Tag Archives: books: 3*

New York, Actually (From Manhattan with Love #4) by Sarah Morgan

New York, Actually (From Manhattan with Love, #4)ARC received from: Netgalley

Rating: 3*

Chemistry: Low Boil

One-Sentence Summary: “Must Love Dogs” with secrets

Review: This was a bit of a schizophrenic read for me:

+ I love dogs
– I frown upon dogs being used as props

+ Using a dog as a Meet Cute is cute
– Using someone else’s dog to stalk a woman is frankly scary

+ Dogs are cute
– Molly have erotic thoughts whilst watching Daniel stroke a dog made me want to throw up
Molly watched, transfixed, as those long, strong fingers caressed her dog. Her pulse sped forward. Her insides tumbled and turned. And still she stared at those hands, watching as he seduced her dog with easy, comfortable strokes

+ I like New York
– The first few chapters with the repetitious stalking in Central Park made me want to stop reading

+ I loved it when Molly turned up at Daniel’s office to call him on his lie
– There were just so many lies/hidden truths between them

+ I LOVED Daniel’s sisters and Molly’s gay best friends
– I liked Daniel/Molly

+ I love Sarah Morgan
– This book didn’t completely win me over

Overall, what I took away from this book was that it was a bridge to Fliss and Harriet’s stories that I am really looking forward to, especially Seth/Fliss’s.

Just Kiss Me by Rachel Gibson

Just Kiss MeARC received from: Netgalley

Rating: 3*

Chemistry: Low Boil

One-Sentence Summary: A Hollywood actress re-enters her old life when she goes back home

Review: Rachel Gibson is one of the queens of contemporary romance and her new releases nowadays are few and far between. However, no matter how long I have to wait, I’m almost guaranteed to tune in.

From the get-go I felt instantly transported to the South where there are still such things as carriage houses and where family honour is everything. The set up with Vivien being a famous actress going back to her home town and running into her mother’s former employer’s son Henry (NB: different names to what appears in the blurb) was an interesting one.

However, two main things let this book down: First, Vivien’s teenage diary entries. Give me one or two to set the scene but if you must revisit the past in this way then flashbacks are less grating. Secondly, there was overuse of time jumps for my liking. Every good romance needs to make use of some jumps in time otherwise it’s hard to convince the reader that two characters really have fallen in love in such a short amount of time. However, there were just too many stock “Vivien went back to her actress life then came back to be with Henry for a few days” mentions that whilst I believe their get-together was a nice set-up, we never really get to experience how and why they fall in love and we are just expected to accept that it happened during these short visits.

Call me hard to please but when a book’s release date is delayed by more than a year, I set my standards high and unfortunately this just failed to live up to expectations.

Sunset in Central Park (From Manhattan with Love #2) by Sarah Morgan

Sunset in Central Park“I disagree. A book can give you most things a relationship can. It can make you laugh, it can make you cry, it can transport you to different worlds and teach you things. You can even take it out to dinner. And if it bores you, you can move on. Which is pretty much what happens in real life.”

ARC received from: Netgalley

Rating: 3*

Trope: Friend’s brother

Chemistry: Low boil

One-Sentence Summary: A relationship-phobe falls in love with her best friend’s perfect brother

Review: For all those longterm fans of Sarah Morgan out there, you’ll be as pleased as I am to learn that this book revisits the setting and characters from her previous trilogy and a large chunk of the story takes place on Puffin Island. Yay! It was a real pleasure to go back to that idyllic setting and make a pit-stop in the lives of those couples.

For those of you who have never read the Puffin Island books then a) you’re missing out but, b) don’t worry, it’s not a prerequisite to enjoying this book.

Focusing on the central romance in this book though, I have to say I was a tad disappointed. It’s always interesting to read a romance where the guy is more invested in the relationship than the girl and has been pining away for awhile, and I liked Matt for that. However, I have to say he was just a bit too perfect to be a nice match for Frankie.

