Tag: Indifferent shrugs

Take a Chance on Me by Jane Porter

Take a Chance on Me by Jane PorterTake a Chance on Me by Jane Porter
Series: Love on Chance Avenue, #3
Published by Tule Publishing on March 18th 2018
Pages: 146
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Savvy stylist Amanda Wright loves Marietta, her hair salon, and her clients, and no client is more dear to her heart than eighty-year-old Bette Justice–even if her years have made her a little fragile. So when Bette asks Amanda to help her convince her determined grandson, Tyler, a successful game designer, that Marietta is the right home for Bette, Amanda can’t say no.

Tyler Justice has a one-track mind–he wants to take care of his beloved grandmother. He can’t understand her resistance to move to Texas and is sure that the young friend she keeps mentioning–Amanda–is taking advantage of his grandmother’s generosity. He reaches Marietta determined to put the salon owner in her place and bring his grandmother home…until smart, kind Amanda starts to tug at his heart in ways he never expected.

But just as Tyler and Amanda start to form a real connection, will a long-buried family secret destroy their chance at love?

I was frankly, bored with this. Bored because I could see the conflict and the eventual resolution coming, unmoved because I couldn’t feel any chemistry between Amanda and Tyler.
Porter posits Marietta as a small but pretty base where happiness is an almost-guarantee (Tule’s publishing numerous Marietta books attest to it), so it was a given that Tyler would in the end, learn to love the place as Amanda and Bette do…there was no other option available here, because apparently Marietta was the answer to problems, so the man—who apparently is the one with the one-track mind—has to do all the compromising, when it became evident that the whole book centred around getting Tyler to see the beauty of the community that was Marietta.
In fact, I didn’t think Tyler was an arse at all, not when his way of wanting to move his grandmother somewhere else had merit which no one else would see. That Amanda pushed her own issues of her past on to Tyler rather unfairly, or that Tyler seemed to be the one always giving in made it hard to read on, especially when Tyler was the only one made to go on the uphill climb to find his own feet when everyone else sang the happy song of Marietta.
‘Take a Chance on Me’ rubbed me the wrong way early in the book and sadly, I never quite got back that sense of traction or the desire to go on.

Life of Bliss by Erin McLellan

Life of Bliss by Erin McLellanLife of Bliss by Erin McLellan
Published by Riptide Publishing on April 16th 2018
Pages: 211
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Nobody plans to accidentally marry their frenemy with benefits.

Todd McGower and Victor Consuelos do not like each other. They can’t have a conversation without insults flying, and Victor seems to get off on pushing Todd’s buttons. The fact that their antagonism always leads to explosive sex . . . well, that’s their little secret.

Victor has a secret of his own. His full-blown crush on Todd is ruining his sex life. He hasn’t looked at anyone else in months, and he’s too hung up on Todd to find a date to his cousin’s wedding.

In a moment of weakness after a heart-stopping night together, Todd agrees to be Victor’s fake boyfriend for the wedding. Victor will have his plus-one—which will get his family off his back—and Todd will get a free mini-vacation. It’s a win-win.

But pretending to be fake boyfriends leads to real intimacy, which leads to too much wine, and suddenly, Todd and Victor wake up with wedding bands and a marriage license between them. That was not their plan, but a summer of wedded bliss might just change their minds.

I had the uncanny feeling the moment I got into the first few pages of ‘Life of Bliss’ that I was reading about a protagonist who’d been a secondary character in another previous story that I’d missed out. It wasn’t a feeling I could shake off so easily, though that might have also accounted for why I couldn’t exactly quite get a grasp on both the main characters until I was solidly halfway through it.

Todd and Victor’s backstory come to light in bits and pieces, where they find themselves as frenemies (a pretend-hate kind of situation) where snark and snippy comebacks not only form the basis for their prelude to sex but also serve as a defence mechanism to keep each other from coming too close. But somehow weddings and the aftermath drive people crazy, or at least, as far as Todd and Victor are concerned, throw them off the cliff and into the deep end where they move, in the space of a few drunken hours into uncharted territory.

Inner monologues both prove that Todd and Victor have mistaken ideas about how they see each other, but it was frustrating to read about how these mistaken perceptions weren’t corrected because both seemed contented instead to mull over them than talk it out like adults. The result is a rather prolonged period of the status quo that both try to keep (it obviously works as well as as one can expect) in a cycle that strains their relationship as their their own doubts and insecurities are left to fester. Still, I liked Victor for his own way of showing the kind of courage that it takes to keep a relationship that he slid into somewhat accidentally, though thought much less of Todd for being the way who simply couldn’t stay a course to commit to.

