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Irresistible You by Kate Meader

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Sports 19th June 2017
Irresistible You by Kate MeaderIrresistible You by Kate Meader
Series: Chicago Rebels #1
Published by Pocket Star on August 14th 2017
Pages: 300
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four-stars

Three estranged sisters inherit their late father’s failing hockey franchise and are forced to confront a man’s world, their family’s demons, and the battle-hardened ice warriors skating into their hearts.

Harper Chase has just become the most powerful woman in the NHL after the death of her father Clifford Chase, maverick owner of the Chicago Rebels. But the team is a hot mess—underfunded, overweight, and close to tapping out of the league. Hell-bent on turning the luckless franchise around, Harper won’t let anything stand in her way. Not her gender, not her sisters, and especially not a veteran player with an attitude problem and a smoldering gaze designed to melt her ice-compacted defenses.

Veteran center Remy “Jinx” DuPre is on the downside of a career that’s seen him win big sponsorships, fans’ hearts, and more than a few notches on his stick. Only one goal has eluded him: the Stanley Cup. Sure, he’s been labeled as the unluckiest guy in the league, but with his recent streak of good play, he knows this is his year. So why the hell is he being shunted off to a failing hockey franchise run by a ball-buster in heels? And is she seriously expecting him to lead her band of misfit losers to a coveted spot in the playoffs?

He’d have a better chance of leading Harper on a merry skate to his bed…

‘Irresistible You’ has an irresistible setup: a team down in the dumps, a bastard ex-owner, his three daughters who are estranged half-sisters, a near-hostile meeting between a new owner (who’s really been screwed over by her father) and an unwilling trade in hockey, with sparks and secret deals all around.

Kate Meader’s stylish, confident writing shows up so clearly here, and it’s easy to get swept along by the plot and her characters. It had me wanting to know how Remy Du Pre and Harper Chase would get from ‘enemies’ to lovers so to speak, and I loved the tension from the very beginning and the inevitable pull they felt towards each other in Remy’s stomping ground in the exotic (and some say magical) New Orleans.

The progression did lag in the middle for me as Remy and Harper dwelled too much on the potential consequences of carrying on as a couple. I didn’t exactly like Harper’s slowness and unwillingness to fight for Remy (who never gave up on her) just as the latter’s good humour and laid-back candidness won me over. Yet Harper does alright in the end and their happy-for-now is most likely just the start of what’s going to be a longer journey in a bigger story arc that I suspect, will involve the entire team as time goes on.

The uneven pacing aside, hockey isn’t my sport, so the terminology is lost on me, but Meader does make it more about the pairing than the actual sport and the management of it as Remy/Harper’s relationship goes from grudging respect to something more. I loved how well-crafted both of them really are (here, the tiny details make the cake) as Meader does brilliant work enunciating their insecurities and their motivations while leaving the potential for a deadbeat team to reach the playoffs. With Harper’s sisters wait in the wings for their own HEAs, that’s a hook and a teaser I can’t say no to.

four-stars

Semper Fi Cowboy by Heather Long

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ Netgalley/ Reviews 22nd May 2017
Semper Fi Cowboy by Heather LongSemper Fi Cowboy by Heather Long
Series: Lone Star Leathernecks #1
Published by Pocket Star on June 26th 2017
Pages: 145
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two-stars

A Leatherneck by any other name can still kick ass, which is just what retired United States Marine Corps Captain Tanner Wilks plans to do when he returns to his Texas family ranch to care for his ailing father. And nothing will stop him from achieving his mission—not even a lithe, brown-eyed town veterinarian who seems hell-bent on driving him wild.

Captain Tanner Wilks, honorably discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps, returns home to find his father struggling after his latest heart attack. Worse yet, Julia Heller—the sexy new girl in town that he once spent a hot night with—is the resident veterinarian who’s made a home for herself at Round Top ranch, and doesn’t seem to be in a rush to repeat their time together.

It falls on Tanner’s shoulders to take on the ranch and keep an eye on his father before he falls victim to another heart attack. But Julia doesn’t appreciate Tanner coming in or pursuing her. Even if he’s hot as hell and can make her quiver with just a look. Ousting her may give Tanner the leverage he needs to corral his father, but first he has to wrestle with his own heart.

