Monthly Archive: December 2014

Mistletoe and Mr. Right

mistletoe and mr right

Mistletoe and Mr. Right

by Lyla Payne
Published by Bloomsbury Spark
109 pages
Genre: new adult; romance
3 / 5

Summary:

Twas the night before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring … but lust refused to settle in for a long winter’s nap.She might be all nestled, snug in her bed, by why, oh why, do visions of the wrong guy dance in her head?

Jessica, (not Jessie), figures that nothing could be better than a trip to the Emerald Isle for Christmas break. So she takes a flying leap and follows her boyfriend home for the holidays, not only sure that he will finally agree they’re destined for each other, but also that Ireland will provide the perfect backdrop to the beginning of their happily-ever-after.

But it turns out his family—and his gorgeous ex-girlfriend—don’t feel the same way, and even the family goat seems to be conspiring against her well-laid plans. The only person making the trip worthwhile is the very last one she should be thinking about, but Grady, the local farmhand, has a way of showing up when Jessica needs him most . . . and least.

My Review:

Jessica – do NOT call her ‘Jessie’ – decides to surprise boyfriend Brennan by flying to Ireland to spend Christmas with him and his family. Things get off to a less-than-auspicious start when she nearly kills the family goat. Fortunately, she is rescued by the gorgeous Grady Callaghan. But Jessica can’t pay attention to Grady’s gorgeousness, because she’s there for Brennan.

Unfortunately, Brennan (not to mention his family) doesn’t seem too thrilled that she’s there. This stunt of hers proves typical of Jessica. She decides what she wants to happen, and she steamrolls ahead, regardless of whether or not it’s what others want. She’s going to graduate from college soon, and she needs a boyfriend, because how else can she get married after she’s through with school? Brennan fits the bill, even if he has been reluctant to get to know her beneath the surface … or to commit beyond tomorrow.

You can see where this is headed, right?

Lyla Payne throws in a curve or two, but all the while, she points her heroine in the right direction. The problem is that Jessica is almost completely unlikable. She is judgmental, hard headed, and unwilling to accept responsibility for her poor decisions. You will find yourself, as I was, hard pressed to understand why anyone would like her.

Take her relationship with Brennan. She knows he withholds himself from her. Her gut tells her that he isn’t her future, but as he is her “right now,” that makes him, by default, the man she will marry. So what if Brennan doesn’t appear so inclined? She can fix that, because Jessica gets what she wants.

Until she doesn’t.

When things (repeatedly) don’t work out the way she wants, I admit to doing inner jumpy claps. I wanted her to fall flat on her face, because otherwise I’m not sure she would have changed. And Jessica desperately needs to change.

I would have enjoyed this book more if I liked Jessica more. Toward the end, she became more empathetic, but by then I had sort of given up on her. (I hadn’t given up on Grady … he’s hotly amazing.) I’m not quite sure why this is considered a “new adult” book, or at least it isn’t the sort of “new adult” that I like to read. Young adult? Sure. New adult? It needs some spice. It needs some sexy times. It needs some hot headboard rocking.

Maybe if THAT had happened, Jessica would have loosened up and been a bit more approachable.

As Christmas books go, it’s a quick, fun read. Not my favorite (thanks, Jessica), but not awful.

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Unwrapped

unwrappedUnwrapped
(A Silver Creek Romance)

by Maisey Yates
Published by Penguin Group
117 pages
Genre: romance
3.5 / 5

Summary:

Kindergarten teacher Sarah Larsen has spent her whole life being the good girl. But now, she’s ready to do something bad. So wearing the shortest, tightest black dress she owns, she marches over to the nearest bar to fulfill her Christmas fantasy: a wild night with a total stranger.

Walker Callahan moved to Silver Creek to start fresh. He doesn’t want to bring his baggage into a relationship, so an evening of fun with the sexiest welcoming committee ever is just what he needs.

They were both in it for one night with no strings attached.. But when Sarah discovers that Walker is the father of her new student, things turn deliciously complicated. Can the cold winter nights thaw two frozen hearts?

My Review:

Sarah Larsen, beloved kindergarten teacher, has a lot more gumption than you would think. She is thirty, hymen still in tact, and decides that enough is enough. Tonight she is going to go to a bar, pick herself up a man, and lose her virginity.

It all goes well until she opens her mouth and tries the flirtation thing. That doesn’t work so well, yet Walker, the man she decides will get the honors, falls for her nonetheless. He isn’t looking for anything more than a good headboard rocking, so off the two go.

Problem solved for Sarah.

Until, that is, she realizes that she has had sex with someone she knows virtually nothing about and does not love. Those thoughts send her racing out the door, grateful that she and Walker will never see each other again.

Clearly, Sarah has not read enough romance novels. Because Sarah and Walker? Will see each other, and it will be awkward.

It turns out that Walker is the (single) parent of a new student in Sarah’s classroom. She and Walker begin to get to know each other as parent-teacher, and Sarah realizes that she likes Walker. She especially likes the type of father he’s trying to be.

With the holidays upon them, Sarah volunteers to help Walker with Kayla, which OF COURSE leads to the two of them rocking that headboard, once (or twice or a few more than that) again. Sarah finds herself falling deeper and deeper for Walker, something she has the guts to do – much like she had the courage to approach him in the first place.

Walker, though, is a bit slower to embrace what he could share with Sarah. He’s been burned, badly, and he has Kayla to consider. Long-term relationships aren’t what he’s interested in, even if it were to happen with Sarah.

It isn’t as if she doesn’t have her own hang-ups. Abandoned as a baby, she was raised by, as she puts it, her “draconian grandmother,” a woman who caused Sarah to suspect men, if not outright despise them. Men are not to be trusted. Your heart must never be given away. You are to remain chaste until marriage.

Some of Grandma’s teachings stick with Sarah, such as the sister wives-type clothing she wears and her pentecostal lingerie. As her outward appearance begins to shift, so does her inner. Cotton granny panties begone!

The story is set at Christmas time, complete with snow ball fights and carol singing, which seems appropriate for Sarah and Walker. It will take a Christmas miracle, perhaps, for these two to come together. Sarah needs to break free from her grandmother’s remaining directives, and Walker needs to open himself up to having love in his life.

This is a sweet, quick read, with some hot sexy times. Not enough – I would have enjoyed more Walker. But, as I have said, I am a big fat perv. Still, it’s a cute book. Does it have much substance? No. But it’s fun, Sarah is interesting, and Walker is pretty hot.

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But I Said Forever

but i said forever

But I Said Forever

by Jennifer Gilby Roberts
Published by Jennifer Gilby Roberts
202 pages
Genre: romance
3 / 5

Summary:

Expect little, forgive much?

After a whirlwind courtship, Brittany Beresford married her Prince Charming and looked forward to living happily ever after. Five years later, she’s been reduced to a not-quite-desperate housewife, with a husband who spends more time flossing his teeth than holding meaningful conversations with her.

She braves his disapproval by turning working mother and, other than feeling far more drawn to a handsome baker she works with than him, things seem to be looking up. But then Brittany discovers that her husband’s “hobbies” include something even worse than golf – and he expects her to put up and shut up.

Fairy tale illusions shattered, but still believing marriage is for life and wanting the best for her son, Brittany has a choice to make: should she follow her heart, or her conscience?

My Review:

If you haven’t figured this out already, life is not – ever – a fairy tale. While there are occasional happily-ever-afters, those oftentimes tend to be the exception and not the rule. They also tend to require a LOT of work, the stuff you don’t see Cinderella and Prince Charming having to do. There is a reason why the fairy tales end when the happy couple comes together and not five years into their marriage.

Such is the realization Brittany now faces. She was eighteen when she met Phillip, and he seemed to be everything she wanted. A successful doctor, gorgeous, and even a bit mysterious. While a few more years of maturation would have helped her question a bit more, have a little more skepticism, her youth, in this case, provides an understanding of why she married him.

She just did not know better.

Now she’s twenty-three and the mother of a nine month old son. She’s also feeling a bit unfulfilled. “Doctor’s wife” isn’t all she wants on her CV, yet she lacks the education and work experience to be anything else. When a job as a bakery assistant opens up, she jumps at it. There is the matter of her son, though, which leads her to a pair of quirky, insightful nannies. All of the things Brittany can’t see are quite evident to her nannies.

Then there is Zach, the dark, mysterious, and gorgeous baker where she works. He has his own sad tales, and he, too, sees Brittany’s marriage for what it is. In fact, the only one who doesn’t is Brittany herself. When she finds out one aspect of it, she’s shocked to the point of action.

Finally.

Yet she’s also stupid enough to cling to the fairy tale ideal, and is all too willing to believe what she wants to believe in Phillip.

There were times, while reading this book, that I wanted to scream at Brittany. She’s just so young and so gullible and SO NAIVE. Clearly Philip hoped that by marrying a teenager, he was gaining a spouse he could mold and manipulate – and he did, for a while. The biggest weakness in this book, actually, is Phillip. Why did Brittany marry him? Sure, her youth is partly to blame, but we are never given a clear indication of what attracted her to him, aside from his job title and looks. Flashbacks don’t reveal a guy with much charisma and charm, much less any magnetism. The physical side of their marriage is as dull as it comes.

So why stay? Well, to leave means to abandon the fairy tale, right?

Fortunately, Brittany is surrounded by people far smarter and far more intuitive than she is. And THANK GOODNESS, otherwise her son would be raised by an idiot for a mother and an arse for a father.

There is a romance in the book, and it unfolds s-l-o-w-l-y. Too slowly. TOO FREAKING SLOWLY. The fact that Brittany is at all open to it, though, makes me like her a bit more. In fact, her love interest, the nannies, and her coworker are what make this book as fun to read as it is. Brittany? Not so much.

I liked this book, but there were parts I skimmed through. Brittany’s blindness and naiveté occasionally felt monotonous, and there were moments while reading it that I would check the page numbers and realize – oh crud – I’ve still got fifty pages to go.

Jennifer Gilby Roberts has a gift for understanding dialogue and her characters. What she needed, however, was a strong editor to help her make better decisions about what to keep and what to rid herself of.

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Saving Grace

saving grace

Saving Grace

by Jane Green
Published by St. Martin’s Press
353 pages
Genre: women’s fiction
4.5 / 5

Summary:

Grace and Ted Chapman are widely regarded as the perfect literary power couple. Ted is a successful novelist and Grace, his wife of twenty years, is beautiful, stylish, carefree, and a wonderful homemaker. But what no one sees, what is churning under the surface, is Ted’s rages. His mood swings. And the precarious house of cards that their lifestyle is built upon. When Ted’s longtime assistant and mainstay leaves, the house of cards begins to crumble and Grace, with dark secrets in her past, is most vulnerable. She finds herself in need of help but with no one to turn to…until the perfect new assistant shows up out of the blue. To the rescue comes Beth, a competent young woman who can handle Ted and has the calm efficiency to weather the storms that threaten to engulf the Chapman household. Soon, though, it’s clear to Grace that Beth might be too good to be true. This new interloper might be the biggest threat of all, one that could cost Grace her marriage, her reputation, and even her sanity. With everything at stake and no one to confide in, Grace must find a way to save herself before it is too late.

My Review:

This is one of those books that, as you read it, fills you with a gnawing sense of dread. You know – you just know – that something awful will happen. You know that Grace Chapman is going to suffer horribly. And you are terrified that she will not be able to overcome what is happening to her.

Jane Green can WRITE, faithful readers.

Grace and Ted have been together over half of Grace’s life, beginning when she was a young publishing ingenue right out of college. Ted was early in his fame as a writer, and he and Grace were seated next to each other at a banquet. He was captivated by her apparent confidence and British accent, and she was captivated by, well, everything about him. His charm, his wit, his presence.

And now, over two decades later, they have Clemmy, a daughter who is about Grace’s age when she met Ted, and a beautiful home on a farm in a New York suburb. They are featured in magazines, and when they go to functions, they are the object of envy. Grace, with her easy style and glowing devotion. Ted, with his talent and love for his wife.

A cookbook editor, Grace also stretches herself throughout the community. Between her schedule and Ted’s, they are a busy couple. But what the public sees – their good looks, their success, their fame – belies the ugly truth: Ted is a big fat bully. Grace lives a life largely spent cringing in fear, retreating and hoping that she can deflect Ted’s volatile moods. His anger doesn’t come out physically, but it is just as lethal in the emotional damage he inflicts. Grace, though, loves him. She loves their life, unstable though it is.

Grace’s insecurities – and there are plenty of them – manifest in forgetfulness. It’s as if she cloaks herself in a brain fog from which she cannot, will not, emerge, for fear that in doing so, she must confront the reality of her marriage. She also would have to confront the memories of her childhood, and that would unleash a pain Grace isn’t sure she can withstand.

Until she must confront every ugly thing.

When Ted’s beloved assistant quits, the Chapmans have to hire a replacement Enter Beth, she of the doughy, unimpressive physique. Beth immediately makes an impact, organizing Grace’s kitchen cabinets and impressing Ted with her knowledge of and opinions regarding current writers. Beth is too good at what she does to reveal her hand, though; like an expert poker player, she lulls her competition into a sense of security. She learns Grace’s tells, and she learns when Grace bluffs.

But Grace, for all of her fears and distractions, is intuitive. Ted tells her that he trusts her insights into people, believing that she sees what others can’t. Yet when Grace tries to tell Ted that she senses something is off with Beth, he ignores her. By this time, Beth is indispensable to Ted.

Grace, meanwhile, is spiraling. She exerts considerable energy in being Mrs. Ted Chapman, in being a cookbook editor and charity organizer. She exerts even more in concealing her secrets. No one knows what Grace’s childhood was like, and she wants to keep it that way. She refuses to let others see her weaknesses, until, that is, she can no longer hide them.

Jane Green makes a scathing commentary on the U.S. healthcare system, pointing a furious finger at our tendency to over-medicate and under-treat. If Grace’s doctor is any sort of accurate reflection, then you will applaud Green for not pulling any punches. Readers will sense the doctor’s inability to properly treat his patient, but Grace is too far gone to realize what’s happening to her. Worse, there is no one in her life to help her, aside from a close friend. Her daughter has moved out of the house, and Ted … well, Ted is distracted.

The saving of Grace must come from Grace herself, and to do that, she has to remove the obfuscations of her past. She has to confess and confide, two things she has refused to do. After her years with Ted, her reliance on him and her love for him, can she rescue herself? Can she pull herself out of the abyss into which she has fallen?

Green keeps you on the edge of your seat. Do not begin reading this book when you have any other obligations, because you will not be able to put it down. I came to hate Jane Green about halfway through the book. I hated how she was filling me with true terror for Grace. I hated how I could not stop reading the book. I hated how much I had come to care about Grace and how scared I was for her. I hated how obtuse Ted was, and I hated Beth. I even tweeted Jane Green with my hatred, to which she responded, “I love you now.”

Writers, you see, want to do this to you. They want to twist you up and keep you riveted to their books. They want you to invest yourself completely in the worlds they create. Jane Green, job well done. You wrecked me while I read this book.

The only weakness – and I almost feel like your nit picky Aunt Connie – is the inclusion of recipes. They throw off the pacing and frequently are a distraction more than anything else. I think if they had been combined together at the end of the book, rather than sprinkled throughout at the end of chapters, they would have been more palatable.

Even so, this is one heck of a book. Run, don’t walk, and read Saving Grace. Then come back and tell me what you think of Grace, Ted, Beth, and the rest of the characters.

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What If He's the One?

what if he's the one

What If He’s the One?

by Kathy Jay
Published by HarperImpulse
256 pages
Genre: romance
3.5 / 5

Summary:

The one that got away – is now LA’s hottest property!

The last time fashion student Magenta Plumtree saw aspiring actor Alex Wells, she was wearing a sexy Santa outfit and killer heels, and he was kissing her senseless! But before she got to enjoy the full benefits of her very fit friend, he left the next morning for LA and stardom…

Now ten years later Maggie’s an in-demand fashionista and her latest job? To style the stars of hit TV show Mercy of the Vampires – none other than twin hotties Alex and Nick Wells! Though if Fate has given her one more chance with the gorgeous Alex, it’s got a sick sense of humour, as Maggie has refused to wait for Mr Right and plans to embark on single motherhood! But the inconveniently electric attraction is definitely still there, and with Alex by her side through the whirl of pregnancy tests and glittering premieres, has Maggie found the one man worth waiting for?

My Review:

When life doesn’t turn out quite the way Maggie Plumtree wants, she goes out and takes care of it.

Boyfriend dumps her? There are others out there, right? No baby yet? That’s what IVF is for. A new job working with her girlhood crush? She’s a professional! She can handle it.

