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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

Mess With me by Nicole Helm

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews 18th July 2017
Mess With me by Nicole HelmMess with Me by Nicole Helm
Series: Mile High Romance #2
Published by Zebra on August 29th 2017
Pages: 231
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two-stars

In Gracely, Colorado, it s all about the climb into the rugged Rocky Mountains, and over the obstacles that life has thrown in your way. With the right partner, the view from the top is grand . . . Sam Goodall knows how to hide. And in the years since his sister s death, he s done just that, burying himself in his work at the Evans brothers Mile High Adventures as a backpacking guide. Clients don t mind his strong, silent demeanor, and he s happy to leave the rest of the world behind when he s hiking, or holed up in the off-grid cabin he calls home. But he owes his life what there is of it to the Evans boys, and when they ask for a favor, he can t refuse. Hayley Winthrop is looking for something she s never had a true sense of family, and a purpose. Finding her half brothers was the first step discovering where she belongs in the world is the next. Could it be in the fresh air of small-town Gracely? With hunky Sam agreeing to train her as an outdoors guide, she s torn between exploring her newfound skills and getting closer to him. But chipping away at the walls around Sam could take a lifetime . . . Sam is stuck in the past, and Hayley is looking toward her future they re a mismatched pair from the start. But the connection between them right now is too good to let go . . ."

I’m a tad conflicted about ‘Mess With Me’, the second book in Nicole Helm’s Mile High Adventures series.

Sam Goodall, the tortured hero was mouthwateringly enticing—the circumstances that made him that way drew me like a moth to flame rather than his yeti-like appearance—which meant that the story started off well. But then it sagged in the middle when the plot seemed to be more of the same from the start: Hayley Winthrop gaining some courage to test out her newfound independence on the unwitting Sam, who in turn, gets drawn out from his cold shell of self-recriminating isolation because of her, all through their training sessions. In essence, there was too much to-and-fro without the sense of anything very significant happening, despite Sam’s intriguing backstory drawing me in from the start.

Hayley was one of those heroines who had me rooting for her at the beginning, only for this sentiment to fizzle out when I just didn’t see her in a better place by the end of the book. In fact, it was harder to like her by the end of it; there was this passive-aggressive vibe in her that rubbed me the wrong way, though her uncertainty and hesitance were understandable in the beginning before it got annoying in the middle. I did understand—sort of—her familial conflict and her need to please people, though her assertion of her own independence vacillated between feeling timidly guilty and then lashing out too often that I just got fed up with her.

I only perked up when Helm introduced the conflict for the next book through the character of Tori, who spiced the dynamics up between the Evans brothers a little more and finally took the focus off Hayley’s self-pity, irrational behaviour and her constant musings about her inability to fit in as the ‘outsider’. Which clearly means that I’m cautiously optimistic for Tori’s story and those years of unresolved history with Will that is bound to explode in their faces. I just hope that it’ll be a ride that would be worth it.

two-stars

Bonding Games by Cathryn Fox

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Erotica/ Netgalley/ Reviews 8th July 2017
Bonding Games by Cathryn FoxBonding Games by Cathryn Fox
Series: Tropical Temptation #1
Published by Entangled Publishing: Brazen on July 24th 2017
Pages: 210
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three-stars

Former Navy SEAL Josh Steele gets tasked with a babysitting mission—watch over his boss’s daughter—a job he can only describe as hell. But when his assignment takes him to a tropical island, and he begins to see another side of Holly Fairfax, attraction sizzles between them—but he knows better than to risk his job for it.

Holly can’t believe that underneath those baggy clothes tech-guru Josh Steele is all ripped abs and sexy hotness. Ignoring said hotness is tough, especially since she has to work with him on the team-building exercises her boss has assigned if she wants a coveted promotion. It’s even harder when she discovers being around Josh brings out her naughty side – one she didn’t know she had.

But if she cracks the code on his cover, everything they’ve built could come crashing down.

‘Bonding Games’ started out great as a former SEAL goes undercover as a geek in a company in order to suss out an apparent threat to a woman who is trying her hardest to live a life away from her controlling father. But to Holly Fairfax, Josh Steele is merely a co-worker, or rather, a laid-back gamer-type until an elaborate company bonding session puts them in close proximity as partners.

The journey from there onwards however, is fairly predictable, which somehow didn’t quite live up to the potential of the promising blurb. Holly and Josh go from zero to a hundred in a matter of pages, and the overwhelming lust comes with every innocent touch and every fanciful imagining of what lies beneath each other’s clothes, despite the individual reminders to themselves that they want nothing more than a fling. They hit the bed early on as they go on every team-bonding activity and as expected, Holly hits the roof when Josh’s actual purpose for being in the company is inadvertently revealed.

