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Mend Your Heart by Tracey Alvarez

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Reviews/ Sports 20th September 2017
Mend Your Heart by Tracey AlvarezMend Your Heart by Tracey Alvarez
Series: Bounty Bay #4
Published by Tracey Alvarez on September 15th 2017
Pages: 247
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five-stars

An idiot’s guide to falling for your best friend’s widow…

Former rugby star Isaac Ngata was New Zealand’s golden boy until five years ago when a tragic accident took the life of his friend and team mate. Now he’s a pariah with a screwed up knee and a burden of guilt toward his friend’s wife and daughter. Best thing for him to do is sink into the anonymous safety of his hometown. An even better thing to do would be to stop picturing Natalie in his arms.

For someone who doesn’t know a dummy pass from a drop kick, Natalie Fisher just wants to keep her late husband’s passion for sport in the past. But their teenage daughter’s rugby team is in desperate need of a coach and the man she can’t stand to be around has volunteered. A long buried attraction flares to life between Natalie and Isaac, one they can’t run far or fast enough to avoid. Soon rugby fever isn’t the only thing heating up Bounty Bay. Crossing the line never had such high stakes…

I’ve somehow always hesitated to jump into Tracey Alvarez’s Far North/Bounty Bay series, but this is probably because I’m so attached to her Down South crew that I’m probably as possessive of them as Alvarez is. But ‘Mend Your Heart’s blurb sounded heartbreaking from the start and I knew immediately that I wanted Isaac Ngata’s story desperately as much as I wanted my next Down South fix.

The family-like bonds in every series is probably Tracey Alvarez’s forte, as secondary characters float in and out of the whole book while propping the whole narrative as well as the protagonists up with a sly yet subtle kind of humour I’d be hard-pressed to find outside of Australia and New Zealand. Alvarez’s writing is definitely no slouch either, though it can take some getting used to her style, as well as the references to a sport that can be rather obscure for those who live on the other side of of the Pacific ocean. But rugby is everything in Kiwi-land and I love Alvarez’s deliberate spotlight on the All Blacks who aren’t, despite popular opinion, the only famous thing about this place.

But I digress.

Back to the plot as we know it: Isaac’s professional career and reputation went up in flames 5 years ago in an incident that destroyed any kind of relationship between his (now dead) best mate’s wife and daughter, and that’s just the beginning of what we know. It unravels slowly from here onwards, with bits and pieces that come along with the truth that you know is contrary to what Isaac (and popular opinion) has claimed. Natalie and Olivia are in essence, too close and yet too far for this guy to find his HEA, though it’s clear that it’s high time for him to.

Isaac himself jumped out from the pages and became an immediate hero-to-die-for when it became clear what he did to protect people he owed nothing to. The grumpy facade, that shell he’d retreated into and the emotions he didn’t quite try to hide and run away from like almost every alpha book hero I know, made him a shining beacon among the thorny arses in romantic fiction. I loved every moment of his interaction with Natalie, Olivia as well as the all-girls school rugby team, just as much as I cheered for their HEA with their nosy but well-meaning mates in the background. For a few hours, I’d been happily part of their whanau and needless to say, I’d gladly leap back in when Vee’s and Sam’s story comes out of the works.

five-stars

Saying I Do by Tracey Alvarez

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Reviews 7th May 2017
Saying I Do by Tracey AlvarezSaying I Do by Tracey Alvarez
Series: Due South #8
Published by Tracey Alvarez on May 19th 2017
Pages: 235
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four-stars

Marriage and happily-ever-after are for suckers…
Joe Whelan was fooled once on the way to the altar, and the Irish doctor isn’t about to be an eejit over a woman again. Especially not one who witnessed his broken-hearted humiliation years ago. He won’t be swayed by the sparks that fly whenever his eyes meet MacKenna’s or distracted by her sweet kisses. The only thing Joe cares about is preventing his sister from making the biggest marital mistake of her life.
MacKenna Jones loves a good wedding—so long as she’s sewing the bride’s gown, not walking down the aisle herself. Falling for Joe Whelan’s sexy bedside manner wasn’t on the cards, neither was a seven-day road trip with him to Las Vegas, the Marriage Capital of the World. When the stakes are so high, will these two gun-shy cynics ever say I Do?

I’ve always been fond of the Due South cast (some couples more than others, admittedly) and every new book in this series is like revisiting the motley crew who live in Stewart Island, so far from the rest of the world yet so happy in their windswept, isolated community with a record number of HEAs minted there.

Dr. Joe Whelan’s turn finally arrives in this book and it’s fate, or rather, Alvarez, who chooses to pair him up with Mackenna Jones, a gun-shy wedding-dress maker who flees when it comes to making a hard and fast commitment. But Joe isn’t all that jaded despite his past and even after attraction turns into something more, his ability to look forward might be the only thing that will see him across the finish line especially when Mac herself falters and stumbles.

I think the only part of the book that was difficult was the ‘final conflict’ so to speak where I found it unforgivable of Mac for what she did in the end to Joe (hitting him where it hurts the most) though, and was incredulous for Joe’s seeming acceptance and easy forgiveness of it. I did love Joe from the beginning and that did play a part in my own judgement of Mac not really deserving him at the very moment he needed her to step out for the both of them. Maybe it’s me being cynical and petty, but I did expect better of her despite her own reservations and her cowardly inability to decide what she really wanted. She did treat him unfairly, first running, then leaving a note that barely explained a thing—and her actions didn’t seem congruous of the love she proclaimed to have for him—especially when seen in contrast to Joe’s steadfast loyalty. But I’d be the first to admit that I prefer my heroines who dare to put themselves out there with a bit more pluck, particularly when their other halves show themselves as determined and unmovable.

