I've been taking a break from my organized crime reading and making quite a pile of TBR books becauseFind this review and others at Carlene Inspired.
I've been taking a break from my organized crime reading and making quite a pile of TBR books because of that, but when I saw Bethany-Kris was giving us Michel Marcello I knew I had to push everything to the side for it. Michel has no desire to be a made man, he wants to be a trauma surgeon, he thrives under that sort of pressure. His spare time is spent supporting the Detroit family, but they question his allegiance as he falls for the pretty red head with the last name Casey. He's going to have show them just how patient, cunning, vicious he can be.
"Michel wasn't like them. He wasn't obvious. A silent sort of vicious."
Let's take a second to appreciate Bethany-Kris for doing what a lot of authors fail to do with organized crime novels, make the characters real. They aren't perfect heroes and heroines, they aren't all about their family's wants, some don't want that life, and some strike out on their own and fall in love with what could be perceived as wrong person. Sure, they're still beautiful and handsome and wealthy, but they aren't just replicas of their parents waiting to step into the role upon its availability. Both Michel and Gabbie are as real as it gets, their lives do not revolve around their parents roles as the Marcello don and the Irish Mob Boss, respectively. However, their life goals and dreams don't remove them from the family, they still have that same respect, and Dirty Pool is a story about what happens when two people, from opposing families, find one another and have to make a choice. Michel and Gabbie have insane chemistry, the lust between them is off the charts, and the natural way they just fit together is a dead giveaway that the are just meant to be. Sure, they're drawn together by the passion they share in the bedroom, but soon it's emotional and I loved watching that play out. Both know what they want, but of course family ties are binding and sometimes a Marcello must be a Marcello.
"It was an experience. It was her."
Rules, traditions, bloodshed, and romance are all found in the pages of Dirty Pool. Michel and Gabbie may have respect for their family, but the feelings they share outweigh it all. I loved the different story we got with this novel, the romance was as passionate as every Bethany-Kris novel, but the organized crime and character's life was new and gave us, the readers, a different perspective. It's a story about love and loyalty. Michel's story was an absolutely pleasure to read and I am so glad we got it. It is so easy to love these two, to love their love.
Katherine is the sensible friend, the last one to even think about applying her RLC red lipstick and bFind this review and others at Carlene Inspired.
Katherine is the sensible friend, the last one to even think about applying her RLC red lipstick and being bold, but when life stops going as planned the lipstick, and a bit of bravery, might be the only way to get back on track. Theo shook up her senses on night, but that was all he was meant to be, one night. One night has turned into 9 months though and pragmatic Theo, in his well tailored suits and endless patience, has an offer for her. Theo sees Kate, the girl behind the lists, the books, and the rock solid plan, he sees the lover and knows its up to him to bring it out in her, to give her the best partnership he can. He knows he can be a father to this baby and the best man for Katherine "not Kate," especially when that tempting red lipstick is on. They've got chemistry and they've got emotions, but they're views may not be well-suited.
"I should have realized right then that I was doomed, damned. But the novelty of her, the unexpected intrigue, the sheer sight and smell of her were too alluring to resist."
Katherine, who from here on out we shall call Kate, has had the best quips through out the Red Lipstick Coalition series novels, but despite knowing she's an all facts kind of girl I still wasn't prepared for her. She's the kind of no-nonsense girl with a wall 10 foot wall between her and anyone else, so thank heavens Theo is a tall man willing to scale it. She likes her books, she likes the explanation science can give her for everything, and she likes Theo despite her best intentions not to. Theo is quite a bit more charming than his brother, Tommy, who you might remember from Work in Progress, but he's also ten times more serious. He's always in a suit, he manages money well, and somehow he even manages to show Kate he's the guy to trust with the direction they'll take this partnership they're forming for their upcoming child. He's also the man who cooks, who offers the sun and moon, and who believes in love in the innocent way a child does. They may not be well-suited on paper, but my word I love when these two clash together.
"Emotions were exhausting, and I had no practical use for them. But Theo inspired extreme emotions in me."
I am the most anti-baby romance reader ever, so it says a lot that I fell head over in heels in love with Theo and Kate. I had my fears, I've read plenty of bla-cliche versions of oops-baby drama, but this was nothing like that. There wasn't an oops feeling, there was excitement and sensibility, there was realistic tension and worries and fears. The romance, sure it was wanted and the fire burning between these two is always flickering, but there was a very realistic approach to an upcoming baby from Theo and Kate and I so appreciated Staci Hart giving us that story first. I love love loved their co-parenting approach and I appreciated Theo's sneaky way of using that to get just a little bit closer to the serious Kate. Plus, I had no idea how much humor could be put into a story about babies and practical partnership. Theo and Kate give us those swoony moments too and soon I was loudly (actually out-loud) begging Kate to give into the emotions she doesn't understand.
"'We do so solemnly swear,' she recited, 'to use this shiny little tube of power to inspire braveness, boldness, and courage. We promise to jump when it's scary, to stand tall when we want to hide, to scream our truth instead of whisper our fears. may we be mistresses of our destinies, and to hell with anyone who tries to tell us otherwise.'"
Well Suited is the final novel in the Red Lipstick Coalition series and it has been such a pleasure spending time with these four best friends. Commonsense Kate, bookworm Amelia, awkward Val, and shy Rin have been each others protection for so long, but a pact to wear a shade of bold red lipstick has brought to them each newfound confidence, bravery, and the men they never thought they'd find. I have loved this series, I have felt like one of the girls at various points in my life, and in these books I have found a comfortable home. Putting my lipstick on alongside Kate as she faced her fears of emotions and relationships was such a joy and while I'm sad to see this series go, I am ever so thankful Staci Hart gave it to us in the first place.
Sweet, angsty, the kind of small town romance that sweeps your problems away for a little bit. Forgiven is the second chance romance that rea4.5 Stars
Sweet, angsty, the kind of small town romance that sweeps your problems away for a little bit. Forgiven is the second chance romance that readers will read and get that finally feeling. Ten years have passed since the accident, since Bowen walked away and Lily was left with a broken heart and no reason that she can find. Bowen Nash and Lily Grantham are meant to be, but there's secrets and heartache between them that neither are prepared to face. When Lily's best friend and Bowen's brother select the two to be their maid and man of honor, it's the push they both need to face one another. As Lily starts to question Bowen's hatred of her, Bowen realizes that maybe holding onto the past isn't worth losing the girl he never stopped loving.
I have to admit, I was prepared for a sweet romance and while we got that, Carrie Aarons gave me what I really wanted, a whole lot of angst. Second-chance romances just aren't right without the characters dealing with the hurt between them and I hate when issues are resolved easily. I honestly wasn't sure these two would find a way to work out, Lily has been beat down by it for so long and Bowen had turned quite surly, but they still fit together like puzzle pieces. Lily isn't the same girl she used to be in high school, her independence giving her the ability to pursue Bowen relentlessly. And Bowen, though successful in his own way, has really allowed the past and his self hatred to hold him back. Lily's pursuit shakes things up for Bowen, he either has to run or face the music, and that felt realistic to me as a reader. It isn't easy of course, her pursuit often makes her hurt more, but it also restarts the longing in Bowen's heart. It's a kind of push and pull, but as they give in and Bowen reveals the truth they finally realize the blame should've never lied on the two of them at all.
I docked half a star due to the situation that keeps the two apart. Looking at it from their youthful perspectives, it makes sense that it's what started it all, but as adults I had a hard time believing it was viewed as serious as it was. I think the time they spent apart was so long and though I'm glad they finally faced it, it made me sort of sad for the time they lost and the built up anger that Bowen had. I might have docked more had Carrie Aarons not made them tackle the issue over the entire length of the book, allowing them to restart their relationship and strengthen their bonds once more.
Forgiven is a story of love, loss, and forgiveness and it'll tick off all the boxes for the angst lovers out there. It is the second novel in the Nash Brothers series and so far my favorite. Carrie Aarons has created a small town series with all the drama, friendships, and relationships readers' hearts could desire, plus the brothers are handsome and the girls are fiercely independent. The entire series is the kind of romance readers root for.
Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday are Seth's wives. Thursday has never met the others, but she is okay witFind this review and others at Carlene Inspired.
Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday are Seth's wives. Thursday has never met the others, but she is okay with the arrangement, at least she believes she is. She keeps house in Seattle, she cooks him dinner, she is his easy wife. The other two make their homes in Portland, a place Thursday has never been too concerned with visiting until she finds a note in her husband's pocket with the name Hannah and an appointment time on it. Soon she is curious about the others and in her explorations she finds Hannah and in her she finds a friend. Hannah's husband leaves bruises on her, but Thursday's husband doesn't do that to her. Thursday wants to help Hannah, she wants to know this other version of her husband, and she desperately wants to know who the third wife is.
This is one of those books that I recommend to my friends by saying "it's just so messed up," but instead of messed I use the F-word. I mean come on, what would you do if you are just one of three wives? What would you do if you had the opportunity to snoop on the other woman or women in this case? If you believed in something so fiercely, would you be willing to risk it all? I have grown up around several people who have left the polygamist lifestyle, so my interest in this book started there. In this case though, the husband keeps his three wives separate, going so far as to call them by the days of the week in which he visits them, rather than by their real names. The Wives isn't about their peaceful lives though, it wouldn't be a Tarryn Fisher novel if that was the case. No, much like the proverb, curiosity killed the cat, Thursday is out to find out all she can about the man she thought she knew, the man now willing to take it all away from her.
