Review: Kane by Sinclair Jayne

May Contain Spoilers

I have to admit that secret baby stories aren’t my favorite, but that was actually what I enjoyed most about Kane. I have been working my way slowly through the American Extreme Bull Riders series, and since Sinclair Jayne is a new to me author, I decided to request Kane from the publisher. I usually enjoy second chance at love romances, but this one didn’t convince me that Sky and Kane are made for each other. There were so many hard stops in their relationship, I despaired at them ever working out their differences.

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Review: Love Me Again by Jaci Burton

May Contain Spoilers

I admit I borrowed this book because of the dog on the cover.  I was hoping it would like some of the Jill Shalvis titles I have enjoyed, with a lot of interaction with the dog, and how sad is that.  At this particular point in time, I am more interested in the relationships between the animals and people than the characters themselves.  This must be a side-effect of taking care of Poppy since her surgery. 

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Review: Pipe Dreams by Sarina Bowen

May Contain Spoilers

I was really excited to start reading Pipe Dreams. Beacon wasn’t my favorite player, but I was intrigued by Lauren.  What was the deal with her, anyway?  So cranky and contrary, there had to be a reason for her unpleasantness, especially when it came to hockey.   She was obviously good at her job, or Nate would have ended her employment instead of promoting her.  The girls in the Bruisers organization, however, had nothing good to say about Lauren, and I wanted to know why.

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Review: Act Like You Love Me by Cindi Madsen

 

Title:  Act Like You Love Me

Author: Cindi Madsen

 

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

 

What would you do for a second chance with your first crush?
Brynn McAdams isn’t the awkward drama geek she was in high school—she’s grown up and confident, or at least she likes to think so. But when her old crush, the impossibly handsome and impossibly unattainable Sawyer Raines, comes back to town to direct her community play, Brynn finds herself determined to be someone other than the girl he doesn’t even recognize. Good thing she’s an excellent actress.  
After his bad breakup in NYC, the last thing Sawyer wants is to get involved with another actress. But the glamorous and beautiful Brynn draws him in, even though as her director, he knows she’s off-limits. There’s just something about the woman that feels…familiar. Like home.  
As Brynn’s lies start to snowball, she struggles to stop acting and come clean. But what if Sawyer is already falling for the fake Brynn, not the Brynn she truly is?


Review:

Once again, my favorite trope called to me and prompted me to read Act Like You Love Me.  This is actually a tough book for me to rate, because there is a lot about it to like.  I enjoyed the characters, the setting, and, yes, as I already mentioned, the second chance at love trope.  What knocked it down a few pegs?  Not enough physical contact, and that’s the bottom line.  This is a sweet, gentle story about finally embracing who you are, and accepting all of the oddities that make you unique.  After reading so many Brazen titles in the last few weeks, this one fell flat in the chemistry department, and the sexual tension earned only a low rating on the thermometer.  While it’s nice to have the protagonists engage in conversation before ripping their clothes off, the lack of pay-off was disappointing.  Sawyer is the most restrained male I’ve met in romance in a long time, and while I appreciate that he’s a gentleman, I like a little more rough and tumble (or at least a good wrestle on the couch) type of guy.

Brynn is a character I was immediately drawn to.  She was a nerd in school, uncomfortable with herself and awkward, and the target of jokes from her peers.  She has fought long and hard to move beyond her dork persona, and is finally happy with her life and herself.  She works at the family fishing and bait shop, acts in local stage productions, and finally feels comfortable in her own skin.  Sure, she’s still a bit of an oddball, and her unrestrained passion for plays and literature has chased off every guy she’s dated, but big whoop!  She’ll eventually meet the man of her dreams.  She hopes.

Into town strolls Sawyer, the guy she had a crush on in high school.  He is helping out his aunt by agreeing to direct the play that Brynn is acting in.  It’s a nightmare come true for her.  He first sees her while she’s struggling to change her shirt in her car, giving him a flash of skin and bra.  How embarrassing!  It’s like high school all over again.  She’s still trying to get over the most embarrassing moment of her life, when she had an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction in front of the entire school!  More grating, though, is that Sawyer doesn’t even recognize her.  She had a crush on him forever, and he doesn’t even remember her! Talk about a major blow to her ego.  He doesn’t even remember her asking him to the prom!  Jerk!

Sawyer is dealing with two major issues.  First, he is still reeling from his father’s illness and eventual death when he was in high school.  Second, he is still trying to recover from a bad breakup with an actress in NY, and when he sees Brynn, all he can think is that she’s a carbon copy of his ex; self-absorbed, only interested in herself.  He makes so many false assumptions about her that I really wanted to slap him.  He is so self-righteous, he knows that he has to be right.  I guess he is carrying around so much emotional baggage that he can’t see around all of those weighty issues.

