Review: Perfect

Review: PerfectPerfect (Second Opportunities, #2) by Judith McNaught
Series: Second Opportunities #2
Published by Pocket Books on December 1, 2002
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 704
Goodreads
five-stars

“I love you, Julie. I loved you in Colorado. I love you here, where I am. I will always love you. Everywhere. Always.”

FINAL DECISION: One of my all time favorite books, this book has action, suspense, mystery, a sexy leading man, a strong heroine, a full and complete story and a sense of romance and drama. I’ve loved this one for years and it doesn’t disappoint after decades of reading it.

THE STORY: Julie Mathison has done everything she can to do live an exemplary life after being adopted. On a trip out of her small town, she is taken hostage by Zachary Benedict, the former superstar Hollywood actor and director who was convicted of murdering his wife. Zach has escaped from prison and needs Julie and her vehicle to get to to the place he will be temporarily hiding. At first desperate to escape her kidnapper, Julie soon is convinced that Zach is innocent.

OPINION: I love this book. It is one of my all time favorite books. I love the heart of this story. Zach and Julie are such a wonderful couple.

This is a long book, and I enjoy every page. The story has time and space to breathe in these pages. We get to see what formed these characters before they even meet and then we get to see their relationship develop, the problems that almost tear them apart and then a resolution. And that might be what I love most about this book — when the “big problem” is resolved, the story is not over. Instead, we get to see the characters actually create their happy ending.

Julie could have been written as a stereotypical do-gooder, but instead, she has complexity. Her reaction with Zach mirrors other events in her life so it doesn’t feel like a stretch that she would turn her kidnapping into an advocacy for his innocence. I liked that she has morals even when she doesn’t live up to them all the time.

Zach is my favorite actor hero. I absolute loved how he is gobsmacked by his reaction to Julie. The cynical actor is enchanted with Julie who discovers Zach’s secret soft heart.

Not only is Zach and Julie’s relationship sweet and romantic, the book allows other relationships to be explored. Parental love, sibling relationships, and friendships are all important in this story. All the characters in the book have complexity and interest. (We also get some side romances.)

I especially enjoyed seeing Mathew and Meredith from PARADISE. They have significant roles in this book and the friendship between Zach and Matthew worked especially well.

This book was written in the early 1990s and the pop culture references are from that time. The book does, however, clearly point to taking place at a particular time.including dates and years for the events rather than being a book that could take place in current times.

WORTH MENTIONING: One of the significant twists in the story at the end has been negated by the subsequent changes from the original cover. The original pink with roses cover has an important role in the book itself so I’m rather sad that new readers might be left wondering what the characters are referring to at the end.

CONNECTED BOOKS: PERFECT is the second book in the Second Opportunities series. This romance here is self-contained and it is not necessary to read the first book in the series. The couple from that series does, however, make a significant appearance here.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

 

five-stars

Review: Paradise

Review: ParadiseParadise by Judith McNaught
Series: Second Opportunities #1
Published by Pocket Books on June 1, 1992
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 709
Goodreads
five-stars

“Either give me your hand,” he said, “or end it now, and put us both out of our misery.”

FINAL DECISION: Fabulous story with characters that I have remembered for almost three decades with a story that covers over a decade heartbreak, betrayal and transformative love.

THE STORY: Matthew Farrell is seen as a playboy corporate raider. A self-made man, Matt built his fortune always remembering the rich, spoiled girl he was briefly married to before they were torn apart. Now eleven years after their brief marriage, Matt and Meredith Bancroft are again in the same place. Meredith is no longer the eighteen year old girl Matt knew and she is on the precipice of finally heading her family’s department store empire. Eleven years hasn’t diminished the intense feelings between Matt and Meredith. Betrayal, heartbreak, fury, passion still swirl around the couple. Both have moved on in their lives but neither can forget all that was between them when they are face to face.

OPINION: This book reminds me of how there are only a few books that really are memorable. I might enjoy a book for a while, but this book I remember after years. I don’t think I’ve read this book 25 years, but I remember how much I loved these characters and their story. This book is my second favorite Judith McNaught book (surpassed only by PERFECT, the second book in this series).

Matt and Meredith’s story has a familiar story line. Two young people marry and then forces tear them apart. They meet again and all those second chance feelings: love, passion, fear, anger threaten any chance of a reconciliation. This is an epic book, it follows the two for fifteen years. The book takes a while to develop these characters, their situation, and their passion for one another, but by the time it ends, I was completely and utterly invested in their story.

Despite some dated references (especially to the cost of items), the relationship feels modern and fresh. Indeed, Meredith’s desire to run her family business and Matt’s unwavering support of her feels more relevant than ever.

