Tag: Cheaters Stand up

More Than Words by Mia Sheridan

More Than Words by Mia SheridanMore Than Words by Mia Sheridan
Published by Forever on 12th June 2018
Pages: 336
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one-star

The moment she met Callen Hayes, eleven-year-old Jessica Creswell knew he was a broken prince. Her prince. They became each other's refuge, a safe and magical place far from their troubled lives. Until the day Callen kissed her--Jessica's first real, dreamy kiss—and then disappeared from her life without a word.

Years later, everyone knows who Callen Hayes is. Famous composer. Infamous bad boy. What no one knows is that Callen's music is now locked deep inside, trapped behind his own inner demons. It's only when he withdraws to France to drink his way through the darkness that Callen stumbles into the one person who makes the music return. Jessica. His Jessie. And she still tastes of fresh, sweet innocence . . . even as she sets his blood on fire.

But they don't belong in each other's worlds anymore. There are too many mistakes. Too many secrets. Too many lies. All they have is that instinctive longing, that need—and something that looks dangerously like love.

The blurb for ‘More of You’ was intriguing and given that there are some of Mia Sheridan’s work I do like, I have to say that this book tested my patience and crossed several personal boundaries for me: adultery and cheating, even though it’s probably Sheridan’s idea to show how far Callen had fallen before the journey of his redemption begins, with a girl whom he’d once shared some dreams with.

From the start, I had the inkling that ‘flights of fancy’ might have been the phrase to describe the sort of relationship Jessica and Callen had. In the prologue, Jessica and Callen had a connection forged in in fairytales and fantasies which felt fanciful for me, but then this is probably my cynical self speaking—I found it less grounded in reality and more wrapped in cotton-wool in fact. Granted, as children, seeking to escape the difficult situations at home, this was a scenario that I could accept.

But it was hard to continue thereafter—maintaining objectivity was harder if I was supposed to be invested in this story as a romance—when it became clear Callen wasn’t a character who had integrity, whose reprehensible, degenerate behaviour wasn’t what I could or wanted to root for in the beginning, much less care about his journey back to ’normalcy’ from the start. Having spent most of the book insisting that he was could not be the man Jessica deserved and pushing her away merely gave weight to what he really was after all: unworthy.

That Jessica, who remained an inexperienced virgin throughout the 10 years and kept trying to see him as her prince with rose-coloured glasses didn’t make her any less bewildering or weak a character for doing so. Her caving so easily to his charms while he became a manwhore was the last straw for me, especially when it sounded like this was going to be a contrived virgin-saves-the-rake-with-her-purity and goodness sort of tale.

I couldn’t scrub my mind off this book quickly enough. I never quite thought this day would come, but my stabby, explosive and fit-throwing reaction to ‘More of You’ is probably a good sign that Mia Sheridan and I need to part ways.

one-star

Love and Other Words by Christina Lauren

Love and Other Words by Christina LaurenLove and Other Words by Christina Lauren
Published by Gallery Books on April 10th 2018
Pages: 432
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four-stars

The story of the heart can never be unwritten.

Macy Sorensen is settling into an ambitious if emotionally tepid routine: work hard as a new pediatrics resident, plan her wedding to an older, financially secure man, keep her head down and heart tucked away.

But when she runs into Elliot Petropoulos—the first and only love of her life—the careful bubble she’s constructed begins to dissolve. Once upon a time, Elliot was Macy’s entire world—growing from her gangly bookish friend into the man who coaxed her heart open again after the loss of her mother...only to break it on the very night he declared his love for her.

Told in alternating timelines between Then and Now, teenage Elliot and Macy grow from friends to much more—spending weekends and lazy summers together in a house outside of San Francisco devouring books, sharing favorite words, and talking through their growing pains and triumphs. As adults, they have become strangers to one another until their chance reunion. Although their memories are obscured by the agony of what happened that night so many years ago, Elliot will come to understand the truth behind Macy’s decade-long silence, and will have to overcome the past and himself to revive her faith in the possibility of an all-consuming love.

