Publisher: Amazon Digital Services

Manic Monday by Piper Rayne

Manic Monday by Piper RayneManic Monday by Piper Rayne
Series: Charity Case #1
Published by Amazon Digital Services, Amazon Publishing on 24th April 2018
Pages: 290
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
two-stars

The perfect man for me is a charming, sexy, hot as hell lawyer who knows how to negotiate his way into my panties.

#Pfftwhatever

Been there.Done that.Burned the T-shirt.

I didn't swear off all men after my divorce, but I sure as hell swore off anyone remotely like my ex. On the top of that list? Attorneys. Everyone knows they can't be trusted.

Now that I've moved back into my childhood home in Chicago, my focus is my daughter, my mom and me. I haven't given up on finding my happily-ever-after, it's just on hold-indefinitely. Yup, life is in a real upswing.

Then I see Reed Warner again, and I'm reminded of all my mistakes. I push him away, but somehow he weasels his way into every part of my life, not willing to take no for an answer.

In spite of my better judgment I can't stop thinking about the way his designer suits fit his muscular frame, or the way his blue eyes seem to eat me up with every glance.

You know when you're on a diet and even hummus seems irresistible? Reed is like the equivalent of chocolate éclair and my willpower is fading fast.

The problem? Not only is he a lawyer…

He was the best man at my wedding.

‘Manic Monday’ is a book that’s been on my reader for a while but had unfairly been passed along for other reads, which I immediately sought to remedy the moment I had a free slot. The once-bitten-twice-shy thing runs practically in all romance books after all, the only difference being the extent to which this has shaped characters’ behaviour and subsequently, the entire course of the novel.

I can well understand a woman’s uncertainty in stepping back into the dating world with a particular man—a lawyer and the ex-best man whom she hasn’t seen in a long time—and her newfound determination to not sacrifice anything of hers (dreams, future and hopes) in the meantime. The problem was, it all felt after a while, like this was about Victoria’s needs, her wants, her insecurities and damn anyone else who suggests that relationships are about compromise and since she’d gone through this tough period of losing herself, the world now apparently owed her something.

Being badly burnt in the past isn’t a sure ticket to behaving badly or rudely, not least towards the person only peripherally associated with the nasty ex-husband of hers. I just felt that Victoria was given too much ‘authorial’ leeway, so to speak, to behave like a very prickly hedgehog as possible simply because her awful past supposedly entitled her to do so. More so when she kept pushing a perfectly nice guy away and unfairly expected Reed to make every leap for her while she stood and waited for him to jump over hurdle after hurdle in an effort to prove himself unlike her ex.

Which brings me to the idea of the ‘chase’ in romance—it’s a thrilling aspect of this genre, I’ll admit, though too rarely do I find couples fighting for each other nonetheless (and the book that actually has this tends to get my wholehearted attention). Often, it’s taken too far, when one party—mostly the male protagonist—does all the work while the other taps her foot and expects him to hit milestone after milestone while positioning herself as the ultimate prize to be won and just not doing her part of the compromise.

And that was how I found myself detesting Victoria’s own brand of selfishness, to the extent where Reed had to make the sacrifice of his career for her without her actively trying to fight for their relationship at all.

I loved Reed in contrast who was a good guy all around and adorably (and acceptably) imperfect—his confidence in his own identity, his stalwart determination in giving back to society as a mentor and his insinuations into every part of Victoria’s life—as a male protagonist who just wasn’t fazed by Victoria’s issues at all, but gladly jumped into this challenge from the beginning.

‘Manic Monday’ in short, was a bit of a mixed bag for me, mostly because I liked one protagonist way more than the other, the latter of which I felt didn’t exactly deserve the former. Piper Rayne’s set up of 3 friends and the books to come did look promising however, though it did get a little too emotionally dramatic for me in parts, and it has made me wonder how this series is going to progress.

two-stars

The Good Guy by Celia Aaron

The Good Guy by Celia AaronThe Bad Guy by Celia Aaron
Published by Amazon Digital Services, Amazon Publishing on 21st May 2017
Pages: 414
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
two-stars

My name is Sebastian Lindstrom, and I’m the villain of this story. I’ve decided to lay myself bare. To tell the truth for once in my hollow life, no matter how dark it gets. And I can assure you, it will get so dark that you’ll find yourself feeling around the blackened corners of my mind, seeking a door handle that isn’t there. Don’t mistake this for a confession. I neither seek forgiveness nor would I accept it. My sins are my own. They keep me company. Instead, this is the true tale of how I found her, how I stole her, and how I lost her. She was a damsel, one who already had her white knight. But every fairy tale has a villain, someone waiting in the wings to rip it all down. A scoundrel who will set the world on fire if that means he gets what he wants. That’s me. I’m the bad guy.

Going into ‘The Good Guy’ was my own choice and doing of course; knowing that this was a ‘dark romance’ which clearly didn’t involve traditional ideas of love but rather of obsession and the funny way emotions (or lack thereof) work is entirely on me.

And I wasn’t surprised to find that this wasn’t quite my cup of tea at all, even though Celia Aaron does a pretty good job in portraying a Sebastian who wavered between childish bewilderment and cold, un-empathetic psychopath and the rather thorough unravelling of how he reacted to the world around him.

There were parts that I thought absolutely ridiculous – notions that went against my own ideas of love and need at least -, more so when I couldn’t quite imagine someone like Camille reacting to Sebastian the way she did after a while. Yet Aaron’s contrast between Sebastian and Link, if it was just to show the former in a better light or to show the different sides of villainy didn’t quite convince me either, because it merely felt like a trapped choice between bad (unfeeling psycho) and worse (sleazy cheating bastard) rather than opt for who might be the good, or in this case, the better guy.

But that admittedly, might be my own (possibly limited) understanding of normal’ relationships speaking when there are clearly other shades of grey that I can’t personally attest to.

That I found myself only softening towards Sebastian after he approached something remotely resembling normalcy – the kind of love he admits he has when it comes to Camille – probably shows that I’m still better off staying within the more conventional boundaries of what I personally define as romance.

two-stars

Outcast by Jamie Schlosser

Outcast by Jamie SchlosserOutcast by Jamie Schlosser
Series: The Good Guys
Published by Amazon Digital Services, Amazon Publishing on March 15th 2018 by
Pages: 251
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
five-stars

KAYLA My infatuation with Ezra Johnson started how all obsessions begin—with a simple crush. Over the years I silently soaked up every shy smile and random act of kindness, wrestling them away to a secret place in my heart meant for unrequited love. Because if it wasn’t for the fact that I tutor him once a week, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t even know I exist. Then I find his sketchbook. And it changes everything.

EZRA There are two certainties in my life: I’ve been in love with Kayla Reynolds since I was fourteen, and I can’t have her. I’ve spent years settling for a two-dimensional fantasy world, capturing her beauty with a pencil and paper. She’s kind, smart, gorgeous… And she belongs to someone else. Or so I thought. An interesting turn of events makes me realize things aren’t always how they appear on the outside, and now I’ve got my chance to be the man she deserves. For as long as I can remember, I’ve been called a loser. The cripple. An outcast. But maybe—just maybe—this time the good guy won’t finish last.

If I didn’t like Jamie Schlosser’s ‘Dropout’, I knew however, that Ezra Johnson’s story, from the way he was described in the book, was one I wanted already. Sometimes, it feels as though ‘Outcast’ is the sugary-sweet, feel-good New Adult book that I’ve always wanted to read. It ticks so many of my boxes after all: protagonists who have eyes only for each other, who journey together in their emotional and sexual development and who pretty much know what they want, despite their insecurities.

Schlosser’s diverse cast win a thumbs-up from me, as do the number of positive ‘messages’ that are incorporated in the story without sounding preachy or incredulously (but falsely) positive. I’m also applauding the rarity here of 2 protagonists who actually don’t go the well-trodden path of a sub-genre laden with numerous and meaningless hookups/identity-crises, who navigate the tricky waters of college life that wraps in an overwhelming all’s-well-that-ends-well way.

I sailed through this book (and actually put down several others I was reading just to get my grabby hands on this), lapped up every bit of awkward high-school interaction (Schlosser ups the clichés about the pretty girl and the unpopular, shy boy), gleefully laughed over their stupid-sweet secret crushes, and swooned at the frog-prince-type transformation after Ezra’s fat camp.