Filled with regrets and mistakes and an intense desire to finally get things right touched my heart more now than when I was a young 20 year old reading this book for the first time.

WORTH MENTIONING: Two things in this book really transported me back to the first time I read it in the early 1990s. First, no cell phones so there are lots of plot points about not being able to contact people. Second, lots of mentions of how much things cost which is so late 1980s.

CONNECTED BOOKS: PARADISE is the first book in the loosely connected Second Opportunities series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Misadventures with a Professor

Review: Misadventures with a ProfessorMisadventures with a Professor (Misadventures, #17) by Sierra Simone
Series: Misadventures #17
Published by Waterhouse Press on November 6, 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: Hot, sexy story combined with a rather sweet romance. The relationship between these characters made this book a winner for me even though the story line was fairly predictable.

THE STORY: On her way to start a research assistant job with an old stuffy professor, Zandy Lynch has a goal — to lose her virginity — and she has one night in London to accomplish it. Oliver Graeme isn’t looking for a woman but when he runs into a young woman looking for a one night stand with a stranger, he wants to protect her from her own actions. Of course, he ends up succumbing to her charms. By morning, Zandy and Oliver go their separate ways. But when Zandy meets her new boss, she’s shocked to find that the stuffy professor isn’t so old or so stuffy — and he just happens to be her one night stand.

OPINION: This was a hot and sweet story. Oliver is a really cute hero with lot of hangups based on his past. I really enjoyed their interactions with one another. Amanda is inexperienced, but not naive. She, in fact, pushes Oliver to confront his fears.

The story, like others in this series, is really focused on the sexual relationship. These two really enjoy roleplaying. Hot and sexy with the sweet but determined heroine and the grumpy brooding hero. The relationship between these two was a 5 for me.

The story was entirely predictable and while I still really enjoyed the book, I sighed a little at the predictable twists in the story.

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

CONNECTED BOOKS: MISADVENTURES WITH A PROFESSOR is the seventeenth book in the Misadventures series. These books, however, are completely independent stories and thus are standalones.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Beautiful

Review: BeautifulBeautiful (Beautiful Bastard, #5) by Christina Lauren
Series: Beautiful #5
Published by Gallery Books on October 4, 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 416
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: A satisfying conclusion to the Beautiful series with a new couple who made me laugh and smile. Jensen and Pippa are perfect together despite their differences but Jensen and Hanna definitely have similar work obsession problems!

THE STORY: Times are changing for the Beautiful crew with the addition of a number of children and a group have decided to take a wine tasting tour. Included is one of Ruby’s friends, Pippa and Hanna’s brother, Jensen. As the unmarried couple in the group, the two are naturally matched together. Both are recovering from failed relationships and the lure of a holiday romance is irresistible. But what happens when the holiday is over.

OPINION: This book is elevated by the appearances of the Beautiful crew. The story is good, but it doesn’t compare to the first three couples in the series. On the other hand, I enjoyed this story more than Niall and Ruby’s.

Pippa and Jensen made me laugh. The two are such opposites and it was wonderful to see how these two end up melding so well together. There was something really beautiful about how Pippa expects Jensen to be judgmental about her, but he truly falls for her for herself.

I also really liked the symmetry of this story (won’t give spoilers here). Even if the events are a bit unlikely, there was something in how it came together that made my heart warm.

What I didn’t like as much is how these two are a bit stupid with miscommunication, or more accurately, lack of communication. The troubles between Jensen and Pippa is all about not talking to one another. I’m not a person that hates that plot device, but the excuses here made me roll my eyes at times.

But ultimately, the strength of the connection between Jensen and Pippa made up for the plot device keeping them apart.

And the ending of this book was simply wonderful and a great treat for anyone who has followed the entire series.

WORTH MENTIONING: There are appearances here from Bennett and Chloe, Max and Sara, Will and Hanna, and Niall and Ruby. I love the relationship between these characters and this book feels like a big homecoming for everyone.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BEAUTIFUL is the fifth and final book in the Beautiful series. The romance here is self-contained and can be read as a standalone, but this book is filled with the other couples in the series and serves as a conclusion for the series so it is better after reading the other books in the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Beautiful Boss

Review: Beautiful BossBeautiful Boss (Beautiful Bastard, #4.5) by Christina Lauren
Series: Beautiful #4.5
Published by Pocket Star on February 29, 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 144
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I loved Will and Hanna, but Hanna really annoyed me in this story. Actually, I thought she was not thoughtful and treated Will pretty lousy by refusing to communicate with him even when he asked her again and again.

THE STORY: Will and Hanna are getting married, but Hanna is also interviewing for a variety of jobs. Flying around the country, Hanna and Will have important decisions to make but Hanna and Will are adjusting to making decisions together.

OPINION: I just wanted this story to be amazing and parts of it were. For fans of Will and Hanna there is much to like here. We get the run up to their wedding and then the aftermath. The two are working towards being a married couple which calls for some changes in their life.

But I really felt that all the issues here were on Hanna’s side. She seemed immature and annoying in not wanting to communicate with Will. I thought he was caring and tried to clue her in on how he needed her to communicate with him, but she kept blowing him off. He certainly was much nicer about the whole thing that I ever would be. And ultimately, I don’t know that I felt secure that these two were making decisions as a couple. It seemed more like Will said “I want you to be happy and will do what you want” and Hanna made her own decision and told Will about it.

I would have liked to see both of them discuss their concerns and the two come to a decision together. There were many parts here that I thoroughly enjoyed — especially the humor in the story and the Beautiful cast, but I was not happy with Hanna. I think she is better than this.

WORTH MENTIONING: We get a bit of Jensen’s backstory. He will be the hero of the BEAUTIFUL.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BEAUTIFUL BOSS is book 4.5 in the Beautiful series. This is an extension of the book BEAUTIFUL PLAYER and at least that book should be read first since this is a continuation of that couple’s story.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: Wicked Sexy Liar

Review: Wicked Sexy LiarWicked Sexy Liar (Wild Seasons, #4) by Christina Lauren
Series: Wild Seasons #4
Published by Gallery Books on February 2, 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 384
Goodreads
three-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: I enjoyed this story, but I ultimately needed more to accept Luke’s quick transformation. (I believed he would be faithful, but I needed as a reader more time to pass before this couple felt right to me).

THE STORY: London Hughes knows better than to get involved with the men who come into the bar where she works. But feeling knocked off her game, she decides “why not” and takes up the offer with the serious player Luke Sutter. But London is determined to keep it sex only. Luke, however, can’t stop thinking about this woman who breaks through his endless parade of women and makes him question himself.

OPINION: I liked a lot about this book, but the central part of the book which is Luke turning away from his years of having sex with numerous women and not having any relationships with them just didn’t work for me as well as I needed it to.

Luke was devastated by the end of his relationship with the girl he expected to always be with (Mia from SWEET FILTHY BOY). He has spent the years since keeping his distance from any serious relationship with a variety of women.

London is a woman who doesn’t trust the words of a man who can slip from one woman’s bed to another. But London also sees something more in Luke. And Luke begins to see something in himself as well.

There was so much that I liked about this book. London and Luke have a really good relationship and connection. I enjoyed seeing both London and Luke challenged in their personal viewpoints. Their relationship was smart and modern and funny and sexy hot.

My complaint is that Luke’s endless sexual partners are a big problem for London and is in fact the central issue in the story. As such, I needed something more dramatic in his transformation or more time to elapse to see his transformation. This was especially true for me because Luke violates one of my big romance no-nos. He has sex with another woman after he and London first start up their relationship. No, it’s not cheating, but it really bothered me. So, he needed to do something more to prove that he will be faithful to her. Maybe this book needed an longer view epilogue, but for whatever reason, I finished this book not yet convinced.

WORTH MENTIONING: My book included the short story A NOT-JOE NOT-SO-SHORT SHORT. I really, really liked this story and I wanted more. There was a sweetness and a reality to the story. Not-Joe takes a liking to Ansel’s ex, Perry. I could have read a whole book about these two and I had a thought that this would be a great start to a serial series about Not-Joe and Perry. A good addition.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WICKED SEXY LIAR is the fourth book in the Wild Seasons series. The romance here is self-contained and thus can be read on its own. There are overlapping characters, however, and the relationships are more significant after reading all the books in the series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3.5 stars.

three-half-stars

Review: Malcolm & Isabel

Review: Malcolm & IsabelMalcolm & Isabel (Pennyroyal Today) by Julie Anne Long
Series: , Pennyroyal Today #1
on October 15, 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Goodreads
five-stars

“Our story begins right where the Epilogue of The Legend of Lyon Redmond ends . . . “

FINAL DECISION: Passionate, optimistic, emotional and funny this was a book that made me smile, sigh and just feel better about the world. Thankfully, Malcolm & Isabel’s story lived up to the promise in THE LEGEND OF LYON REDMOND.

