Full Girlfriend Experience by Dana Ross

This book takes place right in my backyard! Welcome to the seedy world of DC politics and scandal.

What’s it About?

43548773

When DC Madam Faith Crawley receives a call from former client, Senator William Drummond, it’s the answer to her prayers. The money the dirty politician offers her to smear his rival Finn Billings will save Faith’s business, her lifestyle, and her girls. Raised in the shadow of a political magnate, Finn Billings has the credentials to get the job done, but he lacks confidence and wonders if politics is truly the life he desires. Using the façade of her front business, a PR firm, Faith turns Finn into a political powerhouse while obtaining the evidence Drummond needs to destroy Finn’s political chances. But Faith didn’t plan on falling in love with her mark. Now she has the toughest decision ever—give the sleazy senator incriminating photos of Finn to save her business or give up everything for the sake of love.

First Impressions

A novel set in Washington, DC? Don’t mind if I do! There’s something about reading a book set in your own environment which makes it that much more fun and interesting to read. DC is practically a supplemental character in this little tale, and the descriptions of how each neighborhood has it’s own personality, from Georgetown to Chinatown, made me absolutely giddy. I couldn’t help but laugh aloud at the accurateness of Chinatown specifically, because it really is the saddest little Chinatown I’ve ever come across. Nothing like being able to visit Bed, Bath, and Beyond, or Hooters, with Chinese characters across the facade. It comes across as such a crazy place, with a plethora of unique local characters on every street corner. Possibly overwhelming, or intimidating to an outsider, but believe me when I say it’s not too bad 🙂 The author did a fantastic job of capturing both the beauty of this city, as well as its conniving underbelly. It’s a land of politics, and as we see from this novel sometimes the most well-intentioned people can get caught up in the cross-hairs of their ambitious rivals.

GettyImages-836454122-1

Full Girlfriend Experience

So you’re all probably asking yourselves at this point, what exactly is “the full girlfriend experience” which this title evokes? Well, when it comes to the world of Madams, it entails a client paying for a level of intimacy that is oftentimes lacking with the typical exchange of money for services you’d expect in prostitution. In a way, it’s almost like paying for companionship rather than sex. Dates, talking, and getting to know each other are the hallmark of the full girlfriend experience, and that’s exactly what our lead character, Faith, is providing for Finn. The only problem is he has no idea that’s what he’s getting, and from an experienced professional no less.

young-couple-walking-hand-to-hand-in-the-park-close-up-dolly-shot_hrl02txr__F0000 (1).png

As far as Finn is aware, Faith is merely an old acquaintance of his father’s who has come on board to help him appeal to a wider audience of voters during his upcoming political campaign. In reality, Faith has been hired by Finn’s opponent with the goal of gaining his trust to eventually attain compromising photographic evidence that would force Finn to concede the election. Nothing like being caught tied up and naked with a Madam to ruin your political career. Faith actually does run a well-known PR firm, but it’s used as a cover to hide the true nature of her underlying business, which is prostitution. Normally this isn’t the kind of job Faith would take on. She’s used to either consulting with politicians and rock stars, or identifying prospective clients for her group of girls or herself to take to bed. Political espionage usually isn’t in the cards. At this point in her life though, Faith is desperate to get a large amount of cash as quickly as possible to save her fledgling business which is on the verge of collapse.

stressed-700x467

Our Villainous Heroine

Honestly, I didn’t exactly know how I was supposed to feel emotionally about Faith. She is our heroine after all, which implies that we are supposed to sympathize with her plight. However, at times she comes across as somewhat materialistic and almost shallow. After some time we learn about the unfortunate details of her impoverished past, and it allows us to better understand her appreciation and covetousness of beautiful things. That being said, we also have to question why she would continue to run this prostitution business if she also has a legitimate business operation which was actually running smoothly up until recently. The fact that she continued to run both simultaneously, and possibly risk everything she’s built to get out of the poor life she used to lead made me wonder if she was simply greedy.

Anne_02

If I had to rethink the structure of the plot to possibly lend an additional sentiment of compassion for Faith, I think I almost would have preferred if she had to fall back on prostitution as a last resort to get her out of her current bind. Perhaps it could have been formatted as though she inherited this business from her former Madam, and she used it to transition to a legitimately legal and reputable PR firm, giving up the prostitution side-gig in the process. However, due to a combination of money troubles, bad investments, and someone from the inside setting her up to fail, she found herself having to go back to her old ways of turning tricks as her only recourse to avoid failing. I think it would have been easier to root for her to succeed in this scenario. Instead, when we get to know how innocent her mark truly is, we almost find ourselves rooting for her to fail in her quest to incriminate the unsuspecting Finn.

54c618fda6c167887701bb845b8c4ba8

Stealing Innocence

“…his shy expression reminded me of the differences between us, specifically, how he was innocent and I stole innocence.”

