His growth was really believable, and I LOVED the choices he made, and the points where he stood up for Pris…I didn’t feel like we had to wait too long for that, I HATE when authors make you wait and then give you an abrupt change.  Shane’s transition and development was perfect.  And on a sidenote, I want to punch Vicky in the nards!!  Screw you Vicky!

And then we have Priscilla!!  I was also confused on how to feel about P in CAC.  But she was such a strange combination of sweet and wild!  In fact, the wild is probably an overstatement.  I think they just call her wild b/c they don’t know what to do with her, b/c she breaks the mold.  Sure, she may be a wanderer, but you find out there’s reasons underlying that beyond the obvious.  And OMG, I totally felt her vulnerability, and how much it hurt that being who she truly was inside was so frowned upon by most of her family.  Honestly, I’m not sure how I’m going to fall in love with Betsy at all, she and Pris really have a volatile relationship…but I have faith that Ms. Regnery will work her magic.  I get that in big families, there are often divisions between the different types of personalities.  I LOVED that Pris had Meggie though (and vice versa).

And the great thing about Priscilla and Shane is that I really FELT their chemistry, and they totally made their “opposites attract” thing work.  Like I could really feel how they each fascinated each other.  Priscilla wanted to help Shane loosen up (and I think deep down he wanted that too), but she also needed the safety and security she felt with him.  And Shane needed Priscilla’s sweetness and light, but also gave her a safe place to acknowledge that it’s OK to set down some roots.  And damn!  They sure know how to steam up the place!!

I will say that I’m a bit torn on Priscilla’s extra secret.  I don’t mind the way she dealt with it, and I liked that it gave me a bit more understanding of her, but I felt like it came up really late in the book, and so it wasn’t given as much attention as I would like.  We didn’t really get to see her have a conversation with Shane about it, it was just mentioned and moved on from.  I guess that could happen, but it made me feel sad for Pris.

All in all, a FABULOUS read for me in the Blueberry Lane series.  It was definitely my kind of book, and I LOVE that we get to see such wildly different people in this series, both boys and girls.  Often times I feel like the heroes in long series can become a bit cookie cutter, but Ms. Regnery gives us a spectrum of both heroes and heroines.  And manages to find a way for ALL characters to get into our hearts somehow.  It’s truly my absolute favourite thing about this series, that no matter the personality of the character, whether I’m like them or not, Ms. Regnery always manages to get me to *understand* them, and root for them.  That’s a sign of great character writing.

Lenoreo_small

Walk of Shame by Lauren Layne

Blurb:
32491187Sparks fly between a misunderstood New York socialite and a cynical divorce lawyer in this lively standalone rom-com from the USA Today bestselling author of Blurred Lines and Love Story.

Pampered heiress Georgianna Watkins has a party-girl image to maintain, but all the shopping and clubbing is starting to feel a little bit hollow—and a whole lot lonely. Though Georgie would never admit it, the highlights of her week are the mornings when she comes home at the same time as her uptight, workaholic neighbor is leaving to hit the gym and put in a long day at the office. Teasing him is the most fun Georgie’s had in years—and the fuel for all her naughtiest daydreams.

Celebrity divorce attorney Andrew Mulroney doesn’t have much time for women, especially spoiled tabloid princesses who spend more time on Page Six than at an actual job. Although Georgie’s drop-dead gorgeous, she’s also everything Andrew resents: the type of girl who inherited her penthouse instead of earning it. But after Andrew caps one of their predawn sparring sessions with a surprise kiss—a kiss that’s caught on camera—all of Manhattan is gossiping about whether they’re a real couple. And nobody’s more surprised than Andrew to find that the answer just might be yes.

images     scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

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

This book was so much of what I love about Lauren Layne.  It gave me butterfly tummy tingles, it made me LAUGH OUT LOUD, it made me giggle quietly, and it gave the mouth hurts from grinning too wide.  And not only that, it gave me frowny faces, and tummy hurts, and chest tightening too.  So basically all the good things for a great book.

