Review: Meet You in the Middle

Review: Meet You in the MiddleMeet You in the Middle by Devon Daniels
Published by Berkley Books on February 2, 2021
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 368
Goodreads
two-stars

FINAL DECISION: I was not engaged by this book. The story was too banal and uninteresting, with the characters not well defined or interesting. The first quarter of the book was the best. Once the characters became interested in one another, I was not interested in them.

THE STORY: Senate staffer Kate Adams is trying to gain support for a piece of liberal legislation when she encounters Ben Mackenzie, who works for a conservative senator. The two strike sparks off of one another immediately. As the two continue to spar with one another, they first develop an unlikely friendship and then their relationship becomes deeper and more complicated.

OPINION: I kept reading this book, figuring that there must be something there, but I was just bored by it. The story between these two was superficial and did not really engage with their conflicts. There actually is little politics in this one. It’s more used as a device to keep the two apart, and it doesn’t grapple with the differences between these characters. Don’t have much else to write about it. Not sexy, not funny, and definitely doesn’t live up to the blurb or even the first couple of chapters.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book has only one sex scene late in the novel.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MEET YOU IN THE MIDDLE is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book two stars.

NOTE: I received an eARC of this book via Edelweiss. I was not required to write a review or to write a positive review. All opinions contained herein are my own.

two-stars

Review: For Real

Review: For RealFor Real (Spires, #3) by Alexis Hall
Series: Spires #3
Published by Alexis Hall on July 5, 2018
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 442
Goodreads

FINAL DECISION: Deeply emotional, this book feels like being trapped in the minds of these two characters. How they fall in love and navigate their relationship kept me enthralled throughout, even though I’m generally less interested in erotic romance, where the relationship is developed through sex. This book is definitely an exception.

THE STORY: Laurence Dalziel is emotionally worn out. The man he loved left him six years ago, and he hasn’t found a relationship that can replace his need for BDSM submission and be emotionally fulfilling. At age 37 doesn’t have any optimism about the future when he meets Toby Finch, who is 19 years old and looking to mature into his need to be a dominant in the BDSM scene. Laurie and Toby connect almost immediately, although Laurie feels the weight of his age and Toby’s youth, freshness, vulnerability, and optimism. Laurie might reluctantly accept the sexual pull between them but refuses to allow it to mean anything more.

OPINION: This book reads like a literary story. Although definitely within the romance genre, it just feels different. I thought about the story of these two characters long after finishing this book.

I tend not to be a big fan of erotic romances. I’m not as interested in the extended sexual exploits that are essential to that sub-genre as I prefer my characters to interact in other ways. Thus, I was prepared not to like this book. Admittedly, I drifted at times during the erotic scenes, but I found that this book is deeply emotional in ways I didn’t expect. I would say that despite those scenes, I really loved this book.

Laurence and Toby both travel so much in this story. The book begins with the older, worn-out man who has lost much on his life’s journey. He no longer even hopes for something more. The younger man yearns to define himself and discover his future. But the book does not maintain these stereotypes. The reader learns that each of these characters is complex and has emotional needs that the other can help assuage.

The book defies the expected. Again and again, the story turns in directions that I didn’t expect. Deeply romantic and a book that centers the connection between these two characters.

WORTH MENTIONING: The only thing that made me uncomfortable about this book is that Toby is 19. I would have found even a 20-year-old less jarring, but perhaps the uncomfortable feeling is precisely what the author intended.

CONNECTED BOOKS: FOR REAL is the third book in the Spires series. It is not necessary to read those books before this one, however. The books are connected thematically but are not otherwise related.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

Review: It All Comes Down to This

Review: It All Comes Down to ThisIt All Comes Down to This by Therese Anne Fowler
Published by St. Martin's Press on June 7, 2022
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 352
Goodreads
two-stars

FINAL DECISION: The book is well constructed from a technical standpoint, but I think I am exhausted with these three women at a change of life women’s fiction books. Nothing about this book was exciting or extraordinary to me. Just banal from the first page to the last, with the exception that part of the story was just terrible in my estimation. If it was an attempt at a happy ending, it was entirely unbelievable and demonstrates selfishness rather than love and caring.

THE STORY: The death of their mother brings a surprise for three sisters when a provision of her will states that the family’s summer house in Maine is to be sold with each sister getting an equal share. Each sister is facing something significant in their lives. Beck, the oldest, is a journalist jolted by the news because she had a vague idea that she would use the summer house to write the novel she has been thinking of writing. She also is having trouble in her marriage. The middle sister, Claire, is a doctor who is divorced and has a thing for the wrong man. The youngest sister Sophie has a glamorous life that masks her financial woes. A stranger also comes into their lives at this same moment when things are falling apart for each sister.

OPINION: I found almost all of these characters uninteresting and unlikeable. In committing to a book like this, I like to find some people I enjoy reading about. Instead, there are a bunch of awful people who do really bad things, and somehow, the book wants to explain their bad behavior. I don’t really think that I would like to know these people and thus, I don’t really want to read about them.

Because the book can’t express the emotional depth of these characters (indeed, most of them are pretty shallow and selfish people who are quite satisfied to harm even their closest relatives), it instead tries to keep secrets from the reader from saying nevermind and putting down the book. Because to be honest, if the reader knew from the beginning how amoral and unlikeable these people are, they wouldn’t continue with the story. The story drags because it ultimately relies on a “keeping secrets from the reader” premise instead of exploring the depths of the characters.

Definitely not worth my time in reading.

WORTH MENTIONING: I read this book as part of a book club, so it wasn’t something I would have chosen myself. Judge my opinion accordingly.

CONNECTED BOOKS: IT ALL COMES DOWN TO THIS is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 2 stars.

two-stars

Review: The Hating Game

Review: The Hating GameThe Hating Game by Sally Thorne
Published by William Morrow Paperbacks on May 16, 2019
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 369
Goodreads

FINAL DECISION: This book isn’t what I expected from the blurb. I expected a lot of backstabbing and undermining and anger and angst. But this book was such a beautiful romance. I loved both these characters and how their relationship developed. It is a slow-burn romance but not boring — just wonderful.

THE STORY: Lucy Hutton’s nemesis is Joshua Templeman. Lucy and Joshua are executive assistants to the co-CEOs of a publishing company. Now they are both competing for the same promotion. Neither is going to back down from the competition, but at that precise moment, Lucy begins to get to know Joshua better. Perhaps neither really hates the other as much as Lucy expected — or is Joshua playing the long game in winning the competition between them?

OPINION: This book was hot several years ago. I have to admit that I wasn’t attracted to the book then. I ended up reading it recently for a book club. Unlike many “hot” books, this one was amazing.

From the first page to the end, I loved the couple and the story, even though it has many elements that aren’t my favorite — such as it is told in the first person present (by Lucy), and we never get Joshua’s perspective other than what Lucy learns. But it worked for me because it ended up being precisely what the story needed to work.

Lucy is sweet but surprisingly determined and strong when it matters. Joshua … no, I can’t say any more because it will give the story away. I can say that Lucy’s perception of Joshua is that he is a stick-in-the-mud, cold person, and a big jerk. When she finds herself attracted to him, she can’t imagine why.

What I love about this book is that it takes all the tropes of the office romance from 20-30 years ago and writes in a new and unexpected way. I’ve read stories like this many times before, but this book never gave the easy, expected answer. It is modern and funny, but it is also sweet and romantic.

It wasn’t the typical angsty and angry enemies-to-lovers story that I was expecting, but it was definitely worth the reading.

WORTH MENTIONING: THE HATING GAME was made into a movie.

CONNECTED BOOK THE HATING GAME is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 5 stars.

Review: Her First Christmas Cowboy

Review: Her First Christmas CowboyHer First Christmas Cowboy (Four Corners Ranch #0.5) by Maisey Yates
Series: Four Corners Ranch #0.5
Published by HQN Books on October 1, 2021
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 55
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION: Pleasant short story/novella. The characters are decent people and although things are tied up quickly and neatly, I enjoyed the sweet story.

THE STORY: Tala Nelson’s evening grading papers is interrupted by rodeo cowboy Clayton Everett coming to her home with a gunshot. Tala knows that she should stay away from this man who comes from a bad background, but she can’t help but like and care for Clayton. As Christmas approaches, two people who have unhappy pasts find something for the future in one another.

OPINION: This was a pleasant, pretty straightforward romance. Both Tala and Clayton have family problems (in really different ways) which builds understanding between them. Because of the novella’s length, there isn’t a lot of character development here. I liked the characters and thought that the story was heartwarming and sweet. Everything is tied up too neatly, but it worked as a quick read for me.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is a very short novella (about 55 pages).

CONNECTED BOOKS: HER FIRST CHRISTMAS COWBOY is book 0.5 in the Four Corners Ranch series. This is a novella prequel. The Four Corners Ranch series is a spinoff of the Copper Ridge series, but it is not necessary to read those books (I haven’t) to read this book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

three-stars

Review: Serving Pleasure

Review: Serving PleasureServing Pleasure (Pleasure Series, #2) by Alisha Rai
Series: Pleasure Series #2
on June 12, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Erotica
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: I really enjoyed this book, although I didn’t find it or the characters particularly deep. It reads more like a novella, but certainly a good one.

THE STORY: Rana Malik has promised her mother to find a proper possible husband rather than continue her history of sexual relationships. Just at this moment, Rana is tempted by her neighbor, who Rana watches through his uncovered windows. Micah Hale is hiding. After being a victim of violence, Micah left his home and family and has come to town intending to try to get his career as an artist back on track. He certainly doesn’t want to get involved with his sexy next-door neighbor, although he cannot help but watch her watch him.

OPINION: These characters had an interesting setup and I liked them and their relationship. They were well set for a short book. There is not much depth to them beyond their quick description: an artist suffering from PTSD and a woman who is being slut shamed by her mother attempting to be the “good girl”. Everything is a stereotype of what would be expected. We get the support of the woman — “you shouldn’t be ashamed of having many sexual partners,” and the hero gets therapy to deal with his issues. How everything worked out was banal and exactly what you would expect.

So there was nothing novel or great about this book. I really liked the relationship between Rana and Micah. I thought it was supportive and very sexy. There were some really great moments in the story that definitely were great. Because the story went so fast, I would recommend it.

WORTH MENTIONING: The book deals with post-traumatic experiences after a violent attack.

CONNECTED BOOKS: SERVING PLEASURE is the second book in the Pleasure series. It is not necessary to read the first book to enjoy this one. (I haven’t read the first book).

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Legacy

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: LegacyLegacy by Nora Roberts
Published by St. Martin's Press on May 25, 2021
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 435
Goodreads
four-half-stars

FINAL DECISION: The mystery wasn’t that strong for me, but I loved the relationship between these characters and the glimpse of these lives that we learn about. Adrian is a great heroine, and Raylan is just adorable. Very enjoyable read even if not perfect.

THE STORY: Adrian Rizzo met her father on the day he tried to kill her and her mother.
In the aftermath, her mother Lina brought her to her grandparents who live in a small town in Maryland. Adrian enjoyed that summer and met her best friend — and her older brother, Raylan. Decades later, Adrian and Raylan are living in the same town and things seem to bring them together. At the same time, Adrian is dealing with a stalker who has sent her threatening poems for years. Her stalker is escalating, however, and is taken with murdering women as he zeros in on Adrian.

OPINION: This was quite an enjoyable journey with these characters. I really loved Adrian and Raylan, who are both such caring people. Their story was very compelling, and their life as they grow together was engaging to me. I liked that the two of them had complete lives apart, but then their lives begin to overlap.

Roberts does such a great job of building these towns with characters who are interesting in their own right and yet don’t overwhelm the story. What she also does so well is create stories where the romance is essential to the story, and yet this is the story of a woman who has managed to build her own life with friends and family. The man adds to her existence, but she has a pretty good life even without him.

I’ve been reading a lot of women’s fiction these days, and this book demonstrates what I find missing from those stories. This book has complex characters and never seems to scream — I’m a powerful woman. Instead, the characters are so good, and I am interested in their lives. Even without the drama of the mystery in the story, I would have been satisfied reading how these characters manage to find one another and create the possibility of sharing a life together. I supposed I should go back and read more of Robert’s standalone romances.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book has significant violence, including abuse, murders, and a school shooting. Most, but not all, of the violence occurs off-screen.

CONNECTED BOOKS: LEGACY is a standalone book.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4.5 stars.

NOTE: I received an eARC of this book via Netgalley. 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: More Than Hate You

Review: More Than Hate YouMore Than Hate You (Reed Family Reckoning, #7) by Shayla Black
Series: Reed Family Reckoning #7
on November 9, 2021
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 302
Goodreads
three-stars

FINAL DECISION: I liked the interactions between the characters, but the plot just didn’t work for me. Too much insta-love, and I needed more of this story to give it a higher rating.

THE STORY: Sebastian Shaw takes business very seriously and is determined to take care of a deal for his boss — even if it requires him impersonating a friend to find out what is going on with the O’Neill business. When he discovers a business in turmoil, he also finds Sloan, the youngest daughter, who is earnest and trying to keep things together. As Sebastian begins to fall for Sloan, things become complicated.

OPINION: There were parts of this book that I really loved. When Sloan and Bas are on the page together, their chemistry crackles with intensity. I even really liked that she is furious at him and twists him into knots at every turn. What I didn’t like was how the plot was integrated into the story. The couple spends way too much time apart. The crisis moment is too abrupt, and the resolution is even more “magic fix.” I wanted to like this one because the characters were great and had such great potential, but the plot was too jerky, and the happy ending was not earned in any way.

WORTH MENTIONING: This book contains deception and lying, which really turned me off for the first part of this book, but then the book takes a turn.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MORE THAN HATE YOU is the seventh book in the Reed Family Reckoning/More Than Words series. This book can be read as a standalone, although characters from the series appear here.

STAR RATING: I give this book 3 stars.

three-stars

Review: More Than Possess You

Review: More Than Possess YouMore Than Possess You: A More Than Words Novella by Shayla Black
Series: Reed Family Reckoning #6.75
Published by Dark Nights on September 28, 2021
Genres: Contemporary
Goodreads
four-stars

FINAL DECISION: This was a thoroughly enjoyable novella. It was quick and dirty, but I liked the characters, and the situation of falling for one’s best friend is a great trope.

THE STORY: Hayes Elliott has been best friends with Echo Hope since second grade. Now graduating from college, she has decided to lose her v-card. Since she doesn’t have someone in mind, she turns to their mutual friend.  Hayes is having none of it. He’s not going to let her get hurt and tells her that he will do the job himself. On a trip to Maui, Hayes begins to realize that Echo is a beautiful woman. Although he doesn’t intend to follow through on having sex with Echo, Hayes finds that he is having trouble resisting the woman, who is also his best friend.

OPINION: I enjoyed this novella. The story is short, but I got a real sense of these characters and their relationship. The setup worked really well, and the long-time relationship between these two was evident thus, I really believed that they could turn into a quick love story — because they always loved one another. The novella did as advertised. It is in the world of the series but isn’t involved in all the complex relationships; thus, it operates as its own story. There is a twist towards the end that I particularly enjoyed because it fits so well with the characters.

This was a really good friends-to-lovers story because it nails the most important moment in that trope to me — the “my friend is desirable to me” recognition.

My only complaint was that I didn’t need the epilogue and, in this case, might have liked the story better without it.

WORTH MENTIONING: Xavian Costa, the hero of MORE THAN DESIRE YOU (Book #8), is the buddy who offers to “take care” of Eden’s virginity “problem”.

CONNECTED BOOKS: MORE THAN POSSESS YOU is book 6.75 in the Reed Family Reckoning/More Than Words series. This book is a standalone as the main couple is not related to the family, but the family members make a significant appearance in this novella.

STAR RATING: I give this book 4 stars.

four-stars

Review: Book Lovers

Review: Book LoversBook Lovers by Emily Henry
Published by Berkley on May 3, 2022
Genres: Contemporary
Pages: 377
Goodreads
two-stars

FINAL DECISION: Just okay for me. I didn’t really connect with the characters, and while I liked the overall situation, I quickly got tired of the sister’s story as she was one-dimensional. I know a lot of people like this book, but it was pretty boring for me.

THE STORY: Nora Stephens is a literary agent. She keeps running into Charlie Lastra, an editor. Their first meeting was certainly not a fairy tale, but when both end up in Sunshine Falls, North Carolina, they keep running into one another. While neither expects this to be a romance novel, there is something happening between the two.

OPINION: The book is well written from a technical standpoint but it just didn’t interest me. I felt the whole thing was blah, although there were points where I kept thinking, I should like this book more. But I just didn’t. I didn’t find the story compelling at all. There wasn’t much momentum to the story, and thus, it was a hard book for me to get myself to finish.

I didn’t find Nora’s story that interesting, we don’t get into Charlie’s head to be connected with him, and I found Nora’s sister Libby annoying. I acknowledge that this book is really popular, but I guess I’m just not the audience for this one.

WORTH MENTIONING: This is one of the hot beach read books of the summer of 2022.

CONNECTED BOOKS: BOOK LOVERS is a standalone.

STAR RATING: I give this book 2 stars.

 

two-stars