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Chasing Christmas Eve by Jill Shalvis

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Edelweiss/ Reviews 2nd September 2017
Chasing Christmas Eve by Jill ShalvisChasing Christmas Eve by Jill Shalvis
Series: Heartbreaker Bay #4
Published by Avon on September 26th 2017
Pages: 384
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three-stars

Meet cute...

Run for the hills—temporarily. That's Colbie Albright's plan when she flees New York for San Francisco. Wrangling her crazy family by day and writing a bestselling YA fantasy series by night has taken its toll. In short, Colbie's so over it that she's under it. She's also under the waters of a historic San Francisco fountain within an hour of arrival. Fortunately, the guy who fishes Colbie out has her looking forward to Christmas among strangers. But she's pretty sure Spencer Baldwin won't be a stranger for long.

Make merry...

Spence's commitment to hiding from the Ghosts of Relationships Past means he doesn't have to worry about the powerful—okay, crazy hot chemistry—he's got with Colbie. Just because she can laugh at anything, especially herself... just because she's gorgeous and a great listener just because she gets Spence immediately doesn't mean he won't be able to let Colbie go. Does it?

and hope for a miracle.

Now the clock's ticking for Colbie and Spence: Two weeks to cut loose. Two weeks to fall hard. Two weeks to figure out how to make this Christmas last a lifetime.

I’ve always wanted Spence’s story—the hot, smart but lonely geek always there for his friends but also always caught up in his work—and I’m so glad that Jill Shalvis has delivered “Chasing Christmas Eve” just as I thought this poor guy was going to be left behind. And this is a typical Shalvis read as well: light-hearted, never too heavy on the angst, with several scenes and dialogues that have comedic timing down pat.

There hasn’t been a hint of who would be Spence’s other half and it is a surprise in a way, to see that Shalvis pairing him with a famous author who’s unwilling to reveal the kind of fame she has. But like quite a few of Shalvis’s heroines, Colbie tends to run first, shut down, then analyse later, so unsurprisingly, it’s Spence—the more solid yet sweeter and steadfast one—whom I thought would get heartbroken in the end. After all, their affair was meant to burnt bright and hot…and temporary. But the expiry date comes and goes, and with the Christmas magic in the air, miracles do happen and Spence does get his HEA after all. He’s my soft spot after Elle Wheaten and I do admit that I wasn’t as invested in Spence/Colbie as much as I was in Elle/Archer, but that’s obviously a personal preference for character coming through here because I didn’t find Colbie as much as a standout as I’d hoped.

A particular highlight of the book however, is the return of the usual gang and I definitely dig the group dynamics of the Heartbreaker Bay series, especially since it’s always written with charm and quirk that contribute to the quiet sense of comedy. For this alone, I’ll be waiting for the next book to get back into Cow Hollow just to get back the feel-goods.

three-stars

Accidentally on Purpose by Jill Shalvis

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Edelweiss/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 14th January 2017
Accidentally on Purpose by Jill ShalvisAccidentally on Purpose by Jill Shalvis
Series: Heartbreaker Bay, #3
Published by Avon on January 24th 2017
Pages: 384
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four-stars

There’s no such thing as a little in love…
Elle Wheaten’s priorities: friends, career, and kick-ass shoes. Then there’s the muscular wall of stubbornness that’s security expert Archer Hunt—who comes before everything else. No point in telling Mr. “Feels-Free Zone” that, though. Elle will just see other men until she gets over Archer . . . which should only take a lifetime . . .
There’s no such thing as a little in lust…
Archer’s wanted the best for Elle ever since he sacrificed his law-enforcement career to save her. But now that she’s earned happiness and success, Archer just wants Elle 24/7. Their chemistry could start the next San Francisco Earthquake, and Archer doesn’t want to be responsible for the damage. The alternative? Watch her go out with guys who aren’t him . . .
There is such a thing as…
As far as Archer’s concerned, nobody is good enough for Elle. But when he sets out to prove it by sabotaging her dates, she gets mad—and things get hot as hell. Now Archer has a new mission: prove to Elle that her perfect man has been here all along…

Archer and Elle have a very long history and it isn’t an entirely happy one, filled with ghosts of the pasts and inexplicable feelings that both can’t articulate beyond yearning and want. Since Elle blew in like a hurricane back into Archer’s ordered life a year ago, their already fraught sniping at each other finally changes that holding pattern when Elle attempts to move on. Their incorrect perceptions of each other form the root of the conflict – Elle thinks that she is always indebted to Archer while he tries to convince himself that all he wants is for her safe and at a distance – but it’ll take more than just the growing sexual tension between them for things to snap.

