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Saturday, December 14, 2013

ARC Review: Striking Distance by Pamela Clare

I’m an avid Pamela Clare fangirl and have been a huge fan of her I-Team romantic suspense series since the beginning (Reece, you will always have a special place in my heart. Zach and Gabe, you too). The I-Team books are a perfect mix of heart-pounding suspense, sexy romance, and poignancy, and I feel like I’ve just stepped off an intense emotional rollercoaster (in a good way!) whenever I read one. I anxiously await the next instalment from the moment I read “THE END” on the current release, so the two-and-a-half-year wait between BREAKING POINT (one of my favourites) and the current STRIKING DISTANCE (the sixth full-length entry, though they all stand alone) has been harrowing. Pamela has said that STRIKING DISTANCE was the hardest book she’s written, and given the amount of heart-rending emotional turmoil the characters face, I’m not surprised. It’s been a few days since I finished reading it, and I’m still digesting it. Pamela has a fantastic way with words, a knack for creating incredibly realistic characters, and an emotional intensity to her writing that makes her one of the best in the genre. Despite (perhaps even because of?) the delay, STRIKING DISTANCE does not disappoint: it is much more slow-paced than the other I-Team novels but delivers an emotionally intense story about love, loss, overcoming self-guilt, and personal strength. It is not for the faint of heart or an easy read, but well worth the time for anyone looking for a romantic suspense read weighted toward the romance.

STRIKING DISTANCE tells the story of U.S. Navy SEAL Javier Corbray and television-reporter turned-investigative-newspaper-journalist Laura Nilsson, who was abducted and held captive for 18 months by Islamic terrorists in Pakistan before being rescued during a SEAL raid on the compound led by Javier. The two of them have a history: a supposedly no-strings-attached marathon weekend of sex after a chance meeting in Dubai City two years prior. Their encounter was initially part of the STRIKING DISTANCE prologue, since it introduces the characters and sets the stage for the rest of the novel, but because Laura and Javier’s meeting, the rescue, and the main storyline all occur on different years, the time jumps and shifts in action would’ve necessitated two prologues. Rather than forego all mention of their passionate weekend together, Pamela cut it from the prologue, expanded it, and released it as a short erotic prequel novella, FIRST STRIKE. Pamela normally writes very hot love scenes, so I didn’t really notice a drastic difference with FIRST STRIKE, other than more explicitness and frequency. Because, whew, Laura and Javi have a LOT of sex over two days and three nights! FIRST STRIKE is not gratuitous smut, however: it’s as poignant as any of Pamela’s other work, and it gives us keen insight into how much Laura and Javi have lost and have to struggle with & overcome in the main story. As Pamela is sure to note in the foreword, FIRST STRIKE is not a complete story: it ends with a cliffhanger, where STRIKING DISTANCE picks up. While it is not necessary to read FIRST STRIKE to understand or enjoy STRIKING DISTANCE (Laura and Javi’s history is mentioned in the main story), I found that it added an extra dimension to the hero and heroine and their developing relationship that made me connect with and feel for them more.

Normally, Pamela’s I-Team novels feature a fast-developing romance against a backdrop of nonstop, pulse-pounding action. The most action-heavy part of STRIKING DISTANCE is the prologue, detailing the raid on the al Qaeda compound and Laura’s unexpected rescue. The story then fast-forwards two years to the present, with Laura back Stateside working as a member of the Denver Independent’s elite investigative I-Team and talking about her captivity at the trial of terrorist Abu Nayef Al-Nassar, in hopes that it will help her heal and truly move on with her life. Javier is in Colorado visiting his buddy Nate (another I-Team series hero), on medical leave from the Teams after his decision to let a shepherd and his sons live resulted in an ambush that killed 18 soldiers and severely wounded Javier downrange in Afghanistan. Nate’s wife is good friends with many of the I-Team reporters, and so Javier and Laura unexpectedly reconnect at a backyard barbeque. Despite some attempts on Laura’s life following her testimony at Al-Nassar’s trial, the action is sporadic and the story slow-moving, with the focus being heavily on Javi and Laura and their (re)blossoming relationship. Javi has a major case of PTSD from the shepherd incident that he initially refuses to acknowledge and then (somewhat magically) overcomes thanks to Laura. He’s an engaging character shaped by his upbringing, an interesting mix of Latino machismo that precludes any admission of weakness and a burning need to prove himself and atone for the actions of his gangbanger teenage self that resulted in his younger brother’s death. Self-recrimination—over his brother’s death, over the ambush that killed his teammates, over his inability to stop Laura’s abduction despite being half a world away—is a huge part of who he is and why his identity is defined by being a SEAL, and watching him learn to let go of some of that guilt as he falls deeper for Laura is incredibly rewarding. Despite being an avid romantic suspense reader, I like my heroes with a touch of beta so Javier’s overt uber-alphaness and cultural machismo initially rubbed me the wrong way a bit. But his slow, purposeful wooing of Laura, letting her be in control, and the way he lays it all on the line for her quickly changed my mind. That last ~40% of the book? Be still, my heart.

A lot of people read romance for the deliciously sexy heroes, but I cannot enjoy a story—even if it features the most perfect hero ever—if I don’t connect with and feel for the heroine as well. Pamela does a fantastic job with Laura, creating a realistic, emotionally complex character in whose emotional arc you cannot help but become deeply invested in. Pamela takes a strong, intelligent, sexually-confident woman and subjects her to 18 months of harrowing emotional and sexual abuse before yanking her out of that hell and making her face the seemingly simple task of leading a normal life. Laura does a fairly good job of gathering the pieces of her life and putting on a front of normalcy whilst being torn apart by self-loathing and blame for a secret she’s keeping from almost everyone (don’t want to spoil what it is, even if it is quite easy to guess and revealed very early on!). Her developing relationship with Javier helps her learn to forgive herself, and watching her rediscover herself as a woman and reclaim the sensuality that was such an integral part of her character before her abduction is one of the most satisfying and heartwarming things I’ve witnessed. Despite their history and the lingering scorching attraction, the romance between Laura and Javi is an extremely slow build, which is rather unusual for an I-Team novel but is extremely appropriate given Laura’s trauma. Anything else would’ve felt unrealistic. Laura (and, by extension, Javier and us readers) is put through the emotional wringer, and that incredibly difficult, heartrending (but ultimately right) decision she makes near the end had me near tears. And again during the second part of the incredibly poignant epilogue, where everything comes full circle and we get a glimpse of what follows the HEA.

Overall, FIRST STRIKE and STRIKING DISTANCE are fantastic additions to what is already one of the best romantic suspense series around. Though slower-paced and more character-driven than previous instalments of the I-Team series, it’s Pamela Clare at her (already impressive) best. I-Team fans will delight in the cameos by series favourites Julian Darcangelo, Marc Hunter, and Zach McBride and the always-enjoyable bromance banter. Romantic suspense readers unfamiliar with Pamela’s work should definitely give the I-Team series a try (the first book, EXTREME EXPOSURE, is one of my personal favourites)—I cannot recommend this series, or this author’s work, enough, and am already looking forward to the next one. Here’s to hoping it won’t be another 2.5 years for more of the I-Team!

**ARC provided by Publisher**

Purchase: | Amazon | Kindle | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository |

A Ruined Dinner Party...with Juliana Gray and Giveaway

A Ruined Dinner Party on Christmas Eve - Juliana Gray

JULIANA GRAY is the award-winning author of the Affairs by Moonlight trilogy. Her debut, A Lady Never Lies, is a nominee for 2012 Book of the Year by RT Book Reviews. The trilogy concludes with A Duke Never Yields, which has won starred reviews from Kirkus and Booklist and a 4 ½ star rating from RT. She enjoys dark chocolate, champagne, and dinner parties, and despises all forms of exercise except one.

Places to find Juliana:

ARC Review: Parts & Wreck by Mark Henry

Wade Crowson finds his hands full with his new partner, Lucid Montgomery. Lucid is smart, sexy, and sassy and cursed. These two form a very interesting pair. Wade needs an assistant and when Luce shows up for the interview he knows that there is a reason for them meeting.

Sister Mary-Agnes Albright warns Luce that Wade will do all he can to keep her alive. Although Luce is not affected by the statement Wade seems to have his experience in demonic infestations. Most notably his former partner, Rachel. Rachel is the victim of an exorcism gone wrong.

Although this is not usually the type of book I would enjoy I found the writing to be interesting and very creative. There is a sense of humor throughout the entire demon-catching scenario that Wade is engaged in. These scenes bring a lot of paranormal elements and chasing to the story.

