Introvert, Worrier, Owner of the blog "Caught in a FAB Romance", and resident Romance Guru on Parajunkee's View. I've been blogging about books for four years - if it's got romance in it, I'll read it! You can also find me on twitter, tweeting about books, my family, and sometimes, The Saints: @TheLoveJunkee Find me on Instagram:
PJV Quickie: Madame X was a surprise hit for me last year, and the second book, Exposed, left me waiting excitedly for the final book in the trilogy, Exiled. I want to say it was everything I expected, and while parts of it did have what I'd been hoping for in a conclusion, overall it was predictable and I'm embarrassed to say I skimmed over quite a bit. I guess you could say that I have mixed feelings about Exiled, and as a result, the trilogy as a whole.
The Madame X series has been my guilty pleasure ever since I picked up the first book, Madame X: amnesia, kidnapping, billionaire alpha-hole, illicit goings-on, a potential love triangle, a secret past, I loved it all. So when Exiled was offered for review, I jumped on it - I had to know what was going to happen to Isabel (Madame X) - could Caleb change? Would she pick freedom or the devil she knows? I had to know!
Exiled answered a lot of questions about Caleb's past, and Isabel's past. And while I was grateful for that, I didn't like the way it was told - Caleb told Jakob's story to Isabel, while Isabel's past was in flashbacks. Unfortunately, I found I didn't care for the flashbacks - to the point where I kind of skimmed them. Most of the interaction between Isabel and Caleb in Exiled is about the past, and that set the pace for their relationship.
Logan stayed true to his character from the previous books, wanting to get Isabel away from Caleb and secure her affections for himself. Which, wow, when I write that it looks pretty shady, which was not the vibe I got from Logan. He was actually almost too good to be true, and maybe that's why I found myself a little frustrated with Logan.
While I was happy Isabel was finally getting some personal growth, I felt like she was still wishy-washy about Caleb and after all that had happened I wanted her to choose herself over both men. As the story progressed, I realized that she had switched the "You" from Caleb to Logan, and that made me feel like her character had no sense of herself as an individual person, which made me sad.
My main complaint with Exiled was the use of deus ex machina on several plot points: Logan's injury, a pregnancy (insert eyeroll here over THAT whole plot line), the death of Isabel's parents...so much of it was predictable but I knew there would be a great story behind it - but there wasn't. I almost feel like the trilogy could have been pared down to two longer books, because Exiled was too long and rambling. I don't know how I feel about the trilogy after reading Exiled - I loved the first two books but can I recommend them knowing what happens in the last book? Or recommend that you read the first two and then imagine your own HEA? I'm on the fence.
I have to be honest, I wasn't really sure I was going to like this - I don't know why, because I like sports romance, but I just wasn't feeling this one. I read and LOVED The Wall of Winnipeg, and then Lingus, so I decided to go for it... I'm so glad I did! I liked the characters, the grumpy a$$hole coach, and the slow-building romance. Good characters and interesting story that kept my attention throughout.
I think Mariana Zapata has become an auto-buy author for me.
J.R. Ward can write the hell out of a story. Seriously. She's taken this awful, horrible family and turned them into tragically sympathetic characters. I didn't know at the end of the first book if she could pull it off, but she did it. And left me wanting more.
Before I get started, I need to say that if you're new to the series and are expecting one of her Black Dagger Brotherhood stories, this isn’t it. The Bourbon Kings series is a fictional look at the lives of a wealthy Kentucky bourbon family, and this family makes daytime soap operas look like super-happy-fun-hour. And I loved it.
In the first book, The Bourbon Kings, we learn about the Baldwine family and their dysfunctional lives and loves. At the end of the book, the patriarch of the family has died, leaving everything in chaos - missing funds, illegitimate children, and shady deals topping the list. We get a sense of the entitlement they've been born into, and they're really just horrible people. But even as I closed the pages of The Bourbon Kings, I wanted more. And The Angels' Share delivers exactly what I hoped it would.
You know there's a lot going on when an author includes a list of the main characters at the beginning of a book. And usually that's a problem with me because I can never keep everyone straight, but luckily, the story was so interesting and each character is so different that I had no trouble keeping up:
The mystery of William Baldwine's death hangs heavy over each character as the local law enforcement are investigating his possible murder.
Lane and Lizzie are still going strong and trying to muddle through the mess Lane's father left behind. And every time he thinks he might be getting a handle on things, something else happens. I'm really enjoying Lane's growth from a spoiled rich kid avoiding reality into a man who is actively trying to save this failing company, but I'm also still frustrated that Lizzie is just a supporting character. I feel like if she was missing from the book it really would't affect anything. I'm hoping her actions at the end of the book will give her a bigger part in the next installment.
Lane's brother Edward is back, and while he is more three-dimensional and interesting in The Angels' Share, I don't know if that's going to last. His romance with the competing Bourbon dynasty's daughter is sweet, but soooo frustrating because neither one seems to be capable of saying "let's do this" and his story has taken an interesting turn.
We get to meet the elusive, long-lost brother, Max, but again, we are left hanging because we learn absolutely nothing about where he's been or what he's been up to.
Gin, the only daughter in the Baldwine family, was very unlikable in The Bourbon Kings, but I think her character arc matches Lane's for most personal growth. She is one of the characters I'm most looking forward to reading more - she's in a terrible relationship, has hit rock bottom, and she's starting to realize that she's responsible for her own actions. Of course, you can't read Gin's story without Samuel T., Lane's attorney and best friend. Gin and Samuel have this antagonistic relationship that could be beautiful. But probably won't. But oh gawd I hope it will.
Mack, the master distiller, has a secret that could save Bradford Bourbon, but he's got to have the supplies available to make the bourbon, which is hard to do when the company is bankrupt.
