Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Love Taker by Erin McCarthy

Title: Love Taker
Author: Erin McCarthy
My Rating: A-

Genre: Contemporary Romance  
Series: Nashville Nights #3
Main Characters:  Elle and Tucker
Release Date: February 2017
Publisher:  Loveswept
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
The Nashville Nights series is burning up backstage in this sensual friends-to-lovers novel featuring a good-guy cop and a woman who’s been looking for Mr. Right in all the wrong places.

Pretty-boy musicians are a fixture of the Nashville country scene—and Elle Hart, hairdresser to the stars, is beginning to think that they’re all total pricks. Elle’s dating choices have been a disaster, but at least she has Tucker. Though he’s easy on the eyes, no one would ever accuse Jason Michael Tucker of being a pretty boy. The humble and handsome sheriff's deputy from Elle’s hometown has always been there to comfort her—until the evening their friendship unexpectedly leads to the best sex Elle has ever had.

Tucker has been lusting after Elle since they were an item as teens, but he knows that their wild night of passion is a one-time thing. He’s an old friend, nothing more, and they’re too different to become a couple just because they’ve knocked boots. After all, she hates being back in their hometown, and he’s not so fond of the big city. But when Elle comes to Tucker with news that changes everything, he must help her come to grips with her traumatic past—or risk losing her forever.

My Review:
I'll admit it...I started this book late one night and then didn't go to bed until I finished it. It's been a long time since I've read a book that kept me up like this one did. And even better...this story is a friends to lovers trope. OMG, I do love a good ftl story.

Elle and Tucker are best friends, even though they live four hours apart. Ever since her siblings have found love, Elle is questioning the choices she's made in her dating life and after a particularly bad date she calls her best friend to find out if she's as awful as she thinks. Elle doesn't get emotional, so when she does talking to Tucker, he panics and gets in his truck to find out what she's not telling him on the phone. Things happen...and they have sex. It wasn't planned and Elle especially has no idea what to do with it...so they both basically ignore it...and then ignore one another. Yeah, it affected their relationship... and then things happen.

I really enjoyed this book. The two characters are friends so they can be brutally honest with one another, which doesn't work so well for them as they try to navigate this new place that they find themselves in. Feelings get hurt and twisted and the fact of the matter is...they haven't lived in the same town in 12 years...so they have that distance between them too. The book felt very real. Elle is straightforward and used to doing what she has to do to get where she wants to go...alone. It's really difficult for her to see a relationship with Tucker working out, even though she really wants it to. 

But as they jump around what they could be to one another, the thing that never falters is that they ARE best friends. I love that, and it's why I enjoy friends to lovers stories so much. There's love and respect between them already, even if it's not a romantic love...at first. Tucker's character was awesome in all this. He's a sheriff...instinctually a caretaker and he wants nothing more than for Elle to be healthy and happy. And she wants the same for him. In fact, she's willing to step back from her feelings for him if that's what he needs and wants. I love two characters so willing to put the other one first. It's the basis for a great relationship. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the story. It enraptured my imagination from the very first page and didn't let go until long into the night. This is the kind of book that I love to read and it was awesome to see the characters from the first two stories within the pages, too. It was a good one. I highly recommend it.

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

What it Takes by Shannon Stacey

Title: What it Takes
Author: Shannon Stacey
My Rating: A-

Genre: Contemporary Romance  
Series: Kowalski #10
Main Characters:  Laney and Ben
Release Date: February 2017
Publisher:  Carina
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
Revisit all of your Kowalski favorites while falling in love with a brand-new romance in this reunion novel from New York Times bestselling author Shannon Stacey

Laney Caswell is looking for a change. A decade's worth of less-than-happy matrimony behind her, she wants peace—movies, books and, best of all, a new job at the Northern Star Lodge in Whitford, Maine. Spending the summer living in a camper is her chance to rediscover what makes her happy, and a perfect transition to her new life.

