Genre: Fiction

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Diamond Fire – Ilona Andrews 4 stars

November 5, 2018 Uncategorized 2

Diamond Fire – Ilona Andrews 4 starsDiamond Fire by Ilona Andrews
Published by HarperCollins on November 6, 2018
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Paranormal, General, Fantasy
Pages: 384
Goodreads

Nevada Frida Baylor and Connor Ander Rogan cordially invite you to join their wedding celebration. Summoning, weather manipulation, and other magical activities strictly forbidden.

Catalina Baylor is looking forward to wearing her maid of honor dress and watching her older sister walk down the aisle.  Then the wedding planner gets escorted off the premises, the bride’s priceless tiara disappears, and Rogan's extensive family overruns his mother’s home.  Someone is cheating, someone is lying, and someone is plotting murder.

To make this wedding happen, Catalina will have to do the thing she fears most: use her magic.  But she’s a Baylor and there’s nothing she wouldn't do for her sister's happiness.  Nevada will have her fairy tale wedding, even if Catalina has to tear the mansion apart brick by brick to get it done.

I don’t think it’s a secret that I love all things Ilona Andrews so Hidden Legacy is no exception.  Not only do I enjoy the hell out of the characters the authors have created, but I also enjoy the concept of the magic world they have created.  Each book exposes us to a new set of powers, many I would have never come up with.

Diamond Fire is the latest installment in the Hidden Legacy world.  It’s an entertaining novella with a whodunit mixed in with what ends up feeling like the dysfunctional family olympics.  When it becomes clear members of Mad Rogan’s family are out to sabotage the wedding between Mad and Nevada, Catalina makes it her mission to make sure that the wedding goes off without a hitch.  As if that wasn’t challenging enough, she has to pull all of that off while making sure her sister has no idea that any of this treachery is taking place.

It was fun to see Catalina in more of a young adult role.  While we still get glimpses of the same vulnerability that stem both from her age and her powers, we also get to see her accept her powers and take the first step into the no doubt powerful woman she will become.  I don’t know about you, but I had never considered how her powers would have affected her childhood.  It gave me an entire new perspective on who Catalina is and why she is scared of using her powers.  It felt as though this novella was positioning Catalina to have her own future stories and I hope that is the case.  The glimpses we got into what her power can do when she exercises made it clear she will be a powerhouse in her own right.  As scared as people are of Nevada’s powers, I can only imagine what their reaction will be to Catalina’s.

The family dysfunction olympics in this book was really something to behold.  It’s a wonder that Mad and his mother are remotely well-adjusted when the rest of those people were such a piece of work.  I guess the good news is, Nevada and her family don’t have to worry that their drama is too much for the Rogan’s.

If you could live in the Hidden Legacy universe, what magic power would you have?

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Kill the Queen, Jennifer Estep 5 stars

October 2, 2018 Boookluvr Reads, Edelweiss 0

Kill the Queen, Jennifer Estep 5 starsKill the Queen by Jennifer Estep
Published by HarperCollins on October 2, 2018
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy, Epic, Romantic, Action & Adventure
Pages: 480
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
five-stars

Gladiator meets Game of Thrones: a royal woman becomes a skilled warrior to destroy her murderous cousin, avenge her family, and save her kingdom in this first entry in a dazzling fantasy epic from the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of the Elemental Assassin series—an enthralling tale that combines magic, murder, intrigue, adventure, and a hint of romance.

In a realm where one’s magical power determines one’s worth, Lady Everleigh’s lack of obvious ability relegates her to the shadows of the royal court of Bellona, a kingdom steeped in gladiator tradition. Seventeenth in line for the throne, Evie is nothing more than a ceremonial fixture, overlooked and mostly forgotten.

But dark forces are at work inside the palace. When her cousin Vasilia, the crown princess, assassinates her mother the queen and takes the throne by force, Evie is also attacked, along with the rest of the royal family. Luckily for Evie, her secret immunity to magic helps her escape the massacre.

Forced into hiding to survive, she falls in with a gladiator troupe. Though they use their talents to entertain and amuse the masses, the gladiators are actually highly trained warriors skilled in the art of war, especially Lucas Sullivan, a powerful magier with secrets of his own. Uncertain of her future—or if she even has one—Evie begins training with the troupe until she can decide her next move.

But as the bloodthirsty Vasilia exerts her power, pushing Bellona to the brink of war, Evie’s fate becomes clear: she must become a fearsome gladiator herself . . . and kill the queen.

