Series: Second Shot

Mixing Temptation by Sara Jane Stone

Mixing Temptation by Sara Jane StoneMixing Temptation by Sara Jane Stone
Series: Second Shot #3
Published by Avon Impulse on September 13th 2016
Pages: 192
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After a year spent living in hiding—with no end in sight—Caroline Andrews wants to reclaim her life. But the lingering trauma from her days serving with the marines leaves her afraid to trust the tempting logger who delivers friendship and the promise of something more.

Following an accident that nearly robbed him of his hopes for the future, Josh Summers believes life has given him a second chance. He wants to settle down with the woman who stole his attention and his heart. And he’s willing to wait until she’s ready to be more than “just friends.” When fear of discovery leaves Caroline pretending to be his date, Josh tempts her to try the real thing—a relationship built on trust, not lies.

But then the past threatens and Caroline must risk everything—including her freedom—to bury her demons before she can take a chance on happy-ever-after.

Easily the most outstanding of the series, ‘Mixing Temptation’ deals with trauma and its very difficult aftermath. The hair trigger here is sexual assault and the very frank and brutal tacit admission that justice isn’t fully served even in fiction because of victim-blaming, masochistic attitude that is too rife in the military service – a fact that I can and do appreciate.

Both Josh and Caroline have suffered in different ways but Sara Jane Stone has written both their characters in such a sensitive manner that I can’t help but like both of them immensely in the slow, gradual build-up of their relationship. Josh’s good-natured patience and optimism – the all-round good guy can and does wins – is in fact, a perfect counter to Caroline’s wariness and broken past. I like their honesty with each other from the beginning and Josh’s perfect (almost preternatural) timing probably lifts him way above many heaving, neanderthal alpha romantic leads because in this very rare case, the beta-guy actually gets the girl. The conflict that arises between them has little to do with their developing relationship and more to do with a situation which subsequently forces Caroline to do something about her AWOL status. Seeing Josh’s and the rest of the gang’s unwavering support ultimately turns the story into a feel-good one with a well-deserved ending for the both of them.

I did feel though, that there was an aspect of the story that was left hanging – Helena’s own experience with sexual violence and Ryan’s none-too-brotherly concern for her – towards the end of the story. Ms. Stone doesn’t address this part beyond using it as a catalyst for Caroline to turn herself in and I found myself wondering about what could be another potential pairing that was never explored, all the more so considering this is the final installment of the series.


Stirring Attraction by Sara Jane Stone

Stirring Attraction by Sara Jane StoneStirring Attraction by Sara Jane Stone
Series: Second Shot #2
Published by Avon Impulse on June 7th 2016
Pages: 256
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When Dominic Fairmore left Oregon to be all he could be as an Army Ranger, he always knew he’d come back to claim Lily Greene. But after six years away and three career-ending bullets, Dominic is battered, broken, and nobody's hero—so he stays away. Until he learns Lily has been the victim of a seemingly random attack. He’ll do anything to keep her safe . . . even go home.
Lily is starting to find a life without Dominic when suddenly her wounded warrior is home and playing bodyguard—though all she really wants is for him to take her. But she refuses to play the part of a damsel in distress, no matter how much she misses his tempting touch. He’ll leave as soon as she’s safe and Lily knows her heart will never heal.
But as attraction stirs to so much more, danger closes in. With more than Lily’s heart at stake, Dominic can no longer draw a line between protecting Lily and loving her . . .

Well then.

When a man returns home, near completely broken only because the woman he loves faces a threat, what’s she to do when the motivation to keep her safe is the only thing that will keep him where she needs him to be?

I’m a little torn here because I loved the absolute devotion Lily and Dominic showed each other even when they were apart – the sheer lack of this these days makes their hold on each other all the more precious – but that is pretty much all the story is about: Dominic working through his stubborn ‘I’m not the man you need’ beliefs while Lily fights her own push and pull factors when it comes to the love of her life. I did think however, that the suspense was somewhat weak and looked on the verge of escalating but never quite did, yet was enough to be the catalyst to bring them together once more. Some transitions and dialogue didn’t seem to flow too well, but I’d attribute it to Sara Jane Stone’s particular way of writing that I couldn’t exactly get used to.

In short, I’m mixed about the story as a whole, but Lily/Dominic will still go down in memory for being the couple to stick together even when they never quite were.


Serving Trouble by Sara Jane Stone

Serving Trouble by Sara Jane StoneServing Trouble by Sara Jane Stone
Series: Second Shot, #1
Published by Avon Impulse on April 12th 2016
Pages: 304
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Five years ago, Josie Fairmore left timber country in search of a bright future. Now she's back home with a mountain of debt and reeling from a loss that haunts her. Desperate for a job, she turns to the one man she wishes she could avoid. The man who rocked her world one wild night and then walked right out of it.
Former Marine Noah Tager is managing his dad's bar and holding tight to the feeling that his time overseas led to failure. The members of his small town think he's a war hero, but after everything he's witnessed, Noah doesn't want a pat on the back. The only thing he desires is a second chance with his best friend's little sister.
Josie's determined to hold onto her heart and not repeat her mistakes, but when danger arrives on Noah's doorstep and takes aim at Josie, they just might discover that sometimes love is worth the risk.

‘Serving Trouble’ seems to find a way around the second chance romance + the best friend’s forbidden sister trope by adding a lot of occurrences, issues and side-plots to mess up the main characters’ road to happy ever after, to the point where I found the plot a trip on a merry-go-round to nowhere.

There’s the constant thread of withholding emotions and holding back for the fear of getting hurt and/or not being worthy enough to offer anything when it came to what really mattered; the emotional game that Josie and Noah played with each other – even unwittingly so – got tiresome quickly because neither side dared to make a commitment at all or talked it out in a mature fashion in a way I’d expected. Instead, the words ‘jerk’ and ‘hero’ had been used so often that it left me wondering about the amount of dignity and self-respect I’d like to see in a story’s protagonists. Mired in their own set of problems, Josie and Noah do battle realistic issues in a small town, yet there was never a sense of this pairing belonging solidly to each other at all. I wished I could say I found the start to this spin-off series a compelling one, but this just didn’t do it for me.