Review: Beautiful Player

Review: Beautiful PlayerBeautiful Stranger (Beautiful Bastard, #2) by Christina Lauren
Series: Beautiful #2
Published by Gallery Books on April 16, 2013
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 345
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: Whoa, this is a hot one. Sexy, a bit kinky with two characters who are charming and fun to read about.

THE STORY: After six years with a cheating jerk, Sara Dillon is starting fresh in New York. At a dance club she meets a sexy Brit and she is ready to be crazy for once. But a hot sex encounter gets complicated when Sara ends up meeting Max Stella who just happens to be good friends with her friend’s fiance. Sara and Max find that they can explore sex in unusual places and some other enhancements. Soon their no strings encounters turn to wanting to know one another and then a desire for a relationship. But Sara is wary of a man who seems to be a player after her fiance.

OPINION: I might have enjoyed this book more than the first in the series — and I really enjoyed that one. Sara and Max are an adventurous couple and the story is really one of self-discovery and acceptance. But the story never gets too serious and stays a fun, enjoyable read with lots of hot action.

Sara is finding herself after a bad relationship. Max’s life is going okay but he falls for Sara just when she is intent on keeping her distance and not taking things seriously.

I loved that Max is head over heels for Sara long before he can have confidence in Sara. I also enjoyed watching these two explore their sexual relationship in ways that are unconventional but consensual and honest.

A book that hooked me from the start. I just flew through the reading. I enjoyed the heat in this book but I enjoyed even more that this book is more concerned about the relationship between Sara and Max than sexual exploits.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book includes public sex but is monogamous.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BEAUTIFUL PLAYER is the second novel in the Beautiful series. Although there are overlapping characters, this book can be read as a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Beautiful Bitch

Review: Beautiful BitchBeautiful Bitch (Beautiful Bastard, #1.5) by Christina Lauren
Series: Beautiful #1.5
Published by Gallery Books on July 9, 2013
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 160
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: I love these extra moments with beloved characters. A year after the events of BEAUTIFUL BASTARD, we get to see that the HEA is something that has to be worked at but is real.

THE STORY: A year after BEAUTIFUL BASTARD, Bennett finds that Chloe’s burgeoning career and his own obligations can be difficult on a relationship. Planning a trip together tempts fate which has caused problems every time the two have tried to travel together.

OPINION: This novella is for fans of BEAUTIFUL BASTARD. It is about how Chloe and Bennett are challenged to fit their lives and careers together. Even so, it contains the same big sense of fun, sexy times and the big strong personalities of these characters. I enjoyed this as an add on to the original book. I don’t think it would stand up on its own, but I just didn’t care. For fans of BEAUTIFUL BASTARD, this is required reading.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a novella.

CONNECTED BOOKS: This book is book 1.5 in the Beautiful series. It really is an epilogue or continuing story from BEAUTIFUL BASTARD and should be read after that book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

Review: Beautiful Bastard

Review: Beautiful BastardBeautiful Bastard (Beautiful Bastard, #1) by Christina Lauren
Series: Beautiful #1
Published by Gallery Books on February 12, 2013
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 305
Goodreads
five-stars

FINAL DECISION: Funny, sexy and a joy to read. These characters kept me engrossed from the first page. I loved how their relationship began with angry and frustrated sex and ended up as something much more.

THE STORY: Chloe Mills is a hardworking intern working towards her MBA. Her boss, Bennett Ryan, happens to be tough, annoying, brilliant — and incredibly sexy. Bennett finds Chloe infuriating, but he can’t stop thinking about her. When the two cross the line between boss and intern, both want to deny what is between them, but can’t seem to stop. When angry and desperate attraction tempts both to want something more, the question is whether it is even possible for something more to exist between two demanding independent people.

OPINION: I absolutely loved this book. The characters, the sexy, hot interactions between these reluctant lovers. The bickering, two independent and fierce people finding out that they are perfect for one another.

This is the only the second Christina Lauren book that I have read (although my review of JOSH AND  HAZEL’S GUIDE TO NOT DATING is upcoming as of the date of this review). This book was so good that I immediately began reading the second book in the series.

I loved that these two characters are engaged in intense erotica type encounters, but that the book always remains rooted in the characters and not what body parts go where.

