Sunday, July 30, 2017

Pieces of Me by Shiloh Walker

Title: Pieces of Me
Author: Shiloh Walker
My Rating: B-

Genre: Romantic Suspense
Series
Main Characters: Shadow and Dillian
Release Date: July 2017
Publisher:
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot


Story Overview:

Obsession can be deadly… 

Nobody knows that better than Shadow Harper. It seemed like a dream come true when a rich, suave older man noticed her during her second year of college. Stefan Stockman seemed to love her obsessively. He came into her life and swept her off her feet, seduced her, married her…and then slowly, eventually, that dream come true became a living nightmare.

Now, three years after she finally escaped him, she’s trying to put her life back together. Haunted by memories, struggling with post-traumatic stress, she spends most of her time locked away in her home on Pawley’s Island, a small town on the South Carolina coast. Her rare moments of joy come from her trips to the nearby beach.

She compulsively checks the locks on her doors, makes sure she has her cell phones—five of them—and if she misses something on her schedule, it throws her into a panic.

When she accidentally leaves a sketchbook on the beach, an anxiety attack seems imminent. Her art has become her salvation, her sanity, and losing even one sketch is like losing a piece of her soul. When she returns to hunt for the sketchbook, already fearing it’s gone for good, she’s surprised to find it still sitting there, saved by a sexy fellow beach lover—the mysterious Dillian Jenkins.

He’s brash, bold, brutally handsome…and gentle. He’s the exact opposite of the man who’d tormented her for years, and Shadow finds herself slowly, almost reluctantly, falling for him. Even obsessing over him.

When her ex-husband once again intrudes on the happiness she’s finally discovering, Shadow turns to Dillian. But will she find shelter there…or another betrayal?



My Review:
I'm going to tell you right up front that this is going to seem like a wishy-washy review. Shiloh Walker can write a mesmerizing story and I was completely caught up in Shadow's story, but it's not a happy one. Shadow has been horribly traumatized. And honestly this is somewhat of a theme with Shiloh Walker's books...her characters have lived through awful things. I know that, so when I was reading it and wishing that the book was just a little more uplifting, that was my fault. Shiloh Walker's don't leave you with a happier, lighter feel for having read them. They are dark and gritty.

But I did find this one more than a little depressing. And I think my real issue was that we didn't get any of the story through Dillian's point of view...and I get that there's a very good reason for that. But Shadow is just so broken...and then at times so trusting, too trusting if you ask me. The dynamic just didn't quite work for me. 

But the book moves along and I kept waiting for the shoe to drop. In that regard, it's very well-written suspense. I kept turning the page waiting for the boogeyman to jump off the page and attack Shadow. 

I hated how little was revealed about Dillian. I know that his reveal was supposed to be shocking, but besides his protectiveness about Shadow, there was really very LITTLE insight into his character. I hated that. I still feel like I have no idea who he really was or if he was the right guy for Shadow. 

Overall, I liked Shadow. She's a strong character to have survived and overcome so many of her fears after all that she's been through. I loved her art and even her OCD and phobias made sense to me. A lot of other little things didn't make sense...most especially how her ex-husband was able to do the things he did without leaving any trace. That was never explained and it was all just too easy for me to buy. 

The other thing that didn't work for me was that ending. It was abrupt and extremely unsatisfying. Nope, I was NOT a happy camper when I hit the last sentence in the story, and I'll tell you right now that dropped my rating on this book from a 4 star read to a 3 star.

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

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Grounding Griffin by Lucy Lennox (audiobook)

Title:  Grounding Griffin
Author: Lucy Lennox
My Rating: B+
Narrator: Michael Pauley

Genre: Contemporary Romance (m/m)
Series: Made Marian #4
Main Characters: Griffin and Sam
Release Date: February 2017 (audiobook)
Publisher: -
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
Griff: I learned early on that the easiest way to avoid a broken heart is to always be the first out the door. Caring about anyone or anything is asking to be disappointed, which is why I avoid relationships and chase freelance gigs — ghost writing restaurant reviews and penning articles about the efficacy of cheesy pick up lines — instead of chasing my dreams.