I’ve been a fan of Estep’s Elemental Assassin series for years, so when I saw that she had a new fantasy series coming out, I was intrigued.   While I read a lot of PNR/UF series, I hadn’t read much in the Fantasy genre so I wasn’t exactly sure what I was getting into with the Crown of Shards series but I am happy to report that I was very pleasantly surprised.

Crown of Shards envelops the reader into a vivid world where politics and power are center stage.  Being a member of a royal family isn’t everything it’s cracked up to be for Everleigh Blair.  Her parents were assassinated, and after being shuffled in and out of various family member’s homes, she has found herself living at court where she’s discovered that anything and everything will be used against her.  As a result she’s hidden not only her emotions but also her true powers from everyone.

I tremendously enjoyed watching Evie discover her own potential after so many years spent living in a shadow.  It was easy to empathize with her desire to maintain the life she had built for herself when events around her were pushing her back into the world she desperately wanted out of.  I will say that Evie came across as more of a teenager vs an adult well into their 20s.  I’m not sure whether that was intentional and a way to reflect the impact of the life that she had lived or whether that was just my interpretation but it took some mental gymnastics for me to reset.  As a romance reader, I would have loved to have loved it if there would have been more romance in this book.  At one point I thought the relationship with Sullivan and Evie was finally going to turn the corner and give me something to swoon over, but alas I have to wait with my fingers crossed for future books.

Kill the Queen is a wonderful read full of characters and powers that will leave readers counting down the days until another installment in the Crown of Shards series is available.

five-stars

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Hot Winter Nights – Jill Shalvis 4 stars

September 25, 2018 Boookluvr Reads 1

Hot Winter Nights – Jill Shalvis 4 starsHot Winter Nights: Heartbreaker Bay by Jill Shalvis
Published by Headline on September 25, 2018
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary
Pages: 368
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads

Hot Winter Nights is the sixth in New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis's Heartbreaker Bay series, featuring her trademark gift for humour, warmth and romance. Perfect for fans of Jill Mansell, Debbie Macomber, Nora Roberts and Marie Force.

Who needs mistletoe?

Most people wouldn't think of a bad Santa case as the perfect Christmas gift. Then again, Molly Malone, office manager at Hunt Investigations, isn't most people, and she could really use a distraction from the fantasies she's been having since spending the night with her very secret crush, Lucas Knight. Nothing happened, not that Lucas knows that-but Molly just wants to enjoy being a little naughty for once...

Whiskey and pain meds for almost-healed bullet wounds don't mix. Lucas needs to remember that next time he's shot on the job, which may be sooner rather than later if Molly's brother, Joe, finds out about them. Lucas can't believe he's drawing a blank on his (supposedly) passionate tryst with Molly, who's the hottest, smartest, strongest woman he's ever known. Strong enough to kick his butt if she discovers he's been assigned to babysit her on her first case. And hot enough to melt his cold heart this Christmas.

Want more warm, funny romance? Check out the other Heartbreaker Bay novels starting with Sweet Little Lies, visit stunning Wildstone, gorgeous Cedar Ridge, spellbinding Lucky Harbor or experience some Animal Magnetism in Sunshine, Idaho in Jill's other unforgettable series.

The Heartbreaker Bay series is one of my favorite contemporary series.  Yes, part of that is because Jill Shalvis always delivers an HEA that makes me sigh happily at the end but perhaps even more than that is the role that friendship plays in every book.  Heartbreaker Bay goes one step beyond just friendship and straight into a chosen family.  While that doesn’t always make life easier for the characters, it is tremendously satisfying as a reader.

In prior installments of Heartbreaker Bay, we got glimpses of Molly and Lucas that had me hopeful they would get their own book so I was excited when I saw that Hot Winter Nights was centered on them.  While we had learned a lot about Molly’s history About That Kiss, I didn’t remember reading much about Lucas so I wasn’t sure what hurdles they would have to climb to find their HEA.

I loved the ways that Molly found to torment Lucas after he discovered they spent the night together the first time.  She is merciless in letting him believe more happened that night than her taking care of them and when his primary focus is how Joe and Archer will react I was right there with her in continuing that torment.  God save the women from Heartbreaker Bay from alpha men no matter how hot they are.

It was satisfying watching Lucas realize how amazing Molly was in her own right and to see him fight against Joe and Archer  keeping her wrapped in bubble wrap.  About the only thing that could have been more satisfying would have been seeing Lucas in that elf costume ;-).

But perhaps my following thing from this entire story is what Lucas’s mom said to Molly about love:

“I used to think that love was all about red roses and expensive dinners. But the truth is, love is letting your mate steal a piece of bread off your plate. It’s being awoken by snoring and refraining from shoving him out of bed. It’s talking in code and trying to embarrass one another in public. It’s going on adventures and making fun of each other. It’s stupid fights and memorable make-ups.” She squeezed Molly’s hand. “Love isn’t pretty and romantic. You know that, right? Love is just stumbling through life with your best friend.”

I couldn’t agree more!

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A Tall, Dark Cowboy Christmas – Maisey Yates 4 stars

September 23, 2018 Boookluvr Reads, Harlequin 1

A Tall, Dark Cowboy Christmas – Maisey Yates 4 starsA Tall, Dark Cowboy Christmas by Maisey Yates
Published by HQN Books on October 1, 2018
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Western, Holiday, Contemporary
Pages: 384
Source: NetGalley.com
Goodreads
four-stars

It’s Christmas in Gold Valley, and this wounded widower is about to get another shot at love…

Grant Dodge didn’t expect to find a woman sleeping in an abandoned cabin on his family ranch. Or to find her so intriguing. Unlike every other woman in town, McKenna Tate doesn’t know Grant’s a widower. There’s no pity in the looks she gives him. McKenna wants him, and Grant has forgotten what it’s like to feel like a man. A no-strings fling for Christmas might be the kind of holiday cheer Grant needs…

With only a suitcase to her name, McKenna came to Gold Valley to confront her birth father. She didn’t plan to work at the Dodge ranch or fall for the gorgeous cowboy who keeps his heart roped off. But there’s no denying the way their broken pieces fit together. Hope brought her to Gold Valley—but will it be the gift that could finally heal Grant, and McKenna’s own wounded heart?

Also includes a bonus Gold Valley novella, Snowed in with the Cowboy!

Have you ever read a book that you enjoyed and wondered how either you would review it or discuss it with someone else?  A Tall,Dark Cowboy Christmas was like that for me.  There are a few reasons for that which I will explore with you.

First, the fun reason.  Readers of the Gold Valley series have likely been anticipating Grant’s book.  We’ve gotten so many glimpses of him and know his painful background so of course we think we know all there is to know about Grant.  For those of you that haven’t read any of the books in the series yet, Grant married his highschool sweetheart knowing she had a terminal illness, and due to some unwanted media attention he can’t ever escape the imagine of the saintly widower.  Even in the moments where he is able to forget the pain of losing his wife, the well meaning members of the town bring it back up. So like I said, we’ve heard and seen so much of Grant in the other books that we assume we know all there is to know about him.  Well let me tell you, there was a huge reveal in this book and it’s a doozy that I never saw coming.  Here’s the bummer, I can’t tell you about it here even though I REALLY want to.  While I’m not always anti-spoilers when it comes to reviews, I feel like in this case it’s something each reader should come across as the story unfolds.  What I will tell you, is Grant is an even more amazing man than his backstory would lead you to believe.  When you read this book, I’d love to discuss it with you so feel free to pop on over to Twitter and chat with me about it.  (I’m @NE_rom)reader for those of you that don’t already know).

Now for the not so fun reason this review is hard to write.  You see McKenna’s backstory had some elements that mirrored events in my own life.  While that wasn’t readily apparent from the blurb, looking back I realize I should have seen it coming as the story progressed.  You see, McKenna is searching for the paternal side of her family.  They have no idea she exists, so she’s understandably nervous about how they will react whens he approaches them.  I happened to be reading the scene where this reunion took place one morning before getting out of bed to get ready for work and to say that it would rip my heart out unexpectedly would be an understatement.  When Hank turns McKenna away, I was devastated.  I’ve lived that moment, although without someone trying to hand me a check to soften the blow.  I thought I had worked through all of that, but when I read that scene it seemed to pick a scab I didn’t think was still there and I’ll have to figure out what to do with that wound now that it’s feeling raw again.  While it was painful to experience along with McKenna, i think the fact it had such an emotional impact on me as a reader speaks to how well the author described both the event and the associated feelings that McKenna was experiencing.  Luckily for McKenna, thank you romance, she found her HEA so all is well that ends well in Gold Valley.  If only real life followed the same pattern.

If you’re a fan of cowboy romance or holiday romances make sure to pick up A Tall, Dark Cowboy Christmas.  You won’t be disappointed.

four-stars

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Under Control – Shannon Stacey 4 stars

August 29, 2018 Boookluvr Reads 1

Under Control – Shannon Stacey 4 starsUnder Control by Shannon Stacey
Published by Carina Press on September 1, 2018
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, Contemporary Women
Pages: 318
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley.com
Goodreads

“Stacey’s gift for writing easily relatable characters will hook readers and leave them eagerly waiting for the next installment.” —Publishers Weekly

From New York Times bestselling author SHANNON STACEY

Meet the tough, dedicated men of BOSTON FIRE—and the women who turn their lives upside down

When faced with the opportunity to change shifts while staying in the same house, veteran firefighter Derek Gilman jumps at the chance. His new schedule means not working Saturdays, which means more time to spend with his two kids. His divorce may have been amicable, but being a firefighter and a single dad is a lot to juggle. And when fate brings a gorgeous, wealthy woman into his life, he’s pretty sure he can’t handle more than he already is.

Olivia McGovern loves plans. She planned to start her own business and planned its growth. It’s earning her seven figures now, but her personal life simply doesn’t exist. Getting trapped in a broken elevator figures in exactly nowhere, and freaking out in front of a sexy firefighter definitely isn’t on the agenda. Especially not one with two kids and an ex.

What would have been a random incident with an attractive stranger becomes something more when a charity event brings them back together. They’re from different sides of the tracks, literally—with friends, family and careers to consider. But as Derek and Olivia are discovering, chemistry doesn’t allow for plans, and love doesn’t bother with logistics.

Don’t miss the entire Boston Fire series by Shannon Stacey! Heat Exchange, Controlled Burn, Fully Ignited and Hot Response are available now!

Some characters grab you as soon as you dive into a book.  You find yourself immediately invested in their lives, feel their emotions as powerfully as your own and while you don’t want their story to end you can’t help but turn page after page. to find out how their story will turn out.  Derek and Olivia who Under Control is focused on were like that for me.

Derek and Olivia had chemistry from the moment they saw each other and it only intensified as the book went on.  From something as innocent as how Derek rubbed Olivia’s ankle in the elevator when they were trapped, to the first time they were intimate it was hot as hell.  There was an intensity to every interaction between them combined with an emotional connection that took each of those moments beyond just the physical (which was hot as hell on it’s own).

Both Derek and Olivia’s situations were something I think most readers could relate to.  Olivia finds security in her routine and plans is so caught up in doing everything exactly as it’s scheduled forgets that the best things in life can’t be planned.  Derek is so convinced that he and his kids don’t fit in Olivia’s world that he sees problems where they aren’t any which in the end becomes a bit of a self-fulfilling prophecy.  In the end my heart ached for each of them because I knew without a doubt they loved each other if they could just take that final step and get out of their own way.

I adored the role that Derek’s ex-wife Amber played in this story.  Without giving any spoilers because it’s a scene you should be able to experience yourself, I cracked up at a certain scene here Amber showed up at Derek’s house.  I’m not sure who I was more mortified for!  Beyond that entertaining scene, I loved that not only did Derek and Amber have an awesome relationship, but Amber was the one to call Derek out on his BS in a way that nobody else would have been able to.  Props to Shannon Stacey on giving us a former couple that we could actually see being friends.

Bottom line, if you like sexy firefighters and a delightfully sexy story, Under Control should be on your TBR pile.

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Magic Triumphs – Ilona Andrews 5 stars

August 28, 2018 Ace, Boookluvr Reads 2

Magic Triumphs – Ilona Andrews 5 starsMagic Triumphs by Ilona Andrews
Published by Penguin on August 28, 2018
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy, Urban, Romance, Paranormal, General, Action & Adventure
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley.com
Goodreads

Mercenary Kate Daniels must risk all to protect everything she holds dear in this epic, can't-miss entry in the thrilling #1 New York Times bestselling urban fantasy series.

Kate has come a long way from her origins as a loner taking care of paranormal problems in post-Shift Atlanta. She's made friends and enemies. She's found love and started a family with Curran Lennart, the former Beast Lord. But her magic is too strong for the power players of the world to let her be.

