Publisher: Smashwords Edition

The Player and the Pixie by L.H. Cosway

The Player and the Pixie by L.H. CoswayThe Player and the Pixie by L.H. Cosway, Penny Reid
Series: Rugby #2
Published by Smashwords Edition on April 12th 2016
Pages: 326
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Lucy Fitzpatrick doesn’t like rugby. As the little sister of Ireland’s most infamous rugby player, Lucy can’t seem to escape the championship-sized shadow cast by her big brother, or her mother’s frequent attempts to micromanage her future. Her rainbow hair is as free-spirited as her quest for inner peace, yet overbearing expectations keep bringing her down. And when she’s down, her compulsive little problem lands her in seriously big trouble.

Sean Cassidy is a cold-hearted brute… or so he’s been told. Frequently. By everyone.His blonde locks, baby blues, and rock hard bod make ladies the world over drool with desire. As the rugby world’s second most infamous player, he should be basking in his success. But Sean has never been content settling for second place, and his frequent confrontations with Lucy’s big brother leave him cold. And when he’s cold, his compulsive little problem lands him in the lap of Lucy Fitzpatrick.

Sean has a problem only Lucy can solve. Lucy has a problem only Sean can fix. The solution seems obvious: you scratch my back, and I’ll bail you out of jail. But when their business arrangement unexpectedly leaves Sean scorching hot and Lucy on the precipice of inner peace, can they convince the world—and Lucy’s big brother in particular—that this is the real deal?

Either way, both the Player and the Pixie are about to teach each other some pretty monumental lessons about family, life, but most importantly, love.

Sean Cassidy is an insensitive arse. Yet shockingly, a redeemable one, especially when the world is viewed through his skewed lens of snobbery until we realise the discrepancy between the front he presents and the man he can be…while managing to be an arse at the same time. His match, even more shockingly so, is a mini-Fitzpatrick, or rather, his arch-nemesis’s sister, whose quirks and compulsive shop-lifting behaviour somehow manages to draw out the person he wants to be.Yet tying their relationship together is the incredible idea that Sean the player is actually horrendous in bed in every way possible, which Lucy discovers to her chagrin.

That combination, characterisation-wise, is intoxicating, when all I could do was clutch my sides in hilarity as I was hit by wave after wave of unexpected (and funny!) dialogue interspersed with some poignant revelations and showings about human nature that were oddly moving.

L.H. Cosway and Penny Reid work over the stereotypical tropes of the player male and the frigid female in this book and I was immediately enthralled, swept along for the ride that got me angry when bedtime rolled around because I had to put the book down. And that could only be a good thing, because this is going straight into one of my favourites right now.


Down To Ash by Melissa Blue

Down To Ash by Melissa BlueDown To Ash by Melissa Blue
Series: #dirtysexygeeks #2
Published by Smashwords Edition on March 24th 2016
Pages: 172
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She's his best friend's baby sister, and he's too broken to deserve her.
Victor Yang spent six years in the Army as a bomb tech, and when he came back from war, he was half out of his mind and completely dangerous to anyone who got too close to him. His friend saved his life, and now he's repaying that debt in the worst way possible.He shouldn't fantasize about Ashley's touch, her taste. Definitely shouldn't act on those urges. But he doesn't half-ass mistakes. One explosive night later, he's learned how sweet her forbidden fruit tastes, and is coming back for seconds. And if his friend finds out Victor knows exactly how Ash's skin feels beneath his tongue, his best friend will kill him.

Apparently, the violation of the so-called sacred brotherhood code is a big thing I never knew about, like the equivalent of the desecration of some religious rite which would incite extreme reactions from everyone all around.

Being a fan of the first book, I wish I could say I liked this book more, given its take on the best friend’s brother trope. My main quibble lay with the main characters themselves, whose self-indulgent and selfish ways were off-putting – particularly Ashley’s thoughtless and frivolous pattern of behaviour, always playing the victim somehow – but also inexplicable in their overwhelming idiocy that they display when it comes to the brotherhood code. Ultimately, this made the sudden revelation (and declaration) of love and the marriage proposal even more ridiculous by the end.


Heat by Penny Reid

Heat by Penny ReidHeat by Penny Reid
Series: Elements of Chemistry #2
Published by Smashwords Edition on April 19th 2015
Pages: 188
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Four days left.Private beach (…and boat).Not so invisible girl.And maybe less of a jerk-faced bully than originally thought.
What’s the worst (or the best) that could happen?
Kaitlyn is finding life outside of the science cabinet of obscurity to be quite illuminating …and so are her pants.
When things heat up between Kaitlyn Parker and Martin—previously known as the jerk-faced bully—Sandeke, she places her trust in the one person she never thought capable of earning it, let alone keeping it safe. Fortunately or unfortunately for Kaitlyn, where she gives her trust she can’t help but also give her heart.
But how will the world beyond the sanctuary of their newfound connection react to their relationship? Soon senators, chinless billionaires, and elements beyond Martin and Kaitlyn’s control want to weigh in on the young couple’s future.
Navigating the chaotic inferno of new love might be more than Kaitlyn bargained for, and much, much more than her trust—or her heart—can handle.

