Author: Kristen Proby

Savor You by Kristen Proby

Savor You by Kristen ProbySavor You by Kristen Proby
Series: Fusion #5
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks on 24th April 2018
Pages: 288
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two-stars

Cooking isn't what Mia Palazzo does, it's who she is. Food is her passion . . . her pride . . . her true love. She's built a stellar menu full of delicious and sexy meals for her restaurant, Seduction. Now, after being open for only a few short years, Mia’s restaurant is being featured on Best Bites TV. To say Seduction is a wild success is an understatement. All the blood, sweat, tears, and endless hours of work Mia has put into the restaurant has finally paid off.

Then Camden Sawyer, the biggest mistake of her life, walks into her kitchen . . .

Camden's celebrity chef status is world-renowned. He's the best there is, and the kitchen is where he's most at home. He can't resist the invitation to Portland for a showdown against Mia for a new television show. Mia was in his life years ago, and just like before, he's met his match in the beautiful Italian spitfire. The way she commands the kitchen is mesmerizing, and her recipes are clever and delicious. He's never had qualms about competition, and this is no different. He can't wait to go head to head with Mia. But can he convince her the chemistry they share in the kitchen would be just as great in the bedroom as well?

As Mia and Camden face off, neither realizes how high the stakes are as their reputations are put on the line and their hearts are put to the ultimate test.

I’ve a love-hate relationship with the Masterchef series. Let’s just say when the conditions are right, I’m glued to my seat, salivating as I watch the magic that’s whipped up with the freshest ingredients, the  state-of-the-art kitchen and the creative ideas that the chefs spin out of thin air. Kristen’s Proby ‘Savor You’ has that sort of feel to it which I liked and would probably appeal to die-hard foodies—involving celebrity chefs and the fascinating world of gastronomy.

But as I soon found out, the pairing didn’t appeal to me at all. There is some heavy history between Mia and Camden, until you learn that she’d done something unforgivable a decade ago in here. Yet using trite words such as ‘I’m a horrible person’ couldn’t justify the weight of her actions enough to me, nor did they simply make it alright. That Cam merely accepted them like the history didn’t matter—without a hint of anger or a grudge—left me bewildered. But then, I’m the one imagining that time doesn’t quite heal such deep wounds without scars for you to remember them.

It didn’t help that I found Mia prickly as she waffled between self-pity and bitchiness, frequently prone to overreactions and pretty much in need of valium and a psychiatrist’s chair with her control issues and emotional fluctuations. My esteem of her dropped further after learning what she did to Cam years ago and this is the part that I feel, that Proby glossed through (or called it ‘moving in’) in favour of a fluffier, less-angsty and more sex-filled read, because it did seem what Mia did so long ago required more than just blithe and brief statements of regret and apologies. But her way of ‘righting’ wrongs was only done because of the work arrangement with Cam; otherwise, it seemed as though she had no intention of revisiting that part of her life and reflecting on the enormous mistake she made.

‘Savor You’ was ultimately a middling read for me that I quickly lost interest in without the emotional spikes and valleys I’d hoped to feel given Mia/Cam’s contentious history, so it’s probably clear that this wasn’t the book for me at all.

two-stars

Easy Fortune by Kristen Proby

Easy Fortune by Kristen ProbyEasy Fortune by Kristen Proby
Series: Boudreaux #5.5
Published by Ampersand Publishing on May 30th 2017
Pages: 66
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one-star

Lena Turner has spent her life as the outsider. Thanks to her extraordinary gifts, she’s learned to be independent—especially when it comes to men. She’s content to live her life in New Orleans as a schoolteacher, dating casually and dedicated to her small family. Long term is not part of her plan. Sometimes the past catches up with you…

Leaving Lena behind to pursue his career was the most difficult thing Mason Coulter ever did. He told himself that it was for the best, had even convinced himself that he had only Lena’s best interests in mind. But now, after six long years, he’s back in New Orleans to settle his late eccentric aunt’s estate. All he has to do is get in and out of the city without submitting to the need to see Lena. But to Mason’s dismay, his aunt made other plans. And sometimes the future and the past collide… Having Mason walk back into her life is something Lena never saw coming. She could refuse to help him, but she’s never been good at telling Mason no. So she’ll do what she can to get the estate settled and Mason out of her life for good. At least, that’s the plan. But Mason has plans of his own…

‘Easy Fortune’ is, well, an easy read and incredibly short even for a novella. It packs a second-chance romance, a cute treasure-hunt and a resolution that’s too neatly wrapped-up with promises of true love after a week of sex and fun, though I do think it would have been better had it been a longer, more-drawn out story that wouldn’t have otherwise, put an easily-forgiving female protagonist and a selfish bastard of a male main character back together easily.

