Genre: Contemporary

Guest Review: If I Didn’t Know Better by Barbara Freethy

Posted April 20, 2017 by Tina R in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: If I Didn’t Know Better by Barbara FreethyReviewer: Tina
If I Didn't Know Better by Barbara Freethy
Series: Callaways #9
Published by Fog City Publishing LLC
Publication Date: August 26th, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 323
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four-stars

The New York Times bestselling family series The Callaways continues with the first book in the Callaway Cousins Series, IF I DIDN’T KNOW BETTER, another heartwarming and page-turning romance by #1 NYT Bestselling Author Barbara Freethy.

Mia Callaway thought she had the perfect guy and the perfect job…until she didn’t. After a run of bad luck, Mia is looking for an escape, so she agrees to go to Angel’s Bay to clean out her aunt’s house. She has no idea that the wounded soldier next door and his adorable, but also wounded, daughter are about to change her definition of perfect. Add in stolen art, a family secret, and a town where miracles can happen, and Mia’s escape turns out to be the greatest adventure of her life.

Although I have read a couple of books by Barbara Freethy in the past, I don’t recall that any of them were part of The Callaways Series. To be completely honest, I usually don’t try to invest in series books as I find that I tend to get bored after awhile. But, of all the series books that HAVE captured my attention, I have read every single one in the series because they are just that good. After reading If I Didn’t Know Better, I feel like I need to start at the beginning and get to know the Callaways better!

I immediately found myself falling in love with Angel’s Bay. Barbara made this town so welcoming and real, and then filled it full of interesting and engaging people that I could only wish I had in my own town. There is nothing better than finding a story that is set in a charming locale and reading about characters that you wish could be your friends. These are the elements that make me want to tackle an entire series.

If I Didn’t Know Better, from my understanding, is the 9th book in The Callaways Series, and the 1st book of The Callaway Cousins. The book was a quick and enjoyable read that flowed seamlessly and had a good storyline that kept me interested.

I would like to thank The Barbara Freethy Review team and Melissa S. for giving me the opportunity to review this book. I would definitely recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading light-hearted romances with likeable and realistic characters. My TBR stack is already increasing with many of Barbara’s books as I look forward to learning more about the Callaways!

I really enjoyed this sweet romance. I give this one a 4 out of 5 stars.

four-stars

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Review: The Thing about Love by Julie James

Posted April 17, 2017 by Rowena in Reviews | 4 Comments

Review: The Thing about Love by Julie JamesReviewer: Rowena
The Thing About Love by Julie James
Published by Berkley
Publication Date: April 18th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 368
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four-stars

Two undercover FBI agents can hide who they are from everyone but each other in the latest novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Suddenly One Summer.

FBI agents Jessica Harlow and John Shepherd have a past. The former lawyer and cocky Army ranger clashed during their training at Quantico, gladly going their separate ways after graduating from the Academy. Six years later, the last thing either of them expects is to run into each other again–assigned to work as partners in a high-profile undercover sting.

For both of them, being paired with a former rival couldn’t come at a worse time. Recently divorced from a Hollywood producer and looking for a fresh start, Jessica is eager to prove herself at her new field office. And John is just one case away from his dream assignment to the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team. In order to nail a corrupt Florida politician, they’ll have to find a way to work as a team–a task that becomes even trickier when they’re forced to hole up at a romantic, beachfront resort as part of the investigation. Suddenly, the heat behind their nonstop sparring threatens to make the job a whole lot more complicated. . .

Julie James has been a favorite of mine since she was a newbie romance novelist with the release of her very first book, Just the Sexiest Man Alive. Every year she has written a book that I absolutely loved and all these years later, she’s still writing books that I enjoy. As a reader, that makes me a happy camper because who doesn’t love enjoying book after book from their favorite authors?

Anyway, The Thing about Love is another fabulous addition to James’ backlist and it follows a couple of new to us FBI special agents who work for, wait for it….Nick McCall who is not a new to us character. 🙂 So while this book doesn’t follow our normal FBI Squad, we do see a bunch of them around and my inner FBI/US Attorney’s fangirl squeed with joy.

So the story starts out with John Shepherd walking in on some bad news at home so he throws himself into work. The best way to get over betrayal is is to drown yourself in work, right? Well, that’s what John does and he also decides that maybe a change would be good for him. He accepts the offer to join a huge task force in Virginia but he’s got one last undercover job that he has to do before he leaves and that job’s got him partnered up with a woman he went to FBI school with at Quantico. The girl that he had a huge crush on but didn’t return so instead of spending some happy time with each other, they spent the entire time trying to one up each other and that relationship follows them to their new undercover gig all these years later.