Quite literally a next-sentence continuation from Penny Reid’s first installment, ‘Heat’ continues the burgeoning saga between Kaitlyn and Martin, pretty much encapsulating the physical evolution of their relationship. I hadn’t expected much more, but there were smaller hints about more abstract ideas that I liked in this story: the power of words and their nuances (in a conversation Kaitlyn points out the use of ‘fuck’ and ‘making love’) in particular.

But the hard choices and angst that come in the latter part of ‘Heat’ were what I thought were necessarily ‘evils’, so to speak, shedding light on Kaitlyn’s maturity – that still outpaces Martin’s by far. I’m reminded why I still can’t like Martin at all, despite the good reasons we’ve been given for his hard and loose but revenge-driven behaviour: that character growth that Kaitlyn experiences somehow passes him by and at the end of the book, I felt that Martin remains the manipulative guy who would love only when conditions suit his purposes. My respect for Kaitlyn on the other hand, grew for her ability for wanting to work things out rationally, despite the constant accusation of her lack of emotion and other insecurities.

Now, onto part 3.


Attraction by Penny Reid

Attraction by Penny ReidAttraction by Penny Reid
Series: Elements of Chemistry #1
Published by Smashwords Edition on April 6th 2015
Pages: 161
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One week.Private beach.Invisible girl.Jerk-faced bully.
What’s the worst that could happen?
Kaitlyn Parker has no problem being the invisible girl, which is why she finds herself hiding in various cabinets and closets all over her college campus. Despite her best efforts, she can’t escape the notice of Martin Sandeke—bad boy, jerkface bully, and the universe’s hottest, wealthiest, and most unobtainable bachelor—who also happens to be Kaitlyn’s chemistry lab partner.
Kaitlyn might be the only girl who isn’t interested in exploiting his stunning rower’s build, chiseled features, and family's billionaire fortune. Kaitlyn wants Martin for his brain, specifically to tabulate findings of trace elements in surface water.
When Kaitlyn saves Martin from a nefarious plot, Martin uses the opportunity to push Kaitlyn out of her comfort zone: spring break, one week, house parties, bathing suits, and suntan lotion. Can she overcome her aversion to being noticed? Will he be able grow beyond his self-centered nature? Or, despite their obvious chemistry, will Martin be the one to drive Kaitlyn into the science cabinet of obscurity for good?

The uniqueness of Kaitlyn Parker’s shenanigans – in that dorky, geeky but endearing manner – is the sparkling highlight of Penny Reid’s writing. Told wholly in her bizarre, out-of-the-world perspectives that frame all the events in this story, I simply turned the pages because I couldn’t wait to read just what funny and unexpected things she’d say.

But my unhappy rating really, reflects the questionable male lead of Martin Sandeke, who isn’t above using sex and desire – the basest and most likely the most unreliable of measurements – to act on his inexplicable attraction to Kaitlyn. Damaged and not above using people (and women) for his purposes, I simply thought Martin was a classless and self-centred act. Crassly dangling his vast sexual experience in front of her was an absolute turn-off for me, and much of the book – and beyond – felt like he was simply manipulating her with behaviour that her logical mind can’t handle, especially in sexual matters.

Nonetheless, it’s a short-read and one that ends on an unsatisfactory note, intended as a NA/drama series of sorts. Thankfully, the next 2 volumes are well within reach, even though I’ve got this gut feeling that it isn’t going to end well, if the trajectory of both Kaitlyn and Martin’s skewed relationship continues the way I think it will.


Return to Dark Earth by Anna Hackett

Return to Dark Earth by Anna HackettReturn to Dark Earth by Anna Hackett
Series: The Phoenix Adventures #7
Published by Smashwords Edition on September 8th 2015
Pages: 220
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His career plan never included becoming one of the galaxy’s most infamous treasure hunters. And it certainly never included his one weakness: Nera Darc.
Astro-archeologist Niklas Phoenix loved his job studying and safeguarding artifacts at the Institute of Historical Preservation…until he learned that it was all a lie. Forced out of the Institute, he joins his treasure hunter brothers, but now the Institute is trying to lure him back for the ultimate treasure hunt—a return to the planet that seeded life throughout the galaxy. But only one thing convinces him to go—his deadly, seductive rival has joined the expedition.
Dangerous and enigmatic, Nera Darc has made a life for herself where she calls the shots and bows to no one. Niklas Phoenix has become her dark obsession and on the lethal mission to Earth, they are compelled to join forces to survive. But Niklas threatens to tear down Nera’s internal walls and melt the ice around her heart…but she knows caring for someone is just a weakness others can exploit.
As Nik and Nera strip away each other’s secrets, a brilliant passion is unleashed, but the dangers of Earth strike from every side, and a darker enemy is closing in.

I feel somewhat torn in trying to rate this book. Nera/Nik is a pairing that’s been a long time in coming, and ‘Return to Dark Earth’ promises a breathless adventure through an Earth so destroyed that it is near unrecognisable. Yet it’s missing the camaraderie of the Phoenix brothers that has been present nearly throughout the series, a component that I felt was vital to the mood and tone of the story. Instead, the introduction of new characters felt awkward and left me wishing that the old gang could have been there instead.


In the Devil’s Nebula by Anna Hackett

In the Devil’s Nebula by Anna HackettIn the Devil's Nebula by Anna Hackett
Series: The Phoenix Adventures #2
Published by Smashwords Edition on July 16th 2014
Pages: 176
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He lost it all. His career, his woman, his sanity. Two years ago, on a deadly mission to the lawless Devil’s Nebula, Commander Zayn Phoenix’s life imploded. Now the former Strike Wing pilot fills his days with dangerous adventures alongside his treasure hunter brothers. But his nights are another story: haunted by nightmares of one unforgivable act. Until an assassin lures him into a hunt. A hunt for her freedom from the Assassin’s Guild. A hunt for a derringer used in an ancient and infamous assassination—of old Earth president, Abraham Lincoln. Zayn is compelled to join the perilous adventure with Ria Dante that will take them straight into the heart of the Devil’s Nebula, but not for money, fame or treasure. He joins because Ria has the face of the woman he left for dead in the Nebula years before.

‘In The Devil’s Nebula’ is quite the revelation in this series – exciting, fast-paced and rather extraordinary in the expansion of the space-treasure-hunting world that Anna Hackett has created.

I was waiting for Zayn Phoenix’s story and Ms. Hackett delivers one that is unforgettable. Haunted by his captivity and a death that shouldn’t have happened, he finally faces his past again in the form of an assassin – a woman whom he thought he’d killed 2 years ago. But Ria isn’t his dead commander – yet at first glance, she’s everything he knows he’d lost.

There was much to love about this book: the breathless adventure, the mix of myth and legends and the growing relationship between Ria and Zayn. While I was initially frustrated by the apparent coincidences that weren’t quite explained in the first three-quarters of the book, I’m glad to say that these were resolved with a mind-boggling revelation that actually took me a while to take in.


Playing For Fun by Tracey Alvarez

Playing For Fun by Tracey AlvarezPlaying For Fun by Tracey Alvarez
Series: Due South #6
Published by Smashwords Edition on December 17th 2015
Pages: 300
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Wanted: A woman for Ford.Ford Komeke can’t deny he could use an up-skill in the dating arena. It’s a local in-joke that his game, as far as women go, sucks. Thanks to the meddling of New Zealand’s worst octogenarian matchmaker, he’s got an online dating profile, a new wardrobe, and a haircut from Stewart Island’s sexy hairdresser, Holly Parker. But since he’s well and truly mired in the friendzone with Holly, what’s the harm in exploring his options? A little jealousy could work wonders.
Offered: Dream job with a catch.What do you say when you’re offered an un-turn-downable career opportunity? You say, hell-to-the-yeah! Only there’s a problem. To get the dream job Holly must leave Stewart Island and her two best friends, Shaye and Ford. But if Holly can distract Shaye with wedding planning and set Ford up with a nice girl so she can stop imagining him naked, neither will notice if she exits stage right. Neither will notice if her feelings for Ford stop being strictly platonic.
Warning: One kiss is never enough.As addictive as the chocolate stash Holly hides in her fridge, one kiss forces them out of the friendzone—way out of the friendzone. Heat and hunger explode, but the ugliness in Ford’s past hold his heart hostage. Playing for fun or playing for keeps? Holly and Ford must decide because the consequences of falling in love means that someone’s heart or someone’s dream will ultimately end up shattered.

Ford Komeke’s (near non-existent) love-life takes a tumble and spin when the small town gossip’s meddling ways pushes him way past his comfort zone…into online dating, a haircut that he never really wanted and new clothes which he doesn’t think he needs. But the hilarity that ensues thereafter merely confirms that it is Holly Parker, his longtime friend, whom he wants. Holly’s own unmoving state of denial however, means he’s got his work cut out for him and the huge elephant in the room that’s his messed-up childhood promises that he’ll probably screw things up before anything can even begin.

In short, ‘Playing for fun ‘ was an incredibly clever and fun friends-to-lovers read. I loved every moment of Holly/Ford – also probably because of the delicious UST that Tracey Alvarez has got going in the early chapters of the book, especially when their relationship is charted against Supernatural’s seasons, fumbling blind dates and rock solid love scenes that thankfully steered clear of TSTL limits. It was great to revisit the rest of the nosy but oh-so-loyal characters in Due South and even if Piper/West still hold my heart, I think Holly and Ford come a very close second to knock that particular touch-rugby trophy off its ledge.