Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Midnight Games by Elle Kennedy




Romantic Suspense |12/29/15 | 11 hours 53 minutes 

Warning : SIDE CHARACTERS DIE !

Jim Morgan and his crew of mercenaries are in crisis. Morgan has gone missing and a kill order has been ordered against the team and not everyone makes it out alive. Enemies and friends team up and begin a globe-hopping mission to find out who is behind the fatal attack, while undercover agent extraordinaire, Isabel Roma joins the team and brings her will they/won't they romance with and ex-Navy mercenary Trevor Callaghan  to a sizzling conclusion.

Kennedy always shocks me with the amazing scope and world-building in her novels that play out in addition to the main romance. I was SHOCKED that there was an steamy and intense enemies with benefits relationship between two  characters. . . who aren't even paired up with each other later in the series.  It adds a lot more dimension to the characters and not something I've see in a lot of romance. You really have to read these in order.

Midnight Alias features lots of girl power as we meet more of The Chameleons, a group of female operatives and their dark and deadly leader Noelle. (SERIOUSLY SOMETHING HAPPENED BETWEEN HER AND JIM MORGAN AND THEY HATE EACH OTHER AND I WANT TO KNOW WHAT IT IS)

Allyson Ryan is of course a treat, she gets to show off her expanse of accents though her Australian accent might have me checking out the e-book if that character gets a book.


IsAbel and Trevor's romance has been tracking since book one and it was satisfying, but while you come for the romance you stay for the secret missions, non-stop action and banter.

I feel like the ending wrapped up a little to neatly, but I think Kennedy did it in service of a much bigger story... which is her showing how BADASS all of her character are. You really feel like you know the team..

Side Note
I'm lukewarm on the book and audio book covers for this series, but this is one where I pefer the audio book cover. I remembe an old post I read on how females are positioned on promotional content and I think this is a nice subversion.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Playboy Pilot by Penelope Ward and Vi Keeland


9/21/16 | 7 Hours 35 Minutes | Narrated by Andi Arndt and Sebastian Stan

Captain Carter Clines, Triple C "Trip" (okay a big deal is made of this clever nickname but it's only used like three times)  is the playboy pilot and he has no shame about the flight attendants he's slept with or making  a suggestive comment or two to Kendall Sparks the pretty blonde heiress he meets in an airport lounge. Together they embark on an around the world vacation, but they can't outrun the real-life troubles waiting for them at home.

I think I grabbed this audiobook on sale based on the  kitsch title alone, I don't know what I was expecting but this book was surprisingly fun because it's mostly about Kendall and Carter having fun on their globe hopping vacation. I kept waiting to see where they would go next. The conflict was super soapy and there is even a  wacky Romancelandia will. I can't even explain it but involves babies and IVF.

Sure if you just barley squint this is one of those books were the heroine is introduced to the hero and he changes her life. We don't get any of Kendall's experiences or learn what makes her unique outside of Carter. I haven't read a lot of playboy books, but I like that Carter has to come to terms with the consequences of his past to get a happy ending.

Andi Arndt and Sebastian York are like the  Ben Affleck/Matt Damon or the Meg Ryan/Tom Hanks of romance audiobooks. At first I found Arndt's narration a little sleepy but it starts to pick up and she has this perfectly well matched cocky attitude when it comes to voicing Carter that I think really added something to Carter. York, as per usual, played it pretty straight


Wicked Mafia Prince by Annika Martin


 Dangerous Royals Romance #2 |  233 Pages | Suspense Romance | Release Date: 07/16/2016
The first book in the Dangerous Royals series really pulled me in with it’s grit, high stakes and constant twists and turns. I was so ready for the sequel but Wicked Mafia Prince was just….it has some odd choices. I mean…. it’s basically about a Russian mobster that saves a nun from a brothel and then competes with Jesus for her attention by doing things like….chaining her in a bedroom, throwing her clothes into a fire and forcing her to eat cake.

Okay, let me back up.

 22-year-old Russian mobster Viktor Dragusha is ready to take down Bloody Lazarus, the man that killed his parents and separated he and his brothers 20 years ago. As he and his brother begin to infiltrate Lazarus’s online virgin auction Viktor recognizes a nun up for auction as his ex-girlfriend, Tanechka. Which is odd because he’s pretty sure he killed her three years ago when the Russian mob made him push her off a gorge.

That’s right, it’s amnesia time, ya’ll !

So for most of this book Tanechka only remembers the last few years of her life when she was taken in by Eastern Orthodox nuns. She’s now extremely religious and very orthodox and Viktor comes off as a real psycho bully as he tries to make her remember the violent mob  assassin she once was.The only reason this book didn’t end up in the DNF pile is because the book itself seems to recognize how he treats her is wrong and towards the end she gets a bit of agency, but some of the earlier sections were real rough.

Speaking of choices at one point Martin gives Bloody Lazarus, the bad guy, a couple of chapters in which he...uses an online executive coach to help him... run the mob better ? It read as real odd and I didn’t feel like she captured the voice quite right, Lazarus has to be at least in his 40’s but he read much younger. I really didn’t understand why Lazarus’ POV was in there but in the back of the book she says that he’s getting his own book so I guess she was testing the waters.

Low in romance, high in suspense this book just left a bad taste in my mouth.




SIDENOTE
I looked more into Martin after reading this book and her best selling book is dubious consent novel about a woman kidnapped by a fugitive and she has a series called Taken Hostage by The Kinky Bank Robbers so I think some of my weirdness about consent in this book is YMMV. Clicking around I am learning  'kidnapped heroine falls for captor' is a genre I did not know existed...which explains a lot about these books.

I think I am going to finish this series (and not just because I already bought the last one for .99 a few months ago). I’d heard this book was the weakest of the series and I’m curious to see what she’ll do with the third brother who was abandoned in the woods as a child.



Saturday, July 1, 2017

Ruled by Elle Kennedy



Rating: ★★★★| 354 Pages | Signet | Dystopian Romance | 11/1/2016

25-year-old Reese is the highly respected and enigmatic leader of the outlaw town known as Foxworth. She’s created a safe place in the lawless wasteland for herself and her people but she has grander plans for the town’s citizen. Plans that include overthrowing the global authoritarian government. As you do. Meanwhile Rylan, the smart alec playboy from an ally outlaw camp, just wants to crack her shell and get a place in her bed, but also... so does Sloan, Reese’s stoic and fiercely loyal right hand man.

Yep, this is a ménage novel. I have this habit of not reading the back of books, so I had no idea this was coming. This is the first triad I’ve finished and you know what ? I didn’t hate it. Kennedy just does a great job articulating the relationships the characters have with each other and making it work and feel believable. In the beginning the two men are extremely wary of each other and have some intense moments but but by the end of the book I was kinda on board with them having a relationship without Reese..

Can we talk about Reese though ? I don’t think I’ve ever read a female character like her. The young, broody leader with a mysterious dark past who wants nothing but vengeance is usually reserved for male MCs, especially in romantic suspense. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a female character inhabit that role without it turning into a Faux Action Girl or the character being reminded that she’s a woman every other page.

Although holy trigger warnings, Batman ! There is a lot of rape as backstory and Fridge Horror in this book. Like a lot.

Action packed and intense, Elle Kennedy’s Ruled is the searing post-apocalyptic ménage novel I didn’t know I needed.



SIDENOTE
So...even though this book hints at future pairings and doesn't resolve the overarching plot it looks like Kennedy is done with the Outlaws series and is focusing on her contemporary projects ):

Sunday, June 4, 2017

North To You by Tif Marcelo


Rating: ★★★★ | 300 Pages | Pocket Star | Contemporary | 6/5/2017
When food truck owner Camille Marino (literally) runs into her old high school crush, Army lieutenant Drew Bautista, on a wild San Francisco night their passion for each other re- ignites instantly. But when Camille’s food truck unknowingly becomes enemy number one of Drew’s father’s Filipino restaurant their relationship might just go up in flames.

Oh and Drew is about to be deployed to Iraq in 30 days...

This debut novel from Tif Marcelo is a sweet, fun and heartfelt romance that delivers on everything it promises. Hot army hero ? Check. Lot of delicious food descriptions ? Check. San Francisco regional specificity ? Check. I really appreciated that Marcelo’s 25-years-old characters read like actual 25-year-olds with their pop culture references and the way they used social media.

