Cuff Me by Lauren Layne

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

ARRESTED BY LOVE

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Unloved by Katy Regnery

Blurb:
35700589My name is Cassidy Porter…

My father, Paul Isaac Porter, was executed twenty years ago for the brutal murder of twelve innocent girls.

Though I was only eight-years-old at the time, I am aware – every day of my life – that I am his child, his only son.

To protect the world from the poison in my veins, I live a quiet life, off the grid, away from humanity.

I promised myself, and my mother, not to infect innocent lives with the darkness that swirls within me, waiting to make itself known.

It’s a promise I would have kept…if Brynn Cadogan hadn’t stumbled into my life.

Now I exist between heaven and hell: falling for a woman who wants to love me, while all along reminding myself that I must remain…

Unloved.

**NOTE: This book is intended for readers 18+**

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

LOVED it.  Like, LOVED it.  It wasn’t as dark as I was expecting, I don’t know why I thought it would be.  So if you’re looking for a really dark read, this probably won’t fit.  But it was an emotional ride right from the prologue (especially since I started it 2 days after Vegas, hit a bit close to home).  I bawled off and on through the first few chapters.  I really do believe Ms. Regnery is trying to collect torn out bloody hearts for her collection…maybe she stores them with the tears of her readers…

OK, so I’m not usually an insta-love kind of girl, but there are occasions where it just works for me and is kind of a guilty pleasure.  And this book contained that kind for me.  I think it’s because we start off meeting Cassidy and Brynn on their own…I got to know them, I fell in love with them, my heart ACHED for them both (for completely different reasons).  They both have such tragedy in their lives.

I truly empathized with Brynn and what she was going through post-Jem.  I can’t relate, but I can only imagine how I would react in those circumstances…and I have a feeling it would be remarkably similar.  I feel like we got a really good look into her character…even if we mostly see her in mourning.

And Cassidy…oh my sweet boy.  My heart HURTS.  IT HURTS.  He just has such a sweet nature, and it was so hard to see it constantly existing beneath a cloud.  I really ended up loving him.  And he was strangely believable.  Like I could see how he turned out the way he did.  And he just stole my whole heart with his innocence, and his longing, and his forced isolation, and just…everything.  He was almost kind of a beta boy…and we all know how much I love my beta boys.

And while I may have had to suspend my disbelief a tiny bit once Cass rescued Brynn and she woke up, I was willing to do it.  I realize in real life most people wouldn’t have reacted as calmly as she did, but I was OK with it.  And there were moments where I expected certain reactions that didn’t come to pass (like Cass using the cell phone at the store, I expected someone to question him later, but it didn’t happen).  But I was OK letting those things just sort of slide by.  Because I was absorbed in the story, and I was OK just letting it play out as Ms. Regnery wanted it to.

I will admit I expected more steamier scenes than what I got.  Again, I think I expected a more risque novel.  But the steamy scene we did get was full of love and reverence, and it totally worked for me.  And Cass and Brynn together worked for me.  I was rooting for them, and dreading the moment when I knew things weren’t going to go well.  And you know what?  The climax surprised me!  I was so certain it was going to go one way, and it didn’t!  And then there were twists!!!  Like super twists!  And while I’m not sure I buy into all that gene/DNA stuff, I appreciated the way the ending played out anyways.  And I got me a beautiful epilogue!

So yeah.  This was a Lenore book.  It just hit all the right spots with me, and parts of it were a bit guilty pleasure, and I highlighted the crap out of the book…  I always worry when I’ve been looking forward to a book, that it will somehow let me down.  So I was so ridiculously happy when this one wasn’t one of those.  Now I need to read something light so I can recover…

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Made for You by Lauren Layne

Blurb:
21965116Some mistakes are worth making…

When the Wrong Guy is Oh-So-Right

Will Thatcher is exactly the type of sexy playboy good girls like Brynn have always avoided. And yet there was still something about him she just couldn’t resist. When Will moved across the country three years ago, Brynn vowed it was time to put him behind her. She never thought Will might have other plans . . .

Back in town, Will intends to get what he’s always wanted-gorgeous, unforgettable Brynn. For years, he tormented the untouchable ice princess in a desperate bid for her attention. Now he has a new plan, and he’ll do anything to rewrite their stormy past. This time, he’s out to show Brynn that the imperfect man might be the best mistake of her life . . .

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My Review:
3 stars — Oh dudes…  I know I’ve been conflicted about books before, but I can honestly say this one is probably my most conflicted ever.  Because the things I loved, I LOVED.  But there were things that I essentially hated too…or at least strongly disliked, b/c I really try not to hate things.

So what did I love first: the essential quality of Lauren Layne-ness to the book.  There is a reason I love most Lauren Layne books, and it’s often in the witty repartee of the characters.  There’s just something that always makes me laugh and has me delighted by either the dialogue or the internal thoughts of the characters.  And while this seems like a really small thing, it was enough to level this book off at 3 stars for me, b/c I would give that aspect 5 stars if I could.  She also writes pretty great kissing/steamy scenes, and this book was no exception.

What did I decidedly NOT like: when it comes right down to it, I really didn’t *like* either character.  They both had good moments, so it’s not an all-out hate or anything…there were even things I loved about both of them.  But in the end I mostly just wanted to smack them, for different reasons.

Brynn was a witch with a b.  There’s no other way to put it.  I get (and love) the depth of history that went into explaining how she became this person of lists and regimented everything.  And I actually really felt for how her childhood bullying stayed with her right into her 30s.  I think people underestimate the scars of systematic bullying and how it can affect you.  I actually liked that.  But the problem is, even if you excuse her walls to protect herself, she was still kind of mean.  And judgmental (of everyone, including other girls…bordering on slut shaming occasionally, but not quite).  And stupidly oblivious (stupidly because I really honestly couldn’t buy someone being that oblivious to Will’s affections).  AND SELFISH!!  She didn’t seem to care to learn about anyone else (most notably her sister and Will).  And I didn’t buy into her growth.  All of a sudden being an orthodontist is boring?  So who is she??  What does she want out of life?  What defines her?  I have zero answers.

And while I wanted to love Will, b/c on one side of the coin, the way he held onto his love for Brynn through 15 freaking years was kind of adorable (and even the epilogue almost had me swooning).  And he was freaking hilarious sometimes.  But he was also REALLY REALLY mean.  Like, I’m only so-so on enemies to lovers tropes as it is, but to hear the things these two said back and forth to each other just made me cringe and made my heart hurt.  He was basically a bully.  And he wasn’t nearly as understanding as I would have liked when he found out about her childhood bullying.  And OMG, the games!!  WHY WOULD YOU NOT JUST TALK TO HER AND FESS UP???  Why would you constantly test her, and then get mad when she thinks you hate her and isn’t getting it?  Why’d you have to break my heart by having these horrible qualities so I can’t love you for your good qualities??  It just wasn’t enough.

The whole book is basically just terrible communication, and you know I hate lack of communication tropes.  And when he finally just tells her THE TRUTH, he gives her 5 seconds to absorb it, and then bails.  UGH.

So you see what I mean?  If it hadn’t been for the witty dialogue and moments of great connection scattered here and there, it would have been a 2 star.  That’s how much I love the things I loved.  Because these characters just didn’t redeem themselves.  I’m just not a forgiving reader I guess.  I can’t tell you how bummed I am, b/c honestly there were moments of awesomeness that obviously had me hoping for a good ending.  *sigh*  OK, I’m just going to stop.  😦

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The Princess and the Pizza Man by Cassie Mae

Blurb:
36255092Matchmaking, mansions, and murder – just another Tuesday for this princess. 

Twelve years of tossing pizzas in his hometown in Alabama is like a dream come true for William Monroe, but his sister is ready to leave the Podunk place, desperate to find herself a man and get hitched. He’s not too thrilled to hear about the mansion she’s dragging him to, claiming it’s haunted with the spirit of Cupid, and it’s his job to make sure she doesn’t fall for the first guy who looks her way.

Winter’s been running the Frostville Murder Mysteries ever since she inherited a hefty sum of cash, wanting to give back in a fun and profitable way for her home city. Noticing a lot of puppy-eyed patrons, she gives herself the job of matchmaking, picking out the ones who seem best suited for one another. But when the outspoken and grumpy man from Alabama arrives with his eager-to-be-matched sister, her focus starts to falter, and she wants nothing more than to prove to Will that her mansion can feel like home, too.

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

This was an adorable little story.  I will admit that I started off on the wrong foot with it…partially b/c I had a terrible cold that was making concentrating hard, and partially because I’m not really a huge fan of spelling out accents…it’s a stupid pet peeve, but there you go.  I was a little concerned that I wasn’t going to fall in love, but I got sucked in like I always do with a book by Ms. Mae.

I was concerned when we first met Will and his sister Maybelle (Bells) that they would be too stereotypically southern.  I should have had faith.  While they do have some stereotypical southern quirks, they fleshed out into really intriguing characters to me.  I loved how easily embarrassed Will could get, especially given how supposedly loud he was.  I also loved hearing the story about how his passion for cooking started…  And I really appreciated how much he loved his sister, and how he went above and beyond for her.

And Winter was just delightful to me…quirky and odd and not at all what I was expecting.  She just sounds delightful, I felt like I could really picture who she was, and I’d want to be her friend.  She has a really big heart.

And Winter and Will were so adorable together.  It was a truly sweet romance, and I loved how it played out at the end.  It fulfilled everything my romantic heart was hoping it would.

I also enjoyed the murder mystery, and the cast of goofy actors and guests at the mansion.  I will say I didn’t solve the mystery, I was totally surprised by that one!  And I didn’t quite peg what was going on with Bells…that’s one bit I wouldn’t have minded learning more of what happened.  She was a fun character in her own right, almost a caricature, but pulled back into realism with her feelings and conversations with Will and Winter.

So all in all, while it may have had a bit of a bumpy start for me, I was utterly delighted with how this little story played out in the end.  Made me a happy camper.

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Take the Lead by Alexis Daria

Blurb:
35832861The first book in a sizzling duology about dancers who find love from #OwnVoice’s Alexis Daria.

Gina Morales wants to win. It’s her fifth season on The Dance Off, a top-rated network TV celebrity dance competition, and she’s never even made it to the finals. When she meets her latest partner, she sees her chance. He’s handsome, rippling with muscles, and he stars on the popular Alaskan wilderness reality show Living Wild. With his sexy physique and name recognition, she thinks he’s her ticket to the finals—until she realizes they’re being set up.

Stone Nielson hates Los Angeles, he hates reality TV, and he hates that fact that he had to join the cast of the The Dance Off because of family obligations. He can’t wait to get back to Alaska, but he also can’t deny his growing attraction to his bubbly Puerto Rican dance partner. Neither of them are looking for romantic entanglements, and Stone can’t risk revealing his secrets, but as they heat up the dance floor, it’s only a matter of time until he feels an overwhelming urge to take the lead.

When the tabloids catch on to their developing romance, the spotlight threatens to ruin not just their relationship, but their careers and their shot at the trophy. Gina and Stone will have to decide if their priorities lie with fame, fortune, or the chance at a future together.

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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.

There were a few things that stood out and made this a must request book for me, and it was those things that I enjoyed the most in this story.

First, I’m a sucker for a book about dancing.  I’m really not a very good dancer myself (though I still try, I have, like, ZERO grace), so I ALWAYS admire dancers of all types, from ballet to ballroom and beyond.  And it boggles my mind how anyone can not understand the athleticism involved.  So I loved seeing the bits of dancing thrown into this story.  Strangely, having just read another book based on a dancing with the stars type show, I will say that while the dancing bits were good, they didn’t live up to that other books inclusions somehow…  Maybe because Stone was so large and strong, you didn’t get to see his struggle enough.  The author made it look easier than I think it is…and I just didn’t *feel* the dancing quite as much…  BUT if I didn’t have the other book to compare to, I probably would have loved it more.  And there was the practice with the Argentine Tango…that was pretty awesome.  Maybe it’s that the dancing was more glossed over in the second half, and I just wanted to bring back more of my own memories learning ballroom dance.  Huh.  This was a part I thought I loved, and I *did*…just maybe not as much as I thought.

