Review: Rebel Hard

Review: Rebel HardRebel Hard (Hard Play, #2) by Nalini Singh
Series: Hard Play #2
Published by Tka Distribution on September 18, 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Goodreads
five-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: Fabulous story of two people who struggle with their expectations and learn to communicate their wants, desires and needs. I absolutely adored Nayna and Raj who are sweet and sexy and have a relationship of mature respect. This is a great addition to a great series.

THE STORY: Nayna Sharma has agreed to an arranged marriage as part of her effort to keep things peaceful and happy in her family. Nanya has kept her own wants and desires suppressed to make her parents happy. One night out with her friend at a party results in her meeting a sexy hunk, Raj Sen. Raj is a man damaged by his childhood. He wants security and a traditional marriage. He meets a woman, however, that calls to him in passionate ways he never expected, but their conflicting dreams seem destined to keep them apart.

OPINION: This is a sweet and yet emotionally fraught story. Nanya and Raj feel a connection from the moment they see one another, but the question quickly arises of whether the two will be together because Nanya capitulates to her family’s expectations, whether the two will be at odds because of their different desire for the future or whether they can manage to forge something new together.

I loved this story, loved this couple. Nanya is a woman finding herself for the first time. Indeed, her relationship with Raj gives her the springboard to forge a different life for herself. At the same time that she finds comfort and companionship with Raj, she also must face the possibility that her growth might take her away from Raj.

Raj is a man who wants a traditional marriage and life, but then he meets Nanya and he must confront the reality that he wants this woman above all other things. And yet, the tension remains as to whether giving Nanya the freedom she wants means that he will lose her forever.

This book is subtle and intense and personal. There aren’t flashy, overdramatic events. Instead, this is a complex, emotional journey for these characters. Is it possible for Raj and Nanya to change and grow and reconcile their disparate visions of the future?

These characters are grounded in their families. Singh always has a wonderful way to creating community around her characters and this book is no exception. The people around Nanya and Raj matter. They are developed characters with personalities and complexities of their own. We get to see their culture, their personal foibles and strengths. It always seems that any of the secondary characters in Singh’s books could be the subject of their own book. They are that interesting and well constructed.

This is a wonderful book about compromise and understanding, about change and the importance of family and tradition. There are no easy cliches in this book. And Nanya and Raj are just adorable together. Loved it.

WORTH MENTIONING: I love the inexperienced hero and heroine combinations.

CONNECTED BOOKS: REBEL HARD is the second book in the Hard Play series. The romance here is self-contained and can be read as a standalone. I think this book is so connected with the prior book in the series (and in fact happens concurrent with that book) that I would recommend reading the books in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

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

five-stars

Review: More Than Crave You

Review: More Than Crave YouMore Than Crave You (More Than Words Book 4) by Shayla Black
Series: More Than Words #4
Published by Shelley Bradley, LLC on September 18, 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Goodreads
four-half-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: My favorite of the series because of the geeky, socially awkward, hero who is the voice of the book and the woman who opens up his world.

THE STORY: Evan Cook is a successful tech entrepreneur and owner of his own company, but he is not as good at personal relationships. After his wife and unborn child die in an accident, Evan eventually realizes that he needs a wife to help him and wants to remarry, but has no desire to love again. Instead, he asks his assistant, Nia Wright, to help him find the right woman. But one night forces Evan to see that Nia is a woman who calls to every part of him. Now Evan wants to marry Nia, but Nia wants a man to love and who will love her.

OPINION: I’ve enjoyed this series, but this book is my favorite. The hero is awkward socially — especially romantically — and has that cute geeky feel. I especially liked that this social ineptitude is combined with a successful career. Evan is frustrating at times, clueless at others, and cute and endearing. He’s a man who has only been with one woman (his wife) and is threatened by Nia’s experience. I especially enjoyed that part of the story as Evan has to confront his feelings and then overcome them.

Since the story is told primarily from Evan’s point of view, Nia is a more mysterious character, but she is also more emotionally open and well-adjusted than Evan and so she is upfront about her feelings and emotions so readers get a good sense of her character and motives. She is comfortable with herself and knows what she wants. Part of that comfort is with her sexuality and that drives Evan crazy (he has a hard time at first coming to terms with a woman who understands and appreciates her own identity as a sexual being).

I enjoyed the storyline in this book which is focused on the couple with some intriguing events on the side. But this story is really about Evan having to confront himself, his past and his emotional core. This is combined with some hot, hot scenes between Evan and Nia.

