The Cowboy’s Socialite

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ Reviews 25th July 2017
The Cowboy’s SocialiteThe Cowboy's Socialite by Carmen Falcone
on July 24th 2017
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one-star

Winning the bet should be easy. Keeping their hands off each other is a lot harder…

After losing everything, socialite Lola St. James moves to Texas to convert her only possession, Red Oak Ranch, into a luxury bed and breakfast. After all it can't be that hard to trade in a pair of stilettos for cowboy boots.

Jack Canyon, her estranged husband and co-owner of the ranch, vows to stop her from turning his home into Barbie's country hotel. He knows her promises are meaningless, and he needs the land’s mineral rights to expand his business. He bets everything she won’t last a week as a cowgirl. She agrees—if he’ll turn over his half of the land. No problem.

Except now they’re forced to live together. New flames reignite until Lola and Jack can’t deny the red hot sexual tension between them. But when old betrayals resurrect, Lola must choose between running away or staying in Jack’s arms…

I gave up. And that’s a bloody shame, because I do like Carmen Falcone’s writing.

But this is entirely on me, because I couldn’t bear to read anymore about a selfish female protagonist who tries to blame everyone else but herself for her failings, right up to the end in what is a second-chance romance where both parties are still married but separated. Patching it however, seemed harder than a free trip to the moon and I’m simply inclined to think that this is mostly the shallow socialite’s fault who was spoilt silly, with a life that’s like the Kardashians’ superficial bubble until it fell apart.

With her tail between her legs and a half-formed plan to turn a house into a luxury tourist BnB, her sudden need to search out her biological parents to explain away her inability to commit to anything was quite the last straw for me, after learning that she walked out on Jack after her miscarriage and refusing to work anything out.

The problem is that Lola takes every easy way out, starts a project but never finishes, applying this principle to everything and everyone else in her life. Instead of hunkering down and working on that problem that she recognises, finding an external source to blame seemed like a cowardly act. Worse yet, wanting to hide the news of her pregnancy when it was the very thing the last time that tore them apart (all the while knowing Jack wanted a family badly) made her one of the most selfish idiots I’ve come to read about. In fact, I found it hypocritical of her to accusing her adoptive mother of being selfish and insecure by hiding information when she could barely see the irony in applying that very same thing to herself.

Clearly this isn’t the book for me at all. Just don’t let my personal grievances and rants stop you.

one-star

Crossing the Line by Kimberly Kincaid

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews 25th July 2017
Crossing the Line by Kimberly KincaidCrossing the Line by Kimberly Kincaid
Series: Cross Creek #2
Published by Montlake Romance on August 8th 2017
Pages: 316
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three-stars

Cocky farmer Eli Cross plays twice as hard as he works. When his latest stunt drums up a heap of negative PR for the family farm, he grudgingly agrees to play host to an ambitious New York City photographer. Her feature on Cross Creek could be just the ticket to show the country what the Cross brothers do best…which is more problem than solution for Eli.

Scarlett Edwards-Stewart has photographed everything from end zones to war zones. She’s confident she can ace this one little story to help her best friend’s failing magazine. At least, she would be if her super-sexy host wasn’t so tight lipped. But the more Scarlett works with Eli, the more she discovers that he’s not who he seems. Can his secret bring them closer together? Or will it be the very thing that tears them apart?

Eli Cross’s modus operandi is to operate with a firmly-affixed front of cocky deflecting, grinning-and-bearing, and simply be labelled as the good-for-nothing brother who’s also the least hardworking one on the farm that is in sore need of a good financial haul.

But his love has never been for agriculture like the rest of his brothers and being stuck in that position means to just stay as much under the radar and keep his love for journalism under wraps until it, well, all blows up in his face. And as we all know it, it does, upon the arrival of a famous photographer who’s out in the middle of nowhere as a favour for a friend.

I just wasn’t too convinced at the reason he had to keep his love for writing a secret because it simply doesn’t seem like something to be ashamed about. That he didn’t assert his own love for it while working on the farm was quite incomprehensible to me.

What was surprising though, was that the cocky, hell-if-I-care exterior was nowhere in sight when Scarlett shows up and tags along. He’s distanced but polite at first, without the charm that I thought he’d be laying on thick to deflect Scarlett’s curiosity about his personal life. Initially, I had a hard time figuring out how Eli/Scarlett would work out in ‘Crossing the Line’ but it eventually became clear that they were displaced in their own, similar ways—and acted out in an opposite manner—and in so doing, rather poignantly find their common ground.

I wasn’t entirely sure what purpose the last bit of drama that came in at the end served though (apart from inserting the customary-ending conflict between Eli and Scarlett) and that kind of threw me off the narrative a bit. The ending as a result, came rather abruptly and we don’t really know how Eli/Scarlett work their arrangement out past their love declarations so that felt a little unfinished.

That part aside, Kimberly Kincaid’s writing is always lovely to read. It’s flowing and easy, and ‘Crossing the Line’ is no different. Thee three Cross brothers are well on their way to get their HEAs and because the grumpy ones do tend to excite me more, I’m already expecting Owen’s story to be a hoot.

three-stars

Drift by Amy Murray

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Magic/Paranormal/ Netgalley/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense/ Speculative Fiction 24th July 2017
Drift by Amy MurrayDrift by Amy Murray
Published by Entangled Publishing (Embrace) on August 28th 2017
Pages: 331
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one-star

I’m not crazy. My mother may have died with everyone believing she was insane, but I refuse to accept that as my fate. Even if I am recalling memories about a life I never lived. A life that includes the mysterious James—a guy I’ve only just met, but feel as if I’ve known all my life. The memories are coming hard and fast, and I’m falling down a rabbit hole with consequences that far exceed anything I could have ever imagined. And now, someone is trying to kill me.

Someone from my past who knows about my visions and is looking for something he believes I took from him. All I have to do is figure out how these memories relate to the present and maybe I’ll survive to live another day.

Maybe…

The blurb intrigued me from the start and I thought I was going to be pulled into a New Adult book that crosses several genres into suspense the paranormal. And ‘Drift’ does in fact, defy categorisation in a sense and its uniqueness stood out from the start when there is the eerie sense that there’s nothing right with the world as Abigail knows it when her supernatural abilities to ‘drift’ into her past lives start to show up.

But the more I read on, the harder a time I had getting into this, not least because the frequent jumps between the present and an unknown time when Abigail and James were fleeing something or someone weren’t exactly demarcated properly, either by paragraphs or by italics. Admittedly this might be a formatting issue, but it left me confused nonetheless.

For the longest time, I couldn’t really figure out what was going on and my own state of disorientation only grew when things happened without sufficient explanation of the paranormal happenings for both James and Abigail. The characters themselves were confused and flailing to understand what was going on with themselves, save for the ominous confirmation that it will end in tragedy and regret. What isn’t clear is the time periods in which Abigail’s and James’s ‘past lives’ take place and while some partial revelations come through another character, it’s clear that the pieces wouldn’t fall into place right up until the end.

I couldn’t finish ‘Drift’ in the end, just as it was shaping out to be a complicated love triangle with past lives affecting the present. I’d struggled through it for several days, unable to get fully into it, despite the initial excitement that I had about this…and finally decided that this just wasn’t a book for me.

one-star

Kiss My Boots by Harper Sloan

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ New Adult/ Reviews 23rd July 2017
Kiss My Boots by Harper SloanKiss My Boots by Harper Sloan
Series: Coming Home #2
Published by Pocket Books on July 18th 2017
Pages: 368
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three-stars

Quinn Davis prefers to live her life quietly. She’s the stereotypical tomboy with two overprotective big brothers who have always been there to protect her, especially from devilishly handsome cowboys with silver tongues. That is, until Tate Montgomery comes riding into town. Their first meeting, however, is far from something out of a fairy tale and only further convinces Quinn that men aren’t worth her time.

The only place Tate Montgomery ever truly felt at home growing up was during the long, sweltering summer months he spent at his Gram and Paw’s farm in Pine Oak, Texas. Now, Tate has returned to his childhood sanctuary seeking a fresh start—but if he’s being entirely honest, he’s not just back for the wranglers and Stetsons. During those summers, Quinn was a friend-turned-young-love who Tate lost when life threw him a curveball and he cut all ties to his past; but all it takes is one glance at the raven-haired beauty he did his best to forget for him to realize just how much he’s been missing….

What drew me to this series was the very unusual cowboy-dialogue and speech that Harper Sloan manages to sustain throughout—it’s charming in a way that I so seldom come across in contemporary Westerns even and I must say I’ve had a fun enough time just trying to tease out the figures of speech that the crazy characters seem to lob around. Not forgetting the general hysterical hell-raising, loads of over-the-top-type shenanigans which actually make for a bonafide western soap that’s leaves you incredulous and laughing.

But while Mav/Leigh’s book swept me into the world of New Adult-ish high drama, Quinn’s and Tate’s story in ‘Kiss My Boots’ did feel like a rinse and repeat of Mav/Leigh of the first book: a second-chance romance when one party has run off and stayed away for a long time, albeit for different reasons. And it’s inevitable that comparisons do come in and this fell a little short for me as Tate returned and things continued on without the friction and the obstacles I’d thought Quinn would throw his way.

Quinn, despite being a hell-raiser, seemed to accept the reasons that Tate provided early on for his disappearance—and she’s definitely more accepting than I could have been—and I’d expected a bigger fight as he grovelled his way back into her graces. There is none of that however and only an ex-hookup of Tate’s arrives blow this newfound happiness out of the water, though that’s also taken care of easily. In other words, I missed that electric fights and the heavy-breathing and bodice-ripping tension that Mav/Leigh had which didn’t quite happen here.

That said though, I loved catching up with Mav and Leigh, and there’s Clay’s story in the works, which will most likely leave me glued to this series.

three-stars

Love in the Friend Zone by Molly E. Lee

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Young Adult 22nd July 2017
Love in the Friend Zone by Molly E. LeeLove in the Friend Zone by Molly E. Lee
Published by Entangled Publishing, LLC (Crush) on August 14th 2017
Pages: 219
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two-stars

The only thing worse than not being able to tell your best friend you’re head over heels in love with him? Having to smile and nod when he enlists your help to ensnare the girl of his dreams.

Braylen didn’t even want to go to Lennon Pryor’s epic graduation-night party, but when Fynn begs her to be his “wingwoman,” she can’t deny him. Talking up her BFF—how he’s magic behind a camera, with a killer sense of humor and eyelashes that frame the most gorgeous blue eyes in the history of forever—is easy. Supporting his efforts to woo someone so completely wrong for him? Not so much.

Fynn knows that grad night is his last shot before leaving for college to find true love. And thanks to Bray, he gets his chance with the beautiful Katy Evans. But over the course of the coolest party of their high school careers, he starts to see that perhaps what he really wants has been in front of him all along. Bray’s been his best friend since kindergarten, though, and he’d rather have her in his life as a friend than not at all.

Reading about storms in teacups is how I approach YA stories, because I sort of remember that nothing seemed more important than a crush returning your feelings and the obsession over college choices.

‘Love in the Friend Zone’ all but practically takes place over the course of an evening during a graduation party, as you’re thrust straight into the climax of a story after being given a rushed run down of Braylen’s unrequited feelings and Fynn’s inability to see that she has always been in front of him.

Within this time period, Bray vacillates between wanting the best for Fynn and struggling with her own desires and jealousy, while Fynn remains oblivious which is the status quo for teenage boys as it seems. All this is well and fairly typical—it’s the hormonal teenage years after all—but I probably would have liked this better if the story focused less on Bray’s overwhelming angst and her inability to be convinced that Fynn would ever want her.

Fynn’s sudden realisation that he’d been in love with her all along was somewhat cringeworthy, since it had to take a confession from Bray to get his head out of his own arse.  Granted, I’m not someone who can easily accept sudden switch of the flip type epiphanies particularly when it comes to a party realising he/she had been in love with someone all along because it can, in some cases, get extremely hypocritical.

The events at this particular party did however, got more and more ridiculous, taking a rom-com’s blithe journey to a climax of mistaken identities, stunts and high drama. Expect juvenile jokes, and even more juvenile pranks and a huge load of emotional spikes and valleys…all before Fynn and Bray actually get it together.

If this review is sounding as though there’s some impatience on my part, it’s probably me having a hard time admitting I’m quite much older with different tastes now.

two-stars

Beautiful Beast by Aubrey Irons

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ New Adult/ Reviews 21st July 2017
Beautiful Beast by Aubrey IronsBeautiful Beast by Aubrey Irons
Published by Amazon Digital Services, Amazon Publishing on July 17th 2017
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two-stars

Anastasia:

Here’s the first thing you should know: this is not a fairytale. Happily-ever-afters are fables, and Prince Charming is a sweet little lie.I know all this because he taught me.Once upon a lifetime ago, the rich, arrogant, sinfully gorgeous, and tragically broken dark prince of the Hamptons was my tormentor. My darkness, my shameful attraction, my all-consuming, forbidden temptation.I hate Sebastian Crown because nine years ago, for one night, I was stupid enough to think I loved him. And I’ve been paying for it ever since.Except now, he needs me to help him save his empire.…And he’s not taking no for answer.

Bastian:

She’s my nemesis. My addiction. My weakness.My obsession.I used to tell myself I hated Anastasia Bell - for being poor, for not worshipping the ground I walked on, for looking at me like she pitied me for being me.When the rest of my world always told me yes, she was the ever-provoking no.She thinks I’m a monster - a tragic, fucked-up, broken beast.She doesn’t know the half of it.Because she can’t begin to know the crimes of my past, or imagine the things I’ve done to her behind the scenes since she left this place.Years ago, I thought breaking her would fix me.I was wrong.Now I’ve got her in my sights again, and this time, I won’t be letting her go. Even if it means we both go down in flames...

The warning does say it all: this isn’t a fairytale of a prince and an impoverished princess. Instead, be prepared to read about one of the most obsessive-compulsive, manipulative and biggest bastards of them all, which is safe to say is what slid me straight into objective, neutral territory as I read this twisted fairytale where the briar-covered HEA is lined with thorns and spikes.

To be fair, I had those trigger-warnings and I went straight into this knowing that I was going to read about characters and their so-called love story from a protracted distance that I don’t normally take with romance books. With this mindset, or this particular disconnect, rather, locked in place, it was easy to read on and on, which was also in part due to Aubrey Irons’s compelling writing that kept me glued to the story.

Because the characters sure as hell didn’t.

Sebastian Crown isn’t someone I could like at all, but what I couldn’t understand as well was Ana’s little resistance that crumbles so easily at his advances when all he’d done was to shatter her spirit and break her heart, even behind her back. She flops happily at his masterful puppeteering somehow, never gets her strings cut and generally goes too easy on him where I would have wielded a scythe and sent Bastian straight to the lowest levels of hell for eternity.

I finished the story, which, on its own, is easy to get lost in as it doesn’t go down without several twists and turns. But did I like it? Not exactly. Yet neither did I exactly dislike it, because I knew from the start how I was going to approach the book—with critical eyes and indifferent shrugs at 2 protagonists who can’t see beyond each other though they’re probably better off without each other, with no strings attached. It did come down to whether I could get invested in the characters and whether they were likeable enough for me to form any connection with them.

The answer is: no.

I found nothing redeemable about Sebastian , who seemed more like the antagonist rather than the protagonist throughout and I actually felt bloodthirsty, grim satisfaction and hard-won poetic justice when he hit rock bottom for all the fucking he did with Ana’s life.

The point here is that Irons simply provides an alternative definition of obsessive ‘love’ that has nothing self-sacrificial about it and how it’s in fact, given other names such as ‘addiction’ or ‘obsession’, with several generous servings of masochism and uncontainable lust.

Ultimately though, Ana/Bastian’s flimsy representation of love is not quite the romantic ideal I subscribe to. It’s a version of romance that I can’t exactly calibrate with the kind of escapist fantasy that I want to get lost in, nor with the sort of characters I want to read about, so it’s most likely back to the straight and narrow for me.

two-stars

The Coldest Fear by Debra Webb

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Mystery/Crime/ Reviews 20th July 2017
The Coldest Fear by Debra WebbThe Coldest Fear by Debra Webb
Series: Shades of Death #3
Published by Mira on August 29th 2017
Pages: 411
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four-stars

A killer with nothing left to lose…
Afraid or not, Detective Bobbie Gentry has a monster to confront. The pain of losing her family and nearly her life to a criminal's vile hunger is still fresh, but now the landscape is different. Now she's not alone. Now she has Nick Shade to trust. Nick treats the terror of his past with vengeance. He's dedicated his life to hunting serial killers, and he'd give up his last breath to save Bobbie. When a string of killings bloodies Savannah's elite society and causes cold cases to resurface, Bobbie is captured in a city more haunted than Nick's inescapable nightmares. And as the murderer strikes close, Nick and Bobbie will need to become even closer if they're going to survive.

‘The Coldest Fear’ picks up immediately where ‘A Deeper Grave’ left off, where Bobbie Gentry rushes after Nick Shade to help conquer his demons after he helped her with hers. There’s so much I like about this series and it’s primarily because of the unusual partnership that Debra Webb has gotten going between Bobbie and Nick: their pasts, their sheer capabilities to rise above their broken lives, their similar passions and the depth of their own feelings. Yet very little of that shows up in this book and without this defining feature that I’d found in the past two books, ‘The Coldest Fear’ stayed a very good read but not a fantastic one.

I’d expected that this was going to be a story of Nick and Bobbie working together to search for the man who supposedly orchestrated every recent tragedy in Bobbie’s life. What I hadn’t expected was to see Nick pulling so far away that he stayed hidden in the shadows, mostly out of sight and out of the narrative, still caught in his self-recriminating guilt because he would never be the kind of man for Bobbie who deserved better. This partnership that I’d envisioned was sadly, nowhere to be seen and like Bobbie, I was frustrated seeing Nick disappear when he was clearly needed and his insistence that he had to go at solving the biggest case alone was more hindrance than help by the time I reached the halfway mark. Instead, a seemingly unrelated sub-plot came into play—and which seemed irrelevant—with the pieces only falling into place later as Bobbie gets drawn into a bizarre situation of missing children from a cold case that is 32 years old with Nick relegated to nearly a peripheral character while Bobbie conducted her investigations with another officer in Savannah. It was as though I’d stepped into a separate police procedural with many POVs inserted into the narrative as the plot spirals out into peripheral details and rabbit trails that were bewildering to say the least.

There are however, shocking revelations towards the end and these strings are brought together quite masterfully by Webb as characters finally reveal the fractured history that they all share. It almost makes the long detour worth it, though it was difficult to see anything past the destruction of all the characters’ lives after a while. The hunt for twisted, psychopathic serial killers is claustrophobically wearing and the characters do bleakly reflect this: their personal tragedies are worn deep on their skin and psyches and no one comes away untouched at all.

This series definitely falls more into the suspense/thriller genre with very little emphasis on the romance, which, because of my own personal tastes, was the only disappointment. It’s well-plotted and a complex enough puzzle to get any suspense/thriller-fan going especially with all the mudding details that don’t add up, yet I couldn’t help but think that the overarching story feels very unfinished beyond Bobbie’s personal acceptance of events.

four-stars
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