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Twisted Twosome by Meghan Quinn

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ New Adult/ Reviews 6th August 2017
Twisted Twosome by Meghan QuinnTwisted Twosome by Meghan Quinn
Published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform on July 16th 2017
Pages: 251
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three-stars

Racer McKay is a broody bastard. From the moment I met him, he's been rude, irritable, and unbearable. And worse? He's broke. A contractor working to remodel my parents pool house for extra cash, he stomps around in those clunky construction boots with his tool belt wrapped around his narrow waist, and a chip on his shoulder. Racer McKay is also infuriatingly . . . sexy as hell. I want to take that pencil tucked behind his ear, and draw lazy lines slowly up and down his body all the while wanting to strangle him at the same time. We try to stay out of each other's way . . . that is until I have no other option but to ask for his help. But what I don't realize is he needs me just as much as I need him. I have money he's desperate for, and he holds the key to making my dreams come true. Our pranks turn from sarcastic banter, to sexual tension and lust-filled glances. Bickering matches quickly morph into slow burn moments. We're hot, we're cold. We push and pull. I need him, I don't want him. We're on the verge of combusting with an agreement dangling dangerously between us. Neither one of us can afford to lose one another and yet, we're finding it quite hard to decipher the line that rests between love and hate.

Sometimes a character surprises you in the best way, particularly when it’s a secondary character from another book that couldn’t be taken seriously at all. Racer was such a character in Meghan Quinn’s first book and I didn’t quite know what to make of him. In fact, I barely gave him a thought at all until ‘Twisted Twosome’ came out and then my reading world got squeezed through the rabbit hole of this rather complicated man.

But Racer is, no doubt about it, the shining star of the story, because he’s so much more than the front he shows, and damn if that front is hilariously obnoxious, unapologetically arrogant and deliberately crude. I had the laugh of my life especially when he pitted himself against Georgiana until their love-hate, antagonistic relationship turned into something else entirely as the jibes grew less mean and increasing like foreplay.

Admittedly, it did get a bit much sometimes, but overall, I liked what Racer represented and how real he was as a character was underneath the insults, pranks and the fuck-all, mega man-child front. Quinn does writes his grief—and all the desperate financial struggles especially after losing the closest person he’d ever been to—in such a tangible way that I couldn’t help but wish for something better for him as he lurches from a project to another just to get by.

Racer and Georgiana do sort of make a believable pair, but it’s one that is solidified by constant arguing and banter—if that’s what could be considered the cornerstone of a relationship, because along with the taunts, so does the sexual tension mount along with them. Yet I was still caught by surprise when they fell into bed, because I didn’t think they liked each other enough for it. That part happened somewhat suddenly, though the conflict between their ‘social class’ was something I could sniff out a mile away. And as a little too neatly wrapped up as the end was, Quinn did have me rooting for them after all, because I was mostly invested in the both of them from the start.

three-stars

Elusive by L.A. Fiore

Posted in Action/Adventure/ Contemporary Romance/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 26th July 2017
Elusive by L.A. FioreElusive by L.A. Fiore
Series: Shipwreck #1
Published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform on July 21st 2017
Pages: 253
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two-stars

I didn’t set out to be a pirate.Life for me was about surviving the ugliness that people knew existed but didn’t talk about. I lived in hell. Then I saw her. I knew I couldn’t keep her, but for just a little while I had found heaven. Eight years later, I can’t get her out of my head. It is a mistake sailing to her island. It is a mistake reaching out to her. She doesn’t recognize me. Or maybe she does. Closure, it is all I’m after. Then my past comes back to haunt me. She’s thrust into my ruthless world. An angel. A romantic who has a journal that leads to a shipwreck and a lost treasure. She’s wants to find the ending to a love story that is over two hundred years in the making. I want to help her find it. I didn’t set out to be a pirate.I didn’t set out to fall in love with an angel. I did both anyway.

A modern-day pirate story is as rare as the treasures found deep on the sea floor these days. ‘Elusive’’s blurb doesn’t reveal that much, but it was enough to draw me into a book that I honestly thought I would have liked better. It’s my first L.A. Fiore book in any case, and I hadn’t a clue what to expect.

Much of the first half traces separate lives and timelines of the 2 protagonists and it was done well and believably enough for me to get into the brutal world that Noah/Kace had grown up in as opposed to the relatively sheltered life that Willow led. The journey after their meeting however, meandered through several other scenes which I assume continued to chart their separate development as individuals, right up to the point where they met again.

