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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

Head Coach by Lia Riley

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Edelweiss/ Reviews/ Sports 8th November 2017
Head Coach by Lia RileyHead Coach by Lia Riley
Series: Hellions Angels #2
Published by Avon Impulse on November 21st 2017
Pages: 158
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three-half-stars

Neve Angel’s life is all work and no play, but she wouldn’t have it any other way. One of Denver’s top sports reporters, she's fought hard to make it in a male-dominated world, and she won’t back down from a fight with anyone–not even the Hellions’ gruff head coach, Tor Gunnar. Her hostile relationship with the icy Scandinavian is the stuff of local legend.

Tor Gunnar hates dealing with the media; at best, they are a nuisance and at worst, a distraction. And no one distracts him more than the scrappy, sexy reporter who gets him hot under the collar. When he wins a not-so-friendly bet with Neve, he decides it’s high time they either kiss or kill each other, and invites her as a date to an out-of-town wedding.

But what happens when enemies become lovers? Will they be able to smother their sizzling attraction, or is it time to start playing for keeps?

‘Head Coach’ is a enemies to lovers romance—a favourite trope of mine—with a conflict built into ‘opposing’ careers: a sports journalist and the celebrity coach of a famous team who have certainly done enough egging and prodding each side over the years. So it was more than fun to watch that relationship flip on its head one weekend as Tor Gunnar and Neve Angel suddenly waded into uncharted but scorching hot territory.

Yet this conflict that had conveniently put them in opposing camps now worked against their relationship past that infamous weekend—I did cringe at how reactive Neve could get sometimes—though Lia Riley does get through it a little too easily before this rather short story closed on their HEA. But apart from the all-too-convenient resolution that seemed to come out of nowhere that made it all the more unbelievable as a quick resolution, ‘Head Coach’ was still an easy read with the angst kept at a minimum and the immaturity metre dialled to low.

I do like Lia Riley’s writing as well; it reminds me of the assured style of Tessa Bailey complete with the dirty-talking alpha males while her characters sometimes get into unexpected situations that came out of the blue.

‘Head Coach’ is my first Lia Riley story and it definitely wouldn’t be my last.

three-half-stars

Wrong to Need You by Alisha Rai

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Edelweiss/ Erotica/ Reviews 29th September 2017
Wrong to Need You by Alisha RaiWrong to Need You by Alisha Rai
Series: Forbidden Hearts #2
Published by Avon on November 28th 2017
Pages: 384
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three-stars

He wasn’t supposed to fall in love with his brother’s widow…

Accused of a crime he didn’t commit, Jackson Kane fled his home, his name, and his family. Ten years later, he’s come back to town: older, wiser, richer, tougher—and still helpless to turn away the one woman he could never stop loving, even after she married his brother.

Sadia Ahmed can’t deal with the feelings her mysterious former brother-in-law stirs, but she also can’t turn down his offer of help with the cafe she’s inherited. While he heats up her kitchen, she slowly discovers that the boy she adored has grown into a man she’s simply unable to resist.

An affair is unthinkable, but their desire is undeniable. As secrets and lies are stripped away, Sadia and Jackson must decide if they’re strong enough to face the past...and step into a future together.

‘Wrong to Need You’, like its predecessor, thrusts you straight back into a soap opera whose edges have already been sharply defined: family feuds, circles of friends and boundaries of rifts that have been established ‘off-stage’, leaving only forbidden relationships within this framework that need to be worked out. There’s a bit of a repetitive go over with the previous story (close family-rifts tend to do that) as it deals with lost, damaged individuals who have barely managed to hold it together, almost as if proving that time barely has an effect on closing up wounds, let alone healing them.

Sadia Ahmed’s and Jackson Kane’s relationship is wrong on so many levels, as it soon becomes apparent, not least because Sadia used to be married to Jackson’s brother. Sadia’s family beliefs, the apparent screwup she has made of her own life, her bisexuality, her dead husband versus Jackson’s deliberate unfeeling rootlessness, his unrequited love and the injustice that had been done to him—if these aren’t issues that will break the donkey’s back, I don’t know what will.

