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ARC review–A Season to Dance

Buy A Season to Dance here

4/5*

Publication date–Dec 2018

 

I received this book as an Advanced Reader Copy from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

After Olivia’s mom dies, Olivia must return to her hometown. The prima ballerina is recovering from a torn Achilles heel, and might never dance again, which is ironic because her mother leaves Olivia her dance studio. Olivia decides to stay on through the annual recital, and then plans to sell the studio after.

Zach returned home to keep an eye on his father. After years on the Atlanta PD, he’s become the chief of police in his hometown. When Olivia returns to deal with her mother’s estate, it’s like a knife to his heart.

Olivia and Zach were in love in high school, but Olivia left to pursue her dream of becoming a professional ballerina, which broke Zach’s heart. He’s still in love with her. And she has never gotten over him.

Watching the two of them long for each other, but pulling apart so that they can guard their hearts is a great read. You root for them from the beginning, and when they finally come together, it’s very satisfying.

There is a subplot about vandalism, and Olivia is targeted. Unfortunately, for the reader it’s beyond obvious who is behind the attacks on Olivia’s dance school.

The sex is well done.

I recommend this book if you like the tropes of rekindling love with an ex or hometown romance.

ARC review–Cocksure by Shiloh Walker

There’s only eight days left in NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and although I’ve already “won”–written 50k words–I want to finish strong. I completed the long novella/short novel I’d started prior to NaNo, and I’m almost done with a story I was a few k words to it. Neither technically follows the rules of NaNo as I didn’t start fresh with a new work. But nonetheless, I’ve still accomplished so much, and that was the point of doing NaNo for me–How much can I get done when I limit my other distractions?

But soon I’ll be back to a more regular posting schedule.

Buy Cocksure Here

4/5*

Published November 2018

 

I received a free ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Cocksure is a romance between a movie star and his personal assistant that features a fake relationship that turns real.

Luke is a movie star with a secret he’s ashamed of in his past. When he’s caught in a threesome, the media goes wild. But he doesn’t have time to deal with the media frenzy because his mom gets sick. He asks his personal assistant, Sabrina, to come home with him and help ensure he can be with his mom. After his mom is in the hospital, Luke blurts out that he’s engaged to Sabrina. Perhaps because lately he can’t stop thinking about her.

Sabrina has been Luke’s P.A. for five years, and been in love with him for most of it. She’s not amused when Luke tells her what he’s done and begs her to play along. Things get confusing when Luke kisses her, and then more. Soon it’s hard to tell where truth ends and fiction begins.

Told in alternation first person points of view, this is a well crafted story. You get to see into both characters’ heads, and understand their motivations. Readers will figure out Luke’s secret, but only through small drips and drabs, before he tells Sabrina, but I think that’s part of what works. Walker gives us just enough to understand where the characters are coming from.

Both characters are flawed, although Luke much more so. Sabrina can–at times–be a bit of a Mary Sue, but is still interesting enough to carry her half of the story.

Sabrina is a plus sized woman (at one point she says she fluctuates between a 14 and a 16) and at times she has trouble believing that Luke would want her, but she does not magically lose weight. He appreciates and adores her curves. I like that the book does feature a heroine who looks more like the average woman (who is a size 14), and that she doesn’t have that magical slimming that too often has happened in the past.

This is the first of a series, and I’ll be keeping an eye out for the next book. The series is called the Cochrans of Cocker County, and since Luke has a number of siblings, the series has quite a bit of potential.

ARC Review: Unforgettable by Elle Spencer

Buy Unforgettable here

4/5*

Published 11.13.18

 

Unforgettable is actually two novellas bundled together. I’ll be reviewing each separately below.

 

In Forget Her Not, Samantha King queen of the one night stand with men, has woken up next to Mia Rossi—and she can’t remember a thing about their night, only that it changed something within her. But the obstacle to their relationship isn’t that Sam can’t quite remember what happened, or even that they live far away from each other–the biggest two are that Sam thinks she’s a huge fuck-up and that Mia is her ex-boyfriend’s little sister.

That the love interest is the little sister of the man she dated for quite a long time, even to the point of him proposing to her, is a new twist on the dating someone who is known very well by the protagonist. That part is done well, including a showdown between Samantha and her ex.

However, the thing that slows down the book is that Samantha has only one method of coping–self sabotage. There’s a point, though, after which I thought Mia was crazy to keep running after her. But I was rooting on each of the women individually–for Sam to see that she deserves love, and for Mia to kick ass, but it was hard to root for them as a couple. But I suppose that’s the point–love isn’t always logical

***

In Forget Her Never Abby hooks up with the incomparable Kendall and they have an amazing night together. Only for Abby to find out that Kendall is married. Worse, she’s Kendall Squires, half of the lesbian power couple that’s changing New York’s skyline, and Abby is an architect. When Kendall’s wife finds out, she threatens Abby’s job.

