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Redemption by Kelly Moran

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ Reviews 20th June 2017
Redemption by Kelly MoranRedemption by Kelly Moran
Series: Cattenach Ranch #1
Published by KDP on June 13th 2017
Pages: 230
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four-stars

Nearly the last remaining member of Olivia Cattenach's family has just died overseas and left her overcome by grief. But when a soldier shows up at her ranch with a final message from her brother, she finds new purpose. Nathan Roldan is as formidable as they come. Bulging muscles and inked to boot, he looks like every bit the bad boy he claims to be. Except, under his shuttered gaze and behind his walls lies a gentle giant. Determined to carry out her brother's wishes, she chips away at Nate's layers and discovers more pain than any person should ever have to endure. And a passion she never dreamed was possible.

He's not the hero she thinks he is...

Nate's mistake got a fellow comrade killed, and a deathbed promise to take care of the guy's sister lands him in Wyoming with the hope of redemption. But he wasn't expecting...her. Beautiful, witty, and sweet, Olivia is everything he doesn't deserve. Born a nothing, he'll die a nothing. Though guilt is a living thing, temptation is too hard to resist. Somehow, she's unleashing his restraint and unearthing feelings he buried long ago. He wants her. More, he's worried he needs her. She's trying to save him, but when she learns the truth, he'll lose the only happiness he's ever known.

The search for Olivia Cattenach is as much a journey for redemption as it is to fulfil the last wish of a dead soldier. Only that this woman isn’t what Nate Roldan expected, nor is it a mission from the grave that ends up being one that changes his entire life the moment he roars up a long driveway on a Harley with nothing more than a promise he intends to fulfil.

Slow-paced but beautifully teased out and emotionally satisfying, I loved every step of Olivia’s and Nate’s journey that went from uncertainty, resistance to acceptance. Much of it is Nate’s story than Olivia’s really, as his heart-wrenching backstory takes shape under Olivia’s skilled questioning just as he learns to blossom under affection, affirmation and love. There’s much to savour here-the prose, the atmosphere, the delicious tension and the moments that come to life beneath such stylish writing-that I found myself sorry when it ended.

four-stars

Some Kind of Hero by Suzanne Brockmann

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 17th June 2017
Some Kind of Hero by Suzanne BrockmannSome Kind of Hero by Suzanne Brockmann
Series: Troubleshooters #17
Published by Ballantine Books on July 11th 2017
Pages: 368
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two-stars

Navy men don’t come tougher than Lieutenant Peter Greene. Every day he whips hotshot SEAL wannabes into elite fighters. So why can’t he handle one fifteen-year-old girl? His ex’s death left him a single dad overnight, and very unprepared. Though he can’t relate to an angsty teen, he can at least keep Maddie safe—until the day she disappears. Though Pete’s lacking in fatherly intuition, his instinct for detecting danger is razor sharp. Maddie’s in trouble. Now he needs the Troubleshooters team at his back, along with an unconventional ally.

Romance writer Shayla Whitman never expected to be drawn into a real-world thriller—or to meet a hero who makes her pulse pound. Action on the page is one thing. Actually living it is another story. Shay’s not as bold as her heroines, but she’s a mother. She sees the panic in her new neighbor’s usually fearless blue eyes—and knows there’s no greater terror for a parent than having a child at risk. It’s an ordeal Shay won’t let Pete face alone. She’s no highly trained operative, but she’s smart, resourceful, and knows what makes teenagers tick.

Still, working alongside Pete has its own perils—like letting the heat between them rise out of control. Intimate emotions could mean dangerous, even deadly, consequences for their mission. No matter what, they must be on top of their game, and playing for keeps . . . or else Pete’s daughter may be gone for good.

Where do I even begin with Suzanne Brockmann’s Troubleshooters series? There’s so much diversity in the pairings, so much differing action (you never quite know what you’re going to get) with just so many things going on… to the extent where some of her books have had the power to bore me limp, while others have brought me to my knees with a swoon-worthy type fairytale ending.

With ’Some Kind of Hero’, I was left disappointing unmoved and a more than a tad bit incredulous. But what’s clear however, is that it isn’t quite a standalone.

The initial meeting between Peter Green and Shayla is an out-of-nowhere jump into a car on the street to search for a missing teenager. And during the search, Peter finds himself telling his life story to Shayla while the latter finds herself using her skills as a writer to figure out just what Peter’s teenager could have gotten herself into. Their (coincidental) joint-effort simply eschews Brockmann’s very slow burn between characters that spans books and the quickness with which Peter and Shayla jumped into bed took out any sense of anticipation that I’ve come to expect. Instant-love or lust aside, the shenanigans with the teenagers just felt like an elaborate plot to bring 2 very opposing characters—whose lives otherwise wouldn’t ever intersect—together and it was difficult to buy into this forced connection when it simply felt more like bad parenting going out of control over a teenager who might or might not have done unsavoury things.

In many ways, this story left me in a bind, which on a whole, pretty much describes my entire Brockmann reading experience. There were parts that I couldn’t stop turning the pages, just as there were parts that had me skimming, despite the some amusing meta-details of what is means to be a romance author, fictional voices in head and scatterbrained-moments notwithstanding. On the other hand, Brockmann’s heroes never quite do what you think they do and here, there’s hardly enough SEAl action involved that could make me think of Peter as a SEAL instructor or his friend Izzy as a fellow brother-in-arms when the way they speak or act just lacked that intensity and the ‘je ne sais quoi’ that have pretty much defined the RS ‘alpha’ hero.

Maybe it’s because I’ve not read the entire series that ‘Some Kind of Hero’ made little sense to me overall, but this read (judging from the books that made my favourites list at least) unfortunately fell short by a long way.

two-stars

Dear Aaron by Mariana Zapata

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ New Adult/ Reviews 16th June 2017
Dear Aaron by Mariana ZapataDear Aaron by Mariana Zapata
Published by Mariana Zapata on June 10th 2017
Pages: 485
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three-stars

Ruby Santos knew exactly what she was getting herself into when she signed up to write a soldier overseas.The guidelines were simple: one letter or email a week for the length of his or her deployment. Care packages were optional.Been there, done that. She thought she knew what to expect.What she didn’t count on was falling in love with the guy.

Mariana Zapata’s penchant for the slowest of burns and intimidatingly long stories was what got me tentatively reaching for ‘Dear Aaron’, as the blurb promised to be exactly the kind of story I wanted to read in a long long time.

But it was a surprisingly easy read through it all, with the first half of the book spanning nearly a year and focusing solely on emails (that range from disgusting body functions to familial relationships) and text as Aaron’s and Ruby’s own communication take a turn for the intimate. Strangely enough, it was only when the first person POV came in later that my own reading slowed down, when the transition from letters to messaging to (sometimes neurotic) inner monologues caught me by surprise.

That said, Zapata’s characters do resonate with me, at least from what I’ve read of her books so far. Zapata’s amazing consistency of her characters, the unexpected bursts of humour, the wry and ironic perfection of the aw-shucks girl? It’s pat down. I loved Ruby and her self-deprecating humour straight out, down to the insecurities and the uncertainties that an average person can relate to.

Yet with Ruby providing the sole POV, her insights into the male protagonist through her own skewed observations are the only cues in a narrative given so subtly that it does leave the hero in question in danger of becoming a jaw-tightening, mute and jealous arse who doesn’t want to say what he thinks or feels. There isn’t much I can say of Aaron sadly, who remains somewhat a mystery despite what his letters seem to say and not say and is somewhat of a player by Ruby’s standards.

That said, this doesn’t really change the fact that ‘Dear Aaron’ of definitely one of the better, cuter and sweeter reads I’ve had in a while. I just couldn’t help the nagging feeling that it could have been sharper, possibly shorter and more hard-hitting where it really mattered.

three-stars

The Story of Us by Tara Sivec

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ New Adult/ Reviews 15th June 2017
The Story of Us by Tara SivecThe Story of Us by Tara Sivec
Published by Forever Yours on June 11th 2017
Pages: 336
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three-stars

How much can a man take before he breaks?

1,843 days. That's how long I survived in that hellhole. They tried to break me, but I resisted. And I owe it all to the memory of warm summer nights, the scent of peaches, and the one woman who loved me more than I ever deserved to be loved. Now, I'll do anything to get back to her.

Only Shelby Eubanks isn't the girl I left behind all those years ago. She's someone else, a stranger. My Shelby-my little green-eyed firecracker-would never give up her dreams, would never disappear into her mother's ambitions. But I won't give up on her. On us. I may be broken, and scarred, and not the man I used to be, but I will do whatever it takes to remind her of the story of us.

High (or melo)drama and a convoluted back story make this a soap-opera-worthy kind of read, complete with a flood of tears and tons of yelling, so much so that it’s easy to forget that adults are behaving that way—some of it’s even justified—or that teenage hormonal angst is doing all the talking instead.

‘The Story of Us’ is not just about a prisoner-of-war returning to find that things have changed drastically. It’s sort of a second-chance type romance, but with layers of deception and manipulation that made this read a mountain full of angst as both Eli and Shelby vacillated between heaving sobs and tearful promises never to let each other go again.