When Brynn follows some questionable dating advice from her brother, things get even more out of hand.  Instead of just being herself, she puts her acting skills to work and pretends to be someone else.  Someone less..overwhelming, I guess the word would be.  Then, before she realizes what’s happening, she is spinning so many half truths and outright falsehoods that she doesn’t know how to come clean with Sawyer.  She knows that she’s misjudged him and that she’s falling for him, but she doesn’t know how to explain the misperceptions that she’s allowed to continue and hasn’t bothered to correct because at first she just wanted him gone.  Oops!  There is this sense of dread through most of the book, because you know that Sawyer isn’t going to take it well when he learns that he’s been deceived, whether intentionally or not.

This is a quick read with both angst and humor, and the only thing holding it back for me was the lack of spice.  The heat level is non-existent, even for a Bliss book.  As stated previously, I just prefer a jalapeño or a habanero  to a mild green chili pepper, both in my cooking and in my reading.   Your mileage will vary.

Grade:  B-/C+

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: A Risk Worth Taking by Victoria James

 

Title:  A Risk Worth Taking

Author: Victoria James

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Interior designer Holly Carrington worked hard for her success. Then tragedy struck, leaving Holly the sole guardian of her infant niece. Now she’s swapped her designer purse for a diaper bag, and is going ahead with plans to renovate—and sell—her childhood home in Red River. But facing her past also means coming face-to-face with Quinn Manning all over again…Quinn was the object of her girlhood crush—and heartbreak— and is more gorgeous than ever. He’s also the only person qualified to oversee the renovation. Now they’re butting heads every step of the way… and their attraction is more electrifying than ever! But once the house is sold, Holly needs to return to her real life. And falling for Quinn all over again is one risk she can’t take…


Review:

This book had me invested in Holly’s life by the end of the first chapter.  It was heart-breaking.  It’s her big day at work, and she has worked the last ten years for this moment.  Her wardrobe was carefully picked out, and she is glowing with happiness. She is finally going to be made a partner at the prestigious design firm where she’s employed when she gets the call that makes her realize how pointless her achievement really is.  Her sister and brother-in-law have been killed in an accident, and now she’s left reeling, the guardian of her infant niece.  How can she raise a child alone?  How will she recover from yet another loss?  Everyone she has loved has died – her parents,  the grandparents who raised her and her sister, and now her sister’s gone, too.  It’s just too much, and Holly is devastated.

Returning to her rural hometown to renovate and then flip her grandparents’ house, she is confronted with painful memories of her past.  She has loved Quinn for a lifetime, but he rejected her when she was eighteen.  Now she has to put on a brave front and face him, and all of her childhood memories.  All she wants to do is get the house finished and get out of town, and back to her life in the city where she’s so busy she doesn’t have time to dwell on the emptiness of her life.

I enjoyed A Risk Worth Taking very much.  I loved the interactions between Holly and Quinn, and even enjoyed Ella, Holly’s little niece.  I usually am not a big fan of babies in romances, but Ella wasn’t just window-dressing here.  She was central to the storyline, and she helped both Holly and Quinn’s hearts to heal.  Despite her best efforts to not get caught up in her feelings for Quinn, which still burned bright, Holly’s resolve crumbled as he became an important addition to her new family.  And Quinn, though he didn’t feel worthy of Ella’s love or trust, was able to put his painful past behind him with the baby and Holly’s help. 

A Risk Worth Taking is a feel good read.  You’ll get caught up in Quinn and Holly’s romance, and cheer along as they both learn to trust again.   As Holly puts aside her sadness, she begins to remember all of the happiness she has turned her back on. As she remembers what is really important in life, she is willing to face the risks, and the rewards, of loving Quinn. 

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher

Edited to correct Ella’s name – oops!

Review: Lucky Break by Kelley Vitollo

 

Title:  Lucky Break

Author:  Kelley Vitollo

Publisher: Entangled – Bliss

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

One lucky break is all struggling actress Sidney Williams needs. But when living the LA life becomes too much, she heads back to the small town of Shamrock Falls for the vacation she needs to get her life on track—and immediately runs into Kade Mitchell, her former best friend and the boy next door she’s always regretted leaving behind.

Kade, the new owner of Lucky’s—once the most popular bar in Shamrock Falls—is determined to bring the place back to its former glory, and seeing Sidney again is a distraction he doesn’t need. Sure, the chemistry between them is explosive, but Kade can’t let himself fall into a fling with his best friend—not when he knows she’s soon heading back to the glitter of Tinseltown.

Now, with the possibility of her first major acting role looming, Sidney must decide if her lucky break is in Hollywood or right where she left it—in Shamrock Falls.


Review:

I am always geeked for new category romance imprints, and when I saw that Entangled was launching their Bliss line, I was eagerly awaiting my introduction to the first three books.  Lucky Break is the second book from the Bliss line that I’ve read.  It is a very fast read, featuring my favorite tropes – second chances and friends to lovers.  This title was a mixed bag for me, though, for a couple of reasons.

First, I had a hard time feeling a connection with Sydney.  She’s carrying a lot of baggage around, all stemming from her mother’s abandonment of her.  After dumping her off at her Aunt Mae’s when she was a young girl so she would be free to pursue her acting career, Sydney was left with a heart full of justified bitterness and anger.  If her own mother considered her too much of a burden and didn’t want her, how could anyone else?  Sydney decided that the only way to prove her worth to her mother was to make it big as an actress herself, so she abruptly leaves for LA after graduation, leaving her best friends, Rowan and Kade, without even a word of goodbye. 

