Monday, August 29, 2016

Called Up by Jen Doyle

Title: Called Up
Author: Jen Doyle
My Rating: A

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Calling It #2
Main Characters: Deke and Fitz
Release Date: August 2016
Publisher: Carina Press
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
There's one thing Max "Deke" Deacon can always count on besides his old high school teammates: Angelica "Fitz" Hawkins. But no matter how much Deke might secretly fantasize otherwise, a relationship with his best friend's sister is off limits. Until one unexpectedly smoldering encounter has Deke and Fitz giving in to the feelings they've both been fighting for far too long.

Fitz knows for a fact that it is not better to have loved and lost. After losing her parents, she'd rather lock up her heart and throw away the key than endure that kind of pain again. If that means giving up any hope of a lasting relationship, then so be it.

But with Deke, Fitz feels dangerously close to falling in love. She can't risk another broken heart—especially if it means losing one of her best friends for good. Now it's up to Deke to convince her that the safest place she could ever be is right here with him.

My Review:
I was worried going into this second book from this author because the first book was so good, but I should have had more faith. This book was fabulous, too...and that was in no small part to the character that is Fitz. Gah...everything about her story broke my heart. She has been through so much and still holds her head high. She's such a strong person.

And even better...this is a friends to lovers story...which I adore. Fitz and Deke have been best friends for years, but suddenly things seem to be changing between them. There's a new awareness that neither of them know what to do about. The thing is...Fitz is hiding things from Deke that he's never known about and suddenly all that stuff that's been buried for years is coming out, too. 

This story was so good. I love angst and this book is filled with it. Sixteen years ago, Fitz was on her way to Inspiration with her parents when a tornado struck...killing them and throwing her life into a tailspin. Because what she never knew is that her father had a whole other family in Inspiration...which includes three half-siblings that she never knew anything about. In a bizarre turn of events Fitz finds herself having to make a new life here in this small town where everyone loves her siblings...so she's the enemy. As if her life wasn't already tragic and devastating enough, but now she was the target for scorn and rampant bullying. How she ever survived that is astounding...and heartbreaking. I could have just read her story and loved the book because of so much that she overcame. 

But then there's Deke. Deke's story is very different from Fitz's. He's grown up in the center of town. He's a happy-go-lucky, friendly guy that everyone likes. He's always happy. And he likes everyone...including most every woman in town. Since his family owns the local bar where he works every night, he has LOTS of opportunity. He's a bit of a man-slut...Fitz's word for him. And his partner of choice for years just happens to be her biggest tormenter....but Deke never knew.  

I love how this relationship between them changes them both. It's a great character arc for both the hero and the heroine. And even better, I just really liked both of them, too. It was so fun to read how they work through their friendship as it becomes more. It felt very real, but kept those levels of romantic moments that melted my heart. I loved this story so much and then the story on the backdrop of baseball and the charity foundations that Fitz works with....it was all just phenomenal. 

I loved the book and highly recommend it. You can easily read both books in the series as a stand-alone, but they are both excellent books so I suggest you pick them both up. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

For Better or Worse by Lauren Layne

Title: For Better or Worse
Author: Lauren Layne
My Rating: A+

Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Series: The Wedding Belles #2
Main Characters: Heather and Josh
Release Date: August 2016
Publisher: Pocket Books
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: hot



Story Overview:
Will a budding wedding planner and her bad boy neighbor stop banging heads and start hearing wedding bells in the sexy second novel in USA TODAY bestselling author Lauren Layne’s irresistible new series that marries Sex and the City with The Wedding Planner?

When small-town girl Heather Fowler finally gets promoted from assistant to actual wedding planner, she’s determined to make it as one of Manhattan’s elite Wedding Belles. Unfortunately, her first client demands an opulent black-tie affair at the Plaza…in five months’ time. Heather’s days quickly become a flurry of cake tastings, dress-fittings, RSVP cards, and bridal tantrums. But what she’s really losing sleep over is the live music blaring from her playboy neighbor’s apartment all night.

Five years ago, Josh Tanner was an up-and-comer on Wall Street, complete with the penthouse and the migraines. But a grim cancer diagnosis made him realize there is more to life than the corner office. If only he could convince his pretty, workaholic neighbor to let loose, too. As Heather lets down her guard, Josh is surprised when he starts falling for the sweet, vulnerable woman hiding beneath those power suits. Soon, it’s Heather’s turn to convince Josh to take the biggest risk of all: love.

My Review:
This book was everything. It was sweet and romantic and funny and entertaining. At moments, it broke my heart and then in the next page I'd be laughing out loud. This book is exactly why I love to read so much. It gave me all the feels and was absolutely perfect. 

Josh and Heather have the best kind of relationship. It's snarky and contentious and filled with so much sexual chemistry that it leaps off the page. Their exchanges were fast and witty and reminded me so much of that kind of fast, snappy dialogue that Gilmore Girls was made famous for...just minus the teenage daughter. 

Heather is trying to relish every moment of her busy, frantic life in NYC. She's dreamed of living there her entire life. Part of that dream was the perfect apartment, and she's finally making enough money to live in it. The only problem...her neighbor. He spends equal amount of time playing music with his band and banging random women. His philosophy is that you can't take life too seriously, but Heather has goals and not getting any sleep doesn't work for her. 

The family dynamics for these two characters were interesting. They are both very close to their families, but that played out in very different ways for the two. I liked that. It added just another layer of emotional depth to the story.

But hands down this book is all about Josh and Heather and just how perfectly they fit together. From their dialogue (I adore how Josh calls her 4C and is obsessed with banana bread...and seriously, that played out PERFECTLY in that final scene...LOVED that so, so much) to their extremely sexy times, I truly did love these two together. 

This book was wonderful and I highly recommend it. I'm so excited that it's available in print so I can put it on my keeper shelf to re-read over and over again!

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review, but I bought myself a print copy of the book long ago as a preorder because this book is an auto-buy. Now I'm wondering if I should buy a second copy...just because I loved this book so much.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Sunset In Central Park by Sarah Morgan

Title: Sunset In Central Park
Author: Sarah Morgan
My Rating: A-

Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Series: From Manhattan with Love #2
Main Characters: Frankie and Matt
Release Date: August 2016
Publisher: Harlequin
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: spicy

Story Overview:
In the chaos of New York, true love can be hard to find, even when it's been right under your nose all along… 

Love has never been a priority for garden designer Frankie Cole. After witnessing the fallout of her parents' divorce, she's seen the devastation an overload of emotion can cause. The only man she feels comfortable with is her friend Matt—but that's strictly platonic. If only she found it easier to ignore the way he makes her heart race…

Matt Walker has loved Frankie for years but, sensing how fragile she is beneath her feisty exterior, has always played it cool. But then he uncovers new depths to the girl he's known forever and doesn't want to wait a moment longer. He knows Frankie has secrets and has buried them deep, but can Matt persuade her to trust him with her heart and kiss him under the Manhattan sunset?
 

My Review:
Honestly, the more I read of Sarah Morgan's writing the more I'm convinced that I just really like her writing voice...and I do really like this group of friends who all live together in this high rise apartment building that Matt built. Although I can also admit that Frankie is the character that I relate to the least personally...but that didn't keep me from enjoying her story. 

Frankie is a tried and true pessimist. Life (and her mother) has taught her to be this way. She devours horror books and movies, cannot be found near a rom-com movie, and hates the fact that half their party business is built around weddings and the farce that is the happily-ever-after. (I'll wager that most romance readers can't really relate to her that much.) But like her romance minded friend, Eva, I  was anxious to see her find her mushy center and fall in love. 

It doesn't quite happen that way, although she does discover that she way underestimated the need for good sex in her life...thanks to Matt. Matt is the big brother of one of her best friends and with his landscaping business and the fact that she's all about plants and flowers they have a ton in common...beyond the fact that they've been friends most their lives. 

Frankie has a huge character arc in this book. Her viewpoint on the world is very skewed and negative, especially when it comes to love. But it's nice to see Matt convince her otherwise. I also really liked that they've been such good friends for so long. He's going into this with full knowledge of what an uphill battle he has on his hands. 

I've enjoyed this series so much, and I'm so excited to read Eva's book. She's the true romantic of the bunch and throughout this book she was just so sad and lonely. She's alone and all her friends are pairing up. But it will be interesting to see how her story plays out especially since from the roundabout hints in place in this book, it looks like maybe her hero is the male version of Frankie...but even more so, since he's a horror author. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

In the Middle of Somewhere by Roan Parrish (audiobook)

Title:  In the Middle of Somewhere
Author: Roan Parrish
My Rating: A-
Narrator: Robert Nieman

Genre: Contemporary Romance (m/m)
Series: Middle of Somewhere #1
Main Characters: Daniel and Rex
Release Date: March 2016 (audiobook)
Publisher: Audible/Dreamspinner
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
13 hrs 31 mins

Daniel Mulligan is tough, snarky, and tattooed, hiding his self-consciousness behind sarcasm. Daniel has never fit in—not at home in Philadelphia with his auto mechanic father and brothers, and not at school where his Ivy League classmates looked down on him. Now, Daniel’s relieved to have a job at a small college in Holiday, Northern Michigan, but he’s a city boy through and through, and it’s clear that this small town is one more place he won’t fit in.

Rex Vale clings to routine to keep loneliness at bay: honing his muscular body, perfecting his recipes, and making custom furniture. Rex has lived in Holiday for years, but his shyness and imposing size have kept him from connecting with people.

When the two men meet, their chemistry is explosive, but Rex fears Daniel will be another in a long line of people to leave him, and Daniel has learned that letting anyone in can be a fatal weakness. Just as they begin to break down the walls keeping them apart, Daniel is called home to Philadelphia, where he discovers a secret that changes the way he understands everything.


My Review:
Overall: 4.25
Performance: 4.5
Story: 4.00

This is one of those series that I've heard about ever since the first book released, so when I saw that it was available on audio, I snatched it up. I'm so happy I did, because it was an excellent audiobook (and the second book was even better, but that review won't be up until next week.)

This story is about Daniel. He's that guy who has never fit in although he desperately tries to. He grew up in a household where he was the oddball. His overly masculine father and three brothers didn't know what to do with the gay academic. And now that he's a professor in a small Michigan town, he's the weird gay professor with all the tattoos. He's always stood out when all he wants to do is fit in. In fact, he works hard to make sure that he doesn't make waves anywhere. 

Rex doesn't understand that. He sees Daniel as this amazing guy who should stand out in everything so he doesn't understand when Daniel doesn't stand up for himself or for what he wants and needs in life. Although Rex has his own issues. He's always kept to himself and done his own thing...very much by himself. 

I loved getting to know these two guys. Neither one is real comfortable in his skin, but each of them becomes so much more when they are together. They're relationship is frantic and hot at first...and while it stays really hot, it truly becomes romantic. I love how Rex takes care of Daniel...in little ways that add up to so much. 

The book was just fantastic. The audiobook narrator was phenomenal. He manages to feed so much emotion into the characters. I loved that. I'm also completely obsessed with Daniel's brother's story. It's so obvious that there's so much more going on there than just what we see from Daniel's perspective. Believe me, once you have this one done, you'll want book #2 waiting in the wings. The stories intertwine and are so gorgeous together, although they truly can each be read as a stand-alone...there is so much more to the story that you don't get unless you read them both. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Gay for Pay by G.A. Hauser

Title: Gay for Pay
Author: G.A Hauser
My Rating: B+

Genre: Erotic Romance (m/m)
Series: -
Main Characters: Ari and Paul
Release Date: May 2016
Publisher: -
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: erotic

Story Overview:
Ari Bennett didn’t have the luxury of coming from a wealthy family. He never ended up in college, and most of his buddies from school had left Houston, Texas, where he was born. He tried to make it on his own, moving south to Harlingen, since he had heard the cost of living was better there, but after a failed attempt at sharing a small apartment with a caregiver named Lacy, and hating his job at a fast food chain, Ari noticed an ad on a website, offering big cash. What Ari finds is a studio in Austin that specializes in straight men, making love to other straight men. 
With the lure of a big payout, Ari wonders if he can do it. 

Paul Morgan and his business partner Morris, have finally managed to establish their business after a ten year struggle to begin a new company. When a young man applies online for work, he and Morris didn’t expect much. 
At first sight, Paul is slightly unprepared for how beautiful Ari Bennett is, and…he can do the work. 
What Paul didn’t expect was that this straight man would steal his heart. 
Gay-for-pay…sometimes when you play hard, you win big.


My Review:
I do like stories where "straight" men have their first gay experiences. This one is even better because Ari isn't truly gay....except when he comes to Paul. And honestly, I would guess he's bisexual. He enjoys sex...any way it happens. It's not about the person so much as the sensations going through his body. He doesn't look at his sexual partner as male or female, but rather someone playing his body and giving him pleasure. He truly is a magnificent fit for doing porn. To him, it is all about the physical act...no emotional attachment to the act at all. 

But his relationship with Paul is something different. And honestly, I think he's able to be so free with how he interprets it all because he's so young...he's simply more accepting. And I loved him for that. I couldn't tell you how many times I laughed out loud because of his disbelief that someone else might have an issue with the pleasure whether it's from a male or female. To him, pleasure is pleasure. Who care's who's giving it to him. I loved that sexual freedom about him. 

But on the other hand, I can see Paul's issue, too. Getting involved emotionally with a porn star is not an easy road to take. But I did love the two of them. Ari's matter-of-fact way of being rubs off on everyone around him...and I think that really works for this story. 

I did enjoy the book and am really glad that I took time out of my jam-packed schedule to make room for this book that I wasn't supposed to review. It was a fun book to simply read and enjoy.


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Body Shot by Kelly Jamieson

Title: Body Shot
Author: Kelly Jamieson
My Rating: A

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Last Shot #1
Main Characters: Beck and Hayden
Release Date: August 2016
Publisher: Loveswept
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot


Story Overview:
The bestselling author of the Heller Brothers series stirs up a tempting cocktail of fun and seduction as a sexy SEAL-turned-bartender treats a buttoned-up scientist to a wild weekend . . . and a change of heart.

Former Navy SEAL Beck Whitcomb left a world of privilege to prove he could make his own way. Money, mansions, expensive cars—none of it could heal the loss of his older brother, or buy his parents’ love. Now, after using his trust fund to open the Conquistadors tequila bar with his brothers-in-arms, Beck has it all: good friends, fine liquor, and hot hookups. When it comes to women, commitment’s not his thing—until he gets a taste of the pretty professor who walks into his bar . . . and winds up in his bed.

Hayden Miles knows all too well that emotional decisions can lead to heartbreak, and nothing screams “bad decision” like a playboy bartender with inked biceps and a wicked smile. Still, their chemistry is off-the-charts explosive—and Hayden knows her chemistry. For once, this good girl longs to let loose. But is she willing to risk the pain to quench her thirst? With the promise of more on the table, Hayden’s eager to believe . . . before she misses her shot.
 

My Review:
I simply adored this book. It was hot and romantic and had moments of such incredible sweetness that I was highlighting passages and I rarely do that. And did I mention it was hot? OMG, this book is sizzling!

On the surface Hayden and Beck have nothing in common. He's a former Navy SEAL and a continuing adrenaline junkie. She is a scientist who lives her life by her plans and schedules. She hates anything unexpected. What they both have in common is a dedication to their work life, even if their work lives are very different. Beck owns a tequila bar. Hayden is in charge a research center looking for the cure to cancer. But they also amazing friends and a complete lack of family support...although for very different reasons. 

I love the setup that Hayden is a workaholic in desperate need of learning how to have fun, but I also love that she really wants to have fun. When she jumps in with Beck, she is all-in and that makes for all those super-sexy scenes that make this book fantastic. I did really love them together and how she unpeels the layers of Beck bit by bit, because she so seriously underestimates who he is when she first meets him.

Overall, I truly loved this book. I thought it was hot and sexy, but it was also thoughtful and romantic. That nighttime paddleboating seriously melted my heart...so many incredible scenes. I like how Beck challenges Hayden to be more...to experience more and I thought all those scenes were a great reminder to me personally...I spend so much of the day rushing from one thing to another, I forget to explore the little things with all my senses. I loved that this book felt like it was enriching to me for that reason too. 

I loved it and HIGHLY recommend it. I thought it was one of Kelly Jamieson's best books that I've read of hers. I can't wait to read more from this series. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Dangerously Sweet by Angela Evans

Title: Dangerously Sweet
Author: Angela Evans
My Rating: B+

Genre: Contemporary Romantic Suspense 
Series: Barefoot Bay Kindle World
Main Characters: Dex and Amelia
Release Date: August 2016
Publisher: Kindle Worlds
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot


Story Overview:
Blake “Dex” Dexter has been undercover so long, and so deep, that even he can’t separate the real Dex from his cover story anymore. A week in Barefoot Bay would sound like paradise to anyone else, but to Dex, it sounds like way too much time to spend alone with his own thoughts until he meets Amelia Barton, then he thinks it might not be enough time. 

Amelia Barton had her whole life planned out like she plans a recipe for one of her decadent cakes, but somewhere along the way she got seriously off track. When a cheating fiancĂ©e is exposed she decides to take her dream honeymoon alone. Barefoot Bay feels more like home to her than she’s ever felt in Alaska. And then there’s the sexy cop who seems unsure whether he wants to pull her closer, or keep her at arm’s length. Amelia knows which one she wants him to do.


When Dex’s cover is blown and the drug cartel follows him to Barefoot Bay, Amelia is suddenly a target. Dex is determined to keep her safe, but the only way he can see to do that is by keeping her away from him. Amelia has finally found the recipe for her sweet life, but can she convince Dex that their love is worth the risk?

My Review:
I loved the premise of this story...Dex is an undercover cop who's been under too long and is on a forced vacation. Amelia is running away from a whole mess that her life has become back home in Alaska. They both end up in Barefoot Bay as they're reevaluating their lives... and neither of them counted on falling in love to just add some more confusion into the mix.  

He's an alpha cop. She's a baker looking to create decadent desserts. Honestly, there is so much to love about this story...AND it all takes place in a gorgeous resort on the beach so there are amazing visuals, too. It's quick and sweet and there's even a bit of suspense in the story, too. So, for the length of the story there is a ton of depth to it. I love that...especially as my life gets more and more busy...I really like a quick read. My only issue with that was that the romance was super-fast...the entire book only takes a week in time, but there is a lot that happens for these characters that is completely life-altering in that time frame. So, while it's a minor niggle that requires an element of disbelief...with this set-up, it would be hard to write it any other way. 

There are also some great sub-plots to the story having to do with both the hero and the heroines families. Neither character is getting exactly what they need from their families. I really especially loved Amelia's interactions with her brothers. While the setup may make it seem like they're completely oblivious, every time she talks to them it's easy to see how much love there is between them despite that. I did really love that element. I also liked how close Amelia got to Dex's family with his mother's wedding. 

Overall, this is definitely a book that I'd recommend. It was engrossing and really well written. I thoroughly enjoyed it. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.