When I look back on the interactions between Faith and Finn, I can’t help but compare our female lead to a spider, weaving her web to capture our innocent Finn. It seems like such a rarity these days to encounter someone in the political scene who is inherently good, and completely selfless, yet this is exactly what Finn represents. Sure, he’s a little geeky, a poor dresser, and he’s more passionate about rocks and birds than he is about politics, but I loved him all the same. To put it simply, he’s a good guy who hasn’t been tainted yet by the underhanded dealings of DC politics. Enter Faith.

tumblr_lmvwy6zpGg1qim7jao1_500

As Faith gets to know Finn better it becomes clear a life of politics isn’t really something he wants, but he’s doing it anyway to please his parents and hopefully serve others. At first he is simply another job for Faith. One that will help her save her crippling business and the women under her employ. As she spends more time with Finn she can’t deny the unexpected attraction and closeness she feels for him. She doesn’t want to hurt him, but can’t think of any other way to get out from the financial strains of her business. As the deadline approaches for her to bring him down, Faith basically starts to justify her actions by saying that Finn doesn’t really want a life of politics, so by setting him up she’s actually doing him a favor. Unfortunately I can’t say I really agree with that excuse.

bucket

We see through their time together that Faith does have a modicum of influence over Finn. She gets him to update his wardrobe, change his hair, stop his nervous habits, etc. If she had put a bit more of her energy into convincing him to step away from this life of politics I think she just might have been successful. In the end we have to ask what she’s hoping to gain by going through with this plot. If she captures him in a compromising position and ruins his career for money, will she actually feel right taking that money? And if she doesn’t take that money…then what would it all have been for? She tries to convince herself that she’s not a horrible person for plotting Finn’s downfall, and that there are others who were counting on her to succeed. It was meant to be “for some greater good”. However, as she looks around at the lonely life she’s come to lead, and considers the possibility of crushing Finn in order to protect that solitary life, we also see her question, “What was so great about all this?”

tenor (2)

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

Series: Stand-alone

Final Impressions: This book went in a few directions I wasn’t expecting, so it definitely keeps you guessing how Finn and Faith will make it out in one piece. While Faith is our lead character, in a way she’s almost our villain at the same time, which makes it rather hard to like her. Finn was adorable and you can’t help but be drawn in by his innocence. I was hoping to see more street-smarts or conspiring from Faith to overcome the dubious plotting of Finn’s rival, but instead we sort of see her run out of steam towards the end. It’s almost like Faith has run out of faith in herself. When you combine that with Finn as our unsuspecting prey, it’s kind of a melancholy read. It’s not often we find ourselves rooting for a lead character to fail, but you kind of hope she does so that Finn can come away unscathed.

Smut Level: It’s somewhat surprising there wasn’t more smut involved here considering our lead character is a Madam! When you take Finn’s innocence and virginity into consideration though, it makes sense.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 422 Pages

Advertisements

Confessions of a Gigolo by Richard Godwin

With a name like “Paris Tongue”, you can expect all kinds of sensual delights from this gigolo.

What’s it About? 

42106018

Set in five major European cities, this erotic novel absorbs cultural atmosphere against a backdrop of love, lust, betrayal and revenge.

Blonde. Dangerous. Gigolo.

Paris Tongue uses his looks to seduce wealthy women and introduce them to the Secret Hour, that hidden time when they can escape their lives. Using his inheritance to travel, he penetrates the erotic essence of different cities, from London, Paris, to Rome, Madrid and Dusseldorf.

His sexual escapades begin to catch up with him. He sleeps with the wife of a Mafia Boss and is hunted across Europe by hit men. The assassins find him in Spain. By then he is versed in the deeper philosophy of Eros and sees them off. He is, after all, the bastard child of a killer, who knows how to survive.

In Germany he meets Anja from Croatia, the first woman he wants to settle down with, then he realises he inhabits no city at all – just a place of intoxicated night and endless seductions.

First Impressions

Alright ladies and gents, I’m gonna be straight up with y’all right off the bat and say that this read simply was not my cup of tea. It basically just came across as porn to me, with some pretty stiff (pun absolutely intended) and graphic dialogue. Now don’t get me wrong, you all know I am an absolute lover of dirty talk, but this was even out of my realm of comfort. I know dirty talk isn’t for everyone, but at times I feel it can sort of encapsulate the passion of a main couple. But with this read it didn’t seem so much as passion, but rather just dirty for the sake of being shocking. I read this entire book during a 2 hour and 1 minute flight from Sacramento to Denver, and let me tell you I can’t remember the last time I clutched my kindle so close to my chest, with my cover flap acting as a shield, so that the passengers and flight attendants around me wouldn’t see some of the illicit language on the page.

Reading a book while travelling by airplane.

