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:



Saturday, May 13, 2017

Midnight Alias by Elle Kennedy


Narrated by Allyson Ryan | 11 hrs 39 minutes | Tantor Audio

In book one Kennedy introduces Trevor Callahan, an ex-solider so deep in grief over the murder of his fiancé that he joins an undercover mission as a suicide job. While undercover he is paired with former-FBI agent turned undercover operator Isabel Roma, a former Mafia princess who can be anyone except herself.  Just when Trevor is staring death in the eye. . .Isabel saves him then walks away for the last time. Or is it ?

Midnight Alias . . . is not about them.

Nope. It’s about a Ragin' Cajun (okay, I don’t think he’s Cajun but he's from New Orleans) adrenaline junkie Luke Dubois and Olivia Taylor, a 25 year old college student taking care of her sick mother. To make ends meets Olivia works in a strip club where one night she is attacked by a customer, the strip club owner kills the customer, hides the body and pays off all her school and medical bills so she’s in debt to him. He holds this over her  and he’s like in love with and controlling  over her and she’s just playing nice until she can graduate and escape.*breathes*.

So, helpless stripper with a heart of gold being saved by a big strong man is one of my least favorite tropes,  the only reason I was reading this book is to follow the Trevor/Isabel arc. Who by the way, get just as much page-time as Luke and Olivia.

 Kennedy does provide thrilling plots and wonderful banter. I thought the portrayal of Olivia’s controlling relationship with the strip club owner was realistic and Kennedy had this great way of getting inside of her villain’s heads and giving them dimensions.  Audiobook narrator Allyson Ryan’s really intuitive and charming performance amplified the story. 

Okay, now I finally get to read Isabel and Trevor.

Side Note
I don't understand the cover for the audiobook or the book for that matter. It's just like being shirtless outside wearing a concealable holster seems  . . . beside the point.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Roadside Assistance by Marie Harte


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

When business owner Cynthia Nichols stomps into Webster's Garage to tell the mechanics off for parking  cars  in her parking lot, she immediately catches the attention of all of the body shop "bad boy" mechanics. Foley Hamilton  immediately calls dibs and what starts out as a fun casual game of cat and mouse between Foley and Cyn might just be the real thing...that is if their friends and family don’t get in the way first.

Cynthia Nichols is that unconventional romance heroine they warned you about. She’s in her mid-thirties, independent, running her business and at 6 feet tall and size 24 doesn’t have the body of your typical coquettish romance heroine. She’s dealing with a traditional Italian mother who wants her to start a family and "blue collar badass" Foley isn’t exactly what her mother has in mind. I thought it was great how Harte doesn't play the I Want Grankids lightly, it shines a light on how Cyn's mother's comments about weight and her relationships are starting to  become verbal abuse.

I’m not sure if I really believed the chemistry between Cyn and Foley though. They start to implicitly trust each other and I’m not sure why especially since Foley makes some weird comments about her weight in the beginning that really upset her. Also the ending gave me whiplash, we go from the Foley in an  intense emotional situation to Cyn in an intense emotional situation and then a smash cut to a  light hearted  party that seemedto only exist to introduce the characters of Harte's new series.

That said I'm still in for the next book, which about Foley's roommate / best friend Sam. I think what draws me to this series is the sense of community, it’s subtle but this Seattle metro area  is so well developed. I love seeing how all the past characters interact with each other.



SIDENOTE

I really hate this cover...

Monday, April 24, 2017

Strong Signal by Megan Erickson and Santino Hassell






Rating: ★★★★  | 229 Pages | Self Published | Contemporary | 2/15/2016 

25-year-old Kai Bannon is what you might call internet famous. Millions of adoring subscribers tune into his Twitch stream for game reviews, funny commentary….and occasional shirtless dancing. But most of his online performance is just that. A performance. IRL Kai suffers from severe anxiety and hasn’t left his Philadelphia apartment in two years. His solitary lifestyle works for him, but then he starts exchanging messages with deployed Army mechanic, Garrett Reid. When their relationship goes offline to IRL, Kai can't hide his flaws behind a screen anymore.

Kai lives in an online world that will seem realistic to anyone who, ahem like me, has dabbled into the world of internet famous people. The authors capture the culture of internet fame so well, like this bit early on when Garrett decides to Google Kai:

Kai + Twitch + Fallen World Online brought up Pinterest pages, a Tumblr called FuckYeahKaiBannon, and fan pages on various social media websites. The number of people who were using his face as an avatar on their own Twitter accounts was alarming - Erickson, Megan. Strong Signal (Cyberlove Book 1) (p. 17). Megtino Press. Kindle Edition.


