Friday, October 31, 2014

Under His Nose by Candice Gilmer

Title: Under His Nose
Author: Candice Gilmer
My Rating: B

Genre: Paranormal Romance 
Series: Guys and Godmothers #1
Main Characters: Roark and Stephanie
Release Date: July 2013
Publisher: Samhain
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: spicy

Story Overview:
"All it takes is faith, trust, and fairy dust. A swift kick never hurts, either. "

"Guys and Godmothers, Book 1"

Christy is due for retirement from her fairy godmother gig, but she agrees to take one last case. Helping Roark Turner find his perfect girl shouldn t be much of a challenge after all, she is a veteran fairy godmother.

What makes this case interesting? She must use as little magic as possible to bring Roark his much-desired Happily Ever After.

Roark s perfect match is his best friend Stephanie Bowers. It should be simple to bring two people together who have been best friends since kindergarten, and let their free will take its course. It probably would have been, too, if Cupid hadn t started shooting arrows into Roark, forcing the mortal to fall in love.

Now Christy must use every skill at her command just not her magic to thwart Cupid s meddling and get Roark and Stephanie together without changing their free will or ruining her perfect record. Or she ll never get her own Happily Ever After.

Warning: Magic, fairy godmothers, a rambunctious god, and two stubborn people who need a kick in the butt to see what s obviously meant to be.

My Review:
Friends-to-lovers with a bit of fairy godmother magic thrown in? Yeah, this book was fun. 

Stephanie and Roark have been best friends forever, despite their very different backgrounds. Roark's family runs a very successful perfume business where he is the "nose." Stephanie's mom is from the wrong side of the tracks and she's grown up with a bitter, disenchanted mother. Despite that difference, they've always been the best of friends which comes in handy since Stephanie is a wedding planner and often needs Roark as a stand-in date. And their two businesses work together too...perfumes and's a good match. 

But the book begins with Roark and two of his single friends at their fourth friend's wedding. The guys all state that they are ready for that...they all want the wife, family, home, and happiness that they see in their newly married friend. That wish goes out into the cosmos and three fairy godmothers are assigned to the trio. 

Stephanie and Roark are at the wedding as dates and suddenly he sees her in a way he's never looked at her a romantic possibility and is blown away by the idea. Stephanie has been in love with Roark forever, but she's the one who won't even consider the option of them becoming more. Her mother and this town have drilled into her that she isn't high enough status for Roark and she believes them. Besides it's really not worth the risk. She'd rather just have him as a friend than as nothing at all...that's not even an option. She doesn't want to lose him. 

I love a friends-to-lovers trope because nothing can compare of those years of compatibility. Because the fairy godmother belonged to Roark, it felt like we got to know him better in the story. He wants Stephanie so heart hurt for him when she continually turned him down. I also really liked how he and Christy became friends over the course of the book too. 

The entire set-up for the series is just fun. I've read this one and the last and thoroughly enjoyed them both. Now I just need to finish off the series with book #2...nothing like reading them all completely out of order. 

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Fever Pitch by Heidi Cullinan

Title: Fever Pitch
Author: Heidi Cullinan
My Rating: A

Genre: Contemporary Romance (m/m)
Series: Love Lessons #2
Main Characters: Giles and Aaron
Release Date: September 2014
Publisher: Samhain
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
Sometimes you have to play love by ear.

Aaron Seavers is a pathetic mess, and he knows it. He lives in terror of incurring his father’s wrath and disappointing his mother, and he can’t stop dithering about where to go to college—with fall term only weeks away. Ditched by a friend at a miserable summer farewell party, all he can do is get drunk in the laundry room and regret he was ever born. Until a geeky-cute classmate lifts his spirits, leaving him confident of two things: his sexual orientation, and where he’s headed to school.

Giles Mulder can’t wait to get the hell out of Oak Grove, Minnesota, and off to college, where he plans to play his violin and figure out what he wants to be when he grows up. But when Aaron appears on campus, memories of hometown hazing threaten what he’d hoped would be his haven. As the semester wears on, their attraction crescendos from double-cautious to a rich, swelling chord. But if more than one set of controlling parents have their way, the music of their love could come to a shattering end. 

Warning: Contains showmances, bad parenting, Walter Lucas, and a cappella.

My Review:
I had a chance to get this book from the publisher for review and passed up on it because I wasn't so sure about the whole music theme. Then all the reviews started coming in and I had to have it because everyone was raving about it. And to be honest, I loved the first book in the series so I don't know why I didn't jump on this one besides an overpacked review schedule. 

And just so you know up front...yes, the hype was right. This book is excellent!