Besides, dreams don’t come true for people like me. And no one, not even the sexy-as-hell bartender at the club can convince me otherwise. Because I’m never risking my heart again.

Sam: As a bartender I’ve watched a million pick-up artists work their magic, but none as talented as Griffin Marian. He’s a flirt, a good time. Hooking up with him was supposed to be just a fling. I wasn’t supposed to care abut his fractured past or his buried dreams. I have my own future to worry about, especially after that stupid food critic scuttled my hopes of finally opening my own restaurant.

But, the more time I spend with Griff, the more I’m beginning to realize that my plans mean nothing without him. If only I can convince him to give us a chance to follow our dreams together.

Fair warning: this book includes flirty sweetness, detailed descriptions of man parts touching, and the dirtiest thing to come out of Aunt Tilly's mouth yet.

Grounding Griffin is the fourth book in the best-selling Made Marian series. It can be read on its own but is much more fun read as part of the series. The series begins with Borrowing Blue and each book follows a Marian brother's search for his HEA.

My Review:
Overall: 4.0
Performance: 4.5
Story: 3.5

The setup for this one was really cute. Griffin is a newspaper reporter doing a story about how effective cheesy pet names are for picking up guys. Sam works at the bar where Griffin is practicing his technique. I love that Sam calls Griffin "Foxy" because that's always his opening salvo. Those first few scenes were brilliant and just so fun. A smile kept breaking over my face as I listened to those. 

Griffin has had a really hard life. This is one of those things that I think would have been more impactful if I had been reading the book rather than listening to it, because that really should have been super, super emotional. And it's not that the narrator didn't do an incredible job with those scenes, because he totally did. Michael Pauley did an incredible job on the narration of this one. There's just an emotional depth from reading and internalizing the story that isn't there as much when passively listening to the story. 

And that's kind of the issue with this book, too. There was a really lighthearted fun beginning (meet-cute) that truly was fun and cute, but by the end of the book, the whole vibe of the story had done a complete 180...turning much darker with Griffin's background, the missing kid, and the side-story with Sam's family. It made it feel like two totally different books. 

But again, I am still loving the Marian family and the entire series. And I did love the solution for the conflict with Sam's career and how it tied back to the Marian family...perfection there.


Thursday, July 27, 2017

Eye Candy by Jessica Lemmon

Title: Eye Candy
Author: Jessica Lemmon
My Rating: A

Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Series: Real Love #1
Main Characters: Jackie and Vince
Release Date: July 2017
Publisher: Loveswept
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
Jacqueline: As an adult woman--and the vice president of a marketing firm--I shouldn't be waiting by my office window to ogle the mystery man who jogs by every morning at 11:45. Sure, he's a gorgeous, perfect specimen of the human race, but I can't bring myself to hit on a total stranger. However, my best friend-slash-colleague Vince Carson thinks I should do more than talk to the guy. In fact, he's borderline obsessive about "getting me laid." (His words.) But the more time we spend together, the more it's clear: The one I'm falling for is Vince.

Vince: Jackie Butler's got it bad for some pompous, over-pumped A-hole who struts his stuff past her window. That doesn't bother me. I know she deserves nice things. What does bother me is that she friend-zoned me big-time last year, so I can't ask her out myself. But what if I set her up with Mr. Steroids? Then, when he breaks her heart, I can swoop in and save her like the nice guy I am. Everything's going according to plan . . . until we share a ridiculously epic kiss. And suddenly anything is possible.

My Review:
Friends to lovers...my all time favorite trope and this book is a GREAT example of the genre. I loved it so, so much!

Vince and Jackie have worked together for three years, but they truly didn't become friends until two years ago when Vince's marriage fell apart and he pretty much did, too. His friendship with Jackie is what got him through. And now he's wanting more, but until runner guy started coming by the office, he really didn't think Jackie was ready to date. She's also had a hard time getting over her rough divorce. So, he comes up with a plan to get Jackie interested in the idea of dating again...he pushes her to pursue running guy, assuming RG is a dud. Yeah, you can see how that might work out for him...or not as the case may be. 

