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Stirring Attraction by Sara Jane Stone

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 14th July 2016
Stirring Attraction by Sara Jane StoneStirring Attraction by Sara Jane Stone
Series: Second Shot #2
Published by Avon Impulse on June 7th 2016
Pages: 256
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three-stars

When Dominic Fairmore left Oregon to be all he could be as an Army Ranger, he always knew he’d come back to claim Lily Greene. But after six years away and three career-ending bullets, Dominic is battered, broken, and nobody's hero—so he stays away. Until he learns Lily has been the victim of a seemingly random attack. He’ll do anything to keep her safe . . . even go home.
Lily is starting to find a life without Dominic when suddenly her wounded warrior is home and playing bodyguard—though all she really wants is for him to take her. But she refuses to play the part of a damsel in distress, no matter how much she misses his tempting touch. He’ll leave as soon as she’s safe and Lily knows her heart will never heal.
But as attraction stirs to so much more, danger closes in. With more than Lily’s heart at stake, Dominic can no longer draw a line between protecting Lily and loving her . . .

Well then.

When a man returns home, near completely broken only because the woman he loves faces a threat, what’s she to do when the motivation to keep her safe is the only thing that will keep him where she needs him to be?

I’m a little torn here because I loved the absolute devotion Lily and Dominic showed each other even when they were apart – the sheer lack of this these days makes their hold on each other all the more precious – but that is pretty much all the story is about: Dominic working through his stubborn ‘I’m not the man you need’ beliefs while Lily fights her own push and pull factors when it comes to the love of her life. I did think however, that the suspense was somewhat weak and looked on the verge of escalating but never quite did, yet was enough to be the catalyst to bring them together once more. Some transitions and dialogue didn’t seem to flow too well, but I’d attribute it to Sara Jane Stone’s particular way of writing that I couldn’t exactly get used to.

In short, I’m mixed about the story as a whole, but Lily/Dominic will still go down in memory for being the couple to stick together even when they never quite were.

three-stars

Ignite by Karen Erickson

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Reviews 15th March 2016
Ignite by Karen EricksonIgnite by Karen Erickson
Series: Wildwood #1
Published by Avon Impulse on March 15th 2016
Pages: 288
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two-stars

Weston Gallagher is falling hard-for the wrong woman.One night of passion has haunted him for years.Now he’s got a second chance to get the girl of his dreams…but there’s just one problem:She hates him.
Eight years after he stormed out of Wildwood, California, West has returned to his hometown as a firefighter. His friends and family are thrilled he’s back-with the exception of Harper Hill. His best friend’s sister is all grown up and in all the right ways. He knows she’s going to do everything she can to protect her heart and keep him at arm’s length, but West has other ideas.
He will win the girl that got away. No matter what it takes…

A blast from the past returns, but there isn’t much of a spine in either protagonist to work things out between them, leaving us with the same ol’ spiel of ‘sex only’ while secretly harbouring thoughts of more. I wished Harper had stood up a bit more for herself when it came to West’s appalling behaviour, who, unfortunately, isn’t helping his case by being one of the most wimpy male leads I’ve had the dubious honour of reading about.

But the rocky transition from sex to a proper relationship wasn’t a believable journey; rather, Harper and Weston’s sudden coming together by the end seemed to happen only because of a bad case of panic after an arson-case at a bar. Both didn’t seem to be characters I’d put an approval stamp on, but strangely enough, what ‘Ignite’ really did for me was the introduction of its secondary characters that look way more interesting than the main pairing…and whose stories I’d be waiting for.

two-stars

Serving Trouble by Sara Jane Stone

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ Reviews 14th March 2016
Serving Trouble by Sara Jane StoneServing Trouble by Sara Jane Stone
Series: Second Shot, #1
Published by Avon Impulse on April 12th 2016
Pages: 304
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two-stars

Five years ago, Josie Fairmore left timber country in search of a bright future. Now she's back home with a mountain of debt and reeling from a loss that haunts her. Desperate for a job, she turns to the one man she wishes she could avoid. The man who rocked her world one wild night and then walked right out of it.
Former Marine Noah Tager is managing his dad's bar and holding tight to the feeling that his time overseas led to failure. The members of his small town think he's a war hero, but after everything he's witnessed, Noah doesn't want a pat on the back. The only thing he desires is a second chance with his best friend's little sister.
Josie's determined to hold onto her heart and not repeat her mistakes, but when danger arrives on Noah's doorstep and takes aim at Josie, they just might discover that sometimes love is worth the risk.

