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Disorderly Conduct by Tessa Bailey

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Edelweiss/ New Adult/ Reviews 2nd August 2017
Disorderly Conduct by Tessa BaileyDisorderly Conduct by Tessa Bailey
Series: The Academy #1
Published by Avon on August 29th 2017
Pages: 384
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three-stars

You don’t know what you’ve got until it’s gone…

Police academy cadet Charlie Burns can’t believe his luck when the gorgeous blonde he meets in a bar murmurs those magic words: “Nothing serious, ’kay?” Mind-blowing, no-strings sex with Ever Carmichael—it’s the holy grail of hookups for a guy who’s too busy following in his law enforcement family’s footsteps to think about getting serious. Charlie’s all about casual…that is, until Ever calls it quits and his world tilts on its axis.

Ever knows that when you control the relationship game, you can’t get played. But for the first time, she wants more than short-term satisfaction. Step one: end her fling with commitment-phobic Charlie. Step two: sacrifice herself to the ruthless NYC dating scene. Yet everywhere she turns, there’s Charlie, being his ridiculously charming self. No online match or blind date compares to the criminally hot cop-in-training, but they’re over. Aren’t they?

If love is a four-letter-word, why does the idea of Ever seeing someone else tie Charlie up in knots?  Now he’s desperate to win her back…and a little date sabotage never hurt anyone, right?

The bad? The ridiculous, cheesy cover. Also, the ridiculous name that is Ever Carmichael.

Everything else however, was pretty good, particularly since I found myself quite entertained for a sustained period of time. In a nutshell: woman stops a no-strings fling in order to get into a serious relationship. Unhappy and offended guy who has been booted out of this fling abruptly sabotages every effort of hers to do so, having been classified as the kind who wouldn’t commit.

Charlie’s panic about losing Ever as a friend-with-benefits is amusing precisely because he’s in love without having put a name to it yet. The ways in which he sabotaged her efforts to get into serious dating were funny and to a lesser extent, the sheer anxiety he’d had about finding every excuse in the book to throw at her about being friends. Operating on irony and what the readers know that the characters don’t, Tessa Bailey also gives it a twist by throwing the spotlight as well on Charlie’s own abandonment issues—he’s been screwed over by his own mother as much as Ever had—and the plot is as much about him as it is about Ever’s willingness to do what it takes to please her mum.

In most romances that I’ve come across, sex is never the problem for the couple in question anyway; it’s only what comes before and/or after that matters to me more because it shows the characters for who they really are and how well an author can pull together plot strings and character minus writing an nth variation of slotting pointy object A into soft opening B. Bailey’s sex scenes are a bit too over-the-top and porn-ish for me—it’s amazing how characters manage to speak and think in long sentences in the midst of a passionate tumble—but apart from this, I still liked her writing much better here. It’s more lighthearted, and pitched well as a rom-com with a (thankfully) less ball-busting, steamrolling alpha male who can apparently give their heroines a season ticket’s worth of rides on his orgasm train.

There is some (unnecessary) angst of the New Adult flavour, one might say, and the story could have been cut short had Ever/Charlie honestly communicated what really needed to be said.

But where would the drama be otherwise? Or the crazy antics you’d never catch an ‘adult’ doing? Along with the cringeworthy 80s-style cheesy grovelling, Bailey infuses into every page that sense of optimism and the nervous feeling of crossroads that most people in their twenties have and truth be told, I had a ball of a time reliving it.

three-stars

Friend (With Benefits) Zone by Laura Brown

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Edelweiss/ New Adult/ Reviews 21st June 2017
Friend (With Benefits) Zone by Laura BrownFriend (With Benefits) Zone by Laura Brown
Published by Avon Impulse on June 27th 2017
Pages: 384
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one-star

I’m ridiculously attracted to my best friend.

Today is a bad day. The worst actually. After dealing with the constant manhandling that comes with being a cocktail waitress at a dive bar and surviving a date from hell, I see an eviction notice slapped on the door of my sketchy basement apartment. Great.