One other issue with the book is that it is an interracial romance (Evan is white and Nia is African-American). This isn’t a central part of the story and I was a bit disappointed by that because I think the story could have been deeper by discussing the complexity of interracial relationships. I love interracial romances and this one was good in many ways, but I think it could have gone deeper into the issues the two will face.

I really did enjoy this book. Evan is clueless in a cute way. Nia is strong and assertive and doesn’t defer to Evan even though he is her boss as the book begins. This book serves as a nice counterpoint to the 1980s boss and secretary books. Evan is a control freak, and Nia is definitely not a woman who is going to allow herself to be bullied by a man. There is an equality and balance between these characters that makes their interactions stimulating — especially as Evan explores his own sexual needs.

A good addition to the series and I look forward to reading more.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is a cameo from THEIR VIRGIN HOSTAGE.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MORE THAN CRAVE YOU is the fourth book in the More Than Words series. The romance here is self-contained and can be read as a standalone. There are recurring characters, however, and the familial relationship between them makes the books better when read in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received a copy of this book from the author in order to prepare a review. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

 

four-half-stars

The Wedding From Hell, Part 3: Excerpt from Consumed

The Wedding From Hell, Part 3: Excerpt from ConsumedExclusive Excerpt of Consumed (The Wedding From Hell, #3; Firefighters, #0.7) by J.R. Ward
Published by Gallery Books on August 28, 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 34
Goodreads
five-stars

This final “part” of the three part prequel to the novel CONSUMED is not really a part at all, but rather the first four chapters of CONSUMED.

This book picks up three weeks after the prequel story of the prior two parts. Of course, this book is merely the beginning of the novel and thus is incomplete in itself. That being said, the beginning of this book is powerful, action packed and suspenseful. It might even work better as a book after getting to know the characters in the prior story.

 

five-stars

Review: The Wedding from Hell Part 2: The Reception

Review: The Wedding from Hell Part 2: The ReceptionThe Reception (The Wedding From Hell, #2; Firefighters, #0.6) by J.R. Ward
Published by Gallery Books on August 7, 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 39
Goodreads
four-half-stars

This is a short story told in several parts. This is the second part. The story is not complete either here or with the additional parts as the story serves as an introduction to the novel CONSUMED which is the first book in the Firefighters series.

The prior part introduced firefighters Anne Ashburn and Danny Maguire. There is a simmering attraction between the two which comes even more clear as the two participate in the wedding for a fellow firefighter. This part picks up right where the prior installment left off. Anne and Danny take their relationship to a new level, but the story also sets up the conflict at the beginning of CONSUMED as Anne competes in the male world of firefighting.

I very much enjoyed both this and the prior installment. The characters are so strong that I look forward to seeing how their relationship evolves in CONSUMED.

four-half-stars

Review: Josh + Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating

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

Review: Josh + Hazel’s Guide to Not DatingJosh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren
Published by Gallery Books on September 4, 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 320
Goodreads
four-half-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: Quirky and sweet contemporary romantic comedy. I read this one on a whim and ended up loving the story between two opposites. It was cute and fun and just perfect for a couple hour’s escape.

THE STORY: Hazel Bradford is a lot to handle. Chaos follows her everywhere, she doesn’t have a filter and she has a habit of doing or saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. She met Josh Im in college when she vomited on him at a party. Ten years after college, the two meet again and Hazel is determined to be Josh’s best friend. After a bad breakup, Hazel convinces Josh to agree to go on a blind date with Hazel. Well, they would each set the other up with someone and they would double date.  The two have no interest in one another, but somehow their dates don’t work out and the attraction between Hazel and Josh keeps growing.

OPINION: Some books you just have to approach with an open mind and an open heart. Not that everyone would love this book if they did, but I know that I had to be open to this book to enjoy it.

Hazel is a lot to take in. She is a whirlwind — chaotic, intemperate, brash. But she also is completely open to loving other people. She cares deeply. The chaos and her inability to censor herself would be something that might annoy me greatly — until I saw how caring she is. She wants to love so much that she opens herself up and is hurt again and again. And yet she keeps caring for others. And that is what makes her who she is.

She is desperately aware that people are attracted to her, but that she becomes too much and people expect (or want) her eventually to tone down. But she doesn’t. Although Hazel is confident in herself, she also doesn’t believe that she has any chance with Josh.  She dubbed him “Perfect” as in the model for the perfect guy. Her caring for him makes her want to be close to him, but because she doesn’t believe he can be for her, she instead wants to be his best friend.

Hazel and Josh begin a friendship that is funny and sweet at the same time. She brings color and imperfection into his life. Josh brings some order into Hazel’s. Josh, however, is always completely accepting of Hazel. He may not understand how her mind works, but he doesn’t criticize her or try to make her into someone else. Hazel is a force of nature and Josh is the calm in the storm.