I wasn’t sure how I would like Georgie, but it turns out a lot.  She’s nothing like I’m usually familiar, a wealthy socialite whose life involves brand names and high end shopping and perfect makeup and being seen in the best restaurants and partying most nights until the early hours.  And I’m SOOOO not that kind of girl.  But here’s the thing: she’s also really sweet and kind and big-hearted and a lover of the HEA.  And *that* I can relate to.  Her vulnerability and sensitivity really hit me hard too.  I reacted pretty much the same to everything that she encountered in this book.  But she was also strong, and not willing to bend for the wrong reasons.  Sometimes I wish we could have seen more development of her character, and seen what happened with her restlessness with her current lifestyle.  Did she look into a job?

Andrew surprised me in a good way too!!  Having an enemies to lovers story, I was worried that he was going to be a dick or something.  But he wasn’t!  Or at least not intentionally.  He was so much deeper than I had been anticipating, and I hadn’t quite realized where his animosity…well, not quite animosity, but his rigidness came from.  I really appreciated that.  The problem honestly is that I wanted MORE from Andrew.  We get a lot of hints, but because we only got maybe a third of the book in his head, I felt like I didn’t really get him as much, and I ended the book with questions.  We get hints, and I can make up my own answers, but I’d much rather know, you know?  Like why a divorce lawyer?  Why his rejection of marriage?  Was it just the logical stuff?  Was there more?  I really really really wanted more.  Because his vulnerability and desperation and confusion with Georgiana was just freaking adorable and made me want to hug him.  But I am pretty greedy with my heroes, so even without all the questions I had, I still would have liked more in his head, b/c I love equal time if I’m given dual POVs.

I wouldn’t say I’m a huge fan of the enemies-to-lovers trope, but one thing it does bring you is a lot of sexual tension and fun banter at times.  And it was done so well in this book.  And when they finally collide, DAMN girl!!  Just, woosh.

And I even enjoyed the secondary characters in this one, though none of them really got a lot of screen time.  But they were diverse and I enjoyed their interactions with our MCs.

So yeah, total hit for me.  Honestly the only reason I’m rounding down is because I’m a greedy SOB and wanted more from Andrew.  😛

Lenoreo_small

Back Piece by L.A. Witt

Blurb:
34442289Colin Spencer is a tattoo artist with a past he’d prefer to keep a secret. Actually, he has a few secrets that he’d rather people didn’t know about, which is why Colin doesn’t do commitment. But when a shy sailor approaches him at the gym, Colin finds this guy pushing all his buttons.

Growing up in a conservative family, then escaping with the Navy, Daniel Moore is an unsure virgin who feels like he can’t share his true self with anyone. Seeing Colin—and his tattoos—at the gym are the sign Daniel needs to finally get those tattoos he’s always wanted, and maybe try his hand at flirting.

As Colin and Daniel spend more time together, their awkward hesitations turn into a deep passion neither expected. But with both men harboring secrets, will their relationship be able to survive their insecurities and become something beautiful?

Back Piece is a sexy, emotional journey of two people learning to love and finding acceptance for who they really are.

images     scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

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

I have lots of mixed feelings about this one.  I honestly finished it and was just completely uncertain how I felt.  And not necessarily in a bad way, there was so much I genuinely enjoyed.  I just knew there was another part of me that was hankering for a bit more.  But I think the things I enjoyed outweighed my nitpicks this time so I’m totally rounding up.

This book dealt with a crapload of odd and intriguing issues.  You have Daniel, shy, sweet, and incredibly naive.  A virgin in SO MANY ways, occasionally his naivete would make me a bit skeptical, but at other times I felt like it was intriguing and refreshing.  I could really feel his panic and worry about not knowing what to do.  It wasn’t the sex naivete that threw me off, I totally got that and thought it was handled really well.  It was the relationship stuff.  It was so odd that he felt so unsure about how relationships worked.  I’m not entirely sure I buy into that, but I can’t completely convince myself that it couldn’t happen with the way he was brought up…that he would somehow assume that gay relationships would work any other way than every other romantic relationship.