Gigolo vs. Con Artist

My main disappointment with this novel would probably have to be with our main character, and it wasn’t just because he was a gigolo. As a matter of fact, I think this was the aspect of the synopsis which really appealed to me the most! We sort of see through his troubled and uncharacteristic childhood how he fell into this habit of non-committed relationships. But what I was really hoping to see more of were the logistics of him connecting with women as a gigolo. That moment where he goes from flirting with women, to then having to ask for payment for his special kind of services. But we really don’t get any of that.

gigolo_20171221_133233

Instead there’s a brief mention here and there of him being paid afterwards, but for several of the hook-ups which are described here it almost comes across as though he uses these women to get free lodging and gifts as he travels around Europe. Sure, I guess that can fall within the lines of payment, but I think what bothered me with this form of payment is that it wasn’t really evident to the women that this fling with our lead character was going nowhere. Some were so obsessed with him they were willing to leave husbands, and sometimes even commit murder in order to be with him. But he’s used to a life of non-commitment, so he would continually leave them behind to move onto his next city. At that point I almost had to question, are we really reading about the confessions of a gigolo, or a sexually adept con artist?

In-Crazy-Stupid-Love-e-il-seduttore-Jacob-Palmer

Avoiding Commitment

Another important thing to keep in mind with this read is that it is far from a romance. Again, I went in with false expectations thinking that we’d meet a gigolo who might eventually find one woman so special he’d want to leave all his previous scheming behind him. Sure, I guess that kind of happens? But it’s more along the lines of one day he just sort of thinks to himself, “hey maybe I should try things out with just one woman”, and the woman he happened to be with at the time was the one he chose to embark on this endeavor with. It’s not like he chose her because he fell in love, or that she was different from every other women who came before. Hell, it didn’t even seem like he was entirely convinced it would last, but it was simply a new adventure he wanted to try out. Doesn’t really fill you with a whole lot of warm and fuzzy feelings.

a2fc483bfb9c083b9959ebd2178be40c2f0cde9d

Temptations Beyond Marriage

One last important thing to keep in mind with this read, which I sort of alluded to earlier, is that it has a dark side to it. Our lead character specifically likes to set his sights on married women, and basically considers his presence in their lives as a service to break them from the shackles of marriage. He never really has to seduce or persuade any of these women to sleep with him, they all come quite willingly to bed, and they all have some pretty exotic tastes. He certainly attracts the same type of women, who can all go for hours on end and come countless times in a plethora of orgasms. But whereas he thinks he’s doing them a service by providing them with the sexual pleasure their husbands can’t provide, I must say I saw his presence as more of a curse. You see, things don’t always…end well for these women.

Przesladowca_lYF7aHt

A few end up killing their husbands, one kills her sister in a jealous rage over access to Paris’s body, and one woman even ends up killing herself. Paris himself also kills a few people who were hired to pursue him for having sex with their mob boss’s wife. Whether it be stabbing them in the chest with a butcher’s knife, or slicing their neck open with a pocket knife, we’ve got some disturbing confessions here. And throughout it all, it never seems as though Paris shows any remorse. True, he never really led these women on by making false promises of forever, and these women weren’t forced into cheating on their husbands. However, he spent a lot of time with these women carrying out the most intimate act two people can engage in. The fact he never looked back, but instead kept looking forward to his next conquest wasn’t that enjoyable to read about if I’m being entirely honest with you.

23735399_500485560325330_8591725430153674752_n

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

Series: Stand-alone

Final Impressions: I can’t really give my recommendation with this one if you’re looking for a “romance”. If you’re looking for something really really out of the box, with a guy who goes from town to town and woman to woman leaving some pretty questionable results in his wake? Sure, give it a try! It won’t take you long. For my tastes though it was simply too over the top.

Smut Level: My god. This man’s penis must be made of gold with how frantic women can become in order to maintain their access to it. His tongue is also pretty decent. Every woman he comes across tastes like champagne and peaches, but the fancy references end there. We see a level of dirty talk that unfortunately was beyond my comfort level.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services, LLC. 117 Pages.

99 Coffee Dates by PJ Adams

How can you tell when you’ve found the perfect woman? Easy, she knows the difference between goop and Goop. For those of you who aren’t in the know, that’s adhesive vs Gwyneth Paltrow’s website. Yeah…I didn’t know that either.

What’s it About? 99 coffee dates

99 Coffee Dates is the Laguna Beach story of a woman, a man, a beach, a mermaid, and a steaming mug of coffee. Actually, quite a few cups of coffee since it takes a lot of Joe to find the Joe who’s right. Miranda Wells, divorced single girl and coffee lover, starts the 99 Coffee Dates Project with high hopes. But will she find a dream guy among the 99 individuals on her spreadsheet? Or will serendipity play a hand in this dating adventure based on a true story?

First Impressions

The premise of this romance is definitely an interesting one, in that we see the journey one woman takes to find love through 99 coffee dates with different men she’s met online. Believe it or not, this is actually based on a true story from a woman who set out to have 400 coffee dates in the hope of discovering true love. Which she did. In order to make her way through so many possible prince charmings, our female lead, Miranda, is very methodical in scheduling her meet-ups. She usually meets at least 5 different bachelors in one day at her favorite local coffee shop. Goodness gracious, 5 coffee dates all in 24 hours? My personal limit is 2 cups of coffee per day. I’d probably start having heart palpitations from excessive caffeine intake if I followed this woman’s schedule!

