Series: Redwood Ridge

Residual Burn by Kelly Moran

Residual Burn by Kelly MoranResidual Burn by Kelly Moran
Series: Redwood Ridge, #4
Published by Kelly Moran on 24th September 2019
Pages: 218
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one-half-stars

Jason Burkwell is all about the next adventure. Whether it's an emergency call as lieutenant on Redwood Ridge's fire department or a pretty woman between the sheets, he gets in and gets out. He has no interest in being trapped by anything or anyone. But when he's manipulated into a charity auction for his station, something tells him he's about to get hosed. Especially when the town matchmakers shove quiet, shy Ella Sinclair in his path. Constantly. Every encounter with the brown-eyed beauty makes him realize the simmering attraction and strange tug of emotion is beyond basic heat.

Together, they're combustible. If only he can figure out what she's hiding...

Ella Sinclair's been burned before, and she's got the scars to prove it. Ever since her return to Redwood Ridge, she's had more than a little crush on a certain gorgeous firefighter. Except Jason doesn't know she exists. To trigger his memory would mean reliving the worst day of her life, and she's worked hard to move past the pain. Venturing out of her safety zone is tough enough, never mind that hero worship leaves her with a horrible case of babbling-itis. Her heart's becoming more engaged the longer they spend together, but his sudden interest can't possibly last when he discovers she's not the ideal image of perfection.

I hesitated with this book, then picked it up only because I like Kelly Moran’s writing—full of heart and emotion—even if the blurb gave me many pauses.

And true enough, there were many times that I wanted to stop there and then despite the evocative use of words. Because this was a pairing involving a Peter Pan womaniser with daddy issues who never looked past his own behaviour just had to be paired with a very, very inexperienced woman whose self-esteem was in the dumps.

It’s safe to say that the protagonists (along with the back drop of some very annoying secondary characters mixed with other sage ones) were what I had a huge problem with. Ella Sinclair’s constant reiteration of her own inexperience, her babbling, her put-downs of herself got exhausting to read about after a while, but I could feel for her more after her back story was revealed.

But no matter how Moran tried to frame Jason as a charming playboy, out only for a fun-lovin’ time with never breaking women’s hearts because he was out of the door by the time that happened, I could only see him as a mega-prick through and through, more so when there were repetitive paragraphs dedicated to how he ‘normally’ behaved around women and how he was breaking the mould with Ella.

Even if this was to show how Ella was different, her obvious discomfort and babbling around him were cringeworthy, more so since it felt like she intrigued Jason only because she made him to the work instead. That he never needed to chase women but instead he sought out the first stirrings of attraction, then left before it burnt him out didn’t endear me to him at all…more so because it cemented his repulsive reputation too well that it made the HEA unbelievable.

These issues are frankly, personal, which makes this review the clichéd but true ‘it’s just me’. I struggled through ‘Residual Burn’ for these reasons, even though the underlying narrative of firefighting and loss was the only thing that kept me hanging on. Not my favourite Moran book honestly, but then, I went into this really hoping for better.

one-half-stars

New Tricks by Kelly Moran

New Tricks by Kelly MoranNew Tricks by Kelly Moran
Series: Redwood Ridge #3
Published by Kensington Books/Lyrical Press on September 26th 2017
Pages: 250
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three-stars

Loving someone is something you never forget how to do . . .

Zoe Hornsby has enough on her plate. Her pet grooming business tucked inside her friends’ veterinarian clinic is busy, and all her free time outside of work is dedicated to caring for her mother’s ailing mind. Dating is certainly not on her agenda. For all she cares, the town gossips of Redwood Ridge, Oregon, can set their matchmaking sights on someone else. Because no way would she consider sexy veterinarian Drake O'Grady her perfect guy. Once upon a time, she may have harbored a little crush, but he’d only had eyes for her best friend. And the crazy attraction building between her and Drake now? Down boy, down.

After Drake lost his wife to cancer, he’s finally clawed his way out of grief and beginning to feel more like a part of the human race. But he’s appalled to learn his prying family thinks he's ready to jump in the dating pool. And the woman they thrust at him couldn’t be more inappropriate. As his dead wife’s best friend, Zoe is off limits. Even if they seem to share a common sadness, she is too potent a personality to get romantically tangled with. Yet she’s making his heart beat and blood roar like he never thought it could again. And he doesn't want to just exist anymore . . .

The intensity of emotions and the build-up of a relationship are Kelly Moran’s trademarks and by and large, her nuanced take on issues of unrequited feelings, grief and what it means to embark on something that has the tinge of the forbidden can break the hardest of hearts. ‘New Tricks’ turns the table on the grieving spouse unable to move on as Drake—who doesn’t fit into that category at all—is the active pursuer of a relationship and the one suddenly pining for a woman he’d never seen more than a friend until a while ago. That alone made him stand out as I enjoyed every moment of him going after what he wanted, then calling Zoe out on her running away.

