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Hemi by Anna Hackett

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Reviews/ Speculative Fiction/ Syfy/ Syfy Romance/ Urban Fantasy 7th June 2017
Hemi by Anna HackettHemi by Anna Hackett
Series: Hell Squad #13
Published by Amazon Digital Services, Amazon Publishing, Anna Hackett on May 30th 2017
Pages: 115
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three-stars

In the middle of an alien invasion, a big, tough, tattooed former mercenary is finally going to chase down his woman.

Camryn McNab knows love is a lie. Okay, maybe not for everybody--her fellow soldiers on Squad Nine have managed to fall in love in the middle of a vicious alien attack. But it's not for her. She comes from two people incapable of love. For now, her life is about survival, fighting to protect others, and kicking some alien raptor butt. What she doesn't need is a certain wild, bearded, tattoo-covered soldier always underfoot, messing with her things, and driving her crazy. But no matter how hard she tries to outrun Hemi Rahia, she can't seem to shake him, and a terrified part of doesn't even want to...

A member of the Squad Three berserkers, Hemi knows his squad has a reputation for not following the rules and being a little wild. Former bikers, mercenaries, and...other less savory things, they fight hard and party harder. But Hemi has known for a while now that there is only one woman for him. One courageous, sexy, attitude-filled woman he wants to claim as his own. But he has to catch her first.

Tasked with a top-secret mission deep in alien creeper territory, Hemi and Cam will fight side-by-side to achieve their dangerous goal. Their chemistry is off the charts, but persistent Hemi wants more than Cam's body...he wants her heart and soul as well. As their battle with the aliens turns deadly, they will have to fight not only for their love, but for their very survival.

‘Hemi’ officially ushers in the Berserker squad and I’m glad we’ve come a way with this particular group of wild and rough-riding people. When they first appeared, they seemed to be a bunch of hairy things closer to grunting apes than humans who rode souped-up motorcycles that were used as mini-weapon-launching platforms to combat the aliens; which is sort of cool, but probably not quite the swashbuckling type of heroes I could envision. But Anna Hackett’s development of the squad is quite remarkable and I’ve come, over time, to see them fleshed out as individuals with even rougher and questionable pasts that are erased when the alien apocalypse happens.

Hemi Rahia’s and Camryn McNab’s story has been building for a while and make no mistake, that tension there beneath the pranks finally comes to fruition here. For every couple that Hackett focuses on, there is also a new, vile alien development that is specific to their getting together and it’s no different here. Hemi’s determination to win over Cam is as strong as her need to run away from him and this push-pull finally gives when forces bigger than them (read: disgusting alien parts that act as incubators) eventually show that couple disputes are more petty in the light of the fact that dying can happen any time. In the spirit of carpe diem, the action and the way the characters throw themselves into the fray, is fun with many shades of wild, rodeo-riding antics and good partying times.

As much as I enjoyed how fast-paced the action is, I thought that there’s also a bit more focus on Hemi/Cam’s personal drama here with several repetitive—and perhaps sweeping—lines about how men and women pretty much were into casual sex as a sign of the times, up until the point where they find the one they’re ‘meant’ for. While I did like Hemi/Cam and every little alien discovery the teams make, I think I would also have liked to see more of the big-picture, or at least some reference to a larger story arc that would show how war with the aliens is progressing and if there is an end (or some kind of HEA wrap-up for all involved), no matter how distant, in sight.

three-stars

My Best Friend’s Ex by Meghan Quinn

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ New Adult/ Reviews 6th June 2017
My Best Friend’s Ex by Meghan QuinnMy Best Friend's Ex by Meghan Quinn
Published by Amazon Publishing on June 1st 2017
Pages: 248
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five-stars

When I found an eviction notice taped on my apartment door, I had two options: find a comfortable cardboard box to call home, or move in with Tucker Jameson.
Seeing that cardboard makes me feel itchy, I chose the latter. Which shouldn't be that big of a deal since Tucker is one of my good friends. And because he's still pining after his ex-girlfriend and I'm trying to finish my nursing degree, there is nothing to worry about in the romance department, making my last semester an easy one to conquer.
Boy, was I wrong.
Rules are set, dinners are made, conversations are had, and a shirtless, swoony roommate walks around in nothing but a pair of black briefs, ruining me for every other man.
Before I know it, I turn into a panting, lust-filled woman begging for Tucker to kiss me, touch me, and show me exactly what is hiding under those briefs.
But with great orgasms, comes great consequences.
Tucker might be my friend and roommate but he’s also my best friend's ex-boyfriend, making him completely off-limits. At least that's what my brain is telling me, my heart is speaking an entirely different language.