The two end up on a series of terrible dates (with other people) which end up being an odd courtship between them. I loved the humor and the pure acceptance between these two.

This is the first Christina Lauren book I’ve actually read. I have a bunch on my TBR list and own a bunch, but I have always set those aside to read something else. Why did I decide on this one? Because the hero is Korean American. I thought the interracial romance was handled well.

My only complaint about the story was the ending and the epilogue. I’m not a fan of leaving obvious story points unfinished and them coming back in the epilogue to give answers. I love epilogues, but personally prefer that the story be complete without it and then have the epilogue as a bonus. But that is a quibble with what was a wonderful, light and fun romance.

WORTH MENTIONING: The story is told in alternating first person points of view.

CONNECTED BOOKS: JOSH + HAZEL’S GUIDE TO NOT DATING is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

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

 

four-half-stars

Review: Drawn to the Marquess

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

Review: Drawn to the MarquessDrawn to the Marquess (Imperfect Lords, #2) by Bronwen Evans
Series: Imperfect Lords #2
Published by Loveswept on September 4, 2018
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
four-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: I enjoyed this book because the focus, besides the obvious romance, is on these two characters who are damaged and yet find in one another a reason to move beyond their fears.

THE STORY: Stephen Hornsby, Marquess of Clevedon, is determined to see everything he can before he goes blind. When he bids for a painting, he finds his competition is a beautiful widow, Lady Penelope. Stephen is determined to experience the beauty of seeing Penelope naked and in passion. Penelope has her own motives. She needs Stephen’s help. She certainly isn’t interested in becoming another conquest for the determined rake. She already was married to a man who betrayed and used her emotions and dreams against her. She will never get involved with another man and risk herself or her emotions.

OPINION: I admit to being a sucker for a damaged hero. Stephen struggles with his increasing blindness. It makes him question just about everything about himself. I liked his journey throughout the book as he discovers what is important about himself — both in his own eyes and in those around him. Balancing his “weakness” with his strength as a hero was done skillfully demonstrating that any weakness that Stephen senses in himself doesn’t overwhelm all the strengths he has. I especially loved that Penelope flat out tells him that he is strong enough to overcome his challenges.

Penelope is a woman of strength and determination. She has a horrible past, but she has not allowed it to make her cower in fear. Instead, she has built a life for herself and intends on doing what is right no matter the consequences.

The dynamic between Penelope and Stephen was interesting because the need for reassurance that each needs ebbs and flows with the events in the story. I liked that about the couple. They both don’t want to trust, they both have fears and they both have to open themselves up to the possibility of being hurt.

The plot of the story about the death of Penelope’s husband serves its purpose in the story. I wasn’t particularly interested in the resolution, but it did push Stephen and Penelope into situations which challenged them individually and as a couple.

WORTH MENTIONING: For readers of ADDICTED TO THE DUKE, we get a nice little update on Alex and Hestia.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DRAWN TO THE MARQUESS is the second book in the Imperfect Lords series. This book has overlapping characters, but the romance is completely separate and can be read as standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

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

 

four-stars

Review: Sweet Filthy Boy

Review: Sweet Filthy BoySweet Filthy Boy (Wild Seasons, #1) by Christina Lauren
Series: Wild Seasons #1
Published by Gallery Books on May 13, 2014
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 385
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION: The story was okay, but didn’t grab me. I got tired of the characters who seemed to be stuck in a neutral position for most of the book. Just an okay read overall.

THE STORY: A crazy weekend in Vegas celebrating college graduation becomes something more when Mia Holland ends up following her one night stand to Paris. The summer spent with Ansel Guillaume is completely different from what the dutiful Mia is expected to do. But as the weeks of summer count down, Mia has to ask herself whether there is something between them that is worth fighting for.

OPINION: I’ve loved everything I’ve read by Christina Lauren until this book. This one was only okay for me. Both the beginning and ending of this book were good, but there was too much time in the middle when the characters didn’t seem to be going anywhere in their relationship.

And ultimately, I don’t know that the characters problems were really resolved. Instead, I felt like this book could have benefited greatly with an epilogue. Instead, I couldn’t help but feel that too much was left unsaid by these characters and replaced by sex. While sexual exploits are something I expect from a Christina Lauren book, I think in this book the sexual relationship was a diversion rather than something that brought the characters closer together. Perhaps because we never got Ansel’s point of view, I also felt that he remained too distant and unknowable throughout the story.

I did enjoy Mia’s journey and I was intrigued by the glimpses of her friend’s possible stories. I also liked Mia and Ansel growing in their relationship by the end.