I wondered where the initial lack of focus on them as a couple was going to lead, and found it equally difficult to buy into their story when they finally met and came together for the second time. There was of course, the obvious parallel of an 18th century man’s love for his young wife that was drawn here, though I wasn’t as enthusiastic about Noach’s and Willow’s love story than I was with the action and the suspense that naturally come with treasure hunting and adventure diving.

That latter part, I enjoyed a lot more, and it was more the characterisation than the action, that I struggled with. Noah and Willow were, for the lack of a better word, hard to pin down, blowing hot and cold, rational and sometimes irrational as far as the crow flew.

Based only on an impulsive night 8 years ago—memories do fade and rose-tinting does come into play—Willow’s infatuation somehow grew into love as she had added naive romanticism as a layer on top of it. In the present, Willow acknowledged herself that she’d built up a ‘pirate ideal’ in her head, then superimposed it onto the hardened man she saw later—a man who frankly, treated her callously in ways he only knew how to.

In fact, Noah’s affection for Willow seemed to have extended only to lust, and that selfish tinge of him putting money and his ragtag crew first didn’t convince me that he actually loved her as much as she’d loved him. But Willow—for all her naïveté—did have to grow up somehow, the hard way and I’m glad that Fiore charted her transformation more carefully than Noah.

In all, it’s a story of characters who definitely live unapologetically on the wrong side of the law—don’t read this if you want your men upright and full of integrity—and where amoral decisions rule. Most of all though, I had a hard time suspending my disbelief throughout and that pretty much summed the whole experience up for me.

two-stars

Falling Fast by Kaylea Cross

Posted in Action/Adventure/ Contemporary Romance/ Mystery/Crime/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 27th January 2017
Falling Fast by Kaylea CrossFalling Fast by Kaylea Cross
Series: DEA FAST #1
Published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform on January 18th 2017
Pages: 170
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three-stars

She's putting herself in harm's way to make a difference. Having grown up in a household of elite, overprotective male Marines, Charlie Colebrook is savoring her hard won independence and avoiding a serious relationship that could tie her down. As a computer forensics expert for the DEA she might be a civilian rather than an agent, but she's far from helpless, and she's hungry to prove herself. So when her boss asks her to take on a dangerous undercover assignment that could expose the key money launderer for the biggest, and most lethal drug cartel in the Western hemisphere, Charlie seizes her chance. There's just one catch: the man assigned as her partner is the only man she wants...and he won't settle for less than everything she has to give. Now he's the only one who stands between her and a ruthless cartel. DEA Special Agent Jamie Rodriguez has tried like hell to ignore the explosive chemistry he has with Charlie. Not simply because she's his best friend's sister-but because with her, he wants all or nothing. As a member of the agency's elite FAST Bravo unit, he's got the skill and experience to keep her safe. Now that he's assigned to protect her on this op, he'll do it at all costs, even if she tempts him as no other woman ever has. But the final op tests them both to the breaking point, and when things go to hell, it will take everything they've got to survive the deadly trap set for them.

Kaylea Cross does manage a pretty good transition (read: hooks) from the Colebrook siblings trilogy by setting up the unresolved tension between Jamie Rodriguez and Charlie Colebrook. But I’m treading cautiously here, even though the start of the DEA Fast series has made me wonder about several aspects of the RS genre that Cross tends to overuse.

I do have some questions that are yet unanswered, or at least some questions that this books can’t quite answer yet. Thus far, this series hasn’t shown itself to be any different (apart from the focus on drugs and cartels as opposed to the terrorist/hostage angle) from the previous HRT series and her characters do, at the moment, look rather interchangeable, as are the high stakes situations and the burst of explosive danger that they tend to get themselves in before one party will realise his/her feelings. The writing style is classic Cross as well: with particular phrases that do find themselves repeated through her series of books, as is the similarity it bears to Katie Reus’s writing.

But I must admit that the premise for the pairing did seem rather ridiculous to me: hiring an untrained civilian for undercover, then going undercover with Jamie as a ‘neighbour’ seemed far-fetched, as is the role-reversal option of having the woman being the commitment-phobic one.

Maybe this series will grow on me…but who knows?

three-stars

The Goal by Elle Kennedy

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Sports 14th December 2016
The Goal by Elle KennedyThe Goal by Elle Kennedy
Series: Off-Campus, #4
Published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform on September 26th 2016
Pages: 319
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two-stars

She’s good at achieving her goals…
College senior Sabrina James has her whole future planned out: graduate from college, kick butt in law school, and land a high-paying job at a cutthroat firm. Her path to escaping her shameful past certainly doesn’t include a gorgeous hockey player who believes in love at first sight. One night of sizzling heat and surprising tenderness is all she’s willing to give John Tucker, but sometimes, one night is all it takes for your entire life to change.
But the game just got a whole lot more complicated
Tucker believes being a team player is as important as being the star. On the ice, he’s fine staying out of the spotlight, but when it comes to becoming a daddy at the age of twenty-two, he refuses to be a bench warmer. It doesn’t hurt that the soon-to-be mother of his child is beautiful, whip-smart, and keeps him on his toes. The problem is, Sabrina’s heart is locked up tight, and the fiery brunette is too stubborn to accept his help. If he wants a life with the woman of his dreams, he’ll have to convince her that some goals can only be made with an assist.