I really appreciated the struggles he went through with his parents, and that the author showed that just because they were homophobic didn’t mean they didn’t have great qualities.  And inevitably Daniel had to make the decision about what was important to him.  I thought that was handled rather well.

And I even enjoyed his introduction to sex, and the strange amount of detail we got as a result (about pitfalls of bottoming or topping for the first time).  To be frank, there was a LOT of sex in this book, but I didn’t mind that so much as that I wanted a bit more on the relationship side.  The steamy scenes were quite delicious, and the chemistry between Daniel and Colin was awesome.  I just found myself occasionally puzzled about the relationship progression, and why some choices were made, and even if I guessed the reasons, why did they not ever discuss it and any hangups they might have had?  I needed some more depth there.

And then there’s Colin.  I can’t decide if I want to spoil the “secret” or not, I’m not sure if it really affects the enjoyment of the book to know here…you find out pretty early on (or at least there’s hints from the first chapter).  So if you don’t want to be spoiled, skip to the next paragraph in this review.  Still with me?  OK, I LOVED that Colin struggled with an eating disorder.  I felt like it was given so much authenticity and realism, and I could really FEEL his struggle.  I thought it was respectful, and I appreciated its addition to the story.  I also LOVED that his being a former porn star wasn’t some horrible shameful thing.  It added a strange layer onto the story.  I will say that while I LOVED Daniel’s reactions to learning these secrets, I kind of wished he considered Colin’s struggles more often.  I know he was overwhelmed with his own issues, but Colin was there for him with his family and thinking about him, why didn’t Daniel give more thought to how he could help Colin cope?  I wanted some development there that I didn’t get.

There were the occasional parts where some of their conversations got a little repetitive.  I’d be thinking “didn’t they have a similar conversation” (like Daniel comparing Colin’s situation to friends who came home with PTSD), and I get that that happens in real life especially with important stuff, but in romance books it feels kind of odd and unnecessary.

I enjoyed the tattoo stuff, and the meanings behind the back piece.  I would love to see it, even as I understand it doesn’t exist in real life.

My only other nitpick is that I would have liked to see more of an epilogue.  I was totally anticipating seeing how things fell out with Daniel’s family, and particularly the sister and maybe other siblings.  I’m not sure if the next book will be Daniel and Colin again or other characters.  If it’s other characters, then I definitely wish we’d gotten that bit more since the ending came kind of quickly.

So yeah.  It was a mixed bag, but definitely more to love.  Will be intrigued to see what’s next in the Skin Deep Inc series.

Lenoreo_small

The Baby Bombshell by Victoria James

Blurb:
34455448Lily Cookson has a few rules for the New Year, the most important being don’t fall for Jack Bailey. The gorgeous, rugged man returned with a new look and a determination to win her back, catching her off guard. After a forbidden night in his arms, she vows never to let it happen again. But when morning sickness kicks in a few weeks later, Lily realizes staying away from Jack just got a whole lot harder.

Jack Bailey left Shadow Creek behind five years ago when his world imploded around him, knowing it would be best for everyone if he was gone…including Lily. It took him a long time to get his life back on track and grow into the kind of man she needs him to be. Now he’s determined to prove to Lily that he’s back for good and ready to commit, but the secrets she’s holding onto are nothing compared to the bombshell he drops…

images     scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

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

OK, am I just confused?  Or misremembering?  But wasn’t Lily like super shy in the first book?  Damn, I might have to go look it up, b/c it’s killing me.  Well Lily was definitely not shy in this one.  She really didn’t feel like the girl I remembered at all, but perhaps it’s how other people see Lily versus how she sees herself?  I’m not sure.  Not saying she wasn’t an interesting character, she just wasn’t what I was anticipating and looking forward to, and so I probably didn’t connect with her as well.

