Thursday, August 9, 2018

Shimmy Bang Sparkle by Nicola Rendell

Rating: ★★★★★ | 320 pages | Montlake Romance | Contemporary | 08/21/2018 

Two jewel thieves road trip across the desert to pull the biggest con of their career in this modern-day Wild West heist.

Nick Norton should know better; fresh out of prison this former mechanic turned bartender (with a bit of a gambling problem) should be keeping his head down and his parole officer happy, so of course the first girl to catch his attention, Stella Peretti, is a member of an  infamous band of female master jewel thieves.

I think this might be my first romance with blue-collar protagonists. These aren't  Ocean's-level glitzy thieves. They are a little rough and tumble, each of them scraping by the best they can. Stella and her crew are robin hood thieves with big dreams and empty pockets. They steal for the greater good and don't take much for themselves, which is why they are ready to pull their biggest con yet and walk away from the life. Until an accident leaves Stella running the job solo, with nowhere else to turn she recruits Nick back into the game for ONE LAST JOB.

I like that this book had grown-a** characters (heroine is 34, hero is 40),  and Rendall provides just the right amount of motivation to make you want to root for the thieves even if the execution is plot dumped.

The score in this novel is a balding, over the top  "Rich-kids-of -Instagram" Sheikh-bro, which I could see as being problematic but I also felt like this was some sly jab on the popularity of rich Sheikhs that populate Romanceladia

The way this book ends was totally unexpected and I think Rendell set up the perfect amount of conflict. Fans of anti-heroes with hearts of gold and punchy dialogue will enjoy this show-stealing novel.

This book was published by Amazon's romance imprint and I'm not sure what they were going for with the cover. It's very generic and doesn't embrace the fun, rough and tumble West Coast vibes this book is putting down.

Nicola Rendell, welcome to my auto-buy list!

Indecent Exposure by Tessa Bailey ( The Academy #2)

Trigger Warning: Sexual Assualt

Rating: ★★★ +.5 | 353 pages | Contemporary | Avon | The Academy #2 | 1/30/2018
When 25-year-old Irish gold medalist markswoman Katie McCoy is invited to teach a workshop at the NYPD academy she sees it as an opportunity to finally let her hair down. She’s got a few items to check off on her to-do list while in America and none of them include falling for Jack Garrett, the charming New Yorker with rom-com hero good looks--especially when it turns out he is one of her students.

I liked this book a lot. For me, the story was much more enjoyable than the first one in the series. Jack and Katie’s love develops primarily over two weeks and Bailey makes it believable. Katie is an inexperienced virgin and Jack is something of a manwhore but it never felt cliched or like he was talking down to her because of her inexperience. I also think Bailey handled the instructor/student part of their relationship fairly well.

This book does take kind of a dark turn as we dig into why Jack drinks so much and why he’s never been able to connect with other women he's dated.

While I do like this book  I just do not get this fictional NYPD police academy. They seem to have no rules about anything. Even though I think Jack would make a better cop than the last hero, he is constantly drinking. Like at the Academy. Before he is about to handle a gun. And people seem to know about this but don't talk about it...It just feels like something that should get you kicked out.

Also, at one point they have sex in the bathroom of a restaurant. A Mexican restaurant. Like, Katie makes a point of saying she puts her purse on the floor and like people are coming in and out and... I’m sorry but that is really disgusting to me.

I think Bailey’s writing works so well in audiobook format and I was disappointed to see this is the only book in this series that doesn’t have an audio version. I wonder if it’s because they’d have to find someone to do a good Irish accent?

Also, lol, love this photo from Bailey's Insta of the cover model holding the book:

Disturbing His Peace by Tessa Bailey (The Academy #3)

Rating: ★★★ +.5 | Release Date: 05/22/18 | Contemporary Romance  | 7 hours 37 minutes 

Police Lieutenant Greer Burns, nicknamed The Grim Reaper by his police recruits, has kept a brick wall up his entire adult life, but he hasn’t been able to keep out his attraction to his brother’s roommate Danika Silva--who is also one of his new recruits.

I swear, this fictional NYPD Academy must be an Internal Affairs nightmare.

I’ve really struggled with the premise for this series and I wasn’t looking forward to this book. I didn’t like the power dynamics of the whole lieutenant/recruit thing and  I side-eyed a lot of how Danika is put on probation for not following protocols while her male roommates get away with breaking worse rules in other books.

But gosh darn it to heck, Bailey got me in the end and I enjoyed this romance. The characters of Danika and Greer are developed so well and I liked how their relationship unfolded. I think what Bailey does so well is creating characters who have most of their life together but have emotional gaps for their partners to fill. In the book, Greer needs someone that tells him he doesn't have to be perfect and break up his self-imposed solitude and Danika needs someone to tell her she doesn’t have to do everything for her emotionally dependent family.

I did this on audio and let me tell you, narrator Jacob Morgan has the perfect deep and gravelly romance hero voice. At first, I thought his affect was kind of flat but it actually fits the stern lieutenant and there are a few moments where he really brings out his performance. Lola Canela also does a great job and I love her voice--I don’t know if her Colombian accent for Danika was real or not but, she also had to do a few lines in an Irish accent and did an admirable job. These two flowed well together and kept their characters consistent. It didn’t feel awkward going from the male POV to the female.

The Academy books work really well as a series (though I could go without the first one) they flow together nicely and I love how the friend group develops along with the relationships, it makes the world feel more realistic.

That is if you can get past the whole reckless cops thing.

*Received as part of the Avon Addicts program