WORTH  MENTIONING: This book sets up the next two books in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SWEET FILTHY BOY is the first book in the Wild Seasons series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

three-stars

Review: Beautiful Beginning

Review: Beautiful BeginningBeautiful Beginning (Beautiful Bastard, #3.5) by Christina Lauren
Series: Beautiful #3
Published by Pocket Star on November 19, 2013
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 208
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: The story of the marriage of Chloe and Bennett, getting to see the characters all in a happy place was nice, but I wasn’t as drawn into this story as much as the other novellas. The humor felt more forced and less exciting, but still a nice revisit.

THE STORY: Chloe and Bennett started out with arguing and angry sex, but now they are getting married and there is plenty of anger at family and no sex because Bennett wants to wait for the wedding night. A series of crazy capers happens when it is time for the wedding.

OPINION: I always enjoy seeing all the characters from the Beautiful series in situations that are not about their emotional turmoil but rather about enjoying their relationship. This novella is a cute episode with the crazy events surround Chloe and Bennett’s marriage. What I enjoyed most about the story is how we get to see Bennett’s intense love for Chloe. Definitely sigh-worthy. Although the story has a lot of humor, I wasn’t as engaged with the story as with the prior stories. I liked the story, but didn’t find it as hilarious as others.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is an adorable novella with all the cast and crew of the prior books in the Beautiful series. It clearly was designed to be an ending to the series although the authors continued the series a few years later.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BEAUTIFUL BEGINNING is book 3.5 in the Beautiful series. It should be read as part of the series as it assumes knowledge of the characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Beautiful Player

Review: Beautiful PlayerBeautiful Player (Beautiful Bastard, #3) by Christina Lauren
Series: Beautiful #3
Published by Gallery Books on October 29, 2013
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 432
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I enjoyed this one because I simply adored Will. Hanna annoyed me more than I would have liked, but watching Will completely fall for Hanna was worth my annoyance.

THE STORY: Hanna Bergstrom’s brother is concerned that she has become too obsessed with her work and doesn’t have a social life. He makes her promise to get out more and to call his best friend, Will Sumner, for help in getting into the dating scene. What Hanna’s brother doesn’t know is that Will starred in Hanna’s teenage fantasies and he is even more attractive now.  Will now finds a woman he can’t seem to get out of his mind and who tempts him to something more serious at the same time she doesn’t believe that anything with him can be permanent.

OPINION: I enjoyed this one primarily because I thought that Will was adorable. I loved how his stumbles and struggles with moving from a man who is happy to have relationships only about sex to wanting a relationship that is all about emotion and connection while the woman is keeping her distance.

This book continues the humor and sexiness of the series, but I got annoyed with Hanna for portions of the book. (Perhaps because the reader is privy to Will’s inner thoughts, Hanna’s actions seem harsh at times). I also don’t really like it when women won’t say what they want. Be a grown up and say what is on your mind!  On the other hand, I really loved the goofy side of Hanna who says the most inappropriate things.

The book was a really good read, but not up the excellent standards of the first two book in the series for me. But just by a little bit. The quirky and natural interaction between these characters was enjoyable and emotional.  The uncertainty and the fears that both characters give the book a sense of honesty that I especially enjoyed.

WORTH MENTIONING: My favorite moment in this story actually has to do with Max and Sara. Fans of the their book should definitely read this one.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BEAUTIFUL PLAYER is the third book in the Beautiful series. The romance here is a standalone, but there are overlapping characters from the other books in the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Beautiful Bombshell

Review: Beautiful BombshellBeautiful Bombshell (Beautiful Bastard, #2.5) by Christina Lauren
Series: Beautiful #2.5
Published by Pocket Star on September 3, 2013
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 160
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: Funny and sexy escapades with the two couples from the Beautiful series. An enjoyable add on to the series.

THE STORY: A bachelor party trip to Las Vegas is complicated when the women show up in interesting situations and Max and Bennett can’t seem to keep their thoughts on what is supposed to be a men’s only weekend.

OPINION: This is a fun little story with the Beautiful men intending to have a bachelor weekend in Vegas but finding that they would much rather be with the Beautiful women. But, of course, they have to hide their adventures.

Sexy situations and funny moments. This is a fun story for fans of the series. It is more a series of encounters and funny situations and really depends upon begin familiar with the characters and their relationships.

WORTH MENTIONING: This novella alternates the first person points of view of Max and Bennett.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BEAUTIFUL BOMBSHELL is book 2.5 of the Beautiful series. It should be read as part of the series because it is really an additional vignette about the two couples in the series so far.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars