Browsing Tag

Threw in the towel midway

Until You’re Mine by Cindi Madsen

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Sports 23rd December 2017
Until You’re Mine by Cindi MadsenUntil You're Mine by Cindi Madsen
Published by Entangled Publishing, LLC: Embrace on January 22nd 2018
Pages: 393
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one-star

You might’ve heard of me, Shane Knox, the guy who rose quickly through the MMA fighter ranks, only to crash just as fast. No one cares about personal reasons when it comes to losing fights and money. I’m determined to get back to where I was. For you to hear my name again. I’ve finally convinced the owner of Team Domination to take a chance and get me back in fighting—and winning—shape. What I didn’t bargain for is the guy’s spitfire of a daughter. Factor in her two professional-fighter brothers who are acting as my coaches and the fact that my career hangs in the balance, and Brooklyn’s the last girl I should be fantasizing about. The closer we get, the more I want Brooklyn. The stakes are high, and I know there’s a big chance of both of us getting hurt, but I won’t stop until she’s mine.

Is there someone you want so much, that you’d do anything it takes, including crossing some lines to make sure that person’s yours?

That was the question that jumped out at me the further I got into “Until You’re Mine”; the rest were just details. I did like Cindi Madsen’s writing, the whole MMA world that she’d created as well as the characters’ back stories, up until that point when I realised that I was actually struggling through the first half of the book.

Brooklyn’s and Shane’s chemistry wasn’t in doubt. Sparks flew. Chests heaved. Clothes nearly came off. But not quite. The only complication? Brooklyn was taken, in a stable relationship that admittedly didn’t have that much fire, which was the only thing that held both Brooklyn and Shane back from burning up the sheets.

And that was where I stopped reading, then struggled to put my thoughts together. The bottom-line was that I found it hard to respect Shane, who kept aggressively pushing the boundaries with Brooklyn—the deliberate moves he put, the heavy innuendos—when she’d all but made it clear a few times that she had a boyfriend. Heroes who go balls-deep in their pursuit of the woman can be fun to read about, but not when they cross some lines and show their lack of common decency.

That Brooklyn had allowed it despite the thin veneer of sense when it came to avoiding Shane she seemed to have made it equally hard to root for her. She did try of course which made me like her a bit more, but her constant engagement with Shane, her quick breakup with her boyfriend after humiliating him in the gym (thanks to Shane again) then jumping into bed with him the very same night somehow made a mockery of that relationship she seemed to exult as safe and treasured because it was exactly the world she wanted out of. It was sort of implied that Brooklyn’s boyfriend had someone else on the line as well who might have been a better fit for him (this was still innocent, unlike Shane/Brooklyn’s hot and heavy stuff), though that shouldn’t have been an excuse just to get both protagonists together, guilt-free.

This wasn’t quite cheating in the physical sense of the word, but it all felt very close to it, which made this pairing difficult to get behind. Admittedly, this wasn’t the sanctity of marriage that was being breached, but I found myself very, very uncomfortable with the general lack of respect for the relationship that Brooklyn was in as both Brooklyn/Shane flirted into unsafe territory, as though it was just a shackle that tied her down and to be gotten rid of.

Clearly, this is just not the book for me. Madsen’s writing is one that I do go back to however (it’s almost a guarantee), but after feeling a little burnt by this read, I’m more than a little wary of the rest of this series.

one-star

Every Deep Desire by Sharon Wray

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Military/Paramilitary/ Mystery/Crime/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 30th November 2017
Every Deep Desire by Sharon WrayEvery Deep Desire by Sharon Wray
Series: Deadly Force #1
Published by Sourcebooks Casablanca on March 6th 2018
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one-star

He's taking it all backHis honor, his freedom, and the woman he loves

Rafe Montfort was a decorated Green Beret, the best of the best, until a disastrous mission and an unforgivable betrayal destroyed his life. Now, this deadly soldier has returned to the sultry Georgia swamps to reunite with his brothers, and take back all he lost. But Juliet must never know the truth behind what he's done...or the dangerous secret that threatens to take him from her forever.

It took Juliet Capel eight long years to put her life back together after her husband was taken from her. Now Rafe is back, determined to protect her at any cost, and it's not just her heart that's in danger. The swamps hold a secret long buried and far deadlier than either of them could have imagined...

I had a bit of a trying time with ‘Every Deep Desire’, though the blurb did given an indication that it wasn’t going to be a typical romantic suspense novel. The extent to which it was atypical however, came as quite a surprise.

And the setup is not unpredictable: after a 8-year hiatus, Rafe Montford returns to a marriage that he supposedly tore apart. Branded as a traitor and jailed for a few of those years, nothing keeps him from wanting his ex-wife safe after the cryptic notes that she has been getting—a sure sign of his past coming back to haunt him. The details thereafter, are hazy, with many hints that point at something, but that something big isn’t unravelling until you get deeper and deeper into the book.

This much sounds normal, yet the way the suspense is woven and written is in no way usual.

But as much as this odd tilt of literary (read: Shakespearean) and mythical (or Italian) undertones with Romeo/Juliet leanings that also reminded me of Dan Brown-type conspiracy theories made the story unique, it frustrated me in part because getting a grasp of the story, place, context and its characters—who go by a variety of codenames, to add to the confusion and secrecy—was basically a struggle. I couldn’t go on without feeling like there were a few missing vital jigsaw pieces that prevented the whole picture from coming together. The uphill battle to make sense of the whole setup went on for me for a quite a while—so call me slow and most unintuitive—and got exhausting as I tried to make sense of it.

There are brutal anti-heroes and then there are brutal anti-heroes, characters who stood on sides that made them both villains and heroes at the same time…and so difficult to root for. With the story’s greyed out boundaries, with drug-lords, mafia kingpins and arms-dealers given that mystery and glitz in that Baz Luhrmann Romeo+Juliet way (throw in military suspense into it as well), it pretty felt after a while, like stylish overkill.

I’m going to just say it’s not the book for me, though maybe those who like Shakespeare with a very huge twist can get into this a lot better than I did.

one-star

The Negotiator by HelenKayDimon

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Edelweiss/ Mystery/Crime/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 8th November 2017
The Negotiator by HelenKayDimonThe Negotiator by HelenKay Dimon
Series: Games People Play #2.5
Published by Avon Impulse on November 14th 2017
Pages: 128
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one-star

Lauren Gallagher’s life changed almost three years ago. After her husband disappeared at sea, she was left with a failing pleasure boat company and more than a few secrets. Now, after years spent rebuilding the business and paying off the pile of debts, she finally feels in control. But when she finds her husband, actually dead, on the floor, she becomes the leading suspect in his murder investigation.

Garrett McGrath wants Lauren in his bed, not his heart. He doesn’t do emotions, but every time he sees her, holding himself back gets harder and harder. When Lauren comes under suspicion for killing her previously presumed-dead husband, he knows he has to help her, any way he can.

But as the danger becomes more intense and Garret and Lauren grow closer than either planned, they’re in danger of losing everything…including their hearts.

HelenKay Dimon’s ‘Games People Play’ series is an odd one. Mostly about men who’d grown up disenfranchised, emotionally stunted but wealthy, their HEAs come in such unexpected ways that I don’t really know what to expect in each book. And that arguably, can either be the series’ selling point or its glaring flaw, because it hasn’t quite worked too well for me so far.

Having seen Garrett flit in and out of the series and from the odd, charming way he’d done so, I’ve known from the start that I wanted his story told. But ‘The Negotiator’ was however, a disappointing one—all the more so because I was hoping for a more heart-pounding ride—and I struggled quite a bit to get into it. I’m not too sure what it was, but there was something about the way the narrative—nothing with Dimon’s writing style really—unfolded that just couldn’t hold my attention. There were just insufficient spikes/drops and excitement to keep my interest in the story, a lack of driving focus slowing the pace down even, from the odd way it started to the way it developed with so many details and names stuffed into the first few pages.

I couldn’t finish the story as a result and perhaps it’s also time to say that this series isn’t one I’ll be continuing any longer.

one-star

Hooking Up by Helena Hunting

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ New Adult/ Reviews 7th November 2017
Hooking Up by Helena HuntingHooking Up by Helena Hunting
Published by Swerve on November 1st 2017
Pages: 259
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one-star

Amalie Whitfield is the picture of a blushing bride during her wedding reception–but for all the wrong reasons. Instead of proclaiming his undying love, her husband can be heard, by Amalie and their guests, getting off with someone else. She has every reason to freak out, and in a moment of insanity, she throws herself at the first hot-blooded male she sees. But he’s not interested in becoming her revenge screw.

Mortified and desperate to escape the post-wedding drama, Amalie decides to go on her honeymoon alone, only to find the man who rejected her also heading to the same tiny island for work. But this time he isn’t holding back. She should know better than to sleep with someone she knows, but she can’t seem to resist him.

They might agree that what happens on the island should stay on the island, but neither one can deny that their attraction is more than just physical.

Not having read the first book, I’m guessing that the implications of Amalie and her secret hook-up are much larger than I think, though ‘Hooking Up’ does clearly work as a standalone.

Having said that, I had the inkling that the book wasn’t for me at all—an inkling that grew like an ominous thundercloud by the time I got to the part where the shenanigans started a few minutes post-wedding.

Cheating and a tit-for-tat vibe in the story are what push the narrative along: out of spite, Armstrong swopped into get the girl (one which the mystery man sees first), then quite publicly cheated on her in a cringeworthy manner during the wedding reception. The brokenhearted Amalie in turn, went on her honeymoon alone, hooked up with the man who quite literally saw her first while her divorce hadn’t gone through (though it’s pretty much expected that the marriage is over by then). That personally is a trigger for me, so I was struggling with this early on, which clearly places me in the minority as I kept wondering if Amalie/mystery man’s actions were justified nonetheless, especially since this merely took place a few days after the disastrous wedding and not after the dust properly settled.

I also found it hard to sympathise with the jilted woman, whose choice in bad boyfriends (and husband) merely reinforced her lack of judgement and her inability to rein everything in. And unlike our mystery man who seemed stalwart in his desire for her, Amalie merely stayed a whiny, flaky protagonist who spent most of the story vacillating between her regrets and her own abysmal history in ‘love’ which she projected onto mystery man.

I couldn’t finish the story after all—it’s an issue I typically have with characters and issues like cheating. The ease of reading just didn’t surpass how much I disliked the characters in the book save for the mystery man of the story and was actually happy to put Amalie and her antics far behind me.

one-star

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

Risky Redemption by Marissa Garner

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Contemporary Romance/ Mystery/Crime/ Netgalley/ Reviews/ Romantic Suspense 11th October 2017
Risky Redemption by Marissa GarnerRisky Redemption by Marissa Garner
Published by Forever Yours on November 7th 2017
Pages: 416
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one-star

Four years ago, Angela Reardon was brutally attacked, and she still bears the physical scars and traumatic memories. While she's worked hard to overcome her fears and build a successful business, she's still haunted by her inability to identify her assailant. Now Angela only wants to be left alone-until a shadowy stranger reignites her desire to be loved. But their time together may be brief...because someone wants her dead.

CIA assassin Jake Stone's targets deserved to die. Until now. Until he falls in love with the innocent woman he's been hired to kill. Jake can't fight his attraction to Angela, and he knows that someone else will be sent to finish the job. So can he save Angela and redeem himself by uncovering who wants her killed? When the trail leads him into the carnal underbelly of L.A., the truth is more shocking than even he could ever imagine.

From the blurb, ‘Risky Redemption’ sounds exactly like the type of read that’s up my alley: a woman with amnesia, mistaken for a mark for treasonous activity and is put as a target for a honey trap, until she really disappears when her innocence is proven. Angela Reardon’s secrets however, aren’t the type that should concern the CIA at all and in a case that’s not just about mistaken identity, the rot in the system appears too little too late, until she looks to be the kind of collateral damage swept under a rug unless a valiant, truth-seeking hero uncovers the dirt.

That was as much as I could put together for the first half of the book given the constant and numerous flashbacks interspersed with the present which made it difficult to get the timeline straight in my head. With a time gap that the storytelling struggled to bridge (the number of events that’d led us to this point only unfurl through flashbacks), the hints that were dished out merely left me with an increasing stockpile of questions that weren’t addressed as the pages turned.

With the narrative was constantly broken up between Jake/Angela’s first few meetings and the point where she apparently disappears, I had a hard time grasping the story’s coherence—it felt more like a jigsaw that frustratingly, couldn’t be put together at all—with the constant refrain of Jake’s self-recrimination, the lamenting of his lack of moral compass and generally, the weight of his regrets that seemed to pour off the pages instead of a hard, forward momentum that I’d expected of this genre. Unevenly paced, the middle-half of the book dealt solely with Jake’s investigations and Angela’s absence was starkly felt, except for her appearances in the flashbacks.

But throughout, I couldn’t get over the fact that Jake acted like a man-child who blew hot and cold with his emotions and was generally petty in a manner that I associated more with tantrum-throwing children than a grown adult. Too many lines about how easy he had it with women throwing themselves at him which he took every advantage of cemented my impression of him as a highly-reactive protagonist whose uncontrolled moods swings above all, just didn’t seem to fit the bill of the cold contract killer that Marissa Garner was trying to flesh out. Proudly proclaiming that he hadn’t had sex since he’d met her a mere 2-3 weeks ago, then trying to take on the mantle early on as her sex ‘helper’ to escape her past as a rape victim and get her to enjoy sex again—before getting frustrated because his own sexual needs weren’t satisfied when she hesitated—just upped the creep factor…and pretty much made me stop reading after this.

There were secrets to uncover and too many gaps to fill, without a doubt. But having found the protagonists generally unlikable and having struggled so much with the style of the storytelling, I can only say this just isn’t the book for me when I found I couldn’t pay attention long enough to discover what those secrets were.

one-star

Bachelor Games by Daire St. Denis

Posted in Advanced Reader Copy/ Chick Lit/ Contemporary Romance/ Netgalley/ Reviews 11th September 2017
Bachelor Games by Daire St. DenisBachelor Games by Daire St. Denis
Series: Tropical Temptation #3
Published by Entangled Publishing: Brazen on October 9th 2017
Pages: 256
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one-star

Brilliant, but plain scientist Becca Evans has always done everything she could to make her beautiful sister, Grace, happy. So, when Grace started entering beauty contests, Becca did everything she could to make sure her sister won.

Now, she’s looking at another pageant—at a resort in the Caribbean. The prize? A date with America’s most eligible bachelor, Calum Price. For Grace, it would be the ultimate coup—landing a billionaire. Unfortunately, Calum seems to like Becca better...

Still, she’s determined to help her sister win. Calum doesn’t have to know that she’s the brains behind the beauty, the voice behind the veil, the finger behind the sexting...

But when things go too far, Becca must decide where her loyalty lies—with her sister...or the man she’s falling in love with.

Let the games begin.

The quiet, unnoticed geek amongst a bevy of gorgeous women catching the eye of the hot billionaire sounds like a story I can dig, especially since it feels like it might have some shadow of the Cyrano de Begerac effect here.

However, I didn’t quite expect ‘Bachelor Games’ to become a ‘forced’ love triangle type story of the female protagonist’s own making, as her altruistic but misplaced idea of family loyalty resolutely determines that her sister should get the good things (as well as the hot guy) because she happens to be the more good-looking one. It is exactly what Becca Evans does, which pretty much tanked the story for me.

To begin with, I didn’t find Calum’s and Becca’s first meeting realistic at all, let alone that banter and teasing one might carry out with a stranger on a plane, but this may be my awkward, distant and sceptical self speaking here. But that someone with poise and beauty like Grace would need Becca’s coaching seemed ludicrous and the artlessness of her behaviour during the pageant as a result of that came across as stilted and naive instead of endearing.

To add to that, Becca’s rather stilted ‘I like you but you’re better for my sister because no one really looks at me’ type of reasoning got me annoyed instead of sympathetic—aren’t we past this self-esteem business already? I wished she would simply own her attraction to Calum, rather than remain indecisive about them while seemingly being unable to help herself but end up in bed with him and then lie to her sister about it. Grace, on the other hand, had made no explicit mention of her desire for Calum, so Becca’s unfounded guilt felt like a mountain made of a molehill that sorely tested my patience and made me give up halfway.

Sadly, ‘Bachelor Games’ isn’t a story that clicked for me, especially with a heroine that rubbed me the wrong way every time. But as I’ve said numerous times before, personal tastes are just that—personal. This probably has a premise that would appeal to those who root for the underdog no matter what the circumstances are, so give it a whirl because Becca’s character could be read in a multitude of ways that I simply couldn’t, as other reviewers have already pointed out.

one-star
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