Monday, June 30, 2014

Secrets of Neverwood Anthology


Overall Rating: A-
Amazon Purchase link (entire anthology which is cheaper than buying them individually)


Reviewer's Note: These three books are very interwoven, but even with that, it would be very easy to read any one of them as a stand-alone (each book runs about 50,000 words). That being said though, the entire series is excellent and I highly recommend you buy them as a group...plus it will save you money. Note: If you do plan to read them all, you need to read them in order because they do run chronologically in time.
Three men with vastly different lives are called home to Neverwood, the stately Pacific Northwest mansion of their youth. The one thing they share is a promise to Audrey, the woman they all called mother—that upon her death, they would restore the house and preserve it as a home for troubled boys.
But going home is never easy.
Cal struggles to recover from past heartbreak, while Danny fears his mistakes are too big to overcome. Devon believes he may never break down the barriers that separate him from honest emotion. And a benevolent spirit lingers in Neverwood's halls, intent on guiding her foster sons away from the mistakes of their youth and toward true love.
On the path to brotherhood, they discover the old mansion holds more than dusty furniture and secret passageways. An old mystery stirs up a new danger, one that could cost the men far more than just the house.



Title: One Door Closes
Author: G.B. Lindsey
My Rating: B+

Story Overview:
Years ago, Calvin Ware found a refuge in Neverwood, a home for wayward boys. Now, following the death of his foster mother Audrey, he’s returned to fulfill her request to restore the decrepit Victorian mansion to its former purpose.

Under the threat of repossession, Cal clashes with his foster brothers over restoration plans while fending off the unscrupulous developer who is breathing down his neck. Audrey’s well-meaning presence in his dreams does more harm than good as he struggles to cope with it all. What’s more, the contractor he hires to get the building up to code turns out to be Will Cabot, his high school flame.



As they begin working together, Cal finds he still has feelings for his first love. But his mistakes of years ago threaten their future, just as they ruined their past, and Cal knows he can’t withstand the heartbreak a second time.
My Rating: B+
My Review:
This book had a really different style to it...almost artsy, or high-literary. There was a lot that wasn't being said in the story...it was just inferred. It's difficult to explain because it was very different. It wasn't a bad different, but it did take a bit of time/reading to get used to. 

As the reader you know that Cal and Will have a history, but you only get little bits and pieces of the details of that history. Also, Cal has other issues and he can feel his world unraveling as the stress in his life gets higher and higher. Like I said, so much of this is inferred...definitely all secretive and it keeps you guessing about what exactly happened although it's not hard to figure out the general details of the secrets. 

This is also the first book in the anthology so it's the one setting up the relationships between the brothers vs their relationship to their foster mother and now their conflict within the town. I definitely liked the entire set-up here. The three brothers all grew up within the home, but at different times, so they barely know each other. So not only are they dealing with the loss of a woman who was very dear to all three of them, they are also learning to know each other, and trying to figure out how to save the home because there is a powerful man in town who's determined that these three men will not get to keep the home. 

Then there is Will and Cal. It took forever to figure out exactly what happened between them, but there's no denying that they both still have feelings.They both just really suck at expressing them. There is so much that needs to be said between the two of them...which means that they both read way too much into the things that aren't said...and of course, they both are always reading things wrong. I liked them and their common goal of saving the house. I liked Will's job as contractor and how that puts him right in the middle of Cal's world, whether he's comfortable with him there or not. This one worked for me. 

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

*************

Title: The Growing Season
Author: Diana Copland
My Rating: A

Story Overview:

The four years since Danny Redmond left Neverwood have been heartbreaking, and past mistakes continue to haunt him, even after he returns home.Together with two foster brothers he barely knows, they plan to turn the house into a welcoming place for runaways once again—the dying wish of their foster mother, Audrey.

Danny has nothing to contribute to the restoration of the decrepit mansion, save for a gift for growing things. His efforts to bring Audrey’s beloved gardens back to their former glory are complicated by handsome landscaper Sam Ignatius…and the feelings developing between them, despite their fiery differences of opinion. But one voice gives him hope, the only one he’s always trusted—Audrey’s.Danny comes to care deeply for Sam, but things look bleak when Sam’s city councilman father threatens to have Neverwood torn down. Danny isn't surprised. Why would he expect the future to be different from his past? All his relationships end in disaster...