And, some new characters are introduced that may or may not have a big part in the next book - I can't decide and Ward keeps me guessing, but I think I like them :)
If it sounds like The Angels' Share is all over the place, it's not really. The story line moves forward steadily but jumps around enough to keep the reader's attention throughout. Ward's signature over-the-top writing is unmistakable in The Angels' Share, and the salacious 80's nighttime soap opera feel is still present. I know a lot of people thought that this would be "Edward's book" and that's not what happened here - Lane is still the main focus but Edward does get more page time in The Angels' Share, if that's any consolation. I personally like the way the story is being told because I don't feel like Lane's story is done yet. I'm looking forward to the next installment in this fantastically excessive series.
PJV Quickie: I love Alice Clayton's funny, sexy writing style and that style shines in Cream of the Crop. I really enjoyed this "city girl meets country boy" romance!
Natalie Grayson lives and loves life in Manhattan - she's a city girl through and through. As an ad executive, she stays busy and in her off time she dates, eats, and enjoys life. When she gets the chance to work on an ad campaign for a nearby town upstate, she jumps on it - her best friend lives there, and so does the hot brie guy at the local farmer's market.
Oscar Mendoza owns Bailey Falls Creamery, and he's definitely noticed the buxom beauty that sashays across the farmer's market every Saturday morning. The last thing he expects though, is to find her at his farm in Bailey Falls, terrifying his cows.
Sparks fly immediately, but can the heat survive their different lifestyles, an ever-present ex-wife, and hurts from past relationships?
Usually, when I read a romance novel, I fall in love with the hero and enjoy the heroine. I think in this case, I've fallen in love with the heroine and enjoyed the hero. In the character of Natalie, Alice Clayton has written someone that I really liked reading - her past as an overweight female, her feelings of not being good enough, are relatable. The fact that she was able to overcome a bad situation and turn it around to become as successful and confident as she is ranks her right up there with all the "kick ass" heroines in my book. For me, Oscar wasn't really the focal point in the story, which is kind of a change for me. I liked him, I was frustrated by him, but most of my attention was focused on Natalie. I will say that Natalie and Oscar had a hot, sweaty, dirty sexy relationship, but the sweet didn't come in until near the end, and it was worth the wait.
This is the second book in the series but I think it works well as a stand-alone. I was happy to see characters from the first book, Nuts, and I do recommend you read Nuts if you love funny sexy reads, but if you somehow obtained a copy of Cream of the Crop without reading Nuts you'll be fine.
Lastly...Darn you Alice Clayton - this is the second time you've made me want to pack up all my stuff and move to a small town in New York! I'm afraid that after reading the next book I may actually rent a U-haul!
PJV Quickie:You guys, this series is so much fun. And sexy. And ohhhhhh! I love the viking lore, the sexy alpha males, the tough women in Freya's Crows...I could go on and on. If you don't have time to scroll down to the review I'll say it here: You want to read this series!!!
Jace Berisha was killed by her husband. Now she's one of Freya's warriors in a band of women called the Crows. The change in life of being the wife of a religious cult leader to an almost immortal warrior has been a big one, but Jace has the support of her sister crows - they all have a story, and they (kind of) respect each other's boundaries. Usually. As an introvert, Jace spends a lot of time trying to hide from her more outgoing sisters, but when she's needed, she's there.
A recovery mission to obtain one of Freya's bracelets goes horribly wrong, and a few of the Protectors, another of the nine clans, walks in on the chaos. They're there to collect ancient books, and don't expect the scene that is unfolding in front of them. Ski Ericson is one of the Protectors, an owl-like clan of scholars. When they learn of Jace's skills as a translator, they ask her to help with some ancient texts their having difficulty with. Jace uses the time to get away from her wild and crazy Crow sisters while simultaneously getting to know Ski and the Protectors better.
We don't get a lot of Ski's history in The Undoing, which is actually fine because Jace has enough history for the both of them. What we do get is a vengeful goddess out for vengeance, a slow-building romance that is absolutely adorable, and a crazy cast of characters that I can't wait to read more about. I could identify with Jace's introverted character, and loved the studious Protectors. We also get to see how Kera and Vig from book 1 are doing, and there's more adorable canine goodness all over The Undoing.
Ms. Laurenston writes a great story between Jace and Ski while simultaneously making the overall series arc relevant and interesting. Some of the viking lore and the events surrounding the coming Ragnarock, which they are trying to prevent, does get a little confusing, but overall I loved the story and the overarching story arc. I would recommend reading The Unleashing before reading The Undoing. I cannot wait to read the next book in the series, The Unyielding, which is Erin and Stieg's story.
I said it above and I'll say it again - this is a really interesting series full of viking lore, alpha men and women, and adorable dogs. Add in the action, mystery, sex, and violence and you've got a winner! If you like her other series (Pride and Magnus Pack books) this one is a little different but still keeps her signature over the top writing.
PJV Quickie:I just finished reading A Court of Mist and Fury and I can't breathe. Can't. Breathe. I've been on a roller coaster and didn't want to get off at the end of the ride - now I'm stuck at the back of the line, waiting, waiting for my turn on the next ride in May 2017 when the third installment of this amazing series drops. Somebody hold me*cries*
Without giving spoilers for the first book, A Court of Thorns and Roses (ACOTAR), A Court of Mist and Fury (ACOMAF) picks up three months after the events ending ACOTAR. Feyre is having survivor's guilt from the horrible events that happened under the mountain. Tamlin and his court have been going out and fighting to keep the Spring Court safe, but they're leaving Feyre behind, stuck at home and making wedding plans, which she is ambivalent about but Tamlin insists will be good for the morale of his people.
Neither of them have forgotten the bargain Feyre made with Rhysand while she was under the mountain, and his timing to collect his debt is suspicious. Forced to spend time at the Night Court, Feyre begins to question Tamlin, herself, and everything she thought she knew about the faerie world.
You guys, this book!!! I picked up ACOTAR because I needed something to read on the plane and I'm so glad I did. I fell in love with Feyre, and the worldbuilding, and S. J. Maas' writing. As soon as I closed the last page I requested ACOMAF from my local library. It was totally worth the wait.