27365623-lots-of-coffee-cups-coffee-time.jpg

Possibles 1 Through 99

While the premise to this novel was undoubtedly unique and entertaining, I can’t say the execution was as successful. In my opinion, the concept of including all 99 dates in one novel just wasn’t the right format. Since finishing this book I’ve been racking my brain trying to think of what would have worked better, and for some reason the only thing that comes to mind would be a TV show or podcast. Cramming all of Miranda’s meetings with her 99 “possibles” into one book started off fun and entertaining, but it didn’t take long before the endless repetition of first date intros, and multiple dates in one afternoon became monotonous and rather tiring. And this was just for me as the reader! I can’t imagine what it would be like as the woman carrying out this little dating experiment. I mean, how would you be able to remember which aspects of your life you’d already introduced to the man sitting in front of you, and which ones you told to your second date of the day 3 hours ago.

An additional aspect of the story line which added a wrench to Miranda’s routine is that we are introduced rather early on to a man who also frequents the same coffee shop where Miranda likes to carry on her coffee dates. Even though the first mention is extremely brief with very little personal information about said gentleman, it’s immediately evident to us as the reader that this guy will inevitably be our leading lady’s happily ever after. At the start Miranda and this other man, Jared, just happen to have a plethora of serendipitous and accidental run-ins, and it takes some time before they even introduce themselves to each other. For a large portion of the novel they simply recognize the other as that random person they apparently see all over town. Eventually they become friends, and I must say I did enjoy watching the progression of their relationship from total strangers to something special. That being said, it was almost too slow of a progression, and it really makes you almost skim the details of these extraneous dates that we simply know will lead nowhere.

quaintest-coffee-date-weve-ever-seen_2048x2048

The Beautiful Beach and the Realities of Dating

If ever there was a book that should be categorized as a beach read, this would be it. While a large portion of the novel takes place at Miranda’s favorite local cafe, another decent portion presents us with our lead contemplating her choices in life and love along the beautiful sand of Laguna’s beaches. The amount of immaculate detail which goes into describing the sound of the waves crashing against the sand, the sea birds skimming their beaks just above the break of the water, and the majestic juxtaposition of the sometimes violent waves with the peacefulness of the vast expanse of the Pacific was oftentimes poetic. It will make you want to book a beach vacation as soon as possible. Good thing I’m going on a cruise next week, otherwise I would seriously be itching for a trip to the beach ASAP.

laguna-beach2-e1466198100739

Another aspect of this read which I appreciated, especially as a single woman, was the reality of Miranda’s dating life. Throughout her first few dates, I remember raising my eyebrow a few times in suspicion and wonderment considering how well these initial interactions were going. Surely dating can’t be that seamlessly easy? Sure enough, it didn’t take long before some of the weirdos came out of the woodwork, as well as the more unfortunate, yet realistic aspects of dating. From men who brought their mothers along, to others who ghosted her, a man that Miranda showed an interest in but he just wasn’t feeling it, to the men who are just in it for the sex, and finally some who were just downright scary. It shows that online dating is far from easy, even when you attempt to weed out the more questionable characters from the get-go.

big_1468225613_image

#1 Vs. #99

A final aspect of this novel which I would be remiss if I didn’t discuss was the psychological component to Miranda’s love project. A common question which is posed to Miranda throughout the novel is whether or not she’s being almost too methodical and scientific in this approach to dating, especially with her spreadsheet of notes for all of her possible suitors. I’ll admit, at times I even wondered if Miranda was being too, well…cold with this dating “experiment”. She’s a numbers girl, and it almost seems as though she’s trying to breeze through these 99 men as quickly as possible, and might not be giving every guy a fair shot. However, I constantly had to remind myself that she’s actually going about this in a rather smart way. She’s choosing to rely on her gut, and especially the first impression she has with a guy. Having already been through one painful divorce, Miranda doesn’t see the point in having to excuse flaws, or convince herself to give a guy a chance. She’s simply relying on her inner voice to tell her whether or not it’s right. If it’s not? No point in dragging things out, onto the next of the 99.

writing-1170146_1920

That being said, I did wonder if subconsciously she would have really been giving all of herself and her attention to the first few men she met compared to those who came along further down the line. I mean, what if the first man she sat down with was wonderful, they hit it off, and there was no longer a need to proceed with the other 98? Or, did she see the first few guys as more of a test run; an introduction to the process of meeting new people? She set out to meet 99 potential suitors, and the dark side of me wonders if she would have shut off part of herself to the possibility of connecting with someone so early on in her experiment. Maybe in the end it really was all a numbers game, and coming into the process further on in the total count of 99 would have increased the chances of a connection? Although coming along too late may have decreased their chances as well considering Miranda may have been pretty burnt out by that point. Meh, what do I know? I’m definitely not an expert when it comes to meeting men online. Let alone 99 of them!

476210133_wide

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

Series: Stand-alone

Final Impressions: Interesting premise, not the best execution in format. At the midway point especially I was really starting to see the tediousness of date after date after date. And it’s not like we really get a cut-away at any point to say that another 10 dates had passed. We literally get an introduction to each and every 99 possible bachelor. In addition, I think if perhaps we had been introduced to Jared, her ultimate winner, later on in the book it wouldn’t have seemed like all these other dates were such a waste of time. In the end it really makes you question if her experiment was a success considering Jared was never in her list of 99 possibles. However, if she hadn’t set out on this experiment their paths may never have crossed. Does serendipity win out in the end after all?