Luce believes that she needs to be a part of The Parts Department with Wade, she believes that it is her duty to stop the demonic uprising. Although she keeps it a secret, or tries for the most part, she sees and speaks to “spirits”. Besides the growing attraction between Wade and Luce they form a partnership to chase down the demons. That is until Luce falls victim to one and her body is the victim of demonic possession.

This was a fun and interesting read full of paranormal demonic occurrences and a dash of romance.

**ARC provided by Publisher**

Purchase: | Amazon | Barnes & Noble |

Friday, December 13, 2013

ARC Review: Working It by Kendall Ryan

One glance at this cover and I knew I had to read this one. I have been looking forward to reading about Ben and Emmy ever since. This story immediately sucked me in and I absolutely devoured it. I really loved the way that Working it was written, and I thought that the Dual POV absolutely made this book. It was great to get Emmy's thoughts but also Ben's. I also thought that it was very interesting that the prologue starts in the present day and gives us some knowledge that we wouldn't normally have at that point in the story. Although it doesn't look good for what is to come, it draws you in because you just know that there are two sides to every story and that you have to read all of it to really see everything that has happened. This book is hot and sexy and keeps you invested in the characters. There were a few things that I personally didn't care for, but all in all this one was a great read for me and I am already anxious for the next book in this series!

Emmy is a sweet southern girl who finds herself in NYC working for a model management company as it's owner Fiona's personal assistant. Fiona is notorious for not only not getting along with women, but putting her employees through hell before dismissing them quickly. Working for Fiona is stressful, but the perk of working with such hot men is what keeps Emmy showing up everyday. She meets the company's golden boy Ben Shaw and there is an instant attraction between them. But Ben isn't just a pretty face, and soon Emmy and Ben are developing a connection despite their obvious differences. Knowing that Ben doesn't do commitment and that they will only be in Paris for a few months for the season, Ben and Emmy begin a secret affair. Ben has a past tied to Fiona, and with Fiona's dislike of Emmy they both agree that seeing each other should be kept a secret. But as their feelings grow and things become more serious, will they take the risk of letting their relationship be known and seeing where things can really go? And what will happen when everything finally comes out?

I liked Ben. I thought that he was not only sexy and sweet, but also a little bit dominant and possessive. Even though he wasn't used to wanting more from a girl or relationship, he knew that Emmy was different and wanted to keep her all to himself. I also loved that he was a dirty talker. It was great seeing him pull Emmy out of her shell, and I loved their texts and banter. Ben had some issues and was a little bit damaged, but Emmy was a great balance for him. I really liked Emmy most of the time. There were a few times that I felt like she should have been a bit stronger and that she needed to grow a backbone, but otherwise she was a lot of fun to read about. Emmy was sweet and caring, and I loved how she really took care of Ben. She didn't treat him like a model or a famous person, but as just an average guy. I also really liked that although she was hesitant to get involved with Ben at first, that she decided to go ahead and take the risk. Emmy and Ben had a great connection, and their chemistry was off the charts. They were super hot together and you could almost feel the steam they generated coming out of my Kindle.

Without giving too much away and spoiling it, there is something that happens that I was not okay with. I know that Ben is the victim as well as Emmy, but I thought that the way that Ben handled everything was almost inexcusable. I couldn't believe what had happened, and it was really heartbreaking. I felt so sorry for Emmy and I wanted to strangle not only Ben, but also Fiona. I just can't understand why Ben allows Fiona to get away with so much. I really hope that Fiona gets what is coming to her and that Ben wises up and really does cut all personal ties with her. I also felt like Emmy sort of just let Ben off the hook way too easily. After everything that she had been through, it just seemed like she was way too understanding. I'm sure that if it would have been me in the same situation I wouldn't have given in like she did. Overall though, I really did enjoy Ben and Emmy's story. I can't wait to get more of these two and I just hope that Kendall Ryan will make sure that all the characters get the endings that they deserve. I have to admit that although I really liked Ben and Emmy, Braydon sort of stole the show for me. I really enjoyed all the scenes he was a part of and I really hope that we get a lot more of him! I think that Working it is a great read, and that romance fans should definitely give this one a shot. We are left with some questions and there are still some things unresolved, but I loved how there was no huge cliffhanger. The next book in this series is called Craving Him and is set to release in June 2014. Hopefully time will pass quickly while I wait for more Emmy and Ben.

**ARC provided by NetGalley**

Purchase: | Amazon | Kindle | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository |


Caught in a Compromising Position...with Maureen Driscoll and Giveaway

Caught in a Compromising Position on Christmas Eve - Maureen Driscoll

Maureen Driscoll is an Emmy-nominated writer/producer working in Hollywood. She is the author of the Kellington series of Regency romance novels and a happily struggling actress.

Places to find Maureen:

ARC Review: Cowboy’s Way by Cathryn Fox

Chase Cooper has his sights set on Mari Blair, he decides that it’s time to settle down and Mari is the person that he decides to settle with. There is a mix up in plans and Mari’s sister, Julia Blair is the one that ends up at the dude ranch with the sexy doctor/cowboy Chase Cooper. When Julia receives a mysterious note in the middle of the night she is not sure how to react but realizes that her quiet lifestyle needs a change.

Chase is shocked when he discovers that Julia is the one at the dude ranch and not Mari, but both decide that even though it was not what they planned on they are going to make the best of the situation. Chase realizes that he’s thought Julia was the right girl for him all along but she never gave him the time of day and seemed very disinterested in him. When Julia realizes that the invitation was meant for her sister she is ready to leave but Chase convinces her to stay until the next flight out and enjoy the ranch.

This was a very cute story. I really liked that both Chase and Julia were nervous about getting to know each other. They reminisce about their time together in high school and start to get to really know each other. Julia is bothered by the mix-up but when Chase finds her out for a swim and asks her for company, Julia can’t resist.

This was a short but incredibly sweet story about how Julia and Chase finally find their way to each other. What started out as a mix up ends up as a perfect love story.

**ARC provided by Publisher**

Purchase: | Amazon | Barnes & Noble |

Thursday, December 12, 2013

ARC Review: Some Like it Sinful by Robbie Terman

Although the “fake relationship” storyline has been done before. Robbie Terman gave it a very unique and interesting twist.

Chloe Nelson is finally able to make her dreams come true and open up her own bakery-Happy Endings. She is very happy about the results and very confident that it will be successful because she is a talented baker. Her one little problem is that competition opens up right across the street. How can she can the public to pay attention to her bakery and not the popular chain across the street?

Griffin is the captain for the hockey team the Razors. One crazy night of partying he gets into trouble. As part of his agreement he has to do hours of community service. Sylvia the assistant district attorney is sisters with Chloe. She makes a deal with Griffin he can complete his community service at Happy endings. Griffin is less than thrilled but decides that it is bettern than going to jail. Chloe is also less than thrilled to have Griffin at the store but realizes that he will bring much needed publicity to her bakery.

Chloe and Griffin have great chemistry. He is the typical self confident, handsome, athlete. She is the girl next door. Nothing to out the ordinary but she provides Griffin with the challenge that he needs. When news of Griffin, the captain of the Razor’s spreads the team comes up with the idea that Chloe and Griffin should pretend to date. They explain that Chloe needs the attention and the Razors, a teaming that is continuously losing, needs a romantic story to get more fanfare.

As Chloe and Griffin’s relationship intensifies they share a very intimate moment in the locker room and Griffin ends up performing better than ever on the rink. Chloe and Griffin both realize that their relationship provides mutual benefits but they both have conditions. They will be in a committed relationship until either the team finishes its season or until he completes his community hours.

What follows is that both Chloe and Griffin fall in love with each other and provide each other with what they have both been searcing for the entire time since they met. This was a very sweeet and romantic story! I would re-read it and recommend it to anyone!

**ARC provided by Publisher**

Purchase: | Amazon | Barnes & Noble |

Saving a Lady...with Maggie Robinson and Giveaway

Saving a Lady on Christmas Eve - Maggie Robinson

Maggie Robinson is a former teacher, library clerk and mother of four who woke up in the middle of the night, absolutely compelled to create the perfect man and use as many adverbs as possible doing so. A transplanted New Yorker, she lives with her not-quite perfect husband in Maine, where the cold winters are ideal for staying inside and writing hot historical romances.

Places to find Maggie:
| Site | Blog | Facebook | Twitter |

Review: Tease by Missy Johnson

I have to admit that this book is definitely one that I was drawn to because the blurb really intrigued me. I mean a male escort...tell me you aren't immediately curious! I have been anxiously awaiting the moment when I could one-click and read this one. I have never read a book by Missy Johnson before, but I have heard great things and figured this was the perfect one to start with. So all that being said, I will tell you that this book is not what I was expecting at all. There were some parts that I really liked, and then there were others that I had a lot of issues with. For a book about a male escort and all the sex he was having, I have to say that the steam factor on this one was surprisingly low for me.