‘Serving Trouble’ seems to find a way around the second chance romance + the best friend’s forbidden sister trope by adding a lot of occurrences, issues and side-plots to mess up the main characters’ road to happy ever after, to the point where I found the plot a trip on a merry-go-round to nowhere.

There’s the constant thread of withholding emotions and holding back for the fear of getting hurt and/or not being worthy enough to offer anything when it came to what really mattered; the emotional game that Josie and Noah played with each other – even unwittingly so – got tiresome quickly because neither side dared to make a commitment at all or talked it out in a mature fashion in a way I’d expected. Instead, the words ‘jerk’ and ‘hero’ had been used so often that it left me wondering about the amount of dignity and self-respect I’d like to see in a story’s protagonists. Mired in their own set of problems, Josie and Noah do battle realistic issues in a small town, yet there was never a sense of this pairing belonging solidly to each other at all. I wished I could say I found the start to this spin-off series a compelling one, but this just didn’t do it for me.

two-stars

When We Kiss by Darcy Burke

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Reviews 21st January 2016
When We Kiss by Darcy BurkeWhen We Kiss by Darcy Burke
Series: Ribbon Ridge #5
Published by Avon Impulse on February 16th 2016
Pages: 400
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two-stars

Denver real estate mogul, Liam Archer, has always been a thrill-seeker, and the loss of his identical twin brother has only intensified his reckless behavior. Sky diving, heli-skiing, motorcycle riding…he’s tried everything once. Except falling in love. Liam doesn’t do relationships, but a no-strings fling with Aubrey Tallinger—the smart, gorgeous lawyer handling his brother’s estate—is totally his speed.
At first, hooking up with Liam whenever he’s in Ribbon Ridge is perfect; but Aubrey fears she could fall hard for the sexy daredevil, if he’d only stop refusing to acknowledge the demons he’s trying to outrun. To protect herself from heartbreak, Aubrey ends their affair. But this time, Liam isn’t leaving town and instead of seduction, he wants to be…friends.
The white hot attraction between them still sizzles but Liam knows that winning Aubrey back won’t happen in his bed. He’ll have to convince her that he’s more than the careless, adrenaline junkie she believes him to be. Because when they kiss, Liam feels whole again… and he isn’t ready to give her up without a fight.

Perhaps it’s unfair that ‘When We Kiss’ is taking the brunt of my frustration with the formulaic tropes that are tossed out so easily when it comes to characterisation.

There’re a lot of family-type interactions which I’d normally appreciate for the different dynamics, but I took immediate offence at the selfish and reckless behaviour of the male lead, whose actions showed nothing of concern for others but himself – even if he attributes it to repressing his twin brother’s death which I found it even harder to swallow. But for this man-child (who miraculously still manages to be a player), Darcy Burke has at least chosen a passable heroine who nevertheless, still crumbles at his every touch, despite her determination to resist him. Liam Archer was a ‘hero’ whose shallows I was not inspired to plumb and many times, I wondered why Aubrey even bothered.

I was hard-pressed to continue with the story, let alone get invested in this pairing, as disappointed as I was with these characters.

two-stars

Dirty Thoughts by Megan Erickson

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Reviews 15th June 2015
Dirty Thoughts by Megan EricksonDirty Thoughts by Megan Erickson
Series: Mechanics of Love, #1
Published by Avon Impulse on June 16th 2015
Pages: 352
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four-stars

Some things are sexier the second time around.
Cal Payton has gruff and grumbly down to an art...all the better for keeping people away. And it usually works. Until Jenna MacMillan-his biggest mistake---walks into Payton and Sons mechanic shop all grown up, looking like sunshine, and inspiring more than a few dirty thoughts.
Jenna was sure she was long over the boy she'd once loved with reckless abandon, but one look at the steel-eyed Cal Payton has her falling apart all over again. Ten years may have passed, but the pull is stronger than ever... and this Cal is all man.
Cal may have no intention of letting Jenna in, but she's always been his light, and it's getting harder to stay all alone in the dark. When a surprise from the past changes everything, Cal and Jenna must decide if their connection should be left alone or if it's exactly what they need for the future of their dreams.

Cal Payton has forgotten how to live. Weighed down by the burden of bringing up his brothers and lost in the wake of a failed teenage relationship, this rough-hewn, blue-collar guy is well on his way to becoming the grumpy, chain-smoking loner in the mould of his own father.

Until the same blast from his past blows back into town. Jenna MacMillan is the unexpected jerk back to life that Cal needs but he isn’t going down (or up, in this case) without a fight of his own after ten years of digging deep into the only life he knows. Between them, there are issues to sort out, their blistering chemistry notwithstanding, especially when it becomes clear that Jenna is here to stay.

I thought this was a fantastic read, but it’s probably because the grumpy, solitary ones always get to me the hardest. Coupled with many moments of hilarity – Cal’s decision to stop smoking and Brent’s sarcastic wheedling for instance -, ‘Dirty Thoughts’ turned out to be perfect distraction of the day.

four-stars

Need Me by Tessa Bailey

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Young Adult 21st April 2015
Need Me by Tessa BaileyNeed Me by Tessa Bailey
Series: Broke and Beautiful, #2
Published by Avon Impulse on April 21st 2015
Pages: 288
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five-stars

When Honey Perribow traded in her cowboy boots for stilettos and left her small Kentucky town to attend Columbia University, she never expected to find a dirt-cheap apartment or two new best friends. No stranger to hard work, Honey is completely focused on her medical degree … until she sees newly minted professor Ben Dawson, and her concentration is hijacked. Honey is fascinated by her gorgeous young English professor and vows to find a crack in his tweed-wearing, glasses-clad exterior.
At an off-campus party, an accident lands Ben in a dark, locked closet with a sexy-sounding Southern belle … and their chemistry is explosive. But when he discovers that the girl in his arms is the same beautiful student he can't stop thinking about, he is stunned. Student-teacher relationships are strictly forbidden … yet no matter how hard he tries, Ben can't stay away from Honey.
And when his attempt to fight their attraction nearly ruins the best thing that ever happened to him, Ben will do anything to prove how much he needs her.


I think Tessa Bailey just brought my dirty, secret fantasy to glorious life with Ben Dawson, only that my own professors weren’t ever that hot all those years ago. (And that she’ll have a stellar career writing handbooks on how to teach men to talk dirty, if she wasn’t already putting that underrated talent to good use in all her books) A five-year age gap isn’t the world’s most unsurmountable one, but it means everything with the forbidden line drawn between students and teachers. And that exactly, is what Tessa Bailey tries to overcome in this book. There are many obligatory mistakes made along the way, mostly by the professor who’s desperately running from the childhood demon poking its pitchfork straight into his shoulder the moment Honey sails into English class with her perfect essays and her golden eyes.

Ben and Honey do that strange but very compelling student-teacher dynamic in Need Me – ok, so it’s probably my fetish speaking. There is some literary flair, at least of the soaring, idealistic kind that peppers NA narratives, but self-reflexive enough to reference the wonders of the literary language, woven so cleverly into the passages expounding Ben’s frame of mind that I couldn’t help but mentally categorise this as a favourite halfway through the book.

five-stars

Simon Says Die by Lena Diaz

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ Mystery/Crime/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 17th April 2015
Simon Says Die by Lena DiazSimon Says Die by Lena Diaz
Series: Deadly Games, #2
Published by Avon Impulse on April 17th 2012
Pages: 416
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one-star

Madison McKinley knows someone is stalking her. The police tell her she's imagining things, and they're too busy trying to find the "Simon Says" killer to investigate. But day by day, hour by hour, Madison's terror grows stronger, and not even the return of FBI Special Agent Pierce Buchanan into her life can calm her fears. Besides, how can she ask Pierce for his help after the way she ended things between them?
Pierce still wants Madison's love, and his drive to protect her is more powerful than ever. He believes she's in danger, even if the cops don't. Finally, as more people start dying and the evidence mounts, the police turn their attention to Madison—as a suspect. Was Pierce a fool to trust her again, or are they both caught in a complex game that neither will survive?

Madison – or rather, a weak, repulsive female lead –  is the sole reason I gave up on this. Childish, reckless, defiant at every turn with a misguided sense of right and wrong, petulant with tantrums that would rival a 2 year old’s, I think there can’t be enough negative adjectives I could put down here that would do her justice as the worst character I’ve ever had the displeasure of reading. Maturity here – or the lack of it – is the main issue here and I simply cannot read about a pairing where the hero is such a shining star in contrast to the dull and blunt surfaces of an undeserving heroine.

one-star
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