Browsing Tag

Painfully Ridiculous

Man Hands by Sarina Bowen and Tanya Eby

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ New Adult/ Reviews 29th November 2017
Man Hands by Sarina Bowen and Tanya EbyMan Hands by Sarina Bowen, Tanya Eby
Series: Man Hands, #1
Published by Rennie Road Books on December 11th 2017
Pages: 180
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two-stars

He puts the "screw" in screwball comedy...

BRYNN

At thirty-four, I’m reeling from a divorce. I don’t want to party or try to move on. I just want to stay home and post a new recipe on my blog: Brynn’s Dips and Balls.

But my friends aren’t having it. Get out there again, they say. It will be fun, they say. I’m still taking a hard pass.

Free designer cocktails, they say. And that’s a game-changer.

Too bad my ex shows up with his new arm candy. That’s when I lose my mind. But when my besties dare me to leap on the first single man I see, they don't expect me to actually go through with it.

TOM

All I need right now is some peace and quiet while my home renovation TV show is on hiatus. But when a curvy woman in a red wrap dress charges me like she’s a gymnast about to mount my high bar, all I can do is brace myself and catch her. What follows is the hottest experience of my adult life.

I want a repeat, but my flying Cinderella disappears immediately afterward. She doesn’t leave a glass slipper, either—just a pair of panties with chocolate bunnies printed on them.

But I will find her.

Stripped to its core, ‘Man Hands’ is about a woman reeling from her divorce, then getting back on the saddle with a one-night stand by riding a jaded womaniser of a tv personality after a crazy evening when she bumps into her ex…thereafter does a Cinderella-disappearing act on him thereafter. And predictably, this celebrity—used to female attention—is intrigued because the sex is the most memorable he’s ever had. Then comes a sex tape scandal and the damage-control that eventually blows up in their faces.

If the plot is familiar, it’s the execution of it that isn’t. ‘Man Hands’ is a stark departure from the usual Sarina Bowen style that I’m used to, and it was a ride that left me wondering how zany things could get before I could see my feet back on terra firma. Frankly, it was all a little too mad for me as characters stepped out of reality straight into slap-stick land and did/said/thought things that no sane person would try, I think.

I do understand that rom-coms can be tricky: get the balance of the humour and the lovey-dovey bits just a tad wrong and it dumps us into cheesy territory or overdoses us with cavity-inducing sweetness. Overdo the serious stuff and the complaints come fast and furious that the story should have been better classified as angsty drama.

But when everything about ‘Man Hands’ got inflated, dramatic and exaggerated so that hyperbole became comedy, I found myself barely able see past the over-the-top silliness to the point where it was hard to connect with the characters, or at least, with their voices which I hard a hard time reconciling with 30-ish-year-old adults. Scrub out the wacky lines, the erections that come when the slightest wind blew and the hysterical inner monologues that filled the pages, and I couldn’t quite get the substance behind this particular style.

If Brynn barrelling into the first man she saw which led immediately to hot sex wasn’t batty enough, Tom simply came across as sleazy as he straddled the line between being a pining teenager and a man obsessed with his own dick despite having broken his short stint of celibacy.

The long and short of it is, I was just incredibly disappointed by this one, maybe because I wanted so badly to see what Bowen could do with romantic comedy and felt let down when nothing went right somehow. But if ‘Man Hands’ was one that back-fired spectacularly, judging from the glowing reviews, I daresay it’s probably a brand of humour that didn’t resonate with me in any way.

two-stars

Cowboy Up by Harper Sloan

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ New Adult/ Reviews 31st October 2017
Cowboy Up by Harper SloanCowboy Up by Harper Sloan
Series: Coming Home #3
Published by Pocket Books on December 19th 2017
Pages: 384
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two-stars

As the eldest Davis, Clayton has always tried to lead by example. He takes his job as head of the family businesses seriously, making sure the farm and auto shop are running smoothly—along with keeping an eye on his brother and sister. For him, there's a time and place to let go of the control he holds with an iron grip. And with the way he grew up, coupled with disastrous end to his last relationship, he's just fine with his quiet, solitary life.