‘Semper Fi Cowboy’ is a quick read, but it’s also oddly slow-going, with paragraphs dedicated to Tanner Wilks’s family, their legacy (military service runs in the family, followed by ranching) and the land that they’ve had for generations. I did get bored at times, as the pacing lagged a little, but having no expectations of this new series by Heather Long, it was easier to go with the flow and see where the story took me.

The quickness with which both Tanner and Jules jumped into bed meant that there wasn’t much build-up or tension that I normally like—or at least there wasn’t anything that led me to the edge of hot and bothered before I fall along with the couple. It’s not a development that I can usually buy into, but the story went on, it became clear that the intention was always to show Tanner’s reintegration into his new life—as well as Jules’s place in it—as he deals with his stick-in-the-mud military father.

The story’s not downright angsty, and the conflict is mostly about smalltime family drama, along with a lot of ranching work details that are typical of such reads. In short, it’s not quite the perfect novella for me (and this has to do with the reasons above rather than Long’s writing style) and the brevity of it means that the love declarations and the resolutions do come faster than I’m used to. But for those who love rural, country-type romances with a quick wrap-up, ‘Semper Fi Cowboy’ would probably be something to dive straight into.

two-stars

Edge of Surrender by Laura Griffin

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ Mystery/Crime/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 1st April 2016
Edge of Surrender by Laura GriffinEdge of Surrender by Laura Griffin
Series: Alpha Crew, #2
Published by Pocket Star on March 28th 2016
Pages: 128
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three-stars

Ryan had one job: keep Emma safe at all costs. But after a night of passion, Emma takes off and Ryan soon realizes he’s not the only one looking for her. Can he figure out who’s after the beautiful government aide, and why, before she falls into the wrong hands…if she hasn’t already?
Emma’s fighting to get justice for her fallen comrades, but she can’t do it alone. She needs Ryan’s help, but that means trusting him--and dealing with the out-of-control desire blazing between them. Can there be any future for a marked woman and a man trained to kill? She hopes they live long enough to find out…

I’m simply going to leave the same review for this part as I did the first, seeing as this would have worked better as a single novel than 2 novellas separated by a few short weeks. I deliberately waited until I had both parts before I began reading and that did pay off at least, but knowing how this one ended certainly made me understand the frustrations of those who had to wait for the second part for the story’s (less than satisfactory) conclusion.

Yet Laura Griffin’s foray into military romantic suspense apart from her Tracers series seems like a tentative one, but the Alpha Crew series already has the potential to be as successful as her Texas crime-busters one – if ‘Beyond Limits’ (a sure favourite of mine) is any indication of what she can do with SEALs and strong women.

I loved the way we are plunged straight into adventure and danger: a plane crash, a stubborn woman who does everything to survive (realistically so) and a SEAL determined to protect her at all costs, even as an unexpected attraction flares between them. Yet I neither hated nor loved both protagonists though, since I simply thought it was more lust (the immediate burn of attraction) than love that connected them, all the way to the very abrupt end. There isn’t much depth to both Emma and Ryan for me to be really invested in them, nor is there a satisfying ‘Hollywood style’ taking down of the bad guy – the pace of the story is both a boon and a bane for character development in this case – and I’d actually hoped for something more concrete and poignant by the time I turned the last page.

three-stars

At the Edge by Laura Griffin

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ Mystery/Crime/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 1st April 2016
At the Edge by Laura GriffinAt the Edge by Laura Griffin
Series: Alpha Crew, #1
Published by Pocket Star on March 7th 2016
Pages: 144
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three-stars

When Emma Wright’s government plane goes down over the Philippine jungle, she’s forced to survive alone until an ultra-elite SEAL team goes in after her. As the leader of Alpha Crew, Ryan Owen is no stranger to challenges, but he’s never tackled anything quite like this sexy, smart, and resourceful woman. The mission is to get Emma home safely, but danger is everywhere, and Ryan’s unexpected desire for Emma could be a deadly distraction.
Back home in California, Ryan’s mission is over—but Emma’s has just begun. She knows her plane crash was no accident, and she’s determined to uncover the truth about what happened—even if her quest for answers puts her at risk. Torn between duty and desire, Ryan searches for a way win Emma’s heart while protecting her from an invisible enemy who wants her dead.
The thrilling conclusion to this Alpha Crew romance is just weeks away!

I deliberately waited until I had both parts before I began reading and that did pay off at least, but knowing how this one ended certainly made me understand the frustrations of those who had to wait for the second part for the story’s (less than satisfactory) conclusion.

Yet Laura Griffin’s foray into military romantic suspense apart from her Tracers series seems like a tentative one, but the Alpha Crew series already has the potential to be as successful as her Texas crime-busters one – if ‘Beyond Limits’ (a sure favourite of mine) is any indication of what she can do with SEALs and strong women.

I loved the way we are plunged straight into adventure and danger: a plane crash, a stubborn woman who does everything to survive (realistically so) and a SEAL determined to protect her at all costs, even as an unexpected attraction flares between them. Yet I neither hated nor loved both protagonists though, since I simply thought it was more lust (the immediate burn of attraction) than love that connected them, all the way to the very abrupt end. There isn’t much depth to both Emma and Ryan for me to be really invested in them, nor is there a satisfying ‘Hollywood style’ taking down of the bad guy – the pace of the story is both a boon and a bane for character development in this case – and I’d actually hoped for something more concrete and poignant by the time I turned the last page.

three-stars

Whatever It Takes by L.E. Bross

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Young Adult 5th December 2015
Whatever It Takes by L.E. BrossWhatever It Takes by L.E. Bross
Series: Second Chances #2
Published by Pocket Star on December 14th 2015
Pages: 224
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three-stars

Tess is burdened with a responsibility she’s not quite sure she can handle, and Ryan is determined to save her from it—if she ever stops pushing him away—in this sexy follow-up to Right Where You Are, the first new adult novel in the captivating Second Chances series.
Tess is a lot of things. Strong. Independent. Determined. Completely overwhelmed by the responsibilities of being her little brother’s caretaker. But she can handle it. She has to. Because there’s no way in hell she’s letting anyone else raise Noah.
Ryan’s happy with a life on cruise control. He has no intention of tying himself down. That road only leads to heartbreak, a lesson he learned the hard way when he was fifteen. So why can’t he stay away from the one woman who broke his heart?
Tess knows exactly why Ryan keeps popping up right when she needs the most help: He’s got a hero complex big enough to save Cinderella. But Tess isn’t that girl, and she refuses to let him be part of her life. Not even when Noah takes a liking to him. Not even when they kind of, maybe, hook up.
Not even when she starts to fall for him…

‘Whatever It Takes’ offers a more conventional and predictable take on the second chance romance, reuniting teenage lovers at a time when things couldn’t be more difficult for both the H/hr. For that reason, I felt that it wasn’t too much of a standout compared to its predecessor which was written around more unique circumstances and more standout characters. That being said however, L.E. Bross does nicely capture NA voices that tend to be a mix of impulsivity and growing maturity and I did like the portrayal of Tess and her struggles with Noah.

three-stars

All the Queen’s Men by Linda Howard

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ Mystery/Crime/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 4th December 2015
All the Queen’s Men by Linda HowardAll the Queen's Men by Linda Howard
Series: CIA Spies #2
Published by Pocket Star on June 1st 2000
Pages: 376
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three-stars

THE PAST PROVED DEADLY...
No one knows the dangers of getting close to legendary CIA Black Ops specialist John Medina better than communications expert Niema Burdock. Five years ago, she and her husband worked with Medina on an explosive mission that ended in a tragedy. Although she has slowly recovered from her terrible loss, Niema planned never to see Medina again. Until now.
HISTORY IS ABOUT TO REPEAT ITSELF...
A French arms dealer is supplying international terrorists, and only Niema can plant the bugs needed to crack the deadly ring. Against her best instincts, she infiltrates the dealer's glamorous world. But when the plan goes awry, Niema and Medina must take flight in a strange land--and soon find their partnership sparked by an erotic charge. In a world of deception. John Medina has once again set Niema on a free fall into danger...and into desire like she's never known.

