Tag: Corporate Diz

Weight Expectations by M.E. Carter

Weight Expectations by M.E. CarterWeight Expectations by M.E. Carter
Series: Cipher Office, #1
Published by Smarty Pants Romance on October 15th 2019
Pages: 281
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two-half-stars

Rian Thompson thought she joined the gym to get healthy. Little did she know she was about to add hundred and ninety pounds of swoonworthy abdominal muscles and arrogance to her life.

Every day in Rians’s life follows a predictable pattern, and she wouldn’t have it any other way. She’s got a nice job, a nice place to live, and a nice family – even if they are a little wedding-zilla-ish at the moment.

She doesn’t need anything spectacular to be happy. She just needs to get healthy – mentally, physically. . . and maybe spiritually if that happens. But she’ll settle for two out of three until her sister finally gets hitched.

Carlos Davies thought his life was perfect. Little did he know it was about to be turned upside down by a woman who is not his type.

In Carlos’s mind, his life is damn near perfect. He’s got a great job, a great place to live, and a great stash of pick up lines that always work. It has occurred to him that maybe no one actually takes him all that seriously. But with these bulging biceps and thick, dark hair, does that even matter since he’s never sleeping alone?
Welcome to Weight Expectations, where great—and unexpected—things happen.

It isn’t often that I get a story with a protagonist whom I love and the other whom I absolutely detest—which incidentally, makes the book rating a very problematic one.

It really was the weightiness of the heroine—pun not quite intended—that carried the story and it was for Rian that I kept reading. I loved her witty, self-deprecating, hilarious perspectives on all things gym-related, her mock-antagonistic relationship with a trainer she’s determined to see as sadistic and her very down-to-earth nature that made her oh-so-relatable.

But there is also where my issues begin. I’d think that morbid obesity as Rian is described as having, is also a condition that comes with its own emotional and mental baggage (in that way, it’s not unlike other health conditions that affect the emotional state) but it wasn’t something that came across too strongly. In fact, Rian’s self-assurance was quite astonishing to read about, her own awareness of her capabilities and the general likability she has each time she comes around.

And if Rian singlehandedly propped the book up, unfortunately, it was Carlos who singlehandedly tanked the entire read for me with his shallow, repetitive mantra about his only purpose being to give women pleasure to explain away his non-committal and player ways. The constant emphasis on Rian really not being his type throughout the book somehow made it even more intolerable—since the implication was that he liked her for her personality than anything else that he could get from his other hookups. His sheer arrogance and smarminess never quite went away throughout and the lack of proper ‘couple’ development time—Rian and Carlos don’t really interact too much for the first half of the book as they do their own things—don’t seem to help flesh him out as a character whose evolution I could buy into.

‘Weight Expectations’ is not a hard read narrative-wise but I finished the book more for Rian than anything else, whom I honestly thought deserved better.

two-half-stars

Between Me & You by Kimberly Kincaid

Between Me & You by Kimberly KincaidBetween Me & You by Kimberly Kincaid
Series: Remington Medical #3
Published by Kimberly Kincaid Romance on 13th August 2019
Pages: 280
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four-stars

He hates the corporate world. She's all business. Now they have to work together on the one job that could make or break them both...

Connor became a flight medic for one reason, and one reason only. To help people.If he can keep his head down and his past in the past while he's at it? Even better.

Until Harlow appears to upend his world with an offer he can't refuse.

She's calculating. Composed. Scalpel-sharp.

And she'll stop at nothing to make her father's business successful.
Even if that means teaming up with Connor to turn around a failing clinic.

He shouldn't like her.

He definitely shouldn't want her.
But the more they work together the less he's able to resist.

But Connor's secrets run deep. Will Harlow's ambition ruin him, or will she be his salvation?

Where writing is concerned, Kimberly Kincaid barely puts a foot wrong. Admittedly, there are some plots and characters that are obviously more palatable than others but a confident, driving style is what Kincaid has in spades. That alone, has so much going for it: it moves the plot along swiftly and keeps you peeled to every twist and turn…thanks to the beauty of words.