Kate and her father, Roland, currently have an uneasy truce, but when he starts testing her defenses again, she knows that sooner or later, a confrontation is inevitable. The Witch Oracle has begun seeing visions of blood, fire, and human bones. And when a mysterious box is delivered to Kate's doorstep, a threat of war from the ancient enemy who nearly destroyed her family, she knows their time is up.

Kate Daniels sees no other choice but to combine forces with the unlikeliest of allies. She knows betrayal is inevitable. She knows she may not survive the coming battle. But she has to try.

For her child.

For Atlanta.

For the world.

I don’t think I can possibly review Magic Triumphs without telling you a little bit about my journey with the Kate Daniels series as a whole.  You see, Stephanie aka @sac402 for those of you are on twitter, had recommended lots of books to me over the years.  Some I have immediately picked up and devoured while others she had to nag me repeatedly to get me to read.  Hilariously, those books/series that she has to fight me on generally end up being some of my favorites and land on my comfort reread list.

The first book in the Kate Daniels series, Magic Bites, was one of the books that Steph had to badger me about.  She had struggled getting through book one herself but swore the series was amazing after that and insisted that I read it.  I started and stopped Magic Bites five times before I finally finished it because it just wasn’t clicking for me.  I just couldn’t figure out why Steph and so many others that I knew loved the series.  That was until I started reading book two.  From that point on I couldn’t get enough.  I plowed through the rest of the series and couldn’t wait for the next installments to come out.   Additionally, I reread the entire series at least twice a year.  I finally understood the love that everyone had for this series.

Leading up to reading Magic Triumphs, I read the entire series again.  I am always blown away by all the plot points that are in each of the books that played a part in this final book.  I don’t know how they managed, I just imagine their walls are covered with post-it notes.  And while it is sad to that Magic Triumphs is the last chapter in the series, Kate and Curran enjoy their HEA after everything they have been through!

I loved the different sides of Kate that we got to see in this book.  Kate has always been such a badass and ready to take on whatever crisis comes her way, but seeing Kate as a mother brought a whole new element to her character.  I loved seeing her worried about everyday situations like all first time moms and having members of the pack give her grief about it was a hoot!

I was reminded again why there is no better man for Kate than Curran.  I can’t imagine anyone as unflappable as him especially with the chaos that comes with being connected to Kate.  Gods, warlords, dragons, no sweat.  He literally eats all of those challenges for breakfast.

I had pretty big expectations for what Kate and Curran’s child would be like but I didn’t do him justice.  I loved the fact he was just as innocent as you would expect a toddler to be while still being the perfect combination of Kate and Curran.  Can you imagine the trouble that a toddler who can shift into a lion, hold his warrior form and create blood claws is going to get into?  I have my fingers crossed that we will get to see more of him in adjacent series.  If Curran thought Kate drove him nuts forcing him to count to ten, just imagine what Conlan will do!

One thing that I always had trouble imagining with this series was how the Roland story arc would ever be resolved.  The power dynamic was too unbalanced between Kate and Roland for me to ever see her beating Roland in a battle and given that his life force was tied to hers, it isn’t like he could decide to let her win (not that I think he would).  I also couldn’t ever see Kate taking that final step to kill Roland even if it wouldn’t result in her own death.  Kate has struggled with her feelings for Roland sure, but she also loved him and I think she would have always hesitated to take that final step.  I should have known that Ilona would not disappoint. The way they resolved the Roland situation was absolutely perfect.   It allowed the conflict to be resolved while leaving the door open for story arcs in The Iron Covenant and Grey Wolf series.  I don’t want to give anything away so I’ll  leave it at that.

So as is only appropriate, thank you Steph for bring this series into my life and beating me over the head with it until I finally read it.

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Vox – Christina Dalcher – 3.5 stars

August 20, 2018 Uncategorized 1

I received this book for free from NetGalley.com . This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Vox – Christina Dalcher – 3.5 starsVox by Christina Dalcher
Published by Penguin on August 21, 2018
Genres: Fiction, Contemporary Women, Dystopian, Thrillers, Political
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley.com
Goodreads
three-half-stars

"[An] electrifying debut."--O, Oprah Magazine"The real-life parallels will make you shiver."--Cosmopolitan

One of Entertainment Weekly's and SheReads' books to read after The Handmaid's TaleOne of Good Morning America's "Best Books to Bring to the Beach This Summer"One of PopSugar, Refinery29, Entertainment Weekly, Bustle, Real Simple, i09, and Amazon's best books to read in August 2018

Set in a United States in which half the population has been silenced, Vox is the harrowing, unforgettable story of what one woman will do to protect herself and her daughter.

On the day the government decrees that women are no longer allowed more than one hundred words per day, Dr. Jean McClellan is in denial. This can't happen here. Not in America. Not to her.

This is just the beginning...

Soon women are not permitted to hold jobs. Girls are not taught to read or write. Females no longer have a voice. Before, the average person spoke sixteen thousand words each day, but now women have only one hundred to make themselves heard.

...not the end.

For herself, her daughter, and every woman silenced, Jean will reclaim her voice.

This is not a happy, happy, joy, joy kind of book but one that should make you think and perhaps be a bit frightened.  I did struggle with the timeline presented which lowered the score I decided on but I did appreciate the way the author pulled in items that should sound familiar to many of us as we watch world events.  There are a few things about all the adult characters that you will like but also items that you won’t like.  All are flawed but human and no matter what you think of why they do some of what they do the focus should remain on the world around them.

How does a modern country devolve in to a country where half the population is suddenly out of the workforce?  How does this become acceptable and the prevalent mode of operation in a connected world?  One only needs to look back in recent history with Afghanistan before and after the Taliban to see how the world changed for women.  We can also look at some of the strict religious cults and their treatment of those who aren’t one of them.  The author shows how easy it is to mold the minds of youth and the outliers to become walking, talking puppets of a regime.  The way we see the oldest son drink in the new messages being taught in school while easily devaluing the mom who loves him was scary to see and then realize that this is where we typically see these events start.  One only needs to feed the insecurities and fears to make it possible for repression and regression to happen even in this modern era.

The message that comes out of this for me was a refreshed need to become more vocal and aware of my place in society.  I need to be more active and willing to step up to say when something is wrong even if it results in making others uncomfortable.  I cannot afford to stay quiet and let the world move around me without my participation in protecting those who may not have voices.  Please take a chance on this book in hopes that you will take away a message that no matter what our voices deserve to be heard and we deserve to be considered equals in the world regardless of sex or orientation or culture or color or or or….

three-half-stars

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Untamed Cowboy – Maisey Yates 4 stars

June 19, 2018 Boookluvr Reads, Harlequin, NetGalley, Read in 2018 1

I received this book for free from NetGalley.com . This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Untamed Cowboy – Maisey Yates 4 starsUntamed Cowboy by Maisey Yates
Published by HQN Books on July 1st 2018
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Western, Contemporary
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley.com
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
four-stars

In Gold Valley, Oregon, love might be hiding in plain sight…

Some things are too perfect to mess with. Bennett Dodge’s relationship with Kaylee Capshaw is one of them. They work together at their veterinary clinic and have been best friends for years. When Bennett’s world is rocked by the appearance of a son he didn’t know he had, he needs Kaylee more than ever. And he doesn’t want anything else to change. But then Kaylee kisses him, and nothing will ever be the same…

Kaylee’s done her best to keep her feelings for the man she’s loved since high school hidden away, but one unguarded moment changes everything, and now there’s no more denying the chemistry that burns between them. But the explosion of desire changes all the rules, and what’s left could destroy their bond—or bring them to a love that’s deeper than she ever imagined…

Also includes a bonus Gold Valley novella, Mail Order Cowboy!

I don’t mind admitting that I was excited when I found out that the second book in the Gold Valley series would be Bennett’s and Kaylee’s.  After the glimpses we have gotten to see in previous books, I had no doubt these two would end up together and I was glad we didn’t have to wait until later in the series to have it happen.

In Untamed Cowboy, we find out that Bennett wasn’t always the buttoned up man that we knew him as.  You see, Bennett got his girlfriend pregnant at age 16 and after she told him she lost their baby and moved away, Bennett was determined to never let his emotions get away from him again.  He was going to make responsible logical decisions and ensure that he never put any pressure or stress on his family after everything that they had already been through.  That’s why Bennett prides himself on having a plan for every aspect of his life, even if those plans mean he is settling for a life that can never truly make him happy.  Bennett was prepared to marry Olivia even though he didn’t love her because he didn’t want love or passion in his life.

When a social worker shows up at Bennett’s house with a 15-year-old son named Dallas that Bennett didn’t know he had, all of Bennett’s plans for an uncomplicated life start to unravel at the seams.  Understandably, Bennett is devastated to find out that his high school girlfriend lied to him about losing the baby.  On top of that he discovers that his son’s life has not been at all the life he should have had.  How can he make up for all the time he’s lost and how does a man who has prided himself on guarding his heart convince his son to trust him and let him in when he doesn’t let other people in himself?