This book was a solid romance, I just felt like I was left wanting a bit.  Like it didn’t give me the same emotional impact as the first book.  But it might just be the mood I’m in.  It’s like it had all these potentially gut wrenching circumstances, but I just wasn’t connecting with the characters and their grief as much.  Maybe b/c we didn’t really get flashbacks?  Maybe I just wanted more?  I don’t know.  It’s not like we didn’t get told how Jack was having a hard time coping and there was the whole beard thing.  That was heartbreaking…but at the same time, I didn’t really feel it as much as I expected.

Part of my problem with this book is that it was a very fast read, which can be nice and devoury…but I also kind of felt like things moved at a very fast pace and didn’t give me enough time to understand the depths of emotions of either character.  I *think* I got a bit more from Lily.  But given that Jack left, I guess I kind of wanted to know what finally made him come back.  What helped him get through his grief?  What was different, what changed?  Why could he suddenly deal now?  Maybe it’s because I’m someone who struggles with depression, the fact that his obvious emotional problems weren’t really addressed, and what he did to work through his grief was just kind of glossed over, it was just very unsatisfying for me.  And quite frankly, I was NOT impressed with the extra tidbit we learned about him wrt Lily’s secret, and I felt like the letters weren’t enough.  I needed more.  Maybe I’m just being picky and greedy.

I was also not super into the climax.  That seemed kind of over the top.  Maybe I’m cynical?  I don’t know.  I’m also not huge on the whole faith and signs thing, but that’s 100% a personal taste thing.

So yeah.  I enjoyed myself, but definitely not nearly as much as the first book.  That one just felt like so much more.  I can’t decide if I’ll try to catch Gwen’s book.  Part of me is intrigued, but I’m not sure if I’m invested enough.  I guess time will tell.

Lenoreo_small

Pillowtalk by Cassie Mae

Blurb:
33401722In this heartfelt romance from the author of the All About Love series, two people who thought they’d given up on passion turn to each other for emotional support—and maybe something a little more physical.

 
Kennedy Walters has had a tough year. Now she’s come to the lakeside town of Lyra Valley to finally say goodbye to the memory of her first love. But while she’s staying at his sister’s B&B, Kennedy is shocked to find herself undeniably drawn to a handsome local heartthrob—especially since she isn’t  sure if she’s ready to move on.

Aaron Sheppard returned to Lyra Valley because he was fed up with the big city and everything it didn’t have to offer—like the beautiful, down-to-earth girl staying at the B&B. Aaron’s enjoying a little flirtation until he realizes that she’s Kennedy Walters, the girl who was dating his best friend. But after a power outage strands them together, Aaron and Kennedy wind up sharing some intimate conversation. And over the course of a night that neither will ever forget, they learn just how compatible they could be—if only they knew how to let go and fall into each other’s arms.

images     scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

My Review:
4.5 stars — I received a free copy through NetGalley in exchange for an honest and unbiased review/opinion.  (and actually, I sort of alpha/beta read this story as well)

I was kind of worried about rereading this one, just because it does pack an emotional punch, and sometimes when I know that going in I’ll avoid it (I do this with movies and TV shows too — *cough*Season 3 of Rectify*cough*).  But I hadn’t written a review after beta-reading this one (which I normally do), b/c I knew parts of the story were going to change and I wanted to read the final version before giving my final thoughts.  I’ve also been in a really picky reading mood, so I didn’t want that to affect my reading either…but alas, with release day coming up (and being here today) I knew I couldn’t put it off any longer! Unfortunately I feel like my mood did affect my reading a tiny bit, so I’m trying to channel my earlier thoughts as well to compensate.  Because I truly adored this story BOTH times I read it, and I want to do it justice.

So that sounds like I’m going to say something bad about this book, and that couldn’t be further from the truth.  Ms. Mae is one of my favourite authors because she always manages to give me very *real* characters, and she has done it once again with Kennedy and Aaron.  What I mean by real is that I feel like these are real human beings out in the world, that they are inherently flawed, but are the kinds of people I’d like to know.  And in this story they BOTH go through a whole gamut of emotions, and some of the most difficult ones: grief, betrayal, and guilt.  Ms. Mae didn’t just sluff off her responsibility while giving them the love story they deserve, she sucked out all my feels.

