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Bachelor Games by Daire St. Denis

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews 11th September 2017
Bachelor Games by Daire St. DenisBachelor Games by Daire St. Denis
Series: Tropical Temptation #3
Published by Entangled Publishing: Brazen on October 9th 2017
Pages: 256
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one-star

Brilliant, but plain scientist Becca Evans has always done everything she could to make her beautiful sister, Grace, happy. So, when Grace started entering beauty contests, Becca did everything she could to make sure her sister won.

Now, she’s looking at another pageant—at a resort in the Caribbean. The prize? A date with America’s most eligible bachelor, Calum Price. For Grace, it would be the ultimate coup—landing a billionaire. Unfortunately, Calum seems to like Becca better...

Still, she’s determined to help her sister win. Calum doesn’t have to know that she’s the brains behind the beauty, the voice behind the veil, the finger behind the sexting...

But when things go too far, Becca must decide where her loyalty lies—with her sister...or the man she’s falling in love with.

Let the games begin.

The quiet, unnoticed geek amongst a bevy of gorgeous women catching the eye of the hot billionaire sounds like a story I can dig, especially since it feels like it might have some shadow of the Cyrano de Begerac effect here.

However, I didn’t quite expect ‘Bachelor Games’ to become a ‘forced’ love triangle type story of the female protagonist’s own making, as her altruistic but misplaced idea of family loyalty resolutely determines that her sister should get the good things (as well as the hot guy) because she happens to be the more good-looking one. It is exactly what Becca Evans does, which pretty much tanked the story for me.

To begin with, I didn’t find Calum’s and Becca’s first meeting realistic at all, let alone that banter and teasing one might carry out with a stranger on a plane, but this may be my awkward, distant and sceptical self speaking here. But that someone with poise and beauty like Grace would need Becca’s coaching seemed ludicrous and the artlessness of her behaviour during the pageant as a result of that came across as stilted and naive instead of endearing.

To add to that, Becca’s rather stilted ‘I like you but you’re better for my sister because no one really looks at me’ type of reasoning got me annoyed instead of sympathetic—aren’t we past this self-esteem business already? I wished she would simply own her attraction to Calum, rather than remain indecisive about them while seemingly being unable to help herself but end up in bed with him and then lie to her sister about it. Grace, on the other hand, had made no explicit mention of her desire for Calum, so Becca’s unfounded guilt felt like a mountain made of a molehill that sorely tested my patience and made me give up halfway.

Sadly, ‘Bachelor Games’ isn’t a story that clicked for me, especially with a heroine that rubbed me the wrong way every time. But as I’ve said numerous times before, personal tastes are just that—personal. This probably has a premise that would appeal to those who root for the underdog no matter what the circumstances are, so give it a whirl because Becca’s character could be read in a multitude of ways that I simply couldn’t, as other reviewers have already pointed out.

one-star

Shocking the Medic by Elizabeth Otto

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Erotica/ Netgalley/ Reviews 30th August 2017
Shocking the Medic by Elizabeth OttoShocking the Medic by Elizabeth Otto
Published by Entangled Publishing: Brazen on September 25th 2017
Pages: 198
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three-stars

Paramedic Luke Almeda can't believe he's working with his best friend, Greer. She was supposed to go off and be a hot shot lawyer like the rest of her family. He has to keep reminding himself that no matter how beautiful, sweet and caring she is, there is no way they can ever be together. Even if it weren't prohibited at work, they are from two different worlds.

Greer is determined to prove herself to Luke and her family. Luke sees her as some goody-two-shoes, and she's determined to prove she's anything but. After a devastating 911 call, Greer ends up in Luke's bed, and it's more than she could have ever dreamed it would be. Too bad one night is all it can be. Because trying to have more could cost them everything....

Let’s face it—the blurb was enticing—enticing enough that a one-click request was the only way to go, despite my reservations about this particular trope.

I’ll readily admit that the friends-to-lovers romance is a tricky one for me and mostly that’s because all too often one party has been secretly pining—while watching the other merrily playing the field for years either obliviously or deliberately keeping a distance—for years before something finally snaps and calls that change. ‘Shocking the Medic’ does follow this pattern, though Elizabeth Otto does take the pain to show how the solid base of friendship is enriched when sex and intimacy are thrown into the equation.

And by and large, the pacing was good, the smexy times copious as with the Brazen imprint and Otto moves the story along in a way that I had no problem finishing it in record time.

I liked Greer lots. Her gumption to walk away from law, from the usual expectations to get into paramedicine yet with a compassion that spills over for the people she helps. I only wished that she’d come to expect more from the manwhore who’s also her best friend, wished she hadn’t pined for him no matter how far she thought she’d buried that hope. That she was willing to settle for scraps, to take what he would offer until he tired of her made me wonder at her self-esteem where he was concerned, though the way she put herself out there for Luke and for everything she wanted was admirable.

But where do I start with Luke? I think at the heart of it, I couldn’t get over the way he thought despite him being a good friend to Greer. I didn’t like the idea that he’d always loved her, always wanted her (that sentiment was reciprocated) but never felt good enough for her, so instead, whored around with other women openly because he believed that he’d never rise above his station. For me, that just read like emotional betrayal, especially since Greer had always been holding on for him (for 17 years?!) which was massively unfair in the least.

Overall though, I wasn’t quite convinced of Luke’s frustrating chip on his shoulder which contributed to the huge end conflict and climax; his supposed grovelling didn’t seem sufficient for what Greer had put on the line for him after his blowing hot and cold on her. As their HEA came too quickly and conveniently along with an epilogue that was just as abrupt, all I could really say was that I was happy Greer got what she wanted, though I did wish it’d been with someone way more deserving of her.

three-stars

Bonding Games by Cathryn Fox

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Erotica/ Netgalley/ Reviews 8th July 2017
Bonding Games by Cathryn FoxBonding Games by Cathryn Fox
Series: Tropical Temptation #1
Published by Entangled Publishing: Brazen on July 24th 2017
Pages: 210
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three-stars

Former Navy SEAL Josh Steele gets tasked with a babysitting mission—watch over his boss’s daughter—a job he can only describe as hell. But when his assignment takes him to a tropical island, and he begins to see another side of Holly Fairfax, attraction sizzles between them—but he knows better than to risk his job for it.

Holly can’t believe that underneath those baggy clothes tech-guru Josh Steele is all ripped abs and sexy hotness. Ignoring said hotness is tough, especially since she has to work with him on the team-building exercises her boss has assigned if she wants a coveted promotion. It’s even harder when she discovers being around Josh brings out her naughty side – one she didn’t know she had.

But if she cracks the code on his cover, everything they’ve built could come crashing down.

‘Bonding Games’ started out great as a former SEAL goes undercover as a geek in a company in order to suss out an apparent threat to a woman who is trying her hardest to live a life away from her controlling father. But to Holly Fairfax, Josh Steele is merely a co-worker, or rather, a laid-back gamer-type until an elaborate company bonding session puts them in close proximity as partners.

The journey from there onwards however, is fairly predictable, which somehow didn’t quite live up to the potential of the promising blurb. Holly and Josh go from zero to a hundred in a matter of pages, and the overwhelming lust comes with every innocent touch and every fanciful imagining of what lies beneath each other’s clothes, despite the individual reminders to themselves that they want nothing more than a fling. They hit the bed early on as they go on every team-bonding activity and as expected, Holly hits the roof when Josh’s actual purpose for being in the company is inadvertently revealed.

