Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks

99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne

99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks on 29th January 2019
Pages: 352
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Crush: a strong and often short-lived infatuation, particularly for someone beyond your reach…

… If Darcy Barrett hadn’t met her dream man when she was eight years old, the rest of the male population wouldn’t be such a let-down. No one measures up to Tom Valeska, aka the best man on Earth, not in looks, brain or heart. Even worse is the knowledge that her twin brother Jamie saw him first, and claimed him forever as his best friend.

Tom’s off limits and loyal to her brother, 99%. One percent of Tom has had to be enough for Darcy, and her adoration has been sustained by his shy kindness. And if she’s honest, his tight t-shirts.

Now Darcy’s got three months left to get her life together before her twin insists on selling the tumble-down cottage they inherited from their grandmother. By night, she’s working in a seedy bar, shooting down lame pickups from bikers. By day, she’s sewing underwear for her best friend and wasting her award-winning photography skills on website shots of pens and novelty mugs. She’s enjoying living the messy life, and a glass of wine or ten… until that one night, when she finds a six-foot-six perfect package on her porch.

Tom’s here, he’s bearing power tools—and he’s single for the first time in a decade.

As a house flipper extraordinaire, Tom has been dispatched by Jamie to give the cottage a drastic facelift that will result in a ton of cash. Darcy doesn’t appreciate Tom’s unsentimental approach to knocking down walls, and he really, really doesn’t approve of her current burnout boyfriend. They can’t be in the same room together without sparks flying- and it’s not the faulty wiring. One bedroom wall separates them at night, and even that’s looking flimsy.

Will Tom ever see Darcy as anything other than a little-sister obstacle to get around? And can she stand up to her most formidable opponent—her twin? This time around, she’s determined to make Tom Valeska 99 percent hers, and he’s never managed to say no to her yet…

I’m not sure how to deal with my own sky-high expectations after Sally Thorne’s ‘The Hating Game’, so ‘99 Percent Mine’ having to match these is a tough order to boot. And as much as it pains me to say, my struggles started as I was barely past the first few pages.

Now that didn’t bode all that well. Getting on board with Darcy Barrett’s voice, her inner musings—neurotic, bitchy, lonely and tetchy—written in a first-person POV, New Adult style storytelling was difficult to begin with. There were too many tangents that a single, small thought of hers took, to the point where I wondered what Darcy really was trying to ramble on about as the story wound round and round with her self-deprecating bitterness and her observations of her surroundings (this swung from random things to other random things like a stream of consciousness) before moving forward with some significant developments.

Darcy was also quite the runner in every sense of the word, which isn’t the kind of protagonist I can say I honestly like. (Somehow characters in romantic fiction who drift from country to country, never putting down roots are those who in some clichéd manner, never seem to find their home until the one thing that’s been always bothering them gets put to bed.) Her endless pining for Tom Valeska was described with bombastic, exaggerated care, though much of it just came off as hopeless and reckless, just like what Thorne seemed to portray of Darcy—an annoying and burned-out mess who has descended into a deranged spiral of morbid thoughts of Tom and his supposed fiancée, while going at her own love life and career like the tanked things they were.

In any case, I couldn’t even finish the book at all. Maybe someday in the far distant future, ‘99 Percent Mine’ might be just what I need. But not today.

Savor You by Kristen Proby

Savor You by Kristen ProbySavor You by Kristen Proby
Series: Fusion #5
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks on 24th April 2018
Pages: 288
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two-stars

Cooking isn't what Mia Palazzo does, it's who she is. Food is her passion . . . her pride . . . her true love. She's built a stellar menu full of delicious and sexy meals for her restaurant, Seduction. Now, after being open for only a few short years, Mia’s restaurant is being featured on Best Bites TV. To say Seduction is a wild success is an understatement. All the blood, sweat, tears, and endless hours of work Mia has put into the restaurant has finally paid off.

Then Camden Sawyer, the biggest mistake of her life, walks into her kitchen . . .

Camden's celebrity chef status is world-renowned. He's the best there is, and the kitchen is where he's most at home. He can't resist the invitation to Portland for a showdown against Mia for a new television show. Mia was in his life years ago, and just like before, he's met his match in the beautiful Italian spitfire. The way she commands the kitchen is mesmerizing, and her recipes are clever and delicious. He's never had qualms about competition, and this is no different. He can't wait to go head to head with Mia. But can he convince her the chemistry they share in the kitchen would be just as great in the bedroom as well?

As Mia and Camden face off, neither realizes how high the stakes are as their reputations are put on the line and their hearts are put to the ultimate test.

I’ve a love-hate relationship with the Masterchef series. Let’s just say when the conditions are right, I’m glued to my seat, salivating as I watch the magic that’s whipped up with the freshest ingredients, the  state-of-the-art kitchen and the creative ideas that the chefs spin out of thin air. Kristen’s Proby ‘Savor You’ has that sort of feel to it which I liked and would probably appeal to die-hard foodies—involving celebrity chefs and the fascinating world of gastronomy.

But as I soon found out, the pairing didn’t appeal to me at all. There is some heavy history between Mia and Camden, until you learn that she’d done something unforgivable a decade ago in here. Yet using trite words such as ‘I’m a horrible person’ couldn’t justify the weight of her actions enough to me, nor did they simply make it alright. That Cam merely accepted them like the history didn’t matter—without a hint of anger or a grudge—left me bewildered. But then, I’m the one imagining that time doesn’t quite heal such deep wounds without scars for you to remember them.

It didn’t help that I found Mia prickly as she waffled between self-pity and bitchiness, frequently prone to overreactions and pretty much in need of valium and a psychiatrist’s chair with her control issues and emotional fluctuations. My esteem of her dropped further after learning what she did to Cam years ago and this is the part that I feel, that Proby glossed through (or called it ‘moving in’) in favour of a fluffier, less-angsty and more sex-filled read, because it did seem what Mia did so long ago required more than just blithe and brief statements of regret and apologies. But her way of ‘righting’ wrongs was only done because of the work arrangement with Cam; otherwise, it seemed as though she had no intention of revisiting that part of her life and reflecting on the enormous mistake she made.

‘Savor You’ was ultimately a middling read for me that I quickly lost interest in without the emotional spikes and valleys I’d hoped to feel given Mia/Cam’s contentious history, so it’s probably clear that this wasn’t the book for me at all.

two-stars

Blush for Me by Kristen Proby

Blush for Me by Kristen ProbyBlush for Me by Kristen Proby
Series: Fusion #3
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks on March 7th 2017
Pages: 320
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three-stars

As the take-charge wine bar manager of Seduction, Portland's hottest new restaurant, Katrina Meyers is the definition of no-nonsense, and she isn't afraid of anything. Well, almost anything: she hates to fly. When she's forced to travel on a death trap with wings, the turbulence from hell has her reaching for any safe haven—including the incredibly handsome guy sitting next to her.
Ryan "Mac" MacKenzie hasn't been able to get his sexy seatmate out of his head. The way she clung to him stirred something inside him he didn't think existed: tenderness. As the owner of a successful wine touring company, Mac thinks he's got a handle on what life can throw at him and he's not prepared for any surprises, especially in the feelings department. And when he brings a tour into Seduction, he sees the petite spitfire he just can't forget.
Mac is determined to discover what else they have in common besides fine wine and the inability to keep their hands off each other. But what will it take for two stubborn people to realize that what they have is so much more than a hot chemistry between the sheets and to admit to falling in love…?

That I forgot the heroine’s name while writing this review (and needed to check her name) should have given me some warning signs. Is there a way to admit less bluntly that ‘Blush for Me’ bored me throughout?

There are bits that I liked and bits that I couldn’t find myself interested in: I liked Kat’s individuality and how Kristen Proby took pains to highlight it; her compassion and her spunk stood out most of all. But Mac somehow faded into the shadows for me. As a typical male protagonist (the won’t commit type but suddenly finds he will after the ‘right’ one smacks him in the face), I didn’t exactly find him prominent or memorable, just that he happened to be at the right place and the right time to change both his and Kat’s lives around.

While I appreciate how Proby doesn’t make this a destined soulmates sort of book, I simply I found that the story of a ‘sexcation’ turning into a real relationship trundled nowhere, with almost negligible bumps in between. It is mostly angst-free read though, save for the bits of family drama and the conflict (thankfully) isn’t one that is written so that a wedge is deliberately driven between the lead characters.

Yet the number of scenes that simply went on between Mac/Kat which couldn’t rouse me from a comatose state after a while as I felt there was nothing much more to this couple I could look forward to.

three-stars

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

The Hating Game by Sally ThorneThe Hating Game by Sally Thorne
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks on August 9th 2016
Pages: 384
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five-stars

Lucy Hutton has always been certain that the nice girl can get the corner office. She’s charming and accommodating and prides herself on being loved by everyone at Bexley & Gamin. Everyone except for coldly efficient, impeccably attired, physically intimidating Joshua Templeman.

And the feeling is mutual.

Trapped in a shared office together 40 (OK, 50 or 60) hours a week, they’ve become entrenched in an addictive, ridiculous never-ending game of one-upmanship. There’s the Staring Game. The Mirror Game. The HR Game. Lucy can’t let Joshua beat her at anything—especially when a huge new promotion goes up for the taking.