‘Life of Bliss’ didn’t present any big surprises for me; I expected and got what I thought would really come out of Todd/Victor’s relationship, from the conflict, the blow-up to the resolution. There were parts though, where I was bored and skimmed and couldn’t quite get myself very interested in the numerous sex scenes. In all, this was a middling read which I’d wished could have been a better one.


Hot Target by April Hunt

Hot Target by April HuntHot Target by April Hunt
Series: Alpha Security #4
Published by Forever Yours on April 10th 2018
Pages: 94
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How did a nice girl like Rachel Kline end up in a jail cell in Vegas? Don't even ask. She came to Sin City to find her missing friend and accidentally got swept up in a police raid. Even worse, she's being bailed out by the last man she wants to see right now: the irresistibly sexy, infuriatingly cocky Alpha op who rescued her a year ago. What are the odds?

Logan Callahan is six-and-a-half feet of solid muscle and Texas charm, a hard-fighting ex-Marine with a soft spot for Rachel. He's more than obliged to hang up his cowboy hat and help her out. But when someone takes a shot at her, he knows there's a good chance what happens in Vegas won't stay there. With targets on their backs and killers on their tails, it's one high-risk game they're playing. And it's not just their hearts that are on the line . . .

Sometimes, not being able to remember the plots of previous books in a series can be a bloody bane. As a result, ‘Hot Target’—a novella to boot—felt like a zany read that had me tumbling into the craziness of Vegas with Rachel and Logan with a backstory that I struggled to remember despite the bits of retelling in this short story.

There was ample material to get on board with however, despite the brevity of the book (this came in at about 90-ish pages) and the plot, once in locked in place with the details hammered out, moved at a fast clip as Logan and Rachel finally stopped their year-and-a-half-long dance around each other. Logan/Rachel were an entertaining couple, though I particularly loved seeing Logan with the many faces he wore around people and the way that fell off when it came to Rachel.

Several unfamiliar characters that flitted in towards the end made me a little confused but I’ll probably remember this for the very, very charming Logan whom I wished had his own full novel-length novel just to get him in action.


Long Game by Catherine Evans

Long Game by Catherine EvansLong Game by Catherine Evans
Series: , #2
Published by Escape Publishing, Escape Publishing - Harlequin Enterprises, Australia Pty Ltd on February 1st 2018
Pages: 108
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oes she dare pursue all her dreams?

Everyone in Grong Grong knows Cress Kennedy’s childhood dream is to play Aussie Rules Football, so when the Sydney Sirens sign her in the new Women’s Aussie Rules competition, she heads to the big city to pursue her dream. But no one in Grong Grong knows of Cress’s other dreams: the ones that revolve entirely around Quin Fitzpatrick.

Quin Fitzpatrick left Grong Grong as an eighteen-year-old to play Aussie Rules in Sydney, but after eight years the shine has gone from the lifestyle. When his best friend’s little sister follows in his country-to-city footsteps, he promises to look after her. She can stay with him and he’ll protect her as best he can. Besides, Watercress is the little sister he never had.

But Cress is all grown up now and playing Women’s Aussie Rules, and it’s about time that Quin sees her as a woman too..

I’ve always loved the idea of competitive women sports and Women in Aussie Rules – women playing Australian Footy – is the perfect platform to build budding romances in each regional team in the series. Catherine Evan takes on the Sydney Sirens with Cress Kennedy and her longtime childhood crush Quin Fitzpatrick, who was the first to leave their hometown of Grong Grong nearly a decade ago to follow that very dream they both shared.

The friends-to-lovers trope has always made me wary, because for me, there always had to be a set of criteria that should ideally be met; otherwise, I’d start questioning the validity of the pairing. Nonetheless, Quin/Cress do sort of work under the very specific circumstances that Evans has laid out: Quin left Grong Grong way before Cress really grew up, so their meeting again simply set the stage for a childhood friendship that deepened in the weeks they spent together in Sydney.

The setting couldn’t be more perfect – the Sydney harbour bridge climb was something I wanted to do some time ago, then balked at the horrific prices – and Evans’s way of writing Quin’s and Cress’s relationship did pull me in, despite the slow, slow burn. On the flip side of the coin, their hesitation to get involved any more deeply with each other was a source of frustration when the rushed conclusion and their less-than-ideal circumstances made for a HFN ending that made me wonder if this pairing would work out.