As for Frankie, I really liked her at the start because we have a lot in common (book > socialising) but man she had enough issues to sink Puffin Island. I get it, we all have issues as do our heroes and heroines, that’s what makes their stories interesting but it seemed that all the characters were focused on in this book were these issues: Frankie herself and Matt and all her friends spent a huge proportion of time talking about her issues, discussing her issues and using her issues as an excuse etc. etc. It just weighed down the book so much for me that when Frankie started to let herself enjoy being with Matt, I wondered if this was even still the same character!

Jackson’s Trust (Fourth Down #1) by @VioletDukeBooks

Jackson's Trust (Fourth Down, #1)ARC received from: Netgalley

Rating: 3*

Trope: Sports

Chemistry: Low Boil

One-Sentence Summary: Starts off as a Lauren Layne-esque romance and ends up being messy

Review: This book was not what I was expecting.

The story starts off with a large dose of insta-love “ohmygod he/she is so pretty I think I’m in love” but then thankfully develops into a heavy dose of chemistry and UST before they act on their attraction.

So far so good. Then comes the reveal of Leila’s secret. That’s dealt with okay and everything is still realistic and in trope.

Then comes Jackson’s secret which adds an interesting twist but again it is handled well and introduces us to characters who will star in their own book later on in the series.

Aaaaand then comes the jump-the-shark moment. Bang, out of nowhere Leila is *SPOILER* shot. Yes, that’s right, with no lead-up or hints she is shot and it turns out she was given her sports reporting job courtesy of Jackson’s half-brother on the basis that when he comes calling she will owe him a favour. Erm, what?!?! Jackson, though still in love with her and apparently believing her innocence, leaves her hospital bed and tasks his friends with watching out for her whilst he goes off and broods. Then there’s some stuff about getting jobs for each other and buying a football team before they get their HEA but honestly by that point I felt like I was reading a completely different story.

I mean the whole Jackson’s villainous brother arc? It would kind of have more impact if we had actually met the guy and Jackson or Leila had some on-page run-ins with him rather than that whole thing coming out of nowhere. *SPOILER*

So overall there were too many time-jumps, spanners thrown in the works and starry-eyed leaps of faith for me to be fully onboard Jackson/Leila’s lovetrain but I’m still willing to give the next book in the series a try.

On His Watch (Search and Rescue 0.5) by @KatieRuggle

On His Watch (Search and Rescue, #0.5)ARC received from: Netgalley

Rating: 3*

Trope: Reconciliation Romance

Chemistry: Damp Squid

One-Sentence Summary: Two former lovers reconnect super speedily during a rescue mission

Review: The idea of this series really excites me but unfortunately I don’t think this book did justice to the premise.

I felt the dialogue and banter a bit childish and I really don’t think this novella needed to include the perspective of the two girls as it is already hard to a) set the premise for a whole series and introduce series characters in a novella b) tell the story and the romance it sets out to tell in such a few pages.

Romance-wise I couldn’t believe how quick Derek and Artemis jumped back into each others’ arms: they lived together in the same town and avoided each other for YEARS and then as soon as they meet up again for the first time in forever they bounce straight into a relationship and happy-ever-after. That combined with the fact Artemis has just gotten out of an abusive relationship meant I simply couldn’t buy into their love.

Fancy Pants (Wynette, Texas #1) by @SEPauthor

Fancy Pants (Wynette, Texas, #1)Rating: 3*

Review: Now who doesn’t like a contemporary romance novel that sees the heroine sexually violated in the first few chapters, eh? I mean is there every a better way to set the mood of the book than that?!

But rather than making me feel sympathetic to Francesca, I spent the majority of the book pretty much hoping that she was going to be killed off.

Dallie said it best when he said: “…if you had a different personality I could even see myself losing my head over you for a few weeks. But the thing of it is, you don’t have a different personality, and the way you are is pretty much a composite of all the bad qualities of every man and woman I ever met, with none of the good qualities thrown in to even things out.”

And anyone who says this about a cat is instantly in my bad books: “The cat’s unrelenting ugliness disturbed her. She had this illogical feeling that she didn’t want to be around anything so ugly, that some of that ugliness might rub off on her, that people are judged by the company they keep.”

