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Make Me Stay by Sidney Halston

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ New Adult/ Reviews 13th April 2017
Make Me Stay by Sidney HalstonMake Me Stay by Sidney Halston
Series: Panic #2
Published by Loveswept on June 27th 2017
Pages: 185
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four-stars

April: Walking away from Matt Moreno was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. Lying to him was a close second, but for his safety, I had no other choice. I was undercover, working to put some nasty people behind bars. But when Matt nearly recognizes me on Lincoln Road a year later, all those very real feelings come rushing back. Now that my assignment’s almost over, will he understand why I lied? Why I had to leave? Most important, can he ever forgive me?  Matt: I was madly in love with June Simpson . . . or, at least, with the woman I thought was June. Then she just disappeared while my family’s nightclub went through hell. And after months of searching, when I think I’ve finally found that sexy, raspy voice and those exquisite blue eyes, she slips away once more. Turns out, “June” is actually Detective April White. She’s been playing me the whole time. And she’s about to rock my world all over again.

The review for ‘Make Me Stay’ is a hard one to write for sure; not because it’s a bad read (far from it), but because it’s so far from what I thought it would be that it has put me at a loss for words. Split into 2 parts, the first is the predictable flashback, a long, detailed recounting of the days after Matt Moreno meets June Simpson and how they fell for each other, even though June really isn’t who she seems.

Part 2, however, turned the entire book around with events that I didn’t see coming at all. But I was sorely disappointed not to see that same kickass cop I was hoping to see—this time coming into things in a blaze of glory—as the twist in the plot meant that the strong, take-no-prisoners detective had morphed into a broken, defeated woman who barely knew what she was doing. It was hard to reconcile this woman with the one we saw in the first part, but I had to constantly remind myself that this was contemporary romance rather than action or suspense. It’s an adjustment that takes for work for me, but reading about April (formerly known as June) and Matt rebuilding their relationship almost accidentally was engrossing to say the least, particularly so when they were now doing it for once, when no secrets were between them.

April and Matt were by and large likeable characters as well, which, in my opinion, made the book. Matt’s loyalty was indisputable, as was April’s own personal sense of justice and Sidney Halston writes both of them so flawed in a way that you can’t help but want them to succeed, even though the journey is an angsty one and paved with tears, anger and so much love. Even the epilogue doesn’t quite guarantee the perfect sunset, but it’s a realistic acknowledgement that the road to forgiveness is a rocky one, written with just the right glimmer of hope for the both of them.

four-stars

Walk of Shame by Lauren Layne

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ New Adult/ Reviews 11th April 2017
Walk of Shame by Lauren LayneWalk of Shame by Lauren Layne
Series: Love Unexpectedly #4
Published by Loveswept on April 18th 2017
Pages: 195
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two-stars

Pampered heiress Georgianna Watkins has a party-girl image to maintain, but all the shopping and clubbing is starting to feel a little bit hollow—and a whole lot lonely. Though Georgie would never admit it, the highlights of her week are the mornings when she comes home at the same time as her uptight, workaholic neighbor is leaving to hit the gym and put in a long day at the office. Teasing him is the most fun Georgie’s had in years—and the fuel for all her naughtiest daydreams.
Celebrity divorce attorney Andrew Mulroney doesn’t have much time for women, especially spoiled tabloid princesses who spend more time on Page Six than at an actual job. Although Georgie’s drop-dead gorgeous, she’s also everything Andrew resents: the type of girl who inherited her penthouse instead of earning it. But after Andrew caps one of their predawn sparring sessions with a surprise kiss—a kiss that’s caught on camera—all of Manhattan is gossiping about whether they’re a real couple. And nobody’s more surprised than Andrew to find that the answer just might be yes.

I haven’t been following Lauren Layne’s ‘Love Unexpectedly’ series, so jumping into ‘Walk of Shame’ because of the intriguing blurb and the hilarious expressions of the models on the cover is probably as good an idea as any to start this book which sounds like a romantic comedy with minimal angst and lots of bumps along the way. A spoiled, rich woman and a hardened, jaded lawyer? Bring it on.

