Category: Reviews

Review: The Bastard Billionaire by Jessica Lemmon

Posted February 24, 2017 by Rowena in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: The Bastard Billionaire by Jessica LemmonReviewer: Rowena
The Bastard Billionaire by Jessica Lemmon
Series: Billionaire Bad Boys #3
Also in this series: The Billionaire Bachelor, The Billionaire Next Door
Published by Forever
Publication Date: February 28th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 384
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four-stars

A BILLIONAIRE BAD BOYS NOVEL

Beauty and the Beastly Billionaire . . . Eli Crane is one tough bastard. After an explosion left him injured and honorably discharged from the Marines, all he wants is to be left alone. Yet his brothers insist he take a greater role in the family business. They've hired him ten personal assistants-and Eli sent each one packing as fast as possible. But when beautiful number eleven walks through the door, Eli will do anything to make her stay. Isabella Sawyer's employment agency can't afford to lose Eli Crane's business. Her plan: to personally take on the role of his PA, and secure her reputation with the wealthy elite in Chicago. But this beauty and her hot billionaire bad boy soon find themselves mixing business with pleasure in the most delicious ways. And passionate, stubborn Isabella won't rest until she tames this wicked beast . . .

The Bastard Billionaire follows the last of the Crane brothers on that journey to his happy ending. Eli Crane served in the Marine corps until an explosion sidelined him and killed his friends. He’s living with a shit load of survivor’s guilt and the guilt is turning him into a surly, growly man who doesn’t want to have anything to do with the family business or any of the administrative assistants that his brothers keep sending his way.

The thing about family is…they’re not going anywhere and neither is the company supplying all of the administrative assistants that Eli keeps scaring away. You see, Isabella Sawyer has a business that she’s trying to get on the map and she’s not going to let Eli Crane scare away her biggest client, his family’s hotel empire. So if she’s got to do the job herself, that’s what she’ll do and Eli Crane will not scare her away. She’s just as stubborn and determined as he is and he’s going to find that out for himself, first hand.

The chemistry between Eli and Isa was pretty intense right from the very beginning. Eli’s confusion at not being able to scare Isa away along with the niggling doubts in the back of his mind about not even wanting to send her away was fun to watch. He fought that attraction at every turn but fate has a way of shoving you on your ass to make you sit up and take notice. So yeah, I enjoyed this story a lot.

Isa was a strong heroine who worked hard and loved harder. She wasn’t prepared for Eli Crane. She didn’t want to like him because he was such a big thorn in her business side but there was more to Eli than meets the eye and he was too hot for him to think so low of himself. She wasn’t looking for him but once she found him, she wasn’t sorry. She didn’t back away from her feelings, and I loved that so much. She owned her feelings right from the jump and even when she knew that Eli wasn’t where she was emotionally, she didn’t back away from how she felt for him. My heart hurt and then rejoiced for her because she was pretty awesome.

Together, they were fantastic. I adored seeing Eli’s walls crumble to the ground where Isa was concerned and I really enjoyed getting to know Isa throughout the entire book. This was a fun book with great guest appearances from Eli’s family. They were a fun bunch in the other books and it was great to see more of the same from them in this one. I definitely recommend.

Grade: 4 out of 5

four-stars

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Review: Stolen Magic by Marina Finlayson

Posted February 23, 2017 by Holly in Reviews | 2 Comments

Review: Stolen Magic by Marina FinlaysonReviewer: Holly
Stolen Magic (Shadows of the Immortals #1) by Marina Finlayson
Series: Shadows of the Immortals #1
Published by Self-Published
Publication Date: October 18th 2016
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Pages: 262
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three-stars

Lexi Jardine may be a thief, but she’s not stupid. When a crooked fireshaper wants her to steal a ring from the boss of his order, she knows it’s a one-way ticket to sleeping with the fishes. Her answer is to drop off the face of the earth.
Safely hidden in a quiet seaside town, she just needs to keep her head down and pretend to be a regular human. Since her only magical ability is the power to control animals, that should be easy, right?
Then a new fireshaper shows up in town. He’s hot as hell but oddly hostile. With his suspicious eyes watching her every move, her safe haven starts feeling more like a trap. When her best friend disappears, Lexi knows the time for hiding is over. The fireshapers might be more powerful, but Lexi’s not one to abandon a friend. It will take everything she’s got to save them both from the flames.

