Home by Melissa Pearl

Blurb:
26026392Rachel Myers never meant to stay in the small town of Payton. Her eyes are set on bigger things than waitressing at Clark’s Bar. She wants to perform on a stage of her own with bright lights, fame, and fortune. But her dreams seem too far out of reach and so she stays put, content with the love of her boyfriend, Joshua Clark. He’s a good man, a solid rock she can depend on. She wants that to be enough, but it hasn’t quelled her yearning for the big city.

Josh has never loved anyone the way he loves Rachel and he dreads the day she might leave him. He’s happy in his small town home. Running the bar that has been in his family for two generations is a dream come true. He couldn’t be happier with his life… until one night, a city boy from Hollywood promises Rachel a record deal and destroys everything.

Jumping at a chance she never thought she’d have, Rachel leaves Payton. And Josh. But the sparkle of Los Angeles is not all it’s cracked up to be, and Rachel quickly figures out that some sacrifices are not worth the risk. Is she too late? Will Josh forgive her, or has her desire for fame ruined the best thing she’s ever had?

Sometimes you have to say goodbye before you can say forever.

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My Review:
3.75 stars — While these books are all standalone, you do get something a bit extra when you read them all.  And I actually skipped over 2-4 the first time around, so after reading True Love and Rather Be, I was hella interested in finally reading Josh and Rachel’s story.  And it’s funny, b/c while I’m a romantic at heart, this wasn’t a typical love story for me.  Which is not a bad thing, it’s more that there were many other aspects that drew me into this story, and for once the romance wasn’t the biggest part.

Both of our characters are hecka flawed, with a lot of growing to do, and in this story we see them as an established couple at the beginning, and then they end up on separate paths to do their own growing before finding their way back to each other.  The problem with this is that I didn’t necessarily feel *quite* the same investment in them as a couple as I normally do in my romance novels.  It wasn’t that they weren’t super cute together, or they didn’t make me smile…or that I wasn’t rooting for them.  But it just felt a bit different than my normal romances.  I was rooting for them not because I knew much about what they were like together, but because I believed them when they told me that the other was their “person” and that they were their true love, and so I wanted them both to find their happiness.  Does that make sense?  Probably not.

As with most of the Songbird novels, I felt a smidgeon more for Rachel’s story than for Josh’s.  It wasn’t that Josh didn’t have his own path to go on, but I just felt more invested in Rachel’s path.  Maybe it’s because Josh was so bad with open emotions, I always felt like I wanted just a bit more from him.  BUT he really was the perfect big intimidating man with a marshmallow center.  I loved that he was so quiet and reserved, but would not take crap from anyone.  I loved the way he was protective of Rachel.  So many of his reactions felt just very young.  He was an interesting dichotomy in that sense, in that he had all this responsibility with the bar, but I felt like he still had a lot of growing to do with relationships.  Not that I could blame him with the heartaches he experienced in his past.  I really did understand why he was so quick to jump to conclusions, and why he turtled to protect himself.  And while I wouldn’t have minded a bit more groveling on his part for the mean words he said to Rachel, as a man of few words I understand that was probably more than could be asked for.

Rachel also suffered from being young and naive.  It was PAINFUL to see her get taken for a ride…it’s so hard being a reader and seeing all the pitfalls, and wanting to yell at your character “OPEN YOUR EYES!!  DON’T SIGN THAT!!!  WHAT ARE YOU DOING???”  But I could totally see how this probably happens every day to young girls with more dreams than common sense…  But it hurt to read.  And while it sucked to see her believing the threats, they felt real to me, and I could see how she would assume she didn’t have another out.  I felt like the time it took her to figure things out was realistic too, even if it sucked.  I was happy with the turns that story took, and it was actually really gratifying to see her figuring herself out, what she was capable of, and what she wanted from life.

And I think that’s where this story wins.  It’s a love story where the couple really *needed* to separate and learn to stand on their own, so they could really understand what they needed from each other.  And it made that moment where she sings, and then the whole phone call part just so gratifying, I wanted to whoop out loud!!  I love when a climax is that satisfying.

