Boiling Point by Tessa Bailey

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Mystery/Crime/ Reviews 26th January 2016
Boiling Point by Tessa BaileyBoiling Point by Tessa Bailey
Series: Crossing the Line, #3
Published by Entangled: Select on January 26th 2016
Pages: 352
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Falling for a con man is the most dangerous game of all…
Con artist Austin Shaw’s been in disguise so long he’s not sure where his fake identities end and he begins. Now that he’s been strong-armed into working for a specialized undercover unit working with the Chicago police—criminals with unique “skills”—the last thing he needs is to risk his iron control. Especially when it comes to a certain stunningly sexy hacker who tempts him with every look of disdain.
Polly Banks will never, ever trust a con man. On the trail of a ruthless crook who destroyed the only family she’s ever known, Polly is unnerved by the shadow who follows her every move. The one who makes her pulse pound and breath short with lust. Austin. He’s infuriating, enigmatic, and pure sex appeal, and she’s determined to resist him.
But an untrustworthy man of disguise can become anyone he wants…including a man that Polly must trust if she’s to escape their dangerous game alive.

Austin Shaw’s number is up, and his allegiance to the undercover squad is only a thin veneer, as long as he gets what he wants: a glimpse of an illegitimate daughter of a woman he’d fleeced and slept with a few years back, his former partner…and more recently, Polly Banks, who has her own reasons for going after that same partner he used to have.

Frankly, this was tortuous to read and I’m excruciatingly aware that this is an opinion that clearly places me in the 0.0001% of the number of reviewers here. The lack of direction and shallow character depth are issues that I have with this story, but as with an increasing number of Tessa Bailey’s books, main characters tend to allow raging sexual need to overrule good sense. Consequently, the sheer number of explicit sex scenes detracts from – and diminishes – the entire story and its characters.

But mostly it’s the anti-hero himself who has tanked this story for me. I hadn’t warmed up to Austin (of whom I couldn’t get a mental grasp) and even if Ms. Bailey has done a credible job of making his slippery personality so ingrained that all he can do is move and talk within nebulous shades of grey, his insistence on living half-truths irked me when all it did was obscure a depth of character we could have plumbed. Even for an anti-hero, he was difficult to get behind when all I felt was revulsion for his con-man deeds, his bizarre stalkerish behaviour, leaving only a nagging feeling that he couldn’t quite earn his redemption in this tale that straddles the lines of morality.


Broken Honor by Tonya Burrows

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 28th February 2015
Broken Honor by Tonya BurrowsBroken Honor by Tonya Burrows
Series: HORNET  #3
Published by Entangled: Select on February 24th 2015
Pages: 350
Buy on Amazon

Ice-cold and unbreakable, Travis Quinn is the HORNET team's hard-ass. No weaknesses. Except, of course, for the accident that not only destroyed his career as a Navy SEAL, but left terrifying blanks in his memory. But Travis remembers everything about Mara Escareno--the curve of her lips, the feel of her body...and how he walked out on her suddenly six weeks ago.
Mara could never resist the dangerously sexy Travis, which is probably how she ended up pregnant and disowned by her family. But before Travis can fully process the news, Mara is kidnapped by his enemies and plunged into the violent, merciless world of human trafficking. They want Travis--and the information locked within his damaged memory--no matter the cost. And now Travis's enemies have discovered his only weakness...Mara.

Mara Escareno was a one-night stand that became more…and more, up until the point where it all goes to hell in a basket when Mara is kidnapped and forcibly brought to the breakaway, lawless country of Transnistria. With a pregnancy in question, Quinn and Mara have to evaluate what that fling really meant to them, if they manage to escape with their lives.

I’ve been itching for Quinn’s book ever since Gabe Bristow fell into the clutches of Audrey Van Amee and I’m still unsure what really to make of Broken Honor. Pregnancy and babies aren’t elements in the story which I like at all, but because I’ve always had a soft spot for the crazy Hornet men who are more likely to kill each other than the enemies, I pushed through the book.

The vacillating between wanting in or out and the constant apologising for said behaviour annoyed the hell out of me after the nth time it happened and while I understand the circumstances that led to Quinn behaving like a coward and Mara behaving like a hormone-fuelled pregnant cow at times, I wished both could have manned up and made a damn decision sooner…and when they did, the wholehearted way Quinn embraced impending fatherhood happened almost instantaneously that my mouth was left hanging open in disbelief.