Apart from my vague alarm of their incredibly early marriage (clearly my own reservations speaking), ‘Outcast’ kept me going more than caffeine could because I was determined to finish the it. The bottomline is that it’s such a happy story (and possibly an unrealistic one for detractors who prefer angsty reads), and leaves you thinking for a sliver of a time that all can be right in the world.

five-stars

City Under Siege by R.J. Prescott

City Under Siege by R.J. PrescottCity Under Siege by R.J. Prescott
Published by Amazon Digital Services, Amazon Publishing on February 19th 2018
Pages: 412
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
two-stars

London is a city in flames. Tensions are high and a critical situation is about to go from bad to worse. The Prime Minister wants to send a message, and the SAS will be the ones to deliver it.

Emotional detachment is my speciality. I’m ruthless and cut throat, but there is nobody better.

Sarah Tatem is an innocent. Caught up in a world in which she doesn’t belong, and trying desperately to do the right thing. My job is to keep her safe long enough to get what’s needed, and bring an end to this siege of terror.

But something has changed. I’ve learned that the only thing stronger than loyalty is love, and now she’s gone.

My name is Lieutenant Tom Harper, and I’m about to unleash hell.

‘City Under Siege’ does have an exciting premise and to be honest, I was also lured in by the cover that depicted a post-apocalyptic London which I always seem to have an unholy fascination with.

But for someone who loves romantic suspense, this was a hard book to get through, even to the midway mark. I definitely liked the plot, which (plus points given for starting out strongly) unfortunately stuttered in the middle with the action taking a lull. Add to that endless and very long dialogues—some bordering on the ridiculous—taking place in scenes that I feel weren’t especially necessary and ‘City Under Siege’ found one of its victims in me.

Perhaps these scenes were meant to know the growing bond between Tom and Sarah, or perhaps they were meant to inject some levity into a serious situation, but these ended up mostly flat for me, with some secondary characters coming in and being over-the-top ridiculous in their villainy. Consequently, I was bored boneless and struggled to the midway mark while wondering when things were going to start rolling again.

I’m not quite sure if I’m able to put a finger on it specifically, but the combination of poor editing and the constant spelling errors like ‘metal/mettle’, ‘saught/sought’, ‘discrete/discreet’ was off-putting. In addition, I thought the plot and pacing also needed more developmental work for a better flow. ‘City Under Siege’ sadly, didn’t live up to its potential for me, more so because I had high hopes after reading all the glowing reviews about it.

two-stars

Seek by Mia Sheridan

Seek by Mia SheridanSeek by Mia Sheridan
Published by Amazon Digital Services, Amazon Publishing on January 22nd 2018
Pages: 157
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
three-stars

Wealthy socialite Olivia Barton never imagined her fiancé would disappear on what was supposed to be a routine business trip. She's even more heartbroken and confused when a hired private investigator tracks him half a world away, to a seaside town in Colombia. But the country has recently been ravaged by a massive earthquake and deadly tsunami, shutting down outside communication and making travel all but impossible. Still, Olivia is determined to make it to Colombia to find the answers she so desperately seeks. What she needs is a guide—a mercenary.

The man named Thomas arrives in shadows, an unmistakable air of danger about him, promising to help lead her through the ruined, crime-infested country. But when Thomas and Olivia find themselves fighting an undeniable attraction, danger takes on a whole new meaning. Then again, in the lush jungles of South America, all the rules are different and Thomas and Olivia are about to discover that sometimes the thing you seek, isn't necessarily the thing you find.

‘Stinger’ was my first Mia Sheridan read and if it’s odd to return to the world—even if it’s only a small step back into it—that Sheridan had built, it’s only because ‘Stinger’ stood out quite strongly in my memory and getting back into it felt almost like a shock (but an anticipatory, pleasant one) to the system.

‘Seek’, unlike ‘Stinger’ however, is a way shorter story incorporating the same type of romance and suspense that I love, though it’s still full of the sharp emotions that jump out at you. The journey that Olivia and Brody undertake is an unusual one, and the answers that Olivia seeks somehow have the power to unravel everything she knows.

I do like Sheridan’s writing in fact; the play of emotions, romance and suspense is typically well done (particularly when the tension between Olivia/Brody finally broke), but my own reservations here lay with how easily Olivia caved to the man who’d been part of the deception. I felt for the depth of the betrayal she’d suffered while admiring her strength in moving forward, though not liking how Brody got to make the choice whether to return or not to Olivia, with the easy assumption that she’d be waiting for him after 6 months of silence (woman, where is thy pride and dignity?)…which she seemed to be, judging from how easily she fell back in his arms.

The rushed conclusion and the all-too-easy HEA I think, were what ultimately made me a little unsure about the book. I would have preferred a more drawn-out ending-with maybe more grovelling-that didn’t just occupy a few pages of hasty declarations of ‘wanting it all’, which probably would have a more satisfactory wrap-up for me.

three-stars

EXP1RE by Erin Noelle

EXP1RE by Erin NoelleEXP1RE by Erin Noelle
Published by Amazon Digital Services, Amazon Publishing on October 26th 2017
Pages: 168
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
one-star

Numbers. They haunt me. I can't look into a person's eyes without seeing the six-digit date of their death. I’m helpless to change it, no matter how hard I try. I’ve trained myself to look down. Away. Anywhere but at their eyes.My camera is my escape. My salvation. Through its lens, I see only beauty and life—not death and despair. Disconnected from all those around me, I’m content being alone, simply existing. Until I meet him. Tavian. The man beyond the numbers. How can I stay away, when everything about him draws me in?But how can I fall in love, knowing exactly when it will expire?

I swear I felt the chills in the beginning chapter. Loved the premise, the strange oddness and the sense of foreboding that I couldn’t shake, enough to fly through the pages, and go on the armchair holiday that both Lyra and Tavian went for when a bombing at an airport derails their plans.

And if I liked their chemistry and attraction, I couldn’t shake off the blatant cheating in here when all the arguments initially put out by both Lyra and Tavian about being morally above it just fell apart because their desire trumped it. What happened to the initial self-righteous boasts about not wanting ever to be the other woman? Or not being a cheat or a lying bastard in a relationship?

That was when it all fell apart for me and everything that happened after – the sheer lack of remorse justified by the feelings they invoked in each other, the cowardice shown by Tavian, the repulsive way he treated his longterm girlfriend because he’s found his soulmate – was consequently harder and harder to swallow. I didn’t like how the story seemed to condone the cheating; neither could I like the characters for not doing anything about what they already knew was wrong, destined soulmates or not. In short, this was something I couldn’t look past and frankly, didn’t want to.

The only thing that kept me reading (though my interest had by then, waned significantly) was the twist in the story and how the author was going to resolve the problem of rewriting destiny, so to speak. A peek into the first few chapters of the second book simply showed that both protagonists had become characters I don’t recognise at all. That the author had to make the wronged party – Tavian’s Fiancée – the villain in the story when she was clearly the one who was short-changed left me flabbergasted and well, repulsed. So despite the cliffhanger ending in book 1, I’m probably more than happy to bid this goodbye, right about now.

one-star

Mountain Man by Sherilee Gray

Mountain Man by Sherilee GrayMountain Man by Sherilee Gray
Series: The Smith Brothers #1
Published by Amazon Digital Services, Amazon Publishing on November 7th 2017
Pages: 99
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
three-stars

Hank Smith saved my life, carrying me through a blizzard to his mountain cabin. He doesn’t like strangers, and he doesn’t like leaving his sanctuary. Now I’m trapped here with him until the snow melts. 

I see him looking at me. He tries to hide behind a gruff exterior, but I see the longing and the heat burning in his eyes. I know he wants me, and I can’t resist him. I want to feel those big, rough hands all over my body.

But once he’s unleashed his raw, barely tried desire on me, will I be able to leave my mountain man behind, or will he make me his?

I really enjoyed Sherilee Gray’s ‘Breaking Him’ and this foray into erotica continues with ‘Mountain Man’ with a solitary, gruff and somewhat emotionally vulnerable hero who saves a woman and then doesn’t quite know what to do with the both of them.

It’s a straight up-and-out sort of read and very easy to go through within a hour or so, not to mention the scorching hot times between the sheets that made the short anticipation worth it. Hank Smith definitely made the book for me; I wished that Birdie – whose odd name really reminded me of an old woman’s – had a bit more courage for go after what (and who) she wanted instead of taking off in a way she’d known all her life. I felt more for the former than the latter, but was still gratified with the happy end that I thought Hank really deserved.

three-stars