When my best friend Devon shows up at my door and uses his stubborn charm (emphasis on stubborn) to get me to move in with him, I give in. We’ve had about a million sleepovers since we met in the kindergarten Deaf program, but this time it’s different because I can’t stop thinking about his hard body covering mine, every single night.

I know Devon would do anything for me, but I’m afraid what I want to happen will ruin our friendship forever. And the more time we spend together in close quarters, the harder it’ll be to resist the spark of attraction I’ve always felt. But maybe it’s possible to have the best of both worlds: keep the one relationship I can’t live without and indulge in an attraction I can’t deny.

I guess the only thing we can do is try…

‘Friend (With Benefits) Zone’ started out very promising, with the blurb sounding a growing-up story of 2 deaf people trying to find their way in the world just as the notion of building a career looms large. But beyond that, I liked the idea of putting people with disabilities in the spotlight and showing that they actually do lead lives as ‘normal’ as those who don’t—and thought that this would provide a different edge to the best friends turned lovers type of read.

But with the sexual tension between Jasmine and Devon shattering so early on, the direction in which the story was going to go became rather unclear. And I found myself unpleasantly surprised when maturity (or the lack of it) came into play and formed the major part of the conflict—driven mostly by Jasmine. She started out as strongly independent, but that soon moved to bullheadedly, stupidly stubborn when she started insisting on being an island and going at it all on her own, pushing everyone else away because that was the way she wanted it to be. Not accepting help from Devon and her closest friends (then have them trying to reel her back in), using sex avoid the issue, vacillating between wanting Dev and wanting her own way were just signs of her irrational immaturity that frustrated me to no end, which actually went on ad nauseum to the point where I thought they should have given up on her because there was no getting her to see reason.

As much as Devon’s desire to help her and support her in everything, he did come across as somewhat spineless towards the end, when he needed to leave Jasmine on her own for her to finally come to her senses. Instead, he couldn’t quite let her go or do a complete break, even when he had his own share of dodging the intended career path that his family wanted for him throughout. In fact, I needed to see that Jasmine wanted their relationship Devon even if she had nothing to her name. But because Devon had arranged it such that she could have her bar and own it (with the startup costs included as a loan), it felt as though it was only with her future secured and in place that it was easy to get back with him.

This constant push-pull vibe that got stronger, as well as the anti-climatic ending did, unfortunately, grate on me. I couldn’t quite shrug away how much I disliked the characters by the end and this sadly, tanked the whole story for me.

one-star

Wrecked by Cynthia Eden

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Edelweiss/ Mystery/Crime/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 27th April 2017
Wrecked by Cynthia EdenWrecked by Cynthia Eden
Series: LOST #6
Published by Avon on May 30th 2017
Pages: 248
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four-stars

SHE LEFT HIM ONCE.

LOST Agent Ana Young was only fourteen when she was abducted by a madman, but unlike many kidnapping victims, she did go home. Now, her mission is to find the missing. But her new case has her on the hunt for the escaped convict who’s obsessed with her. And Ana has an unlikely partner—the sexy, supposedly-by-the-book FBI agent she had one amazing night with and had to forget.

NOW HE HAS TO PROTECT HER 24/7…

FBI Special Agent Cash Knox knows that Ana, the petite, tough-ass former bounty hunter, can get the job done again. But this time, someone else leads them to “Bernie-the-Butcher,” someone who’s been watching Ana. Waiting for her.

FROM A CRAZED KILLER.

Now, catching a deranged murderer means Ana must trust her guarded heart to the gorgeous, complicated G-man she wasn’t supposed to fall for.

Cynthia Eden’s LOST series has thus far, been a mixed bag for me, but there are several ones which I do like and ‘Wrecked’ is one of them. It’s exciting to dive into a world where shades of grey operate and where characters are never what they seem, up until the very end, so everything that Eden throws up is a potential twist in the plot.