And how can I respect anyone who, despite being absolutely starving, spends the $5 left for her on beauty products instead of food?!

Don’t get me wrong, Francesca is undoubtedly both a product of the time the book was set in and written but I just do not like my contemporary romance heroines as being spoilt, vain, childish, whiny individuals. And characters from this time are never just, you know, normal. They have to be caricatures and have extreme personalities and big emotions.

Yes, yes I know she goes through a ‘change’ and becomes more likable but the fact is that we have to deal with Spoilt Francesca for more than half of a book …..

So there I was getting frustrated with Francesca and scratching my head about how I was ever going to make through the rest of the (rather long) book when the delightfully sassy Holly Grace entered and shook things up.

(Now what does it say when I was actually rooting for Dallie to end up back with Holly rather than Francesca?!)FancyPants

And before you know it, there is a huge jump in time and we fast-forward through births, promotions, geographical relocations, friendships and Francesca is given a huge personality transplant. Yay!

So in the second half of the book, my character issues mainly lie with Dallie. Whilst of course I can understand his anger at finding out about Teddy, his concern that he is a sissy and might ‘end up queer’ if he doesn’t play more sports completely enraged me and Francesca’s defence of her son won her a few points (if only she didn’t keep ending up in bed with the now-odious Dallie).

By the end of the book, whilst a part of my shipping heart still lay with Dallie/Holly Grace, I couldn’t help but feel that Dallie/Francesca deserved each other and as for my favourite character in the book, surely it must be Teddy. No contest.

Still, having moaned about all of the above I still managed to enjoy the book. Why? Because SEP really knows how to tell a story, there is dialogue which makes me smile and whilst I usually find huge jumps in time annoying or a cop out, in SEP’s case they are necessary because the reader knows that if they hang on long enough, characters with really ugly and annoying personalities will grow up and turn into beautiful swans.

Second Chance Summer by @JillShalvis

Second Chance Summer (Cedar Ridge, #1)Rating: 2.5-3*

Cover: Yay

Trope: I want to say reconciliation romance but can it really be that when they weren’t together in the first place?!

Chemistry Rating: Damp squid

Review: This is one of those “I’m a massive fan of the author BUT …” reviews so hang on tight.

I am a massive fan of Jill Shalvis but what was this?

I know getting a first book in a new series to be of a high standard is tricky when you’ve got to introduce all these new main characters, recurring secondary characters, the setting, laying the groundwork for future books and romances etc. but this really didn’t work for me.

The main reason it didn’t work for me was not really any of the above but the fact that we were told about the depth of Aidan’s feelings for Lily right from the start. Now if they were childhood sweethearts and actually had a relationship way back when, I can believe that he spent the following years and years thinking of her and pining for her but actually what happened between them is one kiss. Yes one kiss.

Then we have the fact that Lily wouldn’t allow herself to like him because she thought he was Ashley’s (her now dead sister) and she still feels guilty for her death. I get the feeling guilty for her death bit but really why didn’t she just come out and ask Aidan casually whether he was ever involved with her sister.

The majority of the book takes place in the salon or Lily’s flat or up a mountain and the super speed that Aidan and Lily go from giving into their lust to saying “I love you” without a single proper date in between was warped.

The secondary characters introduced were a bit blah. Lily’s friend Jonathan didn’t win any points but I liked Aidan’s mother. As to his brothers and sisters? The two that have me most intrigued right now are Kenna and Jacob. So while I was disappointed with this book, I am definitely not done with this series.

PS. Also seriously how many haircuts/facials does a sexy firefighter really need?! Maybe it’s just me but the salon setting didn’t interest me at all.

Sugar’s Twice as Sweet by @MarinaEAdair

Sugar's Twice as Sweet (Sugar, Georgia, #1)ARC received from: Netgalley

Rating: 3*

Cover: Yay

Trope: Small town Southern romance

Chemistry: Low boil

POV: 3rd Person

One-Sentence Summary: Big city girl almost gets run out of town by a mob of angry grannies

Review: Let’s start by saying that I am a big Marina Adair fan and I love her St. Helena’s Vineyard series. She writes banter so well and those hilarious one-liners which made her Vineyard series so great are present in the first book of her latest series.