But it’s a story, as I’ve come to realise early on, that people would either love or hate.

I’ll be the first to admit that Georgie Watkins is the kind of character I’d love to hate and it took a long, long while to warm up a little to her: the name-dropping, the airhead monologues (too many chapters were in her POV) and the constant mindless flitting from one meaningless activity to another all told in a mug voice weren’t characteristics I could even force myself to admire in a heroine.

Georgie is like the culmination of every spoiled socialite writ large in all the mean-girl movies and Layne has gotten her down to a science. There’s definitely the effort to show us Georgie’s softer side (she’s kind, caring, concerned for her family and friends) but I think I needed to see something more substantial beyond that. I’d expected to plumb her depths (no pun intended!) given so much of what we see of her is this apparently shallow woman. I’d hoped to see a bit more of an identity shake-up after seeing how Andrew’s own stodgy, awkward personality had changed by the end of the book, which didn’t really happen. In fact, Georgie seemed like someone content to have her head in the clouds, living the only reality she knew, and because Andrew trampled on that vision, he was quickly written off and expected to grovel because she couldn’t be rational about her parents’ divorce.

The long and short of it is that ‘Walk of Shame’ was a personal disappointment. It is definitely a light-hearted read though by the end, I wasn’t convinced about their compatibility (Andrew seemed more amused by her ridiculousness than anything else and in turn, Georgie appeared infatuated with this buttoned-up mystery) and liking the colour red felt like scraping the bottom of the barrel. Layne’s banter and sniping did make the story entertaining, but even after I finished the book, I simply couldn’t see Andrew/Georgie as a couple that would ultimately last.

two-stars

Down and Dirty by Tracy Wolff

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Erotica/ Netgalley/ New Adult/ Sports 5th March 2017
Down and Dirty by Tracy WolffDown & Dirty by Tracy Wolff
Published by Loveswept on May 23rd 2017
Pages: 210
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two-stars

Emerson: Talk about bad first impressions. I have too much riding on this job to show up late on my first day looking like the winner of a wet T-shirt contest, all thanks to an arrogant quarterback who drives like he owns the road. Hunter Browning thinks that because he’s famous, he can fix everything with a smile and a wave of his hand. He’s too bronzed, buff, and beautiful for his own good. Or mine. I can’t let on that I’m a fan . . . no matter how much fun we’d have in the sack.

Hunter: Hitting that puddle was my best play since winning the Super Bowl with a touchdown pass. Sure, it’s not my preferred way to get a girl wet, but I’ll make an exception for Emerson Day. She’s got a sharp tongue and a red-hot temper, even with her soaking clothes plastered to her every curve. Now I know exactly what my next play will be: hire Emerson as my personal real-estate agent, save her job—and see if I can take her off the market.

Tracy Wolff certainly has a way of writing steamy scene after steamy scene, though quite a bit of the book reads like a porn movie set, where characters meet perfunctorily and get hit hard by lust. Resistance (there’s a little of it), of course, is futile when constant penile erections and hardened nipples and wet slits suddenly take over.

The physical aspect of ‘Down and Dirty’ was never in doubt when Hunter zeroed straight in—from the very first meeting—like a panting dog in heat on Emerson, as I wondered if this book could better be classified as erotica than contemporary chick-lit. But I lost count of the number of ways he imagined her in all the sex positions, her lips doing dirty things to him and so on, up until the point where I finally decided that Hunter was a bad bet all around, led around mostly by his dick (and posturing a lot with it too), with copious amounts of dirty descriptions dedicated to how much he liked Emerson’s sexy body. And because Emerson is more special than his numerous one-night hookups, he has to relearn how to ‘woo’ a woman, which in his book, means loading her with lavish gifts that his wealth affords him.

Apart from Hunter’s concern for his ailing sister, I was inclined to think he was generally a classless act with mood swings and obscene excess (as is typically written of the lifestyle of the superrich), crude but bland, yet cockily arrogant with very little character depth. His rationale for only having hookups was that his mind was already full with his family problems, yet there was no issue diving into this routine with Emerson when it suited him. When things took a turn for the worse, he pushed her away in the nastiest way possible, unable to deal with the overwhelming emotions—all typical alpha male behaviour that still surprises me with its stupidity at times.