‘Wrecked’ is Ana Young’s story, one of the latest additions in Gabe Spencer’s outfit, whose bounty hunter past had been decided for her when she’d been tortured as a child, except that those walls of hers can be pulled down—by the unlikeliest of people in FBI agent Cash Knox. He’s back in her circles because a hunter of serial killers is at large and him needing her help is just as much an order from his boss as it is his need to see her again. Their very brief history is their only foundation, but even then, Cash’s own link to her isn’t merely because law enforcement dictates it. The mystery trail is complex and sometimes confusing, but Cash and Ana need to sort through their own issues as they search for a perpetrator that seems way too brilliant for their liking.

As far as Romantic Suspense goes, ‘Wrecked’ is an entertaining read, where connections are (sometimes coincidentally) forged from dark pasts and love found in the oddest of places, even from a one-night stand that isn’t as accidental as it seemed. Eden writes about perpetrators who are as much victims as they are of circumstances, warped only because they’d been traumatised, but also of love found so near and yet so far from where one’s personal demons lurk. Some parts of the book do seem a bit more dramatic and over the top than I thought they should have been—but it does rack up the chill factor at times and the psychological insights are one of a kind. Overall, it’s a story that’s hard to put down and in that vein, that’s more than good enough for me.

four-stars

Ride Rough by Laura Kaye

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Edelweiss/ Mystery/Crime/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 17th January 2017
Ride Rough by Laura KayeRide Rough by Laura Kaye
Series: Raven Riders #2
Published by Avon on April 25th 2017
Pages: 480
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two-stars

Brotherhood. Club. Family.They live and ride by their own rules.These are the Raven Riders...
Maverick Rylan won’t apologize for who he is—the Raven Riders Motorcycle Club Vice-President, a sought-after custom bike builder, and a man dedicated to protecting those he loves. So when he learns that the only woman who has ever held his heart is in trouble, he’ll move heaven and earth to save her.
Alexa Harmon thought she had it all—the security of a good job, a beautiful home, and a powerful, charming fiancé who offered the life she never had growing up. But when her dream quickly turns into a nightmare, Alexa realizes she’s fallen for a façade she can’t escape—until sexy, dangerous Maverick offers her a way out.
Forced together to keep Alexa safe, their powerful attraction reignites and Maverick determines to do whatever it takes to earn a second chance—one Alexa is tempted to give. But her ex-fiancé isn’t going to let her go without a fight, one that will threaten everything they both hold dear.

My own feelings on the MC type romance are still somewhat nebulous and I’d hoped Laura Kaye’s books would help shed some light on it. As far as I’m concerned, it’s not quite a sub-genre that I can easily get into, even though I’ve always known has to be more than simply a bad boy on a bike in a rough-looking, territorial (but ultimately brotherhood/family-oriented?/very protective) club that functions on its own code of honour.

This particularly story left me undecided still. Apart from the territorial MC spat that the Raven Riders have gotten going, it’s a second-chance story of two people who couldn’t quite see the obvious in front of them when tragedy struck five years ago. But going their separate ways led to certain consequences that affect present-day circumstances, and it’s—predictably—up to Alexa Harmon and Maverick Rylan who, being older and wiser, should know how to right those wrongs together.

‘Ride Rough’ isn’t exactly romantic suspense, though there are some elements of those, along the description of activities that do fall in typically in the grey legal area. Much of the story has to do with the drama of their reconciliation and there are certain triggers to do with abuse here that would resonate with several readers, that much I’m sure. Kaye certainly describes the subtle kind that some women suffer in relationships and the tendency to blame themselves while becoming a doormat in the process in the character of Alexa. This sort of divided the book in 2 where their relationship was concerned: the first half that had an abused woman who blamed herself for her fiancé’s behaviour, to the repetitive, recriminating guilt after leaving him when she didn’t realise how domineering he was especially after he turned ‘evil’. I do prefer my lead female characters a bit less needy though and perhaps this is why Alexa didn’t appeal to me that much as a heroine, despite he trying valiant to rise above her own troubles.

