Rock Addiction by Nalini Singh

From New Zealand to Los Angeles, sometimes you have to take a chance and go the distance for true love. Even when it involves a world famous rock star.

What’s it About?

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A bad boy wrapped in a sexy, muscled, grown-up package might be worth a little risk… Molly Webster has always followed the rules. After an ugly scandal tore apart her childhood and made her the focus of the media’s harsh spotlight, she vowed to live an ordinary life. No fame. No impropriety. No pain. Then she meets Zachary Fox, a tattooed bad boy rocker with a voice like whiskey and sin, and a touch that could become an addiction.

A one-night stand with the hottest rock star on the planet, that’s all it was meant to be… Fox promises scorching heat and dangerous pleasure, coaxing Molly to extend their one-night stand into a one-month fling. After that, he’ll be gone forever, his life never again intersecting with her own. Sex and sin and sensual indulgence, all with an expiration date. No ties, no regrets. Too late, Molly realizes it isn’t only her body that’s become addicted to Fox, but her heart…

First Impressions

The meet cute is everything in a romance novel. When Molly first sets her eyes on Fox, in person, for the first time she is immediately smitten. She’s aware of his rock-star status, and is undeniably drawn to his sex appeal and dark persona. As someone who’s always played by the rules, Molly admits to herself that she could see herself taking a chance with this one. Even if it’s just for one night. Fox on the other hand? He’s been eyeing her from across the room all night long. He knows that Molly isn’t just someone he wants to take to bed, but rather is someone he wants to have a future with. She’s different than other women, and he’s dead set on convincing her that he’s different than other men. That they have a connection which is worth more than one night.

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Now, why was it that Fox’s commitment beam was focused so specifically on Molly? Honestly, I have…no…idea. And it bugs me! Throughout the whole novel I kept waiting around for some sort of explanation, or window into what Fox was feeling that night. How, considering his life in the limelight, he knew that this woman was so different than any other woman who had come before. Sure, we could say that it’s because she just wanted one night with him when other women had always demanded more. We could perhaps theorize that it’s because Molly’s sister is his PR rep, and maybe she had shared with him the details of how amazing and special her sister was. But we never hear that from Fox directly, and it’s kind of killing me to wonder how he knew before even speaking to her that she was worth pursuing so vehemently. Perhaps we’re dealing with a rock star with a bad case of love at first sight.

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From Part 1 to 2

While I didn’t really understand the logistics of their initial meet-cute, I must say the progression of their relationship was addicting to behold. A note to all the romance authors out there, this book is the perfect example of how to divide a novel into multiple parts. Part 1 of the book is set entirely in New Zealand, and is mainly focused on laying the foundation of Molly and Fox’s relationship. They’re getting to know each other, both physically and emotionally, and Fox is trying his damnedest to convince Molly to take a chance on him. She’s hesitant to enter into a long-term romantic relationship with him because she knows that if the paparazzi catch wind of their affair, then the sordid details of her family’s past will come to light. She’ll have to relive it all. But with Fox by her side, she realizes it just might be worth the risk. Cue Part 2.

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About halfway through the book we get a “Part 2” heading, and we immediately switch gears to Fox’s home turf in Los Angeles. The focus changes to living life in the fast lane, and wondering if their relationship is strong enough to face the pressures of reality and celebrity. And I must say, it’s unbelievable how important that little “Part 2” heading was. If it hadn’t been indicated, I think the book would have felt ridiculously disconnected, almost as though we were dealing with two books smashed together into one. But just by having that little heading, I was able to mentally prepare myself for the story to veer off into another direction. This is when Molly and Fox’s relationship is truly put to the test.

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Testing the Waters

There are bound to be disagreements and arguments in every relationship, especially when a couple moves in together. Considering this particular couple is moving in together after only knowing each other for a month, he’s a famous rock star, and she left behind all she knew in New Zealand to be with him? Yeah, you can prepare yourself for a spat or two. Now, I must say at times I found their dynamics during these arguments to be somewhat problematic. It seemed like Molly was always the one apologizing to Fox for whatever disagreement they seemed to be having. For example, at one point after the move to Los Angeles they get into a fight because she decides to buy groceries for them,  considering he’s always the one to purchase things.

