Author: Jennifer Blackwood

Up in Flames by Jennifer Blackwood

Up in Flames by Jennifer BlackwoodUp in Flames by Jennifer Blackwood
Series: Flirting with Fire, #2
Published by Montlake Romance on 9th October 2018
Pages: 300
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one-half-stars

Sloane Garcia has butted heads with Reece Jenkins ever since he was a colossal jerk of epic proportions on a night she’d rather forget. So what if he’s overconfident, ultramasculine, and hard muscled? When she finds out he’s on the auction block at the annual firefighter’s charity event, she decides to give this cocky firefighter a dose of his own medicine. Now that she’s won the hunk, he’s on call—to do whatever Sloane wants.

Sure, Reece and Sloane had a rocky start, but he had his reasons. None of that matters now that he’s the bachelor at her beck and call, tasked with granting her four wishes in four weeks. He runs into burning buildings for a living, but nothing will be as tough as dousing the flames Sloane ignites in him. What started out as just a game might end up with Reece losing the one thing he swore he’d never give up: his heart.

Somehow I feel as though I need this caveat, as always, before I begin this review. My expectations, when it comes to romantic fiction are tuned differently when when I read general fiction; better put, the very classification of the genre shapes what I naturally want to read of my protagonists, so their traits are looked at not just in terms of their social contributions (good soldier/cop/firefighter), or their generosities to their families, or how often they mow the lawn for their blind neighbours, for instance, which many authors love to highlight.

In contrast, I typically look at romantic heroism through the lens of other qualities, such as integrity, commitment, the care and concern because this genre is precisely one in which such things seem necessary for the guaranteed HEA that is its peculiar characteristic. I’ve been confronted with too many protagonists who fall out of this framework of late, and instead conform to stereotypes that have me rolling my eyes, which accounts for my inability to like a book more because of it.

Jennifer Blackwood’s ‘Up in Flames’ was unfortunately, yet another one of those for me. It’s certainly a story that will appeal to others: the rather light-hearted feel, the slight bit of angst to stir up some emotions about a backstory accounting for present-day terrible behaviour and the eventual but rocky road to redemption and a HEA.

What stood out for me was the very relatable Sloane, but then I’ve always liked seeing this sort of scrappy strength in a romantic heroine: somewhat bitter about a breakup but still digging in, hanging on in control, refusing to be vulnerable, with her brain turning to mush at the sight of Reece’s body being the only cringeworthy characteristic I found.

In contrast, Reece felt like too much of the clichéd, ego-filled, manwhore arsehole player for me—doing the rounds with eight of the nurses in Sloane’s workplace first made him beyond distasteful (armed with the usual excuse of having been hurt so long ago and thus is into emotionless hooking up from now onwards) in contrast to Sloane’s impressive sticking it through with her one and only long-term relationship despite it ending badly. Adding the fact that he’d always had a thing for her on and off throughout most of their lives, was waffling about the idea of ‘them’ up until quite literally the last few lines in the second-last chapter…well, I couldn’t quite find too much of a basis to even root for this pairing when there didn’t seem to be that much of an active push for both to be together.

The enemies-to-lovers trope is a deliciously cool one (which had me jumping on this) but with constant thoughts intruding about Sloane deserving way better than settling for what I honestly thought was a chemistry-less relationship, this is clearly not a book that worked for me.

one-half-stars

Burning Up by Jennifer Blackwood

Burning Up by Jennifer BlackwoodBurning Up by Jennifer Blackwood
Series: Flirting with Fire, #1
Published by Montlake Romance on 8th May 2018
Pages: 256
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three-half-stars

Unemployed schoolteacher Erin Jenkins is back in Portland, the town she hasn’t called home for more than a decade. It’s not the way she wants to spend her last days of summer: in between jobs and avoiding her mother’s snooping by escaping to the ice-cream aisle. But when the opportunity arises for her to accompany her brother’s best friend—her lifetime crush—to a wedding, summer gets a whole lot more interesting.

Firefighter and single dad Jake Bennett has built a nice, safe wall around his heart—no romance, no getting burned. That doesn’t mean he’s ruling out a fling. Considering Erin’s visit is temporary, they’re the perfect fit for a scorching no-strings one-night stand. Or two. Or five. Until the worst thing happens: Erin and Jake are feeling more. Damn that four-letter word.

