Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Midnight Pursuits by Elle Kennedy (Killer Instincts #4)

Rating: ★★★★ | 9 hours 34 minutes | Signet | Romantic Suspense | 4/1/2014

Things are about to cool off for Morgan's mercenaries.

The fifth book in this series hits all the familiar beats in the Midnight series (which I know is called Killer Instincts but I kind of feel like that doesn't match the series at all. . .actually Midnight doesn't make sense either. I don't think anything specifically happens AT Midnight. . . . )  The hero and heroine are thrown together against their will , reluctantly team up and use their action movie skills to save that day, cause everyone in this series is like super professional when it comes to being a badass and taking names. Of course things parlay into slap slap kiss all while taking down a big bad who is usually a rich powerful foreign man.

Yep, It's s a formula, but it's a formula Kennedy freshens up each time.

This time, thief /assassin Juliet Mason is out for vengeance after her bother gets caught up in an international conspiracy. When her SOS is intercepted by Ethan Hayes, the youngest member of Morgan's mercenary team, the Rookie and the Vixen go up against volatile terrorists and a corrupt government in the dead of winter.

Juliet and Ethan's romance was just meh. It felt like a foregone conclusion. They weren't any real sparks and the cinematic action packed plot eclipsed their romance, which is too bad because their relationship has some interesting dynamics, at 25 years old Ethan is 7 years younger than Juliet.

Kennedy also plays with the traditional gender roles in action narratives. I mean Ethan is just trying to chillax and enjoy a peaceful vacation alone when he gets pulled into Juliet's high stakes revenge mission. He takes care of her when she's injured, Juliet seduces him first and slight spoiler. . . he's the one that ends up needing to be rescued.

It's the non-stop action, thrilling plots and world building you expect from Kennedy and a romance that's more interesting in theory than execution. Early on I wanted to read suspense because I like romances where the characters have a "missions", but I was turned off a ton of suspense because the women always needed saving or protecting. I really like that Kennedy lets the women get in on the. . . badassery ?


Monday, August 28, 2017

New Cover, Who Dis : Julie James !

 Julie James announced on her blog that Penguin is re-doing her covers, and they're starting with book two in the FBI Agent /US Attorney series.
Ever since It Happened One Wedding, James books have been all about the shoe game to a point that her newest book cover is just a shoe, so I'm not surprised to see an emphasis on the shoes.

However, I do wonder if they are trying to market the book as something other than romance. The he new cover feels like chick-lit and they've swapped out the blurb from romance author Nalini Singh to one from The Washington Post

While I like the liveliness, bright colors and movement of the new cover I'm still partial to the audiobook covers for this series. I like the fun font and city vibe!

Friday, August 25, 2017

Bared To You by Sylvia Day (Crossfire 1)

Rating: ★★★| 338 Pages | Self-Published; Berkley| Erotic Romance | 4/2/2012

When you think of an East Coast New York billionaire from a prominent family with his name on a building you of course think of...Gideon Cross.

At least Eva Trammell does. She justmoved across the country to start a new job in The Big Apple when a chance encounter with the enigmatic Gideon Cross leads her down a a path of explosive passion and high emotions.

I'm sort of on a mission to read formative romance novels that have, at various points, defined the genre and since I couldn't finish 50 Shades I decided to give this a try because it's close second. And yes, I know this is erotica and not romance but it was popular so. . .

Bared To You was soapy and over the top as I expected. The super dark parts of this novel were unexpected and  made me cringe in the way Law and Order SVU does when they say stuff you think they can't say on NBC, while other parts made me laugh like when Gideon builds a perfect replica of Eva's room in his apartment to help her feel safe ... I mean I get it but also the fact that he can do that should make you run.

