Marked by romantic tragedy and the loss of his brother, Brandon King has forsworn marriage. Obliged to take in a ward, he advertises for a mail-order bride to raise the boy. Since the union is to be a marriage in name only, his criteria are youthful age, a certain level of intellect, good breeding, and that the girl shouldn’t be so ill-favored she would embarrass him in society. To his dismay, he gets more than he’d bargained for. Will it take a miracle for Mr. and Mrs. King to fall in love, or is their marriage another accident waiting to happen?
Well ladies and gents, I didn’t think it was possible, but I may have just come across a new adult romance that reflects college life in a somewhat realistic light! The good and the bad. I’m talking midterms, doing laundry in the dorms, and having study time interfere with dating. Sadly, even rape. And yet in the midst of all this we still manage to uncover an incredible romance.
What’s it About?
Rescued by a stranger.
Haunted by a secret
Sometimes, love isn’t easy…
He watched her, but never knew her. Until thanks to a chance encounter, he became her savior…The attraction between them was undeniable. Yet the past he’d worked so hard to overcome, and the future she’d put so much faith in, threatened to tear them apart. Only together could they fight the pain and guilt, face the truth – and find the unexpected power of love. A groundbreaking novel in the New Adult genre, Easy faces one girl’s struggle to regain the trust she’s lost, find the inner strength to fight back against an attacker, and accept the peace she finds in the arms of a secretive boy.
When this novel opened I immediately had a gut reaction that we’d be dealing with one of those typical college romances that you could guess the progression of from start to finish. We open with a beautiful lead who is leaving a Halloween costume frat party because she spotted her newly ex-boyfriend dancing hot and heavy with some sorority floozy. Alright, let’s just have her run into the dashing lad who will sweep her off her feet already, am I right? Well, I couldn’t have been more wrong. Within this opening scene we are immediately confronted with the oftentimes dark, harsh reality of what can happen at college. Sexual harassment and rape. Thankfully in this particular scenario the rapist was unable to follow through with his despicable actions, as we do have a knight in shining armor come along and beat the ever loving shit out of him.
Little did I know that this moment would come to represent the constant emotional battle I’d experience as a reader for the rest of the book. On the one hand, turmoil and heartache that will make you hold your breath in anticipation, want to read through your fingers in suspense, and feel disgust on behalf of our characters. But then on the other you have an overwhelmingly positive sense of empowerment, true love, friendship, and sisterhood. It seems like a constant back and forth of highs and lows that will keep you on your toes, as well as have you turning the page to discover what comes next. This is also one of those books where I’d find myself thinking about it constantly throughout the day. I always say the sign of a good book is one that keeps your wheels turning even if you’ve put it down!
Blaming the Victim
While the budding romance between Lucas and Jacqueline is obviously an important focus of the novel, the other primary feature is the shocking reality of rape on college campus. Our characters manage to confront and sometimes successfully squander practically every single stereotype and assumption that can be raised when it comes to rape on campus. She was dressed proactively. She walked out to her car alone. He normally seemed so nice. If she wasn’t a virgin, and she went up to his room, what else did she expect? And behind it all the most common, disgusting phrase that can be said when something like this happens: she was just asking for it.
I’m not gonna lie, there were many parts of this novel which were hard to read, and my nostrils definitely flared a time or two as I listened to this on my walk to work. I may have also shook my head back and forth in disgust as you hear all the different ways someone can defend the actions of a rapist while blaming the victim. However, as these misconceptions are brought out into the open, there are a select few important characters, Lucas especially, who raise the most critical thing to remember when it comes to the women and men who survive these ordeals: it wasn’t your fault.
Coming Together to Rise Above
Yes, there are many difficult scenes and confessions related to rape and attempted rape in this novel. But at the same time, it’s an empowering read where we see the strength of our survivors, and the love of their supporters is truly inspiring. There is one scene in particular that I think deserves mention. In it we see a female pledge confess the sad details of her rape by a frat brother to the other members of her sorority. This scene especially shows how almost every member of her sorority blames our victim, and it’s so tragic to think that these excuses are constantly used to silence survivors.