Running guy is gorgeous...to the point that Jackie is setting her clock to make sure she doesn't miss him coming by. And bonus, she's just discovered that he lives in her apartment complex, too. But Vince is right...Jackie hasn't really considered dating, but when he starts pushing her she sees running guy in a different light...maybe he can be more than eye candy. 

I love the way this book starts out in Jackie's point of view. I was totally sitting there judging this book and the cover because Running Guy isn't her hero...he's a blond. Cover guy (and Vince) are NOT. hehe. I also love how close Jackie and Vince are. They're truly best friends. They do everything together, so when they start to play with the idea that they might be more, they're really only adding in kissing. But the book is realistic in that there are still some awkward moments. It doesn't help that Running Guy is still in the picture, too. 

Both of these characters have deep scars from when their marriages broke down. Those scars have left them both with trust issues that definitely make an appearance. Again...it's realistic and I loved that. It's not all smooth sailing just because they were so close before. 

Everything about this book appealed to me. I loved both the main characters, their friends, the settings, and the setup for the next book. I think I've found a new series to adore. 

I HIGHLY recommend this one!

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

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Cross Check by Kelly Jamieson

Title: Cross Check
Author: Kelly Jamieson
My Rating: A-

Genre: New Adult Romance 
Series: Bayard Hockey #2
Main Characters: Ella and Ben
Release Date: July 2017
Publisher: Loveswept
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
A party girl and a clean-cut college hockey player discover that they’re not so different in this sexy, soulful Bayard Hockey novel from the bestselling author of Shut Out and the Heller Brothers series.

Ella Verran has three goals this semester: get off academic probation, repair her relationship with her friend Skylar, and take some responsibility for her life. All of which are hard enough without hot, snobby hockey player Ben Buckingham around to distract her. Ella can’t stand Ben, and she knows the feeling is mutual. But he’s best friends with Skylar’s boyfriend, so he’s always around—taunting and tempting Ella in ways she never thought possible.

As the star forward of the Bayard College hockey team, Ben has goals too, like playing well enough to land a spot on an NHL roster. Ben is perfectly poised on the ice, so why can’t he keep his cool around Ella? Her wild behavior rubs him in all the wrong ways—and a few of the right ones. But as they skate around each other, Ben learns that there’s more to Ella than her bad reputation. And when the line between love and hate starts to blur, he can’t resist crossing over and sweeping her off her feet.



My Review:
Oooh, this story was good. These two characters do not like one another at all, but they keep getting thrown together because they're best friends are dating. 

To Ella, Ben is a stuck up, cocky jock who's completely full of himself. 

To Ben, Ella is a party girl, more interested in drinking, partying, and sleeping around than anything else. 

They are both completely wrong, but it's not until they keep having to spend time with one another that they begin to realize that.

I liked the slow build to this romance. Even when they begin to realize that they are sexually drawn to one another, it takes a while after that for them to realize that they are drawn to the person too. It's not all hate anymore. That made the story and the romance feel more realistic. 

One of the things that's so good about this series is that there are social issues playing out in the background of them. In this one Ella is dealing with a lot of guilt after the guy she had a crush on committed suicide. She's dealing with that guilt and becoming more aware of recognizing signs of depression and mental issues. Those things that she didn't see in her friend. There's also a lot of discussion about consent when alcohol is involved. Ella used to drink a lot and then have sex when she really couldn't consent. These are really amazing themes to play out in a New Adult stories.

I really enjoy hockey themed stories...add in college...and enemies to lovers...and this book hit several of my YES tropes. 

I liked it and definitely recommend.

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

All Or Nothing At All by Jennifer Probst

Title: All Or Nothing At All 
Author: Jennifer Probst
My Rating: A

Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Series: Billionaire Builders #3
Main Characters: Tristan and Sydney
Release Date: July 2017
Publisher: Gallery
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
Tristan Pierce left the family business to carve out a life of his own, but never forgot his passionate affair with the much younger, inexperienced Sydney Green, or the hurtful break-up that tore him apart. When he’s forced to return home and face his past, will he be able to carve out a future, or will lies ruin his second chance at love?

