Publisher: Entangled Publishing

The Rebel’s Return by Victoria James

The Rebel’s Return by Victoria JamesThe Rebel's Return by Victoria James
Series: Red River #4
Published by Entangled Bliss, Entangled Publishing, Entangled Publishing, LLC on August 22nd 2016
Pages: 130
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three-stars

Natalia Puccini has spent her entire life playing by her overbearing but well-intentioned Italian family's rules...except the one time she took a chance on a bad boy and fell hard. She's worked to get her life back on track so when Aiden McCann comes sauntering back into town with his heart-stopping smile, Natalia vows not to fall for him again. There's no way she'll let him mess with her perfectly planned life...and there's no way she'll let him near her heart again...

Now reformed and a self-made success, Aiden is tormented by regrets and secrets. He left Red River years ago filled with anger and resentment and a promise to never come back. But when his ill father needs help, Aiden knows it's time to face the mess he left behind, and face the one woman he never got over. It doesn't matter how beautiful or intriguing she is, though, because he'll never be able to give her what she needs. As soon as his father is healthy, Aiden is leaving Red River...for good.

‘The Rebel’s Return’ is classic Victoria James: tooth-achingly sweet and so light that you can flutter away with stars in your eyes, especially with the Mayberry-like characters that populate the fictional town of Red River who always manage to get their heads screwed on in the right place at the very end.

I’d thought the Red River series complete, but jumped on this resurrected storyline just to revisit the cast of characters who now are part of the nosy ensemble as they watch Natalia and Aiden dance around each other, get over a decade-long wound and find their HEA. Pairing-wise, it all seemed a little too perfect as Nat and Aiden never quite wanted anyone else but each other, even as Aiden’s stupid mistake – and his inexplicable inability to own up to it until the very end – tore them apart. I did like Natalia’s personal convictions and her straight and narrow road of going down the path she wanted to go, but felt Aiden needed to grow a spine, own up to his actions because I simply thought at times, that Nat truly deserved much better than him.

Because of its length, this book wastes absolutely no time on doling out bucket loads of angst. James’s focus is and has always been really, a paved way to domestic bliss, even if some much-needed conflict and depth of character do get sacrificed a wee bit in the process.

three-stars

Quantum by Jess Anastasi

Quantum by Jess AnastasiQuantum by Jess Anastasi
Series: Atrophy #2
Published by Entangled Publishing on August 8th 2016
Pages: 295
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four-stars

Someone wants Captain Admiral Zander Graydon dead. Like yesterday. Zander’s convinced his attractive assistant knows more than she’s willing to say, and if he can stop running long enough, he’ll find out exactly what she’s hiding. Lieutenant Marshal Mae Petros is determined to keep her CO safe. Before she tips her hand, however, Mae has to figure out if the alluring man she’s protecting is the real Captain Admiral Graydon. Or an alien shape-shifting imposter.
On the run and no one to trust…not even each other.
Captain Admiral Zander Graydon has seen a lot of action, but almost getting killed three times in one day is pushing it. Only the company of his new assistant, Lieutenant Marshal Mae Petros, makes things a little easier to swallow. Except the delectable Lieutenant Marshal Petros is hiding a number of secrets, and her presence might have something to do with the continued attempts on his life.
It’s no accident Lieutenant Marshal Mae Petros finds herself in the firing line alongside the charming but very off-limits Captain Admiral Graydon. She’s taken the job as the admiral’s assistant to determine if a shape-shifting alien has killed the CO and assumed his form. Whether the admiral is human or not, Mae finds herself getting way too close to him as they run for their lives.
Military to the core, Mae and Zander will have to overcome their suspicions of each other to work together, when they realize the fate of the entire universe is at stake.

As with quite a few of Jess Anastasi’s books, I’ve learnt the hard way that the blurb is always insufficient in mapping out just how little it says of her expansive universe and the huge number of things that she’s got going on in it. Zander Graydon and Mae Petros might be the pairing that’s given priority in ‘Quantum’, but it isn’t too long before I’m sucked into the bigger picture that’s laid out here: an insidious breed of shape-shifting aliens have infiltrated planets and key governmental posts for reasons we aren’t quite too clear about yet and one man’s near-insane bid to wage war on them with a crazy ‘shoot first and then think’ policy in order to purge the monsters from his mind.

Rian Sherron – that cynical, snarky war-(anti)hero always on the verge of losing his self-control – is that much pivotal to the galaxy’s apparent survival. Yet what’s so unusual about this series thus far is that he hasn’t been cast as the romantic lead yet, even as everything revolves around this larger-than-life, brash and tortured character.

If ‘Atrophy’ lays out a dysfunctional cast of the Imojenna’s crew, ‘Quantum’ builds on the growing conflict in the wider universe and the burgeoning relationships between Rian and Ella (whose book Ms. Anastasi steadfastly refuses to release until they’ve maxed out their UST) and Zander and Mae, with only a little more focus on the latter pair. I have to admit Zander/Mae interested me a lot less than Rian/Ella, the latter of whom I thought was wimpy at times with her secret-keeping and the evasiveness she kept up with Zander even when it was clear she could trust him. But my preference or personal bias for heroines who put themselves out there – physically and emotionally – comes through clearly here and I did find myself more than disappointed when all Mae did was to cloister up, detach herself and leave the rift she caused to widen instead.

But I’ll say again that ‘Quantum’ is so much more than just Zander/Mae; I can’t help but think of them as just another relationship that’s one of many in this series that’s headed for an explosive climax, in all its irreverent and irrepressible glory. And that’s just the thing which is getting me moist with excitement, along with the anticipation of Rian’s story.

Thus far, I’ve been thrown for a few loops, laughed at the dry but engaging banter, been taken on an action-packed ride through some twists and turns I never saw coming and pretty much went down the long slide to a place no reader wants to go because it reeks of desperation: stalking the author for updates and news on the next book.

four-stars

Fool Me Once by Katee Robert

Fool Me Once by Katee RobertFool Me Once by Katee Robert
Series: Foolproof Love #2
Published by Entangled Publishing on August 1st 2016
Pages: 154
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three-stars

They say opposites attract, but this is just ridiculous.
Aubry Kaiser doesn’t like people—actually, that’s not right. She loathes people. With her crippling anxiety, there’s no way she can demo her favorite video game at a convention with five thousand other people. Maybe if she brings someone to act as a shield…
But the only person available is the sexy cowboy she can’t stand.
Quinn Baldwyn is in a mess of his own. He’s been dodging his wealthy family’s matchmaking attempts—and life advice—for years, but with his sister’s wedding on the horizon, he needs of a shield of his own.
He and Aubry can barely hold down a civil conversation, but in bed…fireworks. And the closer they get to Quinn’s sister’s wedding, the more he realizes that he might actually like Aubry.
Now it’s up to him to convince her she might actually like him, too.

Quinn’s and Aubry’s story is a classic enemies-to-lovers one but I was still surprised to learn that their mutual dislike for each other wasn’t a front for attraction or love in the guise of hate. And it’d taken very special circumstances for these two to get together to resolve their own deeply entrenched personal biases and issues.

As polar opposites, there’s very little to go on between them apart from lust and it’s refreshing that both the lead characters readily admit this much, to the extent where they convince themselves that what’s between them is merely surface deep. But therein lies the conflict as well and perhaps the cliché as well will be the ultimate deciding factor of their compatibility and the conscious decision to find common ground together towards the end.

But if Katee Robert explored a fair bit of Aubry’s rather insane social phobias and her anxieties, I felt as though I’d been left hanging with Quinn’s own unresolved burdens: we’re told about his beef with personal relationships but not given the exact circumstances why, to start with. I also felt that his personal struggles with his sister and his best friend’s death could have been expanded on, the details of which could have shaped him out to be a more multifaceted and sympathetic leading character to match an already complicated female lead.

The devil in the details aside, ‘Fool me Once’ is a very easy read and it’s mostly an enjoyable ride (throw in all the cowboy sex jokes here, because there’s nothing there that the story doesn’t already use) without too much angst or unnecessary drama for a story this short. Quinn and Aubry acted the way I fully expected them to, and as extreme as the latter can get at times, I mostly thought this unusual couple was memorable because of how different they were without pretending to be anything else other than what they could be.

three-stars

Driving Her Crazy by Kira Archer

Driving Her Crazy by Kira ArcherDriving Her Crazy by Kira Archer
Series: Crazy Love, #1
Published by Entangled Publishing on August 18th 2015
Pages: 220
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three-stars

Driven to (sexy) distraction...
Cher Debusshere hates being the black sheep of her posh, well-to-do family almost as much as she hates driving-which is exactly what she's forced to do when her flight home for her perfect sister's wedding is grounded. Fan-freakin'-tastic. Then a hot guy offers to share both the car rental and the driving duties...only to drive her crazy by assuming she's just some spoiled little rich girl.
Mechanic Nathaniel "Oz" Oserkowski is about as blue-collar as they come. There's never been a time he hasn't worked his ass off, and he's determined to prove it to the gorgeous princess in the passenger seat. As the miles pass, they bait and needle each other...until their lust and longing gets so hot it nearly overheats the engine.
They have nothing in common. Hell, they can barely stand each other. But sometimes it takes a journey to change the destination...

Cute and entertaining read about an impromptu road trip to hell with strangers who are thrown together (and couldn’t be more different) when a flight to New York is cancelled. Not too sure about the instant-love connection even if the chemistry between Oz and Cher is obviously evident.

Oz was an arse for quite a bit of the book, but I certainly understood the well-articulated pressures faced by Cher. The ending was rather abrupt and the epilogue merely hints at what had happened in the intervening years when I would have liked to know more how Oz and Cher got on.

Nonetheless, a light-hearted read that for a lazy afternoon.

three-stars

Drunk on You by Teri Anne Stanley

Drunk on You by Teri Anne StanleyDrunk on You by Teri Anne Stanley
Published by Entangled Publishing on July 21st 2015
Pages: 270
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three-stars

Justin Morgan would happily drown the pain of his injured leg-and the guilt he brought back from Afghanistan-in bourbon. Except, there won't be any booze if he doesn't rescue his family's century-old distillery from financial ruin. The problem? Allie McGrath-youngest daughter of the distillery's co-owners, and the one woman he can't have. Allie has been in love with Justin since...well, she's always been in love with him. Now he's home, broken up over the death of her brother, and he needs help. She can fix the distillery-she's sure of it-but no one's taking her or her sweet new idea seriously. Convincing Justin is her only hope. Allie is more tempting than Justin expected, threatening a promise he swore he'd never break. If he can't keep their attraction under control, there's a solid chance they'll send the whole enterprise crumbling to the ground...if he doesn't crash and burn first.

Justin Morgan’s the guy whom Allie McGrath has always wanted, but her irrepressible and tough nature doesn’t keep her down long, even when she realised that he has never had eyes for her at all. 8 years later, Justin’s out from the Marines and battling the heavy guilt of having her brother’s death on his hands…when Allie blows back into his life with a scheme of wanting to market a new, modern form of whiskey that’s a radical departure from the family’s traditional brew.

Drunk on You’s pretty much another take on the brother’s best friend romance in an unusual context. While I must admit it’s my own ignorance about distilleries that left me bewildered about these spirits, the story was enjoyable nonetheless, for the lighthearted, witty banter between Allie and Justin that kept the angst from creeping in.

three-stars

Give Up The Ghost by Kelly Moran

Give Up The Ghost by Kelly MoranGive Up the Ghost by Kelly Moran
Series: Phantoms #2
Published by Entangled Publishing on May 26th 2015
Pages: 280
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five-stars

A paranormal category romance from Entangled's Covet imprint...
Sometimes the only way to find love is to face death...
Paranormal investigator Kerry Baker has seen it all. But nothing in her work with the Phantoms team prepares her for the most terrifying ghost of all-seeing her doppelganger. Rumored to be a foreshadowing of one's death, the spectre shakes Kerry to the core...sending her into the arms of her best friend and fellow Phantom cast member, Paul Leake, for comfort.

Until a kiss changes everything.

Paul has been in love with Kerry for ages, unwilling to compromise their friendship. As their investigation in a ghost town grows more intense, however, so does the chemistry between Paul and Kerry. With her life in danger and their jobs on the line, giving into their attraction couldn't be a worse idea-and yet they can't bring themselves to stop it. Even if it kills her...

In more things that go bump in the night, Kelly Moran explores the incredibly creepy issue of the Doppelgänger in Paul’s and Kerry’s story. I think I must have speed-read the whole book with my jaw hanging open the whole time, in thrall of the paranormal activities in the ghost town as well as the painful but rewarding road to happiness for Paul and Kerry. Loved the set-up for Cain and Sammy (at least it appears to be!) and I’m now quivering in anticipation for what she’s got up her sleeve next.

five-stars

Breaking the Bachelor by Maggie Kelley

Breaking the Bachelor by Maggie KelleyBreaking the Bachelor by Maggie Kelley
Series: Smart Cupid #1
Published by Entangled Publishing on March 24th 2015
Pages: 211
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four-stars

Goaded by her competition, matchmaker Jane Wright makes a very public bet that she can find the “perfect” match for Manhattan's hottest confirmed bachelor—sexy-as-sin bartender Charlie Goodman. Unfortunately, Charlie is also Jane's ex-lover, a man she broke up with on a cocktail napkin. With her company on the line, Jane has no choice but to convince the man of her most impractical dreams to dive back into the dating pool.
Charlie doesn't want to see Jane's business fail. He just wants a little revenge. Determined to prove to Jane that chemistry always beats compatibility algorithms, he plans to drive her crazy with desire...then walk away. And his plan is working. A little too well, actually. Because even as Jane scrambles to calculate Charlie's best match, the heat building between them combusts. But Charlie's been so busy outsmarting Cupid that he hasn't noticed he's the naughty cherub's next target...

A fun, very smart read, even with a well-trodden plot with a cast of characters so stereotypical that they can be sniffed a mile away in a rom-com set. Jane’s view of love is based on science and close compatibility matches – where algorithm tops chemistry. Charlie – NY’s sexiest bartender, old friend and most recently, ex-lover – is convinced that chemistry is the the thing that drives a relationship, yet shies clear of the big ‘L’ word. Both have issues, obviously and apart from the good sex, can’t take the final step to be together for various reasons, but I found myself really feeling for Jane and her fears (or maybe I’m projecting)…and cheered when Charlie beat her to making the grand gesture.

four-stars