Just when you think all hope is lost, and this criminal will walk free, the sorority president gives an impassioned speech that damn near brought me to tears. “You know what looks bad? A bunch of women who don’t support each other when a guy pulls some shit like this. I’m sick of it. Less than an hour ago, I told D.J. where he could stick his goddamned fraternal reputation…And you’re worried about who’ll look bad if they tell? Screw that…Are we sisters or not?” In addition to the words of support by some of our characters, we also see the highlighted importance of self defense. Again, it provides a sense of empowerment to our female characters by showing that with some proper training it can be possible to ward off an attacker, even if they seem bigger and stronger. After reading this book I am seriously interested in looking up a local self defense class.
A New Romance
Lucas turns out to be Jacqueline’s savior in more ways than one. Not only does he rescue her that fateful night from a would-be attacker, but he helps her move on from her recent breakup. At the outset, Jacqueline only views him as a bad boy rebound, but as they spend more time together she learns that he has a secret sensitive side. He may also be the only person to ever see the true her. The scenes in which Jacqueline allows Lucas to sketch her prove to be particularly insightful. Not to mention hot as hell! That being said, he never pushes her to do anything before she’s ready.
For the most part I really did enjoy the romantic relationship between Lucas and Jacqueline, but that’s not to say it wasn’t without some issues. First and foremost, while Jacqueline knows Lucas as her protector, it turns out he’s also her economics TA. Of course, he chooses to keep this other identity a secret from her, and because he uses his given name of Landon in all his TA related emails to her, she doesn’t find out until rather late in the game that her protector and her TA are one and the same. Now, I must say this little detail is strikingly evident from the very first email exchange, so I couldn’t help but throw a few eye rolls Jacqueline’s way at her naivety.
My biggest issue though would have to be with Jacqueline’s curiosity revolving around Lucas’s past. Something tragic has obviously happened to him, but he chooses to remain close-lipped about the details. After all that these two have been through, from her attack, to him taking things slowly with her, to finally discovering that he’s her TA, you’d think she could have just been a bit more patient with him. After all, they’ve only been kind of dating for a few weeks. Maybe he’s not ready to reveal all of the troubling emotional heartache he’s been through in his youth. But that doesn’t stop Jacqueline from looking into discovering the truth on her own by sidestepping Lucas entirely, and doing a little internet search to uncover all the gruesome details of his mother’s death. I mean, come on girl don’t you know that curiosity killed the cat? You really want it to kill this damn near perfect relationship you have with Lucas???
Series: Contours of the Heart, book 1. I’ll keep reading this series, though I must say I am slightly concerned with the premise of the next book as we just see a continuation of Lucas and Jacqueline’s story. They’ve been through enough at this point, can’t we just let them have their happily every after? What other drama could they possibly encounter?
Should you read it? I was particularly enthralled with the writing of this novel, as we are presented with a story that makes us feel as though we are there with the characters experiencing everything firsthand. It’s not all rainbows and sunshine either. There’s a trying road that Lucas and Jacqueline must traverse, but with each other they discover a love that neither thought was possible. Sure, they make a few mistakes along the way, but we all do silly things when young and in love.
Smut Level: These two have some hot and heavy make out scenes which are pretty detailed. However, they don’t take things too far until pretty late in the book, and I was surprised that we really didn’t get much of any detail for the big event. Some nice over the clothes stuff though for a good portion of the novel.
Get it on Amazon:Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. Berkley Publishing. 338 Pages.
A female lead with a 38E bra size, weighs 160 pounds, wears a size 16 shirt and thinks dieting suuuuucks? Well that’s the most refreshing thing I’ve ever seen.
What’s it About?
I’m a total mess. My boyfriend dumped me – get this – because I diet too much. Not because I’m fat, mind you. Of course, this spurs me into the diet-fitness-revenge-plan of the century, which leads me to the gym and a scorching hot personal trainer. I even manage to make some cool new friends, including a millionaire if you can believe it. Things are looking up! Naturally, that’s the moment my ex decides he wants me back, the personal trainer asks me out, and my millionaire male buddy decides to throw his hat in the ring. But that’s not enough drama. No, not for me. Because I’ve also lost my job and decided to start my own business. Just call me Ms. Drama.