Yet I found myself sorely disappointed when she jumped straight from a controlling abusive fiancé into straight out sex with Maverick who never quite stopped wanting her, since it simply felt like her shame at having made so many mistakes and the resulting gratitude that someone seemed to have given her the kind of self-worth and identity she needed to possess again. After all, wasn’t it only a day ago when Alexa had been trying to rationalise how good she was for her fiancé who could provide what Maverick couldn’t? In fact, it was hard to shake the feeling that Alexa was using Maverick as a rebound—or rather, as an affirmation of her own self-worth—and that he deserved better. Blinded by lust, with the admittance that she is messed up, buying into their relationship was near impossible. Her numerous comparisons of how Maverick’s superiority to grant merely emphasised her own failings and I thought she never quite chose Maverick as clearly as she’d chosen to walk away from him five years ago. The downtrodden, abuse status should garner sympathy from me really, but all I could think of was that the support she received from Mav made him more like a caretaker than an equal.

Obviously, my personal preferences account for the rating of this book. It’s definitely a story and a pairing that others can get into more than I did, and this review is in no way a reflection of bad writing. It isn’t. Only that the plot and characters aren’t quite to my tastes.

two-stars

Accidentally on Purpose by Jill Shalvis

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Edelweiss/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 14th January 2017
Accidentally on Purpose by Jill ShalvisAccidentally on Purpose by Jill Shalvis
Series: Heartbreaker Bay, #3
Published by Avon on January 24th 2017
Pages: 384
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four-stars

There’s no such thing as a little in love…
Elle Wheaten’s priorities: friends, career, and kick-ass shoes. Then there’s the muscular wall of stubbornness that’s security expert Archer Hunt—who comes before everything else. No point in telling Mr. “Feels-Free Zone” that, though. Elle will just see other men until she gets over Archer . . . which should only take a lifetime . . .
There’s no such thing as a little in lust…
Archer’s wanted the best for Elle ever since he sacrificed his law-enforcement career to save her. But now that she’s earned happiness and success, Archer just wants Elle 24/7. Their chemistry could start the next San Francisco Earthquake, and Archer doesn’t want to be responsible for the damage. The alternative? Watch her go out with guys who aren’t him . . .
There is such a thing as…
As far as Archer’s concerned, nobody is good enough for Elle. But when he sets out to prove it by sabotaging her dates, she gets mad—and things get hot as hell. Now Archer has a new mission: prove to Elle that her perfect man has been here all along…

Archer and Elle have a very long history and it isn’t an entirely happy one, filled with ghosts of the pasts and inexplicable feelings that both can’t articulate beyond yearning and want. Since Elle blew in like a hurricane back into Archer’s ordered life a year ago, their already fraught sniping at each other finally changes that holding pattern when Elle attempts to move on. Their incorrect perceptions of each other form the root of the conflict – Elle thinks that she is always indebted to Archer while he tries to convince himself that all he wants is for her safe and at a distance – but it’ll take more than just the growing sexual tension between them for things to snap.

‘Accidentally on Purpose’ somehow feels like the furthest from the light-hearted and sometimes clichéd-ridden plots that I associate with Jill Shalvis’s books. Instead, it’s grittier, more drama-filled, more angsty than usual and even skirts the edge of suspense with a whole load of emotions gutted so raw that I found it difficult to put the book down at all, making it as a whole, a story so surprisingly engrossing that stopping ceased becoming an option. Surfacing at an unholy hour after finishing it, then putting together the words for a review became a problem I happily wanted to have, because such moments – thank my cynical self – are dismally rare these days.

