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Wound Tight by Tessa Bailey

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Erotica/ Netgalley/ Reviews 14th November 2016
Wound Tight by Tessa BaileyWound Tight by Tessa Bailey
Series: Made in Jersey #4
Published by Entangled: Brazen on December 5th 2016
Pages: 162
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three-stars

When CEO Renner Bastion walks into a room, everyone keeps their distance. Well, everyone but the sarcastic, tattooed, Boston-bred security guard whose presence has kept Renner in New Jersey longer than intended. As if the unwanted attraction isn’t unsettling enough, Renner finds out his protector isn’t as unavailable as originally thought.
Milo Bautista just came out to his wealthy, ultra-confident boss, a man he secretly respects and admires…in more ways than he’ll admit. Worldly, experienced Renner would never look in his direction, let alone share some of that confidence he wears like a cloak, so Milo has set his sights on someone else to be his first.
Until Renner offers him private lessons in seduction...

Seldom do I venture into M/M territory but when I do, the stories have never failed to disappoint me. Tessa Bailey’s first M/M story surprised me and yet didn’t, in so many ways, and because I’ve always hankered after Renner Bastion’s story, I was curious to see how he’ll close the entire ‘Made in Jersey’ series with his own HEA.

But I never quite expected him to be paired with the unlikeliest of guys: the ex-military security guard who isn’t too sure if he likes women or men, or both, until Renner shows him the possibilities and helps cement what Milo Bautista needs. Hence, Bailey’s road to their HEA is a convoluted path of discovering boundaries, class, sexuality and identity, even if it’s not as fluid as she makes it out to be. There are in essence, lessons to be learnt, hot sex to get past and well, world enough and time for lust to turn to love, even if I’m not entirely sure how that switch was made.

As with every Bailey book, there’s always some kind of exaggeration and contortionist sex as characters suddenly spill their dirtiest talk while getting down hot and dirty. Honestly, it made me laugh at times when I try to imagine how it all goes down (pun fully intended), but for some reason, Renner/Milo made it a tad more believable than the previous pairings in this series. The happiest of epilogue is probably found here as well, with a hilariously teasing ending line for the readers…that is, HEAs will prevail up until their progeny begins the cycle of angst all over again.

three-stars

Make Me Stay by Rebecca Brooks

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews 4th October 2016
Make Me Stay by Rebecca BrooksMake Me Stay by Rebecca Brooks
Series: Men of Gold Mountain #1
Published by Entangled: Brazen on October 3rd 2016
Pages: 170
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three-stars

Samantha Kane is about to solidify her father's legacy by developing sleepy Gold Mountain into the most profitable ski resort in the country. There's one man standing in her way though. One very sexy, rugged man. When she shows up to convince Austin Reede to sell, she has no intention of hiding her identity. But with a body like his, she'll take a few risks to get closer.
Austin was the fastest skier on the U.S. Olympic team, until he shattered his knee. Gold Mountain became his refuge—and now Kane Enterprises is threatening that home. When he meets Sam, he has no idea she's the one to blame, he just knows the attraction between them is one he hasn't felt in years. A scorching hot one-night stand is just what he needs. Little does he guess that it will change everything…

‘Make Me Stay’ is quite unlike any other Brazen book I’ve come across before. It’s written in a style that’s more literary and wordy than usual, flowingly descriptive especially when it comes to skiing and the landscape though sometimes awkward in incorporating the steamy scenes between Sam and Austin. But there’s no denying Rebecca Brooks wields that much power over language and that is the book’s standout feature. We’re given a comprehensive layout of Gold Mountain, the sense of why it’s so precious to the folks who live there and the differing visions Austin and Sam have for the beautiful area.

Yet it is possibly, also an unwitting tool of distancing her characters who move around and speak like the dramatis personae rattling on stage, separated by physical and emotional space. And frankly, I’m still undecided about that, simply because I’m having a hard time rooting for Sam and Austin (more the former though), whose short-lived affair seemed more like a blunder without any real connection forged between them than any real thing based on respect and truth.

It wasn’t hard to like Austin as the man who was understandably cautious in making new trails for himself after a nightmare of a past, but I couldn’t say the same about the ice-cold, very alpha and uncompromising Sam who thought about everything in terms of a business transaction, even as she plotted to take over Austin’s property while planning for their night together. A lot of the book is carried by Sam’s deceptive plans and her ulterior motive and this casts her in a very unforgiving light. But she shows sufficient intelligence in admitting her mistakes towards the end even if I thought she hadn’t quite done enough to repair the broken trust between her and Austin; their HEA is as a result, swift and well, a little abrupt to be satisfying.