But that’s cynical, jaded ol’ me speaking and I’d be the first to raise my flag in support of the mantra that second-chances romances have a hell of a lot to prove before they actually satisfy. Maybe I just wanted an extended time of grovelling and a taste of Mason’s own medicine shoved down his throat; maybe I wanted more than just sex that heated the sheets but a deeper development that went past a treasure hunt and a letter that pretty much explained to the MCs why love is important and why both characters should be together.

My problem with this particular second-chance story is that Mason’s apology and return to Lena’s life really felt like an afterthought: circumstances had brought him back to where he used to be not because of choice and that his meeting with Lena (and subsequent apology) would not have happened because he never would have sought her out of his own will independently. Throughout, I couldn’t help but think that he was nothing but a self-serving idiot—leaving the woman to pursue his dream without even managing to bother with an explanation when she would have been supportive of him—especially he’d presumptuously and genuinely thought he leaving her without a word really was the best decision for her.

It didn’t seem like a decision that anyone sensible could come back from (let alone easily), particularly after the emotional damage Mason did to Lena, which was why her easy forgiveness of his thoughtless actions left me incredulous, as it merely felt like a hurdle the author wanted to get over and done quickly with before they could move forward together.

The only saving grace, perhaps, was that Lena left in the end yet even so, I was left sceptical in the manner in which Mason came back after trying to redeem himself in a (laughably) big way.

My rant could go on and on. But it’s not a new argument that I’m rehashing against second-chance romances because there are so many things that make this particular trope problematic for me. ‘Easy Fortune’ sadly, isn’t quite one that I could swallow hook, line and sinker.

one-star

Easy Magic by Kristen Proby

Easy Magic by Kristen ProbyEasy Magic by Kristen Proby
Series: Boudreaux #5
Published by Inc. on April 4th 2017
Pages: 228
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three-stars

Family. Responsibility. Stability.

As the co-CEO of Bayou Enterprises, and the eldest of the Boudreaux clan, Beau is the epitome of these. Now that his baby sister Gabby is happily settled down, Beau has moved into the company loft in the heart of the French Quarter to be closer to his office while his own home is built. He doesn’t have time for anything but the family he adores and the company that drives him.

If only the bewitching owner of the herb shop downstairs from Beau’s loft wasn’t so damn tempting.

Mallory Adams is living the life. The good life. The best life for her. After years of hiding who she is, and the gifts she’s been cursed with, Mallory opened her little shop in the French Quarter, offering herbs and lotions for anything from soothing a sunburn to chasing those pesky ghosts New Orleans is known for out of a client’s home. Some call her eccentric, and some say she’s simply odd, and that’s okay with her. She is a bit odd, but in her experience, all of the best people are.

When an old pipe bursts in the loft above her store, flooding her storeroom, Mallory comes face to face with Beau Boudreaux, and she doesn’t need the clairvoyant abilities that have been passed down through generations to know that she’ll never be the same. Beau is her exact opposite; serious, straitlaced. He wears suits for Pete’s sake and probably wouldn’t know the difference between arnica and flaxseed if his life depended on it. But when he touches her, the electricity is through the roof and she’s smart enough to know that a chemistry like theirs doesn’t happen every day.

Can two people so very different possibly find their way to happily ever after?

‘Easy Magic’ is everything I hadn’t expected and that kind of surprise is always a good thing. It’s unlike many contemporary romances – though Kristen Proby does a good job at keeping things mostly angst-free as her couples do talk things out honestly like adults – with a strong strain of the paranormal woven into this. That is also where the point of conflict is, though by and large, it’s a light-hearted book that steadily works a pairing towards their happy ending, as Proby’s books seem to do so.

I haven’t followed the Boudreaux series at all, but dived straight into this book because the blurb was frankly, irresistible. ‘Easy Magic’ takes place in New Orleans and the setting alone (given its history) makes the strange occurrences almost routine, as Mal finally finds someone who helps quiet her spiritual turmoil. The story skirts the edge of suspense but never really quite goes there even as it delves into paranormal practices that (let’s face it) make wide-eyed readers’ antennae spike straight up, which makes the book difficult to put down. Yet it’s not all strange ju-ju and inexplicable happenings; the supernatural threat is mentioned, shored up and destroyed all within a relatively short period of time as Proby focuses more on developing the relationship between Beau and Mal instead.

Overall, I was glad I hadn’t had a bored moment with this story; there’s definitely enough action to keep the pages going and the cliffhanger in the epilogue assures us that the next book is exactly what many readers of the series seem to be waiting for.

three-stars

Blush for Me by Kristen Proby

Blush for Me by Kristen ProbyBlush for Me by Kristen Proby
Series: Fusion #3
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks on March 7th 2017
Pages: 320
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three-stars

As the take-charge wine bar manager of Seduction, Portland's hottest new restaurant, Katrina Meyers is the definition of no-nonsense, and she isn't afraid of anything. Well, almost anything: she hates to fly. When she's forced to travel on a death trap with wings, the turbulence from hell has her reaching for any safe haven—including the incredibly handsome guy sitting next to her.
Ryan "Mac" MacKenzie hasn't been able to get his sexy seatmate out of his head. The way she clung to him stirred something inside him he didn't think existed: tenderness. As the owner of a successful wine touring company, Mac thinks he's got a handle on what life can throw at him and he's not prepared for any surprises, especially in the feelings department. And when he brings a tour into Seduction, he sees the petite spitfire he just can't forget.
Mac is determined to discover what else they have in common besides fine wine and the inability to keep their hands off each other. But what will it take for two stubborn people to realize that what they have is so much more than a hot chemistry between the sheets and to admit to falling in love…?

That I forgot the heroine’s name while writing this review (and needed to check her name) should have given me some warning signs. Is there a way to admit less bluntly that ‘Blush for Me’ bored me throughout?

There are bits that I liked and bits that I couldn’t find myself interested in: I liked Kat’s individuality and how Kristen Proby took pains to highlight it; her compassion and her spunk stood out most of all. But Mac somehow faded into the shadows for me. As a typical male protagonist (the won’t commit type but suddenly finds he will after the ‘right’ one smacks him in the face), I didn’t exactly find him prominent or memorable, just that he happened to be at the right place and the right time to change both his and Kat’s lives around.

While I appreciate how Proby doesn’t make this a destined soulmates sort of book, I simply I found that the story of a ‘sexcation’ turning into a real relationship trundled nowhere, with almost negligible bumps in between. It is mostly angst-free read though, save for the bits of family drama and the conflict (thankfully) isn’t one that is written so that a wedge is deliberately driven between the lead characters.

Yet the number of scenes that simply went on between Mac/Kat which couldn’t rouse me from a comatose state after a while as I felt there was nothing much more to this couple I could look forward to.

three-stars

Close to You by Kristen Proby

Close to You by Kristen ProbyClose to You by Kristen Proby
Series: Fusion #2
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks on August 9th 2016
Pages: 320
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three-stars

From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Kristen Proby comes the second novel in her sizzling Fusion series.
Camilla, “Cami,” LaRue was five years old when she first fell in love with Landon Palazzo. Everyone told her the puppy love would fade—they clearly never met Landon. When he left after graduation without a backward glance, she was heartbroken. But Cami grew up, moved on, and became part-owner of wildly popular restaurant Seduction. She has everything she could want...or so she thinks.
After spending the last 12 years as a Navy fighter pilot, Landon returns to Portland to take over the family construction business. When he catches a glimpse of little Cami LaRue, he realizes she’s not so little any more. He always had a soft spot for his little sister’s best friend, but nothing is soft now when he’s around the gorgeous restauranteur.
Landon isn’t going to pass up the chance to make the girl-next-door his. She’s never been one for romance, but he’s just the one to change her mind. Will seduction be just the name of her restaurant or will Cami let him get close enough to fulfill all her fantasies?

Carrying a torch for the best friend’s brother for years isn’t going to go anywhere and Camille LaRue is just on her way to accept that unfulfilled dream, until it becomes a reality when Landon Palazzo returns from a Navy after a fighter-jet accident that rudely inserts him back into civilian life and straight into the arms of a girl he could never forget.

‘Close to You’ surprised me in several ways, but what stood out was the cruising speed at which Cami and Landon picked up where they left off. Strangely light-hearted and nearly angst-free, I expected their story to be more gutting and painful, given the unrequited feels and looks thrown between them in the first book. There is much to like about the characters – their steadiness, the chemistry and the lack of denial about their feelings – yet I thought they could have been greater depth perhaps, had PTSD been briefly addressed, as well as the burning question that was never really answered: would Landon have come for Camille at all had the accident not happened? As serendipitous as their burgeoning relationship was written, it felt as though that that this pairing could have succeeded only because of a twist of fate, rather than a deliberate attempt on either side to do something about their feelings.

I’d been hoping for more friction, a little more doubt on both sides and got a sweet story instead – though not without bumps and some drama which thankfully are resolved fairly quickly – which is not a bad change considering the sheer amount of heaving bosoms, plate-throwing tantrums, irrational alpha males and overreacting females that populates the romance shelves these days.

Ultimately, a sweet read, albeit with a very abrupt end that tries to set up Kate’s story but left me gobsmacked and hanging.

three-stars