OK, SECOND: Ms. Daria NAILED the diversity component.  I think this is what you get from #ownvoices…because the author is latina, you get a very realistic latina heroine.  I loved that aspect of Gina’s character, and seeing her fight to not be viewed as a stereotypical oversexualized latina was just so well done.  And you know what else I loved?  It wasn’t just one heroine that was hispanic!  There was actually a lot of diversity in the whole cast of characters (and not just hispanic)!  From other dancers to production staff to judges to hosts…it was just so real, you know?  I don’t understand why more authors don’t diversify the whole cast more.

And the great thing about this book is that the author doesn’t just tackle the issues surrounding Gina being latina…she also tackles how women in the entertainment industry are treated differently than men, particularly in regards to romantic relationships with other people in the industry.  AND we also get to see some of the effects of sexualizing men through Stone, and how he’s portrayed and what producers want from him (just take his shirt off).  I really loved that those things were all silently woven into the plot, but weren’t too preachy.

This review is already getting long, and I haven’t even gotten to characters, which is what I tend to focus on.  I enjoyed Gina for the most part, and while I understood her reasons for how she approached her relationship with Stone (wanting to keep it secret), I did start to lose my patience with her…  It started feeling really selfish the longer it went on, and like she didn’t even try to understand it from Stone’s perspective.  So in the end, I had a hard time believing her love for him.

Stone, on the other hand, was pretty adorable.  Don’t get me wrong, he had his own selfish moments…but he was kind of a beta boy, and you know how I love my beta boys.  He may have the appearance of an alpha, but his personality was anything but.  He was sweet, considerate, respectful…he made me swoon with how much he cared for Gina, and how, once he changed his tune, he was willing to do so much to make her dreams come true.

In the end, the reason I’m knocking it half a star (but still rounding up) is that I just felt like I was missing some magic…  There was just something missing in the writing…something I can’t put into words…that just kept me from getting sucked in and getting my emotions fully involved.

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Paper Fools by Staci Hart

Blurb:
34854820Bestselling author Staci Hart brings you an addictive romantic mythology series where love is the ultimate game, and Aphrodite always wins.

She’s everything I want, and she can never be mine.

I thought my heart was too mangled to love.

I thought my soul was too sullied to touch something so pure.

I thought I knew myself. But the truth is that it’s all a lie, and she’s the only one who can save me from myself.

But I don’t deserve her.

And she can never be mine, no matter how much I need her.

*This rockstar romance novel, formerly titled Deer in Headlights, has been rewritten and reedited for your enjoyment.*

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My Review:
3 stars — I snagged this one for free as this author will be going to a signing I’m attending, and the 3rd book in the series was coming out.  And I’m intrigued by mythology stories.  But there were so many things that just didn’t quite work for me personally…things that might not bug other people, but just made this not a Lenore read.

First: There was too much going on.  There are two separate stories in this book, and neither one got enough attention to truly capture me and suck me in.  This might be ok for others, but it left me disappointed and inevitably bored.  I think I would have enjoyed it more if it was mainly one story, with just a tiny bit of the other story thrown in, but it was pretty equal.  There’s the overarching story of the Greek gods and goddesses, and the competitions they are holding, and the challenge between Aphrodite and Apollo that is the basis for the story in the human realm.  And if it had just been a little bit of that, it actually could have been fun.  But within that realm we also get a lot of backstory about Aphrodite, Adonis, Apollo, and Ares (all the A’s!!).  And if that had been the whole story, I actually would have enjoyed it more…I found the backstories kind of intriguing and I was sucked in and even cried a bit.  But then there is the story about Lex and Dean, the humans that are part of the challenge.  And if they had been the main story, I might have liked it better.  Do you see where I’m going with this?  If any one element had been more prominent, I would have enjoyed myself more, because they all had potential.  But because we kept getting shuttled back and forth, I never really got a chance to fall in love and empathize with any of the characters.  I would start to, and then I would have to switch gears and go to the other story.