Frankly, I’m still trying to figure out why it fell flat for me after the fun setup of their relationship. I’ve always loved the undercover business part, particularly when it involves some kind of double-crossing, though that always risks some TSTL behaviour when the deception is taken too far or when someone tends to overreact and forget their actual age. Maybe it’s because Holly/Josh’s story treads the same ground as so many others have gone before—not that I don’t enjoy authors’ different takes on them—, or maybe it’s all wrapped up too neatly after the hysterical blow up and the customary grovel, or that Holly/Josh didn’t feel too multifaceted in their portrayals despite their own prejudices. But overall this wasn’t too memorable and that ironically, defined this read for me.

three-stars

One Week with the Marine by Allison Gatta

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Erotica/ Netgalley/ Reviews 5th July 2017
One Week with the Marine by Allison GattaOne Week With the Marine by Allison Gatta
Series: Morris Brothers #1
Published by Entangled Publishing: Brazen on July 24th 2017
Pages: 194
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three-stars

Best friends with benefits…

Avery Forrester has never been the type to settle down—not to one place, not to one job, and certainly not to one man. Still, when her long-term best friend with benefits comes home on leave with a plan—including marriage and children—she realizes she’ll have to do something drastic in order to keep him. Luckily, drastic is what she does best.

…isn’t enough anymore.

U.S. Marine Holden Morris has never backed down from a challenge. And this time, that challenge is persuading wild child Avery Forrester, the woman he’s loved his entire life, to marry him. He wants the whole deal—a wife, a family. But convincing her to become a military wife won’t be easy. Then again, he knows Avery—in every way possible. Armed with that kind of knowledge—carnal and otherwise--how can he possibly fail?

Read the Entangled Brazen line only if you’re prepared to see the recycling trope after trope with tons of heat. I can’t remember how many lazy afternoons I’ve whiled away this way and for quite a bit of them, I’ve still had a rollicky good time because they’re such easy reads. ‘One Week with the Marine’ slots into one of this particular shelf with ease because it’s just that: absolutely predictable with a woman fearing love and commitment and her friends-with-benefits guy wanting more, but a fun one nonetheless with the road blocks and obstacles that you expect.

Avery’s panicked ways of creating distance got somewhat extreme, along with the repetitive self-recriminating statements of how she didn’t want to commit yet couldn’t find it in herself to hurt her good friends. There’s more than a touch of All McBeal-like neuroticism in Avery though and some of it felt like a person who simply couldn’t (or didn’t want) grow up when needed to, beyond her mummy-issues that she’d been using as excuses for too long.

I liked the fairly unusual idea that Holden and Avery were long in a deeper than friend-with-benefits type of relationship for years whether they wanted to admit it or not and they’d really belonged to each other before the status-quo changed permanently and on paper. Holden’s aim to get it officially stamped—with Avery squirrelling away every time he wants to bring up this topic—makes the chase frustrating because neither could really get up to speed when it seems as thought they’re in the wrong gear all the time. But the ending and the conflict are practically written in stone. One pushes; the other runs. It comes to a head when Avery finally realises that she needs to start adulting with the help of a friend.

Thankfully, for Avery, marriage isn’t quite in the cards just yet; the story ends with a doable compromise for both parties and a HEA that is realistically written. But since the Brazen line is a quick ‘pick me up’ so to speak, ‘One Week with the Marine’ is a decent read, just not a stellar one. If this is really is the start of a series, I’m already curious to see what else Allison Gatta has in store for for the sequel.

three-stars

Royally Romanov by Teri Wilson

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews 2nd July 2017
Royally Romanov by Teri WilsonRoyally Romanov by Teri Wilson
Series: The Royals #2
Published by Pocket Star on July 17th 2017
Pages: 262
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three-stars

In this charming modern day retelling of the 1956 classic Anastasia, a museum curator falls for a mysterious man who may or may not be a long lost heir to Russia’s imperial Romanov dynasty.

Finley Abbot is organizing the most prestigious art exhibit of her career at the Louvre museum—a retrospective of art from the House of Romanov. But the sudden appearance of Maxim Romanov threatens to turn her into the biggest laughingstock of the art world. When she finds herself falling in love, she realizes there’s even more at stake than her career. How can she trust a man with her whole world when he can’t remember a thing about his past?

After suffering a violent blow to the head, Maxim’s only clue to his identity is a notebook containing carefully researched documentation in his own handwriting indicating that he is the sole surviving descendant of the Grand Duchess Anastasia, previously thought dead in the murder of her family during Russia’s Bolshevik revolution. His struggle to put the mysterious pieces of his past back together leads him to Finley. At first, she’s convinced Maxim is nothing but a con artist. But there’s something undeniably captivating about the beautiful, brooding man who claims to be searching for his identity—something Finley can’t quite bring herself to resist. When he reveals a secret about one of the imperial Fabergé eggs in the collection, she accepts he may actually be telling the truth. But as soon as Finley and Maxim act on their feelings for one another, Maxim is confronted with evidence that calls into question everything he’s begun to believe about himself.

Romances involving royalty have always been iffy-choices for me and that has more to do with their believability than anything else.

With an injured man suffering from amnesia trying to piece together his life, ‘Royally Romanov’ sucked me in immediately when it turned the table on the usual speculation surrounding Anastasia and chose to throw the spotlight on a possible grandson instead. Along with a curator who specialises in all things Romanov, Maxim Laurent’s sudden presence in her life has the power to make or break it.

I loved the mystery that surrounded Maxim and the developing case that at times felt more like a thriller than a romance—it was both troubling and seductive in that disconcerting way when it was obvious nothing is all it seemed.

I really anticipated the part where all the secrets were cracked open, except that didn’t quite happen that way at the end, which I thought was disappointingly rushed and abrupt. There is as always, a con job associated with Anastasia’s identity and that goes similarly in Maxim’s case. I felt as though Max’s past hadn’t been sufficiently unravelled to make it a persuasive one. Was he really an investment banker, for starters? Or was he something else entirely? How then, had he gotten to this point in his life? In fact, it was harder even to believe, that his boss—a wealthy manager of a reputable bank—had been the one pushing the con job all along and was responsible for all the thuggish behaviours that had Maxim injured in the first place.

I wished all of those questions were fully addressed, but Teri Wilson pushes those aside in favour of securing the romance with Maxim and Finley when both of them eschew what they have in life to start anew someplace else. The connection between Finley and Maxim happened so quickly that it felt like instant love, and while their HEA—as the movie credits rolled on—had the hallmarks of a Disney ending, I think I still needed something more concrete to tie them together than just the dreamy (or dangerous) streets of Paris and the romanticised ideal of royalty living amongst us.

three-stars

All I Want for Halloween by Marie Harte

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Erotica/ Netgalley/ Reviews 30th June 2017
All I Want for Halloween by Marie HarteAll I Want for Halloween by Marie Harte
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca on September 26th 2017
Pages: 352
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two-stars

When Sadie Liberato is cajoled by her brother to attend a costume party a month before Halloween, she had no idea she'd fall for a handsome devil in a mask. Or that she'd have one hellishly fine encounter in the dark. But when her masked devil turns out to be Gear Blackstone, fallen TV reality star of the super popular show, Motorcycle Madnezz, she wonders if this is a match made in heaven or hell...

‘All I want for Halloween’ starts out fun and gossipy in a way about celebrities that had me laughing at the parody, then made it work by introducing a female lead who seemed to know just what she was doing, and yet was funny and gutsy to boot. And I’d thought there and then, that we had a winner.

After all, who can say that they’ve looked with disdain from afar, then came face to face with the very person you’ve been seeing on screen and been judgemental about? As someone watching from the outside, Sadie Liberato’s own reaction to the whole mess of a cheating ex and Motorcycle Madnezz’s end of an era on tv closely mirrored mine…minus the incidental meeting and the sexy times.

But past Gear’s and Sadie’s first (rather acrobatic) public, masked-sex at the party, it was hard to sustain interest in a pairing because I couldn’t tell just what direction their relationship was going to take. Throw in the sudden influx of characters in the midway point and the copious number of sex scenes—I really did get the point early on that sex between them was hot and stratospheric and got bored when that just went on and on—, it started to fall flat at the quarter-mark of the story, when Gear and Sadie find themselves in a semblance of dating but are convinced that they’re nothing more than that while their actions prove otherwise. Adamant that their ‘relationship’ is casual, much of it felt like lust masquerading as love still, even as both eventually do come to the conclusion that they are already there with their emotions.

Overall, I feel as though I should have liked this better than I did, but throughout it all, I simply found myself impatiently wanting to see the story get somewhere and was disappointed when it didn’t quite. Instead it dragged on and I finally started to skim, almost relieved when Gear/Sadie got it into their heads that they were on the same emotional page because that was where the story also ended.

two-stars
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