Now their hearts are on the line, and when their smoldering summer comes to a close, it’s going to be harder than ever to put out the fire.

If there’s anything to be expected of Jennifer Blackwood’s writing, it’s the hefty dose of humour inserted in straight from the start, or at least it’s what I’ve come to associate Blackwood with.

‘Burning Up’ began with a woman on the outs and her embarrassment all because of (wrong) timing—the usual thing that creates comedy—and the characters’ as well as the reader’s reactions to it were enough to bring me on board with it. For a firefighting book however, the burn between Erin/Jake was slower than I expected, with few sparks that flare here and there, interspersed with some firefighting action and the day-to-day scenes (some unusually funny) of the EMTs that I usually like reading about.

And that’s probably as far as I should get with the fire analogies before they start getting corny.

By and large, Blackwood’s jaunty, funny writing made it quite easy to sail through the forbidden brother’s best friend kind of story. There were however, some parts that were frustratingly dedicated to the push-pull decisions both protagonists made as well as the shady implication that Jake needed Erin’s brother’s ‘permission’ or approval to date her and that Erin seemed to constantly pick up the breadcrumbs Jake left for her even as he pushed her away repeatedly, unable to decide what he really wanted. Their HEA, left to the last minute, was an abrupt one, done to the extent where I flipped the page wondering if I’d actually missed something or accidentally ghosted a few paragraphs that would have helped solidify the ending.

In any case, ‘Burning Up’ reads like the establishing book that it’s meant to be: done with a setup of future pairings, the slight hints of the characters who will next get their story and the presence of a close community that help structure the context and the scene. It’s a series that I’ll be watching out for, even if it’s just for the sheer fun factor that Blackwood’s confident writing has.

three-half-stars

The Rule Maker by Jennifer Blackwood

The Rule Maker by Jennifer BlackwoodThe Rule Maker by Jennifer Blackwood
Series: The Rule Breakers, #2
Published by Entangled Publishing (Embrace) on January 16th 2017
Pages: 280
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four-stars

Ten Steps to Surviving a New Job:
1. Don’t sleep with the client. It’ll get you fired. (Sounds easy enough.)
2. Don’t blink when new client turns out to be former one-night stand.
3. Don’t call same client a jerk for never texting you back.
4. Don’t believe client when he says he really, really wanted to call.
5. Remember, the client is always right—so you can’t junk punch him when he demands new design after new design.
6. Ignore accelerated heartbeat every time sexy client walks into room.
7. Definitely ignore client’s large hands. They just mean he wears big gloves.
8. Don’t let client’s charm wear you down. Be strong.
9. Whatever you do, don’t fall for the client. You’ll lose more than your job—maybe even your heart.
10. If all else fails, see rule number one again.

‘The Rule Breakers’ series has loads going for it: the funnies, the comedic timing and a very timely reminder that the flimic romantic comedy can indeed translate very well into the written form when put in the right hands. Just like its predecessor, the blurb was already intriguing but I hadn’t realised it was Lainey’s friend Zoey who was going to have her turn in the limelight in this one with Ryder Covington, a one-night stand turned client until I saw the first chapter.

It’s not to say that Zoey and Ryder aren’t stereotypes, because to some extent they are: the superstar snowboarder using the excuse of travelling to keep his one-night stands going vs the woman who got angry when he left (because it was the best sex ever) and then realising that they can mean more to each other under different circumstances. Both Zoey and Ryder do teeter on the edge of irrational at times, though I do recognise that those form part of Jennifer Blackwood’s trademark humour that sometimes straddles satire/parody. Throw in difficult relatives, an angry roommate who is still sucking in her own HEA and Blackwood has got women’s night pat down.

By and large however, ‘The Rule Maker’ is quite a witty (and dare I say ‘sparkling’?) take on contemporary romance; it’s pacey, light-hearted and generally filled with little hilarious moments that I’m almost convinced I can see this happening on the big screen. There’s just a slight bit of angst and a point where the laughs stop and though the conflict and subsequent resolution felt a little rushed for me, the HEA after the grovelling is expected but always welcome.

four-stars

Landing the Air Marshal by Jennifer Blackwood

Landing the Air Marshal by Jennifer BlackwoodLanding the Air Marshal by Jennifer Blackwood
on September 12th 2016
Pages: 153
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three-stars

It was meant to be a one-night stand. One wicked night with an irresistibly sexy passenger. That’s all Air Marshal Gage Michaels can afford--his career comes before everything else. Too bad the snowpocalpyse of the century has different plans for him and Abby Winters. Before the night's over, they find themselves snowed in at the most luxurious hotel in the city.
Abby’s scouting job of a NYC penthouse should be quick, simple, and definitely shouldn’t include a sexy-as-hell man messing up the 3000 count sheets that will be featured in her company’s next blockbuster hit. Not when she’s up for a promotion that could skyrocket her entire career in the film industry. Still, she can't refuse what the weather gods so obviously want her to have. She'll give in, just this once.
Leaving is tougher than either of them could have imagined. But they’re two people who have nothing in common, living on opposite coasts. There’s no way they can ever be together. Right?

Jennifer Blackwood made a huge impression on me with ‘The Rule Book’ and I was wondering if ‘Landing the Air Marshal’ would live up to that hype. It turns out the latter is of a very different sort, closer to erotica than the standard rom-com I’ve come to associate with Blackwood.

In this case, it’s pretty much a matter of ‘they came (literally), they screwed, the fell in lust/love’.

Abby and Gage move from the mile high club to a snowed-in hotel room and it’s a non-stop two-day weekend of indulgence of the horizontal kind, but truthfully, I got bored after the nth orgasm was grunted out, because there are just so many ways to slot A into B with some kink on the side before I start itching for the conflict to kick in.

Some meta thoughts that kept circling my head throughout when it became apparent there’s so much implicit in this story about women’s and men’s careers – and the emotional responses these issues bring on. I can’t help but wonder if ‘Landing the Air Marshal’ is feminist book after all. With a male lead who is a shout away from joining a women’s equality campaign, there’s so much in the book that trumpets women’s rights to work and be ambitious – who want their cake and eat it – as well as get their Prince Charming. It present the ultimate ‘standard’ of the contemporary and liberated woman, where compromise doesn’t seem to be part of the vocabulary at all, particularly when we’re given very unsavoury comparisons of the so-called 1950s mentality of Gage’s traditional matchmaking mother. Not that I don’t advocate women’s rights, but I thought that message bore down a little too strongly at times. That there were loads of monologues and internal dialogues instead of actual conversations to work things out drove me batty too. Abby’s cut-throat work-only ambitions did make her quite a bitch with Gage and I did really think something had to give in the end but didn’t after all, which made me wonder about the entire realism of their happy ending despite their conflicting schedules not being a strain on a relationship that’s done so much over distance.

A lot of the story is concerned with the present or at least, indulging in what’s in front of you and hoping things in the future would work out. In fact, I’d only call it a ‘happy for now’ ending, despite my preference for a more concrete one, especially if Abby and Gage – at the end of one year – simply go on with the belief that ‘they’ll get somewhere someday’.

three-stars

The Rule Book by Jennifer Blackwood

The Rule Book by Jennifer BlackwoodThe Rule Book by Jennifer Blackwood
Series: The Rule Breakers, #1
Published by Entangled Publishing (Embrace) on May 9th 2016
Pages: 290
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four-stars

Starr Media Second-Assistant Survival Guide1. Don't call your hot boss the antichrist to his face. 2. Don't stare at hot boss's, um, package or his full sleeve of tattoos. (No. Really. Stop!) 3. Don't get on the malicious first assistant's bad side.4. Don't forget to memorize the 300-page employee manual.5. If you value your cashmere, steer clear of boss’s dog.6. Boss’s dimples are lust-inducing. Do. Not. Give. In. 7. “The elevator ate your clothes” is not a valid excuse for showing up to important meetings half dressed. 8. Don't break seven of the rules within the first week of employment if you, ya know, are in dire need of money to support your sick mom.9. Whatever you do, don’t fall for the boss. See rule eight about sick mom.10. Never forget the rules.

‘The Rule Book’ is definitely one of the more enjoyable reads I’ve had in a while, worthy of all the crazy (if not always realistic) antics of a typical romantic comedy.


Cleverly written with shades of Bridget Jones klutziness in it, I liked the humour, the absolutely believable lead characters, and even the antagonists because they didn’t magically turn into honey and lovingkindness. My only quibble – which I’ve surprised even myself by saying – is the sudden but very surprising slam of the bedroom door in my face after all the build-up and the fantasising that got me hot and bothered.

four-stars