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Fox kind of goes off the rails and says she needs to get used to the fact that he’ll want to spoil her a bit and pay for things. Mkay, I must say this kind of upset me. This woman just quit her job, said goodbye to all of her friends, packed up, and moved all the way to the other side of the world to be with him. She’s getting situated into a new life where she’s trying to feel needed, helpful, useful, and instead she feels guilty for always accepting his money. Let her pay for the damn groceries! If this is a way that she feels she can contribute to the relationship while she’s trying to get her life in order as he creates music all day, why use it as a source for an argument? Just have kitchen sex or something and get over it. It’s just one example, but there were a few times in the novel where it seemed like Fox would kind of snip at Molly for trying to acclimate to his world.

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The Truth Comes Out

Throughout the entire novel we are waiting for two major reveals. The first is the truth surrounding Molly’s family, specifically her father. The details are hinted at here and there, but we really have to wait a while before Molly has an honest and open discussion with Fox about the particulars. And I must say it is an utterly heartbreaking reveal. It finally makes sense why Molly was so hesitant to enter into a relationship with Fox. She didn’t want the paparazzi to start digging into her past, and drudge up all the horrific memories she’s tried to put behind her for so long. However, this sad past also highlights the beauty of her present relationship with Fox. She’s finally living her life for herself, taking chances and making decisions based on what she thinks will bring her true happiness. And for her that means Fox. He helps her learn how to live in the moment, and understand that a future with him can bring even more joy and love. Quite touching!

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The other big moment that we’re waiting around for is the discovery of Molly and Fox’s relationship by the paparazzi. And of course something else which goes hand-in-hand with that: the insinuation by the paparazzi of infidelity. There was no way it could be avoided, but there’s the constant wonder of when and how it will happen. And when it finally does I must say I was pleasantly surprised with the aftermath. At first Molly is devastated, and her flight response kicks in. But then lo and behold she does something that most romance novel leading ladies in a similar situation always seem incapable of. She takes a moment to breathe, calm down, and think things through logically. Molly reminds herself of not only how much she loves Fox, but all the different ways he’s convinced her of how dedicated he is to her. She then proceeds to talk to him about her fears and doubts, and together they are able to find their way through the mishaps and misunderstandings. Who knew they could be such cool-headed adults!! Did it make for a somewhat uneventful read when dramatic reveals were handled in such a mindful way? Sure, in a way, but it was also unbelievably refreshing to not once again see a female lead who could be so easily dismayed and swindled by gossip rags.

Series: Rock Kiss, book 1. I’m excited to see the romance stories of our other bad boy members of the band who played such crucial supplemental roles in this first story. Each musician appears to have a distinct personality, and I’m looking forward to getting to know them more.

Should you read it? Definitely an interesting story arch as we see our couple build their relationship from the coast of New Zealand to the fast pace of LA. They have their ups and downs along the way, with both of their pasts coming back to test them. However, they also find strength in each other, which helps them through the inevitable challenges of fame and romance. I do wish we learned a bit more of the impetus for Fox’s initial link to Molly, and why he was so willing to fight for her considering the start of their relationship was primarily based around sex. They eventually develop a heartwarming emotional connection that has you crossing your fingers in the hope that they’ll succeed through all the paparazzi mayhem. Personally I really enjoyed their ability to not give into the artificial drama which was being created around them, but instead they could focus on the importance of their own relationship and that with their closest friends and band mates.

Smut Level: This romance definitely has an interesting balance of scenes which are kind of glossed over, and then others which are provided in explicit detail. You never quite know what you’re gonna get!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. TKA Distribution. 406 Pages.

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White Roses in Winter by Barbara Meyers

Will one night of romance on the beach turn into a lifetime of happiness?

What’s it About?

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The princess. The pauper. And a shotgun…The only thing Jason is focused on is getting through his last year of college. But the instant attraction between him and Kerrie leads to one unforgettable night together. When Kerrie’s wealthy, overly-protective father learns she is pregnant, he arranges a temporary marriage to teach her a lesson about choices and consequences. Jason reluctantly agrees to keep his participation in the plan a secret, because it’s the only way he can safeguard his future and his family. Kerrie is blinded by her romantic fantasy and doesn’t suspect she’s been set up. Meanwhile, Jason guards his heart and vows that when Kerrie leaves with their baby, he won’t beg her to stay. Just when it seems a future together is possible, lies, betrayal and deceit threaten to separate Kerrie and Jason forever. Faced with losing each other and their baby, will their fragile bond be strong enough?

First Impressions

Based on the synopsis, I was surprised to see how this novel actually started. I figured we’d witness the initial attraction between Jason and Kerrie which ultimately lead to her ending up pregnant before the two get married. Imagine my surprise when instead we open on a pill-popping woman named Tiffany who watches on in pure disdain as Jason and Kerrie wander back to her birthday house party after a tumble on a sandy beach. She wants Jason for herself, and although Kerrie is her “friend”, she is filled with an overwhelming amount of hatred towards her for stealing her crush out from under her. Switch to the next scene, and Tiffany is pushed to the background to instead focus on Kerrie discovering her pregnancy, and the progression of her marriage to Jason.

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A unique start to be sure considering our meet-cute is introduced through the eyes of a troubled and hate-filled character. Although I must admit this was an interesting way to start off our romantic tale, I couldn’t help but feel that I missed some of the initial connection between Kerrie and Jason seeing as we never really witnessed it directly. The evening’s activities do sort of come together piecemeal throughout the rest of the novel, as we see things from both Kerrie and Jason’s point of view. However, considering this is the very first crucial introduction to their relationship, and we see it through Tiffany’s jealousy and contempt, it seems we lost some of the magic which could have helped explain why these two characters felt a connection in the first place. I guess in my humble opinion the moment didn’t receive the proper attention that it deserved considering it’s the foundation and impetus for their entire future together.

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An Unnecessary Marriage?

I found myself asking a lot of questions throughout Jason and Kerrie’s relationship, and ultimately I’m not sure they were all answered. Or at least, they left me a bit confused. The first I sort of brushed upon in my intro, which was why exactly these two came together in the first place. Neither are “beach sex” kind of people, so they must have seen something in the other which pushed them to throw their inhibitions to the wind, but again this moment never really had the focus and attention I think it deserved. Especially considering what comes next. Their marriage.

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Honestly, I’m still sort of scratching my head over this one. I understand why Kerrie wanted to keep the baby, but I don’t really understand why she felt the need to marry Jason. Couldn’t they try dating for a while? Was a ceremony really necessary? It is sort of implied the marriage was a result of family pressure, specifically from Kerrie’s father, but when he goes to speak with Jason about the prospect of marrying his daughter he openly admits he doesn’t want them to marry. After they do marry her father tries to show Kerrie how unfit Jason is as a husband, and takes some rather drastic steps in an attempt to keep them apart. The whole situation just seemed to constantly contradict itself.

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As for Jason, he acknowledges to himself that he wants to be a part of his child’s life, whether his marriage to Kerrie succeeds or fails. Yet when Kerrie first moves in after their wedding Jason actively ignores her, and tries to limit their interaction whenever possible. I just had trouble understanding the dynamic in the beginning. Wouldn’t he want to be somewhat agreeable if he plans to stay in his child’s life forever, and this is his child’s mother? That being said, I’m happy to say that eventually their tale of romance all comes together for a fantastic conclusion. You really come to root for these two to succeed as a couple, and when they finally learn how to talk to each other and open up about their feelings? Well you just wanna cheer for their success. We see how they find strength when they’re together as a unit. As a family. And nothing could possibly keep them apart.

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The Disapproving Parents

That being said, Kerrie’s mother and father certainly go to some extreme lengths to try and keep these two apart. On the one hand, I found it really difficult to understand how her parents could be so cruel in their attempt to keep Jason away from Kerrie. She’s pregnant for crying out loud, you really wanna risk upsetting her because you don’t approve of the lad? When they do manage to separate the two of them at one point in the story it’s clear how distraught Kerrie is at the separation, and yet they continue to keep her locked away from him like a defenseless animal in a cage. I feel like my parents would be too fearful of my wrath to ever pull this kind of stunt if I were to catch on to their antics.

870307_029Although I had such trouble picturing this scenario with any sense of reality to it, I must say on the other hand I could totally understand it, 100%! It really wasn’t until the very end though that it all came together for me. Throughout the whole thing I kept thinking, what kind of dick parents are these?! To keep their daughter miserable. To be so unnecessarily over-protective. But then, when father and daughter finally have their heart-to-heart conversation at the end? Man, it got to me! As a daddy’s girl, and as the baby of my own family, it finally made sense. To see the lengths two parents would go to in the hopes of protecting their baby from harm. For them to eventually go through the sad realization that she’s not a baby anymore. They have to let her go and live her life. I must say, it was a frustrating road to travel, but in the end it had the most touching and heartfelt of conclusions.