A trailblazing novel and an entirely enthralling read that is probably revolutionary and fresh at time of publication. ‘All the Queen’s Men’ plunges straight into action with an unforgettable heroine who is reunited with the enigmatic, legendary spy who has played a pivotal role in her husband’s death 5 years earlier.

More importantly, it’s hard not to admire what Linda Howard has done with this story; reading this over a decade later hasn’t diminished the impact of the issues of terrorism and the black market on weapons/technology that the book raises.

But above all, I loved the kickass Niema who’s the perfect combination of smart, dry and capable without venturing into TSTL territory at all. I could appreciate to a lesser extent, John Medina, because his initiation of their first sex scene together felt a little uncomfortably non-consensual, or at the very least, manipulative. But throughout, I couldn’t exactly get a read on him and even the revelation of his feelings seemed piecemeal and sparse at the end.

The build-up between Niema and John kept me on my toes and while I thought their resolution happened too abruptly – after a ridiculous climax brought about by a shopping trip (?!) – without sufficient closure, Niema/John actually do get a very cautious HEA with which I’m not entirely satisfied.

three-stars

The Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran

Posted in Historical Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ Reviews 21st November 2015
The Duke of Shadows by Meredith DuranThe Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran
Published by Pocket Star on March 25th 2008
Pages: 371
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four-stars

Sick of tragedy, done with rebellion, Emmaline Martin vows to settle quietly into British Indian society. But when the pillars of privilege topple, her fiancé's betrayal leaves Emma no choice. She must turn for help to the one man whom she should not trust, but cannot resist: Julian Sinclair, the dangerous and dazzling heir to the Duke of Auburn.

In London, they toast Sinclair with champagne. In India, they call him a traitor. Cynical and impatient with both worlds, Julian has never imagined that the place he might belong is in the embrace of a woman with a reluctant laugh and haunted eyes. But in a time of terrible darkness, he and Emma will discover that love itself can be perilous -- and that a single decision can alter one's life forever.

A lifetime of grief later, in a cold London spring, Emma and Julian must finally confront the truth: no matter how hard one tries to deny it, some pasts cannot be disowned...and some passions never die.

Expansive, sweeping and so epic that I needed to catch my breath after book 1 ended. Meredith Duran’s vibrant and vivid descriptions not only lent justice to the complex period where the British Raj was about to break apart but gave it a sheen through a romance that seemed doomed from the start.

That fractured sense of history during the Sepoy mutiny is mirrored in her equally elusive protagonists: Julian Sinclair who has had to fight the prejudice against his mixed heritage and Emma Martin, for whom dire circumstances had set her aside from the proper behavioural protocols to forge her own way in a society built on judgement and precepts. Told in 2 parts, their story spans 4 tumultuous years, from the brilliant beginnings in India to the more predictable end in Victorian London.

Book 1 characterised them perfectly, but book 2 seemed more disjointed than book 1, characterising 2 changed people, to the extent I actually wondered if I was reading about the same protagonists that captured my heart in the first place.

Still, there was so much I loved about Emma’s unyielding character, as Ms Duran’s narrative seemed to favour unravelling her more than Julian, whom I liked a lot less for that same reason. I’d hoped she could have clarified the man he really was as opposed to the man he was perceived to be (especially on the grounds of fidelity), but that never really happened, leaving us to guess as what he’d become after the 4 years apart. If I thought Julian absolutely stellar in part 1, he seemed to flatten and diminish in the second part, reduced to a bit role of a man who only fought against Emma’s resistance using flippancy and crudeness – just like the rake people say he is, without authorial correction of the reader’s perception of him. Despite this, I can’t think of a couple more suited to each other than Julian and Emma, where the weight of their history actually gave weight to their believability, as much as I loved them together in book 1 a lot more than the ‘changed’ people they were in book 2.

But what does one say about a book where the first part – indelibly imprinted in my mind – so greatly overshadows the distasteful second? Apart from trying to reason out the number of stars I should be giving the book, I’m still not too sure.

four-stars
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