Review: Tyler

Review: TylerTyler (Riding Hard, #4) by Jennifer Ashley
Series: Riding Hard #4
Published by JA / AG Publishing on April 19th 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 265
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“Well, hello tall, dark, and sexy.”

FINAL DECISION: Loved this story. There was an immense sense of kindness between these characters along with the attraction and lust. One of my favorites of the series.

THE STORY: Stunt cowboy Tyler Campbell is saved from a severe beating at a biker bar by divorced mother Jessica. Despite the sad pasts of both, there is an intense connection between them that leads to a night together. In the morning, however, Jessica has second thoughts about getting involved with Tyler. When danger threatens Jessica and her son, however, she turns to Tyler and his hometown for help.

OPINION: There are some books that I shouldn’t start reading late at night because they are so addictive that a chapter or two just won’t do it. This is one of those books. I loved it from the beginning. Tyler and Jess are both so nice and skittish without have a thick skin separating them from others. Once these two get together there is not question that they are meant for one another. In fact, most of the drama is external which makes the sweetness between these two special.

I also really enjoyed seeing the couples from the previous books and other characters from the series. My favorite series are ones that don’t forget that the other characters exist in the same world.

Both Jess and Tyler have scars that make them skittish with one another and yet the two quickly find that they have something special together. I liked how everything worked in this story (except that points of the plot resolution seemed a little farfetched, but that didn’t diminish my enjoyment). I finished this book in the middle of the night and didn’t regret it at all even though I had to wake up early to start my day.

WORTH MENTIONING: Lots of children in the air.

CONNECTED BOOKS: TYLER is the fourth book in the Riding Hard series. While this romance is self-contained and can be read as a standalone, there are secondary characters from other books in the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Blame It on the Duke

Review: Blame It on the DukeBlame It on the Duke (The Disgraceful Dukes, #3) by Lenora Bell
Series: The Disgraceful Dukes #3
Published by Avon on April 18th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
five-stars

“She’s insulted him, lied to him, and done everything in her power to repel him…and somehow ended up completely charming him.”

FINAL DECISION:  Loved, loved, loved this one.  Quirky and funny with incredibly serious and heartbreaking turns, this book ended up being my favorite of the series.

THE STORY:  Nicholas, the future of Duke of Barrington intended to never marry but rather enjoy his debauched life until the madness that runs in his family claimed him as well.  When his father gambles him away in marriage to the daughter of a rich merchant, Nicholas eventually ends up making a deal with his “fiance” Miss Alice Tombs. Alice doesn’t want to marry either…she has spent three years avoiding that outcome by scaring off suitors.  But Nicholas’s proposal tempts her.  The two will marry and spend one month together and then she will be free to pursue her interests in travel and scholarly pursuits and Nicholas will be free to pursue his scandalous life.

OPINION:  I absolutely loved this book — and not how I expected to.  From the first book in the series, I fell in love with Alice — a woman willing to use her intelligence to avoid an unwanted marriage.  She was incredibly funny with her incessant chattering about strange subjects that manage to repel unwanted suitors.  From the moment she discovers that her father has won her a fiance, Alice goes to work to try the same tactics on Nicholas.  But he sees her in a way that she never expected.

And what can be more attractive than a hero who actually wants to know the heroine’s dreams?  Nicholas is a man who knows that he has no future and so he is only living for today.  With a family history of madness, Nicholas plans never to marry, never to have children, but rather lead as big and scandalous life he can until the family madness claims him as well.  I adored Nick. In the same way that Alice begins to learn more about Nick, the readers also discover that there is far more to him than she or we expect when we meet the man putting on scandalous shows.  Despite his despair about his own life, Nick is determined to launch Alice into a wonderful future.  And the truth is that Nick’s life hides a great deal of pain and fear and desperation.

The book deals in a wonderfully thoughtful and realistic way the pain of mental illness.  Nick suffers both as a son and because of his own fear of descending into mental illness.  Mental illness is not usually a topic in romance books — especially not when it might effect the main characters.  Here, Nick is living with it every day.  The isolation, the fears, the anger, the pain are all depicted here.  I don’t want to give away more of the book but I loved how the events played out in this book. It was beautifully constructed and is immediately on my keeper shelf.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Yes, there is an Alice in Wonderland theme going in this book.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  BLAME IT ON THE DUKE is the third book in The Disgraceful Dukes series.  While the characters appear in other books in the series, this book can be read on its own.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: The Heiress Effect

Review: The Heiress EffectThe Heiress Effect (Brothers Sinister, #2) by Courtney Milan
Series: Brothers Sinister #2
Published by Courtney Milan on July 15th 2013
Genres: Historical
Pages: 280
Goodreads
four-stars

Beautifully Crafted Story

THE HEIRESS EFFECT is the second novel in the Brothers Sinister series. It is the story of Oliver Marshall, the illegitimate son of the former Duke of Clermont and half brother to the current duke. Oliver was raised in humble circumstances (see the prequel THE GOVERNESS AFFAIR for the story of his parents) but has great ambitions. He meets Jane Fairfield who definitely doesn’t fit into his plans.