Smut Level: A few mentions here and there of amorous bedroom activities, but a clean read through and through.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $9.99 Kindle Price. Meandering Trail Media. 418 Pages.

Seventeen Days by Linda Griffin

What do you do when the man you’ve just started developing a romantic connection with is suspected of a grisly murder? Do you cut your losses, or do you stand by your man?

What’s it About? 

51zGGIjG7pL

Divorcee Jenna Scott moves to a quiet California fishing village during the first Gulf War to make a new life in a house inherited from her grandfather. Her next-door neighbor recommends widowed handyman Rick Alvarez to fix her leaky roof. Jenna is intimidated by his good looks and annoyed by his self-assurance, but disarmed by his affection for his young son. She is still hurting from her ex-husband’s betrayal and resists the attraction between them.

Rick has lived in the village for only three years and is still an outsider, friendly but not sharing his past with anyone. When an attractive vacationer is murdered, local gossip says he is the killer, and rumors spread about his wife’s death as well. Jenna is determined not to believe the gossip, but will she ever be able to trust Rick with her wounded heart?

First Impressions

Surprisingly, the main focus of this novel wasn’t so much about the murder which happened in this sleepy coastal town, but rather the fallout of it. While we see the closeness that can develop between neighbors in a small town, we are also witness to the darker side of town gossip that can overtake a community shocked by tragedy. It was definitely an interesting focus highlighting the prejudice which can be placed towards the supposed “outsiders” in such a close knit community. While it was a fascinating and rather sad glimpse at the dangers of wildfire rumors, I do wish we had focused a bit more on the mystery of the murder. I was expecting it to be more front and center, but instead it’s sort of pushed to the side as an unfortunate incident that we’ll figure out the solution to just when it happens to come about. It’s not like Jenna and Rick team up to find the actual killer in order to clear his name or anything. They just kind of sit by as observers to the drama which unfolds around them.

whisper.0

17 Days of Love and War

The Seventeen Days title of this romance was certainly clever, as it not only tracks the burgeoning romance between Rick and Jenna, but also tracks the first few tumultuous days of the Gulf War. At the start of every chapter we get a count to what day of the war it is, as well as a brief news announcement to how the war is progressing. Now, I must say I was slightly confused as to why the novel was set during that particular time period. It didn’t really play a big enough of a role to truly feel relevant, which made it come across as a rather unnecessary detail. It’s not like either of our lead characters had a military connection, or really any of the characters in the book for that matter. One character expressed an interest in joining up, but again it simply wasn’t a big enough part of the story to really tie everything together. It’s just this event that’s referenced as going on in the background of their lives.

9720229021

I realize this is going to sound slightly weird in hindsight considering the title was in reference to two different things, but you kind of forget about it as the novel progresses. Only at the very end when Jenna makes a reference to it having been 17 days since she first met Rick was I like, ohhhhh, riiiiight. A different approach which could have been an interesting twist would have been to have a 17 day countdown rather than counting up. It would have helped build suspense in reference to the murder story line especially, wondering what might happen when we get to that final day countdown of day 0. And then once it was all over we could have a final chapter entitled day 1, which could symbolize the true beginning of Rick and Jenna starting out on an official relationship with each other once the drama of the novel had concluded. Just a thought!

GrotesqueSimplisticLice-max-1mb

Missed Connection

When all was said and done I feel like we missed a bit of an emotional connection with our lead characters. Rick always remains a bit of a quiet, surly dude who only shows minor glimpses of sensitivity when interacting with his son, and some romantic sentiments towards the end with Jenna. I mean, it’s kind of understandable he’d be in a sour mood with his entire town suspecting him of multiple murders and everything. However, the conversations where Rick and Jenna get to know each other are almost too reminiscent of an interview with rapid fire questions where they want to know as many details about each other in as short amount of time as possible. A few more scenes shining a light on the softer, emotional side of Rick’s personality would have been great.

Eduardo_verastegui

As for Jenna, she was also a bit of a strange duck. Half the time I couldn’t tell if she wanted to go off on a tirade against Rick for having the gall to show up to work on her house when she wasn’t ready for him, or if she wanted to push him up against a wall to ravish him. It was a weird back and forth that continues throughout the story where she’ll ask a very point blank question as though she’s accusing him of something, but then brush it off with a kiss. And then the most bizarre aspect of all is when she does decide to take the next step in their relationship. To quote Rick, “You didn’t like me at all until you thought I killed her.” Seems kind of…bizarre, no? However the more I thought about it the more I read into what I’m hoping is a more romantic way of looking at the situation.