The book starts with the end of high school with Giles and Aaron. Giles was the flaming gay kid that was bullied all through the point of repeat hospitalizations. So he is thrilled about going off to college where people are more open minded, but his best friend, Mina, talks him into going to one final party in their hometown. There he runs into Aaron. Aaron is a new kid, but he's managed a level of popularity just because he's good looking and doesn't make waves. He's also deeply closeted and unsure about every single thing in his life. His parents make the decisions for him with an iron fist and that's left him unable to stand up for what he wants. Right now his main concern is college and finding a plan that will satisfy his very demanding father. The two guys have a single night together and then things are misunderstood between them. But it does do two things...that night lets Aaron know that yes, he is most definitely gay; and he plans to go to the same college as Aaron. 

And that's when the real journey begins. And this book is a journey. It's about college and discovery and for these guys...learning to stand on their own and make their own connections and discoveries about themselves and others. Nothing is easy for anyone in this book. Giles has spent his life hiding in the shadows from the bullies. Aaron has spent his life living for his parents. And those are just the main two characters, but this book is rich with other characters, just as tormented and lost, making their own discoveries. It's an amazing book and as a mother of a college-age boy, I just wanted to round them all up and protect them from the realities of a harsh world. But that's kind of the point...they are learning how to stand up for themselves for the first time in their lives. 

There are so many layers to this book...the harsh realities of the GLBT life; making adult decisions; finding a support network; seeing when others need a lift up; standing up for what you believe in. But it's all set to a world filled with acapella music that I loved. If ever a book needed to come with a soundtrack, I wished this one did, but Heidi Cullinan did an amazing job describing the score and the sounds and the magic that Aaron could create with his music. The book swept me away and I immediately wanted to reread the entire book when I reached the last page. 

I hope that Samhain releases this one in print like they did the first book in the series. This is a series I want on my print keeper shelf. And there's another book coming. I'm crossing my fingers that it's about Baz and Elijah, although I'm not sure my heart can take the angst that will come with their story. Both these heart bleeds for them. Just like it did for all of them in this book. Heidi Cullinan stole my heart with these characters. Such an amazing book!

I highly, HIGHLY recommend it!! Oh, and read book #1 too...just because it's really good too. But they both work as stand-alones.

Edited to add...Heidi Cullinan just tweeted me to let me know there is a playlist...OMG, yay! You can find it here...

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Made for You by Lauren Layne

Title: Made for You
Author: Lauren Layne
My Rating: A

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: The Best Mistake #2
Main Characters: Brynn and Will
Release Date: October 2014
Publisher: Forever
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
Some mistakes are worth making...

Lauren Layne's Best Mistake series continues with MADE FOR YOU.

When the Wrong Guy is Oh-So-Right Will Thatcher is exactly the type of sexy playboy good girls like Brynn have always avoided. And yet there was still something about him she just couldn't resist. When Will moved across the country three years ago, Brynn vowed it was time to put him behind her. She never thought Will might have other plans . . . Back in town, Will intends to get what he's always wanted-gorgeous, unforgettable Brynn. For years, he tormented the untouchable ice princess in a desperate bid for her attention. Now he has a new plan, and he'll do anything to rewrite their stormy past. This time, he's out to show Brynn that the imperfect man might be the best mistake of her life . . . 

My Review:
I really have come to love Lauren Layne's style of writing. She has perfected using deep emotional bonds in her stories and I love them for it. 

Will and Brynn have a long history...and most of it has been filled with contention and anger. The thing that makes it so hard is that it's only been so bad because they were always at each other's throats and neither one ever asked why. Slowly, through a series of flashbacks in the book, the full story comes out of how things have gotten to this point between them.

In 9th grade, Brynn moved to the school where Will was a junior. She immediately caught his eye, but in her last set of schools she had been ostracized and bullied. As a result she immediately went on the defense when he approached her and that began a long, hate-filled relationship between the two of them. Her younger sister Sophie dated him the next year and although their romance didn't last, they have stayed absolute best friends in the 15 years since. That's made Will an almost-permanent fixture in her family. 

But 3 years ago they had a single night that changed everything and sent him running. Now he's back, determined to win her heart. The problem is...they never truly talk about the emotions that both of them have been feeling over the years and those old self-doubts are still a huge part of Brynn's psyche. She can't ever see herself as being someone that Will would want...but he never truly gets that and things are bad for them once again. 

The reason this book is so emotional is because they are so darn close to having it all. They both want the same thing from the other....they just can't see that and won't put themselves at risk for rejection by simply stating what they want to the other. It's a bit frustrating and I truly wanted to beat Will with a large stick at the end of the book when he should have been "getting it" with the emotional responses that Brynn gave him. The fact of the matter was that he did understand her so much better than she understood him and his intentions. He should have been the one to use that knowledge rather than run like he did. She didn't know the full story like him and that put her at a huge disadvantage in the status of their relationship. 

