Hot Mess by Amy Andrews

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews 26th April 2017
Hot Mess by Amy AndrewsHot Mess by Amy Andrews
Series: Hot Aussie Knights #1
Published by Tule Publishing Pages: 152
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"I never thought I'd get a second chance at a first time with you."

Firefighter Logan Knight thinks it's fate when he meets Arabella Tucker again, nine years after their brief, intense relationship ended. Until he realizes that Bella doesn't recognize him and all of their memories together are completely erased from her memory.

Bella may be oblivious to their history but she can’t deny their scorching chemistry and the possibility of a future with the mystery man from her past. Logan wants a future too, but he can’t go there until Bella knows everything they shared. Her parents, though, want to protect her from the emotional cost of old memories and so Logan is reluctantly persuaded to let the past lie.

But when Bella starts to uncover the truth, she is shocked by the revelations. Can she move beyond the hurt of her shared history with Logan and begin their new story?

Amy Andrews’s take on the second-chance trope is by far, one of the most angsty and the most intense one I’ve read in this genre.

‘Hot Mess’ is a story of heartbreak and rediscovery (with a huge twist written into this trope), and while not entirely unpredictable, does have the elements of deception (even though executed with the best of intentions) and misplaced hope that form the main conflict of the narrative. The coincidental meeting of Logan and Belle starts it all off when Logan gets the biggest shock of his life to learn that Belle has no recollection of their tumultuous past at all after a traumatic accident that stole 9 years of her memories from her. As they reconnect, Logan is desperate for their past to resurface, but it never does and that alone, strains their newfound relationship.

Andrews articulates the process of grief eloquently enough that I could empathise with both Logan and Belle. The former had never stopped hoping for a miracle that never came, leaving him alone to shoulder the burden of their difficult past and that made me feel for him, caught as he was between Belle’s parents and his desire to move onwards with her. Belle on the other hand, had gone through so much on her own and faced a different kind of pressure in her inability to make herself remember, then condemning herself when she couldn’t.

But there isn’t a medical miracle here by any stretch and that alone makes the journey ahead so much harder for both of them. Andrews definitely paints a realistic portrait of what happens when memories are lost forever, and with them, how the pain and the heartbreak that will now stay irretrievably lost because one party cannot remember anything of that time period at all. Both Logan and Belle had been so brave, though it was harder for me to accept Belle walking away so quickly after vowing to fight for Logan this time around. That it was up to Logan to grovel in the end made me wish that Belle had a bit more courage in her to move forward and stick with that decision instead of running when she couldn’t handle things, especially since it actually had to take an accident for her to change her mind about them. Their HEA, after they finally hit rock-bottom the second time around, is a bittersweet one and you do feel as though the characters have sweated blood and tears to get where they needed to be, whether by fate or by coincidence.

‘Hot Mess’ by and large, did surprise me and it’s mostly because I’ve never quite read a second-chance romance like this. But it’s a hard book to ‘like’ because of the subject matter and as morose as I felt at the end, that’s in no way a judgement on Andrews’s deft writing at all.


Playing it Cool by Amy Andrews

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Erotica/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Sports 28th August 2016
Playing it Cool by Amy AndrewsPlaying It Cool by Amy Andrews
Series: Sydney Smoke Rugby, #2
Published by Entangled Publishing on September 12th 2016
Pages: 159
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Harper Nugent might have a little extra junk in her trunk, but her stepbrother calling her out on it is the last straw… When rugby hottie, Dexter Blake, witnesses the insult, he surprises Harper by asking her out. In front of her dumbass brother. Score! Of course, she knows it’s not for reals, but Dex won’t take no for an answer.
Dexter Blake’s life revolves around rugby with one hard and fast rule: no women. Sure, his left hand is getting a workout, but he's focused on his career for now. Then he overhears an asshat reporter belittle the curvy chick he'd been secretly ogling. What's a guy to do but ask her out? It’s just a little revenge against a poser, and then he'll get his head back in the game.
But the date is better than either expected. So is the next one. And the next. And the heat between them…sizzles their clothes right off.
Suddenly, this fake relationship is feeling all too real…

The Smokes return in what appears to be a new series of hot rugby men jostling for their HEA, but not without conflict and well, not without an amount of stupidity involved. Dexter Blake’s and Harper Nugent’s HEA comes in the short and winding road of fake dating and booty calls until someone cracks and decides more is needed than just sex.