Bennett is kind of a jerk when the book starts, but by the end, I began to see him differently. These two are hot and fiery and I loved their battles.

Chloe is an independent business woman. And I really liked that the conflicts between her and Bennett respect her intelligence and her business acumen. The two have some serious bumps on the way to their HEA, but the story is never bogged down with stupid decisions or brainless encounters. These two are smart and hot and driven.

This book is just fun. The pages went incredibly fast and I devoured this book. I loved the turnaround of the normal story. Sex first and then the relationship. And yet, there is always something connecting these characters. Strong, vibrant people who have a deep passion for one another and fight their way to a happy ending.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book is told in alternating first person points of view.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BEAUTIFUL BASTARD is the first book in the Beautiful series.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

five-stars

The Wedding From Hell, Part I: The Rehearsal Dinner

The Wedding From Hell, Part I: The Rehearsal DinnerThe Rehearsal Dinner (The Wedding From Hell, #1; Firefighters, #0.5) by J.R. Ward
Published by Gallery Books on July 17, 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 63
Goodreads
five-stars

This is a short story (in several parts of which this is only one) which is a prequel to CONSUMED which is the first book in the Firefighters series.

This story introduces Anne Ashburn and Danny Maguire who are both firefighters. Danny has been attracted to Anne and the opportunity for some personal relationship exploration comes about as the two are involved in the wedding for one of their fellow firefighters.

I really enjoyed this part of the story. The characters are vivid and flawed and interesting. Anne is a woman trying to deal with a family legacy of firefighting and being a woman in a male dominated field.  She is attracted to Danny, but doesn’t intend to be just another bed partner for him. Danny, on the other hand, has real feelings for Anne.

This is only a small part of even the prequel. We get to see Anne and Danny in some various wedding related activities and get the chance to be introduced to their viewpoints.

Not a complete story, but a nice appetizer.

five-stars

Review: Marry Me by Sundown

Review: Marry Me by SundownMarry Me by Sundown by Johanna Lindsey
Series: Callahan-Warren #3
Published by Gallery Books on July 10, 2018
Genres: Historical
Pages: 368
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION: Just okay for me. The characters were nice, but the story was really, really slow to get into. Things ended up nicely and I enjoyed it overall, but not a book I would look to read again.

THE STORY: Violet Mitchell traveled from London to her family’s home in Philadelphia to find that her father has gone west to try and solve the family’s looming money problems. Violet follows and find that her father is dead and needing to find his mine to save the family. Morgan Callahan doesn’t believe the woman who has come snooping around is his deceased partner’s daughter. So he kidnaps her to find out what she is really doing.

OPINION: There wasn’t anything in particular that I didn’t like about this book. It just felt a little flat to me and it took a long time for me to get into the story. By the time the story picked up in the last half of the book, it was too late for this to be a great book for me.

The characters were nice and I liked reading about the western setting, however, I didn’t find the characters compelling and vibrant such that I would want to read their story again. I especially had a problem with Morgan who remains a mystery in his thoughts and motivations for almost the entire book. It made him feel too distant and indistinct to be a fascinating character.

I also really didn’t feel the connection between these characters for most of the book. They didn’t clash, it just didn’t feel like a deep passionate connection either.

Overall, I liked the book, and I liked the story in a general way — meaning that when I finished it I didn’t feel that I had wasted my time reading it, but I don’t think I’d pick this book up again wanting to revisit these characters or their story.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book explores mining in the west. For me this was the most interesting part of the book.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MARRY ME BY SUNDOWN is the third book in the Callahan-Warren series. Although there are some appearances by overlapping characters, this book operates as a complete standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

 

three-stars

Review: Wicked Abyss

Review: Wicked AbyssWicked Abyss (Immortals After Dark, #18) by Kresley Cole
Series: Immortals After Dark #18
Published by Gallery Books on April 25th 2017
Genres: Paranormal
Pages: 400
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: A adventurous, angst filled, humorous entry in the Immortals world, this book expands the scope of the Immortals world but also gives us a beauty and the beast retelling with a twist.