The best part about ‘Saying I Do’ however, is that nothing is all that it seems. There’s no straight case of one-upping each other or a straight road where the jilted protagonist comes around to the idea of marriage, but multiple layers of (self?)deception, denial and desire that overlap like a finely-made pastry that’s a mouthwatering feast. It’s also characteristic of Tracey Alvarez’s quirky but stylish writing, but I loved the additional and rather authentic use of Irishisms here (or rather, the typical vocab used in the British Isles) that gave the story its strong flavour. Already, I want more of the gossipy Due South crew, in all their smugness, laughter and love.

four-stars

Playing For Fun by Tracey Alvarez

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Reviews 22nd December 2015
Playing For Fun by Tracey AlvarezPlaying For Fun by Tracey Alvarez
Series: Due South #6
Published by Smashwords Edition on December 17th 2015
Pages: 300
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four-stars

Wanted: A woman for Ford.Ford Komeke can’t deny he could use an up-skill in the dating arena. It’s a local in-joke that his game, as far as women go, sucks. Thanks to the meddling of New Zealand’s worst octogenarian matchmaker, he’s got an online dating profile, a new wardrobe, and a haircut from Stewart Island’s sexy hairdresser, Holly Parker. But since he’s well and truly mired in the friendzone with Holly, what’s the harm in exploring his options? A little jealousy could work wonders.
Offered: Dream job with a catch.What do you say when you’re offered an un-turn-downable career opportunity? You say, hell-to-the-yeah! Only there’s a problem. To get the dream job Holly must leave Stewart Island and her two best friends, Shaye and Ford. But if Holly can distract Shaye with wedding planning and set Ford up with a nice girl so she can stop imagining him naked, neither will notice if she exits stage right. Neither will notice if her feelings for Ford stop being strictly platonic.
Warning: One kiss is never enough.As addictive as the chocolate stash Holly hides in her fridge, one kiss forces them out of the friendzone—way out of the friendzone. Heat and hunger explode, but the ugliness in Ford’s past hold his heart hostage. Playing for fun or playing for keeps? Holly and Ford must decide because the consequences of falling in love means that someone’s heart or someone’s dream will ultimately end up shattered.

Ford Komeke’s (near non-existent) love-life takes a tumble and spin when the small town gossip’s meddling ways pushes him way past his comfort zone…into online dating, a haircut that he never really wanted and new clothes which he doesn’t think he needs. But the hilarity that ensues thereafter merely confirms that it is Holly Parker, his longtime friend, whom he wants. Holly’s own unmoving state of denial however, means he’s got his work cut out for him and the huge elephant in the room that’s his messed-up childhood promises that he’ll probably screw things up before anything can even begin.

In short, ‘Playing for fun ‘ was an incredibly clever and fun friends-to-lovers read. I loved every moment of Holly/Ford – also probably because of the delicious UST that Tracey Alvarez has got going in the early chapters of the book, especially when their relationship is charted against Supernatural’s seasons, fumbling blind dates and rock solid love scenes that thankfully steered clear of TSTL limits. It was great to revisit the rest of the nosy but oh-so-loyal characters in Due South and even if Piper/West still hold my heart, I think Holly and Ford come a very close second to knock that particular touch-rugby trophy off its ledge.

four-stars

In Too Deep by Tracey Alvarez

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Young Adult 14th December 2014
In Too Deep by Tracey AlvarezIn Too Deep by Tracey Alvarez
Series: Due South #1
Published by Icon Publishing on December 19th 2013
Pages: 329
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five-stars

Love small town contemporary romance with an unforgettable cast of characters? Each book in the Due South series contains a sizzling, sexy love story set on an unspoilt, wild island in New Zealand.

Meet Piper and West... She vowed never to return. To save her brother from financial ruin, Piper Harland must do the one thing she swore she'd never do-return to the tiny island hometown where Ryan "West" Westlake crushed her heart. Piper is tough, resilient and a little wild-much like the remote and beautiful Stewart Island where she grew up. As a cop who's part of the elite New Zealand Police National Dive Squad, bringing the dead back to their families still doesn't stop the guilt she feels over her father's drowning death. Now nine years later she's obligated to return to a hostile community as the outsider, and forced to work with the man who was once her best friend and first lover.

She's a risk he can't take. West is an Island man, through and through. As owner of the local pub, he lives and breathes the local community, and sure as hell can't imagine living anywhere else. But most of all he refuses to ever fall for a woman like his flighty mother. He lost Piper once to give her the chance to fulfil her dreams of becoming a cop. But now she's back for an unexpected six week visit to help her brother-his best mate. Maybe West wants her a little bit, maybe he can't resist the temptation to tease and touch her, but can he fall in love with such a flight risk? Saying goodbye for the second time might just destroy them both. Fresh...Seductive...Heart-warming... Everything you want in a contemporary romance-plus enough steaminess to make your toes curl!

Never thought I’d be so engaged in this incredibly compelling story. Piper is my absolute heroine – I laughed, felt and cried along with what she’d gone through, carried effortlessly through the book by Ms. Alvarez’s smooth prose – and clapped when she got her HEA.

five-stars
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