Archives

Stay by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Reviews/ Sports 14th June 2017
Stay by Sarina Bowen and Elle KennedyStay by Sarina Bowen, Elle Kennedy
Series: WAGs, #2
Published by Rennie Road Books on June 20th 2017
Pages: 259
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
five-stars

Can you fall in love with someone you've never even met?
Hailey Taylor Emery has a hunch that her favorite client at Fetch--an anonymous virtual assistant service--is actually hockey star Matt Eriksson.
Although it's against the rules for her to check his file, she's 95% sure she spends at least part of each day texting with her lifelong crush and catering to his every need. Still nursing a wounded heart thanks to her recent breakup, Hailey is perfectly content with some harmless online flirting...until she has to meet her client. Face to face. Cue: utter panic.
Matt Eriksson is no stranger to heartbreak. He's still not over the destruction of his marriage, and it sucks to be the only guy on the team who knows the truth--that hockey and long-term relationships are a toxic mix. He barely sees his kids, and dealing with his ex makes him feel insane. The only person in his life who seems to understand is someone who won't show her pretty face.
But it's nothing that a pair of fourth row hockey seats can't fix. Hailey can't resist the offer. Matt can't resist Hailey. Good thing he doesn't have to. Fire up the kiss cam!
Warning: Contains rabid hockey fans, misunderstood dick pics, hockey players at the opera and exploding ovaries.

I hadn’t realised that revisiting the team and seeing how far all of them have come since Wes and Jamie got off their rocky beginnings actually made me somewhat wistfully nostalgic enough to want to re-read the entire series.

If I haven’t yet mentioned how much I loved the ‘Him’ and ‘WAGs’ series, then well, mea culpa. ‘Stay’ couldn’t make me love this particular group of people more.

Matt Eriksson is the older guy in the Toronto hockey team and with a divorce just behind him and retirement a few years down the road, still struggles with handling his twin daughters, a nasty ex-wife and a virtual personal assistant who somehow, knows what he needs. Little does he know that a call to walk the dog would lead to premier tickets for a hockey match and that the online relationship he’s always had with the person handling tiny details in his life would turn out into something much more than he can ever expect.

Yet he is still the all-round good guy who’s easy to love, juggling life post-divorce with a gruelling schedule and kids who are not often around enough. For Matt at least, the divorce is a big failure that has him second guessing himself and his ability to be a good husband and parent while being a professional athlete. It has also made him cynical and jaded and a little gun-shy about sharing that same kind of lifestyle with another woman whom he thinks would come to resent him for it.

There’s a ring of maturity and a kind of stuttering rhythm that mirrors real life going through Matt’s and Hailey’s story, which is probably the story’s strongest selling point. Too often, the protagonists go off wild benders (hookups, as it typically goes) in the wake of a bad breakup and turn a hundred-eighty into commitment-phobes because they can’t apparently, trust another member of the opposite sex as they’re now painted with the same broad brushstrokes that their ex-es are coloured with. In ‘Stay’, we get instead quiet doubts about failure, self-confidence and the fear of putting oneself out there once again that gives the story depth and heart. I loved above all, that Matt and Hailey aren’t characters who simply react to the heartache of divorce by sleeping around then pushing each other away but instead, struggle with their inadequacies in different ways that I can believe and respect.

Yet it’s also swoony, steamy and in parts, funny and deeply romantic. What more do I need?

five-stars

Midnight Target by Elle Kennedy

Posted in Action/Adventure/ Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ Mystery/Crime/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 6th March 2017
Midnight Target by Elle KennedyMidnight Target by Elle Kennedy
Series: Killer Instincts #8
Published by Berkley Books on April 25th 2017
Pages: 384
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
four-stars

Four years ago, Cate’s entire life changed when she discovered she was the daughter of a supersoldier. But Jim Morgan’s overprotectiveness has pushed her away. These days, she’s working as a freelance photographer and living the dangerous life Jim never wanted for her.
When Cate snaps a photo linking a corrupt South American politician with the leader of a notorious drug cartel, her mercenary father leads a team to rescue her—only to get shot and critically wounded in the process.
As Morgan’s operatives rally together on a revenge mission, they’re faced with new alliances and old heartaches. Cate is forced to work with David “Ash” Ashton, the man who broke her heart two years ago, while Liam Macgregor and Sullivan Port resurface after years apart to finally try to deal with everything they’d left unsaid.
Soon it’s all-out war between the cartel and the mercenaries—with two couples caught in the middle of the blood feud. Love and redemption are within their reach...but first they have to make it home alive.