And while Wolff certainly portrays the grieving process well, I couldn’t get over his callous treatment of Emerson, almost as though grief gave him license to be an idiot around others. I didn’t think very much of Hunter at all at the end as a result, especially since it felt as though he merely used Emerson as a bandage slapped over wounds, or that he was with her in a bid to keep a part of his life from spinning out of control.

Emerson fared somewhat better in my opinion, standing her ground against him, though you do know her issues will crumble under Hunter’s oh-so-experienced, superior touch. From there (and it’s just a week!), the falling in love bit came easily…perhaps too easily for me. She’s nevertheless, somewhat more multifaceted, with deeper perspectives and an more unshakeable sense of compassion than Hunter’s tunnel vision on women, football and his sister, which made me wonder just how much he really deserved her.

I tried to enjoy this, I really did. I did like how the introduction of an dying sibling gave the story more gravitas than a contemporary romance would have, though I’m not quite convinced yet that it’d helped shaped the pairing out to be a more solid and believable one that successfully weathered a storm together, because they didn’t quite do so. So unfortunately it didn’t quite work for me as I prefer my stories with a bit more narrative and character depth. But if getting hot and bothered is your primary goal, then ‘Down and Dirty’ would be it.

two-stars

Guarding Mr. Fine

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 20th January 2017
Guarding Mr. FineGuarding Mr. Fine by HelenKay Dimon
Series: Tough Love #3
Published by Loveswept on February 14th 2017
Pages: 213
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two-stars

As an agent with the CIA’s special activities division, Seth Lang lives for risk—and yet he’s stuck playing bodyguard to the U.S. consul general in Munich. Although Seth’s last assignment nearly killed him, babysitting some desk jockey in a suit sounds way too easy. But when he lays eyes on the new top man, tactical expert Rick Fine, Seth’s thrilled to see just how hard this job is going to get. Mr. Tall, Dark, and Quiet has a body worth guarding—and he requires hands-on attention day and night.   Dispatched to a German consulate to expose the murder of his predecessor, Rick finds himself in an extremely vulnerable position. He needs a man like Seth—in so many ways. This mission will inevitably plunge them both into jeopardy, but each new threat only brings them closer. Rick just hopes that he can keep his deepest, darkest secret hidden—or else risk imperiling a relationship they’re both fighting for their lives to protect.

This is far from a bad read, because HelenKay Dimon does the cloak and dagger business all too well. The setup itself should have been intriguing: a mysterious death, an ongoing investigation and an insider doing illegal jobs that clearly has dire consequences. Personally, I found the story hard to get into because I didn’t quite know the direction it was heading in and most of the time, it was as though I was taking round and round for a joyride without knowing what would happen next. But this is on me and not a reflection on Dimon’s solid writing.

In fact, I think Dimon does M/M romance with quite a bit of nuance and subtlety, cataloguing the interactions between men differently as when she writes men/women romances—and these are differences that I definitely look out for and appreciate. Seth and Rick did make a believable pair as a result, and I liked the start of the book very much, but the action and the multiple dangling threads of the story lost me close to the halfway mark.

two-stars

Sentinel’s Kiss by Jamie K. Schmidt

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Mystery/Crime/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 13th January 2017
Sentinel’s Kiss by Jamie K. SchmidtSentinel's Kiss by Jamie K. Schmidt
Series: Sentinels of Babylon, #2
Published by Loveswept on March 7th 2017
Pages: 224
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two-stars

If Josh Lehman learned one thing as a Green Beret, it’s patience. Josh founded the Sentinels of Babylon because he was sick and tired of watching scumbags cheat the system—scumbags like the man who murdered his sister. Of course, if Josh’s sniper rifle was linked to the death of his ex-brother-in-law, that might be a problem. The bigger problem is the nosy reporter who’s this close to exposing the club. Josh has to find a way to keep her hot mouth from talking . . . but he’ll be damned if he lets someone take her from him. Not on his watch.
Ashley Carver thought she’d do anything for a scoop. That was before her latest story leads to multiple attempts on her life. Ashley’s been investigating a homicide that has gone unsolved for five years when she uncovers evidence tying the vigilantes of the Sentinels of Babylon to a revenge killing. Now she’s in their crosshairs. But after Josh defies all notions of club loyalty to come to Ashley’s aid, soon they’re burning up the sheets—and taking on the world.

“Sentinel’s Kiss” brings the shady business of vigilante justice into the spotlight, combining it with an MC storyline—which I think is meant to give a harder, dirtier edge to the bad boys many readers love to see falling on their knees.

But it’s unfortunately not one for me, even though I liked the idea that vigilante justice spills way out of the legal boundaries and how it can be used as an excuse to fulfil personal vendettas that’s been kind of implied here, or in this case, fuel a man’s need for revenge. But while this isn’t quite heart-pounding action of black ops, I’d expected to see more cloak-and-dagger meetings with the mysterious boss who doles out their orders yet didn’t.

Above all, I couldn’t quite connect with Sentinel and Ashley, who seemed to be using each other for sex and as bandages for their own issues that have clearly been laid out in the story. There’re no shortage of sex scenes as a result, which simply seems to prove my point—but sex, obviously, never been a problem for either of them—but it didn’t change what I felt was a shallow relationship that didn’t go beyond both characters’ inability to function without their bits bumping and humping. In fact, their supposed important conversations couldn’t take place without it and the good sex also seemed to be a reason for why they should go beyond casual fuckmates…it’s what both Sentinel and Ashley fall back on, which makes me think this will function better as erotica than romantic suspense. The rushed ending felt instead, like a hurried need to give an unlikely couple a HEA but as someone who couldn’t really buy into the pairing, I found myself rather indifferent to it all.

two-stars

Someone like you by Lauren Layne

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews 24th November 2016
Someone like you by Lauren LayneSomeone like You by Lauren Layne
Series: Oxford #3
Published by Loveswept on December 6th 2016
Pages: 228
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four-stars

Lincoln Mathis doesn’t hide his reputation as Manhattan’s ultimate playboy. In fact, he cultivates it. But behind every flirtatious smile, each provocative quip, there’s a secret that Lincoln’s hiding from even his closest friends—a tragedy from his past that holds his heart quietly captive. Lincoln knows what he wants: someone like Daisy Sinclair, the sassy, off-limits bridesmaid he can’t take his eyes off at his best friend’s wedding. He also knows that she’s everything he can never have.
After a devastating divorce, Daisy doesn’t need anyone to warn her off the charming best man at her sister’s wedding. One look at the breathtakingly hot Lincoln Mathis and she knows that he’s exactly the type of man she should avoid. But when Daisy stumbles upon Lincoln’s secret, she realizes there’s more to the charming playboy than meets the eye. And suddenly Daisy and Lincoln find their lives helplessly entwined in a journey that will either heal their damaged souls . . . or destroy them forever.

The premier player of New York hides a painful secret that no one knows. The only friend who seems to understand Lincoln Mathis however, is the unlikeliest of people: the twin of two good friends, who is dealing with her own hurt and fears because her walls and pain parallel his.

Told in an episodic series of parts, ‘Someone like you’ feels like an account of unfolding grief and the unsteady steps taken back into a world that’s suddenly too bright and stunning to take in. It is however, a lot more heart-wrenching and sombre than the rest of Lauren Layne’s Oxford and Stiletto series and I do think it’s all the better for it actually, because the light-hearted banter would have probably been out of place given the weightier subject matters brought up here.

I’m glad for this chance to know what Lincoln and Daisy had been facing all along, although I had a pretty good guess from the hints already dropped in the previous books. But having some kind of plot premonition doesn’t make the story any easier to read as Lincoln’s uncertainty over his past kept its tight rein on a present that he couldn’t actually quite yet accept. It’s only in the last quarter of the book that the romantic drama really begins and where the attraction and the connection that both Lincoln and Daisy have forged finally kick in. But from here, the journey onwards is rather predictable and somewhat rushed: the usual cut-and-run part which becomes the status quo until someone breaks…and the grovelling begins up until the HEA that’s a mixture of cheesy and sweet.

I liked that their attraction played out over time—through months of grief which slowly but surely turned into attraction and longing—as well as the revelation that Lincoln really isn’t what he seems. In fact, his deep loyalties do make him out to be one of the more prominent (and unusual) romantic leading heroes who acts opposite of the reputation he cultivates in a way that assists him in remaining unavailable. Daisy Sinclair might be his worthy heroine however, although I do in some way, mourn Layne’s original choice of heroine in the form of a mousy copywriter in the first draft of the story. Still, I was absorbed as their stories came together, stuttered to a halt and then came together again in a journey that moved slowly from hopelessness to redemption. With Layne’s very sly insertion of the next pairing as a prelude of things to come, I turned the last page of ‘Someone like You’ already looking out for the next installment in the Oxford series.

four-stars

Necessary Evil by Jamie K. Schmidt

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Erotica/ Mystery/Crime/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 3rd October 2016
Necessary Evil by Jamie K. SchmidtNecessary Evil by Jamie K. Schmidt
Series: Sentinels of Babylon #1
Published by Loveswept on August 23rd 2016
Pages: 224
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two-stars

In this steamy series opener from bestselling author Jamie K. Schmidt—whose writing has been called “hot and sexy, with just the right amount of emotional punch,” by Lauren Layne—a vigilante biker takes the power of love into his own hands.   Lucy Simmons comes from a rough family, but she’s a damn good public defender. Even though she hates to see criminals walk due to sloppy police work, the law’s there to make sure everyone gets a fair trial, and Lucy certainly doesn’t believe in the kind of justice meted out by the leather-clad ex-cop they call “Evil.” He’s stubborn, cynical, and out of control—but he plays her body like no man ever has. For once, both Lucy’s boss and her brother agree: The biker is trouble.   Evan Villiers took a sacred vow to let no killer, rapist, or pedophile go unpunished. When scumbags fall through the system, his motorcycle club cleans up the garbage. Although the Sons of Babylon and their methods may not be to Lucy’s liking, the beautiful lawyer has become Evan’s light in the dark. But his next hit is Lucy’s own brother—a murderer who got off on a technicality. Now, with his loyalties split, Evan must turn his back on his brothers . . . or lose the woman who has claimed his reckless heart.  Includes a special message from the editor, as well as an excerpt from another Loveswept title.

‘Necessary Evil’ delves into vigilante justice in the shadowy world apparently made up of a bar, a motorcycle club consisting of former government workers/agents/soldiers and rival gangs but it isn’t entirely clear by the end of the story where it’s all going.

Jamie K. Schmidt’s portrayal of the violence inherent in this world comes through and her rabble-rousing characters do exhibit that lack of civility that perhaps are a turn-on for some. But with the multiple subplots and loose threads that started and ended abruptly with a writing tone that sometimes goes off key, all I really could assimilate was Lucy’s and Evan’s burning lust for each other—sometimes to the point where alpha animal rutting is the whole point of their encounters—that Schmidt lays out with great detail.

There are parts that sound awkwardly out of place where desirous wants reduce intellect to rubble and I thought both lead characters did sort of act a little too shallowly out of their depth for what they are as they blew hot and cold at every instant. Evan keeps saying Lucy shouldn’t be with someone like him, but would want her as far as his own parameters for a ‘relationship’ goes, with a possessive streak that’s more appalling than protective. Lucy’s own juvenile thoughts makes me wonder if she’s merely a public defender in disguise when it came to playing games with Evan and with the rest of his friends who are less accepting of her. There are secrets neither are willing to open up to with each other, and love apparently, where both are concerned, can be defined by many orgasms and good sex. Apart from extensive sessions in bed, Lucy/Evan didn’t seem to have anything in common that cemented them as a pairing I could connect with, let alone with the rest of the secondary characters who at times were like caricatures than actual fictional people about to have their stories told.

Unfortunately, it isn’t my type of read, sad to say.

two-stars
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