Brooks however, has done up a cast of secondary characters I’m already interested in and this series is shaping up to be something I’m going to keep my eye on.

three-stars

Breaking Him by Sherilee Gray

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Erotica/ Netgalley/ New Adult/ Reviews 23rd August 2016
Breaking Him by Sherilee GrayBreaking Him by Sherilee Gray
on September 5th 2016
Pages: 128
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five-stars

Folks in town call him a monster—say he’s dangerous. But I know him simply as Elijah Hays, the quiet, gentle giant who works with the horses on my ranch. I can feel him watching me, that steady intense gaze making me crave things I don’t quite understand, burn in a way that frightens me. He’s always kept his distance…until that night.
I remember him coming to my rescue, me following him into the barn, giving him his first taste of a woman, and his inexperienced yet barely reined touch turning me to ash.
Now all I can think about is exposing the dark desire I see deep inside him—having him turn those dark desires on me. That low, gritty voice rasping orders in my ear. Those huge, rough hands holding me down when a storm blows in.
I want his surrender. His control. I want to break him…and have him break me…

‘Breaking Him’ is excellent example of erotica: lushly sensual and deeply evocative, with writing so seductive that it encloses you in a bubble where only the lead characters exist as they dance around, then feast the hell out of each other. The setting is incongruous, the background almost bland – small, gossipy town that’s close-minded and isolated – and the storyline simple, so as to put the spotlight on the heaving breaths of the couple in question.

Seen through only Abigail’s POV, we learn so much about Eli and unlike many single POV stories, this one holds nothing back and remarkably steers of clichéd-ridden moments that are often associated with fictional ‘first times’. Eli is a rare breed (pun fully intended, seeing as he’s the horse whisperer with a sultry, dark side that gets all wheels turning), an intriguing alpha who’s also a virgin, which should have raised some scepticism in me but didn’t, thanks to Gray’s fantastic portrayal of a formerly abused boy who’s had to grow up in the shadow of vicious gossip. I liked the dark undercurrent that Gray talks about and how it appears when his and Abigail’s relationship started to change, all the while keeping the wonderful, untested but changing dynamics between them. Until it all ignites spectacularly, of course, helped along by the tinder that’s their blistering foreplay, served with a bit of kink on the side.

It’s a wonderful surprise every time a book surpasses my expectations and never more so for ‘Breaking Him’ because erotica should ultimately offer something beyond blistering, explicit sex scenes. This book does and does so with such style that I can’t help but want more.

five-stars

Playing by Her Rules by Amy Andrews

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Erotica/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Sports 20th July 2016
Playing by Her Rules by Amy AndrewsPlaying By Her Rules by Amy Andrews
Series: Sydney Smoke Rugby, #1
Published by Entangled: Brazen on July 11th 2016
Pages: 160
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three-stars

When style columnist Matilda Kent accidentally lets slip that she was once involved with the captain of the Sydney Smoke rugby team, she suddenly finds herself elevated to the position she’s always wanted – feature writer. The catch? She’s stuck doing a six-part series on her ex. Still, there’s no way she can turn down a promotion…or the chance to dish the dirt on the guy who so callously broke her heart.

Tanner Stone wants to be involved in a feature series about as much as he wants to snap an Achilles. But the thought of seeing Tilly again is a bonus—and has him more worked up than he wants to admit. Only he’s not prepared for how different she is – all cool and professional. His Tilly is still in there, though…and he still wants her, now more than ever. All he has to do is charm her into giving him a rematch. And this time, winner takes all!

For such a short read, Amy Andrews has gotten me taking sides here.

It’s what Tanner Stone did with a girl he’d loved – to place himself on a side where she’d hate him – all because he wanted to follow her dreams. Their second chance comes again when Matilda Kent places her career on the line for a 6-part feature on him and it’s exactly what Tanner needs when he decides he wants her again.

I think the bigger issue here which I felt really strongly about, was the idea of choices and whether any individual has a right to take them away from those they care about, as well-meaning (and foolish) as they can be.

Contrary to so many opinions on Tanner’s sweetness, what I found problematic was my inability to get a grasp on who Tanner really was. He simply came across as a flaky guy and I couldn’t help but see his actions simply as calculated moves to get Matilda back and into bed. Only after that first meeting in years did he realise how much he missed her – an explanation I can’t buy into easily, simply because he could have tried a lot harder in the years separating them had he really wanted her. Instead, we’re told that he moved on easily after lying to her for her own good, didn’t really think about the repercussions of his actions, then swanned around with different women as he got famous in his rugby career.

Yet the moment Matilda opened her mouth to bait Tanner, I adored her, her gumption, her own need for self-respect and felt every bit of her hurt when Tanner inadvertently took away her choices years ago without meaning to. As always, there are both sides of the argument given here, but I didn’t quite appreciate Matilda’s grandmother defending Tanner’s thoughtless deed like it was nothing – teenagers after all, do remember the scars and hurts way long after they’ve grown up and putting down the extent of the hurt diminished the impact of teenage decisions and but also felt like an easy cop-out for the story’s quick resolution and HEA.

I did think that the brevity of the story did short-change it a little; a rushed ending and Matilda’s sudden change of heart did seem too easy for me (unless I’ve suddenly become a grudge-holding crone) but because an HEA is always needed, who am I to question it?

three-stars

One Week to Score by Kate Meader

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Erotica/ Netgalley/ Reviews 3rd July 2016
One Week to Score by Kate MeaderOne Week to Score by Kate Meader
Series: ,
Published by Entangled: Brazen on July 11th 2016
Pages: 154
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two-stars

He’s the man she loves to hate…
Olivia Kane’s wedding day has just imploded spectacularly. Shots lined up at the bar? Bring it. Hot stranger on the hook? Come on down. What this party does not need is six feet and change of home-grown Texas cockiness in the form of her brother’s best friend, the man who broke her heart seven years ago.She’s the woman he has to have…
Flynn Cross won’t stand by while Liv finds sensual solace in the arms of a stranger, not when his own hard-for-her body is more than up for the task. For one week, he’ll make her honeymoon-for-one a sizzling party for two.
Breaking the rules, one steamy night at a time…
But the taboo they’re breaking is only the beginning…and Flynn’s part in Liv’s wedding debacle could bring about their end.

Manwhore alert: the only factor I hadn’t expected in my impatient wait for Olivia and Flynn’s story and that unfortunately, proved a huge stumbling block in my overall enjoyment of the story. But when I spent more time grimacing than feeling the tingles going through the pages, I thought that I really had a problem here, both with my own personal gripes as well with a questionable male lead character who’ve accomplished nothing to convince me of his ability to be what the female lead deserves after all he’d done to her.

‘One Week to Score’ is Olivia’s and Flynn’s story, a brother’s best friend trope that I still salivate over despite the numerous incarnations of it I’ve torn through. There’s sizzling tension, hot sex, and Kate Meader doesn’t waste any time getting down and dirty the moment – courtesy of the Brazen imprint – as Olivia and Flynn shrug off the shackles of family and a fiasco of a wedding that never happened for a week in Mexico.

I’m beyond disappointed to say this one tried my patience sorely because I was all the more so, after the previous book, eagerly waiting for their story. It was near impossible to like Flynn, who, for all his proclamations about always wanting Olivia, did everything otherwise to show it. Selfish and cowardly with a penchant for going off the bend and screwing everything that moves each time some obstacle is thrown in his way, I found very little redeeming qualities in him – especially the one where he just can’t man up – when he finally decides to proposition Olivia under the pretense of being her blatant sex-rebound toy. That he’d thrown his history with Olivia away for seven years somehow made it even more unforgivable. And perhaps this is an issue with pacing, but I thought the speed at which Olivia/Flynn reconciled was way too fast for me as though shrugging off their complicated past by the end of the book was nothing more than a flick away of lint from the shoulder.

Dissatisfied, I went to bed, tossed around a little and tried to see if morning would give me some perspective. I’m sad to say it hasn’t. Just typing this review is difficult, made even more so because I actually like Meader’s smart-alecky writing and the quirky way her characters think and behave. This one’s simply a blip that I’m already trying to forget.

two-stars

Foolproof Love by Katee Robert

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Erotica/ Reviews 7th June 2016
Foolproof Love by Katee RobertFoolproof Love by Katee Robert
Series: Foolproof Love, #1
Published by Entangled: Brazen on June 6th 2016
Pages: 164
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three-stars

Bull rider Adam Meyer put Devil’s Falls in his rearview mirror years ago and hasn’t stopped running since. Now he’s back—temporarily, if he has any say about it. Restless, he finds himself kissing the sexiest girl in town…and agreeing to be the fake boyfriend in her little revenge scheme.
Jules Rodrigez isn’t interested in the role of town spinster. Being seen with a hell raiser like Adam is the perfect way to scandalize the residents, make her ex jealous, and prove she’s a sexy, desirable woman. And if their plan includes ridiculously hot sex—in public, of course—all the better.
But this thing between them has an expiration date. Putting down roots isn’t in Adam’s blood, and Jules’s roots in Devil’s Falls are bedrock deep. He’ll leave, even if it rips out his heart. But this time, he’s not sure he’ll survive it…

Katee Roberts had me hooked the moment I saw the words ‘cat cafe’ – it’s an unfair advantage over me if anyone cares to know, especially when cats come into the equation.

There and then, I was convinced that the woman who owns it can do no wrong even before really starting the book. On a side-note, the man didn’t seem too bad either, once the fake relationship started getting on. Jules Rodriguez proved a standout character for me: her sunny optimism, the unfailing love for her small town and friends rendering her a very likeable character along with her anti-social best friend whose combative set up with Quinn already promises an intriguing sequel. Adam Meyer, on the other hand, isn’t too much of a slouch either, even if his restless wanderlust can’t seem to be conquered by anything else other than a large, bucking creature as wild as him.

For all its quirky characters and small-town antics, ‘Foolproof Love’ isn’t an unpredictable read. It begins with an impulsive act, a fake relationship with the town’s tumbleweed to toss off the tosser of an ex, heads towards the disaster you know it will become and how it will eventually end. I did take issue with the really quick turnaround after Jules’s and Adam’s falling out, but it’s a story that still managed to work beyond the frame of their relationship. A distinct highlight of the book is its well-crafted supporting characters that step in and out as mouthpieces and flashes of the past and ‘Foolproof Love’ does it well enough to make me want the next few books in the series immediately.

three-stars

His Fantasy Bride by Nina Croft

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews 6th June 2016
His Fantasy Bride by Nina CroftHis Fantasy Bride by Nina Croft
Series: Things to Do Before You Die, #3
Published by Entangled: Brazen on July 11th 2016
Pages: 148
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one-star

I can’t marry you. You don’t love me.

Two sentences, that’s all Gabrielle Harper left Vito D’Ascensio when she vanished the night before their wedding. If he wants his bride back, he’s going to have to hunt her down and prove his love. But when he searches for Gabrielle, he finds Gabby instead; it seems his perfect bride is nothing but a fantasy.

After six months, Gabby presumes it’s over, an episode in her life she’s totally ashamed of. But now Vito is back. He’s the one man she can never have, but as desire explodes between them, she has a tough time remembering why they shouldn’t be together. Oh, right, her family hates him, and he’s done terrible things. Or has he? But it doesn’t matter. When he finds out the truth about who she really is…he’ll never want to see her again.

It took a sinking ship for three friends to reevaluate their lives and their questionably decision making and in Vito D’Ascensio’s case, it was simply to go after a woman – who’d left him – to prove his love. Unbeknownst to him, Gabrielle Harper had merely been playing a part in an elaborate ruse to get close to Vito to solve several family problems of her own.

Unfortunately, ‘His fantasy bride’ is yet another case of a pairing that I didn’t like at all mainly because of the female protagonist who demonstrated every trait I despise in a romantic heroine: lying, yet playing the victim, cowardly to the very end but self-aware enough to know better yet not do anything differently. It was difficult to accept how this particular ‘relationship’ was built on Vito’s earnest wooing and Gabby’s unconscionable conduct: the constant monologue of hers that ran along the lines of not deserving him simply got tired and hypocritical when she never seemed to go anything about it anyway. Her selfish, unthinking behaviour – somehow it’d never occurred to her that a man as Vito would have taken her actions as a betrayal of the highest order – was beyond galling, enough to make me skim through the book. I thought Vito truly deserved way better than a poorly conceived character like her and I found myself consistently wishing that he’d in fact moved past her after her first deception.

Which probably means, I’d completely lost it by then.

I’ve had better read, sad to say; if not for the hero whom I actually liked, I think I would have simply not finished the book at all.

one-star
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