THE STORY: Ten thousand years ago, Abyssian Infernas was betrayed by his fey mate. He has never forgotten and has waited for her resurrection in order to get his revenge. Now the demon king of hell, Sian has his opportunity. Princess Calliope Bardot is brought by bounty hunters to Sian’s domain where he keeps her prisoner. She has her own purpose as well: to gather information against Sian and his alliance in order to protect her people.

OPINION: I immediately got sucked into this book although I haven’t read an Immortals book in a while. The humor and drama and just great storytelling keeps me returning book after book.

This book is an Immortals retelling of Beauty and the Beast including a curse, an enchanted castle and an incredible library. Of course, the castle is in hell and the beast is a demon who is slowly devolving into his demonic form. The beauty is an exiled fey princess who wants to return to her realm.

Although this story has fated mates (who already had one bad lifetime experience), the development of their relationship is given a tremendous amount of time to develop and grow. I loved the interaction between Sian and Lila as the two of them fall in love. But there are secrets that each is keeping and a past that torments Sian and makes him wary of trusting Lila again.

My favorite part is that Lila is a badass in this story. She is not going to sit around and allow Sian to dominate her or destroy her. By the end of the book, she clearly has evolved to his perfect mate.

This book is nicely paired with SWEET RUIN and keeps on the “dark side” of the coming battle. A small but significant appearance by Nix keeps the overarching storyline going.

WORTH MENTIONING: There are appearances from Rune and Jo from SWEET RUIN. And if you don’t recall Sian, he’s in that book as well.

CONNECTED BOOKS: WICKED ABYSS is the eighteenth book in the Immortals After Dark series. This series is much better if read in order, but this book can be read as a standalone if character appearances from prior books and references to the overarching story line of the series don’t both you.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Beautiful Tempest

Review: Beautiful TempestBeautiful Tempest (Malory-Anderson Family, #12) by Johanna Lindsey
Series: Malory Family #12
Published by Gallery Books on July 11th 2017
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION:  I completely satisfying book that I approached with trepidation.  I love, love, love the book about Jack’s father and I feared that this book wouldn’t live up to my expectations.  Instead, this book went in a different direction than I expected, but I loved these characters and their adventurous romance.

THE STORY:  Jacqueline Malory is the darling daughter of James Malory.  When Jack returns from escaping her kidnapper, James and his family are determined to take care of their enemy and sail for the West Indies to confront an old enemy.  Jack is angry that her father has left her in London while he confronts the man that kidnapped her. When a mysterious man approaches her at a masquerade ball, she is intrigued but realizes that he might actually be her kidnapper.  Instead of capturing him, Jack once again ends up in his clutches at sea.  But this time, things are different between them.

OPINION:  This is a book that I approached with trepidation.  GENTLE ROGUE (the story of Jack’s parents) is my all time favorite romance book.  Whenever an author extends the story of characters there is always the possibility of a letdown.  My concerns: Will Jack’s book be as compelling as her parents? How will the characters of James and George be presented? Will this book diminish my enjoyment of the original?  I’m glad to report that I was completely satisfied by this book.  As good as James and George’s book? No, but this book is filled with adventure and strong active characters — including Jack who seizes her own destiny.

Johanna has been writing for a long time (and I’ve been reading her for most of that time!).  Her books began in the time of bodice rippers and I found this book to be an interesting flip of many of those books.  Scenario:  heroine kidnapped and taken on the high seas as part of revenge against her father, hero is attracted to her and she is reluctantly attracted to him. The book also contains threats of rape, adventure and exotic locations.  In a prior book, the heroine would be a woman to which the action happens.  But those heroines of the past are not Jack Malory.

Jack is a woman who takes the reigns of her sexuality. She is determined, and takes all the autonomy that her brother does.  While she has a different sensibility, she refuses to be shamed or deterred by her male family members.  Ultimately, she navigates respect and care for her father and brother with her own self-determination. I really liked her own sense of self and her active nature.  Even as the times and protective nature of her male relatives dictate that she should be submissive, she (and the women of her family) are strong and independent.

Lindsey knows these characters so well and it was a joy to get an update on Malory family which contains a very colorful collection of characters that has engaged me since I was a teenager.  These characters are larger than life. While the story doesn’t have emphasis on historical accuracy and detail, I have always enjoyed how Lindsey places her iconic characters in the tapestry of history without becoming overly engaged in that history.  (There are other authors who are masters of weaving their characters into time, but that is clearly not Lindsey’s goal).