Being a paramedic in Whitford is nothing like Ben Rivers's city life, but when Josh Kowalski offers him the job, the lure of his hometown is too much to resist. Also too much to resist: Laney Caswell. Ben always thought he'd have a wife and kids, a happy family like the Kowalskis have all built, but he never made time in his life. Now he's found a woman who draws him like no other and helps him dream again—and the last thing she wants is a husband.



When the annual Kowalski family camping trip is moved to the Northern Star, both Ben and Laney are surrounded by the kind of happiness they've always wanted but never had. It just might be theirs—if they can put aside the past and reach for it together. 
My Review:
The Kowalski's are back with another two week camping trip of doom...LOL. But this time, they're dragging two civilians into the fray...Laney (who's the newest hire at the Kowalski Lodge) and Ben (who's the emergency paramedic who's just begun working for the town). Because of both their jobs and their circle of friends, they quickly find themselves constantly being thrown together in different circumstances. Normally this would be great, because they have fantastic chemistry, but right now they want different things. Ben is looking for forever. Laney is looking for right now. She just escaped a stifling 10 year marriage...she has no desire to enter into another relationship like that. 

This book had all the things that I've loved about all the Kowalski stories...sweeping scenes with all the family...lots of group dynamics where everyone is giving everyone else a hard time. There's the four-wheeling, dirty scrabble, lots of family meals, and s'mores. There is also a side story happening between one of the former couples (who just happened to have one of my favorite stories of the series, so I loved that)...Sean and Emma.

But despite all that there's a slightly different feel to this one just because of who Ben and Laney are. They aren't Kowalski's...they're just really close. But because they are support personnel (so to speak) for the Kowalski event, they provide a new interesting perspective. I loved both of their viewpoints. Ben is a paramedic who is constantly being called out to take care of injured 4-wheeler riders. I found those scenes fascinating and thoroughly enjoyed them. Then there's Laney in her little camper. I'll admit to having a certain level of envy over her circumstance. For the first time in 10 years, she has her own tiny little space with the pure freedom of all that entailed. That was a fun thing for me to imagine. I also really got where she was coming from in not wanting to get involved with Ben. She made a horrific choice for her first marriage. She would have issues trusting herself and her judgment after that. I couldn't judge her for that, although I really, really wanted her to give Ben a chance. He's such a good guy.

It's been a while since I got to enjoy a visit with the Kowalski clan. This book was awesome to provide that and I thoroughly enjoyed it. I will always be happy to revisit them, so hopefully, Shannon Stacey keeps finding ways for us to revisit them. And don't worry...you can read any of the books in the series as a stand alone without feeling lost or confused. Each book focuses on a separate couple.

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

Jordan Reclaimed by Scarlett Cole


Title: Jordan Reclaimed
Author: Scarlett Cole
My Rating: A-

Genre: New Adult Romance  
Series: Preload #1
Main Characters:  Jordan and Lexi
Release Date: February 2017
Publisher:  Swerve
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
Jordan Steele’s life began when he was ten. When he was taken from his parents and a house that was never a home. When he met his brothers, the other lost and abandoned boys in his group home. When he learned what friendship and family and love looked like.

Now he’s made good, touring the world with the band he and his brothers formed in that crowded group home. No one but his found family really knows the man under the fame and fortune, the scars he hides behind the rockstar lifestyle. Until he sees her through the windows of the National Ballet, dancing, and suddenly the world doesn’t seem so dark.

Aleksandra Artemov ticks all the ballet boxes. Father a legendary Kirov dancer. Check. Prepping since birth for classical ballet. Check. Compulsive control over the food she eats. Check. Principal dancer at The National Ballet of Canada. Check. But what she craves is freedom.

She craves Jordan.

Everything about him should terrify her. His size, his tattoos, his edge. But he doesn’t. He stirs her very soul. Jordan has nothing but himself to offer her, and he's never been good enough for anyone. Can he figure out how to face his own demons before he loses his light for good?
My Review:
Okay, this book features two characters who have seriously gotten the worst draw for awful parents. OMG...my heart broke for both of them...so hard. 

This book is a spinoff series from the Second Circle Tattoos series (which I adored). One of the heroes in that series was Dred, a member of the band, Preload. Now, finally after watching this group of misfits surrounding him and Pixie, they're getting their own stories. Yay. And yay for having Jordan first. 

At first glance, Jordan is the most messed up of these five guys (but with the hints throughout the book, it sounds like they're all going to have amazing stories). The band all lives together because of Jordan. He can't live alone. He needs to know that they are all safe and with him. Without that, he can't function or sleep. 

Jordan's story is absolutely tragic. The only thing he has going for him is his incredible tie to music. He's literally a savant when it comes to composing and being able to pick up music. But that doesn't make up for the incredibly tragic childhood he suffered through. 

He needs a good person in his life and Lexi is it. She understands hardship. She's a ballerina. Her father was also a dancer, but he defected from Russia and all his dreams fell apart. As a result, he obsesses about Lexi and pushing her to live his dream...to her detriment. But I love how determined she is. And unlike most heroines who find themselves in this kind of circumstance, she never backs down from her father. I loved how strong she was.

One of the best things about this story was the tie that both main characters have to music. They both feel music deeply, but they each express that very differently...Jordan through creating music, Lexi through dancing to it. I loved how they connected through that and how Jordan first contacted Lexi to give her music to dance to. Gorgeous. The mental visuals in this story were awesome, especially with the winter setting. I loved it all so much. 

And as always, this story...just like Scarlett Cole's original series...has a great bromance. These five guys have been through so much together. They truly have one another's backs. I love when there's a great story for the guys in my romance novels. They give one another a hard time and love...both equally well.

Like I said earlier, there were glimpses of what's to come for the other guys. I always assumed that Jordan was the most messed up of this group, but I have a feeling Scarlett Cole has some amazingly angsty good stories to come. I can't wait. This was a GREAT start to this new series.

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

Catch and Release by Laura Drewry

Title: Catch and Release
Author: Laura Drewry
My Rating: A-

Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Series: Fishing for Trouble #3
Main Characters: Hope and Ronan
Release Date: February 2017
Publisher:  Loveswept
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: hot


Story Overview:
The irresistible O’Donnell brothers return in a charming novel from the bestselling author of Off the Hook (“The perfect balance of sweet, sexy, and wonderfully romantic.”—Lauren Layne).

Hope Seaver is an up-and-coming TV producer tackling the hardest gig of her career: a reality show set at the Buoys, a scenic fishing destination owned by three handsome, stubborn brothers. Liam and Finn O’Donnell are willing to tolerate her crew for the sake of the business, but Ronan would rather chew off a limb than open up on camera. Somehow Hope has to convince him of her good intentions—and stop herself from swooning every time Ronan walks into the frame.

Ronan knows that he’s the reason his brothers gave up their old lives to run the Buoys, and he needs to make it worth their while. So if this out-of-towner with the kind eyes and dazzling smile wants to give them the free publicity they desperately need, Ronan can’t say no. He just won’t let himself get burned again by a double-dealing woman. But what if Hope’s good-girl routine isn’t an act? When Ronan lets his guard down long enough to catch a glimpse of the real Hope, he likes what he sees—enough to give love another shot.

My Review:
I have to admit that I've enjoyed this entire series. In this book, the hero is Ronan the oldest brother and wow, there are some deep emotional hits for him in this book that made the story so deep and so emotional. I loved that. 

Ronan has a difficult time accepting the intrusion from the TV network, so it's perfectly fitting that his heroine works for the network. She's at the Buoys and is in charge of making sure that all the important stories are caught. Ronan is terrified that the network is going to exploit his family. 

Hope is awesome. She's an interesting character. She has a huge bag that she carries with her all the time...ready for any circumstance. When it came out exactly why she carries that bag, my heart broke. I just thought Ronan was the only one with a tragic backstory. I had no idea that Hope also had a heartbreaking story. She's so light and happy...I didn't see that coming. 

The bumbling chemistry between Hope and Ronan was awesome. They are both taken by surprise by their mutual attraction. It added a light-hearted feel to the story that wouldn't have been there otherwise. I loved that. And of course all of it takes place in the middle of siblings who know everything about Ronan and aren't afraid to give him a hard time about what's developing.

Ronan is an interesting guy. He has his dad's temper, but has worked so hard over the years to control it. He hates who his father became after his mother abandoned them, so he really works hard at that. But the flip side of that is how much he loves his brothers and has worked so hard over the years to make sure that they have everything they want out of life. That's a great relationship. 

There were a couple of surprises and twists to this story that I really didn't see coming. They definitely added depth to the heartbreaking aspect of the story and raised the story to a whole new level. I thoroughly enjoyed it and highly recommend the book. 

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

The Bastard Billionaire by Jessica Lemmon

Title: The Bastard Billionaire
Author: Jessica Lemmon
My Rating: B+

Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Series: Billionaire Bad Boys #3
Main Characters: Eli and Isabella
Release Date: February 2017
Publisher:  Forever
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: hot


Story Overview:
A BILLIONAIRE BAD BOYS NOVEL

Beauty and the Beastly Billionaire . . . 
Eli Crane is one tough bastard. After an explosion left him injured and honorably discharged from the Marines, all he wants is to be left alone. Yet his brothers insist he take a greater role in the family business. They've hired him ten personal assistants-and Eli sent each one packing as fast as possible. But when beautiful number eleven walks through the door, Eli will do anything to make her stay.

Isabella Sawyer's employment agency can't afford to lose Eli Crane's business. Her plan: to personally take on the role of his PA, and secure her reputation with the wealthy elite in Chicago. But this beauty and her hot billionaire bad boy soon find themselves mixing business with pleasure in the most delicious ways. And passionate, stubborn Isabella won't rest until she tames this wicked beast . . . 

My  Review:
Yay...I've been looking forward to Eli's book and it did not disappoint. I loved him as a character, but my favorite aspect of the story was the whole setup of how Isa ended up working for Eli. 

Reese (Eli's older brother) has hired personal assistants to help ease Eli into the job of becoming the COO of Crane Hotels...something he doesn't want, so he drives each of them off, one by one. All those personal assistants are employed by Isa and she's out of employees to throw at Eli. BUT she's not willing to give up on him, so she goes in herself to do the job and she's not going to let him run her off. I loved that about her. Isa is confident and stubborn and amazingly good at her job. Slowly, she gets Eli to agree that he needs her and then things become more. 

Eli is learning who he is again after being injured as a soldier. Two men...his friends...died. He lost half his leg. That all changed him. He isn't the same man he was before, but he doesn't know who he is now. He went to war, came back a different man, and home to changed circumstances. He's still reeling. It's only through the love of his family that he hasn't become a completely reclusive hermit. That's what he wanted to do, but they wouldn't let him. 

Isa is perfect for him. He's stubborn, but so is she...even more so. It helps that he really does want better. He just doesn't know it yet. I liked that as he's finding himself, she's also helping him rediscover his sexuality. That's something that was lost with the loss of his leg. He's never been brave enough to go there again. There are some seriously sexy scenes where Isa won't let him hide from her. I love that she made him face up to showing her his injury. That's where that stubbornness works so well for both of them.

In the background is the business of Isa's pa company, as well as the Crane Hotels and Eli's new charity work. I loved all that. It provided a great backdrop. And we can't talk backdrop without at least mentioning Eli's warehouse home. OMG...want...so much. I loved the visuals from there.

I definitely recommend this and the entire series. Jessica Lemmon writes some great billionaire heroes...I'm pretty positive you're going to fall in love with all of them. Although Eli is amazing, I'm pretty sure that Isa took my heart in this book. She's definitely a new favorite heroine...strong, courageous, stubborn women...I love them as a complement to a sexy, growly, alpha male.

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

A Million Little Things by Susan Mallery

Title: A Million Little Things
Author: Susan Mallery
My Rating: B

Genre: Women's Fiction 
Series: Mischief Bay #3
Main Characters: Zoe, Jen, and Pam
Release Date: February 2017
Publisher:  Mira Books
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity:  mild


Story Overview:
From the bestselling author of The Girls of Mischief Bay and The Friends We Keep comes a twisty tale of family dynamics that explores what can go terribly, hysterically wrong when the line between friendship and family blurs 

Zoe Saldivar is more than just single-she's ALONE. She recently broke up with her longtime boyfriend, she works from home and her best friend Jen is so obsessed with her baby that she has practically abandoned their friendship. The day Zoe accidentally traps herself in her attic with her hungry-looking cat, she realizes that it's up to her to stop living in isolation.