It’s admittedly difficult to write a pairing like this, with everything riding against the wave of approval. But the lure of the forbidden is always strong and Alisha Rai certainly thrives on teasing out every nuance of Sadia/Jackson’s emotional angst and fraught feelings. Forbidden doesn’t just describe Jackson and Sadie however; the story does skirt the edge of voyeurism, and some sexual deviant behaviours that might be triggers for some readers though there’s the gratuitous bit of illicit (and explicit) feeling running throughout the story that makes ‘Wong to Need You’ the complete package.

Yet throughout, I’ve found myself asking the question: is it possible to like a book but not exactly be invested in the pairing? This sounds more so unforgivable, considering romance really is about 2 protagonists getting together though there isn’t a rule—unspoken or otherwise—that states a pairing has to be the be-all or end-all in it. I wasn’t exactly rooting for Jackson or Sadie that much, but the unfolding drama itself is compelling and that alone propelled me to want to know how things would work out.

That said, Rai’s writing is easy to get lost in and I for one, can’t wait for Eve/Gabe’s story.

three-stars

The Pretender by HelenKay Dimon

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Edelweiss/ Mystery/Crime/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 23rd September 2017
The Pretender by HelenKay DimonThe Pretender by HelenKay Dimon
Series: Games People Play #3
Published by Avon on December 26th 2017
Pages: 368
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two-stars

They say it takes a thief to catch a thief, and Harrison Tate is proof. Once a professional burglar, he now makes a lawful living tracking down stolen art. No one needs to know about his secret sideline, “liberating” artifacts acquired through underhanded methods. At least until one of those jobs sees him walking in on a murder.

Gabrielle Wright has long been estranged from her wealthy family, but she didn’t kill her sister. Trouble is, the only person who can prove it is the sexy, elusive criminal who shouldn’t have been at the island estate on that terrible night. She’s not expecting honor among thieves—or for their mutual attraction to spark into an intense inferno of desire.

Under the guise of evaluating her family’s art, Harris comes back to the estate hoping to clear Gabby’s name. But returning to the scene of the crime has never been riskier, with their hearts and lives on the line.

‘The Pretender’ is HelenKay Dimon’s third foray into a group of mysterious men who do mysterious things and it’s one of those books that tend to leave me (as the previous books in this series have) with a very unfulfilled sense of ending, because of the very nature of these men and women who are frankly, difficult to get into.

It isn’t a slight on Dimon’s writing at all, because that itself is quite polished and I love this particular bit about Dimon that keeps me coming back for her books. In fact, the beginning chapter sucked me in straight as a watching art thief gets embroiled in a vicious murder, whose presence—should he confirm it—would exonerate a woman accused of many things. But from there onwards I found myself putting down and picking up the story so many times over the span of about a week or so, just unable to get deeper into the mystery that didn’t unfold as quickly for me as I liked.

There is a boat load of things going on, as there is a weird claustrophobic feel of the island setting as characters find themselves as potential pawns and suspects, but the pieces of this puzzle are doled out piecemeal and very sparingly in the first half.

It was tooth-clenchingly hard to get them put together, and I was frustrated when the pacing stuttered because the protagonists chose sex over talking too often, leaving half-truths on the table as trust is treated almost as secondary to passion. There is some form of continuing deception and dishonesty on both Harris and Gabby’s sides while a murderer is running loose, and this proves ultimately not only distracting but puts the whole relationship on shaky foundation that consequently made it hard to get invested in.

But because ‘The Pretender’ tried to juggle the whodunnit element of a mystery thriller with the obstacles of what deception might to do a relationship that began on the wrong footing, there were parts where the mystery was going nowhere when motives didn’t generally become that much clearer even as the story went on. Unfortunately, I found myself disappointed with this one—the difficulty in finishing the book was enough proof of it.

two-stars

Chasing Christmas Eve by Jill Shalvis

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Edelweiss/ Reviews 2nd September 2017
Chasing Christmas Eve by Jill ShalvisChasing Christmas Eve by Jill Shalvis
Series: Heartbreaker Bay #4
Published by Avon on September 26th 2017
Pages: 384
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three-stars

Meet cute...

Run for the hills—temporarily. That's Colbie Albright's plan when she flees New York for San Francisco. Wrangling her crazy family by day and writing a bestselling YA fantasy series by night has taken its toll. In short, Colbie's so over it that she's under it. She's also under the waters of a historic San Francisco fountain within an hour of arrival. Fortunately, the guy who fishes Colbie out has her looking forward to Christmas among strangers. But she's pretty sure Spencer Baldwin won't be a stranger for long.

Make merry...

Spence's commitment to hiding from the Ghosts of Relationships Past means he doesn't have to worry about the powerful—okay, crazy hot chemistry—he's got with Colbie. Just because she can laugh at anything, especially herself... just because she's gorgeous and a great listener just because she gets Spence immediately doesn't mean he won't be able to let Colbie go. Does it?

and hope for a miracle.

Now the clock's ticking for Colbie and Spence: Two weeks to cut loose. Two weeks to fall hard. Two weeks to figure out how to make this Christmas last a lifetime.

I’ve always wanted Spence’s story—the hot, smart but lonely geek always there for his friends but also always caught up in his work—and I’m so glad that Jill Shalvis has delivered “Chasing Christmas Eve” just as I thought this poor guy was going to be left behind. And this is a typical Shalvis read as well: light-hearted, never too heavy on the angst, with several scenes and dialogues that have comedic timing down pat.

There hasn’t been a hint of who would be Spence’s other half and it is a surprise in a way, to see that Shalvis pairing him with a famous author who’s unwilling to reveal the kind of fame she has. But like quite a few of Shalvis’s heroines, Colbie tends to run first, shut down, then analyse later, so unsurprisingly, it’s Spence—the more solid yet sweeter and steadfast one—whom I thought would get heartbroken in the end. After all, their affair was meant to burnt bright and hot…and temporary. But the expiry date comes and goes, and with the Christmas magic in the air, miracles do happen and Spence does get his HEA after all. He’s my soft spot after Elle Wheaten and I do admit that I wasn’t as invested in Spence/Colbie as much as I was in Elle/Archer, but that’s obviously a personal preference for character coming through here because I didn’t find Colbie as much as a standout as I’d hoped.

A particular highlight of the book however, is the return of the usual gang and I definitely dig the group dynamics of the Heartbreaker Bay series, especially since it’s always written with charm and quirk that contribute to the quiet sense of comedy. For this alone, I’ll be waiting for the next book to get back into Cow Hollow just to get back the feel-goods.

three-stars

Most Of All You by Mia Sheridan

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Edelweiss/ New Adult/ Reviews 31st August 2017
Most Of All You by Mia SheridanMost of All You: A Love Story by Mia Sheridan
Published by Forever on October 17th 2017
Pages: 352
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three-stars


A broken woman . . .


Crystal learned long ago that love brings only pain. Feeling nothing at all is far better than being hurt again. She guards her wounded heart behind a hard exterior and carries within her a deep mistrust of men, who, in her experience, have only ever used and taken.


A man in need of help . . .

Then Gabriel Dalton walks into her life. Despite the terrible darkness of his past, there's an undeniable goodness in him. And even though she knows the cost, Crystal finds herself drawn to Gabriel. His quiet strength is wearing down her defenses and his gentle patience is causing her to question everything she thought she knew.


Only love can mend a shattered heart . . .

Crystal and Gabriel never imagined that the world, which had stolen everything from them, would bring them a deep love like this. Except fate will only take them so far, and now the choice is theirs: Harden their hearts once again or find the courage to shed their painful pasts.

Therapy can come in the oddest forms, according to Mia Sheridan. And from there, when given enough time, come affection and desire, in the shape of a hardened, cynical stripper who distances herself from her clients and a gentle, sensitive artist who has suffered his own form of childhood abuse.

‘Most of All You’ is a poignant read that deals with two protagonists damaged in very different ways and how the glue to piecing themselves back together isn’t just the quick and shallow version of sex but a connection that happens first in the strangest of places.

There’s also a bit of a role-reversal here as Gabriel—the more open, tenderhearted one—tries to break down those walls that Ellie has built and it’s a refreshing change as masculinity isn’t seen here in the form of a posturing Alpha-male but as a gentle but unrelenting wave of affection that washes away resistance. It’s Gabriel who’s the crutch for Ellie—whose self-loathing didn’t seem like it could be overcome—nonetheless and it’s as though ‘Most of All You’ champions not the man who shouts the loudest or speaks the dirtiest, but the man who paces his approach and uses patience to triumph.

Sheridan’s storytelling is slow, as it lingers over a myriad of emotions, draws out the drama and takes apart each character’s state of mind, but it’ll certainly appeal to many who prefer a feel-good and emotional read with a strong thread of idealism that can’t be shaken off. The cynic in me stays a little sceptical, but definitely recognises that this sheen—lacking in romance these days—is something Sheridan recaptures here.

three-stars

Ride Wild by Laura Kaye

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Edelweiss/ Mystery/Crime/ Reviews 25th August 2017
Ride Wild by Laura KayeRide Wild by Laura Kaye
Series: Raven Riders #3
Published by Avon on October 31st 2017
Pages: 384
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three-stars

Brotherhood. Club. Family.They live and ride by their own rules.These are the Raven Riders...

Wild with grief over the death of his wife, Sam “Slider” Evans merely lives for his two sons. Nothing holds his interest anymore—not even riding his bike or his membership in the Raven Riders Motorcycle Club. But that all changes when he hires a new babysitter.

Recently freed from a bad situation by the Ravens, Cora Campbell is determined to bury the past. When Slider offers her a nanny position, she accepts, needing the security and time to figure out what she wants from life. Cora adores his sweet boys, but never expected the red-hot attraction to their brooding, sexy father. If only he would notice her...

Slider does see the beautiful, fun-loving woman he invited into his home. She makes him feel too much, and he both hates it and yearns for it. But when Cora witnesses something she shouldn’t have, the new lives they’ve only just discovered are threatened. Now Slider must claim—and protect—what’s his before it’s too late.

‘Ride Wild’ focuses on the emotional journey of a widower struggling to get his life back, though it isn’t for the reason every one imagines it to be. It’s only the arrival of a babysitter (a secondary character who escaped the clutches of her evil father in previous books) needing her own sense of worth and identity that his life starts to turn around.

By and large, that was done fairly well. I did like Slider and Cora together, because both did seem ready to move on, needing only the right motivation to do so without the usual push-pull dance that most pairings undergo. Slider had my sympathy when his reasons for withdrawal from everything became clear, as did Cora—to some extent—as she struggled with trying to figure out her life at 24.

There isn’t too much angst on the romance aspect which Kaye heavily throws the spotlight on for most of the book; it’s a gradual journey of attraction and desire to a domestically blissful relationship that is established before the MC affairs kick in which sort of provide the suspense towards the end of the book.

Kaye’s ‘Raven Riders’ doesn’t quite read like a usual MC romance though; it skirts the hardcore, violent edge instead, (‘Ride Wild’ even more so) and presents female characters a little more needy and weepy than I’m used to in contrast to the large, tattooed men with even larger motorcycles. It’s not a bad mix really, though Kaye’s portrayal of the MC as a big, happy, loyal family got me sceptical at times, along with the significant age gap between the more ‘experienced’, career-established older men and the women who are younger and less sure-footed about their lives. Still, there are rival gangs, the problem of dogfighting and corrupt police officers though those really don’t take the shine away from Slider’s and Cora’s happy times in what has to be one of the most affirming MC stories I’ve ever read.

three-stars
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