The hero Damon is an interesting contrast to Jack.  He has murky motivations but as things become clearer, I loved him more — and so did Jack!  I thought he was an interesting match for Jack. Sweeter in many ways — although he is definitely not a beta hero.  I love these shipboard romances and this one has some twists that kept me reading quickly to find out how things were resolved.

I loved this book and think that anyone who follows the Malory series will be especially pleased with this entry.  Probably my third or fourth favorite in the series overall…which says a lot considering how much I love this series.

WORTH MENTIONING:  This book brings up characters that are candidates for future books in the series.  One can hope!

CONNECTED BOOKS:  BEAUTIFUL TEMPEST is the twelfth book in the Malory Family series.  The book is a standalone, but is connected with its immediate predecessor STORMY PERSUASION and, of course, the heroine Jack is the daughter of James Malory from GENTLE ROGUE.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 5 stars.

four-half-stars

Review: Tangled

Review: TangledTangled (Tangled, #1) by Emma Chase
Series: Tangled #1
Published by Gallery Books on August 2nd 2013
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 254
Goodreads
four-stars

“Good guys are boring. You need a little bad to keep things fun. And nice guys? Nice guys have something to hide.”

FINAL DECISION: Funny and fresh with a player who is truly shattered by falling in love.  Drew fights love until it knocks him flat and then has to find a way to win his way back to the woman he loves.

THE STORY:  Drew Evans thinks he has everything.  He is accomplished, handsome and can have any woman he wants.  Until he meets Katherine Brooks.  Kate is beautiful and ambitious and engaged.  Drew and Kate start a rivalry that sets Drew on edge.  The two fight and are desperately attracted to one another despite themselves.  All this results in Drew ending up locked in his apartment for a week claiming the flu but suffering from love sickness.

OPINION:  If you are going to read this book just accept that Drew is one of those jerks who will ultimately get his comeuppance.  Chase brilliantly places that moment at the very beginning of the book.  So while Drew is a jerk, jumps to conclusions, often treats Kate very poorly, the reader always knows that he is going to pay…and, oh, how he does pay.  The beginning of this book is perhaps one of the funniest and saddest scenes I’ve ever read.

Drew is a man convinced of his place in the world and satisfied that he is on the top and invincible.  Then he meets Kate who is unlike any woman he has ever been attracted to.  First, she rejects him.  Second, she is just as ambitious as he is and may end up just as accomplished.  Third, he can’t stop thinking about her despite himself.  Because the book is told from Drew’s point of view, we get to see all his warts, but also his struggle with falling in love.  And when he falls, he does it completely and is as dedicated to proving himself to Kate as he was fighting his feelings.

The humor in this book also keeps Drew from being unbearable.  In the first person narrative, Drew directly addresses the reader which makes it difficult to judge him from a distance.  Instead, he maintains the naughty bad boy who is lovable because of his flaws.

Kate is amazing because she puts Drew in his place.  It is clear from the beginning that Kate is the person to manage Drew.  The road would have been easier if Drew did not make so many mistakes.

WORTH MENTIONING:  While subsequent books also deal with Drew and Kate’s relationship, this book is complete in itself.  A reader could stop here and have a complete story.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  TANGLED is the first book in the Tangled series.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Make Me Love You

Review: Make Me Love YouMake Me Love You by Johanna Lindsey
Published by Gallery Books on July 5th 2016
Genres: Historical
Pages: 384
Goodreads
two-half-stars

“You are as stuck with me as I am with you, no matter how much we both hate it.”

FINAL DECISION:  Rather bland characters and story make this a book that was okay to read but not one I will rush to pick up again.

THE STORY:  Brooke Whitworth is ordered by the Prince Regent to be sent to marry Lord Dominic Wolfe, the enemy of her hated brother in order to settle a dispute which has led to three duels between the men.  If either family does not participate, their lands and titles will be forfeit. Brooke’s brother is happy to send her believing that Lord Wolfe will reject her as a bride.  The Wolfe, however, intends on frightening her away. What he doesn’t expect is that Brooke is happy to marry a man far away from her hated family and she will do everything to make him accept her.

OPINION:  I am a big fan of Johanna Lindsey. I’ve been reading her books for thirty years, but this one was a disappointment.  There was nothing bad about the book, it just consisted of such a bland story and bland characters that it is utterly forgettable.

I liked Brooke as a character.  She refuses to be cowed by her circumstances or her unhappy fiance. She is determined to make things work for her.  She is clever and kind.  Unfortunately, she was the best part of the book and was not unique enough to support the entire book.

Dominic was the biggest disappointment. His character was just bland and unimpressive. There didn’t seem to be anything to his character except his vendetta against Brooke’s brother.  My reaction to him was just a big yawn.

The story was resolved in too pat a manner. Too much easy happy endings where things were too broken to be so easily resolved. I just felt a big lack of any intense emotions, even passion in this book. There was one obligatory love scene that wasn’t particularly interesting either.

The story wasn’t horrible, but just so bland that I would just recommend reading one of the amazing Lindsey books instead of this one.

WORTH MENTIONING:  The funniest part of this book is when Dominic keeps getting his face slapped “propositioning” new mistresses.

CONNECTED BOOKS:  MAKE ME LOVE YOU is a standalone.

STAR RATING:  I give this book 2.5 stars.

two-half-stars

Review: Appealed

Review: AppealedAppealed (The Legal Briefs, #3) by Emma Chase
Series: The Legal Briefs #3
Published by Gallery Books on January 19th 2016
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 288
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Second Chance Love is Spicy and Funny and Sometimes Sad

“Once upon a time she was my best friend. For a hot moment she was more. After that, she hated me. And then she was just . . . gone.”

FINAL DECISION: Managing to be funny and heartbreaking at the same time, APPEALED reminds us that we all make painful mistakes but that sometimes a second chance can be even better.

THE STORY: Brent Mason is a criminal defense attorney in Washington, D.C. Now that all his partners are married, Brent is alone living the single life. At that moment, Kennedy Randolph re-enters his life. Brent and Kennedy grew up together. Friends, then almost lovers, then enemies, then nothing. An amputee at a young age, Brent has learned to keep his distance from people, but he always had a connection with Kennedy. Kennedy is now a prosecutor who arrives in D.C. just in time to be opposing counsel on Brent’s new case. Battling in each on the case and also the past, the two get a second chance to find the connection that has always existed between them even despite a 14 year absence.

OPINION: I read the three books in this series quickly because I found them unique, funny and yet incredibly emotional. What I loved about his book is that Brent has always loved Kennedy but he didn’t do the things he needed to do to keep her. Youth, immaturity worked to drive Brent and Kennedy apart and yet there has always been something to connect them.

Sometimes I think it is strange to read a book that consists only of the male point of view and yet I never failed to understand Kennedy’s perspective. As with the other books in the series, giving the hero’s point of view prevents him from appearing to be a jerk. I liked that I could understand his confusion, his pain and his motivation. Even as he sometimes does stupid things, I can appreciate that he is human and not being malicious. For example, at one point in the book he makes an ultimatum that Kennedy rejects. Brent ends up miserable and ends up conceding entirely to Kennedy’s viewpoint because he was wrong. I liked him better because I understood what drove him to make the mistake and then his ability to apologize and concede entirely. That makes him a strong compassionate man who I liked more because of his imperfections.

The characters feel human, real, fallible but their relationship is infused with joy. The battle of wills is good natured between these two. I like that their relationship always appears a connection of equals. Their courtroom fights were especially ones that I liked because I appreciate a clever legal tactic.

One of the best things about this series overall is how likeable the characters are. In addition, each of the stories is unique and doesn’t follow a standard formula. The challenges each couple faces is unique and yet the entire series is infused a hopeful attitude.

The book has a lightness, a freshness and an effervescence that compelled me to rush through this book. My biggest disappointment was that there isn’t a next book. I especially found the voice of this book, the writing and tone to be attractive. I’m going to try another series by this author to see if I enjoy it as well because this series was fantastic.

WORTH MENTIONING: The book includes an extended epilogue that will please those who have read the entire series.

CONNECTED BOOKS: APPEALED is the third book in the Legal Briefs series. It can be read as a standalone but also gives glimpses of series favorites for fans to enjoy.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

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four-half-stars