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Don’t Go by Alexa Riley

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ New Adult/ Reviews 12th December 2017
Don’t Go by Alexa RileyDon’t Go by Alexa Riley
Series: For You #3
Published by Carina Press on January 22nd 2018
Pages: 78
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three-stars

CEO Henry Osbourne has only ever desired one woman—the one who got away.

I’ve spent the past ten years convincing myself that what I felt for her was teenage infatuation. That love so consuming couldn’t be real. Then everything went to shit, and in an instant, she was gone.

Kory Summers knew returning to New York meant running into Henry. The way her heartbeat picked up at just the thought was nervousness—not anticipation. Oh, no. She never expected to find him on her doorstep looking as handsome as ever.

She’s mine. She always has been. I’ve waited this long for her…but time’s up. I’ll use all my power, all my connections, to convince her she’s the one.

Kory ran from a boy, but a man of power and persuasion now stands in his place.

‘Don’t Go’ is in fact, part of the ‘For You’ series, though it’s now Miles/Mallory’s son’s story, which can be a little jarring since it wasn’t too long ago that I read his parents’ HEA, though in Riley’s fictional world of the Osbournes, over 2 decades have gone by. The biggest issue I have with this series is the lack of chronological order in which the books come about and the time-gap that these stories span—which is at least a generation, but that might just be splitting hairs here.

Alexa Riley’s commitment to short and safe might cause some raised brows when it comes to instalove (or lust) and the all-in stance of the male protagonist. And, honestly, I do sometimes count myself among these brow-raisers. But in rare cases, Riley’s short and safe novellas can and do make an impact.

In ‘Don’t Go,’ Riley writes about 2 people so devoted to each other as well as the memories of that single Cinderella-esque night that there wouldn’t be space to ask the messy and difficult questions that typically appear as part of a second-chance romance. In fact, questions about the contentious separation period and the believability of the pairing’s second-chance romance don’t really factor into the equation here, simply because there have been no one else for Henry and Kory.

From there onwards, it’s pure Alexa Riley that takes over: the instalove (this is sufficiently warned by the authors to be fair), the possessive hero and the iron-clad HEA that probably spans a quarter of the entire short book. It’s not for everyone, clearly, because of how implausible and admittedly unrealistic the pairing and story might come across, but if devotion that sometimes seems out of the real world is what you’re looking at, then Alexa Riley is the kind of read to go for.

three-stars

Final Siege by Scarlett Cole

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 10th December 2017
Final Siege by Scarlett ColeFinal Siege by Scarlett Cole
Series: Love Over Duty #2
Published by St. Martin's Press on January 30th 2018
Pages: 300
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two-stars

IN THE LINE OF FIRE…

Former SEAL Malachai “Mac” MacCarrick is all about the future he’s created with his Navy brothers in Eagle Securities, taking assignments in the most dangerous places, and doing things no one but ex-military would attempt. But when an urgent phone call brings his troubled past—and the woman he once loved—into the present, it’s a chance to redeem himself that he can’t refuse.

STRAIGHT TO THE HEART…

An investigative journalist researching an explosive story, Delaney Shapiro tells herself she got over Mac—and his role in her brother’s death—a long time ago. But the first moment she sees him at her bedside in an overseas hospital, she knows it’s not true. Every moment together rekindles the desire that once burned between them, and now that she’s a target for an emerging Russian arms dealer, Mac won’t let her out of his sight. To protect her, he’ll risk it all—including his life…

A separation caused by tragedy, and a coincidental ‘rescue’ so to speak, 14 years later, leading to a second-chance romance did sound like the kind of story I wanted to dig into. Delaney and Mac do have weighted history and I was eager to see what Scarlett Cole would write about such a story and second chances, particularly after I got a sniff of what happened in their past.

But as an RS reader, I’m admittedly used to a style of writing that has gotten ingrained over the years, so these are my own preferences that I’m highlighting here—preferences that perhaps show how unused to Cole’s style I am.