Fair warning this romance is in first person which was a good fit for the book,  but I know is a turn off for some romance readers. Also, while it isn’t a total fade to black situation, Marcelo doesn’t linger on details and the love scenes tend to cut out before things get really hot and heavy.

I’ve read a lot of books over my last few years of blogging and I have never read a Filipino character let alone a Filipino romantic hero.  I'm glad to see more diversity in romance and  hope we get more books like this in the future !

SIDENOTE

I did kind of side-eye how the publisher had every Filipino word or dish was in italics and had an explanatory comma. It felt awkward to have Drew’s first person narrative pause and explain, even though there is a lot of context. It’s especially an odd choice because there wasn’t the same amount of spoon feeding for military jargon.

*ARC provided by NetGalley







Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Audiobook Review: Darling Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt



Rating: ★★★ | 384 Pages | Sourcebooks Casablanca | Contemporary | 9/6/2016 

Framed for triple homicide, Apollo Greaves escapes his abusive guards at Bedlam and takes refuge  in the burned down pleasure garden he is secretly financing. With his throat damaged from a beating in Bedlam, Apollo is intent to pose as a mute, “dumb” gardener working in the garden. That is until he takes the interest of Lily Stump, a blacklisted theater actress living in the remains of the garden’s burned theater with her son.

And he solves crime ?

And I guess this is supposed to be a Beauty and The Beast type story because Apollo is sups big and not traditionally handsome ?

I literally picked this book at random because I wanted to read a genre I haven’t read this year. I  guess all the historicals I’ve ever read have been  light hearted Regencies romances because I was thrown for a loop by this emotionally wrought Georgian melodrama with the angst switch turned to 11. So. Much. Angst.

That said, Darling Beast is perfectly crafted historical romance. Apollo and Lily’s story blend together with these chapter epigraphs from the Grecian Minotaur myth to create a wonderfully solid narrative with a few twists and turns I didn’t even see coming. Seriously, there were some driveway moments with this one.

The setting of this romance is so specific.  Apollo and Lily are kind of outcasts from their social circles, so their courtship takes you completely out of the ballroom and into this burned down pleasure garden that Apollo is trying to rebuild. Also, if learning about 18th century horticulture is a thing you want Elizabeth Hoyt's got you.

Now, there are some oddly racist references in this book. At one point she describes watching Apollo squatting down  like a "hulking native" and "veritable savage"  and at one point a character is described as an "Oriental potentate." While that may have been how people talked back then, it felt in poor taste  for the author to include them in her book..

Narrator Ashford McNab has this great husky, feminine voice for Lily and masters all the different British accents. Her performance of Apollo is especially noteworthy because throughout the book Apollo (spoiler alert) slowly gets his speech back and she has to change her voice as his voice heals.

A story about identity, the meaning of humanity and of course the feels.






SIDENOTE
So….why is this series called Maiden Lane ?

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Addicted by Elle Kennedy (Outlaws #2)


Rating: ★★★ + .5 | 354 Pages | Signet | Dystopian  | 6/28/2016 

Time to dive back into Elle Kennedy’s post apocalyptic America where citizens live in heavily regulated cities while the rest are are outlaws, surviving as free people in the nuclear wasteland.

In this sequel a group of outlaws introduced in the first book are headed out to Foxworth, a fortified outlaw town, to train the townspeople how to fight. Included in this group are Jamie and Lennox, childhood friends who’ve survived every hardship life has thrown at them as a team. But when Lennox and Jamie start sleeping together it gets complicated.

I could go either way on Jamie and Lennox’s relationship, they had some great moments but never felt as fully fleshed as the characters in book one did.  That said, I liked how Kennedy used them to expand the world. We learn more about what it’s like to be an outlaw child and how hard it is to keep a family together.

Kennedy has also kicked up the spice level in this book, because everyone is sleeping with everyone, everywhere all the time. Although, the more I read this series the more I have to handwave that they live in a nuclear wasteland where food and fuel are scarce but for some reason there are condoms everywhere and no one has an STI or unwanted pregnancy.

Elle Kennedy delivers another dystopian scorcher with a complicated friends to lovers scenario and some intense action scenes.






SIDENOTES

There are some character deaths I did not see coming because I legit though they’d be in future books. This tweet was literally me: