Tag: Corporate Diz

A Daughter’s Choice by Lee Christine

A Daughter’s Choice by Lee ChristineA Daughter's Choice by Lee Christine
Series: A Mindalby Outback Romance Series #4
Published by Escape Publishing on 31st July 2018
Pages: 190
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two-half-stars

Mindalby, a small town, a community, a home. But when the mill that supports the local cotton farmers and employs many of the town's residents closes unexpectedly, old tensions are exposed and new rifts develop. Everyone is affected and some react better than others, but one thing is certain: living on the edge of the outback means they have to survive together, or let their town die.

Lynsey Carter's relationship with her father is fraught, so when she hears that the cotton mill that is her birthright has closed down (and her father is lying low), she returns to Mindalby to support her mother and seek out answers. She hasn't been back since high school, since she left her heart behind with Julian Stone. But Julian didn't want it, or her; he wanted a life in Mindalby.

Torn between family loyalty and duty to the community, between the life she's built for herself and the passion for Julian she just can't seem to shake, Lynsey needs to decide if her home–coming is for a visit – or for real.

I’ve always like Lee Christine’s writing and ‘A Daughter’s Choice’ is no different. The context and the circumstances in which this story are unusual to say the least, though distilled, it’s one of a girl returning home to the Australian Outback to take care of affairs that have gone awry (thanks to a corrupt, deadbeat father), then meeting an old flame who’d broke her heart. With a narrative built around the failure of a mill on which the livelihood of a small community depends, Lynsey and Julian reunite out of necessity—returning home does that in a small town—and it takes only just a few days together to remind them how good they could be and have been.

But more on that later.

Pacing-wise, I thought the story did drag on a bit when it became slower going than I expected (Christine is an author I read for romantic suspense after all) and the slower pace did throw me off a bit. That translated to me put this down and taking it up numerous times, and when I took it up, there were parts I trudged through just trying to stay interested in the subject matter.

Apart from following the developments and the slight suspense written into this (which perked me up), I was baffled how Lynsey and Julian fell into bed when nothing between them was resolved, all within a few days after a separation of 9 years. Julian’s supposed friends-with-benefits situation with another woman seemed to become a non-issue when I’d actually hoped for that particular casual relationship to be dissolved even before Lynsey/Julian got together again. Admittedly, second-chance romances don’t necessarily sit all too well with me when the slightest thing give me cause to question the validity of the reunion. Essentially, I thought there were relationship issues which needed ironing out but felt glossed over in favour of the suspense despite both protagonists trying to be mature about themselves.

In all, the dive into the Australian Outback is always a cultural shift that I love to read about after all because such writers—and I’ve gone through quite a few of them—offer such different perspectives especially in the romance genre, I think I surprised myself most of all by not really feeling this story at all.

two-half-stars

Down With Love by Kate Meader

Down With Love by Kate MeaderDown with Love by Kate Meader
Series: Love Wars, #1
Published by Loveswept on 7th August 2018
Pages: 237
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two-stars

Sparks fly when the hot-shot divorce lawyer meets the high-powered wedding planner. The only question is, what kind?

If you ever get married, remember my name: Max Henderson. In my line of work, you acquire a certain perspective on supposedly everlasting unions. . . .

1. Pre-nups are your friend. 2. The person you married is not the person you’re divorcing. 3. And I hope you didn’t spend much on the wedding because that was one helluva waste of hard-earned cash, wasn’t it?

But some guys are willing to take a chance. Like my brother, who thinks he’s going to ride off into the sunset with the woman of his dreams in a haze of glitter on unicorns. And the wedding planner—the green-eyed beauty who makes a living convincing suckers to shell out thousands of dollars on centerpieces—is raking it in on this matrimonial monstrosity.

The thing is, Charlie Love is not unlike me. We’re both cogs in the wedding-industrial complex. As the best man, I know her game—and I can play it better than her. But after one scorching, unexpected kiss, I’m thinking I might just want to get played.

Wedding-planner, come meet the divorce lawyer: 2 occupations at odds with each other, down to the fundamental beliefs that the people working in these lines should hold. Right? ‘Down with Love’ is where Kate Meader bravely tackles these opposites and tries to prove the contrary with Max Henderson (the first victim, so to speak) and Charlie Love—whose last name is ironically appropriate for her occupation.

Excited as I was by Meader’s blurb of this new series, I was also a little wary, because beneath it lies the stereotypical trope of a commitment phobic player paired with a woman who tries to be sassy and stumbles when the charm comes out. And with Meader’s style of writing, I can say—objectively—that it’s perfectly tailored for the rom-com style that many readers would expect. Meader’s writing is pitched exactly like the voices you hear in romantic comedy, that is, pitch-perfect, if that’s your sort of thing, in other words. That much, it delivers.

Max Henderson kicks of the start of Kate Meader’s new series of cynical men who think they’ve seen the worst of humanity in the battlefield of court when divorce inevitably hits couples. But I think the male POV is tricky to write, period. Getting the fine balance right between voice, hints of vulnerability and the cocky front that many authors try to portray of their alpha males who apparently know so much about women is one that either has me grimacing or smirking. The usual smug, self-satisfied, arrogant tone of Max crosses the line into bar-smarmy faux smoothness and sleazy bad taste and it isn’t frankly something I want to read of a male romantic protagonist who’s head seems to be constantly filled with women’s body parts and what he’d like to do to them. (Here, I’m reminded of another author who’s done the same previously and it isn’t that good a memory, sad to say.)

But because many rom-coms are retellings and rehashes of tropes with varying contexts, character histories and storytelling styles, ‘Down With love’ still feels at its core, one that doesn’t deviate too much from the well-worn but well-loved formula: a woman who finally gives the cynical Max what he’s always fed other women (nothing beyond a night or two) and then it’s the typical reversal of him finally getting a taste of his own medicine just as he realises she’s unlike the others. Cue the game to wear her resistance down, thanks to the perpetual player, no-one-gets-hurt reputation Max strives to cultivate in the first place.

There are a few bits of talking ‘out’ to the reader as well—better known as breaking the fourth wall here, when a character steps out of the fictional word briefly and breaks through the invisible wall separating reader and the cast—and I’m not too sure how I feel about that here. Perhaps Meader seeks to bridge that connection between Max and me when the use of the second person pronoun ‘you’ seems to…mediate this distance that I subconsciously hold, first to convince me that he’s anti-marriage and then later, to convince me that he’s a reformed man. Or perhaps I’m just over-reading this.

In short, I think I wasn’t really feeling this at all sadly—not the pairing, not the context and not the plot. ‘Down With Love’ didn’t exactly move me much even as Meader tries to work out the opposing beliefs of Max and Charlie, and given the many times I managed to walk away and came back to the book (rinse and repeat) it’s clear this isn’t the story for me, as much as I really like Meader’s writing.

two-stars

I Flipping Love You by Helena Hunting

I Flipping Love You by Helena HuntingI Flipping Love You by Helena Hunting
Series: Shacking Up, #3
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on 29th May 2018
Pages: 320
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two-stars

A new kind of love story about flipping houses, taking risks, and landing that special someone who’s move-in ready…

SHE’S GOT CURB APPEAL

Rian Sutter grew up with the finer things in life. Spending summers in The Hamptons was a normal occurrence for her until her parents lost everything years ago. Now Rian and her sister are getting their life, and finances, back on track through real estate. Not only do they buy and sell houses to the rich and famous, but they finally have the capital to flip their very own beachfront property. But when she inadvertently catches the attention of a sexy stranger who snaps up every house from under her, all bets are off…

HE’S A FIXER UPPER

Pierce Whitfield doesn’t normally demo kitchens, install dry wall, or tear apart a beautiful woman’s dreams. He’s just a down-on-his-luck lawyer who needed a break from the city and agreed to help his brother work on a few homes in the Hamptons. When he first meets Rian, the attraction is undeniable. But when they start competing for the same pieces of prime real estate, the early sparks turn into full-blown fireworks. Can these passionate rivals turn up the heat on their budding romance — without burning down the house?

The enemies-to-lovers trope can be a fabulous one to get on board with, particularly if the chemistry jumps out at you, then goes beyond the hate-part and is somehow sustained throughout the entire plot. No one said however, that it isn’t a tricky one as well, despite the obvious trajectory to a HEA.

Yet it wasn’t quite a good sign when the characters were annoying from the start, despite the book starting out as somewhat fun and hysterical involving a grocery cart, a dented car and its repair cost. While I really do like the love-hate antagonism done right, I found it hard to swallow the irritating, shrewish and apparently empty-headed twin sister who tried to use faulty logic (and thankfully fails) to get out of a mistake she made, then the heroine Rian Sutter who built on the stupidity when tried to get Pierce Whitfield to lower his repair cost through equally faulty logic and wilfully misinterpreting everything he said, which felt no better than any other kind of manipulation.

Or maybe there was just something about an over-the-top Rian that rubbed me the wrong way; her unkind thoughts of and behaviour towards a less-than-ideal date playing yet another part in this, not to mention the initial impression she made in the beginning chapter. (Side rant: why are other men purposely written as slobbery, boring, clumsy and completely undesirable in order to boost the hero’s image? Shouldn’t a hero’s or heroine’s qualities speak for themselves without the need for the author to put others down?)

In any case, I found myself skimming after a while as the development of Rian/Pierce’s relationship got somewhat tortuous, wondering if the sense of humour here was just one that didn’t appeal: there weren’t overtly hilarious moments for me though there was quirk. In fact, a few bits of dry wit from throwaway comments in the inner monologue had me smirking more than laughing out loud while the banter between Rian and Pierce didn’t exactly made me hack out a lung.

I wished I liked this story more, rather than just tolerated this until the end. But the best conclusion I can come to is that Helena Hunting just isn’t an author that fits my tastes, in a classic case of “it’s not you, it’s me”.

two-stars

The Start of Something Good by Jennifer Probst

The Start of Something Good by Jennifer ProbstThe Start of Something Good by Jennifer Probst
Series: Stay #1
Published by Montlake Romance on June 5th 2018
Pages: 345
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three-stars

When Ethan Bishop returns to the Hudson Valley, his body and spirit are a little worse for wear. As a former Special Forces paratrooper, he saw his fair share of conflict, and he came home with wounds, inside and out. At his sisters’ B & B and farm, he can keep all his pain at a safe distance. But quiet time isn’t easy when a fiery woman explodes into his life…

It’s business—not pleasure—that brings Manhattan PR agent Mia Thrush reluctantly to the farm. Tightly wound and quick tempered, Mia clashes immediately with the brooding Ethan. Everything about him is irritating—from his lean muscles and piercing blue eyes to his scent of sweat and musk.

But as the summer unfolds and temperatures rise, Ethan and Mia discover how much they have in common: their guarded histories, an uncontrollable desire, and a passion for the future that could heal two broken hearts. But will their pasts threaten their fragile chance at a brand-new future?

I love a good a enemies-to-lovers story, and Jennifer Probst’s throwing together of a wounded soldier and an uptight, prickly PR shark sounded like a read up my alley. As total opposites (at least on the surface), Ethan and Mia clash immediately. The latter wouldn’t be caught dead on a horse-rescue farm while the former is the furthest away from branded designer wear and corporate work having been burnt by the bad experience he’s had in the past.

‘The Start of Something Good’ however, has all the hallmarks of the rom-com movie: characters that do fit a certain mould as their relationship finally coasts after a rocky start…until crunch time arrives. And all of it’s done with no small amount of irony, some banter and humour and a supporting cast of characters that form part of a backdrop that’s supposed to be sepia-toned kind of charming.

Mia’s portrayal is however, a little too stereotypical for my taste—the spoilt, shrewish city princess on a strict carb-free diet got me rolling my eyes after a while and her insistence on doing things the only way she knew how did get a tad bit irritating. On the other hand, Ethan’s master of all trades persona and the idyllic life in the country felt a little oversold as the story seemed to build its case around a city vs. the country sort of dilemma.

The choice between frenetic city-living and the slowness of small town life is one that I saw coming from the very start the moment Probst laid out Ethan’s and Mia’s obvious differences. Small town quirks admittedly, aren’t exactly to my own liking—the emergence (inevitable, it seems in such stories) of nosey, cock-blocking senior citizens who take glee in other people’s businesses being one of them—and the oneupmanship between Ethan and Mia got old quickly as the middle part lagged a little after a good setup in the animosity between them. Still, it’s a journey that’s fairly predictable and the conflict that’s about to come past the usual angst about short-term fling and settling down could be sniffed out a mile away.