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The Intermittent Villain

Every once in a while throughout this tale of pregnancy, family drama and romance we would see an unexpected reappearance of Tiffany. Don’t tell me you forgot about her already! Our troubled “friend” of Kerrie’s who first witnessed the connection of our lovebirds, and was filled with overwhelming hatred for Kerrie at the sight of it. With every reappearance of Tiffany throughout the book we see that her feelings of ill-will and increased pill-popping is building up to something momentous. While our tale does start and end with Tiffany, thereby coming completely full-circle, I couldn’t help but feel that her villainous story-line was slightly out of place, or maybe unnecessary.

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Kerrie and Jason are dealing with enough drama for crying out loud. They’re trying to figure out how to live with each other, not to mention they have a baby on the way, and her disapproving parental units are acting up. This element of a covetous ex-friend took things slightly over the top for me. Her character definitely brought some high-level suspense to the story, but I think the story also would have felt more realistic without this component to it. Especially considering it was really hard to comprehend why Kerrie and Tiffany would have been friends for so long. Let’s just say her bouts of crazy go back quite a long time!

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Stand-alone romance

Should you read it? It did take a while for Kerrie and Jason to form an emotional bond.  The scenes of them getting to know each other and playing house after their wedding drag on for a bit of an awkward pace. I also wish Kerrie’s pregnancy had been featured more prominently. While it was what brought them together at the start, the details of her being pregnant were pushed to the side that I sort of forgot she was even pregnant at times! If only they could have gone to some doctor’s appointments together, experienced some emotion at seeing that first sonogram photo, go through strange cravings, changing dress sizes, or morning sickness! While we don’t really see any of this, it’s definitely worth sticking around for the end, as this is when the magic of their relationship and Kerrie’s interactions with her parents come to the forefront.

Smut Level: Nothing too overly graphic. There is one kind of awkward scene as they get intimate while Kerrie’s breastfeeding. I feel like having a baby staring at you with big bright eyes while your lover kisses down your throat would sort of kill the mood. But hey, whatever does it for ya!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Barbara Meyers LLC. 375 Pages.

A Sense of Belonging by Laura Branchflower

This book practically takes place in my backyard. It would have been a crime not to read it!

What’s it About? 

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Casey Jansen is celebrating her twenty-first birthday when she catches a glimpse of the older man she’s been secretly obsessing over since passing him on a running trail. When her sister identifies him as Tony Prossi, a well-known Washington, D.C. attorney, Casey instantly wishes she was older. There is no way he is going to be interested in a college student. At least that’s what she believes until their eyes meet. As a partner in a top D.C. law firm and son of a powerful U.S. senator, Tony Prossi understands the importance of image. There is certainly no place in his life for a woman as young as Casey Jansen, especially not when he’s considering running for his father’s Senate seat. But one night with the Georgetown University student ignites a hunger he can’t seem to quench. And Tony will have to decide whether being with Casey is worth the risk to his reputation and family.

First Impressions

I visit Georgetown at least two times a week. My best friend lives there, and it’s about a 15 minute walk from my apartment. Now, on the whole, I must admit it’s probably my least favorite part of DC. The sidewalks are too narrow, it’s too crowded, and everyone walks at a snail’s pace. It tries my patience which then explodes in a ball of fury. That being said, it was fun to read a novel that is set so close to home, and for the most part has a pretty accurate description of DC and Georgetown living! From the running paths through Rock Creek Park, to the high-priced homes of the wealthy. However, I must say there was one aspect of this story which made me pause. Our female lead, who is also a college senior, owns a car? Seriously?! In gtown?!?! Where the hell does she park it? How can she afford parking? Why doesn’t she walk, take the bus, or metro?! Ok granted Georgetown doesn’t have a metro, but I don’t even own a car in this town and I’ve lived here for 6 years. You wanna get rid of an unnecessary expense, don’t have a car in DC. Believe me!! Sorry, silly and unnecessary thing to get riled up about 🙂

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Prince Charming? 