‘Accidentally on Purpose’ somehow feels like the furthest from the light-hearted and sometimes clichéd-ridden plots that I associate with Jill Shalvis’s books. Instead, it’s grittier, more drama-filled, more angsty than usual and even skirts the edge of suspense with a whole load of emotions gutted so raw that I found it difficult to put the book down at all, making it as a whole, a story so surprisingly engrossing that stopping ceased becoming an option. Surfacing at an unholy hour after finishing it, then putting together the words for a review became a problem I happily wanted to have, because such moments – thank my cynical self – are dismally rare these days.

Many aspects of the story were compelling simply because it felt as though Shalvis seemed to finally let go a little of the preppy, rom-com (and frankly, exhausting) tropes that have been cheerfully employed in most of her series and dug a little deeper to explain and unravel the complexity that surrounded Archer’s and Elle’s personal histories. And there was much to reveal. At every turn, it felt as though I was uncovering hidden aspects of her lead characters that I never quite felt with the rest of the peanut gallery in the first two books thanks to their shared history, but that simply could be the wonderful characterisation of Elle and Archer (probably more of the former) that ensnared me from the start – which definitely contributed to the scorching heat and subsequent explosion when their simmering cauldron of unspoken attraction and yearning finally spilled over.

It’s fair to say that Elle generally brought out the fangirl in me: that ice-cool strength, the no-nonsense and take-no-prisoners attitude that were the only things that could counter Archer’s emotionally-stunted behaviour. I cheered for her for calling him out when he hid behind reasons so flimsy it took her sharpness to tear it open, for asking him the difficult questions that he couldn’t directly answer and for pushing back in some manner so that she wouldn’t be given the short-straw when he in turn, tried to push her away. Hard when she needed to be, caring because she couldn’t help it, I’m almost tempted to say, like Archer, that Elle’s “it for me”.

As ready as I was to give up on this series, I’m suddenly glad I didn’t. ‘Accidentally on Purpose’ is probably one of the more entertaining reads to graze my e-reader in a while and as much I don’t exactly like first two books, the third is proved to be everything I hoped for.

four-stars

The Trouble with Mistletoe by Jill Shalvis

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Edelweiss/ Reviews 1st September 2016
The Trouble with Mistletoe by Jill ShalvisThe Trouble with Mistletoe (Heartbreaker Bay, #2) by Jill Shalvis
Series: Heartbreaker Bay #2
Published by Avon on September 27th 2016
Pages: 384
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three-stars

If she has her way . . .
Willa Davis is wrangling puppies when Keane Winters stalks into her pet shop with frustration in his chocolate-brown eyes and a pink bedazzled cat carrier in his hand. He needs a kitty sitter, stat. But the last thing Willa needs is to rescue a guy who doesn’t even remember her . . .
He’ll get nothing but coal in his stocking.
Saddled with his great-aunt’s Feline from Hell, Keane is desperate to leave her in someone else’s capable hands. But in spite of the fact that he’s sure he’s never seen the drop-dead-gorgeous pet shop owner before, she seems to be mad at him . . .
Unless he tempers “naughty” with a special kind of nice . . .
Willa can’t deny that Keane’s changed since high school: he’s less arrogant, for one thing—but can she trust him not to break her heart again? It’s time to throw a coin in the fountain, make a Christmas wish—and let the mistletoe do its work . . .

It’s odd to read a Christmas story in the scorching heat of summer (which probably contributes to the disconnect I’m having) but that’s not quite the reason I felt ‘The Trouble with Mistletoe’ was a decent but an average read – not abysmal as I’d feared, but not stellar either. In fact, it’s a classic scripted romantic comedy for the starry-eyed, breezy and light-hearted, complete with a huge group of gossiping friends providing the side entertainment but ultimately crafted with a formula that is well-known and well-loved, which makes me think that I’ve read or seen this somewhere before. Or perhaps this is merely a rant detailing my discontent with a genre that still aims to profit off conceits that have grown stale and mouldy past the early 21st century.

I’d say straight out that Shalvis’s stories are predictable: there is a kind of banter that’s part ripped off slogans or T-shirts and anthropomorphic animals intended to pull at the heart-strings of animal lovers. These do work – to an extent at least, up until the point where I’d love to see more of the two-legged kind taking charge of their own lives rather than the four-legged ones running them.

