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Bachelor Games by Daire St. Denis

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews 11th September 2017
Bachelor Games by Daire St. DenisBachelor Games by Daire St. Denis
Series: Tropical Temptation #3
Published by Entangled Publishing: Brazen on October 9th 2017
Pages: 256
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one-star

Brilliant, but plain scientist Becca Evans has always done everything she could to make her beautiful sister, Grace, happy. So, when Grace started entering beauty contests, Becca did everything she could to make sure her sister won.

Now, she’s looking at another pageant—at a resort in the Caribbean. The prize? A date with America’s most eligible bachelor, Calum Price. For Grace, it would be the ultimate coup—landing a billionaire. Unfortunately, Calum seems to like Becca better...

Still, she’s determined to help her sister win. Calum doesn’t have to know that she’s the brains behind the beauty, the voice behind the veil, the finger behind the sexting...

But when things go too far, Becca must decide where her loyalty lies—with her sister...or the man she’s falling in love with.

Let the games begin.

The quiet, unnoticed geek amongst a bevy of gorgeous women catching the eye of the hot billionaire sounds like a story I can dig, especially since it feels like it might have some shadow of the Cyrano de Begerac effect here.

However, I didn’t quite expect ‘Bachelor Games’ to become a ‘forced’ love triangle type story of the female protagonist’s own making, as her altruistic but misplaced idea of family loyalty resolutely determines that her sister should get the good things (as well as the hot guy) because she happens to be the more good-looking one. It is exactly what Becca Evans does, which pretty much tanked the story for me.

To begin with, I didn’t find Calum’s and Becca’s first meeting realistic at all, let alone that banter and teasing one might carry out with a stranger on a plane, but this may be my awkward, distant and sceptical self speaking here. But that someone with poise and beauty like Grace would need Becca’s coaching seemed ludicrous and the artlessness of her behaviour during the pageant as a result of that came across as stilted and naive instead of endearing.

To add to that, Becca’s rather stilted ‘I like you but you’re better for my sister because no one really looks at me’ type of reasoning got me annoyed instead of sympathetic—aren’t we past this self-esteem business already? I wished she would simply own her attraction to Calum, rather than remain indecisive about them while seemingly being unable to help herself but end up in bed with him and then lie to her sister about it. Grace, on the other hand, had made no explicit mention of her desire for Calum, so Becca’s unfounded guilt felt like a mountain made of a molehill that sorely tested my patience and made me give up halfway.

Sadly, ‘Bachelor Games’ isn’t a story that clicked for me, especially with a heroine that rubbed me the wrong way every time. But as I’ve said numerous times before, personal tastes are just that—personal. This probably has a premise that would appeal to those who root for the underdog no matter what the circumstances are, so give it a whirl because Becca’s character could be read in a multitude of ways that I simply couldn’t, as other reviewers have already pointed out.

one-star

Shocking the Medic by Elizabeth Otto

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Erotica/ Netgalley/ Reviews 30th August 2017
Shocking the Medic by Elizabeth OttoShocking the Medic by Elizabeth Otto
Published by Entangled Publishing: Brazen on September 25th 2017
Pages: 198
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three-stars

Paramedic Luke Almeda can't believe he's working with his best friend, Greer. She was supposed to go off and be a hot shot lawyer like the rest of her family. He has to keep reminding himself that no matter how beautiful, sweet and caring she is, there is no way they can ever be together. Even if it weren't prohibited at work, they are from two different worlds.

Greer is determined to prove herself to Luke and her family. Luke sees her as some goody-two-shoes, and she's determined to prove she's anything but. After a devastating 911 call, Greer ends up in Luke's bed, and it's more than she could have ever dreamed it would be. Too bad one night is all it can be. Because trying to have more could cost them everything....

Let’s face it—the blurb was enticing—enticing enough that a one-click request was the only way to go, despite my reservations about this particular trope.

I’ll readily admit that the friends-to-lovers romance is a tricky one for me and mostly that’s because all too often one party has been secretly pining—while watching the other merrily playing the field for years either obliviously or deliberately keeping a distance—for years before something finally snaps and calls that change. ‘Shocking the Medic’ does follow this pattern, though Elizabeth Otto does take the pain to show how the solid base of friendship is enriched when sex and intimacy are thrown into the equation.

And by and large, the pacing was good, the smexy times copious as with the Brazen imprint and Otto moves the story along in a way that I had no problem finishing it in record time.

I liked Greer lots. Her gumption to walk away from law, from the usual expectations to get into paramedicine yet with a compassion that spills over for the people she helps. I only wished that she’d come to expect more from the manwhore who’s also her best friend, wished she hadn’t pined for him no matter how far she thought she’d buried that hope. That she was willing to settle for scraps, to take what he would offer until he tired of her made me wonder at her self-esteem where he was concerned, though the way she put herself out there for Luke and for everything she wanted was admirable.

But where do I start with Luke? I think at the heart of it, I couldn’t get over the way he thought despite him being a good friend to Greer. I didn’t like the idea that he’d always loved her, always wanted her (that sentiment was reciprocated) but never felt good enough for her, so instead, whored around with other women openly because he believed that he’d never rise above his station. For me, that just read like emotional betrayal, especially since Greer had always been holding on for him (for 17 years?!) which was massively unfair in the least.

Overall though, I wasn’t quite convinced of Luke’s frustrating chip on his shoulder which contributed to the huge end conflict and climax; his supposed grovelling didn’t seem sufficient for what Greer had put on the line for him after his blowing hot and cold on her. As their HEA came too quickly and conveniently along with an epilogue that was just as abrupt, all I could really say was that I was happy Greer got what she wanted, though I did wish it’d been with someone way more deserving of her.

three-stars

Bonding Games by Cathryn Fox

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Erotica/ Netgalley/ Reviews 8th July 2017
Bonding Games by Cathryn FoxBonding Games by Cathryn Fox
Series: Tropical Temptation #1
Published by Entangled Publishing: Brazen on July 24th 2017
Pages: 210
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three-stars

Former Navy SEAL Josh Steele gets tasked with a babysitting mission—watch over his boss’s daughter—a job he can only describe as hell. But when his assignment takes him to a tropical island, and he begins to see another side of Holly Fairfax, attraction sizzles between them—but he knows better than to risk his job for it.

Holly can’t believe that underneath those baggy clothes tech-guru Josh Steele is all ripped abs and sexy hotness. Ignoring said hotness is tough, especially since she has to work with him on the team-building exercises her boss has assigned if she wants a coveted promotion. It’s even harder when she discovers being around Josh brings out her naughty side – one she didn’t know she had.

But if she cracks the code on his cover, everything they’ve built could come crashing down.

‘Bonding Games’ started out great as a former SEAL goes undercover as a geek in a company in order to suss out an apparent threat to a woman who is trying her hardest to live a life away from her controlling father. But to Holly Fairfax, Josh Steele is merely a co-worker, or rather, a laid-back gamer-type until an elaborate company bonding session puts them in close proximity as partners.

The journey from there onwards however, is fairly predictable, which somehow didn’t quite live up to the potential of the promising blurb. Holly and Josh go from zero to a hundred in a matter of pages, and the overwhelming lust comes with every innocent touch and every fanciful imagining of what lies beneath each other’s clothes, despite the individual reminders to themselves that they want nothing more than a fling. They hit the bed early on as they go on every team-bonding activity and as expected, Holly hits the roof when Josh’s actual purpose for being in the company is inadvertently revealed.

Frankly, I’m still trying to figure out why it fell flat for me after the fun setup of their relationship. I’ve always loved the undercover business part, particularly when it involves some kind of double-crossing, though that always risks some TSTL behaviour when the deception is taken too far or when someone tends to overreact and forget their actual age. Maybe it’s because Holly/Josh’s story treads the same ground as so many others have gone before—not that I don’t enjoy authors’ different takes on them—, or maybe it’s all wrapped up too neatly after the hysterical blow up and the customary grovel, or that Holly/Josh didn’t feel too multifaceted in their portrayals despite their own prejudices. But overall this wasn’t too memorable and that ironically, defined this read for me.

three-stars

One Week with the Marine by Allison Gatta

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Erotica/ Netgalley/ Reviews 5th July 2017
One Week with the Marine by Allison GattaOne Week With the Marine by Allison Gatta
Series: Morris Brothers #1
Published by Entangled Publishing: Brazen on July 24th 2017
Pages: 194
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three-stars

Best friends with benefits…

Avery Forrester has never been the type to settle down—not to one place, not to one job, and certainly not to one man. Still, when her long-term best friend with benefits comes home on leave with a plan—including marriage and children—she realizes she’ll have to do something drastic in order to keep him. Luckily, drastic is what she does best.

…isn’t enough anymore.

U.S. Marine Holden Morris has never backed down from a challenge. And this time, that challenge is persuading wild child Avery Forrester, the woman he’s loved his entire life, to marry him. He wants the whole deal—a wife, a family. But convincing her to become a military wife won’t be easy. Then again, he knows Avery—in every way possible. Armed with that kind of knowledge—carnal and otherwise--how can he possibly fail?