I could understand Kennedy’s grief so much.  Even just imagining losing the love of my life to that hateful disease, I’m not sure how I’d ever pull myself out of that grief.  I felt like the road that she traveled in this book was one that I could empathize with.  Yeah, she’s under a very silly misapprehension for much of the book, but I can honestly see my brain making such weird assumptions when in the thick of that grief.  Perhaps if you’ve never experienced grief, you might not understand how consuming it can be, but as someone who’s lost her father as a teen, I can wholeheartedly say that it can mess you up big time, and that everyone deals in different ways and at different speeds.  And so I felt for what Kennedy was going through, and how much she struggled between what she thought in her head and what she felt in her heart.

When I first heard of the concept of this story from Ms. Mae, I hadn’t understood just how impactful *Aaron’s* story would be.  I kind of thought the heartache would mostly be centered around Kennedy’s side.  But oh no, we get so much more in this story.  I can’t even imagine what it must be like to be Aaron and living with his own guilt and remorse and never feeling like he had the chance to resolve it.  I felt just as many feelings for him as I did for Kennedy.  And I felt his grief over the loss of his best friend too.  I thought it was kind of perfect that they were able to share that, it wasn’t something I had anticipated, but it was something that I loved about their dynamic.

And hoo boy, Aaron is MEGA book boyfriend.  Quiet, unassuming, a bit more nerdy?  DAMN.  I want him.  I do.  I want him.  And his dog, Charlie, too.  And his glasses.  GAH!

And their chemistry together really worked for me.  Not just in the steam section (which OMG, from the laundry room to the boathouse to the bedroom, DAMN), but I really felt their connection as friends too.  I felt the intimacy of their bond.  It happened pretty fast, but it worked for me somehow.  But I don’t mind insta-love sometimes, especially when people are older and know what they want.

There were a million favourite scenes in this book for me.  From the tree party to the dirt biking to the lake party for making me smile and swoon.  And then there’s the moment in the closet and on the dock for making me cry.  I felt everything, from light to heavy.  And it flowed seamlessly in the book, just as it did for Kennedy and Aaron.  And the ending was sweet and perfectly satisfying.  Which pretty much sums up how I feel.  It may have taken me on a rollercoaster of emotions, but it left me feeling sweetly satisfied.

And that’s what I have to say about that.

Lenoreo_small

Dancing in the Rain by Kelly Jamieson

Blurb:
32934383A retired athlete meets the daughter he never knew—along with the woman who reignites his passions—in this powerful standalone romance from the bestselling author of Hot Shot and the Heller Brothers series.

Drew Sellers is drowning in broken dreams and empty beer bottles. Hockey was his world, until a bum knee reduced him from superstar to has-been. Then he learns that, thanks to a one-night-stand back in college, he’s the father of a preteen girl with major issues. Her protective aunt sees right through Drew’s BS, but “Auntie P” is no stereotypical spinster. With her slender curves, toned legs, and luscious lips, she has Drew indulging in fantasies that aren’t exactly family-friendly.

At another point in her life, Peyton Watt would have been all over a cocky alpha male who pushes all her buttons like Drew. Right now, though, she needs to focus on taking care of her niece during her sister’s health crisis, all while holding down a job and keeping her own head above water. Besides, Drew’s clearly no father of the year. He’s unemployed. He drinks too much. And he’s living in the past. But after Peyton gets a glimpse of the genuine man behind his tough-guy façade, she’s hooked—and there’s no going back.

images     scr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

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

OK, in a totally boneheaded move I avoided reading a different ARC of mine b/c I was afraid of all the emotions, and instead picked up this one, which contains…ALL THE EMOTIONS.  I don’t know if I just forgot the blurb since when I requested it, but yeah.  For a girl who was looking for something lighter, I really wasn’t thinking.  So basically what I’m saying is that this book deals with some pretty heavy topics, and is definitely on the more emotional scale.  It doesn’t help that I have a personal connection to the type of Cancer that Sara is dealing with (melanoma), so it hit a bit too close to home at times.  But at the same time, it was nice that a cancer that’s affecting my loved one was getting a bit of attention.

So this is my first book by Ms. Jamieson, and perhaps it wasn’t the best introduction to her work.  Which is NOT to say the book wasn’t well written, just that it sounds like it was a bit of a departure from her usual stuff (both from reviews and from her note in the acknowledgements about being encouraged to branch out), so I will definitely have to get me one of her hockey books in the future and get another taste.  I can honestly say I enjoyed that Drew was Canadian, b/c I got to see some teeny tiny things that made me (as a Canadian) smile.

In the end, you know where the strength of this story lies?  In the non-romance part.  In the development of Drew, in the grief shared by the family, in their navigation of new realities.  I’m not sure what happened, but it’s almost like Ms. Jamieson was so focused on bringing us a “bigger book” that the romance kind of got lost in the shuffle.  Which is not to say it wasn’t there, but it just didn’t capture me.  It felt a bit forced.  I didn’t feel that chemistry between Peyton and Drew.  It kind of…well…bored me.  😦  I really hate saying things like that, but it’s how I felt.  Even the steamy scenes didn’t really do much for me…but part of that was because there was some talking, and I’m really picky about my dirty talk and Drew’s didn’t work for me.  No offense, but no.

OK, so that was the bad.  Which is kind of a bummer, b/c I’m a romance girl at heart.  BUT!!!  But but but…  A lot of THE OTHER STUFF was so well done for me!!!  These characters were really pretty flawed.  But not without redemption.  It was kind of intriguing to read about a character being forced into retirement b/c of injury.  It’s not really sexy to see a guy indulging in a pity party, but it was very real at the same time…I could get how he got to that point, and I could really feel his emotions.  It’s not how you normally want to see your heroes, but I really didn’t mind it.  B/C it’s kind of refreshing you know?  And it made his growth so much more satisfying.  I loved how much he struggled with getting out of that low, that it wasn’t just easy…  I know that’s kind of weird and may turn other people off, but not me.  It made him more real to me.  It made me love Drew more.

And then there was how he dealt with finding out he was a Dad.  OMG, AGAIN real real real.  There wasn’t some magical instant connection, and he wasn’t immediately comfortable with it all.  But he was interested.  And even though he wobbled at the beginning, he really put his all into developing a relationship.  I LOVED that he was honest about his feelings at different steps along the way.  And I loved that he had some great instincts with Chloe, even if he didn’t always trust them.  Sometimes I felt a bit weird at how he got some things so perfectly right (like the dress code), but on the other hand I was cheering!

And I thought Chloe was very realistic too!  She’s in that stage of life where we get to see so much, both good and bad.  She had missteps, and attitude, but also heart and depth.  I appreciated that.

Peyton was a little less likable for me.  I’m not sure if I just didn’t get enough from her, or maybe I was disappointed in how long it took her to come to certain conclusions.  But where she shined for me was in displaying how hard it is to deal with a family member who is dying, and then in showing us authentic grief afterwards.  I really appreciated that, and my heart just broke for her.

I was a little bummed in both of our MCs about the climax.  I guess it kind of went hand in hand with them behaving unfortunately realistically, but at the same time some of their actions and reactions felt a wee bit out of character.  But maybe that was just me.

So yeah.  Odd reading experience for me.  To have some things that I absolutely adored, but others that left me wanting.  I think if the climax hadn’t been so off-putting, I would have rounded this one up instead of down, THAT’S how much I enjoyed all the family dynamics and non-romance parts.  But in the end the climax combined with a romance that left me unfulfilled (which is kind of not good when the book IS a romance) has me rounding down.  I will definitely be checking out other books by this author though.  I think she’d nail the sports romance genre.

Lenoreo_small