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Deceiver by Robin Lovett

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Erotica/ Netgalley/ New Adult/ Reviews 23rd June 2017
Deceiver by Robin LovettDeceiver: A Dark Revenge Romance by Robin Lovett
Series: Dark Stalker #2
Published by Swerve on July 11th 2017
Pages: 215
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two-stars

The plan was to ruin a man’s life. Not seduce the man’s daughter. But sometimes, the unlikeliest of people becomes the target. And sometimes revenge can make a man vulnerable in ways he didn’t know existed…

I’m bored. Tired of my meaningless life. The garden parties, the white sundresses, and politely saying “no” to the sliver of cake—it’s the life my mother and father wanted for me, worked tirelessly for me to have. And the monotony makes me reckless.

But when I go to Blake Vandershall’s party, his dark, menacing eyes and his hard, unyielding stare make me want things that have never been offered to me before. He’s the type who would ravish you in your father’s law office. The kind who would lie without blinking an eye in order to get what he wants.

And the repressed bad girl in me wants to give him what he needs.

**

Daisy Nowell is nothing to me.

I don’t care that underneath that blue-blood lifestyle, she’s burning to be unleashed. My victim is her father—the one man who had the chance to save my mother from a brutal fate. The coward did nothing, and it’s my turn to make his life a living hell.

He’s about to lose his precious daughter to me, a man whose sole mission is to destroy him. I’ll do anything, say anything, in order to tear this woman from her safe life as I hurtle down my path towards destruction. But I didn’t count on her seeing through me. I didn’t count on her tapping into my weaknesses, pushing my dark heart in ways I don’t want. Ways I hate.

I need to find a way to exact my vengeance and leave this all behind. Before this woman ruins me for good.

A revenge plot—of enemies to lovers—turns one of my reading screws, always.

But after the somewhat abrupt ending of the previous book—with a pairing that was difficult to buy into—I was rather hesitant about this one when the opening of ‘Deceiver’ was just as awkward and abrupt and seemingly without context: Blake Vandershall hosts a party to lure Daisy Novell in through seduction as part of his scheme to bring her father down. Like the first book, there’s a close stalker element to this as well, as Blake mows down the Lovells’ carefully-constructed lives and exults in it.

What I couldn’t really understand was how Daisy couldn’t quite see through his scheme or remain stubbornly oblivious to it, as Blake wasn’t at all subtle about it—that much she needed to cut herself free of the stifling lifestyle she lived that any ol’ distraction would do? In fact, I wondered why she wasn’t too suspicious, and was astounded even, when she dallied, played the game and flirted without quite having any 6th sense that something was off with Blake when he’d pretty much revealed he knew all about her and her family. Yet all it takes is an orgasm very early on to have Blake remorseful about his own behaviour while the simmering anger that he seems to carry around is enough to turn Daisy on.

Daisy in essence, is attracted to an arse of a man (which might be a trigger for some) but as the blurb unapologetically goes, don’t expect any ‘normal’ romance character traits here. As with a story like this, the turn from enemies to lovers can’t simply be an uneasy truce with sex thrown in for me; it’s made all the more difficult because I need more than the usual convincing that such a pairing—while not all sunshine and roses—is a viable one and it’s what I’ll be looking out for. To some extent they are the perfect pair in a twisted manner of speaking, as one uses the other for their own selfish motives consciously: Daisy as a means to break out of her caged life and Blake who uses her as an outlet.

Seen in this light, ‘Deceiver’ probably succeeds and for that reason, I’m not sure how to rate this read. But take a chance on this if you like hate (and taunting-type) sex, ambiguous and deviant relationships that defy every trope you like in romance.

two-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

Arm Candy by Jessica Lemmon

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews 1st June 2017
Arm Candy by Jessica LemmonArm Candy by Jessica Lemmon
Series: Real Love #2
Published by Loveswept on September 5th 2017
Pages: 191
Buy on Amazon
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two-stars

Davis:
I’ve had my eye on Grace Buchanan for a while now. Unlike the bubbly blondes I usually date, the feisty, flame-haired bartender both intrigues and bewilders me. Something about Grace—the tattoos? the nose ring?—makes every part of me sit up and beg. There’s only one problem: She hates me. Trading insults and one-liners has become our M.O. But when Grace bets me that I can’t get a date with a non-blonde if my life depends on it, I’m determined to prove her wrong by landing the ultimate non-blonde: her.
Grace:
I’m used to regulars hitting on me, and I’ve turned them all down, except for one: Davis Price. I like giving him a hard time, and he’s kind of cute in his suit and tie—if you’re into that kind of thing. Anyway, I don’t care how many blondes he takes home . . . until one of them sidles up to him in my bar. Nuh-uh. But after my little bet with Davis backfires, our first date lands us in the sack. So does the second. And the third. Neither of us wants more than the best sex of our lives. The trouble is, it’s not a question of what I want. It’s what I need. And what I need is Davis.

Jessica Lemmon’s sassy, confident writing is what had me requesting this ARC, though this turned out to be yet another chick-lit book that disappointed me with its predictability from start to finish, with main characters that are dime a dozen in the romance genre. 2 non-committal people make the (rather cynical) sex-only agreement, then find out they could be more thereafter, though it was an uphill climb to believe that genuine trust, respect and love could blossom out of chemistry in the bedroom and months of foreplay, as it always is when sex is done and out of the way so very early on in the story.

Admittedly though, the rating reflects a case of my liking a main character and intensely disliking the other—rather than the quality and style of Lemmon’s writing itself. Davis has had his heartbroken a few years ago and the default mode (as with most male protagonists in the romance genre, being cowardly and gun-shy after that) he goes back to after that wedding incident is being a manwhore about his dates and being unapologetic about deliberately living in an environment where he and the rest of the women can walk away after sex before anything can begin. It’s his way of ‘killing time’ supposedly, but no matter how Davis tries to rationalise it to convince himself that Grace is worth it, I couldn’t quite buy the fact that he wanted it all simply after a bet that Grace has impulsively taken up.

My own personal biases against such players do prevent me from liking protagonists like Davis, whose shallowness I couldn’t get over—the offering of the ‘Davis’ package then flaunting his hookups just to get Grace to take up a bet was quite the last straw which I found more sleazy than charming. It was in short, difficult to think of Davis as something other than a huge cliché whose background and personal history dictate his behaviour with women and his escort-like packages and frankly, it was more of a turn-off than anything else. Grace on the other hand, is as jaded as Davis and yet there seemed to be more nuances to her character, although her own fear of commitment—for different reasons other than Davis’s ones—certainly isn’t hampered by her falling prey to Davis’s charm.

In short, without a grounding belief that Davis and Grace could work together, the rest of the story was hard to follow through when I stayed sceptical of them throughout when both characters seemed at various points in time, to have a foot out the door because fear, as always, took control up until the very end. ‘Arm Candy’ was unfortunately, a story that left me frustrated and less than enthused, because it simply felt like another variation of 2 people getting invested in each other after getting the best-of-their-lives-smexy times.

two-stars

The Bet by Elizabeth Hayley

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Sports 29th May 2017
The Bet by Elizabeth HayleyThe Bet by Elizabeth Hayley
Series: The Players #1
Published by Swerve on June 27th 2017
Pages: 254
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two-stars

Jace "the Jet" Benning is a legend on the football field. And off. He has the arm, the charm, and the reputation of being the hottest player in the league.
Too bad Dr. Alessandra Mastrazacoma is not impressed.
With a busy schedule and a bruised heart, Alessandra doesn't have time to date, but when she is lured into making a friendly bet with her best friend, she finds herself agreeing to go out with the next guy that asks...and to give him three shots, three dates, before pulling the plug.
Jace also has a friendly wager with his friends going, and it involves making sure the slightly klutzy, but very pretty, doctor will be his date to the biggest night in sports. With two wagers and two hearts on the line, will Aly and Jace win or are they betting to lose?

‘The Bet’ is mostly an angst-free, light-hearted read of an accidental meeting between a doctor and a famous player (whom the former doesn’t know at all) which progresses mostly because of a bet between friends.

 

Alessandra Mastrazacoma (now that’s a mouthful) and Jace Benning are an unlikely pair and the whole story feels like a journey of the both of them finding common ground, apart from nailing sexual compatibility in the bedroom. Neither of them really pretend to be who they aren’t; Alessandra is outrightly blunt and in unapologetic for being so while Jace still struggles with his poor, smalltown roots but isn’t quite afraid to put everything on the line for her.

The ride isn’t fully of peaks and valleys – and this will probably appeal to readers who are tired of adult histrionics better confined to the high-school classroom – but is instead, one that catalogues each and every step of Aly and Jace getting into their relationship proper. The ending is a predictably neat wrap-up after some grovelling on Jace’s part, a HEA that pushes Aly and Jace into a happily committed relationship after that small hiccup.

As light-hearted and easy a read ‘The Bet’ is however, I found myself mostly uninspired by this pairing, which is probably a just a case of my bucking the trend again. I thought their chemistry rather non-existent as the move straight into the bedroom very early on eschewed any tension that could have made the anticipation more worth it. And as well and good the sex scenes may be written, I was bored (and skimmed those scenes) because I couldn’t find anything compelling about this couple. Consequently, it was difficult to follow the progression of Aly/Jace’s relationship as there just didn’t seem to be anything else to look forward to, except for the bet that Jace made with his buddies and the fallout that you know would come from it at the very end.

 

two-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

The Wrong Kind of Compatible by Drew Kerrigan

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews 19th May 2017
The Wrong Kind of Compatible by Drew KerriganThe Wrong Kind of Compatible by Kadie Scott
Series: Love Undercover #1
on June 12th 2017
Pages: 141
Buy on Amazon
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two-stars

Data analyst Cassie Howard may be brilliant (and, okay, a little awkward), but she’s worked hard to get where she is. She definitely doesn’t need some sexy new analyst coming in and taking credit for her work. Or the inappropriate thoughts that keep popping out of her mouth she’d rather he not hear.
For undercover FBI agent Drew Kerrigan, computers have always made more sense than people, but he’d better develop some slick social skills in a hurry if he’s going to win over the too-tantalizing-for-his-sanity Cassie. Hacking their systems was easy. Now he’s just got to hack the one person in the company most likely to see through his ruse…

Cassie Howard is Drew Kerrigan’s mark and for him, going undercover—a rare privilege for a hacker like him—is probably one of the hardest things he’s ever done when the attraction at every turn, threatens to make him forget his mission. Compatibility (physical or otherwise) is clearly out of the question when Drew insinuates himself in her work and her personal life, but his admiration of Cassie poses a huge conflict when the case he’s working on seems to point to Cassie’s complicity in the crime he’s investigating.

I liked that Kadie Scott made both protagonists nerdy and socially-awkward in their own ways, with unintended innuendoes that they both say and realise it too late. That’s rom-com strategy right there and some parts were sort of enjoyable, particularly when Cassie and Drew had to work together, all the while second-guessing themselves and each other. The hot-cold interactions between them however, intended to build tension, got a little tired for me when it dragged on.

There are also unfortunately, characters who many other people like but who rub you the wrong way, and Cassie was that for me. I found her harder to like than Drew, who seemed some what more ‘earnest’ in his dealings with her. I understand her insecurities about being the smart but unlucky-in-love girl to the extent where her achievements are everything to her, but I think I would have liked her better at the beginning had she not been too defensively territorial and too passively aggressive about it with a runaway mouth that made me wince more than it was funny. So much about her was overwrought (which is to some extent, understandable, given her family of overachievers) and her suspicion of everything Drew was doing got annoying after a while as she took out her prickly issues on him then acted like a stick in the mud about it.

For some reason, ‘The Wrong Kind of Compatible’ was a difficult read for me—it took me days to go through the pages when I normally would breeze through light-hearted rom-com books in an afternoon. Geek-type reads are usually a guilty pleasure but clearly, my personal preferences are showing up and I couldn’t find much common ground with the heroine, let alone the couple in question.

two-stars

Ricochet by Skye Jordan

Posted in Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Erotica/ Military/Paramilitary/ Reviews 13th May 2017
Ricochet by Skye JordanRicochet by Skye Jordan, Joan Swan
Series: Renegades #3
on July 12th 2014
Pages: 294
Buy on Amazon
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one-star

After a tragic incident in Afghanistan leaves Master Sergeant Nathan Ryker the only man standing in his tight-knit team, he spirals into an alcohol-and-sex induced escape. A call from his lifelong buddy pulls Ryker from the shadows with a request for help with his stunt company’s latest blockbuster. If Ryker can survive the next three weeks of leave and get back to his remaining men, he might just be all right. But a sexy woman who can take his mind off his trauma is too hard to resist, and when he hooks up with Renegades’ sultry, snarky office manager, his sanity takes a backseat to his first glimpse of a future he isn’t sure he deserves.
Still reeling from a bitter romantic betrayal, Rachel Hart wants nothing more than an uncomplicated hookup. So when the mysterious Nathan seduces her with a little dirty talk and one delicious kiss, Rachel drowns all her good sense in a Mandarin and soda and gives herself over to a night of sexual bliss. But her memories tarnish in the morning light when Rachel discovers his real identity and his link to Renegades. Her job and her friends are the only thing holding her life together, and she won’t be ruined by one sultry night with this damaged and dangerously sexy man.

I regretted this the moment I was a quarter way through the book and yes, I know this probably places me at the rank bottom about my feelings about erotica comprising a bastard of a male protagonist, hell-bent on self-destruction by alcohol and screwing as many women as he can and a jaded woman done with relationships. Yet, I tried to struggle through, skimming when I could, searching for some redemptive part of the story that would help me go on.

I failed, miserably.

But with every review that helps to refine my own tastes in what I want to read, I’ve always known that hot (but shallow) sex has never been enough without character depth or at least, with characters that I like and can root for together. Physical compatibility ranks low for me at this point in time, since most male protagonists meld together as one nameless, faceless character with six-pack abs, chiselled features and a height that rarely goes under 6 ft. To be even cruder, physical compatibility, when watered down, is still a basic matter of ramming pointed object A into empty hole B, which all characters get done.

I’d come into ‘Ricochet’ expecting some kind of raw, emotionally-packed drama of a damaged man whose time with a woman helps change things. But I got an utterly selfish arse instead, who sets out to deliberately deceive the female protagonist so he can get yet another one-night stand in, even though he was ‘fresh’ from screwing so many other women in the last city he was in.

The push-pull continued, with some bumps here and there with Ryker generally being unapologetic for his horrifyingly reprehensible behaviour without seeking help for it…while knowing well enough that the cracks in his head can’t be solved by drinking and fucking. But what bothered me most is that with this adamant belief that he is too far gone for therapy, Ryker has a manipulative streak that allows him to continue with a heroine who is somewhat sympathetic enough to forgive him for his indiscretions and gives him too much leeway up until the point where you know it’s merely a matter of time before she gets burnt.

With this trajectory in mind, the ending is predictable to a fault and what really remains is the extent to which grovelling happens. When it finally comes, I cringed at the pathetic, embarrassing attempt and felt that Ryker and Rachel were seriously better off separately. There isn’t an immediate cure for PTSD obviously, as ‘Ricochet’ shows, but this happens too little, too late for me when all that’s left in my mind is a male characters who shouldn’t really be let off the hook so easily because he is, for me at least, beyond redemption.

one-star
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