Taking Shots by Toni Aleo

She watches the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice every night before falling asleep. With no mention at all of the Colin Firth version?!?! Not gonna lie, I kind of judge. 
What’s it About? 
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Elli Fisher has never thought she was good enough, let it be her job, her weight, her love life, nothing. That is until she meets Shea Adler. After doing a promotional shoot for the NHL team, the Assassins, she meets the hunky hockey player who shoots a puck, shattering her world. Shea Adler was tired of the life he was living outside of the rink. The girls, the money blowing, the drinking, everything had to stop and it all did when he met Eleanor Fisher. He had never met anyone like her. She was feisty, witty, shy, and simply gorgeous. When he laid eyes on her, it was as if he was taking the hardest hit of his life into the boards, and he had to have her. Elli is a little skeptical of Shea, but he knows that they were meant to be together, and he needed her in his life. Can Elli throw her insecurities out the window and love Shea with everything inside of her, or will she let a past relationship, and her family ruin any chance of her being happy.
First Impressions 
This book was like an accent smorgasbord. I listened to this romance as an audio book and I must say the narrator did a fantastic job with the various accents presented throughout the novel. From our female lead with her Nashville twang, to the hockey star with his Boston accent, and even an adorably romantic supplementary character from Russia. The narrator captures them all effortlessly. Considering how difficult it can be for an audio book narrator to reflect an American accent actively, I was thoroughly impressed with her ability to effectively present so many varied voices.
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This novel does start off with a pretty adorable meet-cute between our male and female lead, Shea and Elli. He’s the stunning hockey captain of her favorite hometown team, and she’s the photographer scheduled to take shots of him and his teammates. To say Elli is a little star struck is quite the understatement. The fact that he starts openly flirting as she snaps his photo has her floored. Their dynamic is just so darn cute in the beginning, but unfortunately things sort of start to go downhill from there.
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A Dragging Romance 
If I had to give you one piece of advice when it came to this novel it would be to try and find the abridged version. The audio book I listened to was the unabridged copy, and ran for almost 15 hours, aka almost 600 Kindle pages. While the initial meeting between Hockey Star and photographer was rather sweet, things just started to drag on from that point. There’s a pretty large portion of the book which seems rather uneventful, and we are presented with a pretty typical romance timeline. We have the meet cute, the pursuit, the first date, and everything else you can predict in an early romance with very little surprise. I just kept waiting around for something to happen. Unfortunately, once we finally do get a little bit of action, it’s rather unsatisfying. Or, maybe depressing is a more appropriate word.
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The Black Sheep of the Family
While the introduction of Elli and Shea’s romance seems to drag on for quite some time, in reality they start to fall for each other pretty quickly. Or at least, Shea falls for Elli extremely fast. She has some past drama from her previous relationship which has left her hesitant to admit her feelings for Shea. However, it’s not long before we get to see the good ole introduction to the family. And my goodness, is it a shit show. Elli’s father is a pure Angel, but unfortunately her mother is the devil incarnate, while her sister is the Antichrist. Both women openly antagonize Elli over her former weight issues, and at one point her mother even slaps her hand away from grabbing a second helping of food.
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The scene would have to be the most memorable of the novel for me, and by far the most frustrating. Firstly, the rest of Elli’s family puts up with this behavior as typical. Her father sort of comes to her defense at one point, but doesn’t put a whole lot of backbone into it. As for Shea, he is noticeably shocked at the family’s behavior and attitude towards Elli, but he doesn’t come to her defense until after Elli leaves the room in a ball of tears. I understand wanting to leave a nice first impression when meeting the family, but I felt like when her hand was slapped away he should have just grabbed Elli’s other hand and pulled her from the room to leave. No reason to put up with that kind of crap. But here was the main reason I had an issue with this scene. 
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Elli let Shea walk into the lions den with no preparation whatsoever. She knew this would happen. Her mother and sister had always made fun of her because of her weight, and she knew it was just a matter of time before their true nature would come to light. However, Elli never told Shea that her female relatives were such terrible people. Or that she used to sing on Broadway, that she gained over 100 lbs following a thyroid issue, or that she was once engaged to a jackass who cheated on her. Instead she lets her mother and sister surprise him completely with all the details of her past. Every…single…one.