‘Long Game’ ended on a note of hope instead of a guaranteed Quin/Cress future when everything was still up in the air. And while I loved their commitment to each other because of it, the last bit proved somewhat dissatisfying especially after the long wait for Quin and Cress to finally end their dance around each other. In all, it was a mixed read for me – I certainly enjoyed myself, but definitely wished things could have turned out differently.


Dangerous Witness by Katie Reus

Dangerous Witness by Katie ReusDangerous Witness by Katie Reus
Series: Redemption Harbor #3
Published by KR Press, LLC on January 30th 2018
Pages: 300
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He foolishly let her go…

When the woman he loved walked out of his life, Brooks Alexander was certain she did so willingly—with the cool two-million his father had offered as incentive to walk away. So when he learns that Darcy didn’t take a dime of his father’s payoff, Brooks realizes he made an epic mistake. He’s determined to make things right and reclaim his woman. Except neither task is as easily accomplished as he first thought.

Now her life is in his hands…

Wedding planner Darcy is no stranger to disappointment when it comes to the men in her life. When Brooks accused her of taking his father’s bribe, she was devastated that he thought so little of her—and realized he never knew her at all. So she walked away with her pride intact and her heart broken. Now, months later, an overheard conversation puts Darcy in the crosshairs of a dangerous criminal with powerful connections. With nowhere else to turn, she has no choice but to put all her trust in Redemption Harbor Consulting—and its cofounder, the man who broke her heart.

The pattern of the misunderstood woman and the man who stormed away from her—such that the beginning starts with a good man-grovel—is one that Katie Reus has attempted a few times and I have to say, brings glee to my (alarmingly vindictive) soul. ‘Dangerous Witness’ is exactly that, so this uphill climb back into a woman’s graces when a protagonist has truly screwed up, is probably one of my favourite moments. That is happens at the beginning, however, is unusual.

There weren’t too many surprises in the book however and I definitely like this series as well the pairings that Reus has already written into them, as well as the hints of those to come. Still, ‘Dangerous Witness’ was good—as the action happens because of Darcy’s peripheral relations—though not mind-blowing, with the pacing lagging somewhat in the middle as Darcy dithered on her feelings towards Brooks and his sudden insertion back into her life.

What it’d gotten me thinking about however, was the depth of the betrayal and the extent to which readers might expect a reconciliation…and on what grounds that might happen. I did find myself wishing, that Brooks had decided to win Darcy back on the realisation that she wouldn’t have just walked away from him for money; instead it had to take his father to confirm the facts before he decided—7 months later after putting it off repeatedly—to go all out for it. That Darcy was reluctant was entirely justified and understandable, particularly so since it felt as though her life had to be in danger before Brooks stopped delaying what he should have done months ago. I was in fact, waiting for an opportunity to come up again in the story where Brooks needed to show his unmitigated trust in Darcy, and was disappointed when that didn’t happen.

Or maybe I’m just protesting too much. It does after all, end with an iron-clad HEA and a sweetness that Reus always reinforces with a couple that don’t have eyes for anyone else but for each other.


Prisoner by Annika Martin & Skye Warren

Prisoner by Annika Martin & Skye WarrenPrisoner by Annika Martin, Skye Warren
Series: Criminals & Captives #1
Published by Skye Warren & Annika Martin on October 22nd 2014
Pages: 310
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He seethes with raw power the first time I see him—pure menace and rippling muscles in shackles. He’s dangerous. He’s wild. He’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

So I hide behind my prim glasses and my book like I always do, because I have secrets too. Then he shows up in the prison writing class I have to teach, and he blows me away with his honesty. He tells me secrets in his stories, and it’s getting harder to hide mine. I shiver when he gets too close, with only the cuffs and the bars and the guards holding him back. At night I can’t stop thinking about him in his cell.

But that’s the thing about an animal in a cage—you never know when he’ll bite. He might use you to escape. He might even pull you into a forest and hold a hand over your mouth so you can’t call for the cops. He might make you come so hard, you can’t think.

And you might crave him more than your next breath.

There are some books—rare as they are—that make me question the definition of romance and by extension, why I read them. ‘Prisoner’ is one of those rare few books, which makes this a near-impossible review to write. If I read romance for escapism and a HEA that is only fulfilled in fiction and unrealistic, it’s probably because I’ve been so conditioned towards carrying ‘real-life’ cynicism like a straw that breaks the camel’s back that it can be difficult to buy a certain’s pairing’s happiness. Then there are some books that tip the fairytale on its head, where the villain never even becomes an anti-hero that you think you can root for, though there are those who glory in the grey areas of morality and insist that this is as good a love story that you can get.

I’m torn, really. My suspension of belief has never been called into question more than when I was going through the more excruciating parts of this story. As clearly as I do recognise that ‘Prisoner’ doesn’t fit in any of the contemporary romance category that I’m used to, that the effectiveness of the story is so dependant on us readers trying to separate reality from fiction is what makes me uncomfortable. Because for many of us, reality isn’t—and shouldn’t—be that way and to buy wholly into Abigail’s and Grayson’s tale of lust and dark need, is akin to going against that I accept in my own ‘normalised’ world that isn’t about the microbalance of power in relationships or about living on the wrong side of the law and making do or even revelling in it.

Roughness, dubious consent and violence are par for the course, as are the lack of apologies for male behaviour that is overtly unkind and possessive, then mansplained away in a twisted kind of reverse psychology that I sometimes have trouble buying. We’re reminded often by both Grayson and Abigail that the former is a man beyond redemption—that steeped he is in his life of crime after the abuse he suffered in his early years.

One of my issues is that Abigail’s fighting spirit is what turns Grayson on, yet it also seems to show her as the weaker, cowering vessel with more than a hint of being steeped deeply in Stockholm Syndrome, because attraction and lust surely can’t trump fear and hate? In ‘Prisoner’, that happens. These toxic emotions intermingle, with more than a tinge of the delusional thrown in. But both author try to show up the similarities between Grayson and Abigail despite their outward differences and that’s where they find common ground: in the muddied waters of screwed-up life experiences and the apparent beauty that can be found in cruelty and compassion. Love isn’t all sunshine and roses, but rather, the man who overcomes a cop to rescue you in a jail cell because you belong to him.

Once again, I need to remind myself that this isn’t reality and because it’s a fictional book that I willingly chose to read, my tolerance level of this deviance must naturally be higher of what I’d be raising the alarm for in real life. After a while, enjoyment gives way to the conscious act of overriding my own instincts about romance; or maybe it’s just showing me up as a prude.


Prince Charming by C.D. Reiss

Prince Charming by C.D. ReissPrince Charming by C.D. Reiss
Published by Everafter Romance on January 4th 2018
Pages: 421
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Keaton Bridge is exactly the kind of guy a straight-arrow like Cassie doesn’t need.

For one thing, he’s a criminal—and she fights crime for a living. And being criminally handsome isn’t helping her say no, either. Everything about him screams trouble, from his British accent to his mysterious past.

And Cassie doesn’t do trouble.

Keaton’s got his own trouble. He’s trying to go legit, and an FBI agent hanging around is the last thing that will help his credibility. All it took was one night of passion to sear her into his skin. Now he can’t imagine living happily ever after without her.

All they have to do is walk away.

But neither of them ever walks away from danger.

C.D. Reiss doesn’t often come around on my need-to-read list, but there’s no doubt her stories are stylishly written and her plots imaginative. The blurb of ‘Prince Charming’ spoke to the geek in me and the hacking, white-collar crime, the criminal and the fed were just ingredients that could and should have made a story as explosive as I’d expected.

The web Reiss wove from the beginning had a noir-ish, sometimes claustrophobic (though sexually-charged) feel to it. But if I was initially intrigued and loving the toxic, uncertain atmosphere of distrust mixed with attraction, my excitement flatlined a bit as I couldn’t see where the story was heading, except for the instant lust and the moral ambiguity that seems to be all-pervasive each time Keaton Bridge enters the picture. With every action described, every thought catalogued in a cat-and-mouse game of questions going nowhere that was perhaps meant to build suspense, but got distracting and draggy instead—oddly enough, because Cassie’s and Keaton’s attraction seemed inversely proportionate to the pacing. Cassie’s and Keaton’s to-and-fro dialogue always seemed to be heading for a stalemate (though his constant arousal and her wet panties are a separate issue entirely and rather bewildering), interrupted often by long, protracted mental musings. The point is, both of them were dodgers in so many ways and the pages and pages of dialogue and their dangerous, reckless relationship showed it.

I’m guessing that this might not be a book for everyone—the style and the introspective narrative might not be for those who prefer ‘straight-up’ writing—and I found myself on the fence about it, especially when I started getting impatient for things to roll on instead of stalling when Cassie and Keaton hit the sheets with so many questions still left unanswered. That said, the plot was well-drawn, and the details of cyber crime, the dark web and the hackers involved believably thrilling. There were some twists that I didn’t expect, carrots dangled, and like rewards for continuing to turn the pages, they were hooks that I bit into despite skimming some parts of the story.