I do like Kincaid’s Remington Medical series thus far (minus the second book, which felt like an aberration to me) and ‘Between Me & You’ is like a fantastic fix for dreary afternoons with a pairing that is solid, well-matched and built on mutual respect and teamwork.

Harlow Davenport and Connor Bradshaw clash at first but both are strong characters in their own right and alphas in their own fields: their friction is believable, their tussle realistic. It’s isn’t quite an enemies-to-lovers kind of romance and neither is it a rivalry, but their ways of looking at life and business differ especially when Connor and Harlow are tasked as co-directors of a clinic that has been racking up a debt that goes straight into the stratosphere.

In short, I think Kincaid does brilliantly in pulling together the heart of medicine and the business side of it. Situated at opposing ends of this spectrum, I liked Harlow’s and Connor’s compromises and the general maturity they show that finally had them meeting in the middle. Much of their romance is built on conflict management, though the climax is one that is a tad predictable as is their subsequent (and somewhat quick) resolution at the end.

More than Connor/Harlow’s chemistry or admiration for each other however, Kincaid’s emphasis on respect and trust, the bonds of friendship and what families should mean shines through here and for that alone, ‘Between Me & You’ is a worth-it read.

four-stars

Huge Deal by Lauren Layne

Huge Deal by Lauren LayneHuge Deal by Lauren Layne
Series: 21 Wall Street, #3
Published by Montlake Romance on 23rd April 2019
Pages: 268
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three-stars

An alpha among the wolves of Wall Street, Kennedy Dawson rose to the top of the pack by striking the right contracts at the right times. But there’s one deal that’s been giving him a run for his money—a pact to never again let his assistant, Kate, get under his skin. She may be smart, gorgeous, and sharp as a whip, but she’s definitely off-limits.

Kate Henley isn’t a banker, but she knows a thing or two about risk management—specifically, about managing her attraction to her smolderingly sexy boss. She already fell once, and Kennedy showed no sign of paying a return on her investment. So when Kennedy’s brother starts pursuing her, Kate figures she has the best of both worlds. Jack is charming, rich, very attentive, and the spitting image of his older brother.

It’s also making Kennedy think twice. But to win Kate’s heart, he’ll have to broker the deal of a lifetime…and prove he’s worth the risk.

It’s been a while since I’ve bene on the Lauren Layne boat, and ‘Huge Deal’ was one that I stepped into warily. Layne’s recent works have revolved around certain tropes and themes (questionable ones for me at least, when they seem to have to do with sibling dating, manwhores, oblivious/unrequited love) that have made it hard to fully like her books.

And lordy, how do I even begin with this?

Yes, there are feels. And yes, my chest hurt, mostly for Kate, but ultimately, I was left with too many doubts left unassuaged, shadowed instead by feel-good platitudes, of talk but not enough grit and fight in a relationship. Especially one that begins with unrequited emotions.

First, let’s get this out of the way: there’s no question that Layne can write and quite perceptively too. There’s angst, the outpouring of emotions, some nuanced looks at human behaviour in ‘Huge Deal’…but there’s also the uncomfortable underlying implications that affections could be transferred fast and that easily with the slight hint here of double-dipping, that appearances mattered greatly when Kennedy only noticed Kate after her mini-makeover which I couldn’t shake off.

Kenendy’s utter obliviousness to Kate, his underestimation of her, his under-appreciation for her for years when it was clear she had a thing for him was painful to read about. His accidental and meaningless put-downs made it worse—or that he often made it sound like he thought nothing of her except as an assistant—didn’t make the case for coupledom any easier, until Jack the younger brother came on the scene.

Why did it have to take a little bit of competition from his brother, for God’s sake, for Kennedy to wake up and see that Kate was a woman worth being with? That without Jack to peel the blinkers off Kennedy’s eyes, Kate couldn’t stand on her own merit and be deserving of that same attention without the makeover? Would Kate and Kennedy otherwise have gone on their own individual trajectories had Jack not intervened? Would Kennedy have not bothered about Kate otherwise?