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She didn’t need to tell him everything, but some warning probably would have been a good idea. Or maybe just delay having brunch with the family until you feel comfortable enough opening up to your boyfriend about the basics of your past. Shea is understandably upset to discover that Ellie kept so much hidden from him, and for a brief moment her secrets even threaten their relationship. Although he initially turns away from her, it isn’t long before he goes running back to take her up in his arms once again, and put the unfortunate events behind them.
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The Unwanted Kiss
After the brunch from hell, things pretty much go back to normal. We are just waiting, waiting, waiting for something dramatic or substantive to happen. And when it does I must say it pissed me off. At this point we are pretty late in the novel, and both of our lead characters have openly admitted how much they love each other. Shea even threw a Pride and Prejudice themed birthday party for Elli. That’s love folks. And so we’ve arrived at the moment where Shea decides Elli is the woman he wants to spend the rest of his life with, and it’s time to purchase a ring. And who does he allow to accompany him on this shopping adventure? None other than Elli’s terrible, heartless sister. Look, we all know something’s going to go wrong here. Even Shea knows it. And yet he hopes that by bringing her along it will help to bring the sisters closer together. Such a naive rabbit.
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So it isn’t long before her sister kisses Shea right in front of Elli, and of course this causes both Shea and Elli to flip their lids. Shea immediately tells Elli how her sister was setting him up, that she kissed him while he just pushed her away, and that he sees nothing in her. And here was the reason I really didn’t like this scene. Her sister has never been anything but openly hostile with Elli. Spouting verbal abuse left and right that even I would have trouble yelling at my worst enemy, let alone my sister, and yet for some reason I will never understand Elli chooses to believe her sister when she said Shea kissed her.
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Like…what in the actual hell? She calls Shea a liar, an ass hole, and immediately packs up her stuff to move out of his apartment. Elli refuses to listen to Shea’s logical explanation, answer his calls, or read his texts. She has no doubt in her mind whatsoever that he pursued her sister, and that he doesn’t actually love her. Even though he has never done anything throughout their entire relationship to demonstrate otherwise, and he’s always been entirely forthcoming with how much he loves her, even when she couldn’t admit it herself.  
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I tried to keep telling myself that they really haven’t been dating all that long. It’s only been four months, they’re already living together, and they’ve both declared their love for each other. In addition, the fact her ex-fiancé was a cheating ass makes it reasonable for her to be suspicious of Shea, right? Sorry but throughout this whole ordeal I couldn’t see Elli’s side. Maybe if she had been on slightly better terms with her sister I might have found her disgust towards Shea a tad more plausible. Or if she in any way doubted her decision after leaving Shea behind. But when Elli chose her malicious sister over Shea, who has never been anything but a loving gentleman to her, I couldn’t help but think, “You know what Shea, maybe you should just let her go.” It’s always Shea going after Elli, fighting for their relationship, whereas she gives up so easily. If she’s so willing to walk away…maybe he should just let her walk away. I know that makes me sound like such a non-romantic, but considering she kept her entire past a secret from him, and is now so willing to give up on their relationship I couldn’t help but feel that Shea deserved better. 
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Series: Assassins, book 1. I’m gonna keep going with this one. After all, we have a whole hockey team to look forward too. 
Should you read it? I loved the start of this novel. I loved that a tough-as-nails hockey captain like Shea could be so openly romantic and affectionate. I loved the supplemental characters who had their own romantic story lines going on. Unfortunately, Elli really wasn’t my favorite character. I didn’t like that she never seemed to give 100%, or heck even 60%, of herself to her relationship with Shea. He really seemed to be the glue holding them together, and he constantly put in 140% to make up for her hesitancy. It was only during the very last scene that Elli chose to make a big romantic gesture to win Shea back. Perhaps too little too late?
Smut Level: Things are kind of slow going at first as Elli is very self conscious about her body’s appearance after gaining and losing so much weight following a medical issue. But Shea is more than willing to show her that he finds every inch of her delectable. 
Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Loveswept Publishing. 594 Pages.
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Personal Delivery by Ainsley Booth

This novel seriously made me consider buying large amounts of products I don’t need online in the hopes of getting a hot ass delivery man to bring me his large…package. Ok, I think I might have to hide my credit card. It’s in pretty immediate danger of taking a hit.
What’s it About?
35116165I recognize the sound of his truck turning off in front of my building. Not only do I recognize it, but my pulse picks up and I get all hot and bothered. Then I hear the low growl cutting out, followed by the clank of metal as he pulls up the back door to grab my package…Grab my package? That sounds so dirty. Which is probably appropriate given some of the fantasies I’ve had about him. My obsession with the new, mysterious delivery driver is crazy. Intense. Distracting. The last thing I need is to be crushing on a six-foot-something distraction with a dirty grin. But my friends have other plans.
First Impressions 
Now, I know what you’re thinking. Because I had the same first impression upon reading the synopsis. Have I somehow stumbled onto the set of a porn flick? We have a sexy delivery man in his tight uniform that shows off all his muscles, and a beautiful woman home all alone, just waiting to invite him in. Perhaps for a glass of lemonade? And I’m not gonna lie folks, at times this novel does read borderline porno. It’s hot, sexy, and bursting at the seams with some downright filthy dirty talk. We’ve got kitchen counter coupling, hallway stumbling foreplay, and the discovery of some new erogenous zones.
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I must say though, I just loved that Jana admits to herself how much it seems like a porno scenario, and uses this as a reason to try and keep as much of a distance from Jake as she can. Alas, he proves too enticing to resist. Although this book highlights the sexy side of a new relationship, it’s also light-hearted fun, and our male lead shows an affinity for cats and kittens for crying out loud. He’s also not afraid to admit his true feelings for Jana, even if he’s never experienced this kind of close connection with another woman before. Jake knows what they’re feeling for each other is the real thing, and will do whatever it takes to put his heart on the line. And…again…the guy likes kittens!!! What’s not to love here people?!?!
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Lack of Drama
Every once in a while, especially if you’re lounging around somewhere on a beach, it can be fun to read a sexy romance that is relatively drama free. After all, I’m sure we can all attest to the fact that we encounter enough drama in our every day lives, from work to school and even our TV viewing. Who needs more of it in their romance reading?! That being said, I was pretty shocked that for the entire novel, we are entirely drama free!
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Like, no misunderstandings or spats between our lead characters, no negative external factors. I kept waiting around for some kind of inevitable dramatic reveal or impact on the plot, but it never came. Honestly, it kind of made for a surprisingly refreshing, yet also a pretty lackluster read when all was said and done. I mean, come on, you can’t even have a typical disagreement over leaving the toilet seat up? Hogging the covers? SNORING?!?! This might be the most copacetic couple I’ve ever encountered.
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Options Galore
I think what was even more surprising than the lack of drama in this novel is that there were SOOOO many different opportunities where a bit of drama or intrigue could have been established. First and foremost, the entire premise of how Jake and Jana meet is based on a misrepresentation. Jake is actually a billionaire who recently purchased a delivery company, and he decides to play a little undercover boss scenario by making deliveries for the company with a truck and uniform. As for why he felt compelled to do this? It’s briefly mentioned that he wants to see how the company works from the ground up, but I really wish this concept had been expanded on a bit more.
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I feel like we only scratched the surface of his underlying motives, and some more depth would have been appreciated. Anywho, flirtations are flying high between Jana and delivery man Jake, and eventually they fall into bed together. It’s after this first coupling that Jana soon sees Jake’s true identity featured on the news as the billionaire that he is. Shockingly, she really isn’t that upset about it, and they never even have an intense discussion about it. If anything, she seemed more upset by the fact that she now believes this places him way out of her league rather than focusing on the fact that he was kind of deceptive about who he truly was when they first met.
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Another area I was surprised we never experienced any conflict over is that they’re both pretty busy with their respective job responsibilities. She’s constantly busy thinking and drawing up new artistic greeting cards series, and of course, he’s the billionaire with his hand in multiple cookie jar ventures. I kept waiting for one or the both of them to start feeling neglected due to their distracting time commitment. Again though, what I thought would be an inevitable confrontation never comes. If anything, Jana almost seems to get upset at one point that Jake starts to focus more attention on her rather than his work. This was another area where I think more of an exploration into what our characters were thinking would have been helpful. Perhaps Jana didn’t want Jake to feel like he had to give up an important part of his life to be with her? Maybe she was worried if she allowed Jake to give up his time at work to be with her he would soon demand the same of her? I don’t know, but just some areas thought could have used more depth.
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I will say there was one area lacking in drama that I absolutely loved, and definitely earned a chuckle or two. When Jana discovers the truth of Jake’s true identity, she is not only intimidated by his massive amount of wealth, but also about his former lovers. Glorious beauties the lot of them, and even a few models thrown in there too. Towards the end of the novel Jake surprises Jana with an invitation to accompany him to the Met Gala, and her hilarious response was, “How many supermodel ex-girlfriends do you have?…It always matters. There will be some super awkward meeting at the Met Gala. I’ve seen how it goes on TMZ.” I mean it’s such a common trope we see in romance novels, especially when a wealthy male lead is involved. The fact that this novel not only poked fun at the concept, but then avoids an eventual run-in entirely was something I actually found to be quite funny. Well done.
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Series: Billionaire Secrets, book 1. I’ll continue with this series. We are introduced to quite a number of other fun characters, and it should be fun to see them each find their own romance. Maybe even with each other in some instances!
Should you read it? This is a fun and sexy read that definitely leans heavily on the sexy side of things. I think certain parts of the story, as well as Jana and Jake’s relationship could have used some more depth. It was also pretty surprising to have a read completely lacking in drama, especially when there were so many different opportunities presented which could have resulted in an argument or two between our lovers. But if you’re looking for a fun read with an adorable couple that will help you escape the drama in your own life you just might get a kick out of this one.
Smut Level: Holy shit you guys. Honestly I think this is one of those reads that is too hot to take to the beach. It might cause you to spontaneously combust from a spike in dirty-talk temperatures. Maybe save this one when you’re stuck in a cold cabin and you need to warm up a bit.
Get it on Amazon: Click Here. FREE on Kindle (as of writing this post). Amazon Digital Services LLC. 178 Pages.