Jessica Harlow isn’t a fan of being partnered up with John Shepherd on this job but she’s a professional and she can handle him. She remembers John as being the douche canoe from class that was heaps better than everyone at everything and lorded his superior skills around, especially toward her. Especially when she was shooting guns and lagging behind everyone else in all of the physical aspects of the FBI. All these years later, she’s great at every part of being an FBI special agent and he can choke on all of his “encouragement”.

The chemistry between these two from the very beginning was sizzling. I ate every scene up and even when I wanted to pull Jess’ hair (because let’s face it, she’d beat my ass so that’s the extent of what I thought about doing to Jessica Harlow), I loved reading this book. It was fun and the romance was hot so I was entertained which makes the book a winner for me. It took me no time at all to dig into this book and I was invested in both John and Jess from the very beginning. There were times when a lot of the FBI jargon went over my head but mostly, it was just entertaining. I liked it a lot.

I definitely recommend this book if you enjoyed the other books by Julie James. It’s fun, it’s fresh and there’s lots of eye candy (old and new) so what’s not to love?

Grade: 4.25 out of 5

four-stars

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Author Interview: Julie James Dishes About the FBI and The Thing About Love!

Posted April 17, 2017 by Holly in Giveaways, Promotions | 10 Comments

Today we’re excited to have Julie James here to answer some questions about THE THING ABOUT LOVE (Berkley Romance, April 18, 2017). If you haven’t pre-ordered it, you must! It was such a wonderful read. Full of witty banter, with an exciting plot, it’s not to be missed.

Author Interview: Julie James Dishes About the FBI and The Thing About Love!The Thing About Love by Julie James
Published by Berkley
Publication Date: April 18th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 368
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads

Two undercover FBI agents can hide who they are from everyone but each other in the latest novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Suddenly One Summer.

FBI agents Jessica Harlow and John Shepherd have a past. The former lawyer and cocky Army ranger clashed during their training at Quantico, gladly going their separate ways after graduating from the Academy. Six years later, the last thing either of them expects is to run into each other again–assigned to work as partners in a high-profile undercover sting.

For both of them, being paired with a former rival couldn’t come at a worse time. Recently divorced from a Hollywood producer and looking for a fresh start, Jessica is eager to prove herself at her new field office. And John is just one case away from his dream assignment to the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team. In order to nail a corrupt Florida politician, they’ll have to find a way to work as a team–a task that becomes even trickier when they’re forced to hole up at a romantic, beachfront resort as part of the investigation.

Suddenly, the heat behind their nonstop sparring threatens to make the job a whole lot more complicated. . .

 

 

 

Order the Book:

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Interview

Is it true that you were once interested in a career with the FBI?
Yes! I went to law school with the thought of possibly becoming an FBI agent. My first semester of law school, I met with an FBI recruiter, and he told me I was ineligible because I didn’t meet the vision requirements. (I’d planned to have Lasix surgery, but back then, that didn’t count—a rule that has since been changed.) While I was discouraged at the time, becoming a trial lawyer turned out to be a good fit for me. And, knowing what I do now, I’m not sure I would’ve made it through the PT part of the FBI Academy. 🙂

What research did you do for THE THING ABOUT LOVE?
I had to do research into the FBI Academy, and the Hostage Rescue Team. The FBI has some information about Selection and HRT on their website, but I also had to rely on news articles about the Team, and I read a memoir written by a former HRT operator.

I also had to do research on the specifics of the undercover investigation in the book, so that I knew what my heroine and hero would actually be doing. The case in the book is loosely based on a real-life case: the mayor of Charlotte, NC was arrested and convicted for accepting bribes in a manner similar to the mayor in my case. For research, I pulled news stories about the Charlotte mayor’s trial, court hearing transcripts, and press releases from the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s office.

Your female characters always have the best quips and comebacks. What inspires your dialogue?
I’m a film buff, and I started my writing career with screenplays. I think my focus on dialogue stems from that. And I think all of my heroine/hero pairings have a dynamic that’s one part Elizabeth Bennet/Mr. Darcy and one-part Princess Leia/Han Solo.

Why do you enjoy about writing about talented, career-focused women who find love?
I write women who are like the women I know. The “finding love” part of those stories comes from being a longtime fan of romantic comedies.

 

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About the Author

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | PINTEREST | TUMBLR | GOODREADS

Julie James is the New York Times bestselling author of six previous novels. James graduated from the University of Illinois College of Law and clerked for the United States Court of Appeals in Jacksonville, FL. She lives in Chicago with her family. Learn more at juliejames.com, Facebook.com/JulieJamesFanPage, and Twitter.com/juljames.