I did however, appreciate the overarching plot of the corruption that Jasper Bristow was implicated in (big surprise) and the return of Raffi whom I absolutely love. I’m going to be quite sad that Quinn will probably no longer feature prominently in future stories having left the team but there’s also Lanie’s and Jesse’s tale that’s been set up quite nicely here, which is something I’ll look out for.


Risking it All by Tessa Bailey

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ Mystery/Crime/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 28th January 2015
Risking it All by Tessa BaileyRisking it All by Tessa Bailey
Series: Crossing the Line, #1
Published by Entangled: Select on January 27th 2015
Pages: 400
Buy on Amazon

NYPD detective Seraphia Newsom will avenge her brother’s death at any cost. Even if it means insinuating herself into a rough, Brooklyn street gang and going so far undercover, she’s not sure she’ll be able to get out. Every minute she spends in their midst means the clock ticking down on her life, especially when she overhears something that could get her killed.
Bowen Driscol is the heir to a crime enterprise. He never asked for the job, but with his father behind bars, he has no choice but to step in and keep the operation running. But when the NYPD blackmails him with a piece of damning information in exchange for aiding an undercover cop, he finds himself on the other side of the law for the first time in his life.
Bowen knows the danger Sera is in, and keeping her safe trumps saving his own ass. The problem? She can’t know he’s on her side. And there's the matter of the seriously inconvenient heat sparking between them that's incinerating his resistance. But Sera only sees Bowen's past, and men like him are the reason her brother is dead. If they're to get out alive, he'll have to risk exposing the man beneath, and hope to hell he doesn't blow the whole operation in the process.

There’s a lot that’s shaping up to be commendable about the Crossing the Line series, if I’m to be grudgingly honest. As the series suggests, these aren’t squeaky clean H/h we’ll be reading about but characters with dubious moral centres who have generously dipped their feet into criminal activities. The ultimate dilemma for them, if I’m to guess where this is going for every book, would be how they could redraw their own moral boundaries and allegiances and come out stronger for it (and on the better side) by the end of the book.

With much angst and hard, near-acrobatic sex along the way.

As always, Tessa Bailey’s strength lies in her deft handling of relationships; in fact, she excels in crafting and drawing out twisted ones in which obsession and lust fuel the sex scenes that later also tend to get mistaken as love. I did enjoy the depth Ms Bailey attempts to give Bowen but Sera feels too innocent, naive and swayed by her emotions to be a believable undercover cop. 3 years on the force despite the buttoned-up and repressed burdens of a Catholic upbringing would surely have toughened her beyond giving into nipple-swelling moments each time she shared a smouldering look with Bowen?

I’m rather disappointed however, to find that there’s little deviation from the formulaic alpha male that I’ve seen repeated across her books: hot, dirty-talking, sexually forceful and dominant – only that they skirt the fine lines between right and wrong here. A virginal heroine is also like a hark back to the early versions of Mills and Boons where heaving bosoms and hysterical mood swings are the precursors to the all-important deflowering moment. Please, Ms. Bailey, give us a conflicted man who doesn’t see the need to screw everything in sight because he can’t commit or a controlled heroine who wears fluff bunnies to bed but not in her head.


Winning Love by Abby Niles

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense/ Sports 8th November 2014
Winning Love by Abby NilesWinning Love by Abby Niles
Series: Love to the Extreme #3
Published by Entangled: Select on August 26th 2014
Pages: 250
Buy on Amazon

Mac “The Snake” Hannon has spent years throwing himself into cage fighting as a way to lash back at the natural disaster that destroyed his future. A call for help has Mac returning to the one place he swore never to return: Kansas—in the height of tornado season.
There he meets free-spirited Gayle Andrews. At first he wants nothing to do with the infuriatingly, persistent woman, but the crazy challenges she tosses his way are impossible to resist. As she thaws years of bitterness, bringing back the Mac he believed long gone, he starts to make peace with the past and see the future again. Until he learns she chases his worst nightmare, then he can’t get away fast enough.
Meteorologist and storm chaser, Gayle Andrews is no stranger to being left behind and now believes in living in the moment. She wants to do just that with the handsome extreme fighter with the achingly sad eyes. As she works to replace the sorrow with desire, she finds herself breaking her one rule: have fun, but don’t fall in love. When he suddenly pushes her away and she discovers the horrifying reason why, she issues one more challenge: face his fear and come on a chase with her.
Will squaring off with the past lead to a victory for heartache or love?

The last 4 years of Mac Hannon’s life have been spent in the cage as he pummels out his anger and pain in a bid to forget all that he’d lost, until he meets Gayle Matthews, an apparently fearless, takes-no-prisoners researcher who jumps into everything but forms no attachment. Set in tornado alley, Mac and Gayle suddenly have no choice but to face their demons head on and with each other.

I’ve not read the rest of series, but I definitely loved and enjoyed the set up of this story of second chances and new beginnings that’s got tornadoes, a hot-former chef turned fighter and a ballsy meteorologist. Clearly both have their own issues to deal with but when push comes to shove, I still wished Gayle put herself out there more for Mac.


Rules of Protection by Alison Bliss

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Mystery/Crime/ Reviews 2nd November 2014
Rules of Protection by Alison BlissRules of Protection by Alison Bliss
Series: Tangled in Texas, #1
Published by Entangled: Select on August 26th 2014
Pages: 392
Buy on Amazon

It's rule breaker Emily Foster's birthday, and like everyone at The Jungle Room, she just wants to get some action. Unfortunately, she stumbles on the wrong kind, witnessing a mob hit. To protect her, she's entered into the Witness Protection Program with by-the-book Special Agent Jake Ward as her chaperone.
When the location of their safe house is compromised, Jake stashes Emily deep in the Texas backwoods. The city-girl might be safe from the Mafia, but she has to contend with a psychotic rooster, a narcoleptic dog, crazy cowboys, and the danger of losing her heart to the one man she can't have.
Jake's as hot as he is infuriating, and she can't help but push all his buttons to loosen him up. Their mutual, sizzling sexual attraction poses a dilemma: Jake's determined to keep her safe and out of the wrong hands; she's determined to get into the right ones—his.

Couldn’t finish this and just threw in my all after two or three chapters, exhausted by an annoying heroine. As someone who loves romantic suspense, the use of the first-person which I typically associate with young/new adult books, is over the top jarring. Perhaps it’s Ms Bliss’s way of trying to give a unique voice to her characters, but this backfired for me spectacularly and personally, I found them to be persistently unbelievable enough to be a friday night sitcom with tanking ratings rather than a heart-pumping race to safety.


Honor Reclaimed by Tonya Burrows

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 27th May 2014
Honor Reclaimed by Tonya BurrowsHonor Reclaimed (HORNET, #2) by Tonya Burrows
Series: HORNET #2
Published by Entangled: Select on May 27th 2014
Pages: 350
Buy on Amazon

Former Marine sniper Seth Harlan is determined to prove that he can still do his job despite his ongoing battle with PTSD. When an old friend contacts HORNET to rescue a black ops soldier, Seth's stability is strained. He knows all too well what it's like to rot inside an enemy camp, praying for rescue and waiting for death. And he's not about to leave a man behind.
Photojournalist Phoebe Leighton just stumbled into the middle of an arms deal. Teaming up with a ragtag team of mercenaries is the last thing she wants to do--especially when she realizes Seth Harlan is assigned to the mission. He may ignite a passion in her she thought long dead, but Phoebe's hiding a secret that could destroy him.
With a bomb in the mix, HORNET's mission is suddenly about a lot more than an abandoned soldier. Racing against the clock, Seth, Phoebe, and the rest of the team struggle to stop a ruthless warlord bent on power, revenge...and death.

For some inexplicable reason, Seth’s story resonated with me enough for me to type up a review of it here. I’ve not read the Wilde Security series yet but I’ve been told that he pops up there as a damaged guy who is badly in need of his own happy ending.

I couldn’t be more thrilled to read it in Honor Reclaimed; in fact, I devoured every single line that transformed Seth’s existence – and redemption – into a thing of beauty, eating up all of Ms Burrows’s life-breathing descriptions of landscapes, fight scenes and characters as the hours went by.

Above all, it was a hoot to read about the antics of the Hornet team (they were still getting off their feet in Seal of Honor) and I hadn’t realised just how much I’ve missed those yahoos until I read about Quinn, Ian, Jesse and Marcus. After Seal of Honor, I had hoped to read Quinn’s story (there’s also a hint that Ms. Burrows might do something with Zak Hendricks, Ian and Jesse in later books) but I’m more than contented to have Seth finally getting what he needs and deserves.

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