Bedroom (2)

Since meeting Rick, Jenna hasn’t really known what to make of him, but he’s constantly on her mind. And then the unthinkable happens, a gruesome murder in their small town, and Rick is the primary suspect among the town gossips. This is when Jenna is forced to decide whether or not she can place her trust in this man she barely knows. She has no reason to trust him, especially considering everyone around her is convinced of his guilt. And yet, her gut is telling her he’s someone she can trust. I can see the romance there. Right? The only hiccup here is that even after they sleep together it seems like she does still contemplate whether or not he’s guilty. Hmmm, maybe the threat of danger is something she finds titillating?

Capture

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

Series: Stand-alone

Final Impressions: I think Rick’s son, Danny, was my favorite character of the book, and I wish he’d been featured a bit more prominently. Overall I think we may have had one too many story lines going on here. From the burgeoning romance between Jenna and Rick, to the murder of a visiting tourist, to the Gulf War starting. We needed to either drop the war aspect and have the murder featured more prominently to build suspense, or we should have had more of a military focus on the war, with soldiers going off to war or something. Lastly, a few more revealing emotional moments between our lead characters could have helped us warm up to their characters earlier on.

Smut Level: Rick and Jenna go for a few roles in the bedroom, but the scenes are pretty clean.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. The Wild Rose Press, Inc. 132 Pages.

Burning Fields by Alli Sinclair

I had a feeling in just the first chapter alone this was gonna be one emotional journey!

What’s it About? 

41kPhBNPIIL

1948: Change has come to every corner of the globe—and Rosie Stanton, returning home to northern Queensland after serving the war effort in Brisbane, plans to rescue her family’s foundering sugarcane farm with her unstoppable can-do spirit. Coming up against her father’s old-world views, a farm worker undermining her success, and constant reminders of Rosie’s brothers lost in the war, Rosie realizes she wants more from life and love—but at what cost?

Italian immigrant Tomas Conti arrives at a neighboring farm, and sparks fly as Rosie draws close to this enigmatic newcomer. When an enemy appears with evidence of Tomas’s shocking past, long-held wartime hatreds rekindle . . . and an astounding family secret sets Rosie’s world ablaze. At the dawn of a new era, Rosie must make her own destiny amid the ashes of yesterday—by following her heart.

First Impression

Rosie might be a young Australian woman returning home to her small town after the end of WWII, but I was surprised to find how much I could identify with this lady. Sure, I might be from a small town in the Midwest of the United States, but I could relate to the reverse culture clash involved of returning home after living in a big city for so long. Rosie encounters this friction of facing nostalgia and the happy memories of childhood with the reality of looking at her home from an adult’s perspective. It’s such a bizarre juxtaposition to have to face as an adult. Home is supposed to wrap you up in warmth and comfort, but sometimes you get cold moments instead, with a wall being put up in place of a welcoming embrace. This book tackles some serious issues and discussions revolving around racism, women’s rights, and the status of immigrants. It makes us realize that in some respects we’ve come a long way, and yet at the same time it’s so sad to see how much has remained the same. Honestly, this book could have been set in the present day based on some of the conversations which took place. I had to keep reminding myself that we were dealing with a post-WWII setting. Such an eye-opening comparison!

gettyimages-123525797-612x612

Welcome Home

A main discussion point of this novel revolved around the topic of war, specifically the effects of men returning home after risking their lives to protect the safety of their country. PTSD of the returning soldiers isn’t the only issue highlighted though. We also see the impact of women having to return to their “proper place” in the home after getting a glimpse of independence. There’s also a spotlight shone on societal issues involving all of the different migrant communities who fled their homeland to escape the terrors of war, and in some instances had to leave a home behind which no longer existed because of the mighty wrath of war. In my opinion, all of these sensitive topics were described and detailed to perfection. You feel for these characters, and understand their frustrations in life, as well as the difficulties they face in moving on from such a tumultuous and unforgiving war.

monuments-men-palermo

Light Shining Through the Darkness

There are some heavy subjects which are discussed in this book, and yet a guiding light through it all is the blossoming romance between our home girl Rosie, and a mysterious Italian immigrant named Tomas. To be frank, it was sort of the one component of the story which was somewhat lacking for me. There’s definitely a coy flirtation going on between them, but Tomas is obviously a troubled man dealing with the atrocities he’s witnessed in war. Sometimes this difficult past causes him to lash out at Rosie when she tries to learn more about what happened to him back in Italy. Now, it’s 100% understandable that he would want to try and forget the past rather than dredge up the painful memories of all the tragedy he’s seen firsthand. But then he has the tendency to push Rosie away, only to pursue her again, or she’ll come after him to make some headway, but then he’ll push her away again.

bova_2

It’s kind of a grueling back and forth that, while undeniably realistic of many post-war relationships of the time, made me feel kind of bad for Rosie. They also both have the somewhat annoying tendency to start sentences or thoughts without finishing them. It happens a LOT. I lost track of the number of times they would be in the middle of a deep discussion, and just when we’re about to make some headway in their connection one or both of them would utter, “Never mind, it doesn’t matter”. Yes it bloody well does!! Tomas comes across as a rather moody man with a short fuse, and you can never really tell when he’s willing to open up about his past to lay all his cards on the table, versus when he’ll get testy and stalk off in a huff. It speaks to Rosie’s headstrong and persistent nature to not give up on him, but I wish we could have seen just a few more sparks of lightness and tenderness from Tomas.

