Review: Consumed

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: ConsumedConsumed (Firefighters, #1) by J.R. Ward
Series: Firefighters #1
Published by Gallery Books on October 2, 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 416
Goodreads
four-half-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: Wow, this book has one of the most heart pounding and shocking introduction to characters and their situation as any book I have read. I really enjoyed this book. The characters are flawed and complicated; the story kept me interested and I left this book wanting more.

THE STORY: Anne Ashburn is a woman with something to prove. The daughter of a revered firefighter (who wasn’t who he seemed) and the sister of the current fire chief, Anne is fighting for her own identity in a profession dominated by men. Brash, opinionated, independent and strong, Anne loves being a firefighter. The thorn in her side is Danny McGuire a fellow firefighter. There is a blazing hot attraction between them that Anne acted on once, but never again. One fire changes everything.

OPINION: While I’ve always read and thoroughly enjoyed and sometimes outright loved Ward’s Black Dagger Brotherhood series, I think I might enjoy her recent contemporary series even more. Her BDB series is sprawling in scope with a huge set of characters. Her contemporaries take her ability to write overarching stories with compelling characters and compress them into smaller bites.

Whereas her Bourbon Kings series was a lush soap opera, the Firefighters series has a compelling sense of action, drama and urgency that is reminiscent of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, but exhibited in a totally different context. This is not the BDB and may disappoint those looking for a similar series, but I loved the complexity of the characters, their flaws and individuality, the connection between Anne and Danny, and the intriguing plot which propels the characters.

Anne is a woman who struggles with love, connection and trust after finding out the truth about her father. She loves the same profession that is the family calling but has difficultly reconciling being respected, being open and being driven. She is stubborn and reckless and good at her job. When her life is turned upside down, she has to find in herself the ability to go forward and reform her life into something worth living. I especially liked that Anne doesn’t fit traditional ideas of femininity. Like many of Ward’s heroines in the BDB universe, she is physically strong and unwilling to be the victim. And yet, she struggles with ideas of her own attractiveness and where she fits. She is flawed, arrogant and difficult and I liked her all the more for it.

Danny is excellent at his job, but terrible at following orders. But the realities of the job and its costs weigh on his soul. The dramatic events which occur at the beginning of the book tip him toward self-destruction. But through it all, he has a connection to Anne that marks him as a passionate hopeless romantic — even if he would never agree to that characterization. He can’t forget her and while he accepts her wishes for a while, I cheered when he finally decided that he was going to go for what I wanted.

At times I didn’t like the characters very much. They are at times, angry, foolish, annoying and arrogant. They are flawed. And ultimately, that is what made me fall for them. They felt raw and real. By the end of the book, I didn’t want their story to end and I hope that we get to see more of them in future books in the series.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is a slight overarching storyline that isn’t completed here. This book is a complete story, but there are threads that I expect will be picked up in the next book in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: CONSUMED is the first book in the Firefighters series. There are two prequel vignettes (and one prequel that is in fact the beginning of this book) but those are not necessary to read although you get some background on the characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley in order to 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: Obsession

Review: ObsessionObsession (Regency Lovers #2) by Carole Mortimer
Series: Regency Lovers #2
Published by Carole Mortimer on September 14, 2018
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
two-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Unrealistic and simplistic in many ways, but I enjoyed this easy and short read. More impression than full story, this was an okay one time read.

THE STORY: Lord Alexander Stirling was made the guardian of a fifteen year old girl, sent her to a boarding school and promptly forgot about her. Years later, that ward, Amanda Fullerton has come to London to confront Alex and demand that she be recognized. Alex is shocked by Amanda who isn’t the demur young woman he expects.

OPINION: This is a easy and uncomplicated read. The characters are written in broad strokes, their relationship is mostly drama without much emotional depth. This isn’t one of the complicated romances that I love, but I still thought this book was okay.

Some books are meant to be complicated journeys and some can be enjoyable popcorn that can be read in a quick manner and then put aside. This book is that second type. I enjoyed the quick and dirty story with plenty of heat between the characters. Once the book was done, I put is aside. There wasn’t really much to the story beyond the blurb description, but that was okay because I knew what I was getting.

In many ways, this book is like a novella that is focused on the broad outlines of the story.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book has a lot of sexual activity, but no full sexual consummation.

CONNECTED BOOKS: OBSESSION is the second book in the Regency Lovers series. This book can be read as a standalone although there are overlapping characters from the first book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 2.5 stars.

two-half-stars

Review: Sweet Filthy Morning After

Review: Sweet Filthy Morning AfterSweet Filthy Morning After (Wild Seasons, #1.5) by Christina Lauren
Series: Wild Seasons #1.5
Published by Simon Schuster Audio on October 14, 2014
Genres: Contemporary
Goodreads
two-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: Didn’t really add anything to the original book for me.

THE STORY: Ansel Guillaume wakes up after a one night stand to find out that he is married.

OPINION: This is not a complete story. It just tells the events of the beginning of SWEET FILTHY BOY from the point of view of the hero. We get some insight into Ansel’s thoughts the morning after. It is necessary, however, to read SWEET FILTHY BOY in order to find out what happens in the story.

This audiobook was okay although I didn’t care for listening to the story exclusively through the accent of the hero since the story is first person point of view. I didn’t think it added much to the original story (which was just okay for me anyway). If you loved the book, this might be a good add on. If you didn’t care for the book, you can skip this.

WORTH MENTIONING: This story is only available on audio at the time of this review.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SWEET FILTHY MORNING AFTER is book 1.5 in the Wild Seasons series. It is, however, the telling of the events in the beginning of SWEET FILTHY BOY from the perspective of the hero.

STAR RATING: I give this story 2.5 stars.

two-half-stars

Review: Once a Scoundrel

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: Once a ScoundrelOnce a Scoundrel (Rogues Redeemed, #3) by Mary Jo Putney
Series: Rogues Redeemed #3
Published by Kensington on September 25, 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 368
Goodreads
two-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: A good story grounded in interesting historical facts, but I thought the characters were too calm and lacked passion that I wanted especially in their relationship.

THE STORY: Gabriel Hawkins was born to be a British Navy man until he makes a decision which leads to his dismissal from the navy and his admiral grandfather disowning him. Gabriel has made a life for himself on the seas when he is asked to help negotiate the release of a British lady who is being held for ransom by a Barbary pirate. Lady Aurora Lawrence is a scandal to her family. She has eschewed marriage to travel with her cousin around the world writing novels. Rory and Gabriel have to undertake a dangerous voyage which might gain Rory her freedom.

OPINION: I liked the heroine who is intelligent and reasoned throughout the story. The hero is honorable and tries to use his intelligence to solve the dilemma in the story. There is a lot of historical information in this book which was interesting and is what kept me reading the story to see what else I could learn.

My problem with this story is that everything is just too civilized. No problem that Rory is constantly threatened to be sold into the slavery of the harem. Rory casually offers her virginity for sale in order to make up the price of her ransom. I didn’t feel the emotion or reality of the situation. The characters just never felt three dimensional but rather as mere pawns moved about the story. Although both main characters have problems and even tragedy in their lives, they don’t seem to have emotional depth in the story. I never got to feel that I knew these characters.

And I was disappointed with that.

WORTH MENTIONING: There is a second romance here as well.

CONNECTED BOOKS: ONCE A SCOUNDREL is the third book in the Rogues Redeemed series. This book is a standalone but there are some overlapping characters from both the Rogues Redeemed series and the Lost Lords series. A new reader won’t miss anything by starting here.

STAR RATING: I give this book 2.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book via Netgalley 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.

two-half-stars

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

Review: The Duke of Desire

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: The Duke of DesireThe Duke of Desire (The 1797 Club, #9) by Jess Michaels
Series: The 1797 Club #9
Published by Passionate Pen on September 18, 2018
Genres: Historical
Goodreads
four-stars

 

FINAL DECISION: Quite enjoyable story of a notorious rake who finds that his past misdeeds are coming back to haunt him when the woman he is intrigued with will have nothing to do with him. As to two begin to fall, all of the past and mistrust threatens any chance for a future.

THE STORY: Robert Smithton, Duke of Roseford, immerses himself in sexual excess although his life is beginning to separate him from best friends who all moving on to married life. When the Countess of Gainsworth returns to society after the notorious death of her husband, Robert plans on seducing the widow. What he doesn’t expect is that Katherine seems to hold a hatred of Robert although he has just met her. Katherine blames Roseford for the circumstances which led to her being forced to marry and has no intention on being Robert’s next conquest.

OPINION: I enjoyed reading the interactions between Robert and Katherine. I was a bit disappointed that Robert was not as wild as I expected from his history. I think, in fact, he was tamer than some of the other heroes. He was nicer than I expected.

What I really enjoyed was how Robert really wants what his friends have but doesn’t know how to reach out for what he wants. And I really loved that he is confounded by his attraction to Katherine and falls for her hard.

I didn’t find Katherine’s journey as compelling as Robert’s, but I liked her strength as a character and her unwillingness to sacrifice her own self-worth. She has her freedom and intends on living her best life despite her father, and she certainly isn’t going to be a doormat for Robert.

WORTH MENTIONING: We get quite a few updates on the prior couples in the series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: THE DUKE OF DESIRE is the ninth book in the 1797 series. The romance here is self-contained and can be read as a standalone although the characters from the series make significant appearances here. The relationships make this series better read in order.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

NOTE: I received an ARC of this book from 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-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