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Bride by Chocolate by Alexis Lusonne Montgomery

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews 11th December 2015
Bride by Chocolate by Alexis Lusonne MontgomeryBride by Chocolate by Alexis Lusonne Montgomery
Published by Entangled: Ignite on January 4th 2016
Pages: 262
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three-stars

She's everything he's not looking for in a wife...
When not-so-sweet sabotage strikes Bebe Waterston’s gourmet chocolate factory, things start looking hopeless. But she’s not a quitter. After sacrificing her personal life to prove she can run the family business, she’ll do anything to save it—including accepting help from an unlikely source: San Francisco’s high society “ Prince Charming” .
Sam Sugarman’s on a mission to marry. And in Sam’s family, finding a wife follows a recipe that starts with a box of Waterston’s Chocolates. When the supply runs out right before Valentine’s Day, the savvy CFO steps in to solve the problem, and finds the cure for his sweet tooth in the spitfire redhead. But now his dilemma is two-fold: convince Bebe he isn’t the serial-dating playboy she believes him to be and keep her safe from the person menacing her and her business.
Thrown together as the danger escalates, the mismatched duo tangles in and out of the bedroom. With a benefit gala and the fast-approaching, day-of-love deadline, they’ll need more than the gold-foil delicacies destined for a bride by chocolate.

An amusing read, ‘Bride by Chocolate’, as the title suggests, chronicles the fall of a gourmet chocolatier at the feet of the playboy Prince Charming of San Francisco – who’s cute but somewhat dumb like Chis Pine’s Prince in ‘Into the Woods’ – when his bulk order is delayed by a shipment sabotage. Light-hearted and well, hard to take seriously at all – with names like Sam Sugarman and Freddy Finnerman -, I could almost (but not quite) shrug off Sam’s rail-roading methods, the almost-expected instant love in this rom-com/fairy-tale retelling and Bebe’s mild acceptance of her sudden presence in the Sugarman Empire.

I thought Sam/Bebe were a pairing that seemed more ridiculous than written in the stars, but then, that’s probably not quite the point here, when chocolate and a cast of quirky crazies get involved to spice up the tale. Make no mistake though, Tweety the bird is probably my favourite character here.

three-stars

Secrets and Seduction by Sahara Roberts

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Mystery/Crime/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 19th November 2015
Secrets and Seduction by Sahara RobertsSecrets and Seduction by Sahara Roberts
Series: Dangerous Desires #2
Published by Entangled: Ignite on December 7th 2015
Pages: 161
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four-stars

Andres Calderon risked everything—his heart, his career, and even his family—for love, and lost. When he returned home, he found his family's ranch seized by the ruthless cartels. Now Andres trains their horses, waiting for a chance to take back what is his...
Humiliated by her now ex-fiancé, trauma doctor Monica Vasquez agrees to act as an informant for the U.S. government in the cartel-run town of Copas, Mexico. She expects the danger. She doesn't expect the heated rush of desire for a cartel horse trainer...especially when that desire grows into something deeper and far more complicated.
But violence—volatile and deadly—simmers beneath the surface of this small Mexican town. And when it erupts, Monica and Andres will have to decide how much they trust their love...and each other.

In a Mexican town that time forgot, where a cartel’s weight is gold, Dr. Monica Vasquez’s life takes a turn when her relationship with a horse trainer changes from friendship into something more. But secrets are buried deep in this place and soon enough, Monica and Andres find themselves barely floating in a volatile situation where no one is safe.

This started out well, with very confident and assured writing, but for some reason I found the storytelling disjointed—scenes just didn’t seem to seamlessly flow into each other, the overload of back stories taking a lot of effort to piece together, lack of paragraphing in dialogue, for instance—and that affected my overall enjoyment of the story. Monica and Andres were likeable characters though (believable in their personal doubts and ambitions) and that played a large part in keeping my attention riveted on the plot as well as the layers that needed peeling off.

Just an insignificant point: I wondered however, if this is a wholly ‘Mexican’ story (with Mexicans as protagonists) or whether it deals with characters who are Americans (with Hispanic heritage) living in Mexico, because I had the distinct feeling that I was reading it all translated into English with distinct Americanisms while the characters went through their scenes speaking in Spanish.

four-stars

Killer Curves by Naima Simone

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Mystery/Crime/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 19th November 2015
Killer Curves by Naima SimoneKiller Curves by Naima Simone
Series: Guarding Her Body #2
Published by Entangled: Ignite on December 7th 2015
Pages: 206
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three-stars

Lately, things have been a little weird for Sloane Barrett—late night crank calls, disturbing images inher inbox, her tires slashed. She tries not to let it bother her. She tries to pretend everything is ok. Then someone breaks into her house and attacks her...and Sloane realizes she needs professional help. Tall, gorgeous and overwhelmingly intense help. But Sloane knows all too well just how much trouble intense guys can be.
Security Specialist Ciaran Ross's priority is to ensure Sloane is safe. His gut tells him she's in danger, but his feelings for her are pulling his focus. Ciaran has already made the mistake of falling for a client, and the results were disastrous. He won't risk it again. He can't. But running from love is the surest way to get Sloane killed...