My first clue that Thursday would be an unreliable narrator was her willingness to believe everything was fine, her acceptance of the idea that the other women were less desirable than her, the way she tamped down any questions and convinced herself that despite him taking another wife after her, she still was his favorite. She becomes a detective, a Nancy Drew type character. Her sleuthing is entertaining, so much so that as Tarryn Fishers dropped hints about what was truly going on I absolutely missed them. As the novel takes a dark turn I found myself shocked to find that this novel wasn't at all what I thought it was going to be. A psychological thriller through and through, The Wives takes you on a twisted journey into the mind of one wife and the things she is willing to do to both know her husband and to keep him.
I could not put The Wives down, once I started I didn't stop until 5 hours later I had reached the last page. Then...then I could do nothing. I could not formulate a thought on the novel beyond what the eff did I just read?! It's the kind of book you have a hard time believing and yet you want to read it again. It is terrifying, it is brilliant, and it is solid 5-star release from Tarryn Fisher, her very first with a publisher.
The DNA of You and Me follows young, gifted Emily as she pursues a career in STEM and seeks the DNA coFind this review and others at Carlene Inspired.
The DNA of You and Me follows young, gifted Emily as she pursues a career in STEM and seeks the DNA code for the olfactory senses. Emily is fascinated by smell and what makes a scent smell a certain way, she's also fascinated by the different way each human takes in a smell or feels an emotion. Her childhood experiences, spent locked away inside or at her father's lab, is the biggest driving force between her desire to find the right strand of DNA and find a way to separate it. When she joins an elite team of scientists she discovers it isn't all about finding the right DNA, but about publishing it first. The honor, the awards, the promise of an easier career, those things mean more to others. As Emily navigates the competition she finds that her mind drifts to a man rather than to her science.
I find it very hard to believe that this novel is Andrea Rothman's debut, it is written so well and captures the difficulties and emotions behind STEM, particularly females in STEM, quite accurately. The DNA of You and Me is an honest look at the choices a scientist must make; whether their life work and friendships, and even the possibility of family, can be achieved at the same time or if one is meant to be alone for life while they fight for recognition. The novel is split, almost 50/50, between Emily exploring personal relationships and Emily's fight to find and separate the correct olfactory code that drives scent for humans. If that sounds like something you won't understand or connect with, you'd be wrong. Andrea Rothman gives just enough information and explanation into the process that, beyond looking up a few words, I could follow the process of breaking down DNA code and the process of developing new genetics for mice fairly easily. It's a fascinating read, one that really delves into the art of balancing ones' work and ones' personal life.
While I wouldn't classify The DNA of You and Me as a romance, it does indeed feature a relationship that reads like a coming-of-age life lesson for Emily. I think readers looking for romance will feel this one misses the mark. It isn't as emotional as one expects from a typical romance, however I liked the highlight on Emily's difficulty with relationships. She is a bit socially inept, part of that is her lack of desire to make friends and part of that is her inexperience with others. She is a smart scientist, one who has put her life into learning and her work, and while she feels something she can't quite explain for Aeden, she also doesn't understand human connection at the time of their coupling. Their relationship is more of a fling, their connections taking place in darkened rooms with locked doors and quite often in a way that could be interpreted as forceful. As the book moves forward and Emily ages we see the most character growth in her social connection. Her emotions, her desires, her regrets, become those of a matured women rather than that of a young scientist who has given up the rest of her life for the white walls of a laboratory. While I think this could be off putting for some, for me it read very accurate to some of those I've met while working in a STEM supporting role.
The DNA of You and Me was very different than my usual reads and for me, it's a winner. It's a quick read, I was quite surprised by how small the hardback is, but it features a meaningful story. If you're looking to break out of your typical genre or you're a fan of science reads, especially if you're fascinated by STEM and the women who are leaving their mark in the field, I highly recommend you pick this one up.
Cleopatra Paige hates Zachariah Prince almost as much as she loves the color blue. Thinking she'd neveFind this review and others at Carlene Inspired.
Cleopatra Paige hates Zachariah Prince almost as much as she loves the color blue. Thinking she'd never see him again she accepts a role in the housekeeping staff for his family, but it seems even three long years can't make her forget the burning hatred she has when he comes strolling back in. His sharp jaw, his dark gaze, the muscles he flexes as he steps back into power, the hate overwhelms her thoughts every moment. He hates this town, this mansion, as much as Blue hates him and yet he can't seem to stay away. He's the Prince, she's the maid, and it seems their stars are destined to cross.
"I can feel it. That's the whole problem, actually. That I can feel it. Feel him."
I haven't read a book this sexy since, well probably since my last Saffron A. Kent read. She makes forbidden romance taste oh so good. Bad Boy Blues pulls you in with the angst, warms you up with the smut, and has you falling head over heels in love with the bully. Cleo, also known as Blue, is a driven girl who cares little about what anyone else think. Her blue hair may scream for attention, but she'd do anything to stay out of sight, especially to young Master Zach Prince. To her he's the bully, the bad buy, his good looks are just reminders of a painful past. Except, the Zach we meet in Bad Boy Blues is not the same Zach Cleo remembers. Disenchanted with his family's wealth and desperate popularity, Zach has made his own way in the past three years. He's charming, he's humble, he's regretful. He's the man that walks the line and the line in this case is that between love and hate.
"Today she looked at me like I moved the stars. It hurt. It still does"
Cleo, though at time's immature, is a strong-willed heroine that believes in standing up for what's right. Her difficult past and recent loss has left a lasting mark on her, her heart, much like the Grinch's, has grown three sizes, even leaving room for the dastardly Zach Prince. As she interacts with him again, both as his employee and in her own bullying way, she finds that she doesn't hate him so much. I love the chemistry between these two, the hate and the lust mixing between them so much that they can't differentiate between the two. It forces them to face the past, to face their current feelings, to find a way to move forward. Saffron A. Kent writes in such a way that I felt like I was there, my feelings just as hurt as Cleo's, making me wonder if it was even possible for these two to work it out. Of course, there's those moments of redemption, the moments that make you fall for Zach, that make you see that all the hate has really done is made them orbit closer to one another, their star's paths finally colliding. It's a slow burn romance with more angst and passion that I knew what to do with.
"In love, you bleed forever. I wonder if in hate, you bleed forever too."
Saffron A. Kent made me fall for the man who breaks hearts just by looking at you. If you love the enemies to love trope, if you like your men handsome and bullying, and if you like your heroines loyal and strong, Bad Boy Blues is the book for you.
What happens when the lights go out in Vegas? According to thirteen authors, a whole lot can happen! FFind this review and others at Carlene Inspired.
What happens when the lights go out in Vegas? According to thirteen authors, a whole lot can happen! From escaping serial killers to falling in love, Blackout: A Romance Anthology gives readers a glimpse into the city of sin with no power, no cell service, and no inhibitions. This anthology blew me away, I can't get over how much I enjoyed it. Longer than your typical anthology, at least in my opinion, Blackout has thirteen novellas, some quite lengthy and others quite short, that follow a mix of new and previously known characters as they visit sin city. The same event, a lengthy blackout, occurs in each novel, but no story is the same. The setting is perfect for this anthology, I hate when authors get together to create an anthology with a similar story line and the characters don't ever meet despite being in a small town. In this case, Vegas is massive and with the lights out it's expected that the characters from each story wouldn't interact. It made it more realistic. I loved all of the characters from the stories that I read and while I didn't love every single story, I did enjoy the entire anthology as a whole. This is a must read and it will work for both longtime fans of the authors and for those looking for something new.
On the fly star rating as I read:
Close Encounter by Stephanie St. Klaire - 4 Stars
The Do-Over by Christi Barth - 3 stars
Night & Day by Bethany Lopez - 4 stars
Night Games by T.K. Leigh - 5 Stars
Absolutely Mine by Terri E. Laine - Not Rating - the ARC edition had too many edits left to be done. I won't count this against the overall score, as I know the anthology went through more edits prior to release.
Just Us by J.H. Croix - 4.5 Stars - If I read the word channel one more time I was going to scream. Once or twice, fine, repeatedly? No.
I struggle to write this review after the fifth night of dreaming I am Natalia and I am in the difficult position of being stuck in the middle of a war. The conflicting emotions, the betrayal, the love, the lust, the fear, weigh heavily on me when I open my eyes each morning. I was not only caught up in the story, I am now living it in my sleep. Violent Delights is, and this is a number one fan's perspective, Jessica Hawkins' most ambitious and well written novel yet. She takes us into the mind of the beautiful and naive Natalia, daughter of a Mexican cartel boss, and takes us on a twisted journey. She gives Natalia a life of sadness and hope, a life once filled with promise now bound by obligation. She gives us two men, brothers by birth, divided by choice, and gives us countless reasons to both desire and hate them. Cristiano is a brutally handsome, ruthless man, the dark de la Rosa son, while Diego is the light. The feud between brothers is old, their feelings run deep, and as truths are revealed Natalia and the readers are left wondering who is really the right brother to trust one's life with.
"I had run away from all this, but the devil still tempted that stupid little girl."
I cannot get over how quickly I became wrapped up in this story. While the premise and the trope is common in the romance genre and organized crime sub-genre, it is the storytelling that is unique. Jessica Hawkins kicks off this action-packed romance with a scene that is emotional and memorable. We are immediately protective over the heroine and yet we are also aware that all may not be as it seems. With time comes answers, but those answers reveal secrets and truths that can and do change the course of Natalia's life. The bonds between family, friends, and lovers are tested as the business side of things, the side Natalia has tried to ignore and avoid, overflow into her life. I was so impressed with Jessica Hawkins' transition into organized crime with this novel, especially with her previous releases being contemporary romance. Violent Delights felt realistic, the family business and the competitive nature of crime was very accurate in my opinion.
"Then I'd like to change my order. Please tell the heavens it is my dying wish to hear you scream."
Violent Delights is the first novel in Jessica Hawkins' new White Monarch series. While it does end on a cliffhanger, it was the perfect sort of cliff to jump off of. The novel introduces the characters and their complexities and immediately readers are in the center of a fast paced battle for power and for the girl. Like all Jessica Hawkins novels, this book is incredibly well written and is an amazing start to a new series from the Queen of Slow Burn Romance.
Harper and Eric have only just found one another again and they can't focus on their emotions, on theFind this review and others at Carlene Inspired.
Harper and Eric have only just found one another again and they can't focus on their emotions, on the fresh romance, when the world seems to be crumbling around them. Eric may consider his friends family, but his real family, the ones that call him The Bastard, are truly enemies and they're out for blood. After an avoided attack and some crazy coded messages Eric's father is hospitalized and his brother arrives unannounced and unhinged. For every puzzle solved there's a new challenge, not including the chemistry between Eric and Harper as they snag free moments for themselves and immediately jump back into the chaos. The Empire is the final novel in the Filthy Trilogy and boy is it filthy. Suspenseful, action packed, and as smutty as they come, Lisa Renee Jones closes this trilogy with a bang.
I didn't read the entire Dirty Rich series, it came at a time when my schedule was packed and I couldn't spare a moment to read 10+ novels, but something about a savant SEAL and a businesswoman, known as The Bastard and The Princess, just called to me. This trilogy is of the all consuming type, the characters and their stories don't leave your mind even while you're reading other books and participating in other activities. Eric and Harper just have that insane chemistry that makes you want a happy ending and yet their relationship, both romantic and familial, is just not as easy as anyone else's. The Empire, and the entire Filthy Trilogy, is jam packed with deceit, revenge, secrets, and, of course, lust.
Eric and Harper are meant to be, they fit together perfectly and it's oh so sexy, but they also have a mess to deal with. Eric isn't a fan of his savant nature and Harper is unsure of her family's intention, these issues lead to trust problems between them. Emotions are heightened as Eric and Harper's family use their soft spots against them, dangling secrets in front of them and threatening to reveal. Eric and Harper have a connection though, one that is almost inexplicable, somehow they work through it even when working through it is just the joining of their bodies. It's an exciting read, one with just enough mystery and suspense that I wasn't overwhelmed by the smut that fills the pages when the two are alone. I loved all the big reveals in The Empire, Lisa Renee Jones wrapped up the trilogy perfectly, answering every question readers had and giving us the perfect ending too.
The Empire is the perfect conclusion to Eric and Harper's story and the three are a great set of novels to pull away from the larger Dirty Rich series. I enjoyed the unique nature of the relationship between Eric and Harper and, like always, loved the business world that Lisa weaved into the book. Like all LRJ novels, this one is heavy on the sex scenes and even heavier on the suspense. Longtime fans, new readers, the in-between, will love Eric and Harper's journey from The Bastard, to The Princess, and finally to their empire.
That's right, my friends, the girl who hates novellas is giving 5 stars to this one.
Holly feels her world tilt on its axis the moment her eyes meet KeThat's right, my friends, the girl who hates novellas is giving 5 stars to this one.
Holly feels her world tilt on its axis the moment her eyes meet Kelley Nicolo's, his azure colored eyes stealing her breath and her attention. He's her professor though, and more than that he's married, has a young child, and has differing opinions about love and commitment. The lust and passion they share drives them together and Holly knows that love is brewing. Both are seeking something more, something for their soul, and they soon discover it's a someone that will fill the hole, if only they would let it.
Oh my word, I don't like novellas, I don't like my erotica with a lot of emotion, I don't like crying over two characters and not being able to see a happy ending, but I loved The Flyaways. It's a quick read filled with passionate words, descriptive love scenes, and two characters that seem so broken and yet whole when they come together. Holly is not your classic lost girl case, her upbringing has only strengthened her and, while naive, she faces things without abandon. Her life could have marked her, but she doesn't allow it to and despite her fear of Kelley's hold over her, she embraces him even knowing the hurt will come. Kelley is an enigma, a handsome professor with a love of poetry that would make any student, any women, fall for him. It's a stunning release from A.R. Hadley that had me wrapped up in the pages, unable to look up in fear of missing anything.
It's true what A.R. Hadley says about her male characters, they can be cold, but for me Kelley was not that way. He had some deep hurt, he had some thoughts about life that maybe I didn't agree with, sure, but he wasn't cold. He was closed off from an emotion that had let him down and in turn he let down the girl feeling that same emotion. It didn't take away from this story though, it displayed a very real, ugly side of love and allowed for growth in the characters. More than love, A.R. Hadley explores the nature of manipulation, of raw emotions, and of passion; it made for an incredibly captivating story.
The Flyways is a 30,000 word novella, but it reads like a full length novel. The characters are fleshed out, the setting includes an entire town and college, there are secondary characters, and there is a plot that is as thick as molasses to wade through. While it does feature a subject readers don't typically reach for, an open marriage affair to be specific, it is the type of book I love. I think it allows the story to feel realistic with heightened emotions and a threat of no HEA. I loved the way A.R. Hadley made me feel reading this, even when I had tears in my eyes or thought Kelley was being a right jerk, because it meant she had pulled me into the story with her and that is a successful read in my opinion.
Told at a frenzied pace, Soft Focus follows photographer Francesca as she leaves behind the events ofI HATE GOODREADS LATELY. STOP LOSING MY REVIEWS.
Told at a frenzied pace, Soft Focus follows photographer Francesca as she leaves behind the events of first novel Paparazzi and enters into an affair. As her brother's businesses begin to crumble and her family questions her commitment, Francesca and married playboy Selim find lust and love between the sheets. As they jet off on yachts and adventures, Francesca loses her sense of time, her love of photography, and pretty soon even herself. As her relationships with family and friends become distant she moves closer to the flash of the paparazzi, to the controlling arms of Selim. She soon has to make difficult decisions, decisions that leave her feeling alone and lost and without direction.
"She wouldn't reconcile with Paolo, she didn't want to. Selim's offer of protection was increasingly attractive; wherever this Porsche was going, wherever he was taking her, she wanted to go with him."
Christina Dennison's Francesca Trilogy follows main character, Francesca, through her glittery, wealthy life of privilege. She's seen the world, she's made a living doing photography, and she's previously dated a star soccer player and now a notorious, older playboy. Her life is a whirlwind with her career taking her everywhere, her love making it secretive, and the eyes of the public watching closely. Unfortunately, that life of privilege and travel has not instilled family values in Francesca and as she walks away from them her life seems to teeter off course. What was once a few drinks becomes evenings of blacking out, soon she is picking up a cigarette, and her relationship turns to a more sexual connection rather than personal connection.
I loved how Christina Dennison told the story, with a fast pace and just enough detail. Unfortunately, the characters were a miss for me. Francesca seems vapid and immature, while Selim had no redeeming qualities. Both characters were self centered and had no real care for others, not really. As Francesca separated from her family and became distant from her best friends I began to worry for her, the glittering story lost it's glitter and took a turn for the dark. Of course, as a middle novel in a series it could mean that Christina Dennison has an incredible, life altering moment coming for dear Francesca that will turn it all around.
As a middle novel, Soft Focus is actually quite incredible on its own. There is enough detail that allows one to read it without previously reading Paparazzi, but there's so much to know about Francesca that it makes you want to read it in order properly. The novel takes place in beautiful locations, the jet-set lifestyle really suits the main character, but unfortunately for me the disconnect I had with the characters really took me away from the story. I wanted more for Francesca and ended the novel feeling a bit sad for her. Christina Dennison has a way with words and an imagination that gives readers a contemporary trilogy that will keep them on their toes. While I didn't love Soft Focus, I am still plenty interested in what comes next in Backlight.
Lady Ophelia "Lia" Godwick has lived a privileged life. Her parents, still fiercely in love twenty-one years in, are art collectors and give their chiLady Ophelia "Lia" Godwick has lived a privileged life. Her parents, still fiercely in love twenty-one years in, are art collectors and give their children all they can. Lia, desperate to be independent, has found her own way to make money, however her methods are quite illegal. Her father gifts her a beautiful kylix for her graduation gift, catching the attention of the handsome August Bowman, and also bringing back into her life a man she'd love nothing more than to never see again. August, with his sight set on both Lia and the cup, sets out to prove to her that the cup holds the power of the gods', the power to take her on an erotic journey. The cup promises to be the tool to help Lia escape from letting her secret out and so she concocts a plan to use both August and the cup. Reality and fantasy blend for Lia as she soon falls for the chivalrous man and the erotic dreams he plants in her head.
"That wink. That smile. Pure mischief."
Magic and lust, two of this girl's favorite subjects in a novel, collide in The Rose, Tiffany Reisz' standalone followup to The Red. Filled with Greek mythology, erotic encounters, and a bit of a coming-of-age story too, The Rose takes readers on an adventure in sensuality. August gives Lia something she could only dream of, a chance to live for a moment as the Gods and Goddesses she adores, bringing life to the artwork and stories she has studied. The imagery in this novel is just outstanding, I felt like I was experiencing the sumptuous locations, the tasty wine, the heated looks and sexy play. Tiffany Reisz uses Lia's experience, both in human life and in her fantasies, to explore the power play men cling to historically. There is acceptance in sexuality, respect towards those who make their living as escorts, and fierce support for equality.
"If there was a painter in residence, tis would make quite the mural. A winged goddess on her knees in front of a mortal prince wearing the night tied around his eyes."
Quite a bit tamer than The Red, The Rose sees August and Lia revisiting the popular folklore and giving it new life, with the joining of Andromeda and Perseus their first fore into the other world.I loved Lia, she has a certain spark, likely the same spark that attracted August, that keeps you on the toes as a reader. It is unexpected what she will do or say next. I immediately gave up any notions that I knew what would come in this book, loving that Lia too had to suspend her own beliefs and understanding of the world in order to appreciate the gift of pleasure August presents to her. August was a pleasant surprise as well, his backstory a mystery, and yet he is the perfect gentleman. Their chemistry is obvious from the moment they meet and, despite being a bit like insta-love, it is easy to hope that these two realize that they are meant to share more than their short arrangement.
"'We are most ourselves in our fantasies,' he said."
This may be an unpopular opinion, but I enjoyed The Rose so much more than The Red. For me, the fantasy and fantasy line in The Red was confusing, I felt like I was reading dreams and not something the characters really felt were real. Plus, it took me beyond my own personal comfort level in erotic reading. Not a bad thing, but jarring when it is unexpected. In The Rose though it was a perfect blurring of the line between reality and fantasy. It truly felt as though Gods and Goddesses interacted among the living with a perfect mask in place, like the realm they live in is accessible. I loved that there were multiple plot-lines, that the lust filled meetings couldn't be sustained indefinitely due to human necessity and to allow Lia to deal with the deceptive life she has been hiding.
"The gods aren’t magicians. They’re gods. But even gods have toys. Word of advice. Don’t play with a god’s toy without permission."
I was quite impressed to find that The Rose could easily be read as a standalone, with Lia's story quite different from the one found in The Red. However, as someone who read The Red previously it was fun to revisit main character, Mona, and see where life has led her. While not necessary to read both, I think readers who enjoy erotica, fantasy, and history will find both novels are a wonderful escape. Historically accurate, sexy, and fun, The Rose was an absolute pleasure to read. Tiffany Reisz has given us a well written novel that I certainly will read again.
Carrie Aarons, the queen of sweet, has done it again with Presley McDaniel and Keaton Nash. Presley isFind this review and others at Carlene Inspired.
Carrie Aarons, the queen of sweet, has done it again with Presley McDaniel and Keaton Nash. Presley is the girl that doesn't know how to do one thing for long, fleeting is the word that describes her. It's also the word that describes what she thinks of relationships, at least until a man sweeps her right off her runaway feet. She doesn't expect the small town to feel more like home than the big city ever did and she certainly doesn't think the sweet, charming vet should be her perfect match. But small town charm comes with small town intervention and soon Presley finds herself on a date with Keaton, a man who doesn't do temptation or spontaneity. The chemistry is there, but one of them will have to put down roots or be willing to give up stability.
"Life before her was muted, and with her in my arms, I saw nothing but fireworks."
Here today gone tomorrow, that's Presley's motto, but the opportunity to help her grandmother out is also her chance to show her family she can stay put. She's absolutely a big city girl in a small town book, her discomfort is more than written on the pages, it's a physical feeling you get while reading. She's immature with relationships, both romantic and familial, and she's got a stack of old issues. Keaton, however, is as patient and committed as they come. Sure, he's not interested in the hard work of a relationship and the pain of heartbreak, but when he gives into Presley he gives in and, in my opinion, is pretty incredible to her all things considered. Their chemistry is off the charts, but the setting isn't made for therapy sessions and working through it all. It's made for sweet dates, arguments, and a crash course in love. Of course, small town romance wouldn't be so charming if it didn't have meddling from family and townsfolk.
The Nash Brothers series not only gives us sweet Keaton, but also his brothers who certainly don't have an adjective nearly as nice as sweet before their names. Presley may have been the wild child in Fleeting, but the series promises more angst, more drama, and certainly more loving. Fleeting was a fun, escape read for me that I think fans of nice-guy romance will really enjoy.
Welcome to the land of the HotHoles, or their kids anyway. All Saints High, home of the wealthy, the efFind this review at others at Carlene Inspired.
Welcome to the land of the HotHoles, or their kids anyway. All Saints High, home of the wealthy, the effed up, the beautiful, and the bad. Daria Followhill, daughter of Defy's couple Jaime and Melody, has an ugly green monster inside of her, she's the worst kind of mean girl. She's felt unloved, unwanted, and so underwhelmed by life that she's forgotten the last time she was happy. Her beauty and popularity don't mean anything, not when her mom takes on every other kid as a pet project and the boy she hates is the only one she really wants. It's hard not to like this girl, even when I sometimes thought she was doing it to herself I wanted her to get the love and support she was clearly desperate for. Plus, she has so much sass. Penn, on the other hand, is the bad boy from the wrong side of the tracks. He's held onto a burning hatred for so long, only to find that time sometimes doesn't always heal all wounds or make you forget the burning heat between you and another. The line between these two, the one they said they'd never crossed, it's up in smoke now.
"I don't want to be mean to him even though, usually, I am. Especially to boys. Especially to boys with beautiful faces and honey voices."
Leave it to L.J. Shen to find a way to write an angsty romance with every bit of drama she can fit into it and still make it work. There's romance, there's familial drama, there's a weird student principal thing going on, there's fights (expected, it is ASH), there's football, and there's some crazy secrets being held onto. Pretty Reckless is a classic enemies to lovers new-adult romance, just with a dash of extra mixed in. Daria and Penn are on FIRE for one another, but there's so much life going on around them, to them and due to them, that any chance they truly have is burnt in the flames. It's intense, like how fire feels when it flickers too close your skin warning you away. It's the kind of book you get sucked into, where sometimes it's almost too much to take in, yet you can't stop. Everything is all wrong for Daria and Penn, yet they're drawn to one another despite the massive explosion it will cause. It's unavoidable.
"'I still don't like you.' Her whisper carresses my face. 'Me neither,' I say. About her. About me."
There was quite of bitchery in this book, enough so that it made me question my like of Daria, of Melody, of nearly every character in this story that claims friendship and family. The people in this novel are all out for themselves only, thankfully we have L.J. Shen to set them straight. As all the drama unfolds we get a story about love, forgiveness, life lessons, and the bravery it takes to set things right again. It was an all consuming read for me, one that ran me through the gamut of emotions, one that made me so impatiently excited for the rest of the series. I loved the HotHoles and I can't wait to fall in love with their snotty, bratty, handsome, beautiful, spoiled, and yet still thoughtful little kids.
Chloe Winslow wants a fresh start in Vermont, an opportunity to be the version of herself she knows shFind this review and others at Carlene Inspired.
Chloe Winslow wants a fresh start in Vermont, an opportunity to be the version of herself she knows she can be, all while studying medicine in hopes of righting the wrongs of her past. As a witch who is unaware of her true strength, Chloe is invited to the mysterious Northern Circle Coven, with their high priestess offering her the chance to harness her powers. Chloe finds herself crushing on fellow coven member, Devlin, with her lust for him and her desire to learn glossing over her common sense. When the coven attempts to awaken Merlin himself they find that not every member's motive is for good and Chloe must trust blindly and put her faith behind her untrained power to discern good from evil.
The foggy Vermont shores are meant to be an escape for Chloe, a place for her to learn how she can combine her power and medicine, but it soon becomes a fight to not drown in the dark magic that calls to her as the coven unearths the shade of Merlin. A classic new adult character, Chloe easily allows her emotions to get the better of her, allowing the story to be a mix of romance and gothic witch drama. She discovers that trust, while easy to give at first, can be tested too many times, and that power can be intoxicating even when thought to be used for good. I enjoyed Chloe's naivety and felt it really allowed the story to progress with significant character development. I was intrigued by her past and her future hopes, especially as she joined the coven and fell for the promise of power. Her romance with Devlin, though brief in their interactions, happens very quickly, which really highlighted Chloe's youthfulness. However, she builds a strong friendship with another local witch and I loved them as friends, their dialogue was so fresh and entertaining.
His Dark Magic was the perfect story to introduce a new series, especially with the format of the Northern Circle Coven series where each is told from the perspective of different characters. While the setting, general character personalities, and the overarching plot line of light versus dark magic is obvious, there was little detail given on the rest. I wanted to understand the characters and their ties to the coven more, in fact I wanted to understand the coven more in general. We aren't given enough information and while the characters are fiercely protective of it we don't understand why. On top of that, we aren't given motives behind why some of the characters have chosen to go dark. It's a very large part of this first novel and I think it could have been explained further. I am, however, looking forward to exploring the dark versus light side of the characters in the future novels, especially now that lines have been drawn and characters have chosen sides.
His Dark Magic is a stunning fantasy and paranormal release from Pat Esden that introduces a new series that I am very much looking forward to reading. It reminded me of the books I used to read about witches in the early '00's that I enjoyed so much. I enjoyed the characters, the overarching theme of good and evil, the friendships, and I loved the contemporary setting that the coven managed to somehow still fit into. I recommend His Dark Magic to fans of new adult paranormal/fantasy reads.
With a touch of surrealism, Stylo Fantome explores the thoughts of a comatose woman and the strange awFind this review and others at Carlene Inspired.
With a touch of surrealism, Stylo Fantome explores the thoughts of a comatose woman and the strange awakening she has. Adele Reins is departing from a party after making a major life decision when she and another are in a car crash. Life continues to go on, but Adele is trapped inside a world in her head filled with brilliantly colored poppies, ever changing scenery, and a man who leaves such an impact that it is he she thinks of her when she finally opens her eyes. While her family and friends have rallied around her, starting new lives in the city of Los Angeles, Adele can't move forward and forget the man. When she sees him again her soul calls for him, but he doesn't know the love she knows.
"Tomorrow. Tomorrow I start on a new life. A new adventure. Tomorrow I find ... something."
Adele is a vivacious woman with a massive heart, she's so easy to like. Of course, we only know this form of Adele for a short while, as the impact of her dream state changes her drastically. From the moment she wakes up the story gets a bit strange, but in a way that kept me turning the pages, captivated by the romantic notion that soulmates and love can carry over from dreams into reality. Adele's coma world is so interesting and it takes up a large portion of the novel. This allows us to turn her dream state into a reality, with it leaving its mark even after she awakens. In this case, the dream world is unforgettable and Adele is left searching for it and her lover. I found myself loving the romanticism, especially once we finally meet the man in real life. He's far more real than the dream version of him, which keeps the novel interesting and keeps it from being too insta-love and mushy. Of course, there is the drama of Adele's family who have moved closer, her best friend who has grown comfortable with them, and her ex who has stayed close despite their separation.
I did enjoy some of the multiple POVs and I really appreciated that Stylo Fantome didn't focus only Adele and the impact her coma had on her just her, but on all the secondary characters. However a miss for me, and it seems like this might just be an "it's me, not you" complaint, was the addition of her brother's POV's, I really didn't enjoy them. It's almost like there might have been opportunity for other novels to come about the brothers, but ultimately it was combined into one. Their spacing comes across as a bit out of place and I did get them confused as their voices were very similar. I do think it took away from the overall story and it distracted me from the main romance.
"'Always,' she agreed. 'We'll always come back to the place where we found each other.'"
While I Was Away is a clever novel that kept me intrigued from start to finish. The premise itself was interesting enough for me, but Stylo Fantome takes this surreal idea and turns it into a contemporary romance that is impossible to put down. It's the sort of book you finish and you don't immediately pick up another, instead you sit in the feelings she leaves you with. Romance readers looking for something different, particularly those with an interest in the fantastical, will enjoy While I Was Away.
Brittney Sahin fans' most anticipated book in the Stealth Ops series is here, Navy SEAL Asher Hayes fFind this review and others at Carlene Inspired.
Brittney Sahin fans' most anticipated book in the Stealth Ops series is here, Navy SEAL Asher Hayes finally gets his time to shine in Finding the Fight. Asher is the tough guy in the special black-ops team, known for fighting and throwing himself into the fire. He ribs on everyone, but particularly on former CIA officer Jessica Scott. The entire team knows there's sparks flying between the two, but they have no idea just how much. When Jessica is targeted the team agrees to go rogue to stop any future attacks, but Asher? He's willing to do whatever it takes, even if that means ruining whatever might be brewing between the two. As the stakes get higher and the mission gets personal, Asher and Jessica have to decide if they have the will to fight or accept failure.
"He was living two lives lately. It'd been easier back in the day. He never walked the fine line. No need to balance."
The buildup to Jessica and Asher finally putting into motion the chemistry between them has been going on since book one in the series. The side comments from Asher, Jessica's nickname of Peaches, and the great care Jessica takes to avoid one on one time with him has made it all painfully obvious that these two had some unfinished business. Of course, it isn't just lust and flirty banter between these two, there's an unspoken rule that Team Guys don't go after fellow Team Guy's sibling, and Jessica is just that. High-stake ops and dangerous missions, as well as Asher being back around family for the first time in years, really brings out the emotion in him, making him question his mortality and his wants, making him turn to fighting again. Jessica has always been better about hiding behind her walls, but when she's abducted and injured she comes home different, her walls broken a bit, and Asher finds his way in.
"But you need to find the fight inside of you. It's in there. I know it."
I love how sensitive tough guy Asher was with her, all while trying to feed his inner beast with secret fights and making risky moves to protect both Jessica and the world from further attacks. I think Ashers always been a good guy despite his bad boy appearances, I think Finding the Fight really highlighted that about him. We see him with his family, we learn about the events that hardened him and turned him into the stubborn, brash, handsome man we know. Jessica, on the other hand, has been a mystery to us and Brittney Sahin really developed her in this story. We understand her a little more than we had previously and the slow burn of the romance makes it realistic, because old Jessica would not have been on board. Like the previous novels, the secondary characters play a huge role in the story and bring the setting, the team, to life. Not only could I hear Jessica and Asher bantering in my head, but I could picture the guys as they fought against the bad guys intent on wreaking havoc. This book isn't just emotional and romantic, it's riveting, suspenseful, and an action-packed ride.
“'You,' he whisper-said. 'You changed me.' He took a breath and mumbled, 'Whether I like it or not.'”
While Asher may not be my personal favorite of the bunch, he is certainly the best looking and the one who most obnoxiously begged for a story. He's a limelight stealer, but in a good way. Like the man who inspired his image, Jason Momoa, Asher is larger than life and this story brings him back down to earth, giving readers a chance to get to know him and see another side of him. We get to see he's more than just talk and risk taking, he's got a big heart and a past that shaped him. And Jessica? We get to know her in a way that allows us to see what Asher sees in her. They're a perfect fit, even if it took a long time for their roads to finally line up. Finding the Fight is such a fantastic standalone story and an incredible addition to the Stealth Ops series.
Touted as a mix of We Were Liars and Girl, Interrupted, A Danger to Herself and Others caught my attention immediately. The blurb immediately3.5 Stars
Touted as a mix of We Were Liars and Girl, Interrupted, A Danger to Herself and Others caught my attention immediately. The blurb immediately lets us know we're dealing with an unreliable narrator in an institutional setting. Hannah knows how to make friends with anyone, but when her roommate from summer school is in a coma fingers start pointing in her direction. It's just a matter of time, of putting up with the dingy green walls, and making friends with her roommate, everything should clear up no problem. Except the days have turned into months and Hannah's not even sure what day it is or if she's any closer to freedom.
Hannah seems to be, by all accounts, a totally normal teen girl. She's smart, focused on school, and cares an awful lot about what others think of her. She wants friends, she wants a boyfriend, she wants to make it through the summer outside of the four walls she's trapped in. As things start to slip for her I began to realize I didn't know Hannah at all, that we'd been fed half truths from a fictional character. It's an interesting concept, one that allows the reader to look into the head of a character with a mental disability.
I loved the premise of this book, I have been wanting to read a fictionalized story in an institution, but Hannah's story is difficult to process. Hannah is, in fact, difficult to like. It isn't her illness, it isn't her desperation to leave, it is her willingness to use everything and everyone to her advantage. She's selfish and her repetitive thoughts, though obviously explained, gets old. Everyone has a use, everything is a stepping stone, and even when medicated she's focused on where she'll get to next and what she can do to make it go her way. Of course, there are times when I was sympathetic, but it was quickly pushed aside by frustration over her willingness to just continue doing the same. I could've seen this being played in more length and maybe changing my mind about her as she spent more time with her diagnosis. We just spent a bit too much time in her thoughts with very little else going on. All that said, I still couldn't put this book down, Alyssa B. Sheinmel has quite a lot of talent and kept me hooked even when I rolled my eyes.
I recommend this book for readers looking for a pretty accurate representation of teen mental illness that isn't glossed over.
Goodreads and I need to have a serious talk about this disappearing review BS....more
For me, You Only Need One was like a contemporary version of a Lurlene McDaniel novel. Lauren ConnollyFind this review and others at Carlene Inspired.
For me, You Only Need One was like a contemporary version of a Lurlene McDaniel novel. Lauren Connolly tells the story of Holly, a sister fighting to find her brother a new kidney, and Ben, a young man dependent on dialysis as he waits for a donor match as well. A donor exchange program finds Holly as Ben's savior and, with any luck, Ben's cousin will be the perfect match for Holly's brother. The program allows them to spend time together and while each is determined to let their attraction lie low, flirtation and romance blossom between Holly and Ben. Holly knows the risks though, she's felt the pain of seeing her brother lose matches, she knows what it's like to not be the match. A relationship with Ben is a risk, the biggest kind, but saving him and loving him are starting to feel like one and the same.
A quick, feel good read, You Only Need One is a perfect New Adult Romance. The pacing, the slow burn romance, and the honest portrayal of relationships as a youth made me fall in love with this story. Holly is certainly "weird," as Ben likes to call her. She's an organized list maker who takes just about everything personally, but she's also courageous, smart, and incredibly caring. She works through some heavy stuff in the novel, but it made her feel more real. People and their lives aren't perfect and Holly is never portrayed as such. Ben is the handsome nerd who hasn't allowed his silver spoon life to ruin him. He's a hard worker, adventurous, and well on the way to discover his life calling while faced with death. Lauren Connolly works through the mortality of the character's lives uniquely, their relationships helping them along and developing them. I think it made the romance mature and the topic, while sensitive, readable and understandable.
Not a typical recycled storyline NA read, You Only Need One features compelling characters that sweep you into their story with Lauren Connolly's brilliant writing. This was definitely an excellent, quick read for me that I highly recommend to NA fans.
Personal note that may spoil parts of the book if you've not yet read. (view spoiler)[ I have received so many comments and messages since posting my rePersonal note that may spoil parts of the book if you've not yet read. (view spoiler)[ I have received so many comments and messages since posting my reading updates and initial thoughts, so I thought I'd take the opportunity to be a bit more transparent before writing this review. I was sexually abused as a child and when it came to dating as a young adult I really struggled, similar to Sarah my sense of worth and my connection to reality were not what they should have been. I put so much work into overcoming that, but what ultimately change my life for the better was a book, a thing I loved, and I've been unashamed and free ever since. What He Never Knew took me back to a lot of those old feelings and while I cried from start to finish, I also realized that who I am today can handle those memories, those subjects, so much better than I ever used to. Kandi Steiner really tackles the topic beautifully, in such a way that I really connected with Sarah on a personal level and I loved her just as much as I wish I had loved myself when I was going through the same thing. I don't typically advise of trigger warnings, for this book I obviously feel like I have to as it affected me quite significantly, but I also think it's a must read. It's accurate, it's realistic, and it still is romantic. As for myself, I feel like my life is quite beautiful after it all as well and if any of you ever want to chat, I'm an open book. <3 (hide spoiler)]
Reese Walker is a piano genius that shied away from the spotlight and embraced a quieter life teaching piano to youths. He knows a star when he sees one and he doesn't see it in Sarah, the quiet, angry niece of his boss. Sarah Henderson is ready to stop hiding and wants to love the piano again, but it sparks fear in her still, even after being away from her old university for some time. Reese is her one chance to make her dreams happen again and she's ready to fight. When Reese sees that fight in Sarah he recognizes a bit of himself and as he helps her turn her emotions into notes he feels emotion stir in him again, kick starting his heart again after it had been trampled over. They both believe it's wrong, they know everyone else will too, but the feelings they have, the hope they share, it just might be their chance to know happiness again.
"Reese was an entire universe, and the piano was a mere telescope we tried to see him through."
There are books that make you warm and fuzzy inside, there are books that make you angry, and there are books that make you sob in sadness, or in this case, in solidarity. What He Never Knew is one of those reads that quickly became very personal for me, my connection with it may not be the same as it is for everyone else, and I ultimately loved it due to that personal connection. It's very easy to gloss over the ugly, to allow romance to clean up the mess, or to tackle difficult subjects in a way that isn't sensitive at all. I can name on just two hands the books I've read that have tackled the incident in this novel well and What He Never Knew by Kandi Steiner has just been added to that list.
Sarah's situation isn't unique, but Kandi's sensitivity to it is. Sarah is at first despondent, she is defensive and angry, and she has given up the things she loves. She's left university, ashamed and afraid of the incident that occurred. She's left it all behind and now, after hiding, has moved to Pennsylvania to try to train on the piano again. What He Never Knew is her butterfly moment captured on pages, it's her opening up, embracing the beautiful parts of life again, and learning that the tragedies don't have to hold us down. She learns to love music again, to open up, and to trust. Reese Walker, who I loved so very much from the What He Doesn't Know duet, is her piano teacher and while he is significantly older than her he sees that she is wise beyond her years. He sees a darkness in her that he sees in himself, he too finds someone to trust with the things that have weighed him down. He shows her how to harness that pain and while he watches the piano make her shine again he begins to fall.
"He searched my gaze like I was a puzzle with all the right pieces shoved in all the wrong places, and I'd never felt more pegged down in my entire life."
Kandi Steiner is always one of my favorites, she can write angst and love in such a way that you feel it too, but in my opinion this is her at her very best. This story is told in a descriptive, lyrical way, moving much like the piano Sarah plays. It's a story of loss and tragedy, of forgiveness and hope, and of love and strength. I really appreciated the character development in this book, especially with Reese recognizing his poor behavior and Sarah realizing that her initial choice to hide isn't the right choice at all. While it is incredibly heavy, it features the promise of love, a feeling we all know how to cling to. Reese and Sarah, though unconventional, heal one another and no one can deny that their broken pieces fit together perfectly. They bring out the best in one another and even when things are hard they each push themselves to overcome it.
"'For the record,' he finally said. 'I am in your corner.'"
If you are not afraid of an emotional read, get this one in your hands right away. I do recommend reading the duet first, but this book is equally brilliant as a standalone. Fans of Reese will be so happy he finally got the HEA he deserved, but fans of the romance genre in general will be over the moon about the gorgeous, realistic story Kandi Steiner has gifted us.
Tanner, the baby brother in the Sexton media empire made up of three boys, their disconnected father,Find this review and others at Carlene Inspired.
Tanner, the baby brother in the Sexton media empire made up of three boys, their disconnected father, and a dastardly stepmother, is nearing the end of his college years in New York City. It is time for his return to San Francisco, to the threats of selling and the gaping loss of his mother. He knows he'll leave behind his art, his creativity, and his sense of self. He doesn't plan on meeting a girl though, a beautiful muse that makes him crazy, that makes him paint, that makes him fall in love and want to stay.
Harper wants to help the world one fifth grader at a time, falling in love after such a difficult breakup just isn't in her cards, at least not until a man in jeans and a man bun grabs her attention in a room of suits. He kisses with passion, without expectations, and then he leaves her behind. Harper doesn't take risks, but she does on Tanner and the gamble pays off. Their romance is easy when they aren't overthinking and as they tumble together they believe nothing could hold them back. Nothing except San Francisco, Tanner's place in the company, and the secrets buried deep.
"Take me where you go when you want to run away from the world."
Tanner is a standalone, featuring the youngest Sexton brother. Each of the novels starts roughly around the same time, each brother finding a woman and revealing their personal experience with the loss of their mother and the media empire they now partially own. Since I read these in order like a series, my perspective might vary from someone who reads these individually. I think they are excellent either way, but Tanner is my absolute favorite, because it answers questions that have carried over from each book. What is their father's motives for selling? Why is Missy so involved in it all? And what really happened all those years ago?
Of course, the majority of the books focus on the romance between the brothers and their respective partners. Tanner, at just 22, and Harper, 30, are like two magnets that join together in a snap. They share lust, frenzied passion, an appreciation for art, and respect for one another far beyond material needs. There is age drama and there is a fear of love and the next step, yet they each dive in, with Tanner being Harper's guiding light. He cherishes her, he is patient with her, and he trusts her despite everything in his life that says trust shouldn't be so easy. They complement one another, they are the perfect match, and the first 50% of the book, their meet cute and chemistry, won me over completely.
I loved Tanner, it is the book and the brother I will revisit again and again. The story is so perfect, with just the right amount of family and business drama mixed in with the romance. I also really enjoyed seeing all the brothers together, they're unforgettable individuals and as a standalone, or read as a series like I did, they're all heroes you have to meet. Plus, their ladies aren't so bad; they're all mature, successful, and professional heroines that have met their perfect match. There's no saving the princess here, just relationships that take work and love and growth. If you're looking for a realistic romance, Tanner is the Sexton brother to meet.
Secrets overflow between Eric and Harper, and while Eric was broken by the secret revealed to him he sFind this review and others at Carlene Inspired.
Secrets overflow between Eric and Harper, and while Eric was broken by the secret revealed to him he still rushed to the princess' side when a hired gun threatened her life. In a new city, the two are safe for the moment, but the threat and the secrets loom over them. Just as they begin to work together to protect themselves and others another secret threatens to tear them down.
" Kissing her matters. Touching her matters. I'll make her tell me everything and then the secrets won't matter anymore either."
Disclaimer, Lisa Renee Jones is moving us from duet territory into a trilogy, meaning The Princess is very much so a middle novel. This isn't a bad thing, at least not in my eyes, but it isn't want readers expected from the story. Do we get some answers? Absolutely. However, we get even more questions and like every LRJ novel I love, we get even more tension and suspense.
"He promised. And promises don't lie."
In The Bastard we got to know Eric, we learn about what drives him, what he's for, what he's against. In The Princess we see the story unfold from his and Harper's perspective, though the location has changed and the severity of the threat has multiplied. They have a dynamic relationship, the only constants being their lust and desire, no need, for one another. The secrets, the things they know, and the things they think they know, however, truly lead this story in a unique direction. Where there is fear and uncertainty about their safety, there is also a high-stakes push and pull between them. For me, this is my only complaint about the novel, because even as readers we never get any security in the couple we are meant to be rooting for and it brings the tension down a notch as the pacing of the novel does follow their lengthy dialogue. There are too many questions, too many unknowns, and yet I do so love them together.
"Power. It's always been about power."
The Filthy Trilogy takes us on a journey of trust, power, and the ties that bind. No one is safe in this dangerous cast of family members, each climbing to a differently perceived "top." LRJ continues to perfect the balance of suspense and romance, giving readers the angst we love between couples and the strain of relationships between wealthy, corrupt family members. In The Filthy Trilogy we mix business with pleasure.
Messy, heartbreaking, painful. These aren't the words one wishes to use to describe their marriage, buFind this review and others at Carlene Inspired.
Messy, heartbreaking, painful. These aren't the words one wishes to use to describe their marriage, but they are the words that Imogen Walsh and her husband, Theo, are using. At a difficult time in their lives they should be turning to each other, but Imogen is searching for fulfillment at her family's company, contemplating turning her back on the Walsh name and embracing all the expectations that come from walking back into her family's fold. Theo is left feeling much like the sea, crashing and flowing, but never really reaching land. When a chance at the forever love they once wanted presents itself again, Theo and Imogen must choose to either embrace fear or risk losing true love for good.
I have never been married, I have never come from a wealthy family dynasty, and I've never faced the trials and tribulations that Imogen and Theo faced, but I feel like I have after reading Down We'll Come, Baby. Carrie Aarons weaves a heartbreaking tale of love, loss, and the powerful sense of duty one can feel. Imogen is a woman who made a choice for a love, a woman who is now reconsidering what love means for her in the face of pain and the offering of wealth and status. She's a difficult heroine to like, a villian more so than a hurting wife. She is at the center of this novel and while one could easily dislike her, it is also very apparent that she is grasping at straws as her life tumbles in on her. Theo, the handsome, rugged construction worker and husband to Imogen, is the best part of this novel. His love is unwavering, his heartbreak is palpable, and the steps he's willing to take to make things right, to have love, is just incredible. His love for Imogen can only be described as all consuming passion.
Down We'll Come, Baby is an unpredictable romance with so much angst your heart won't stop hurting until the very last page. It features realistic marriage hurdles and while I didn't always connect with the heroine, it has a couple that discovers just how much they're willing to fight for love. It is another well-developed novel from Carrie Aarons, an author whose character development and interactions I always love. It's painful, it's steamy, it's romantic, it's a book you must read if you love romance with a touch of reality.
Music speaks to all of us, a single song can mean something unique to every individual person. MixtapeFind this review and others at Carlene Inspired.
Music speaks to all of us, a single song can mean something unique to every individual person. Mixtape: A Love Song Anthology features the stories that a song tells to the authors featured in it. From the sweet to the erotic, Mixtape tells the stories of lust, loss, and love.
Many of the stories feature characters readers have been longing to hear from and for me, many were new. I had to get my hand on this anthology due to the authors in it, many I have loved for years, but I give this book 5 stars for the authors I didn't know or hadn't read in quite a while. Xio Axelrod was new to me, Toothpaste Kisses being the first taste of her writing, but I plan to devour her other works as soon as possible. Saffron A. Kent, my favorite age gap author, gives us a look at Fallon's future in Guys My Age, and Elle Kennedy takes us on a sweet, hilarious adventure to the tune of Always on My Mind, the Willie Nelson version. Don't even get me started on K.L. Kreig's contribution, I always want more of Kael and Killian.
The stories are all unique, many out of my usual comfort zone, but all fantastic. The anthology is pieced together well, the voices of the characters distinct, the individual story lines fleshed out despite their short length. Each of these stories left me wanting more, just the way an anthology should make you feel. Whether you know the authors, the characters, or they are all new for you, Mixtape is a must read.
Presley Rose thought her life had a plan, at least she thought it did until her junior year of high scFind this review and others at Carlene Inspired.
Presley Rose thought her life had a plan, at least she thought it did until her junior year of high school when her world changed completely. Presley and Nathaniel don't have the best first meeting, he think she's a spoiled brat, she thinks he's the child her father always wanted. Those first impressions stick with them as the years go by, with Nathaniel continuing to call her princess even as he becomes a partner in her father's business and technically her new boss. Presley is going through a divorce, trying to prove to her father she can be successful in his business, and deal with the unwelcome feelings she has overtime she's around Nathaniel. It's obvious they both like each other, but can they put the past they've shared to the side to allow love in?
Oh my word, I forgot how well Claire Contreras can write a romance. I could not put down this enemies-to-lovers story, I loved the push and pull between Presley and Nathaniel. We see some of the interactions between the two as they attend college at the same school, as Nathaniel shadows Presley's father, and in time as Nathaniel takes on an ownership role in the company, but these glimpses only give us a bit of the chemistry that has been brewing between the two. These two are straight fire together, but it is obvious that the path to love will not be easy for them.
Nathaniel has fought his way to the top and while he desires Presley, he still sees her as a spoiled little girl. Presley, having loved and lost, is only fighting to be a good daughter to her father again, but Nathaniel threatens her patience and her time with her dad. Their romance moves fast and is incredibly sexy, but it's only when things stop being easy that they really get to know one another truly. I loved the relationship the two had, their banter made the book just that much better, but more than anything I loved the relationship each character had with Presley's father. He very much so is the father that everyone thinks of as partly their own and it gave this story a personal touch for me. It made everything seem sincere and realistic, so much so that I was very invested in each character individually. And yes, I cried, a lot, I always do when the characters come to life for me and in The Consequence of Falling they certainly did.
Sweet, romantic, funny, and emotional, The Consequence of Falling is a standalone by Claire Contreras that is sure to please all readers. The enemies-to-lovers storyline feels fresh in this book and the witty banter between Presley and Nathaniel gives a humorous touch to an otherwise emotionally charged story. I highly recommend this one to my fellow romance lovers.
Francesca's kiss, the one meant to be bestowed upon her by her future husband, is stolen by a handsomeFind this review and others at Carlene Inspired.
Francesca's kiss, the one meant to be bestowed upon her by her future husband, is stolen by a handsome brute. Now he's stolen her future too, declaring her his betrothed and whisking her off to his gated mansion. He promises wealth and education, but no romance, no love, no happily ever after, not the kind she's always dreamed of at least. She wanted Angelo, a friend, the heir to a powerful family in The Chicago Outfit, what she got was Senator Wolfe Keaton. He's got it out for her father though and things get very twisted. He's not what she wanted, but the notes point to him and as time goes he wears her down and soon she finds her heart tied to his.
"Disloyalty had a taste. It was bitter. It was sour. It was even a little sweet"
Francesca and Wolfe are the sort of couple that, in a book, are meant to be. Their fiery personalities, their clashing perspectives, their beauty are like puzzle pieces that just need matched properly. Francesca, though innocent in many ways, has been a pawn in The Outfit for longer than she even knows. Wolfe, though, is the exact opposite. He's the one that finds the pawns and makes them fit his needs. As humans we don't pair the innocent and the bad together very often, those qualities are not often good things, especially with the type of bad Wolfe is. In books though, these characters thrive together. Francesca inspires a soft side of Wolfe and Wolfe reveals the fierce heroine that Francesca has hiding inside her. Their romance, though not soft and sweet and marred by ugly, burns bright between them and the hard moments push them together. The push and pull between them is realistic, it's a bit dramatic, and it's incredibly romantic. I was drawn in by the two, I loved the power play between them, and I could've easily lived in this book for several more chapters.
I will admit I had some trepidation when it came to starting The Kiss Thief. I love L.J. Shen's work, I love her bastard heroes who find their hearts, I love her strong heroines, and I always love the stories. That said, I am a fierce and loyal mafia and crime romance reader, I have a hard time letting new authors into that circle. I was impressed with The Kiss Thief, I enjoyed that it wasn't as deep into the crime world as many others are. There are times when the details weren't as on point and times where the crime drama didn't have as much fear to it as I've grown used to in similar novels, but it was believable enough for me. I did have some other complaints, particularly with how much emphasis was put on the character's age and how often she did act young, despite touting often than she wasn't. Both are incredibly immature, but it does allows for their growth as individuals and as a couple. We go through some really annoying OW/OM drama, ultimately though we get the romance, the smut, the addicting story that L.J. Shen is known for.
"Our hearts were tarnished. Stained. And guilty. Unpredictable to a fault. And bound to break."
The Kiss Thief is the big surprise release we've been waiting for from L.J. Shen since she first teased it. Wolfe, like many of her other heroes, is all sharp edges, handsome looks, and fierce loyalty. He's the hero you can't help but love and Francesca is the one to reveal his truths. It's a romantic novel with just the right amount of drama and entertainment.
Georgina Keller assumes the name George during her nine to five, determined not to let anyoneFind this review and others at Carlene Inspired. 4.5 Stars
Georgina Keller assumes the name George during her nine to five, determined not to let anyone take advantage of her good girl ways at work. There she wants to be seen as in control and in charge, especially in her new position at Modern Man. Sebastian Quinn lets the headlines speak for him; party guy, ladies man, and daredevil are just a few things they say about the handsome Creative Director at Modern Man. The magazines in a downward spiral though and Georgina is brought in to repair the reputation that Sebastian has created for it. The two clash from the very first moment and while attraction simmers between them neither wants to let the other win.
"I'd come to Newton that weekend certain Georgina hated me. Now I'd gone and missed my shot with her. Did I even want a shot?"
It is probably no surprise to anyone that I loved Right Where I Want You. I am a self-proclaimed super fan of Jessica Hawkins and I buy anything she releases, so of course I was stoked for this book. Plus, it offered us a contemporary romance, one not driven by angst, but more so by chemistry. While the fan-girl in me loved this book automatically, I made sure to leave her behind for this review.
Right Where I Want You thrusts readers immediately into the fast-paced, business-driven New York City streets. There's snippy business women, handsome men in suits, and there's Georgina acting like a bit of a pushover, at least until we see her take charge in the conference room. Sebastian too gives off different vibes, showing a sweeter side to himself until we see him saunter down the office halls. While I didn't quite connect with Georgina's alternate personalities, I loved Sebastian, and I extra loved their insane chemistry. Talk about office romance done right! And if you love enemies-to-lovers tropes, we get that too. Sebastian knows his job is on the line and he certainly doesn't want to give it up to a girl who goes by George, but some of the things Georgina wants to see done make sense and the rest he's forgotten due to staring at her. As they put the bad behind them to give love a chance they discover that sometimes there is some truth to first impressions.
"Finally, I had exactly what I needed to take her out. Now I just had to ignore the disturbing thought that I might rather ask her out."
Jessica Hawkins takes us on a journey of self discovery with hilarious and heartwarming moments that find the characters unable to deny their attraction to one another. Right Where I Want You was the perfect book for me to end 2018 with and if you haven't read it yet, definitely put it on your January 2019 lineup. It's a must read, full of sweet, funny, and sexy moments that'll have you entertained until the very last page.
Where does one start with Christmas Camp? Do I start by telling you it's the perfect Hallmark movie inFind this review and others at Carlene Inspired.
Where does one start with Christmas Camp? Do I start by telling you it's the perfect Hallmark movie in book form? Do I tell you the girl is relatable and Christmas really does bring magic and love into her overworked life? Or do I tell you it's all thanks to the smart dog? Oh, I tell you all of that? Okay, it's all true! Christmas Camp is the story of Haley Hanson and her desire to make partner at her advertising and marketing firm. Only the challenge has to do with Christmas and Haley's idea of Christmas is being poolside with her family...while still working. Meanwhile Jeff is all about the season, even if he wants his dad to give up the camp and move a little closer. He still believes and he's out to prove to Haley she knows nothing about the true spirit of Christmas. She struggles with the activities, referring to it all as boot camp, but as she learns to slow down she also learns how to open up allowing the unexpected to happen. But is Christmas just for a season or is it a forever feeling?
Christmas Camp by Karen Schaler arrived right on time for me. I love the holidays, nothing is better than brisk air, peppermint flavored coffee, and decorations everywhere, but work's had me exhausted lately and my spirit was more Scrooge than even Haley's. This book has everything you could possibly like about Christmas in it. From the decorations to the activities to the sweet, more personal moments, it's exactly like that first, untouched sparkly snowfall. I really connected with Haley's goal to reach the top and her desperate desire to give her parents everything after they had given so much to her. She's lost sight, for sure, but she's got the spirit in her. Jeff is a bit of a tough guy, all handsome and closed off. They bump heads the entire way, but it makes for a funny and cute story that was easy to follow and even easier to fall in love with.
Christmas Camp is a feel good story, the kind you'll want to read again and again. It's more than a romance though and I think readers will fall in love with the secondary characters we get to know during Haley's time at camp. It's the perfect book for the season and while I'm excited to see the movie, I'm more excited to read this year after year as the holiday season draws near.
Bryce Sexton is the workaholic, the demanding one, the brother with no real personal life. AsFind this review and others at Carlene Inspired. 4.5 Stars
Bryce Sexton is the workaholic, the demanding one, the brother with no real personal life. As the oldest Sexton sibling the media empire his mother created has been in his hands since she passed, but with his father and stepmother threatening to throw it all away he's working harder and demanding more of everyone. He's working to keep her legacy alive, but he needs his brothers to help him do it. When sassy, beautiful Tessa catches his eye he finds himself obsessing, she presents him with the rare opportunity to forget about work, even if just for a moment. Tessa makes Bryce open his eyes, she makes him want to live a little, she makes him believe there's a chance he can have more than work in his life. But the Sexton brothers' dad no longer believes in the business and he allows his wife to jeopardize his son's relationship and future.
Bryce is book two in the Sexton Brothers series and while it is a standalone I do personalty recommend that you read Austin first. The novels begin at the same point in time, but Bryce is the opposite of Austin in every way. I liked Austin, but I knew I would love Bryce. He's as handsome in a suit as he is in casual clothes and he's a workaholic, but with a heart of gold. Tessa just flips a switch in him, she makes him want things he used to once want, reminding himself of what he dreamed of and who he really is when not behind a desk. She brings out this side of him that is relaxed, relatable, and very attractive. Tessa, unlike Bryce, is quite a bit more relaxed in her life. She has to have a personal life, she has a child, but she does everything in her life for him. Bryce is the first guy to make her want to make room for something more and he does it in a demanding, but not overbearing way. They click and it's incredibly sweet to see their lives fit together despite how different they are. In this book the one you expect to be afraid of feelings is the one who embraces them, Bryce swoops the girl off her feet and learns along the way that being a workaholic is not all it's cracked up to be.
Bryce is a sweet, sexy romance with just a hint of the suspense that Austin had and quite a bit more OW drama. It's entertaining, a fairly fast read, and not as business-oriented as I thought it was going to be based on my first impressions of the hero. It's a story about family, friends, and love, and learning to prioritize happiness over wealth and legacies. I really enjoyed this book and can't wait to meet the third Sexton brother.
Action packed and just the right amount of sweet, smutty romance, Finding Justice is Brittney Sahin's lFind this review and others at Carlene Inspired
Action packed and just the right amount of sweet, smutty romance, Finding Justice is Brittney Sahin's latest release in the romantic suspense genre. Both a standalone and the second novel in the Stealth Ops series, Finding Justice gives us the story of Owen York, a Navy SEAL special operative with a repressed desire for revenge. On the ten year anniversary of his brother's passing he'd like to be finding the killer, not sunning on the beach, but boss' orders put him there and when the stunning Sam bumps into him he finds himself thankful for the break. Sam is holding back a secret from him, knowing she can't feel more for him, but when she's thrust into the center of a government cover-up she has to rely on him and his team for protection. She knows she's safe with him, but she doesn't expect her heart to find safety with him as well. Tied together on a dangerous mission Owen and Sam fight for answers and fight to keep their hearts protected.
"'You don't have to be nice to me,' she cried. 'Yeah, well, I can be mad at you tomorrow.'"
I loved the first Stealth Ops book and I loved Finding Justice just as much, if not more. While I admit I'm really excited for Asher and Knox's stories, two other special ops members, I found myself really enjoying Owen and Sam's story. I hadn't really felt like I'd known them from the first novel, so they felt new. Sam is incredibly smart, driven, and really believes in making a difference in the world. Owen, while he's got a giant chip on his shoulder, is like the quiet brother of the team, not one for wild behavior, but Sam brings it out in him. This book was like watching them get to know themselves and get to know each other, each having lived in the past for the prior ten years. They have a lot in common and as they work together on an op they find that the things they share in common could only be understood by one another, it's the thing that ties them together in both a positive and negative way. As they overcome danger and work to uncover the past they find themselves in love and what a beautiful love it is.
"He bent his head and kissed her, stealing the truth from her lips, allowing the lie to live."
Every single book from Brittney Sahin is better than the next and I'm not just saying that. She's taken a team of special ops agents, created an action packed world, and somehow she manages to make every story incredibly unique. It's more than bad guys, handsome heroes, and beautiful women who need saving. The girls are strong in their own right, often fitting into the men's world perfectly and bringing their brains to the table too. The men, though handsome and strong, each have deep seated issues that they work through in their individual books. The team is like family, with the secondary characters playing important roles in each novel rather than just supporting from the background. The characters and their stories are complex, and while not relatable, are incredibly realistic and entertaining. It's easy to get swept away by the action, drama, and romance.
If you like your romantic suspense filled with military men and women, fast-paced action, government secrets, and swoon worthy love, Brittney Sahin's Stealth Ops series is for you.