Second: There were too many POVs!!!  If it had just been the 4 main players (Lex, Dean, Apollo and Aphrodite), I would have been OK.  But we also got to hear from Kara (Lex’s BFF), Roe (Dean’s BFF), Travis (the boyfriend), and I feel like maybe another god or goddess…I can’t even remember you guys.  Now, there are two sides to this coin, because I actually enjoyed some things I learned in the other POVs, but it kind of left me whirling occasionally.

Third: I’m not a cheating girl.  It’s one of my button topics, it’s totally a personal preference thing, but it just puts a barrier towards liking a cheating character.  And while there wasn’t really a huge instance of cheating, there was an element in the human story (Lex has a boyfriend when she falls in love with Dean), and Aphrodite (Dita) herself is not a monogamous goddess.  At least Dita didn’t really promise monogamy to anyone, but I’m just a stupid romantic reader who likes to root for one couple, so watching her go from guy to guy never let me root for any one pairing, you know?  I’m serious when I say it’s just my own personality quirk, I’m trying not to judge, but…*sigh*  OK, I guess I’m a bit judgey.  If she supposedly LOVES Adonis, then the Ares stuff ends up feeling like cheating.  I don’t know.

I never really liked Lex or Dean, though I really did feel for Dean and his past.  I couldn’t help but wonder if he was on the spectrum, because that’s what his emotional coldness felt like to me.  I’m also not huge on love at first sight stories (lust yes, love no), and their love moved very quickly (but at least we could blame the gods/goddesses for some of that).  So I really had no investment in their love story at all.  That love story just ended up leaving me bored because of my lack of investment.  The bright spot were Roe and Kara, which is where having their POVs was a mixed blessing.  I rooted more for their romance than Lex and Dean’s.  And both Kevin and Travis were also very likable secondary characters!  It’s bad when you like the secondary characters more than the main ones.

And that brings us to the gods/goddesses story.  I actually really loved Apollo, and really felt for him (especially with all we learn about him).  His story made my heart ache.  His was done very well and added things.  Dita was harder to love.  She was as you would expect a goddess to be, so it was at least realistic…she was spiteful, vengeful, had a temper, all those less desirable qualities.  She did have good ones too, and I enjoyed how she developed over the story, and I did have sympathy for her.  I also really enjoyed her friendship with Perry, they made me laugh.  And Heff was so sweet, I just felt sorry for him.  And I actually really enjoyed the whole backstory of what happened to create this feud, and I liked how it resolved.

So as you can see, I’m seriously torn.  Like, I enjoyed quite a few elements of the story, but when you put them altogether it got to be too much, and not enough all at the same time.  Oh well.  Not for me.  I’m also not sure if Ms. Hart’s writing style is for me, because it was a bit flowery at times (which is not the right word, but I never know how to describe it).  I would catch myself stumbling over sentences, and growing impatient to get to the good stuff.  That’s all me too, just might not be the right match.

Bossman by Vi Keeland

Blurb:
31140847The first time I met Chase Parker, I didn’t exactly make a good impression.

I was hiding in the bathroom hallway of a restaurant, leaving a message for my best friend to save me from my awful date.

He overheard and told me I was a bitch, then proceeded to offer me some dating advice.

So I told him to mind his own damn business―his own tall, gorgeous, full-of-himself damn business―and went back to my miserable date.

When he walked by my table, he smirked, and I watched his arrogant, sexy ass walk back to his date.

I couldn’t help but sneak hidden glances at the condescending jerk on the other side of the room. Of course, he caught me on more than one occasion, and winked.

When the gorgeous stranger and his equally hot date suddenly appeared at our table, I thought he was going to rat me out.

But instead, he pretended we knew each other and joined us―telling elaborate, embarrassing stories about our fake childhood.

