The Strongest Steel by Scarlett Cole

OK, super funny story.  I saw this as a recommended romance request on one of those NetGalley e-mails I usually ignore.  And it sounded really good, so I took a chance requesting it, even though I wasn’t sure what the publisher’s approval preferences were.  So I was pretty stoked when I was approved.  I saw the release date was only 2 days later, so I figured I should get going on it (because I feel inherently guilty when I don’t get them done in time because, you know, free book).  It was only after finishing the book today that I realized the release day was from *2015* not *2016*, so this was one of those older books on NetGalley that I’d stumbled upon.  I mean, still yay because, you know, free book…but now I feel a bit sillier for rushing.  Though the archive date is coming up, so there’s still that.  Anyways, this was just a random aside for people who like to watch me babble.  😛

Blurb:
25413371Harper Connelly never expected to find herself outside of a tattoo parlor at one in the morning, summoning the nerve to take back her past. She’s determined to forget her old life and is looking for an artist who can tattoo over the scars on her back.

Trent Andrews, local legend and owner of the Second Circle tattoo studio, has his own reasons for specializing in inking over scars. And in spite of her mysterious past and the difficult road ahead, he quickly realizes that Harper is funny, smart, and–under her ridiculously oversized clothing and SPF 100 sunscreen–totally hot. He’s happy to take on the challenge of designing a meaningful and deadly full-back tattoo for her.

But when cryptic messages start appearing on Harper’s phone, strange deliveries arrive at her door, and Second Circle is vandalized, Harper is convinced that her ex-boyfriend has tracked her down, and worse, that he knows about Trent. Running was the only thing that saved her last time, but now that she’s started to put down roots in Miami, she’ll have to decide if she can finally fight back instead.

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.

Thoroughly enjoyable romantic suspense!!  It kind of felt like some of those Harlequins I used to read and adore.  I understand this is the author’s debut, and I thought it was solid and engaging.  I actually thought it had an extremely strong beginning — I was sucked in and really liked the style of writing.  It wasn’t too descriptive (which I’m not fond of), but managed to balance out with enough to really give me a feel of the environment, the characters, the feelings, and all that good stuff.

It was actually setting up to be a 4.5 or 5 star read, but it fizzled out a bit more towards the end for me.  I’m still trying to figure out why, but I think I was less impressed with the relationship drama…not that there was a lot of that, it just felt a little cliched with the lack of communication and stuff.  I also kind of wanted more resolution with the Nathan storyline, but perhaps that will be hinted at in later books?  I’m definitely putting them on my wishlist.

I loved watching Harper open up and flower into the person she was meant to be — to watch her heal.  At the beginning I thought the pacing was perfect and realistic and believable….a bit later it felt a bit more rushed, but honestly, what do I know about what’s realistic in that situation?  So all in all I thought the little steps she took to reclaim her life, starting with the tattoo were perfect and rewarding and made me cheer for her.

In a similar vein, I loved how Trent was with Harper…how he tried to use humour to make her feel at ease and, quite frankly, he charmed the pants right off of me.  He was a perfect balance of sensitive, empathetic, sassy (or whatever the male equivalent of that is), and he pushed her boundaries to get her to step it up a bit at a time.  I was a bit less impressed with some of his choices and words later in the book, but that might be just me.

I will say that I was *not* impressed with Trent’s insistence that Harper needed a tan.  Both for him being so superficial to think that.  And because I have personal experience with skin cancer and truly believe there’s nothing wrong with wanting to protect yourself from it.  Mini rant over.

On a totally different aside, LOVED the tattooing aspect of the story.  As someone who is intrigued by the world of tattooing, and loves the ones I have, I loved the perspective on tattoo artists, why they do it, what they might love about it, all that stuff.

Solid cast of secondary characters.  I’m actually more interested in Pixie and Lia’s books (which are books 3 and 4) than I am with Cujo and Drea’s.  I love Cujo, but I didn’t really love the two of them together from what we could see in this book.  It’s a personal taste thing.  So we’ll see if I can score that book on sale at some point, so I can still get the full Second Circle experience.

All in all a fantastic romantic suspense.  Definitely put more books from this author on my wishlist for the future.

Lenoreo_small

Wine and Whiskey by Nikki Belaire

wine and whiskeyBlurb: No longer controlled by her mother, manager, or former fiancé, pop star Shae Armstrong steps out on her own and into the path of Nick DeMarco, a wealthy investor with alleged ties to organized crime and real childhood scars to overcome. She wants to take it slow. He needs her now, in his life and in his bed.

Nick’s enemies threaten her career, her friendships, even her sanity, but not Shae’s heart – the one thing Nick holds precious. He proves his love is real, and she stops running. Until everything around them falls apart, including him. He swore he would never hurt her. Instead, he almost destroys them both.

Shae makes a dangerous choice, sacrificing her happiness for his, just like he always does for her. Now that she’s found her own voice, can Shae survive the challenges of living in Nick’s world?

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

images

DNF’d at 40%

I couldn’t wrap my head around her wishy washiness.  She kept changing her mind when it came to being in a relationship with him.  It was like riding a merry go round for too long.  I got tired of it.

And she allowed her friends to dictate what she should do.  She didn’t trust herself with her feelings.  It just took too long to get where it was supposed to be.  Her character didn’t grow, like, at all.  I would have thought by the middle of the book she would have picked a lane already.

Curly Carla_small

Fractured Karma (Brewer Brothers book #2) by Nancy Straight

fractured karmaBlurb: Mark believes he is alone in the world. Rejected by his parents as a child, he spent his childhood bouncing from one foster home to another. The loss of his beloved little brother, Davey, makes him believe he has nothing left to live for. Mark finds himself on a destructive path after agreeing to help a person from his childhood. A wager made by two strangers sets a chain of events in motion: Mark finds the one person he believed he had lost forever, while he desperately tries to get out of the life he has made for himself. Never having allowed himself to get close to anyone, he can’t understand the connection he has to Libby. Can Mark escape the life he set in motion seven years ago and allow Libby into his life, or is his karma fractured permanently?

 

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

images

5 Stars

This book was so much better than the first one.  It could have been read as a stand alone honestly because it had the first story in it from Mark’s POV, albeit condensed.  Mark has a incredibly more complicated life than any other character in this series.  I totally connected with him more than Dave.  His quandry of keeping his family safe from his lifestyle was beautifully articulated by Mrs.Straight.  The research that must have went into this book kinda boggles the mind because each facet of his life is portrayed with just enough for us to get a glimpse into his thinking; without it being repetitive and boring.

And honestly, the romance aspect was only ‘meh’ for me.  I wasn’t really invested in the matchmaking part of this story.  And if I’m being 100 percent honest, I didn’t like his match in this book.  And it wasn’t that I didn’t like Libby as a character, I just thought his story didn’t need the romance.  The family bit was enough.

The fine line he walked between covering his ass and doing what was right was soooooo narrow.  I was amazed he didn’t misstep.  He lived two completely seperate lives. And somehow was able to juggle it without dropping any balls.  Although he did stumble a few times.

And the ending!  I can’t really say much more than that. I wanted to hate it, but it fit. Square peg, square hole. Just right.

Curly Carla_small

His Frozen Heart by Nancy Straight

THIS BOOK IS FREE! 

His frozen heartBlurb: For best friends, Candy and Libby, money is tight with hardly enough to cover their living expenses. When they are desperate for grocery money, the girls bet on their pool playing skills to add to their income. A simple wager on a quiet winter evening has devastating results, with a stalker determined to kill them both. With Libby in the hospital after a vicious attack, and Candy being pursued by the same stalker, she vows to find Libby’s attacker. What she finds is Dave, an old friend with a secret past filled with misfortune. Will Dave’s past provide the answer to all of Candy’s problems or will it become Candy’s worst nightmare realized?

 

 

Favorite Quotes

I’m not saying the guy was old, but if he were milk, I wouldn’t put him back in the refridgerator.  

The kid may be built like a Mack Truck, but he’s got a model airplane for a heart.  It’s been snapped together, glued, and painted so it’s a thing of beauty, but it’s fragile.  

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

images

4 Stars

It’s no secret I love Nancy Straight.  Her emotive writing is so well balanced with her action scenes that I’m quite in awe of her work.  Plus, she is one of those “never let me down” authors, so I try to snatch up all her books when they come out.  I’m over halfway finished with all her works and I will most likely gobble them up by the end of the year.

Where to begin?  First of all, I generally make it a point to NOT read the blurb before I buy a book IF it’s by an author I like.  It adds to the surprise and, I feel, limits my pre-concieved expectations of a book.  I know, I’m weird.  I like to go in blind though.  That being said, this book totally blew me away.  I was not expecting detailed action, in-depth suspense or very real danger.

The romance added a nice layer to the story, making it more three-dimensional for me.  I loved the flashbacks.  They gave me a look in to their past without me being over loaded with backstory.

At first, I found Candy to be a bit too stubborn for my tastes, then I realized she was only 20.  Everyone is indestructible at 20. Remember? Still, it bothered me enough I took a half star off.  The other half star was taken because the climax was a bit…well, anti-climatic.

Still worth a read.

Curly Carla_small

 

 

 

 

Fatal Affair by Marie Force

fatal affairBlurb: Washington, D.C., Metro Police Detective Sergeant Sam Holland needs a big win to salvage her career–and her confidence–after a disastrous investigation. The perfect opportunity arises when Senator John O’Connor is found brutally murdered in his bed, and Sam is assigned to the case. Matters get complicated when Sam has to team up with Nick Cappuano, O’Connor’s friend and chief of staff…and the man Sam had a memorable one-night stand with years earlier. Their sexual chemistry still sizzles, and Sam has to fight to stay focused on the case. Sleeping with a material witness is another mistake she can’t afford–especially when the bodies keep piling up.

 

beginnerscr2557-proj697-a-kindle-logo-w-rgb-lg

images

 

 

3.5 Stars

I picked this book up last year sometime, it’s just been sitting in my queue for me to start it.  I wanted something different than a standard contemporary romance.  And this one had the added bonus of having a woman detective in it, which inadvertently went with one of the many challenges I am participating in currently.

It was pretty good. The crime scenes and the detail of the police interrogation was top notch and really made me feel as if I was in their world.  It would have been better if I didn’t peg the killer in the first 25%.  I knew who it was almost from gate.  And even that didn’t really bother me that much.

What did was the romance.  It was not needed, at all.  This book stood on its own merits without having a insta-love thrown in.  I really should make it a 2.5 star but the mystery was so engaging and fast paced, I just couldn’t see allowing that to impede my enjoyment of this book.

I’m pretty sure I will be reading the next one, it was a pretty quick read for me.

book-bingo2This book satisfies my Book Bingo block for Woman Sleuth.  It’s a reading challenge I am participating on on Just Another Girl and Her Books blog.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Curly Carla_small

Smash Into You by Shelly Crane

Synopsis:
18338512Jude has spent the whole twenty one years of his life running. From what, he wasn’t quite sure. His mother tried to keep him safe; a low profile, a constant move on the horizon, a week’s pay always stashed away. She tried to instill in him that he was special somehow, though would never elaborate. He never felt different. He was so completely normal and vanilla that he wondered if it had all been in her head. But then she was murdered and all he saw was a running silhouette of a man as his mother said three final words to him. Three words that changed his whole being.

Never stop running…

Now he’s semi-settled into a big town. The college is huge and easy to blend into. It’s been three months since he had to move because ‘Biloxi’, as he calls the man who killed his mother, found him once more.

Then Marley, an eighteen year old girl who is as infuriating as she is blissfully ignorant of her gorgeousness, smashes into his car with hers. Then smashes into his life as he realizes that whatever it is he has that Biloxi wants, she has it, too. And now, they’re after them both.

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

My Review:
2.5 stars — *sigh*  When I first started reading this and wasn’t getting into it, I wondered if I just wasn’t in the mood for this type of book (a mystery/suspense/thriller), but unfortunately I think that was only a tiny bit of the reason.  In the end the plot and characters just never ended up grabbing hold of me and taking me on a ride.  The ride was there, but it felt like it was malfunctioning, so I just never hopped on board.

Jude was kind of a jerk, and I just never really ended up falling for him…I didn’t see a whole lot of depth to his character, or maybe it just didn’t feel authentic to me.  I honestly don’t know what other people saw in him, b/c I just never got the same sexy vibe about him.  And after reading some other reviews, I’m so glad I’m not the only one who was totally flabbergasted by the repeated use of “Daggumit”.  Uh, what?  I have never heard anyone use this word before, and I just could not picture some supposed alpha loner male using it unless he was making fun of somebody.

Marley was, in some ways, worse than Jude.  I never really got a full grasp on her personality. She just felt very flat to me…like she was being given qualities, but I didn’t believe them.  Sometimes she was sweet, sometimes sassy, sometimes scared, but they just didn’t feel like a full picture of her.  It was like she didn’t have a personality or something.  I’m not sure.  And some of the stuff we learn about her in the past just felt totally gratuitous and didn’t add anything to her character or storyline.  It was like we were meant to see how horrible her foster home life was like, but they were just little side stories that didn’t shape her at all…one incident in particular, should have had a bigger impact, but it was just occasionally mentioned like a forgotten about fact.

And their chemistry?  At first I didn’t feel it AT ALL.  Like not at all.  It felt forced, and I didn’t understand what they saw in one another, just what I was told they saw in each other I guess.  If I just accepted that they liked each other, then later when they started flirting, I actually enjoyed it.  But I had to let go of my skepticism first.

And then there’s the plot.  *sigh*  I just could not suspend my disbelief in this one.  I kept internally asking questions — like how does Biloxi find them?  Why aren’t they more careful about hiding the car sometimes?  How does Biloxi escape all law enforcement even though he doesn’t appear to leave the crime scene immediately?  Why didn’t anyone ever go to the cops????  Seriously.  And then once we found out what they were running from, I had questions about that whole set up too.  And when they were in tense situations, why in the world would they stop to kiss???  Mind just would NOT shut up for me.  And then the whole suspense plotline was just miraculously resolved, and I did not feel like I got enough answers there…it just seemed so sudden and neatly tied up.

So yeah.  Part of me wants to round this up to 3 because I actually love a lot of Ms. Crane’s work.  But I’m trying to be honest with myself…and this book just didn’t work for me in too many ways to ignore.  And I didn’t even get started on the need for some better editing…usually I can ignore that, but when it takes me a minute to figure out what a sentence is supposed to say, it takes me out of the reading zone.

Lenoreo_small