Action-packed, exotic locales, a story with many twists and turns and heart-rending moments and morally-questionable characters that somehow manage to find their HEA…that probably sums up Elle Kennedy’s Killer Instinct series. And it’s a series, I think—objectively—that could be called one of the more memorable ones in the romantic suspense genre.

‘Midnight Target’ however, wouldn’t work well as a standalone. Rather it’s like a culmination of all the previous 7 books and picks up after a lapse of several years with a few flashbacks in between to explain the developments between the characters, then pushes us all on a ride that finally closes 3 years in the future. A revenge plot drives the story, where the usual tit-for-tat business gets things going in some lawless regions of South America, with over-the-top villains, yet Kennedy still surprises me at times by upping her game here.

But juggling action and the emotional bits of romance can be a difficult, ambitious task and ‘Midnight Target’ doesn’t quite succeed in this aspect, perhaps because Kennedy handled not one but two pairings in the story: Cate/Ash and Sully/Liam, who were the last, unresolved couples hinted in the previous books.

I felt for Cate throughout—a young woman whom no one wants to see as a grown-up—but loved her spirit and daring courage as she struggles and fights against being smothered in cotton wool by the men in her life. Her connection with Ash was evident in the rest of the books, and as I was interested to know their story, I hadn’t expected the bastard he’d morphed into here, treating Cate so badly that I felt that she deserves way better than him. In fact, Ash himself drives the wedge between them at the very end, when he made it clear that Cate was never his choice at all. Only when a drastic turn of events throws them together again does he start to question whether his self-pitying attitude was really right to begin with.

But the unrelenting action means that the romance is almost glossed over, despite the sheer amount of sexy times in the book. Ash barely makes up for the wrongs he’d done to Cate (whom I wished had given him a harder time for it)—sleeping with every other woman while not having the balls to go after who he really wants—and as torn between loyalties as he is, I was rather unhappy that he hadn’t needed to do too much to get Cate back, then unable to decide till the very end that he actually wanted to be with her. From there, the ending seemed rushed and abrupt, like a drop into the glowing sunset as everything suddenly righted around them.

Liam/Sully was the other m/m pairing that didn’t come as a surprise, yet it could be said that their journey is an even more tortured one, with years of separation and so much back and forth that I wondered how they were going to resolve their issues. Yet it’s a resolution—though it feels rushed as well—that caps off the series in a lavish fashion…where hardened mercenaries suddenly turn, rather laughingly, into ‘family men’ ruled by their women and their children.

four-stars

Good Boy by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ New Adult/ Reviews 4th February 2017
Good Boy by Sarina Bowen and Elle KennedyGood Boy by Sarina Bowen, Elle Kennedy
Series: WAGs #1
Published by Elle Kennedy Inc. on January 31st 2017
Pages: 246
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
four-stars

Hosting her brother’s wedding for an MVP guest list is the challenge of Jess Canning’s life. Already the family screw-up, she can’t afford to fail. And nobody (nobody!) can learn of the colossal mistake she made with the best man during a weak moment last spring. It was wrong, and there will not be a repeat. Absolutely not. Even if he is the sexiest thing on two legs.
Blake Riley sees the wedding as fate’s gift to him. Jess is the maid of honor and he’s the best man? Let the games begin. So what if he’s facing a little (fine, a lot) of resistance? He just needs to convince the stubborn blonde that he’s really a good boy with a bad rap. Luckily, every professional hockey player knows that you’ve got to make an effort if you want to score.
But Jess has more pressing issues to deal with than sexy-times with a giant man-child. Such as: Will the ceremony start on time, even though someone got grandma drunk? Does glitter ever belong at a wedding? And is it wrong to murder the best man?

I’ve been so taken with ‘Him’ and ‘Us’ that ‘Good Boy’ seemed like a natural progression because I’ve found it impossible to get enough of Jamie and Wes. And what a ride ‘Good Boy’ has been, even though (a confession here) nothing has come close to Jamie/Wes’s story. Or should I call it Wesmie now?

 But Blake and Jess aren’t a slouchy pair either. ‘Good Boy’ is hilarious, quirky and so filled with laugh-out-loud moments at the oddest times that are full of Blake’s made-up vocabulary, and larger-than-life presence that pushes believability at times. In many ways, the book reads like a tribute to Blake and even though there’s Jess in it, the pages can barely contain his huge, funny personality. He jumps out of the pages like a hulking giant whose presence is impossible to ignore and is just that type of character for whom all the adjectives used don’t ever seem sufficient.