Liam "Coop" Cooper is a male escort. In order to pay for his mother's medical bills and take care of his family, he starts having sex with rich and powerful women. He has clients that are all different ages and are in several prominent occupations. When his childhood crush and sister's best friend comes back into his life, he views her as nothing more than a complication. Mia was not only his crush, but he was also friendly with her. Now that she is moving back to NYC, she needs a temporary place to stay that is close to her job. Liam's sister Nic quickly volunteers Coop's place as a temporary home for her. Not able to say no, Coop allows Mia to move in and things start to get complicated. They are both determined to keep things platonic for their own reasons, but the attraction quickly becomes more than either one of them can fight. But how can the possibly have anything more when Coop needs to keep his job in order to support his mom? And what happens when the truth comes out about his job?

I liked Coop. He was a fun loving guy who was able to just go with the flow. You could tell that he didn't get worked up too often, and I loved that he wasn't over the top dominant. He was sweet and loving to those he cared about, and was extremely loyal to those he was close to. I loved that he would do anything for his family, and always put them first. Sometimes he did this to a fault, but you could really tell that they meant everything for him and he would gladly sacrifice himself for them. I liked Mia, but I felt that we didn't really get to know her much. For being the heroine of the story, I felt that she was still mostly a mystery even after I had finished the book. She was nice and you could tell that she really cared for Coop. I liked that she was funny and had no problem joking around with Coop as well as his family and friends. But really, I can't say too much more about her because I honestly feel like I don't know her. Coop and Mia seemed to have some good chemistry and attraction between them, but really Coop had chemistry with just about everyone in this story.

My main problem with this book isn't the fact that Coop continued to sleep around after Mia reentered his life. It came from the fact that I was expecting so much more from the sex scenes than I felt that we got. They seemed short and often times abrupt. It was almost as if they were completely rushed with very few details. Not what I was expecting from an erotic novel. They also were really repetitive. There were some differences between the different characters and their kinks, but overall they were mostly the same with a few twists. I also thought that there were times that the story was sort of hard to follow and didn't flow well. We would be in one situation only to switch mid paragraph into another, and it was at times confusing for the reader. I wished that we had been given more of a chance to really get to know Mia and Coop better as a couple. I think that this book would have worked better for me had we seen them really get through everything and spend some time getting to know them. I liked Beth a lot though and I am excited to read her story next. Honestly she was one of the best parts of this book and I really enjoyed her scenes with Coop. I will admit that I thought he had better chemistry with Beth than Mia, and I was really hoping that they might somehow end up together. I thought that we knew her much better than Mia. For me, this story had so much promise but it just didn't live up to my expectations. I was hoping for steamier sex scenes and I feel like these just fell flat. I will give Promiscuous a shot though because I am excited to see what is in store for Beth, and I'm hoping that it will be more of what I was expecting from Tease.

Purchase: | Amazon | Barnes & Noble |

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

ARC Review: The Luckiest Lady in London by Sherry Thomas

There is just something about the way that Sherry Thomas writes that speaks to me on a visceral level. Even when the story is not especially strong (as with this one) I am completely drawn in. When I begin to read one of her books it’s get-your-own-dinner, leave-me-alone time at our house. I simply can’t stop until the end. The Luckiest Lady in London is an intriguing book that I loved reading, but it missed the mark for me in some important ways.

The book begins by describing details of the childhood of Felix Rivendale, particularly his frustration and disappointment in trying to please parents who were at odds with each other. This background information is intended to help us understand the adult Felix and should explain his disjointed behavior. As an adult (and as the Marquess of Wrenworth) Felix is one of the most sought-after eligible gentlemen in society. He has dealt with his past by cultivating an image as The Ideal Gentleman. Louisa Cantwell is the designated fortune hunter for her family. With four other sisters (one who needs special care) Louisa is one chosen to go forth and find a wealthy husband in order to secure their futures. She attacks the issue in a totally practical and calculating way and she is prepared to make this sacrifice for the family. When she meets Felix her physical attraction to him is intense, but she immediately sees through his Ideal Gentleman veneer. He also can see Louisa’s diabolical side and it intrigues him. They begin a cat-and-mouse game in which Felix finally proposes. Everyone tells Louisa that she is the luckiest lady in London to have landed such a great catch. Louisa knows better; Felix is troubled and she finds she cannot trust him. The rest of the book involves the months of their early marriage and they struggle to understand their feelings about themselves and each other.

