Publisher: CreateSpace

I Bet You by Ilsa Madden-Mills

I Bet You by Ilsa Madden-MillsI Bet You by Ilsa Madden-Mills
Series: The Hook Up #2
Published by CreateSpace, Createspace Independent Publishing Platform on 29th October 2018
Pages: 209
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two-stars

Sexy Athlete: I bet you…Penelope Graham: Burn in hell, quarterback.

The text is random but Penelope figures out exactly who “Sexy Athlete” is. And why she shouldn't take his wager.

Ryker Voss. Football star. Walks on water and God's gift to women.Just ask him.

His bet? He promises Penelope he’ll win her the heart of the guy she’s been crushing on. His plan—good old-fashioned jealousy. Once her crush sees her kissing Ryker, he'll realize what he's missing. Sounds legit, right? The only question is…why is Ryker being so nice to her?

Penelope Graham. Virgin. Lover of sparkly vampires and calculus. His mortal enemy.

Penelope knows she shouldn’t trust a jock, but what’s a girl to do when she needs a date to Homecoming? And Ryker’s keeping a secret, another bet, one that could destroy Penelope’s heart forever.

Will the quarterback score the good girl or will his secrets mean everyone loses this game of love?

‘I Bet You’ started off as a mixture of odd and affected, with the protagonists acting like they’ve been pretending at being something that they’re not at first. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but the high-school-type narrative—admittedly one that I wasn’t expecting at all—complete with the sorority/frat house bitch-testosterone kind of vibe was off-putting at first.

Then again, this is can probably be attributed to my growing wariness and intolerance of the N/A genre, particularly when hormonal characters are still driven by their lustful instincts, which I didn’t expect ‘I Bet You’ to be.

Add the virgin-player trope to it and I was questioning my decision to read this halfway through, but I pushed on because some reviews had suggested that this wasn’t a story that entirely stuck straight to stereotypes and an all-too-predictable ending.

Unfortunately, this didn’t fare all too well for me. Penelope at first glance, came off as flighty and insecure while trying to be spunky. Her somewhat archaic ideas coming from her bodice-ripper mind—losing her mind every single time Ryker came near, blowing hot and cold—felt even more out of place for a N/A virgin heroine who somehow managed to ensnare the usual manwhore quarterback (apparently 4 months of no-sex is a great accomplishment to laud), whose interest in someone-not-his-type seemed inexplicable.

Essentially, much of the entire book had to do with confusing game-playing (and not just in the field), hedging, chasing and pushing. What also felt like bits of the historical-romance genre sensibilities had crept into the story and threw me off quite badly because of how incongruous these were considering the college setting. By the end of it, I still found it hard to buy into a pairing which I thought could have ended up colouring outside the lines of these well-worn tropes but ultimately didn’t.

two-stars

Bro Code by Kendall Ryan

Bro Code by Kendall RyanBro Code by Kendall Ryan
Published by CreateSpace on 1st May 2018
Pages: 183
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three-half-stars

There’s pretty much only one rule when you’re a guy.

Don’t be a douche.

Turns out, the fastest way to break that rule is to fall for your best friend’s sister.

Ava’s brilliant, sharp-tongued, gorgeous, and five years younger than me.

She’s the sexual equivalent of running with scissors. In a word, she’s dangerous. And completely off-limits.

Falling for her could ruin everything.

Yet I can’t seem to stop, even when her company is threatened by a lawsuit, and my promotion hinges on representing the opposing client—and winning.

I can’t see a way out of this mess that doesn’t end in a broken friendship, a broken heart, or a ruined career.

I may have broken the bro code when I fell for Ava. But do I have the balls to handle what comes next?

Sometimes I forget how satisfying it can be to read a straightforward, mutual-want-with-lust story, big brother’s sister or not.

In truth, I don’t understand the ‘bro code’ that’s laid out like the holy grail in romance—why shouldn’t the brother’s best friend or the best friend’s brother or some other permutation like this be off-limits, particularly he’s a decent guy? The only reason I can see this being frowned upon is if the man in question is a degenerate, senseless moron, in which case, merely reflects badly on the person who’s laid out the code in the first place, for even calling said moron a friend.

But that’s the only gripe I have for Kendall Ryan’s ‘Bro Code’. Bewildered as I was by all the sneaking around, Barrett felt like a decent protagonist who had a tiny bit of admiration for his best friend’s sister, who wants him back. Despite their divergent lives, the development of their relationship from awkward door greeting to the bed seemed believable as well, with a level-headed heroine who did seem to know what she was doing despite being 5 years younger. (This age difference doesn’t even register on my scale)

The clichéd big penis business (condom have to be mail ordered because normal ones won’t fit) that made the book more porn-y however, made me wince. Playing to the bigger is better stereotype, this was probably one of those times that wasn’t necessary—I didn’t need convincing about Barrett’s ding dong and Ava’s waxing lyrical over it.

In all, a decent easy read, low on the angst, perfect for a lazy afternoon.

three-half-stars

Summer’s Road by Kelly Moran

Summer’s Road by Kelly MoranSummer's Road by Kelly Moran
Published by CreateSpace on April 5th 2016
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two-stars

Perhaps her true love was always there, waiting...
After her father's death, Summer Quinn is alone in the world. With no family to fill the void, she finds comfort among friends. But her boyfriend wants to take their relationship to the next level, and suddenly there's an unexpected attraction building between her and her best friend, Ian Memmer--a man who's never settled for one woman. And now her estranged mother has reappeared. As secrets from her family's past and Ian's true feelings emerge, she's faced with choices she's not sure she can make. Happiness hinges on forgiveness and opening herself to love, even if it's not where she expected to find it.
Top Review Pick from Night Owl Reviews & The Romance Reviews!*A stand-alone novel with a HEA*

Read loosely as a bildungsroman, ‘Summer’s Road’ is a fantastic take on a woman’s growing up journey and the tight, transformative bonds of friendship which weathered every obstacle; as a romance however, I’m not sure it succeeded.

Summer Quinn is a sharply-drawn character, nuanced and so multi-layered that I can’t help but like her and the very real struggle she faces in reconciling passion, commitment and love.

Yet there are lines of friendship that shouldn’t be crossed and I cringed yet soldiered on when the book walked right over them, particularly the cheating aspect that I couldn’t quite stomach, as procrastination and contemplation gave way to selfishness and stupidity. As the story progressed, I was more and more convinced – and I’m fully aware that I’ve got an unpopular opinion here – that Ian should have simply remained a great friend instead of a lover, because I thought he’d failed in every aspect as the latter.

Apart from bring written as the casual manwhore archetype (albeit with a more sensitive side) which I’ve always despised, it was Ian’s characterisation, as with most player types that simply convinced me of his affinity for friendship than ‘romance’. His faulty logic of sleeping around, yet hoping that the argument that all those women who ‘meant nothing’ would hold water simply because he’d ‘waited around’ for Summer to see him there never worked – and probably never would – for me. Yet if that rationale was meant to make a woman feel special, then perhaps it’s simply proof that I’ll never be able to sigh along with those who simply love to be the one who ties down the bad boy and his fervent promises of forever after finally tagging the girl he wants.

Cowardice I thought, would have been a better word to describe Ian and his romantic stance, when we’re told that he’d always known what he wanted but never had the guts to step out and do anything about it. I felt, on the contrary, for poor Matt, who didn’t deserve what he had coming to him because of 2 people’s indecision about each other.

Mixed feelings is what ‘Summer’s Road’ left me with at the very end; I appreciated the degree of development that the book dealt with, but would have been perfectly satisfied with a thorough exploration of friendship that stretched but didn’t cross boundaries.

two-stars

Flat-Out Celeste by Jessica Park

Flat-Out Celeste by Jessica ParkFlat-Out Celeste by Jessica Park
Series: Flat-Out Love, #2
Published by CreateSpace on May 22nd 2014
Pages: 336
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three-stars

For high-school senior Celeste Watkins, every day is a brutal test of bravery. And Celeste is scared. Alienated because she’s too smart, her speech too affected, her social skills too far outside the norm, she seems to have no choice but to retreat into isolation.
But college could set her free, right? If she can make it through this grueling senior year, then maybe. If she can just find that one person to throw her a lifeline, then maybe, just maybe.
Justin Milano, a college sophomore with his own set of quirks, could be that person to pull her from a world of solitude. To rescue her—that is, if she’ll let him.
Together, they may work. Together, they may save each other. And together they may also save another couple—two people Celeste knows are absolutely, positively flat-out in love.
Whether you were charmed by Celeste in Flat-Out Love or are meeting her for the first time, this book is a joyous celebration of differences, about battling private wars that rage in our heads and in our hearts, and—very much so— this is a story about first love.

I’ve always wondered what it took to plumb the maladjusted depths of Celeste. The answer, it seems, is revealed in Flat-out Celeste, the sequel to Jessica Park’s first 2 books, where Celeste finally makes her way out of high-school and into college.

But brushing off her own stiff weirdness (at least to her classmates) wasn’t something she’d given much thought to, until it becomes apparent that she’d be expected to part of the extreme social interactions of college life. The quest to reinvent herself and the attempts to do so are painfully but hilariously disastrous…and yet, at the end of the line is a boy whose flightiness and strangeness complements her own dysfunction and deliberate detachment from the world at large.

I’d adored Matt and Julie’s story (and was alarmed to find out here that it didn’t quite work out for them at all) but didn’t hesitate to pick this one up to see where it led me. But like many coming-of-age books, I’m wary of the extremes of emotional states and the exaggerations that come with the narrative. By the end of the book, I wasn’t entirely convinced about Celeste, whose particular combination of quirks has always and as I’ve just found out, still rub me the wrong way. Don’t get me wrong; there were extremely funny bits but they couldn’t outweigh the ongoing melodrama and the pseudo-teenage philosophical platitudes that kept coming in relentless waves up until she got together with Justin. And though the light at the end of the tunnel seemed to signal Celeste’s own HEA, I still found actually thinking that I wanted more of Matt and Julie – who were supposed to be peripheral characters here – in a book that wasn’t supposed to be theirs.

three-stars

Crave by Liliana Hart

Crave by Liliana HartCrave by Liliana Hart
Series: The MacKenzie Family, #11
Published by CreateSpace on March 31st 2015
Pages: 216
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two-stars

When Evangeline Lockwood witnesses the murder of a prominent politician, the killers will do everything they can to make sure she can't testify. Since Evangeline's father was once Deputy Director of the CIA, he knows just who to call to protect his only daughter—MacKenzie Security.
The last thing Cal Colter wants is to get stuck with a babysitting job, but Declan MacKenzie has assigned him the task and he has no choice but to accept. Cal especially doesn't know what to do with the quirky computer nerd who covers her lush body in baggy clothes and her stunning violet eyes behind glasses. But if Cal knows anything, it's women, and he's just as determined to peel back the layers of this unusual woman as he is to keep her alive.


Liliana Hart writes more than decently but ‘Crave’ is a disappointment in so many ways, not least because it felt like a novel with its spine and half of its narrative ripped off. There is a threadbare plot and unfinished business between 2 childhood friends, but what went wrong between them was never really addressed properly before the sexual attraction and the sex scenes took over.

How, for example, had Cal Colton always ‘loved’ Evie when he actually married another woman? The insta-love proclamations came too fast, too soon and I simply felt too frustrated with the lack of character development – let’s not even go into depth and some basic grammar and spelling mistakes that should have been eliminated in the editing process – give this book a higher rating.

‘Crave’ seems to be too overly concerned with furthering Shane Mackenzie’s story (yes, I’m impatiently waiting for that, though I’m afraid the same thing would happen with Shane’s story too) and in the process, compromised so much when it didn’t give Cal and Evie the justice and attention they deserve.

two-stars

Alive at 5 by Linda Bond

Alive at 5 by Linda BondAlive at 5 by Linda Bond
Published by CreateSpace on July 1st 2014
Pages: 298
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four-stars

TV news reporter Samantha Steele is one panic attack away from losing her job. Future on the line and cameraman in tow, she follows her mentor on an exhilarating adventure vacation. When he dies while skydiving, her investigative instincts scream “murdered”, and lead her to gorgeous thrill-seeker Zack Hunter.
Zack is an undercover police officer investigating his uncle’s death through the same adventure vacation company. Samantha is a thorn in his side the moment they meet. Not only is she investigating the same case, but the emotionally wounded loner doesn’t want another partner, especially one whose goal is to splash evidence all over the evening news. But Samantha’s persistence is quite a turn-on, and Zack’s overpowering desire makes it harder for him to push her away.
When the killer turns his attention to Zack, Samantha might be the only one who can save him, forcing the anxiety-riddled correspondent to finally face her greatest fear.


A fun, fun, fun read or a murder mystery involving an unlikely trio of an undercover cop, a reporter and her cameraman, set against a breathlessly exciting backdrop of (extreme) sports. Throw in a parachute failure, sabotage of scuba equipment, tiger sharks and sultry sexual tension and voila…an explosive mix of action, plot twists and romance that really surprised me in a good way.

four-stars