The story starts with Sydney blowing another audition, soon after having her car stolen.  She’s running late for her big break, so naturally she is further inconvenienced by a horrible ride on a city bus, followed by a shoe malfunction during her walk to the audition.  She bombs her chance, returns home in a huff, only to discover that her live-in boyfriend, Steve is dumping her for his big break in New York City.  Ugh! The day couldn’t get any worse!  Sydney takes the opportunity to leave her miserable life as a wanna-be starlet and takes a breather back in her childhood home in Shamrock Falls.  She needs desperately to de-stress, and quiet of Shamrock Falls beckons.  Only when she arrives at her aunt’s house, she discovers that Mae has rented the small cottage on the property to none other than Kade, the boy she dropped like a hot potato without even a word.  Her best friend in the world.  Now she has to man up to her guilt and reconcile both her feelings and her relationship with Kade.

Sydney was hard for me to like, and I failed to find her compelling.  I think it’s because to me, she seemed too young.  She reminded me of a teenager, and her reconciliation and courtship with Kade just didn’t push any buttons for me.  They did young things, like go to movies and hang out at the swimming pond.  Kade even taught her how to drive her aunt’s beat up old truck, which had a manual transmission.  I did not find these activities interesting.  I also didn’t warm up to their romance.  It lacked sizzle, and was too predictable.

I did enjoy Kade and his inner struggle to overcome his guilt at not being able to protect his mother from his abusive father.  Watching his mother suffer ate at him, and made him a fixer.  He wanted to fix everything and everyone.  He naturally felt an impulse to protect, as well, and no matter how heartbroken Sydney’s abrupt departure left him, he can’t deny his impulses to protect her when she’s suddenly back in his life.  Because he was always hyper aware of how others were feeling, he was ready to forgive Sydney for the selfish way she left him.

I am really disappointed that this story didn’t gel for me.  The characters read too young for me to relate to.  While this book didn’t work for me, it will appeal to new category romance readers, and young adults looking for a break from a high school set romance.  The sensuality level is on the sweet side, with kisses and sex behind closed doors, so there isn’t much objectionable for younger readers who are ready to start exploring adult romances.

Grade:   C

Review copy provided by publisher

Review: Playing with Fire by Tamara Morgan

 

 

Title: Playing with Fire

Author: Tamara Morgan

Publisher:  Entangled Publishing

May Contain Spoilers

From Amazon:

Fiona Nelson has always been one hot ticket—even before she took the conversion serum that gave her superhuman abilities. Fiona’s powers come at a price: lack of human contact, or she won’t be the only thing burning. When she loses control of her emotions, her fire powers run rampant…and she’s hurt enough people already.

Including herself.

But when the man behind her conversion returns to blackmail her into helping him gain power, the only person she can turn to is Ian Jones, the man who broke her teenage heart. The man determined to expose the criminal known as Fireball, whose explosive escapades are just a little too close to Fiona’s M.O.

Ian is convinced Fiona’s dangerous, convinced she’s Fireball, and convinced he’ll damn himself if he doesn’t resist a heat that’s always drawn him to Fiona like a moth to a flame—but Ian has his own secrets.

And he’ll learn far too soon what happens when you play with fire.


Review:

I am a huge fan of superheroes, and when I saw that Entangled was publishing a series of novellas about super heroes, I had to read them. It was a little scary at first, because I was afraid I’d be disappointed, but Playing with Fire by Tamara Morgan is a fun, action-packed introduction to the Holding out for a Hero anthology series. I loved this story, and it even featured one of my favorite tropes – the second chance.  This read kept me entertained from the first page to the last, and I can hardly wait to read more of the anthology.

Fiona is a character I could immediately sympathize with.  She has the ability to hurl fire balls, but it comes at a steep price.  When her emotions get out of control, her powers do too.  She’s afraid of getting close to anyone because she is terrified of hurting them, and her last, failed attempt at intimacy ended disastrously, with her lover being badly burned.  To make this situation even worse, she didn’t even want the superhuman abilities to begin with.  Her manipulative boyfriend coerced her into it, and now she’s resigned herself to a sad and solitary life.

Into her life steps Ian, her childhood friend and the boy who broke her heart.  He was also responsible for her being bullied at school, so I did have a few issues warming up to him.  To be fair, Ian tried to rectify his past mistakes, but there were times when I felt that he didn’t do enough.  When it was his friend taunting Fiona, he quickly tried to put an end to the hurtful name calling, but when all Fiona wanted was for Ian to trust and believe her, he fell a little short.  In the end, he does gallantly redeem himself, but of the two of them, Fiona is obviously the more heroic. 

I enjoyed the world building, and am interested to see how other authors tackle a new world where superheroes , and super villains, could live next door. 

If you are looking for a fast-paced read with gobs of action, romance, and danger, look no further.  Playing with Fire was quickly gobbled up, followed by a “Please, sir, may I have some more?” plea from me.

Grade:  B+

Review copy provided by publisher