I liked that Blake was so much more than the bearish, insane guy he was always portrayed to be, just as the authors brought us on a ride to discover who Jessica Canning really is and could be after years of not being able to be anything but flighty. Yet there is such…loudness in the book from Blake himself as well as his family that I think I struggled to know him beyond what he shows the world, at least a lot less than Jess’s easier-to-read nature.

Still, it’s hard not to finish this book feeling nothing less than entertained, even if I thought Blake could have been paired with any heroine and he would have somehow still stolen the show.

This spinoff series however, lets me back into the Toronto roster and I’m never saying no to that.

four-stars

The Goal by Elle Kennedy

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Sports 14th December 2016
The Goal by Elle KennedyThe Goal by Elle Kennedy
Series: Off-Campus, #4
Published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform on September 26th 2016
Pages: 319
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
two-stars

She’s good at achieving her goals…
College senior Sabrina James has her whole future planned out: graduate from college, kick butt in law school, and land a high-paying job at a cutthroat firm. Her path to escaping her shameful past certainly doesn’t include a gorgeous hockey player who believes in love at first sight. One night of sizzling heat and surprising tenderness is all she’s willing to give John Tucker, but sometimes, one night is all it takes for your entire life to change.
But the game just got a whole lot more complicated
Tucker believes being a team player is as important as being the star. On the ice, he’s fine staying out of the spotlight, but when it comes to becoming a daddy at the age of twenty-two, he refuses to be a bench warmer. It doesn’t hurt that the soon-to-be mother of his child is beautiful, whip-smart, and keeps him on his toes. The problem is, Sabrina’s heart is locked up tight, and the fiery brunette is too stubborn to accept his help. If he wants a life with the woman of his dreams, he’ll have to convince her that some goals can only be made with an assist.

Sabrina James and John Tucker is a pairing I didn’t think I’d come across, but then Elle Kennedy is adventurous that way and writes a believable relationship between a mismatched pair by the time their HEA rolls around.

Kennedy can always be counted on to give the down and dirty side of the college hookup culture, or rather, the subculture that’s more concerned with parties, casual relationships and the good life apart from studies. ‘The Goal’, like the rest of her series, revolves more around off-campus activities and the way jocks and the girls meander their way down to love after they start from lust and playing the field with a multitude of people. There is quite an overlap with book 2 and while I can’t exactly remember the details of it, it definitely works as a standalone.

While it did get a little shallow for my liking with my inability to really connect with the romantic leads at all, in truth, I was waiting for the holding pattern that these 2 college kids have gotten going, to fall apart. When it finally happened, I was gleeful to see Tucker’s and Sabrina’s ordered worlds collapsed with the introduction of a factor neither had thought about. Consequently, the last quarter of the book was the most interesting but also the most frustrating to read, as Sabrina alternated between self-recrimination and holding onto her pride about needing no one while Tucker reminisced fondly about staying with his old roommates with the constant stream of girls coming around. While I appreciated how the realism of their on-off, undefined relationship made for the long, slow journey to their happy end, it did drag a little too long for my liking.

Kennedy’s writing style is engaging albeit with very very crude college humour that hasn’t quite passed into wit yet and it’s probably a book for those who really appreciate all the tropes in New Adult sports romances: unapologetic, no holds barred types of hookups instead of relationships (thereby upping the body count as much as possible), with most of the characters going happily about bumping uglies with whomever they can whenever they feel like it, until something momentous happens to flip it all into blissful monogamy. Still, Kennedy nails the tone for this genre, filled with innuendoes that can be cringe-worthy and sometimes, amusing banter that goes nowhere, yet captures the mental state of this particular group of young adults who try to be grown up yet sometimes painfully fall short of it.

two-stars

Us by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Sports/ Young Adult 8th March 2016
Us by Sarina Bowen & Elle KennedyUs by Sarina Bowen, Elle Kennedy
Series: Him, #2
Published by Rennie Road Books on March 8th 2016
Pages: 328
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
five-stars

Five months in, NHL forward Ryan Wesley is having a record-breaking rookie season. He’s living his dream of playing pro hockey and coming home every night to the man he loves—Jamie Canning, his longtime best friend turned boyfriend. There’s just one problem: the most important relationship of his life is one he needs to keep hidden, or else face a media storm that will eclipse his success on the ice.
Jamie loves Wes. He really, truly does. But hiding sucks. It’s not the life Jamie envisioned for himself, and the strain of keeping their secret is taking its toll. It doesn’t help that his new job isn’t going as smoothly as he’d hoped, but he knows he can power through it as long as he has Wes. At least apartment 10B is their retreat, where they can always be themselves.
Or can they?
When Wes’s nosiest teammate moves in upstairs, the threads of their carefully woven lie begin to unravel. With the outside world determined to take its best shot at them, can Wes and Jamie develop major-league relationship skills on the fly?

I’m struck as always, by this particular series, not because M/M isn’t usually my cup of tea, but because of the very human choices that both Jamie and Wes face in spite of their gender – and their courageous decision to choose love – a point that is reiterated throughout the book – is the only thing that keeps me coming back.

‘Us ‘has to be one of the hardest, most painful but most rewarding reads I’ve ever had. If I’d cheered for Jamie and Wes in the first book rigorously, this book cataloguing their difficulty in staying afloat, trapped in their miserable bubble with the weight of expectations bearing down on them was akin to watching a train wreck happening in slow motion without any way to stop it. (Or perhaps this is entirely because of the very typical tendency of males not to talk at all?)

Jamie and Wes are compelling characters that have somehow taken root and grown into monstrous proportions in my head, despite their stupidity with each other at times. I’m reminded again, of this very special friendship that had begun in a humble summer camp that stayed solid even as things started to go wrong and when it all ended well, I was happy again – for fictional characters who’d come to life to strongly that they could have easily been any of my friends.

Even then, I’m entirely unprepared to say goodbye, as these guys and the team drink their hearts out on the last page – and I can only hope there’ll be another book past this one.

five-stars

Claimed by Elle Kennedy

Posted in Erotica/ Reviews/ Speculative Fiction/ Urban Fantasy 2nd November 2015
Claimed by Elle KennedyClaimed by Elle Kennedy
Series: Outlaws #1
Published by Signet on October 6th 2015
Pages: 368
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
one-star

After a devastating war decimated most of the world, Hudson Lane has only known the oppressive life under her own father’s tyranny. She finally escapes, branding herself an outlaw and hunted by the Enforcers. Her best chance at survival is Connor Mackenzie, an aggressively sensual fugitive who opens her eyes to the wicked possibilities of a world without rules.
As the leader of a band of outlaw fighters, Connor can’t resist the beautiful stranger who asks for his protection. Despite his reservations, he agrees to introduce her to a whole new way of life. But when Connor discovers Hudson’s connection to the enemies of liberty, he wonders how far he can trust the woman who has abandoned all inhibitions to challenge every forbidden desire.

Gah. I only have a mental image of people fucking all over the place because the world has gone to hell and everyone should just live everyday boinking mindlessly. Reads like a porn movie with a poor excuse of a post-apocalyptic plot. Sex for the sake of sex. *sigh*

one-star

Him by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Sports/ Young Adult 19th August 2015
Him by Sarina Bowen & Elle KennedyHim by Sarina Bowen, Elle Kennedy
Series: Him #1
Published by Rennie Road Books on July 28th 2015
Pages: 276
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
five-stars

They don’t play for the same team. Or do they?
Jamie Canning has never been able to figure out how he lost his closest friend. Four years ago, his tattooed, wise-cracking, rule-breaking roommate cut him off without an explanation. So what if things got a little weird on the last night of hockey camp the summer they were eighteen? It was just a little drunken foolishness. Nobody died.
Ryan Wesley’s biggest regret is coaxing his very straight friend into a bet that pushed the boundaries of their relationship. Now, with their college teams set to face off at the national championship, he’ll finally get a chance to apologize. But all it takes is one look at his longtime crush, and the ache is stronger than ever.
Jamie has waited a long time for answers, but walks away with only more questions—can one night of sex ruin a friendship? If not, how about six more weeks of it? When Wesley turns up to coach alongside Jamie for one more hot summer at camp, Jamie has a few things to discover about his old friend...and a big one to learn about himself.

I’m typically wary when I start a M/M romance book, but I didn’t expect to be drawn into their drama so quickly…and ended up learning quite a few precious life lessons on identity, self-worth and sexuality through the fictional characters of Wes and Jamie in the process. If that isn’t what fiction is supposed to do, then what is?

five-stars
Back to top

Pin It on Pinterest