Her seemingly empty life takes a sudden turn for the complicated-her first new friend is Jen's widowed mom, Pam. The only guy to give her butterflies in a very long time is Jen's brother. And meanwhile, Pam is being very deliberately seduced by Zoe's own smooth-as-tequila father. Pam's flustered, Jen's annoyed and Zoe is beginning to think "alone" doesn't sound so bad, after all.

Friendship isn't just one thing-it's a million little things, and no one writes them with more heart and humor than book club sensation Susan Mallery! 

My Review:
This book follows three women as they muddle their way through life and love. All three are in very different places, but they all three have multiple ties to one another which made the transitions from one story to another very smooth and natural feeling. The thing that makes this book a good read is the really interesting characters that Susan Mallery created. 

Pam is the matriarch of the story. She's Jen's mom and a widow. Her husband died and now she spends her life living very fully...she has a group of three friends that she travels the world with, she works out regularly, she volunteers and helps women build business, and is an avid container gardener in her oceanside condo. On the surface it seems as if she has it all together and has an incredible life. 

Her daughter is Jen. Jen is slowly but surely losing it. Her son is Jack and Jen is absolutely sure that something is wrong with him and she does absolutely everything she can to control every single aspect of his life. She's the original helicopter mom. To add more stress to her already out of control life, her husband is an LA cop. She listens to the police scanner regularly. Is it any wonder that she's having panic attacks daily and that she's not sleeping? I had a really hard time understanding Jen. Everyone tells her to chill, but she doesn't get it. But note...omg, I loved that Lucas was the one who finally managed to open her eyes. That friendship was so unexpected, but so vital to my turn-around to loving her part of the story...because for a while, I was worried she was going to ruin this book for me. 

The final in the trio is Zoe. Zoe is Jen's best friend. She also forms a partnership/friendship with Pam over their combined worry about Jen's state of mind. Zoe is a mess. She changed her whole life for a man and then discovered that he wasn't worth it. Now she's fairly isolated and her social circle is almost non-existent. That first scene with her trapped in the attic was awesome. And I did love Mason and his attitude. (In fact all the animals in this book are fairly brilliant characters, too). 

But their lives are entwined as they try to sort them all out and become even more so as the story progresses. I enjoyed the book...there were a few surprises I didn't see coming. There were also some character developments that I didn't guess could happen. It was extremely readable and enjoyable. I liked reading it.
I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

The Wall of Winnipeg by Mariana Zapata (audiobook)

Title:  The Wall of Winnipeg and Me
Author: Mariana Zapata
My Rating: A
Narrator: Callie Dalton

Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Series
Main Characters: Vanessa and Aiden
Release Date: May 2016 (audiobook)
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: spicy




Story Overview:
16 hrs

Vanessa Mazur knows she's doing the right thing. She shouldn't feel bad for quitting. Being an assistant/housekeeper/fairy godmother to the top defensive end in the National Football Organization was always supposed to be temporary. She has plans and none of them include washing extra-large underwear longer than necessary.

But when Aiden Graves shows up at her door wanting her to come back, she's beyond shocked.

For two years, the man known as The Wall of Winnipeg couldn't find it in him to tell her good morning or congratulate her on her birthday. Now? He's asking for the unthinkable.

What do you say to the man who is used to getting everything he wants?
My Review:
Overall: 4.5
Performance: 4.5
Story: 4.25

I have no idea how I ended up picking up this audio, but I'm so glad I did. I thoroughly enjoyed this story, but be ready to sit back and relax because this romance is a very SLOW build. 

When the book begins, Aiden is awful. In fact, he's pretty much the anti-hero. He's stoic and almost brutish in how he deals with Vanessa. But as the story develops, he gets a little bit better...not all the way better...because that's not his personality. There are very good (and yes, painful) reasons why he is the way he is. And as all of that is slowly revealed it becomes more and more obvious how perfect these two are for each other. Their backgrounds are extremely similar. It's just their reactions and development of character that sets them apart. 

While Aiden's background was rough, Vanessa's was downright painful to listen to. No wonder he fell for her...how could he not when he realizes just how much she's overcome. Gah...she's a great heroine. I really did love her and her gumption and determination to accomplish her goals. Even with the marathon running...she just has so much character. 

I loved that Aiden eventually starts to realize that, too. He definitely has an interesting character arc. When the book begins he's so focused on his own determination that he can't see what's happening with the people around him. I loved seeing that slowly change as he became a more empathetic...and human...soul. 

And then in the background of all of the build between the two of them there's Zach. He's Aiden's roommate, but he's truly Vanessa's friend. I loved him so much. I hope he someday gets a story. 

The book was really good. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it on audio. I honestly think it would have moved too slowly for me if I'd been reading it instead. But there's enough inflection in audio that it kept all the slower internal dialogue so that it didn't slow down the pacing of the story. 

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Cover Reveal: Chasing Christmas Eve by Jill Shalvis

From New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis comes the next sexy, standalone novel in the Heartbreaker Bay series...



About CHASING CHRISTMAS EVE:

Meet cute...

Run for the hills—temporarily. That’s Colbie Albright’s plan when she flees New York for San Francisco. Wrangling her crazy family by day and writing a bestselling YA fantasy series by night has taken its toll. In short, Colbie’s so over it that she’s under it. She’s also under the waters of a historic San Francisco fountain within an hour of arrival. Fortunately, the guy who fishes Colbie out has her looking forward to Christmas among strangers. But she’s pretty sure Spencer Baldwin won’t be a stranger for long.

Make merry...

Spence’s commitment to hiding from the Ghosts of Relationships Past means he doesn’t have to worry about the powerful—okay, crazy hot—chemistry he’s got with Colbie. Just because she can laugh at anything, especially herself... just because she’s gorgeous and a great listener…just because she “gets” Spencer immediately doesn’t mean he won’t be able to let Colbie go. Does it?

…and hope for a miracle.

Now the clock’s ticking for Colbie and Spence: Two weeks to cut loose. Two weeks to fall hard. Two weeks to figure out how to make this Christmas last a lifetime

Pre-Order CHASING CHRISTMAS EVE in ebook or paperback, releasing 9/26/17
Amazon | iBooks | Kobo | B&N

 
EXCERPT:
The bathroom door opened, and even better than his fantasy, Colbie emerged from a cloud of steam, her willowy body wrapped in one of his towels, her exposed skin gleaming and dewy damp. Her hair had been piled on top of her head, but wavy strands had escaped, clinging to her neck and shoulders.
He couldn’t tear his gaze off of her. There was just something so uncalculated about her, so . . . natural and easy. She was like a beacon to him, which was both crazy and more than a little terrifying.

Clearly not seeing him against the wall, she moved with an effortless grace to the suitcase she’d left at the door. Bending low enough to give him a near heart attack, she rifled through her things, mumbling to herself that she should’ve researched more about how to be a normal person instead of how to kill someone with an everyday object.

“Do you kill a lot of people, then?” Spence asked.

“Motherforker!” she said with a startled squeak of surprise, whirling to face him, almost losing her grip on the towel.

Five days a week, Spence worked out hard in this gym. Mostly to outrun his demons, but the upside was he could run miles without losing his breath. But he lost his breath now.

And that wasn’t his body’s only reaction.



And don’t miss the previous books in Jill Shalvis’s Heartbreaker Bay Series, SWEET LITTLE LIES, THE TROUBLE WITH MISTLETOE, ONE SNOWY NIGHT and ACCIDENTALLY ON PURPOSE, now available! Grab your copies HERE!

  

About Jill Shalvis:
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras full of quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental. Look for Jill’s sexy contemporary and award-winning books wherever romances are sold and click on the blog button above for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the- mountains adventures.