The world is broken up into Shifters (who change shape), Shapers (who control the elements) and Humans. Lexi is a little more than human, but not a Shaper or Shifter. She and her best friend, cat shifter Syl, have been hiding in a sleepy seaside town for the last several months to escape a Fire Shaper who wants them to steal a powerful magical artifact from the leader of the Red Adept, the ruling Shapers council. When another Fire Shaper, Jake Steele, shows up unexpectedly in town, Lexi knows she should keep running, especially after he takes notice of her and starts asking some pointed questions. She’s happy for the first time in years, though, so she talks herself into staying. As things heat up, Lexi finds herself getting in over her head – spending more time with Jake, meeting Vampires and getting wrapped up in a nefarious plot to steel magic from Shapers and Gods everywhere, In the end she and Jake will have to decide if they trust each other enough to work together.

This was a fun read. It wasn’t perfect – Lexi was almost too-perfect, aside from making questionable decisions (though her best friend often talked her down before she did anything truly stupid), but I enjoyed the premise. The world-building is shallow, but I was interested in finding out what was going on. Finlayson didn’t reinvent the wheel, but the mythology was fun to get back into. The action was good and I liked the budding romance between Lexi and Jake. This isn’t a deep read, but I was entertained.

Until it ended on a cliffhanger. Then I was just frustrated. The conflict was cleared up, but there were a lot of unanswered questions about the heroine and the overall story arc. I really wish this had been labeled as a cliffhanger. It wasn’t labeled as “Part 1”, either, but rather as “Book 1.” That seems rather disingenuous when this read as the first part of a full story.

I immediately bought Book 2, Murdered Gods, but it, too, ended on a cliffhanger (and felt even shorter and less complete than this one did). Book 3 isn’t out yet. I doubt I’ll be continuing the series.

3 out of 5

three-stars

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Guest Review: Cold Sweat by J.S. Marlo

Posted February 23, 2017 by Tracy in Reviews | 1 Comment

Guest Review: Cold Sweat by J.S. MarloReviewer: Tracy
Cold Sweat by J.S. Marlo
Series: Heart & Endurance #1
Published by Champagne Books
Publication Date: February 6th 2017
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Mystery
Pages: 204
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three-half-stars

Can they conquer the mountains and the past in time to save Hope?
***
Seventeen-year-old Hope Craig is deaf and training hard to make the biathlon Olympic Team. But when she is kidnapped from the groomed trails and taken into a remote cabin in the mountains, she must battle more than the elements to survive.

On the hunt for her daughter's abductor, Colonel Amelia Matheson enlists the help of Richmond Morgan, a local sheriff who once hurt her. To find Hope, Sheriff Morgan and Colonel Matheson must untangle a web of secrets, including their own.

Using her wits and skills, Hope sets out to escape the mountains and save the man her mother had sent to rescue her—a man who is not who he appears to be.

Hope Craig is kidnapped while doing her biathlon training.  Her mother is in the Army and is using all of her resources to find her daughter.  When she walks into the local Sheriff station she’s shocked to find her old college boyfriend, Rich Morgan, is the Sheriff.

Rich and Amelia broke up when Amelia graduated.  They had been dating but his rich, snobby parents didn’t like her and gave him an ultimatum – money or Amelia.  He chose the money.  He regretted his decision immediately but still didn’t go after Amelia.  He is a different man now than he was then and has changed his thinking and basically cut ties to his parents.  He’s thrilled to see Amelia again even though it’s under horrifying circumstances. He never stopped loving her and as hard as Amelia tries to deny it, she never stopped loving him either.

Rich works Hope’s case with Amelia but also another one with a local Senator.  When the two cases start to intersect Rich is shocked when all the evidence in both cases are exposed.  There are many secrets that are revealed and ones that will change everyone’s lives.

This was a good little mystery/romance.  I liked the characters in the story, even though I never really got that close with Amelia or Rich.  I did like their background story and all the secrets that were revealed, I just couldn’t get into the two of them.

Hope was a little fighter and I loved her character.  I wish that we had gotten to spend more time with her during the course of the story.  I also liked how the author twisted and bent the story so that three different cases were brought together into one.  I actually think I would have enjoyed this better as a straight mystery without bringing the romantic element into it.  I just found that part lacking.

The end was…odd, imho.  Rich and Amelia were on the road to something good but it was rushed in the end and again the romance left me unsatisfied.  If you’re looking for a mystery with romantic elements than this might be a good book for you, but not if you’re looking for a romance with a bit of mystery – at least in my opinion.

Rating: 3.5/3.75 out of 5

three-half-stars

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Retro Review: Shadow Music by Julie Garwood

Posted February 22, 2017 by Holly in Discussions, Reviews | 15 Comments

Retro Review: Shadow Music by Julie GarwoodReviewer: Holly
Shadow Music by Julie Garwood
Series: Highlands Lairds #3
Also in this series: Ransom
Published by Ballantine Books
Publication Date: 2008
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Historical, General
Pages: 438
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two-half-stars

Throughout her acclaimed writing career, Julie Garwood has captivated readers with characters who are compelling, daring, and bursting with life. Now one of the most popular novelists of our time proudly returns to her beloved historical romance roots–in a thrilling tale of love, murder, adventure, and mystery set against the haunting landscape of medieval Scotland.
For Princess Gabrielle of St. Biel, Scotland is a land of stunning vistas, wild chieftains, treacherous glens, and steep shadows–skullduggery, betrayal, and now murder. Prized for her exquisite beauty, the daughter of one of England’s most influential barons, Gabrielle is also a perfect bargaining chip for a king who needs peace in the Highlands: King John has arranged Gabrielle’s marriage to a good and gentle laird. But this marriage will never take place.
For Gabrielle, everything changes in one last burst of freedom–when she and her guards come upon a scene of unimaginable cruelty. With one shot from her bow and arrow, Gabrielle takes a life, saves a life, and begins a war.
Within days, the Highlands are aflame with passions as a battle royal flares between enemies old and new. Having come to Scotland to be married, Gabrielle is instead entangled in Highland intrigue. For two sadistic noblemen, underestimating Gabrielle’s bravery and prowess may prove fatal. But thanks to a secret Gabrielle possesses, Colm MacHugh, the most feared man in Scotland, finds a new cause for courage. Under his penetrating gaze, neither Gabrielle’s body nor heart is safe.
A gripping novel that delves into the heart of emotions–unyielding passions of love, hate, revenge, and raw desire–Shadow Music is magnificent gift from Julie Garwood and a crowning achievement in her amazing career.
From the Hardcover edition.

******As part of our 10 year anniversary celebration, we’ll be re-posting old reviews that make us cringe, laugh or sigh all over again.

Man, I love me some early Julie Garwood historicals. She lost me with her romantic suspense. I remember being so excited when she announced she was releasing a new historical. I’m still pretty disappointed it didn’t live up to my expectations. I wonder what would happen if I read it now? I might need to reread it and see if I still feel the same. 

This review was originally published January 8, 2008

This is less a review about this particular book and more my thoughts on the writing of Julie Garwood. Casee reviewed the book here. You can check that out for a plot summary and her thoughts, for they mostly mirrored mine.

Throughout her career, JG has remained a favorite of mine. Well, let me clarify. Prior to Killjoy she was a favorite of mine. Her historicals still call to me on occasion and I find myself picking them up at random, anxious to sink into an old, comfortable story, similar to how I might slip on my favorite sweats after a long day at work, or pop in a favorite DVD if I’ve had a particularly bad day.

But after Killjoy, not only did I think contemps were not her thing, I decided her writing itself deteriorated. The last novel I read by her was Slow Burn. While I enjoyed the basic premise behind it, I was sadly disappointed in the actual writing. Sentences were choppy, paragraphs seemed to bleed together, or go in odd directions that made no sense to me, dialogue was stilted, characters were half formed or one dimensional. I thought the plot was an awesome one, and had it been better fleshed out it had the potential to become her best written novel yet. But instead it fell far short.

After that, I decided not to read another of her contemps. I told myself, and others, that I’d buy her again if she went back to historicals, but otherwise I was done with her. I removed her from my auto-buy list and comforted myself with her old historicals, the ones that got me hooked on romance to begin with.

Then the announcement came. That yes, Julie Garwood, historical legend, would be returning to her roots. Love her older historicals or hate them, you can’t deny she’s a basic staple in romance. I was happy to hear she’d be returning, but somewhat apprehensive. Because although the moment I’d been waiting for had finally come, I was concerned about her actual writing style. The way she wove a story back when was unconventional perhaps, but still engaging. I didn’t think she’d be able to return to that, not after seeing evidence of her decline in her more recent novels.

I’m sad to say I was correct. She may have done quite a bit of head-hopping in her previous novels, but the focus remained on the two main protagonists. In this novel, however, she chose to write in a more narrative style than from one POV or another. So I was constantly pulled out of the story by her glossing over things, or seeming to sum things up. Very frustrating.

I’m also extremely unclear about how they H/H came to fall in love. There was hardly any interaction between the two, and what there was was disjointed and…once again, glossed over. There seemed to be no rhyme or reason to her writing. A chapter would start out from one POV or another, and then half-way through she’d jump into a narrative style, summing things up rather than allowing us as readers to follow the progress.

I suppose it would be like me starting a story, in which I use rich, colorful detail and much humor only to say, once you’re engaged and intrigued, “Blah blah, yada, yada, you get what I mean” and then just leave it at that. Frustrating, no?

There were some good parts. When the POV was written from either the hero or heroine, I was drawn into the story. Unfortunately, those parts were few and far between, and when they did happen, they didn’t last long. The basic premise was also a good one, and classic Garwood. Sadly, the point of the plot was lost somewhere in the muddle of switching from one writing style to another, the jumping between characters and places (i.e., from the Barons in England to the clans in the Highlands to the heroine to the hero to the guards of the heroine to her father back to the barons to the king of England, etc, etc) and the mass amount of inconsistencies presented.

A lot of the reviews I’ve read for this book said the Priests provided a lot of comic relief, but I didn’t really see that. Sure, there were some amusing parts, but I think I assumed they played a bigger part in the overall story (with actual read time, I mean) and that just didn’t seem to be the case.

I’m sure I’ll end up buying her next book (assuming she continues to write historicals), just to see if she somehow improves…hmm, or perhaps that’s not the right word. Regresses into her old writing habits? Goes back to being the Garwood I knew and loved? I’m not sure. I have a feeling I’m going to be sorely disappointed when (if) that time comes, however.

On a related note: Ange, The Romance Groupie, posted about this book on Saturday. I mentioned my disappointment in the overall writing in the comments, and she responded with this:

Actually, I’ve noticed that many of the popular authors appear to be going down in the quality department. I’m wondering if it’s the editors, publishers, etc. that are ruining it. It just seems strange that so many great authors have gone bad in the last year or so. Is it just me? Are you seeing this trend too?

I thought about it some, and yes, I have to agree. Some of my favorite authors have seriously declined in the last few years. Could it be because of the publishers or editors? Or is it just simply something with them personally?

Regardless, I’m disappointed.

Even though I said this was less a review and more my thoughts on JG’s writing as a whole, I’ll still rate the book:

2.5 out of 5

You can buy it here in hardback or in eBook format here. When I bought it from Books on Board, they were offering a $5 cash-back incentive, bringing the total book price down to $9.95. I’m not sure if they’re still offering the promotion, but you could email them to see.

two-half-stars

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Guest Review: So Wrong It Must Be Right by Nicole Helm

Posted February 22, 2017 by Tracy in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: So Wrong It Must Be Right by Nicole HelmReviewer: Tracy
So Wrong It Must Be Right by Nicole Helm
Series: Gallagher & Ivy #1
Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation
Publication Date: February 21st 2017
Genres: Contemporary Romance
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three-stars

It’s all fun and games until fantasy gets real . . .

At twenty-seven, Dinah Gallagher thought she’d have it all figured out. Instead, she’s having mind-blowing online sex with a man she knows nothing about and fighting for her rightful place in the family business. Part of that battle means expanding their century-old restaurant by getting the stubborn urban farmer next door to sell them his lot.

But Carter Trask is tired of being pushed around—especially by rich families like the Gallaghers. All he has left is the little farm he’s scratched out of his grandmother’s yard. At least he can blow off steam with the anonymous woman he’s been emailing for the past eight months, who makes his every sexual fantasy come alive—even if it’s only online.

When Dinah suddenly realizes that Carter’s gardens look just like some of her mystery man’s photos, she can’t resist trying to turn her dreams into reality. Against his better judgment, Carter joins in the game. But in real life, passion has a way of becoming very complicated, very quickly. And sometimes the wrong choice can turn out to be oh so right . . .

Dinah Gallagher has had one thing on her mind her entire life: be the Director of Operations at Gallagher’s Tap Room and all the other businesses that the Gallagher’s have their hands in.  Right now she’s working for her Uncle who is the DoO and he’s a complete bastard.  He wants to buys the house/farm nearby and turn it into a parking lot/farmer’s market but the owner refuses to sell.  Dinah believes that if she can get the owner to sell her grandmother, the matriarch of the Gallagher family, would make her DoO.  She heads over but Carter Trask is totally stubborn and refuses.

Dinah heads home looking forward to some online sex with the man she’s been having it with for the past 8 months.  They fool around as their alter egos D & C but something sticks in Dinah’s mind and she looks at his blog again – the way they hooked up in the first place.  She takes a look and realizes that the pictures that C has online of his farm look exactly like Carter Trask’s farm!  She heads to Carter’s and confronts him.  They are shocked but soon decide that they can have sex for real as D & C and leave Carter and Dinah separate.  That doesn’t exactly work and soon feelings are involved which muddles everything.  Can these two supposed enemies be able to work out a relationship when there’s so much against them from the start?

This book had a good premise.  Those who are supposed enemies but trying to make a relationship work.  Something always gets in the way and it did in this instance too.

Dinah and Carter dislike each other intensely but D & C are fine in the bedroom.  They tried so hard to have one or the other but of course no one can live their live their life like that.  Eventually the two parts of their lives had to come together and when they did they had to work out how what they were going to do about it.  I liked the compromise that they made and how they worked with each other to find a common ground.  I guess what I really didn’t like was Dinah.  They were good together but she made me absolutely nuts.  That woman needed a club to the head to knock some sense into her.  She lost her cousin/best friend because of her stubbornness and she still pushed forward to get what she wanted.  I couldn’t really reconcile her work self with her off-work self.  They were such polar opposites that it almost didn’t seem like the same person.  The ending of the book when we got the solution to everything wrapped up with a bow was completely rushed imho.  It was a decision made and then the end.  It definitely felt like there was something missing.

Overall I enjoyed the book but it certainly wasn’t fabulous for me.

Rating: 3 out of 5

three-stars

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