One thing I know after reading ‘Love and Other Words’ is that that’s Christina Lauren’s searing, literary-tinged writing is the book’s standout, more so because of a romance built on intellect, the love of words and books. Lauren takes on the second-chance romance with aplomb here and I’m grudgingly admitting that the unusual mix of circumstances and events do make this scenario more plausible than many others that I’ve come across, thereby making Elliot/Macy a pairing that aren’t back together just because they decided to give it a go once again.

Told with interspersed flashbacks but only in Macy’s POV, Elliot’s and Macy’s story is one of teenage love, love lost and then found again many years later, all because a mistake turns into a history of grief and tragedy that neither could have expected. In the present, serendipity—written as fate that would inevitably draw these one-time lovers back together again—forces an awkward reunion in a coffee shop and the moment Elliot and Macy are back in each other’s orbits, their coming back together despite the circumstances is written and seen as inevitability. If the timeline in the past is one of anticipatory dread to the moment where they are torn apart, the present crawls a little, almost moving backwards as it constantly points towards the upcoming revelation of what really happened before closing with a short (and rather abrupt) resolution thereafter.

Structurally, ‘Love and Other Words’ is well-balanced between past and present, as the measured but slow pacing of Elliot’s and Macy’s relationship builds to a point where you cannot—or would not—look away from the train wreck that’s coming. The rocky road back together isn’t necessarily an enjoyable a journey for every reader nonetheless; Macy’s engagement and Elliot’s quick breakup with his girlfriend mean that secondary characters do play a role here, and it could be argued that cheating (sort-of) had been a significant part of the whole mess.

There’s breadth and depth in the storytelling and insights given into the emotional damage they’ve both carried throughout the years, though it is harder to believe however, that they could gravitate towards each other again that easily and quickly after 11 years. I actually wanted to know if there was really any comeuppance for the guilty parties involved which felt glossed over, but Lauren does not get into the tic-for-tac business nonetheless. This is my own cynical and vindictive self speaking clearly, as the focus steadfastly remains on the idea of star-crossed lovers and soul mates who, after having established their belonging to each other in their teens, seem destined to always love and find each other again no matter the distance. Elliot/Macy are, by this time, above the mistakes of their past, though I would have been happier seeing a more concrete resolution that didn’t just span the last 2 or so chapters wrapping up their HEA that prioritised their moving on and moving in together.

‘Love and Other Words’ does however, suggest that there’s only ‘the one’ without whom the other can’t function properly—it’s an idea I’m vaguely uncomfortable with, despite the commonly-held romantic notion perpetuated in fiction that 2 people are simply biding time (with others) before they can get back to each other. Furthermore, Elliot’s assumption that they could have waved the past away with an explanation of his drunken mistake without considering the ramifications of the betrayal felt overly optimistic as well; that it should be forgiven because he hadn’t known he was making the mistake at the time just doesn’t feel justified enough.

But maybe I’m grasping at straws for a pretty entertaining read; the all-is-right-with-the-world ending is what Elliot/Macy’s dreams are supposed to be made of after all, isn’t it?

four-stars

Should’ve Been You by Nicole McLaughlin

Should’ve Been You by Nicole McLaughlinShould've Been You by Nicole McLaughlin
Series: Man Enough #3
Published by Swerve on January 30th 2018
Pages: 250
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two-stars

National Guardsman Jase Beckford wants to live a quiet life raising cattle and taking care of his mother. His childhood friend and neighbor Hannah is still his best friend, but when he walks into the Walters house one morning and sees her twin sister Becca for the first time in five years, he wonders if he missed out on something special.

Becca Walters has nursed a secret crush on Jase since childhood, but he always preferred Hannah, so she buried her feelings assuming her sister and Jase would one day turn their flirtation into a real relationship. And this Christmas, she is anticipating a proposal of her own, so Jase’s reappearance in her life doesn’t mean anything. Much. Okay, maybe more than Becca would like to admit.

However, when Becca’s sister gets engaged to someone who’s not Jase, Becca and Jase find themselves spending more together. And when secrets are revealed, suddenly those dormant feelings come back to life; but is the possibility of something between them worth risking the happiness of everyone they love?

I do like Nicole McLaughlin’s writing and was hoping that ‘Should’ve been you’ could recreate the sort of feels I got with ‘Maybe I Do’.