I’m a little mixed about the pairing in question nonetheless, not just because I’m wary about friends-to-lovers but also because I found Drake a lot easier to like than Zoe, who frustrated me at times. I wasn’t entirely sold on her as a character who had the reputation of being the town’s ‘good time’ (which came uncomfortably close to the equivalent of manwhore for me somehow, which I equally dislike) or her frequent use of near-antagonistic sarcasm as guilt prevented her from moving on with her dead best friend’s husband. While I could sympathise with the number of things on her plate and the way these duties weighed her down, I also didn’t like how volatile Zoe became when confronted with her own feelings that she couldn’t quite own up to in front of him, in contrast to Drake’s relatively easy admission that he didn’t know what to do with a burgeoning attraction. Using as many weak excuses that she could—including the ‘good time’ one—simply felt like a form of playing games that she didn’t want yet inexplicably did somehow. Yet Zoe was a multifaceted bundle of contradictions that made her a realistic character too, as was Drake whose grief was given a poignant sheen that I loved.

That said though, ‘New Tricks’ is definitely an emotional one, with some angst on the side thrown in for good measure. The ghost in the relationship isn’t entirely missing, but isn’t too much of an obstacle that it becomes the focus of the story and the sole reason for being the conflict of it. As I’ve always said, what rocks my boat doesn’t necessarily do the same for others and vice versa, and while this was an okay-type read for me, Moran is typically an author I come back to time and again.

three-stars

Tracking You by Kelly Moran

Tracking You by Kelly MoranTracking You by Kelly Moran
Series: Redwood Ridge #2
Published by Kensington Publishing on May 23rd 2017
Pages: 234
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four-stars

Love isn't always loud. Sometimes it's silent.

Gabby Cosette has always been dubbed the good girl of quaint Redwood Ridge, Oregon, and being permanently put in the friend zone has left her dating life stagnant. With no prospects in sight, she clings to her friends and resolves to not let loneliness drag her under. So when the town Battleaxes set their matchmaking sights on her, she figures it can't hurt. Yet the guy they think is perfect for her just happens to be not only her boss at the veterinarian clinic, but her best friend. Sure, Flynn O'Grady is attractive and the nicest guy around, but going there with him would topple both of their carefully constructed worlds and there would be no going back. Even if he is starting to make her girly parts zing.

Having been born deaf, Flynn has already felt like an outsider most of his life. Aside from his brothers, Gabby is about the only person who's gone out of her way to treat him as more than a handicap. Which is exactly why he's banked his secret attraction for his sweet, beautiful vet tech. Except his meddling family is trying to play Cupid and ruin the best thing to ever happen to him. Without Gabby, his work as a veterinarian, never mind his personal life, wouldn't flow. Determined to ignore the antics, he's secure in the knowledge she's not interested in him romantically. But then a kiss changes everything . . . and he's wondering if taking the ultimate shot at love might be worth the risk.

Both Gabby Cosette and Flynn O’Grady had been passed over for other people—Gabby because she’s the girl-next-door, the pretty but not gorgeous kind that men put in the friend zone, and Flynn because of his disability and his quiet nature. Yet they’re best friends, co-workers and simply people who rely so much on each other that entangling their lives beyond this risks the complete collapse of their friendship. But not rocking the boat isn’t an option anymore, when the small crush (Kelly Moran makes it clear it was never serious pining or secretly-in-love kind) Flynn has nursed but shoved deep into a box suddenly sparks a bigger flame.

I’m always wary about best friends-to-lovers romance, but I’m glad Moran has her characters addressing why the sudden change occurred—and of all times, why now? I wasn’t entirely too sure what sort of answer would have satisfied me though, to be honest, but I could frankly say that I liked how Gabby and Flynn themselves struggled with this and how the resulting tension that came out of it made for a delicious, smouldering build up of heat. The pacing lags a little as Gabby/Flynn transition from friends to more but I think Moran does show how perfect they are for each other through every up and down in their lives. I completely understood Gabby’s perceived insecurities about Flynn not wanting her ‘properly’, yet how tuned in she is to him—how considerate she when it comes to his deafness despite her inability to see how Flynn had crushed on her—won me over. It’s equally difficult not to feel for the deaf guy, who, while a quietly confident man on his own, does have several issues of his own to overcome with regard to his inability to hear.

‘Tracking You’ is quite an emotional, romantic read nonetheless; there’s the homely feel of the small-town romance and the sense that neighbourly interference is good-natured rather than malicious so when the couple in question finally get together, it’s with cheers and all the feels you can summon up.

four-stars