THE STORY: Isabel Redmond, raised in a series of foster homes, comes to Pennyroyal Green having discovered a long family history centered in this English town . Under the historic trees that have seen centuries of lives in Pennyroyal Green, Isabel meets Doctor Malcolm Coburn. Instantly there is something between them that could change both their lives if they are willing to take the chance.

OPINION: The epilogue of historical THE LEGEND OF LYON REDMOND jumps again centuries and introduces readers to the contemporary world of Pennyroyal Green. Centuries after the events of the Pennyroyal Green series, readers are introduced to Isabel and Malcolm. Readers got to see their first meeting and that moment which changes everything. Reading reviews of the book some readers were confused by the epilogue, but I have always believed it is part of the greatness of THE LEGEND OF LYON REDMOND. A promise that the love that Lyon and Olivia not only is a “they lived happily ever after” but still resonates through the centuries. And that moment that occurred centuries before — two people who see one another and just KNOW still happens. To me the epilogue said, the lives and loves of the characters in the Pennyroyal Green series mattered and continue to matter.

This story picks up EXACTLY after the end of the epilogue. Isabel and Malcolm have met and this book tells their story.

This story reminds me of the famous Faulkner quote: “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.”  The history of Pennyroyal Green lives in these contemporary characters. Not that they don’t have their own paths, but there is something incredibly comforting thinking that all the lives of those who have gone before have significance in the present.

Isabel, an American, has arrived in the English town Pennyroyal Green after discovering her own heritage. She is a thoroughly modern woman who designs jewelry and likes music. She seems well adjusted but definitely has abandonment issues.  Isabel doesn’t connect deeply easily.

Malcolm is a doctor who has been around the world but come to build his life in a town which is home to him. (He also happens to like the same type of music Isabel does!) He is dedicated to his profession and to the town. He feels solid and committed to his profession, but he remains disconnected from any romantic attachments.

I really liked Isabel and Malcolm. Their connection is palpable, sweet and geeky in the best of ways. Anyone who has had the experience of meeting a person and immediately wanting to talk the night away, will recognize these characters closeness.

This is not a story about external obstacles. There are some small difficulties which arise, but the real obstacles for these characters are their own emotional lives. Can a chance meeting change your life? Are you willing to risk pain and rejection to take a chance on that possibility of something more?  These characters can’t be safe and take things slowly and carefully. Life demands these characters take big risks and open themselves up to pain and rejection. In this shorter novel, the obstacles they have are more than enough to fill the pages.

Like the characters, this novel is big and open about the emotions. I really enjoy Long’s writing style which often feel like an ode to love. As a result, the story feels eternal and big and important. I left this book warm and happy and just smiling more about the world.

I read this book through at a rapid pace, and then immediately went back to my favorite sections. And even as I write this, I’m tempted back into Isabel and Malcolm’s story. I know this will be a story I return to over and over again.

WORTH MENTIONING: Please, oh please, Julie Anne Long write the stories of the other characters in Pennyroyal today. I have hopes that there will be more since this book is billed as Pennyroyal Today. I want to know about Finn and Poppy and Liam (the new dishy vicar) and the current owner of Eversea House, and the “very private” head of Redmond Worldwide. Long has a knack of writing a community of characters who are intriguing and have complexity.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MALCOLM & ISABEL should be read after the epilogue of THE LEGEND OF LYON REDMOND. It is certainly possible to read this book after reading only the epilogue, but why not treat yourself and read the amazing Pennyroyal Green series?

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Dark Wild Night

Review: Dark Wild NightDark Wild Night (Wild Seasons, #3) by Christina Lauren
Series: Wild Seasons #3
Published by Gallery Books on September 15, 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 341
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: My favorite of this series by far. I loved Lola and Oliver. Their friends to lovers story was complicated and emotional and difficult. These two are perfect for one another but have to find a way to be together.

THE STORY: Lola and Oliver are the final couple of the three that met and married impulsively in Las Vegas. But Lola and Oliver see themselves as the wise couple. Instead of engaging in sex, the two spent the evening walking Las Vegas and talking before their quickie divorce the next day. In the months since the two have become good friends. But there are deep undercurrents to their friendship as each is intensely attracted to the other but fear destroying their friendship by reaching for more.

OPINION: This is the first book that I really loved in this series. Lola and Oliver felt much more relatable to me. They are proud nerds, Oliver owns a comic book store and Lola writes graphic novels. Both have issues arising from parental abandonment when they were children. But each has a different sensitivity because of their past — and that causes complications.

Lola and Oliver have built a special friendship with one another. I loved their relationship which felt real and connected. When so often romance books concern couples meeting and falling in love in days, I really enjoyed this story where Lola and Oliver have an obvious rapport with one another. By the time their relationship becomes something more, there is a deep emotional significance. And that made the sex scenes hotter and more emotional.