Speaking of Eva feeling safe, Eva has a lot of trust and anxiety issues because of her abusive childhood. I liked that she was upfront about this and how she owns it. But honestly everyone in this book is in therapy and boy do they need it. Even down to Eva's self-destructive roommate Cary whose story-line makes me want to read the next books. Cary could have easily fallen into the gay (well, bi) best friend trope and I like that Day flipped that trope on it's head. Cary is complex and he needs Eva possibly more than she needs him.
Do I understand why this book was such a big deal ? Well . . .I'm not sure. I mean it was more readable to me than Shades. It's purely escapist but the dark abusive parts always caused me to put the book down, and while I don't usually focus on the writing part Day has this amazing way of barley using "said" and "says".

I'm pretty sure I have book five somewhere around here. . . but if I'll ever get to it ? I don't know.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Ice Planet Barbarians by Ruby Dixon

Rating: ★★★+.5 | 04/03/2015 | Science Fiction  Romance | 188 Pages | Self-Published
Ice Planet Barbarians starts of visceral and down right disturbing as 22-year-old Georgie wakes up. locked in an alien cargo hold with 11 other women. The women fight their captors and find themselves dumped on a barren ice planet which they very quickly discover the planet is not so barren. It’s inhabitants are a small, primitive tribe of  mostly male sa-khui, the titular barbarian-like aliens. Oh and it turns out their tribe leader, Vektal, is Georgie’s fated mate.

I normally stray away from fated mate or inter-species-alien stuff , but I actually ended up enjoying this book--it kind of reminded me of a smexeier Dr. Who episode ? Dixon's use of  Georgie’s colloquial first person narration, the world (planet?) building and the survival plot really hooked me. I also appreciated the tribal nature that develops between all the women as they try and survive. As for the inter-species thing….while I could deal with the blue skin, body ridges and  horns, the tail was just a bridge too far and I chose to ignore it.

I actually only had one major problem with this book; THE ENTIRE PLOT OF THIS SERIES IS MY WORST FREAKING NIGHTMARE !**

Let me explain. At one point all the women make A Choice and do A Thing that means they can’t ever leave the ice planet. The reason this is my nightmare scenario can pretty much be encapsulated in this line:

I mean, there aren’t any toilets, but living as a barbarian? Not so bad when you’ve got a big, sexy barbarian male with you.
-- Dixon, Ruby. Ice Planet Barbarians: A SciFi Alien Romance (p. 175). Ruby Dixon. Kindle Edition.

Nope. Nope. Nope. Noppity Nope. Vektal and his sa-khui are literally living in the Stone Age--they eat their meat raw, all the native creatures on the planet wants to kill them, it’s always cold and as for this whole fated mates thing ? Yeah, there are no epidurals on a barren ice planet !  If I were one of these women I would be trying to Macgyver my way off the planet as quickly as possible. Especially since it’s hinted that there exist sa-khui on other planets that don’t live like barbarians.

Personal Nightmare Fuel aside, Ice Planet Barbarians is an intense, enjoyable, sci-fi romance with a really fun voice. In the back of the book Dixon says you can  read the books in any order and (  if you're cool with the whole trapped in the Stone Age thing) it seems like a great vacation series  for dipping in and out of !

There is novella about one of the women having twins and while the name of the novella delights me the cover….bothers me deeply.

**Okay, maybe not my worst nightmare. My worst nightmares include being eaten alive, getting kidnapped, eating a cockroach, my car falling off a bridge, being kidnapped and locked in a basement and going to work with a hair roller in but it’s in the top 5.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

New Cover, Who Dis: Whiskey Sharp edition !

Lauren Dane's Whiskey Sharp series, following the employees of a vintage-styled barbershop and whiskey bar in Seattle, made it on my 17 Books I Want To Read in 2017 list and this week I noticed this book never actually came out.

A quick check of Lauren Dane's blog revealed that the release date had been pushed back because US bookstores found the cover to be too edgy and Harlequin re-shot it. This was the result of the reshoot:

I don't hate the new cover, but I don't  love it either. I found the original cover to be more interesting to look at, the barber shop chair and perfectly manicured beard tell me something about the story. Aside from the tattoo on the heroine's arm the new one looks like an image you would find on any Harlequin series romance.

Like Lauren Dane, I am puzzled as to how a fully clothed man staring off center could be seen as edgy. I'm really stumped because Lori Foster and Diana Palmer have similar covers. Honestly, the only thing I can think of is that the booksellers had issue with  the idea that the  cover could be perceived as male / male because the model is well manicured and not in a traditionally masculine setting....which, if true is really unfortunate.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Illegal Contact by Santino Hassell

Rating: ★★★+.5 | 251 Pages | Intermix | Contemporary Romance | 08/15/2017

When a fight caught-on-tape lands Gavin Brawley--the notoriously hotheaded tight end for The New York Barons--on house arrest the last thing he wants to deal with is a new personal assistant. Noah Monroe is a freshly unemployed social worker who could care less about Gavin and just wants to do the job and start paying his student loans. But will Noah worm his way into Gavin's heart and bring out #DatBrawleySmile ?

This book was great, I’m just really into the way Santino Hassell  writes romance. He slowly builds sexual tension and pairs it with cutting banter. Noah, being a self proclaimed "poor kid from Queens" goes toe to toe with Gavin's surliness.  I was just waiting for a Slap Slap Kiss--although it ends up being more of a You Are Better Than You Think You Are.

Hassell  is also writing some of the most authentic portrayals of millennials I've read in romance. The pop culture references, language and world views feel modern and authentic. Like the way Noah and Gavin talk about the toxic and often problematic culture of professional football. While Gavin loves football and knows it saved his life  he’s also realizes if word got out he was bisexual and had a boyfriend his career could be over.

Authentic, heartwarming and fun Hassell’s debut football series is a touch down !

*ARC provided by Netgalley


By the way, this is so, so, so random but the fact that this book features a guy named Gavin never leaving his big house in the Hamptons reminds me of that episode of the Gavin Volure episode of 30 Rock.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Mini Reviews: Kimani Romance

To Marry A Prince by A.C. Arthur

When stylist Landry Norris  is flown  to Grand Serenity Island to dress the American fianceĆ© of the crown prince she finds herself  in bed with the crown prince's oldest son, Prince Kristian DeSaunters. Kristian and Landry's lust-at-first-sight romance burns quickly with very little chemistry. I got whiplash at how they went from essentially  friends with benefits to marriage (although I guess...what is says on the tin).  Arthur does a great job building the scenery, culture and history of Grand Serenity Island, a Caribbean island where the descendants of slaves created the monarchy by rebelling against colonist.  There also seems to be an intrigue plot  going on in the background as mysterious break ins and murder attempts begin to happen around the island. I have a feeling the intrigue storyline is going to follow through the series as it is never resolved in the book.  -

A Pleasing Temptation by Deborah Fletcher Mello

All eyes are on Kamaya Bordeaux as she officially becomes the last of  her 9 siblings without a wedding ring.  Kamaya doesn't have time for a relationship as she's busy managing the newest addition to her portfolio of adult businesses--a male strip club franchise. Her first franchisee is Wesley Walters an up and coming business man who was once known as "Deuce" the hottest stripper in New Orleans. Kamaya and Wesley's banter and chemistry burn up the pages. Even though our hero and heroine make their living selling sex, this novel was surprisingly heartwarming and almost spiritual as faith and family play a big role in their  developing relationship. I really loved the scenes between close knit Bordeaux family, this family has it all; a billionaire, a CIA agent, a filmmaker.  I'm totally going back to read their books ! - 

I've never really read the Kimani line before but I've just been devouring them like candy lately. I think there is the idea that these books are kinda whitewashed but they really do pick up nuances of black culture. I notice this particularly in the way they use religion, family and HBCU culture. I'm kind of sad to see this line is going to be disbanded in 2018 and I hope other publisher's pick up these wonderful authors !