Many aspects of the story were compelling simply because it felt as though Shalvis seemed to finally let go a little of the preppy, rom-com (and frankly, exhausting) tropes that have been cheerfully employed in most of her series and dug a little deeper to explain and unravel the complexity that surrounded Archer’s and Elle’s personal histories. And there was much to reveal. At every turn, it felt as though I was uncovering hidden aspects of her lead characters that I never quite felt with the rest of the peanut gallery in the first two books thanks to their shared history, but that simply could be the wonderful characterisation of Elle and Archer (probably more of the former) that ensnared me from the start – which definitely contributed to the scorching heat and subsequent explosion when their simmering cauldron of unspoken attraction and yearning finally spilled over.

It’s fair to say that Elle generally brought out the fangirl in me: that ice-cool strength, the no-nonsense and take-no-prisoners attitude that were the only things that could counter Archer’s emotionally-stunted behaviour. I cheered for her for calling him out when he hid behind reasons so flimsy it took her sharpness to tear it open, for asking him the difficult questions that he couldn’t directly answer and for pushing back in some manner so that she wouldn’t be given the short-straw when he in turn, tried to push her away. Hard when she needed to be, caring because she couldn’t help it, I’m almost tempted to say, like Archer, that Elle’s “it for me”.

As ready as I was to give up on this series, I’m suddenly glad I didn’t. ‘Accidentally on Purpose’ is probably one of the more entertaining reads to graze my e-reader in a while and as much I don’t exactly like first two books, the third is proved to be everything I hoped for.

four-stars

Fury on Fire by Sophie Jordan

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Edelweiss/ Mystery/Crime/ Reviews 16th December 2016
Fury on Fire by Sophie JordanFury on Fire by Sophie Jordan
Series: Devil's Rock #3
Published by Avon on January 31st 2017
Pages: 368
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three-stars

When you live next door to the big bad wolf . . .
After years in prison, North Callaghan is finally free. But the demons haunting him still make him feel like a caged beast. He loses himself in work and hard living, coming up for air only to bed any willing woman to cross his path. So when his new neighbor snares his interest, he decides to add another notch to his bedpost. The only problem? Faith Walters is a white picket fence kind of girl.
Prepare to be devoured.
Faith’s new neighbor is the rudest man alive. He’d rather grunt at her than speak and he takes her “welcome-to-the-neighborhood” scones without a thank you. She knows she should run for the hills from the ex-con. If only he weren’t so smoldering sexy…if only the sounds of him with other women didn’t drift through their shared wall and fill her with longing…and if only he didn’t look at her like they were a collision waiting to happen.

Crass, crude and an absolute bastard of a neighbour to have, North Callaghan is tortured by his own demons, slaying them with getting in his one-night stands and in turn, torturing his new neighbour with his shenanigans. Faith Walters will not take it lying down—not literally at first—and her efforts to get him to behave are infuriatingly futile at best.

Like Knox or Reid in Sophie Jordan’s previous books, North strictly belongs in the category of the mighty having fallen a distance—a distance that he never really closes by the end of the book, except to realise that he wants what Faith can offer him: some kind of redemption perhaps and a true shot at love. Yet in ‘Fury on Fire’, we aren’t really given the depth of North’s transformation from happy prince to angry arse, only that the four years he’d had to survive without his brother had been difficult. Throughout, there’s only this constant reminder that he isn’t good for anything except for the peace he craves and the women he uses to silence the pain and noise inside. As a result, I was left wondering about the demons he professed to have but don’t really see manifested – except for his abominable actions towards Faith that made him look like a self-absorbed and self-indulgent character.

That said, I do like Jordan’s very edgy take on ex-felons who so badly need their second chances. They aren’t quite heroes in any overt way; instead, they’re broken, hardened and so difficult to get through and perhaps, the ultimate bad boys who have honed their bodies and skills in one of the harshest battlefields of all as they did their time. But none have hit me that hard as much as Knox’s book, which I find the best of the lot with its brutal, claustrophobic prison scenes and the wire-tight tension between him and Briar.

