The Professional started out as a serial of three e-novella's, but now it has been combined into one paperback. I've not read anything by Cole before, but I do know of her and her paranormal romance series. As I am going through a contemporary, erotic romance binge right now, I decided to start with The Professional. Unfortunately, I didn't really like it that much.
Natalie is a PhD student, living with her friend. Her life is pretty good. The only thing she has niggling at the back of her mind is how long it's taking to find her biological parents. She has hired a private investigator, but she has to work numerous jobs just to afford him. It's been six long years, with no luck.
Out at a club with her girlfriends, Natalie notices a guy at the bar and decides to introduce herself. The guy is Sevastyan, who shoots her down and leaves. A bit embarrassed by her failed seduction, Natalie decides to head home. While she's in the bath, in the middle of fantasising about Sevastyan while self-pleasuring, she sees him outside her bathroom door staring at her. Instead of screaming the place down, or trying to call the police, or, you know, something that a normal person would do, she can't get over how sexy he is. After just a few questions, she learns that he's there because of her biological father.
Sevastyan tells her he's taking her back to Russia to meet her father, who is the head of the Russian Mafia, and gives her five minutes to get ready. When she hesitates, as you would do, he hauls her arse over his shoulder and carries her to the car, taking her to a secret airport where a private jet is waiting. When she decides to make a run for it through a corn field, Sevastyan catches her and instead of fighting for her life, she's turned on and ready to give up her virginity right there and then.
After getting on the plane with Sevastyan, despite knowing that he's a dangerous killer, part of the Russian Mafia and her father's enforcer/assassin, she of course gets into bed with him and does some seriously naughty things. When they arrive in Russia and Natalie meets her father, they talk about his job as the mafia boss, and clocks. There's a couple of gun fights, but that's about as far as it goes with regards to any intrigue. The back story is weak to say the least. In fact, there barely is one.
Let's be clear. For me, this book is just about the sex. We are subjected to page after page after page of sex. No romance, no loving, no depth, just raw lust, sex and kink; with lots of coming, and screaming, and mons...
Mons? I hear you say. I had to look it up. It's the pubic bone. Natalie likes it slapped apparently. And whipped. This is not a sexy word. By the end of the book I didn't really care if Natalie and Sevastyan would make it, as I felt no connection with them at all. There was maybe one chapter near the end that showed some vulnerability and caring from the hero, but other than that it ended as it started. With sex. More specifically, anal. Well, they'd done everything else. Why not end on a high note.
As with all my romances that contain sex, I want more than just that. I want more build up. More romance. More angst. More love. More tenderness. More mutual attraction. Not one half of the couple acting so cold and distant that the sex falls flat, and just becomes a porn scene. I love watching a couple's building attraction as it combusts, placing me right there with them in that moment having all the feels. But, with Natalie and Sevastyan it all happens way too fast, and with two characters that are pretty one-dimensional and rather wooden. I didn't feel as though it was believable to me as I read it. I just kept thinking, would you really do that after just one meeting, in that situation?
I know this is fiction, but I do have to feel that what is happening is believable, otherwise what's the point? The writing has to be good to make me feel totally absorbed in the story, the characters and their relationship. Sadly, in this case, it wasn't.
Rating: 2 Stars
The Professional by Kresley Cole (Game Maker #1) Contemporary Erotic Romance Simon & Schuster (20 May 2014) Paperback: 390 pages
I don't know what it was about this story, but I just couldn't sink into it. I didn't connect with Jo, the heroine, either. I did love the hero, Camer...moreI don't know what it was about this story, but I just couldn't sink into it. I didn't connect with Jo, the heroine, either. I did love the hero, Cameron, though, he was S.E.X.Y. However, I didn't feel the connection between them. I wanted to hear more about his past, his tattoos, his life, and although we do get some, it just wasn't enough. I also think the book was a tad too long, and it dragged in places. This would have been a 2.5 star rating (take it or leave it) if it wasn't for Cam.(less)
Deeper is the first book in the Caroline & West new adult, contemporary romance series. I wasn't sure what to expect when I picked up this book. I hadn't heard of the author or the series before (although subsequently have found out it's the pen name of Ruthie Knox). However, from the first page I was hooked. This book is beautifully written, has two of the most amazing characters I've read in a long time - especially within the new adult, contemporary romance genre - and the added aspect of revenge porn which, although I knew about it, hadn't realised it was called revenge porn.
Throughout the novel the perspective changes between Caroline and West, but the chapters are pretty long so it's not like it's constantly swinging to and fro all the time. You really get to know the characters and their personalities, what they are about, and who they are inside. Although contemporary romance has its fair share of the trope of good girl falls for bad boy, there is a lot more here than just that trope. These characters are well rounded and three-dimensional. And once you get to know West, you realise he's not really bad boy at all, just in the wrong place at the wrong time, or trying to make ends meet.
The one thing I loved about this story is Caroline's personal growth. We start with her finding out that sexual pictures of her and her ex-boyfriend have gone viral on the Internet. We watch as she closes up, shuts down and isolates herself. She doesn't fight back, she doesn't go out, she doesn't have a life; and she wonders if she will ever get to be a lawyer, because nobody's going to hire a slut. But, by the time we get to the end of the novel, Caroline has come full circle back to the girl that her friends knew before all the craziness, and it was really nice to see.
West is one of the sexiest, most complex and interesting heroes I've read in a long time. Yes, he does seem to be a bad boy, but he isn't really. He comes from a bad area, but nobody really knows because he keeps it well hidden. He's embarrassed and so puts across a persona that he's happier with when at university. The one real aspect that makes West bad boy material is the fact that he deals marijuana, and if we were on the outside looking in we probably would look at West and think, 'you're no good', and I'm sure we wouldn't want anything to do with him.
However, once we see him through Caroline's eyes, see what he does for her, as well as hearing his own thoughts and feelings about the people in his life; Caroline, his mum, dad, and sister, his life really; as well as what he has had to deal with, we begin to understand (although not condone) why he sells marijuana. You begin to realise that he's not really bad at all, but that life has put him in a very difficult situation. He struggles to get himself to a really good college, in order to try and get a good job as a doctor, so he won't have to worry about money when taking care of his little sister, who he adores, and his deadbeat mum.
When Caroline and West do eventually get together, the sex scenes are just so well written, it's a beautiful coming together. There is nothing in the writing that is jarring or made me cringe. The buildup is so heart-wrenching, so beautiful that I was completely and utterly absorbed.
As well is the romance aspect, there is the revenge porn. I thought the author did an amazing job at expressing Caroline's feelings regarding this heinous act by her ex-boyfriend. Caroline's thoughts are very realistic and totally understandable, it made my heart bleed for her. To think that this actually goes on in the real world and not just in fiction is heartbreaking. However, from being a 'victim' to seeing her growth through both these two books, made me feel really proud of her and optimistic for her future, whether it was going to be with West or not.
Although Caroline's feelings towards West are all consuming, in that she needed, wanted, lusted after him, she knows that she would be able to live her life without him, and the ending of Deeper shows that. West is really supportive of Caroline and what she goes through regarding the revenge porn, and I loved how gentle and caring and understanding he is towards her, and how much it helps her get through such a dark time in her life.
The secondary characters are also very good, in fact, the whole ensemble of characters are fantastic. Not one of them got on my nerves or irritated me, unless they were meant to, such as Caroline's ex and West's mum.
As well as the support from West, Caroline's best friend is also there for her as she tries to navigate her way through this awful time. Caroline is surprised at herself for what she is eventually able to achieve in the face of adversity. When she begins to get back into life rather than hiding away, she joins an all-girl rugby team, where she makes more friends and starts to enjoy life again. It was nice to see Caroline eventually surrounded by people that supported and cared for her, and believed in her. It was a shame that her own family didn't do the same thing. When it all came out and she has to tell her father, his reaction is really disappointing. He does redeem himself somewhat, but something like that is not easily forgotten, or easy for a character to come back from.
Deeper and Harder have to be two of my favourite reads of the year, and I know my review just doesn't do either of them justice. Deeper really touched me, and Harder is a great second instalment.
The ending to Deeper is heartbreaking, but fortunately Harder does resolve everything, so make sure you have it to hand otherwise you will die. Yes, die - no this isn't an exaggeration. There is so much more to these books than simply romance, but going into it in too much depth would possibly lead to spoilers, which I don't want to do.
Make Deeper and Harder your two next reads, especially if you enjoy contemporary romance with wonderful, three-dimensional characters and a heartfelt storyline. Rating: 5 Stars / 4 Stars
Deeper / Harder by Robin York (Caroline & West #1/#2) Contemporary Romance Piatkus Books (2014) Paperback: 350 pages
I haven't read anything by Erica Hayes before, but after reading a few reviews for Scorched, and seeing that it was on NetGalley for review, I decided to give it a go. And I'm so pleased I did. After the first chapter I realised that this was going to be my kind of book. The author pulls no punches; the writing is gritty, witty and dark - just the way I like it.
The heroine, Verity Fortune, aka The Seeker, is complex and slightly damaged, but completely badass. She's a superhero among a family of superheroes. People at large know that they exist but only because they wear costumes and masks, without them their true identities are unknown and so the superheroes (and villains) can go on with their 'normal' daily lives without recognition. Verity's family also owns FortuneCorp, one of the biggest corporations in Sapphire City, and are well respected.
The book begins with Verity being tortured, held captive by an unknown source, although she thinks it's Razorfire, the biggest, baddest Villain of them all. Her superpowers are being held in check by an augmentium helmet, made from a specific material that prevents her using her telekinetic powers. Fortunately, there is a moment when Verity takes a chance and manages to break free. Her only thought is to get back to her family, and to plan her vengeance on Razorfire, for her lost months, for the unrelenting torture, for her scarred face, and for the people of Sapphire City. Slowly throughout the novel the story of her life unravels, her lost memories slowly return after the months and months of torture, and many of the unresolved questions are answered. But things are not always as they seem.
What I loved about Scorched was the fact that reader doesn't know any more than Verity. When she's confused so are we, when she asks questions we do to, and when she finds out the answers to those questions, we are right along side her. This made for a very exciting read. There are a lot of mistakes made along the way as she tries to figure out who is behind her kidnapping, and the murder of her father, Thomas Fortune, aka Blackstrike, the city's best loved crime-fighter, but eventually we do get some answers and they are HUGE, leaving Verity reeling and wanting to seek revenge. How Verity will recover I don't know, but it will definitely make for a very interesting second book.
Although I found out the majority of answers at the same time as Verity, I did have my suspicions about the identity of Razorfire, and I was proven right when his identity was revealed, in the most AWESOME way. But that was the only aspect I had an inkling about, everything else came as a surprise, which I loved. It really kept me on my toes. The flashbacks she has tell us the story regarding her father, her brother (Adonis) and sister (Equity) and Razorfire. As the story moves forward, and as Verity uncovers more and more about her kidnappers, we realise that her memory is not always accurate and can be deceiving.
The relationships Verity has with other characters are interesting and I really enjoyed her relationship with Glimmer, another superhero who decides to help her in her quest, as well as for his own reasons, and with Razorfire. I liked that she was pulled between good and evil. It was interesting to find out why she felt so divided and conflicted all the time. Glimmer would call her back to the good side and remind her what it is to be a superhero, but then she would take a different route and walk a dark path, which she would instantly regret. There's not really any romance in Scorched, but there is possibly a hint to one, but this book didn't need it, even if I wanted it (I do love a bit of romance).
I haven't read such a good book in a long time. I loved the world building, the characters, the story; practically everything about it was just spot-on. There are so many twists and turns, and I loved finding things out along with Verity rather than be given the answers by the author.
Scorched is a fantastic start to a new series, and a really refreshing urban fantasy/superhero tale that I simply gobbled up. I can't wait for book two, which will hopefully be released sometime later this year. If you're looking for something gritty, exciting, and fresh with complex and interesting characters, then Scorched is the book for you.
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Scorched by Erica Hayes Urban Fantasy / Superhero Harper Impulse (22 May 2014) Ebook: 296 pages
I read Shiloh Walker’s Wrecked a year or so ago and absolutely loved it. So when Deeper than Need dropped onto my doormat I stopped reading everything else to crack this baby open. I was really looking forward to reading another book by Walker, and as I’m a fan of romantic suspense I was really looking forward to getting into it. Although I did enjoy Deeper than Need, it didn't quite manage to live up to my high expectations.
The story starts with Trinity Ewing and her son having moved from New York into an old house. The house has a dark history, although nobody really talks about it. Trinity has hired Noah Benningfield as her contractor as there's a lot of work to do on the house. When they meet, their attraction for each other is pretty instantaneous and makes being around each other difficult, both reluctant to give in as neither really want to get into a relationship.
There is a lot of mystery surrounding the house and we're not given much at all for a lot of the novel. We get snippets of peoples' pasts through their memories, but nothing is really shown nor told and therefore what we get is rather ambiguous, which isn't my favourite to read as I get impatient and frustrated. But, as the story progresses, we do begin to learn of the darkness the house holds and the evil that happened there.
However, this part of the story does have lots of atmosphere and suspense and it does drive the novel forward, which is a good thing, as the romantic aspect doesn't really come into it until much later in the novel. Without the suspense plot there wouldn't really have been much story.
After Trinity meets Noah, all she thinks about is him. Constantly. Unfortunately, all we get from Trinity is how much she wants him, how she's so hot for him, lusts after him, and how he brings her to the most amazing climaxes in her dreams. Every time she sets her eyes on him these fill her every thought. I get it. She's hot for the guy, but after a while it became a bit repetitive. It was much the same for Noah. She was filling his thoughts, his dreams, he's constantly waking up with a hard on and has to relieve himself in the shower in the morning as he's just so rock hard at the thought at her...
We don't really get a lot of actual action with the two of them together. It was mostly dreams and thoughts and self-pleasuring. Eventually the time does come for a kiss though - woo hoo! But you really have to wait for it. For around 250 pages! Unfortunately, it's interrupted by so much dialogue that it just didn't work for me. I'd been waiting so patiently all those pages for these two characters to get it on, and all they do is talk.
I liked Noah. He has his own demons to conquer, with his alcoholism and his past womanising, but he is thoughtful and kind and very sexy. Trinity, on the other hand, I had difficulty in liking. There really wasn't much to her. She was rather dull, and I found her reactions to some of the incidents that happen slightly off, putting her in a weak light. We do get told that she left New York and her ex-husband behind, and we're given the impression that something wasn't quite right, but nothing else. Sadly, I just couldn't connect with her in any way. Her son wasn't that much better. I don't usually mind kids in novels, but I found him to be really quite annoying. His dialogue was irritating rather than endearing and I just wish he wasn't in the book at all.
The story is written from multiple view points, and there are a lot of other characters. I would have preferred if it was just from the hero and heroine's point of view as I think we would have got a better understanding of both characters. Most of the characters are male, and aren't really portrayed very well. As well as the hero being an alcoholic, every man we meet seems to have a dark, haunted past with secrets, and finds relief at the bottom of a bottle or between a woman's thighs, or both. There didn't seem to be one normal, healthy man among them.
I will say that the multiple viewpoints did make the book suspenseful and I did enjoy finding out fragments of the past, but it felt a bit of a mishmash. I didn't find it confusing as such, just a little bit jumbled up and not well structured, and therefore the book didn't flow very well. The multiple points of view from all of the characters would have worked better if Deeper than Need was just a suspense novel, but being a romantic suspense means that the romance should have formed a large proportion of the book, and therefore it would have been better alternating between just the hero and heroine. Also, there should have been more between them and a lot sooner!
As you can tell I had quite a few issues with this book, but I still enjoyed it to a point. I think I preferred the mystery aspect more than the romance. I'm disappointed it didn't rock my world though, especially after reading Wrecked and loving it so much (it was one of my favourite reads of 2013). However, I'm intrigued as to where the suspense and mystery aspect of the story is going, so I'm sure I will pick up the second book when it's released.
Rating: 3 Stars
Deeper than Need by Shiloh Walker (Secrets & Shadows #1) Romantic Suspense St Martin's Paperbacks (3 June 2014) Paperback: 400 pages