Read the Entangled Brazen line only if you’re prepared to see the recycling trope after trope with tons of heat. I can’t remember how many lazy afternoons I’ve whiled away this way and for quite a bit of them, I’ve still had a rollicky good time because they’re such easy reads. ‘One Week with the Marine’ slots into one of this particular shelf with ease because it’s just that: absolutely predictable with a woman fearing love and commitment and her friends-with-benefits guy wanting more, but a fun one nonetheless with the road blocks and obstacles that you expect.

Avery’s panicked ways of creating distance got somewhat extreme, along with the repetitive self-recriminating statements of how she didn’t want to commit yet couldn’t find it in herself to hurt her good friends. There’s more than a touch of All McBeal-like neuroticism in Avery though and some of it felt like a person who simply couldn’t (or didn’t want) grow up when needed to, beyond her mummy-issues that she’d been using as excuses for too long.

I liked the fairly unusual idea that Holden and Avery were long in a deeper than friend-with-benefits type of relationship for years whether they wanted to admit it or not and they’d really belonged to each other before the status-quo changed permanently and on paper. Holden’s aim to get it officially stamped—with Avery squirrelling away every time he wants to bring up this topic—makes the chase frustrating because neither could really get up to speed when it seems as thought they’re in the wrong gear all the time. But the ending and the conflict are practically written in stone. One pushes; the other runs. It comes to a head when Avery finally realises that she needs to start adulting with the help of a friend.

Thankfully, for Avery, marriage isn’t quite in the cards just yet; the story ends with a doable compromise for both parties and a HEA that is realistically written. But since the Brazen line is a quick ‘pick me up’ so to speak, ‘One Week with the Marine’ is a decent read, just not a stellar one. If this is really is the start of a series, I’m already curious to see what else Allison Gatta has in store for for the sequel.

three-stars

Make Me Beg by Rebecca Brooks

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Erotica/ Reviews 20th March 2017
Make Me Beg by Rebecca BrooksMake Me Beg by Rebecca Brooks
Series: Men of Gold Mountain #2
Published by Entangled Publishing: Brazen on March 20th 2017
Pages: 249
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three-stars

Bartender Mackenzie Ellinsworth has always gone it alone. So when she has a chance to open her own bar and restaurant, she's got a plan for how it should go. Not in that plan: a ripped and rugged playboy stepping in to take over. Mack doesn't do players, and she doesn't do one-night stands. If Connor wants to work with Mack, he's going to have to keep his strong, sexy hands to himself.
Connor Branding is determined to prove he's not the directionless playboy Mack thinks. But opening a place together causes more problems than it solves. The two of them can't agree on anything—except how scorching hot their chemistry is. Connor may be ready to indulge every desire Mack's been denying herself...but turning business into pleasure is likely to get him burned.

I’d start off by saying that I really do like Rebecca Brooks’s writing: there’s her ability to tease out nuanced emotions and so finely articulating the pain of being left behind and the walls people build to protect themselves.

The problem was, I didn’t think there was very much to like about Connor: a privileged bummer, not wanting to commit to anyone or business or job with a lack of motivation and drive just bothered me. It’s probably my own preference for male protagonists to be at least more driven or propelled by purpose with some kind of ethic as well and I didn’t see that in Connor at all. That he lauded the easy way out most of the time by bouncing around didn’t make him that much of a worthy ‘hero’ for this story, more so when it had to take several huge kicks in the arse just so he would get going and focused.


Then it was all about him suddenly needing to prove himself not the bum, but that he could be someone else entirely. Yet, the sneaky insert that claimed he always wanted Mack, that it’d always been her—yet didn’t push hard about it and hopped from different women to distract himself for 3 years—was a rather revolting revelation, adding to my flakey impression of him that had by then, solidified.

He grovels well, though, which is possibly the only redeeming point…in my small and petty mind.

By contrast, Mack’s ability to work through hardship—and her determination to make things succeed because she’d been handed so little in life—was impressive as hell. I liked that she didn’t take any crap from him, gave as good as she got, and pretty much bulldozed her way through the veil of insouciance that he got going. It was easy to understand why she behaved the way she did, afraid to give an inch to Connor (rightly so, in my opinion) because she’d simply be left in the dust when he always gave indications of being chaff in the wind. That she’d staked her entire reputation, beliefs and cash on the refurbishment of the bar doesn’t come as a surprise, given her commitment to wanting to see things through and make a name for herself through sheer hard work.


That said, Brooks’s writing is persuasive enough for me to want to see what else is in store for us—that much can I be swayed by good writing. I’m just going to cross my fingers for protagonists (both the H/hr) whom I can get fully behind.

three-stars
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