For this reason, ‘Final Siege’ was hard to get into despite the enticing blurb, and these were mostly structural (narrative-wise) quibbles for me. Cole’s writing did throw me off in the instances of head-hopping—when the perspectives sometimes switched without warning—and the lack of demarcating in spots where scenes and dialogues just didn’t break or signal any time passing. With the lack of paragraphing and breaks, the whole narrative felt a little rambly, along with some awkward insertions of sentences that didn’t quite seem to flow with the development of a scene or aid in characterisation. Some parts, however, were well-written, though it was hard to get past the uneven way the whole story was laid out, particularly at the beginning of chapters where I found myself scrambling to make sense of context.

By and large, Delaney and Mac danced around the biggest ghost in their past that haunt them. Delaney did turn out frustrating at times: her inability to get over Mac’s supposed part in her brother’s death felt like something she hung onto simply so that she had a reason to keep on hating Mac. There was also a large focus on the push-pull happening between Delaney and Mac that got cloyingly repetitive when I’d expected the suspense to take priority after they meet again. That however, only kicked in somewhere near the halfway point, which made ‘Final Siege’ seem rather slow-paced for an RS book and in some way, like a game that went a step forward and 2 steps back.

That said, I’m not too sure how much of final revisions ARCs actually undergo. ‘Final Siege’ does unfortunately, look like a book that still needs a bit of editing; otherwise, it’ll be left as a story that’s got a potential which it never quite reached.

two-stars

About that Kiss by Jill Shalvis

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Edelweiss 3rd December 2017
About that Kiss by Jill ShalvisAbout That Kiss by Jill Shalvis
Series: Heartbreaker Bay #5
Published by Avon on January 23rd 2018
Pages: 384
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three-stars

When love drives you crazy . . .

When sexy Joe Malone never calls after their explosive kiss, Kylie shoves him out of her mind. Until she needs a favor, and it’s a doozy. Something precious to her has been stolen and there’s only one person with unique finder-and-fixer skills that can help—Joe. It means swallowing her pride and somehow trying to avoid the temptation to throttle him—or seduce him.

the best thing to do . . .

No, Joe didn’t call after the kiss. He’s the fun time guy, not the forever guy. And Kylie, after all she’s been through, deserves a good man who will stay. But everything about Kylie makes it damned hard to focus, and though his brain knows what he has to do, his heart isn’t getting the memo.

… is enjoy the ride.

As Kylie and Joe go on the scavenger hunt of their lives, they discover surprising things about each other. Now, the best way for them to get over “that kiss” might just be to replace it with a hundred more.

I’m a bit at a loss here when it comes to writing this particular review. I often associate Jill Shalvis’s books with romantic comedy with touches of the whimsical thrown in, so ‘About That Kiss’ threw me off a little with the genres it straddled.

There were pockets of quirky humour that I associate with Jill Shalvis’s writing and those were ever-present here, as were the cast of nosey supporting characters who’d long gotten their HEA while dishing out the weirdest advice about love thereafter. The fun part was definitely there as well, especially with the rather cute (and near-benign) case of a wooden penguin turning up in the Amélie-like manner in precarious positions—how does Shalvis think of these things?!—and the amusing chase after the potential suspects who might have been doing threatening things to a precious but inanimate object.

But it wasn’t long before ‘About That Kiss’ felt oddly familiar, like a pared-down, lighthearted version of romantic suspense minus the tense and hard-edges, with the kind of protagonists that I usually expect to see in the romantic suspense genre: the commitment-free male protagonist—either military or ex-military—who is emotionally unavailable (then uses this as an excuse to play fast and loose with many women) and the strong, stubborn female protagonist who promises nothing more will come out of a friends-with-benefits type arrangement until she realises that she can’t.