Warning: Bad language, bumpy roads, and embarrassing moments ahead. But there’s also more than a bit of romance and even, if we’re lucky, love. Fingers crossed. Not endorsed by or affiliated with any brand of tequila.
When this novel first started I had a plethora of assumptions of how the story would progress, which was influenced by not only the synopsis of the story, but also the title. I figured we’d be dealing with a slightly overweight female lead who starts a diet and gets in shape with the help of a personal trainer. She must proceed to slim down considerably which causes her to become irresistibly beautiful to said personal trainer, and they end up with a fairy tale-like happily ever after. Well, I have never been so happy to be wrong on so many different accounts in my life!
Although our female lead does proceed to get a bit more physically fit throughout the novel, the main focus is really so much more on how she gains confidence, and that is what draws men to her like a moth to a flame. It was just so empowering to know that you don’t have to dramatically drop from a size 16 to a size 6 in order to find love. You don’t need to starve yourself, or lose all of the junk in your trunk in order for a man to think you’re beautiful. You just need to be happy with yourself, happy with your life, happy with those around you, and it’s just a matter of time before you’re happy in love. And sure, a few trips to the gym won’t hurt, but they aren’t required. Who knows though, you might also just happen to find the future love of your life waiting for you at the smoothie bar!
The Dreaded Gym
Another one of the first things I assumed about this book was that it would all be about dieting, exercise, and in general making me feel guilty for baking a double chocolate chip fudge cake when I live by myself. But lo and behold this book really doesn’t lay on the guilt trip about how you should hit the gym 5 days a week, or anything like that. Instead we see how our female lead, Everly, has been having a pretty bad week after her boyfriend of many years dumped her unexpectedly after complaining about her continually giving up on her many attempts to diet and lose weight. In a drunken blackout, she signs up for an entire year of private training sessions at her local gym and vows to get in shape so that she’ll make her ex, Josh, unbelievably jealous and beg to get her back.
Now I know what you’re thinking, why doesn’t she just say to hell with it once she sobers up from her binge night and just drown her sorrows in a vat of ice cream? Simple. Not only does Everly’s best friend kick her butt to the gym with her sexy as sin trainer, but she comes to grow an incredible support network of sassy gal pals, the aforementioned sexy trainer, and a geeky guy friend with incredible abs. I must say in addition to our lovable lead, I 100% fell in love with all of her incredible friends who try their hardest to show Everly that she’s beautiful on the inside and out. They let her know that she doesn’t need to lose 50 pounds to be beautiful, but instead encourage her to get fit to the point where she finally feels comfortable in her own skin, while also being there for her when she needs to break her diet by indulging in some tequila.
Looking Beneath the Glasses
I couldn’t help but identify with Everly’s character, from her relationship woes to her stresses at work, and especially her lack of confidence in her body image. But that’s why her support network is everything and more, especially Carter, her geeky guy friend who might just be on the verge of becoming something more. These two are the epitome of relationship goals, and are so freakin’ adorable you can’t help but fall in love. At the start we just assume that Everly is the one lacking confidence in their relationship, for Carter is ripped with sexy abs, not to mention a millionaire.
What could a guy like him ever see in a girl like her? But although Carter seems like the perfect male, we see that he too lacks confidence, and holds Everly up on a pedestal where he also wonders what she could ever see in him. Awwww, swoon worthy. Lastly, he’s unbelievably supportive of her goals to lose weight, yet continually lets her know that she’s beautiful just the way she is, and her continuing diet is totally up to her rather than something she should feel pressure to maintain. Mkay, Everly girl I love ya, but not gonna lie I might need to kick your ass to steal Carter for myself.
A Tequila or Two
One feature of the novel that I must admit I wasn’t a huge fan of was Everly’s propensity to get blackout drunk to the point where she couldn’t remember crazy antics from the night before. It sort of indicates her inability to know her own limits, as well as highlight a concern that when unable to deal with the pressures of life with food she instead turns to alcohol as a crutch. However, this was never really addressed as a concern in the novel, but instead was almost featured as a comedic character trait. And I will admit, Everly did get into some pretty funny hi-jinks while intoxicated.
Personally I thought it was kind of disappointing we could never really experience those moments as they happened though. Instead we get the short abbreviated version the next morning from one of her friends who happened to witness it all since Everly herself couldn’t remember. I think it would have made the story all the more enjoyable if Everly had just gotten a bit tipsy which made her loosen up rather than drinking to the point where she couldn’t remember anything. Just goes to show that when you limit your calorie intake, getting drunk happens a bit more quickly than you might be used to!
*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*
Series: I think this is just a stand-alone, but I think it would be hilarious if we could either get a series, or maybe just one novel of short stories featuring the romantic exploits of Everly’s hilarious gal pals from her Zumba class. They were a riot!
Should you read it? This is definitely a fun and comedic read all about being happy and confident with yourself. Whether that entails losing weight, trying new things, dating someone new, or venturing out for a new job opportunity, this book highlights that sometimes it’s worth taking the risk. You might be terrified at first, but as long as you give it a solid effort, and maybe have a few close friends who have your back, you can do anything. A cute beach read that’ll make you giggle, and empathize with someone who hates dieting and going to the gym just as much as you do.
Smut Level: We have flirtations galore, but no detailed sex scenes in this one. We just get one brief build up to sex at the very end of the novel.
Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.49 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 208 Pages.
A second chance at love. Can Liv and Zane overcome their troubled pasts to find love with each other, or will it be too heavy a burden to bear?
What’s it About?
After the incident that caused Liv Morozov to drop out of college, years later she’s still trying to pick up the pieces of her life. She’s managed to carve out a career for herself as a photographer, but when it comes to guys? Her issues send them running for the hills, every damn time. Zane Parata has declared himself off-limits for relationships. Between trying to maintain sobriety and the long hours he works as a chef, no one wants to deal with his brand of damage, and he wouldn’t want to burden them in the first place.
When Liv shows up at Cupid’s Café, she never expected to find Zane, her brother’s former best friend who had vanished one day and never returned. The sparks that surged when they were both teens rekindle stronger than ever, and all too fast, Liv and Zane entangle in each other’s lives, breaking their own rules. Except with both struggling with the demons from their past, the love that’s begun to grow is one lapse away from shattering the two of them beyond repair.
I feel like there is one quote from this novel which perfectly encapsulate the power of the love story being told: “I’m never going to be an easy choice.” Here’s why this sentiment, and the tale love presented to us in this book is absolute perfection. Their love is intense, it’s raw, and most importantly, it…is…real. This story shows us how life is full of unexpected challenges, and to be quite frank, it can be an absolute bitch at times. However, while these external forces can sometimes test the relationship of our lead couple, they never break it. This isn’t one of those romance novels where a simple misunderstanding causes an unnecessary amount of drama, and results in our lovers spending time apart. Oh no. These characters fight for each other, and hold the other up if they’re ever at risk of falling down.
These two have also been through hell and back. They are scarred lead characters who have experienced emotional and physical turmoil in their pasts. But they don’t just love each other in spite of these troubled pasts, they love who the other person is because of how these experiences have shaped them into who they are today. “I’m never going to be an easy choice” shows that their lives might be complicated, they might be thrown a couple of curve balls along the way, but in the end they will always choose the other. I’ve got all the goosebumps here people!
An Unbreakable Bond
I think the reason I enjoyed this tale of love between Liv and Zane so much is that the novel primarily just focuses on them. Sure, we are introduced to a few supplemental characters along the way, but for the most part we are encapsulated in a little Liv/Zane bubble that you never want to see burst. They are aware pretty early on in the book when they meet again after so many years that a LOT has happened during that time apart. Liv was raped in college, which impacts the physical relationship these two start up pretty quickly. Zane is a recovering alcoholic who still feels the constant pull of the bottle.
While some would run away from getting romantically involved with another person with such deep-rooted issues, these two refuse to be scared off. Zane does remain convinced for a large portion of the novel that it’s just a matter of time before Liv realizes how messed up he truly is and hightails it out of there, but he’s going to embrace every possible moment he can between now and when that day might come. In addition, he vows to take things at her own pace, refusing to rush her into a physical relationship before she’s ready.
