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Easily Forgettable

The Negotiator by HelenKayDimon

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Edelweiss/ Mystery/Crime/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 8th November 2017
The Negotiator by HelenKayDimonThe Negotiator by HelenKay Dimon
Series: Games People Play #2.5
Published by Avon Impulse on November 14th 2017
Pages: 128
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one-star

Lauren Gallagher’s life changed almost three years ago. After her husband disappeared at sea, she was left with a failing pleasure boat company and more than a few secrets. Now, after years spent rebuilding the business and paying off the pile of debts, she finally feels in control. But when she finds her husband, actually dead, on the floor, she becomes the leading suspect in his murder investigation.

Garrett McGrath wants Lauren in his bed, not his heart. He doesn’t do emotions, but every time he sees her, holding himself back gets harder and harder. When Lauren comes under suspicion for killing her previously presumed-dead husband, he knows he has to help her, any way he can.

But as the danger becomes more intense and Garret and Lauren grow closer than either planned, they’re in danger of losing everything…including their hearts.

HelenKay Dimon’s ‘Games People Play’ series is an odd one. Mostly about men who’d grown up disenfranchised, emotionally stunted but wealthy, their HEAs come in such unexpected ways that I don’t really know what to expect in each book. And that arguably, can either be the series’ selling point or its glaring flaw, because it hasn’t quite worked too well for me so far.

Having seen Garrett flit in and out of the series and from the odd, charming way he’d done so, I’ve known from the start that I wanted his story told. But ‘The Negotiator’ was however, a disappointing one—all the more so because I was hoping for a more heart-pounding ride—and I struggled quite a bit to get into it. I’m not too sure what it was, but there was something about the way the narrative—nothing with Dimon’s writing style really—unfolded that just couldn’t hold my attention. There were just insufficient spikes/drops and excitement to keep my interest in the story, a lack of driving focus slowing the pace down even, from the odd way it started to the way it developed with so many details and names stuffed into the first few pages.

I couldn’t finish the story as a result and perhaps it’s also time to say that this series isn’t one I’ll be continuing any longer.

one-star

After Hours by Lynda Aicher

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Erotica/ Netgalley/ Reviews 21st September 2017
After Hours by Lynda AicherAfter Hours by Lynda Aicher
Series: The Boardroom #1
Published by Carina Press on January 22nd 2018
Pages: 218
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three-stars

The Boardroom. After hours, it’s where Bay Area moguls indulge their fantasies. Ties are loosened. Inhibitions, too.

Assistant Avery Fast watched from a distance, mouth gaping, blood roaring wildly in her ears as she stared at the naked woman on the table before her. At executive Carson Taggert ordering a man to pleasure her. It made her feel guilty, embarrassed…and hot.

Carson watched and waited. Waited for Avery to notice him in the Boardroom. Waited for her to like what she saw. Waited to see what she’d do the next day. And the next. He couldn't let her go—not when she'd seen what goes on in the Boardroom. He couldn't stop thinking about the desire in her eyes, the flush on her cheeks, her obvious arousal.

Getting her to join was easy. But now Carson wants Avery all to himself.

‘After Hours’ is a curious read. It’s clearly erotica, where sexual exploration of any kind—where voyeurism initially plays a large part—is done in a boardroom, spearheaded by none other than the chief technology officer, under very strict rules that we aren’t exactly privy to until further on in the book.

It’s seedy and fascinating at the same time to see how something else darker and seductive comes out to play (and the upper echelon of the prestigious office do get busy) when the lights go out after the work day. At the heart of it all, the characters seem to lead double lives that are only unveiled as Avery Fast finally gains access by accident into this hedonistic playground where the garden of delights so to speak, is finally revealed to her. Part glamorous retro porn movie (or at least it seems that way in technicolor) and part noir-ish sensuality, I struggled to find my footing with the characters who seem more enigmatic than relatable.

I didn’t get the entire picture of what the Boardroom was supposed to be at first, though a lot of it seemed to be about commands, control and boundaries, which is probably the paradox of such sexual play just like in ‘Eyes Wide Shut’: freeing yet binding, open but secretive as hell, exploratory yet reined in, highly sexualised but devoid of intimacy. Bottom-line is, it still demands trust, more on one side than the other, until emotions suddenly get into play and rips apart the detachment required in the Boardroom as Avery goes on that twisty journey of sexual awakening.

Does love then, have a part to play in this, considering romance is supposed to underscore the entire story? At the very least, it’s about the various contradictions that Avery has about her own conservative brand of sexuality: the shame of not being able to be the person other than she’s brought up to be even though she’s far from virginal, yet wanting more than just sex with no limits through experimentation in the Boardroom that nonetheless, tethers her with its strict parameters. I don’t feel as though I know Avery or Carson very well by the end of it but the story does lapse more comfortably into the ‘romance category’ when it’s made clear that the Avery still wants the family and the picket fence as the very non-committal Carson finally falls prey to it.