Amy Andrews raises several issues in this book – such as body image and women’s self-esteem because of men’s validation of it – and clearly champions the ‘embrace it all’ contemporary notion of what femininity should be. In short, girls who have been all about that bass can and should get their HEA, which I love. Skewed very much towards the female perspective and what women should deserve, Harper unsurprisingly, is sympathetically written to resemble the everyday woman (with body image issues) striving for acceptance in contrast to Dex who almost appears to be an unfeeling cad at times. I did find him unintentionally hilarious though, because of the number of ways he stuck his foot in his mouth especially when he was trying to be sensitive.

‘Playing it Cool’ isn’t an unpredictable read and I did think I could have enjoyed it more had both lead characters not exchanged their measure of intelligence for common sense because of the animalistic lust/attraction that neither can fight (nor want to). What struck me was the typical behaviour of both leads who seemed led around by their hormones and the steamy sex they’ve been having, up until the point where feelings start coming into play. Even if I understood Harper’s want for more, I found her frustrating simply because it seemed like her body had a mind of its own even when it was obvious to herself that her own standards and demands of Dex should have been much higher. Dex on the other hand, seemed to be too reactive than proactive: needing to be led to the conclusion in a series of baby steps that he reciprocates Harper’s love more out of panic, then proposing a few minutes later – felt somewhat too juvenile and unbelievable for me.

But because this imprint of Entangled prioritises a huge amount of sex, liberally sprinkled over a hurried bone-jarring revelation that yes, it is love especially when jealousy strikes hard, I probably shouldn’t complain too much when Andrews delivers that short, smutty read that wraps it up nicely for ordinary women who need this sort of reaffirmation.


Playing by Her Rules by Amy Andrews

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Erotica/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Sports 20th July 2016
Playing by Her Rules by Amy AndrewsPlaying By Her Rules by Amy Andrews
Series: Sydney Smoke Rugby, #1
Published by Entangled: Brazen on July 11th 2016
Pages: 160
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When style columnist Matilda Kent accidentally lets slip that she was once involved with the captain of the Sydney Smoke rugby team, she suddenly finds herself elevated to the position she’s always wanted – feature writer. The catch? She’s stuck doing a six-part series on her ex. Still, there’s no way she can turn down a promotion…or the chance to dish the dirt on the guy who so callously broke her heart.

Tanner Stone wants to be involved in a feature series about as much as he wants to snap an Achilles. But the thought of seeing Tilly again is a bonus—and has him more worked up than he wants to admit. Only he’s not prepared for how different she is – all cool and professional. His Tilly is still in there, though…and he still wants her, now more than ever. All he has to do is charm her into giving him a rematch. And this time, winner takes all!

For such a short read, Amy Andrews has gotten me taking sides here.

It’s what Tanner Stone did with a girl he’d loved – to place himself on a side where she’d hate him – all because he wanted to follow her dreams. Their second chance comes again when Matilda Kent places her career on the line for a 6-part feature on him and it’s exactly what Tanner needs when he decides he wants her again.

I think the bigger issue here which I felt really strongly about, was the idea of choices and whether any individual has a right to take them away from those they care about, as well-meaning (and foolish) as they can be.

Contrary to so many opinions on Tanner’s sweetness, what I found problematic was my inability to get a grasp on who Tanner really was. He simply came across as a flaky guy and I couldn’t help but see his actions simply as calculated moves to get Matilda back and into bed. Only after that first meeting in years did he realise how much he missed her – an explanation I can’t buy into easily, simply because he could have tried a lot harder in the years separating them had he really wanted her. Instead, we’re told that he moved on easily after lying to her for her own good, didn’t really think about the repercussions of his actions, then swanned around with different women as he got famous in his rugby career.

Yet the moment Matilda opened her mouth to bait Tanner, I adored her, her gumption, her own need for self-respect and felt every bit of her hurt when Tanner inadvertently took away her choices years ago without meaning to. As always, there are both sides of the argument given here, but I didn’t quite appreciate Matilda’s grandmother defending Tanner’s thoughtless deed like it was nothing – teenagers after all, do remember the scars and hurts way long after they’ve grown up and putting down the extent of the hurt diminished the impact of teenage decisions and but also felt like an easy cop-out for the story’s quick resolution and HEA.

I did think that the brevity of the story did short-change it a little; a rushed ending and Matilda’s sudden change of heart did seem too easy for me (unless I’ve suddenly become a grudge-holding crone) but because an HEA is always needed, who am I to question it?


The Colonel’s Daughter by Amy Andrews

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ Netgalley/ Reviews 21st July 2015
The Colonel’s Daughter by Amy AndrewsThe Colonel's Daughter by Amy Andrews
Series: Men of the Zodiac #8
Published by Entangled Publishing on August 6th 2015
Pages: 240
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Sign: Scorpio
Ivy Danforth is out from under her Colonel father's overprotective control, and she's making it count. Big time. She's taken the summer off to travel through Australia with her bestie and experiencing all that life has to offer—when you’re not under constant military surveillance. She wants to end her summer with some sexy fun, and she has just the hottie in mind.
Seth Rodrigo is ex-Special Forces working undercover and keeping an eye on Ivy as a special favor to her father. All he has to do is not give the game away and reveal who he really is. And especially not give into the hunger that's burning through his careful control...
Then they're forced into protective custody. Alone. Together. For four days. And this time, the Colonel's daughter isn't taking no for an answer...

Seth Rodrigo owes Colonel Danforth a lifetime of favours but this latest one that requires him to go undercover and watch over the man’s daughter is quite literally, a trip to the edge and into a sea of uncertainty and chaos – everything that’s against his ordered and routine life. But he doesn’t stand a chance against Ivy Danforth who is more than a handful and knows it.

A quick and funny read, The Colonel’s Daughter in many ways, reads like a very old school Harlequin category novel(ette) with a virgin heroine and a larger than life hero who is wrestled out of his self-control by the woman’s antics. The suspense isn’t the focus here, but rather the love-hate game that Ivy and Seth find themselves entangled in. There are aspects in the story which seem contrived and abrupt – as is the case with many category books – but Amy Andrews excels in portraying contemporary attitudes to relationships and emotions…while giving her readers a rushed but walking-into-the-sunset sort of HEA.


Seduced by the Baron by Amy Andrews

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Fairytale/ Reviews 2nd July 2015
Seduced by the Baron by Amy AndrewsSeduced by the Baron by Amy Andrews
Series: Fairy Tales of New York #4
Published by Tule Publishing - Holiday Books on June 29th 2015
Pages: 120
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Once upon a time, Faith Sullivan dreamed of being a famous painter who lived in an apartment overlooking Central Park. Unfortunately, life had other ideas and at 26, she’s still running, working and living at Sully’s, her family’s traditional Irish pub in Brooklyn with her stubborn, ailing father. And she was perfectly fine with her lot until suddenly her three best friends each found their prince, and her own happily ever after seemed like another dream lost. Until one day a long, tall Australian walks into her bar and her loved-up besties decided to play Fairy Godmothers.
Ex pro-surfer turned beer baron, Rafael Quartermaine is in New York for a month on business. He’s looking for a pub to launch Baron lager on the American market and Sully’s is perfect. All he has to do is convince Faith, the traditionalist, to say yes. And once he’s done that, maybe he can convince her that all work and no play makes Faith a dull girl.
Faith’s connection to her family and Sully’s is absolute, and Raf’s business drive and itchy feet aren’t conducive to long term, so it should be an easy break when duty calls Faith back into the fold on the evening of the ball. But running out on the baron is harder than she ever imagined… Will their fling sizzle out, or become something more?

Amy Andrews excels at writing cookie-cutter (Aussie) heroes straight out of rom-coms: swoon-worthy, commitment phobic for an amazing variety of reasons, golden-tanned outdoorsy sorts who wander from woman to woman until they hit a wall hard when they find the one. Raf Quartermaine is another one of these hunky (and unfortunately not entirely interesting) types out of the Aussie hunk factory, but it was Faith Sullivan, the Cinderalla who stole my attention with her more multifaceted character who, though grounded in family and duty, is slowly suffocating with the burden of it. Raf’s introduction into Faith’s life is the catalyst to change, but what begins as a no-strings affair culminates in ball of a lifetime that also happens to be the event that is the tipping point for their fledging relationship.

