Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Promise Me You by Marina Adair

Title: Promise Me You
Author: Marina Adair
My Rating: B+

Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Series: The Eastons #2
Main Characters: Mackenzie and Hunter
Release Date: October 2018
Publisher: Montlake
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
A heartening romance of friendship, second chances, and the healing power of love…
Mackenzie Hart has made a career out of writing about eternal love, so when she finds her perfect match in Hunter Kane, she decides to put it all on the line. Irresistibly charming and drenched in alpha-male swagger, Hunter isn’t just the catch of the town—he’s Mackenzie’s best friend. Only someone beats her to the altar. After a fresh start and three years to recover, the last thing Mackenzie expects is for her old life to come knocking…
Recently divorced, musician Hunter Kane wants to reconnect with the woman he left behind. Admitting his biggest mistake comes first. What comes next is up to Mackenzie. He hopes she’ll give him a second chance. He may have been the one to break her heart, but he knows he can also be the one to mend it.
As a tenuous friendship turns into something more, Hunter’s life on the road beckons once again. Will love be enough to keep them together, or will their wildly different worlds be too much for them to overcome?
My Review:
Ooh, this story had all the feels to it. It started three years ago when Mackenzie disappeared the night before her best friend got married...to another woman. There was more going on there than is revealed and that turns into a delicious story about Hunter discovering the truth and rediscovering exactly who Mackenzie is and why she's left such a huge hole in his life.

I enjoyed the friendship that anchored this romantic story line...both the friendship between Mackenzie and Hunter, but also the way Brody came into play for both of them as friends and even Mia, with her tough love. The story had some interesting twists and turns and I thought the angst of Mackenzie's story was PERFECTLY done. 

I liked it and enjoyed it. I wasn't sure how it would all work out, but the author did a fantastic job with it.
I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest and voluntary review.

A Brand New Ending by Jennifer Probst

Title: A Brand New Ending
Author: Jennifer Probst
My Rating: A-

Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Series: Stay #2
Main Characters: Orphelia and Kyle
Release Date: October 2018
Publisher: Montlake
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
A love story will be rewritten in this heartfelt romance from New York Times bestselling author Jennifer Probst.

Ophelia Bishop was a lovestruck teenage girl when she and Kyle Kimpton chased their dreams to Hollywood. Kyle’s dreams came true. Ophelia’s did not. When Kyle chose his career over their relationship, Ophelia returned home to rural New York to run the family’s B & B—wiser, and more guarded against foolish fantasies. Now Kyle has come crashing back into her life, and all her defenses are down.

Kyle can’t think of a better place to write his latest screenplay than his hometown. After all, that was where he met the heart of his inspiration—his first love. He knows the damage he’s caused Ophelia, and he wants a chance to mend their relationship. If anyone can prove to Ophelia that happy ever afters aren’t only for the movies, it should be him.

As much as Ophelia’s changed, she still has feelings for Kyle. But her heart has been broken before, and she knows that Kyle could run back to Hollywood at any time. She gave up her dreams once, but maybe she can dare to change her own love story…one last time.

My Review:
While I thoroughly loved this book, I really wanted to kick Kyle in the butt throughout a lot of it. I'm sorry, but a lot of what makes authors able to do what they do, is that they can see the world through other's eyes...or another word for it is empathy. He has none in this book. Not once, until he's forced to, does he ever sit back and see what happened back then through Orphelia's viewpoint and I really found that frustrating. 

But with that aside, I did like the book. I like second chance at love romances and this one was a good one because there was a side plot of the fact that no one from home ever knew the true nature of Kyle and Orphelia's two year relationship. I enjoyed the inn and the details of what it took for Orphelia to run it. And I could see why Kyle thought it was the perfect place to write this particular novel. 

I loved getting to see Mia and Ethan again, and seeing Ethan fully in the protective, older brother role, even if he is also the clueless friend.

I can't imagine how hard it would be to run a bed and breakfast like this one. It was interesting to get to see a tiny glimpse, even if imaginary, into the world of an innkeeper. Demanding guests...I sure couldn't do it. As a result, I really liked and respected Orphelia. No, she didn't love her job all the time, but she really liked the fact that her efforts could change how someone's day was going. I liked that and her.

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

Not Quite Over You by Susan Mallery

Title: Not Quite Over You
Author: Susan Mallery
My Rating: A

Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Series: Happily Inc #4
Main Characters: Silver and Drew
Release Date: October 2018
Publisher: Harlequin
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
Silver Tesdal has a head for business and a mouth made for kissing, and banker Drew Lovato has his eye on both. But ever since he was dumb enough to let her go, she’s kept him at a distance. When the bank turns her down for a loan, Drew sees a double opportunity—he can finance her brilliant, unique idea to rock Happily Inc’s wedding industry and win back her trust.

Despite her reputation, Silver’s not as tough as she seems. Losing Drew nearly destroyed her. Still, his kisses are as tempting as his offer to invest in her business. If she can’t quite get over him, maybe she should get under him and knock him out of her system once and for all.

But her best laid plans begin to unravel as Silver finds herself falling even harder than when they were high school sweethearts. Which means that she’ll have to come clean about the secret she’s been hiding from him for years—and risk losing him forever.

My Review:
I swear this series gets better and better with each book...which is saying something because every single book in it has been amazing. I loved Drew and Silver's story, but I'm a huge sucker for a second chance at love story and this is a good one.

Drew and Silver had three months together the summer before Drew went to college. Silver knew he needed to be free to go to college, so she broke up with him and let him go. Something that he didn't understand, but didn't fight too hard. That was twelve years ago and while Drew has been back in town for 2-3 years, they haven't really reconnected except on a surface level. 

Silver owns an RV party bar that she uses to bartend at weddings, but she's always turning down work so she wants to expand. Drew's bank is her last option for a loan, but his aunt is in charge of the loan department and she hates Silver, so Silver doesn't get the loan. When Drew finds out, he approaches her with a proposal that brings them so that they are working closely together a lot. 

Something that isn't good, because Happily Inc may be a small town, but Silver has managed to keep her secrets. Secrets that are threatened as she gets closer and closer once again to Drew.

This book is all about what makes second chance at love stories so good. Seriously, one of my favorite tropes ever and this one had all the elements that I loved. But at the heart of that is Silver. She's a heroine who knows her own mind and while she always loved Drew, she never regretted what she had to do. She owns it. She's mature enough now as she was at 18 to realize they wouldn't have the happy, healthy lives they have now if they'd made different choices back then. That makes her a fantastic heroine. 

I just loved this book...so many great moments and a romantic story to boot. I highly recommend it. 

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

Monday, October 22, 2018

Game Changer by Rachel Reid

Title: Game Changer
Author: Rachel Reid
My Rating: A

Genre: Sports Romance (m/m)
Series: Game Changers #1
Main Characters: Scott and Kip
Release Date: October 2018
Publisher: Carina Press
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
New York Admirals captain Scott Hunter takes his pregame rituals very seriously. In this case, it’s not just a lucky smoothie he’s craving—it’s the man who made it. 

Pro hockey star Scott Hunter knows a good thing when he sees it. So, when a smoothie made by juice bar barista Kip Grady precedes Scott breaking his on-ice slump, he’s desperate to recreate the magic...and to get to know the sexy, funny guy behind the counter.

Kip knew there was more to Scott’s frequent visits than blended fruit, but he never let himself imagine being invited back to Scott’s penthouse. Or kissed with reckless abandon, never mind touched everywhere all at once. When it happens it’s red-hot, incredible and frequent, but also only on Scott’s terms and always behind his closed apartment doors.

