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Man Candy by Jessica Lemmon

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ New Adult/ Reviews 15th October 2017
Man Candy by Jessica LemmonMan Candy by Jessica Lemmon
Series: Real Love #3
Published by Loveswept on January 9th 2018
Pages: 191
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two-stars

Dax:
After spending the summer buried up to my eyeballs in my family’s affairs, I’m ready for a break. The kind of break where I can spend two solid weeks camping and fishing in the company of absolutely no one. Then I find myself directly in the path of a drop-dead gorgeous tornado by the name of Becca Stone. Who can resist a night with a damsel in distress? Especially when she happens to be a leggy blonde? The last thing I expect is for Becca to show up on my cabin doorstep the next night, shivering in the rain and ready for seconds.

Becca: One minute I’m admiring the rock-hard jaw of the Magic Mike lookalike who walks into my bar, and the next I’m getting fired by my own brother. Loudly. In front of everyone. Luckily Dax Vaughn is a gentleman who aims his white-hot smile at me. Oh, it’s on. Wham, bam, thank you ma’am. Then a torrential storm washes out the main road and causes a massive power outage, giving us two whole weeks to enjoy each other’s company. At which point Dax will go back home, leaving “us” in the rearview mirror. That’s the plan. Or it was . . . until I started falling for him.

Overall, an underwhelming read, particularly so when we’re simply taken through a bar hook-up, a lot of flirting and a session in bed thereafter, all within the starting pages.

Without the buildup of sexual tension or even any inkling of where Dax and Becca were going, I couldn’t quite see a direction for the story for the first half of the book, much less a couple with a path ahead of them since all they wanted was one night together.

With a lacklustre meeting, a hookup and inclement weather that forces a pairing together who really shouldn’t be together, the truth is, I was bored. Dax—the older hero who’s gotten his thoughts and convictions straight in his head—chases while Becca gives every excuse to run. And that’s the holding pattern that we see, which made it hard to see the point of their interaction, especially given a flaky female protagonist with a penchant for running away and not grow up.

Admittedly, I do prefer my heroines who dig in, get dirty (and not just in bed) and put themselves out there while holding up their big-girl panties in order to make the big decisions that really matter, so Becca just didn’t do it for me when all we get from her was insecure deflection and frustrating evasion because she simply couldn’t hold anything down, much less admit that she wanted Dax for longer than she thought. Commit-less, rootless and an emotional coward in every sense of the word, Becca’s contrast to Dax is a stark one and Jessica Lemmon’s attempt to bridge this gap through the slow revealing of their personal histories past the sex merely seemed to show how ill-suited they were for each other past their bedroom antics.

Somehow, ‘Man Candy’ reads like a story that I’ve come across elsewhere a hundred times—even role-reversal stories where the female protagonist only wants temporary arrangements are dime a dozen. While there is a huge amount of flirtation, scorching sex (which is never the problem in romance books anyway), I pretty much struggled with the lack of depth and the predictability in this book, as well as with a pairing forged out by lust and not too much else.

two-stars

Arm Candy by Jessica Lemmon

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews 1st June 2017
Arm Candy by Jessica LemmonArm Candy by Jessica Lemmon
Series: Real Love #2
Published by Loveswept on September 5th 2017
Pages: 191
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two-stars

Davis:
I’ve had my eye on Grace Buchanan for a while now. Unlike the bubbly blondes I usually date, the feisty, flame-haired bartender both intrigues and bewilders me. Something about Grace—the tattoos? the nose ring?—makes every part of me sit up and beg. There’s only one problem: She hates me. Trading insults and one-liners has become our M.O. But when Grace bets me that I can’t get a date with a non-blonde if my life depends on it, I’m determined to prove her wrong by landing the ultimate non-blonde: her.
Grace:
I’m used to regulars hitting on me, and I’ve turned them all down, except for one: Davis Price. I like giving him a hard time, and he’s kind of cute in his suit and tie—if you’re into that kind of thing. Anyway, I don’t care how many blondes he takes home . . . until one of them sidles up to him in my bar. Nuh-uh. But after my little bet with Davis backfires, our first date lands us in the sack. So does the second. And the third. Neither of us wants more than the best sex of our lives. The trouble is, it’s not a question of what I want. It’s what I need. And what I need is Davis.

Jessica Lemmon’s sassy, confident writing is what had me requesting this ARC, though this turned out to be yet another chick-lit book that disappointed me with its predictability from start to finish, with main characters that are dime a dozen in the romance genre. 2 non-committal people make the (rather cynical) sex-only agreement, then find out they could be more thereafter, though it was an uphill climb to believe that genuine trust, respect and love could blossom out of chemistry in the bedroom and months of foreplay, as it always is when sex is done and out of the way so very early on in the story.

