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Undone by You by Kate Meader

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Sports 11th December 2017
Undone by You by Kate MeaderUndone By You by Kate Meader
Series: Chicago Rebels #3
Published by Pocket Star on March 5th 2018
Pages: 184
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four-stars

Dante Moretti has just landed his dream job: GM of the Chicago Rebels. And screw the haters who think there should be an asterisk next to his name because he’s the first out managing executive in pro hockey. He’s earned the right to be here and nothing will topple him off that perch—especially not an incredibly inconvenient attraction to his star defenseman, Cade “Alamo” Burnett. Cade has always been careful to keep his own desires on the down low, but his hot Italian boss proves to be a temptation he can’t resist. Sure, they both have so much to lose, but no one will ever know...

As Dante and Cade’s taboo affair heats up off the ice and their relationship gets more and more intense, they’ll have to decide: is love worth risking their careers? Or is this romance destined to be forever benched?

A 12-year-age gap between a closeted player and an openly-gay manager along with the implications of a relationship that’s probably forbidden and mostly likely to be massacred by the press and the public? The odds seem unsurmountable. That Cade and Dante play starring roles here made my mind up for me to grab ‘Undone by You’ by hook or by crook.

And Kate Meader makes it work with writing that’s so confident and assured, more so since M/M stories aren’t always on my priority list.

In fact, for its relatively short length, there certainly wasn’t any time wasted with narrative meandering, which made ‘Undone by You’ short, sharp and quite to the point. Cade surprised me by his straight-shooting talk and the mindgames in the dating game that he steered of when it came to Dante won me over. That he was the pursuer took me aback at first, though it wasn’t long that Meader had me rooting wholly for him, particularly when Dante was being a frustrating arse with his inability to decide what he really wanted.

I did think the flurry of activities however, rooted Dante/Cade’s burgeoning relationship very much in the present and I couldn’t even quite determine if their happy-for-now ending was going to last. The story seemed to end on their happy-but-shaky foundation (undoubtedly hard-earned) and the odd epilogue disappointed me when I expected an HFN/HEA-type of closure and I think I would have preferred a ‘boring but normal’ one with Dante and Cade some time down the road, settled in their relationship.

Nonetheless, the aspects of coming out to family and friends and what it meant to be homosexual in a workplace as testosterone-laden as competitive sports made this book a compelling read and Meader’s prose tied these together nicely through that mix of witty dialogue and the internal monologues of both the protagonists and the supporting characters—which I can’t wait to meet again as the series goes on.

four-stars

So Over You by Kate Meader

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Sports 17th October 2017
So Over You by Kate MeaderSo Over You by Kate Meader
Series: Chicago Rebels #2
Published by Pocket Books on December 19th 2017
Pages: 400
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two-stars

Isobel Chase knows hockey. She played NCAA, won silver at the Games, and made it thirty-seven minutes into the new National Women’s Hockey League before an injury sidelined her dreams. Those who can’t, coach, and a position as a skating consultant to her late father’s hockey franchise, the Chicago Rebels, seems like a perfect fit. Until she’s assigned her first job: the man who skated into her heart as a teen and relieved her of her pesky virginity. These days, left-winger Vadim Petrov is known as the Czar of Pleasure, a magnet for puck bunnies and the tabloids alike. But back then... let’s just say his inability to sink the puck left Isobel frustratingly scoreless.

Vadim has a first name that means “ruler,” and it doesn’t stop at his birth certificate. He dominates on the ice, the practice rink, and in the backseat of a limo. But a knee injury has produced a bad year, and bad years in the NHL don’t go unrewarded. His penance? To be traded to a troubled team where his personal coach is Isobel Chase, the woman who drove him wild years ago when they were hormonal teens. But apparently the feeling was not entirely mutual.

That Vadim might have failed to give Isobel the pleasure that was her right is intolerable, and he plans to make it up to her—one bone-melting orgasm at a time. After all, no player can perfect his game without a helluva lot of practice...

Hockey isn’t a game I follow at all, but the premise of Kate Meader’s series is easy enough to understand. Three estranged sisters—broken in their own way by a father who still wreaks destruction from beyond the grave—, a switch in management of a hockey team and the struggle to stay afloat with a change this momentous. For those who don’t understand the game, then the details or lack thereof are sparse enough that you can focus on the drama surrounding the couple and the management team in question.

‘So Over You’ is Isobel’s story and a Russian player who’s as ‘Russian’ as they come (that however, depends on your perspective), though it was for me sadly, more of a surprising miss than a hit as the first book. Quite a bit of the story made a mountain of a molehill of Isobel not getting an orgasm when Vadim took her virginity (or in a more cringeworthy way of putting it—‘making her a woman’) close to a decade ago and how Vadim obsessed increasingly over this salient point because he wanted to prove otherwise now.

In this book, that’s not just a backstory; it’s in fact, like a niggling ghost of Christmas past that wouldn’t go away because both parties remembered it in different ways, not to mention the aftermath that was significant enough that this had become a point of contention with the both of them.

To be fair, the dour sex they had as teenagers wasn’t all that the story revolved around, though the little sub-plots in between did little to distract me from watching out for the next pairing (Cade! Dante!) in the sequel, which was a clear indicator of how difficult I found it to be invested in Isobel and Vadim. On the one hand, I could understand Isobel’s need to define herself apart from hockey, or simply as a WAG of yet another famous player in the league when her own career fell to pieces.

Yet it was hard to sympathise with that self-same selfish ambition that ran over people in the process; neither could I accept her interfering with Vadim’s relationship with his mother as she projected her own daddy-issues onto his markedly different parental situation. Vadim, on the other hand, apart from his awful heavy-handed ways, sometimes leaned towards becoming a caricature—broody, with speech patterns of a non-English speaker that’s either archaic or with mixed metaphors meant to be amusing somehow—or at least a character that seemed to conform to the stereotypes of how some parts of the world view Russians these days.

I’m just going to put this particular book down as an aberration in a series that I do like quite much. There’s still so much going for it: Meader’s writing, for one, but the tease for Cade and Dante is enough to keep me watching out for the next book that can’t come soon enough.

two-stars

Irresistible You by Kate Meader

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Sports 19th June 2017
Irresistible You by Kate MeaderIrresistible You by Kate Meader
Series: Chicago Rebels #1
Published by Pocket Star on August 14th 2017
Pages: 300
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four-stars

Three estranged sisters inherit their late father’s failing hockey franchise and are forced to confront a man’s world, their family’s demons, and the battle-hardened ice warriors skating into their hearts.

Harper Chase has just become the most powerful woman in the NHL after the death of her father Clifford Chase, maverick owner of the Chicago Rebels. But the team is a hot mess—underfunded, overweight, and close to tapping out of the league. Hell-bent on turning the luckless franchise around, Harper won’t let anything stand in her way. Not her gender, not her sisters, and especially not a veteran player with an attitude problem and a smoldering gaze designed to melt her ice-compacted defenses.

Veteran center Remy “Jinx” DuPre is on the downside of a career that’s seen him win big sponsorships, fans’ hearts, and more than a few notches on his stick. Only one goal has eluded him: the Stanley Cup. Sure, he’s been labeled as the unluckiest guy in the league, but with his recent streak of good play, he knows this is his year. So why the hell is he being shunted off to a failing hockey franchise run by a ball-buster in heels? And is she seriously expecting him to lead her band of misfit losers to a coveted spot in the playoffs?

He’d have a better chance of leading Harper on a merry skate to his bed…

‘Irresistible You’ has an irresistible setup: a team down in the dumps, a bastard ex-owner, his three daughters who are estranged half-sisters, a near-hostile meeting between a new owner (who’s really been screwed over by her father) and an unwilling trade in hockey, with sparks and secret deals all around.

Kate Meader’s stylish, confident writing shows up so clearly here, and it’s easy to get swept along by the plot and her characters. It had me wanting to know how Remy Du Pre and Harper Chase would get from ‘enemies’ to lovers so to speak, and I loved the tension from the very beginning and the inevitable pull they felt towards each other in Remy’s stomping ground in the exotic (and some say magical) New Orleans.

The progression did lag in the middle for me as Remy and Harper dwelled too much on the potential consequences of carrying on as a couple. I didn’t exactly like Harper’s slowness and unwillingness to fight for Remy (who never gave up on her) just as the latter’s good humour and laid-back candidness won me over. Yet Harper does alright in the end and their happy-for-now is most likely just the start of what’s going to be a longer journey in a bigger story arc that I suspect, will involve the entire team as time goes on.

The uneven pacing aside, hockey isn’t my sport, so the terminology is lost on me, but Meader does make it more about the pairing than the actual sport and the management of it as Remy/Harper’s relationship goes from grudging respect to something more. I loved how well-crafted both of them really are (here, the tiny details make the cake) as Meader does brilliant work enunciating their insecurities and their motivations while leaving the potential for a deadbeat team to reach the playoffs. With Harper’s sisters wait in the wings for their own HEAs, that’s a hook and a teaser I can’t say no to.

four-stars

Hot on Ice: A Hockey Romance Anthology

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Reviews/ Sports 1st March 2017
Hot on Ice: A Hockey Romance AnthologyHot on Ice: A Hockey Romance Anthology by Avery Flynn, Robin Covington, Kimberly Kincaid, Nana Malone, Virginia Nelson, Xio Axelrod, Christi Barth, Andie J. Christopher, Kim Golden, Lena Hart, Desiree Holt, Robin Kaye, Katie Kenyhercz, Heather Long, Kate Meader, Angi Morgan, Susan Scott Shelley, Misty D. Waters
Series: Chicago Rebels #0.5
Published by Avery Flynn on March 21st 2017
Pages: 1800
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three-stars

Get ready to fall in love with the smokin’ hot hockey players of the New Orleans Cajun Rage. After this season’s Cinderella run all the way to the Finals, these heroes have won the Cup—and now your heart is the goal.

‘Hot on Ice’ follows every single team member of the fictional New Orleans Cajun Rage after they’ve won the coveted cup and how the cup, like some magical catalyst, helps bring them get to their HEA that some feel (rightly so, to be honest) they don’t deserve. By the end of the book, I found it somewhat amusing that entire hockey team has found love, as though the cup has helped guaranteed success in their love lives as well.

Like every anthology, the quality of writing varies quite significantly and it can be quite an experience sorting through all of them, like finding gems in a huge haystack. There were some stories that I enjoyed (and found believable) more than others because of the stylish and more sophisticated way of writing, as well as how well some authors handled the typical romance tropes in them. Some others, well…I did find them cringeworthy.

The ARC I received felt like it was in its ‘developmental’ stage though; the formatting didn’t always work in my laptop or my e-reader (I don’t use a Kindle, maybe that’s why) for several chapters and there is still some editing work (grammar/spelling, for instance) that needs to be done to make the final version a more polished one.

*ARC kindly given by the authors
(always grateful, mind)

three-stars

Sparking the Fire by Kate Meader

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Reviews 27th September 2016
Sparking the Fire by Kate MeaderSparking the Fire by Kate Meader
Series: Hot in Chicago, #3
Published by Pocket Books on September 27th 2016
Pages: 400
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one-star

The flames of desire burn out of control in this sexy third novel when ex-lovers unexpectedly reunite for a sizzling affair that will have the director yelling, “Quiet on the set!”
Actor Molly Cade, America’s fallen sweetheart, finally has her shot at a Hollywood comeback with a dramatic new role as a tough-as-nails firefighter that promises to propel her back to the big time and restore her self-respect.
Wyatt Fox, resident daredevil at Engine Co. 6, needs a low-key job to keep him busy while he recovers from his latest rescue stunt. Consulting on a local movie shoot should add just enough spark to his day. Especially when in struts Molly Cade: the woman who worked his heart over good, and then left him in the Windy City dust.
Their story is straight out of a script: irrepressible, spunky heroine meets taciturn, smoldering hero. But these two refuse to be typecast, and when the embers of an old love are stoked, someone is bound to get burned…

This first paragraph it seems, has to be my disclaimer. I’ve always enjoyed Kate Meader’s writing. Like her confident use of words and phrases, the odd bits of humour injected into the book despite the ridiculous exaggerations at times.

‘Sparking the Fire’ was one on the ‘to-read’ list for a long time, because I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the strong, silent and smouldering type, whose mysterious ways intrigued me from the start. But if I liked Wyatt Fox, I found myself detesting everything Molly Cade is. She is unfortunately, anything but irrepressible and spunky and an epic fail of a feminist icon or the independent modern woman, by coming across instead as a spoilt, entitled and flouncy actress who insists on getting her way and to whom everyone must bow, especially Wyatt.

I found it impossible to connect with an immature, reckless excuse of a ‘heroine’ who expected life to go her way or the highway, without an inch of compromise and respect when it came to Wyatt, particularly for his job which he knows better than what she proclaims she does.

I struggled, as a consequence. Huffed and puffed through my growing annoyance until I threw it in midway.

That much did I find myself wanting to put down the book because every little thing Molly did or said irked me immensely—and what use is the romance, when I can’t even buy into a couple I’m not entirely sure is suited to each other?

one-star

One Week to Score by Kate Meader

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Erotica/ Netgalley/ Reviews 3rd July 2016
One Week to Score by Kate MeaderOne Week to Score by Kate Meader
Series: ,
Published by Entangled: Brazen on July 11th 2016
Pages: 154
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two-stars

He’s the man she loves to hate…
Olivia Kane’s wedding day has just imploded spectacularly. Shots lined up at the bar? Bring it. Hot stranger on the hook? Come on down. What this party does not need is six feet and change of home-grown Texas cockiness in the form of her brother’s best friend, the man who broke her heart seven years ago.She’s the woman he has to have…
Flynn Cross won’t stand by while Liv finds sensual solace in the arms of a stranger, not when his own hard-for-her body is more than up for the task. For one week, he’ll make her honeymoon-for-one a sizzling party for two.
Breaking the rules, one steamy night at a time…
But the taboo they’re breaking is only the beginning…and Flynn’s part in Liv’s wedding debacle could bring about their end.

Manwhore alert: the only factor I hadn’t expected in my impatient wait for Olivia and Flynn’s story and that unfortunately, proved a huge stumbling block in my overall enjoyment of the story. But when I spent more time grimacing than feeling the tingles going through the pages, I thought that I really had a problem here, both with my own personal gripes as well with a questionable male lead character who’ve accomplished nothing to convince me of his ability to be what the female lead deserves after all he’d done to her.

‘One Week to Score’ is Olivia’s and Flynn’s story, a brother’s best friend trope that I still salivate over despite the numerous incarnations of it I’ve torn through. There’s sizzling tension, hot sex, and Kate Meader doesn’t waste any time getting down and dirty the moment – courtesy of the Brazen imprint – as Olivia and Flynn shrug off the shackles of family and a fiasco of a wedding that never happened for a week in Mexico.

I’m beyond disappointed to say this one tried my patience sorely because I was all the more so, after the previous book, eagerly waiting for their story. It was near impossible to like Flynn, who, for all his proclamations about always wanting Olivia, did everything otherwise to show it. Selfish and cowardly with a penchant for going off the bend and screwing everything that moves each time some obstacle is thrown in his way, I found very little redeeming qualities in him – especially the one where he just can’t man up – when he finally decides to proposition Olivia under the pretense of being her blatant sex-rebound toy. That he’d thrown his history with Olivia away for seven years somehow made it even more unforgivable. And perhaps this is an issue with pacing, but I thought the speed at which Olivia/Flynn reconciled was way too fast for me as though shrugging off their complicated past by the end of the book was nothing more than a flick away of lint from the shoulder.

Dissatisfied, I went to bed, tossed around a little and tried to see if morning would give me some perspective. I’m sad to say it hasn’t. Just typing this review is difficult, made even more so because I actually like Meader’s smart-alecky writing and the quirky way her characters think and behave. This one’s simply a blip that I’m already trying to forget.

two-stars

Taking the Score by Kate Meader

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews 7th February 2016
Taking the Score by Kate MeaderTaking the Score by Kate Meader
Series: , Dark, , #2
Published by Entangled: Brazen on February 15th 2016
Pages: 262
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three-stars

His office temptation is now his full-blown fantasy…
Paying down her sister’s debts has left personal assistant Emma Strickland with little more than the thrift store suit on her back. And as if the suckfest couldn’t get worse, she’s forced to get a second job as a waitress to support herself and her cat. At a strip club. Her uptight, sexy-as-hell boss Brody Kane can never find out.
Texas property tycoon Brody Kane hired Emma for her spreadsheet skills, but her prim and proper demeanor sealed the deal. There’s no room in his life for a sexy distraction…and yet, he can’t stop lusting after the delicious Ms. Strickland.
But then he takes an important client to a Chicago strip club and gets the worst lap dance in adult entertainment history. From Emma.
Now that he knows his office good girl has a naughty streak, Brody makes it his mission to uncover her secrets, one illicit, over-the-desk encounter at a time. But Emma is hiding more than her side job, and her final secret could end up destroying them both.

The double-life Brody Kane’s PA is leading is way more up his alley than anyone can ever imagine, after his fantasies burst into life in a seedy back room of a strip club. Emma Strickland, as he finds out, is a chameleon running from her past, working hard to keep out of debt and failing miserably at all of it. Temporarily putting her up in his apartment, Brody and Emma eventually work their lustful way through a strange relationship so full of emotional tugs-of war that the growing connection between the both of them is nearly severed before it can be strengthened.

‘Taking the Score’ is one of those books where I really liked a character and disliked the other, which leaves me in a fix when it comes to rating this. Brody’s gruff openness and his (in)ability to take care of things the only way he knows how won me over immediately. Unfortunately, I found it hard to reconcile all the various pieces of Emma’s personality, especially after the initial showing of enviable independence turned into mule-headed stubbornness and unreasoning distrust that ultimately made Brody pay (literally and emotionally) for her own insecurities. Emma takes more than she gives – at least where Brody is concerned – and dishing out her affection rather measly only after she is convinced of his own felt like the last selfish act that I couldn’t tolerate, especially in the epilogue.

That being said, Kate Meader’s snappy dialogue and buoyant storytelling make this story engaging and at times, lough-out-loud funny. The continual subtext involving the issues of control and allowing burdens to be shared is so eloquently put out that I can’t help but want the next installment immediately – even if it’s just to read Ms. Meader’s special way with words.

three-stars
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