See that Tumblr account ? I have seen that Tumblr account.

My biggest hurdle with this book is that I had a real hard time believing the "meet cute". It's not believable that someone like  Kai would  respond to an e-mail from another player upset over something that happened in a MMOPRG. It seems like someone with as much internet fame as Kai would have written him off as a troll and ignored him.

There is something refreshing about how down to earth the heroes in Strong Signal. One of my nitpicks about mainstream romanclandia is that it seemingly takes place in an alternate world where characters in their mid-twenties are running the world. Garrett’s not some special ops army war hero, he’s just a guy who joined the military out of high school and whose biggest fear is being unemployed once he leaves the Army.

Believe it or not this review just barely scratches the surface of this book, there is plenty of drama going on as the characters try to fit into each others lives.  Hassell and Erickson have have created complex, modern characters for a truly 21st century story that is #couplegoals.


SIDENOTE

I am mildly fascinated by mediocre white boy internet celebrity so in my head Kai is a mix between a lower level Pewdiepie, Troye Sivan and IDK maybe these one of these British guys who randomly make videos shirtless for no apparent reason.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

New Cover, Who Dis ?



One of the first things I figured out when I started reading genre romance is that romance novel covers and readers speak to each other in their own visual language. Readers can pick out their favorite subgenres just by looking at the covers.  A solid background with a single object ? Screams erotica. Adirondack chairs on a porch means it's time for a small town romance, lush gowns with that signature clutch? That means it's time to travel to Regency England.

Every now and then I'll come across a book (usually a Harlequin) with a  re-issued cover that is suddenly saying something totally different than it's previous cover . Usually this new cover  can completely change how the book is perceived and how it fits into current trends. Here are a few that caught my eye:



Maya Banks




Erotica got a big mainstream boost after the 50 Shades phenomenon. Minimalist, clean text cover became synonymous  with the genre. So  it's no wonder  Maya Banks "cheesy" Harlequin titles and covers were re-issued to reflect the trend.


Caitlin Crews and Maisey Yates


Nothing screams steamy, fun and indie romance like a black and white image with bold colorful text. I think Harlequin Presents got the message when they swapped out their signature logo and serious dudes for more a fun more contemporary look. I also noticed they play up the USA Today Bestseller, something I see on a lot of indie and small press novels.




Elle Kennedy

 You just know Kennedy's Midnight series when you see it. I'm talking  strong powerful models and bright san serif text. So in 2017 when  Harlequin re-issued Kennedy's Silhouettes  they looked  a little familiar.  Again they've minimized the Harlequin branding. 



Victoria Dahl

Victoria Dahl's original Tumble Creek  covers looked fun and flirty but when the mid 2010's rolled into town, covers were all about the abs. And not just abs. . . active abs ! This trend was probably popularized with Jaci Burton's Play by Play. When HQN re-issued this series they gave them an up close and personal ab-tastic makeover.




So what have I learned ? Well, it seems to me like romance novel covers are moving more toward minimalism. Images are simpler with no props, text is aligned with just a few key colors and so much san serif and kerning. Also the models on the cover look like they are having more fun.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Back To Your Love by Kianna Alexander






Rating: ★★★ +.5 | 352 Pages | Sourcebooks Casablanca | Contemporary  | 4/4/2017

Imani and Xavier’s high school romance felt like true love, but when Imani goes to Georgia for college they can’t hold on to their spark and drift apart. A decade later Imani is coming back home to open her dermatology practice and Xavier isn’t letting Imani get away this time. But Imani's got secrets now and if she were to say yes she could ruin Xavier's race for city council.

I’m starting to think rekindling romances are becoming my new jam. I like how the hero and heroine's shared history means we don't have to sit through the getting to know you parts. This romance isn’t clean or anything but it is just such a sweet romance. From Imani’s family to the kids Xavier counsels this books full of characters who love each other in all meanings of the word

This book takes place in Raleigh, North Carolina and just has an amazing sense of community and world building, I was not surprised to discover Alexander was a southern belle herself, like there is a scene where Xavier orders a lunch with a Cheerwine which is such a regionally specific beverage.