 

Meet Julie

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Retro Review/Rant: Can’t Stand the Heat by Louisa Edwards

Posted April 12, 2017 by Holly in Reviews | 15 Comments

Retro Review/Rant: Can’t Stand the Heat by Louisa EdwardsReviewer: Holly
Can't Stand The Heat by Louisa Edwards
Series: Recipe for Love #1
Published by Macmillan
Publication Date: September 1st 2009
Genres: Fiction, Romance, Contemporary
Pages: 368
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one-star

For sharp-tongued food critic Miranda Wake, the chance to spend a month in Adam Temple's kitchen to write an exposé is a journalistic dream come true. Surely Miranda can find a way to cut the hotshot chef down to size once she learns what really goes on at his trendy Manhattan restaurant. But she never expected Adam to find out her most embarrassing secret: she has no idea how to cook.

Adam's not about to have his reputation burned by a critic who doesn't even know the difference between poaching and paring. He'll just have to give the tempting redhead a few private lessons of his own—teaching her what it means to cook with passion...and doing more with his hands than simply preparing sumptuous food.

*****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.

This review/rant was originally posted on October 29, 2009.

WARNING: This review contains a major rant about the heroine. It will contain strong language and spoilers for the story. Read on at your own risk.

I’ve mentioned before that I generally have a dislike for heroines who are journalists. I’ve made some exceptions, but generally I try to stay away from novels featuring them, because I know I have a personal bias and I don’t want that to color my reading experience. I chose to pick this one up anyway because Miranda Wake is a food critic, rather than an investigative journalist (the type I generally have the biggest issues with). Also? It’s a foodie book and I’m a huge foodie.

I went into this expecting one thing, and got something else entirely.

Miranda Wake is a bitter food critic who desperately wants a book deal. On the pre-opening night of a new restaurant, Market, she gets blitzed and has it out with the Exec Chef and Owner, Adam Temple. She hasn’t even had his food yet, but she’s already spouting off about how he’s pretentious and his food sucks. So he challenges her to spend just one night in his kitchen, thinking to shut her up. Only she accepts.

Then his investor gets together with her editor and they decide she’ll stay for a month. Which is when she gets a book deal; she’s to write a book “dishing” about Adam Temple and what really goes on in his kitchen. While Miranda is busy digging up dirt on Adam and the entire staff, she finds herself falling in love with him. Which I completely understood, because I adored Adam.

He was sweet and adorable, with a strong sense of right and wrong. He was probably the best part about this book. I loved that even though he had preconceived notions about Miranda he set them aside and judged her on his own observations. I loved that he was tough but fair in the kitchen. I loved that he hired chefs based on their merits as cooks, rather than their diplomas or schooling. He had a somewhat gruff exterior, but inside he was kind and loving.

I absolutely adored the secondary characters. The entire kitchen staff came alive for me. I really felt like I was right there with them, laughing and joking and cooking fabulous food. They were a rag-tag bunch, but they really brought flavor and spice to the story.

As a side story, Miranda’s younger brother, Jesse, turns up from college (somewhere in the Midwest) saying he’s not going back. He gets a job at Market working as a server. As it turns out, he’s gay and falls in love with one of the sou chefs, Frankie, which Miranda hates. She thinks Frankie corrupted and tempted her poor straight brother into being gay.

I thought the story with the brother was cute, though I did struggle with his age quite a bit. He’s only 19. The problem is I wasn’t as bothered by that as I felt I should have been. Especially since Frankie is quite a bit older than him. Why is it that I’m willing to forgive a 19yo hero when he’s gay, but wouldn’t forgive a 19yo heroine (in a contemp) regardless? Once I got past that, though, I really enjoyed his part of the story.

So at this point in the book Miranda comes off as bitter, cynical and jaded. She’s also a complete control freak. Which is fine. I could have dealt with that if it had been one of the centerpieces of the story – how Miranda grew up. Unfortunately I didn’t find that to be the case.

Because at the end? She SAYS SHE LOVES HIM AND STILL SUBMITS THE FUCKING BOOK.

WHAT THE FUCK!?!?!?!?!

Her reason for doing so? She needs the money so she can pay for her brother to go to NYU. The problem? She only wants to pay for it to get him away from Frankie so he’ll go back to being “normal” instead of “gay”. Not only that, but he specifically told her he didn’t want her paying for his tuition. He said he wanted to be a responsible adult and contribute something himself. I understand that she wanted to help him as much as she could, but she SOLD OUT THE MAN SHE LOVED AND ALL HIS FRIENDS/EMPLOYEES to do it.

WHAT THE FUCK?!?!?!?!?!

And the best part? The only person she has to rely on and go to for support during this whole thing with her brother is Adam. She leans on him and lets him support her and SAYS SHE LOVES HIM AND THEN SELLS HIM OUT IN A CHEAP FUCKING BOOK!

WHAT THE FUCK?!?!?!?!?!