While I had my frustrations with Feyre in ACOTAR, she shone in ACOMAF. Her character growth during the course of ACOMAF is astounding and I loved every minute of it - she has abilities! And she's encouraged to grow them! Ms. Maas takes the way we thought things were in the faerie world and turns everything on its head, and she does it spectacularly. Without going into too much detail, I'm going to say that Rhysand is an awesome anti-hero and I adore him! We also meet some genuinely interesting characters and by the end of the book I loved them as much as I loved Feyre.
Some people might say that there is a love triangle in this series but I'm going to say that there's not. No spoilers but it's definitely not a love triangle. There is romance though, and it's a delicious slow build that I loved every minute of.
The end of ACOMAF left me crying for the next book - so many twists that I cannot wait to see how things are going to resolve. Is it 2017 yet? *checks calendar*
Fans of YA (be warned - there is some sex) and fantasy will love A Court of Mist and Fury. If you've read a little bit and are on the fence about whether it's a genre you like, give this series a try before you give up on YA Fantasy. Fans of Leigh Bardugo, Julie Kagawa, and Melissa Marr should give this series a try.
PJV Quickie:Get ready for fangirling - Penny Reid is my go-to author when I need a read that's guaranteed to catch and keep my interest, and The Player and the Pixie is no exception. This is the second installment in The Rugby series, Ms. Reid's collaboration with L.H. Cosway, and I loved it!
Rainbow-haired Lucy Fitzpatrick loves her mother, sometimes. Having an image-conscious mother she can never please leaves Lucy wanting to be her own free spirit. She's close to her brother, Ronan, and his fiancee, Annie, but they're in a fresh, new relationship and Lucy doesn't want to be a third wheel. A move to New York has helped, but you can never escape family. And when pressure is on, Lucy gets uncontrollable urges to steal things - nothing big, but she knows it's wrong. She's doing well in New York, until she runs into Sean Cassidy, her brother's teammate and mortal enemy. Sparks fly between them, and when Sean asks Lucy for a favor, she can't say no.
Sean Cassidy is living a cold, empty life. He's a top rugby star, he's rich, and women throw themselves at him regularly. But he's cold inside. When Lucy Fitzpatrick stumbles into his life, he's intrigued. And when he pays her a visit intending to rile her brother, he's surprised to find he likes her. A lot. And he wants to see her again.
If I had to choose one word to describe this book it would be "smoldering". I love the "teammate's sibling" trope and the fact that Sean and Lucy's brother Ronan absolutely hated each other made for some great tension: Lucy and Sean wanted each other, wanted it badly, but the complication of Lucy's fear of losing Ronan made things so difficult.
I liked that both Lucy and Sean had difficult backgrounds and therefore were able to see and understand the little 'tics' that someone else would write off as difficult or too much trouble. The steps that these two danced around each other were delicate, observant, and intense. Lucy's very real distress over her feelings for Sean vs her love for her brother provided a seemingly insurmountable obstacle to her own happiness, and I wanted that happiness for her character, very, very badly. I think that a lot of readers might read Sean as an asshole and write him off, but reading about his past and seeing Lucy uncover his insecurities were part of the reason I loved The Player and the Pixie. I also though the sex issues for Sean were...interesting and different. Different, but believable, if that makes sense.
While I do believe this counts as a "sports romance", there's not much field time - most of the book is focused on Lucy and Sean's relationships. And while I loved seeing how things were progressing for Ronan and Annie from book 1 (The Hooker and the Hermit), I'd say it can be read as a stand-alone if you want to jump in at Book 2. That being said, I highly recommend The Hooker and the Hermit as well (my review is here).
TLDR: I loved The Player and the Pixie - great characters, smoldering tension, and I didn't mention it above but the sex was pretty hot. I tore through this book in a day, and that hasn't happened for me in quite some time. I hope this series continues because I'm enjoying it thoroughly.
If you're already a fan of Penny Reid or L.H. Cosway, you know how good this book is going to be :) If you like sports romance, or the "teammate's sibling" trope, I would definitely recommend The Player and the Pixie. If you're just looking for a fun, contemporary romance or are trying to break a 'book slump', The Player and the Pixie might be exactly what you need.
PJV Quickie:I am a huge fan of Christina Lauren's Wild Seasons series and each time a new book comes out I swear that it's my favorite. It's happened again - I adored the back-and-forth between Luke and London and they're my new favorite couple in the series!
London Hughes has a plan for her life - not to have a plan. She's happy surfing, bartending, and hanging out with her friends. She's done the whole "in love" thing, and gotten her heart broken in the process. Now she keeps her heart firmly protected from ever getting hurt again. An off day sends her into the path of sexy Luke Sutter - she never dates the customers, but one tiny exception to her rule won't hurt anything, right?
Luke Sutter has earned reputation as a man-whore since his breakup with Mia years ago. He and Mia had been childhood sweethearts, so when they broke up he kind of went overboard, which hasn't been a problem, until London. Now that he wants a relationship, he's fallen for the one girl who doesn't want anything serious, and she won't take him seriously because of his reputation.
As Luke and London form a friendship "with benefits", things start to get complicated (as things tend to do) when Luke wants more and London doesn't know if she has more to give. Toss her new-ish friendship with Mia into the mix and things go from complicated to impossible.
Ohhhhh... I loved Luke and London's story. It's flirtatious and charming but also HOT, although that's not what kept me reading. I love how Christina Lauren writes their characters so fully, as you read along you feel like you're with them, chatting at the bar or worrying over other characters' reactions. I felt like I knew these people, and their happiness was important to me.
The story was character-driven and the dialogue was wonderful. Their journey to happiness was full of self-inflicted road blocks, and they both had to work hard to get to their HEA. There were moments where I wanted to choke each of them, and other moments where I *may* have been a bit swoony. There were a few spots where I felt frustrated with the characters inability to move forward, but overall I loved the story.
Addendum: I am in love with Not-Joe's character; he's such a pleasant surprise. More please!
If you're already a Christina Lauren fan, you know you can't miss an installment to this series. If you haven't read their books before, Wicked Sexy Liar could be read as a stand-alone, but you may get confused about some of the group dynamics that carry the story. Start with Book 1 - Sweet Filthy Boy.
PJV Quickie:Wow, is this really book 9? The books go by so fast with a series you love! Patty Briggs' Mercedes Thompson series is excellent and I think Fire Touched is near the top as a favorite book in this series.
Patricia Briggs is a genius storyteller. If you haven't read any of her books, I am here to tell you that you are in for a treat any time you crack one of her books open. If you have read her books, you know I'm not exaggerating. Since this is book 9 in the series, I'm not going into background story, I'm just going to dive right in:
Briggs doesn't waste any time in Fire Touched - as the book opens, we are immediately alerted to Mercy's sense that trouble is near. As if her word isn't enough, one of my favorite mysteries in the Mercy universe appears on page 2 - the walking stick. (If you've wondered about the walking stick as much as I have then you're not going to want to skip this book.) What follows is a riveting tale of magic and danger, infused with humor and a little romance.
After a battle with a bridge troll (she was right, trouble was right around the corner!), Mercy ends up claiming the Tri-Cities area as Pack territory and offers sanctuary to any who ask. Relations with the fae are strained at best, and the human boy who asks for sanctuary has the potential to shatter the delicate truce, such as it is, between the Pack and the fae. Not only the fae, but werewolf and other supernatural relationships are affected by Mercy's declaration.
Fire Touched is a gift to fans of the series - we are reunited with many previous characters (friend and foe) and introduced to new ones. Some of the things that happen in Fire Touched are game changers and will leave you wondering how Mercy, Adam, and the Pack will survive in this new normal that's been created. I loved that Mercy and Adam worked as a team throughout the story, and that the Pack is growing and changing for the better. Some readers were upset with the Pack's treatment of Mercy in book 8, Night Broken, and I think Adam will be redeemed in their eyes by his actions in Fire Touched.
Fans of the series aren't going to want to miss this one. If you've fallen away or are thinking the series is too long, give it one more chance with Fire Touched.
I would not recommend as a stand-alone, there's too much back-story for most of the book to make sense. Start with the first book - Moon Called - you won't regret it.
PJV Quickie:You guys, I love this trilogy! Starting with Overruled, then Sustained, and finishing with Appealed, I have really enjoyed this group of characters and the world they live in.
Kennedy Randolph has been in love with Brett since they were kids. After she gave her heart to him and got burned, twice, she decided to never get hurt again. Now, she's back in DC and wants to prove she's over him and his obnoxious-teenage-jerk self.
Brett Mason works hard in the courtroom and plays hard in the bedroom. The loss of his leg in a childhood accident has never slowed him down. When the new prosecutor he's facing off against turns out to be a childhood friend, he thinks it's going to be a quick, easy case - he couldn't be more wrong.
When Kennedy and Brett are forced to work together and get along in the courtroom, Brett is surprised at all the hurt Kennedy is still carrying from their teenage years. He learns what a hard time Kennedy had at the hands of his so-called friends, and he knows he's got a lot to make up for. Kennedy doesn't know if she can forgive the past, but Brett is determined to prove they have a future together.
Ohhhh, this book pulled at all kinds of my heartstrings. Kennedy and Brett were great together, but they had to do some real work to get there. Ms. Chase has written an engaging story, threading the past and present together to create a realistic tale that shows the after affects of teen bullying and how it affects decisions made as an adult. I like that Brett doesn't get off easy because of his money and charm, that Kennedy's pain is real and not brushed off as insignificant. Brett's sessions with his therapist (hello positive mental health care portrayal!) and his young butler are an entertaining glimpse into his psyche. Appealed has the steamy sexy scenes we expect from Emma Chase, which I enjoy, but it's the relationships and humorous writing that I look forward to. She writes this series from the hero's point of view, which I also find refreshing.
There is a sub-plot involving Brett's client, a 17-year-old computer hacker - really a bored and lonely kid, that moved the story along and kept things interesting when the reader needs a break from Brett and Kennedy's intensity.
There were some issues for me, including Kennedy's treatment of said hacker, and Kennedy and Brett's mothers behavior was more than a little off-putting, but overall I really enjoyed Appealed - it's a solid ending to this trilogy.
Fans of second chance love, friends to enemies tropes, or legal settings will love Appealed. Fans of Julie James or N.M. Silber will probably enjoy Appealed. This book can be read as a standalone, although the characters from previous books do have parts in the story.
PJV Quickie:Between a Vamp and a Hard Place was a cute, fun paranormal read. You're not going to find anything new or groundbreaking in PNR Vampire lore here, but there's a lot of humor in the story and I enjoyed the heroine and her BFF. Although this is not my favorite Jessica Sims book, I enjoyed the time I spent reading it.
Lindsey Hughes and her best friend Gemma have been besties almost their entire lives. They grew up in a State home together and now run an antique store. They're barely scraping by when a "friend" of Gemma's offers them exclusive rights to the contents of an old, abandoned apartment in Venice. Despite her misgivings, Lindsey agrees to go and try to recoup their savings. What they find when they get there is more than their wildest dreams...
Rand FitzWulf has been a vampire for 200 years, plus the 600 years he's been laying in a coffin, staked in the heart. When a beautiful woman wakes him up, he realizes someone tried to kill him and he vows revenge, but he's going to need help navigating this new and confusing time he's awakened in.
As Lindsey and Rand solve the puzzle of what happened to him, they are on their way to confronting a foe bigger than Lindsey could have imagined, and although she fixed Rand's heart by pulling out the stake, as they spend more time together she's losing hers.
By looking at the cover, I thought this book was part of the Midnight Liaisons series, but as soon as I read the blurb I realized it was not - Between a Vamp and a Hard Place is a standalone novel. It was fun and sexy, but as I state in my PJV Quickie, nothing new in the vampire lore - holy water, garlic, and daytime are bad for the vamps, they're able to use compulsion, and of course the heroine has 'special' blood.
