Friday, October 21, 2016

A Kind of Romance by Lane Hayes (audiobook)

Title:  A Kind of Romance
Author: Lane Hayes 
My Rating: A+
Narrator: Seth Clayton

Genre: Contemporary Romance (m/m) 
Series: A Kind of Story #2
Main Characters: Zeke and Benny
Release Date: September 2016 (audiobook)
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press 
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
Zeke Gulden is a ruthless Wall Street exec. His hard-edged, no-nonsense attitude has served him well in the cutthroat business world, but less so in his personal life. When he finds out his ex-boyfriend cheated on him with a coworker, Zeke can't let go until he finds a way to get even. However, his meddlesome father has other ideas. The new hire at the family-owned bagel store is somewhat colorful, but his dad is sure he's the perfect man for Zeke.
Benny Ruggieri is a fiercely proud New Yorker who dreams of making it big as a costume designer in the theater. In the meantime, he's working two part-time jobs in the food biz. When his new boss sets him up with his successful son, Benny has zero expectations. If nothing else, he figures he can entertain himself by making the uptight businessman squirm. Instead, the two become unlikely friends with an inexplicable attraction they can't ignore. Benny might be the one to help Zeke set aside his quest for revenge, if he's willing to let go and forgive what he can't forget and give in to an unexpected kind of romance.

My Review:
Overall: 4.75
Performance: 4.75
Story: 4.75

This story was so fun. It's definitely an opposites attract story. Zeke is uptight and staid. Benny is flamboyant and outgoing. They seem a really unlikely couple which is why this book works so well as they become friends way before they even consider anything else. In fact when the something else develops, it's almost a surprise because they don't expect it either...even though the attraction is there and develops. 

It starts out as an opposites attract and then morphs into a friends to lovers story...and both of those tropes were so well done. It was fun and I loved every minute of watching this romance develop and evolve.

I loved Benny. He's one of those characters who's just completely personable...everyone loves him. And even though he's not the type of man that Zeke would normally be drawn to, he can't help but be charmed by him, too. 

My heart breaks for Zeke...he is so conflicted about his family. His mother was the one person who was totally in his corner, but now she doesn't remember him. On the other hand, his father regularly belittled and put down Zeke growing up. Since then, his father has changed, but Zeke can't forgive him and he truly resents how loved and revered his father is in the LGBT community. It's not fair that this isn't the father he had growing up. Seriously, Zeke's pain hurt me in this book. I felt so much heartbreak for him. 

There were so many elements to this story that made it phenomenal in every single way. I adored it so much. It was a phenomenal audiobook, too. Just a great book all the way around. I HIGHLY recommend it.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Dream Maker by Erin McCarthy

Title: Dream Maker 
Author: Erin McCarthy
My Rating: A-

Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Series: Nashville Nights #2
Main Characters: Shane and Avery
Release Date: October 2016
Publisher: Loveswept
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
The bestselling author of Heart Breaker returns with another sultry Nashville Nights novel of country hits and stolen kisses, as a one-night stand turns into the beginning of an irresistible partnership.

Shane Hart loves the ladies. Like hit records, he can never have too many. Shane swore long ago never to treat a woman the way his abusive father treated his mother, but his traumatic past has kept him from making any solid commitments—even to a fiery redhead like Avery O’Leery. Shane’s happy enough to rescue her from a tight spot, but that’s as far as their connection goes—until their unforgettable liaison has him rethinking his impulse to love ’em and leave ’em.

Avery has big plans: first, shake the dust of small-town Kentucky from her boots; second, become a bona fide songwriter; and third, keep the truth hidden about her birth father from everyone in Nashville. Nowhere on that list is she supposed to land in bed with a sexy stranger who rescues her off the street at midnight, especially if that stranger is Shane Hart. Avery’s trying not to fall for the dreamy music producer who could make or break her career. But her best-laid plans seem to be no match for a love that feels like destiny.

My Review:
I am really enjoying this series, and the premise for this book was great. 

We meet Avery when she's dumped on the side of the road of Nashville by her long-time boyfriend of 8 years...because he was cheating on her. Yeah, he's a jerk.

Shane is a big-time Nashville player both in the bedroom and out. He's a successful producer, his sister is one of the biggest names in country music now. But because he has a lot of pull, women fawn over him...oh, yeah, and the fact he's gorgeous doesn't hurt him either. He's way out of Avery's league, but he finds himself intrigued by her. 

Avery has just moved to Nashville. She hasn't lived there long enough to be jaded and bitter. She's honest and has a straight-forward style to her that Shane can't resist. And it helps her that she's immensely talented too. 

Their chemistry is fabulous and explosive. I loved how different they are in their experience levels, but Shane is the one blown away by the two of them together. It's a great dynamic.

I really enjoyed all the aspects of this story. I liked the insight into Avery's songwriting. I liked her backstory with her family ties in Nashville...that little story line kept me reading because I couldn't wait for it all to be revealed. This was one of those books that I didn't want to set down because it was completely entertaining from page one. 

I know there's another book coming in the series. I can't wait to see what that story line is. So far, I'm loving this country music themed series. It's been a fun one!

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

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Steady Stroke by A.M. Arthur

Title: Steady Stroke 
Author: A.M. Arthur
My Rating: B

Genre: Contemporary Romance (m/m)
Series: Off Beat #2
Main Characters: Emmett and Lincoln
Release Date: September 2016
Publisher: Swerve
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
After a tragic accident, Lincoln West’s dreams of making it big as a guitarist fell apart. Unable to play music, he’s battling a hopeless downward spiral, and takes his friend’s offer to stay at their beach house for the summer. While at an open mic night at local bar Off Beat, he locks eyes with a busboy who doesn’t make Linc feel so broken anymore.

Emmett Westmore lives for the anonymity of busing tables in his aunt’s quirky bar where no one pities him for the fire that killed everyone he loved. He blames himself for the fire, and he doesn’t want anyone to see him—except for Linc. Emmett’s walls drop when he’s around the gorgeous blue-eyed guitarist, but he has a secret that could destroy his budding relationship with Linc.

Both Linc and Emmett are looking for a way to live again…will they let their fears control them or take a chance on something real?

My Review:
This was an interesting story. Linc is still trying to recover from a concussion that he received in a hit and run last year. He's still having real issues...migraines, he can't handle much light, and most importantly he can't play guitar. He's floundering. It's been a year. Thinking this is what his life is going to be for the foreseeable future is tough. But he's at the beach for the summer, so he's determined to get out...not just sit at home and mope. So he sets out to make some new friends (and I loved that that was truly his goal....find some was rather sweet.) And he meets Emmett.

Emmett desperately needs a friend. His entire family died in a fire and he's been subjected to hate crime abuse. As a result, he's terrified of crowds, but he battles through that every night to work at his aunt's club. 

Both of these guys have faced devastating losses but they each find a safe place in each other. I liked the guys together and how much they learn to rely on one another and how they are able to spread their wings a bit with one another. Seriously, they each provide a safe place and I loved that aspect of the story. 

There was a twist in the story that I did not see coming, and I'll be honest, I'm still not sure where I stand on that little detail because it's a hard thing to accept 'as is'. Things were done without consequences and as much as I like the characters, that doesn't quite sit right for me. I'm not sure. That one little thing just doesn't feel right. I know that's super vague, but I don't want to give any spoilers. Because the book was good and most definitely worth a read. There just may be a trigger there for some...because consequences are least in my opinion. But by the same token, that would have totally ruined the story...I get that, but... (totally torn on this one.)

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

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

To Love and To Cherish by Lauren Layne

Title: To Love and To Cherish
Author: Lauren Layne
My Rating: A

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Wedding Belles #3
Main Characters: Alexis and Logan
Release Date: October 2016
Publisher: Pocket
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: spicy

Story Overview:
Sex and the City meets The Wedding Planner in The Wedding Belles, a contemporary and witty romance series about three high-powered New York City women who can plan any wedding—but their own.

Alexis Morgan has spent the past six years devoted to turning her tiny start-up into Manhattan’s premiere wedding planning company, The Wedding Belles. Now that her business is thriving, it’s time to turn towards her much neglected personal life, and Alexis approaches her relationships like she does everything else: with a plan. Not a part of that plan is Logan Harris, the silent partner in the Belles, and the one person who’s been there for her since the very beginning. But Alexis needs someone fun, and Logan’s all business, all the time—except when a late night at the office ends with an unexpected kiss that leaves the usually cool and together Alexis reeling.

Logan has lusted after Alexis since the day he walked into the tiny Harlem apartment that used to double as her office. But the ambitious wedding planner has always been untouchable...until now. Alexis has made it clear that she’s on the dating market—and equally clear that he’s not in the running. But when Alexis finds herself in need of a date for her sister’s last minute wedding in Florida, Logan knows it’s the perfect time to show Alexis that there’s more to him than numbers and spreadsheets—and beneath the pinstripes and glasses lies a hot-blooded heartthrob. As Florida’s sultry days turn into even hotter nights, Logan’s out to convince Alexis that the fling of a lifetime could just maybe turn into forever...

My Review:
One of my favorite tropes ever...friends to lovers. Alexis and Logan met 8 years ago. She was in a NYC bar, down to her last few dollars, going over her business plan for the Wedding Belles. He was a newly graduated MBA with a new accounting business who was intrigued...with the he became a silent partner with her. 