Admittedly though, the rating reflects a case of my liking a main character and intensely disliking the other—rather than the quality and style of Lemmon’s writing itself. Davis has had his heartbroken a few years ago and the default mode (as with most male protagonists in the romance genre, being cowardly and gun-shy after that) he goes back to after that wedding incident is being a manwhore about his dates and being unapologetic about deliberately living in an environment where he and the rest of the women can walk away after sex before anything can begin. It’s his way of ‘killing time’ supposedly, but no matter how Davis tries to rationalise it to convince himself that Grace is worth it, I couldn’t quite buy the fact that he wanted it all simply after a bet that Grace has impulsively taken up.

My own personal biases against such players do prevent me from liking protagonists like Davis, whose shallowness I couldn’t get over—the offering of the ‘Davis’ package then flaunting his hookups just to get Grace to take up a bet was quite the last straw which I found more sleazy than charming. It was in short, difficult to think of Davis as something other than a huge cliché whose background and personal history dictate his behaviour with women and his escort-like packages and frankly, it was more of a turn-off than anything else. Grace on the other hand, is as jaded as Davis and yet there seemed to be more nuances to her character, although her own fear of commitment—for different reasons other than Davis’s ones—certainly isn’t hampered by her falling prey to Davis’s charm.

In short, without a grounding belief that Davis and Grace could work together, the rest of the story was hard to follow through when I stayed sceptical of them throughout when both characters seemed at various points in time, to have a foot out the door because fear, as always, took control up until the very end. ‘Arm Candy’ was unfortunately, a story that left me frustrated and less than enthused, because it simply felt like another variation of 2 people getting invested in each other after getting the best-of-their-lives-smexy times.

two-stars

Eye Candy by Jessica Lemmon

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ New Adult/ Reviews 18th April 2017
Eye Candy by Jessica LemmonEye Candy by Jessica Lemmon
Published by Loveswept on July 25th 2017
Pages: 205
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three-stars

Jacqueline: As an adult woman--and the vice president of a marketing firm--I shouldn't be waiting by my office window to ogle the mystery man who jogs by every morning at 11:45. Sure, he's a gorgeous, perfect specimen of the human race, but I can't bring myself to hit on a total stranger. However, my best friend-slash-colleague Vince Carson thinks I should do more than talk to the guy. In fact, he's borderline obsessive about "getting me laid." (His words.) But the more time we spend together, the more it's clear: The one I'm falling for is Vince.
Vince: Jackie Butler's got it bad for some pompous, over-pumped A-hole who struts his stuff past her window. That doesn't bother me. I know she deserves nice things. What does bother me is that she friend-zoned me big-time last year, so I can't ask her out myself. But what if I set her up with Mr. Steroids? Then, when he breaks her heart, I can swoop in and save her like the nice guy I am. Everything's going according to plan . . . until we share a ridiculously epic kiss. And suddenly anything is possible.

Vince Carson tries to convince his best mate and colleague Jackie to go after some anonymous hot runner with the intention of swooping in when it falls apart. But the best laid plans go awry as always and somehow, Vince and Jackie find themselves in a position where their professional and personal boundaries start blurring.

Aye-ay-ay.

What a tangled mess this is. ‘Eye Candy’ is rom-com in full-steam, as adults (vice-presidents of a marketing company no less) plot, manipulate and go the excruciatingly painful, roundabout way of trying to get back into a kind of dating game that really should be banned from this age-group.

But who knew that adults haven’t quite left this behind?

I couldn’t quite believe that Vince would play such games, though it was admittedly snort-funny to see a man for once, taking on the characteristics of what is traditionally ascribed to the insecure, plotting female protagonist along with the bar-confiding moments with another equally broken friend—all because he was probably afraid to really figure out what he wanted. I felt sorry however, for Jackie, swept along as she was for the ride and not getting everything upfront as she should have been getting, when it appeared that the men in her life couldn’t well, man-up.

I was frustrated more than entertained though, because of the lack of clarity that just didn’t seem to come in places where the sun doth shine. Getting exasperated with Jackie/Vince’s lack of communication—and I mean about the topics that bother them and not of the unintelligible kind—when it was going to be the main form of conflict in the book was probably a sign that I could barely tolerate the vacillating indecisiveness of both parties towards the end.

But those who like lighter reads, with the kind of tension and pacing found in rom-coms, ‘Eye Candy’ hits the mark. Jackie’s and Vince’s voices are distinctive enough to bridge the NA/adult contemporary gap, even though I’m not convinced that the whole dizzying set-up (that veers uncomfortably closely to issues like cheating and two-timing and getting back on the saddle to ‘use’ random women) is really suited for me. That said, I do enjoy Jessica Lemmon’s writing and well, even if ‘Eye Candy’ wasn’t exactly a story I could get into, it’s a series I’ll be keeping a sort-of-curious eye out for.

three-stars

The Billionaire Bachelor by Jessica Lemmon

Posted in Reviews 13th March 2017
The Billionaire Bachelor by Jessica LemmonThe Billionaire Bachelor by Jessica Lemmon
Series: Billionaire Bad Boys #1
Published by Forever on June 30th 2016
Pages: 286
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two-stars

Manwhore. That's what the board of directors-and the tabloids-thinks of billionaire bachelor Reese Crane. Ordinarily he couldn't care less, but his playboy past is preventing the board from naming him CEO of Crane Hotels. Nothing-and no one-will keep him from his life's legacy. They want a settled man to lead the company? Then that's exactly what he'll give them.
Merina Van Heusen will do anything to get her parents' funky boutique hotel back-even marry cold-as-ice-but-sexy-as-hell Reese Crane. It's a simple business contract-six months of marriage, absolute secrecy, and the Van Heusen is all hers again. But when sparks fly between them, their passion quickly moves from the boardroom to the bedroom. And soon Merina is living her worst nightmare: falling in love with her husband . . .

I’m going to say from the onset that it’s Jessica Lemmon’s writing that brought me here, even though this particular trope isn’t exactly what I typically go after. That much does good writing matter to me and my decidedly lackluster review in no way any reflection on the quality of it.

But while I do like the marriage of convenience that Lemmon writes about here, I took issue with the Reese Crane, whom I thought was simply an unredeemable arse through and through. Cold, closed-off and unfeeling, it was hard to accept that an intelligent man like him became a womaniser because he concluded women on the whole, couldn’t be trusted to stay after a nasty experience with a cheating ex and a mother who had died in an accident when he was a teenager.

I couldn’t really see a change in his detestable behaviour, not even at the end when it seemed as though a switch suddenly flipped and he decided in his own time, that he wanted everything that he’d lost with Merina back. Perhaps what frustrated me more was that Merina – who had actually invested time, and emotional energy in him and played by his blackmail rules made it all too easy with a rushed and abrupt HEA that left me unsatisfied. In short, Reese’s misdeeds more than outweighed the measly kind of damage control that I’d expected him to do (but didn’t) and I finished the epilogue not having the kind of closure that I needed.

two-stars

The Bastard Billionaire by Jessica Lemmon

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Reviews 11th March 2017
The Bastard Billionaire by Jessica LemmonThe Bastard Billionaire by Jessica Lemmon
Series: Billionaire Bad Boys, #3
Published by Forever on February 28th 1970
Pages: 271
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four-stars

Beauty and the Beastly Billionaire . . . Eli Crane is one tough bastard. After an explosion left him injured and honorably discharged from the Marines, all he wants is to be left alone. Yet his brothers insist he take a greater role in the family business. They've hired him ten personal assistants-and Eli sent each one packing as fast as possible. But when beautiful number eleven walks through the door, Eli will do anything to make her stay. Isabella Sawyer's employment agency can't afford to lose Eli Crane's business. Her plan: to personally take on the role of his PA, and secure her reputation with the wealthy elite in Chicago. But this beauty and her hot billionaire bad boy soon find themselves mixing business with pleasure in the most delicious ways. And passionate, stubborn Isabella won't rest until she tames this wicked beast . . .

Eli Crane has run off way too many personal assistants, wearing his grouchy self as armour and badge as he refuses to get back into the family business despite his family’s interference. Finally meeting his match In Isabella Sawyer, a take-no-nonsense type of woman who whips him into shape, it isn’t long before he starts thinking about life beyond his disability and rediscovering the man he used to be.

The plot itself isn’t entirely unexpected, with the prerequisite build-up, some pushing and pulling before the dramatic (but perhaps unnecessary) conflict before the resolution. But I think what really stayed with me was how well Jessica Lemmon writes, without purple prose and without falling into the end where the story becomes too simplistic, particularly so when it comes to the subject of PTSD, survivor guilt and the aftermath of vets who return from war. There isn’t the obscene showing of wealth as I’ve come to expect from the cliched billionaire-type books and it felt as though Eli/Isabella could have worked out as typical, middle-class individuals who didn’t have inflated bank accounts.

Both Eli and Isabella are generally likeable though not without their faults, yet I think I appreciated how Lemmon didn’t shy away from the difficulty that Eli faced and how upfront Isabella was – mostly, up until the ending episode when she did something stupid – with him. Overall, it’s a decent read, but I find myself really getting into the author’s personal writing style more than anything else.

four-stars

Shut Up and Kiss Me by Jessica Lemmon

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ New Adult/ Reviews 26th August 2016
Shut Up and Kiss Me by Jessica LemmonShut Up and Kiss Me by Jessica Lemmon
Series: Lost Boys #2
Published by Loveswept on December 6th 2016
Pages: 176
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three-stars

Cade: I tried. I really tried. I should be out of this small town by now, finishing my law degree and partnering up with my buddies, but I couldn’t resist one last street race. Now I’m sidelined in the hospital, and while my injuries will heal, I’m not so sure my voice will return. What kind of attorney can’t talk? Yeah, exactly. I’m afraid that I won’t be able to come back from this . . . until Tasha Montgomery reawakens every competitive bone in my body.
Tasha: I nearly watched Cade Wilson die on that lonely stretch of road. He’s damn lucky just to be alive, even if he doesn’t realize it. I know he’s destined for bigger and better things, but I don’t mind helping him get there as he relearns everything he took for granted. Cade’s a good student, a real perfectionist; I can tell how much his stutter bothers him. But when he lets his kisses do the talking, everything else disappears. And one day, maybe he’ll be able to tell me that he wants me—as much as I want him.

‘Shut Up and Kiss Me’ is a largely neutral read for me, which started out great and sort of went down the hill a bit as it went on.

I did like the unusual context of girl nursing boy back to health in a manner of speaking, although it felt very much as if I’d missed a very significant a portion of their interaction when it began in the first book which I didn’t read. There is a brief recollection of the hostility between them – the wounded pride of Cade when he failed to pick up Tasha, his subsequent accident and her helping him to regain his stutter – but I think I would have like a fuller recounting which would have definitely made the story more poignant.

The biggest quibble I have lies with an idiotic male lead, with whom I spent most of my time frustrated. Yes, there has been an accident and the consequences have been devastating. But I did think that Cade spent a lot of time behaving like an arse towards Tasha – the last scene of their conflict was particularly unforgivable – and the amount of grovelling he did just didn’t seem commensurate with the hurt he’d inflicted on Tasha so easily with his words, which were his gift as well as his poison. That she forgave him so easily after a public declaration made me wonder if she was way too soft with him. In short, I think I could have been better invested in the pairing had Cade especially, been less irksome overall, but this is probably only me seeing as many reviewers in general – not just of this story – actually do believe every kind of bad-boy (or jerk-like) behaviour is n fact, acceptable.

Seeing as this is a series, I’m half-curious to know what Jessica Lemmon has in store next – and will probably enjoy it a lot more if her leads don’t steer towards being spineless or halfwits when it really matters most.

three-stars

Forgotten Promises by Jessica Lemmon

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Young Adult 21st January 2016
Forgotten Promises by Jessica LemmonForgotten Promises by Jessica Lemmon
Published by Loveswept on January 19th 2016
Pages: 200
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four-stars

Morgan Young had a perfect upbringing, and now she’s got a perfect boyfriend and a perfect future—until her twenty-first birthday changes everything. First Morgan finds out, in the most painful way possible, that her relationship is a sham. But that’s nothing compared to the nightmare about to unfold.
It’s too late for Tucker Noscalo. A brutal childhood left him with a bad reputation and a criminal record. Fresh out of jail, Tucker has a score to settle with Baybrook’s crooked chief of police—his own father. Nobody will believe Tucker’s explosive accusations without proof and a good lawyer, neither of which he has on his side. Until he sees someone he used to know, someone who just so happens to be the daughter of the best lawyer in the county.
He needs Morgan to convince her father of the ugly truth. But first he has to convince her, and he’ll do whatever it takes to get her to listen. Confronted by the story of Tucker’s dark past, Morgan feels utterly compelled to help him. And as their connection grows into a fierce bond fueled by raw passion, Morgan finds herself falling for the wrong guy—but never has the promise of love felt so right.

Desperate, broken and tainted with all kinds of paintbrushes, Tucker Noscalo’s only way out is to abduct the young woman whose father is a prominent lawyer, in the hopes that he’ll get pro-bono representation. But first, he’ll need Morgan Young on his side, and a lot of healing and help before he’s anything near normal. This has to be one of the hardest books I’ve read that deals with sexual abuse and its consequences. Horrifying and written for a reader’s empathy, it is impossible not to want that raging justice for Tucker, even if the road to normalcy is paved with thorns.

four-stars
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