Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Driven to Distraction by Olivia Dade

Title: Driven to Distraction
Author: Olivia Dade
My Rating: B+

Genre: Contemporary Romance  
Series: Lovestruck Librarians #5
Main Characters:  Con and Sam
Release Date: January 2017
Publisher:  Lyrical Shine
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:

Constance Chen is not the demure kind of librarian. Sure, her high-horsepower ride is Big Bertha the Bookmobile, but Con swears a blue streak, does her own home improvement, and wears steel-toed boots. She has a tight circle of friends, a demanding, beloved sprawl of a Chinese-American family, and a strict hookups-only policy when it comes to men. Her life is just how she wants it. Except for one maddeningly sexy footnote.

Sam Wolcott, her friend’s baby brother and the library’s IT star, has been throwing sparks with Con since he moved to town. To everybody else, he’s a thoughtful, sensitive sweetheart. To Con, he’s a cantankerous pedant, because if they don’t fight nonstop their clothes will spontaneously combust. Sam needs a commitment Con won’t—can’t—give. And neither of them will chance their hard-won bonds for pure lust.

Too bad Con and Sam have a whole week in a very tiny, very private space to sustain their dumb arguments. Alone. What happens in the Bookmobile might take their resistance right out of circulation . . .

My Review:
Con and Sam have been working together for a while. She's best friends with the sister he's just reconnected with. They have incredible chemistry, but Con doesn't do relationships, something that has meant more than a few broken hearts along the way. So they can't do anything about their attraction...so they fight...constantly. In their library their contentious relationship is infamous.

Enemies to lovers is a great trope. Con is a tough, take charge gal. The middle child in a group of nine siblings, she basically raised her younger brothers and sisters who all live in California. They're all adults now, but she's still their go-to for every single little thing...driving her a bit batty. She resents that she had so much responsibility for her younger siblings and that has affected every other relationship she has. She's done. She doesn't want to take care of anyone else. Even though her siblings are a country away, they still drain her completely. There's no room in her life for anyone else who 'needs' her. She doesn't have anything left for anyone but herself, so she's shut herself off from developing relationships. 

Sam is the opposite. He doesn't have anyone else in his life, but his sister who's basically a stranger. He's trying desperately to develop connections with people so that someone wants and needs him around. In that aspect these two could not relate at all. Sam looks at Con's life with envy. He wishes he had a big, boisterous family. 

I've loved the few books I've read from this series, because this group of librarians are awesome and so far out of the normal stereotype that most people have for librarians. Con is in charge of the bookmobile. She wears combat boots and is constantly getting in trouble for cursing like a sailor. 

In this story, it's Sam convincing her to give them a chance. As a result, it seems like Con is in charge most of the time. But I loved him for managing to wriggle his way into her heart. Their relationship is a slow build emotionally. It takes a while for Sam to figure her out and then it takes a while for her to let him in. Warning...there was a point after all that happens where the book seems to stall out, but keep reading because right after that the author takes the reader on a huge roller coaster ride of emotional trauma that was so good. 

I liked this one a lot. The series is all tied together by the characters that work in this library, but any of the books can be read alone. There are a lot of geek-love quips in here about Jane Eyre and Pride and Prejudice that kept me giggling. This is a great series for romance readers and I recommend it.

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

Giving It All by Christi Barth

Title: Giving It All
Author: Christi Barth
My Rating: A

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Naked Men #3
Main Characters: Logan and Brooke
Release Date: January 2017
Publisher:  Loveswept
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: spicy

Story Overview:
Christi Barth’s smoking-hot contemporary romance series continues as the five best friends who survived a tragedy as teenagers take to their Naked Men podcast to open up about women. In Giving It All, the group’s globe-trotting hunk discovers that you need to go home to find love.
Logan Marsh never stays in one place for long. Through his family’s foundation, Logan spends his days traveling to the world’s most dangerous places to deliver disaster relief, which really puts a damper on his sex life—until he reconnects with his high-school crush. Stranded together in the Caribbean, they enjoy a steamy fling that awakens feelings Logan has ignored for too long. But family drama calls him away from her sweet embrace . . . or so he thinks.
Brooke Gallagher loved being a home economics teacher and cheerleading coach. Then an unexpected tragedy forced her to take some time off. Now she’s back in D.C. and despite the intensity of her tropical encounter with Logan, she’s shocked to bump into him again. Logan’s dealing with his own issues (including a newly discovered half-sister) and he’s itching to get back on the road. More than anything, Brooke wants to be there for him. But first, he has to decide if love is enough to keep him in one place.

My Review: 
I have loved this series so much, but I had no idea just how good Logan's book was going to be. The Naked Men is a group of five guys who have been tied together since high school when their tour bus plunged off the side of an Italian mountain, leaving four of them wounded and stranded for three days. The fifth guy was Logan. He wasn't on that bus, because he'd been too busy getting laid, but he was the guy instrumental to saving the other four. It was his will that pushed the rescue crews on that final night when they would have given up. Logan pushed on...even after he broke his wrist and saved his friends. Something the doctors told him wouldn't have happened if they'd had to stay out there in the freezing cold elements for another night. 

Ever since that event, Logan has made it his life's work to save others. He works for his family's foundation and goes into disaster zones doing just that...saving lives. It's hard, gruesome, grueling work with long hours and even harder effects on his psyche, but it's his mission in life. He gives up the comforts of home, family and his friends to save others. He can't see any other way to live, even though his friends and family really wish he would try. They want him home...and honestly, he's gotten a little tired of missing out on all their life events, too. 

This time he's home for something different than just rest and recuperation. This time he's home because his long lost sister of 24 years just showed up, and before Logan even managed to meet her, his best friend and admitted man-whore, Knox, had swept her off his feet and into his bed. Logan is on his way to have a come-to-Jesus moment with his former best friend, but on the way there, he gets waylaid by a hurricane, and that's where he finds Brooke, the girl he crushed on all through high school. 

Brooke had a crush on Logan, too, but the timing was never right for the two of them and they were always just really good friends. Brooke has been dealing with something for the last few months and she's on vacation as a way to divert her attention from that trauma. A hot, just for a night or two affair with Logan seems like just the medicine to pull her out of her funk...and it works. 

It was just supposed to be a short-term affair, but these two were good friends for a long time in high school for a reason...they work really well together. When Logan gets home, he's dealing with a lot. With the tension between him and the guys over Knox's relationship with Logan's sister, it's easier for him to turn to Brooke for support...and yes, a diversion...than it is with the guys who've always been there for him. 

Like I said this book was awesome. I loved the relationship that developed between Brooke and Logan. I love friends to lovers stories and this is a good one because they're always honest with one another as only old friends can be. Logan was one of those characters that I just wanted to wrap into a big hug. The situation with his friends has seemed to leave him on the outskirts a bit. It's always been through his own choices, but there was a thread of loneliness that ran through his story that made me love him even more. 

Everything about this book was fantastic. I continue to love the ACS's and can't wait for the next story. Only two more to go. I'm going to be really sad when this series is over.

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

Monday, January 16, 2017

Falling for the Player by Jessica Lee

Title: Falling for the Player
Author: Jessica Lee
My Rating: B+

Genre: Contemporary Romance (m/m)
Series: -
Main Characters: Patrick and Max
Release Date: January 2017
Publisher:  Entangled
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
Bad boy and former NFL running back Patrick Guinness is tired of meaningless sex. Ever since his scorching hot one-night stand three years ago, no one has interested him. So when Max Segreti wanders into his mechanic shop—and his life again—Patrick can't stop thinking about the totally-out-of-his-league law grad and the possibility of getting him out of his system once and for all… 

Max Segreti has spent his entire life doing what his father wants. But when he runs into the hotter-than-hell player he’s never been able to forget, he’s not thinking about studying for the bar. A distraction is the last thing he needs, but after an encounter leaves him wanting more, Max embraces the chaos that Patrick brings…even as he knows it can’t last. They're too different to ever have a future together.

My Review:
This book begins the first night that Max and Patrick hook up when they were both at USC. At that point in time, Max was a nerdy law student who preferred staying home and studying rather than going out and partying. Patrick was the well-known star football player on the cusp of getting drafted into the NFL. But against all odds, they met in a bar and had an instant chemistry. It was a one-night stand...one that neither of them ever forgot, although they didn't ever see one another again. 

Three years later, Max is on the cusp of taking his bar exam to become a lawyer when he wanders into Patrick's auto shop. As far as Max knew, Patrick was still in the NFL...he'd conscientiously never followed Patrick's career after he was drafted. But that dream blew up when Patrick blew out his knee and then his father died, leaving Patrick in charge of the auto shop and his little brother who was still a minor. 

It's even more obvious now that these two guys come from very different places...at least to Patrick. He's a grease monkey; Max is an up and coming (rich) lawyer. That one night was all they'll have ever had, but Max leaves his business card with Patrick...because he wants more. What neither of them expect is Patrick needing Max's professional help...and then things develop from there. 

I really enjoyed this story. I don't think I've read Jessica Lee before, but I can honestly say I'll be watching for more books from her because this one was good. There's no denying the chemistry between Max and Patrick, but Patrick just doesn't believe they'll work any other way. Max, on the other hand, is all in. I love watching the transition of who Max was in college vs. where he is now. He knows his choices are going to cause problems. He underestimates the breadth of those issues, but he never doubts his choices. I kind of adore him for that. He wants Patrick in his life, no matter what it might cost him. Seriously, how can you not fall in love with a hero who puts his other half first like that? I loved him and his convictions. 

The book was good, highly entertaining with an incredibly romantic story. I enjoyed both these two guys and their story and am so glad I got to read this one. I can't wait to read more from Jessica Lee. In fact, I would love, love, love it if she wrote Liam's story (a few years into the future). That would be awesome, because that poor kid has a great story, too. 

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

The Rule Maker by Jennifer Blackwood

Title: The Rule Maker
Author: Jennifer Blackwood
My Rating: B+

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: The Rule Breakers #2
Main Characters: Ryder and Zoey
Release Date: January 2017
Publisher:  Entangled Publishing
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: spicy

Story Overview:
Ten Steps to Surviving a New Job:

1. Don’t sleep with the client. It’ll get you fired. (Sounds easy enough.)
2. Don’t blink when new client turns out to be former one-night stand.

3. Don’t call same client a jerk for never texting you back.

4. Don’t believe client when he says he really, really wanted to call.

5. Remember, the client is always right—so you can’t junk punch him when he demands new design after new design.

6. Ignore accelerated heartbeat every time sexy client walks into room.

7. Definitely ignore client’s large hands. They just mean he wears big gloves.

8. Don’t let client’s charm wear you down. Be strong.

9. Whatever you do, don’t fall for the client. You’ll lose more than your job—maybe even your heart.

10. If all else fails, see rule number one again.

My Review:
This book starts out in the worn out, worn down 70's style era lodge that Zoey has been hired to re-do. I have to admit, much from the 70's, especially the decor, gives me hives. But I loved those really tacky visuals to start out the book. It gave this lodge it's own quirky personality in the story. 

The book switches pov's between Ryder and Zoey, but Zoey's head is the funniest, snarkiest place to live. That's where this author's humor really comes through. Zoey is totally deprecating and I love her for it. She spent a single night with Ryder, but learned her lesson when he disappeared in the middle of the night. The sex may have been phenomenal, but she has more self-respect than to put herself in that place again.

But as the two work together on the lodge, Ryder begins to think he made a mistake with Zoey. Already after their single night, he's thought about her way more than anyone else he's ever slept with, but as they work together that gets worse. He wants more, but she won't even consider it. Even if he hadn't completely blown her off the last time they slept together, but now there's the addition of the fact that he's a client. To Zoey, her job is everything. She won't do anything to risk that. 

There were lots of little details that made this book a great read. Like I already said, I liked the tacky charm of the lodge. Also having a pro snowboarding hero was a different twist that I liked. It was interesting watching Ryder going through the recuperating of a broken leg and all the uncertainty that brought to his career. I also was really intrigued by Ryder's brother. I imagine it would be tough, but omg, I'd love to see Jason find his happily ever after, too. Zoey cracked me up...the kitchen fiasco was the best.

This was a fun book that was all about the entertainment value. Like the first in the series, I enjoyed it...a lot. I like this author's sense of humor and her dry wit that comes through on pretty much every interaction in the book. It made for a fun, uplifting read.

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

Worth the Wait by A.J. Pine

Title: Worth the Wait
Author: A.J. Pine
My Rating: A-

Genre: Contemporary Romance 
Series: Kingston Ale House #4
Main Characters: Jeremy and Grace
Release Date: January 2017
Publisher:  Entangled Publishing
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
I like to think of myself as a man of pleasure…

I enjoy a good pint of ale, being in the arms of a beautiful woman, and living by my own rules. The only thing I try to avoid? Commitment. And I’ve got a three-year success rate to prove it.

I wasn’t planning on Grace—the beautiful, funny, totally off-limits massage therapist who keeps popping up in my life. She’s on a six-month mission to rid her life of toxins. No alcohol. No red meat. And, yeah, no men. I’m talking full-on man cleanse.

I know I should walk away, but I can’t…and the only way to keep her in my life is to live by her rules. I’ll need to prove to a woman who’s lost all trust in men that I’m worthy of her love. And do it all without so much as a single kiss.

The only problem? If I win, I’ll lose the one thing I swore I’d never give up. My heart.

My Review:
This was a fabulously fun story. Grace is a massage therapist. She's described in various places throughout the book as being a hippy chick and I can see that. Right now, she's coming off a horrible relationship where the guy she thought she knew was the worst sort of liar...and now he's blackmailing her...after stealing from her. She doesn't trust herself so following the advice from a book, decides to go on a life cleanse. Nothing that's bad for her enters her body...including men. O.o

Yeah...the cleanse aspect of the story was a really interesting twist. 

Enter Jeremy. She meets him first as a client when she gives him a massage at her second job (because her ex stole from her, she's now working 7 days/week at 2 jobs, one of them long-distance). In a bizarre set of circumstances, Jeremy and Grace continue to run into one another. Fate, maybe? Grace doesn't know, but she's into spirituality enough to think maybe so. 

And then Jeremy's ex, who coincidentally broke him of all commitment abilities three years ago, shows back up. She now works for the local news station. Because she's lurking around Jeremy, she finds out about Grace's cleanse and decides that this kind of story would be good for her career. The news will feature Grace every week as she goes on purely platonic dates to find out if the hands off approach can work to find her perfect man. At first Jeremy is there just as a friend and wingman, but as jealousy flares, he becomes something much more...without touching.

As the story begins, Jeremy is a huge player. I loved seeing him evolve as he got closer to Grace and the realization that suddenly he is thinking about committing....something he thought he'd never consider again. In fact, he's much more trusting than Grace, but that is why she's doing the cleanse in the first place...she's lost her trust...in herself and in men. 

I liked the reality show aspect of what Grace becomes with her cleanse for this news station. The author did a really good job winding that aspect of the story into the romance. It was interesting the way the facebook and news exposure affected them and their relationship. 

I thoroughly enjoyed the story. I liked Grace and Jeremy. Her job played for some great scenes and I liked her business dreams. Throughout the story, the author effortlessly included visual vignettes like the prospective storefront for Grace's business that I could picture in my mind perfectly. It was one of those books that was just fun and effortless to read. I've thoroughly enjoyed this series and hope there's more to come.

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

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Moment of Silence by Karen Stivali

Title:  Moment of Silence
Author: Karen Stivali
My Rating: A
Narrator: Robert Nieman

Genre: Contemporary Romance (m/m)
Series: Moments in Time #4
Main Characters: Jason and Quinn
Release Date: August 2016 (audiobook)
Publisher: Dreamspinner
Links to Purchase
Sexual Intensity: mild

Story Overview:
Growing up, Jason Stern led a charmed life complete with devoted sisters, a father who was one of Brooklyn’s most respected rabbis, and a mother who made the world's best babka. He headed to NYU ready for anything—except falling for the wrong guy, coming out, and getting disowned by his once-loving family. In spite of that, Jason managed to graduate with honors. He's got friends who treat him like family, and he's proudly running the largest LGBTQ teen shelter in Manhattan. Life is good, but he's still falling for the wrong men. 

When charming, sexy Quinn Fitzpatrick begins work at the shelter, Jason falls hard and fast. Quinn is tall, blond, funny—damn near perfect. Only if Quinn’s gay, even he doesn't seem to know it. If he does, he's not telling anyone. And he's about one ceremony away from becoming a Catholic priest.

Long hours of work turn to long nights of talking and laughter, and Jason dares to hope this time he's falling for the right guy. But Quinn's got a past to deal with and major decisions to make about his future. When Quinn leaves for a silent retreat, Jason knows the silence may change everything.

My Review:
Overall: 4.5
Performance: 4.5
Story: 4.75

What a wonderful book. I'll readily admit that I don't usually enjoy reading books with a religious slant. As a result, I have avoided this book for a while, despite the rave reviews about it. I finally broke down and bought it...and wow, did it surprise me. This book was amazing. 

Jason runs a shelter and Quinn has been working there while he's on hiatus from his process of becoming a priest. Jason has a huge crush, but Quinn is NOT available. Not only is he not gay, but he's about to become a priest. A guy doesn't get more not available than that. But then the guys become friends and emotions develop...for both of them. But that priesthood is still out there lurking. When Quinn is through with this experiment, will he leave Jason with a shattered heart? 

And yes, there are religious undertones to the story. Quinn is on his way to becoming a priest. Jason's father (who disowned him when he came out) is a Rabbi. But even with that the book NEVER became preachy in any way. In fact, there was never a moment where I felt uncomfortable with the discussions within the book like I normally do with books that touch on religion. The author did an amazing job with that. 

I liked the two guys and their honesty with one another. This is a huge experiment for Quinn. He never ever leads Jason on about what might or might not happen. The fact is, even with what they are doing together and feeling, he is very honest about the fact that he still might choose the church over Jason. That is heartbreaking. They are so good together, but Quinn has spent his life planning and studying for this. It's a dream that he can't easily walk away from. 

The book was incredibly well written. I loved every single minute of listening to it. I also thoroughly enjoyed listening to the narrator. He did the inflections and voices for both these guys and the supporting cast so well. I highly recommend it. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Afraid to Fly by L.A. Witt

Title: Afraid to Fly
Author: L.A. Witt
My Rating: B+

Genre: Military Romance (m/m)
Series: Anchor Point #2
Main Characters: Travis and Cline
Release Date: January 2017
Publisher:  Riptide Publishing
Links to Purchase:
Sexual Intensity: hot

Story Overview:
Once a fearless fighter pilot, Commander Travis Wilson is now confined to a desk. It’s been eight years since the near-fatal crash that grounded him, and it still rules his life thanks to relentless back pain.

Lieutenant Commander Clint Fraser almost drowned in a bottle after a highly classified catastrophe while piloting a drone. His downward spiral cost him his marriage and kids, but he’s sober now and getting his life back on track. He’s traded drones for a desk, and he’s determined to reconcile with his kids and navigate the choppy waters of PTSD.

Clint has been on Travis’s radar ever since he transferred to Anchor Point. When Clint comes out to his colleagues, it’s a disaster, but there’s a silver lining: now that Travis knows Clint is into men, the chemistry between them explodes.

It’s all fun and games until emotions get involved. Clint’s never been in love with a man before. Travis has, and a decade later, that tragic ending still haunts him. Clint needs to coax him past his fear of crashing and burning again, or their love will be grounded before takeoff.

My Review:
Take two very wounded (both physically and mentally), military heroes and you have a book filled with angst. But you know what? I like my books with angst so that worked for me. 

This is book #2 in this Naval based military series. In this book, both heroes are in their forties and have spent their lives in the military...with all that entails. These guys are bruised and battered both physically and mentally. For Travis, he was a fighter pilot who crashed on a hard landing on a carrier during rough seas. The crash left him with chronic back pain and his co-pilot as a paraplegic. So, yeah, he has a bit of PTSD, too. For Clint, his issues are a little less obvious. He was a drone pilot on a mission that went horribly wrong. The visuals he's left with haunt him, but since it was a highly top secret mission, he's never able to work through the trauma with anyone. He's not allowed to talk about it. That left him self-medicating his PTSD with alcohol...something that destroyed his marriage and the core of his life. He's new to Anchor Point and trying to start over. Something that isn't easy to do.

The two guys work together and are both attracted to the other, but neither one realizes the other is gay...until the night of the Naval ball...and things develop from there. 

As a spouse of a retired Air Force guy, I enjoyed the book. We spent many nights at events like the Naval Ball, although we were involved during the days of DADT. I love the visuals of gay couples allowed and accepted at these events. 

This book is great in that it shows how many different ways people end up with PTSD...from the obvious military incidents, but also from the backlash of those events (as is what happened to Travis's daughter). It was interesting to see the different family dynamics, although I had real issues with how inflexible Clint's ex-wife was when he was so obviously working to get his life back on track. She was a bit better by the end, but I wish that had happened a bit sooner. 

I liked the two guys together. They've each had their own traumas so they get one another in a way that most other guys wouldn't be able to. And even though the nature of Travis's back injury limits them with what they can do sexually, I loved their sexy times. The author did an amazing job showing just how deeply these two guys connected every time they got together. It was truly some beautiful writing. 

Overall, I liked the book a lot. I hope that there's more to come in the series, because I've thoroughly enjoyed these first two installments.

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