What a mess this turned out to be.

Let’s start with the unrequited love (or crush) that Becca had on Jase for many years. But he was the boy who never noticed her because he and her twin sister Hannah had always seemed to be on the edge of something more. And though they’d never gotten there, Becca had since moved away and on with her life, to get to get out of their way, and to escape the pain of feeling something for someone who doesn’t reciprocate.

I do root for the underdog, so the character who nurses a secret crush, and tries to do something about it instead of pining for decades without moving on gets my sympathy and vote. But what I found out to my horror however, was a love triangle of sorts where everyone seemed unsure of what they felt and ended up instead playing each other, whether intentionally or not.

Jase/Hannah/Becca were never too sure about where the boundaries between friends and lovers lie and as a consequence, I couldn’t be sure myself if the Jase/Becca were the main pairing here or relegated to secondary characters in their own story, given how much Jase/Hannah seemed to take centre stage in the first half of the book. Throw in Becca’s own jealous ex and things get doubly more complicated and convoluted, particularly when Jase finally decided that he wanted Becca after clarity finally struck…at a somewhat bad time in their lives.

Jase and Becca did eventually get their act together, though their rushed HEA, after all the drama (some of it bordered on cheating, perhaps, depending on your definition of it), didn’t seem as though it’d come convincingly. It’d felt too conveniently like Jase jumping from one sister to the other and I couldn’t quite believe that he and Becca had actually sufficiently worked out their years of angst, misunderstandings and their own confused desires before they jumped into bed and declared all was well with the world. For all that McLaughlin had laid out for us, their colossally knotted issues would have taken more than just the whole Christmas period to untangle.

Sadly, ‘Should’ve been You’ turned out to be more of a disappointment because it fell flatter than I expected. There’s no denying that it is a cute story with everything nicely wrapped up in a bow-tie kind of end, more so because it’s a holiday book where you see the snowflakes and feel the holiday cheer. But looking past the glitter, I simply couldn’t feel that kind of book-satisfaction and the couple-love despite their happy ending.

two-stars

EXP1RE by Erin Noelle

EXP1RE by Erin NoelleEXP1RE by Erin Noelle
Published by Amazon Digital Services, Amazon Publishing on October 26th 2017
Pages: 168
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one-star

Numbers. They haunt me. I can't look into a person's eyes without seeing the six-digit date of their death. I’m helpless to change it, no matter how hard I try. I’ve trained myself to look down. Away. Anywhere but at their eyes.My camera is my escape. My salvation. Through its lens, I see only beauty and life—not death and despair. Disconnected from all those around me, I’m content being alone, simply existing. Until I meet him. Tavian. The man beyond the numbers. How can I stay away, when everything about him draws me in?But how can I fall in love, knowing exactly when it will expire?

I swear I felt the chills in the beginning chapter. Loved the premise, the strange oddness and the sense of foreboding that I couldn’t shake, enough to fly through the pages, and go on the armchair holiday that both Lyra and Tavian went for when a bombing at an airport derails their plans.

And if I liked their chemistry and attraction, I couldn’t shake off the blatant cheating in here when all the arguments initially put out by both Lyra and Tavian about being morally above it just fell apart because their desire trumped it. What happened to the initial self-righteous boasts about not wanting ever to be the other woman? Or not being a cheat or a lying bastard in a relationship?

That was when it all fell apart for me and everything that happened after – the sheer lack of remorse justified by the feelings they invoked in each other, the cowardice shown by Tavian, the repulsive way he treated his longterm girlfriend because he’s found his soulmate – was consequently harder and harder to swallow. I didn’t like how the story seemed to condone the cheating; neither could I like the characters for not doing anything about what they already knew was wrong, destined soulmates or not. In short, this was something I couldn’t look past and frankly, didn’t want to.