Scott needs Kip in his life, but with playoff season approaching, the spotlight on him is suddenly brighter than ever. He can’t afford to do anything that might derail his career…like introducing the world to his boyfriend. Kip is ready to go all-in with Scott—but how much longer will he have to remain a secret?

My Review:
Hockey...gay romance...a bit of a Cinderella story...a totally closeted guy who doesn't have much experience...this book was awesome on all the levels!

Kip is a guy just trying to survive in NYC. He has his degree...in history, so he spends his days working for minimum wage making smoothies and wearing an apron and a hat with a strawberry on it. Something that pretty much has him down...until the day that gorgeous, sweaty Scott walks in after his run. 

Kip isn't a huge hockey fan, so he doesn't recognize Scott, but he definitely knows his name. When Scott comes in a second and then a third time, Kip can't believe the signals that he's kind of getting. Scott is a pro NHL player and NOT out, plus he's gorgeous and sexy. He can't be interested in Kip. 

But he is.

Scott has accepted that he'll never be out as long as he's playing hockey. He's accepted that those needs just need to be shoved aside for now. Then he meets Kip and suddenly is rethinking everything.

I loved this story. It was sweet. The guys were fantastic characters. I liked the backstory and totally fell in love with both Scott and Kip. And let me just say there are some FANTASTIC side characters too...I can't wait for more to this series. YES! This series is definitely on my auto buy list!

I highly recommend it.

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

Saturday, October 20, 2018

Saving Ren by Sloane Kennedy (audiobook)

Title:  Saving Ren
Author: Sloane Kennedy
My Rating: B-
Narrator: Michael Pauley

Genre: Contemporary Romance (m/m/m) 
Series: Barretti Security #3
Main Characters: Ren, Declan, and Jagger
Release Date: July 2018 (audiobook)
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot

Length: 6 hrs and 44 mins

Three men brought together by circumstance who found something none of them knew they needed...

Ren Barretti has finally come home after a year of being held captive by the terrorists who slaughtered his entire Special Forces team. But he can't escape the nightmares that torment him or the guilt that he was the only one to walk away. The life his older brothers have brought him home to doesn't exist for him anymore and to keep them and their loved ones safe from the rage and pain that consume him, Ren needs to disappear.

Police Detective Declan Hale has felt an undeniable pull towards the very straight Ren Barretti since the day Ren's brother married Declan's younger sister almost a dozen years earlier. But even though the Ren who has come home isn't the one who left, all of Declan's feelings come rushing back to the surface and he steps in to help the only man he's ever truly wanted. And even though there's no future for them, keeping Ren safe is all that matters and Declan will risk anything to make that happen.

Tough as nails former soldier and mercenary Jagger Varos has returned to Seattle after years of running from his past and he's hoping that joining Barretti Security Group will help him finally call the city he left behind home. But within weeks, his new beginning is tested after multiple run-ins with the gruff, infuriating Detective Hale. When he inadvertently discovers that Declan is hiding Ren from the very brothers offering Jagger a new start, Jagger finds himself torn between his newfound loyalty to Vin and Dom Barretti and the need to protect the young man he himself helped rescue from his captors.

For Declan and Jagger, it's hate at first sight but they soon realize that they will need each other if they have any hope of saving Ren from himself. And neither of them expects their mutual distrust in one another to grow into something else entirely or that Ren himself will find in both of them what he needs to rebuild his life and come to terms with who he really is.

Can the fierce attraction between three men become something more or will the demands of the real world tear them apart?

Note: This book contains explicit M/M/M content and is intended for mature audiences

Although this book is part of a series, it can be read as a stand-alone. No cliffhangers.