‘Fury on Fire’ didn’t quite scale those same heights or plumbs those same depths, but there are parts I liked about it: the injection of humour and Faith’s snappy, no-nonsense attitude with North, her hard stance with North’s unforgivable behaviour only to have them backfire on her, North’s efforts to sabotage her date, his grovelling efforts for instance. Faith herself, is easy to like, in contrast to North, whom I felt hardly deserved her because of his own cowardly ways. Yet while there are moments between them, there didn’t seem to be anything that meaningful in their meetings. Most of their initial interactions are tangential almost, revolving around the women he brought over and what she heard of their bedtime activities; these later evolved a little to flirting and banter but nothing quite much deeper, so when a moment of passion led to an admission of love which jumped abruptly to an epilogue, my scepticism remained.

I’m still glad I accidentally stumbled across this series nonetheless. The impression that ‘All Chained Up’ made on me was huge and even if Jordan’s last 2 books didn’t have an impact on me as much as the first did, Devil’s Rock will remain a prominent memory among the sea of forgettable series I’ve come across.

three-stars

Holding Out for a Hero by Codi Gary

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Edelweiss/ Military/Paramilitary/ Reviews 15th October 2016
Holding Out for a Hero by Codi GaryHolding Out for a Hero by Codi Gary
Series: Men in Uniform, #3
Published by Avon Impulse on November 8th 2016
Pages: 384
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two-stars

He wasn’t looking for love...
Two years after the death of his wife, Sergeant Blake Kline is still hurting. He isn’t ready to date, but whenever he stops by his local diner and sees the friendly smile of his favorite waitress, he feels a spark of true happiness again. And when her life is unexpectedly threatened, Blake discovers his feelings for her might not be as platonic as he thought.
She was holding out for the hero of her dreams...
Bookworm Hannah York has always been a hopeless romantic—preferring book boyfriends to blind dates—and she’s been day-dreaming about Blake since the moment he came into her diner. She’s convinced they’ll never be more than friends... until Blake kisses her and “weak in the knees” becomes more than just a line from her favorite romance novel. The closer Blake and Hannah get, however, the harder he fights to keep her at a distance.
But forever has a way of sneaking up on you...
When their blossoming relationship takes a complicated turn, Blake will have to face his past… or risk losing Hannah forever.

‘Holding out for a hero’ seems a bit of a misnomer for a book that’s centred around a widower trying to live and love again and a shy, head-in-the-clouds woman who is insistent on seeing him as the hero he isn’t quite.

But if I could appreciate the fact that Blake and Hannah are neither players nor people who flit from a partner to another, I did find myself struggling with their characterisation—more the latter than the former—that made them hard to connect with. As much as I could sympathise with Blake’s inability to move on from his wife’s death, his blowing hot and cold along with Hannah’s passive-aggressive behaviour frustrated me as both walked into this relationship that always seemed to take a step forward and two steps back. Much of the story followed this trend from the start, as Blake finds himself wanting Hannah but unwilling to put himself out there again as Hannah gets annoyed over the slightest thing and retaliates by giving him the cold shoulder.

For most of it, I was wondering if she was ever going to adjust her own unrealistic expectations as she held Blake to her own impossible standards, but that never really happened. Instead, she did the same thing—running away and not facing up to the problem at hand—that she’d constantly accused Blake of doing. Irrational and annoying, too self-indulgently emotional and cowardly when it mattered most, I found Hannah difficult to like as a heroine way more than I could connect with Blake and his own issues. More importantly however, I found myself uncomfortable with the implication that grieving and mourning should happen within a fixed period of time as seen by the amount of insistent cajoling and pushing everyone did to get Blake out of his funk and right into his own HEA, even if it seemed Blake couldn’t face his own reality after 2 years.

With a rushed reconciliation and an even quicker fast-forward to their big family HEA, ‘Holding out for a hero’ might be for those who stand firmly in Hannah’s shoes (in essence, those who firmly need that HEA that spares no expense); unfortunately, it isn’t quite for me.

two-stars
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