My Rating: A
My Review:

Angst, I love it and Danny absolutely has it in spades, but he's earned it...the hard way. Danny is the youngest of the three brothers. He also had a little bit different background than most the kids that went through the house, coming from a privileged background. So he truly didn't appreciate what he had in the house until it was gone. Danny ran away with his lover when he was only 17. That didn't work out so well for him and he ended up starving on the streets. Eventually that landed him in juvenile hall for stealing food. While there, he was attacked. He's never recovered in the 3 years since that attack. He has nightmares and doesn't get close to anyone...including his two new brothers. 

But when Sam comes into his world, that begins to change...with a bit of help from his mother's ghost. Danny's situation broke my heart...just in that he is so alone, so unwilling to trust anyone. There were several times throughout the story that I had tears in my eyes for him. But when he connects with Sam, he's there for him. I liked all the threads that tied these two men together...their common interest in the landscaping and the tie between their mothers' cancer/deaths. I also liked the way that this story played out on the drama of the house with the town. Both Sam and Danny were awesome in those scenes...fighting for their rights to keep the house as a foster home.

I loved everything about this one. Really, really good story!

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

*************

Title: The Lost Year
Author: Libby Drew
My Rating: A-


Story Overview:
Devon McCade is no stranger to adversity. As a photojournalist, he’s seen all manner of human struggle. And as a kid, it’s what brought him to Neverwood, to his foster mother Audrey. It’s what he’s facing now, as he and his foster brothers work to restore the once-stately mansion amidst surprising signs from Audrey herself.

But when another anguished soul arrives at Neverwood, Devon can’t hide behind his camera. Nicholas Hardy is certain he saw his runaway son, Robbie, in a photo Devon took of homeless children. Devon knows all too well that a young teenager on the streets doesn’t have many options—and Robbie has been missing for a full year.

Searching for Robbie with Nicholas stirs memories and passions Devon had thought long lost, yet knowing that Nicholas will leave as soon as Robbie is found keeps him from opening himself up to something permanent. Devon must learn to fight for what he wants to keep—his love, and his home.



My Rating: A- 
My Review:
Reading through the series, Devon has seemed the most well-adjusted of the three men. He was the oldest and one of the first boys to come through Audrey's house. But looks can hide a lot. Like all the boys who came through, Devon had issues and Audrey saw them. He couldn't handle that and left, never to come back, which broke her heart. He couldn't handle the emotions she made him feel. He didn't want to love her...or anyone.

As an adult, Devon has spent his life dealing with incredibly emotional things with the wall of his camera between him and them so that he doesn't have to feel. But when a desperate father shows up needing help to find one of the kids in his photos, it's hard for Devon to maintain that distance, especially as exhaustion and frustration wear down his defenses. 

There was so much to like about this story. I loved the "images" of what Devon does with his camera. I also really liked his strength that he showed to do what he did. The entire story line about Nicholas and his son worked for me....and made my heart hurt for those runaways that live like that on a daily basis. I loved the way that this one ended with Audrey's ghost and the single call that happened at the end...perfect way to end the series. What these men have built with this house is wonderful and I know it's probably not going to happen, but I'd love to see more stories from the house. I'd love to know what happens with Glenna, Tag, and Wes...and even Robbie...the kids that we got to know through the series.

Overall, I am so glad I chose to pick this one up for review. It's an excellent series and I enjoyed every minute of reading it. 

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





Saturday, June 28, 2014

The River Leith by Leta Blake


Title: The River Leith
Author: Leta Blake
My Rating: A

Genre: Contemporary Romance (m/m)
Series: -
Main Characters: Leith and Zach
Release Date: May 2014
Publisher: Harlequin 
Links to Purchase
Amazon  
Sexual Intensity: hot


Story Overview:
Memory is everything.

After an injury in the ring, amateur boxer Leith Wenz wakes to discover his most recent memories are three years out of date. Unmoored and struggling to face his new reality, Leith must cope anew with painful revelations about his family. His brother is there to support him, but it’s the unfamiliar face of Zach, a man introduced as his best friend, that provides the calm he craves. Until Zach’s presence begins to stir up feelings Leith can’t explain.