Barretti Security Series
Book 1 - Loving Vin (M/F)
Book 2 - Redeeming Rafe (M/M)
Book 3 - Saving Ren (M/M/M)

The Barretti Security Series is a spin-off of The Escort Series and some of the characters from that series appear in this one so if you want to read the books in order, start with this series:

The Escort Series
Book 1 - Gabriel's Rule (M/F) Gabe & Riley
Book 2 - Shane's Fall (M/F) Shane & Savannah
Book 3 - Logan's Need (M/M) Logan & Dom

My Review:
Overall: 3.25
Performance: 4.0
Story: 3.0

Totally honest opinion on this one...I should NOT have listened to it on audio and I sure as heck shouldn't have done that before reading the other FIVE books that preceded it. Listening to a book is harder because you don't have the visual cues of names that you're seeing to keep everyone straight. And there are SO MANY characters in this one. Not only are there three main characters, but there are also all the couples and relationships from the other five books. I had an awful time keeping people straight and was trying so hard to do that, that I think I must have missed details at the beginning of the story, because I have so many questions...like what the hell happened to Ren? 

Did I just miss all that in the morass of characters in the beginning? I'll admit that's possible, but I don't understand what happened to him that he's so messed up. He was a soldier, his mission went wrong, and his team died. I couldn't tell if his trauma was from being held captive (that is what happened right?), or from the fact that his team died because of something he did with some girl that caused their deaths, or with something he did to another girl in another book. And he's somehow been missing because his brothers didn't know where he was...

Like I said, I think I missed a ton of information at the beginning of the book, just because so much was happening with so many freaking characters and all their complex past story lines that were thrown at the reader. It was impossible to keep track of all the details that mattered to THIS story line. 

And the sad thing is...I think I would have loved the book if I knew all that history. But I haven't read those other five books, so instead listened to the entire book feeling pretty much lost...and I hate that. UGH.

Friday, October 19, 2018

Snow Falling by Davidson King (audiobook)

Title:  Snow Falling
Author: Davidson King
My Rating: A
Narrator: Joel Lesley and Philip Alces

Genre: Contemporary Romance (m/m) 
Series: Haven Hart Universe #1
Main Characters: Snow and Christopher
Release Date: July 2018 (audiobook)
Publisher: Tantor Audio
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
After running from a past destined to kill him, Snow has been hiding on the streets.

Tell nobody your name.
Tell nobody your secrets.
Trust nobody!
These are the rules of the streets.

His entire life changes when he saves an eight-year-old boy from a violent end.

Christopher Manos is one of the most powerful crime bosses in the country.

Don’t ask anyone to do something you aren’t willing to do yourself.
Secrets can get you killed.
Trust nobody!
These are the rules he lives by.

When his eight-year-old nephew disappears, he never expects the boy’s savior to end up being his own.

A man with a dangerous past and a man with a dangerous future find love amidst murder and mayhem. But with Snow's life being threatened at every turn, will Christopher's best be enough to prevent Snow Falling?

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

Wow, what an amazing and creative debut novel. Huge kudos to Davidson King for knocking this one out of the ballpark. This book was incredible.

Snow lives on the streets. Everyone calls him Snow because of his pale-white complexion and hair. He comes upon a group of guys picking on a kid and steps in, offering whatever to get the guys to leave the kid alone. That kid just happens to be the nephew of one of the most notorious mob bosses around, Christopher. As a result, Snow is taken into Christopher's household. 

I loved Snow. He's this great mix of streetwise, but maintains an incredible heart. He's kept his level of compassion and empathy even though he's had a hard, awful life the last few years, but isn't so naive as to ever wonder or doubt just how ruthless Christopher can be. Bravo to the author for maintaining that balance with both Christopher and Snow...without taking it too far in one direction or the other which could have really ruined the story. 

The story was fantastic. While I wouldn't classify it as romantic suspense, it came darn close. There's always a threat hanging over Snow because the guy who had Christopher's nephew is pure evil and cannot sit by and let Snow go without paying. 

Also, I really like this one in audio. There are two narrators which I tend not to like in m/m because their voices sound too different when they are reading the other character, but this one flowed perfectly. I loved these two narrators together. 

All in all, I can definitely recommend this one. Now, I need to go read the other two books in the series, but the debate will be...read them now, or wait and hope they come out in audio.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Dear Santa by Nancy Naigle

Title: Dear Santa
Author: Nancy Naigle
My Rating: B+

Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Main Characters: Angela and Geoff
Release Date: October 2018
Publisher: St. Martin's
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: g-rated

Story Overview:
A holiday retelling of You've Got Mail that will make you fall in love with the Christmas Season!

Angela Carson wants nothing more than to be the third-generation to run her family’s holiday store, Heart of Christmas, successfully. They’ve weathered over sixty tourist seasons, major hurricanes, and urban sprawl, in their old decommissioned lighthouse. But the national chain that set up shop in their small North Carolina town of Pleasant Sands may be more than Heart of Christmas can survive.

Geoff Paisley has been at his mother’s side running the mega-chain Christmas Galore for the last ten years. When his mother falls ill, Geoff promises to answer the town’s Dear Santa letters in her stead. Soon he realizes the woman he’s been corresponding with on Dear Santa is Angela. How could the woman that grates his every last nerve in person have intrigued him so deeply through those letters?

Encouraged by her niece to ask Santa for help, Angela gives in and lets the words fly in a way that, if Santa were real, would no doubt land her on the naughty list. What’s the harm when it’s just a computer-generated response?

When Geoff reveals that he’s her Dear Santa, will Angela be able to set aside their very public feud to embrace the magic of the holiday and possibly find true love?

My Review:
Hands down, You've Got Mail, is my favorite movie ever. I've watched it at least a hundred (or possibly even a LOT more) times. It's my favorite rainy day feel good movie. So, when I got a request for review for this book comparing it to the movie, I didn't even think twice before jumping on it. 

I'm so glad I did. 

This story absolutely is that movie retold with a family-heirloom lighthouse as the Christmas store on the verge of going under because a warehouse-style Christmas store has moved into this small coastal town in North Carolina. It was sweet and had all the same scenes as the movie...just in a slightly different order and given a Christmas twist...like instead of daisies, there were poinsettias and daisies. 

So sweet and seeing all the similar dialogue from the movie had me grinning over and over again as I read the book. 

It's a sweet story with a creative twist on the original. The visuals in the book were romantic and vivid...the Snow Village, the lighthouse, the heirloom cabinets...along with all the magic of Christmas. 

The story is sweet and perfect for the holiday. If you love the movie as much as I do, I highly recommend you add this book to your holiday reading.

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

Monday, October 15, 2018

Marriage Lessons by Katie Allen

Title: Marriage Lessons
Author: Katie Allen
My Rating: A

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Off Guard #3
Main Characters: Annabelle and Louis
Release Date: October 2018
Publisher: Carina
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
Roomies with benefits and the potential for so much more in Marriage Lessons by Katie Ruggle, writing as Katie Allen

Falling for your boss—no matter how fast he makes your pulse race—is such a cliché. But it’s one Annabelle Shay can’t seem to avoid. Gallery owner Louis Dumont is stupid hot. Plus, he’s sweet, sensitive and a brilliant artist. But he’s also oblivious. Which is good because Annabelle loves her job too much to risk it.

Louis hasn’t been with a woman since he was wounded in Afghanistan, remaining guarded about his body and his heart. But Annabelle is different. She keeps him grounded. Which is why protecting her—first pretending to be her husband to ward off unwanted attention, then inviting her to move in after her landlord kicks her out—feels so natural, even if it invites rampant temptation.

Try as Annabelle might, there are some desires you simply can’t shake. Louis repeatedly joke-asking her to marry him isn’t helping, especially when their unbearable attraction upgrades them to roomies with benefits. But Louis is still keeping pieces of his past to himself, leaving Annabelle to wonder if he’ll ever truly be vulnerable with her—or if she stands to lose everything.

One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise : all the romance you’re looking for with an HEA/HFN. It’s a promise!

This book is approximately 75,000 words

My Review:
While I've read this author as Katie Ruggle, I have not delved into her works writing as Katie Allen before. THAT was a mistake. OMG, this book was so good. I loved the set-up and Louis is unlike any hero that I've ever met before. And I LOVED him for that. 

Okay...so, this story. It's told entirely from Annabelle's point of view and she truly doesn't know what Louis is thinking seventy-five percent of the time. She works for him running his gallery and he's sometimes a moody artist...just that he's really hard to read. He's not grumpy. He just runs hot and cold a lot of the time and she doesn't usually know what that means. They spend a LOT of time together and as a result, don't really have the typical boss/employee boundaries...especially Louis. 

Louis is quirky and it's that quirkiness which really makes this story. God, I loved him. He's also lost part of his leg and hasn't had sex since that happened. (I know... I just heard all romance readers' gasps from here...seriously, that is an incredible story line right there.) I loved how protective he was of Annabelle. I loved how he always called her by her full name. Heck, I just really loved everything about him. And I loved how off-center he kept Annabelle. 

This was a wonderful book. It was sweet and sensuous and romantic and was everything I love in a romance story. Now I need to go back and pick up all of Katie Allen's other books. 

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

Building Forever by Kelly Jensen

Title: Building Forever
Author: Kelly Jensen
My Rating: A

Genre: Contemporary Romance (m/m)
Series: This Time Forever #1
Main Characters: Charlie and Simon
Release Date: October 2018
Publisher: Riptide Publishing
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
Charlie King is doing fine. Sure, he’s a widower raising a teenage daughter who just got her first boyfriend, his book series isn’t writing itself, and he has a crush on his new neighbor — the guy next door. But everything’s just fine.

Simon Lynley is doing better. He moved to Bethlehem to fall out of love and rebuild his career. An affair with his neighbor isn’t part of the plan, but the attraction between them is too hard to ignore.

But when Simon’s ex follows him to Pennsylvania seeking reconciliation, and Charlie’s life starts to feel like a video on repeat, everything comes apart. Charlie worries that he’s failing as a father, and Simon is a distraction he can’t afford. Meanwhile Simon doesn’t know if he could survive being left again, and he hasn’t come all this way to make the same mistakes. But despite their fears, it’s only together that they’ll find the strength to slay old foes and build the forever they’ve been waiting for.

My Review:
Aww, I loved this book...and Charlie with all his hang-ups and eccentricities. Poor guy is a hot mess, but a seriously lovable one. 

Okay, Charlie is a widower and single father. He got his girlfriend pregnant when they were seventeen. She died of cancer five years ago, leaving Charlie alone to parent their teenage daughter. Most days, Charlie feels like he's epically failing at this. Teenage girls...not easy. Add to that, she is flirting with the idea of having her first boyfriend, something that gives Charlie nightmares, because HE got his girlfriend pregnant at 17. That won't be happening to his daughter. 

Charlie is also a writer and tends to ramble when he's nervous. I did mention HOT MESS, right? But in the very best, most lovable way. He's a GREAT character.

On the flip side of that is Simon. Simon just moved in next door. He's gay and coming off a 12 year relationship where his boyfriend constantly cheated on him. Simon is an architect with a passion for historic homes. Where Charlie is a bit messy and out of control, Simon is the exact opposite. He likes everything just so and stays pretty withdrawn. 

Simon isn't looking for a new relationship. Charlie hasn't had a relationship with anyone but his wife...ever. Neither one expected this to happen, but they're next door neighbors. Slowly a friendship evolves and then it becomes something more. 

But neither one of them have un-messy lives and that tends to make things really difficult, especially as they're navigating this all new thing between them.

This book was sweet and messy and romantic. I loved the twists and turns and just the epic, but everyday-normal romance of it all. I loved reading the book and definitely can recommend it. I cannot wait for more from this series!!!

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