The one constant in Bennett’s life has always been Kaylee Capshaw.  From the moment he saw her at school looking shy and lonely, Bennett and Kaylee have been best friends.  With all the chaos in his life, right now more than ever Bennett needs Kaylee to be the source of stability in his life she has always been.

Kaylee Capshaw has been in love with Bennett for as long as she can remember.  She’s stuffed her feelings down through the years knowing that Bennett didn’t feel the same.  After years of having a front row seat to Bennett’s relationships, she’s determined once again to move on and find a relationship for herself, so why can’t anyone else light her up the way Bennett does?

When Bennett tell’s Kaylee that he’s planning to find someone to hook up with, Kaylee can’t take it anymore.  She will be damned if she can sit back and watch him move on with someone else again without ever having a chance to touch Bennett Dodge herself.  Bennett isn’t prepared for Kaylee to suggest that they scratch each other’s itch, but once he agrees he has to face that his feelings for Kaylee have never been as clear-cut as he has convinced himself they were.  With all of his plans obliterated, can Bennet reach for the happiness that is his for the taking?

I related to so strongly to Bennett, Kaylee and Dallas in this story due to my own background.  I saw so much of myself in Kaylee in Dallas.  The inability to trust when your parents, the people you are supposed to be able to count on are the very people who have hurt you the most.  The need to test and push people around you to see if they will abandon you like everyone else.  The knowledge that you aren’t worthy of love and respect even when someone wants to give it to you.  With Bennett you can understand why he feels like he has to be perfect and never be a burden to anyone.  He watched his family go through so much, and he never wanted to feel like he added to it.

It was delightful to see Bennett, Kaylee and Dallas begin to heal the wounds from their past become the family they all deserved.  I hope we will get to see more glimpses of them in future installments of Gold Valley.

 

four-stars

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Knocked Up – Stacey Lynn 3 stars

June 12, 2018 Boookluvr Reads, Uncategorized 1

Knocked Up – Stacey Lynn 3 starsKnocked Up by Stacey Lynn
Series: Crazy Love #2
Published by Random House Publishing Group on June 12, 2018
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Romantic Comedy, Contemporary, Contemporary Women
Pages: 250
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley.com
Buy on Amazon
Goodreads
three-stars
three-flames

First comes love. Then comes marriage. Then comes baby in a baby carriage. Just not necessarily in that order. . . .   Braxton: I should probably be dead or in jail right now. Instead, thanks to some tough love, I worked my ass off and now I own a string of tattoo parlors throughout the Pacific Northwest. And yet the one thing I’ve always wanted—a family—still seems out of reach. When my best friend gets married, I’m just hoping to blow off some steam with the super-hot maid of honor. But after Cara Thompson tracks me down to tell me she’s pregnant, she’s more surprised than I am when I tell her I’m all in.   Cara: For the first time in my life, I’m living for myself—not for my parents and their ridiculous expectations. I gave up on my MBA, dropped out of the Ivy League, and moved to Portland to pursue my dream of becoming an artist. And what’s the first thing I do? Get knocked up. For a tatted-up sex god, Braxton Henley seems way too eager to “be there for me.” Is this guy serious? Maybe. He sure is patient. Because he won’t back down until I admit what I know in my heart: that our one night stand might’ve led me to the one.   Advance praise for Knocked Up“Stacey Lynn always knows how to perfectly balance sexy and sweet, and has a modern writing style that makes all of her stories feel fresh and fun.”New York Times bestselling author Lauren Layne

“A broody alpha hero with heart . . . I fell madly in love with Braxton from the very first page. Prepare to pull and all-nighter with Knocked Up.USA Today bestselling author Stacey Kennedy  “Braxton is your ultimate tattooed father-to-be—sweet and ever so sexy.”—Stina Lindenblatt, author of the Pushing Limits series

The steamy standalone novels in Stacey Lynn’s Crazy Love series can be read together or separately: FAKE WIFE | KNOCKED UP   And don’t miss her passionate Fireside series: HIS TO LOVE | HIS TO PROTECT | HIS TO CHERISH | HIS TO SEDUCE   This standalone ebook includes an excerpt from another Loveswept title.