As a result, Avery’s and Carson’s liaison is so far beyond the typical office romance that I’m unclear how to classify it, or rather, I’m still not sure how I feel about the book simply because erotica always keeps me unbalanced no matter how many times I delve into it. ‘After Hours’ does crystallise at the end with a very strong (and perhaps prescriptive) message, almost like the moral of the story that proclaims to all female readers who’ve always complained about the double standards in romance, that women shouldn’t be embarrassed about what they liked about their sexual preferences as Avery comes out of that experience unapologetic and supposedly more enlightened about her sexual self—thanks to Carson.

Stylistically speaking, ‘After Hours’ is well-written, well-paced and done with a deftness that I can appreciate. Lynda Aicher’s a new author to me, but as uncertain as I am about the subject matter and that defiant, feminist message that got me straight in the face thanks to Avery and a secondary character, Aicher makes a huge impression with her prose. It got me past my comfort zone in dealing with open relationships and it’s handled in a way that kept me off-centre the whole time.

three-stars

Into the Night by Cynthia Eden

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Mystery/Crime/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 31st July 2017
Into the Night by Cynthia EdenInto the Night by Cynthia Eden
Series: Killer Instinct #3
Published by Harlequin Books on December 26th 2017
Pages: 384
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three-stars

Lives will be ravaged as two FBI agents confront a mastermind serial murderer in New York Times bestselling author Cynthia Eden’s new Killer Instinct novel

Sheltered in the shadows of the Smoky Mountains is the suspect who’s summoned FBI agent Macey Night’s fears to the surface. Every day that the “Profiler,” a vigilante serial killer, escapes justice is another day she’s reminded of what it is to be a ruthless predator’s prey. Capturing him is a craving deeper than anything she’s felt in a long time. But Agent Bowen Murphy, equal parts sexy and volatile, seems hell-bent on changing that. Working together—needing, living, and breathing each other—they’re entwined to distraction.

Bowen’s used to operating on impulse: act, don’t feel. Now Macey and the controlled terror behind her beautiful eyes has him rethinking everything, including his rule to never get close to a colleague. He’s willing to fight for a future with Macey, but the consequences of love could be deadly.

I sometimes feel for authors who love writing murder mysteries, since these perennially suffer from the inability to hold their readers’ interest, particularly when the cases meld into one another and they stop standing out, even with excellent writing and atmosphere-creation. Throw some romantic suspense in it and the whole story becomes electrified, but that problem of keeping things fresh remains.

Cynthia Eden’s ‘Killer Instinct’ series is strange one that keeps going under the radar for me, though it really deserves more than a second look. Perhaps this is a strange observation but I think for most of the books in this series, the characters and plots tended to blur into an interchangeable ball of mystery, murder and gore for me.

‘Into the Night’ did feel a tad bit too similar to the point where I couldn’t really distinguish each protagonist from another because all of them had their own secrets, worked for the FBI and turned dirty-talking alphas or wanting, sex-starved women in bed. Yet I did like Bowen and Macey, as I did the other couples (though they weren’t memorable enough to leave their own indelible stamp on me) so that was some conflict for me right there as a RS addict.

Thankfully Eden does deliver her twists, knowing full well that a murder mystery isn’t just a straight path leading to the whodunnit moment and that kept me entertained throughout, as did the surprisingly fast switch of relationship between Bowen and Macey. The mystery branches out into something more complex as the story goes on and with a few cases of the hunter getting hunted type of revelations, I got more and more invested as the pages kept turning. There are some parts where disbelief must clearly be suspended—it did get loopy when it was revealed—but by and large, there were hints that made it not too surprising at the end.

‘Into the Night’ isn’t a bad read and I’m going to say this up front. But it’s fatigue that’s setting in on my part, and I’m going with the been there, done that and read that line because it’s true. Like someone with a need of another, bigger and craftier fix, I think I’m jaded when it comes to Eden’s brand of RS (especially the serial killer cases because I’ve read so many of Eden’s books) unless there’s something revolutionary in the works to come.

three-stars

The Bet by Elizabeth Hayley

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Sports 29th May 2017
The Bet by Elizabeth HayleyThe Bet by Elizabeth Hayley
Series: The Players #1
Published by Swerve on June 27th 2017
Pages: 254
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two-stars

Jace "the Jet" Benning is a legend on the football field. And off. He has the arm, the charm, and the reputation of being the hottest player in the league.
Too bad Dr. Alessandra Mastrazacoma is not impressed.
With a busy schedule and a bruised heart, Alessandra doesn't have time to date, but when she is lured into making a friendly bet with her best friend, she finds herself agreeing to go out with the next guy that asks...and to give him three shots, three dates, before pulling the plug.
Jace also has a friendly wager with his friends going, and it involves making sure the slightly klutzy, but very pretty, doctor will be his date to the biggest night in sports. With two wagers and two hearts on the line, will Aly and Jace win or are they betting to lose?

‘The Bet’ is mostly an angst-free, light-hearted read of an accidental meeting between a doctor and a famous player (whom the former doesn’t know at all) which progresses mostly because of a bet between friends.

 

Alessandra Mastrazacoma (now that’s a mouthful) and Jace Benning are an unlikely pair and the whole story feels like a journey of the both of them finding common ground, apart from nailing sexual compatibility in the bedroom. Neither of them really pretend to be who they aren’t; Alessandra is outrightly blunt and in unapologetic for being so while Jace still struggles with his poor, smalltown roots but isn’t quite afraid to put everything on the line for her.

The ride isn’t fully of peaks and valleys – and this will probably appeal to readers who are tired of adult histrionics better confined to the high-school classroom – but is instead, one that catalogues each and every step of Aly and Jace getting into their relationship proper. The ending is a predictably neat wrap-up after some grovelling on Jace’s part, a HEA that pushes Aly and Jace into a happily committed relationship after that small hiccup.

As light-hearted and easy a read ‘The Bet’ is however, I found myself mostly uninspired by this pairing, which is probably a just a case of my bucking the trend again. I thought their chemistry rather non-existent as the move straight into the bedroom very early on eschewed any tension that could have made the anticipation more worth it. And as well and good the sex scenes may be written, I was bored (and skimmed those scenes) because I couldn’t find anything compelling about this couple. Consequently, it was difficult to follow the progression of Aly/Jace’s relationship as there just didn’t seem to be anything else to look forward to, except for the bet that Jace made with his buddies and the fallout that you know would come from it at the very end.

 

two-stars

Semper Fi Cowboy by Heather Long

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ Netgalley/ Reviews 22nd May 2017
Semper Fi Cowboy by Heather LongSemper Fi Cowboy by Heather Long
Series: Lone Star Leathernecks #1
Published by Pocket Star on June 26th 2017
Pages: 145
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two-stars

A Leatherneck by any other name can still kick ass, which is just what retired United States Marine Corps Captain Tanner Wilks plans to do when he returns to his Texas family ranch to care for his ailing father. And nothing will stop him from achieving his mission—not even a lithe, brown-eyed town veterinarian who seems hell-bent on driving him wild.

Captain Tanner Wilks, honorably discharged from the U.S. Marine Corps, returns home to find his father struggling after his latest heart attack. Worse yet, Julia Heller—the sexy new girl in town that he once spent a hot night with—is the resident veterinarian who’s made a home for herself at Round Top ranch, and doesn’t seem to be in a rush to repeat their time together.

It falls on Tanner’s shoulders to take on the ranch and keep an eye on his father before he falls victim to another heart attack. But Julia doesn’t appreciate Tanner coming in or pursuing her. Even if he’s hot as hell and can make her quiver with just a look. Ousting her may give Tanner the leverage he needs to corral his father, but first he has to wrestle with his own heart.

‘Semper Fi Cowboy’ is a quick read, but it’s also oddly slow-going, with paragraphs dedicated to Tanner Wilks’s family, their legacy (military service runs in the family, followed by ranching) and the land that they’ve had for generations. I did get bored at times, as the pacing lagged a little, but having no expectations of this new series by Heather Long, it was easier to go with the flow and see where the story took me.

The quickness with which both Tanner and Jules jumped into bed meant that there wasn’t much build-up or tension that I normally like—or at least there wasn’t anything that led me to the edge of hot and bothered before I fall along with the couple. It’s not a development that I can usually buy into, but the story went on, it became clear that the intention was always to show Tanner’s reintegration into his new life—as well as Jules’s place in it—as he deals with his stick-in-the-mud military father.

The story’s not downright angsty, and the conflict is mostly about smalltime family drama, along with a lot of ranching work details that are typical of such reads. In short, it’s not quite the perfect novella for me (and this has to do with the reasons above rather than Long’s writing style) and the brevity of it means that the love declarations and the resolutions do come faster than I’m used to. But for those who love rural, country-type romances with a quick wrap-up, ‘Semper Fi Cowboy’ would probably be something to dive straight into.

two-stars

Tanner by Sarah Mayberry

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews 1st May 2017
Tanner by Sarah MayberryTanner by Sarah Mayberry
Series: American Extreme Bull Riders Tour #1
Published by Tule Publishing on May 9th 2017
Pages: 178
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two-stars

After flying half-way around the world to surprise her boyfriend, Evie Forrester finds herself heartbroken and stranded in a strange city. What could be a total disaster becomes something else when a tall, dark bull rider turns out to be a white knight in disguise. Evie isn’t sure she needs saving, but Tanner Harding is a difficult man to deny. He’s even harder to resist…
Tanner Harding can tame a monster bull with ease, but he never expected to be floored by someone like Evie. Sparks fly between them until injury threatens to end Tanner’s career –and suddenly he’s the one in need of a rescue.
Evie can’t turn her back on her wounded hero and, as Tanner struggles with his recovery, she’s not sure she can guard her heart against him either. Tanner knows Evie has slipped under his skin, but she lives in Australia and his future is under a cloud. Can two people with too many reasons to walk away make the bold decision to stay?

Unknowingly setting herself up for heartbreak when she empties her savings and hops on a flight on the off-chance that the one-night stand with a man she’d known all her life wants her as badly as she wants him, Evie Forrester’s trip to America suddenly seems like a wasted one when it’s clear that Troy Jensen has moved on fully and wholly from her. Her only saving grace is Tanner Harding, another bull rider whose white knight complex insists on taking her in.

Unfortunately, Tanner and Evie weren’t exactly a couple that worked for me, perhaps because the start of this pairing felt too much like an accidental slip into a ‘relationship’ when Tanner was actually a rebound for Evie—for a woman who was hurting for her unrequited love—and Evie was simply someone whom he couldn’t resist. I couldn’t see the draw that brought them together apart from the very obvious physical attraction and Evie’s impulsive naïveté was off-putting at times, particularly with the more worldly Tanner who preferred women like him. It also seemed too easy for Evie, despite all the years of being in love with someone else, to shrug off the heartbreak and fall for Tanner in a matter of days because he’d been good to her, so she did seem emotionally flaky, and well, too needy for my liking.

I do like Sarah Mayberry’s writing however and that’s primarily the reason I requested for this book. Normally I expect heart-wrenching moments with every Mayberry book, but in this case oddly enough, the bull-riding scenes provided me more wide-eyed-wonder moments that had scarce little to do with the romance. From the looks of it, I probably wouldn’t continue with this series and that has more to do with the series not being one I could see myself getting into rather than Mayberry’s assured writing.

two-stars

Blush for Me by Kristen Proby

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ New Adult/ Reviews 8th March 2017
Blush for Me by Kristen ProbyBlush for Me by Kristen Proby
Series: Fusion #3
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks on March 7th 2017
Pages: 320
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three-stars

As the take-charge wine bar manager of Seduction, Portland's hottest new restaurant, Katrina Meyers is the definition of no-nonsense, and she isn't afraid of anything. Well, almost anything: she hates to fly. When she's forced to travel on a death trap with wings, the turbulence from hell has her reaching for any safe haven—including the incredibly handsome guy sitting next to her.
Ryan "Mac" MacKenzie hasn't been able to get his sexy seatmate out of his head. The way she clung to him stirred something inside him he didn't think existed: tenderness. As the owner of a successful wine touring company, Mac thinks he's got a handle on what life can throw at him and he's not prepared for any surprises, especially in the feelings department. And when he brings a tour into Seduction, he sees the petite spitfire he just can't forget.
Mac is determined to discover what else they have in common besides fine wine and the inability to keep their hands off each other. But what will it take for two stubborn people to realize that what they have is so much more than a hot chemistry between the sheets and to admit to falling in love…?

That I forgot the heroine’s name while writing this review (and needed to check her name) should have given me some warning signs. Is there a way to admit less bluntly that ‘Blush for Me’ bored me throughout?

There are bits that I liked and bits that I couldn’t find myself interested in: I liked Kat’s individuality and how Kristen Proby took pains to highlight it; her compassion and her spunk stood out most of all. But Mac somehow faded into the shadows for me. As a typical male protagonist (the won’t commit type but suddenly finds he will after the ‘right’ one smacks him in the face), I didn’t exactly find him prominent or memorable, just that he happened to be at the right place and the right time to change both his and Kat’s lives around.

While I appreciate how Proby doesn’t make this a destined soulmates sort of book, I simply I found that the story of a ‘sexcation’ turning into a real relationship trundled nowhere, with almost negligible bumps in between. It is mostly angst-free read though, save for the bits of family drama and the conflict (thankfully) isn’t one that is written so that a wedge is deliberately driven between the lead characters.

Yet the number of scenes that simply went on between Mac/Kat which couldn’t rouse me from a comatose state after a while as I felt there was nothing much more to this couple I could look forward to.

three-stars
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