Unfortunately, also present are some rather unsavoury characters that no matter how hard I tried were still in my bad book to the very end. Who am I talking about? The Granny mob of course! I get that every small town romance needs to have at least one interfering busybody lady of a certain age but the ones in this book were downright mean. Breaking and entering? Firing a gun? Spitting? Are you freaking kidding me? Josephina handed them with a lot more grace that I would have that’s for sure! I would have had them arrested, locked up and thrown away the key. I get that there must be ‘big cliché’ characters in a book of this kind but there is such a thing as taking the trope too far.

Kudos to the author for giving the ‘rich sporting celeb’ a sport seldom seen in sport romances: golf. However, there’s a reason why golf is seldom the hero’s sport – I’m with Josephina when I say it’s boring as hell so unfortunately that didn’t win Brett any points with me. He did seem like an all-round nice guy but the way he was at everyone’s beck and call made me want to grab him by the scruff of the neck and tell him to grow a backbone.

As to Josephina herself, she was an okay heroine but I didn’t warm to her and I really did just want her to put everyone in their place.

The book was 2*s for me all the way until the 2/3rds mark when it crept up to 3*. However, it was all just too OTT and the characters too clichéd to make me want to return for the rest of the series.

One Night More by Mandy Baxter

One Night More (U.S. Marshals, #1)Received an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

On the surface this book had all the makings of a superb start to a snazzy new series: fabulous cover and set in the not-so-often-used law enforcement world of US Marshals.  However, unfortunately it didn’t live up to expectations.

A huge sticking point for me was the fact that we were meant to believe that after a one night stand, the two of them spent a year pining for each other.  What is even more unbelievable is the fact Galen did this whilst believing she was a cheater.

Which brings me onto the next point: seriously, SERIOUSLY?!  You work in law enforcement and seeing the name ‘Chris’ come up on a phone and you automatically think your girl must be cheating?!  You don’t, say, cast your eye around her apartment to look for signs that another male is in her life, or, you know, give her the benefit of the doubt since Chris could be a woman.

And I think the whole thing would have worked better if Chris actually had been one of Harper’s female friends.  Bringing in her ex-boyfriend for that one scene where he comes looking for his running shoes was pointless.

All that aside, there just wasn’t enough chemistry between Galen/Harper for me to really root for them.  I thought the “suspense” angle was pretty weak as it was obvious who the shooter was from the beginning and the stereotyping of the big bad FBI agent was comical at best.

So overall, great idea but weak execution.

Book: 3*

Cover: 5*

Love for the Holidays Anthology

Love for the Holidays (five book Christmas bundle)Received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

I absolutely adored stories 1,4 & 5 but unfortunately, 2 & 3 really let this anthology down for me.

HOLIDAY HEAT by Noelle Adams

4*

A lovely story about how 2 damaged people find love again with each other

MISTLETOE BETWEEN FRIENDS by Samantha Chase

1.5*

Unfortunately this was a bit childish, both the plotline and the writing – too much pouting for a start.  The dialogue between Cam and Lily was childish most of the time

THE CHRISTMAS COTTAGE by Samantha Chase

1.5*

No more pouting I beg you!

Ava was the biggest brat EVER.

I skimmed most of this which is something I rarely do.

EIGHT CHRISTMAS EVES by Rachel Curtis

4*

I loved the time lapses in this story and the way we saw the relationship between Cyrus and Helen change.  I think the time jumps made this story unique and gave an unusual perspective to a developing relationship.

WHAT ONCE WAS PERFECT by Zoe York

4*

This was wonderful.  I felt like I really got to know Kyle and Laney (both what they are like now and also what they were like during their first relationship).  Laney’s relationship with her sister, mother and nephews was cute as well.  Although I like a HEA as much as the next person, kudos to the author for keeping it real and having them deal with real problems like relocation and finding a job up until the end.

Although pet hate – please learn to spell fiancé correctly when referring to the guy.  🙂

Book: 3*

Cover: 3*