I really didn’t expect to like this story. Oliver was too judgemental and too rigid in the beginning of the book. He treats Jane in an abominable fashion by treating her like she is not good enough. When I started reading the book, I skipped around to get an idea of the plot and I really, really did not like Oliver. Thus, why one should read the book. Milan has done a great job of making over complicated characters. Oliver and Jane are not simplistic characters. They are not purely good. They make bad decisions. They contemplate bad things. By the end of the book, I had sympathy for Oliver and as Jane was able to forgive him, so was I.

Although this is the second full novel, it is not necessary to have read the first. It would be good to read the prequel THE GOVERNESS AFFAIR because it really sets up Oliver’s story.

Save

four-stars

Review: The Thing About Love

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: The Thing About LoveThe Thing About Love by Julie James
Series: FBI/US Attorneys #7
Published by Berkley on April 18th 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 400
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“Nearly fifteen thousand special agents in the FBI, spread throughout the United States in fifty-six field offices, and she had to show up in Chicago for what was quite possibly his last undercover assignment.”

FINAL DECISION:  An enemies to friends to lovers story, THE THINGS ABOUT LOVE feels real and dives deep into the complexities of a modern professional and romantic relationship.  I loved the characters and their journey to one another.

THE STORY:  FBI Agent John Shepherd is just about ready to join the elite Hostage Rescue Team if he gets accepted, but has one last undercover assignment to get through.  Just his luck that he happens to be paired with Jessica Harlow.  John and Jessica know each other.  Six years ago they were in the same class at Quantico and walked away from the experience happy to be across the country from one another.  Now, the two have to learn to work together.  Both are beginning a new chapter of their lives as they recover from bad relationships.  John is planning on leaving Chicago and joining the HRT after catching his girlfriend having sex with one of his friends.  Jessica is returning to Chicago after her divorce.

OPINION:  This is a beautifully constructed, modern office romance.  The story isn’t over the top fantasy, but rather real and complicated with no easy answers to the issues John and Jessica face.

The story is properly centered around the characters of John and Jessica and while there is a satisfying and complete plotline, it doesn’t overwhelm the romance.

John and Jessica have a history.  The two met six years ago during FBI training.  While there was an attraction even then, the two rubbed one another the wrong way because they really didn’t get to know one another.  Both are competitive and their attraction turned to ruthless competition between them.  When they are forced to work together, they find out that they actually have much in common.

I loved the portrayal of Jessica who is a woman competing in a world dominated by men.  She knows that she has to be more careful than them in how her co-workers see her.  That is one reason that John rubbed her wrong six years ago because he made her feel less proficient.  In her personal life, Jessica is a woman who has just received her final divorce decree and has been urged by her friends and family to start dating again.  Jessica, however, doesn’t have interest in the modern dating realities. A suggestion that she find a temporary guy to have hot post-divorce sex seems like a real possibility when the attraction between her and John explodes.

John, too, has had his world turned around recently.  When he discovered his girlfriend and friend in bed together, he lost not only his relationship but also some long terms friends.  Jessica coming back into his life seems like a miserable topper to his recent misfortunes.  The only thing that seems to be going well is his potential transfer to the HRT. But one of the great things about John is that his is challenged and in serious competition with Jessica and her arrival makes him up his game.  John is a good man because he treats Jessica with respect and acknowledges her competency as an agent. I really liked how he treats her with complete professionalism even when he is attracted to her.

I really enjoyed how the relationship between these two developed…there are funny moments and intense sweetness and good sexy parts, but the entire story is tied together by the deep respect these two have for one another.  Even when they were “enemies” and competitors, there was the recognition of a worthy opponent. I thought that the development of their relationship felt natural and real and I thought the romanticism of the story flowed so nicely from their mutual respect for one another as professionals.

Julie James always navigates the realities of modern office romances so well.  This book is no exception!

WORTH MENTIONING:  I’d like to read a book about John’s brother Nate who deserves to fall really hard for someone!

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE THING ABOUT LOVE is the seventh book in the FBI/US Attorneys series.  These books, however, are only loosely connected and are standalones can be read independently.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE:  I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to provide a review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.

four-half-stars

Review: Tangled in Sin

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: Tangled in SinTangled in Sin (Bound and Determined, #5) by Lavinia Kent
Series: Bound and Determined #5
Published by Loveswept on April 18th 2017
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION:  As the series takes off in new directions with new characters, I miss the madam Ruby but am very intrigued by the secrets the new characters have.  Sin and James are an intriguing couple who might be one of the most conventional in this series — although the sex is still pretty hot!

THE STORY:  Lady Cynthia Westhope finds out that her childhood friend, the daughter of a duke, has become the madam at the most notorious brothel in London.  When Cynthia travels to the brothel in order to try and help her friend, she is kidnapped.  She ends up spending several days with her friend’s brother, James Winters.  With Cynthia compromised, James offers to marry her, but Cynthia doesn’t trust James and is not sure what she wants to do about marriage — but she knows that she wants to explore the sexual attraction between her and James.

OPINION:  By the end of this book, it totally felt like a Bound and Determined novel — very sexy where the characters push their limits.  The story began a little slower than others in the series — perhaps because it was setting up a new stable of characters.

Cynthia (aka Sin) is more innocent than most of the women in this series.  The daughter of an earl, she has been sheltered…but she is also not willing to do exactly what society expects.  She is willing to toss over society in order to meet with her childhood friend — even if that takes her to a brothel.  (Readers of the series will know that the characters in this series are more adventurous than one generally expects in historical romance since this book edges toward historical erotica). She had a crush on James when they were children and her fascination with him has not diminished even though they have not seen one another for years.  She begins as a more conventional character but by the time the book ends she has embraced her own sexuality and her own identity.

James is a character that begins the book needing to be in control.  He is willing and expecting to make all the decisions. A second son, he desires to assert control where he can.  And he expects to make the decisions regarding marriage especially when convention is on his side.  What he doesn’t expect is the willfulness that Cynthia begins to show.  As the book proceeds, James has to learn to surrender — to his feelings and his trust in Cynthia.

Cynthia and James are more conventional than most of the characters in this series and yet are willing to be more unconventional as the book proceeds.  I liked their relationship especially because Cynthia makes James pay for his high handed behavior in the beginning.

While I began the book sad that we had moved on to a new phase of the series, my interest in the intrigue surrounding Madam Blanche and her family increased throughout the book and by the end, I was looking forward to the next book in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING:  As the series has moved on to a new set of characters, this book sets up a whole stable of characters that could get their own stories.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  TANGLED IN SIN is the fifth book in the Bound and Determined series.  This book is really the start of a new phase in the series and can be read as a standalone as the series focuses on new characters.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

NOTE:  I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to provide a review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.

four-stars

Review: The Chosen

Review: The ChosenThe Chosen (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #15) by J.R. Ward
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #15
Published by Ballantine Books on April 4th 2017
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 544
Goodreads
four-half-stars

“And herein was the conundrum, Xcor thought behind his closed lids. The only possible way out of this deadly scenario was to reveal the love he’d found for a female that was not his, never had been, and was not e’er going to be. But he would not sacrifice the Chosen Layla for anyone or anything. Not even to save himself.”

FINAL DECISION:  Layla and Xcor’s romance brings to light a lot of discord and fractures in the Black Dagger Brotherhood world.  Things are changing and this book demonstrates and brings to light those changes along with a surprisingly sweet romance.  Loved it.

THE STORY:  Xcor is the enemy of the Black Dagger Brotherhood having attempted to assassinate the King.  Captured by the BDB, Xcor is only awaiting death.  He is a vampire who has lived a cruelty and harshness and the first softness he has found are his feelings for Layla.  The Chosen Layla is the mother of twins and has been meeting Xcor secretly because he fascinates her. The only way to stop Xcor’s death sentence is the reveal information she has about him which would threaten her position with her “family” and perhaps her own relationship with her children.

OPINION:  I loved this book.  First, I will confess that I’ve always liked the Xcor and Layla pairing because it really seems like a beauty and the beast scenario (my favorite trope).  I thought they had a difficult journey to find their happiness and it did not always seem like it would be possible.  The story of Xcor and Layla also gave characters that otherwise seemed pretty one-dimensional some needed depth.

Layla has always been in a difficult position as to Xcor.  He is the enemy of everything she loves — and yet she has not been able to resist him.  This book ups the ante and places her own relationship with her children at risk.  I saw in this book her strength in a way that she hasn’t revealed herself before. The heroines in this series have often had to risk things and people that are important to them — the only difference here is that the very characters we have come to know and love are in opposition to the romance.

One thing I really enjoyed is that many of the characters recognize that love is not always controllable and cut Layla some slack.  I thought the majority of the characters reacted in ways that I expected them to — with anger and concern and distrust, but that struggled with their own care for Layla.

Xcor has been changing for a long time in this series.  The long term nature of his story has made his transformation feel natural and real.  I wasn’t surprised by his actions here because it has become evident over time that he will do anything for Layla — even become a better person.

But this book is about more than Xcor and Layla. If it seemed like all the characters were settling into a normalized world — this book rips all that apart.  There are plenty of fractures and changes that this book reveals or causes.  Things are a changin’ in Caldwell and it’s about time.

There are secondary and related stories or glimpses about Qhuinn and Blay, V and Jane, Trez (who has a shock coming after the death of Serena), Throe, Tohr, Assail, and Lassiter.  There are plenty of appearances by other BDB characters and plenty of new stories (including drama and angst) are apparently brewing.

WORTH MENTIONING:  I actively disliked Qhuinn in this book.  His behavior was completely unacceptable and I don’t know that he redeemed himself at all in the end.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  THE CHOSEN is the fifteenth book in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series.  This book should be read as part of the series to truly understand the long simmering romance and the dynamics of all the relationships here.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: In Need of a Knight

Review: In Need of a KnightIn Need of a Knight (The Heart of a Scandal/The Heart of a Duke Book 0) by Christi Caldwell
Series: The Heart of a Duke #0, The Heart of a Scandal #0
on March 27, 2017
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION:  This was a nice story although the short length made it difficult to fully engage with these characters especially with Aldora’s dilemma.  The story was complete and did not feel rushed.

THE STORY: Lady Aldora Adamson along with her dearests friends received a necklace which promised the heart of a duke to the wearer.  Aldora hopes for years to find love but she has given up and resigned herself to marriage to save her family.  She decides to settle on a marquess.  Arranging to run into the marquess to begin her chase of him, Aldora mistakes Lord Michael Knightly for his older brother.  A man of scandalous reputation based on a youthful duel, Michael begins to fall for Aldora but knows that there is little hope if she realizes that he is the scandalous younger brother instead of the marquess.

OPINION:  I liked this story which has a fun trope of the heroine mistaking the hero for the man she plans on marrying.  Unlike his older brother, Michael is entirely unsuitable for Aldora’s desperate situation.  There are some very amusing moments as the two argue and debate and find each other annoying and irresistible.

I thought that these two were well matched as a couple and I liked their interactions.  I thought that the story was well constructed.  My one complaint was that the short length did not allow us to go far enough in understanding Aldora’s motivations for having to marry the marquess even when she was in love with Michael. I understood her reasons, but not the emotions involved in it.

These two were a good couple for a novella romance because everything was nicely contained and constructed. One other thing that was missing was an explanation of the necklace which didn’t seem to have a real effect here.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This novella was previously published under the title IN NEED OF A DUKE and published in an anthology.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  IN NEED OF A KNIGHT is the prequel for two loosely connected series: The Heart of a Duke series and The Heart of a Scandal series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 3 stars.

three-stars

Twist Release Day Blitz

Twist Release Day Blitz

TWIST

By Kylie Scott

A Dive Bar Novel

From New York Times bestselling author Kylie Scott comes the second sizzling stand-alone novel in the Dive Bar series!

When his younger brother loses interest in online dating, hot bearded bartender Joe Collins only intends to log into his account and shut it down. Until he reads about her.

Alex Parks is funny, fascinating, and pretty much everything he’s been looking for in a woman—except that she lives across the country. Soon they’re emailing up a storm and telling each other their deepest, darkest secrets…except the one that really matters.

When Alex pays Joe a surprise visit, however, they both discover that when it comes to love, it’s always better with a twist.


Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AUS | Amazon CA | iBooks | B&N | Kobo | Google Play

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:

Kylie is a New York Times and USA Today best-selling author. She was voted Australian Romance Writer of the year, 2013 & 2014, by the Australian Romance Writer’s Association and her books have been translated into eleven different languages. She is a long time fan of romance, rock music, and B-grade horror films. Based in Queensland, Australia with her two children and husband, she reads, writes and never dithers around on the internet. You can learn more about Kylie from http://www.kylie-scott.com/

Links:

FACEBOOK:  https://www.facebook.com/kyliescottwriter/

FACEBOOK FAN GROUP:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/599197093487040/

TWITTER: https://twitter.com/KylieScottbooks

INSTAGRAM: https://www.instagram.com/kylie_scott_books/

GOODREADS: http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/6476625.Kylie_Scott

Review: Twist

I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: TwistTwist by Kylie Scott
Series: Dive Bar #2
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on April 11th 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 288
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: A wonderful quirky romance between two flawed humans.  Kylie Scott never disappoints in making her characters feel real and honest and TWIST is no exception.  Loved the characters!

THE STORY:  Joe Collins has always been the good brother.  When his younger brother Eric wants to sign up for an online dating service, Joe helps him but ends up connecting with one of his brother’s matches.  Under the identity of his brother, Joe corresponds with Alex Parks for months until Alex decides to surprise Eric on his birthday.

OPINION:  Twist features such wonderful characters that I loved every moment of the book.  Joe is a genuine good guy who makes the “mistake” of adopting his brother’s persona to email a woman who catches his interest.  I liked how Joe falls into doing something that is completely against his nature — but the truth is that it might have been the right thing to do ultimately.

Joe is so wonderful a man. A bartender, a builder, someone who has done his best even when taken advantage of by those he cares for.  He cares for Alex even when she is angry with him and takes on so much onto himself for everyone around him.  I liked how considerate he is and how he is able to accept all of Alex’s neuroses with equanimity.

Alex is a woman of incredible contradictions — as are we all.  Talented as a graphic artist, she has trouble with social interactions.  Her fears make her veer away from the possibility of being hurt.  She has meaningless sexual relationships as a way of placing distance between herself and others. Joe challenges her at every turn.

I especially liked in this book how Joe and Alex have a funny and sweet relationship that becomes incredibly hot and intense.  How can you not love a guy who takes care of a woman who is at her absolute worst. Joe works to help Alex become the best she can be which means challenging herself.  Joe needs help as well.  These two nicely balance one another.

This book was almost a 5 star book, but the end of the book has a crisis which disrupts Joe to an incredible extent.  Both Alex and Joe relapse into their comfort zones a bit.  That causes a problem in their relationship which is resolved too quickly and easily for my tastes.  Too much of a serious situation is resolved off stage for me.  Even with that caveat, I loved this book and recommend it.

WORTH MENTIONING:  Mal!

CONNECTED BOOKS:  TWIST is the second book in the Dive Bar series.  The book can be read as a standalone although a lot of characters appear in the prior book so you might enjoy it more knowing more about the interrelationships.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

NOTE:  I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to provide a review.  I was not required to write a positive review.  All opinions contained herein are my own.

four-stars

The Billionaires Blog Tour

The Billionaires Blog Tour

100 Shades of Sin…

In The Billionaires, Calista Fox delivers a sexy and sensuous friends-to-lovers tale with a delicious love triangle twist.

Jewel Catalano, Rogen Angelini, and Vin D’Angelo had been childhood best friends, spending every possible moment with one another. Rogen became her first love, the first one to show her what pleasure could be. Until a volatile feud erupted between their powerful California wine country families and she and Rogen were torn apart from each other. What she didn’t expect was to find comfort and passion like she had never known in Vin’s arms and bed. But when that too ended in disaster, Jewel moved to San Francisco to work for the Catalano empire. Years later, a series of daring acquisitions brings Jewel back to River Cross, the hometown where Rogen and Vin have recently returned as well. Jewel has the curves, the smarts, and the success to bring any man to his knees—especially the two men who remained best friends and still burn to possess her.

Mixing family business with erotic pleasure ignites a smoldering love triangle. But in order to pull off the bold deal that will build the trios’ own legacy and to stay in their heady, sensual paradise, they must discover what true love really is—or lose everything their hearts’ desire.

 

Author Bio:

Calista Fox is a former PR professional, now writing fast-paced, steamy books to set readers’ pulses racing. She has won many Reviewer’s and Reader’s Choice Awards, as well as Best Book Awards. Calista has crossed the country many times over by corporate jet and travels internationally, always with her laptop in tow to capture intriguing story elements and exotic locales! She is also a member of Romance Writers of America and a Past President/Advisor of the Phoenix chapter. Her books include the Lovers Triangle and the Burned Deep series.