A Tough Road Ahead
I also loved that this novel demonstrates how past experiences such as theirs won’t simply be forgotten and magically healed forever by the power of love. Even after they build up to the point where Liv is ready to have sex with Zane, she asks him to realize that there might be a moment down the road where she could be triggered to flinch or push away from his touch.
At the same time, Zane’s reality is that while he might attend AA meetings multiple times a week, and go for long periods of time without drinking, there will be times where the allure of the alcohol could force him to take a step back from socializing. And they both get it!! They understand when others won’t. They realize that life can be a constant struggle for some people, but they’re there to help and support each other. LOOOVE!
A Step Away From Perfection
At this point I think you can tell I really enjoyed this novel, and while I think the love story described is damn near perfection, I must admit there were a few flaws. The first I consider to be the main flaw, and the one I found to be the most perplexing. The impetus for Live and Zane to reconnect after so many years is that they both receive a cryptic invitation to visit Cupid’s Café where, “an admirer looks forward to meeting you”. Zane is humorously intrigued, and decides why the hell not? Liv is convinced she’s being taunted by her former rapist, and goes to confront him. When they both show up and their eyes lock through the crowded café the rest, as they say, is history.
But that my friends is the flaw. The rest is history. Who the hell sent them these letters?!?! We never find out. There’s no clue or suggestion if it’s one of their friends, a matchmaking café proprietor, or just the cosmos being all funky. I was absolutely shocked that our lead characters never even bother to discuss it with each other. Now, I will say that this is the third book in this Cupid’s Café series, so maybe the one sending invitations is presented in a previous novel? Maybe it will finally be a big reveal when the series comes to a close? I don’t know but give me something!!!!
Waiting for No One
The one other flaw was relatively minor all things considered, and in the end sort of turned into a positive. Our novel opens with Liv on a date from hell, which abruptly ends when she hears the trill of her date’s phone and it immediately reminds her of the night she was raped. When she returns home to find a mystery envelope inviting her to meet someone from her past she’s immediately convinced it can be only one man, her rapist. Her reason for going was decidedly to finally find justice after so many years. Instead, she finds Zane waiting for her.
Throughout the whole novel I kept waiting for the inevitable scene where Liv and Zane would be confronted with this man from her past. So imagine my surprise when it never comes! No glimpse from across the street, or even a more intense confrontation, nothing! Now, in hindsight I’m actually happy we were never presented with a threatening scene between Liv and her rapist. I think that scenario, combined with Zane confronting his own struggle with alcoholism, would have made the whole plot seem too artificially orchestrated. I guess I just would have preferred that it wasn’t implied at the outset that it could have been a possibility. I sort of felt like I was anticipating something I had no need to worry about for the whole book!
*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*
Series: Cupid’s Café, book 3. I kind of want to go back and read the first few novels from this series to see if I missed out on our mystery letter writer inviting our lovebirds to Cupid’s Café.
Should you read it? This is an emotional roller coaster of a read that shows you just how powerful, yet difficult love can be. While I definitely loved both of these characters, I personally found Liv to be truly inspirational. She survived a trying ordeal, and was brave enough to share what happened with Zane even though she thought it would put distance between them. Then when Zane experiences a relapse with his alcoholism she chooses to stand by him and refuses to give up even when Zane tries to convince her that she’d be better off without him. It’s such a refreshing contrast to your typical romance novel drama.
Smut Level: Liv and Zane recognize that after all these years their bodies still crave each other, though this sparked attraction is put slightly on hold after Liv experiences a trigger from her rape. But Zane sticks by her side and is willing to take things slow. Just because it’s slow, don’t think it isn’t delectable!
Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.03 Kindle Price. After Glows Publishing. 200 Pages.
“I don’t know what it was about him pinning me up against hard surfaces, but I fucking loved it”. Amen sister!
What’s it About?
Despite Blake Landon’s controlling ways, the young and wealthy hacker finally won the trust of the woman he loves. Internet entrepreneur Erica Hathaway broke down the walls that kept her from opening her heart and her business to Blake. Ready to start this new chapter in her life, Erica is determined not to let anything come between them, even if that means giving Blake back some of the control he craves in and out of the bedroom. But when demons from her past threaten their future, Erica makes a decision that could change their lives forever.
If I had to describe this book in three words or less it would be “frustrating as fuuuuuuuuuck”. Apologies, pardon my language, but what can I say? I’m frustrated!!! This is one of those novels where it seems like all of the drama, unhappiness and mayhem could have just disappeared in a poof if Erica had managed to open her mouth and share what was going on with Blake. Now I know, having the drama end all within the span of a chapter doesn’t make for a very exciting read. But in my mind, that means it doesn’t make for a very decent plot when you can resolve it all so quick and easy if the lead character acted in any way like a normal person would. Maybe add another dimension to it so that I don’t constantly want to pull my hair out and scream out loud, “JUST TELL HIM WHAT’S GOING ON!!!!” The fact I listened to this as an audio book primarily on my walks to and from work meant that I was constantly on the verge of looking like a psycho. Nobody wants that people!
Feel the Pressure
One of the minor frustrating aspects of this novel revolved around Blake and Erica’s sexual relationship. It’s basically a continuation of what was presented in book one, with them running in circles like a greyhound chasing a mechanized bunny at the race-track. He’s used to non-vanilla type sex, where domination is the name of the game, and he’s the master of his bedroom. However, Blake is hesitant to fully dominate her since she was raped years before. He’s worried he’ll take things too far and they won’t be able to come back from it. Surprisingly, we see that Erica is actually the one pressuring Blake to take their sexual adventures to the next level. He desires total submission and she wants to give him that.
The problem here is that both are so set on taking things to the extreme. She’s urging him to go all out in the bedroom, and he’s concerned going all out will trigger a panic attack for her. Whatever happened to baby steps people?! Like, you don’t have to go straight from missionary position in unique locations to being blindfolded, handcuffed, and spanked at the same time all in one go. Maybe have a slow and seductive introduction to the d/s lifestyle so that Blake doesn’t have to worry about taking things too far, and Erica can get used to a new side of sex she hasn’t seen before. Slow and steady wins the race folks! You need to learn how to tie the knot before stringing up your lover to the bedpost.
The first quarter or so of this book was pretty dull, as it just dealt with Erica setting up her new business, and navigating her sexual relationship with Blake. And then we get a dramatic plot twist that I must admit I did NOT see coming. There was sooooo much potential here for the book to go in an entirely new direction with some depth and suspense thrown in. Unfortunately, this opportunity was pretty much squandered, as Erica draws together almost every stereotype of being a frustrating lead character. Now, I don’t want to give away this plot twist since it was undoubtedly the most interesting part of the novel. However, I will say that with this twist a character demands Erica break up with Blake, or else there is the implication that physical harm will come to him. So what does she do? She keeps her mouth shut about this external threat to Blake, instead choosing to end things between them.
If Blake were just your average Joe Schmoe I miiiiight get why she didn’t want to draw him into her drama. Here’s the problem though. Blake is like, a gazillionaire. If Erica had just said, yo this person is threatening us as a couple, any thoughts? He probably could have hired a swarm of bodyguards, private investigators, and a swat team to resolve the matter. But instead Erica has to go and play the martyr, falling on her sword to give up her happiness with Blake to live in misery. Eventually he does find a way to weasel his way back into her panties, and it took a loooooong time for us to finally get there. And when we do? Blake has not only one option to resolve all her drama, but two! Just goes to show that working together as a couple, and opening up to your partner with the truth can make it so much easier to confront a threat than having to do it all on your own.
Series: Hacker, book 2. This is a pretty meh series so far.
Should you read it? Really the only positive I can give with this one is the early plot twist, but unfortunately it just drags on and on before eventually going nowhere. Erica frustrated me to no end, especially considering how many times she pushed Blake away even though he was begging her to let him in and help. Makes it hard to sympathize with her woes when she’s being so stubborn.
Smut Level: They’re still in the introductory phase of the BDSM lifestyle. Blake enjoys his dirty talk, but you can tell he’s still hesitant to let his hand loose completely.
Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $6.99 Kindle Price. Hachette Book Group. 312 Pages.