Review: Searching For Disaster

searchingfordisaster1-2SEARCHING FOR DISASTER
JENNIFER PROBST
October 11, 2016
($2.99 ebook)

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Jennifer Probst’s Searching For Disaster is a fun and flirty novella that packs a powerful punch.  The book opens on a scene set six years before the rest of the story; our couple, Liam and Isabella, met at a college party, felt an instant connection, but were ultimately driven apart.  Since that fateful meeting, Liam and Isabella’s lives have taken them on different paths, but they were always left wondering about the one that got away.  Flash forward six years and Isabella and Liam meet again… *cue the sparks flying.*

Given the length of this book, I was impressed with its depth and plot development; often, novellas can feel somewhat superficial because of length constraints. This was absolutely not the case in Searching For Disaster.  Isabella and Liam are well-rounded characters, with interesting pasts and personalities that really elevate the story.  Isabella is a recovering drug addict while Liam is a straight-and-narrow police officer.  I thought that Probst’s handling of that dynamic was very nuanced: the primary obstacle to their love–Isabella’s former addiction– does not feel forced or trite, but rather a real problem that they must confront.  Liam must decide if he can trust Isabella, and Isabella must determine whether she can trust herself.  Of course it isn’t easy, but I was impressed with how Probst created a plot point that was both serious and meaningful, without being melodramatic. It can be easy to use things like drugs or alcohol to create a “bad boy” or “bad girl” character, a trope that can too-easily fall flat. Instead, Probst constructed a character who had made mistakes, picked herself back up, and gone on a journey to become a better person– who wouldn’t be cheering for a girl like that when she finally gets her Happily Ever After?

There are a lot of fun elements in this book.  Isabella works at a matchmaking agency, so her life is populated by hilarious, powerful women who support one another and work together to run their business (yay powerful lady friends!).  Liam and Isabella both end up adopting puppies and they commiserate over the horror that is puppy training.  They share a love of Star Wars and, quite adorably, end up naming their puppies Han Solo and Leia (awwww).  Probst provides many interesting, fun details that really ramp this book up.

While this is a short, easy read it still manages to tug on your heartstrings and make you become invested in the characters– no easy feat for a novella, so kudos to Probst!  I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys contemporary novellas, small-town romances, and flawed and interesting characters.  I also think that if you liked this book, you may enjoy Nancy Naigle’s Every Yesterday, which I reviewed last month.

 

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Review: Sparking the Fire

cover-finalSPARKING THE FIRE
BOOK 3
A HOT IN CHICAGO NOVEL
KATE MEADER
Pocket Books
September 27, 2016
($7.99 print, $6.99 ebook)

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Kate Meader’s latest installment of the Hot in Chicago series is just that– hot (and, of course, also in Chicago).  In Sparking the Fire, Wyatt, former-Marine and current Chicago firefighter and Molly, Hollywood movie star, reconnect five years after a sexy anonymous fling.  Now, memories of their six-night stand are rekindled as they work together on Molly’s new movie, a film about about a female firefighter, loosely inspired by Wyatt’s notorious sister Alex.

Molly, reeling from a public divorce and a nude-photo leak, is trying to rebuild her reputation by producing and starring in the movie; Wyatt, recovering from an injury, is assigned to be the fireman consultant on the set.  Although they each have their reasons for wanting to keep things professional, the undeniable attraction that existed five years ago resurfaces and is too powerful to resist!

I liked this book for a number of reasons.  First, Meader’s narrative style is fresh and compelling; since she writes contemporary romances, she’s able to get away with, in particular, short, choppy dialogue that rings true to the ear. Given Wyatt’s taciturn nature, the staccato back-and-forths between Molly and Wyatt feels like real-life conversations.  Meader incorporates a lot of pop culture references and occasional slang to make the dialogue even punchier.

Second, Molly and Wyatt were both well-developed characters with interesting backstories separate from their interactions.  Molly’s career as an actress, as well as the way she handles her divorce and photo leak, are all intriguing facets of her character.  Similarly, Wyatt was raised as part of a larger foster family, the Dempsey’s (whom the entire series is about) and has his own baggage that he’s dealing with as a result of his past.  While the past certainly plays a major role in the development of Molly and Wyatt’s relationship, it’s refreshing to see such deep, well-rounded characters who exist in and of themselves and not merely as part of a couple.

Finally, I liked the family dynamic of the Dempsey clan.  I’m a newcomer to Kate Meader, and this book prompted me to go out and read more of her Hot in Chicago series!  After reading about Wyatt’s sister Alex and her fiance Eli, I was intrigued enough by their story that I bought it a couple days later! The way the family relates to one another, and the shared past of living in foster care, makes for an engaging and entertaining story.

This book gets three flames because the sex is pretty spicy, but it’s not overly-raunchy.  This is definitely a true romance novel and not a romance-erotic novel, so it’s certainly steamy but not as explicit as the latter category tends to be.

I’m giving this book four stars because, as I’ve just said, it has a lot going for it.  The reason it’s not getting five stars is because, while the characters and writing are awesome, the plot dragged at points and didn’t grip me the whole way through. By contrast, when I read Playing With Fire, I couldn’t put it down!  Part of that may have been personal preference– I found powerful and passionate Eli a more compelling hero than stoic Wyatt, so readers who like the “strong and silent” type may connect more with this book.  Overall, though, Meader crafts a fun and feisty story, with dynamic characters that feel like real, genuine people. I highly recommend this book.

katemeaderAbout the Author:

Kate Meader was raised on romance. An Irish girl, she started with Catherine Cookson and Jilly Cooper novels, and spiced it up with some Mills & Boon. Now based in Chicago, she writes romances of her own, where sexy contemporary alpha heroes and strong heroines match each other quip for quip. When not immersed in tales of brooding mill owners, oversexed equestrians, and men who can rock an apron or a fire hose, Kate lives on the web at katemeader.com.

 

Review: The Bachelor Auction

vandyken_thebachelorauction_ebookThe Bachelor Auction
Rachel Van Dyken
October 4, 2016
($4.99 ebook)

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Once upon a time, there was a poor, kind-hearted girl who spent her days caring for her terrible, ungrateful sisters.  One night, when she least expected it, the girl was swept off her feet (and out of her shoes) by a rich, handsome man, with whom she (eventually) lived happily ever after.

If this story sounds familiar to you, it’s not a coincidence.  It is not, however, the story of Cinderella.  Except, well, it kind of is.  Say what?  Keep reading!

Rachel Van Dyken’s The Bachelor Auction is a modern-day take on the classic fairytale. In her version, Jane (Cinderella), the owner of a cleaning business, meets Brock (Prince Charming), a bajillionaire CEO, at a dance club (the royal ball).  When Jane is knocked to the floor of the club by her drunken sisters, tearing her dress and losing her necklace and shoes in the process, Brock sweeps her into his arms and out of the fray.  This heroic gesture becomes the stuff of Jane’s many fantasies— and, before long, her everyday reality— as she and Brock fall head over heels in love despite their many differences.

The book has its appealing aspects—both a hero and a heroine who are decent, caring people; a billionaire/regular girl fantasy come true; and love scenes that go beyond chaste Disney-style kisses.  The prose is good, and there’s a fair amount of humor that really adds some fun.  That said, I largely found myself unenchanted with this 21st century version of one of my favorite fairytales.  The obstacles that keep the couple apart and the entire bachelor auction gimmick around which the book is structured felt far too contrived.  I liked that part of the story was focused on Jane and Brock learning to set healthy boundaries with their families and the ghosts of their pasts, but I couldn’t get past how annoying the lack of boundaries was in the first place!  I felt like most of the problems that drove the plot could’ve been solved with one straight-forward conversation that none of the characters were willing to have.  All this would be forgiven, of course, if the sex scenes had gotten my glasses even a little bit steamy.  Alas, they did not.

This book didn’t capture my heart, but I do know others who have liked it very much, and suspect that romance readers who really love modern takes on classic tales would appreciate Van Dyken’s version.  I would recommend it to any such readers, as well as those who like a read for humor (one of the book’s strong suits).

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Rachel Van Dyken is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today Bestselling author of regency and contemporary romances. When she’s not writing you can find her drinking coffee at Starbucks and plotting her next book while watching The Bachelor.  She keeps her home in Idaho with her Husband, adorable son, and two snoring boxers! She loves to hear from readers!

Review: The Virgin Intern by Penny Wylder

wylder-internThe Virgin Intern

Peggy Wylder

September 12, 2016

(ebook: 99 cents; free on Kindle Unlimited)

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In The Virgin Intern Peggy Wylder delivers just what one might expect of a book about, well, a virgin intern: an office romance about a young, inexperienced woman and the education she gets from her older, more experienced colleague (who just happens to be ridiculously sexy.

The book opens with a provocative scene in which paralegal Naomi’s altercation with a copy machine leads to her first (very memorable!) interaction with senior partner Andrew.  There’s spilled ink and borrowed handkerchiefs and all kinds of sexually suggestive conversation.  Andrew instantly becomes the lead star of Naomi’s fantasies, but as a brand new (and seriously cash trapped) employee in her uncle’s law firm, Naomi can’t afford to make any mistakes.  As her uncle’s most hated employee, Andrew is definitely off limits.

But, as luck (and very convenient plot structure) would have it, Naomi and Andrew are thrown together on a major case, and their working relationship becomes something altogether more in about three pages.  Their “research” takes them from the bedroom to the pool to Andrew’s swanky office.  By the end of the book, Naomi’s virginity is a thing of the past and her love for Andrew (and his for her) is the basis for an exciting future.

This novella hits many of the right spots for lovers of erotic contemporaries–the sex is hot, hot, hot and a little (or a lot!) on the dirty side.  That said, I wouldn’t recommend it to those who read primarily for plot or character development.  This one is a quick read with good prose that satisfies certain needs, but it isn’t meant for much beyond that.

Review: This Love by Lea Darragh

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Lea Darragh
This Love
Released September 19, 2016
(ebook: $2.40)

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Lea Darragh’s “This Love” is a wonderful story of hope and renewal in the aftermath of terrible loss. When her fiance, Ethan, dies tragically in a crash crash on their wedding day, Emmy (short for Emerson) is broken-hearted. In search of peace and healing (and to escape her handsy brother-in-law), Emmy moves from the big city of Melbourne to a coastal town called Cobbler’s Cove. There she slowly regains her strength and determination to live without Ethan. She begins to put her life back together, renting a cottage and taking an interior design job for a restaurant. She develops close friendships with the restaurant’s owners, Aubrey and Finn; the darkest of her days seem to be behind her. But no one can escape the past, and Emmy’s catches up with her in the form of a famous chef and friend of Finn’s who’s hired to draw patrons to the restaurant. In a cruel twist, Emmy discovers that the chef Jack Archer, the same man who was driving the other car in the accident that took Ethan’s life. Emmy and Jack are forced to confront their pain head on, and along with it, their attraction for each other. Eventually, the loss that could have been an obstacle that tore them apart became a source of profound connection between them, and their love flourishes, offering them both a second chance at a happy life.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Darragh’s prose is really wonderful, especially compared to many recent books that have a feeling of being churned out in a rush. It flows well and has a kind of lyrical, literary quality that one doesn’t often find in genre fiction. Her descriptions of the characters’ experience of grief and guilt is beautifully done and draw the reader into the story with integrity and sensitivity. The characters are well developed and likable, and, despite the painful circumstances, the book is full of hope and the possibilities of life. I was especially impressed with scenes like the one where Emmy and Jack confront one another for the first time. The emotions seem entirely believable, and the characters are vulnerable and compelling. When they finally fall in love the reader is so happy to see them happy. This is how I want to feel at the end of a romance novel, but I often don’t. Only the best romances produce this kind of feeling. Darragh’s romances is definitely one of the best.

I would recommend this book to most romance readers, especially those who are invested in the interior lives and emotions of the characters and who care about the quality of prose. In general, lovers of contemporary and inspirational (though no necessarily religious) romances should be big fans of this book.

Mini-Review: King of Wall Street

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Louise Bay
King of Wall Street
Released August 24, 2016
(ebook: $3.99; Free on Kindle Unlimited!)

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Hello lovely romance readers!  I’m starting a new feature this week: mini-reviews!  I wasn’t necessarily planning to review King of Wall Street, but I was so impressed with it, I can’t resist.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve noticed a huge trend in contemporary romance: a$$hole billionaire dude seduces and eventually shows his softer side to wishy-washy ingenue (thanks, Fifty Shades).  To be clear, I’m definitely not hating on those billionaire alphas– they’re sure fun to read about and the stories are always steamy– but I am a little tired of reading about men who are not terribly likable and women who are…overly-compliant (Granted, I understand that a lot of books in this theme fall under a BDSM umbrella, but I’ve also noticed even when the couples aren’t specifically in some sort of D/S relationship, the alpha-men are ultra bossy and the women are not always the strongest).  A couple weeks ago, I saw promos for King of Wall Street and, despite its pretty unique cover art, figured it would be like the dime-a-dozen business butthead books that are so popular.

Thus, what a refreshing surprise King of Wall Street was!  Louise Bay has taken a common trope and turned it into a compelling, emotional story filled with the best (i.e. sexy) parts of the Fifty Shades and Crossfire series, but upending some of the frustrating cliches of that sub-genre.  Max King, the illustrious hero, is at first blush your typical Wall Street power mogul: he’s arrogant, he’s rude, and he takes no prisoners.  But, throughout the story, Max’s softer side comes out.  He’s dealing with single-fatherhood of a delightful 14 year-old daughter; he has two annoying sisters always meddling in his life; he’s been patronizing the same New York deli for ten years.  There are so many signs of life here!

Even better, Harper Jayne is a heroine I can get behind.  She’s smart, she’s successful, she’s sassy, and she stands up for herself!  How awesome it is to read about a heroine in one of these billionaire books who isn’t a wet blanket!  She totally fits the model for our favorite types of heroines.