The only thing that kept me reading (though my interest had by then, waned significantly) was the twist in the story and how the author was going to resolve the problem of rewriting destiny, so to speak. A peek into the first few chapters of the second book simply showed that both protagonists had become characters I don’t recognise at all. That the author had to make the wronged party – Tavian’s Fiancée – the villain in the story when she was clearly the one who was short-changed left me flabbergasted and well, repulsed. So despite the cliffhanger ending in book 1, I’m probably more than happy to bid this goodbye, right about now.

one-star

Love on the Edge of Time by Julie A. Richman

Love on the Edge of Time by Julie A. RichmanLove on the Edge of Time by Julie A. Richman
Published by Julie A. Richman on November 13th 2017
Pages: 264
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two-stars

He likes whiskey and wild womenShe likes Ben & Jerry’sHe’s about to get kicked out of his own bandShe ate her way off the Miss America pageant circuit

What could these two possibly have in common?

A psychiatrist A lot of unresolved issuesA whole bunch of shared lifetimesAnd a love that is never-ending

As bad boy rocker, Jesse Winslow, and former pageant queen, Kylie Martin, each fight the demons screwing up their lives, the one person who holds the key to healing their ills and reuniting two souls that have searched for one another, lifetime after lifetime, is the only one who knows the whole truth.

And keeping that truth from them may just be in preeminent psychiatrist Dr. Claire Stoddard’s best interests.

Claire has committed the ultimate sin in the medical world. She’s fallen for the one man she’s forbidden to love.

Her patient, Jesse Winslow.

And she’s not about to lose him to Kylie Martin... Again.

Truthfully, I don’t quite know quite how to write this review, only that I picked up this book because it felt as though there was an interesting and fairly unusual premise to it.  Julie A. Richman’s writing reminded me of the early days delving into historical/paranormal romances with stories like Jude Deveraux’s Remembrance coming to mind (damn, has it been that long?!) and the background definitely intrigued me.

The idea that 2 lives are entwined throughout history typically lends a sense of the inevitability of a star-crossed pairing of 2 people destined to find each other but always pulled apart for some reason. It’s a deeply romantic notion, heightened probably by bittersweet tragedy that comes each time the separation occurs, though objectively, you can probably extrapolate that the story happening in the present is simply a cog in the larger turning wheel of time, yet another version of the pairing at this point in time and bound to repeat some time in the future. The nebulous addition of a third person makes it less so, however.

What I hadn’t expected was a growing fascination with the idea of past lives emerging through a psychiatrist, who in part played a role in this growing love triangle, or that I couldn’t quite shake my dislike of or have any sympathy for the overindulged, narcissistically entitled and hypocritical rocker (who dared call out his girlfriend on cheating when he’d done it himself too many times) who did things without any thought about the consequences. I’m guessing that my inability to like the modern-day iterations of the protagonists—it was difficult to get past Jesse’s flakiness and Kylie’s unexpected vicious streak along—diminished the magnitude of the ‘fated-across-time’ romance along with the head-hopping that happened throughout, which got disorienting at times.

The historical parts however, kept me engrossed, so I do find myself torn between the loving the grand idea of having star-crossed lovers fated throughout (along with the strong message sent out about body image and identity) and not really liking the contemporary version of this pairing, along with the ’triangle’ and the other woman scenario.  That alone, quite clearly places me in the minority here. If anything, ‘Love on the edge of time’ is an unconventional one and even if I’m on the fence about it, it’s not to say other wouldn’t (because they do, judging from the other glowing reviews) love this read.

two-stars

Hooking Up by Helena Hunting

Hooking Up by Helena HuntingHooking Up by Helena Hunting
Published by Swerve on November 1st 2017
Pages: 259
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one-star

Amalie Whitfield is the picture of a blushing bride during her wedding reception–but for all the wrong reasons. Instead of proclaiming his undying love, her husband can be heard, by Amalie and their guests, getting off with someone else. She has every reason to freak out, and in a moment of insanity, she throws herself at the first hot-blooded male she sees. But he’s not interested in becoming her revenge screw.

Mortified and desperate to escape the post-wedding drama, Amalie decides to go on her honeymoon alone, only to find the man who rejected her also heading to the same tiny island for work. But this time he isn’t holding back. She should know better than to sleep with someone she knows, but she can’t seem to resist him.

They might agree that what happens on the island should stay on the island, but neither one can deny that their attraction is more than just physical.

Not having read the first book, I’m guessing that the implications of Amalie and her secret hook-up are much larger than I think, though ‘Hooking Up’ does clearly work as a standalone.