I adored Oliver who is much more understanding and tolerant than many would be of Lola’s quirks, insecurities and naivete. I might have believed him too tolerant until he finally took a stand. I loved that he retains all his strength but loves Lola and wants her to be her best self as well. I also really love a hero with glasses.

Lola is the more difficult character in this book. She was sometimes hard for me to feel sympathy for, but I loved how this book unravels her fears and shows her development. Things are messy with her and imperfect and I enjoyed seeing how she grows as an individual.

I was really into these characters. I truly felt that these two had a basis for which to love one another. Their issues are many, but I think this is one couple I can see making it long term.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book sets up the couple for the next book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: DARK WILD NIGHT is the third book in the Wild Seasons series. This story can be read as a standalone although there are overlapping characters and their relationships span the entirety of the series so far.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Beautiful Secret

Review: Beautiful SecretBeautiful Secret (Beautiful Bastard, #4) by Christina Lauren
Series: Beautiful #4
on April 14, 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION: This book was okay, but disappointing compared to the other books in this series. I quickly got annoyed by Ruby who seemed immature and annoying for pretty much all the book.

THE STORY: Ruby Miller has had a crush on Niall Stella for months. When she is sent to New York with Niall for work, Ruby worries that she will embarrass herself because she can’t think when Niall is near. But soon the two are flirting with one another. Niall is finding his feet after his divorce. He doesn’t know how to deal with women, but there is something about Ruby that brings Niall out of his shell. But time spent away from real life in London might not last when they return.

OPINION: I think this book would have benefited from giving this couple some time to live their relationship. Ruby comes across too aggressive emotionally toward Niall. If the roles had been reversed, he would be excoriated as being an alpha jerk. This is Ruby. She’s pushing a man who is just divorced from his wife of fifteen years and plays the victim when he doesn’t act as committed as her.  Just because she has been “stalking” him for months is no reason for her to not give him real time in their relationship. Parts of this book made me cringe because I kept thinking — just give the guy some time to breathe.

Despite this, I did enjoy this quieter man who has been keeping himself so under control for years finding his sexual groove. I also enjoyed the two different characters finding a middle ground for their lives together.

Niall was adorable in the prior novella where he was introduced, but I wish he was more adorable and less neurotic here. He is still recovering from his relationship with his ex-wife, the only woman he has ever loved or ever had a relationship with. He is tentative and unsure about how to move forward. This seemed a reasonable position to me.

I had mixed feelings about this story. I would greatly enjoy portions as the two got to know one another and then I would feel uncomfortable at points. I wanted to like this more and thus I was disappointed.

Things seemed to finally be getting better when the two returned to London and then we had the big problem and that was resolved in a few pages. I left this book not feeling confident about this couple.

WORTH MENTIONING: The heroine here, Ruby, was mentioned in a very, very minor way in DIRTY ROWDY THING.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BEAUTIFUL SECRET is the fourth book in the Beautiful series. This book can be read as a standalone although there are some overlapping characters.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

three-stars

Review: Beautiful Beloved

Review: Beautiful BelovedBeautiful Beloved (Beautiful Bastard, #3.6) by Christina Lauren
Series: Beautiful #3.6
Published by Pocket Star on February 2, 2015
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 102
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: Max and Sara are probably my favorite couple in the series, and I loved seeing them struggle after the birth of their daughter with how to deal with all the changes in their relationship. The book is funny and serious and sweet and hot, hot, hot.

THE STORY: After the birth of their beautiful beloved daughter, Max and Sara are trying to find the balance between parenthood and the sexy escapades that they have enjoyed as a couple. With help from their family and friends, they try to recapture the joys of being a couple while adapting to being a family of three.

OPINION: This is a continuation of Max and Sara’s relationship. Now that their daughter has been born, the two have to find a new balance between them. I loved that this story continues the tone of BEAUTIFUL STRANGER. This novella has humor and is super hot (if you were offended by the sexcapades of Max and Sara before, this novella is not any different). This is a definite read for fans of Max and Sara. As a parent, it also felt uncomfortably and amusingly real and immediate. Loved this one for fans of the Beautiful series.

WORTH  MENTIONING: This book also introduces Max’s brother Niall who is the hero of the next book in the series, BEAUTIFUL SECRET.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BEAUTIFUL BELOVED is book 3.6 of the Beautiful series. This is a followup on Max and Sara from BEAUTIFUL STRANGER. This novella is better knowing everything that has happened before in the series, but at least BEAUTIFUL STRANGER should be read first.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars