Thursday, August 21, 2014

Review: The Best Kind of Trouble (Hurley Brothers #1) by Lauren Dane

She has complete control… and he's determined to take it away

A librarian in the small town of Hood River, Natalie Clayton's world is very nearly perfect. After a turbulent childhood and her once-wild ways, life is now under control. But trouble has a way of turning up unexpectedly—especially in the tall, charismatically sexy form of Paddy Hurley….

And Paddy is the kind of trouble that Natalie has a taste for.

Even after years of the rock and roll lifestyle, Paddy never forgot the two wickedly hot weeks he once shared with Natalie. Now he wants more… even if it means tempting Natalie and her iron-grip control. But there's a fine line between well-behaved and misbehaved—and the only compromise is between the sheets!

Natalie Clayton, a small town librarian and Paddy Hurley, a member of a successful rock band with his brothers, hooked up years ago for 2 weeks that neither of them have ever forgotten. Natalie isn’t that same person anymore and she’s worked hard to leave that wild, partying girl behind and takes her job and quiet life very seriously. She’s cut out people from her life who have dragged her down, mainly her own family, and she’s surrounded herself with good, close friends and is happy. The last thing she wants to do is upset this life she’s made by letting Paddy come crashing back into it. He’s still recording music, still in the public spotlight and she’s not interested in being a part of that life anymore. Paddy has other ideas though and wants one date with Natalie. And she makes him work for it, which is always fun to see play out!

There’s something about Natalie that helps to ground Paddy. The only other person who’s been able to do that is his older brother Ezra. Paddy isn’t one to take no for answer, so he shows up at the coffee shop that Natalie hits every morning and doesn’t let up until she gives him a chance. They start things out slow and I liked seeing their relationship progress. There are some nice moments between not only them as a couple, but plenty of scenes with Paddy’s rock n’ roll brothers and Nat’s friends as well.

Lauren Dane always brings the sexy to her books and Nat and Paddy are no exception. For as much as I enjoyed their romance, there were a few things that bugged me. There’s a lot of talk about button pushing and how it relates to Natalie fitting into Paddy’s world and his public persona with his fans. It also relates to Paddy needing to be needed by Natalie. So of course with all this talk, someone’s button get pushed causing a big angst filled fight between Paddy and Natalie. And the whole scene surrounding this fight just didn’t work for me at all. It almost felt like Paddy’s reaction came out of nowhere and his argument just didn’t make sense and even felt out of character. Unfortunately, this comes at the end so it soured my feelings on the story being left with this fight so close to the HEA, which of course we get.

The supporting cast is well done and I really enjoyed getting to know the Hurley brothers and look forward to more from them. Their stories are built up nicely and I’m anxious to get to know them as well as Nat’s best friend Tuesday as the series progresses.

While I did like the majority of The Best Kind of Trouble, there were a few things that I didn’t necessarily enjoy and it took away from the story a little bit for me. But I’m a sucker for a series centered around brothers, so I’ll be checking out the next book as I did really enjoy getting to know all the Hurley’s.

Rating: C+

Release Date: August 26, 2014
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Lauren Dane: Webpage | Facebook | Twitter
Buy Here: | B&N
*eARC provided by publisher for review* 


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Review: Heroes Are My Weakness by Susan Elizabeth Phillips

The dead of winter.

An isolated island off the coast of Maine.

A man.

A woman.

A sinister house looming over the sea ...

He's a reclusive writer whose macabre imagination creates chilling horror novels. She's a down-on-her-luck actress reduced to staging kids' puppet shows. He knows a dozen ways to kill with his bare hands. She knows a dozen ways to kill with laughs.

But she's not laughing now. When she was a teenager, he terrified her. Now they're trapped together on a snowy island off the coast of Maine. Is he the villain she remembers or has he changed? Her head says no. Her heart says yes.

It's going to be a long, hot winter.

We open with Annie, who is trying to find her “legacy” at her late mother’s home on Peregrine Island. She doesn’t expect to run into Theo Harp, a man who as a young boy made Annie’s life a living hell and almost killed her. He now writes grisly horror novels (which fits his personality according to Annie) and he’s staying at the Harp House near the cottage of Annie’s mother. Theo’s twin sister, Regan, had been a close friend of Annie’s growing up but Regan’s death followed by Theo’s wife killing herself has all added to Annie’s belief that Theo is unstable and she wants to stay far, far away from him. Yeah right. There’s much more to Theo and their past together than Annie realizes, and not everything is the way she believed it to be. As the truth comes out, her feelings for Theo change no matter how hard she tries to fight it.