The thing is, I loved everything else about the book. The kitchen setting, the secondary characters, the hero. I even loved that the author included some of the recipes she used in the book (I’m sooo going to try them). I’m trying to decide if the heroine ruined the book for me, or if I can move past what she did. Right now I’d probably grade it:

3 out of 5 for the overall story, setting and characters
Bold
1 out of 5 for the heroine (maybe even a -1)

I did enjoy parts of it enough to want to read the next book in the series, On the Steamy Side, which will be available March, 2010.

Book CoverBook Cover

This book is available from St. Martin’s. You can buy it here or here (I’m not including a link to buy in e-format b/c I think St. Martin’s has terrible e-pricing. The paperback is $6.99 but the e-book is $14. WTF St. Martin’s? W.T.F?).

one-star

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Review: Broken by Lauren Layne

Posted April 4, 2017 by Rowena in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Broken by Lauren LayneReviewer: Rowena
Broken by Lauren Layne
Series: Redemption #1
Published by Flirt
Publication Date: September 2nd 2014
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Pages: 252
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three-half-stars

Lauren Layne’s New Adult novel tells the story of a girl with secrets, a guy with scars, and a love that could save them both... or destroy them.

When Olivia Middleton abandons the glamour of Park Avenue for a remote, coastal town in Maine, everyone assumes she’s being the kind do-gooder she’s always been. But Olivia has a secret: helping an injured war veteran reenter society isn’t about charity—it’s about penance. Only, Olivia’s client isn’t the grateful elderly man she’s expecting. Instead, he’s a brooding twenty-four-year-old who has no intention of being Olivia’s path to redemption . . . and whose smoldering gaze and forbidden touch might be her undoing.

Paul Langdon doesn’t need a mirror to show him he’s no longer the hotshot quarterback he was before the war. He knows he’s ugly—inside and out. He’ll do anything to stay in self-imposed exile, even accept his father’s ultimatum that Paul tolerate the newest caretaker for three months or lose his inheritance. But Paul doesn’t count on the beautiful twenty-two-year-old who makes him long for things that he can never have. And the more she slips past his defenses, the more keeping his distance is impossible.

Now Paul and Olivia have to decide: Will they help each other heal? Or are they forever broken?

Broken is the second book in the Redemption series by Lauren Layne. It’s another solid contemporary New Adult book about two people falling in love while one is returning to the land of the living and the other is looking for redemption.

Olivia Middleton has betrayed her boyfriend and she hasn’t been able to get over it so in an effort to redeem herself, she takes a job caring for a war veteran who was injured overseas. She needs to give back to someone in need to wipe the smear that has tainted her reputation ever since she kissed Michael and cheated on her ex-boyfriend, Ethan Price. When she arrived in Maine, far away from New York, she was expecting to care for an older veteran but the hot grumpy guy before is her charge and she’s not at all sure what to do with this unexpected attraction.

Paul Langdon is living with survivor’s guilt and it’s chasing everyone out of his life. He’s scared off caretaker after caretaker and no matter what he does, his rich father keeps sending new ones his way. He doesn’t want to be around people. He’s got scars that are both on the inside and the outside and all he wants is to be left alone. When Olivia comes to live with him, his father made it clear that this is the last one. If he can’t or won’t let Olivia help him, then he’ll be cut off and disinherited. Paul has reasons for needing the money and so he’s got to let the gorgeous new, close to his age caretake, take care of him.

They don’t get along at first because Paul is a dick but Olivia is a lot stronger than she looks and he doesn’t scare her away. She’s got redemption on her mind and he’s not going to take that away from her. She’s going to bicker her way through his defenses and she’s going to help him get better, even if it kills her.

This book was a lot different from Isn’t She Lovely. The tone was less playful and a little darker. Olivia is Belle and Paul is the Beast. She goes to live at his fortress and she melts him with every day that they spend together. Their romance in the end was lovely but there were times when I wanted to punch Paul in his junk. He was stubborn and willful and sometimes a little cruel because that shit that he pulled with Michael? That shit was not funny.

Olivia was hard to take at times too but in her heart of hearts, she was a good heroine. She never meant to hurt anyone, least of all, Ethan. She learns a lot about herself and she grows the heck up in this book and I was glad for it. She faces some truths about herself that were hard to take but she didn’t back away from these life lessons and that made me happy for her in the end.

Paul comes around as well. He was a real beast in the beginning and even in the middle but in the end, he comes out of the dark and he really turns his life around. His love for Olivia was real and it was big and it redeemed him in my eyes.

Overall, this story was a solid read with hard times to get through. The romance was passionate, and it was real and I adored both characters in the end. Lauren Layne did a great job of bringing these two opposites together in a way that was believable and right. It’s not my favorite book in the series but it was still a good one. I just love this woman’s writing to pieces. She’s so stinkin’ good at what she does. I hope she writes forever. If you haven’t given this series a try, you should fix that.

three-half-stars

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