From their first meeting, it was obvious that Keane and Willa were headed down a path of conflict – one that is more typical of these feel-good romances where the guy doesn’t commit and the girl is also afraid to – but it isn’t one that is full of extreme ups and downs…but rather, meanders off-course (when someone panics or starts mouthing off something that can be misinterpreted) until the path finally straightens enough to display a shiny piece of jewellery at the end of the tunnel.

Deprived of love while growing up, one has learned to live without it; the other has learned to give as much of it to those who are around her. After a series of interventions by friends and those of the furry kind, Keane suddenly learns to care and decides that Willa is his one-night stand to end all of his one-night stands, while Willa manages to shrug off her teenage rejection angst enough to let him be who she needs. And in the centre of the drama is the unwitting catalyst: a Siamese by the name of Petunia, whom I got the feeling I should champion instead of the lead characters. Keane was a character easy to read and tag, even if his suddenly all-round carefully-styled, decent persona all seemed a little smug and smarmy when he flipped rather unbelievably from no-commitment to commitment in the blink of an eye. But I sort of did like Willa – one of those few Shalvis Heroines who passes muster – for the tremendous care she shows for her animals as well as the employees for whom she has an affinity.

As always, the wrap-up is neat and fluffy, with a good set-up for Elle and Archer as the couple in the next book. Yet long after Keane/Willa curled up under their their Christmas tree, I still found myself under the day’s lingering heat, wishing for something more provocative that would heat my engines past boiling point.

three-stars

Sweet Little Lies by Jill Shalvis

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Reviews 28th June 2016
Sweet Little Lies  by Jill ShalvisSweet Little Lies by Jill Shalvis
Series: Heartbreaker Bay, #1
Published by Avon on June 28th 2016
Pages: 384
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one-star

Choose the one guy you can’t have . . .
As captain of a San Francisco Bay tour boat, Pru can handle rough seas—the hard part is life on dry land. Pru loves her new apartment and her neighbors; problem is, she’s in danger of stumbling into love with Mr. Right for Anybody But Her.
Fall for him—hard . . .
Pub owner Finn O’Riley is six-foot-plus of hard-working hottie who always makes time for his friends. When Pru becomes one of them, she discovers how amazing it feels to be on the receiving end of that deep green gaze. But when a freak accident involving darts (don’t ask) leads to shirtless first aid, things rush way past the friend zone. Fast.
And then tell him the truth.
Pru only wants Finn to be happy; it’s what she wishes for at the historic fountain that’s supposed to grant her heart’s desire. But wanting him for herself is a different story—because Pru’s been keeping a secret that could change everything. . . .

The trend of brainless, witless and spineless female leads appears to be Jill Shalvis’s hallmark of late and I find myself barely pulling out my hair in frustration before the halfway point is really reached.

The setup is perfect: a bar owner who has worked his arse off to get him and his brother where they are today meets a sexy captain of a boat and gets involved, but said captain’s secret threatens to destroy what they have. Yet honesty, apparently, seems to take a backseat because the guy’s too hot and everything she’s ever wanted, leaving the predictable trajectory of the story veering towards a conflict that is not only predictable, but highly annoying considering mostly deception and lies by omission drive the plot. If I’d initially thought Pru had a noble, but ultimately misguided intention of repaying everything that her parents had done, that impression quickly degenerated into disgust when she chooses not to heed her friend’s warning (as well as her own instinct) to be honest with Finn, finding every opportunity to shirk that particular responsibility. Going further to believe that getting Finn to fall for her more so he wouldn’t let her go after he learns the truth made her even stupider that I thought she would ever be.

The consequences are so cringe-worthy that I’m repulsed just anticipating it. Isn’t there a different type of conflict that Ms. Shalvis could have set up past Pru’s questionable behaviour? Or is this the only route that romance readers demand and blindly accept because it’s simply a stale, but reliable staple of rom-com? Part of me feels mean for even thinking that sticking to a tried and tested formula (though not always successful) is simply sloppy planning and execution.

Perhaps it’s my cynicism and inability to tolerate such weak and stupid women that I nearly couldn’t finish the book at all. Here’s hoping to something else different in the future, but even then, I’m not entirely too optimistic now, despite the other great characters who are primed for their own books.

one-star
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