I also ADORED the cameos from Jody, Leo and Angel.  That was so satisfying.  I’m sure it would be interesting even if you’d never read Everything, but it was like awesomesauce after reading it.  AND!  I loved seeing more of what happened between Nessa and Josh!!  That always felt a little bit unfulfilling in True Love, so while these are all truly standalones, you really do get more out of the experience if you read them all (and in order).  Now I’m going to reread til the end of the series!!  It’s so fun seeing the little glimpses of where characters weave in and out of each book, connecting them all in some way.

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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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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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Wicked Restless by Ginger Scott

Blurb:
26821969Andrew Harper grew up in a house marked by tragedy. His older brother Owen did his best to shelter him, but you can only be protected from life’s pain for so long. Eventually, you end up just feeling numb…and isolated.

Loneliness was the one constant in Andrew’s life. Until one girl, met by chance in a high school hallway, changed everything. Emma Burke was a mystery and all that was beautiful in this world, the only air Andrew ever wanted to breathe. She took the lonely away, and filled it with hope and color, and Andrew would do anything to keep her safe, happy and whole.

But sometimes, what feels good and right is what ends up hurting us the most. And when Andrew and Emma are faced with an impossible decision, Andrew is tested to see just how far he’s willing to go for the girl who owns his heart.

Cuts are deep.
Scars are left behind.
And revenge beckons.

When Andrew finally gets his chance, in college, five years after his first love broke him completely, he finds out old feelings don’t really disappear just because you say you hate someone. The more he tries to avenge all that he believes he lost, the more he uncovers the real story of what happened years before.

Love is wicked. But a restless heart is never satisfied beating on its own. Can Andrew and Emma make it right before it’s too late, or will the ties that bind them now destroy their only chance at a future?

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My Review:
4 stars — OK, this one is a harder book to review and rate too, but the successes were much clearer and more impactful for me, so they definitely weigh more heavily in my opinion.  So I can definitely say that Andrew’s book was a hit for me, even if I did have some reservations.

I think my problem comes in that I was SO in love with Andrew in Wild Reckless, or at least what I could see of him.  He was sweet, and felt more beta boy, and yet lonely too.  I was curious where his story would go.  AND I FELL IN LOVE with him in Part One!  OMG, that boy was everything I was hoping he would be!!  He gave me tummy tingles, and made me giggle and swoon.  I ADORED Part One of this story (and yes, all the way through the letters too).  It made me so happy and so sad all at once.  I’m not always happy with being in the dark for long periods about certain aspects, but I did at least know there was more to Emma’s story based on comments made here and there (and actually had a pretty good guess, though it turned out to not be quite right).  I really loved that love story between them.  I felt their infatuation with one another, I felt how strongly their feelings came on.  And because of the Part One “climax” of sorts, I could understand how those feelings could be made even more impactful when you go through something difficult together.  I understood why Emma was scared (even without knowing the details of her story), and I totally believed in Andrew’s sacrifice.  So if I’m not making myself clear, I LOVED both characters in Part One.

And thus, my heart HURT for who Andrew became 5 years later.  And I actually got it.  I think the reason Ms. Scott succeeds in making me believe in Andrew and how he got to where he did is that I saw inside his head (LOVE dual POV books), AND I saw who he was before, I saw some transition in the letters, and eventually we learned a lot of the things that fundamentally changed him for the worse.  I TRULY GOT IT.  But I wish I didn’t.  My ultimate problem with this book, and the reason it’s a 4 star and not a 5 star, is that I hate Andrew’s choices for 30% of the book.  He was HORRIBLE.  To Emma yes, but mostly to Lindsey.  I think it went too far for my delicate sensibilities.  I don’t want to be *that* disappointed in a boy I love.  I honestly think the only reason I can forgive him is because I knew who he was before, who he *still* could be inside, and because I got to see some remorse.  But I’m still sad.  I would have appreciated it more if he made some initial bad decisions, but then distanced himself.  Ah well, we can’t always get what we want.

And I didn’t expect all the drama that found our hero and heroine in this story, but I was hooked on the ride.  I saw a few things coming, and I had all the feels for Emma and the struggles she goes through.  I thought that side plot was particularly impactful, and I enjoyed the journey she went on.  I think everyone’s journey is different, but I believed in the paths she took.  And I was satisfied with the way Andrew handled the situation.  I think that’s where we begin to love our hero again and forgive him.  It’s too bad it takes that, and maybe it’s a bit convenient, but I’m ok with that.  I actually felt like the Emma struggle from Part One (I’m trying to be vague and not give anything away) kind of got lost in Part Two.  I thought it would get more limelight, but it didn’t really seem to impact her life or come into play between her and Andrew.  I was a bit disappointed with that.  Again, sometimes there’s too much difficult stuff, and so you can’t spread the focus to all of it.  Ah well.

My absolute FAVOURITE part was the first date in Part Two.  OMG, could Andrew be anymore adorable?  And the way Emma hugged those presents, OMG OMG OMG.  LOVED them both.

AND, I’m totally onboard with another reviewers suggestion of a story for Trent.  PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE!!!  That boy was so sweet, and it was nice to see Andrew have a good friend.

So yeah.  I had some struggles, but the good stuff wins this time.  (on a side note, I don’t get the cover…particularly the ferris wheel)

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The Silent Waters by Brittainy C. Cherry

Blurb:
32070295Moments.

Our lives are a collection of moments. Some utterly painful and full of yesterday’s hurts. Some beautifully hopeful and full of tomorrow’s promises.

I’ve had many moments in my lifetime, moments that changed me, challenged me. Moments that scared me and engulfed me. However, the biggest ones—the most heartbreaking and breathtaking ones—all included him.

I was ten years old when I lost my voice. A piece of me was stolen away, and the only person who could truly hear my silence was Brooks Griffin. He was the light during my dark days, the promise of tomorrow, until tragedy found him. Tragedy that eventually drowned him in a sea of memories.

This is the story of a boy and girl who loved each other, but didn’t love themselves. A story of life and death. Of love and broken promises.

Of moments.

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My Review:
4.5 stars —  I saw this book on sale on one of my bargain book emails (BookBub I think), and while I haven’t read any by Ms. Cherry, I do have a few and I’ve heard great things.  And she’s going to be attending an author event I’ll be at in the fall, so that right there had my interest peaked.  And then, as I usually do when deciding on a book, I read the 1 star reviews.  😛  It’s basically so I can see if the things they’re complaining about are the kinds of things that would bother me.  It helps to temper the 5 star reviews (of which I’ll read a few, as well as any friends reviews).  Well damn, the 1 star reviews really intrigued me, and gave me the impression that if I read the sample I would see right away what they didn’t enjoy.  Well damn, challenge accepted!  And you know what?  I was SUCKED IN!!!  I NEEDED MORE!  So apparently I’m not like the 1-star reviewers, b/c this was sooooo my kind of book.  Like seriously, I knew darned well just from the blurb that this would fit as a guilty pleasure for me.

So yeah, that was a seriously long and pointless introduction, I just found it really amusing is all.  But you guys, this was just my kind of book.  I know it’s going to sound really stupid, but I am so attracted to books about damaged heroines.  I can’t imagine I’m the only one.  And add in a swoony sweet hero?  Oh yes please.

I actually just recently read a book about selective mutism, and while I enjoyed it, it didn’t blow me away.  That’s because *this* was the book I was looking for.  I’m probably going to completely fail this review quite honestly, I just really really really enjoyed myself.  Everything from the plot, to the characters, to the swoony romance, to the intrigue, to the depth and message.  I actually highlighted something that hit me so hard I shared it with my husband:

“Sometimes our minds acted as a form of kryptonite, and we had a responsibility to our own self-worth to aggressively tell it to fuck off with its lies.”

Oh Maggie May, you speak the truth.

I actually enjoyed the way the family dynamics played out in this book (which was one of the things others complained about).  I appreciated that they didn’t all handle it well.  It was actually a balance on how they coped with Maggie’s mutism and agoraphobia.  Her Mama broke my heart, but it wasn’t outside the realm of possibility you know?  People can be so easily influenced by others, and everyone has their own demons to face when confronting adversity.  I won’t say that I wasn’t occasionally baffled at how Maggie could maintain that level of fear for SO MANY YEARS, but trauma affects everyone differently and I was able to accept it somehow.

And speaking of family dynamics, I REALLY appreciated the way the Cheryl relationship worked out.  I wasn’t expecting that, I love when secondary characters surprise me.

And even the way the relationship with Brooks played out was satisfying to me.  I really felt their connection and chemistry and I swooned so hard.  Even if I will admit that I HATED Brooks’s taste in music.  😛  It was terrible.  To me.

There was a part of me that didn’t enjoy the time jumps in the middle.  I mean, I enjoyed the way they were presented, but I was saddened that so much time went by.  I wasn’t expecting that.

I totally called the mystery element.  Maybe I was supposed to, but I saw the way that was going to play out.  But I was happily surprised with how Maggie’s healing developed.

Anyways, I’m just babbling here and probably not being very helpful.  Essentially, this book was a Lenore book.  It hit all my buttons, and gave me so much of what I was craving.  So yay!  I’m excited to get to more of Ms. Cherry’s books, but they will likely have to wait until the summer.  But after reading the sample, I just couldn’t resist diving right in.

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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…

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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.

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Proposing to Preston by Katy Regnery

Blurb:
25361685Proposing to Preston is the second of four books about the Philadelphia-based, wildly-handsome Winslow brothers who are all on the look-out for love.

(Except Brooks… he’s probably sailing around the world with Skye by now. And Christopher, who’s only on the look-out for a congressional seat and absolutely. nothing. else.)

Preston Winslow has a heart as open as the sky and room in his life for someone special. When he falls in love with Broadway actress, Elise Klassan, he holds nothing back.

Elise, who has made tremendous sacrifices to forward her career, is swept off her feet by handsome, charming Preston…but the stage has been her first love for so many years, she doesn’t know if there’s room for Preston in her life. When the day comes that she must choose between her ambition and her heart, she profoundly hurts the one man who could have made her happy.

Two years later, Elise has become a world-famous actress and Preston is a very successful lawyer. But fame has not equaled happiness for Elise, and Preston is much too bitter and cynical to ever consider falling in love again.

Is it possible that the only person who can mend Preston’s heart is the one who originally broke it? Only if Elise can figure out a way to make him believe in love all over again.

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My Review:
4.5 stars — THIS!!!  After being a bit bummed about not enjoying the Modern Fairytale books I’ve attempted by Ms. Regnery, I decided to go back to the series where I fell in love with her and read my box set of the Winslow Brothers from her Blueberry Lane series.  I’d already read the first book a while ago, but I reread it first (and was reminded of my love), and then I started on this one and was just utterly captivated…much like Preston was with Elise.  There’s just some magic there, you know?  I felt all these feelings of attraction at first sight, and just how bewildered Preston was when presented with those immediate feelings.

And OMG, these two were so adorable together!!  There was just so much chemistry!!  And it was sweet, and I appreciated the backstory that came with Elise and how her upbringing shaped her.  So her reactions often felt very authentic, and I could just imagine how overwhelmed she was when faced with so many of her dreams coming true, but also with the exhaustion of all the work that went into making her Broadway dream come alive…and how conflicted she was with how she felt about this new love of hers.

And Preston was just so unbelievably sweet, and he tried so hard.  He was so patient, it was just…GAH!  I really loved him.  But I’d seen glimpses of him in Bidding on Brooks, and I knew that something happened to take him from this sweet endearing boy, to a jaded cynical man (even though it was only 2 years), and so I was just waiting for the other shoe to drop, you know?  Like I couldn’t fully relax, wondering what was going to happen.  And I just kept thinking, OK I’ll read until the end of Part One and then go to sleep, and read the second half in the morning.  And then HOO BOY, we got there, and I just had to read a bit more, until my eyes wouldn’t cooperate.

I LOVED the way that all played out.  Even though it was heartbreaking, it honestly fit with who they each were, and I could just see them both making those horrible mistakes and reacting badly, b/c in so many ways they were just so young.  Not in age, but in experience.  I really appreciated that.  I really appreciated that while I wanted to smack them both, I could accept the way it played out.

And Part Two really compelled me right away too.  My heart was sooooo broken for Preston, I could just feel how broken he was.  And Elise too.  To realize what you’ve done, and not understand how to fix it.  And I was a bit concerned when Elise seemed to be the only one who had thought of the mistakes she’d made, but thankfully Preston didn’t let me down…though I wish he’d expressed to Elise what mistakes he made as well, so she wouldn’t feel the burden of all the blame.  But at the same time, their reconciliation was very satisfying and I enjoyed the way they worked things out every step of the way.  And I liked the development with her family as well, even if that all made me cry.

All in all this book was super satisfying for me.  Both characters were very sweet and earnest, but also very flawed, and so it was so rewarding to see them grow and eventually grow together.  I will say, the epilogue was NOT satisfying for me.  It’s just not my style, and it didn’t give me enough of them, which is what I loved.

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Don’t Speak by Katy Regnery

Blurb:
33222262From New York Times bestseller Katy Regnery comes a new twist on a beloved fairytale.

A fisherman’s daughter.

The governor’s son.

Two very different worlds.

In this modern retelling of The Little Mermaid, a fisherman’s daughter from an Outer Banks island untouched by time, meets the son of North Carolina’s governor at a fancy party where she’s working.

Laire, who wants so much more from life than her little island can offer, is swept away by wealthy, sophisticated Erik, who is, in turn, entranced by her naiveté and charm. The two spend a whirlwind summer together that ends on the knife-point of heartbreak and forces them to go their separate ways.

Years later, when fate leads them back to one another, they will discover the terrifying depth of the secrets they kept from each other, and learn that shattered hearts can only be healed by a love that willfully refuses to die.

All novels Katy Regnery’s ~a modern fairytale~ collection are written as fundraisers. 10% of the e-book sales for in March and April 2017 will be donated to P.E.O. International, a non-profit organization that celebrates the advancement of women, awards scholarships and grants, and provides motivation for women to make their dreams come true.

**Contemporary Romance. Due to profanity, adult themes and very strong sexual content, this book is not intended for readers under the age of 18.**

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

Well darn.  I just didn’t connect to this book like I was expecting to.  I love Ms. Regnery’s Blueberry Lane novels, but this is the first of her Modern Fairytale stories that I’ve read.  I’ll still give the others a try, but I think I had some expectations for it from seeing people gush about those stories, and so I kind of set up roadblocks against myself if that makes any sense.  I’m not sure how to explain it.  It’s like, I wasn’t sure how the retellings would play out since they are contemporary stories, but I guess I just kept expecting one major plot point in this particular story, and didn’t quite get it.  I can’t really say more without giving minor spoilers.  While I have never read the original Little Mermaid fairytale, I do adore the Disney movie and I do know the basic gist of the original story…and I guess I felt that the absence of that major plot point was disappointing.

And those anticipations and expectations hindered my enjoyment in other ways too.  I kept trying to guess when certain things would happen or how certain parts would play out, and so I was never fully absorbed in the story.  Again, that was my fault.  Perhaps I wasn’t in the right mood for a retelling.  Perhaps the pace of the first half just didn’t work for me, it was a lot longer than I was anticipating, and I was always waiting for the other shoe to drop.

One of the little things that threw me off were the many subtle references to the Disney film.  It’s funny, b/c while I adored the movie, it felt odd to me that there should be such obvious references (from character names, to subtle song nods).  This is TOTALLY a personal preference thing, but I often found those references, and even some of the ways in which Laire thought of Erik as the “Prince of Utopia Manor”, or Erik thought of Laire as a “little mermaid”, to be kind of forced, or contrived.  That doesn’t mean they were, that’s just how they felt to me.

I spent a lot of my reading time thinking that all the building blocks for a great story were there, but I just couldn’t connect with the characters.  And there weren’t any obvious reasons why, I’m not entirely sure if they were flat or if it was just me.  But while they did most things really right, I didn’t swoon as much as I expected, or get as many tingles, or even bawl in the places where I should have been crying…I didn’t shed a single tear.

I think part of my problem is that I felt a personal disconnect with Laire’s extremely sheltered upbringing, and those conservative views that often result in women being shamed just rub me the wrong way entirely.  It really fit well and made SO MUCH SENSE for how naive the little mermaid is supposed to be.  That was soooo well done (seriously, the set up of a sheltered island girl and a Governor’s son was a perfect way to make the story work in a contemporary setting).  But I didn’t end up feeling ANY good feelings towards her family, and perhaps I needed a little something to love about her father to understand her reactions later on.  But maybe that’s because they made me so angry that I didn’t care for her family at all.

OK, so I know…this review is ridiculously long.  I just…I like to understand what went wrong for me, especially when so many felt differently.  I DID love the romance.  I think I held myself back from Laire because of how naive she was, and so it made it harder to connect to both of them as fully as I might otherwise.  I LOVED that while Erik looked like he would be a party boy or something, he was not what I expected at all.  It was definitely a lot of strong feelings in a short amount of time, but young love can be like that sometimes so it didn’t bother me.  And can I just say that I love that he called her Freckles?  SO CUTE.

And I actually really enjoyed the part after the Interlude.  I felt like that was paced really well, and I adored a certain major character in that part.  I felt a lot more feelings in the second half, and started to connect more.  It definitely started hitting me in the feels more, but of course that part was shorter.

So yeah.  There you have it.  My thoughts.  *sigh*  *shrugs*

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Hooked on Trouble by Kelly Siskind

Blurb:

31359036Reality bites. Hard.

The last time Raven did “real” was sixteen months ago, when she spent one unforgettable night with the tattooed, impossibly sexy Nico, and then he disappeared the next day. Since then, she’s kept her guard up and her feelings to herself. She doesn’t have time for relationship drama when she’s busy searching for her long lost sister.

Nico hasn’t stopped thinking about Raven—her sultry curves, inked skin, or the fact that he ditched her after their night together. Now that they’re living in the same city, he knows this is his chance to make things right. What better way to prove to Raven he’s for real than helping her find her sister? But when the lines between right and wrong start to blur, putting his job on the line, Nico has to decide if the risk is worth the ultimate reward.

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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 review is going to suffer b/c I wasn’t able to immerse myself in this book like I normally would…it actually took me an unprecedented week to read, and it had NOTHING to do with the story.  But as such, I don’t have my thoughts all nicely gathered as I normally do.  So bear with me.

I find I’m really loving Ms. Siskind’s writing and characters.  While I’ve only read book 2 in this series of hers, I still feel like I can say that with confidence.  What’s funny to me is that I just finished reading my review for that book, and I gave it the same number of stars, but it wasn’t because I was as in love with Nico as I was with Sawyer.  I just enjoyed the story, and thought it was a solid romance with a lot of depth, and flawed characters that seem to grow over the course of the book.  There were little things that left me a bit unsatisfied, but nothing egregious, you know?  So it’s kind of funny to give it the same star rating, but for this one it was just an overall feel, whereas for book 2 it was a balance of one amazing character and one meh character.  Annnnndddd you really didn’t want to hear all that, did you?

ANYWAYS.  So both Nico and Raven were actually super cool characters, but in kind of opposite ways.  They are both so damaged by troubling childhoods, but it shaped them into completely different individuals.  But I kind of still understood what drew them to each other.  It’s like they balanced each other off, you know?  Raven is kind of jaded, and edgy, and standoffish, and not exactly a rule follower.  Whereas Nico is very soft, and gentle, and goes all in, and is ALL ABOUT THE RULES.  They’re sort of extremes on their own.  And it was interesting to see how that all kind of clashes and results in the ultimate climax of their relationship.  I wasn’t expecting it, and yet looking back I kind of should have, you know?  I was initially a bit put off by both of their mistakes, but in the end I was happy with how it played out…it felt true to both of their characters, even if it made me temporarily mad at them.  But it made the learning feel more authentic I guess.  Like neither changed, but they both learned to compromise.  Nicely done Ms. Siskind, props.

I will say that although I enjoyed their banter, I did miss the lightheartedness that came with Sawyer’s ridiculous personality.  That boy shone even in this book in his little appearances.  I LOVED seeing the group all together, they really made me laugh and I wished they really existed somewhere out in the world.  That epilogue was basically ALL OF THE THINGS.  And now I want to read book one even more, I need to figure out how to squeeze it in.  *SIGH*

So yeah, solid final book in the series.  Dealt with some difficult issues on both their ends, but in the end I was missing falling deeply in love with the MCs to really push it over the top (*groan* pun not intended) for me.  Will be watching for more from Ms. Siskind in the future, especially since she gives good Canadianness.

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Kiss Me Kate by Katy Regnery

Blurb:
25540433Kate English, cousin to the beguiling English Brothers, has relocated to Philadelphia and now works with her cousins at English & Company. The problem with moving to Philly? It was where Kate met her first love, Etienne Rousseau. Since the move, Kate can’t seem shake the painful memories of a romance that broke her heart.

Etienne Rousseau, neighbor and arch-enemy of the English family, is recently single and has every intention of enjoying his newly-minted bachelor-status. That is…until his brother inks a deal with English & Company, forcing Etienne to work with his one-time lover, Kate English. Though he wants to hate the girl who once destroyed his life, he can’t deny the fierce attraction or hide the deep tenderness he still feels for Kate.

With vibrant flashbacks of their passionate, teenage love affair making it impossible to ignore their unresolved history, Kate and Etienne will commit to unraveling the secrets of their heartbreaking past to make way for a breathtaking future.

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My Review:
4.5 stars — Oh Etienne…I was so freaking skeptical.  Like seriously, soooooooo skeptical that I actually really held back and wore my skeptical face for a great deal of the reading of this book, but you won me over.  I thought it was impossible, but you managed it.  Or should I say Ms. Regnery managed it.  And I don’t even feel cheated or anything.  She managed it where there were some misunderstandings, a lot people acting not their best, but it was all kind of human, you know?  Like I could be mad at all of them equally for the misunderstandings and grudges of the past, and while I was at first sad and wanted my English boys to be above reproach, I could see how it could have happened that way, and it was OK knowing that not all my beloved characters are flawless.  Even Stratton…heck especially Stratton, since he’s still working on coming around.

And I know I’m talking so much about Etienne, but if you read the whole English brothers series, you understand why their is an initial sense of pushback when you find out that Etienne is Kate’s love.  I wanted to trust Ms. Regnery, but there were a few moments in Stratton’s book where he just comes across so smarmy or something…but even that kind of gets explained away.  Like Etienne acknowledges the kind of f’d up-edness of his relationship with Amy, and that he did not behave his best either.

OK, enough about all that.  Basically all you need to know is that I am a grudge holder, and I forgave Etienne…so all those people who said I would love him were right.  And not just Etienne, I loved Kate too.  She was this beautiful mix of confident and sassy and insecure…definitely a heroine I could relate to.  And she was a bigger girl too, like me!!  We could swap clothes!!  So obviously that’s going to make me love her too!  But it was her heart that I loved…she has an innocence about her, but she was still so strong.

And Etienne was so sweet and almost heartbreaking as a teenager.  Like he had this undeserved reputation based on a language barrier, and my heart just went out to him.  Seeing him connect with Kate just made me feel so many butterflies.

And that’s one of the things that was kind of unique about this final (sort of) book in the English Brothers series — it was kind of a combination of an adult book and a young adult book, b/c we didn’t just get present, we got tastes of their past as well.  And not tiny flashbacks, but longer ones!  We really got to watch them fall in love and connect.  I really loved that.  It did make for some strange pacing in the book, b/c in the end we didn’t get as much from the present as I had been anticipating.  But I was still thoroughly satisfied.  Just not sure if it will be to everyone’s tastes, you know?

And all along we got little tastes and foreshadowing about what went wrong in the past, but it was so hard to know how they each felt they’d been betrayed by the other, but know that neither one had the full story, and that so much had happened to keep them apart.

So I loved it.  I loved the love and the romance, and I believed in it, and I swooned, and I melted, and I was just thoroughly satisfied.  Now I can’t wait to see how Lib takes on J.C.!!!

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