That was 8 years ago and they've been friends ever since. They meet twice a week for business things, but they've never even flirted at being anything more...much to Logan's chagrin...because he's completely in love with Alexis and Alexis is clueless.

Alexis had her heart shattered once before...when her boyfriend and sister fell madly in love with one another in front of her very eyes. It wasn't something they planned...or even gave into for the longest time, but true love can't be denied...and that broke something in Alexis. Now her only love is her business that she devotes ALL her time to. 

But everything is suddenly in upheaval. Logan is acting funny, there are rumors that her sister and ex are stepping up their game, and Alexis is feeling more than a little adrift and unsettled. Her perfect life suddenly...isn't. 

Aww, I loved this book so much. Logan...sigh...he is just the perfect hero. He's sat back and waited for Alexis to see him for years. But he can't do it anymore. His pain hurt me to read it. I just wanted to wrap him up in a hug and then make Alexis see his love for what it was. There's so much "want" in this made it such a good read. 

Alexis has been living her life completely sheltered and hiding her heart for years. That all comes to a head from every possible side in this book. It's a perfect storm to throw her emotional stability completely off course, and she flat-out doesn't know how to handle...any of it. Working herself to death (her typical response) isn't working as a safeguard anymore. 

Loved, loved, LOVED this book. The emotions pulled me into the story from the very beginning. I wanted them to work it out so much...I couldn't put the book down until that happened. It was so, so good. 

I'm sad to see the end of the Belles series, because it's been so good. I've enjoyed every single story to it and cannot wait to see what Lauren Layne is cooking up next...

Falling For Flynn by Kate Willoughby

Title: Falling for Flynn
Author: Kate Willoughby
My Rating: B+

Genre: Contemporary Sports Romance
Series: Hockey on Tap #1
Main Characters: Tracy and Flynn
Release Date: October 2016
Publisher: Kiwi Press
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
Tracy Duval has spent her life proving women can play hockey. From leading her college team to coaching little girls, she’s been a champion of the sport. But when a sexist ad for the Barracuda Fantasy Hockey Camp seems to exclude women, she signs up to teach the boys a lesson. 

Retired NHL player Flynn Hammerstrom meets Tracy at the local ice rink and is immediately intrigued. She’s mature, confident, sexy—and hello, she plays hockey. He’s ready to settle down again and, after his tumultuous marriage, he’s looking for a woman who is high on fun and low on drama. 

Unfortunately, even though he’s nuts about her, the drama he desperately wants to avoid flares up at the fantasy camp. 

And Tracy is smack dab in the middle of the fire. 
My Review:
Okay, I've been a fan of Kate Willoughby's hockey series books since she started writing them. But now she's taken on writing about the retired players...heroes my age. Yes! I'm liking this idea...a LOT! And not only is this book about a more mature hockey player hero, but we also have a woman hockey player...YES! I love everything about this premise.

The premise for the series is three retired hockey players now own a bar and brewery. For this particular book the three have decided they will go out for a Fantasy Camp as the talent for the Barracudas. But the camp in its third year has some issues.

Tracy played hockey in college and although she's now an OB/GYN, she still has a hand in hockey as a coach for a female midget team. She's also a huge fan of the Barracudas, although Flynn was her all-time favorite player. With her friend's encouragement, Tracy decides to go out for the fantasy camp...and ends up taking a stand about the female discrimination that's being put out in the advertising about the camp and just some of the Barracuda methods in general. It's not something that Tracy set out to make a stand about, but she owes it to her girls that she coaches to ensure their rights are upheld for their future in hockey. 

I liked the book. It's not a super long all...but Tracy and Flynn have the bond of hockey that ties them together. I liked watching their relationship develop and evolve. It was fun to read a book with a couple of more mature MC's. It's even better when the two of them get on the ice...and I loved how watching Tracy play affected Flynn. I liked the bits of hockey we got to see and that even Holly made an appearance in this book. For fans of the normal Barracudas series, this is fun to see a different side to the franchise. 

My one complaint and it's a minor one because it's still all kinds of gorgeous...the cover. *sigh* If you're going to make a book with a more mature lead, can't you at least *try* to make the cover model look more mature than 22? The cover is gorgeous and all that, but... that guy is not in his late 40s.

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

Monday, October 17, 2016

Top Shelf by Kelly Jamieson

Title: Top Shelf
Author: Kelly Jamieson
My Rating: A-

Genre: Contemporary Sports Romance
Series: Aces Hockey #3
Main Characters: Jared and Sidney
Release Date: October 2016
Publisher: Loveswept
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
Whether it’s a clutch goal or a cocktail, nothing beats “top shelf.” In this novel from the bestselling author of the Heller Brothers Hockey series, a fun-loving jock and an ambitious career woman mix business with pleasure.

Not only is Jared Rupp one of the stars of the NHL’s Chicago Aces, he’s also the owner of the Sin Bin, the after-hours hot spot where the whole team hangs out. Lately, Jared can’t take his eyes off the woman he’s hired to give the Bin a more modern feel: a sexy, sophisticated consultant who has carved out a niche updating drink menus. She’s as passionate about her career as Jared is about hockey—and yet he can’t help wondering what kind of cocktail she really wants.

In her line of work, Sidney Frayne is used to guys hitting on her in bars, but Jared gets her hot enough to burst into flames. When he’s wining and dining her, he’s sophisticated as hell; on the rink, he’s a testosterone-fueled powerhouse. Still, Sidney’s bitter divorce taught her to keep her emotions on ice. With her busy schedule—and Jared’s playboy reputation—she’s not sure she’s ready for a fling. Because if she lets Jared into her bed, she just may have to let him into her heart.

My Review:
This has been a really fun series and I love the introduction of Sidney into this edition and what she brings to the table. Sidney is a consultant who works with bars to improve their performance. When she sits down in the Sin Bin and begins to explain her job and the issues with this particular bar, she has no idea that she's talking to the bar's owner...OR that he's a famous NHL player. 

I liked that about Sidney. She's not a puck bunny at fact, she's almost the opposite. She keeps trying to dissuade Jared from dating her because he has so many beautiful women after him...why would he want to date her? She's definitely not your typical ego-driven, selfie-taking rink girl. And I loved her for that. She seems like a normal girl that I'd want to hang out with and I could definitely see why Jared fell for her. 

Jared is so thankful for all he has. He grew up in a very poor home, where playing hockey was a huge strain on the family budget. As a result, he is so appreciative of all the opportunities he has and doesn't want to waste or take advantage of them. Like Sidney, he seems like a down to earth, normal guy. (He just has remarkable recuperative powers...hehe.)

I enjoyed every minute of reading this story. Hockey is one of my favorites when it comes to sports romance and this one had the perfect ratio of romance vs the love of the game. There were a ton of little side plots happening in the background, but Kelly Jamieson expertly wove them into the story so that it never felt like there was too much going on. In fact those little side stories kept the story moving at a really brisk pace. I didn't want to set the book down. 

There were some heartbreaking moments in this book, but there were also some wonderfully romantic and sexy moments. I just thoroughly enjoyed all the moments. It was a good read. I can't wait for the next one!

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

Three Simple Words by A.J. Pine

Title: Three Simple Words
Author: A.J. Pine
My Rating: A

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Kingston Ale House #3
Main Characters: Annie and Wes
Release Date: October 2016
Publisher:  Entangled Publishing
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
She's holding out for a happy ever after. 

I know where to find my happily ever after—between the pages of a romance novel. It’s why I sell books, why I blog about them, and why I’ll never get disappointed by love. 

So what if my brother’s best friend from high school is now a bestselling author? Or that he just blew back into town on a Harley, filling out a pair of jeans like he never did before? Or that he’s agreed to do a signing at my bookstore on such short notice? Because despite all his adoring female fans, I kind of hated his book.

The last time I saw Annie Denning, she was a senior in high school, three years older than me and way out of my league. 
Now I’m her last-minute date to a wedding, and what started as a night of pure fun has turned into something more real than either of us anticipated.

Annie is my muse. When I’m with her, my writer’s block fades away, and the words finally flow.

The only problem? She wants the fairy tale—her very own happily ever after—and anyone who’s read my book knows the truth. I just don’t believe they exist

My Review:
I loved so many different things about this book. This is a book that is custom-made for romance book-lovers. Annie is a bookstore owner and a huge romance genre proponent.

Wes is a best-selling author whose "romance" best-seller defies the rule about happily ever afters and how they have to be present in the book for it to be a true romance. Annie hates that about the book although every other reader out there loves it. To make matters worse than hating her childhood friend's book, now he's back in town and is even more attractive than she remembers.

Wes' book is based on his life. Flat out, he doesn't believe in love. Obviously, there is a great character arc for him, but there's also a surprising one for Annie. This book is all about love and romance and the fantasy of happily-ever-after and how that translates into real life and real strife. It's a GREAT book. 

In the midst of all the back and forth of the relationship, Wes is dealing with having to followup on his first book being a bestseller. There is a ton of pressure and he's not dealing well and has a huge case of writer's block. Annie changes that for him, too. As a writer, I found the book inspiring...just because watching Wes find his muse again was inspiring. It made me want to put down the book I was reading and focus on writing.

And I loved the book as a romance reader. The whole HEA thing is such a pivotal ideal in the genre, it was fun to look at how that influenced both of these book-centric people in their "real life" expectations. It was simply a fun book that I truly loved. I think most romance readers would enjoy it, too. 

Now, I need to go back and read the first two books in this series, because I haven't read any of these before and I thoroughly enjoyed this one. 

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