‘Seduced by the Baron’ is a loose adaptation of Cinderella (rather than a subversion of it) and I did enjoy the light and near angst-free twist on the fairytale, though I probably would have liked reading about a white knight who is as memorable as his heroine.


Ask Me Nicely by Amy Andrews

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Erotica/ Reviews 5th March 2015
Ask Me Nicely by Amy AndrewsAsk Me Nicely by Amy Andrews
Series: Naughty or Nice #2
Published by Entangled: Brazen on March 3rd 2015
Pages: 263
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Veterinarian Sal Kennedy's lost her mojo and is desperate to get it back. In fact, as the anniversary of the tragedy that destroyed her life looms large, she'll do anything to erase the painful memories, including overdoing the tequila and making a pass at the most annoyingly inappropriate man on the planet. Fellow veterinarian Doyle Jackson is her flatmate and her employee and therefore strictly off-limits. 
Unfortunately, Doyle knows how to bring the goods and make her mojo sit up and beg. Doyle is only too happy to oblige Sal in her hour of need, but then she demands more, and she's perfectly happy playing dirty to get it. He wants more, too—more than just sex, that is, and it's something Sal's not willing to give. But Doyle is in this for the long haul now, and he's prepared to fight even dirtier to get what he wants. Even if that means they both keep losing all their clothes in the process.

While I can definitely appreciate Amy Andrews’s fluid and very witty writing, I’m not as able to appreciate Sal’s story as much as I’d like to, despite wanting to know what happened to her in Mack’s book which I absolutely adored.

Yes, she’s damaged, hardened, developed a bristly alpha front, is unapologetic for what she does but this isn’t the sort of take-charge heroine that I really take to, maybe because Sal simply reads like the female version of the alpha male who’s cynically damaged, in dire need of saving, does the love ’em and leave ’em routine as he fucks his way – and only successfully to an extent – through his demons. In other words, Sal’s too much of an archetype (only with boobs this time) that I’ve read too much about without too much variation across the board, which bores me because it keeps reappearing in various guises. Doyle is definitely a character I could get into very easily however; he seems more fleshed out, funny and likeable (and he’s probably supposed to be) than Sal herself yet firm enough to take her bull. Again, there’s that role-reversal here as Doyle takes the place of the typical female character riding in on a white horse who will turn things around for her.

I did think though, that what happened in the last half of the book just seemed more significant than what happened in the first…by which time, the story had pretty much ended after the climax and the make-up sex.


No More Mr. Nice Guy by Amy Andrews

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Erotica/ Reviews 30th September 2014
No More Mr. Nice Guy by Amy AndrewsNo More Mr. Nice Guy by Amy Andrews
Series: Naughty or Nice #1
Published by Macmillan on September 29th 2014
Pages: 200
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A sexy category romance from Entangled's Brazen imprint...
He's done playing the nice guy...
Newly single school counselor Josie Butler just made herself a Sexy To-Do list (featuring Bad Boys only). To her mortification, her best friend's gorgeous older brother Mack finds it...and laughs. But when Josie goes looking for some sexy fun, Mack's nice guy side turns all hot bad-assery, and suddenly she's pinned against an alley wall. Hottest. Sex. Ever.
Veterinarian Mack Kennedy can't believe Josie wants to ditch her sweet, girl-next-door lifestyle. Even worse, that she'd consider doing it with anyone but him. When she leaves for London they'll go back to being 'just friends' but until then, he's going to show her just how bad nice guys can be.
And it's the perfect plan, as long as no one finds out... and no one falls in love.

Amy Andrews’s books have personally always been either a hit or miss for me, but this is definitely the former – especially when it has you rooting for the Mack and Josie the whole way. I loved the scorching chemistry and the hint of bdsm and the spin on the best friend’s brother trope that Ms Andrews has gotten going here. That they’ve both fallen in love only after 10 days or hot sex is not entirely believable but if it’s a resolution that’s necessary for category books, I’d happily suspend my disbelief here with more willingness than I normally do for stories with a rushed HEA.

Obviously I’m crossing my fingers that Sal’s story is going to be next and I’ll be waiting as I do up my own bucket list that can’t possibly trump Josie’s.

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