Easy by Tammara Webber

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? 

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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.

First Impressions

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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???

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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.

Fat Girl Begone! by D.E. Haggerty

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? 

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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.

First Impressions

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!

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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*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.

Captured Memories by Katherine McIntyre

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?

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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.

First Impressions

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.

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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!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!!!!

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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.

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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!

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*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.

 

Hardpressed by Meredith Wild

“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? hardpressed

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.

First Impressions

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!

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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.

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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.

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Squashed Potential

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.

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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.

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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.

The Home Court Advantage by N.M. Silber

Nothing quite spices up a courtroom like sex between opposing counsels in the jury holding room!

What’s it About? 

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Gabrielle and Braden have fallen in love and face a bright future together if they can just survive all of the crazy people they encounter, like anonymous napkin droppers, UFO enthusiasts, crooked businessmen, nude drunk drivers, and a woman who tries to break into jail. When the gavel falls will the verdict be happily ever after? Come join the fun as the sexiest couple in the Philadelphia Criminal Court System shares more witty banter and red hot lovin’ with a dash of mystery thrown in. The story that began with The Law of Attraction concludes with lots of love and laughter in The Home Court Advantage.

First Impressions

I remember not only being pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed the first book in this series, but also my surprise that it ended on a bit of a cliffhanger. After all, we’re mainly dealing with a romantic comedy here, what could we possibly have to continue story-wise in a whole other full-length novel? Turns out…not much of anything. I gotta say, all in all while this second book did provide me with a fair number of chuckles, it was pretty much entirely unnecessary. The resolution to the story line from book one could have easily been answered in just one more chapter at the end of the first book. Instead what we have are just a series of over-the-top shenanigans and sensually detailed sex scenes that prolong us from finding out what sadly isn’t even a very exciting conclusion to the question of who was sending our heroine cryptic messages.

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A Not-So-Unique Sequel

I’ll admit I do still love the characters presented in this novel, and I’m beyond excited to see some of the other characters highlighted with their own stories in books going forward. As for this novel, it’s basically just a continuation of what we saw in book one. The end of the previous novel ended with us questioning who could have possibly sent Gabrielle these messages considering her top three suspects were all cleared, and this book opens pretty much right after the end of that first book.

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Unfortunately that main mystery story is pushed to the background almost immediately to instead focus on our lead couple going through their usual courtroom antics and sexual dalliances. Some of these courtroom scenes were fun, short chapters to intersperse the other things going on in the book, but there was one unbelievably long chapter with various cases one after the other that just seemed out of place. In need of some editing for sure.

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As for the sexual dalliances, holy shit definitely turned up the dial in this one! Not gonna lie, some were borderline porn, especially considering in one scene the characters kept saying it would be a great thing to write Playboy about. The scene in question had the lead characters wandering into the jury sequester room to “let off some steam”, and another case with judge and lawyers started up as they tried to…finish. While comedic, it was a bit much, almost like trying too hard to be funny and sexy.

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From Notes to Stalking

Then we get to the drama of the story that comes back form book one. In the first Gabrielle was receiving notes from an anonymous someone who was warning her to stay away from Braden. Things are slightly ratcheted up in this one as she starts to see and sense someone following her. Thankfully she chooses to share these sightings with Braden, and the two remain relatively calm about the whole thing for the entirety of the novel. Their cool-headedness actually made it kind of a boring read. They just never seemed too worried about it.

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In the previous book Gabrielle employed the help of her friends to try and figure out who was writing these secret messages to her. In this sequel she asks for their help yet again, but just like with the sex scenes things are heightened up to the Nth degree in this book to the point where they are just over the top sitcom level shenanigans. Again, trying too hard, and ultimately unnecessary. Let’s just say a UFO enthusiast group gets involved.

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Series: Lawyers in Love, book 2. Although I wasn’t a fan of this second book I’m definitely continuing with the series. The next novels focus on the friends of our lead couple finding their own true loves, and I’m beyond excited.

Should you read it? As a whole, this book wasn’t needed. There were funny parts and sexy parts, but plot-wise it should have all been resolved at the end of book one. I did enjoy the development of the friends group we’ve got going, and we were able to see the introduction of how some of these friends will pair off into something more going forward.

Smut Level: Daaaaaaamn. These two are freakin’ saucy, and they certainly up their dirty talk level. Made me blush a time or ten, and that isn’t always easy to do.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Mendelssohn Levy Publishing. 232 Pages.