Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Shut Up and Kiss Me by Marina Adair


Title: Shut Up and Kiss Me
Author: Marina Adair
My Rating: B

Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Series: Destiny Bay #1
Main Characters: Kennedy and Luke
Release Date: August 2016
Publisher: Forever
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: spicy

Story Overview:
He's one bad apple she just can't resist . . .

Kennedy Sinclair never dreamed she'd own a pie shop and an orchard in a small town like Destiny Bay. But nestled between the mountains and the Pacific Ocean, it's the perfect place to cross something off her "Life's short so eat the icing first" list and start her life over from scratch. Her shop, Sweetie Pies, is famous for its hot, flaky apple turnovers and sinfully delicious deep dish pie. For Kennedy though, nothing is more enticing than the tall, strapping slice of temptation who keeps coming back for more.


Luke Callahan is determined to make his hard cider business a success. With his beloved father's cider recipe and the opportunity of a lifetime in his grasp, he'll stop at nothing to get this deal done. There's just one catch: he needs Kennedy's apples. At first, he thinks it'll be as easy as pie to charm those apples right off her trees. But Kennedy isn't falling for his tender charms or his wicked ways. When the negotiations start heating up, so do the feelings they have for each other. And it takes just one kiss to seal the deal . . .

My Review:
I was excited when I saw that Marina Adair was coming out with a new series. This wasn't quite what I was expecting though, and I really can't pinpoint what the difference is. 

This book is very much a small town romance and everything that entails...there are the elderly busybodies...who Kennedy just has to deal with everyday. (I REALLY did NOT like Fi's character...at all. Her character was a bit too extreme for me.) 

Kennedy is the broken character in the book who had the extremely difficult childhood. Over and over she was the one left. At the start of this book it is her fiance who's screwing her over...with another woman. So she leaves and starts over again in Destiny Bay. I think my main issue with the book (and it wasn't a huge one...don't get me wrong...I definitely enjoyed reading the book) is that Kennedy is just too easy. She has all this history and ongoing relationship scars, and while they are on the page, she never seems to really be brought down by that. She doesn't have a black moment where she's ready to give it all up because nothing is going her way. She has a sad moment, but...and I guess this is where I get the small town feeling from this book...it didn't feel deep enough. It was almost all glossed over. It made me feel a little less emotionally satisfied than if she had left (or done something else just as drastic) at least temporarily until she was able to convince herself to bounce back again, rather than just immediately working through her sadness.

Luke has his scars too. He wasn't home helping when his father died and he has guilt because he chose his career over his family. But again, the emotions involved with this (to me) felt like they should have gone deeper...been more. 

Honestly, if this had been another author I'd never read before I probably would have been okay with how light the book felt emotionally compared to the emotional scars present, because some authors just write more light-hearted stuff. But I've read some really deeply written books by Marina Adair, so I kind of expected more. 

And having written all that, I feel like this is a really negative review for a book that I honestly enjoyed. I'm just disappointed because the set-up was so that there could have been so much more. I'm not disappointed by what was written. I'm disappointed by the possibilities that were missed for a deeply emotional book. 

BUT that won't stop me from grabbing Hawk and Ali's book which comes out in this series next. OMG, I loved both their characters and cannot wait for their stories. And that's the whole subjective thing about this, too, because as a person, I just related to both their characters more than I did Luke and Kennedy. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Winner Takes All by Erin Kern

Title: Winner Takes All
Author: Erin Kern
My Rating: B+

Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Series: Champion Valley #1
Main Characters: Blake and Annabelle
Release Date: August 2016
Publisher: Forever
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: mild

Story Overview:
THE LOVE OF THE GAME

Money. Fame. Endorsements. Blake Carpenter had it all—before his professional football career spiraled out of control. Determined to rebuild his life, he takes on coaching the high school team in his Colorado hometown. Despite a few fumbles, Blake knows he can lead these boys to victory. As long as he can keep his eyes on the prize and off the team's distractingly gorgeous physical therapist.

Annabelle Turner knows all about the scandal that cost Blake his NFL career, and she'll be damned if she's going to let hismistakes hurt her team. What she doesn't count on is the intense attraction that turns every heated run-in they have into a wildly erotic competition. Point by point, play by play, kiss by kiss, they try to keep things professional for the good of the team. But when the score is this close—and the passion this fierce—it's anybody's game...

My Review:

This was the first Erin Kern book I've ever read and I think I've found a new author to buy from. I liked it...a lot.

Blake is an ex-NFL quarterback who just lost his career. While he doesn't need the money, he doesn't want to quit football completely so he accepts a job coaching his high school football team. Back in the days when he played for the team, they were the champions of the state...every year. That is not the team he inherits. In fact they haven't had a winning record since he graduated. They expect him to turn the team around. In fact his job depends on it. He has one season. If he can't manage to make them win, then his football days will truly be completely over. 

He isn't entirely to blame for the disgrace that ended his football career, so now Blake has issues trusting others with his team...namely Annabelle. She's a physical therapist who works with the kids when they get a bit beat up. But Blake doesn't want her there. First of all because he doesn't know or trust her, but also because she's a HUGE distraction for him and he doesn't need anything else jeopardizing his new career. They clash from the very beginning. But Annabelle "sees" Blake for who he really is. She sees his weaknesses and past the scandal that brought down his career, but she also sees the really good man that he is. 

I liked the two of them together. There were some great fireworks. And it was all set with high school football in the background. That did all kinds of good things for this West Texas girl's heart. There's nothing like the sights and sounds of Friday Night High School Football and I loved the book because of that. 

My one issue I had with this book was Blake's lingering issue he has from his NFL days. I won't detail what exactly it is because I don't want to post any spoilers, but I don't think it was given the page time it deserved for the seriousness of the underlying issues. It's something that is touched on and I realize that this is a "lighter" book, but I think there would have been more of a real issue there...both for Blake and trying to overcome that and for Annabelle having to watch that struggle. That aspect of the story line just needed a bit "more" for me as the reader. 

But other than that, I thought this was a great book. I love sports themed books and I personally liked Blake's story because it's not the typical hero story line. I liked that twist and that he truly screwed up and accepted that. I'm really looking forward to more from the series.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Called Up by Jen Doyle

Title: Called Up
Author: Jen Doyle
My Rating: A

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Calling It #2
Main Characters: Deke and Fitz
Release Date: August 2016
Publisher: Carina Press
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
There's one thing Max "Deke" Deacon can always count on besides his old high school teammates: Angelica "Fitz" Hawkins. But no matter how much Deke might secretly fantasize otherwise, a relationship with his best friend's sister is off limits. Until one unexpectedly smoldering encounter has Deke and Fitz giving in to the feelings they've both been fighting for far too long.

Fitz knows for a fact that it is not better to have loved and lost. After losing her parents, she'd rather lock up her heart and throw away the key than endure that kind of pain again. If that means giving up any hope of a lasting relationship, then so be it.

But with Deke, Fitz feels dangerously close to falling in love. She can't risk another broken heart—especially if it means losing one of her best friends for good. Now it's up to Deke to convince her that the safest place she could ever be is right here with him.

My Review:
I was worried going into this second book from this author because the first book was so good, but I should have had more faith. This book was fabulous, too...and that was in no small part to the character that is Fitz. Gah...everything about her story broke my heart. She has been through so much and still holds her head high. She's such a strong person.

And even better...this is a friends to lovers story...which I adore. Fitz and Deke have been best friends for years, but suddenly things seem to be changing between them. There's a new awareness that neither of them know what to do about. The thing is...Fitz is hiding things from Deke that he's never known about and suddenly all that stuff that's been buried for years is coming out, too. 

This story was so good. I love angst and this book is filled with it. Sixteen years ago, Fitz was on her way to Inspiration with her parents when a tornado struck...killing them and throwing her life into a tailspin. Because what she never knew is that her father had a whole other family in Inspiration...which includes three half-siblings that she never knew anything about. In a bizarre turn of events Fitz finds herself having to make a new life here in this small town where everyone loves her siblings...so she's the enemy. As if her life wasn't already tragic and devastating enough, but now she was the target for scorn and rampant bullying. How she ever survived that is astounding...and heartbreaking. I could have just read her story and loved the book because of so much that she overcame. 

But then there's Deke. Deke's story is very different from Fitz's. He's grown up in the center of town. He's a happy-go-lucky, friendly guy that everyone likes. He's always happy. And he likes everyone...including most every woman in town. Since his family owns the local bar where he works every night, he has LOTS of opportunity. He's a bit of a man-slut...Fitz's word for him. And his partner of choice for years just happens to be her biggest tormenter....but Deke never knew.  

I love how this relationship between them changes them both. It's a great character arc for both the hero and the heroine. And even better, I just really liked both of them, too. It was so fun to read how they work through their friendship as it becomes more. It felt very real, but kept those levels of romantic moments that melted my heart. I loved this story so much and then the story on the backdrop of baseball and the charity foundations that Fitz works with....it was all just phenomenal. 

I loved the book and highly recommend it. You can easily read both books in the series as a stand-alone, but they are both excellent books so I suggest you pick them both up. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

For Better or Worse by Lauren Layne

Title: For Better or Worse
Author: Lauren Layne
My Rating: A+

Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Series: The Wedding Belles #2
Main Characters: Heather and Josh
Release Date: August 2016
Publisher: Pocket Books
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: hot



Story Overview:
Will a budding wedding planner and her bad boy neighbor stop banging heads and start hearing wedding bells in the sexy second novel in USA TODAY bestselling author Lauren Layne’s irresistible new series that marries Sex and the City with The Wedding Planner?

When small-town girl Heather Fowler finally gets promoted from assistant to actual wedding planner, she’s determined to make it as one of Manhattan’s elite Wedding Belles. Unfortunately, her first client demands an opulent black-tie affair at the Plaza…in five months’ time. Heather’s days quickly become a flurry of cake tastings, dress-fittings, RSVP cards, and bridal tantrums. But what she’s really losing sleep over is the live music blaring from her playboy neighbor’s apartment all night.

Five years ago, Josh Tanner was an up-and-comer on Wall Street, complete with the penthouse and the migraines. But a grim cancer diagnosis made him realize there is more to life than the corner office. If only he could convince his pretty, workaholic neighbor to let loose, too. As Heather lets down her guard, Josh is surprised when he starts falling for the sweet, vulnerable woman hiding beneath those power suits. Soon, it’s Heather’s turn to convince Josh to take the biggest risk of all: love.

My Review:
This book was everything. It was sweet and romantic and funny and entertaining. At moments, it broke my heart and then in the next page I'd be laughing out loud. This book is exactly why I love to read so much. It gave me all the feels and was absolutely perfect. 

Josh and Heather have the best kind of relationship. It's snarky and contentious and filled with so much sexual chemistry that it leaps off the page. Their exchanges were fast and witty and reminded me so much of that kind of fast, snappy dialogue that Gilmore Girls was made famous for...just minus the teenage daughter. 

Heather is trying to relish every moment of her busy, frantic life in NYC. She's dreamed of living there her entire life. Part of that dream was the perfect apartment, and she's finally making enough money to live in it. The only problem...her neighbor. He spends equal amount of time playing music with his band and banging random women. His philosophy is that you can't take life too seriously, but Heather has goals and not getting any sleep doesn't work for her. 

The family dynamics for these two characters were interesting. They are both very close to their families, but that played out in very different ways for the two. I liked that. It added just another layer of emotional depth to the story.

But hands down this book is all about Josh and Heather and just how perfectly they fit together. From their dialogue (I adore how Josh calls her 4C and is obsessed with banana bread...and seriously, that played out PERFECTLY in that final scene...LOVED that so, so much) to their extremely sexy times, I truly did love these two together. 

This book was wonderful and I highly recommend it. I'm so excited that it's available in print so I can put it on my keeper shelf to re-read over and over again!

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review, but I bought myself a print copy of the book long ago as a preorder because this book is an auto-buy. Now I'm wondering if I should buy a second copy...just because I loved this book so much.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Sunset In Central Park by Sarah Morgan

Title: Sunset In Central Park
Author: Sarah Morgan
My Rating: A-

Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Series: From Manhattan with Love #2
Main Characters: Frankie and Matt
Release Date: August 2016
Publisher: Harlequin
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: spicy

Story Overview:
In the chaos of New York, true love can be hard to find, even when it's been right under your nose all along… 

Love has never been a priority for garden designer Frankie Cole. After witnessing the fallout of her parents' divorce, she's seen the devastation an overload of emotion can cause. The only man she feels comfortable with is her friend Matt—but that's strictly platonic. If only she found it easier to ignore the way he makes her heart race…

Matt Walker has loved Frankie for years but, sensing how fragile she is beneath her feisty exterior, has always played it cool. But then he uncovers new depths to the girl he's known forever and doesn't want to wait a moment longer. He knows Frankie has secrets and has buried them deep, but can Matt persuade her to trust him with her heart and kiss him under the Manhattan sunset?
 

My Review:
Honestly, the more I read of Sarah Morgan's writing the more I'm convinced that I just really like her writing voice...and I do really like this group of friends who all live together in this high rise apartment building that Matt built. Although I can also admit that Frankie is the character that I relate to the least personally...but that didn't keep me from enjoying her story. 

Frankie is a tried and true pessimist. Life (and her mother) has taught her to be this way. She devours horror books and movies, cannot be found near a rom-com movie, and hates the fact that half their party business is built around weddings and the farce that is the happily-ever-after. (I'll wager that most romance readers can't really relate to her that much.) But like her romance minded friend, Eva, I  was anxious to see her find her mushy center and fall in love. 

It doesn't quite happen that way, although she does discover that she way underestimated the need for good sex in her life...thanks to Matt. Matt is the big brother of one of her best friends and with his landscaping business and the fact that she's all about plants and flowers they have a ton in common...beyond the fact that they've been friends most their lives. 

Frankie has a huge character arc in this book. Her viewpoint on the world is very skewed and negative, especially when it comes to love. But it's nice to see Matt convince her otherwise. I also really liked that they've been such good friends for so long. He's going into this with full knowledge of what an uphill battle he has on his hands. 

I've enjoyed this series so much, and I'm so excited to read Eva's book. She's the true romantic of the bunch and throughout this book she was just so sad and lonely. She's alone and all her friends are pairing up. But it will be interesting to see how her story plays out especially since from the roundabout hints in place in this book, it looks like maybe her hero is the male version of Frankie...but even more so, since he's a horror author. 

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

In the Middle of Somewhere by Roan Parrish (audiobook)

Title:  In the Middle of Somewhere
Author: Roan Parrish
My Rating: A-
Narrator: Robert Nieman

Genre: Contemporary Romance (m/m)
Series: Middle of Somewhere #1
Main Characters: Daniel and Rex
Release Date: March 2016 (audiobook)
Publisher: Audible/Dreamspinner
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
13 hrs 31 mins

Daniel Mulligan is tough, snarky, and tattooed, hiding his self-consciousness behind sarcasm. Daniel has never fit in—not at home in Philadelphia with his auto mechanic father and brothers, and not at school where his Ivy League classmates looked down on him. Now, Daniel’s relieved to have a job at a small college in Holiday, Northern Michigan, but he’s a city boy through and through, and it’s clear that this small town is one more place he won’t fit in.

Rex Vale clings to routine to keep loneliness at bay: honing his muscular body, perfecting his recipes, and making custom furniture. Rex has lived in Holiday for years, but his shyness and imposing size have kept him from connecting with people.

When the two men meet, their chemistry is explosive, but Rex fears Daniel will be another in a long line of people to leave him, and Daniel has learned that letting anyone in can be a fatal weakness. Just as they begin to break down the walls keeping them apart, Daniel is called home to Philadelphia, where he discovers a secret that changes the way he understands everything.


My Review:
Overall: 4.25
Performance: 4.5
Story: 4.00

This is one of those series that I've heard about ever since the first book released, so when I saw that it was available on audio, I snatched it up. I'm so happy I did, because it was an excellent audiobook (and the second book was even better, but that review won't be up until next week.)

This story is about Daniel. He's that guy who has never fit in although he desperately tries to. He grew up in a household where he was the oddball. His overly masculine father and three brothers didn't know what to do with the gay academic. And now that he's a professor in a small Michigan town, he's the weird gay professor with all the tattoos. He's always stood out when all he wants to do is fit in. In fact, he works hard to make sure that he doesn't make waves anywhere. 

Rex doesn't understand that. He sees Daniel as this amazing guy who should stand out in everything so he doesn't understand when Daniel doesn't stand up for himself or for what he wants and needs in life. Although Rex has his own issues. He's always kept to himself and done his own thing...very much by himself. 

I loved getting to know these two guys. Neither one is real comfortable in his skin, but each of them becomes so much more when they are together. They're relationship is frantic and hot at first...and while it stays really hot, it truly becomes romantic. I love how Rex takes care of Daniel...in little ways that add up to so much. 

The book was just fantastic. The audiobook narrator was phenomenal. He manages to feed so much emotion into the characters. I loved that. I'm also completely obsessed with Daniel's brother's story. It's so obvious that there's so much more going on there than just what we see from Daniel's perspective. Believe me, once you have this one done, you'll want book #2 waiting in the wings. The stories intertwine and are so gorgeous together, although they truly can each be read as a stand-alone...there is so much more to the story that you don't get unless you read them both. 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Gay for Pay by G.A. Hauser

Title: Gay for Pay
Author: G.A Hauser
My Rating: B+

Genre: Erotic Romance (m/m)
Series: -
Main Characters: Ari and Paul
Release Date: May 2016
Publisher: -
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: erotic

Story Overview:
Ari Bennett didn’t have the luxury of coming from a wealthy family. He never ended up in college, and most of his buddies from school had left Houston, Texas, where he was born. He tried to make it on his own, moving south to Harlingen, since he had heard the cost of living was better there, but after a failed attempt at sharing a small apartment with a caregiver named Lacy, and hating his job at a fast food chain, Ari noticed an ad on a website, offering big cash. What Ari finds is a studio in Austin that specializes in straight men, making love to other straight men. 
With the lure of a big payout, Ari wonders if he can do it. 

Paul Morgan and his business partner Morris, have finally managed to establish their business after a ten year struggle to begin a new company. When a young man applies online for work, he and Morris didn’t expect much. 
At first sight, Paul is slightly unprepared for how beautiful Ari Bennett is, and…he can do the work. 
What Paul didn’t expect was that this straight man would steal his heart. 
Gay-for-pay…sometimes when you play hard, you win big.


My Review:
I do like stories where "straight" men have their first gay experiences. This one is even better because Ari isn't truly gay....except when he comes to Paul. And honestly, I would guess he's bisexual. He enjoys sex...any way it happens. It's not about the person so much as the sensations going through his body. He doesn't look at his sexual partner as male or female, but rather someone playing his body and giving him pleasure. He truly is a magnificent fit for doing porn. To him, it is all about the physical act...no emotional attachment to the act at all. 

But his relationship with Paul is something different. And honestly, I think he's able to be so free with how he interprets it all because he's so young...he's simply more accepting. And I loved him for that. I couldn't tell you how many times I laughed out loud because of his disbelief that someone else might have an issue with the pleasure whether it's from a male or female. To him, pleasure is pleasure. Who care's who's giving it to him. I loved that sexual freedom about him. 

But on the other hand, I can see Paul's issue, too. Getting involved emotionally with a porn star is not an easy road to take. But I did love the two of them. Ari's matter-of-fact way of being rubs off on everyone around him...and I think that really works for this story. 

I did enjoy the book and am really glad that I took time out of my jam-packed schedule to make room for this book that I wasn't supposed to review. It was a fun book to simply read and enjoy.