On the Market by Audrey Wick

She’s a vegetarian. He owns a barbecue joint dedicated to all things meat. They say opposites attract! Let’s put that saying to the test.

What’s it About? 

45302998._SY475_

Valerie Perry has just inherited her grandmother’s home in Last Stand, Texas, a far cry in the country from her city life as an organic grocery buyer in San Antonio. Her methodical daily routine suits her just fine, so she aims to freshen up the property, sell it, and take her funds back to the city. She’s only got two weeks during her vacation to make this happen. Now is the time to cash in and get out.

The oldest Hutchinson son, who people around town know as “Hutch,” is a third generation local who is poised to take over the family business with his brother, Cole. The barbeque brothers have very different ideas about the future of their restaurant, “The Hut.” Just when he thought his biggest headache was his job, Hutch meets Valerie and both their worlds are upended. He’s drawn to this fish out of water, but Valerie’s time in Last Stand has an expiration date.

Their sweet and saucy styles don’t mix, but can they both find the recipe to a happy future?

First Impressions

This is a sweet romance that will put a smile on your face, and is the perfect beach read. The progression of Valerie and Hutch’s relationship seemed so cute and natural that it almost felt like we were witnessing the romance of two friends rather than two fictional characters. At first they engage in some light verbal sparring after Hutch fells a tree into Valerie’s yard. It’s definitely some good-natured sparring, and never crosses the line into rude or demeaning. Valerie’s “…ability to dish right back what Hutch was serving was a trait he probably wasn’t used to in women”, and this unique feature of her personality draws him in and won’t let go.

XL_13995_maryse5.jpg

As Hutch attempts to fix her yard after the damage he caused, Valerie sees a sweet side to this barbecue boy, and it doesn’t take long before they both can’t stop thinking about each other. They slowly get to know each other, and open up about personal details of their lives. We never see anything over-the-top sexual, and there are no instances of being pushed up against a wall in a fiery moment of passion. Instead we see delicate kisses in the warm Texas countryside with fireflies flitting about. Soft touches and intimate caresses. We’ve really been provided with a window into the developing relationship between this couple.

Cheek Kiss

Brotherly Love

The relationship we see between these barbecue brothers was just as interesting as the relationship forming between Valerie and Hutch. They may be brothers, but they’re at odds over the future course of their family’s restaurant. One is steeped in tradition, the other is dedicated to changing with the times. Both have the best interests of their family’s legacy at heart, and yet it causes a rift to form between them in regards to which avenue they should pursue. The combative nature of these two brothers was quite entertaining, and perhaps a bit more focus on them having open and honest conversations about their wishes for the restaurant would have been a delightful addition. We see them have heated arguments, which perhaps highlights the true nature of their relationship rather than one of sweet brotherly affection. Towards the end of the novel they do find a kind of compromise, but just one more scene of them conversing one-on-one in a non-argumentative manner would have been great.

9acbc40ed7599dad32a5441b57991318

What is a Home?

One feature that this novel focuses on at length is the question of what is a home. For Valerie, home is merely a place. It’s wherever you hang your hat for any period of time, and while she’s putting the finishing touches on her grandmother’s house she sees herself as biding her time before she can return back “home” to San Antonio. For Hutch, home is much more significant than the four walls that might surround you. It’s about the community that surrounds you. It’s about the people as much as it is about the place, and this small town of Last Stand is and always will be his home. When he discovers how vastly different Valerie’s concept of home is to his own, he questions if their differences might be more serious than simply the hurdle of physical distance which separates Last Stand from San Antonio. Perhaps their values in life pose more of an issue. However, as Valerie starts to transform her grandmother’s home into one of her own, and this small community also starts to envelop her as one of their own, perhaps her values might be changing to a point where she could envision a future in this small Hill Country town.

Fredericksburg-history-Downtown-Fredericksburg-during-the-holidays-660x390

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

Series: The Texas BBQ Brothers, book 1. I can’t wait to see what’s in store next for Hutch’s brother, Cole!

Final Impressions: This is a quick read that’s ideal for the beach. It never gets too steamy, but instead there’s a sweet side to the natural romance developing between Valerie and Hutch. The community of Last Stand is an integral part of this relationship, and the additional aspect of Hutch and his brother fighting over the future of their family’s business was just as intriguing. Overall it’s a cute read that will leave you hungry for barbecue and sweet tea!

Smut Level: No sex, but we get some pleasant kisses between our vegetarian and our carnivore.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Tule Publishing. 180 Pages.

Advertisements

Bed of Roses by Nora Roberts

Emma is a picky dater who seeks the “spark”. When one of her closest friends breaks her spark-o-meter with their first kiss, she knows he’s someone to hold onto.

What’s it About? 

51ljWah+sZL

Wedding florist Emma Grant gets to play with flowers every day and work with her three best friends in the process. She couldn’t ask for a better job. And her love life seems to be thriving. Though men swarm around her, she still hasn’t found Mr. Right. And the last place she’s looking is right under her nose.

But that’s just where Jack Cooke is. He’s so close to the women of Vows that he’s practically family. Now though, the architect has begun to admit to himself that his feelings for Emma have developed into much more than friendship. And when Emma returns his passion—kiss for blistering kiss, they must trust in their history—and in their hearts…

First Impressions

Whenever we have a romance featuring friends who become something more intimate, the most enchanting feature is uncovering that one moment where things change. Perhaps one finally sees an alluring physical quality they hadn’t noticed before; maybe it’s a moment of comfort following a difficult situation, or hell, maybe it’s just copious amounts of alcohol and a good rain storm. Unfortunately we don’t really see any of that here. Emma and Jack have been mutually attracted to each other for some time now, though neither has voiced their inner desires aloud due to the close nature of their immediate friend group. I was wondering what key moment would have sparked these two into action after so many years of silent yearning.

Love

However, we really don’t get a sudden light-bulb moment of attraction. There’s no surprising burst of passion that draws them both up in the moment where they can’t keep their hands off each other. Instead we see them slowly start to flirt more than they had before, with no one clear reason coming to the forefront to explain why now was suddenly different than before. They have logical discussions about what it would mean to start dating…and then they do. Don’t get me wrong, there are some steamy moments built in there, but it wasn’t quite the startling unexpected switch from friends to lovers I was expecting. We never really get an answer to the question of, “why now”?

Bedroom

There’s Nothing to Fear but Fear Itself

While Jack and Emma’s years of friendship allow them to settle quite naturally into a physical relationship, they both have some crippling fears which prevent them from opening up whole-heartedly. Jack has never been one for serious relationships, so his fear of commitment has quietly seeped into his interactions with Emma. He definitely cares for her (that is never part of the issue), but rather his inner struggle of where he sees this relationship leading to in the future. As for our heroine, she’s afraid to admit how much she truly loves Jack in case he should see it as a reason to put their developing relationship on hold. Beyond this though there’s also the insinuation that Emma fears that which doesn’t live up to her ideal. She works in a high-demand industry which requires perfection. It seems when her personal life has an aspect that isn’t perfect, she cuts it out of her life. If a kiss or a date didn’t score high on her “spark-o-meter” she knew it was a done deal, and she’d do whatever she could to set the guy up with another woman.

FearOfCommitment

We also see this play out in her relationship with Jack towards the end of the book. When he doesn’t welcome her presence into his home after a long and trying day, it sparks an argument that finally reveals how much she loves him, yet also doesn’t feel welcome in his home. It doesn’t just stop at an argument, but rather escalates to the point where she breaks off their relationship, demanding that he not speak to or seek her out to resolve things. He wasn’t meeting her expectations of feeling fully incorporated into his life, so rather than discuss how they might move to remedy that situation, she takes the fast approach to just ending things completely. While her frustrations were warranted, it seemed like a rather rash decision to try and remove him from her life. The question then becomes if Jack will be able to move past his fear of commitment to acknowledge what she truly means to him, and find the strength to win her back.

GettyImages-520523354

Series: Bride Quartet, book 2. This sequel has started laying the groundwork for our final 2 romances. While one seems like it will be somewhat of a repeat of this story line where longtime friends become something more, I can’t wait to see what fun might ensue when meticulous planner Parker falls for a local mechanic.

Final Impressions: Overall I’d say I liked this second novel much more than the first one. It still focused on the wedding planning details a bit too much for my taste, but was a significant reduction compared to book one. This is probably a good series for soon-to-be brides to read in order to see how much care and attention goes into the behind-the-scenes support of a wedding. Not to mention things to keep in mind to avoid being labeled MB (monster bride), or heaven forbid upgraded to MBB status (monster bitch bride). Ultimately the bond of friendship between the four ladies of this wedding planning business is really coming to the forefront as the most endearing and entertaining characteristic of the series.

Smut Level: We get some passionate moments mixed in that will make you clap your hands in delight, but nothing over the top erotic that will make you fan yourself off from the heat.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $5.99 Kindle Price. Berkley Publishing. 370 Pages

51vki2zMvzL

When I Fall by J. Daniels

Reed has a very firm “no kissing” rule when it comes to the women he “dates”. Actually, make that “has one-night stands with”.

What’s it About?

51LRrb96xQL

For the past nine years, I’ve kept my heart as far away from my d*ck as possible. Those two can’t be anywhere near each other. They don’t play nice, and one of them undoubtedly winds up getting hurt. Not my d*ck. My d*ck is good.

The women I take home know exactly what they’re getting from me—a good time. Nothing more. At least, that’s what’s supposed to happen. The sweet brunette from Kentucky I set my sights on tonight shouldn’t have been any different. I had her right where I wanted her. Where I needed her. But when my past comes walking into McGill’s pub, the woman in my arms decides to take things to a whole new level, putting me into a situation I never saw coming.

My heart is about to get f**ked. My d*ck can sit this one out.

First Impressions 

Of all the novels in this series so far, this one might just be my favorite, and for one very important reason. I liked the characters! After finishing the second book in this series I almost didn’t continue on with it, but I decided to give it one last try. I’m definitely glad I did! Reed and Beth have a chemistry which is undeniably palpable. At first glance in a local pub, Reed has his usual sights set on Beth, thinking that she’ll be his quick and easy source of entertainment for the evening. After all, she’s reading romance smut on her Kindle in a bar. Surely she’s up for a good time? However, it’s not long into his flirtations that a painful memory from his past comes waltzing through the door, and bragging about her upcoming engagement party no less. He’s like a deer caught in headlights when confronted with his ex, and Beth can sense that this flirtatious playboy is hurting. So, she does the only thing she can think of. She grabs his face and kisses him. So much for Reed’s no kissing rule!

kissing

The Playboy and his Fake Girlfriend

Reed is a quintessential playboy, so what is it about this young woman that sets her apart from all the others who have come before? And believe me, there was a hefty plethora which came before. Well, there are a few things which set this lady apart from all of Reed’s former bedfellows. Firstly, she initiated their first kiss, even if it was all pretend as she simultaneously concocted a ruse of her and Reed dating in order to help him confront his cheating former ex. Beth and Reed were strangers, and yet even upon first meeting she was essentially trying to protect him. Her selflessness, not to mention their steamy kiss, practically knocked him on his ass.

couple-kissing-restaurant_1157-8326

Then there’s the whole matter of the ruse itself. When Beth pretends to be Reed’s girlfriend, and also offers to keep up the charade by accompanying him to his ex’s engagement party, their first key moments together are essentially shrouded in pretend. Reed’s goal is no longer to immediately get Beth into bed, but rather to survive this awkward confrontation with his ex. In order to distract him from the unusual circumstances of their pretend relationship, Beth opens up about herself, and in turn gets Reed to open up about himself as well. It’s the first time in years that he’s simply been able to be himself with another woman, and develop a connection that is beyond sex. Reed and Beth both become smitten with each other throughout the course of the evening, and it’s during this engagement party that they decide to stop pretending.

tenor

Everything in Moderation

While Beth does her best to take Reed’s mind off the awkwardness of the evening, he chooses to find additional solace in alcohol. It doesn’t stop him though from ultimately opening up to Beth, and admitting that he wants to take her home. What follows is a passionate night of multiple orgasms…that we don’t actually get to read about firsthand. You see, there’s one little problem with this entire situation. Come morning, Reed doesn’t remember any of the details of their sexual escapades.

the-hangover-the-wolfpack-with-baby-carlos-56b2f6333df78cdfa0046550

Imagine for a moment being new to town, offering to be a fake girlfriend for a complete stranger, spending an amazing night together getting up to all kinds of dirty deeds, and then when you wake up hoping to have a continuation of said dirty deeds you realize that your fake boyfriend for the night doesn’t remember any of the sex from the previous evening. Needless to say, Beth bolts out of there in sheer embarrassment. You gotta hand it to Reed though, the man must be one high-functioning black-out drunk. As the days pass, and his calls to Beth go unanswered, he starts to remember snippets of their night together, and hot damn! They made use of every surface of his house, not to mention got creative in the kitchen with various condiment options. Let this be a lesson to you ladies and gents, alcohol in moderation. You don’t want to forget these steamy details!

giphy

Off-Balance

The first half of this novel was an absolute hoot. The entire set-up of their fake relationship which quickly developed into something more was extremely entertaining. You also can’t help but feel slightly bad for Reed in his hungover state. It’s not like he tried to kick Beth out of his bed in the morning or anything. He actually tried his damnedest to convince her to stay and talk things out. He may not have remembered their sexual exploits from the previous night, but he remembered how he felt about her. That he knew she was special, and that he enjoyed the moments they could simply laugh together.

590961

What follows are some humorous scenes where Reed tries to win her back, but everything takes a more serious turn with the introduction of some drama surrounding the couple from the first novel in this series. It’s in this moment that both Reed and Beth realize how important they are to each other, and Beth decides to stop running. They decide to make a go of an official relationship, and Reed is especially determined to make up for all the lost bedroom time. This results in the second-half of the novel being pretty sex-heavy, to the point where you almost forget how they came together in the first place. Either the events from the first half needed to be spread out more evenly over the course of the novel, or maybe we could have trimmed a sex scene or two from the second half. I know, trimming sexing scenes seems so unlike me, right?!

beautiful-bed-black-and-white-boys-Favim.com-3155369

Series: Alabama Summer, book 3. My favorite book of the series so far. Still not without its faults, but we seem to be moving in an upward trajectory. I can’t wait to see what comes next!

Final Impressions: I definitely enjoyed this one. Beth especially was a unique and intriguing character considering her background of familial loss, homelessness, and even emotional abuse at the hands of another man. As for Reed, it was refreshing to see this playboy learn to find happiness with another woman outside of the bedroom. He even admits that it’s the moments in between their time in the sheets that become his favorite where they can simply have fun laughing together. We do see some additional drama come into play towards the end involving Beth’s dad (which in my opinion was slightly unnecessary), as well as the return of a jerk from Beth’s past, which also wasn’t my favorite as it demonstrated Beth’s vulnerability and lack of confidence in her relationship with Reed. Overall though, the story manages to come full circle, and Reed is able to demonstrate his full devotion to this woman.

Smut Level: Yowza! When you read about using honey in a sexual scenario…well that just seems like a sticky mess with very little appeal.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. JD Publishing, LLC. 372 Pages.

McSexy by Sianah Nalika DeShield

Jollof rice and fried chicken. Banku and tilapia. This novel has me craving Ghanaian culinary specialties like nobody’s business!

What’s it About? 

41pEqfxDAoL

Name: Michael Abeiku Frimpong Aka Mike Frimpong
Age: 27
Nationality: Ghanaian
Net worth: $250 million United States Dollars.
About him: Yale University Graduate, MBA. Masters of Business Administration BBA. Bachelors of Business Administration. Millionaire at age twenty-one, CEO of Frimpong Insurance Corp. Voted number one most eligible bachelor by the women of Ghana for five consecutive years. Grand Master of the female orgasm, and serial playboy until his manhood was questioned, leaving him no choice but to accept the wager of getting a woman pregnant or pay $200,000 USD. Well, it’s on!

Name: Lilian Akosua Annah Aka Lily Annah
Age: 24
Nationality: Ghanaian
Net worth: The last time she checked, there were 300 Ghana cedis, the equivalent of $60.00 USD in her account.
About her: Shy, nerdy, insecure, and likes to think she is an average woman since she seems invisible to men and the last time she had a boyfriend was three years ago, but is she really that average? University of Cape Coast Ph.D. Candidate, Educational Psychology, Masters of Philosophy, Educational Psychology, M.Phil. University of Ghana, Legon, Bachelor of Arts, English BA, author of Affong’s Wishes, the newest children’s book set for the next academic year curriculum for the students in Ghana, beautiful dark skin, perfect hips, tiny waist, a good pair of perky tits, eyes that are absolutely beautiful, adorable, and innocent, they could make you do anything she wants, a voice that is so hypnotic it would make you go wild and submit to her, and a brain that is so sharp that it makes Mike Frimpong’s four-point zero grade point average at Yale seem less achievable.

One visit to her book launch leaves the playboy’s heart pumping and manhood twitching, not just from thinking of claiming her, but also making her the perfect woman to carry his child. Oops… she’s off limits and could cost him everything.

Is the playboy bold enough to chase her, risking everything he’s worked for in the process, or is he willing to let the one woman who stops his heartbeat for the first time walk out of his life?

First Impressions

What is our first impression of Mike Frimpong? He’s a successful and wealthy businessman who has fought his way out of abject poverty to reach the top. He’s worked hard throughout the years, focusing on his education, and is now in a position where he can give back to his community. He’s also a womanizer. More troubling though is that he has some questionable reactions when his masculinity is questioned. Our story opens with Mike’s masculine pride at stake as a rumor spreads of his supposed impotency. He’s never had a serious, long-term relationship before in his life, so there must be some kind of issue going on down there. A close friend of his provides him with a possible solution, saying that if Mike were to have a baby, people would finally take him more seriously. This friend even goads Mike into making a bet on the matter. A bet which Mike agrees to.

48467940

Now, if Mike were just setting out to try and get his foot into the corporate world, I might have had more sympathy for him agreeing to this bet of getting a woman pregnant. But at the end of the day…it was all about him. Others were questioning his manhood, and therefore he had to dispel the rumors in any way he could. It was ultimately a selfish decision that he entered into speedily without much thought as to the fact that his actions would make him responsible for another human being. We’ve all read romance novels with a marriage bet or contract of some kind involving two consenting adults who eventually fall in love. No big surprise or issue there. But to have the result of a bet be a child? Simply because the main character worried others saw him as less of a man? Eek, definitely not painting him in the best light for our first impression!

Surrogacy Takes Hold

To briefly summarize the progression of events, Mike meets Lily at a book signing, they both hit it off, and they decide to go on a few dates. However, Lily also happens to be strapped for cash to save her family home, so in order to get a lot of money (and fast), she answers a newspaper ad calling for a surrogate. Little does she know that she’s actually answering Mike’s ad, and little does Mike know that Lily is the one he’s selected to be his surrogate seeing as she used a fake name when applying. One little doctor’s visit later and Lily is pregnant with Mike’s baby…only she doesn’t know it’s his. And technically she’s still dating Mike, even though she’s pregnant with what she assumes is another man’s baby. The plot thickens!

false-positive-test

Both Lily and Mike respectively question the timeline of their burgeoning relationship once Lily’s pregnancy becomes a reality, which lends an interesting psychological perspective to their dilemma. For Lily, it’s a signal of the end of whatever it is that’s starting between them. After all, it’s not long before she’ll start showing, and there’s no way Mike would be interested in dating a woman who is carrying another man’s baby for money. Right? As for Mike, now is the time he wants to dig his heels in with Lily, and get to know her even more. He sees her in his life long term, which means she’ll inevitably need to be comfortable raising the baby another woman carried for him. Little do they know how linked they’ve truly become in this surrogacy. Which was an aspect that seemed slightly…questionable.

Aba kate

Mike is a business man. He may have entered into this baby bet quickly, but I can’t believe he wouldn’t have done his due diligence when it came to the woman who would carry his child. The fact a thorough background check wouldn’t have been involved to ensure this woman was who she said she was, and not using a fake name, seemed relatively unbelievable. Sure, it does allow for a build-up of suspense, as you wonder how long it will be before they undoubtedly discover the other’s role/identity in this surrogacy endeavor. That being said, it seems to go against Mike’s very nature which made him such a success in the first place.

Jeffter-KwaahCCKC9639

The Question of Longevity

The ultimate question with any romance is whether or not the relationship will last. Mike insists that Lily means everything to him, but simultaneously admits that “Just the thought of commitment makes me nauseated.” Lily doesn’t doubt that Mike loves her, and that he would make a wonderful husband. Yet, she constantly wonders if he’ll cheat on her, and worries that he’ll eventually hurt her by going back to his womanizing ways. In addition, the entire existence of their baby springs forth a whole other slew of worries in her mind. Is he only in love with her because she’s pregnant? Will he one day grow to hate her decision to be a surrogate because she was once willing to give her baby over to the arms of a stranger? If she doesn’t marry Mike is she strong enough to be a single mother? Is she only looking to marry Mike now because of the fact she’s afraid of being a single mother?

maxresdefault.jpg

I want to believe that by the end of the novel they’ve worked through all of these inner doubts to get to a point where they are confident in their decision to spend the rest of their lives together. However, I can’t say I’m entirely convinced. At one point another character warns Mike that he and Lily are simply “playing house”, and in a way I agree. When the reality of commitment and parenthood comes knocking on their door we question if they’ll be able to maintain their relationship. There were scenes where our characters faced some difficult tests to their relationship, and they’re both willing to stand up to fight for their love. However, we see other moments which highlight that sometimes when the going gets tough, our characters are wont to flee. At one point in particular we see Mike become so distraught at overhearing Lily’s doubts regarding their relationship that he runs into the arms of another woman. This continual flux of fleeing from, yet also fighting for their relationship leaves you in a kind of limbo over the fate of their relationship.

Portrait Of Loving African American Couple In Countryside

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

Series: Stand-Alone

Final Impressions: The length could have been slightly shorter, with more attention focused on resolving their individual insecurities about the relationship, as well as them coming together over the fact they’re about to be parents. By the end it sort of seems like they’re both determined to give their relationship a go, but the fact they’re bringing a whole other life into the world was somewhat glossed over. There is some drama introduced towards the end, including the fact that their surrogacy arrangement becomes public knowledge throughout the community. It’s sort of brushed aside to the point where you wonder if it will ever be resolved, and it isn’t until the final moments of the book that this story point comes back into play. This resulted in the ending feeling a bit rushed, but we do get some fabulous moments of Lily finally standing up for her man. Definitely some well constructed verbal sparring matches that will make you want to applaud Lily for her candor. In spite of these moments though, I still can’t say I was entirely convinced by the end that Mike and Lily were poised for a long-term successful relationship.

Smut Level: Mike is a former womanizer, which means he brings plenty of experience to the table. Surprisingly though, Lily isn’t afraid to lead the show a time or two.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services, LLC. 405 Pages

Heaven’s Sinners by Bella Jewel

Ever wonder how our lead male character got the nickname of “Spike”? Easy. He has a line of barbell piercings on his willy wally ding dong, and at either end of each barbell he has attachable spikes. Am I the only one who wonders what kind of outline that would form in his pants? Or what a pain it would be going through airport security?

What’s it About? 

51n47htjINL

Contains adult content, recommended for readers over 17. A modern day biker romance.

Spike knows tragedy, he knows that feelings are better left hidden. He refuses to put his heart out there again, it’s a pain he’s not willing to feel a second time around. He’s accepted he’s going to spend forever alone. That’s all he deserves.

But then there’s Ciara, the sister of his deceased wife. She’s beautiful and damned determined to throw herself into his life in hopes they can reform an old friendship, but Spike won’t hear of it, and Ciara refuses to give up.

Who will win the battle of wills?

First Impressions 

Spike is trying with all his might to push Ciara away. They have a troubled past, and he’s convinced the two of them are better off away from each other. There’s just one problem with that. The fact they have such a long history together means that Ciara knows all the tricks and ploys he might use to try and push her away. This allows her to not only stay one step ahead of his attempts to get rid of her, but she knows how to push his own buttons to get an emotional reaction from him. Now, I will say some of their attempts to “one-up” each other get somewhat petty. For example there are several instances where they try to use other people to make the other one jealous, which is a bit too high school drama for my liking.

Hungary, Budapest, Jealousy, 1892

However, I must admit I did appreciate that Ciara especially didn’t always choose to wither away when Spike was up to something. It’s often the case in romance novel land that a female lead will run off in a huff of anger if she comes upon the male lead making out in the back of a bar’s storage area with another woman. For Ciara though? Well, after catching Spike’s eye during said make-out session she decides to rile him up a bit by erotically touching and stroking herself. Right when he’s on the edge of coming because of her antics, she leaves the room with a knowing smirk and wink. I simultaneously wanted to roll my eyes at how they resulted to some immature methods to provoke each other, yet also applaud Ciara’s ability to stare him right in the face without backing down. An unexpected dichotomy for sure.

giphy

Past vs. Present; Ciara vs. Spike

The format of this novel was rather unique, in that it constantly switches back and forth from the past to the present. The past particularly focuses on the history of Ciara and Spike’s friendship, his pursuit of Ciara’s sister Cheyenne, and the aftermath of Cheyenne’s death. Their present is more focused on both of them learning how to forgive each other for the misunderstandings of their past, as well as pursuing a new romantic relationship with each other. While it was definitely an interesting format, something felt a bit disjointed in the execution of it. Firstly, the scenes in both the past and the present were constantly flip-flopping between both Ciara and Spike’s points of view. Secondly, the flashbacks to the past didn’t necessarily happen in chronological order, which made it rather difficult to keep track of what happened when. At the start of the novel, all we know is that in the present scenes Ciara and Spike have a definite animosity towards each other, and in the scenes from the past we see how close they used to be in their friendship.

tumblr_mkp72qajSb1qgolyao3_1280

From that point on the entire novel felt like a build-up to understanding what exactly happened between Ciara and Spike all those years ago, as well as the animosity which developed between them because of his relationship with Cheyenne. While interesting in theory, I found it somewhat difficult to follow along with some of their arguments in the present when we don’t fully understand everything that happened in the past. Whatever happened to end the friendship between Spike and Ciara, and push him into the arms of her sister was obviously the foundation for their current animosity, but because we were left in the dark for soooo long you couldn’t help but feel frustrated at their continual bickering in the present. The true break in their relationship all those years ago never received the amount of attention it deserved, and therefore you just want them to forgive each other and get over it already.

201408262cUSEThis.72f03.jpg1200x627

The Blame Game

Misplaced blame seems to be the name of the game in this novel. Everyone places blame where it doesn’t belong in every argument they have. They’ll blame each other, themselves, Ciara’s deceased sister Cheyenne, etc. The funny thing is that at some point, each of those people were in fact responsible for some kind of misunderstanding or error in the past, but they always blamed them for some other misdeed at the wrong time. This was especially true regarding both Ciara and Spike’s relationships with Cheyenne, including how Spike and Cheyenne ended up marrying each other, as well as the details surrounding her death. We know that Spike only turned towards Cheyenne all those years before out of frustration that Ciara never seemed to notice his attempts to woo her.

cap0643

All these years later he’s insistent that he did actually love Cheyenne with all his heart, but it’s kind of difficult for us to understand seeing as we never saw any affectionate moments between them. The only Cheyenne-focused scenes we did see involved Cheyenne being pretty manipulative in her pursuit of Spike, even though she knew her sister was infatuated with him. Spike blames himself for Cheyenne’s death, and Ciara initially blamed Spike as well, but both also admitted that Cheyenne wanted to be there with Spike during some kind of dangerous biker mission. It seemed like the only person they didn’t always involve in the blame game was the man who actually pulled the trigger to kill Cheyenne in the first place! It wasn’t until the very last moment of the book that we got a quick and rather intense focus from Spike on revenge towards Cheyenne’s killer.

400px-SOAS5E13_03

Series: The MC Sinners, book 2.

Final Impressions: This read definitely started strong, as you can’t help but wonder how Spike and Ciara’s strong friendship from so many years ago devolved into pure hatred in the present day. Will they be able to move on from their misunderstandings of the past? The main issue with this book though is in the execution of the story. This constant back and forth from past to present, and the lengthy delay in finding out how their friendship broke down when they were younger goes on for far too long. There was too much focus on their bickering, which resulted in the highly dramatic and suspenseful conclusion to feel rushed.

Smut Level: Spike definitely takes Ciara out of her sexual comfort zone, including going to a sex club where they watch others engage in sexual acts from behind a one-way mirror. Ciara can’t help but feel an initial sense of shame for liking something which seems so perverted. However, he teaches her how to embrace her desires. Hell, I guess when you think about it it’s basically just like watching live-action porn!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform. 260 Pages

Slow Burn by J.H. Croix

Slow burn? More like a fast moving five-alarm fire of lust!

What’s it About? 51fLufGgOwL

I put out fires for a living. I can take some heat. But Maisie drives me crazy. She’s smart-mouthed, sarcastic and argumentative. This town’s too small for both of us. But she works for me. Unfortunately. It’s a big no-no for me to want her. She’s brash and beautiful and tempts me beyond distraction. There are different kinds of fire, and this one will make her melt. There’s only one problem: this fire might be too hot for both of us.

First Impressions

This romance has a strong start. Maisie still considers herself a newcomer to this small Alaska town, having moved here permanently after the death of her grandmother. It’s a place where everybody knows everybody’s business, yet she prefers to stay reserved to the background without making any waves. Too bad she’s drawn the attention of local playboy firefighter, Beck Steele. If that’s not the perfect name for a hot shot flirtatious male lead, I don’t know what is! Ever since she started working as the emergency call operator in their fire station, Beck has been smitten with this city girl who seems immune to his charms. Little does she know that simply makes him want to tease and flirt with her all the more.

c1791f1c074cabf30354e340e02156ac

When Beck unexpectedly discovers Maisie showering in the fire house due to a lack of hot water at her own place, his first glance at her naked body covered in soapy suds has him done for. They’re both consenting adults who clearly have a steamy attraction to each other, and he proposes they finally give into the passion which has been simmering just under the surface since they first met. Will their fiery connection fizzle out after a few rolls between the sheets, or will they also see the ignition of an emotional connection? Alright, that’s about all the subtle fire puns I can fit into one introduction.

Fire-Puns.png

Willow Brook

The other townsfolk of Willow Brook are just as much a part of this story as Maisie and Beck. In spite of Maisie sometimes wanting to close herself off from feeling too much for the people in this small town, we see that they’re even more stubborn in their attempts to draw her into their fold. Once Maisie and Beck start exploring a more intimate relationship with each other, we see them try to keep this a secret, especially from the other men in the fire station who might develop a negative impression of Maisie. However, their connection is so strong it quickly becomes clear to those around them that they care for each other. They’re especially excited to see Beck, one of their own who has always limited himself from spending too much time with any one woman, falling so hard for Maisie. It doesn’t take long before they start to see her as own of their own, and will do anything to protect her and see that she and Beck find the happily ever after they both deserve.

Petersburg-Flickr-Chris-deRham-e1462062854869.jpg

Beyond the Flames

Whenever we have a romance featuring a firefighter, we all expect a certain level of intensity and suspense surrounding such a dangerous profession. It’s not surprising that this can often prove a point of contention between couples in a romance novel. However, this is a feature which surprisingly never rises to prominence in Slow Burn. As a matter of fact, when you go beyond the developing relationship between Maisie and Beck, there’s a definite lack in any real struggle or drama to the plot. What we have here is essentially a focus on how two people explore a sexual relationship with each other, and how their physical connection eventually evolves into one of love. Towards the end of the novel there’s a brief introduction of Maisie’s troubled father who often seeks her out to provide him with money. While this is used as an opportunity to highlight how Beck and the townspeople of Willow Brook will always have Maisie’s interests at heart, it never develops into a dramatic side plot that one would expect.

layingfire2

Series: Into the Fire, book 2. I haven’t read the first novel in this series, and while the couple from book one makes a reappearance in this sequel, I had no trouble delving right into this second book.

Final Impressions: Overall we’re presented with a slew of enjoyable characters, from our main couple to the other residents of this small Alaska town. Our romance starts strong, with Maisie and Beck having a teasing flirtation between them that quickly develops into something physical. While we are rooting for our characters to end up together, you also can’t help but notice a slight lack of substance to the plot.

Smut Level: Showers prove to be the sexual locale of choice for these two, whether it be in the firehouse, or back at Maisie’s place. I hope they can keep their balance!

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. FREE. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 252 Pages.

Desert Rose by J. Arlene Culiner

A woman who lives for the moment. Who enjoys her own company. A woman who acknowledges that long-term relationships can eventually turn flat with a lack of excitement. Is…is this my doppleganger?!?

What’s it About? 

51tMzIRiG9L

A secret life is the best protection against love…Men love Rose Badger, and if the other inhabitants of dead-end Blake’s Folly, Nevada, don’t approve, she couldn’t care less. With a disastrous marriage far behind her, settling down is the last thing she intends to do. Isn’t life for fun? Doesn’t a stable relationship always mean predictability and boredom? Well… perhaps things might be different with Jonah Livingstone, but he is off limits for anything other than friendship. Even though he’s started a slow burning fire inside her, he’s still entangled in a complicated past relationship. And Rose has another secret life—one that she’ll never give up for any man.

The last person geologist Jonah Livingstone expected to meet in a semi-ghost town is Rose Badger. She’s easy-going, delightfully spontaneous, and Jonah is certain their attraction is mutual. But Rose is always surrounded by a crowd of admirers and doesn’t seem inclined to choose a favorite. Though Jonah has also suffered a failed marriage, he can’t help being drawn to Rose—and he dares to hope she may feel the same for him. But is Jonah too independent to settle into a permanent relationship again? He’s leading his own very private life, as well…and secrets are an excellent protection against love. Will he do what it takes to hold on to his DESERT ROSE?

First Impressions

Rose and Jonah come from very different backgrounds. He’s a university professor who’s benefited from education all his life. She’s a high school drop out who now owns a second-hand clothing store, and her family has a history of prostitution and alcoholism. In spite of their different backgrounds, they’re still able to connect over those shared interests which can bring a couple together. For the case of Rose and Jonah, it’s the love of music. Russian music to be exact. Different time periods, sure, but it’s still an interest that they can discuss, and even learn more about from each other. As they spend more time together we also see a rise in their own insecurities. For Jonah, he sees himself as one of many admirers who always seem to be following Rose around like a lost puppy. Everywhere she goes in Blake’s Folly, she’s surrounded by men hoping to spend time with her, and he worries that she just seems him as another one of the crowd. Perhaps he’s too plain and boring with his love of fossils to stand out among the other lads vying for her attention.

butte

As for Rose, I even feel like the big reveal of her past demonstrated that she put more weight and judgement behind it than Jonah, or even we as the audience did. Whenever she would talk about the sordid past of her brothel-working grandmother, or not knowing the identity of her father, and her mother being a lowly drunk I thought…so what? Rose is still an awesome person who seems like she’d be a hoot to be around. The somewhat troubled pasts of her family members, and even her own difficult past as a musician in the big city, may have molded her into the person she is today, but they by no means negatively impacted her personality. They made her strong, caring, and even proud of certain aspects of her background. She managed to find a positive light in some of the darkness of her family’s past. Her love of Russian folk music in particular turns out to be not only a big part of who she is today, but also binds her to the future love of her life.

cold-war-still-2018-amazon

Standing Out From the Crowd

Even though Jonah feared that he would simply get lost in the wave of admirers surrounding Rose in her every day life, he actually manages to do something which sets him apart from all the rest. He asks Rose questions. He quickly recognizes that she always tries to turn the focus of a conversation away from herself, and he doesn’t fall for this standard ploy of hiding from others. Instead, Jonah succeeds in getting her to open up about herself, and in those moments is able to demonstrate his total selflessness, as well his definite interest in getting to know as much about Rose as possible. It also makes Rose feel vulnerable. Keeping secrets has always given Rose an air of mystery that has drawn men to her, and she now worries that because Jonah has seen every part of her he’ll either tire of her and move on, or not like what he sees lying behind the walls she’s erected around herself.

Silver-Linings-Playbook-New-Movie-Stills-HQ-jennifer-lawrence-33341927-1280-848

Secret, Secrets Are No Fun

In the beginning, secrets are a dominant feature of Jonah and Rose’s relationship. Not only does Rose not want to share the details of her family history, but she’s also keeping secret something which she doesn’t even deign to share with her fellow citizens of Blake’s Folly. Now don’t worry, it’s nothing illegal or exceedingly shocking, it’s actually the details of her musical past and present, including the fact she sings every Saturday for a Russian cultural club in the city.

maxresdefault (1)

As far as the secrecy of Jonah’s life, this has more to do with a misunderstanding, and possibly even a misleading situation. The whole impetus behind Rose and Jonah’s first meeting was that he stopped into her shop to buy a necklace for another woman. Jewelry…for another woman…who isn’t his mother? This doesn’t look too good, does it? While he openly admits it’s a gift for a woman he’s living with, he remains pretty tight-lipped about the identity of this woman, and Rose has no choice really but to assume it’s someone that Jonah is romantically involved with. This designates the beginning of their relationship as one bound to the “friend-zone”. While Rose might love to flirt with other men, she’s not one to pursue a man already in a relationship, so she tries to limit their interactions to ones that “friends” would do. By Rose acting more reserved around Jonah, he in turn assumes that she’s not into him as much as he is into her. Eventually they have a heart-to-heart about the true identity and background situation of the woman living with Jonah, and it’s a rather interesting turn of events.

12

Jonah openly admits that he didn’t make things as clear as he should have about the identity of this woman, and that he is to blame for the misunderstanding. However, he also scolds Rose slightly for essentially thinking the worst of him. At this point in the book, they have developed a pretty strong friendship. While they won’t admit the deeper stirrings of affection which are bubbling between them, they can’t deny they’ve grown close and have certainly come to care for each other. This is why Jonah can’t help but be slightly hurt over the fact that Rose’s first assumption would be that he’s just a typical cheater. I certainly understand his view on this, but you also can’t help but understand Rose’s misunderstanding on the whole situation.

Capture.PNG

If they had been friends for a while, and then Jonah were to admit his living with another woman, I could probably sympathize more with his frustration over Rose thinking he was cheating. However, seeing as this misunderstanding was bred from their very first meeting, and he made multiple mentions of this woman throughout their time together without clarifying who she was, I don’t think we can necessarily fault Rose for holding onto this initial misunderstanding. After all, she didn’t know anything about his nature at that point to be able to determine for sure if her assumption was true or false. If she had this idea during their first meeting, we can see how this misconception could balloon up bigger and bigger as they spent more time together, and Rose herself felt more remorseful as her feelings for Jonah continued to grow. I think it’s one part of their story that didn’t necessarily have a right or wrong answer as to how it was handled.

goodwp.com_25390

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

Series: Stand-Alone

Final Impressions: The relationship between Jonah and Rose felt “real”. Some of the misunderstandings and circumstances surrounding their time together may have been somewhat dramatized, but I enjoyed that the emotions they evoked felt natural. These were two people who had a friendship which developed into something more intimate. They were attentive in learning about the hobbies and interests of the other person, just as anyone would do in a real relationship outside of the romance novel world. I do wish this book had been slightly longer, as I think it would have been interesting to focus more attention on Rose’s various admirers, as well as her relationship with her mother. There probably could have been some features with more depth and exploration which went beyond Rose and Jonah constantly questioning whether or not the other person liked them as much as they did, but overall I’d say it was a good read.

Smut Level: Only one love scene, but it definitely has some heat to it! It certainly packs a punch in spite of how quick it was.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Fire Star Press. 152 Pages.