Publisher: Tule Publishing

Take a Chance on Me by Jane Porter

Take a Chance on Me by Jane PorterTake a Chance on Me by Jane Porter
Series: Love on Chance Avenue, #3
Published by Tule Publishing on March 18th 2018
Pages: 146
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Savvy stylist Amanda Wright loves Marietta, her hair salon, and her clients, and no client is more dear to her heart than eighty-year-old Bette Justice–even if her years have made her a little fragile. So when Bette asks Amanda to help her convince her determined grandson, Tyler, a successful game designer, that Marietta is the right home for Bette, Amanda can’t say no.

Tyler Justice has a one-track mind–he wants to take care of his beloved grandmother. He can’t understand her resistance to move to Texas and is sure that the young friend she keeps mentioning–Amanda–is taking advantage of his grandmother’s generosity. He reaches Marietta determined to put the salon owner in her place and bring his grandmother home…until smart, kind Amanda starts to tug at his heart in ways he never expected.

But just as Tyler and Amanda start to form a real connection, will a long-buried family secret destroy their chance at love?

I was frankly, bored with this. Bored because I could see the conflict and the eventual resolution coming, unmoved because I couldn’t feel any chemistry between Amanda and Tyler.
Porter posits Marietta as a small but pretty base where happiness is an almost-guarantee (Tule’s publishing numerous Marietta books attest to it), so it was a given that Tyler would in the end, learn to love the place as Amanda and Bette do…there was no other option available here, because apparently Marietta was the answer to problems, so the man—who apparently is the one with the one-track mind—has to do all the compromising, when it became evident that the whole book centred around getting Tyler to see the beauty of the community that was Marietta.
In fact, I didn’t think Tyler was an arse at all, not when his way of wanting to move his grandmother somewhere else had merit which no one else would see. That Amanda pushed her own issues of her past on to Tyler rather unfairly, or that Tyler seemed to be the one always giving in made it hard to read on, especially when Tyler was the only one made to go on the uphill climb to find his own feet when everyone else sang the happy song of Marietta.
‘Take a Chance on Me’ rubbed me the wrong way early in the book and sadly, I never quite got back that sense of traction or the desire to go on.

No Saint by Mallory Kane

No Saint by Mallory KaneNo Saint by Mallory Kane
Series: Louisiana Lawmen #2
Published by Tule Publishing on January 29th 2018
Pages: 227
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New Orleans Police Detective Rick Easterling is no saint. He’s the NOPD’s best undercover cop. Known as the Man of a Thousand Faces, he’s a rogue–breaking rules to solve cases his way. But when his brother dies of a drug overdose and he’s suspected of being a dirty cop, Rick vows to clear his name and avenge his brother’s death.

Rookie police officer Lusinda Johnson has a personal axe to grind with dirty cops, so she volunteers to work undercover and shadow Rick. She tells herself she can remain immune to his sexy, brooding demeanor, but the longer they work together, the harder it is to see him as anything other than a hero.

As “Sin” and Rick investigate the corrupt underbelly of New Orleans night life, the lies they must tell each other imperil them almost as much as the drug lords closing in. Will they learn to trust each other in time to save themselves and explore their growing love?

‘No Saint’ was a mixed bag for me, though I thought the premise sounded intriguing: sending a rookie officer undercover to investigate another, who might have turned dirty in all his years of experience working in the underbelly of society.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t really buy into the characters at all, even though the beginning started out quite well. I did find Rick easier to sympathise with; his personal vendetta of avenging his brother’s death, his regret about their relationship and his compassion he showed for others when he didn’t need to made him a likeable protagonist.

I couldn’t quite say the same for Lusinda. For a rookie cop, she seemed painfully naive and amateurish with the lack of experience showing up in sharp contrast to Rick’s hardened undercover mien. Her neurotic act with roaches, the constant monologue about her uncertainty and wavering emotions made her out to be almost like a teenager playing cop, consequently making it harder to believe Rick’s fascination with her, let alone his willingness to break his own rule about getting involved while undercover.

I also thought the writing was also somewhat uneven: well-written, descriptive at times, then repetitive/simplistic at other times to the point where I found myself skimming. ‘No Saint’ had good action however; it was also a gritty romantic suspense drawing out the violence of such work and the thin lines of good and bad, particularly if you’re into books that deal with the shifting identities of undercover cops and the struggle to inhabit separate personas and the surprises that will come your way.


On the Edge by Dani Collins

On the Edge by Dani CollinsOn the Edge by Dani Collins
Series: Blue Spruce Lodge #1
Published by Tule Publishing on January 16th 2018
Pages: 299
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When Glory Cormer’s father introduces her to ‘their’ new business partner, she’s appalled. Viking-like Rolf Johansson exudes the same alpha-intimidation that jocks used to torment her through high school. After nursing her mother the last several years, she’s trying to break out of her shell and secretly pursue a writing career, but Rolf insists she go through with the rotten deal her father struck with his brother to renovate an old chalet.

Rolf envisions this mountain as a world-class resort for elite athletes and other jet setters. As a downhill champion and owner of a world-renowned sports equipment empire, he knows what it takes to get what he wants. Nothing will stop him, especially not a hotheaded wallflower who turns the ice in his veins to lava.

‘On the Edge’ has me in a bind. Getting an antagonistic relationship—where 2 people truly don’t think much of each other in the beginning—to flip where both become lovers by the end is a favourite of mine. Throw them into a pressure-cooker environment and watch someone snap, even better.

But the story is much more than a secret-romance writer and introvert getting roped into her father’s whimsical project after her famous mother’s death, then getting stuck in someone else’s dream with a difficult business associate who shouldn’t be inspiring the tales in her head.

It’s not often when a tribute to romance authors is actually written into a story so distinctly. Or maybe it’s an ironic poke at the profession and the writers behind them, especially given the (unfair) flak that the romance genre always absorbs from its critics. No matter what it might be, I can’t help but think that ‘On the Edge’ is a sharp response to all of it.

As much as I like the self-reflexive bit that occasionally wiggles its way into a story however, there was just too much meta author-speak in ‘On the Edge’ for me. In fact, Glory’s own fictional characters were given too much free reign on the pages and the romance within a romance that Dani Collins wrote into this story, felt at best, like a distraction that broke up the main story as Glory wrote her attraction for the aloof and cold Rolf Johansson into a fictional couple who got down and dirty early on.  If there was anything to prove that Glory had her heads in the clouds, this was it. At parts, it felt as though Glory was writing her own story into her fictional heroine’s story, and that exasperated me because I couldn’t find myself interested in the ’second’ romance at all that Glory had whipped up in her head.

Instead, I wanted to see the protagonist here (not in her story) who dug down instead of constantly blushing, the one who stood toe-to-toe to Rolf instead of stammering and losing the tail end of her speech simply because a hunky guy stood near her. But to slobber and be skittish over someone as terse, unkind and disdainful as Rolf was hard to read about, particularly when he looked down on her at the start and pretty much acted the bastard because he could.

Still, I felt for her. Stuck between her own failed career and relegated to a supporting character in her dead mother’s book sales, she had to wrestle a father who’d seemingly gone off the rails, hell-bent on an investment project deep in the mountains of Montana that he knew nothing about. Hemmed in by people who didn’t appreciate the work she did in the lodge, an arse of a hero who was all arrogance and no empathy and a father who brought down her ambitions, I thought she deserved way better than the crap she’d been dealt.

It isn’t to say ‘On the Edge’ isn’t a good read; in fact, I found it entertaining, riveting and sometimes even heartbreaking and Collins’s writing was stirring enough to keep the pages turning.

But like many books, I liked and disliked several things all at once. At the very least, I was engrossed in the hostile back-and-forth that characterised so much of Rolf and Glory. I loved how Glory finally stood up to Rolf, took him to task for being an insensitive and selfish clod, how Collins took her time to develop a burn that could only take time to start after an antagonistic first half, apart from the sudden TSTL move at the end that was nothing but Glory’s own insecurity showing. I did find myself skimming the distracting parts of this book however, and thought it would have been a better, more concise story without the secondary romance.


In the Line of Fire by Joss Wood

In the Line of Fire by Joss WoodIn the Line of Fire by Joss Wood
Series: Pytheon Security #3
Published by Tule Publishing on February 8th 2018
Pages: 154
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It just got personal…

As the Delta Force legend at Pytheon International, security expert Jett Smith-Jones has run out of leads in his effort to capture criminal mastermind, The Recruiter, the head of a notorious, international human trafficking and recruitment ring. The Recruiter remains one step ahead but when he threatens the principal players at Pytheon, including Dr Samantha Stone, the game is back on. Jett, while valiantly trying to ignore his visceral attraction to the fiery red head, is determined that she have the best protective detail Pytheon can provide. He is the best they have.

PhD Samantha Stone has been tasked to profile The Recruiter’s next move as a consultant of the psychology of criminal behavior. Too bad she can’t discern her attraction to the hard-eyed Delta Force legend. She avoids men who chase danger, but she can’t stop dreaming of falling into Jett’s very muscular arms. Unfortunately for Sam, The Recruiter isn’t the only criminal wanting a piece of her…

As they tighten the net around The Recruiter, the risk to Sam increases. Jett vows he will keep her safe, but who will protect his heart? And will Jett prove to pose the biggest danger to Sam of all?

I starting reading ‘In the Line of Fire’ not knowing this was the third book in Joss Wood’s Pytheon Security series so it took a while to unravel the supporting characters and what had happened previously. With the assumption that it was a standalone, there was a bit of a mess when it came to unravelling the threats that Sam faced and I got the feeling that I’d actually been thrown deep into a situation that had its beginnings somewhere off-stage, so sorting out the context took a bit of effort.

Joss Wood definitely has a different style of writing that’s a little quirky but one that jumps out at you—the distinct lack of North American vocabulary can be a bit jarring particularly when the story is about American characters working on American soil—and her characters do and say things I don’t expect. But along with the suspense came a scene with Jett’s ex-fiancée that made me cringe, just as I couldn’t fathom how a strong, take-charge woman like Sam Stone devolved into a clingy, needy, near-TSTL heroine just as Jett blew hot and cold and was plain unkind at several moments when the danger really kicked in. In fact, I found myself barely over the distasteful way Jett sometimes treated Sam and the easy way she managed to let it go before they were already talking about their HEA.

The way the action was set-up (along with the revelation of who the baddies were made guessing somewhat easy) and the behaviour of the characters weren’t elements I could get on board with unfortunately. If ‘In the Line of Fire’ started out great, it fell flat for me by the end…but who knows? It could simply just be me and my prickly tastes.


Burning Love by Trish Morey

Burning Love by Trish MoreyBurning Love by Trish Morey
Series: Hot Aussie Knights #4
Published by Tule Publishing on June 12th 2017
Pages: 96
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Caleb Knight’s ex accused him of being married to his firefighter job, and maybe she was right. He’s given up looking for happy ever after and finds what he needs between Ava’s scorching sheets. But lately, he’s wondering whether this thing with Ava might become more permanent…

Artist Ava Mattiske's ability to trust was shattered long ago. Her steamy fling with Caleb is perfect until he starts talking long-term. She puts on the brakes, but when a bushfire threatens her studio and Caleb is on the scene, Ava realizes that there is one man she can count on... But will it be too late?

Caleb Knight turned up in his twin brother’s book and it got me curious about how evasive he’d been with Dylan. But when Caleb finally burst onto the page, I found myself somewhat underwhelmed and maybe that was because I just couldn’t feel any particular investment in a couple that was simply making the difficult transition from temporary to permanent with several speed bumps along the way.

‘Burning Love’ is unusual in that it takes place a year into Caleb’s and Ava’s casual arrangement with the story picking up from there, alternating between their hookup sessions, Ava’s art and Caleb’s job, though it’s a cycle that rinses and repeats until something gives. As a whore to her parents’ business to the time she has reinvented herself, Ava nonetheless lets her past dictate her future because of the scars that has left on her, convinced that she wants nothing to do with anything remotely resembling affection or love. Somehow Caleb gets beneath her skin and their agreement to just burn up the sheets in bed for the past year on a casual basis is something she uses against him when he finally wants more.

Apart from some parts that had the camaraderie of the guys on show, it was personally hard for me to get into a relationship that felt lopsided and unequal, made up of pull-push dynamic from start to end as Caleb finally grows past the casual hookup stage with Ava and pushes for more, just as Ava pushes him away in denial that gets rote after a while. The later part of their relationship is one made up of more of the same, except that Caleb spends most of his time trying to reaffirm Ava and rebuilding the shattered confidence that she’d lost in her youth. He’s a top bloke undoubtedly, but for most of the story, it felt like he was the one doing all the work while waiting for Ava to come to her senses—which she did only frustratingly, after a life-threatening event. His hard work pays off, though that much made me think of him playing the role of caretaker/therapist/lover all in one for a needy woman who hides a brittle interior.

I’d hoped that the wrap-up to this interesting series could have been better for me; sadly I never could quite get into this pairing as much as I could the rest.


Casey by Kelly Hunter

Casey by Kelly HunterCasey by Kelly Hunter
Series: American Extreme Bull Riders Tour #3
Published by Tule Publishing on May 23rd 2017
Pages: 145
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Rowan Harper has traveled the American Extreme Bull Riders tour circuit with her stock-contractor father since she was four years old. She's seen the best rides and the worst wrecks. And then there's TJ who impressed her most when he didn't ride at all.

T.J. Casey walked away from his rightful place in last year's bull riding finals in order to bury his father. His sponsors are gone, but he's back to stake his claim. He wants the buckle, sure, but he also wants the woman who treats her bucking bulls like lambs.

Can T.J. really score the championship and the girl? Or will he have to choose between the two..once and for all?

T.J. Casey’s eye has been on Rowan Harper for a while, a woman who has only known bull-riding and breeding all her life, yet family tragedy has derailed him from pursuing her outright. It’s only when he’s back, comfortable in the saddle this time around that he asks her out, though not without more accompanying family drama that could threaten the happiness they have with each other.

Much of the story is told with wry humour and with deliberate pacing, building on bits of revelation of their lives and back stories that makes you appreciate the growing intimacy and the slow-burn that builds up over weeks between them. It’s certainly a change for me but one that is enjoyable nonetheless.

Casey’s and Rowan’s relationship is first clandestine, then public but deftly handled by Kelly Hunter in a way that leaves no space for excessive theatrics between 2 adults who really do know the type of behaviour that’s befitting their ages. It doesn’t hurt that Casey and Rowan are good together, mostly because they are distinct individuals—both of them not fitting in the stereotypes of characters typically populating the bull-riding circuit—who actually know what they want and aren’t too afraid to get it. Casey’s steadfastness and his encouragement of Rowan’s continued discovery of herself, starting with something as innocuous as going dress shopping is as appealing as Rowan’s unwavering determination to carve out a distinct career for herself in a place that she has been all her life. For these reasons, ‘Casey’ is an easy but unique read—more heartfelt than action-driven—but capped off with a fitting HEA that doesn’t feel trite nor rushed.


Long Hot Summer by Victoria Purman

Long Hot Summer by Victoria PurmanLong Hot Summer by Victoria Purman
Series: Hot Aussie Knights #3
Published by Tule Publishing on June 5th 2017
Pages: 140
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It's going to be a long, hot summer in Reynolds Ridge…

Hannie Reynolds has returned to the town she grew up in because no other place feels quite like home. But living in the stunning Adelaide Hills comes with risks--from the threat of bushfires that destroy everything in their path to the heart-stopping return of her high school crush.

Firefighter Dylan Knight has come home too, and old memories flare when he sees Hannie again. Have they waited too long to rekindle their love?

When they discover they were driven apart by a lie, they’re more determined than ever to fight for their second chance… until a bushfire threatens to destroy all they might share together and the very foundations of Hannie’s life in the hills.

Has she lost everything … and has Dylan lost her forever?

‘Long Hot Summer’ is such a lovely read, and it’s one that I know will stay in my mind because of the beautiful, extensive descriptions of the natural landscape of Adelaide hills and the slow burn, second-chance trope that comes with it when a jeweller returns home and runs into her teenage crush.

In fact, I was captivated by Dylan Knight’s and Hannie Reynolds’s relationship and how, even fractured by lies and a vindictive cousin who never really got her just rewards, that was never too broken to fix, 14 long years later. But if I was frustrated by Hannie’s big-heartedness and her passivity towards her cousin’s petty jealousies and manipulation, both Dylan and Hannie’s steadfast commitment to each other after these lies were uncovered were more fulfilling because of it and no less powerful because it burns bright and hot against the ever-present menace of the summer bush fires that threaten their homes.

Effortlessly woven into the drama of their lives is the inescapable bit of the unique (and biting) Australian weather and landscape that kept me engrossed and reading on, as Victoria Purman pays tribute not only to Dylan and Hannie, but also the rural community’s resilience and hope when tragedy strikes. By the end of it, it does feel as though Dylan/Hannie’s happiness is tied as much to the land as it is to each other and the bittersweet ending is simply one that speaks of their personal, hard-won victory.