I did like Probst’s way of getting Mia to reevaluate her notions of success as well as the incisive, assured writing that catalogues the changes wrought in both Ethan and Mia as they slowly start to see each other beyond the gripes and the snipes. ‘The Start of Something Good’ is a decent read nonetheless, and the setup for the next books sounds interesting enough for me to warrant a closer look at this developing series.

three-stars

Too Hard to Resist by Robin Bielman

Too Hard to Resist by Robin BielmanToo Hard to Resist by Robin Bielman
Series: Wherever You Go, #3
Published by Entangled Publishing, LLC: Embrace on April 16th 2018
Pages: 335
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two-stars

One rookie assistant + one demanding executive = flirting that is too hot to handle.

Have you ever wished for the perfect job? Me, too. So when I land a temporary gig with a worthwhile and exemplary startup, I'm determined to make it permanent. That my boss is the gorgeous, clever Elliot Sax is nothing I can't handle. We may steal glances at each other and straddle the line of playing it safe, but our partnership is too important for complications. Not to mention workplace hookups are against the rules.

But when our attraction flames hotter, our best efforts are put to the test. I never imagined having to fight my feelings for him on a daily basis and keeping my hands to myself is absolutely killing me.

Until I can't. Until we can't. And what's at stake becomes more than our jobs. What's at risk is our hearts.

I dived into Robin Bielman’s ‘Too Hard to Resist’ without having read the other books in this series, happy to say that this works perfectly as a standalone. And the pages do turn quickly, with the gradual upping of sexual tension until it eventually breaks.

A friends-to-lovers romance isn’t my favourite though the forbidden workplace one is one that I was eager to delve into. But ‘Too Hard to Resist’ is a hard one to write about, not because it wasn’t an easy read (it was) but because the to-and-fro-ing and the somewhat predictable plan that Elliot and Madison make to keep a distance from each other that didn’t work out in the end.

And round and round the game went as both parties vacillated between flirting and not wanting to cross that line, to the point that I got bored (when I should have been excited) by the time they finally fell into bed.

There also seemed to be a greater affinity with Madison that I felt, like I knew her feelings, hopes and plans more intimately than I knew Elliot, who in comparison, seemed to take a greater interest in Madison only when she became his assistant. His mostly lustful thoughts of her and nothing much else besides how good she was as his co-worker were what I got from him instead—that he wanted her physically wasn’t in any doubt, but I didn’t feel as though that extended to beyond the bedroom or the office as his assistant or that he was prepared to sacrifice anything for this hookup he wanted so badly.

The contrast between rather inexperienced heroine and the player hero was a little irksome nonetheless as Elliot made (dickish) moves that were clearly meant to distract her from dating other guys when I, liked Madison, couldn’t figure out his game beyond wanting her in bed as every chapter written in his POV has some kind of sentence that emphasises her hotness or involves body parts squishing together in a hookup. That there were occasional ex-fuck-buddies of his coming into the picture here and then didn’t bode all too well; neither did Madison’s inexperience that somehow translated into inexplicable naïveté and insecurity towards the end when the stakes never seemed equal between them.

I do like Bielman’s writing, but ‘Too Hard to Resist’ sadly didn’t quite work out too well for me as a result—the inequality of feelings, the way I felt more for one protagonist than the other were writ too large for me to look away from, despite the forbidden romance trope that I typically like.

two-stars

The Last King by Katee Robert

The Last King by Katee RobertThe Last King by Katee Robert
Series: The Kings, #1
Published by Forever on April 3rd 2018
Pages: 384
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four-stars

THE MAN SHE HATES TO LOVE

Beckett King just inherited his father's fortune, his company-and all his enemies. If he's going to stay on top, he needs someone he can trust beside him. And though they've been rivals for years, there's no one he trusts more than Samara Mallick.

The rebel. That's how Samara has always thought of Beckett. And he's absolutely living up to his unpredictable ways when he strides into her office and asks for help. She can't help wondering if it's a legit request or just a ploy to get her into bed. Not that she'd mind either one. After all, she likes to live on the edge too.

But soon the threats to the King empire are mounting, and the two find family secrets darker than they ever imagined and dangerous enough to get them both killed.

Filthy rich family drama—tuned up several notches—lies at the heart of ‘The Last King’ as children pay for the bad blood that started decades before their time and work painfully through schisms because of one woman’s longstanding, poisonous resentment left to fester.

It isn’t often that I read such books (the constant bitching and underhanded manoeuvring can get headache-inducing), but Katee Robert’s writing is compelling enough to try. As I suspected, it was easy to get engrossed in the tale of bad blood, bitchy office politics and corporate espionage that sort of runs the boundary into the murderous, though it felt a little like an oncoming train wreck I couldn’t take my eyes off. Vile aunt vs. struggling nephew, the former of whom gets her comeuppance and the latter of whom finally gets what he deserves? How sweet the sound. Built into this first establishing story however, is also a very difficult generation transition with several burn marks to pay for getting rid of a vile villain you’d love to hate, and a rival-to-lovers tale that thankfully, doesn’t involve too many TSTL moments.

Robert does write Beckett King as a protagonist I could sympathise with, and Samara Mallick as a worthy other half for him. Apart from their chemistry scorching the sheets, I didn’t have problems seeing both of them as equals both in and out of bed and I actually liked how Robert wrote Samara’s eventual shift in loyalty towards Beckett instead of blindly following his vile aunt the whole way.

In fact, I expected to be exhausted by the end of ‘The Last King’. Instead, I was drawn in—admittedly a little slowly at first—, surprised at how Beckett and Samara stole the show for me, as did Robert’s secondary characters, making me anxious to get onto the other Kings’ stories, though a long, long wait is in order.

four-stars

Stay with Me by Jules Bennett

Stay with Me by Jules BennettStay with Me by Jules Bennett
Series: Return to Haven #1
Published by Zebra on March 27th 2018
Pages: 221
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three-stars


Small-town Haven, Georgia, is home to generations of families, plenty of Southern charm, and an airport that's seen better days. But as three friends are about to discover, love gives everything wings . . .


At eighteen, Olivia Daniels left Haven behind and never looked back. Doggedly climbing the corporate ladder, she's finally nearing the top when her father dies--leaving her part-owner of the run-down airport that was his first love. It's a complication Olivia intends to wrap up quickly--buying out her co-owner and selling the land. Good thing her childhood best friends are with her for moral support. Because one look at her new partner is proof that her tidy plan has hit turbulence . . .

Jackson Morgan practically grew up in Haven's airport, and no one could have been a better mentor than Olivia's dad. Flight is in Jackson's blood, but his roots are firmly planted, and there's no way he's giving up the airport--not even for sassy, headstrong Olivia, his childhood crush. Coming to an agreement won't be easy, especially when the attraction between them soars to new heights every day. Love definitely wasn't on the itinerary, but is it enough to keep them together for a lifetime trip? . . .

‘Stay with Me’ is simply a book that tries to bring 2 very different people, their differing goals and their diverging circumstances together and finally trying to make it work. It’s not exactly rom-com kind of material, and I wasn’t too sure what to expect with this story, but there wasn’t any doubt that this is a light-hearted, small town read with an unusual enough premise for Olivia to meet Jax again—the younger man who’d nursed an adolescent crush on her and is now all man to know what he wants.

There were misunderstandings along the way, past hurts that come to light as both Olivia and Jax needed to work through that on their own, and a 4-year-old who spoke in a way that was way too old for her age. Throw in the perfect setup of future couples and the trilogy for Jules Bennett’s ‘Haven’ series is set.

In fact, it wasn’t hard to like Jax at all, who, despite being younger (but capable single-father), showed more sense and maturity than Olivia who spent more time denying her emotions, running away and reiterating how much her career meant to her. Yet if this was to prove that age difference was merely a number and not a sign of the older being better, I thought ‘Stay with Me’ succeeded a little too well. Not that I naturally expected Olivia to behave better because she was older of the pairing, but because I didn’t expect that she would be a ruthless corporate shark in one life and a petulant, delusional coward out of her office comfort zone who didn’t give an inch at all.

The angsty build-up took me by surprise as a consequence, and I couldn’t get over the pacing of the impending climax and the abrupt resolution—Jax’s constant, exhausting chase vs. Olivia’s capitulation, and the love declarations that quite literally happened in the last 2 pages—which made for an ending that actually had me examining the file to see if I’d downloaded a corrupted and/or incomplete version of the ARC. A longer denouement and a shorter run through of Jax/Olivia’s push-pull would have eased the strung-out plot towards the end somewhat and made the pairing a more believable one.

My disgruntled mood aside, ‘Stay With Me’ is nonetheless, a decent read and an easy introduction to this new series. A HFN-ending might not exactly be what many others want, but if you’re perfectly happy with a resolution no matter the speed, then this is a ride that wouldn’t be bumpy at all.

three-stars