Sydney Green loved Tristan her entire life, but when he left, he took not only her heart, but her trust with him. Now that they’re together again, it’s time they both face the biggest secret of all….
 

My Review:
This was a book that I started reading and could not walk away from. It was so good, but I'm a sucker for a second chance at love story and this is a good one. 

Sidney and Tristan were romantically involved almost eight years before. But Tristan didn't want to stay in their hometown. Sidney didn't want to leave. They each were left with a broken heart. But Tristan didn't know all that Sidney did at the time. 

He was gone five years and the last two years, they've managed to almost completely avoid one another. But Sidney works for the company that Tristan runs with his brothers and she's demanding more responsibility since she's worked there longer than any of the three brothers. That's put them in very close proximity to one another whether they want to be or not. The thing is their chemistry is just as hot, if not hotter, than it ever was. 

There is a lot of high emotion to this book. The thing that caused their downfall before was Tristan's ability to withhold himself from Sidney. He still has that ability and it's really hurtful for their relationship. Honestly there was one point where I was so angry with him that I wanted her to be able to make him hurt. But luckily the author knew that, too, and she got him taken care of. 

I really did enjoy this book a lot. There's a lot of suspense to the romance just because it seems like their conflict is so insurmountable (mainly because Tristan is a stubborn sob...LOL...I did mention I had a few issues with him, right?). But I liked that because I never knew where the story might go and how the conflict would resolve. 

I definitely recommend this book and the entire series. I've thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the Pierce brothers. Every one of these books has been great.

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

Monday, July 24, 2017

Get A Grip by L.A. Witt

Title: Get A Grip
Author: L.A. Witt
My Rating: A

Genre: Contemporary Romance (m/m)
Series: Bluewater Bay #19
Main Characters: Shane and Aaron
Release Date: July 2017
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot


Story Overview:
If a tree falls in Bluewater Bay . . . could it be fate?

A year after his divorce, Shane Andrews isn’t interested in dating—not that he has time, between three kids and a demanding job as a grip. When a windstorm knocks a tree onto one of the Wolf’s Landing soundstages, Shane’s there to help with the mess . . . and so is firefighter Aaron Tucker.

A former smoke jumper, Aaron’s an adrenaline junkie and way too restless and reckless to be relationship material. As far as he’s concerned, monogamy is for penguins, and he’d rather be alone than tied down. Signing up to be a stepparent? No, thank you.

But after a scorching-hot night together, they’re hooked. Aaron is a taste of the excitement Shane’s been lacking, and Shane’s pushing buttons Aaron didn’t know he had. The more they’re together, the less Aaron craves wild nights with other men . . . but the more Shane wants to play the field like he never got to in his twenties.

This could be the love neither man knew he needed, but only if Shane gets his feet back on the ground before Aaron walks away.

My Review:
I really enjoyed this book, although I read it during a crazy week, so it took me four days to get through it. It just made me enjoy the story more because I truly got to immerse myself into the details of the story. 

I liked these guys just because they are both older, although they don't really want to accept the reality of that. Aaron has lived the life of a single, go-lucky, adrenaline junkie. Shane got a girl pregnant at the age of eighteen, so he's always had the responsibility. He's never had the chance to be the happy go lucky guy that Aaron has had. But now that his kids are older and he has his second divorce under his belt, he no longer wants serious relationships. Been there, done that, sucks at that. He's just at a point where he wants to have fun. Aaron is willing to do that with him especially since the sex is so incredibly hot. 

The book was interesting. Shane is a monogamous guy. That's just his default, no matter that he doesn't want a serious relationship. He has to fight against that almost this entire book. That isn't the type of relationship these two guys have. Aaron sure isn't going to accept to being tied down to a guy with three kids. He's not a person who would be okay stepping into a ready-made family. 

So both guys are automatically rebelling against the idea of a relationship, although they settle into that in reality pretty quickly. These guys are just really in sync. They work together and their chemistry is fantastic. They balance one another out really well. 

Overall, I thought this book was a great addition to this series. I love this series so much and love that I can jump in and out of the series depending on how much the book appeals to me. This story was a definite recommend from me.  

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

Cutie and the Beast by E.J. Russell

Title: Cutie and the Beast
Author: E.J. Russell
My Rating: B+

Genre: Paranormal Romance (m/m)
Series: Fae Out of Water #1
Main Characters: David and Alun
Release Date: July 2017
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
Temp worker David Evans has been dreaming of Dr. Alun Kendrick ever since that one transcription job for him, because holy cats, that voice. Swoon. So when his agency offers him a position as Dr. Kendrick’s temporary office manager, David neglects to mention that he’s been permanently banished from offices. Because, forgiveness? Way easier than permission.

Alun Kendrick, former Queen’s Champion of Faerie’s Seelie Court, takes his job as a psychologist for Portland’s supernatural population extremely seriously. Secrecy is paramount: no non-supe can know of their existence. So when a gods-bedamned human shows up to replace his office manager, he intends to send the man packing. It shouldn’t be difficult—in the two hundred years since he was cursed, no human has ever failed to run screaming from his hideous face.

But cheeky David isn’t intimidated, and despite himself, Alun is drawn to David in a way that can only spell disaster: when fae consort with humans, it never ends well. And if the human has secrets of his own? The disaster might be greater than either of them could ever imagine.


My Review:
ooh, I really enjoyed this first book in the series and am now ready for the other two. hehe, but I guess I'm supposed to talk about this one first. 

David is a mess. He seems to be a bit of a jinx. Wherever he goes, chaos follows...to the point where's he's been banned from actually working in an office by his temp service. But an awful flu virus is going around which means he gets an assignment he was never meant to have...working in therapist, Alun's office. Oh, and he's a human...something that should never work in a therapists office who deals with troubled paranormals every day.

Alun is a fae, but he's been cursed. It looks like he has some sort of birth defect that deformed his face...into the face of a beast, but instead he'd dealing with a 200 year curse. But it works well for him as a therapist. His patients, who are also paranormal beings, see that everything in his world hasn't been perfect.

Poor Alun...my heart hurt for him. He truly feels he doesn't deserve love. And David with all his naturally helpful and caring ways is totally confusing to him. He has no idea what to make of him. David is awkward, but it's done in such a sweet way, and the thing is he knows he's awkward and has just learned to accept and embrace it. He only wants to help people, so he figures as long as he isn't hurting anyone, then it's okay to be awkward.

The book was fun and incredibly creative. It takes place in our world where no humans know that the supernaturals exist. Alun actually has a support group for humans who have been traumatized by their surprising interactions with supernatural beings. But there are all these supernaturals out there...fae, vampires, druids, and shifters. And David has a natural affinity to seeing new treatments for a lot of their maladies. 

I enjoyed the book and can't wait for the next two, featuring Alun's brothers.

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

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Jumping Jude by Lucy Lennox (audiobook)

Title:  Jumping Jude
Author: Lucy Lennox
My Rating: A
Narrator: Michael Pauley

Genre: Contemporary Romance (m/m)
Series: Made Marian #3
Main Characters: Jude and Derek
Release Date: February 2017 (audiobook)
Publisher: -
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
Listening Length: 7 hours and 30 minutes
Jude: Reaching the top of the country music charts brings out the crazy, and there’s no one crazier than my ex. Unfortunately, his threats to out me are escalating. Enter the bodyguard of my dreams. 

I’d probably chafe under his constant presence if his attention to my body wasn’t so… ah… thorough. Now I have to worry about outing myself to millions of fans if I can’t keep my hands off him in public. 

Derek: Now I’m an ex-Marine turned babysitter. If I have to hear Jude sing his mega-hit Bluebells one more time, I might murder him myself, and after 6 years in special ops, I know my way around a weapon. Unfortunately, so does he. Except his arsenal includes washboard abs and a killer set of pipes. 

I’ve faced guns, knives, explosives and yet it’s Jude Marian who may end up bringing me to my knees. 