I loved the first half of the book as Felix and Louisa play mental games with each other. It was touching and funny at the same time. The biggest problem I had with the entire book was that I never really understood Felix. This was surprising considering that Thomas went to a great deal of trouble to make sure the reader could grasp his childhood anguish. In spite of that, his behavior seemed erratic, illogical, and even cruel. It was difficult to understand why a very sensible girl like Louisa would put up with him. This is going to sound strange, but I also had trouble picturing what he looked like. Yes, there were plenty of descriptions, but somehow they just wouldn’t form into an image for me. Louisa was one of the most openly sexual virginal characters I have ever encountered. I didn’t find this objectionable, but it was a little unusual. To sum up, I mostly loved The Luckiest Lady in London, but was a bit frustrated with Felix. Sherry Thomas always digs deep into her characters’ psyches, but this time the emotions were perhaps too complicated. Nevertheless, she is one of the best writers of historical romance and I will continue to read anything she writes.

**ARC provided by Publisher**

Purchase: | Amazon | Kindle | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository |

Learning a Secret...with Sherry Thomas and Giveaway

Learning a Secret on Christmas Eve - Sherry Thomas

Sherry Thomas writes both historical romance and young adult fantasy.

On the romance side, she is one of the most acclaimed authors working in the genre today, her books regularly receiving starred reviews and best-of-the-year honors from trade publications. She is also a two-time winner of Romance Writers of America’s prestigious RITA® Award.

On the young adult fantasy side, her debut book, The Burning Sky, received a Publishers Weekly starred review and is an Indie Next Book Pick.

Sherry writes in her second language. She learned English by reading romance and science fiction—every word Isaac Asimov ever wrote, in fact. She is proud to say that her son is her biggest fanboy—for the YA fantasy, not the romances. At least, not yet…

Places to find Sherry:

ARC Review: With Every Heartbeat by Melody Grace

I was intrigued by this one the minute I read the blurb for it. I wasn't sure exactly what to expect, and as far as I can remember I have never read a book about a dancer before. But I figured that since this was by Melody Grace that it would be good. I wasn't disappointed at all. This story was well written and interesting, and I really loved the characters. For me this was a very quick and enjoyable read, and I am really glad that I gave this book a shot.

Being the only daughter of a famous ballerina, Annalise has always known what she was supposed to do with her life. She has lived the life of a ballerina in training, and has worked her way up to finally joining the American Ballet Company. But she has yet to really stand out or score a solo. So her mother works it out for her to go to Rome and earn her first solo where the competition is a little easier. But when she gets to Rome, Annalise meets Raphael. Raphael is also a dancer, but unlike Annalise he dances many different types of dance. Annalise and Raphael are instantly drawn to one another. Before long Annalise is risking everything in order to spend time with Raphael. If she is found to be sneaking out and missing curfew they could take away her spot and send her home. But she has always played by the rules and her connection to Raphael is to strong to stay away from. Can Annalise have both ballet and Raphael? Or will she have to make a sacrifice in order to follow her dreams?

I really loved Raphael. He was sexy and passionate and everything you would imagine a hot Italian guy to be. I loved that he encouraged Annalise and also was able to loosen her up. His easy going and passionate nature was a great balance to her regimented and strict life. It was nice to see how he got her to think and feel what was natural rather that just what was expected of her. I thought that he was a great guy and it made me really admire him for pursuing what he loved even when his family didn't understand or support him. He wasn't afraid to give up and I liked how determined he was. I also really liked Annalise. She was strong and determined, and I loved watching her really start to open up and grow. It was great to see her start to really go after what she wanted and not be afraid to do things for herself rather that what she thought others expected or wanted. I loved her and Raphael together. They were a great match, and I really could feel the emotions and connection between them. From the very start they just had this natural connection, and amazing chemistry. They were sweet together, but also really sexy. The passion between them was extremely steamy and I loved every minute of it.

Overall, I really enjoyed this one. With Every Heartbeat is definitely my favorite Melody Grace book I have read to date, and I cannot wait to read more in this series. I loved Annalise and Raphael, but I also really loved Annalise's friends Karla and Rosalie. I thought that this book was well written and had a wonderful pace to it. It kept me interested and really grabbed a hold of my attention. I was very invested in Annalise and Raphael, and I really felt connected to everything that they were going through. It felt like I was going on a journey as I read this story, and I just couldn't wait to see were Grace would take us next. I would definitely recommend checking this story out if you are a fan of romance, and I think that this story is one that most readers will be able to connect with. I am really looking forward to reading more in this series and I am excited to see more of these wonderful characters.

