Tag: Oh for fuck’s sake

Crossing Promises by Kimberly Kincaid

Crossing Promises by Kimberly KincaidCrossing Promises by Kimberly Kincaid
Series: Cross Creek #3
Published by Kimberly Kincaid Romance on March 5th 2018
Pages: 273
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one-star

For Owen Cross, the only thing that matters more than family is farming. As the oldest Cross brother, the land is his legacy, and he’ll do whatever it takes to make Cross Creek a success—including hiring local widow Cate McAllister to manage the bookkeeping tasks that are growing in his office like weeds. Cate’s as pragmatic as she is pretty, and she rattles his hard-fought composure at every turn.

Cate had known a lot of things about her husband before he died three years ago in a car accident, but how much debt he’d gotten them into wasn’t one of them. She needs her job at Cross Creek, even if her boss is both gruff and gorgeous. But Owen’s a family man, through and through, and the last thing Cate is interested in is anything—or anyone—with strings attached.

As Owen and Cate join forces to right the farm, they discover there’s more to the other than the surfaces shows, and that passion can be found in unexpected places. Can Cate heal from the loss of one family to gain the love of her life? Or will the past prove too much for the promise of the future?

I’ve always been interested in Kimberly Kincaid’s ‘Cross Creek’ series, for its 3 brothers so wildly different that it was almost a guarantee you’d get very different stories out of them. ‘Crossing Promises’ is Owen Cross’s story— the pain-in-the-arse grump, the responsible brother, the long-suffering (and not too silent) chump and it wasn’t hard to develop a soft spot for the own who bore things on his shoulders and carried on for everyone else because he needed to.

Unfortunately, this particular book disappointed me more than the rest in the series, more so because I was looking forward to Owen’s story. But my dislike stemmed from my inability to get on with this pairing, with a ‘heroine’ I found more annoying than sympathetic and one who looked as though she needed to be treated with kid-gloves lest her sensibilities be offended.

As work partners, Cate and Owen were fabulous. Their synchronised way of running Cross Creek was a marvel to behold and for most part, it was enjoyable to see Owen happy and settled. I empathised with Cate from the start, seeing her struggle with the memories and as well as with how she found it hard to get back on her feet.

But ultimately, Cate wasn’t a protagonist I could get on board with at all. While I understood how she wanted to move on with her life as her own person, I never quite got past the idea that she remained fragile as glass, turning to frenzied baking as a way to deal with her unsettled state of mind. That she also kept something fairly monumental from Owen until the end put her straight in the ‘stupid’ category for me and I thought that the fault could be roundly laid at Cate’s door for that. To use children (or the lack of them) a method to ‘rein’ someone in or as a way of shaping a particular lifestyle however, is an idea I absolutely despised and while I hated how it’d been done to Cate, I hated it even more when she’d unconsciously held it over Owen later without even realising it.

The definition of the family/family legacy (and the issue of children) was made out to be a problematic one here and that eventually, did become an issue here for me as well. What I didn’t like was Cate’s lack of compromise at the end with the conflict that came up—both Owen and Cate were entitled to their own wishes—but I was fairly unhappy with the rushed ending that had Owen bending backwards for Cate who essentially, used the bitter lessons from her past against Owen.

For Cate not giving Owen’s view on family any consideration at all killed it for me and while picking sides isn’t exactly that I want to do in a romance, and the ending of ‘Crossing Promises’ somehow did that for me. In fact, I thought the story ended in a way (with Owen’s grovelling that really felt like forced repentance after a talk with Marley) that never suggested Cate had merely thought about what she’d wanted, then selfishly held those up to Owen as a checklist to see if he would be with her in spite of it.

I definitely wished I could have given this a better rating because I’ve always liked Kincaid’s writing. But because I could barely tolerate Cate as someone for Owen, ‘Crossing Promises’ simply went south too unexpectedly for me.

one-star

Maybe This Time by Nicole McLaughlin

Maybe This Time by Nicole McLaughlinMaybe This Time by Nicole McLaughlin
Series: Whiskey and Weddings #2
Published by St. Martin's Press on February 27th 2018
Pages: 300
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one-star

Jen Mackenzie has been knocked down more than a few times, but she always gets up and makes sure she has the last word. It’s the reason she now considers herself equal parts self-sufficient and free-spirit. But since losing her job and trying to help her mother beat cancer, real life―and her occasional careless choices―have begun to catch up with her. Her one saving grace: The Stag, a boutique distillery that has become Kansas City’s go-to wedding venue. The only catch: One of the owners, TJ Laughlin, happens to be the one man who somehow manages to make Jen feel inadequate.

TJ has secretly had a thing for Jen since high school. Now, as her new boss, it’s a daily struggle between revealing his feelings and wringing her beautiful neck. Only one thing is for certain: he can’t stand idly by and watch the woman he cares for struggle. She may be convinced that accepting TJ’s help is a weakness. But all he sees in Jen is beauty and strength, inside and out. As things finally heat up between them, can TJ find a way to convince Jen that love is about give and take―and having it all, together?

While I definitely liked Nicole McLaughlin’s first book in this series, ‘Maybe This Time’ was a different kettle of fish unfortunately. Perhaps what made it worse was that I’d been wanting TJ to find his HEA particularly after pining after someone who absolutely didn’t deserve him at all.

There were so many aspects of the story that simply didn’t gel with me, though my primary issue lay with Jen, who rubbed me the absolute wrong way from the start. It began with the childish taunting she did of TJ—if this isn’t the childish equivalent of taunting the one you secretly have a thing for like—, the self-pity, the lashing out at people who didn’t deserve it all because she felt trodden down by life.

If I had any sympathy for the acrimonious struggles she faced with her mother and being stretched in all ways, that wore off quickly enough in her overcompensation for it by generally being a bitch to others, particularly TJ, who had (inexplicably) been panting after her for so long. That she tried to measure against herself against the women she thought TJ liked, then justified her own insecurities by putting TJ’s date down convinced me that this wasn’t a ‘heroine’ I could ever root for, much less even grow to like when she’d actually thrown her hookups in his face in the previous book and then being defiant about being late at work because of it.

For most part, I thought Jen pretty much acted like the whole world owed her something, and seemed petty over almost everything. And lordy, how I loathed her. I didn’t like how TJ had given up his own job for her, when she’d all but selfishly left him to pursue her own dreams. Mostly, I felt sorry for TJ, who seemed to be at the losing end of the deal, couldn’t understand what the hell he actually saw in her, and generally thought of their romance as a lacklustre one that I couldn’t see working out down the line.

And that pretty much clinched it for me. I couldn’t quite go on anymore after that, especially when I detested this so, so much. It’s a review that’s clearly against the grain, and admittedly, my strong reaction is one that shows my own issues with the type of characters I can and want to get on board with in romantic fiction. That said, I think I’m still cautiously optimistic about Jake’s story though—he and Alexis do seem to be headed down a path that isn’t pretty—though I’m still feeling burnt by this particular installment.

one-star

Forget You by Nina Crespo

Forget You by Nina CrespoForget You by Nina Crespo
Series: The Kingman Brothers #1
Published by Pocket Star on April 16th 2018
Pages: 200
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one-star

Sophie Jordan dreams about hooking up with Nicolas “King” Kingman—the gorgeous CEO of her company—but as her boss, he’ll always remain out of reach. King knows he isn’t built for happily-ever-afters and only indulges in brief romantic encounters. But when Sophie agrees to fill in as his last-minute date to a charity gala, an unexpected discovery quickly escalates their platonic relationship to one of passion.

King is determined to ignore their attraction and, feeling betrayed, Sophie severs ties with him and the company. Everything changes, however, when he’s injured in an accident, and Sophie agrees to help until he closes a major deal. Unfortunately, he’s developed amnesia, and although he doesn’t remember their night together, desire binds them in ways they can’t resist.

Time is running out on closing the deal, as well as Sophie moving on to her new career. Will King deny love in favor of winning and lose Sophie forever?

I’d expected a romcom going into this, because a disgruntled assistant being forced to stay on in her job after a one-nighter with the boss gone wrong…sounded like a fantastic premise that promised lots of laughs. That alone made me want to know how Sophie got on with a difficult boss who’d conveniently forgotten he’d been an arse.

Unfortunately, ‘Forget You’ was the kind of read that worked me up into a fit and that mostly had to do with the main characters who not only needed to grow some sense, but conformed to the stereotypical H/hr in contemporary romance that I couldn’t do anything but roll my eyes at every turn.

I couldn’t warm up to King, who seemed like the usual arse of the rich businessman who thought that commitment wasn’t in his DNA as the perfect excuse for the way he lived his philandering life while becoming a clone of his womanising father. Scheduling another hookup straight after his one-night stand with Sophie however, made him a special breed of bastard.

There have been sufficient rants in my reviews throughout the years about numerous stock characters like King who take the easy way out, so lighting into King is probably a useless endeavour. Or perhaps my frustration has to do with the writing of characters that don’t go beyond this stereotype to explore the grey areas of people who have had bad examples of commitment in their childhood. Of course this colours King’s entire life as he easily uses it as an excuse to stack women back to back without even evaluating why. In this same manner, Sophie joined the ranks of other numerous female protagonists who know exactly what they aren’t being offered, yet go in laughingly believing they could enjoy themselves and settle for what they can get. Of course, it never works out that way. Of course they can’t call this short-term fling as just sex anymore. And of course they end up getting hurt.

Apart from having expected too much of King and Sophie—my own big mistake—I think the other big issue was that I just couldn’t find any hilarity in this, unless I really missed something here.

Simply put, ‘Forget You’ started out and continued with angsty drama rather than the humour I was expecting. I wavered between feeling sorry for the delusional Sophie, who really thought that King would have given her more than he would, and rolling my eyes at her delusional state for seriously believing that she was going to be more than another notch on his bedpost, then behaving hurt and pissed when he didn’t. Her willingness to bend over backwards for him post-accident was nonetheless inexplicable; her listening to someone else to enjoy the ride (pun intended) on her own terms just made it seem sillier when she went against her own good sense to move on instead of playing with fire and getting burned.

The final grovelling scene didn’t match the crime as well—a few pages of mere words didn’t seem to fit what King had done to Sophie, untested as King was as a newly minted committed guy—and I had a hard time believing that this was a pairing that could go beyond a happy-for-now ending. That it had to take a bad accident and amnesia for King to change his outlook just felt like a last ditch effort in reforming an unrepentant womaniser which simply didn’t feel like an achievement to crow about.

I wished I could have liked this better, but seeing as how I finished the story having lost every bit of zen I had, it’s pretty obvious ‘Forget You’ isn’t my kind of read.

one-star

Run to Me by Cynthia Eden

Run to Me by Cynthia EdenRun To Me by Cynthia Eden
Series: Lazarus Rising #4
Published by Hocus Pocus Publishing, Hocus Pocus Publishing inc. on January 23rd 2018
Pages: 223
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two-stars

He’s used to getting what he wants…

Jennings “Jay” Maverick is a tech billionaire. He has the world at his feet, and he thinks he can buy anything…but he can’t buy her. One look at the mysterious Willow, and Jay knows that he is a goner. He wants to give her anything and everything she desires, but he’s the man responsible for the pain in Willow’s life, and getting close to her—well, that’s not going to be easy.

Her life is a nightmare that she can’t escape.

Willow woke up in one of the “Lazarus” research facilities. She now has increased strength, incredible speed, and some scary psychic bonuses. Because of the danger associated with her new gifts, she’s afraid to touch anyone. One touch from her, and a man’s darkest fears will seemingly turn into reality. But Jay isn’t afraid of her touch. Instead, he seems to…crave it. To crave her.

She can’t trust him, and he won’t let her go.

Willow knows that Jay has been involved with Lazarus in the past, but he swears he only wants to help her. She never expects the white-hot desire that burns between them, a desire that grows more with every moment that passes. Thrust together as allies, Willow finds herself wanting to put her faith in Jay, wanting to find someone she can rely on, but Jay may still be keeping secrets from her. Secrets that could get them both killed.

When darkness and danger close in…RUN TO ME.

There’s undoubtedly a darkly seductive, nightmarish insane edge to Cynthia Eden’s super soldiers engineered to always come back from the dead. And that keeps <i>me</i> coming back.

However, this far down the series, I’ve found things that I both like and dislike about the narrative arc and Eden’s peculiar characterisation of her protagonists here in particular—which I suspect I’ve mentioned in previous reviews of this series—bugs me quite a bit. So this puts me in the minority (what’s new?), having found ‘Run To Me’ a disappointment, all the more so because I was looking forward to Willow’s and Jay’s book.

Willow runs; Jay tries to chase and atone; the baddies aren’t too clear-cut and the race for ‘normalcy’, if there’s ever such a thing, continues—my gross oversimplification, of course. The non-stop action is a draw, as are the twists and turns in this story, though having gone through all the books in the series thus far, I find myself running into several issues that I can’t seem to ignore.

One thing that personally irks me in this book is that there are entanglements or conflicts built around ex-lovers who are still in the picture, and that these drive a wedge—no matter how big or small—between the pairing that Eden tries to bring together. Somehow the involvement of other women/other men diminishes the impact or the force of the pairing that I want to get behind…and now can’t exactly quite because of this particular white elephant that shines rather brightly in the room with them.

For this reason, I actually think it’s darkly ironic that all the other characters kept inadvertently saying things that further damned Jay in Willow’s eyes, when all he wanted was to protect her and atone for his misdeeds in the Lazarus project. Jay/Willow’s relationship is an uphill battle as a result, which after a while, becomes a repetitive push-pull of chasing and running away. Yet if I expected a hard, kickarse heroine, Willow seemed the opposite, never quite able to get past her own demons to rise above them.

Something else that niggles: there isn’t much that differentiates one alpha male from another, apart from the possession of a super power or whether they wear a suit or not. I find myself struggling here Eden’s heroes after a while, as they tend to meld into each other. Jay Maverick—who isn’t a super soldier—suddenly acts like one instead of the technological-baron billionaire he is and his stepping up as alpha—not that I don’t appreciate the possessive and protective vibes he gives out—just didn’t set him apart anymore from the behaviour of other protagonists like Sawyer or Flynn, minus the superpower.

I think I keep coming back to this series in the hope that the overall plot would get better and better, but they haven’t yet worked out too well yet. ‘Run To Me’ is the weakest of the series so far however, and I’m still wishing—or is it wishful thinking?—that the waters would be less muddied the next time around.

two-stars

Scoring with the Wrong Twin by Naima Simone

Scoring with the Wrong Twin by Naima SimoneScoring With the Wrong Twin by Naima Simone
Series: WAGS #1
Published by Entangled Publishing, LLC (Brazen) on January 15th 2018
Pages: 236
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one-star

Shy, awkward Sophia Cruz has a hard time telling her vivacious identical twin “no.” But when her sister begs her to swap places for a modeling shoot, she caves … again. Then Zephirin Black walks onto the set. The brooding, aloof, and gorgeous tight end for the Washington Warriors. But she can keep it professional… She has to. Because the adorkable Cruz twin has no luck with guys once they compare her to her sister.

After a bad break-up, Zeph hasn’t been big on second chances—and even less with trust. But he finds himself giving please-call-me-by-my-middle-name-Sophia both. The woman he’d dismissed as a spoiled cover model is different from the first time he met her. Quirkier. Funnier. Definitely sexier. What started as one night turns into another…and another…and another…

Still, Sophia can’t go on keeping her secret from him. But telling Zeph the truth will mean losing him for good.

Giving a 1-star review to a Naima Simone book is shocking even for me, particularly because I do like Simone’s writing and her play of emotions that tends to jump out at every turn of the page.

Where do I even start?

I went into ‘Scoring with the Wrong Twin’ knowing that deception was going to play a part in this story, though I’d hoped it wouldn’t be the primary source of the conflict that carried the plot. Or that the story would have taken a different turn after their one-night stand, where Sophia admitted early on that she simply wasn’t who she was.

Unfortunately, this turned out exactly the way I wish it didn’t, as Sophia allowed her identity deception to continue for a multitude of reasons, all of which that had to do with her supposed inability to be comfortable in her own skin and her low esteem that badly needed bolstering by a celebrity football player who would apparently, otherwise, have never turn her way. If I’d initially felt sorry for her, as the girl who’d been left in the shadow of her more glamorous model sister, my sympathy turned into irritation when she deliberately led Zephirin on, without having the courage to face up to her lie. Having the self-awareness of her own guilt, then ignoring it just made matters worse for me.

Too many times have such ‘heroines’ given such excuses and as time goes on, I’ve found myself getting more and more intolerant of behaviour that was simply too irksome to ignore. In fact, Sophia irked me so much that I couldn’t continue reading, leaving me sputtering at not just her delaying telling him the truth, but also her justification of her behaviour after her apologies, even after finding out that what she’d done was to strike precisely at Zeph’s achilles heel.

I stopped reading there and then; how Zeph and Sophia finally patched things up simply didn’t interest me anymore, especially not with a ‘heroine’ I merely thought of as cowardly and defensive.

one-star

HOT Seal Bride by Lynn Raye Harris

HOT Seal Bride by Lynn Raye HarrisHOT SEAL Bride by Lynn Raye Harris
Series: HOT SEAL Team #4
Published by H.O.T. Publishing, H.O.T. Publishing, LLC on January 16th 2018
Pages: 255
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two-stars

Sold to the highest bidder…

For the past fourteen years, Princess Antonella Rossi has been a virtual prisoner. She has no friends, no fun, and she’s not allowed to leave her aunt and uncle’s Virginia compound without an escort.

But today is her wedding day. A rich sheikh has bought her virginity, and with it her freedom. Any hope of independence Ella’s ever cherished will disappear the instant she faces him across the altar. With time running out and the wedding party gathering, Ella seizes the opportunity to run as far and fast as she can.

Navy SEAL Cash “Money” McQuaid isn’t looking for trouble, but trouble always seems to find him. This time trouble is five foot four and wearing a wedding dress. Rescuing a runaway princess has consequences though, and with his face plastered on the evening news and his career on the line, he realizes there’s only one way out of this mess—he has to marry her!

It’s a marriage in name only, just until he can clear his name and win Ella the freedom she seeks. But shacking up with a gorgeous virgin isn’t as easy as it seems, especially when the sparks snapping between them are hotter and more dangerous than anything Cash has ever experienced. By the time he realizes it’s too late to resist his virgin bride, an unseen enemy is intent on taking her away from him.

Cash is gonna need all his skills—and his friends on the Hostile Operations Team—in order to rescue his princess bride and give her the happily-ever-after she deserves.

What do you do when a man is allergic to love, not to mention marriage? You force and trap him into one, in a twist of circumstances that apparently leaves him no other way out, then hem him in with reasons to do with ‘doing the honourable thing’ because this simply has to extend to his rescuing-people-in-need white knight syndrome. In this case, an escapee virgin princess, kept in her gilded tower or prison.

I got into this with trepidation, because of the virginity and the royal-angle that can go so wrong in many ways. And for me, it did.

‘HOT Seal Bride’ reads like a traditional, old-school Harlequin story (with a title that could have well been ’Tempted by a Virgin’), with very set gender-defined roles (complete with several, infuriating sexist stances the male protagonist typically exhibits)—the manwhore-soldier and the innocent, helpless virgin princess—and that was the most excruciating thing I had to get over because by and large, I actually do like quite a few books in Lynn Raye Harris’s HOT series despite the stereotypes that could be perpetuated in them.

But Cash McQuaid, who understood that love was merely fiction and indignantly sprouted arguments (paraphrased in different ways through the story) why virgins were a no-go and how jaded non-virgin women knew the score just…left me enraged. The many repeated references about how he’d slept with ‘innumerable’ women as was his routine and wanted nothing to with any virgin certainly didn’t leave me too hot either.

I do know that there are many readers who love seeing such bed-hoppers ‘tamed’ and finally acknowledging that yes, the fairytale is also for them. However, I don’t count myself among them, the rather…unenlightened attitude of such male protagonists being the primary issue here. And along with it, the rather simplistic assumption that a woman who hasn’t has sex would in fact, confuse sex with love and want a relationship felt like an enormous step back from the other contemporary romances that I’ve read.

Along with the disrespectful instances of ‘locker room’ talk that I actually found offensive – go ahead, argue that that’s normal, unfiltered and honest talk anyway – Cash’s so-called falling in love with Ella felt superficial because he wanted her in his bed and couldn’t well imagine other men taking his place.

Whether this is merely a view that Harris puts across of her protagonist or whether the author subscribes to it didn’t matter here. That the notion itself existed in a book meant for women written by a woman rubbed me the wrong way.

Plainly put, it’s a peculiar notion of virginity and sex that I can’t subscribe to at all, because it should not have been a big deal at all, particularly after having read books which didn’t deal with virginity like a central commodity to be argued about or the primary source of conflict. But because ‘HOT Seal bride’ took this route, the events that happened in the book followed like clockwork, as was the ultimate ‘downfall’ of the eternal bachelor because holy matrimony was the sole solution—again, this left me very sceptical—out of Ella’s conundrum.

I’d hoped that Harris’s HOT SEAL series would have worked for me as well as some books in the actual HOT series did. So far, it hasn’t seemed that way unfortunately and I’m not so sure right now, if it would get better.

two-stars

Her True Match by Paige Tyler

Her True Match by Paige TylerHer True Match by Paige Tyler
Series: X-Ops, #6
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca on March 7th 2017
Pages: 352
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three-stars

After a long game of cat-and-mouse

Feline shifter Dreya Clark picks the wrong penthouse to rob and ends up arrested by sexy detective Braden Hayes. But Braden isn’t the only one who’s been watching the cat burglar. Agents from the Department of Covert Operations swoop in to offer her a deal. If she wants to stay out of jail, she’ll have to work with them—and pair up with the hot cop. Great.

Danger throws this unlikely pair together

Braden isn’t thrilled about the DCO meddling in his investigation. He’s been chasing Dreya for years. Thrown together on a dangerous covert mission, fur flies and temperatures flare. But when danger closes in on them, their game of cat and mouse turns deadly-serious, and they’ll have to rely on each other to make it out alive.

The menagerie of animal shifters that I thought I’d be reading about so early in the series hasn’t yet come to pass and as I suspect, won’t ever. The shifters here merely shift partially, and Tyler does provide a believable-enough explanation for their genetic makeup and behaviour. The pairing of a shifter with a law-enforcement/ex-military character seems to be the default pairing here, though I’ve largely enjoyed the ways that they get together, and ‘Her True Match’ follows this self-same pattern. The cat thief and the cop is a pairing that had been set up in the previous book, so ‘Her True Match’ feels like a natural step for Braden and Dreya to come together.

I was nevertheless surprised to see how Braden and Dreya get on without the bumps I’d expected, but this—this relatively angst-free, easy get together—is probably a defining point as well of this series. Like others before them, Tyler made Braden/Dreya a pairing that get together without much difficulty, particularly since many of her her male heroes don’t seem to have any difficulty accepting that their heroines are part-feline with enhanced senses. The plot itself is interesting, as is the sub-plot and Trevor’s undercover role, though I thought Tyler’s focus on Ivy/Landon here as in all the other books gets tiring in a way that felt as if they are a pairing Tyler can’t let go of.

There are parts as well, that don’t seem to be addressed sufficiently or satisfactorily—Dreya being let off with stupid actions that seem to be beyond reproach, for instance. Keeping secrets from Braden despite the pledge of trust and partnership they make—with this indirectly leading to consequences that no one could have foreseen—yet having Braden think it is his fault (with his unfailing loyalty to a woman who might not fully deserve it) when Dreya hadn’t owned her own part in it put me off her quite a bit.

Still, that far down this series, I’m still not entire sure what to say about it. The villain’s villany grows—this does drag on as each book uncovers the villainy just a little bit more—as are there as well, parallel events that are anchored by Ivy/Landon as well as the hero/heroine of the next book to come. I’m invested enough to want to continue, though not jumping in excitement with the rather slow-moving overall narrative arc where the main characters still don’t seem to catch on quickly enough about the true motives of the bad guys.

three-stars