Australia_704_1

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

Series: Personally I’d love to see a sequel to this novel which shows us what Rosie and Tomas are up to a few years down the line.

Final Impressions: A must read for your next book club. Definitely some interesting discussion points on society which still resonate today. While it’s kind of sad to see that some of these issues are still present, it shows us a light at the end of the tunnel, and how people can overcome their differences if they’re just willing to open up their eyes to see the good in other people. For me the standout feature of this book was really the societal issues discussed in terms of PTSD, racism, sexism, and the stigma of migrant communities. Tomas and Rosie’s romance was nice, but in my opinion it took a back seat to these other topics.

Smut Level: Some light touches, kisses, and one fade-away sex scene that we don’t get any detail to. Overall I’d say it’s a clean read!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Lyrical Press. 275 Pages.

Starting Over by Pamela Q. Fernandes

If you’re looking for a sweet fall romance that you can finish in one sitting, then this is the book for you!

What’s it About?

42360457

Cara Wallace is stunned to find Nathan Reynolds back in Henderson County. His sudden arrival brings to the fore unresolved questions of what might have been.
How could she unwrite the past?
How could she undo the mistakes?
How could she unlove him?

Nathan Reynolds can’t understand why Cara chose to stay in this small town. How could she sacrifice her career, her future and their love for a small run-down cottage in the middle of nowheresville? Whatever her reasons, Nathan intends to find out and start over again!

First Impressions

This is a short read, at just 64 pages, which means this review here is gonna be brief, or else I’ll risk spoiling the entire sequence of events! In spite of it’s short length, I was surprised to find out how much story and emotion could be packed into this novella without it feeling rushed. We have the opportunity to really get to know our characters, as well as the tragic reasons behind their break-up years before on the cusp of going away to college. Back then, Cara gave Nathan minimal excuses as to why there was no point in continuing their relationship, but when they reconnect after all these years he is determined to figure out the real reason behind her withdrawal. The details are devastating, but beyond them all we see a second chance at love which was seemingly lost years ago. Their years apart and previous misunderstandings can’t stop their old feelings from coming back to the forefront.

hugging-benefits

Overcoming the Past

The bulk of this novella observes Nathan and Cara finding their way back into each other’s lives, and overcoming the ghosts of their pasts. Everything comes together to end on a big note which is so freakin’ adorable (bonfire included), but I think we needed just one more scene of Cara and Nathan connecting in the present. There’s such a focus on their past, and on how Cara’s niece, Brooke, might fit into any relationship Cara chooses to explore with Nathan.

DgsuzBmUEAE-TQ4__1_qnbfcf

If we push all of that aside though I think we needed one more moment of them falling back in love after so many years apart to highlight their current emotional connection. Not only could it have allowed them to fall in love with who the other person is today rather than focusing on memories of the past, but it also could have helped to compliment the big ending scene. Because we didn’t get that the end scene felt slightly rushed in regards to the progression of Cara and Nathan’s relationship, but I don’t want to give too much away! You’ll just have to pick this book up and read it for yourself 🙂

2a65f45bd82cf7e4c94bb2f286fcff53

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

Series: A Sweet Fall Romance. Personally I would love if this turned into a series which highlighted every season of the year. Mkay, now I definitely want to see that happen. I’d read every single one.

Final Impression: For those of you looking for a sweet, short read as you wait for trick-or-treaters to arrive, or for your turkey to finish baking, or heck if it’s just a cold, grey fall day and you don’t feel like getting out of bed until noon, this would be the perfect solution for you. It’s a beautiful look at second chances, coming home, and recognizing that the love of your life is right in front of you. I always worry that short novellas of this length will result in us receiving just a preliminary glimpse of the characters and story, but this one presents us with almost the perfect blend of character development, romance, and the importance of family.

Smut Level: A steamy kiss here or there, but overall a clean read.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $0.99 Kindle Price. Self-Published. 64 Pages.

The Artisan Heart by Dean Mayes

Dr. Hayden Lushcombe is a dedicated pediatrician, a loving (albeit preoccupied) husband, and he certainly knows how to handle his wood! For…woodworking…that is. Sorry, was that not clear?

What’s it About?

the artisan heart

Hayden Luschcombe is a brilliant paediatrician living in Adelaide with his wife Bernadette, an ambitious event planner. His life consists of soul-wrenching days at the hospital and tedious evenings attending the lavish parties organized by Bernadette. When an act of betrayal coincides with a traumatic confrontation, Hayden flees Adelaide, his life in ruins. His destination is Walhalla, nestled in Australia’s southern mountains, where he finds his childhood home falling apart. With nothing to return to, he stays, and begins to pick up the pieces of his life by fixing up the house his parents left behind.