If Lucy wins this game, she’ll be Joshua’s boss. If she loses, she’ll resign. So why is she suddenly having steamy dreams about Joshua, and dressing for work like she’s got a hot date? After a perfectly innocent elevator ride ends with an earth shattering kiss, Lucy starts to wonder whether she’s got Joshua Templeman all wrong.

Maybe Lucy Hutton doesn’t hate Joshua Templeman. And maybe, he doesn’t hate her either. Or maybe this is just another game.


Whimsically written with such panache, and so many laugh-out-loud moments of a journey from so-called hate to love, ‘The Hating Game’ is such a sparkling diamond I’m so glad I unearthed in my usual trawl for these rom-com types. It’s the voice of Lucy Hutton that holds the entire story together and what begins as a hostile relationship with Joshua Templeman in the office slides into odd games, insults and banter that you never quite know where the truth and fiction between them actually lie. In fact, it’s akin to getting on with a boy who torments a girl he likes, only that it takes place in the office and spills out of it, leaving the grown-ups not knowing what to do except to play along and pray nothing goes out of hand.But it does, obviously. In a way that makes you take a breath for the confrontation that’s lurking around the corner on page 200 while you hope for several curved balls to be thrown your way.

In the end, I laughed, I clutched my chest, I ached for Josh and wondered why the heck they circled each other when it was obvious they simply needed to get it all on.

And the tone that Sally Thorne adopts throughout – smug, unsure, kind, contradictory, bitchy and all – is so richly nuanced that I never felt prouder and more grossly horrified at being female. It’s what makes Lucy and Josh the odd-pairing that is simultaneously so wrong and right and what makes their chemistry zing with a tension so thick I wished it exploded with greater fireworks. I loved all the humour (and that very Aussie way of smart-alecky writing) and the comebacks, but the moments I really waited for were buried in the second half of the book, when the sobering bits finally emerged after spending a lifetime simmering underneath the banter and the verbal foreplay that never quite got to the heart of Lucy’s and Josh’s feelings.

‘The Hating Game’ thankfully doesn’t sink with heavy angst; any problems were resolved with lightning swiftness, leaving us with an ending so tooth-achingly sweet I knew it had to be fiction.

five-stars

Close to You by Kristen Proby

Close to You by Kristen ProbyClose to You by Kristen Proby
Series: Fusion #2
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks on August 9th 2016
Pages: 320
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three-stars

From New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Kristen Proby comes the second novel in her sizzling Fusion series.
Camilla, “Cami,” LaRue was five years old when she first fell in love with Landon Palazzo. Everyone told her the puppy love would fade—they clearly never met Landon. When he left after graduation without a backward glance, she was heartbroken. But Cami grew up, moved on, and became part-owner of wildly popular restaurant Seduction. She has everything she could want...or so she thinks.
After spending the last 12 years as a Navy fighter pilot, Landon returns to Portland to take over the family construction business. When he catches a glimpse of little Cami LaRue, he realizes she’s not so little any more. He always had a soft spot for his little sister’s best friend, but nothing is soft now when he’s around the gorgeous restauranteur.
Landon isn’t going to pass up the chance to make the girl-next-door his. She’s never been one for romance, but he’s just the one to change her mind. Will seduction be just the name of her restaurant or will Cami let him get close enough to fulfill all her fantasies?

Carrying a torch for the best friend’s brother for years isn’t going to go anywhere and Camille LaRue is just on her way to accept that unfulfilled dream, until it becomes a reality when Landon Palazzo returns from a Navy after a fighter-jet accident that rudely inserts him back into civilian life and straight into the arms of a girl he could never forget.

‘Close to You’ surprised me in several ways, but what stood out was the cruising speed at which Cami and Landon picked up where they left off. Strangely light-hearted and nearly angst-free, I expected their story to be more gutting and painful, given the unrequited feels and looks thrown between them in the first book. There is much to like about the characters – their steadiness, the chemistry and the lack of denial about their feelings – yet I thought they could have been greater depth perhaps, had PTSD been briefly addressed, as well as the burning question that was never really answered: would Landon have come for Camille at all had the accident not happened? As serendipitous as their burgeoning relationship was written, it felt as though that that this pairing could have succeeded only because of a twist of fate, rather than a deliberate attempt on either side to do something about their feelings.

I’d been hoping for more friction, a little more doubt on both sides and got a sweet story instead – though not without bumps and some drama which thankfully are resolved fairly quickly – which is not a bad change considering the sheer amount of heaving bosoms, plate-throwing tantrums, irrational alpha males and overreacting females that populates the romance shelves these days.

Ultimately, a sweet read, albeit with a very abrupt end that tries to set up Kate’s story but left me gobsmacked and hanging.

three-stars