The bottomline is, many of these burning questions—appearing when some tropes themselves appear—weren’t sufficiently addressed for me to buy into Kate/Kennedy, not when I found myself reading about affections that were too shakeable, too transferable, too easily swayed, where it had to take a mountain-moving revelation or makeover for an unattainable man to finally notice the woman who’d always been in front of him while going through a score of others in the meantime.

The reversal of everything in the last quarter of the book was surprising to say the least, as Kennedy ironically played catch up and took every effort to convince Kate—whose own POV on love had changed. In fact, I needed Layne to address the imbalance of emotions more or at least why it’d taken Kennedy this much to see her for what she was, but it seemed as though she’d taken another way out with a whole emotional twist that simply felt out of character for Kate.

With the sudden rush to an abrupt ending—the ending conflict was up and done too quickly for my liking—I was still left with the feeling that Kennedy hadn’t put himself out there enough, hadn’t fought for the both of them enough, hadn’t been put through the emotional agony enough, hadn’t made himself more vulnerable enough.

That Kate had all along, been the more multi-faceted character with the most growth and change didn’t exactly put them as equals as ‘Huge Deal’ rolled up to a quick HEA that left me less than convinced at a pairing that should and could have been more tested in a crucible that never quite burned hot enough.

three-stars

The Tycoon by Molly O’Keefe

The Tycoon by Molly O’KeefeThe Tycoon by Molly O'Keefe
Series: King Family #1
Published by Amazon Digital Services, Amazon Publishing on 12th July 2018
Pages: 246
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two-stars

The cruel and beautiful man who ruined my life has everything he wants—everything except me.

Five years ago, Clayton Rorick loved me. Or so I thought. Turned out he only wanted to get his hands on my daddy’s company. Heartbroken, I ran away with nothing but the clothes on my back. Like a twisted Cinderella. When my father dies, leaving my sisters in a desperate situation, it’s up to me to help them.

I’ll have to beg the man who broke my heart to save us.

But Clayton hasn’t forgotten me and what he wants in exchange for his help is…my body, my heart and my soul.

‘The Tycoon’ took me an extraordinarily long time to finish, despite the novella-length of the whole story. Admittedly, I was distracted with everything else that left reading the last priority on my list.

But still, I got through it, albeit on first or second gear throughout, and at a snail’s pace and there just wasn’t enough rev for me to keep my eyes glued to it. The long story short is: woman finds out that she’s been played by her father and fiancé all along; 5 years later, they’re reunited unwittingly and in a twist of events, she gets manoeuvred into a marriage to help save her sisters who are all in some trouble of their own.

Molly O’Keefe tackles a tricky second-chance romance trope; I think most readers, after reading the injustice done to Veronica would expect some sort of grovelling or some grand gestures that would place Clayton on a playing field where he could ‘earn’ back Veronica’s affections. What we got however, were Veronica’s own musings and doubts about Clayton’s supposed change and how much he was willing to compromise for her this time, though her wariness didn’t always seem backed up by his actions.

But an imbalance in the POVs here meant that we mostly had Veronica’s side of the story—her struggles, her feelings, her emotions—while Clayton’s few scenes in his POV simply made him as remote, aloof and cold-hearted as ever. Acknowledging his mistake with Veronica 5 years ago and apologising in so few lines, then expecting Veronica to cave to his manipulative marriage demands made him seem an unsympathetic, unremorseful character, especially since he’d admitted to using sex as a way to get her defences down.

Seriously?!

It levelled out eventually: less lies, more truth, less obscuring, more sharing and the easing into forgiveness, though by that time, I was bored and skimming. ‘The Tycoon’ would have been a better read for me if there’d been more peaks and valleys—more spikes of the emotional fallout, I guess, but since that didn’t happen, it ended up more exasperating than exciting.

two-stars

The Fearless king by Katee Robert

The Fearless king by Katee RobertThe Fearless King by Katee Robert
Series: The Kings, #2
Published by Forever on 5th February 2019
Pages: 368
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three-half-stars

Ultra-wealthy and super powerful, the King family is like royalty in Texas. But their secrets can be deadly.

Fake boyfriend. Real danger.Journey King is an expert at managing the family business. But when her father returns to Houston hell-bent on making a play for the company, Journey will do anything to stop him, even if that means going to Frank Evans for help. Frank deals in information, the dirtier the better. Rugged and rock solid, he's by far her best ally - and also the most dangerous.

Frank knows better than to get tangled up with the Kings. But something about Journey's rare vulnerability drags him deep into enemy territory... and into her darkest past. Pretending to be her boyfriend may be necessary for their plan to work, but Frank soon finds helping Journey is much more than just another job - and he'll do whatever it takes to keep her safe.

Reading ‘The Fearless King’ was sort of bizarre, because it felt like a very well-written drama that I wanted more of, but couldn’t understand because I was tossed straight into the middle of a series at say, episode 143 with a backlog of events that I’d already forgotten about having read the first book a long time ago. As a result, this hardly felt like a standalone with a sorely-lacking backstory that I had to spend quite a bit of time figuring out, right up until the halfway point of the book.

Pare down the layers however, and Frank and Journey’s story is relatively simple at the heart of it, minus the family drama taking place over corporate talk, hostile takeovers and real estate/business territory being muscled in on. He’s her white knight (sort of), she’s his protection project when her abusive father returns to overthrow all her family had worked for. Throw in a fake dating scenario until the emotions turn real, then pad it with even more complicated business and family networks and that’s what ’The Fearless King’ really is about. Basically, if you’re into romantic fiction that deals with corporate manoeuvring, manipulation and backstabbing, then this pretty much takes these themes and runs with them.

I’ve always liked Katee Robert’s compelling writing and this book is just another reminder why.

But there were some things that nagged at me: the insertion of a secondary character’s POV added along with Frank’s and Journey’s that felt out of place, with the background of a family pitted against each other to the extent that some characters seemed as though they were cut out of a Disney villain storyboard. Essentially Robert writes about the scarred, ugly side of powerful families so screwed up and so hungry for power and so…redemption-less and that my reading flagged a little when I got to the middle of it.

Still, Robert’s protagonists surprised me at several turns; Frank/Journey don’t entirely conform to stereotypes even if they sort of stumble into accidental heroism, where it doesn’t take a mountain to recognise that unnamed emotion called love. I can’t quite guess where Robert’s going with this whole tangled mess but it’s looking to be quite a journey—pun unintended.

three-half-stars

Desperate Play by Barbara Freethy

Desperate Play by Barbara FreethyDesperate Play by Barbara Freethy
Series: Off The Grid: FBI Trilogy, #3
Published by Fog City Publishing, LLC - Hyde Street Press on 13th June 2018
Pages: 359
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three-stars

Special Agent Wyatt Tanner has always worked undercover. He thrives in the dark of the night. He survives by turning himself into someone else. But living so long in the shadows can make a man forget who he really is. When people start dying, when he finds blood on his own hands, he questions the choices he has made, the people he is with.

Can he find his way back to the light? Can he trust the beautiful woman who needs his help? Or does she also have a secret life?

He'll have to make one desperate play to find out…

Barbara Freethy is not an author I usually turn to for my usual Romantic Suspense fix, but the blurb of this book sounded interesting enough. At least, well enough because it rubs all my kinks about undercover and double identities the right way.

Freethy has up a great opening that catches Wyatt Tanner smack dab in the middle of an undercover op, or at least in the middle of a nefarious start of one, where he infiltrates a possible case of industrial espionage at Nova Star for the FBI. That much sets the tone for ‘Desperate Play’, where he gets tangled more and more in the affairs of Astrophysicist and employee of Nova Star Avery Caldwell who’s found herself an unwitting player in a murder investigation.

Freethy’s red herrings—in the form of random suggestions, insinuations and some supposed clues—that throw suspicion on every character do keep the good ol’ whodunnit mystery rolling and kept me guessing because the big picture couldn’t be put together. The only downside is that it didn’t make the secondary characters likeable at all, while putting only the protagonists above questioning.

Still, ‘Desperate Play’ ended up an unexpectedly slow read for me somehow, with a writing style—sentences, dialogue, etc—that felt a little…amateurish(?) at times…this is however, a personal preference about style coming into play here.