A chance encounter with a precocious and deaf young girl introduces Hayden to Isabelle Sampi, a struggling artisan baker. While single-handedly raising her daughter, and trying to resurrect a bakery, Isabelle has no time for matters of the heart. Yet the presence of the handsome doctor challenges her resolve. Likewise, Hayden, protective of his own fractured heart, finds something in Isabelle that awakens dormant feelings of his own. As their attraction grows, and the past threatens their chance at happiness, both Hayden and Isabelle will have to confront long-buried truths if they are ever to embrace a future.

First Impression

For the first few chapters, it was kind of hard to connect with the story as we witness the disintegration of a marriage. It makes it difficult to want to pick it up and read when you know the inevitable split is just around the corner! In the end though, it was definitely a necessary introduction, as all of the seemingly inconspicuous details of the beginning come back full circle in the end. The story truly comes alive though once Hayden travels to his childhood country home in Walhalla. It might be a small town, but it’s brimming with personality and memories from Hayden’s past, both good and tragic. It’s the one place he can escape to, and ultimately he is re-enveloped in its charm.

walhalla_gipp_deals_1150x863

While the town of Walhalla was charming, it’s residents were a pure delight. This is one of those small towns where everybody knows everybody, which also means that it doesn’t take long before they all know Hayden’s business. But rather than sit back and judge, or gossip away in the shadows (which can be common of small town novels), instead we see an incredibly supportive group of townsfolk. I wouldn’t necessarily say they pity him, but rather they are saddened that something traumatic has impacted one of their own. Especially considering they all know about the sad fate which befell his parents, whom they all knew and loved.

539w

Mothers and Fathers

Apart from the romantic aspect of the novel, we see that parental relationships are another key feature of the story. Hayden had always been close with his mother, but when he couldn’t make it home in time to say goodbye before she died of cancer, it ultimately strained his relationship with his father. Just three years later his father died of a broken heart. Hayden has been able to push aside the tragic details of his parent’s deaths by hiding away in Adelaide with his wife. However, upon his return to Walhalla he discovers he must inevitably confront the past, and try to remedy his relationship with his father even though he’s passed away. It’s a sad, yet touching exploration of the last few years between a father and son. Hayden doesn’t come to the eventual realization on his own though that his father loved him until the end. Isabelle and the other townsfolk help him realize it as well.

foxtel-cry-600-28458

The other unique parental interactions we’re presented with in this book revolve around Isabelle and her daughter Genevieve. Whenever we have a romance where one of the lead characters has a kid, I get slightly nervous since the tendency is often to push them to the background. What I loved about this read though was that Genevieve was incorporated perfectly front and center. She’s an adorably curious child who manages to stay upbeat in spite of being deaf. Her mother was her savior, as they escaped from an abusive situation with Isabelle’s husband. They fled to the small town of Walhalla where they were greeted with open arms by the townsfolk who have become their family. When Hayden rolls into town he is wary at first of the headstrong lass playing with stuffed bears in his tool shed, but he eventually takes her under his wing. The fact his own mother was deaf means he is well versed in Auslan, and doesn’t shy away from actually speaking with Genevieve. In a way he becomes a pseudo father figure, which draws him and Isabelle together even more.

maxresdefault

Full Circle

What’s clearly evident in this read is that every detail serves a purpose to the story, and we’re presented with an extremely well thought-out sequence of events. We start with the end of a marriage, then see Hayden become reacquainted with his home town, followed by a romance with Isabelle, a suspenseful encounter with her ex-husband Mitchell, and finally the drama with his wife comes back full circle. There’s a little bit of everything! When the shady characters of Isabelle and Hayden’s pasts come to town, we question if these outside forces will succeed in breaking apart this new family we’ve come to love.

65901851-0_57890d3adbe5d

I will say the culmination of events at the end was slightly predictable, but I appreciated that the suspense was drawn out over a few intense chapters rather than having a quick, two-page glimpse of drama at the end. What’s truly commendable though is that we once again see this community rally together to safeguard one of their own. Rather than it feeling contrived or cheesy, their instinct to protect felt completely natural. As an adult I’ve always striven to live in a big city with a lot of people, but this was definitely the idyllic representation of a small town I’d love to live in!

6794770155_85c25c27ee_b.jpg

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

Series: A fantastic stand-alone!

Final Impression: The novel had a bit of a rocky start as Hayden’s relationship with his wife Bernadette slowly dissolved before ending in a fiery crash and burn situation. Once he escapes to his hometown though this is when the novel truly comes alive and becomes something special. It’s a great read, with a perfect combination of romance, suspense, and starting life over after hitting rock bottom. We see this for both Hayden and Isabelle, and what makes them such strong and lovable characters was their ability to bounce back and rise up in the face of adversity. They’re admirable individuals, but as a family unit with Isabelle’s daughter, Genevieve, they are unbreakable. A great beach read for sure once you push through the somewhat depressing start.

Smut Level: The great thing about a supportive small town? Babysitters at the ready who are willing to keep Genevieve over for a sleepover so that Hayden and Isabelle can have some more intimate time together. Nothing too graphic, but we do get the delectable detail of Isabelle drawing Hayden’s boxers down with her toe. That’s talent right there.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $6.99 Kindle Price. Central Avenue Publishing. 384 Pages.