**ARC provided by Inkslinger PR**

Purchase: | Amazon | Barnes & Noble |

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

ARC Review: Mine by Katy Evans

After reading Real by Katy Evans I absolutely could not wait to get more of Brooke and Remy. I loved them both and their story was one that I really felt connected to. But as I read Mine, I just couldn't help but feel as though this was not the story that I had been waiting for. As much as I still really love Remy and like Brooke, I had quite a few problems with this book. Mine is the second book in the Real series and should only be read if you have already read Real. I highly recommend that if you haven't already read Real, that you definitely check it out, especially if you plan to read more in this series. I hope that as the series goes on that we get more of what Real was like and get back to everything that made us fall in love with Remy and Brooke to begin with.

Mine picks up after where we left off with Real, and we get to see what happens as Brooke and Remy are back together and have reconnected. With Remy's sacrifice of the championship in Real, he and the team are more determined than ever that he will win this new season. But Scorpion is also more determined than ever to make sure that he keeps his title as well as continues to get to Remy. Brooke and Remy are more committed to each other than ever before, but when something comes up and Brooke is forced to leave Remy, what will happen to them? Can Remy and Brooke move forward with a relationship? Or will their insecurities and time apart cause them to break up before they really have a chance at a future together?

I absolutely adore Remy. He is the reason that this book received as many stars as it did for me. He is absolutely impossible not to love, and you can't help but want to root for him. He is sweet and caring and so vulnerable that at times it really breaks your heart. But he is also so strong and sexy and a fighter through and through. I loved that he continued to be so passionate and protective when it came to Brooke. You could really tell just how deeply he feels for her and that he is one hundred percent devoted to her. Brooke on the other hand I had problems with this time. She was extremely emotional at times and almost immature. I found myself getting irritated with her at points and even though I get some of why she felt the way she did, it was her own fault that she was in the situations that she was in. She really seemed to lose some of what I had loved about her from the first book and almost seemed to have a different personality. I did feel that Remy and Brooke had a connection that was able to endure anything though, and it was nice to see them work through problems as they arose. I still felt as though their connection and chemistry was extremely strong and their love is what kept me turning the pages on this one.

My main problem with this book though was the repetition. I felt as though there were so many times that things were said and done over and over. It really made this one start to drag for me and I found myself losing interest at times. I would feel like skipping entire paragraphs because it seemed like I had just read the same thing only a few pages before. I also really had a problem with some of the sub plots in this one. I really disliked Brooke's sister Nora. I felt like her storyline in this book was pretty much the exact same thing as what we had gone through in Real. I'm not sure why that was needed in this story, and I felt like there were already enough reasons for the conflict between Remy and the Scorpion without having to rehash similar things. I also really didn't understand the drama with Brooke's parents. It seemed like something that was just thrown in for a little extra drama and angst before they did a quick turn around and became supportive. I'm just not sure that it was needed. I would have liked to have seen more about Remy and his parents. I absolutely despised them and the way they acted.

Overall, I really felt like this book had so much potential and promise and just couldn't quite live up to the expectations. I still really love Remy and I liked how things ended between Brooke and Remy. But I just felt that this book took too much time repeating things and I think that really took the reader out of the story. I am glad that Brooke started to redeem herself at the end though after her behavior in the beginning and it was nice to see her really support Remy no matter what. I still think that Brooke and Remy have an undeniable connection and their love is definitely one that will stay with me. I will continue to read more in this series, and I hope that the author gets back to what was so easy to fall in love with in Real. I really like the author's writing style, and I am excited to see where she takes her characters in the future. I am also very interested to read Remy and get more of him and his POV. He is what really makes this series for me, and I am definitely greedy for more of him! I do think that this book is one that fans of Real will want to read and I would recommend reading it as long as you have read Real.

**ARC provided by Publisher**

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Stranded at an Inn...with Caroline Linden and Giveaway

Stranded at an Inn on Christmas Eve - Caroline Linden

Caroline Linden was born a reader, not a writer. She earned a math degree from Harvard University and wrote computer software before turning to writing fiction. Ten years, twelve books, three Red Sox championships, and one dog later, she has never been happier with her decision. Her books have won the NEC Reader's Choice Beanpot Award, the Daphne du Maurier Award, and RWA's RITA Award. Since she never won any prizes in math, she takes this as a sign that her decision was also a smart one.

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ARC Review: Witness Pursuit by Joanne Wadsworth

I’m always on the lookout for new authors… because my epic TBR Queue of Doom is apparently not big enough already! So when WITNESS PURSUIT, the first book in the Bodyguards series by new-to-me Kiwi author Joanne Wadsworth, came across my desk, I gave it a go. Who can say no to a mostly-shirtless bloke on the cover, a bodyguard-with-amnesia plotline, and a foreign setting?? Unfortunately, WITNESS PURSUIT found itself in that awkward no-man’s land between romantic suspense and traditional contemporary romance that never makes for a memorable read for me—even when some of my favourite romantic suspense authors attempt it! So while it was an entertaining enough, fast-moving beach read and I enjoyed the slice of New Zealand and Kiwi-speak it presented, it didn’t really make an impression on me.

The premise is fairly straightforward: heroine Lydia Sands witnesses the hit-and-run murder of a powerful tycoon’s son and is awarded witness protection; the bad guys go after her and seriously injure her bodyguard Tyler Whitehall, prompting an even greater level of protection; the case goes nowhere fast so Lydia remains in hiding limbo, until someone practically splashes her identity on the front page of the newspaper and her handler decides the safest place for her to be is on a yacht on its way to Fiji. With Tyler, the shot-up partially-amnesic bodyguard Lydia had the hots for whilst in protective custody who was too professional to start anything with a client (despite also having the hots for her). Despite the highly improbable premise, I’m quite easy when it comes to suspending disbelief—a lot of romantic suspense requires a certain level of just going with it to enjoy otherwise perfectly-crafted storylines. But with WITNESS PURSUIT, I felt like I’d been dropped into Act II of a three-act play with no idea what had happened during Act I. Lydia is in ‘The Program’ and has name suppression as well as a full-time bodyguard… but what the hell is The Program? Is it New Zealand’s federal witness protection programme? Is it some privately-funded endeavour, as suggested by the fact that Tyler and Ben Hammer—Lydia’s handler and inevitable series fodder—both work for The Program but are bodyguards rather than true law enforcement personnel? How does The Program work?? I’m a sucker for details and thorough research that comes across in a novel without making it sound like a procedure manual, so the superficial treatment of a system that was central to the suspense aspect of the story irked me. So did the lack of backstory on any of the main characters: we know Tyler and Ben have worked together and trust each other without any sense of how long or why; that Lydia has wanted in Tyler’s pants since she met him but refuses to have him risk his life for her again (though, hello, family yacht in the middle of the South Pacific?? unless the killer is one of Tyler’s brothers or a lionfish, it’s pretty unlikely); and that Tyler feels a primal attraction to Lydia from the second he sees her on his yacht, despite remembering nothing (including her) from the time of the shooting. The lack of backstory is likely a limitation of the short length, but it really reminds me why I have such a hard time enjoying novella- and short category-length reads (which I was not aware this was!)—particularly when they kick off a series with suspense elements. Between the romance and the attempt at suspense, there is simply too much to cram into ~150 pages for anything to feel sufficiently developed, and WITNESS PURSUIT definitely falls prey to this—it would’ve been better served as a straight-up contemporary.

Because of the lack of in-depth characterization, I had a hard time buying the romance between Lydia and Tyler. I get that Lydia’s young (just turning 21), that she’s been in hiding for a year, and that she’s had the hots for Tyler for a while, but I don’t think I’ve ever encountered such an aggressive virgin! Tyler’s insta-lust/love didn’t ring true either, even despite (or perhaps because of) the previous connection he doesn’t remember. The transition from practically strangers to nonstop sex to baby and forever after is too rapid to be believable, but it falls in line with the frantic pace at which everything happens in the story, and the love scenes have enough steam (and are surprisingly frequent given the short length) to make them enjoyable.

Ultimately, WITNESS PURSUIT wasn’t the read for me: it’s neither contemporary romance nor romantic suspense, and too much happens in too few pages for anything to feel sufficiently thoroughly developed (I’m a big fan of exposition!). But I liked Ms. Wadsworth’s laid-back, easy writing, and this may be a worthwhile read for anyone looking for a couple of hours of fast, sexy fun with a dash of adrenaline.

**ARC provided by Publisher**

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