Abby tries so hard to do the right thing, but is miserable. Kendall, on the other hand, is tired of living in a loveless marriage, and can’t get Abby out of her mind. When Abby and Kendall try to be just friends, their chemistry makes it impossible.

Of the two novellas, I think I bought into this one better. Kendall and Abby have the kind of raw chemistry that drags you in. I was rooting much more for them as a couple, even when the way forward seemed impossible.

***

Spencer does a good job of providing two very distinct stories, both in the “a night so amazing you’ll never forget it” trope. All four women involved have distinct voices and motivations. Each love has its unique barriers.

But for me, the biggest test is whether the book holds my interest. While there were moments when the stories dragged, it was never so much that I started to consider looking at another book instead.

 

ARC review: Media Darling by Fiona Riley

Media Darling by Fiona Riley can be purchased here

4.5/5*

published 11/13/18

 

I received an arc of Media Darling from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Media Darling is a f/f queer romance between a star and a celebrity reporter.

Haley is a would-be screenwriter who works at the Sun to make her bills. When she is asked to fill in at a media event for another reporter, she’s determined to get something done. When she can’t get Emerson’s attention on a red carpet, she lets out a piercing whistle, which unfortunately silences everyone around her, which gives a paparazzi the opportunity to yell an embarrassing question about Emerson and Rachel.

Emerson is a star under siege when her ex-girlfriend Rachel (who was kicked off the movie they were working on together) accuses Emerson of smearing her reputation and that it was all Emerson’s fault. After the red carpet incident with the paparazzi, Emerson tells her assistant that she never wants Hayley near her again.

Later that night, when Hayley gets between the same cruel intentioned paparazzi and Emerson, Emerson decides to investigate Haley. What she learns makes her decide that Hayley is the right person to tell her side of the story, including the explosive secret Emerson is terrified that Rachel will weaponize. As they spend more time together, sparks fly. But when their relationship is outed (pun intended), they need to decide if what they have is real, or just Hollywood magic.

Riley is a strong writer. Each of the women have a distinct voice. This is especially important in f/f or m/m or multi-partner couples because pronouns, which serve as shorthand in m/f romance can often make things blurrier. Despite seemingly oppositional occupations (in fact, their first encounter leads to a horrible paparazzi encounter for Emerson) Riley lays the groundwork for why these characters could work. The sex scenes sizzle.

The only thing that took it from a 5* to a 4.5* is that the real villain is so obvious that it’s surprising that it takes any effort to figure it out. But even with that, I didn’t mind the ride to see how the characters figured it out, and how they’d react. The writing is strong enough, though, that I think that it could’ve been masked a little better.

Check out Media Darling when it drops next week, or pre-order today!

 

Review–Decoy Date by Mira Lyn Kelly

Pre-order here for $6.74 on Kindle

4/5*

Published December 2018

I got this ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Gwen has been in love with Ted since she was a little girl. He was her first kiss, her first sexual experience, and more. But it’s always been hot and cold. She’s never been his girlfriend. She watches him hit on women and take them home. But she just can’t get over him.

Brody had no idea what Gwen sees in Ted, who’s just jerking her around in his opinion. But he has a thing for Gwen, and if she really wants Ted, he’ll help her do it. The key, he tells her, is to make Ted jealous. And how better to do that than to pretend to date him?

This is a slow burn romance between Gwen and Brody, and the book does contain sex scenes. What starts off as a fake relationship begins to slowly turn real. Both Gwen and Brody try to write off their feelings, but they’re real. They’ve just settled into a relationship when Ted declares his love for Gwen.

I thought this was a great romance. It kept my interest, and I was rooting for Gwen and Brody. When their plan worked a little too well, I got really engrossed, needing to know how it ends. The sex scenes are well done–very steamy.

The characters are well done, with unique voices. I like that Gwen is curvy, and not some stick thin supermodel type. My favorite romances are the ones where women are done more realistically–which means different skin colors, orientations, sizes, etc. Brody is hot, and has a really sweet heart.

My issue with the book is that at times motivations are murky. I would have given it 5* but at times it felt like Brody was manipulating Gwen.

This is book four in The Wedding Date series, but works as a stand alone. I haven’t read the other books in the series, and while it was clear that there were previous romances in the series it wasn’t hard to step in and start with this book. I don’t feel the need to run out and buy the other books in the series, but I’ll probably add them to my Goodreads want to read queue.

 

Review-Big Fat Bitch by Ginger Voight

Buy here on kindle for 2.99

5/5*

Published September 2018

 

I received a free copy of Big Fat Bitch from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

CW/TW–there is a scene with a graphic sexual assault in the book. It is part of a larger #metoo subplot, but could prove hard for victims of sexual assault.

Sofie Vincent has clawed her way to the top, and is now Queen Iron Britches, showrunner and writer of Vindication, the hottest show on television. Everyone jumps to do what she says out of fear of what will happen if they don’t.

Fletcher Sullivan is a divorced single dad of Ava (12) and a hospice nurse. Together, he and Ava read to the residents of the hospice. One day, they read to a new patient with dementia, Rose, and she calls Ava “Pudgie.” When Fletcher mentions it to Rose’s nurse, she tells him that Rose is the author of a famous series of books about a girl named Pudgie. Fletcher decides to find Pudgie–her daughter.

Sofie ensures that Fletcher gets fired. Then ends up hiring him herself out of fear that he might spill her secret.

Big Fat Bitch is a romance, but it’s a slow, slow, slow burn. There are no sex scenes.

I had considered giving Big Fat Bitch a 4/5*, but the complexity and slow changes that Fletcher inspires in Sofie earned it the 5/5. Sofie is smart, successful, and scared. So scared of being found out to be Pudgie–who she views as her mother’s favorite child, the one who succeeded where she, Sofie, failed. Sofie has a huge mansion, a fat bank account, and very little else.

As a plus-sized woman, it meant a lot for me to see her be all of those complex things, and also a size fourteen. She doesn’t lose weight to be happy and that’s a big deal.

Fletcher is a less complex character–he wants to provide for Ava, and he wants to make the world kinder. He could have outed Sofie for revenge, but doesn’t. He only takes the job Sofie offers because his ex-wife is threatening to take away more of his time with Ava. But being Sofie’s assistant, and respecting her an employer doesn’t mean he isn’t going to go toe to toe with her.

This is a story of mothers and daughters, and of the kind of love that never dies.

I think the love story that really twisted my heartstrings, though, isn’t the one between Fletcher and Sofie. It’s the one between Sofie’s parents. Her father has lived on a boat since her parents divorced when she was a tween. When Fletcher can’t find Pudgie, he does manage to track down Rose’s former husband. Rose and Vincent had a hell of a love story, and the end of it made me sob.

In another author’s hands, Fletcher and Sofie would’ve sparked off each other and it would’ve been a concussive explosion. Which is what I kept expecting. But by keeping it slow, Voight gives us more time to get to know the characters and see why we should want them together beyond “the plot demands it.” It means there’s no magic kiss to wake the Beast from her slumber–instead, she has to make the changes herself. The changes are slow and there are several steps backward.

I invoke Beauty and the Beast because at its heart, this is a retelling of that story where Sofie is the beast and Fletcher the beauty. Which isn’t an obvious retelling, but there are just enough breadcrumbs for the reader.

I think this is a great romance that subverts the expectations of what a reader might think a romance “should” be. I can’t wait to read more by this author.

Review–Kissing Frogs by Tori Turnbull

Buy here on Kindle for 2.99

5/5*

Published June 2018

 

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Twenty-nine year old Kate is “riding the euphoric wave of successful shoe shopping” when she is exiting the Tube. Until the escalator reaches the top, and Kate is faced with an incredibly unflattering picture of Kate captioned “Date my daughter.” Yes, her mother has used her pension to pay for the humiliating digital posters. Worse, after Kate is arrested for trying to damage the posters, she is picked up by her childhood nemesis Mark who eggs her mother on. Kate agrees to date for two months to get her mother off her back. Even more worse, it turns out Mark is going to be sharing her flat in exchange for doing home improvements for her mother, who owns the building.

Things go about as well as expected. There’s the stalker. The one who flees. The one on the cover who won’t let go of her legs even as she’s beating him with carnations.

I couldn’t put the book down. Between the hilariously bad dates and the growing sexual tension between Kate and Mark it was irresistible. It’s obvious to the reader that they belong together and that Mark is trying to pursue her. The end result is a sleek, funny romance.

Written in the first person voice, Kate comes through loud and clear. At first I thought it was a bit of a riff on the whole Bridget Jones thing, especially with an antagonist she’s known since childhood named Mark, but Bridget and Kate are very distinct and different voices, although fans of Bridget Jones should check this book out..

Even though you don’t get Mark’s inner voice, he’s well written. His personality comes across clearly, as does his interest in Kate. The secondary characters are developed enough. If there was more side story for them, I think it would take away from Kate and Mark’s story and make it flabby.

There are only a few sex scenes, but they’re worth the wait. Turnbull builds the tension so well that the reader is plenty turned on and ready to go by the time Kate and Mark are. From the moment Kate sees Mark coming out of the shower in just a towel, the chemistry sparks. When Mark begins to date someone, Turnbull ensures that we’re just as irritated by it as Kate, although she’s blind as to why she’s so jealous.

Turnbull has another book, and the highest compliment I can give her is that I’ve already bought her other book.