Annie was a struggling actress for years and has since starting using puppets and being a ventriloquist as a way to pay the bills. Because of this, she often thinks in the voices of her puppet’s personalities that she’s created. This…is annoying. I know it’s supposed to be charming and a way to get into Annie’s head a little bit as each of the puppets plays on her thoughts and emotions, but it came off as Annie just having multiple personalities, it was annoying and didn’t read all that smoothly. This is especially bad in the beginning when almost all of the conversations on page are between Annie and her puppets. Thankfully, as Annie starts to meet people and get more involved with Theo, her talks with her puppets dies down, although not completely.

I found Theo’s story and history to be the most interesting piece of this book and really would have liked more to have been told from his point of view. He’s misunderstood, but he keeps the truth about so many things hidden, playing on his psycho/bad guy persona that people have labeled him with. He’s on the island temporarily to try and finish his next book and he’s not having much luck. Instead he finds himself drawn back to Annie and acting as the island’s medical expert even though he’s only qualified as an EMT. Annie’s influence brings life back to Theo and he goes from an anti-social grump, to a man who finally has a ton of weight lifted off his shoulders when he’s able to let some things out.

There’s a small suspense storyline surrounding someone trying to force Annie off the island. I wasn’t able to really get into that portion of the story. I like that it served to bring Theo and Annie closer together, but the resolution to this storyline felt a bit weak and easy.

I struggled with the romance. There was a big lack of chemistry on page between these two, especially in the bedroom and it’s unfortunate because I know Susan Elizabeth Phillips can bring it for her couples, and it just was a letdown here. Their first time having sex almost seemed to come out of the blue, one sentence they’re kissing, the next BAM, on the floor having sex and fade to black. In general, I was left wanting a lot more not only when it came to their romance, but the relationship in general. I just never bought into them as a couple in love with each other.

I was ultimately letdown with this story. I enjoyed Theo and seeing his progression on page. Annie has some fun, quirky moments, but it wasn’t enough for me to fall in love with her or them as a couple. The first half of the book was struggle to get through as the pace felt incredibly slow. The second half picks it up a bit, especially when more about Theo comes out, but it ended up being a book that was easy to put down.

Rating: C-

Release Date: August 26, 2014
Publisher: HarperCollins
Susan Elizabeth Phillips: Webpage | Facebook | Twitter
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*eARC provided by publisher for review* 


Friday, August 15, 2014

Review: Across the Line (In the Zone #2) by Kate Willoughby

Calder Griffin needs to get back in shape. Sidelined last season by a knee injury, he's determined to return to the San Diego Barracudas and play the best hockey of his career. This might even be the year he gets out of his talented older brother's shadow.

For months, Becca Chen has poured her energy into Cups, the restaurant she owns, desperate to prove to her parents that she can succeed in the career of her choice, not theirs. But after she spends a five-hour plane ride flirting with charming, magic-on-the-ice Calder, she tells herself she needs a fling.

Becca and Calder can't keep their hands off each other, but they know the relationship can't last. They live on opposite coasts, and they're both too devoted to their careers. All they have to do is prevent their feelings from crossing the line from lust to love…

What stood out most about Across the Line was the romance; it’s a very sweet romance and I liked that it felt like Calder and Becca dealt with real-life issues. There’s nothing overly dramatic or forced about what they go through. But they do have some things to work out and it came across as real as (I assume) dating an NHL player can be!

We follow Calder and Becca through their first meeting on a plane when they realize that they actually went to school together, but it wasn’t a great trip down memory lane. Becca was teased when she was younger and Calder was a part of that. But he’s determined to get to know her and finds reasons to be around her. They do the long distance thing but after a devastating fire changes the direction of Becca’s life, she makes a leap and throws herself into their relationship, fully committed.

I liked how the story and the series in general, focuses on the couple and their issues with making their relationship work. There’s no outside angst, no other parties influencing them, it’s just about the couple, in this case Calder and Becca, trying to mesh their lives to make it work. And it’s hard. There are bumps along the way and in Becca’s case, some eye opening she needs to do on her end. I did find both Calder and Becca to come across a bit immature in some scenes. It was a combination of their actions and dialogue but it came off a bit ‘young’ on page.

That said, Calder is a sweet hero. I like seeing both sides of him, the personal where he’s trying to make a relationship with Becca work, both long distance and when she moves to the west coast to be with him full time and his professional side. Not only his being an NHL player and coming back from an injury, but having to share the ice alongside his brother, a man he butts heads with more times than not. That actually ended up being a really interesting dynamic to see play out, especially when it’s clear that Calder doesn’t know his older brother at all.

While Calder and Becca may not have grabbed me as hard and fast as Tim and Erin did in book 1 of this series, On the Surface, I still enjoyed their romance and seeing their relationship grow. I like what Kate Willoughby’s bringing with this series and look forward to seeing what’s next.

Rating: B

Release Date: August 11, 2014
Publisher: Carina Press
Kate Willoughby: Webpage | Twitter
Buy Here: | B&N
*eARC provided by publisher for review* 


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Review: Bound to Danger (Deadly Ops #2) by Katie Reus

At a benefit dinner, community activist Maria Cervantes overhears two men plotting a terrorist attack that could rock Miami to its core. But before she can alert authorities, she’s almost killed in a massive explosion—and wakes up in a hospital with no memory of what happened. As the sole survivor of the attack, she is now a person of interest to the NSA—and especially to Agent Cade O’Reilly. Because Maria is the one woman Cade has never been able to forget.

Years ago, they were closer than either was willing to admit—until Cade disappeared when Maria needed him most. Now he’s sticking by her, whether she likes it or not. Because the memories locked inside her mind could hold vital clues to the next attack. Because terrorists want her dead—and because he never wants to let her go again.

Maria Cervantes overhears dangerous information about future plans of attack in Miami just moments before the building she’s in explodes. She’s the only survivor and she has no memory of what happened just before the explosion. Cade O’Reilly, working for the NSA, takes her on as his own mission when she comes up on their interest list. Their past romantic history is something he’s never forgotten even though he pushed her away years ago after her brother’s death overseas.

Cade served with Maria’s brother, he spent time at their family home and he and Maria became closer as they corresponded via letters and emails when he was overseas. Then after her brother is killed, Cade feels guilty and so he pulls away, hurting Maria badly. Now he’s back, Maria’s in trouble and Cade can’t let anyone else watch her. Old feelings come back to the surface and Maria is going to get some answers about Cade’s behavior while trying to protect her heart.

Maria and Cade’s romance was overall good, even if it is a bit predictable, but it’s sweet none the less. I liked the inclusion of the emails they sent to each other years ago. It adds a nice layer to their history and helps build up a basis for the relationship they once had and where they’re heading now. The resolution to the angst of Cade being so certain that Maria would hate him after hearing how her brother died and how it was all his fault felt really rushed at the end. It was a major issue for Cade throughout the whole story and it was the reason he pulled away from her to begin with and it ends up being resolved in just a few pages. It seemed like maybe there was going to be more to that storyline, more drama or something but it ended up being a bit anticlimactic.

The suspense storyline surrounding the terrorist threats was a bit weak. The bad guys were actually doing a good service (ok, killing isn’t good but I guess I was able to easily understand their reasons) ridding Miami of a circle of men who were running a sex slave ring. It’s hard to feel like the bad guys should pay when they’re getting rid of scum, but ok, they shouldn’t be planning various terrorist attacks and taking matters into their own hands.

Bound to Danger falls into the good read category: I liked the characters, I generally liked the story and the romance was nice. But there was nothing that reached out and grabbed me about this story. It’s a fine read but I can’t say that after finishing I was left anxiously waiting for the next book in the series.

Rating: C

Release Date: August 5, 2014
Publisher: Signet
Katie Reus: Webpage | Facebook | Twitter
Buy Here: | B&N
*eARC provided by publisher for review* 


Monday, August 11, 2014

Review: Lay It Down (Desert Dogs #1) by Cara McKenna

Backbreaking days, wild nights, and the hard hum of steel between your thighs...

That’s a life well lived, according to the Desert Dogs—four friends who call Fortuity, Nevada, their badlands home.

Vince Grossier is the self-crowned outlaw king around here. But when Fortuity’s slick new mayor invites a casino development to town, greed isn’t far behind—and it claims Vince’s good friend as its first casualty. With the law turning a blind eye to the mysterious death, Vince must seek his own brand of justice. The pretty photographer hired by the developers might be the key to uncovering the truth. And she’s a temptation too good to pass up.

Finally free of a controlling ex, Kim Paget’s not looking to be taken for a ride—not on the back of some tattooed roughneck’s bike and definitely not in his bed. But when she uncovers evidence supporting Vince’s suspicions of murder, Kim must entrust her safety to a man whose body threatens danger of a whole different kind.

Vince is trouble with a capital T. He’s been in jail, he’s on parole, he’s the guy who trouble just seems to find. He works odd jobs, some questionable, he takes care of his mother, and he’s used to people leaving him. People including his brother and his father, no one seems to stick around. And then Kim comes to town. She’s been hired to take photographs of the town for the new casino that’s being built, much to the local’s disapproval. No one wants a big, fancy casino coming in and ruining the small town, simple life these people are used to, but construction has started and with it has come a murder mystery that jumpstarts the book and this series. Vince’s best friend is killed in an apparent drunk driving accident, but Vince isn’t convinced and he’s certain there’s more to his friend’s death, especially considering the phone call Alex made to him just hours before his death. He mentions seeing bones at the construction site and Vince starts to dig deeper into Alex’s comments and what’s uncovered is more than anyone expected, especially when Vince’s suspicions are confirmed when it’s clear that Alex was murdered. The book sets up a series storyline surrounding the murderers and what exactly they’re covering up.

Kim ends up sticking around because of a vision that Vince’s mom has. She’s not quite all “there”, but for years she’s had visions that have come true and Vince has no reason to doubt her latest one about the role Kim will play in finding out what really happened to Alex. Kim just ended a long term relationship and wants to let loose a little bit and have some fun. Fun as in – Vince. He’s not at all her type but they’re attracted to each other and get close pretty quickly. I found Kim to be very likable. She’s trying to find something in her life, a purpose or direction. Currently she has no apartment, she’s drifting but she finds a place she really likes in this small town of Fortuity. And she wants to do something for herself for a change and that includes taking a chance on Vince.

I liked the progress of the relationship between Kim and Vince. They’re sexy, always a must have and I especially liked the place we leave them. They definitely get their happily ever after, but it’s not fast tracked for the sake of wrapping things up in a nice neat bow. It makes sense for them and I’m already looking forward to updates for them in the books to come.

I found myself unexpectedly intrigued by out of towner Duncan Welch and local girl Raina. Welch is initially in town working for the development company that’s building the casino, so he’s loyalty is definitely up the air at the start. Even though we get to know him better as the story progresses, I feel like there’s still so much we don’t know about this man. I have no idea if he’ll play a role in future books, I really hope so because there was some serious sparkage between Welch and Raina. I’ll be curious to see if Cara McKenna takes their storyline further or if she has a different plan for Raina and hopefully Welch.

I enjoyed Lay it Down. It’s a nice blend of sexy romance and suspense that kept me intrigued throughout. The main storyline is still ongoing and in the end we have the start of the Desert Dogs, best friends that are back in Fortuity and will be a force to be reckoned with.

Rating: B

Release Date: August 5, 2014
Publisher: Signet
Cara McKenna: Webpage | Twitter
Buy Here: | B&N
*eARC provided by publisher for review* 


Thursday, August 7, 2014

Review: Truly (New York #1) by Ruthie Knox

RITA finalist and USA Today bestselling author Ruthie Knox kicks off a steamy new series set in the city that never sleeps—alone, at least.

May Fredericks hates New York. Which is fair enough, since New York seems to hate her back. After relocating to Manhattan from the Midwest to be with her long-distance boyfriend, NFL quarterback Thor Einarsson, May receives the world’s worst marriage proposal, stabs the jerk with a shrimp fork, and storms off alone—only to get mugged. Now she’s got no phone, no cash, and no friends. How’s a nice girl supposed to get back to safe, sensible Wisconsin?