Fair warning: Jude and Derek's story contains frequent detailed scenes of man parts touching, little old ladies being inappropriate, and two lonely hearts coming together in perfect harmony. 


While it can also be read on its own, Jumping Jude is the third in the Made Marian series. Each book tells the story of one of the Marian brothers' search for true love. The first in the series, Borrowing Blue, is available now on Amazon. 
My Review:
Overall: 4.5
Performance: 4.5
Story: 4.5

Ooh, this entire series has been great so far, but I think this has been my favorite book of the series so far. 

Both the guys in this story are in the closet. For Jude, he's a country music star...a career with a fan base that isn't exactly known for it's lgbtqa acceptance. On the other hand, Derek is his bodyguard and comes from a very alpha military family...also not known for its acceptance. And at the beginning of the book, neither guy is aware that the other is gay. I liked that...a lot. 

This story covers several months in time as these two develop in their relationship. There is a lot of stress, both from Jude's high pressure job, the crazy fans, and keeping their growing feelings secret from one another. 

These two guys are very different. I like that Jude is artistic and a small guy. He's an introvert who simply puts on a different persona to interact with fans. But he loves sitting around and cuddling with Derek. I loved those evenings at home when the two of them were together and just snuggling on the couch. Derek is a big ex-army guy, but he also really loves snuggling in with Jude. Seriously, these were my favorites scenes in this book. 

I enjoyed this audiobook. In fact, I'm enjoying the entire series. I want to just sit around and listen to the next two books that are available right now. I love the Marian clan...and this author's writing. 

Friday, July 21, 2017

Bonfires by Amy Lane (audiobook)

Title:  Bonfires
Author: Amy Lane
My Rating: A
Narrator: Nick J. Russo

Genre: Contemporary Romance (m/m)
Series
Main Characters: Aaron and Larx
Release Date: June 2017 (audiobook)
Publisher: Dreamspinner
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
Listening Time: 9 hrs 34 min

Ten years ago Sheriff’s Deputy Aaron George lost his wife and moved to Colton, hoping growing up in a small town would be better for his children. He’s gotten to know his community, including Mr. Larkin, the bouncy, funny science teacher. But when Larx is dragged unwillingly into administration, he stops coaching the track team and starts running alone. Aaron—who thought life began and ended with his kids—is distracted by a glistening chest and a principal running on a dangerous road.

Larx has been living for his kids too—and for his students at Colton High. He’s not ready to be charmed by Aaron, but when they start running together, he comes to appreciate the deputy’s steadiness, humor, and complete understanding of Larx’s priorities. Children first, job second, his own interests a sad last.

It only takes one kiss for two men approaching fifty to start acting like teenagers in love, even amid all the responsibilities they shoulder. Then an act of violence puts their burgeoning relationship on hold. The adult responsibilities they’ve embraced are now instrumental in keeping their town from exploding. When things come to a head, they realize their newly forged family might be what keeps the world from spinning out of control.
 

My Review:
Overall: 4.5
Performance: 4.5
Story: 4.75

OMG, I loved this book so, so much. This story is about two older men. Larx is the high school principal. Aaron is the deputy sheriff. Their romance begins when Aaron stops to warn Larx about running on a road with no shoulder. It would be a shame if Larx and his very distracting bare torso became road-pancake. That ends up with them becoming running partners. 

They also both have teenagers at the school and as a situation arises with a couple of the football players, they become partners in trying to make the school safe for all the kids. 

Seriously, I loved this book so much. Larx works with high schoolers everyday and they love him. He's a great guy who truly cares about his students and they know that about him. 

At issue though, for both men, is that their small town isn't all that progressive. If they come out their jobs could be in jeopardy. The entire story worked brilliantly for me. I loved the various teenagers...from the two heroes three kids to the football players, especially the one who was floundering with his family. My heart broke for him. 

The book was brilliant. The audio was amazing. I think this will probably be one of those books that I'll listen to again. I do know I need to order it in print, too, because I definitely want it on my keeper shelf. 

I loved this book and HIGHLY recommend it!