From a steady trot in the first quarter, I also thought that the pacing faltered towards the middle as I went through pages of Avery being a naive pushover where her dead, flaky friend was concerned (the questions she asks as well seem to show that), with Wyatt’s rather adept juggling of his undercover identity becoming the only thing that kept me going.

The rather unsettled ending is certainly a set-up for Freethy next few books in this series, but I did finish the book feeling a bit more short-changed than usual.

three-stars

Digging a Hole by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff

Digging a Hole by Mimi Jean PamfiloffDigging a Hole by Mimi Jean Pamfiloff
Series: OHellNo, #3
Published by Mimi Boutique on 19th June 2018
Pages: 173
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three-stars

HE’S THE MEANEST BOSS EVER.SHE’S THE SWEET SHY INTERN.THEY’RE ABOUT TO WRECK EACH OTHER CRAZY.

My name is Sydney Lucas. I am smart, deathly shy, and one-hundred percent determined to make my own way in the world. Which is why I jumped at the chance to intern for Mr. Nick Brooks despite his reputation. After ten failed interviews at other companies, he was the only one offering. Plus, everyone says he knows his stuff and surely a man as stunningly handsome as him can’t be “the devil incarnate,” right? Wrong.

Oh…that man. That freakin’ man has got to go! I’ve been on the job one week, and he’s insulted my mother, wardrobe shamed me, and managed to make me cry. Twice. Underneath that stone-cold, beautiful face is the evilest human being ever. But I’m not going to quit. Oh no. For once in my life, I’ve got to make a stand. Only every time I open my mouth, I can’t quite seem to muster the courage. Perhaps my revenge needs to come in another form: destroying him quietly.

Because I’ve got a secret. I’m not really just an intern, and Sydney Lucas isn’t my real name.

There’s always a bizarre lick to Mimi Jean Pamfiloff’s stories that I can’t seem to shake off each time I begin a book of hers. ‘Digging a Hole’ isn’t too different, where in alternating chapters, the flashback story of a crazy-arse tycoon tries to kidnap his own family and subject them to naked yoga is recounted. Add this to the general storyline of Georgie Walton/Sydney Lucas applying incognito for an internship within her family’s company under a mean, lean boss a few months later, the crazy does go a few notches up.

But I’ll admit that my challenge with a Pamfiloff read is always sifting the good from the insane. And as a large part of the story had to do with what happened a few months prior to Sydney/Georgie working for Nick, well, that bit came off as the least believable.

So needless to say, ‘Digging a Hole’ started off zany.

Georgie banked on the fact that she was invisible to people, without a fake identity or social security card—because it was glossed over. On the other hand, Nick Brooks had no sweet side. He abused, she cowered. He insulted, she cried, even if it was deliberate bullying as a test to see if she stood up for herself. But when all was finally untangled, their convoluted, complicated relationship merely showed the gap (in every sense of the word) between Georgie and Nick, especially the former’s naïveté and at-times juvenile behaviour, with some cringe-worthy scenes that I actually wished didn’t happen.

I did think that the characterisation of Georgie/Nick was shaky though, and them blowing hot and cold didn’t make it easy to get a grasp on either Georgie or Nick who seemed like 2 entirely different people by the time I was three-quarter way through the story.

The long and short of it is, if Pamfiloff dialled down the zany in her writing, I really think I could have liked this a lot more. Fiction obviously calls for the suspension of disbelief, but every Pamfiloff book that I’ve read swings back and forth between being absorbing and plain mad while aiming to keep a rom-com lightness to everything—just sometimes makes it impossible to do so. That she’s got some gems of insights, unexpected twists and some good ol’ writing for a solid plot cushioned in between made the book worth it for me, though I really wished these took centre stage instead of the over-the-top weirdness that hit me full-frontal.

Essentially, ‘Digging a Hole’ got good halfway through, as the odd bits finally, finally got left behind and the real thing kicked in, when the title finally made so much sense. I’m glad I pushed through to finish this.

three-stars