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Burning Love by Trish Morey

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews 12th June 2017
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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two-stars

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.

two-stars

Long Hot Summer by Victoria Purman

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews 24th May 2017
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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four-stars

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.

four-stars

Burning Both Ends by Sinclair Jayne

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Erotica/ Netgalley/ Reviews 21st May 2017
Burning Both Ends by Sinclair JayneBurning Both Ends by Sinclair Jayne
Series: Hot Aussie Knights #2
Published by Tule Publishing on May 29th 2017
Pages: 158
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three-stars

Darington Knight has known a lot of loss in her twenty-six years. She can deal, so she resents it when the commander of her Montana smoke jumper unit sends her on a firefighter exchange program in Australia after her unit suffers a double tragedy. Hooking up with a sexy firefighter her first night Down Under improves Dare’s mood considerably until she realizes her hook up is now her station commander and he has a rule book as thick as her arm.

Lachlan Ryker did not make senior station officer as a Melbourne Metropolitan firefighter by the time he was thirty by acting impulsively, but when he meets the sexy, brash American in his favorite pub, his by-the-book, measured approach to life gets kicked to the curb. He and Dare ignite one night of smoldering passion he can’t forget. But before he can call for a second date, Dare strolls into his station newly assigned to him for three months. Lock knows he has to keep his hands to himself. He never breaks the rules. Dare, however, never heard a rule she didn’t want to shatter.

‘Burning Both Ends’ continues the Hot Aussie Knight series, where a legion of Knight family firefighters gather to mourn the family patriarch…and that’s where the stories begin.

I found myself fairly neutral about this one throughout; it’s well-written with all the emotional slips and nuances detailed though it was harder to connect with the characters who didn’t quite do it for me. Dare and Lock on their own, had so many issues in their past that combined, their baggage would have shattered a camel’s back.

Dare – whose behaviour reflects her own name – is as much of a wild-card as she is an emotional drifter with a bold, reckless streak and a penchant for breaking the rules, felt like an out-of-control character for most part, and I spent most of the time waiting for her implosion as she finally confessed that she couldn’t ever betray her first and only love’s memory. In fact, it felt as though Lock had been put, to some extent, in a caretaker role – of her emotions as well as her physical health – gave the relationship a strange and somewhat unequal sheen especially since he was adamant not to fall into the same trap again.

I did however, expect more opposition to the fraternisation between Dare and Lock at the station house, and was quite surprised that didn’t seem to be an issue at all. But the long and short of it is, I’m not entirely sure what to make of the angst and the frequent push-pull in this particular story; there were times the frustration got me as the protagonists hovered at the TSTL threshold as there were other times where they reminded me that they were adults still. Objectively speaking, ‘Burning Both Ends’ isn’t a bad read, but it’s probably more suited to those who like their characters heavily-burdened and tortured with a bucketload of (leftover teenage?) angst to boot.

three-stars

Hot Mess by Amy Andrews

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews 26th April 2017
Hot Mess by Amy AndrewsHot Mess by Amy Andrews
Series: Hot Aussie Knights #1
Published by Tule Publishing Pages: 152
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three-stars

"I never thought I'd get a second chance at a first time with you."

Firefighter Logan Knight thinks it's fate when he meets Arabella Tucker again, nine years after their brief, intense relationship ended. Until he realizes that Bella doesn't recognize him and all of their memories together are completely erased from her memory.

Bella may be oblivious to their history but she can’t deny their scorching chemistry and the possibility of a future with the mystery man from her past. Logan wants a future too, but he can’t go there until Bella knows everything they shared. Her parents, though, want to protect her from the emotional cost of old memories and so Logan is reluctantly persuaded to let the past lie.

But when Bella starts to uncover the truth, she is shocked by the revelations. Can she move beyond the hurt of her shared history with Logan and begin their new story?

Amy Andrews’s take on the second-chance trope is by far, one of the most angsty and the most intense one I’ve read in this genre.

‘Hot Mess’ is a story of heartbreak and rediscovery (with a huge twist written into this trope), and while not entirely unpredictable, does have the elements of deception (even though executed with the best of intentions) and misplaced hope that form the main conflict of the narrative. The coincidental meeting of Logan and Belle starts it all off when Logan gets the biggest shock of his life to learn that Belle has no recollection of their tumultuous past at all after a traumatic accident that stole 9 years of her memories from her. As they reconnect, Logan is desperate for their past to resurface, but it never does and that alone, strains their newfound relationship.

Andrews articulates the process of grief eloquently enough that I could empathise with both Logan and Belle. The former had never stopped hoping for a miracle that never came, leaving him alone to shoulder the burden of their difficult past and that made me feel for him, caught as he was between Belle’s parents and his desire to move onwards with her. Belle on the other hand, had gone through so much on her own and faced a different kind of pressure in her inability to make herself remember, then condemning herself when she couldn’t.

But there isn’t a medical miracle here by any stretch and that alone makes the journey ahead so much harder for both of them. Andrews definitely paints a realistic portrait of what happens when memories are lost forever, and with them, how the pain and the heartbreak that will now stay irretrievably lost because one party cannot remember anything of that time period at all. Both Logan and Belle had been so brave, though it was harder for me to accept Belle walking away so quickly after vowing to fight for Logan this time around. That it was up to Logan to grovel in the end made me wish that Belle had a bit more courage in her to move forward and stick with that decision instead of running when she couldn’t handle things, especially since it actually had to take an accident for her to change her mind about them. Their HEA, after they finally hit rock-bottom the second time around, is a bittersweet one and you do feel as though the characters have sweated blood and tears to get where they needed to be, whether by fate or by coincidence.

‘Hot Mess’ by and large, did surprise me and it’s mostly because I’ve never quite read a second-chance romance like this. But it’s a hard book to ‘like’ because of the subject matter and as morose as I felt at the end, that’s in no way a judgement on Andrews’s deft writing at all.

three-stars
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