Taking Shots by Toni Aleo

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

The miracle orphan finds love. After years of being alone it’s so nice to see that something has finally gone right.
What’s it About?
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The sole survivor of a train accident, young Larken Burke is dubbed the Miracle Orphan. Four years later, however, her life is far from fortunate. Because of her emotional and physical scars, she believes she’s un-marriageable. With little hope for the future, she agrees to wed a gentleman she’s never met. Unfortunately, his aloof manner proves difficult to take.

Marked by romantic tragedy and the loss of his brother, Brandon King has forsworn marriage. Obliged to take in a ward, he advertises for a mail-order bride to raise the boy. Since the union is to be a marriage in name only, his criteria are youthful age, a certain level of intellect, good breeding, and that the girl shouldn’t be so ill-favored she would embarrass him in society. To his dismay, he gets more than he’d bargained for. Will it take a miracle for Mr. and Mrs. King to fall in love, or is their marriage another accident waiting to happen?

First Impressions 
I have read many a mail order bride romance novel, and honestly after about two or three they get kind of repetitive. However I must say this one was quite unique in that we aren’t dealing with a young woman who gets sent out West to fall in love with a lonely cowboy. Instead this novel is set in the Regency period of jolly ole England. Larken has been brought into the family of Brandon King to act as a sort of governess for his ward. The fact that he places an ad in a newspaper in order to find such a woman to marry and become his wife, sight unseen, makes this romance a bit different than your typical Lord falling in love with a governess tale.
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Why would a woman as young and beautiful as Larken agree to enter into such a bizarre arrangement? Easy, she has no choice. Her parents died years before in a tragic train accident in which Larken was the sole survivor, making her the “miracle orphan”. She was eventually adopted by a cold, unloving family. Larken is now of age to be married off, and her stepfather takes the first offer he finds. This novel definitely draws you in with its sad beginning, but eventually we see a beautiful romance develop, not to mention the importance placed on family. Just when it seems that everything is going wrong for Larken, she eventually finds a happily ever after she never thought was possible. 
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The New Wife and the Ward 
Hands down my favorite aspect of this novel is the fact that it didn’t really start off as a romance. Instead we see the focus placed more on Larken developing a relationship with Myles, Brandon’s young Ward. He too is an orphan, and is afraid to suddenly be in a new home surrounded by people he doesn’t know. This is where Larken is able to offer her own personal perspective, and connect with Myles when it seems no one else can. She too has been left alone in the world, and is just looking for someone she can talk to. Neither will find this in the cold-mannered Brandon King. He practically ignored Larken at their wedding, refusing to look or speak with her. Hell, they didn’t even consummate the damn thing. Needless to say her opinion of him was quite negative at the outset.
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As for his relationship with Myles, we aren’t given too much information at the beginning. We just know that Brandon knew Myles’ mother, and felt obligated to pick up the young lad over in America before returning back with him to his estate in the English countryside. Brandon said only a handful of words to the young orphan on the return journey, and therefore Myles also doesn’t have the best opinion of his new caretaker. He is also wary of Larken in the beginning, insistent that she would never be able to replace his mother. But this is where Larken admits she has no such objective. She is just looking for a friend. This is also where we get to see Larken’s rather carefree and whimsical nature. She had to invent imaginary friends in order to survive the harsh realities of being orphaned in such a tragic manner. She has no hesitancy whatsoever in introducing these silly characters with their own personalities to Myles.
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Eventually their laughter draws the attention of the brusque Brandon King. While both are understandably wary of letting him into their tight-knit circle in the beginning, they eventually are able to open up with each other and become a family. All of them have lost loved ones, and while they understand the others could never replace those that they’ve lost, they are able to overcome the tragedies of their pasts the more time they spend together. All of this takes place within the first half or so of the novel, so you can see why it was definitely my favorite part. Once this ragtag bunch of characters find happiness with each other, things start to get a bit…interesting.
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While there were definitely some interesting plot twists towards the end of the novel that I did not see coming, I must admit that the second half wasn’t as enjoyable as what came before it. I did find one particular plot twist revolving the death of Brandon’s brother, Theo, rather interesting. Brandon blames himself for his brother’s tragic death years before, and we see that it actually relates to Myles’ mother. His brother’s death not only impacted his surly manner, but also his outlook on life and love.
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Both Larken and Myles are able to help Brandon overcome the tragedy of his brother’s death, but with this certain plot twist in the second half it sort of throws everything we thought we knew for a loop. While certain aspects of this twist weren’t necessarily my favorite, or particularly realistic, I really did enjoy that it connects back to how our novel began with the terrible train accident involving Larken and her parents. It was neat to see that almost every aspect of the novel introduced in the beginning comes back full circle by the end. Even the most seemingly erroneous of details actually had a purpose, and nothing is left unresolved.
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However, while the twist involving Brandon’s brother may not have been my absolute favorite, the dramatic plot point that was saved for the very end of the novel was by far my least favorite aspect of the book. It was just too over-the-top, and actually involves Larken being kidnapped by an unhappy group of theater actors dressed as pirates. So…yeah. It was too theatrical for my taste, and took away a sense of realism to the story which had been so strong up to that point. Both the pain and love which all of these characters felt was something that we could all understand. And then suddenly we have this group of outsiders dressed as pirates to throw a wrench in the whole thing. I definitely understand the need for drama, but let’s tone things down just a smidge. 
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Series: Graceling Hall, book 1. Overall I really did enjoy the characters and the story presented in this novel. I will definitely be continuing on with book 2.
Should you read it? This is a short, quick read. It highlights the importance of family, and to keep trudging on when life seems to be at its lowest point. You never know, there might just be a break in the clouds up ahead. The ending was definitely a bit too over-the-top, but I loved the familial dynamic between Brandon, Myles and Larken, not to mention the developing romance between our male and female lead.
Smut Level: Two short kisses, and an implied love scene at the very end. Clean read, no graphic details, and very sweet. Not the steamiest of historical romances. 
Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Idunn Court Publishing. 176 Pages.

Fat Girl Begone! by D.E. Haggerty

A female lead with a 38E bra size, weighs 160 pounds, wears a size 16 shirt and thinks dieting suuuuucks? Well that’s the most refreshing thing I’ve ever seen.

What’s it About? 

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I’m a total mess. My boyfriend dumped me – get this – because I diet too much. Not because I’m fat, mind you. Of course, this spurs me into the diet-fitness-revenge-plan of the century, which leads me to the gym and a scorching hot personal trainer. I even manage to make some cool new friends, including a millionaire if you can believe it. Things are looking up! Naturally, that’s the moment my ex decides he wants me back, the personal trainer asks me out, and my millionaire male buddy decides to throw his hat in the ring. But that’s not enough drama. No, not for me. Because I’ve also lost my job and decided to start my own business. Just call me Ms. Drama.

Warning: Bad language, bumpy roads, and embarrassing moments ahead. But there’s also more than a bit of romance and even, if we’re lucky, love. Fingers crossed. Not endorsed by or affiliated with any brand of tequila.

First Impressions

When this novel first started I had a plethora of assumptions of how the story would progress, which was influenced by not only the synopsis of the story, but also the title. I figured we’d be dealing with a slightly overweight female lead who starts a diet and gets in shape with the help of a personal trainer. She must proceed to slim down considerably which causes her to become irresistibly beautiful to said personal trainer, and they end up with a fairy tale-like happily ever after. Well, I have never been so happy to be wrong on so many different accounts in my life!

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Although our female lead does proceed to get a bit more physically fit throughout the novel, the main focus is really so much more on how she gains confidence, and that is what draws men to her like a moth to a flame.  It was just so empowering to know that you don’t have to dramatically drop from a size 16 to a size 6 in order to find love. You don’t need to starve yourself, or lose all of the junk in your trunk in order for a man to think you’re beautiful. You just need to be happy with yourself, happy with your life, happy with those around you, and it’s just a matter of time before you’re happy in love. And sure, a few trips to the gym won’t hurt, but they aren’t required. Who knows though, you might also just happen to find the future love of your life waiting for you at the smoothie bar!

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The Dreaded Gym

Another one of the first things I assumed about this book was that it would all be about dieting, exercise, and in general making me feel guilty for baking a double chocolate chip fudge cake when I live by myself. But lo and behold this book really doesn’t lay on the guilt trip about how you should hit the gym 5 days a week, or anything like that. Instead we see how our female lead, Everly, has been having  a pretty bad week after her boyfriend of many years dumped her unexpectedly after complaining about her continually giving up on her many attempts to diet and lose weight. In a drunken blackout, she signs up for an entire year of private training sessions at her local gym and vows to get in shape so that she’ll make her ex, Josh, unbelievably jealous and beg to get her back.

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Now I know what you’re thinking, why doesn’t she just say to hell with it once she sobers up from her binge night and just drown her sorrows in a vat of ice cream? Simple. Not only does Everly’s best friend kick her butt to the gym with her sexy as sin trainer, but she comes to grow an incredible support network of sassy gal pals, the aforementioned sexy trainer, and a geeky guy friend with incredible abs. I must say in addition to our lovable lead, I 100% fell in love with all of her incredible friends who try their hardest to show Everly that she’s beautiful on the inside and out. They let her know that she doesn’t need to lose 50 pounds to be beautiful, but instead encourage her to get fit to the point where she finally feels comfortable in her own skin, while also being there for her when she needs to break her diet by indulging in some tequila.

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Looking Beneath the Glasses

I couldn’t help but identify with Everly’s character, from her relationship woes to her stresses at work, and especially her lack of confidence in her body image. But that’s why her support network is everything and more, especially Carter, her geeky guy friend who might just be on the verge of becoming something more. These two are the epitome of relationship goals, and are so freakin’ adorable you can’t help but fall in love. At the start we just assume that Everly is the one lacking confidence in their relationship, for Carter is ripped with sexy abs, not to mention a millionaire.

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What could a guy like him ever see in a girl like her? But although Carter seems like the perfect male, we see that he too lacks confidence, and holds Everly up on a pedestal where he also wonders what she could ever see in him. Awwww, swoon worthy. Lastly, he’s unbelievably supportive of her goals to lose weight, yet continually lets her know that she’s beautiful just the way she is, and her continuing diet is totally up to her rather than something she should feel pressure to maintain. Mkay, Everly girl I love ya, but not gonna lie I might need to kick your ass to steal Carter for myself.

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A Tequila or Two

One feature of the novel that I must admit I wasn’t a huge fan of was Everly’s propensity to get blackout drunk to the point where she couldn’t remember crazy antics from the night before. It sort of indicates her inability to know her own limits, as well as highlight a concern that when unable to deal with the pressures of life with food she instead turns to alcohol as a crutch. However, this was never really addressed as a concern in the novel, but instead was almost featured as a comedic character trait. And I will admit, Everly did get into some pretty funny hi-jinks while intoxicated.

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Personally I thought it was kind of disappointing we could never really experience those moments as they happened though. Instead we get the short abbreviated version the next morning from one of her friends who happened to witness it all since Everly herself couldn’t remember. I think it would have made the story all the more enjoyable if Everly had just gotten a bit tipsy which made her loosen up rather than drinking to the point where she couldn’t remember anything. Just goes to show that when you limit your calorie intake, getting drunk happens a bit more quickly than you might be used to!

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

Series: I think this is just a stand-alone, but I think it would be hilarious if we could either get a series, or maybe just one novel of short stories featuring the romantic exploits of Everly’s hilarious gal pals from her Zumba class. They were a riot!

Should you read it? This is definitely a fun and comedic read all about being happy and confident with yourself. Whether that entails losing weight, trying new things, dating someone new, or venturing out for a new job opportunity, this book highlights that sometimes it’s worth taking the risk. You might be terrified at first, but as long as you give it a solid effort, and maybe have a few close friends who have your back, you can do anything. A cute beach read that’ll make you giggle, and empathize with someone who hates dieting and going to the gym just as much as you do.

Smut Level: We have flirtations galore, but no detailed sex scenes in this one. We just get one brief build up to sex at the very end of the novel.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.49 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 208 Pages.

Love Me Only by Hebby Roman

From the elegant ballrooms of Mexico City, to the mosquito-filled swamps of the jungle, this novel takes us on an adventure to discover the wild unknowns in Mexico’s mountains.

What’s it About? 

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A stranger in a strange land, her father murdered, Diana McFarland must protect her father’s secret formula, the only legacy she has. One thing stands in her way–darkly handsome Seguin Torres, a man who wants the formula for himself. For Seguin, the formula is a way to avenge himself against the man who stole his birthright, but convincing Diana to part with it will prove almost as difficult as resisting his attraction to her. Betrayed by his family, Seguin doesn’t believe in love and marriage. As Mexico erupts into civil war, Seguin is honor-bound to protect Diana from his unscrupulous stepfather and the ravages of war. But their flight across the war-torn countryside is fraught with danger, as well as the challenge of their growing passion. Can Seguin get Diana to safety and let her go, or will their love overcome all the dangers and change Seguin’s heart?

First Impression

Arriving in a new city where you don’t really speak the language can be a challenge. Arriving in that city to discover that your father has been murdered, and that his scarred killer is still on the loose with some unsavory stalkerish tendencies? Ummmm yeah where the hell can I book the fastest train outta here? Let’s make it snappy people!! Thankfully for everyone, our heroine proves to be braver than I, as she sticks around in Mexico to try and discover what happened to her father. This is when the devilishly handsome former business partner of her father comes into play. Can she trust this man who seems dedicated to protecting her? Or did he have a hand in killing her father to get at his secret silver mining formula? Such intrigue. This historical drama definitely draws you in from the get-go, as we see Diana navigate through this new world which can be lavish yet harsh at the same time. The fact she’s a woman in a man’s world makes her all the braver. By the end of the novel though, we find ourselves venturing into a completely different and uncharted territory. Quite literally.

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Murder and Mining Mayhem

Looking at this book as a whole, it almost seems to be two separate books thrown into one. In the first half, we see the immediate repercussions and mystery surrounding the murder of Diana’s father, as well as her attempts to stand up for herself and her mother in the face of the dashing Seguin. He’s intent on purchasing her father’s silver mining formula, and after a series of unfortunate circumstances Diana is the only one who knows her father’s formula by memory. I must say I absolutely adored the scenes where we get to see Diana and Seguin go head to head over the formula. They seem like equals in smarts, tenacity, and their simmering sexual attraction doesn’t hurt things too much either.

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A Stroll Through the Mountains

I must say I did prefer the first half of the novel more than the latter half where we see Seguin, Diana, and a small group of friends wade through the unknown dangers of the jungle in an attempt to escape back to America following an outbreak of war in the city. The fact that the murderer is hot on their heels, not to mention the man who orchestrated the whole thing (Seguin’s stepfather) is also in tow makes their journey all the more desperate. Although this is the part of the novel where Diana and Seguin give in to their lustful inhibitions, it’s also where we get a lot of scenes with a lot of walking. And walking. And having sex on a sacrificial altar in an abandoned ancient city. And more walking.

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It was at this point where I even had to think back and ask, wait, how did this story start again? Oh right, father’s murder. While everything does eventually come full circle at the last possible moment of the book, I couldn’t help but feel that as a whole the various story lines at play were a tad disjointed. While I don’t think the book necessarily has to be split into two separate novels completely, I think a few less jungle wandering scenes, and maybe even a distinct marker for Part 1: the City and Part 2: the Wild could have helped things. It may have better prepared the reader for the fact we were switching gears to a vastly different landscape that juxtaposes the comforts and opulence from part one. Just a thought!

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Miss Independent

Another surprising feature of this novel which was divided in two was the romance. We don’t get just one love story, but two! The first is obviously between Seguin and Diana. Both try to hold off on delving deeper into their initial attraction to each other. For Diana, not only had her father just died, but she wonders if Seguin has something to do with it. Kind of understandable why she’d be hesitant to try anything more. When it comes to Seguin, well he’s basically distrustful of all women. Normally when we see this in a romance it’s because of a former failed relationship with a lover. In his case, it instead had to do with his failed relationship with his mother, which they were never able to fully mend before her death. Complicated is an understatement.

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It’s when we transition to the jungle trek that both Seguin and Diana decide they can’t keep their hands off each other anymore. While I’m always a fan of a good ole romp, I must say I preferred their earlier flirtations in the city. Early on in the novel, Diana has spunk, sass, and the cojones to stand up to Seguin. In the latter half though we see Diana become increasingly dependent on Seguin, and even takes to begging him to “love me only”. Not gonna lie, I missed her tenacity and sense of independence.

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Switching Back and Forth

Our second romance is between Diana’s best friend, Sarah, and Seguin’s half-brother, Gilberto. This had more of the feeling of a classic historical romance. They fall quickly for each other after dancing at a ball, and he must prove that he only has eyes for Sarah. Even if it seems every other woman in the city has eyes for him. It’s practically swoon worthy! But here was my problem with it. I can’t say it was entirely necessary. At least, it could have been incorporated more methodically into the story. When the novel starts we are so enraptured with what might develop between Diana and Seguin, but when Diana is forced to bed rest following a rib injury, we suddenly switch gears completely to focusing on Sarah and Gilberto instead. Our other couple essentially disappears from the story completely to the point where I wondered if we’d even see a conclusion to their tale.

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When we do eventually switch focus back to Seguin and Diana’s relationship, then we see our other couple get pushed to the background. It’s almost like they couldn’t completely coexist, though I will say the love story between Sarah and Gilberto does have implications on all of our characters, and the progression of the story. However, I think I almost would have preferred if maybe the focus had instead been more on Diana and Seguin, as well as our half-brothers trying to mend their troubled relationship. Then at the end we could have had an insinuation that Sarah and Gilberto were googly eyes for each other. It may have helped to create a more cohesive story, rather than having two love stories taking place in one book.

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An Enchanting Landscape

There were two aspects of this novel which completely fascinated me. The first dealt with the historical aspect. This is definitely the first romance novel I’ve ever read which has focused on this time period in history, and it definitely caught my interest. The main reason being, I had zero idea what really came to pass during that time in Mexico’s history, so I had no idea how the historical events could possibly impact the rest of the story. It wasn’t like reading a romance set during the Civil War or WWII, where I know the standard start and end dates, as well as the general progression of the battle timeline. In this case though? It was a total learning process, and one that I’d love to research more fully. Personally I blame my high school’s lack of world history courses. I remember there was only one Global History course offered during my entire high school career, and it conflicted with my French class. Sooooo, yeah, I need to brush up on my history of Mexico.

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The other feature of the novel which was described to perfection was the landscape. I could practically taste the champagne of the royal ball, feel the itch of the mosquitoes from the swamp, and feel the exhaustion of climbing through the countryside. It’s easy to get lost in the description of each scene, as you can picture the beauty and harsher aspects of the setting. Hell, when Diana and Seguin come across an abandoned city in the midst of the jungle you can practically feel the cold stone of the sacrificial altar digging into your back when Seguin worships Diana’s body in the physical sense. Oh my, definitely need to fan myself off here a moment.

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

Series: Stand-Alone

Should you read it? While I did prefer the first half of the novel, everything does come together for an exciting climax. The historical period of the book was fascinating, and I’m simply intrigued to learn more. Although I’m definitely a fan of romance, I think I would have preferred one less romantic story line here so that more of a focus was on Diana and Seguin. As it stands, there was almost a conflict of sorts in the middle of the book for who the main characters actually are. Replacing that second romance with a focus on Gilberto and Seguin fixing their strained relationship is something I might have preferred to see.

Smut Level: Sarah and Gilberto have a few passionate kisses, and an eventual quick love scene in a thatched hut. Diana and Seguin definitely heat things up a bit, with a descriptive make-out scene in a mining vault, and even a rough coupling on a sacrificial altar. Proving once and for all that even historical romances can have a slightly raunchy side.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Estrella Publishing. 353 Pages.

The Home Court Advantage by N.M. Silber

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

What’s it About? 

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

First Impressions

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

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A Not-So-Unique Sequel

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

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

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

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From Notes to Stalking

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

Can’t Help Falling in Love by Bella Andre

Megan won’t date someone with a dangerous job. Firefighter Gabe won’t date a victim he rescues from a fire. Sounds like a match made in Heaven!

What’s it About?

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Gabe Sullivan risks his life every day as a firefighter in San Francisco. But after learning a brutal lesson about professional boundaries, he knows better than to risk his heart to his fire victims ever again. Especially the brave mother and daughter he saved from a deadly apartment fire…and can’t stop thinking about.

Megan Harris knows she owes the heroic firefighter everything for running into a burning building to save her and her seven-year-old daughter. Everything except her heart. Because after losing her navy pilot husband five years ago, she has vowed to never suffer through loving – and losing – a man with a dangerous job again.

Only, when Gabe and Megan meet again and uncontrollable flames of desire ignite between them, how can he possibly ignore her courage, determination, and beauty? And how can she deny not only his strong bond with her daughter…but the way his sweetly sensual kisses are challenging her to risk everything she’s been guarding for so long? If one – or both – of them aren’t careful, they just might end up falling in love.

First Impressions

I’m starting to notice a funny theme with all of these Sullivan romances. With this plethora of male siblings we see that they’re all ungodly handsome, as well as bursting with sexual magnetism. In each novel, our female lead can admit that while each brother is undoubtedly a fine specimen of male hotness, only the lead man featured can make her “tingle”. Seriously, I think every female lead in this series so far has mentioned how they appreciate the looks of every Sullivan male, but there’s a tingling sensation that only one can give them. Must be a Sullivan family trait/magical ability. It really helps address the question of how she could possibly choose just one when all seem like they just stepped off the cover of Men’s Health. Apparently this third novel in the series is no exception to the Sullivan tingle rule. The fact that Gabe is a tough-as-nails firefighter with a sensitive side means that he doesn’t just cause Megan to tingle, she burns under his sexy gaze and cat-that-ate-the-canary grin.

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Blazing Inferno

This novel definitely starts with a bang. Or with a burning apartment fire anyway. For Gabe, it’s just another day on the job where he’s willing to risk his life to save others. And in doing so he comes to rescue single mother Megan and her daughter Summer. Gabe is inured in the process, and when mom and daughter go to thank him in the hospital, Megan is shocked by her immediate attraction to Gabe, not to mention the…tingle she feels for him. Her daughter seems hell bent on playing matchmaker, and it doesn’t take long before Gabe and Megan find themselves alone in a ski lodge hotel room. Bow chica wow wow.

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Both Megan and Gabe have been trying to stay away from each other as much as possible. After the death of her fighter pilot husband, Megan isn’t willing to fall in love again with a man who has a life-threatening job. As for Gabe, he had a terrible previous experience dating a woman he rescued from a fire, and he’s not willing to go through that again. Once they find themselves alone at the ski lodge however, they’re done saying no to their desires. Megan was married and widowed young. She never really had the chance to explore some of her wilder sexual fantasies, and Gabe…well he’s more than happy to help her in this sexploration. This night together is phenomenal, orgasmic, climactic, they feel the earth move under their feet! After that? Well that’s when things start to slow down a bit plot-wise.

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Standing Still

The first quarter or so of this book was simply delightful. You have an intense and dramatic opening meet cute scene, as well as the suspense of wondering when and how Gabe and Megan will eventually go for a tumble between the sheets. But once they do the fun of the story kind of comes to a standstill. They go back and forth and back again over whether or not to take their relationship further. Honestly, it got kind of boring just waiting for them to see that a relationship is the logical next step. Gabe is dead-set on convincing her that their connection is worth exploring. She’s initially hesitant, but soon comes around…after coming a few more times that is 🙂

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Gabe acknowledges that with Megan comes Summer, and she’s grateful to have finally found a man who doesn’t shy away from the fact she has a daughter. Personally, I think Summer was a feature that could have been incorporated even more, as it might have made the second half of the novel more dynamic by figuring out how all three fit into each other’s lives. Instead, we are met with a remarkably smooth transition, which again sort of adds to the dull nature of the plot after they agree to give things a go.

Waiting for the Blaze

From the minute Gabe and Megan both decide to explore this relationship outside of the bedroom we’re just waiting for something to go wrong. After all, excluding the opening fire scene, not a whole lot of drama has taken place. Gabe, Megan and Summer all get along fine. While Gabe has openly declared his love for Megan without hearing it back in return, he never tries to pressure her into saying it before she’s ready. He’s just happy to be with her and Summer at all, and can wait for her to say those three words he knows she feels on the inside.

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So we wait and wait and wait for something to happen. Let’s face it, we’re all just waiting around for another fire that we know must be coming to remind Megan why she was so hesitant to start something with Gabe in the first place. When it does I literally exclaimed out loud, “oh…come…on!” Just when Megan is about to confess her love (finally!) what should happen but Gabe gets a phone call to go fight a dangerous blaze. Like, his phone literally rings mid-sentence during her declaration to the point where he runs off without hearing her say it all. COME ON! Could we get any more cliché?

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Series: San Francisco Sullivans, book 3. Book one is still my favorite, but I’m excited to see what comes next when we finally deal with a Sullivan sister rather than another brother.

Should you read it? While the middle half or so of this novel was a bit of a bore, I must say it started and ended strong. Gabe vowed to never date another fire victim, but as he spends more time with Megan he discovers that she was never a victim, but instead the epitome of courage. After the death of her fighter pilot husband who went on a reckless joy ride one night, Megan declared that if she ever settled down with another man it’d be one with a safe job. However, she soon can’t imagine her life without Gabe, and sees that while her husband was an adrenaline junkie, and Gabe might thrill on the job as a firefighter, the two couldn’t be more different. He’s careful, calculated, and seeks to help people. He doesn’t foolishly put himself in danger. That makes Gabe worth all the risk.

Smut Level: Rooftop sex (with pillows and blankets for comfort), under fireworks on New Year’s Eve. Followed by a bathtub scene. And then a blindfold! Yaaaassss.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Oak Press, LLC. 200 Pages.

 

 

Trying Not to Love You by Megan Smith

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

What’s it About? 

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

First Impressions

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

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

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A Revealing Synopsis

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

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Tales of the Unfaithful

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

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

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From Crush to Reality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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