Frankly, I’m still trying to figure out why it fell flat for me after the fun setup of their relationship. I’ve always loved the undercover business part, particularly when it involves some kind of double-crossing, though that always risks some TSTL behaviour when the deception is taken too far or when someone tends to overreact and forget their actual age. Maybe it’s because Holly/Josh’s story treads the same ground as so many others have gone before—not that I don’t enjoy authors’ different takes on them—, or maybe it’s all wrapped up too neatly after the hysterical blow up and the customary grovel, or that Holly/Josh didn’t feel too multifaceted in their portrayals despite their own prejudices. But overall this wasn’t too memorable and that ironically, defined this read for me.

three-stars

Hot for the Fireman by Gina L. Maxwell

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Erotica/ Reviews 30th March 2017
Hot for the Fireman by Gina L. MaxwellHot for the Fireman by Gina L. Maxwell
Series: Boston Heat #1
Published by Entangled Publishing on March 27th 2017
Pages: 328
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two-stars

Ex-Army Ranger Erik Grady lives for the job. So when his chief at the Boston Fire Department offers him two choices—mandated therapy for supposed PTSD or a permanent desk job at the station, he reluctantly agrees to see a shrink. Only this doctor is unlike anything he expected. Female and curved in all the right places? Check. Hotter than a four-alarm fire? Check. The kind of woman that can heat his blood in and out of bed? Check, check. And oh, yeah, he just happens to have first hand experience...
Of all the men to walk into psychologist Olivia Jones' office, why did it have to be him? Her one-night stand isn't playing by the rules of just. One. Night. She’s had her heart broken in the past, and no way is she going there again. And now he's blackmailing her into three dates? Well, if that's what it takes to make him see a different therapist, fine. She can handle it. So what if the chemistry between them is combustible? She's a professional, damn it. She'll date Mr. I'm Too Sexy For My Bunker Pants. But it won’t end in the fun he expects.
It’s time to see how much heat this fireman can take...

It’s a one-night stand that should have had both parties going away satisfied. But coincidence (or the unlikeliest chance) has dictated that Erik and Olivia are going to meet again as therapist and patient as Erik works out his PTSD issues before getting cleared for active duty in the fire station. Early on, Gina L. Maxwell establishes that we’re looking at a firehouse of skirt-chasers and players—only the extent to which they tom-cat around varies—and it becomes clear that we’re going to see fireman after fireman take the fall when they meet their women.

I’m going to say right out that this was a difficult book to read and an even harder review to write, especially when I found myself struggling at every turn of the page as it began with a compendium of clichés. My own, deep scepticism about deep and lasting emotional connection developing after exploring physical attraction aside, it was the way both Erik and Olivia were portrayed that nearly had me running for the hills.

But perhaps, this disconnect exists only on my part, judging from the other reviews of this book.

The sex is hot, detailed and graphic. Erik’s the dirty-talking alpha, wild in bed and predictably, able to give Olivia the hottest night of her life as he uses his well-developed appendages with great expertise. They find each other beyond sexy and get it on too easily. But…what then? Maxwell’s investment in Erik’s and Olivia’s overwhelming physical attraction to each other had a 2-fold effect on me: it’s well-written—though filled with porn-like clichés in so many parts—but emphasised the sexual connection they had for most of it that I ironically had difficulty seeing past this to any compatibility that they might have had outside the bedroom.

Erik pursues Olivia based, apparently, on her hotness factor after he decides that their one-night stand can actually become much more. I couldn’t quite understand this, let alone get behind Erik’s idea that their a one-night stand was actually fate in action. Suddenly he wants a chance with the reluctant doctor when he never quite wanted with other women (the reason isn’t quite given except that she made him way hotter), then pursues her with single-minded determination until she gives in, then betrays that trust in the end when he uses sex to punish her for wanting to stick around. PTSD gets the better of some people, I understand, and it forms the major conflict towards the end of the story, but the inevitable blow-up and the resulting grovelling all come as predictable elements of a well-worn formula that I was simply left underwhelmed by the end of it.

There are other issues that I had with the story, not just with the characters, but with the patient/therapist rules that both Erik and Olivia skimmed over. On the one hand, I understand that it’s fiction, where most things can happen and will happen without too many consequences. But Erik’s cocky open talk about their hook-up with her boss/uncle made my jaw drop (not in a good way), not just because of the sheer professionalism, but that I really, really couldn’t see this happening at all in any alternate universe where people/characters could get away with it. On the other hand, Erik’s passive-aggressive brag about how he wants Olivia while insinuating about the number of hose hunnies waiting for him in bed felt patronisingly insulting somehow, even if it’s Maxwell’s way of showing how big a decision it seems for him to commit himself to one woman right now.

I wished I could have liked this more; whether I’d continue with the series is still a huge question mark, but I suspect I’m looking forward to seeing some kind of equality been the H/hr where the latter doesn’t crumble like dust in the wind at the drool-inducing sight of bulging biceps and rock-hard abs…and vice-versa. Whether the rest of Boston Heat continues in this vein, well, is still up in the air, innit?

two-stars

Emergency Attraction by Samanthe Beck

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews 22nd March 2017
Emergency Attraction by Samanthe BeckEmergency Attraction by Samanthe Beck
Series: Love emergency #3
on April 17th 2017
Pages: 260
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four-stars

Ten years ago when Shane Maguire chose the Marines as his escape from some trouble of his own making, he only regretted one thing—leaving Sinclair Smith behind. Despite his best intentions, she ended up as the one that got away. Now he’s back, determined to reclaim everything he gave up, including Sinclair.
Sinclair is immune to Shane’s charms. She’s immune to stolen kisses behind the gym. And she’s definitely immune to that maneuver he did in the back seat of his car… Okay, maybe her hormones are susceptible, but she has absolutely no desire to risk anything on the bad boy who broke all his promises.
When a little emergency lands her at his mercy, he offers her a deal she can’t refuse. And this time, she’ll show Shane what it means to be left wanting…

A ten-year separation – due to circumstances that were truly out of their control – isn’t that difficult to get over the moment a dance during a wedding reminds both Sinclair and Shane of the spark that had never died between them.

For Sinclair, apart from her memories of him, Shane isn’t the bad boy in town who had no future to his name any longer; he’s now a respected emergency manager with so much experience in doing what he does. And as impressive as it is to see what he had made of his life, it’s how impulsively and wholly they loved each other back then that has her evaluating their relationship. Tragedy, however, has made her wary of every good thing that might come her way and Shane, from the onset, is determined to convinced her that fate will not outrun them this time.

There was a lot to savour about this book – the moment I got past my wariness about second-chances romance – not least of all, it’s really about Samanthe Beck’s fluid writing and her beautifully detailed descriptions of Sinclair’s and Shane’s personal battles to become the people they are today. Tangled up in their burgeoning relationship is also a zoning matter that threatens Sinclair’s home and tests her trust in Shane, but there isn’t mistaking the heat that can and still exist between them despite this difficulty. I also liked Shane’s fast and furious all-in stance (a far cry from too many male protagonists in books these days) and how he’d never let up in his efforts to win her back, though it truly wasn’t quite his fault when he left and never came back. In short, Beck not only makes the 10-year separation acceptable, but their coming back together a believable one. Once I breathed a sigh of relief at that, the story was all a-go for me.

The epilogue wraps up this series quite perfectly: men in a domesticated scene (and struggling with it), getting into trouble only just as the women return home to witness it. But Beck injects so many feels and so much poignant emotion into it that you can quite believe that these couples are truly living their HEA.

four-stars

Make Me Beg by Rebecca Brooks

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Erotica/ Reviews 20th March 2017
Make Me Beg by Rebecca BrooksMake Me Beg by Rebecca Brooks
Series: Men of Gold Mountain #2
Published by Entangled Publishing: Brazen on March 20th 2017
Pages: 249
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three-stars

Bartender Mackenzie Ellinsworth has always gone it alone. So when she has a chance to open her own bar and restaurant, she's got a plan for how it should go. Not in that plan: a ripped and rugged playboy stepping in to take over. Mack doesn't do players, and she doesn't do one-night stands. If Connor wants to work with Mack, he's going to have to keep his strong, sexy hands to himself.
Connor Branding is determined to prove he's not the directionless playboy Mack thinks. But opening a place together causes more problems than it solves. The two of them can't agree on anything—except how scorching hot their chemistry is. Connor may be ready to indulge every desire Mack's been denying herself...but turning business into pleasure is likely to get him burned.

I’d start off by saying that I really do like Rebecca Brooks’s writing: there’s her ability to tease out nuanced emotions and so finely articulating the pain of being left behind and the walls people build to protect themselves.

The problem was, I didn’t think there was very much to like about Connor: a privileged bummer, not wanting to commit to anyone or business or job with a lack of motivation and drive just bothered me. It’s probably my own preference for male protagonists to be at least more driven or propelled by purpose with some kind of ethic as well and I didn’t see that in Connor at all. That he lauded the easy way out most of the time by bouncing around didn’t make him that much of a worthy ‘hero’ for this story, more so when it had to take several huge kicks in the arse just so he would get going and focused.


Then it was all about him suddenly needing to prove himself not the bum, but that he could be someone else entirely. Yet, the sneaky insert that claimed he always wanted Mack, that it’d always been her—yet didn’t push hard about it and hopped from different women to distract himself for 3 years—was a rather revolting revelation, adding to my flakey impression of him that had by then, solidified.

He grovels well, though, which is possibly the only redeeming point…in my small and petty mind.

By contrast, Mack’s ability to work through hardship—and her determination to make things succeed because she’d been handed so little in life—was impressive as hell. I liked that she didn’t take any crap from him, gave as good as she got, and pretty much bulldozed her way through the veil of insouciance that he got going. It was easy to understand why she behaved the way she did, afraid to give an inch to Connor (rightly so, in my opinion) because she’d simply be left in the dust when he always gave indications of being chaff in the wind. That she’d staked her entire reputation, beliefs and cash on the refurbishment of the bar doesn’t come as a surprise, given her commitment to wanting to see things through and make a name for herself through sheer hard work.


That said, Brooks’s writing is persuasive enough for me to want to see what else is in store for us—that much can I be swayed by good writing. I’m just going to cross my fingers for protagonists (both the H/hr) whom I can get fully behind.

three-stars

Sweet Victory by Gina L. Maxwell

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Sports 13th February 2017
Sweet Victory by Gina L. MaxwellSweet Victory by Gina L. Maxwell
Series: Fighting for Love #4
on February 27th 2017
Pages: 205
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three-stars

Confident but distrustful Sophie Caldwell needs help if she's going to save her family business. Her grandma left one rule for Sophie to maintain ownership from her uncle before she's thirty: get married. But how does she get her uncle off her ass when she's only twenty-seven and hasn't had a boyfriend in years?

Lean, cut, British-born MMA fighter Xander James has never lost a fight, and he's not about to start now. On the brink of a comeback to be a UFC champion, his landlord wants to take away his last chance by shutting down his gym. No. Hell no. Fortunately, his landlord's niece has a problem of her own. Time for a proposal she can't refuse.

It’s not the first marriage of convenience that has ever happened, nor will it be the last – and as it all begins, it’s a desperate situation that forces Xander and Sophie into one. Their careers and livelihoods are at stake and as it really is, a business proposition that will start and end clinically 6 months after the storm passes.

Feelings, however, as well as stirrings of mutual lust, get in the way and threaten to turn the fake marriage into a real one.

I did think that apart from the rocky beginning – Xander did come across as the womanising, bastard-type British MMA fighter who used Sophie’s face in place of the women he brought back – the story did get a little sweeter as Gina L. Maxwell tried to show how devoted both Xander and Sophie were to each other. (An English accent doesn’t – and shouldn’t – make it better, despite what it seems) But I found myself pretty much unsurprised by the progression of the story; it wasn’t unpredictable or unexpected in any way, but perhaps it isn’t meant to be at all since this imprint is really about the recycling of tropes and the numerous takes on them because readers simply like the variants.

There’s also a wrap up of all the couples in this series (though I don’t exactly remember them at all) but that’s probably an epilogue for those who do. ‘Sweet Victory’ can definitely work as a standalone though, and if the alpha MMA-type fighters are what you personally dig, then this is is something I’d recommend.

three-stars
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