Review: Stepping on Roses Vol 8 by Ueda Rinko

 

Title: Stepping on Roses V 8

Author:  Ueda Rinko

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Poor Sumi Kitamura… Her irresponsible older brother Eisuke keeps bringing home orphans for her to take care of even though they can barely afford their own basic needs! Just when Sumi’s financial problems become dire, wealthy Soichiro Ashida enters her life with a bizarre proposition: he’ll provide her with the money she so desperately needs if she agrees to marry him. But can Sumi fool high society into thinking she’s a proper lady? Moreover, is it worth giving up everything for this sham of a marriage?

Sumi asks Nozomu to stop buying the land where she and Soichiro currently reside, and he agrees on one condition—Sumi has to leave Soichiro and become his wife instead! Faced with the possibility of eviction, Sumi must decide whether she’ll live in poverty with Soichiro or take Nozomu up on his offer…


Review:

Every volume of Stepping on Roses just gets better and better!  Each one leaves me dismayed when I reach the last page because I have to wait for the next release.  Rinko Ueda knows how to build  the suspense and the drama so that by the time you reach the last page, you are a quivering mass of emotions.  Some volumes that means being upset by the injustices Sumi has to overcome, and some leave you with an adrenaline rush, cheering Sumi on as she manages to stay true to herself and deal with adversity.  This volume left me pumped for Sumi – she’s finally had enough, and she is going to try to turn the tables on Nozomu.  You go, girl!  I only hope she can wage a battle against the crafty, unscrupulous Nozomu without compromising who she is.

Just when it seems as though things can’t get any worse for Sumi and her family, things do.  They get monumentally worse.  After being thrown out of their home by Nozomu, they are without shelter, have no money, and even less food.  They have lost everything.  Nozomu has poisoned the ears of most of Soichiro’s acquaintances, and nobody will hire him for fear of Ashida Product’s reprisals.  When Soichiro becomes ill and the doctor refuses to treat him because they have no money,   Sumi knows that she must give in to Nozomu’s demands.  She sells herself to him in order to help her family.  Poor Sumi!  Her desperation is palpable.  She will do whatever is required to keep her loved ones safe, and it’s not going to be easy for her.

What I enjoyed most about this volume is how Sumi begins to subtly exert her will against Nozomu.  She is passive on the surface, but underneath, she is learning the fine art of subterfuge  from her new fiancé.  He doesn’t care about anything but getting the best of Soichiro, and his single-mindedness is actually making it easier for Sumi to stage quiet rebellions.  With her reputation in tatters and her family’s well-being on the line, she doesn’t have much to lose.  I loved seeing her plans begin to bear fruit, and finished the last page with a feeling of elation.  I finally started to believe that things will work for her in the end, and I haven’t felt that positive about Sumi’s future in a while.   

One person  I would like to see more of is Komai, who I always liked, even when he turned traitor.  What is his deal?  Is he a traitorous scum?  Or does he somehow think he is doing what’s best for Soichiro?  Because there is no way that Nozomu, who is clearly psychotic,  could be a better employer than spoiled and over-indulged Soichiro.  I think?  Unless he really is evil?  Maybe we’ll find out in February, when the next volume is released!

Grade: A-/B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: The One That Got Away by Kelly Hunter

 

 

Title:  The One that Got Away

Author: Kelly Hunter

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

The man who’s always left her wanting more!

Good job? Check. Newly purchased apartment? Tick. Evie’s life is on a pretty even keel at the moment. The only thing missing? A man with an edge to keep things interesting.

Enter Logan Black. Tortured, distant and sexy, Logan has edge written all over him. He’s also the man who tipped Evie over the edge a few years back – she gave him everything, but he didn’t know when to stop taking.

Leaving Logan was the hardest thing Evie’s ever done. Until now. Because Logan’s back, the chemistry is as blistering as ever and this time he’s not going anywhere…


Review:

I have read three titles from the Harlequin Kiss line now, and each has been vastly different in tone and texture.  My previous forays into the Kiss line were a bit more light hearted and more in line with what I thought this line would be like.  The One That Got Away caught me by surprise.  This is a darker read, with flawed but likable characters.  It delves into the fears of a man whose childhood was marred by abuse, and examines his deepest fear – that he will be as violent, controlling, and selfish as his father.  This fear has shaped his adult life, twisting his relationships and fueling his desperation to keep everyone at arm’s length.  Mix in a hopeless obsession that has festered for over ten years, and you have a story that makes you uneasy and steals your breath away in equal measure.