So this was an interesting romance, because for about the first 50% of the novel I honestly didn’t know if our lead couple was going to end up together. Scratch that, I didn’t even know if I wanted them to end up together! At times I felt like Tony was just a closed off guy who would be a tough nut to crack before admitting his true feelings of love and affection for Casey. But then there were other times where I couldn’t help but wonder, wait is this guy going to end up being a villainous douche-bag or something? Casey is so unbelievably smitten with him from the get-go, but he remains entirely closed off to entertaining the idea of anything but physical with her. He doesn’t even want to introduce her to his son. Combine this with the fact that she’s a graduating senior and he’s about 15 years older than her and I wondered, is this guy really just in it for the sex, and eventually Casey will end up heartbroken yet also having learned a valuable life lesson of some kind????

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Ok so the answer to that is no. Eventually Tony does come around, and they’re all happy lovey dovey couple. But I almost wonder if it came “too late” to the story. Not necessarily “too little” too late, as you really do get the sense by the end that Tony is all in when it comes to their relationship, but it definitely made it harder to trust him in the beginning. Or maybe Casey’s full love and devotion for this guy was just too fast and intense up front. The fact that their first date consists of them exchanging about two sentences of pleasantries before she leads him to her room and she gives him her virginity, followed by Casey admitting her love for him about a week later? Ummm…yeah it kind of made me wonder if Casey was a bit too young and naive to enter into this relationship.

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From Questionable to Happily Ever After
 
There were times when Casey’s best friend would try to warn her that her feelings for Tony were so strong simply because he was the first man she ever slept with, and that he was just interested in her because she was a hot and sexy young co-ed. I feel like normally when we’re presented with this kind of outside friendly advice in a romance novel we usually push back on behalf of our loving couple and insist, “no you just don’t understand their love!!! Leave them alone.” However, in this book I was kind of like, girl I get where you’re coming from, there’s just something that doesn’t feel right about this guy. Honestly it was like a mind game!! It seemed like we either could have had a nice and sweet romantic ending (like we did), but I also wouldn’t have been too surprised if we’d gone full out in the other direction with a stalker-suspense tale where Casey goes crazy over Tony’s lack of affection and insist he love her after breaking into his house, or something.

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I know…my mind is a scary place. Imagine having to live with it every day. The last 1/3 or so of this novel really came together for me though. This is when we finally see Tony admit his true feelings for Casey, and while he initially wanted to hide her away we now see him fight for their relationship. This is also when Casey finally graduates from college, and I don’t know why but it just sort of made the age difference seem less apparent. As though she were finally a woman of the world once she had the diploma in hand! We also see some intrigue surrounding Tony’s relationship with his parents, and there were a few twists and turns I didn’t necessarily see coming. A strong finish for sure!

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Stand-alone

Should you read it? While the start of the novel and development of Casey and Tony’s relationship wasn’t my favorite, the book definitely ended strong. I eventually found myself rooting for their love to succeed, but it took a while. Unfortunately I can’t say that Casey was my favorite character. She came across as rather immature at times, and some of her actions and decisions relating to Tony made me cringe. Like when she sits in her car waiting outside his house. However, you can’t help but feel sorry for her family’s treatment of her, and in the end you’re glad she manages to find a happily ever after. I also would have preferred if Tony had showed a bit more warmth towards her in the beginning, rather than it just being a physical connection which brought them together.

Smut Level: Things start off rather slow seeing as this is Casey’s first sexual experience, but after a bit of persuading she manages to convince Tony that she’s more than willing to learn what comes next. And he’s quite the teacher. Wink wink 😉

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services, LLC. 365 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.

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!!!!

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.

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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.

Trying Not to Love You by Megan Smith

It always surprises me how many college romance novels pretty much leave out the concept of schoolwork completely.

What’s it About? 

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MacKenzie Cahill has dealt with overbearing and overprotective brothers her entire life, making it near impossible to enjoy her teenage years. Having a boyfriend was practically impossible until she met a guy that wasn’t afraid to stand up to them – Dominic. He was sweet, thoughtful, and everything MacKenzie ever wanted in a man. But when they go away to college at Old Dominion University, MacKenzie sees a whole new side of Dominic and begins to wonder if he really is different from every other guy. Her world is turned upside down after a party, and her brothers’ best friend Hunter is the one there to offer her a shoulder to cry on. The chemistry between them is electric, and feelings for each other that have been hidden for years are finally voiced. Is Hunter willing to be disloyal to his best friends in order to be with the one girl he’s always secretly wanted?