Frankly, Ben Hausman couldn’t care less. Sure, it’s not every day he meets a genuine, down-to-earth woman like May—especially in a dive in the Village—but he’s recovering from an ugly divorce that cost him his restaurant. He wants to be left alone to start over and become a better man. Then again, playing the white knight to May’s sexy damsel in distress would be an excellent place to start—if only he can give her one very good reason to love New York.

My first thought after finishing this story was, I couldn’t remember the last time I laughed this much during a book and then thought, it was probably the last time I read a Ruthie Knox story. Knox has a way of bringing humorous dialogue alive on page and in Truly, she does it again.

May Fredericks is at her lowest point when we first meet her. Everything in her life is in the toilet and I loved seeing her transform throughout the story into the person SHE wants to be without all the voices in her head (family and her own) telling her differently – she does all this with help from Ben Hausman.

Oh Ben. What a grumpy, angry hero – at first. He didn’t have the best role model growing up with his equally angry father and pursuing a career as a chef in heated kitchens, in more ways than one, didn’t help his anger. Plus having a marriage end in a nasty divorce in which he lost his restaurant and can’t open another one in New York for two years (after signing a non-compete agreement) has left him a bitter beekeeper. Yes, a New York beekeeper. After a random meeting in a Packers bar, Ben meets May and while it’s certainly not love at first sight, Ben’s intrigued enough to extend a helping hand to May, who needs all the help she can get.

After being proposed to by her NFL playing boyfriend and being so frustrated and frankly, pissed, at his horrible proposal, May forks him. I loved this woman right at that moment. She takes a fork and stabs him in the hand before declining his proposal. She leaves him a breakup note in their apartment but is then mugged on the street and has no way to get home to Wisconsin at the start of Labor Day weekend with only $5 in her pocket. So, she buys herself a beer in the Packers bar, hoping to find a nice Packer fan to help a fellow Packer fan out. She instead meets Ben, who’s as far from nice as a guy can get, but he decides to try and be nice for a change and uses May as his test subject in a way. He offers her his couch to sleep on and after finding out that she never really got to experience New York, he offers to show her the sites over the holiday weekend since she can’t get ahold of her family until they return from spending the long weekend in their remote cabin. She agrees and their relationship begins.

Ben grinned. He stroked his hand over her stomach. “You’re fun, you know that?”

“I’m dying. This is actually killing me. In a minute, I’ll be dead.”

“You’re doing great. What else? What’s it take to make you come?”

She looked at the ceiling again, and he gently took her face in his hand and turned it toward him. “Look at me,” he said.

“Honestly? It doesn’t take that much.” (…)

Ben grinned again. “You know,” he said slowly, “you’re a really intriguing mix of prude and pervert.”

Both May and Ben are so likable, even when they’re being difficult (mostly on Ben’s side). I liked seeing how these two people were able to open the other person’s eyes and actually see them. They just click, there’s no other way to put it and even though their relationship takes place over the course of about a week, it flowed so well and it felt like they’d known each other longer. Seeing May start to do things for herself, dress how she wanted to, and not letting Ben get away with being a grump, especially when he would say angry things, that weren’t because of her but she took the brunt of because she was an easy target, she comes into her own and realizes that she can do anything she wants. It’s freeing and Ben loves seeing this side of her.

For Ben, he hasn’t dealt with his anger very well, most of it stemming from his past, specifically his father and growing up dealing with his dad’s general anger and never being good enough. Ben’s not “cured” by any means, but after facing some ghosts from his past, you can tell the weight has been lifted off his shoulders and he’s on a much better path, especially with May by his side.

Truly is just delightful, that’s the best way to describe this story and I enjoyed it start to finish. I laughed, I wanted to punch a few characters, I giggled with glee at a Seahawks/Packers/Replacement Ref reference that not many might get, but this Hawks fan sure did (!) and I love that May forked her ex-boyfriend. I also really enjoyed Allie, May’s sister, especially a drunk and hung over Allie. The characters come alive on page and it’s a thoroughly entertaining read.

Rating: B+

Release Date: August 5, 2014
Publisher: Loveswept
Ruthie Knox: Webpage | Facebook | Twitter
Buy Here: | B&N
*eARC provided by publisher for review* 


Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Review: Hillbilly Rockstar (Blacktop Cowboys #6) by Lorelei James

She’s protecting his body and guarding her heart...

Country music star Devin McClain understands there’s a downside to life in the public eye, but the laidback Wyoming cowboy has never imagined he’d attract crazed fans who would do anything to garner his attention. When veiled threats become real, he agrees to hire a discreet security detail. But Devin is shocked when that bodyguard is a hard-bodied woman. He’s even more stunned to be attracted to the steely-eyed stunner.

Former soldier Liberty Masterson’s return to civilian life has been wrought with challenges until she lands a job with a prestigious security firm. But when she agrees to provide personal protection during a cross-country tour, she doesn’t realize she has signed up to masquerade as the playboy star’s girlfriend. Though she’s more comfortable in combat boots than high heels, she has no choice but to appear to be the sexy groupie Devin prefers.

Living in close quarters causes the chemistry between them to ignite, and Devin realizes he wants to turn their charade of a romance into reality. Although Liberty surrenders to his every whim behind closed doors, she fears the sexy country star doesn’t see the real her; and Devin can’t help but worry when the tour ends that there might not be enough between them to build something that won’t fade away...
“You know how wired I am after I walk offstage. For the past three weeks, since I’ve just said no to groupies” – he [Devin] bestowed that megawatt smile – “I’ve been punishing myself, takin’ cold showers or doin’ sit-ups and push-ups until I wanna puke. But tonight – and every night from here on out – no more punishment. I’m gonna get what I want.”

“Which is what?”

“You. In every dirty, raunchy scenario I’ve fantasized about.”
Singer Devin McClain has had a few scary encounters and with a new tour coming up, he’s being forced into having tighter security, including a personal bodyguard. He’s not thrilled to say the least, he likes his private time and that includes being alone on his own tour bus. But the people behind the money backing the tour won’t take no for an answer and Devin’s new bodyguard is Liberty, a veteran who’s working security now and taking on her first big assignment with Devin. The only problem (ok, one of many problems) is Devin wants his security to blend in and Liberty is as far from looking and acting like one of Devin’s groupies as you can get. After a quick makeover, she fits in well at his side, but Devin wants her closer than that.

I ended up really enjoying both Liberty and Devin. For Liberty, sure she did her makeover to fit in more with Devin’s camp, but she never changed who she was deep down. She’s a solider and she takes her bodyguard position very seriously and above all else her number one priority was Devin safe. It was a great switch, seeing this tough heroine be willing to step in front of Devin when threats come at him. But there’s never a doubt she can handle anything thrown at her. Where she did change a little was emotionally. She lets herself be vulnerable to Devin, but only in the bedroom and he wears her down in the best and sexiest way possible. She’s up for anything, and so is he – sexy!!

Devin is a sweet guy who, even though he knows he’s lucky to have the life he does, longs for a home and quiet and someone to go home to – things he never really thought hard about making a reality until Liberty. I really enjoyed seeing the musical side to Devin come out, there are some fun scenes that take place during his shows and it lends a little different feel than the previous books. Sure Devin is still country, but it was nice to have the story take place in a location other than a ranch or small town.

There’s something about James’s writing that pulls me in so easily and Hillbilly Rockstar was no exception. From the start, the characters were engaging and I found myself caring right away about them and where things were going. I love that. I love anytime a book can hook me in quick and I felt that here.

The relationship between Devin and Liberty is sweet and their romance is just hot. They’re able to open up with each other in ways they haven’t before. Devin has a hard time letting people get close since most of them just see Devin, country singer superstar. But to Liberty, he’s just Devin and he loves that. Liberty also helps him find his way back to his family, after a tragic loss years ago drove a wedge between him and his parents and sister. It was smaller moments like that that added great layers to the story and made it about more than just Liberty and Devin getting together.

Hillbilly Rockstar was very enjoyable, I was quickly caught up in the story and while it was super easy to fall in love with the sexy singer Devin McClain, I fell just as hard for Liberty – a tough kickass heroine who was the perfect match for Devin.

Rating: B

Release Date: August 5, 2014
Publisher: NAL
Lorelei James: Webpage | Facebook | Twitter
Buy Here: | B&N
*eARC provided by publisher for review* 

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