Joe and Kylie for most part, fitted those categories, though the context of their coming together (along with some TSTL behaviour) somehow felt gentler in Shalvis’s Heartbreaker Bay world that’s buoyed with feel-good laughter and caring characters rather than heavy angst and hard-driven suspense. For this reason, this ‘softer landing’ so to speak, makes ‘About That Kiss’ a very accessible read and while the stereotypes of the protagonists made it a little hard for me to get invested in Joe/Kylie as a pairing, I’m nonetheless glad that this series isn’t quite over given the very intriguing tease about yet another couple which I do hope Shalvis follows up with.

three-stars

Pulled Under by Lisa Renee Jones

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ Mystery/Crime/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 2nd December 2017
Pulled Under by Lisa Renee JonesPulled Under by Lisa Renee Jones
Series: Walker Security #2
Published by Everafter Romance on November 28th 2017
Pages: 267
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three-stars

Born into a wealthy family he rebelled against, Asher dived into the world of rock n roll, drugs, and women. A blond, tattooed, bad boy, he is the chameleon of Walker Security. A man who manages to switch from rocker leather hotness to perfectly fitted suits. Even effortlessly blending into the underground grunge of the cities. Because he’s lived that world, almost lost himself to that world, until he ends up helping Royce Walker, then a Federal Agent, and now his boss at Walker Security. Royce thinks Asher has conquered his darkness. Some days he thinks he has, too. Some days, he knows he never will.

Present day: When several women end up dead from a new drug on the streets, Walker Security is hired to help the police solve the crimes that have the city in turmoil. Asher goes undercover in the club scene for answers, easily calling on that darkness to fit right in. Why is it that only women are dying? What is this drug they’ve never seen before? Who is behind it? And why does everything lead back to a prima donna on the Upper East Side, whom Asher just saw in a nightclub in leather and lace? The very same woman he took to his bed?

Asher will face a woman seeking vengeance, whose past is a little too similar to his to feel right. Or maybe it’s a little too similar to be anything but right. But he’ll have to keep her alive to find out, despite her best efforts to put herself in harm’s way at every chance.

A woman on the run, a shadowy undercover bartender who decides he’s on her side the moment he pegs her wrongly to be a bar dancer. Cue the sparks, the banter and the near-immediate fall into bed because of the overwhelming attraction, while what appears like separate threats draw ever closer and start dovetailing.

‘Pulled Under’ sounds like the kind of read that’s up my alley and taking a chance on Lisa Renee Jones (a new author for me) simply means there’s another romantic suspense-author on my list to watch out for. And by and large, it was an engaging story and fairly well-paced despite the instant love/lust, with many characters who’d gained their HEAs appearing from Jones’s other books (though they’re foreign to me).

I’m still on the fence with the protagonists however, and there were parts of the book that had me raising my brows in scepticism. Sierra and Asher tussled over the past that hung over her life but they were mostly adults about it, despite the same argument about Asher keeping her safe vs. Sierra not wanting to endanger him coming up ad nauseum. But for a man who had never done relationships, for whom women were mere fuck-buddies, Asher’s sudden, unwavering all-in status with Sierra from the very moment he saw her—the flip of the switch so to speak—and the effusive words of commitment made it all the harder to believe, as was his explanation that it was just that way with him and his other Waker security mates. In addition, the threat to Sierra—elevated to be almost near-untouchable and all-powerful, drawn out tautly over most of the book—was simply wrapped up with an anti-climatic gun-shot that seemed to cancel out all that meticulous planning for an explosive takedown I’d been gearing myself up for.

In all, ‘Pulled Under’ wasn’t quite the perfect read for me, but a good one and yes, it’s probably enough to make me curious about Jones’s other books and the next Walker Security story.

three-stars

Only You by Addison Fox

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews 25th November 2017
Only You by Addison FoxOnly You by Addison Fox
Series: The Brooklyn Brotherhood #4
Published by Swerve on December 12th 2017
Pages: 304
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three-stars

Meet the Brooklyn Brotherhood: three brothers who escaped rough childhoods in Park Heights, Brooklyn who grew into fiercely loyal, sexy men – and who find love when they’re least expecting it.

Fender Blackstone has kept the world at arm’s length, with the exception of his adoptive brothers and Mama Lou, the woman who saved him. Fender is willing to do everything he can to support Lou, but he finds himself drawn to Harlow Reynolds: the daughter of the woman who could destroy everything Lou has worked for.

Even without the emotional turmoil between their families, why would a woman from the highest echelons of Manhattan society ever look twice at a kid from Brooklyn? As forbidden sparks flare between them, Fender and Harlow realize there’s something real forming between them. When Fender’s past resurfaces and threatens the life he’s built, can his love for Harlow survive the aftermath?