First Impressions

Alright, I know it’s something silly to get so upset about, but for some reason I get really peeved when a college romance completely ignores the fact our couple is actually in college. This novel is definitely guilty of it to the nth degree. Now, I get it, writing about going to class and studying for exams isn’t exactly the most thrilling concept to a plot, but come on!! It at least gives a sense of realism to the story. When it comes to this book, I seriously think we only get one mention of MacKenzie going to an actual college class, and I don’t even know if we get the name of the class.

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The only other educational mentions we get are MacKenzie’s undergraduate major, and the fact that she made it through her fall semester exams no problem. Beyond that, it’s just a constant slew of parties, relationship drama and weekend trips home. While I’m positive this probably does encapsulate many people’s college experiences, what can I say? Not something I find particularly interesting or relatable. Now, you give me a tale about a couple struggling to keep their relationship on track due to the time commitment of school? That I get. Hell, I’d settle for them just being part of the same damn study group!

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A Revealing Synopsis

This novel is sort of divided into 2 main sections. The first deals with MacKenzie going off to college with her long-term high school boyfriend, Dominic. The second half of the novel sees her moving on from her relationship with Dominic to finally explore a relationship with her lifelong crush, Hunter, who also happens to be her brothers’ best friend since childhood. I know what you’re thinking, kind of a spoiler alert isn’t it? After all, if she’s exploring something with Hunter that must mean her relationship with Dominic doesn’t last very long. Well, no spoilers here, as it’s all pretty much laid out and heavily implied as to how things end in the synopsis. Honestly, I wish this aspect had been concealed from us as the audience rather than basically spelling it out from the get-go. It simply would have made for a more intriguing read.

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Tales of the Unfaithful

It doesn’t take very long for us to realize that Dominic has been cheating on MacKenzie during the brief time he spent at school without her. OK, maybe a mini-spoiler, but honestly I don’t even care because it’s so blatantly obvious. It seems like every character in the novel knows about Dominic’s wandering eye, save one: MacKenzie. At first you can’t help but think, God how unbelievably naive can she be?! There are just so many moments where he has to explain away a seeming misunderstanding about his presence with another woman that you just wanna shake MacKenzie and tell her to wake up already.

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Eventually though, we come to realize that MacKenzie has been paying attention to all the clues, and even suspects that Dominic has been cheating on her. However, she’s been delaying confronting him directly, as she’s trying to latch on to just a small piece of her life back when things were simple and seemingly perfect. Honestly it was kind of a sad admission, and probably the most relatable part of the novel. I’m sure we’ve all experienced moments in life where we’ve tried to avoid change by keeping our eyes shut tight.

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From Crush to Reality

The second half of the novel deals with MacKenzie and Hunter finally opening up about their true feelings for each other. This is when the novel hits its sexy stride. Unfortunately, it’s also where I became increasingly frustrated with the progression of the story. For some reason which is never fully explained, MacKenzie’s brothers are entirely opposed to the idea of Hunter and MacKenzie getting together. Now, I can certainly assume some reasons they might be upset, but the only objection which is actually articulated is, “Dude, that’s my sister. Stay away from her!” Such an…eloquent objection.

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What’s so frustrating about this aspect of the story though is that it actually results in Hunter and MacKenzie not only arguing about their relationship, but also questioning it. I think I almost would have preferred we learned that Hunter was a womanizer, as it would have provided a more legitimate reason for her brothers to be so ridiculously and vehemently opposed to the idea of them getting together. Not to mention for MacKenzie to question if Hunter is right for her. Personally it made me question if the two were even right for each other considering how much they fought about it.

Series: Love You, book 1. Shockingly, this book ends on a crazy cliffhanger which I always find frustrating. Consider yourself warned!

Should you read it? Not my fav. I had trouble falling in love with any of the characters. MacKenzie comes across as pretty whiny and immature, which was definitely enhanced by the audiobook narrator’s intonations. Almost Valley Girl-esque. As for Hunter, he has his sweet and flirtatious moments, but also a fair number where he’s yelling at MacKenzie for some stupid overblown reason. There’s a crazy plot twist near the end I wasn’t expecting, and that I wasn’t altogether very fond of. Oh well, what can ya do?

Smut Level: We have some sexy moments, including a bathtub scene and an isolated cabin sexy weekend getaway. These two have desired each other for years, and they intend to make their time together count. Until her brothers get all butt hurt of course.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Self-Published. 291 Pages.

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