Naima Simone has never failed to entertain me with her writing and ‘Killer Curves’ is no different, with some over-the-top descriptions of animal attraction that actually made me burst out laughing in incredulity before the action really kicked in. The story is entirely predictable, with a tortured hero who has allowed a night of tragedy to define the way he now lives his life, but finally sees the light with an equally insecure heroine who manages to find her footing by the time the book ends. I enjoyed this nonetheless, for the quirks, the suspense and the perceptive insight into human behaviour that Ms. Simone always inserts into every story.

three-stars

Stop in the Name of Love by Nina Bruhns

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 28th October 2015
Stop in the Name of Love by Nina BruhnsStop in the Name of Love by Nina Bruhns
Published by Entangled: Ignite on November 9th 2015
Pages: 291
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one-star

Undercover vice cop Russell Bridger hates his new assignment doing surveillance on the home of a suspected traitorous spy. That is, until he receives orders to cozy up to the man’s sweet, beautiful neighbor...and find a way to move in with her for the duration. But things don’t go as smoothly—or seductively—as he’d hoped when she tells him she hates cops with a passion and wants nothing to do with him, his lies, or his damn assignment. Or under the covers...? Cops in Mary Alice Flannery’s family keep dying, and she doesn’t think she can take another shot to her heart. So when the infinitely sexy road crew guy she’s crushing on big time turns out to embody her worst nightmare, she must decide what kind of future she wants...safe and lonely, or wild and dangerous but filled with love?

Put a commitment-phobe undercover cop and a prim kindergarten teacher together and the sparks they generate should fly…or so this book claims. In which case, a garden-variety erotic video should do the trick.

But both Mary Alice and Bridge resemble walking, talking clichés of the shy woman and uncommitted man so much so that I was tempted to skim for hidden evidence of deflowering, lace drawers and bicep-clutching kisses. But the repetitive character exaggeration – whether intended or not – simply detracted from the special type of urgency and gravitas I’ve come to expect from romantic suspense and in doing so, made it difficult for me to take this story seriously.

There’s so much emphasis on mutual attraction and bodily parts that it got me bored – I was starting to get a mental image of a Victorian governess whom a rake has set his eye on -, and with the case itself was slow in coming to fruition, every paragraph soon became an exercise in patience. If I had a hard time believing Mary Alice’s real-ness, it was even harder to do so with Bridge, who apparently couldn’t find his own way into relationships and commitment because he lived the excuse of not wanting to put any woman through what his own mother went through for living fast and free. Unfortunately, I felt Bridge never really left sleaze-land and Mary Alice should have had a better residence built in the clouds.

Was ’Stop in the Name of Love’ meant to be amusing, in any case? If it wasn’t, then maybe it was all lost on me.

one-star

Designed for Murder by Avery Flynn

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Mystery/Crime/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 23rd October 2015
Designed for Murder by Avery FlynnDesigned for Murder by Avery Flynn
Series: Killer Style #4
Published by Entangled: Ignite on November 9th 2015
Pages: 163
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three-stars

Mika Ito combines her two favorite things in life—textile design and live-action role-playing (LARP)—by creating costumes for her fellow Magic Battledome gamers. Lately, someone's been assaulting LARPers and stealing their costumes. Concerned for the safety of her friends, Mika hires Maltese Security...only to discover that the lead investigator is the super-hot stranger she just hooked up with.
Carlos Castillo is all too familiar with Magic Battledome. A former legend in role-playing circles, he was all about gaming, until things went very, very wrong for him. Now he's forced to return to the game undercover—as Mika's boyfriend—to find some answers. Only playing “boyfriend” with his gorgeous one-night stand is more temptation than a guy can withstand...
Someone wants the costumes enough to kill for them. And when it comes to murder, nothing is what it seems...
Each book in the Killer Style series is a standalone, full-length story that can be enjoyed out of order. Series Order:Book #1 High-heeled WonderBook #2 This Year's BlackBook #3 Make Me UpBook #4 Designed for Murder

Costume and textile designer Mika Ito finds herself unwittingly caught in a drug scheme involving fabric…and who better to investigate this matter than a one-night stand that she’d never expected to see again? Forced into the case because of his background, Carlos Castillo runs from his own demons and is forced to face them again with a woman whom he can’t resist. It’s a disaster waiting to happen, especially when feelings start to get in the mix of things, despite both Carlos’s and Mika’s vehement denial of them.

Did I buy them as a convincing couple? Not exactly – between Carlos’s inability to decide between self-castigation for a troubled past and moving forward and Mika’s impulsiveness to the point of stupidity while trying to pass it off as determination to keep others safe, I’d started to think they were really better off apart. But Avery Flynn’s very engaging writing somewhat mitigates the lack of enthusiasm I had for the protagonists at least; there is action aplenty, copious amounts of sex (which I felt was unnecessary) and a fresh take on LARPing – something I’ve never really known about until this – so it’s an education in itself.

three-stars

Desire & Deception by Sahara Roberts

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ Mystery/Crime/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 22nd October 2015
Desire & Deception by Sahara RobertsDesire & Deception by Sahara Roberts
Series: Dangerous Desires #1
Published by Entangled: Ignite on May 27th 2014
Pages: 241
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Tessa Marshal has fulfilled her long awaited dream of homeownership. She celebrates by taking a vacation with a friend but gets more than she bargained for when her adventure becomes a terrifying ordeal.
Deep cover agent Kristopher "Kris" Harmon has spent years climbing the ranks within the Mexican cartel. He walks a tight line between vicious drug runners with agendas of their own and working with the cartel leaders he’s trying to organize. Any distraction could prove fatal for him—and for the hundreds of undercover law enforcement officers his own cover protects.
Their worlds collide when Tessa is mistaken for a drug mule and taken captive. As time runs out for both of them, Tessa has to reach beyond her fears and trust a stranger while Kris must choose between his lifelong ambitions and saving Tessa's life. If they want to survive, both must trust that there is more to the other than what meets the eye.

A woman celebrating home-ownership (a rather ridiculous premise at first, until you realise it’s really a celebration of all she has achieved in her life) takes a trip into Mexico and gets tangled in cartel wars. Little does she know that the jefe with whom she eventually gets down and dirty with is deep undercover and her presence actually compromises an operation that’s coming to a head.

This is certainly a fast-paced story, but development and cohesion are sacrificed for brevity, to its detriment.
It really does feel like Stockholm Syndrome at work because of the brief time period in which Tess and Kris get together.

There were many instances where I felt as though I was plunged straight into a scene without sufficient context and the narrative and the casual influx of characters left me hanging bewildered. Even so, there’s a sweetness to both Kris and Tessa that I can’t help liking, a chemistry that’s of course, explosive and a short but good epilogue that gives us their HEA.

Witness to Passion by Naima Simone

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ Mystery/Crime/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense/ Young Adult 3rd July 2015
Witness to Passion by Naima SimoneWitness to Passion by Naima Simone
Series: Guarding Her Body #1
Published by Entangled: Ignite on June 16th 2015
Pages: 230
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three-stars

For Fallon Wayland, birthdays are just another reminder of her looming spinsterhood. This year is shaping up to be no different. Fired from her job, dumped by her boyfriend, and oh yes, witnessing the murder of a high-ranking lieutenant in the local crime family... Yeah, birthdays suck.
Ever since a disastrous, hot-as-hell kiss years ago, soldier-turned-security specialist Shane Roarke has avoided his baby sister's reckless - and gorgeous - best friend. Yet when her life is threatened after she witnesses a gang hit, he insists on protecting her...even if she objects.
The two are forced to hole up in a safe house. Alone. Passion long denied erupts between them, burning away their inhibitions. But even as layers - and clothes - are peeled away, danger closes in. Shane and Fallon might finally have a chance at love...if they survive long enough to see it.

Best friend’s brother story, wrapped up in a suspenseful package. I took issue with both Fallon and Shane, both of whom I don’t like for varying reasons, let alone feeling that chemistry between them and the bucketload of angst Fallon throws out. Desperation oozes out of the characters here, particularly in Fallon and that’s more a turn-off than a heart-wrenching moment, because overreaction and overcompensation follow close on its heels.

But what made me finish the tale is as always, Naima Simone’s writing style, (admittedly be over the top dramatic and exaggerated at times) which is probably the only thing that keeps the pages turning…almost of their own will.

three-stars
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