Oddly,  Imani and Xavier felt less like Millennials and more like Gen Xers. It's specifically stated that the characters are 10 years out from high school making them 29-30 at most, but they talk about listening to Mary J Blige at school dances, it just feels like an older reference. Also, Xavier refers to the 21-year-olds helping run his campaign as youngsters, and look I refuse to believe any Millennial trying to unseat an older incumbent wouldn't use social media to their advantage. It was just weird.

I do want to talk about how this book is being marketed. This book is without a doubt a black romance but it's not necessarily being marketed that way; it's cover blurb is by Kristin Higgins and a lot of the ad copy refers to Alexander as a mainstream author. Now, I've read both indie black romance and Kimani and I was curious how this would strike the balance and it really leans more towards the indie black romance side. This book definitely has some unapologetic blackness to it. There are no explanatory commas but I do think there are enough context clues if someone isn't familiar with everything going on.

Back To My Love is a contemporary friends to lover romance with it's share of drama and politics stirred up with a spoonful of  southern sweetness.



Tuesday, March 21, 2017

MMA Romance Week: Unspoken by Jen Frederick


Welcome to day 4 of MMA Romance Week !




Ratings: ★★★ | 270 Pages | Self-Published | New Adult | Woodlands #2 | 11/13/2013

This book was close to a DNF and not because it was bad, but because some sections of this felt so long and unnecessary and I’m not even counting the extended epilogue.

Unspoken is the second in the Woodlands series, I really liked the first one so I eagerly went into book two. I started with the audio, but I didn’t like the new female narrator and decided to just read it. Our heroine is AnnMarie West, a sophomore at Central College who has basically been slut shamed off campus after sleeping with the wrong lacrosse player. When she becomes partners with Beau, the MMA fighting, stud ex-Marine in her science class (stop me if you’ve heard this one) they start a romance with a very, very slow burn.

The romance between the hero and heroine was just okay. I liked the exploration of the idea that a woman who sleeps around is called a slut while a man gets to be a stud. It was interesting to watch the couple work through this and see there relationship evolve --but oh man the daddy issues in this book. Literally everyone has daddy issues.

Much like No Limits by Lori Foster it turns out this really isn’t  much of a fighting book. Beau works out in an MMA gym, but because the owner thinks he lacks the discipline to go pro Beau fights illegally on reservations from time to time. While AnnMarie does witness one of Beau’s fight we never get any of these fights from his point of view.

I do like the way Frederick touches on some of the problematic elements of having a violent hero. It's not something that has come up in the other books.  Beau has a lot of rage issues and at one point when he admits he’s afraid he’s going to hit AnnMarie and it’s kind of reeling, but I like that Frederick examined and fully fleshed it out what that fear means.

Frederick adds a healthy dose of sprinkles on this book. AnnMarie has a black best friend, a gay male neighbor and lesbian neighbor with a black girlfriend. The reason this all really stands out to me is because the first book has a pretty much all white cast and so it felt like she was correcting some of that.

As I mentioned at the top, the version of this book on Scribd had the extended epilogue which covers the next 18 years of the characters lives. At first I thought it was odd, but then I realized it was a lead in to her YA book about AnnMarie and Beau's kids. I kind of liked seeing the future and watching characters realize their dreams. I’ve been reading more self-pub lately and this is what I like about self pub… it’s allows to do something like make your NA into a YA spinoff.


That said, it’s pretty obvious Unspoken takes place in the 2010’s so I’m curious how Frederick negotiates the YA taking place in the late 2020's.











Thursday, March 16, 2017

MMA Romance Week: Ten Signs You're In An MMA Romance






1. Muscles. Muscles are everywhere. Most importantly biceps.



2. There are suddenly a lot of blue-eyed Irish men in America and they are mad AF.

3. Hey, Ladies- All MEN (except the hero who sees you as a person...sometimes) are jerks and want to hurt you. Don’t go anywhere by yourself because you might be sexually assaulted.

4. Losing is not an option. I mean unless it leads to angst or character development or a redemption arc and being even more winning-er later.

5. Women don’t swear. It’s only men because they are bad boys. Because duh.

6. And sometimes by bad boy we really just mean "sleeps with lots of other women"--but it’s cool because its consensual. But don't you dare have sexual agency, ladies !

7.Your man will have lots of bruises he won’t explain to you, but you think it’s kind of hot.

8. Nicknames are badass AF. Torment. The Wolf. Hurricane.Savage. In fact real names are also probably badass AF. Killian. Aiden. Ryland... and Irish See #2.

9. Professional Female fighters can only exist if they are validated by male coaches or other male fighters. And they always have to work harder to be seen as equal--oh, this may be real life.

10. That guy you’re dating has a dark past. And sometimes it means he’s killed people and got away with it, but you're okay with it. Statute of limitations, amirite ?


Tuesday, March 14, 2017

MMA Romance Week : Punching and Kissing by Helena Newbury






Rating: ★★★ + .5 | 6 hours 52 minutes | Tantor Media | Contemporary | Kissing #2| 7/25/2015

Strap in, this is going to be a long one !

If I made a spectrum of combat sport books it would start with books like Jeanette Murray’s Below The Belt on one end--noble military boxing team--and books like Punching and Kissing on the complete opposite. Like complete opposite

When both of their parents die Sylvie and her brother Alec do everything to survive on their own --including Alec entering The Pit--an illegal underground bareknuckle boxing club. When one of Alec’s fights leaves him in a coma, Sylvie volunteers to fight in his place. Sylvie’s never so much as swung a punch, but if she doesn’t fight the coked-out fight organizer will kill Alec. In her desperation she seeks out Aiden, an Irish dockworker who was once a deadly legend in The Pit and begs him to train her.

That synopsis is what got me into this book, I wanted to get away from the party line of MMA romances where the innocent heroine just dates a big bad fighter. I liked the idea of the heroine having to get in the ring and I wanted to see how far this book would go with her fighting….and it goes there.

This book has a lot of flaws and I mean a lot of flaws; the writing can be really cringe-y, the sex scenes were awful and the plot is over the top but overall....I still really liked this story and I feel like if it was a little bit tighter this could be a 5 star review.

MMA Romance Week: Below The Belt by Jeanette Murray



Rating: ★★★★ | 304 Pages | Berkley | Contemporary | First to Fight #1 | 4/7/2015

At 29-years-old, Brad Costa has been affectionately nicknamed the Grandpa of the Marine Corps boxing training camp. This year is Costa’s first and final shot at making the team and when he takes a bad fall on the first day of training  he does the only thing he can do--hide the injury. But he doesn't escape the eye of Marianne Cooke, the team's new athletic trainer. As Marianne and Brad get closer, his secret injury could threaten their relationship and her job.

After my speed read/ DNF of Lori Foster’s No Limits this book was so refreshing. The heroine, Marianne has this big personality and makes Parks and Rec references left and right. She’s almost the exact opposite of Brad who is all serious and Grumpy McGrumpy Grump all the time.

Brad was so fascinating to me because it’s almost like he didn’t get the memo that he is a marine
hero in a romance novel. He just wanted to do his duty and blend in with everyone else, he wasn't about being seen as a hero.

Murray really built a whole world around the day-to-day life in and around this Jacksonville military base and now that I think about it, military base romances are totally just small town romances. They both have close communities that share a small space and have residents with common ideals.

What makes this book compelling is that the stakes were always high; you don’t know if Brad is going to make the team or not. Also, NGL, when Brad reveals why joining the boxing team is so important to him it got me in the feels.

Now...there is a mystery (which I was terrified was going to lead to the heroine running from rape but didn’t) that involves someone constantly vandalizing Marianne’s training center. It’s never resolved so I assume it’s going to be an ongoing plot point in the series ?




SIDENOTES

  •  I thought the race car driving was a plethora for double entendre titles for romance novels but apparently boxing/MMA/wrestling books is where it is at.
  • Murray does a decent job of incorporating other minorities although she did kind of do the Black Dude Dies First because the only explicitly black Marine that gets a name gets cut from the team soon after he gets a personality.






Monday, March 13, 2017

MMA Romance Week : The DNFs

No Limits by Lori Foster (Ultimate #1)
This isn't a true DNF and since I skim read the last 60%. When the will of  Yvette Sweeny's grandfather brings both Yvette and successful pro MMA fighter Cannon Colter (who by the by once saved her from sexual assault) back to their hometown, they have to work together sort out her late grandfather's pawn business. Oh and he ends up protecting her from some new threat because of reasons.

When I picked up this book I must have been having author amnesia or something because this is the third Lori Foster book I’ve DNFed. We just don’t click. Her heroines always feel bland and her heroes lean a little too close to Meathead McAlphahole. All the men are big brawny protectors for all the womenfolk who always need protection from…well, rape personified usually. It's just not my thing.