At this very point in time—the very moment I finished turning the last page of this book—I’m inclined to think that I’ve barely yet recovered from the amazing Tucker Jameson (who made my heart break many times throughout for him yet I loved him more for it) before I needed to pound out a review for a story that pretty much took my breath away.

‘My Best Friend’s Ex’ is so much more than what the flirty little blurb suggests; it’s instead a perfect mix of funnies and heartbreaking moments that leave you breathless with laughter then wrung out completely the next.

And that’s mostly due to Tucker and Emma—2 characters with so much chemistry and so much love between them that you can’t help but think there’s no better out there for either of them. I loved every bit of the build-up and how they re-established their relationship and despite some cock-blocking moments, was gratified when they finally hit the sheets. I’ve no desire really, to read the first book that introduced Tucker as a broken, peripheral character (especially if he’s the one left behind in it), who’d been alone in dealing with his bitterness, guilt and hurt when the group of friends he had pulled away from him as well.

But even with a huge load of tragedy behind him, Tucker is admirable in the way he pulls himself up and away from it, finally putting himself out there again for Emma, who is as compassionate and understanding as they come, living up to her reputation as the one who has always taken care of others. But because they’d been friends long before that, the journey is slightly easier, softened by years of memories and camaraderie, so this friends-to-lovers trope is in some way, easier to bear, given their history.

There isn’t much more that I can say, except that this has been a perfect afternoon indulgence that made me run the entire gamut of emotions and then once again. And if this genre can’t do it, then what can?

five-stars

Tempt the Boss by Natasha Madison

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Erotica/ New Adult/ Reviews 12th May 2017
Tempt the Boss by Natasha MadisonTempt The Boss by Natasha Madison
Published by Amazon Digital Services, Amazon Publishing on April 3rd 2017
Pages: 230
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three-stars

Going back to work was supposed to be a painless transition, but when my new boss turns out to be an arrogant, cocky jerk, he quickly turns my professional life into a world of torture. Okay, fine, calling him an asshat before knowing he was my boss wasn't my finest moment. Hating him should be easy. I just never counted on him being so gorgeous or charming when he's not annoying me.
AustinI expected my new assistant to be professional and punctual, but all I'm getting are dirty looks and rude comments. I should fire the little hellion, but instead all I can think about is bending her over my desk and breaking every rule I've ever made for myself.
One look. One touch. One night. If we break the rules, our lives will never be the same again.
Good thing rules were made to be broken. And besides, it feels so good to Tempt the Boss.

My first instinct after reading ‘Tempt the Boss’ was to surreptitiously check the back cover for the plaster cast of feminists because it reads so much like a contemporary, older woman’s fantasy. In fact, I’m tempted to call the book one of the shining examples (or even a manifesto) of the post-fem-lib movement.

Our recently-divorced heroine is a mother of 2 who gets back so successfully into the workforce after a decade away, that she aces her job while managing to snag the attractive boss along the way, though not without several war games both in and out of the bedroom. And as a woman with experience, Lauren knows exactly what she wants sexually as well, so it’s equality all around, with sass, witty comebacks and all thrown in with it. I found that I wasn’t even bothered by her cheating ex at all as Lauren definitely knew how to deal with him yet keep her head as a responsible mother taking on the world once more—that loudly does Natasha Madison shout for the liberated 21st century woman whom Lauren definitely personifies.

But as much as I liked the initial antagonism of this pairing, I wasn’t expecting the war games that they played with each other which were alternatively hilarious and juvenile. The laugh-out-loud moments took me by surprise and those made for a very entertaining first half despite the laddish behaviour and comments from secondary characters which I found abhorrent. My interest also began to wane slightly the moment the sexual tension broke however, and the little bumps along the way made the story a tad more predictable from then onwards.

Don’t get me wrong though, ‘Tempt the Boss’ is a very easy, very entertaining read all around, with a very strong heroine who steals the limelight the whole way. I only wish these men can grow up and keep up.

three-stars

The House Mate by Kendall Ryan

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ New Adult/ Reviews 22nd April 2017
The House Mate by Kendall RyanThe House Mate by Kendall Ryan
Series: Roommates #3
Published by Amazon Digital Services, Amazon Publishing on April 18th 2017
Pages: 180
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one-star

What’s sexier than a bad boy? A bad ass man who’s got his shit together.
Max Alexander is nearing thirty-five. He’s built a successful company, and he’s conquered the professional world, but he’s never been lucky in love. Focusing so much time on his business and raising his daughter, adulting has come at the expense of his personal life.
His social skills are shit, his patience is shot, and at times, his temper runs hot.
The last thing he has time for is the recently single, too gorgeous for her own good young woman he hires to take care of his little girl. She’s a distraction he doesn’t need, and besides, there’s no way she’d be interested. But you know what they say about assumptions?

This review is clearly going to go against the grain.

A gruff single-dad, a hot nanny and a cute dream of a little girl? It’s mostly likely guaranteed to make many female readers’ ovaries explode (!), but right now, I like mine where they are: safe, tucked away and unmoved by this apparently domestic scene. It’s not so much as that it’s a version of the manwhore/casual player vs the virgin (or at least, the very experienced man vs. the woman who is fairly inexperienced) that chafed my backside because it is, but rather how suddenly a male protagonist can conveniently fall for a woman and suddenly realise he can commit when he’d never given others a chance to do so, while spending most of the book having 3 women sort of tussling over him in a silent territory war.

The truth is, I found it extremely difficult to like the characters at all straight from the start, though Addison’s insecurity about barely being able to ‘please’ her own ex might have played into it as well. A single-father by accident, Max had never expected that his neat, I’m-the-centre-of-my-own-universe to tilt on its axis, first by a baby, then by the nanny that he employs. And that’s pretty much the story, as both Max and Addison negotiate the bends of their relationship (complete with the dumb-struck, hit-by-lust-moment when they meet) both professionally and personally.

Not only was it hard to accept that Max had difficulty committing to any woman—not least his ex, whom I thought he wronged so badly—and then suddenly wanting to do do with the nanny when she turned out to be the beautiful, nurturing type that attracted him immediately just smacked of hypocrisy to me. It was only because I think, that he’d never stuck around long enough to do so with any other woman, and that this only happened because they were stuck in close quarters for an extended amount of time. I also couldn’t get past the fact that all he really wanted was to scratch the itch he felt while keeping things casual, yet not being interested in fixing what was broken with his ex.

I didn’t have anything against Addison, but this premise alone—of Max just going on with life and leaving everything else in the dust, as he did with many other women—made the entire book difficult to finish. But that Addison herself was insecure about her own femininity made her an easy ‘target’ to fall prey to Max’s propositions to get into another fling. When he finally gotten her where he wanted her, Addison was suddenly the ‘tighest’, best woman he’d ever been with, the woman he couldn’t remember wanting more, the woman with whom it felt ‘so right’.

Unfortunately, ’The House Mate’ is definitely not the book for me, especially not when everything rubbed me the wrong way and raised every heckle I have. In fact, the vehement reaction I had to this particular book surprised even myself, despite my wanting to give it a fair chance.

one-star

Champion by Anna Hackett

Posted in Action/Adventure/ Fantasy/ Reviews/ Speculative Fiction/ Syfy/ Syfy Romance 30th March 2017
Champion by Anna HackettChampion by Anna Hackett
Series: Galactic Gladiators #5
Published by Amazon Digital Services, Amazon Publishing, Anna Hackett Buy on Amazon
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four-stars

Space marine Blaine Strong enjoyed being a composed, controlled member of space station security…until he was abducted by alien slavers. Forced into underground fight rings and pumped full of drugs, he’s now seething with anger and out for revenge.

Rescued by gladiators and fellow humans on the desert world of Carthago, Blaine is fighting to be the man he once was. But when the House of Galen is attacked, he must focus on joining the gladiators to fight back. That means teaming up with a tough, competitive female gladiator who not only challenges him at every turn, awakens a fierce desire he’s never felt before, but a woman who can sense the churning emotions inside him.

Gladiator Saff Essikani is the best net fighter in the Kor Magna Arena. Raised from young to fight, she bows to no man and uses her empathic abilities to win at whatever cost. With her House targeted and people under their care threatened, she’ll stop at nothing to find those responsible. But then she finds herself face to face with a big, tortured man from Earth who affects her like no man before. As Saff and Blaine head into the desert to uncover a conspiracy, their incendiary desire flares hotter than the desert suns. But as Blaine’s angry emotions rage out of control, Saff knows that unless he learns to embrace the man he is now, he has no chance of survival.

There are many Anna Hackett books that are probably scored permanently in my memory, and I’m beyond happy to say that ‘Champion’ will number as one of them.

I’ve been somewhat on the fence with the Galactic Gladiator series but Blaine/Saff’s story is one that I truly liked and could get into without difficulty. It’s the sense of true equality that I got between the both of them – physically, emotionally, with similar spirits of determination, loyalty and courage – which I thought made this story so enjoyable, along with that chemistry that Hackett has written into this unlikely pairing. Throw in the desert landscape, the thrills and spills and the action and ‘Champion’ is a fantastic read that brings a mish-mash of classic but epic movies into play.

Now that we’re waist-deep into this strange, gladiator world, I’m starting to appreciate the sheer scope of Hackett’s world-building again – this woman’s got a heck of an imagination and enough gumption to bring it to life – and am actually quite amazed at how it’s expanding in a manner that’s making me want to know how the future books are going to go.

Still, I had an altogether satisfying experience, enhanced of course, as always, by the anticipation of the next book and pairing written into the end of this story.

four-stars

Styled by Piper Lawson

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ New Adult/ Reviews 28th March 2017
Styled by Piper LawsonStyled by Piper Lawson
Series: Travesty #3
Published by Amazon Digital Services, Amazon Publishing on March 26th 2017
Pages: 275
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two-stars

I have a type. Tall. Blond. Sarcastic. Awkward as hell.

That’s right, my type is me. Because I’m better off spending my time alone than with a guy.

Which doesn't matter since this month, I’m on an open-ended ticket to LA to find a new boutique for TRAVESTY. Not to find a rebound for the breakup that blew my mind. I’m ready to forget all about dicks.

Too bad Ethan Cameron sinks that dream before I get on the plane.

The SoCal realtor might be my business partner's older brother, but he's the wrong guy to help us out. Ethan's arrogant and self-centred, with a dentist’s wet dream smile and pecs that might have their own hashtag. More girls pass through the backseat of his car than through the doors of our SoHo boutique.

He's also wrong for me. And the more he thinks he knows me, the more I need to prove he doesn't.

But I can’t ignore the fact that I need Ethan's help finding a boutique to put TRAVESTY on the map. And no one knows LA style like Ethan.

I survived private school. Growing up with one parent. Dating a gay guy. I can survive one month with Ethan Cameron.

Right?

I tried to like this. I really did. Travesty’s a new but established brand, the HEAs for the first 2 couples are going swimmingly and Jordan’s turn in ‘Styled’ is inevitable but welcome. It’s quite smartly written, filled with instances of humour but long dialogues about corporate and real estate business as Jordan and Ethan ham it up. I’d say immediately though, that I’m only lukewarm for the story because I’ve found myself in a classic case of liking a main character way more than the other—which makes this review beyond difficult to tackle.

Sex between Ethan and Jordan, clearly isn’t the issue, even if I cringed because this is essentially a manwhore-with-the-virgin trope. But funny and witty as their banter can be, it was hard to like Ethan though. I found him smarmy, coarse and too self-absorbed about his ability to snag ‘conquests’ and brag about them because they didn’t matter. Or perhaps I’m essentially tired of meeting characters who’ve had their hearts broken and think that it gives them the permission to behave like peacock-strutting arses to women and everyone else after they get the idea that their dicks lead the way. Then deciding to cut back on hookups because it was not only career-impeding but he found the girls too clingy thereafter?

I loved how Jordan called him out on his superficiality and the shallowness of his lifestyle, but I took an even longer time to even warm up to the idea of him than she did. The problem is, I couldn’t see past Ethan being a flake even as I cheered Jordan’s matter-of-fact, practical approach to things despite her privileged background. That he was smugly possessive when he ‘had’ the virgin (and got irritated with her boyfriends because they’d fooled around) seemed like an unacceptable standard to swallow.

This was almost a relief when it was over. Again, I wished I liked this better, but it’s getting harder to bat my eyelashes at this trope and endorse it simply because it gets a reformed manwhore to his knees. That the rake is finally moved to being a one-man-woman because of the virgin’s virtues? That simply isn’t enough for me anymore.

two-stars

Embracing Love by Alison Mello

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ Netgalley/ New Adult/ Reviews 21st March 2017
Embracing Love by Alison MelloEmbracing Love by Alison Mello
Series: Once Broken #1
Published by Amazon Digital Services, Amazon Publishing on March 28th 2017
Pages: 323
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two-stars

McKenzie McCormick moved back home for one reason only, and falling for a soldier isn’t it…
Fort Stewart is only a few miles away, which means her hometown has its fair share of soldiers. But Kenzie chooses to steer clear of them, as she still struggles to cope with the grief of losing her father to war. All she wants to do is help her aunt take care of her ill grandmother—until a gorgeous green-eyed Army Captain moves back into town.
The last thing Captain Remington Bennett expects to find is a pretty brunette while out on his morning run…
Intrigued by the woman he passes almost every morning, Remy is determined to get to know the brown-eyed beauty. Kenzie is reluctant to get too close, but his persistence in pursuing her slowly breaks down her defenses, turning what started out as nothing more than a nod and a shy smile into something neither of them could have predicted.
War has already taken too much from her, and Kenzie can’t afford to lose her heart to a soldier…
Even though the mutual attraction becomes too strong to ignore, Kenzie keeps fighting her feelings for the handsome Captain. But when Remy is called out on a mission and she’s faced with the possibility he might not come back, Kenzie realizes she may have let her only chance at love slip through her fingers.
Now that Kenzie is finally ready to embrace love with the kind of man she has spent her entire life avoiding, it might just be too late…

Remy is exactly the kind of man Kenzie wouldn’t date because of her fear that he’d be exactly like her father—military to the core, and gave his life in service to it. Her life is full with responsibilities and duties too, which leaves dating a remote possibility. But the attraction to the mystery jogger in the morning grows into something deeper when he starts turning up at events that involve her, and their steadily evolving relationship is only held hostage by this particular fear.

Mello’s characters are by and large likeable: Remy’s the sort that defies all military stereotypes that have pretty much defined the male protagonists in romantic suspense. He’s also rock solid, enviably stable and sweet…the adjectives could go on really, finding his match in Kenzie who is thankfully, mature enough not to throw outrageous fits and tantrums when it comes to the inevitable question of whether she has staked everything on Remy always being there for her.

This is a sweet story though with a very, very slow burn; Mello puts a great deal of effort into showing the tight bonds of family in this book, but it seemed to compromise the number of scenes that Remy and Kenzie had together. Fewer scenes between Remy’s own family and Kenzie’s repetitive, consuming thoughts about hers would have worked better, as they soon felt as though I could have skipped those and still be caught up in Remy/Kenzie’s story. A lot of the book felt ‘superfluous’ in a way that had me skimming the pages, which I thought interrupted the build-up of their relationship. As a result, the convivial ‘family atmosphere’ makes ‘Embracing Love’ a near angst-free read, save for the brief separation and conflict that felt more like regret on Kenzie’s part than anger or a complete emotional breakdown.

It isn’t a bad read, to be honest, but it felt as though this book could have worked better as a novella, where the narrative (without the unnecessarily repetition of events from differing POVs) could have been whittled down a lot more—to the point where Remy/Kenzie actually take centre stage.

two-stars
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