Alex Wells has come a long way since he and Maggie said goodbye in their teens. He and his twin brother are stars of a popular TV series, and now, with the series ending, Alex is headed back to London to portray Hamlet. He’s always had a thing for Maggie, even with ten years having passed since their last (and first) kiss, so when she turns up on set as a stylist, he’s happy. She’s the one he’s been waiting for, and he quickly realizes this.

Maggie, though, is not as fast of a sell. She’s reluctant to embark on anything because Alex left her once before. What’s to stop him from doing it again, especially if it turns out that she is, in fact, pregnant?

Alex and Maggie’s pushing and pulling away from and to each other develops sweetly and passionately. These two clearly belong together, although Maggie’s possible pregnancy certainly will throw a wrench into their plans. Is this something Alex wants to be a part of, or will he take another career runner? And can Maggie get out of her own way long enough to let her heart be happy?

Some of this – particularly Maggie’s litany of reasons why she can’t let herself fall for Alex – gets repetitive. And there are not nearly enough sexy times. What Kathy Jay gives us is deliciously hot, which makes you wonder why Maggie doesn’t dive on in there with a bit more commitment. Sure, she’s got concerns. Those concerns are even valid. But Maggie, of all people, should know that life zigs when you think it will zag, so why not grab on and let yourself be happy?

Part of Maggie’s problem is that she is a do-er. She sees no sense in waiting around for life to happen; she prefers to make life happen, whether it wants to or not. See: Pregnancy, IVF. Fate is for suckers, Maggie seems to think. If you want something, you make it happen, whether you’re actually ready or not.

I enjoyed this book, even with its needing more hot headboard rocking. I got a little tired of Maggie’s dithering, and some of the obstacles that arise between her and Alex feel overly contrived. She and Alex are meant for each other, though, and reading about their realization of that is fun.

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What Matters Most

what matters most

What Matters Most
(The Billionaire Bargains)

by Erin Nicholas
Published by Samhain Publishing
239 pages
Genre: romance
3 / 5

Summary:

He can buy anything he wants…except the thing he needs the most.

The Billionaire Bargains, Book 2

Things come easy to Tony Steele. Money. Women. A good time. It’s all a piece of cake. Until that cake turns into the wedding cake of Tony’s best friend and the woman of Tony’s dreams, Reese Chaplin.

Tony can’t fix this problem by writing a check. And when Tony finds out his “friend” has been cheating on the woman who’s stolen his heart, he doesn’t hesitate to steal her away. Even if it’s her wedding day.

Nothing about Reese’s big day goes according to plan. She walks down the aisle to marry one man, and winds up in a Vegas wedding chapel with another. After a hot night with Tony, the only thing Reese regrets is that her new husband doesn’t remember anything about it.

Reese suspects the marriage is going to end badly, especially when Tony offers her a million dollars a month to stay married—who does that? But walking away from him turns out to be harder than she’d thought. Especially as she starts to know the man behind the wallet.

Warning: Contains a billionaire playboy who can’t handle his tequila, a Vegas wedding, hot phone sex (and other kinds of hot sex), and a woman who knows how to make a point—even if it requires jumping out of an airplane.

My Review:

Quite a bit of this book is charming, scrumptious, and fun to read. Reese is feisty, kind-hearted, and sexually adventurous. She is so many delightful, lovely things …. until she becomes tedious and shrewish.

Then there is Tony. He is WIDE OPEN. And I mean WIDE OPEN. He’s wealthy, he’s generous, and his idea of solving a problem is to pay what it takes to get the job done. Giving of himself – his heart, his time – isn’t something he’s accustomed to doing, so when Reese accuses him of being the worst possible man for her because all he knows how to do is spend money, Tony is flummoxed. His way works, after all. When given time to think about what she’s saying, though, he recognizes that sometimes he needs to give of himself and not just his checkbook.

These two have sizzling chemistry, and they can rock that headboard. Some of the best scenes in this book take place between the two of them when they are engaging in the sexy times. That’s when they are open with each other and can see the truth in each other. Reese knows that Tony isn’t lying when he says he loves her, and he can see her fears and reluctance. In fact, I wish there had been more of that in the book. Not just because I’m a big fat perv (which I am), but the parts of the book that dragged (see below) could have been off-set some with more hot headboard rockin’.

The problem is that Reese’s issues – what stops her from fully committing to Tony – become almost impossible to understand. That would be okay if they weren’t repeated and repeated and repeated. She can’t see that her rationale for ending their relationship – Tony’s reliance on spending money to fix things – is flimsy at best. Yes, we understand her fears. But GOOD GRIEF. It feels as if you’re stuck in an endless cycle of her whining and whinging about Tony’s money.

I started to wonder if he wasn’t better off without her.

If you could somehow excise the parts where Reese is caterwauling about Tony’s money, this would be a fantastic, hot book. But that seemingly endless vortex of her complaints drags it down.

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Beneath Beautiful

beneath beautiful

Beneath Beautiful

by Allison Rushby
Published by Allison Rushby
211 pages
Genre: fiction
3 / 5

Summary:

When a handsome stranger approaches Cassie Tavington in Paris’s beautiful Père Lachaise cemetery, she has no idea who he is. It doesn’t take long to find out. A whispered name from a passerby shocks her into the realisation that it’s Cameron Callahan, high-profile modern artist, who she’s busy showing around the cemetery.

Mortified, Cassie runs, but Cameron soon tracks her down. He’s intent on having Cassie sit for him, but Cassie isn’t sure. His provocative sculptures are often in the media, which isn’t somewhere that Cassie, the daughter of a politician, should be.

But there’s no denying the attraction between the pair, and Cassie soon finds herself in a strange whirlwind of a relationship. Between Paris, London and New York, Cassie finds sitting for an artist isn’t as simple as it seems. There’s much to contend with—including Cameron’s ex-girlfriend, Plum, her own father, and her new love interest, James.

With the clock ticking down to the opening of Cameron’s new exhibition, Cassie must struggle to decide just how much of herself she can give over to Cameron and his sculpture while still remaining whole.

My Review:

Sometimes when I finish reading a book, I find myself wondering, “What was that all about?”

Such is the case with this one.

It isn’t that Beneath Beautiful is a bad book; it isn’t at all. It’s more that I can’t figure out its purpose, and I think that’s because Allison Rushby wasn’t quite sure herself.

Cassie is twenty-one and already a literary sensation, or at the very least a popular one. She’s written a best-selling children’s series, and while she doesn’t appear quite proud of that – she seems more embarrassed than anything – she hopes she can break out of the series and write something more her. While reading Moby Dick in a cemetery in Paris (just go with it), she meets Cameron Callahan, a famous artist known for his nudes and his rapacious social life. When he asks Cassie to pose for him, she takes off running. Cameron, though, is not to be dissuaded. He finds her and gives her the hard sell, and before she seems to realize what she’s agreed to, she’s on a plane, heading to New York.

Cassie soon learns that not everything she’s heard about Cameron is true. She also realizes that she is increasingly attracted to him, and she believes he’s attracted to her as well. There is an ex-girlfriend of his lurking about, a woman who makes Cassie feel a bit insecure regarding Cameron, and there is a journalist who takes an interest in Cassie himself.

This book does not go where you think it will. You’re sort of lulled into thinking it’s a romance between Cassie and Cameron – and it is, to a small degree. Then you wonder if it’s a romance between Cassie and the journalist – and it is, to a small degree. What is bigger than the romance is Cassie’s growth and maturation. She becomes more confident in herself, more secure, more adult. She begins choosing her own path, and she stops apologizing for her decisions.

She’s an interesting character, but she pales when juxtaposed against Cameron. He is mysterious and intriguing, and I found myself often distracted by him and my curiosity about him. The journalist is not nearly as compelling, and his story arc feels rushed and artificial.

I enjoyed this book, but when it ended, I didn’t miss the characters. I did – I do – want to know more about Cameron, but Cassie? I was ready to say good-bye to her.

 Rushby writes well, although at times I wished she had had a stronger editor. There are occasional lapses, whether in focus or in pacing, and they are troublesome. Still, this book undoubtedly will have its fans. I’m just not a big one.

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A Kiss by the Book (Kiss & Tell 2)

kiss by the book

A Kiss by the Book
(Kiss & Tell 2)

by Christy Hayes
Published by CAH LLC
238 pages
Genre: new adult; romance
4 / 5

Summary:

 College senior Zach Chamberlain’s charmed life has always gone according to script:Date the prettiest girl in high school, check. Football scholarship to a division-one school, check. Heisman contender, check.Buy engagement ring, check. On track to graduate with honors, check.There’s just one glitch. His girlfriend is in love with his younger brother and breaks up with him in the middle of his senior season. Shocked, betrayed, and embarrassed, Zach turns to the only woman he can trust: his nerdy tutor. Tutoring college athletes at Southeastern State University is more than a job for Jenna Peterson; it’s a way for her to pay it forward after long-ago tragedy struck too close to home. SE State’s golden boy, Zach Chamberlain, isn’t the first jock Jenna’s tutored with cover-boy good looks, and he won’t be the last. When he asks for her help with statistics, Jenna assumes he’s as egocentric as the other athletes on her roster. A wildly inappropriate and lackluster kiss at the worst possible time doesn’t do much to disprove her theory. Zach will do anything to save face in front of his family, and he uses Jenna’s bleeding heart and unfortunate circumstances to enlist her help over the holidays. Jenna begins to realize Zach is more than a pretty face as his storybook life begins to unravel. When a sprig of mistletoe provides the perfect opportunity for Zach to affirm his skill, the searing kiss pits the playmaker against the rule maker in a kiss to the end. When secrets are revealed and the game’s on the line, will they follow the script, improvise, or throw the book out the window?

My Review:

Here we have an engaging spin on the ‘plain girl meets hot guy’ theme.

Jenna is a brain who works as a tutor to athletes. Her reasons for this are revealed in the book, and they make her even more likable than she already is. She’s been tutoring Zach Chamberlain, their college’s star quarterback, in stats. It isn’t that Zach is unintelligent; he’s far from it, in fact. But he is concerned, because he wants to keep his grades up, and that stats grade is in perilous condition.

Zach sees Jenna as a conduit to academic success and nothing more. When the two wind up going to the college where Zach’s girlfriend and brother go, along with Jenna’s cousin, Zach begins to see her as something else: an anchor.

While on that visit, Zach begins to fear that his relationship with his girlfriend Emily is not all that secure. He reacts the way boys can react: he gets stinking drunk. Upon returning to their campus, Jenna and Zach’s friendship progresses in fits and starts. Emily breaks up with Zach, which sends him spiraling. Jenna, meanwhile, knows she’s attracted to him, largely because she sees him as more than just a gorgeous athlete, and Zach is pretty sure he’s attracted to her. But Jenna doesn’t see herself as worthy of a guy like Zach. She thinks she’s too plain, too ordinary, too average for him.

Jenna’s reluctance to trust her feelings for Zach – and his for her – occasionally got frustrating and felt repetitive. Yet I could also see why she was afraid. Zach, too, has his fears, but he’s more confident than she is. He is someone who is unaccustomed to not getting what he wants (Emily notwithstanding), although Jenna makes him wonder if his instincts are correct.

This is a somewhat atypical new adult book because there is not much hot headboard rocking, and what there is is not terribly detailed. The focus instead is on Jenna and Zach – the people they are, and the people they strive to become. They are enjoyable, captivating characters, and they will keep you hooked. Another book in the series is dedicated to Emily and her new boyfriend, but I can’t imagine that they are as charismatic as Zach and Jenna, at least not based on what I saw of them in this book.

I enjoyed Christy Hayes’ writing and her story. Yeah, you know the ending, but you don’t know how she will get you there. With Zach and Jenna as our guides, it’s a fun, charming ride.

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A Gentleman in the Street

gentleman in the street

A Gentleman in the Street

by Alisha Rai
Published by Alisha Rai
315 pages
Genre: erotica; romance
3 / 5

Summary:

Shameless. That’s what she was.

Billionaire businesswoman Akira Mori can get anything and anyone her heart desires. Anyone, that is, except for a certain aloof author who has been dominating her dreams for over a decade. Accustomed to Jacob Campbell’s stern disapproval, Akira has turned provocation into an art, using every trick in her arsenal to keep the man from guessing the depth of her filthy fantasies.

Shameless. That’s what she made him.

Since the moment the sexy, sultry socialite sidled up to him years ago, there hasn’t been a time when Jacob didn’t crave Akira. But as guardian to his younger siblings, responsibility has controlled his life. Confining his darkest desires to secret, stolen moments maintains his carefully disciplined world…but a cold bed is the price he pays.

A single touch is all it takes for their simmering need to explode. As secrets and fears are stripped away one by one, shame becomes a thing of the past. They find themselves becoming addicted to each other, in bed and out—a frightening prospect for a man just learning to live…and a woman who thinks she doesn’t know how to love.

My Review:

Okay, there is a plot – somewhere – in this book. I think it’s something about Akira always fancying Jacob, but he being too frightened to be with her, and then some stuff about her not feeling worthy of him deep down, and him being accustomed to taking care of his family and not himself. That’s the narrative that gets you to the sex scenes, and at times it’s all a bit tedious.

Until you get to the sexy times.

Strap on your vibrators, girls, because there is some hot headboard rockin’ in this book.

It turns out that Jacob’s trepidation regarding being with Akira was not too far off-base, because Akira is into some kinky fun. Twosomes, threesomes, foursomes, and beyond. Spanky panky, domination and submission, switching. You name it, and she’s up for it.

But what about Jacob?

His reaction to all of Akira’s extracurriculars is entertaining, if not quite true to him as a character. Let’s be real, though. Are you reading this book for character development? Oh, heck, no.

You’re reading it for the SEX, and it does not disappoint.

You should be warned: there is some stuff in here that could be considered deviant. For me? It’s all in good, hot headboard rockin’ fun.

I’m not quite sure what the title means, although I do know it refers to Jacob. I suppose you could say that he knows when – and how – to not be such a gentleman. And thank goodness for THAT.

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Night Fever (Night Fever Serial Book 1)

night fever

Night Fever
(Night Fever Serial Book 1)

by Jessica Hawkins
Published by Jessica Hawkins
160 pages
Genre: erotica; romance
4 / 5

Summary:

Lola’s heart already belongs to Johnny, but for him, she’d sell the devil her soul. Unfortunately, the devil wants something else.

Beau Olivier is the kind of wealthy that buys anything—even people. When he makes Lola Winters a proposition, she finds herself tempted into a seduction that will have her walking the line between comfort and humiliation, desire and resistance. He would own her—for one night. She would be his—for a price. It was wrong. It was scandalous. It was the opportunity of a lifetime.

Sex, music, neon on the Sunset Strip—right in the middle of it all, he would have her. Come sunrise, he would let her go. At least, that was the plan.

My Review:

A confession: I loved – LOVED, I tell you – Jessica Hawkins’ Cityscape Series. She knows how to write some hot headboard rocking, and David Dylan was an exceptionally Hot Hero. Can the men in Night Fever even come close to his hotness?

One of them can. (And I’m looking at you, Beau Oliver.)

With a nod to Indecent Proposal, the Demi Moore-Robert Redford-Woody Harrelson movie, Beau comes into Lola’s life just as she and boyfriend Johnny are desperate for money. Beau is a wealthy software designer (think Bill Gates wealthy), and his offer of $1 million to spend from sundown till sunup with Lola is too good for her to pass up. Well, actually, it’s too good for Johnny to pass up. I’m not quite sure that Lola’s in it for the cash.

There is not much to like about Johnny. He seems rather pathetic with his waylaid dreams and the sense that life has not treated him fairly. Lola, too, has descended from hard knocks, but rather than wallow, she tries to help her lover achieve his dreams. In this case, though, that determination of hers winds her up with a man far superior – and I don’t mean financially – to Johnny.

Beau gets Lola. He sees her for who she is and, more importantly, for who she can be. He encourages, whereas Johnny settles. He WANTS her, and not solely physically. He wants to invade her every sense and sensibility, and when he asks her to stay with him … let’s just say that you might think that Lola is a complete idiot.

Then there is Beau’s sexual prowess. Strap on your vibrators, girls, because you will need them while you read this book. Beau knows how to please a woman, and he’s – um – perceptive. He rocks that headboard straight into the stars. You get the sense that Lola’s never had sexy times like this with Johnny … ever.

So why is she with Johnny if he’s so uninspiring? Because they’ve been together forever. That’s the reason we’re given. Lola gives great voice to loving Johnny, but does she? Is it love, or is it comfort and familiarity? Or is it that Lola doesn’t realize that she deserves better?

This is the first book of a three-part series, so undoubtedly we will get answers in the next two. I can’t wait. I look forward to more Beau (le swoon), and more or the hot headboard rockin’ that Jessica Hawkins writes so well.

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