There were so many times throughout this book when if I'd been at a more emotional point in the month, I can guarantee you that I would have been bawling. Lauren Layne does an amazing job showing just the right amount of angst in these two character. heart simply ached for Brynn and her emotional pain. But I could empathize with Will too because he's trying so hard to get her to see him differently while trying to keep from scaring her away. It's a fantastic book...just like the first in the series was. 

Definitely another one I'm buying in print to add to my keeper shelf. I highly recommend it!

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

Last Light by M. Pierce

Title: Last Light
Author: M. Pierce
My Rating: C+

Genre: Erotic Romance
Series: Night Owl #2
Main Characters: Matt and Hannah
Release Date: October 2014
Publisher: St. Martins Griffin
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: erotic

Story Overview:
Tensions rise, secrets grow bigger, and passions run deeper—and hotter—in Last Light, the second novel of the Night Owl Trilogy from bestselling author M. Pierce.Matt Sky is missing. After a solo ascent of Longs Peak that left only a large blood stain, tatters of climbing clothing, and the tracks of an animal in the snow, he is presumed dead.

Hannah Catalano is guarding a secret: she knows Matt is alive. After Matt's memorial service, she lingers on the East Coast with his family, but it soon becomes clear that his brothers' motives are less than gracious. Nate Sky is bent on tracking down the author of Night Owl, a book that charts the last days of Matt's life with uncanny and scandalous accuracy, and which appeared only after his death. Seth Sky is bent on getting Hannah into his bed.

Hidden away in the woods, Matt and Hannah strive desperately to maintain their ruse and their relationship—but their web of lies only tightens as Matt struggles with the consequences of his decision, and Hannah tries to escape Nate's libel suit and fend off Seth's advances...until Hannah is put in danger, and Matt must make a life or death choice.

My Review:
I really adored the first book in this series. Now I'm wishing that I had ignored the epilogue in that one and let the story lie where it ended there. For the most part, I could have been happy with where that book ended, but I had to get greedy and wanted more of Matt and Hannah. And it's not that this book was bad...because it wasn't. Matt's character was. Ugh. I so did not like the places he went in this book. 

Okay, in the first book it was obvious that Matt had some mental road blocks, but in this book he goes to the extremes. As an introverted writer, Matt hates meeting readers. He literally has a phobia about it. That's why he's always written under an assumed name and fiercely protected his real identity. Well, that was revealed and Matt couldn't deal so he faked his own death. I would be okay with that aspect of the story line if that was all there was to it. But no, in this book Matt is all about Matt. Supposedly he loves Hannah, but he manipulates, lies, and leaves her to handle all the dirty crap he left behind...his brothers, the book, the innuendo, the investigations...UGH. I just wanted to hit him and that made me want to chunk the book into the wall. How can he treat Hannah so callously? It's pure selfishness and that's the one thing I can't handle in a character. It's okay if there's a character development arc and the character grows, but I didn't see that with him. 

And there are his brothers and while all their motivations weren't revealed, I felt like they were both just as manipulative as Matt in trying to twist Hannah to do what they wanted. 

Hannah doesn't deserve any of this. Her only crime is loving Matt and he doesn't respect that or her. I flat-out do not like what his character became in this book and while I was riveted to the book (because the writing remains good and engaging), creating a character that I now revile is unforgivable. 

So, my the first book. LOVE the first book. Do not read the epilogue in that book and you will be happy with where it all ends. I wish that's what I had done. There is a third book coming, but I'm pretty positive that I won't be reading it and that makes me sad because I did love the first one.

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

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Christmas on 4th Street by Susan Mallery

Note: This is a repost of the review I wrote last year for the release of the hardback version of this book. I'm reposting it today because the book released in mass market paperback today.

Title: Christmas on 4th Street
Author: Susan Mallery
My Rating: B+

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Fool's Gold #12.5
Main Characters: Noelle and Gabriel
Release Date: October 2014 (paperback release)
Publisher: Harlequin
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
There's nowhere better to spend the holidays than with New York Times bestselling author Susan Mallery in the town of Fool's Gold, where love is always waiting to be unwrapped... Noelle Perkins just got a second chance at life, and she intends to make the most of every minute. That's why she ditched a frustrating legal career to open her own store in Fool's Gold, California. The Christmas Attic celebrates everything that's magical about her favorite season. Business is booming, and as a bonus, gorgeous army doctor Gabriel Boylan has offered to help out during the holiday rush.

Gabriel's memories of Christmas past contain more sour grapes than sugar plums, thanks to a drill sergeant father who ran his home like a boot camp. Spending the holidays with his family while he recuperates from injury sounds as appetizing as last year's eggnog. Still, there are some enjoyable distractions in town, including sunny, sexy Noelle...and the red-hot mistletoe kisses they can't stop sharing.

Gabriel didn't think he was made for happily-ever-afters. But when fate hands you a love as sweet and surprising as this, only a fool could refuse....

My Review:
This book is a classic example of opposites attract. Gabriel is a glass half-empty kind of guy whereas Noelle is a glass half full type. They've both been truly tested the last couple of years...Gabriel as an Army doctor on the front lines; Noelle in several different life-altering ways. But they've handled those trials with VERY different attitudes. Gabriel has shut himself off from living whereas Noelle believes that every moment is made to be savored and lived to the fullest.

The entire book takes place during the six weeks surrounding the holidays in Fools Gold, plus Noelle runs a Christmas store so there is tons of seasonal romance that I love...there's even a romantic cabin during a snowstorm. All good things. I really enjoyed both these characters. 

Gabriel is a doctor who is worn out, but facing pressure from his father to continue on with the Army. He's seen too many people suddenly die and doesn't want to get close to anyone...the risk is too great to suffer another great loss. The only reason he's home for the holidays is because he got hurt so is home recuperating. Otherwise, he does everything possible to avoid his family, including his twin, Gideon. He's so alone. It's truly heartbreaking.

Noelle is also alone, but she has made a place for herself in Fools Gold and become one with the town. She has layers that I never saw coming...a past that is truly tragic for this upbeat, happy girl. She and Gabriel have a connection and they form an unlikely bond way early. I liked them together and LOVE that Gabriel comes to work in the Christmas store simply as a way to escape his family. I thought that was a fun twist to throw these two together especially for a doctor.

And this remains a Fools Gold book. You get to see glimpses of everyone from the town, but there are a lot of scenes with Felicia and Gideon which I loved. There are also festivals, holiday kitsch, some mayoral meddling, and the wonderful romance and sweetness that I've come to expect from this series. This book is set at Christmas and worked for me on every level. I'd LOVE to spend the holidays in Fool's Gold, too...

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

The Heart of Christmas by Brenda Novak

Title: The Heart of Christmas
Author: Brenda Novak
My Rating: A-

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Whiskey Creek #7
Main Characters: Eve and Rex
Release Date: October 2014
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: spicy

Story Overview:
Just call her Christmas Eve… 
Eve Harmon has always enjoyed Christmas, but this year it reminds her of everything she doesn't have. Almost all her friends are married now, and that's what Eve wants, too. Love. A husband and kids of her own. But the B and B she manages, and even Whiskey Creek, the small Gold Country town where she was born and raised, suddenly seem…confining. 
Eve's worried that her future will simply be a reflection of her past. There's no one in the area she could even imagine as a husband until a handsome stranger comes to town. Eve's definitely attracted to him, and he seems to have the same reaction to her. But his darkly mysterious past could ruin Eve's happily ever after just when it finally seems within reach. And just when she's counting on the best Christmas of her life!

My Review:
Everything about the romance story in this book worked for me. I like that both Eve and Rex were really too drunk to remember what happened when they hooked up. As the story evolves, we find out just how out of character that was for BOTH of them, which made it feel even more like fate. 

Rex is everything that Whiskey Creek is not. He's an ex-con, ex-gang member, used to using violence if the situation warrants, and on the run for his life. Eve is a 35 yo with the life of a grandmother...she runs the local B&B and is everyone's friend. But because she's so incredibly sweet and everyone's friend, they all feel very protective of her especially with things with her new guy just don't add up. Something isn't right with him. It served for a great dichotomy in their relationship which I just loved. I also really loved that I could NOT figure out how Brenda Novak was going to write herself out of this conflict. With only 10% left in the book, I just couldn't see how it could possibly end up happy for everyone. But she did it and she did it beautifully with everything that Whiskey Creek and this group of friends symbolize. I loved that it kept me guessing, but ended exactly in the best way for this couple with the help of Eve's friends

What didn't work for me in this book were a couple of the side stories. Teddy's attitude toward Eve's new romance felt over the top. If I was the love of his life, Sophia (who he threw Eve over for), I would have been calling him on it big-time. His reactions felt more like the reactions from a jealous lover, not a friend.  I hate the whole baby story line with the two brothers. It feels so soap-opera-ish, it almost makes me want to stop reading the books because I know that's going to blow up soon. 

There aren't very many friends left unattached, but I want to beg for Bax to get his own story. I love him and really, really want him to find his HEA. Come on can do this, right? I want to see Bax happy. I know that Harlequin doesn't normally do GLBT romance, but with Brenda Novak at the helm, you can't go wrong on this one. 

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