In the end this book (like a few other books I read for this) really wasn’t even an MMA or fighting book. It was an alpha-dude-protects-the-pretty-lady with a side of forced seduction, which wasn’t what I was looking for. We see a lot of Cannon signing autographs and going to a gym he helped open, but he never fights on the page. What can I say, I wanted more grit.

SIDENOTE

Foster must be the queen of sequel bait because every time I pick up one of her books it always feels like I’m coming in the middle of something. I think the initial sexual assault Cannon saves Yvette from is from an earlier book in a different Foster series. Her entire catalog must be connected.

Also, what I do find interesting is that  Foster writes almost exclusively from the male POV.





Take Me On by Katie McGarry (Pushing The Limits #4)

This is a YA romance about Haley Williams, a former teen kickboxer who has it pretty tough. She's given up kickboxing after turning her back on her grandfather's gym for an abusive boyfriend.  Her Dad has been out of work for a year and her family is forced to move in with  her controlling Uncle and his family. She sees college as her only way out, but without a kickboxing scholarship it could never happen. Haley crosses paths with West Young, a rich kid  who was just kicked out by his parents and yada, yada, yada she has to train him to fight against her ex-boyfriend.

Let me back up. I met Katie McGarry at my first BEA and I remember just being really impressed with her personality and personal story. She grew up in a  town where poverty was common and friends were like family and that comes through in her books. 

I really like a lot of the themes and subjects in her books. I could see the relationships and world she was building. She seems to have the market cornered on poor white Southern communities.

All that said I just can’t get into her books and it's mainly because these books are too damn long. And so angsty. There are just pages of internal dialogue that I kept zoning out. And I know people love these books, but much like Foster, me and McGarry do not click.

I tried with this one I really did, but I could see it would take me too long to read and I had to DNF it. I think if you gave me 200 less pages I'd be all about it.

This is the fourth in the Pushing The Limits series and she has developed a very connected world of characters. The books seem to bounce off each other at times so I was a little lost.  I'd suggest reading this series in order.











Sunday, March 12, 2017

Welcome to MMA Romance Week



Welcome to MMA romance week at Romance and Sensibility ! 

Last year I noticed there was a ton of  heroes who tangle with  Mixed Martial Arts and other combat sports. So, I spent an entire month diving into the subgenre to learn how these bruising blue collar heroes fit into   romance world that is populated with  billionaires and tycoons. This week I'll be sharing everything I read and learned during my journey into MMA romance.




Saturday, March 11, 2017

First Comes Marriage by Sophia Sasson


Rating: ★★★ | 02/01/2016 | Contemporary Romance | 256 Pages | Harlequin

Dr. Meera Malhort is spending a medical rotation at a rural American clinic to see how the real people live. You know, without insurance and all. She ends up in the small town of Hell’s Bell where she finds board at Jake Taylor’s cattle ranch. Opposites attract and they start a flirtation that...just seems doomed from the start. I mean she’s a vegetarian Hindu and he kills cows for a living. Oh and did I mention she has a fiancé waiting for her back in London ?

I was kind of turned off from this book from the start because before we get into the story the town already hates Meera, who is Indian, because she tells the star football player he can’t play in the big game. But it’s not explained right away why everyone hates her and I couldn’t help but think everyone in town was just racist.

I love small town romances but this town was just ridiculous, the townspeople have a mob mentality and all go from hating Meera to rooting for her and Jake in less than three weeks because of reasons. I think this acceleration of romance is just a thing with series romance because of the length but it left me lukewarm and I just couldn’t get past the fact that Meera was basically cheating on her fiancé.

This is my first romance with, as Sara Wendell would say, no pants feelings and I honestly didn’t mind that part. There were just a lot more throbbing...hearts. There aren’t even really faded to black scenes, in fact it’s implied that premarital sex is a problem in this world. That said there is still an element of physical attraction. The author has to still convey physical attraction without taking it all off which I think she did well.

I can’t say my heart was warmed by my first Harlequin Heartwarming but I’ll be game to try one again !




Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Test Drive by Marie Harte (Body Shop Bad Boys #1)

Rating: ★★★ | 06/07/2016 | Contemporary Romance | 384 Pages | Sourcebooks Casablanca

This may be the honeycrisp sangria and Lush bomb baths talking but I adored this book.

After being scared straight by a short jail stint “bad boy” Johnny Donnelly lives a simple life; working at the garage, helping our at his dad’s strip club and hanging out at the local watering hole--where he's had a crush on bartender Lara Valley for years. Lara’s  guarded and isn’t sure how she feels about Johnny, but when he comes through for her she finally lets him ask her out. * Insert car related romance pun here.*

Harte's characters were so complex that I could almost read a story book about them without the romance. We get to  watch as Lara and Johnny's relationship evolves from flirty friends to love with all the messy bumps along the way.  Johnny has some deep seated commitment issues and turns out to be very vulnerable despite being the titular bad boy. Lara is trying to move up in the world while also being her older sister’s emotional crutch.

The blue collar setting of this book was really refreshing. Like, I know it’s cliched, but I like books where people have real jobs and have to balance 9 to 5 jobs with life and romance as opposed to some romances where it seems like characters have so much free time. Lara is a bartender but she is also a nursing student and helps out her family.I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a character have to juggle so much.

Dear romance, let’s huddle for a second. I know I’m new here but we’ve really got to get together and define what we mean by bad boy. Does it mean he doesn’t follow the rules ? Went to jail ? Kills people ? Womanizer ? Is it just code for 'has tattoos '? Because the fact that this series is called Body Shop Bad Boys and we find out  Johnny just took a car joyriding once and has some tattoos feels like a Disney version of bad boys. I felt the same way about Helenkay Dimon's Bad Boys Undercover series. If I see the term bad boy I want an unlikeable character with some grit to them.

I’m not sure why this author has never crossed my radar, she’s written over 100 books (some of which seem to be connected to this series) and I am so ready for more in this series.





SIDENOTE
I read this book in the bathtub and I thought I was being careful but it didn't make it out well.




Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Library Book Sale Haul



My reaction when the book sale volunteer said for $5 I could fill a grocery bag with as many books as I wanted


Lol, I did limit myself though and left some items I was only mildly interested in behind. I got mostly romance, but also some YA and women's fiction !


What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen
Yes, I own this book, but I am slowly replacing my Dessen collection with these newer paperback versions.

The Next Always and The Last Boyfriend by Nora Roberts
NGL, I just liked how these spines looks

The Awakening by Kate Chopin
I figured I needed to something literary and I've been meaning to read this.

When We Met and Only Mine by Susan Mallery
I love Fool's Good and have been collecting these as I see them in library sales / used bookstores.  With Only Mine I know have one complete cycle.

How to Woo a Reluctant Lady by Sabrina Jeffries
Somebody must have been cleaning out their Sabrina Jeffries collections because they had tons of her books. I had to speed read the synopsis to figure out which one I wanted and I went with this one where a spy novelist heroine who teams up with the hero to solve a murder.

Romancing the Duke by Tessa Dare
Tessa Dare is my favorite historical author and this is another book about an author heroine.

The Darkest Night by Gena Showalter
I started reading this series a few years ago on Oyster and I thought it was interesting and I have yet to read a paranormal romance.

McKetterick's Heart by Lina Lael Miller
I've seen this author around a lot and wanted to read one of her books. It looks like the version I got is a 2011 reissue so it must have been popular.

One Wish and The Chance by Robyn Carr
I've wanted to read Carr since I saw her get a lifetime achievement at RWA last year. I couldn't decide between these books so I got both.

Dear John by Nicholas Sparks
Confession time: I really like this movie. I head the book ends differently so I picked it up.

Blue Eyed Devil by Lisa Kleypas
I keep hearing about this book and I usually see the hardcover at Goodwill and used bookstores, but I was surprised to find the 2015 paperback with the pretty newer cover

Little Elephants by Jennifer Weiner
I was listening to a podcast where they read her books and I've been meaning to read her so I picked this one.

The Silent Wife by A.S.A Harrison
I see this book all the time on advertisements and decided to throw it in.

Rush by Maya Banks
I didn't love Surrender, but look, they gave me a bag to fill and this is the prequel and it looked SO NEW.

Everyone Worth Knowing by Laura Weisenberg
I really liked this book in high school and I'm sure I still have my copy but IDK where it is. I hope to re-read it one day.

Best of My Love by Susan Mallery
I also picked up this Susan Mallery at 2nd and Charles for 2.50...I'm really going to need Jess to start slapping books out of my hand.