My date suddenly went from boring to bizarrely exciting.

When it was over and we parted ways, I thought about him more than I would ever admit, even though I knew I’d never see him again.

I mean, what were the chances I’d run into him again in a city with eight million people?Then again…

What were the chances a month later he’d wind up being my new sexy boss?

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My Review:
4.5 stars — Since I’d had less success with Ms. Keeland’s solo works, but GREAT success with her first co-written work, I was curious to see how I’d enjoy this one…it came highly recommended by some bloggers I follow.  And I’m here to tell you, I floved it!!!  Can I get a woohoo??!!  Basically it was everything I loved about Cocky Bastard, so I do believe I just needed to find the right fit with Ms. Keeland’s work.

There’s just something about the chemistry of the characters, both steamy chemistry and friend chemistry, that just draws me in.  I LOVED the way they interacted with one another, the way they were drawn to one another.

Chase had me laughing almost right from the start with his elaborate made up stories.  And I found myself intrigued by him and the way you could tell he was immediately affected by Reese.  And he just burrowed further into my heart with the way he pursued his feelings for Reese, despite the roadblocks in the way.  I could feel his…almost…bewilderment at what he was feeling.  And when we finally started to get glimpses into his past, well my heart just broke for him.  I fully understood his hangups.  So many times the reasons for certain actions in these romances just doesn’t feel like enough, but I got it with him, even if I didn’t agree with him.  And while we didn’t get a lot from his POV, I still felt like I got to see inside him enough.

And Reese surprised the heck out of me too.  She was a heroine that I could get behind.  She had her own tragedies, her own hangups, but she just didn’t come across like most romantic heroines.  I felt a quiet strength in her.  And she was funny, and sassy, and I really appreciated her passion for her work, and her desire to make it on her own.  I understood her hangups, even if she broke my heart from time to time.  And she was a good balance of being caring and empathic, without being a pushover.  I really loved that.  I loved the way she often handled advances from guys with almost sweetness and humour.  I don’t know, she’s really hard to describe, and I’m probably doing a crap job of it.  But I LIKED her.  REALLY liked her.  So many times it’s easy to fall in love with the heroes, but I fell in love with her too.

And this book had a fabulous secondary cast too!  I enjoyed Reese’s BFF Jules, Ugly Kitty, and I especially loved both Sam and Anna.  They all added something.

And the best part?  Ms. Keeland knows how to give good epilogue.  Damn, I love good epilogue.  I can honestly say that I will definitely be searching out more books by this author in the future, especially those in this vein…vain?  Nope definitely vein.

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Cocky Bastard by Penelope Ward & Vi Keeland

Blurb:
26111248He was someone who belonged in my wildest fantasies instead of a rest stop in the middle of Nebraska.

A sexy, cocky, Australian named Chance was the last person I expected to run into on my cross-country drive.

When my car broke down, we made a deal. Next thing I knew, we were traveling together, spending sexually-tense nights in hotels and taking unplanned detours.

My ordinary road trip turned into the adventure of a lifetime. It was all fun and games until things got intense.

I wanted him, but Chance wouldn’t make a move. I thought he wanted me too, but something was holding him back.

I wasn’t supposed to fall for the cocky bastard, especially when I knew we’d be going our separate ways.

All good things must come to an end, right?

Except our ending was one I didn’t see coming.

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My Review:
4 stars — YAYYYYY!!!  After reading my first Vi Keeland novel and being underwhelmed, I was a bit concerned about trying more.  But I’d heard so many good things about her more recent novels, and also about these books that she and Penelope Ward have co-written.  So I tried a sample, and was absolutely hooked!!  This book was everything I was anticipating from these authors, and I was so happy that they worked for me!

This book was happiness and giggle fit inducing!  I fell in love with Chance pretty much right from the start, which honestly surprised the heck out of me!  He was nothing like I was expecting, especially with a book title of Cocky Bastard.  He was this weird mix of a bit of a dick, arrogant, a total smart-ass, cheeky, intuitive, thoughtful, vulnerable, and even sweet.  He just…there was a lot to him.  And I really loved him.  He made me laugh.  He intrigued me.  He kept me guessing.  And in the end he had me rooting for me.

And Aubrey surprised me too!!  I was expecting one thing, with her rigidity and uptightness, but there was a lot to her as well.  I LOVED the way Chance was able to bring her out of her shell.  She was funny, and sassy, and smart, and had such a big heart.

And the two of them together were just gold.  The chemistry was amazing, but what I loved is that the whole part one is them getting to know each other and developing a friendship while wanting more.  I could read part one over and over again and not get tired of it.  I honestly expected one outcome from Las Vegas, but was surprised that it didn’t end up that way.  Yay for not falling into common tropes!!

Part two shocked the crap out of me from the first page.  I DID NOT see that coming.  Like at all.  I LOVED Chance’s persistence, and you really felt how much he cared and how in love he was with Aubrey.  Unfortunately I felt like Aubrey let me down here and there in the second part, mostly just with how long it took.  I both needed it to take long, b/c it validates her feelings, and I desperately wanted things to get moving forward.  I would have appreciated it being tightened up a bit more.  I did appreciate that there were moments where we could have had long drawn out miscommunications, and the authors didn’t go that way either.  THANK YOU.  I get so tired of that.

Pixy/Esmeralda Snowflake/Mutton totally stole the show.  I loved the bonds that both Aubrey and Chance developed with her.

So yeah, I’m all aboard the fan train now.  Definitely will be checking out more of the books co-written by this duo.  It was a great mix of fun/crazy with depth/seriousness.  And a very satisfying ending.  Excuse me while I happy dance.

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Temporary by Sarina Bowen and Sarah Mayberry

Blurb:
36123044The most beautiful man I’ve ever seen is the same one who can ruin everything.

The first time I lay eyes on Callan Walker, I know he’ll be trouble. With his smug grin, hot Aussie accent and thousand dollar shoes, he’s just the kind of rich guy who always gets what he wants.

And he wants two things: a night of sin, and my cooperation as he outmaneuvers his powerful mother to take control of his uncle’s estate.

I can’t afford either one. I’m the only thing standing between my little sister and the foster care system. He may have money and charm on his side, but I have something even more powerful — pure desperation. This temp job at his mother’s company can become a full time job for me. It has to.

But when Callan’s eyes rake over my body, sometimes I forget my obligations. His piercing gaze finds the fun, optimistic girl I used to be and not the tired person I’ve become.

And it works–if only for a moment. Our night together was a mistake. I can’t afford to get sucked into his high-powered family’s treachery. But the closer I get to Callan, the more layers I find beneath those expensive clothes. Though I can’t forget this is temporary. He’s temporary. I have too much to lose.

Too bad my foolish heart didn’t get the memo…

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My Review:
4.5 stars — I won an ARC of this book through a contest, but this does not affect my honest and unbiased opinion.

I am a HUGE fan of both of these authors, and in a stroke of luck I threw out the wild guess that they were collaborating in a contest that probably didn’t expect winners, I managed to…well…win.  So I had really high hopes for this book, and can I just say that it lived up to EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM??  This book was everything I loved about both authors, so if you’re a fan of either one, you won’t be disappointed.

The thing that has always sucked me in with both authors writing was their focus on fantastic, relatable characters.  Characters that you root for, characters that you fall in love with.  And Callan and Grace were no exceptions.

I felt the desperation and struggles that Grace faced, trying to provide for her sister and give her a stable home.  I felt her wariness of starting relationships when she’d had such a bad track record of being left behind.  And OMG, she had such a smart, sassy mouth on her…what I loved is that it was kind of subtle, not in your face sassiness.  She was strong, independent, with a big heart and a beautiful soul.

And Callan surprised the crap out of me.  My heart ACHED for his grief over his beloved uncle…so much so that *I* mourned for Uncle Jack.  I wish I’d known him.  The situations he faced at the hands of his mother, both in the past and in the book, just made me want to throw down with him and punch her in the throat.  I really understood how his experiences shaped him, and I loved getting to see that there was a LOT more there than met the eye.  And his humour and his own brand of sassiness were just infectious.  I can’t even tell you how many times he made me laugh.

And Grace and Callan together made my heart happy.  I followed them from flirting to more, and their chemistry was palpable.  I desperately wanted them to work, regardless of the odds they were facing.  Even when mistakes were made, I waited patiently for them to make it better (and they did).

I even adored Olivia, despite her teenage sauciness.  I thought the balance between teenage snark, bad attitude, vulnerability, and sassiness was perfect.  I appreciated that she wasn’t forgotten about.

So yeah.  I got “stuck in” and now I want to go listen to some Aussie accents.  And dare I hope that this is the start of a series??  Please please please please please….

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Blood Guard by Megan Erickson

Blurb:
34444705Enter a world of immortal danger and desire—and discover an incredible fate borne of blood.

Tendra: One minute, I’m a bartender in gritty Mission City; the next, I’m whisked away by a vampire named Athan who tells me that I’m the lifeblood of his clan. It sounds unbelievable, but he’s got evidence I can’t deny. Turns out, Athan belongs to an underground society of vampires who feed only on humans with their consent. Their enemies have no such qualms, and they want me dead. The only thing standing in their way is strong, sexy Athan. And the closer we get, the more tempted I am to let Athan feed. . . .

Athan: How could I have known when I snatched this snarky, beautiful human off the streets that she would change mydestiny? As a loyal soldier, I must deliver Tendra to our future king—my brother. Empowered with the blood of ten generations of the Gregorie breed, she is fated to rule as our queen. But there’s something between us that’s so intoxicating, so carnal, I can’t help wanting Tendra for myself . . . even if it’s treason.

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

OK, this book had a LOT going for it, but honestly the thing the one word that stands out for me is SEXY.  Like holy bleeping sexy.  Athan and Tendra had loads of chemistry, and the steamy scenes were super delicious (at least in my opinion).  And dude, some parts were way more risque than I was expecting (club scene anyone?).

I really enjoyed Ms. Erickson’s version of vampires.  The thing about paranormal books, and well known creatures, is that they all take on their own qualities.  For the most part the vampires in this book were pretty standard (drink blood, can be turned, no sunlight, immortal-ish), but then there are all the little details that set them apart.  In this case there was clan stuff, a prophecy, the specifics of how you’re turned into a vampire, the whole Somnus thing (I liked that), and running with the whole feeding and lust thing (holy sexytimes).

I remember reading an excerpt on this author’s newsletter, which is what drew me to requesting the book in the first place, because Tendra came across as hella snarky.  I’d expected a bit more on that front, but I thought she was still a nice little spitfire who definitely threw Athan for a loop.  And Athan was unexpected himself!  I loved his soul/humanity, and he was actually really sweet and endearing in parts (you know, mixed with the badassery).  You could really feel how important his duty was to him, even in the face of it not feeling quite right.  He was extremely loyal, but that did lead to some blindness at times.

I really appreciated that there were many opportunities for the author to fall into tropes, and the characters even sort of acknowledged the “typical” responses.  But then the characters just wouldn’t follow that path…like Athan could have held onto his standoffishness at times or continued to be a dick.  It’s kind of hard to describe, but I just really appreciated that the author didn’t choose the easy/typical path/responses.

And can I just say that I ADORED Zeb, and even Idris eventually…makes me excited about next book.  Neither character had a large role, but they still managed to endear me to them.  I also loved the kitty, Brex…though I was really hoping to learn something more concrete about him.

I will admit that sometimes all the walking got a bit boring.  And I can’t confirm in the final copy, but in the ARC copy my beta brain would occasionally notice some continuity errors or things that could be clearer.  Like why didn’t Athan carry her and run?  I know there’s a reason, but I wouldn’t have minded knowing it.

All in all it was nice being in a paranormal world again, and I’m totes looking forward to Idris’s book (which I’m assuming is next).  Definitely recommend diving in, especially if you like your paranormals a bit racier.

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