Most of the time.

What he hadn't counted on was cute, quirky, shy bookstore owner, Caroline Michaels. She's the proverbial woman next door—well, the next town over, that is. Caroline hasn't lived an easy life, but after escaping an abusive ex, she's finally living it for herself. The last thing she ever expected was a one-night stand with Clay Davis, a night she can't stop thinking about.

So when she falls on hard times and Clay comes out of nowhere to her rescue, she realizes just how impossible it'll be to stay away from him. Now all she has to do is convince him to live a little...

Will Clay be able to give up the reins and finally settle down? And, more importantly, will Caroline muster enough courage to lasso him up?

It takes a bit of an adjustment to get back into cowboy land with Harper Sloan.

Throw in the soap-opera angle (because it really is) with many overreactions, over-the-top responses, lengthy declarations of emotions and there’s always something loud, hysterical and irrepressible about this series where characters don’t do anything softly. They laugh, weep, shout and wave their arms with exaggeration in a place where cowboys swagger hard, women’s panties get wet like dripping taps and hard verbal shots are slung without abandon. ‘Cowboy Up’ is for want of a better word, an impetuous read that rides on the wild side, and it’s akin to getting blown through an oncoming hurricane of torrential high drama.

And the story started that way—all in, with no room for regrets that briefly pushed their way to the surface, from a scorching one-night stand that dovetailed really quickly into a declaration from Clayton Davis that Caroline was the woman he’d always wanted in his life, though it’s probably swoony enough for readers who want to read about a male protagonist who found himself balls-deep (and not just literally) and wholly devoted to the woman from the start.

This was the unbelievable stretch for me, since I found it bewildering that Clayton extrapolated that bright future for him and Caroline all after a one-nighter where a connection had apparently been forged soul-deep. Yet all I could see was a relationship that felt at first, more like dependence on Caroline’s part rather than one of equals—with Clayton acting almost as a crutch while she got her feet up and about again. To be fair, Caroline’s skittish and somewhat needy behaviour has stemmed from losing everything and being in several abused relationships in a manner that Clayton could only step in as the alpha protector role which was easy for him to do so.

‘Cowboy Up’ rides high on emotion, albeit too much for me perhaps, because too much of it felt overplayed and I really thought I would have enjoyed this more. As always, there isn’t any reason why this wouldn’t work for others even if it couldn’t resonate with me. But with my ears feeling as though they’re still ringing and my head still woozy at the speed with which things went down, I was nonetheless, sort of relieved when the sun finally set on their HEA.

two-stars

Cuffed by K. Bromberg

Posted in Contemporary Romance/ New Adult/ Reviews 29th October 2017
Cuffed by K. BrombergCuffed by K. Bromberg
Series: Everyday Heroes #1
Published by JKB Publishing, LLC on October 23rd 2017
Pages: 394
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one-star

“I hate you. I never want to see you again.”

Grant Malone is not the reason I moved back to Sunnyville—at least that’s what I tell myself. Yet, those parting words I said to him back in third grade, ring in my ears every time a townsperson brings up one of the Malone boys. I thought time had healed my wounds. I was wrong. Nothing could have prepared me for how I felt when I finally saw him again.

Twenty years does a lot to turn a boy into a man. One who hits all my buttons—sexy, funny, attractive, and a police officer. But Grant is off limits because he knows too much about my past.

But I’m drawn to him. That damn uniform of his doesn’t hurt either. It’ll be my downfall. I know it.

What’s one night of sex going to hurt . . . right?

***

I’ve always loved Emmy Reeves.

That’s why I’m shocked to see her all these years later. The shy girl I once knew is all grown up.

Adventurous and full of life, she owns my heart now, just as much as she did back then. Convincing her of that is a whole different story.

I’ll give her the one night she asks for—like that’s a hardship—but when it comes to letting her walk away after, she has another thing coming. There’s no way in hell I’m letting her go this time without a fight.

‘Cuffed’ and I got off on the wrong foot.

I gritted my teeth and struggled on for the first half, wondering about the glowing reviews that this book has received, determined to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

After all, there was nothing remotely attractive in a petulant woman holding a childish grudge for a mistake made 20 years ago against a police officer, acting like the biggest flake in the world all because she’s running, commitment-free, from a past that’s yet to be revealed. And the mature woman she’s grown into knows just as well that it’s easier to blame her lack of trust and intimacy on a past she hasn’t gotten over, which is admittedly a tough one.

But there’re an equal number of books these days after all, that deal with the role-reversal of a woman not wanting any strings and being bitchy in her defence of it, whether the rationale for it is justified or not. Nothing really made Emerson any different from those other protagonists who are worn down by the charms of Grant Malone, who has been, up to this point, walking away from every woman he sleeps with because he’s only been ‘passing time with them’, knowing he’s loved her all along.

One would think that two decades might be a tad bit long for a grudge, or that the perception that she’s gained from it should have helped in the intervening years. Evidently not.

I think neither protagonist really interested me, nor could I like them much, which meant I kept reading on just to discover what Grant did in grade school though there are sufficient hints about what really happened. But to get to that is a frustrating exercise seeing Emerson pushing Grant away, just as Grant couldn’t let her go for when he sees her again, resulting in hostile sniping without getting to the heart of the issue…ad nauseam.

In the end, I found it was impossible to get past even the halfway point. There’s just something about the characters that rubbed me the wrong way and clearly ‘Cuffed’, as I suspected from the start,  just isn’t the book for me.

one-star

Demolished by Cathryn Fox

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Erotica/ Netgalley/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 21st August 2017
Demolished by Cathryn FoxDemolished by Cathryn Fox
Series: Blue Bay Crew #1
Published by Swerve on August 29th 2017
Pages: 250
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one-star

Summer Wheeler is on the run. Hiding from the men who killed her father, Summer is on her way to her childhood cottage in Blue Bay when she runs into Sean Owens, the forbidden bad boy from her past. After giving him a fake name, she gives in to one steamy night with him, never expecting to see him again.

Sean isn’t sure why Summer is pretending to be someone she’s not, but he’ll play her game if that means he can indulge in one of his oldest fantasies – a night with Summer. He’s shocked to see her when he returns to Blue Bay, and even more surprised when Summer offers him a job renovating her old family cottage. Hot workdays turn into hotter nights, but when Summer’s secret catches up with her, she’ll have to decide if she can trust Sean with her heart—and her life.

This is a rather tough one to write. I requested for the book because I do like romantic suspense and it did appear as though Cathryn Fox was starting a series with just that….so I was sold.

But it was disappointing to find ‘Demolished’ more sex than plot, and that’s something that I think you’ve got to have your eyes open to before you get into any of Fox’s stories. Her characters live and breathe sex, with every seemingly innocent action capable of stirring arousal and making each other sex-crazed at any given time of the day, no matter how inappropriate it can get. There’s always heat and passion and many times the characters can’t help themselves (especially the men who are never the one-woman sort until the heroine comes along), and that typically takes priority over any suspense or mystery that Fox does try to write into the story.

Sean and Summer go straight into a one night stand after a quick meeting at a bar, and banking on the idea that she has been away a long time, tries to slip into someone else’s identity just as she tries to investigate what exactly went wrong with her father. This was the bit I couldn’t get over; it seemed astoundingly stupid though and unbelievable hat she was able to continue pretending she was someone else when it was clear this delusion was pretty much in her own head, especially after Sean recognised her early on yet went on with that ridiculous charade. This pretence continued for a long time, as did the sleeping together, and Summer pretty much ended up with egg on her face when the game was up.

In short, I did come into the story knowing this, yet I found myself getting tired of reading about Sean/Summer getting it on on every available surface. I did want to know what sort of mystery Summer would uncover, which was only revealed towards the very abrupt end. Unfortunately, I lost interest past the halfway mark and I skimmed the rest just to find out what happened to Summer’s father and the clues he left her. ‘Demolished’ was more of a miss for me and if the rest of the books are going to be written in a similar vein, I’ll probably not continue this series at all.

one-star

Cover of Night by Laura Griffin

Posted in Action/Adventure/ Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 10th August 2017
Cover of Night by Laura GriffinCover of Night by Laura Griffin
Series: Alpha Crew #3
Published by Pocket Star on September 4th 2017
Pages: 128
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two-stars

Journalist Karly Bonham is on her first overseas mission, covering the new United States ambassador to Thailand, when she is taken hostage by terrorists, with only her wits and courage to keep her alive—until help arrives in the form of Navy SEAL Ethan Dunn.

As part of an elite SEAL team called Alpha Crew, Ethan has been on countless harrowing missions, but he knows this one is different the instant he meets Karly—the sexy young reporter who somehow managed to escape the terrorists’ clutches. Ethan is impressed by her, especially when he learns she has intel that could be the key to a successful rescue op. Ethan knows working with a civilian raises the stakes on an already dangerous mission. But with the clock ticking down, he enlists Karly’s help to thwart a vicious plot and bring a terrorist mastermind to justice.

Laura Griffin’s ‘Alpha Crew’ series has been a very different read so far from her ‘Tracers’ series. The books in there are short, action-packed, with significant time lapses between several chapters and in many ways, a very, very distilled and disappointing version of a military/paramilitary romantic suspense novel.

The short length of the book does the whole story a disservice. I’ve no doubts about Griffin’s writing to begin with, nor with her ability to handle intricate plot lines and elaborate setups that have made some of her books so memorable for me.

But with ‘Cover of Night’ topping out at a mere 100-ish pages, I felt that Karly’s and Ethan’s connection did exist, though it was harder to be convinced by their relationship and the love declarations when all they had was a one-night stand fuelled by the thrill of a rescue and the let down of adrenaline. What for instance, made Ethan, who didn’t do relationships, want something more with Karly when there didn’t seem to be any other indication that she was different from the other women he picked up except for the fact that she rebuffed him? Moreover, Karly’s sudden change in attitude towards the end towards Ethan when he was pushing her for something more the night before he was about to be shipped out was beyond abrupt especially when the story ended just there.

In other words, everything felt too rushed and unfinished, from their relationship to the terrorist plot that was supposedly foiled with a significant arrest. ‘Cover of Night’ simply had so much potential which wasn’t quite fulfilled by the end, leaving me rather mixed about this series because it really could have been so much better.

two-stars

Elusive by L.A. Fiore

Posted in Action/Adventure/ Contemporary Romance/ New Adult/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 26th July 2017
Elusive by L.A. FioreElusive by L.A. Fiore
Series: Shipwreck #1
Published by Createspace Independent Publishing Platform on July 21st 2017
Pages: 253
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two-stars

I didn’t set out to be a pirate.Life for me was about surviving the ugliness that people knew existed but didn’t talk about. I lived in hell. Then I saw her. I knew I couldn’t keep her, but for just a little while I had found heaven. Eight years later, I can’t get her out of my head. It is a mistake sailing to her island. It is a mistake reaching out to her. She doesn’t recognize me. Or maybe she does. Closure, it is all I’m after. Then my past comes back to haunt me. She’s thrust into my ruthless world. An angel. A romantic who has a journal that leads to a shipwreck and a lost treasure. She’s wants to find the ending to a love story that is over two hundred years in the making. I want to help her find it. I didn’t set out to be a pirate.I didn’t set out to fall in love with an angel. I did both anyway.

A modern-day pirate story is as rare as the treasures found deep on the sea floor these days. ‘Elusive’’s blurb doesn’t reveal that much, but it was enough to draw me into a book that I honestly thought I would have liked better. It’s my first L.A. Fiore book in any case, and I hadn’t a clue what to expect.

Much of the first half traces separate lives and timelines of the 2 protagonists and it was done well and believably enough for me to get into the brutal world that Noah/Kace had grown up in as opposed to the relatively sheltered life that Willow led. The journey after their meeting however, meandered through several other scenes which I assume continued to chart their separate development as individuals, right up to the point where they met again.

I wondered where the initial lack of focus on them as a couple was going to lead, and found it equally difficult to buy into their story when they finally met and came together for the second time. There was of course, the obvious parallel of an 18th century man’s love for his young wife that was drawn here, though I wasn’t as enthusiastic about Noach’s and Willow’s love story than I was with the action and the suspense that naturally come with treasure hunting and adventure diving.

That latter part, I enjoyed a lot more, and it was more the characterisation than the action, that I struggled with. Noah and Willow were, for the lack of a better word, hard to pin down, blowing hot and cold, rational and sometimes irrational as far as the crow flew.

Based only on an impulsive night 8 years ago—memories do fade and rose-tinting does come into play—Willow’s infatuation somehow grew into love as she had added naive romanticism as a layer on top of it. In the present, Willow acknowledged herself that she’d built up a ‘pirate ideal’ in her head, then superimposed it onto the hardened man she saw later—a man who frankly, treated her callously in ways he only knew how to.

In fact, Noah’s affection for Willow seemed to have extended only to lust, and that selfish tinge of him putting money and his ragtag crew first didn’t convince me that he actually loved her as much as she’d loved him. But Willow—for all her naïveté—did have to grow up somehow, the hard way and I’m glad that Fiore charted her transformation more carefully than Noah.

In all, it’s a story of characters who definitely live unapologetically on the wrong side of the law—don’t read this if you want your men upright and full of integrity—and where amoral decisions rule. Most of all though, I had a hard time suspending my disbelief throughout and that pretty much summed the whole experience up for me.

two-stars

True Hearts by Jeannine Allison

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ New Adult/ Reviews 26th June 2017
True Hearts by Jeannine AllisonPure Hearts by Jeannine Allison
Published by Amazon Digital Services on June 22nd 2017
Pages: 391
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two-stars

She gave me her kidney. I gave her my heart...

Nicholas Blake learned a long time ago that nobody does anything for free. He’s felt the pain of lies and manipulations enough times to know that people only look out for themselves, and that all good deeds come with a price. So when he wakes up from a near deadly car accident and finds out a stranger is offering to donate her kidney, he’s immediately suspicious of her intentions.

What he doesn’t expect is Iris Chamberlain, a beautiful woman with a big smile and an even bigger heart, claiming she just wants to help. The more time Nick spends with Iris, the more he starts to believe in what he always thought was impossible: a pure heart.

But betrayal leaves a bitter mark. Will Nick be able to let go of his past and let Iris in? And will Iris be able to show him what it truly means to have a pure heart?

’True Hearts’ is a very much a feel good type of read, with a kind of New Adult-ish introspective vibe about the cynic who is inclined call everyone’s action out as self-serving until proven otherwise who goes up against a someone who wholly (or at least habitually) believes in human goodness and sincerity.

And that was where my reservations slid in.

Call that my own cynical self talking here, especially when it begins with the donation of a kidney after what appears like a paranormal ‘sign’ that fates are intertwined—with no expectations thrown into the mix. I found it difficult to accept the very selfless and positive Iris Chamberlain when it was way easier to sympathise with Nick and his understandable behaviour traits knowing what he’d gone through. Iris was, well, surreal in her giving selflessness, when the way she chose to see nothing but good made her more like a saint about to be canonised than a flawed character. But Jeannine Allison makes Iris out to be the exact kind of person that Nick actually needs—at least, a person who is determined to wear down his cynicism—though she stumbled where it really mattered most, or at least where I needed her not to.

Throughout the book, I felt mostly caught between Iris and Nick, never quite able to step out of Nick’s more ‘realistic’ way of perceiving the world as opposed to Iris’s steadfast one-woman stand against Nick’s fatalistic pessimism. In fact, I found myself repetitively questioning Iris’s naïveté, the appalling behaviour of her relatives, and how the characters did nothing but try to turn Nick into a happier version of himself without acknowledging too much that his own perception of the world had merit. That they’d tried to defend their own behaviour, implicitly putting the fault mostly on Nick’s door was quite the last straw for me.

I think the long and short of it is that ‘True Hearts’ is a rose-tinted affirmation of the goodness left in humanity, though it’s a simplistic ideal here that I can’t quite buy into.

two-stars
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