King of Wall Street is a lot of fun.  The characters are engaging, the story is light-hearted, with just enough obstacle to make the romance interesting.  I’d recommend this book to fans of Fifty Shades, the Crossfire series, or some of Maya Banks’ series, especially if you like reading about office romances and alpha-men, but aren’t necessarily looking for the heavy emotional baggage a lot of the characters in those books tend to carry.  Also, this book is FREE on Kindle Unlimited and it’s definitely worth a read if you’re a subscriber!

Review: With Every Breath by Maya Banks

w-every-breathMaya Banks
With Every Breath
Published August 23, 2016
($24.99 hardback, $7.99 ebook)
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What do you get when two heavily armed and super sexy security professionals team up to take down a very bad bad guy?

Explosive chemistry!

Get it?! Explosive?!  (I know, so bad! I’m sorry.)

Terrible jokes aside, the chemistry is indeed explosive in Maya Banks’ With Every Breath, the fourth book in her Slow Burn series. The story begins with a terrible phone call: the man who nearly ruined Eliza Cummings’ life—and her sanity—is being released from prison on a technicality. As a teenager Eliza was tricked into falling in love with Thomas, a rich, handsome man who also happened to be a mind-reading, will-bending psychopath. Unbeknownst to Eliza, Thomas had spent years kidnapping women, torturing them in the basement of the house she hoped to someday call home. When Eliza discovered the truth, she turned Thomas over to the police and later played a central role in the trial that put him in prison for life. Until, that is, Thomas bribes and intimidates his way back onto the streets.

Eliza knows that with Thomas out of prison, there’s no way that she can protect the people she loves—her co-workers and friends at the Devereux Security Agency—unless she destroys Thomas … and herself in the process. She leaves a note for her beloved colleagues and prepares to leave town. Continue reading

2 Devoted Readers Seeking Perfect Romance Heroine

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2 DR’s (Devoted  Readers) seek PRH (Perfect Romance Heroine) for LLA (Lifetime of Literary Adoration).

PRH must possess each the 6 following criteria.*, **  All others need not apply.

*Willing to accept 5 out of 6 under certain–very rare!–circumstances, such as: the heroine is too smart to be funny, too funny to be smart, or too independent to have character.  Please write back to inquire if you meet the requirements for an exception.

 1: Brains

There’s no denying it: we misses…errr, DR’s!…love a lady with intellect.  And who doesn’t?  (Not anyone we want to be friends with, that’s for sure!)  Whether she’s a Regency Duchess or an antebellum belle, we want our heroines to excel in the smarts department.  She doesn’t necessarily have to be a book nerd, or a nerd at all; intelligence comes in many forms, and we’re open to them all (a botanist? An engineer? A polyglot? An artist? A people person? All great!).  There’s nothing we admire more than a woman with brains, and that’s especially true for someone whose Happily Ever After we’re planning to hope for from page one.

2: Beauty

It’s true, our heroine must be beautiful.  That doesn’t mean, however, that she has to look like Connie Britton as Mrs. Coach Taylor in Friday Night Lights (though this rare kind of shiny golden Southern bombshell angel beauty is always welcome).  Instead, beauty (like intelligence) has a wide range of definitions.  The heroine can be short or tall, curvy or slender, pale or tan, blonde or brunette or redhead.  The important thing is that she has an inner light that the hero finds alluring and that, as he gets to know her, he simply can’t resist.  We want the heroine to be exactly the hero’s type, no matter what that type is, and we want their chemistry to singe the sheets! Continue reading

Release: The Protector

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Jodi Ellen Malpas’ new book The Protector releases today.  To be honest, we haven’t read it yet (top of the TBR list), but we are OBSESSED with the cover art of this book.  flameflameflameflameflame

Lola remarked to Elinor that it reminded her of The Bodyguard.  Elinor agreed, but thought The Protector was even sexier because the girl isn’t wearing poor Whitney Houston’s uncomfortable-looking leather getup.  Either way, the branding for this book is totally on point: sexy imaging, movie-poster style cover design, reminiscent of a classic.  Way to work it, Jodi Ellen Malpas.  And now we’re going to have “I Will Always Love You” stuck in our head all day 😉

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Review: Every Yesterday by Nancy Naigle

51ZEjMq-SnLNancy Naigle
Every Yesterday
Release: August 30, 2016
(paperback $9.98; e-book $4.99; free on Kindle Unlimited)
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In Every Yesterday, Nancy Naigle returns to the fictional North Carolina town Boot Creek.  Naigle’s new release (published August 30) is chock-full of sleepy Southern charm.  Naigle deftly creates a world where the tea is sweet, the humidity is heavy, and the ties that bind are unbreakable.  Independent Megan meets interminable bachelor Noah when they are paired as maid of honor and best man in their friends’ wedding.  Bonding over a love of old cars and the baggage they both carry, Megan and Noah find love despite their mutual reticence.

Continue reading