Evie has worked long and hard to make a successful business of MEP, the architectural firm she runs with her friend Max.  When a huge opportunity looms for them, they both fret about raising enough working capital.  Then Max drops a bombshell.  He asks Evie to marry him so he can access his multimillion dollar trust fund.  Shocked, she agrees, and they travel to Max’s hometown to meet his family, and give Evie another shock.  Max’s older brother, Logan, is the man she spent a blissful week with 10 years ago, a week that ended in disaster.  Both Evie and Logan have been haunted by their brief time together, but for different reasons.  Evie’s heart was broken when she didn’t hear from him again, while Logan ran as fast and as far away from Evie and his obsession for her as he could.  Evie represented everything that terrified him, and he didn’t want to face that monster in the closet of his mind. 

Now, older and ten years wiser, Evie wants to put that week from her past into perspective.  Logan refuses to discuss it.  With the support of Max and his mother, Evie slowly begins to understand the demons that stalk Logan.  She confronts him, time and again, trying to make him understand that they are both different people than they were ten years ago.  I admit that their relationship made me uncomfortable at several points,.  Logan’s fear of being like his father has made him try to repress his inner most desires, and when they batter at him, they terrify him.   Evie and Logan’s relationship is dark and intense, and at times, unhealthy.  I began to wonder if I would be convinced that they could ever have a HEA.  Fortunately, I was, and I became a bigger fan of Kelly Hunter’s because of it.

My one quibble would be the lack of depth regarding Evie’s background, and how her dysfunctional childhood affected her.  We are given a brief sketch of her parents and their inability to commit, but there is no clear picture given.

Grade: A

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: About Last Night by Ruthie Knox

 

Title: About Last Night

Author: Ruthie Knox

Publisher: Loveswept

ASIN: B006XWY424

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Sure, opposites attract, but in this sexy, smart, eBook original romance from Ruthie Knox, they positively combust! When a buttoned-up banker falls for a bad girl, “about last night” is just the beginning.

Cath Talarico knows a mistake when she makes it, and God knows she’s made her share. So many, in fact, that this Chicago girl knows London is her last, best shot at starting over. But bad habits are hard to break, and soon Cath finds herself back where she has vowed never to go . . . in the bed of a man who is all kinds of wrong: too rich, too classy, too uptight for a free-spirited troublemaker like her.

Nev Chamberlain feels trapped and miserable in his family’s banking empire. But beneath his pinstripes is an artist and bohemian struggling to break free and lose control. Mary Catherine—even her name turns him on—with her tattoos, her secrets, and her gamine, sex-starved body, unleashes all kinds of fantasies.

When blue blood mixes with bad blood, can a couple that is definitely wrong for each other ever be perfectly right? And with a little luck and a lot of love, can they make last night last a lifetime?

Review:

I enjoyed Ruthie Knox’s first book, Ride With Me, very much.  Though I was at first afraid that a book about crossing the country on a bike would be boring, it was anything but.  I loved the characters, especially cranky hero Tom.  He could be such a jerk as he fought off his attraction for the outgoing Lexie that I found the conflict and tension between them convincing.  When I picked up Ruthie’s new book, About Last Night, I wasn’t sure what I would discover, but a story about a heroine who was afraid of commitment wasn’t it.  While it took a while for me to become engrossed in the story, once I was, whoa, boy!  The payoff was worth every bit of perseverance to get over the hump that was the beginning of the book for me, and though it took a while to happen, once I was engaged in this story I didn’t want to put it down.

Cath was at first hard for me to like because she didn’t like herself and couldn’t forgive herself for making some major mistakes in her youth.  She has convinced herself that she doesn’t deserve to be happy, and that there will never be a happily ever after for her.  She is so certain that she will never have happiness that she constantly tries to sabotage her relationship with Nev.  Cath is the definition of "angst," so if you like emotionally wrought stories, this one is right up your alley.

To make sure she doesn’t mess up again, Cath has had each of her major, life-altering disasters tattooed onto her skin.  The tattoos are meant to remind her to never screw up again.  Too bad for Cath that she enjoys men so much.  She can’t deny her attraction to them, and she makes no excuses for enjoying sex.  She just tries to avoid getting lassoed into another relationship with another loser, where she will forget every bit of common sense that she possesses.  Cath is a woman who loves deeply and lives life passionately, and she just can’t help herself from getting caught up in the moment.  This has caused a lifetime of heartbreak for her, and she is determined to never fall for another guy again.

After downing one too many drinks, she finds herself under the care of a handsome guy she knows from her train stop.  While she doesn’t know his name, doesn’t even want to know it, she finds herself, once again, giving in to her “bad” Cath urges.  She can’t resist City, as she calls him, and she is helpless to deny herself the promise of pleasure he offers.  Before she can sneeze, she and Nev are embroiled in a satisfying and passionate affair.  The pages sizzle when they are together, and I thought that my Kindle was going to burst in flames.  Seriously.  These guys are hot together.

Even though I couldn’t deny the flames that consumed them, at first, I wasn’t convinced of the relationship between Cath and Nev.  I wasn’t drawn to Nev’s personality because he is such a good guy.  I thought he was kind of boring.  I like crabby cyclists better than I like perfect bankers who long to be painters.  And Nev is perfect, in every way but one.  While he realizes that what he and Cath have is special, he doesn’t want to frighten her off, so he gives her the emotional space and so much patience so she can finally start to confide in him about things that matter.  Things of substance.  Things that two people share that prove that they trust you and wield you together in mutual love and respect.  So, even as Nev gives Cath everything she needs, he doesn’t have the strength to stand up against his family and take the things that he needs to make himself complete.  This weakness nearly undoes him.

As the story unfurled, it became clear that Nev was just the kind of guy to give Cath the grounding and contentment she needed to find her own sense of self-worth.  I don’t know why I think nice guys are boring, but Cath, based on her many errors in judgment, felt the exact same way.  It wasn’t until Nev started to push back that I found him worth all of the emotional turmoil seething through this story.  When he finally got well and truly pissed, and finally grew the other ball he needed to live life on his own terms, I finally said, “Crap! This is such a good book!”  

The last half of About Last Night is so emotionally charged that I was exhausted by the time I finished it.  In a good way.  All of the misgivings I had for Cath and Nev evaporated – there could be no other partner for either of them.    Together, they were finally able to confront, and defeat, the demons that plagued them.  I am so curious to see what Ruthie Knox has up her sleeve for her next book, because her first two books were such satisfying reads.

Grade: Waffling between a B and a B+

Review copy provided by publisher

 

 Subscribe in a reader

Review: Stepping on Roses Vol 5 by Rinko Ueda

 

Title: Stepping on Roses Vol 5

Author: Rinko Ueda

Publisher: Viz

ISBN: 978-1421539423

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Poor Sumi Kitamura… Her irresponsible older brother Eisuke keeps bringing home orphans for her to take care of even though they can barely afford their own basic needs! Just when Sumi’s financial problems become dire, wealthy Soichiro Ashida enters her life with a bizarre proposition: he’ll provide her with the money she so desperately needs if she agrees to marry him. But can Sumi fool high society into thinking she’s a proper lady? Moreover, is it worth giving up everything for this sham of a marriage?

Review:

Oh, my! Sumi!  Are you really that dumb?  I know that you  are very naïve, but in this volume, you push the boundaries of believability! I hesitate to label you too stupid to live because I adore you, but please!! Find some common sense! Quickly!  Not only are you breaking Soichiro’s damaged heart, you are causing me no end of heartache!  How do you get yourself into these situations?

Let me take a deep breath, and try to explain my feelings for Stepping on Roses.  I love this series, and I love all of the characters.  Even the ones I’m supposed to hate.  The villains are vile, yet they are human.  The heroes are flawed, and sometimes hard to love.  This is a giant melting pot of angst, about how a lack of communication can destroy happiness.  Just rip it right out of your hands.  Because neither Sumi nor Soichiro can adequately express their feelings and fears, all they keep doing is hurting each other.  Of course, they have a little help from meddling outsiders, which makes the misunderstandings even more muddled. And even more fun to read about.

Nozomu makes it no secret that he is in love with Sumi, which is destroying Miu.  With all of these marriages of convenience, you would think that Miu would understand the cold hard facts of her union with Nozomu.  He only married her out of obligation to his family, and because he is in love with his former best friend’s wife, the chances of him finding happiness with Miu are slim. Even though she longs for his affections.  No wonder she takes out her hurt and humiliation on Sumi.  It certainly isn’t Sumi’s fault that Nozomu has turned into a stalking creep, though she could go a teeny bit more out of her way to avoid him.  He has already proven that he is both unstable and dangerous.  Sumi must have forgotten that.

Yea, did I mention that I really would like to pick Sumi up by the scruff of her neck and give her a good shake?  Maybe jar some sense loose in her head?  I know that she is gullible and trusting, but I find it so hard to believe that she would willingly go off with Nozomu by herself again, especially after the disaster the last time.  Sumi, please!  Girl, you have to start using your noggin!  Do not go anywhere alone with that Nozomu guy! 

I love how complicated life is getting for both Soichiro and Sumi.  Every time they turn around, there is a new complication or a new disaster waiting to derail their plans.  Nothing is simple in this series, and nothing seems to go smoothly – not for anyone.  That is part of the fun, and that’s what keeps me reading.  This is a very entertaining soap opera, with beautiful, clean art, and characters I want to hate – but can’t!

Grade: A-

Review copy purchased from Rightstuf