Having said that, I had the inkling that the book wasn’t for me at all—an inkling that grew like an ominous thundercloud by the time I got to the part where the shenanigans started a few minutes post-wedding.

Cheating and a tit-for-tat vibe in the story are what push the narrative along: out of spite, Armstrong swopped into get the girl (one which the mystery man sees first), then quite publicly cheated on her in a cringeworthy manner during the wedding reception. The brokenhearted Amalie in turn, went on her honeymoon alone, hooked up with the man who quite literally saw her first while her divorce hadn’t gone through (though it’s pretty much expected that the marriage is over by then). That personally is a trigger for me, so I was struggling with this early on, which clearly places me in the minority as I kept wondering if Amalie/mystery man’s actions were justified nonetheless, especially since this merely took place a few days after the disastrous wedding and not after the dust properly settled.

I also found it hard to sympathise with the jilted woman, whose choice in bad boyfriends (and husband) merely reinforced her lack of judgement and her inability to rein everything in. And unlike our mystery man who seemed stalwart in his desire for her, Amalie merely stayed a whiny, flaky protagonist who spent most of the story vacillating between her regrets and her own abysmal history in ‘love’ which she projected onto mystery man.

I couldn’t finish the story after all—it’s an issue I typically have with characters and issues like cheating. The ease of reading just didn’t surpass how much I disliked the characters in the book save for the mystery man of the story and was actually happy to put Amalie and her antics far behind me.

one-star

Nova by Rebecca Yarros

Nova by Rebecca YarrosNova by Rebecca Yarros
Series: The Renegades #2
Published by Entangled: Embrace on February 20th 2017
Pages: 300
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three-stars

He’s Landon Rhodes. The Renegade they call Nova. Twenty-two years old, sinfully gorgeous, broody, tatted-up, adrenaline junkie. Four-time X Games medalist —Full-time heartbreaker.
They say a girl broke him once—That’s why he’s so reckless, so driven, so careless with his conquests. But I’m that girl. They can call me his curse all they want. He and I both know the truth—He’s the one who destroyed me, And I’m not the sucker who will let that happen again.

It’s hard to rate a book when the male protagonist has everything stacked against him and everything else skewed in the favour of the heroine whom he’d treated so badly a long time ago. (Casa)Nova, aka Landon, is hard not to despise for his actions which I found abhorrent in every way: ditching the girl he loved, then self-medicating the hurt away by becoming a manwhore and then only rushing to make reparations when they meet again— while keeping hair-raising secrets along the way.

There’s a ton that I can probably write about when it comes to Nova’s failings and there are that many to start with. By cowardly not going after the girl he wanted when he regretted his actions yet sleeping with so many others to get over her, then only deciding to do something about it when their paths cross is one. His inability to do anything but “self-medicate” with sex and not righting his wrongs before she came back into his life is another. That he took money and put his dream above her was even more unforgivable. As with my issues with second-chances stories, clichés can and do run the river dry, with lines such as “I thought about you everyday (even while sleeping with others who didn’t mean a thing to me, or whom I used to get over you” made it difficult to take Landon seriously at all. But clearly, this is my own bias in operation as well but I can safely say that the story is truly an exercise in grovelling, an uphill battle of lesson after lesson in winning trust back after the deepest kind of betrayal.

There is some convoluted history that muddies the waters however, and Rebecca Yarros does try to make Landon grovel as best as he can—the punishment befitting the crime, so to speak. I felt sorry for Rachel, who, though not initially blameless, was made too much of a pawn in some high stakes game of sponsorship and ambition: that she was collateral damage in the midst of people who played her over and out.

That said, Yarros does write emotion quite well and it was gratifying to read that Rachel’s hurt wasn’t glossed over too easily and how it (rightfully) took a lot for Landon to make things up to her. Even if I thought that the concept of the Renegades cruise/study tour was a little far-fetched, the exotic locales and the death-defying activities do provide a different setting for this particular story and a different kind of heart-pounding action that’s not just limited to the bedroom. It’s clear this series is still finding its stride and I’m more than a bit curious whether the rest of the characters would get their own books.

three-stars