Sabrina James and John Tucker is a pairing I didn’t think I’d come across, but then Elle Kennedy is adventurous that way and writes a believable relationship between a mismatched pair by the time their HEA rolls around.

Kennedy can always be counted on to give the down and dirty side of the college hookup culture, or rather, the subculture that’s more concerned with parties, casual relationships and the good life apart from studies. ‘The Goal’, like the rest of her series, revolves more around off-campus activities and the way jocks and the girls meander their way down to love after they start from lust and playing the field with a multitude of people. There is quite an overlap with book 2 and while I can’t exactly remember the details of it, it definitely works as a standalone.

While it did get a little shallow for my liking with my inability to really connect with the romantic leads at all, in truth, I was waiting for the holding pattern that these 2 college kids have gotten going, to fall apart. When it finally happened, I was gleeful to see Tucker’s and Sabrina’s ordered worlds collapsed with the introduction of a factor neither had thought about. Consequently, the last quarter of the book was the most interesting but also the most frustrating to read, as Sabrina alternated between self-recrimination and holding onto her pride about needing no one while Tucker reminisced fondly about staying with his old roommates with the constant stream of girls coming around. While I appreciated how the realism of their on-off, undefined relationship made for the long, slow journey to their happy end, it did drag a little too long for my liking.

Kennedy’s writing style is engaging albeit with very very crude college humour that hasn’t quite passed into wit yet and it’s probably a book for those who really appreciate all the tropes in New Adult sports romances: unapologetic, no holds barred types of hookups instead of relationships (thereby upping the body count as much as possible), with most of the characters going happily about bumping uglies with whomever they can whenever they feel like it, until something momentous happens to flip it all into blissful monogamy. Still, Kennedy nails the tone for this genre, filled with innuendoes that can be cringe-worthy and sometimes, amusing banter that goes nowhere, yet captures the mental state of this particular group of young adults who try to be grown up yet sometimes painfully fall short of it.

two-stars

Managed by Kristen Callihan

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ New Adult/ Reviews 5th December 2016
Managed by Kristen CallihanManaged by Kristen Callihan
Series: VIP #2
Published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform on November 14th 2016
Pages: 348
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one-star

It started off as a battle of wits. Me: the ordinary girl with a big mouth against Him: the sexy bastard with a big...ego.
I thought I’d hit the jackpot when I was upgraded to first class on my flight to London.
That is until HE sat next to me. Gabriel Scott: handsome as sin, cold as ice. Nothing and no one gets to him. Ever. He’s a legend in his own right, the manager of the biggest rock band in the world, and an arrogant ass who looks down his nose at me.
I thought I’d give him hell for one, long flight. I didn’t expect to like him. I didn’t expect to want him. But the biggest surprise? He wants me too. Only in a way I didn’t see coming.
If I accept his proposal, I leave myself open to falling for the one man I can’t manage. But I’m tempted to say yes. Because the real man beneath those perfect suits and that cool façade just might be the best thing that’s ever happened to me. And I just might be the only one who can melt the ice around his heart.
Let the battle begin…

I got as far as the first chapter, only to think that I was probably better off not finishing the book.

It was impossible to get past that crazy, annoying woman – and I don’t mean this kindly – who engaged a stranger in inane, nonsensical talk, then climbed all over him in a first-class seat, unbuttoning his shirt while supposedly helping him counter his fear of flying. Not only could I not find this believable, but the term ‘harassment’ actually came to mind, when her apparent ‘cuteness’ wasn’t something I could even think of as endearing.

Some books just rub you the wrong way and in a direction that’s contrary to the great reviews they have garnered. ‘Managed’ is one of those. Clearly not a book for me at all.

one-star

Words I Couldn’t Say by Tessa Teevan

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Young Adult 28th November 2016
Words I Couldn’t Say by Tessa TeevanWords I Couldn't Say by Tessa Teevan
Series: Promise in Prose #1
Published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform on November 2nd 2016
Pages: 215
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three-stars

You know the old adage "if you love something, set it free?" It's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. The dumbest thing I've ever done. I loved her. I lost her. Hell, I let her go. And then spent five miserable years without her. To cope with the loss, I put pen to paper and wrote her a love story, knowing when she was ready she'd hear the words I couldn't say all those years ago. Turned out, not only would she hear them, but when Hollywood came calling, I made sure she got the lead role. After all, no one else could portray the character whom she'd inspired. Now she's within arms' reach and finally, she'll know the truth in my heart. Because that other cliche, "Actions speak louder than words?" I'm going to prove it. My words may have brought Ava Banks back into my life; I have to be enough to make her stay."