I love a good unplanned pregnancy story.  I don’t know if that’s due to my own life experience, or if I just enjoy the premise of two people being thrown together by a pregnancy that they don’t expect.  It’s safe to say this would only be true in the world of Romance where I am guaranteed a HEA.

Knocked Up was mostly an enjoyable read.  I enjoyed the premise of the characters spending a night together after their best friend’s wedding.  I found the heroines reaction of sneaking away the morning after to be realistic and adored that it was the hero whose feelings were hurt when she left.  Don’t get me wrong, I wasn’t happy that he was hurting but it was nice to have the hero acknowledge his feelings out of the gate.  While on the surface Braxton and Cara come from different worlds, they have way more in common than the people around them may realize.  Both of them have experienced less than stellar parenting, although for very different reasons, and both have experienced heartbreaking loss.  The chemistry between Braxton and Cara is palpable, I only wish we had gotten to read about the first night they spent together as it was happening rather than it being in the past by the time we meet them.

There were some elements of the story that I found clunky. When Braxton and Cara go to see her midwife together for the first time, the doctor wants to hear the heartbeat.  The story references the use of an internal ultrasound want for this even which struck me as very odd.  As a mother of five that didn’t sound right, regardless of how early in my pregnancy I was they were always able to check the heartbeat externally.  The internal wand would have made sense if the midwife was doing an ultrasound, but that wasn’t the case here.  Also. Braxton’s reaction to the procedure made me roll my eyes.  He refers to the wand as a dildo cam and makes a comment about not knowing whether to be terrified or turned on.  It just felt immature which was contradictory to everything else we see from him.

Also, Lucy is a rescue pup featured in this story.  For most of the book she is a Bullmastiff, but towards the end she is a pit bull.  Keeping in mind this was an arc, the author may correct this in the final copy.

All in all, I enjoyed  Knocked up and would recommend it to readers that enjoy an unplanned pregnancy.

three-stars

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The Kiss Quotient – Helen Hoang 4 stars

June 6, 2018 Boookluvr Reads, NetGalley, Penguin, Read in 2018 1

The Kiss Quotient – Helen Hoang 4 starsThe Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang
Published by Penguin on June 5, 2018
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary, Contemporary Women, Multicultural & Interracial
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley.com
Goodreads
four-stars
two-half-flames

"This is such a fun read and it's also quite original and sexy and sensitive."--Roxane Gay, New York Times bestselling author

"Hoang's writing bursts from the page."--Buzzfeed

A heartwarming and refreshing debut novel that proves one thing: there's not enough data in the world to predict what will make your heart tick.

Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases--a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn't help that Stella has Asperger's and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice--with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can't afford to turn down Stella's offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan--from foreplay to more-than-missionary position...

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but crave all of the other things he's making her feel. Their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic...

I really enjoyed this debut novel by Helen Hoang.   Stella was a delightful heroine who has just as much of a solid understanding of her strengths as she does of her shortcomings.  She is an accomplished professional who has mastered balancing her needs with the expectations of society as a whole.   Her confidence and willingness to communicate in a direct fashion to those around her, even when it related to her insecurities had me cheering for her from the first page.

Michael was a sweetheart of a man who seemed perfect for Stella from their very first meeting.  His patience and communication made him the perfect fit to guide Stella through her practice sessions.  While I didn’t ever find myself really buying into Michael’s dread of being compared to his father since we only ever experienced the concern through his memories, it didn’t detract from the overall story.  I really enjoyed seeing Michael with his family as I felt it set the stage for what a caring individual he was.

You know who I wanted to throat punch throughout the book?  Well yes Phillip her creepy co-worker, but not just him.  I absolutely wanted to throttle Stella’s mom.  Seriously, her approach to her daughter’s love life drove me crazy.  I don’t care whether or not Stella is autistic, pressuring your daughter to date because you want grandchildren is obnoxious.  I struggled to reconcile a woman who raised such a wonderful woman with the same woman who would also treat their daughter that way.

I am not in a position to weigh in on whether or not this book represented autism well due to my limited experience, but I will say one thing nagged at me.  Having Stella end up with a man whose cousin happened to be autistic as well seemed to smooth some situations over that would have required more work between the characters had that not been the case.  I felt like we missed seeing some elements of all of the characters involved by not having this negotiation take place on page.  Certainly Stella and Michael were both strong enough characters to pull this off based on the other serious topics that tackled.

All in all, The Kiss Quotient was a very enjoyable read that I am glad I had the opportunity to review.

four-stars

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