What grabbed me with this book is the heroine's sense of humor - she's just plain funny. I found myself smiling a lot while reading Between a Vamp and a Hard Place. The hero's difficulty adjusting to present day and the snarky comments Lindsey and Gemma give him are hysterical. I also felt like the pacing moved well and the story moved quickly.
There were one or two inconsistencies and a few spots that earned eye rolls, but overall it was nice to spend a few hours with these characters and I'm looking forward to whatever Ms. Sims has planned next!
Fans of Molly Harper and Ashlyn Chase should give Between a Vamp and a Hard Place a try. If you're looking for a sexy paranormal romance and vamps are your catnip, this is one you won't want to miss.
Hey all! I've been absent from the PJV of late, but I'm determined to make the New Year a fresh start. But before I jump in to the new year, I wanted to note some of my favorites from last year.
Six days ago, astronaut Mark Watney became one of the first people to walk on Mars. Now, he's sure he'll be the first person to die there. After a dust storm nearly kills him & forces his crew to evacuate while thinking him dead, Mark finds himself stranded & completely alone with no way to even signal Earth that he’s alive—& even if he could get word out, his supplies would be gone long before a rescue could arrive. Chances are, though, he won't have time to starve to death. The damaged machinery, unforgiving environment or plain-old "human error" are much more likely to kill him first. But Mark isn't ready to give up yet. Drawing on his ingenuity, his engineering skills—& a relentless, dogged refusal to quit—he steadfastly confronts one seemingly insurmountable obstacle after the next. Will his resourcefulness be enough to overcome the impossible odds against him?
I loved The Martian, which is weird for me because there's no romance in it. My husband read it first and convinced me to read it. The audiobook is spectacular. If you saw the movie and weren't impressed - the book was better; I don't think the humor translated onto the big screen very well. My Rating: 5 stars.
Graduate student Vivienne Charles is afraid of her own desires—ashamed to admit that she fantasizes about being taken by force, by a man who will claim her completely and without mercy. When the magnetic, mysterious Jonah Marks learns her secret, he makes an offer that stuns her: they will remain near-strangers to each other, and meet in secret so that he can fulfill her fantasy. Their arrangement is twisted. The sex is incredible. And—despite their attempts to stay apart—soon their emotions are bound together as tightly as the rope around Vivienne’s wrists. But the secrets in their pasts threaten to turn their affair even darker... Reader Advisory: Asking for It deals explicitly with fantasies of non-consensual sex. Readers sensitive to portrayals of non-consensual sex should be advised.
Asking For It was an unexpected treat - it was dark, it was different, and I devoured it. The subject matter may be difficult for some readers, but if you don't have triggers, I highly recommend - definitely read the blurb first. My Rating: 5 stars.
Can Evie convince her rival loves to work together? Their survival depends on it in this third book of #1 New York Times bestselling author Kresley Cole’s Arcana Chronicles, a nonstop action tale of rescue, redemption, and a revenge most wicked. Heartbreaking decisions Evie was almost seduced by the life of comfort that Death offered her—until Jack was threatened by two of the most horrific Arcana, the Lovers. She will do anything to save him, even escape Death’s uncanny prison, full of beautiful objects, material comforts…and stolen glances from a former love. Uncertain victory Despite leaving a part of her heart behind with Death, Evie sets out into a perilous post-apocalyptic wasteland to meet up with her allies and launch an attack on the Lovers. Such formidable enemies require a battle plan, and the only way to kill them may mean Evie, Jack, and Death allying. Evie doesn’t know what will prove more impossible: surviving slavers, plague, Bagmen and other Arcana—or convincing Jack and Death to work together. Two heroes returned There’s a thin line between love and hate, and Evie just doesn’t know where she stands with either Jack or Death. Will this unlikely trio be able to defeat The Lovers without killing one another first...?
I love this series. I get frustrated that Kresley Cole isn't writing it faster, until I remember that she's also writing the Immortals After Dark series and the Game Maker series, both of which I also love. I listened to Dead of Winter and the audiobook narration was excellent. My Rating: 5 stars.
Lydia Kincaid's shipping back to Boston, but she's not happy about it. She left to get away from the firefighting community—her father was a firefighter, her brother's a firefighter and, more important, her ex is a firefighter. But family is number one, and her father needs her help running the pub he bought when he retired. Soon, Lydia finds it hard to resist the familiar comfort and routine, and even harder to resist her brother's handsome friend Aidan. Aidan Hunt is a firefighter because of the Kincaid family. He's had the hots for Lydia for years, but if ever a woman was off-limits to him, it's her. Aside from being his mentor's daughter, she's his best friend's sister. The ex-wife of a fellow firefighter. But his plan to play it cool until she leaves town again fails, and soon he and Lydia have crossed a line they can't uncross. As Aidan and Lydia's flirtation turns into something more serious, Lydia knows she should be planning her escape. Being a firefighter's wife was the hardest thing she's ever done, and she doesn't know if she has the strength to do it again. Aidan can't imagine walking away from Boston Fire—even for Lydia. The job and the brotherhood are his life; but if he wants Lydia in it, he'll have to decide who's first in his heart.
I was a little hesitant to read this - I love Shannon Stacey's Kowalski family books, but I didn't care for her 'Under the Lights' series, so I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed 'Heat Exchange'. Having a husband and brother who are career law enforcement, and the kids I grew up with are now firemen, I feel like Ms. Stacey really 'got' the mindset of first responders. I have the second book in my purse and ready to read as I type this. My Rating: 5 stars.
Is it possible to expose Chicago’s hottest player—without getting played? This is the story I've been waiting for all my life, and its name is Malcolm Kyle Preston Logan Saint. Don’t be fooled by that last name though. There’s nothing holy about the man except the hell his parties raise. The hottest entrepreneur Chicago has ever known, he’s a man’s man with too much money to spend and too many women vying for his attention. Mysterious. Privileged. Legendary. His entire life he’s been surrounded by the press as they dig for tidbits to see if his fairytale life is for real or all mirrors and social media lies. Since he hit the scene, his secrets have been his and his alone to keep. And that’s where I come in. Assigned to investigate Saint and reveal his elusive personality, I’m determined to make him the story that will change my career. But I never imagined he would change my life. Bit by bit, I start to wonder if I'm the one discovering him...or if he's uncovering me. What happens when the man they call Saint, makes you want to sin?
I loved Manwhore - it was a twist on the Billionaire hero trope and it felt fresh and modern. My Rating: 4 stars.
From New York Times bestselling author Alice Clayton, the first in a brand-new romance series telling the humorously sexy tale of Roxie, a private chef who gets a taste of love—but is it to stay, or to go? After losing almost all of her clients in one fell swoop following an accident involving whipped cream, private chef to Hollywood’s elite Roxie Callahan gets a call from her flighty mother, saying she’s needed home in upstate New York to run the family diner. Once she's back in the Hudson Valley, local organic farmer Leo delivers Roxie a lovely bunch of walnuts, and soon sparks—and clothing—begin to fly. Leo believes that everything worth doing is worth doing slowly…and how! But will Roxie stay upstate, or will the lure of West Coast redemption tempt her back to Tinseltown?
I am a huge Alice Clayton fangirl, and 'Nuts' did not disappoint. Funny, sexy, and it made me want to look into my local farmer's market and 'buy local' food movement. My Rating: 5 stars.
~THE PRINCE OF NO VALUE~ Brishen Khaskem, prince of the Kai, has lived content as the nonessential spare heir to a throne secured many times over. A trade and political alliance between the human kingdom of Gaur and the Kai kingdom of Bast-Haradis requires that he marry a Gauri woman to seal the treaty. Always a dutiful son, Brishen agrees to the marriage and discovers his bride is as ugly as he expected and more beautiful than he could have imagined. ~THE NOBLEWOMAN OF NO IMPORTANCE~ Ildiko, niece of the Gauri king, has always known her only worth to the royal family lay in a strategic marriage. Resigned to her fate, she is horrified to learn that her intended groom isn't just a foreign aristocrat but the younger prince of a people neither familiar nor human. Bound to her new husband, Ildiko will leave behind all she's known to embrace a man shrouded in darkness but with a soul forged by light. Two people brought together by the trappings of duty and politics will discover they are destined for each other, even as the powers of a hostile kingdom scheme to tear them apart.
A wonderful fantasy romance. If you liked The Last Hour of Gann, you’ll like this. If you thought Gann was too long or too violent, try Radiance instead. (If you haven't read The Last Hour of Gann, you need to. Seriously. Click here for my raving review.) I loved the hero and heroine and their sense of humor about their situations. I also loved the slow, sweet romance that neither of them expected. Also, Radiance has great worldbuilding. My Rating: 5 stars.
New York’s Finest Blogging as *The Socialmedialite* April 22 LADIES AND GENTS! I have an announcement! You know that guy I featured on my blog a few months ago? The really, really hot Irish rugby player who plays the position of ‘hooker’ in the RLI (Rugby League International)? The one with the anger management issues, the body of a gladiator and the face of a movie star? The one with the questionable fashion choices leading me to ask whether he was the lovechild of a leprechaun and a hobbit? Ronan Fitzpatrick? Yeah, that guy. Well, I have a confession to make… THE HERMIT Annie Catrel, social media expert extraordinaire at Davidson & Croft Media and clandestine celebrity blogger, can make anyone shine in the court of public opinion. She is the Socialmedialite, anonymous creator of New York’s Finest and the internet’s darling. Virtual reality is Annie’s forte, but actual reality? Not so much. THE HOOKER Ronan Fitzpatrick, aka the best hooker the world of rugby has seen in decades, despises the media—social or otherwise. The press has spun a web of lies depicting him as rugby’s wild and reckless bad boy. Suspended from his team, Ronan has come to Manhattan to escape the drama, lay low, fly under the radar. Only, Ronan isn’t easy to overlook, and he can’t escape the notice of the Socialmedialite… THE PLAN When Ronan is sent to Davidson & Croft Media to reshape his public image, he never expects to cross paths with shy but beautiful Annie, nor does he expect his fierce attraction to her. He couldn’t be happier when her boss suggests pairing them together. What lengths will Annie take to keep her virtual identity concealed? And what happens when the hooker discovers who the hermit really is? The Hooker and the Hermit is a collaboration between authors L.H. Cosway and Penny Reid, is a full length 100k word novel, and is a standalone.
You guys, Penny Reid seriously took over Romancelandia this year - in addition to 'The Hooker and the Hermit', I also read and loved her 'Elements of Chemistry' trilogy (my review here), and 'Truth or Beard' (review here) - a Winston Brothers book that is a spin-off of her Knitting in the City series. My Rating: 5 stars.
On the cusp of her first London season, Miss Madeline Gracechurch was shyly pretty and talented with a drawing pencil, but hopelessly awkward with gentlemen. She was certain to be a dismal failure on the London marriage mart. So Maddie did what generations of shy, awkward young ladies have done: she invented a sweetheart. A Scottish sweetheart. One who was handsome and honorable and devoted to her, but conveniently never around. Maddie poured her heart into writing the imaginary Captain MacKenzie letter after letter … and by pretending to be devastated when he was (not really) killed in battle, she managed to avoid the pressures of London society entirely. Until years later, when this kilted Highland lover of her imaginings shows up in the flesh. The real Captain Logan MacKenzie arrives on her doorstep—handsome as anything, but not entirely honorable. He’s wounded, jaded, in possession of her letters… and ready to make good on every promise Maddie never expected to keep.
I haven't been much for historicals in quite some time, but this has me jonesing for more. Super cute, light and entertaining, I'm ready for more hot scots!! I used my Christmas gift card to buy three more historicals thanks to Ms. Dare! My Rating: 4 stars.
And an additional shout-out to a few reads that I should probably also mention:
Even though it's not a book, I'm including a TV show in my list - Have you seen Netflix's Sense8 yet? You need to. Seriously. (Some brief nudity in the video, so probably NSFW) I love the diversity of the cast and the originality of the show; there's really nothing else like it on TV right now (that I'm aware of). This scene makes me swoony and happy every time I hear the song and I watch the video when I need cheering up.
What were some of your favorite reads in 2015? What are you looking forward to in 2016?
Share in the comments!
PJV Quickie: Penny Reid has written a humorous, heartfelt, and honest love letter to marriage. I was not expecting to feel as many emotions as I did while reading Happily Ever Ninja – some good, some not so good – but overall I was thrilled to be back in the Knitting in the City world.
Fiona Archer met the love of her life in college, got married, had a career and put it on hold after becoming a mother. Now, after 14 years of marriage, sometimes she feels like a shell of her former self – putting everyone’s needs ahead of your own is exhausting. Something needs to change, but the catalyst for that change is nothing she’d ever expected.
Greg Archer knew the moment he set eyes on Fiona that she was The One. Now, after two kids and years of marriage, she’s still The One. The One he lives for, The One his heart beats for. He misses her every day he’s away – and unfortunately, he’s away more often than he's home. An opportunity for Greg to spend more time at home has an unexpected outcome, and Greg and Fiona are left fighting – for their marriage and for their lives.
Hmmm…where to start? Mostly, I loved Happily Ever Ninja. If you’re an established Penny Reid fan, Happily Ever Ninja is a bit different than her other books, and in this case, that’s both a plus and a minus. This book doesn’t have as much of the signature humor I expect with this author; it’s a bit more serious than previous installments to the series. BUT, I still enjoyed reading Happily Ever Ninja and am looking forward to more adventures from the knitting group.
I’ve always liked Fiona as a secondary character and her turn as the main character was spectacular – she’s funny, smart, and nurturing all rolled up tight like a burrito. But, like a burrito, you can’t tell what’s inside by looking at the wrapper. Fiona has a lot going on and I think that of all of Penny Reid’s characters, I related to Fiona the most. I’d be surprised if most of her readers didn’t relate to Fiona and her frustrations on some level. Fiona’s family life, both as a young person and as a married adult, showcased her resilience and her ability to always see the good in people. Her frustrations with her husband, though, really got to me. Ms. Reid didn’t pull any punches when writing scenes between Fiona and Greg – some so syrupy sweet it made my teeth hurt, and some so maddening I wanted to throw my e-reader at my husband because Fiona’s anger really touched a nerve.
The chapters in Happily Ever Ninja move back and forth between college and present day, and I think it was a good choice by the author to remind us how Fiona and Greg fell in love. Greg was a great character – but he was frustrating to read. Strong headed and opinionated, I needed the reminder that there is also romance and uncertainty inside Greg too. His love for Fiona caused him to make impulsive decisions that made Fiona (and me) want to scream. But then, Ms. Reid would flash back to a scene where the reader (unfortunately not Fiona) was reminded why Greg does the things that he does.
Did I have a few quibbles with the story? Yes, but only a few. There were a few scenes where the humor felt forced (lady closet, anyone?) and I didn’t really see the point in making Greg British and using Britishisms as an adult if he moved to the US at age 15 - it felt like carrying something that’s not heavy but still awkward to hold, if that makes sense.
All in all though, Happily Ever Ninja is a tale of love in all of its glory and all of its misery, a story of how love grows and changes as we grow and change. One thing books often gloss over is how much work is required to keep love alive after that first blaze of new love is ignited – it’s not a magical fire that never needs to be re-stoked, sometimes it takes special care and attention to keep it burning - Ms. Reid captures it all in Happily Ever Ninja.
If you’re a fan of Ms. Reid’s Knitting in the City series, you don’t want to miss Happily Ever Ninja. It’s a great ‘falling in love again’ story and I love that the hero and heroine are not in their 20s and have an established family and a (relatively) long marriage. If you’re new to the series, I would not recommend starting here – try Neanderthal seeking Human (you won’t regret it!).
PJV Quickie:As soon as I finished Leaving Amarillo and Loving Dallas, I could not wait to get my hands on Missing Dixie. I am happy to report it was worth the wait - Missing Dixie is a fabulous ending to this compulsively readable New Adult trilogy.
We first met Dixie Lark and Gavin Garrison in Leaving Amarillo, and I fell in love with this tough-as-nails heroine and the broken man she had been secretly lusting over for longer than she'd care to admit. Dixie wants Gavin but she's not willing to play games, and he's asked her to wait while he "works stuff out". When she sees him at a bar with a good-looking blonde, she wonders what the hell she's waiting for.
What Dixie doesn't know is that Gavin really is back in town to wrap up past mistakes and make himself worthy of Dixie's love. But there are some things he can't shake off and he's stuck in a vicious cycle that he's been trying to manage by himself for too long.
At the end of Leaving Amarillo, I was so frustrated with Dixie and Gavin's relationship status! I didn't want to wait for resolution, I wanted it NOWWWWW! Then I read the second book, Dixie's brother Dallas' story, and enjoyed it so much I was willing to give the author a break and wait (sort of) patiently for Missing Dixie.
Caisey Quinn has given these characters an amazing story and I'm glad I took the journey. The growth between Dixie and Gavin from Book 1 to Book 3 has been entertaining and uplifting. At the risk of using the over-used phrase "a feel good story", it really was. From Dixie's music foundation for underprivileged children to Gavin's determination to overcome his childhood demons, I felt like I was seeing a side of the characters that I didn't know I wanted. Don't get me wrong, there are some serious issues addressed in Missing Dixie, and while real life does not always have a fairytale ending, I love the way things played out in the book.
I have thoroughly enjoyed this series and am looking forward to whatever Ms. Quinn is working on next. In the meantime, it looks like she has an interesting backlist that I will be checking out.
Fans of rock-star romance, New Adult, and romance in a small town should definitely check out this series. While I think Missing Dixie can probably be read as a stand-alone, I recommend reading the entire series in order. If you haven't tried New Adult before, this would be a good introduction to the genre. Fans of Liora Blake's True series or Nalini Singh's Rock Kiss series might want to give the Neon Dreams series a read.
PJV Quickie: I have been a fan of this series from the first book,True North, and I'm sorry this is the last book in the True trilogy. Ms. Blake has taken me on a wonderful journey and ended the series with a strong story that pulled my heartstrings and left me with a teary-eyed smile and a happy sigh.
Lacey Mosley wants her happily ever after. She knows she's in a rut in her tiny little hometown of Crowell, Montana, but doesn't know how to get out of the rut. Her sister has recently gotten married and had a baby and Lacey sees how happy they are and wants that for herself. But the closest thing she has to a love interest is her ex-boyfriend, the jerk-faced sheriff who doesn't know when to give up, and she's not touching him again with a 10-foot pole, or anything else for that matter.
Jake Holt didn't grow up in Crowell, he was dumped there as a teenager by his mother right before she took off for good. He was the town bad-boy, and he was miserable, until the head cheerleader shows up at his secret thinking spot one night. He and Lacey were opposites, for sure, but their attraction to each other was electric. She was the only thing he regretted leaving when he left town immediately after graduation.
10 years later, Jake is back in Crowell dropping off Lacey's rock-star brother-in-law. Jake's seen and done a lot in the last 10 years and now he's a pilot. He's led an exciting life away from Crowell, but one look at Lacey and he feels like he's come home. But Lacey still lives in the house she grew up in, and has worked down the street at the Beauty Barn her whole life. He doesn't know if he can convince Lacey to leave the only home she's ever known, but he knows he can't go back - the only good memory he has of Crowell is Lacey, and he doesn't know if that's enough.
I wasn't sure I was going to like Lacey - from the previous books, she seemed kind of bitchy. But Liora Blake seems to have a knack for taking what appears to be an unlikable heroine and making them sympathetic and appealing. We learned a lot about Lacey and her sister's relationship from Lacey's side and as a result I genuinely liked Lacey and wanted her to have her Happily Ever After. I could relate to her character far more than I'd like to admit and felt like I was in the book with Lacey, being taken along for the ride: good decisions, bad decisions, excitement and sadness, I was on that roller coaster with her.
Jake was absolutely charming - no Alpha-hole here. He was a genuinely good guy and his personality was sexy as hell (his physical description didn't hurt either *winks*). He genuinely liked Lacey and wasn't afraid to show it. I loved their long distance e-mails and phone calls, and that he wasn't afraid to tell Lacey what he was thinking.
In case you can't tell, I really, really liked True Divide. I'm going to let you in on a little secret: True Divide made me cry. Yes, it did! Not over Jake, but over Lacey's relationship with a secondary character that was so sweet and sad. I love when a book gets to me like that.
It appears this is the final book in the True trilogy. I really hope Ms. Blake has something else planned because I have enjoyed this trilogy from start to finish and would like to read more of her work. Each of the books can be read as a stand-alone, but I'm warning you now that once you read one you'll want to read the rest.
If you like second-chance romance, this book is definitely for you. Fans of long-distance lovers and small town romance should also give True Divide a read. I think True Divide will appeal to fans of Jill Shalvis or Shannon Stacey.
PJV Quickie:I know when I pick up an Alice Clayton book that I'm in for a good time. When I was at the RT 15 convention, I saw she had a new series coming up and did a happy dance right there in the lobby. The reality lived up to my hype: Nuts is an excellent debut to the Hudson Falls series and I can't wait to see what's next.
Roxie Callahan is a professional chef who's back in her hometown temporarily to run the family diner while her hippie mom participates in The Amazing Race. She's not thrilled about being home, because even though she graduated from a prestigious culinary school and cooks for the stars (sometimes), when she's home she feels like the awkward girl she was before she left. Roxie is determined that's not going to happen this time, and also that this is the last favor she's going to do for her flighty mom.
Leo Maxwell was a typical rich kid who floated through life on his parents' money. The Maxwell's are a famous banking dynasty, and Leo tried a few jobs in the family companies but nothing stuck. Then, he visited the family farm in Hudson Valley and fell in love with the organic farming movement. He decided to stay and turned it into a sustainable farm. He sells things at the local farmer's market, makes deliveries to local homes and businesses, and has a local co-op for people to participate in to get fresh produce and farm products.
After a very public and embarrassing introduction, Leo and Roxie run into each other a few times before they start dating. Things are going well, too well, but Roxie knows she's leaving at the end of the summer; there's nothing to keep her in Hudson Valley, is there? Only if you don't count new friends, a blossoming slow-food movement, the opportunity to make changes at the diner, and ...Leo. But even in a sleepy little town, some secrets are well hidden, and sometimes, they're game changers.
I am a huge fan of Alice Clayton so it's not surprising that I loved Nuts. She writes characters that are relatable and her books pull you in and make you feel like you're part of the cast of characters. In Nuts, Ms. Clayton's signature humor is in full force, and I had a great time reading it. There were so many opportunities for food/sex-related jokes, and she nailed it every time.
Roxie and Leo were great characters: I liked how Roxie wanted things to change so she made it happen instead of moping about how horrible her life is, and Leo's love for the organic/slow-food movement was contagious (I'm actually interested in learning more about it). The heat between these two was focused and burned hot; the humor softened the heat and at the same time turned it into something more.
I liked the supporting cast of characters, although it would have been nice to see more of Roxie's besties (I think one might be the next heroine) . Without giving away spoilers, there was only one character I didn't like, Polly, but I generally don't enjoy this kind of character so she might not bother other readers.
I've got to add this: Every time I think about this book, I think about those "Farmers Only dot com" commercials...in the best way, of course :) Nuts is going on my keeper shelf - funny, sexy, food-y, fabulous - what's not to love?
Fans of Alice Clayton's other books will definitely enjoy Nuts, as will fans of Penny Reid, Emma Chase, and Kristan Higgins. Readers who love romance but want laugh-out-loud moments and a strong story should give this one a try.