The long and short of it is, there are so many parts to their story and each part could have a whole book on its own. In fact, I think I would have liked to have read more of Eli/Shelby during their tumultuous stable boy and post-college years, rather than have it retold in bits and pieces or as flashbacks and letters which pretty much broke the narrative for me. I wanted to see the build-up, the breaking tension and the subsequent falling apart as a whole, but having it interwoven into the present made it more confusing as I spent the time instead, trying to put things together on my own instead of focusing on the emotion and the relationship between them. More so, the huge twist that was thrown in lost its full impact because of the disjointedness of the narrative. Mix this up with severe PTSD, a parent-plot type conspiracy and a series of coincidences and a villainous ex-fiancé (whose clout with the top brass could apparently affect deployments? really?) who seemingly disappeared down the line just when I thought it was going to come together, it all ended, way too abruptly before I could digest anything.

It’s an intense read nonetheless—my issues with it aside—though the sheer amount of tragedy and drama would be better suited to those who like the introspective type of storytelling, with loads of emotion that roll off the pages without letting up. And if you’re that kind who goes for these? Get your tissues ready.

three-stars

The Legend by Donna Grant

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 5th June 2017
The Legend by Donna GrantThe Legend by Donna Grant
Series: Sons of Texas #3
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on June 27th 2017
Pages: 320
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three-stars

A LONE STAR LOVER
Callie Reed doesn’t need a man to protect her. An expert sharpshooter and renegade hacker, this Texas-born spitfire’s got the skills and the courage to stand up to any danger―no matter how deadly. But when she becomes the target of a shadowy organization known as the Saints, Callie is forced to team up with the one man she can’t outshoot: the gorgeous, and infuriating, Lone Star legend named Wyatt Loughman…
A Delta Force Colonel with a rock-hard body and stone-cold heart, Wyatt has been teasing and tormenting Callie since they were playmates on his family’s ranch. Of course, he’s wildly attracted to the fiery, strong-willed Callie. But he’s always hidden his feelings behind a wall of Texas tough and military cool, even as he’s burning up with desire. Can Wyatt save Callie’s life―without putting her love in the line of fire?

It’s clear from the first few pages that ‘The Legend’ doesn’t function well as a standalone and because I’ve not read the first book and went through the second quickly, this third one left me all at sea as I struggled to keep up.

As far as I could gather, there is a bioweapon at large, a sinister group of powerful people all over the world infiltrating important government positions, and some crime family descending on a ranch to wipe out a ranching family that also happens to do black ops. And as exciting as the action could get at times, a lot of it feels very unfinished as well by the very end. It’s the end of a battle though not the end of a war as it gets increasingly clear, as the bad guy is diminished but goes free.

By and large, catching up was a hugely difficult task, yet I pushed on because the drama between Wyatt and Callie was compelling enough for me to want to know what really happened between them in this second-chance romance. Yet Donna Grant does balance the action with some character development though, so apart from my incredulity of a ranching family getting hunted meticulously by several groups, it was easy enough to suspend my disbelief as Wyatt and Callie raced through Texas trying to save each other.

I loved Callie’s strength and determination, though wished she’d had enough gumption to turn Wyatt away when he clearly hadn’t done enough to deserve her, at least not the way he left her with deliberate words meant to scythe and hurt. That it’d taken 15 years and serious injuries before realising that his wanting to protect her from a distance was an argument never held water to begin with, it always felt as though Wyatt had a foot out the door, never being determined enough to stay for Callie despite the pages of self-recrimination that he seemed to undergo. It had to take Callie putting herself out there at every turn, right up to an obstinate declaration of love to change his mind, which was quite the last straw for me.

Frankly, I’m not quite too sure yet what to make of this book. Beyond the rather hasty, teaser-like wrap-up and the trail of destruction left behind, is this one of those endings where the couple in question finally gets together, but stare into the distance wistfully just as they prepare for war?

three-stars

Alaska Wild by Helena Newbury

Posted in Action/Adventure/ Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ Mystery/Crime/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 31st May 2017
Alaska Wild by Helena NewburyAlaska Wild by Helena Newbury
Published by Foster & Black on December 16th 2016
Pages: 396
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four-stars

Mason Boone. A former Navy SEAL who lives deep in the mountains, sleeps under the stars and hunts for his food. He’s rugged, untamed and gorgeous. And completely off limits: I’m an FBI agent and he’s a fugitive on his way to a military prison. But when another prisoner on our flight stages a breakout and the plane crashes, stranding us in the Alaskan wilderness, Mason becomes my only hope.
We're on opposite sides of the law...but the way he looks at me makes me melt. Could he really be innocent and can I help him overcome the past that haunts him? We're going to need to work together to survive but the greatest danger we face isn't nature: the other prisoner and his gang are out there...and they're hunting us.

As far as romantic suspense goes, there’s a huge amount of suspending disbelief that must be put in during the reading process and the extent to which I can hold back this disbelief is based on how much I’m engrossed in the action, the pacing and the characterisation.

For ‘Alaska Wild, I was hooked from the start as the action moved from a plane crash, to the wilderness to the frigid winter sea bordering Russia. Admittedly, it was harder to ignore the instant doses of lust emanating from a fugitive and an FBI agent (those long, bodily descriptions of sexual arousal came through way too early on), perpetuated supposedly by his big, strong body and his muscles upon muscles.

That bit aside, Kate Lydecker and Mason Boone do make a compelling pair from the start as the harsh elements of Alaska leave no space for histrionics or stupid behaviour when death quite literally stares them in the face in several instances. They are likeable, willing to fight for each other once the truth came out and pretty much made a good team together. Yet there is more than a touch of superhero-ing going on which I found rather ridiculous as no one truly gets injured in the many close shaves they have. Injuries, when they happen, seem to have no effect on Boone who goes on like an energiser bunny even when shot and apparently runs around sleeveless in arctic weather without feeling cold.

But while the focus was on dodging the bad guys and surviving not just their bullets but the brutal weather and landscape, I’d also hoped to read more about Boone’s eventual acquittal. That however, was confined to a few, succinct lines in the epilogue and how his military transgressions were cleared by the jury, leaving me feeling as though Boone deserved bit more than that. So when Boone and Kate finally ride off into their Alaskan sunset, I was strangely dissatisfied at the end when the hasty wrap-up of a story so lovingly crafted from the start just didn’t do justice to it.

four-stars

Locke and Key by Cristin Harber

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 27th May 2017
Locke and Key by Cristin HarberLocke and Key by Cristin Harber
Series: Titan #8
Published by Mill Creek Press on May 2nd 2017
Pages: 312
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two-stars

THE STOIC SPECIAL FORCES OPERATOR There’s only one person to blame for darkening the last years of Locke Oliver’s military career: Cassidy Noble. And damn if he doesn’t have to save her from the side of a frozen mountain. Even after the job is done, he can’t shake the woman from his thoughts. He blames her for the deaths in his Army unit so many years ago, and he’s not ready to let that go. It’s driving him to the point of distraction, and now his Titan Group boss says to get his act together or get out.
THE FEISTY, FALLEN REPORTER Cassidy is a disgraced journalist, once accused of treason—Or she’s an American hero. It depends on who you ask. She’s on a mission to rebuild her name and started with a simple question but discovered a complex web of spies and possible human trafficking. Titan Group believes in her. Locke does not. Until he can’t deny the truth any longer about the past or what she’s uncovered in her investigation.
BECOME AN INSEPARABLE TEAM Cassidy volunteers to go undercover. Locke would do anything to stay by her side as she slips into the network and is sold to the highest bidder. All is going right until everything goes wrong. Nothing is as they expect, including falling in love with the woman he thought he hated.

It took me an extraordinarily long time to go through this book that I’m actually wondering whether it’s sort of the end of the Titan series for me right now.

Having been a fan of Titan in the early days, I wondered how Cristin Harber was going to go on with the series after Jared Westin’s core team had found their respective HEAs. ‘Locke and Key’ is a book past that particular series arc but I’ve been struggling since the chapter closed on the core team.

I’ve admittedly found myself lukewarm and half-hearted about the Titan series after Parker’s book came out as a dud for me but the biggest problem in ‘Locke and Key’ was that I couldn’t find any character likeable, despite them having been fantastic protagonists in their own time in previous books who have since undergone some personality transplants. Here, they came across as volatile idiots lacking compassion or any sense of kinship and that famous ‘brotherhood-in-arms’ spirit which I tend to read about in RS books seemed sorely lacking here. Instead, what I saw was loads of peacock strutting, macho posturing and too many over-the-top type of reactions that felt like petty and unnecessary squabbles.

In essence, the volatility of the characters’ behaviours resulted in my own volatile reactions to difference scenes and dialogues. There were chapters that made me think I could get behind some characters and other chapters that had me rolling my eyes and ready to give up the book. The only things that kept me going were the secondary characters whose fight Titan inevitably became a part of to reunite their family and I read on, cheering for them alone.

Obviously, it’s one of those books that grated on me, but I’m hoping at least, that the overall sense of dissatisfaction with the series might pass. Whether there’ll still be Titan or Delta in my to-be-read list however, well, that’s still something that’s up in the air for me.

two-stars
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