After reading ‘Forever Yours’ which was a complete bust for me, ‘Only You’ was in contrast, heart-felt and emotionally nuanced which made the story an even bigger draw as Fender Blackstone (whose story I’ve been wanting) finally finds someone who is his opposite in every way.

‘Only You’ works as a standalone, but there is some history and a backstory to catch up on by the time we get to Fender’s story, all of which which are explained in the previous books and have been mentioned here. But I liked ‘Only You’ primarily because of the ‘adulting’ that’s mostly present in there: both Fender and Harlow acted their ages as they navigated the complicated waters of their relationship and the pages of dialogues and inner monologues did show that. Consequently, it was easy to like Fender for the solidness, and the self-awareness and perception that he displayed about his growing feelings for Harlow mostly—which I find sometimes blindingly lacking in heroes—as it was easy to like Harlow for her wanting to fight for the both of them and her way of doing so. Yet for all their communication, it got frustrating when I’d assumed Fender would come to his senses after spending most of the book being rather wishy-washy about wanting what he and Harlow had, including thinking about and eventually pushing her away—which was only unsatisfactorily resolved by a conflict in the closing pages of the book that made his mind up for him.

I thought the pacing lagged quite a bit in the middle, and I was able to put it down and pick it up numerous times (though without much difficulty) as both Harlow and Fender worked through the circumstances—not just the history between their parents but also a big issue in Fender’s past that he had to confront—that made being together very difficult. That said, there’s a neat HEA for all the characters involved of course, though I was left wishing I’d felt more for the series than I did.

three-stars

Unloved by Katy Regnery

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ Mystery/Crime/ New Adult/ Reviews 13th November 2017
Unloved by Katy RegneryUnloved by Katy Regnery
Published by Katharine Gilliam Regnery on October 8th 2017
Pages: 325
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three-stars

My name is Cassidy Porter...

My father, Paul Isaac Porter, was executed twenty years ago for the brutal murder of twelve innocent girls.

Though I was only eight-years-old at the time, I am aware - every day of my life - that I am his child, his only son.

To protect the world from the poison in my veins, I live a quiet life, off the grid, away from humanity.

I promised myself, and my mother, not to infect innocent lives with the darkness that swirls within me, waiting to make itself known.

It's a promise I would have kept...if Brynn Cadogan hadn't stumbled into my life.

Now I exist between heaven and hell: falling for a woman who wants to love me, while all along reminding myself that I must remain...

Unloved.

Katy Regnery is a relatively new author to me, so picking up ‘Unloved’ seemed like a given, since I did like one of her modern-day fairytales quite a bit. The fact that ‘Unloved’ also deals with the disturbing suggestion that violence is hereditary—violence against women in particular stands out here—made this a more intriguing prospect that I couldn’t wait to pick up.

The book started off slow, as both Cass’s and Brynn’s paths converged after an unfortunate act of violence up in the mountains of Maine, though it did turn quite weepy before long. If Cass was determined to keep his distance because of his belief that he had the murderous/violent gene in him, the latter seemed too fragile and prone to numerous crying bouts in contrast (which was what I mostly remembered of her), where her need for Cass seemed more like transference termed as love. High-drama (sometimes overly so, with soap-operatic overtones) with too much self-loathing permeated the pages so much that I had to put the book down a few times; overall though, I felt for Cass and the torment he’d put himself through because of what he’d wrongly believed his whole life.

The twist that came towards the end however, made it a lot harder to swallow the story hook, line and sinker given my own reservations by that point in time. What was then, the whole point of setting up the opposing ideas of nature vs. nurture (very broadly speaking)? Because I wasn’t too sure by the end of it, whether the twist was it meant to give credence to the argument (in an ironic way) or render it completely moot, because I was actually looking forward to the idea that Regnery seemed to be pushing for most of the book, which was that nurture can win over nature.

In short, I’m left somewhat neutral even by the time Cass/Brynn got their HEA along with electricity and other modern amenities, but this probably has more to do with my own expectations than the story itself. It’s probably not quite a story that’ll appeal very broadly, but then again, which book really does?

three-stars

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
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