There’s something sweet about the boy (or the girl) next door type stories, but now with a bit more than the teenage angst thrown in. Gun-shy now, Tucker Manning’s hesitation when wanting to move forward with Ava Banks is understandable as he keeps his eyes on the present. Afraid to plan for a future, it’s up to Ava to convince him that she is worthy of her trust after an incident five years ago derailed their plans to have the romance that’s just like Jeremy’s and Sierra’s.

So the Banks family returns in all its glory and I’d never been happier.

It did take a while for me to start this story because it’s a preference of mine to keep brilliant pairings frozen in time so that they’ll be remembered for their perfection, and I’m glad I succumbed. As odd as it is to read about a fantastic pairing all grown up with children who are now falling in love, I loved the little inserts of Sierra’s and Jeremy’s ever-lasting affection for each other as seen from their children’s eyes; they’re just as hilarious now as they had been even after they’ve settled into married bliss and raising their children while still starry-eyed in love.

Yet my love-hate relationship with second chances rears its ugly head again when my trigger response is to root for the wronged party. As much as I liked Ava admitting the stupid blunder she’d made by giving Tucker up, I detested the platitudes that came after that regret was expressed—that time apart was perhaps a necessity—because it felt as tough excuses were simply made for a mistake that should be fully owned up to. But hard, cynical and jaded as I am, I actually felt that Tucker was too easy on Ava, a girl who’d essentially walked away and stayed away without the least bit of empathy for the dire family situation he’d found himself in. That he seemed to find himself in a position where he needed to hunt her down made me feel as though he deserved better, but it was gratifying to learn that Ava—despite several TSTL moments—did seem genuinely determined not to let Tucker go again.

There is much to like about Ava/Tucker nevertheless—their devotion to each other mirrors Jeremy’s and Sierra’s stalwart relationship—but don’t quite hold a candle to the latter still. But as I’ve written in several reviews: it’s probably just me.

three-stars

Fusion by Tessa Teevan

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Young Adult 19th November 2016
Fusion by Tessa TeevanFusion by Tessa Teevan
Series: Explosive #5
Published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform on November 7th 2015
Pages: 348
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four-stars

Where do babies come from? The question every parent dreads hearing has finally fallen from the lips of six year old Ava Banks, the curious, precocious little girl that you fell in love with in Ignite. Jeremy and Sierra, normally blunt as can be, struggle to find the right words to answer her. So instead, they rewind sixteen years to that one fateful day where a game of Seven Minutes in Heaven inevitably led to life-long romance filled with laughter, love, and many, many mishaps along the way. Falling in love with your best friend? It's the most incredible thing in the world. Let's just hope it lasts. When the world comes crashing down around you, can even the strongest relationship withstand great tragedy? Stay tuned for lots of laughs, teenage awkwardness, a few tears, and most of all, mullets. Because what good love story doesn't do business in the front, and party in the back?

The high school, low-angst read of a couple that never wavers is a gratingly sweet one, albeit a fun one considering the trip down memory lane down the 90s. Jeremy’s and Sierra’s story is akin to finding out the bumps along the way of the couple you’ve always known to be the solid, unwavering one and ‘Fusion’ is pretty much that: a toothache-inducing one where declarations of love and solid friendship ground a relationship that keeps growing and changing throughout the years. The boy/girl next door story however, is quite the understated one as well and I definitely can appreciate how Teevan makes the case for the ordinary guy/girl without needing him or her to be a military hero or a highly talented billionaire or a rockstar prodigy of music to shine…and without vengeful ex-lovers complicating matters.

I’m sort of a little torn about this however; their story, despite the obstacles, felt like a straight line in a narrative that was entirely too predictable (I’d lost count of the declarative ways and metaphors one can wax lyrical about how constant their love is for each other) even though pairings such as theirs are extremely hard to come by and practically unheard of a genre that thrives on extremes at times. But there’s so much to like as well: the fidelity of pledging themselves to each other for years and then following through on it, the gradual growth where friendship turns into attraction and the way they start behaving like their own parents (!) when they finally have their own children.

Having read ‘Ignite’ so long ago and not followed up through the series, perhaps it’s time to reread that once again…through the lens of this crazy, constant couple.

four-stars
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