For Zach, being forgotten by his lover is excruciating. He carefully hides the truth from Leith to protect them both from additional pain. His bottled-up turmoil finds release through vlogging, where he confesses his fears and grief to the faceless Internet. But after Leith begins to open up to him, Zach's choices may come back to haunt him.

Ultimately, Leith must ask his heart the questions memory can no longer answer.

My Review:
Okay, I'll admit it...I have a weak spot for amnesia story lines (as if Snowcroft Lost didn't tell you that) so when I heard Leta Blake came out with one, I knew I had to read it. And I did enjoy it. 

This amnesia story is a bit different in that the doctor's don't believe that Leith will ever get the three years worth of memories back. Normally, that would be enough...he lived and three years are nothing when compared to the options. But for Leith and Zach this is huge because it was within that three years that they met and Leith discovered he was bi, not straight. Everything about their lives is gone from his memory, including the possibility of even being attracted to men which is completely devastating for Zach. 

The other problem with all this is that Leith is a prize-fighter and the injury to his brain means that he gets violent when there is too much input at once that doesn't match with what he knows. As a result, the doctors recommend that they not tell Leith what Zach and he meant to each other before. That would be too much of a shock too early in his recovery. 

This is an emotional, angst-filled story and Leta Blake did a phenomenal job of conveying that on the page. While I hated what the vlog's meant for Zach (I really hated that he put all that out to complete strangers on the web rather than keep it private...it seemed way too ego-driven doing it that way), the emotion shown through those vlog was painful to read. My heart hurt for him. The sense of loss that he has even though Leith is still alive jumps off the page, as does his guilt for mourning for Leith even though he's still alive. I can't imagine being in that position. And poor Leith...he knows that he's missing something, but has no idea what even though he feels the pull to Zach. 

That is the one thing that I truly loved about the story. I loved that that need for Zach is still there. The pull Leith feels toward him is very real throughout the book, even when Leith doesn't understand what it stems from. For me, that made this book work completely for me. It gives a sense of soulmates that I love in my romance and worked for me 100%. 

I was NOT a fan of Leith's therapist. While I enjoyed some of his little zen-like questions, I thought that he was too vague most the time and really hated that he's the one to recommend that they not share the truth with Leith. I could understand why they did it, but thought that he should have better been able to read Leith and lead him to figuring out what Zach meant to him earlier. But this is just a book and that wouldn't have worked for the author's story so I get it. I still remained frustrated by it though. 

Overall this was a good book. There were a few things that i had issues with about it, but the overall story and characters were more than enough to make up for the things that bugged me. I definitely recommend this one if you like amnesia stories as much as me.


Friday, June 27, 2014

Aces Wild by Amanda Carlson

Title: Aces Wild
Author: Amanda Carlson
My Rating: A

Genre: Paranormal Romance 
Series: Sin City Collectors #1 
Main Characters: Nevada and Jake
Release Date: June 2014
Publisher: 
Links to Purchase
Amazon  
Sexual Intensity: spicy

Story Overview:
Welcome to Vegas. Home of the Sin City Collectors. The job description is easy: Bring the offending supernatural in to the Boss and don’t ask any questions. 

Nevada Hamilton has learned a few things since becoming a Sin City Collector, and staying away from vampires is one of them. After botching her first Collection, the vamp getting away after causing as much damage as possible, she hasn’t been assigned to another one since.

But when she receives her next playing card, she’s in for a surprise. Not only is a vampire her next target, but they’ve paired her up to make sure she gets the job done right. Refusing a Collection is not an option, but when she discovers who she’s working with, making the mission as difficult as possible for her new partner becomes her top priority…

Being a hellhound isn’t enough to protect Jake Troubadour from Nevada Hamilton, no matter how thick his skin is. Finding out he has to work with the beautiful dhampir, after not seeing her for three years, is a low blow—but Jake is a professional. He takes his Collections as seriously as he does running his bar. He’ll do whatever it takes to get the job done, but after that, he’s out. No more chances for the girl who wrecked his bike and scarred his soul so long ago. But even with his heart dead set against it, this hellhound quickly finds he’s not immune to love after all.

What’s Collected in Vegas, stays in Vegas...



My Review:
Yes...another fantastic start to a new paranormal world. Amanda Carlson kicks off this new series which is going to feature some of the biggest names in paranormal romance...Amanda Carlson, Kristen Painter, Shawntelle Madison, Sara Humphreys, and Angie Fox. Each of these books work as a stand-alone in this new paranormal world set in Las Vegas. Amanda Carlson did an amazing job kicking it off with this first book which was so good. I FLEW through reading it because I didn't want to put it down. 

The Collectors are a group of paranormal bounty hunter types. They apprehend paranormal criminals which tend to drift to Las Vegas simply because they don't stand out there. 

This book is about Nevada who is a dhampir, half vampire/half human. She's been a collector very successfully for 3 years. The only paranormal creature who's given her troubles was her first apprehension, a vampire who got away. Normally the collectors work alone, but this time her boss, Louis (a hellhound) has assigned a partner in Jake, his nephew and also a hellhound. Nevada is less than thrilled to have a partner especially when she finds out it's Jake. They hooked up 3 years ago with rather humiliating results since Nevada barely remembers the encounter. 

I loved Jake and Nevada. Jake is obviously a good guy. Their history is complicated because he had no idea that she was compromised at all that night and feels incredibly guilty about it even though it was the hottest night of his life. I truly love how much of a good guy he is...willing to accept whatever blame Nevada wants to throw at him. For her part, Nevada is one tough and strong girl. She's learned to rely entirely upon herself so it's really hard for her to let Jake in. 

I loved the backstory for Nevada and how it wove into the Collector story. Everything about this one worked for me...both the action and the rocking sexy romance story line. Big, strong Hellhound...oh, yeah!

I love the idea of paranormal bounty hunters set in the glitter and nightlife of Las Vegas. This first book introduced us to a menagerie of different paranormals and characters and I can already tell...this is a series going onto my must-buy list. Great premise, great adventure, great fun, and a set up for some really sexy times. Every book is set up to have it's own HEA so it's a win-win all the way around. I can't wait to read more!

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Until We Touch by Susan Mallery


Title: Until We Touch
Author: Susan Mallery
My Rating: B

Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Series: Fool's Gold #15
Main Characters: Jack and Larissa
Release Date: June 2014
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Links to Purchase
Amazon  
Sexual Intensity: hot


Story Overview:
After a family tragedy, former football hero Jack McGarry keeps the world at arm's length—a challenge now that his PR firm has moved to neighborly Fool's Gold, California. 

Larissa Owens knows where she stands—Jack sees her as just another one of the guys. No matter what her heart wishes, Jack's her boss, not her boyfriend. But then Larissa's big secret is revealed…by her mother! 

When Jack discovers the truth about Larissa's feelings, her touch suddenly becomes tantalizing, and he's not sure he wants to resist. But if he gives in to desire, heartache is sure to follow. Friendship or true love—will Jack go for the ultimate play?

My Review:
Jack and Larissa...I have been looking forward to their story ever since they were introduced as characters in Fool's Gold. They just have such an interesting relationship. Basically, they share every single part of married life without the sex. They rely on one another, hang out together, and are as close as any friends could be. But when Larissa's mom suggest that Larissa is in love with him, it throws everything out of whack...for both of them. 

I like stories with set-ups like this...friends-to-lovers...simply because the characters already know how compatible they are. If they weren't, they wouldn't be friends. Jack is a former NFL quarterback and Larissa is his personal assistant and masseuse. She keeps Jack functioning in the world and he supports her many charities and rescues. As a guy who learned early not to connect with people, theirs is the perfect partnership. She cares so he doesn't have to. 

Jack's backstory really broke my heart. Jack was the "lucky" twin. The one born healthy...really healthy...did you catch he was a pro athlete? When he was 17, his twin brother died of heart failure after a lifetime of sickness and surgery. But Jack didn't just lose his brother. He lost his parents too as they basically abandoned him at that point. He reminded them of his brother they lost and as the healthy one about to go to college, he was fine on his own. He basically lost his entire family in a few weeks time...and never recovered emotionally from it. He learned to never ever connect and get his emotions involved...something that has worked for him most of his life...until Fool's Gold. 

In the midst of Larissa and Jack's developing relationship, there were several other stories happening on the side. Taryn was working on deciding wedding details and I loved all that story line esp. since she and Jack were married first. They have a phenomenal friendship after that and I loved the scenes with them pertaining to her wedding to Angel. Everything about that side of the story worked for me. 

Larissa is also continuing her rescuing ways and there's an 18 yo who comes into play in this book. I wanted more with Percy. His story was great and I would have been thrilled if his scenes had gone a bit deeper especially with Jack...I wish that things had been developed a bit more there because there was definitely a lot more that could have been done with that story line, but I have a feeling we'll see more of Percy in the future. 

Overall, it was another decent installment to the Fool's Gold series. 

I will tell you that up until the very end of this book, it was a high 4* or 5* rating, but the hero's actions at the end lowered that and I honestly debated giving this only 3*. I don't always agree with characters and could have overlooked it if it had been just that. But Jack's actions at the end of this book simply didn't make sense to me...they were so out of character, I had a really hard time with it and it literally took me out of the story and made me question the author. I still don't understand the why's of the extreme drama at the end when he was never self destructive before and then to let it go on for over 3 weeks...nope, that was TOO out of character for me to accept it.  

The set-up for next year's books is beginning to develop and I am really excited about those coming stories. There are some great characters moving into Fool's Gold. 

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

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Talking After Midnight by Dakota Cassidy


Title: Talking After Midnight 
Author: Dakota Cassidy
My Rating: A


Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Series: Plum Orchard #3
Main Characters: MaryBell and Tag
Release Date: June 2014
Publisher: Harlequin Mira
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: hot


Story Overview:
Shields up, sugar—things in Plum Orchard are about to get real. 

Marybell Lyman is notorious for two things: 

Her look. The wicked hairstyle, multiple piercings and practiced sneer that say: "Stay back—I bite." 

Her voice. The syrupy lilt that's her bread and butter at Call Girls, the prim little town's flourishing phone-sex company. 

Hunky handyman Taggart Hawthorn is mesmerized by the contradiction: such sweet tones inside such a spiky shell! He wants to know more about mysterious Marybell, to hear more of her sexy talk—all for himself. 

But Tag's attentions, delicious as they are, have Marybell panicked. She's been hiding a long time. She's finally got a home, a job and friends she adores. She won't have it all snatched away by another stupid mistake—like falling in love. So when Marybell's past comes calling, she and the Call Girls will prove no one handles scandals like a Southern girl!

My Review:

This entire series has appealed to this reader who loves a serving of angst in her romance...and this book had that in spades. 

Marybell...wow, who would have guessed that she was hiding so much under that facade of makeup? And it goes so far beyond having a rough childhood, because she definitely had that. No, this book goes to the point of 'how much bad luck can one person have in life?' Marybell spent her whole life shuffled around the foster system...never with anyone she could count on and she spent a lot of that time basically fending for herself, but she managed it and graduated from high school with good enough grades to get a scholarship to college, where she was doing fairly well. She was in her senior year and landed a prestigious internship...an internship that cost her everything. Within two years, she was homeless and eating out of dumpsters when Landon rescued her off the street and took her under his wing. After the debacle of the internship, she became nationally infamous so she began to hide under a goth facade of heavy make-up and spiked hair that hid the vulnerable girl and her real identity. She's managed that way now for two years...until Tag.

Tag has his own road of hardships. He made a bad business decision which cost him everything financially. His resulting depression and alcoholism cost him everything else...besides his brothers. Now he's finally getting his life back and will to move on and he's intrigued by the sexy little Marybell. He has no doubt that the "get-up" hides some secret hurt, but he has no idea that his hurt and her hurt are tied together. She does...which is why she's insistent that he stay away from her...something he doesn't do. 

Literally, my heart breaks in this book for Marybell. The levels of unfairness of what happens to her in this book and her life made me want to sob for her. And I just loved the way that Dakota Cassidy revealed her story. It's a very slow reveal. As the reader you know from the very beginning that somehow she is recognizable and that if Tag saw her without her mask, he would know who she was. But it takes a while for it all to come out as to how exactly they are tied together and by then, I absolutely loved her character and was completely emotionally involved with the entire story. 

And like with all these books, I loved the phone sex girls. Landon did such an incredible thing with the creation of this company. All of them needed the support he offered and they formed their own pseudo-family. For someone like Marybell who has NEVER had anyone, this is HUGE. And it's why she is so terrified of her secret coming out. It's one thing to never have a support system. As a person, you get used to that. But to have it and lose it all would be simply devastating. She can't risk it. *sob* I did love her and her entire story. 

I HIGHLY recommend this one!