Genre: Friendship

Review: Back to Us by Christi Barth

Posted December 15, 2015 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: Back to Us by Christi BarthReviewer: Holly
Back to Us by Christ Barth
Series: Shore Secrets #3
Published by Carina Press
Publication Date: July 13, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Romance, Family & Relationships, Fiction, Friendship, Love & Romance
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three-half-stars

Ward Cantrell always went for the long shot. But that recklessness cost him his college scholarship and his chance to play pro ball, and—worst of all—it ended his relationship with the girl next door. Neither the town nor the girl has ever forgiven him. Now he's taking one last long shot by opening a boutique distillery on the family farm he inherited.
Piper Morrissey spent high school in Ward's shadow, but she's come into her own in the years since. Maintaining her spotless image, and that of her family's winery, is priority number one. Nobody knows that she still yearns for her golden-boy ex. Or at least they didn't—until Ward agrees to sell Piper the land she needs to start her precious port line. The caveat? She'll need to date him for one month.

Ward hopes a month is all it'll take to convince his former sweetheart that while he's changed, his love for her hasn't. But when the chance arises to thumb his nose at the town that turned its back on him, he can't afford not to reject Piper's offer. Will that make her reject him and his love—for good?

I really love friends-to-lovers and reunited lovers, so this was a win/win since it features both. Piper is a fiery redhead whose parents conditioned her early on to care a whole lot what other people think. Keeping up appearances is really important to her. So is doing a good job at the family winery and carrying on her grandfather’s legacy by creating the Port he always wanted. Her parents want nothing to do with the project, however, and as a result none of the landowners in the area will consider selling or leasing her land for it, since her parents are powerful in the area and no one wants to get on their bad side. Except the one man she wants to avoid at all costs.  Her heart still stutter-steps every time he’s near. She doesn’t need a month of dating to make it worse. On the other hand, there’s a lot of history between them, and if she still isn’t over him, maybe it’s time to explore what might still be between them. If she can get past his betrayal..and her parent’s reaction to him…and the way the town will react to her associating with him.

Ward knows he let the town down when he lost his scholarship and the chance to play professional ball due to an injury he brought on himself, but he wanted nothing more than to go home. When his father passed and left him the family farm – and a giant mountain of debt – he decided to make his dreams a reality and open his own distillery. The business is doing well – though he’d like to expand and can’t – but he still feels unsettled in his life, because Piper is missing from it. Sure, they’re kind of friends, but he wants it all with her – he always has. He was a pretty stand-up guy who did his best to do the right thing. He made some mistakes – like keeping things from Piper – but I understood why he made them.

I have to be honest, Piper drove me crazy for most of the book. For an adult woman of almost 3o, she really let other people dictate her life. Her concern over what everyone thought was silly and immature, and the way she jumped to conclusions about Ward and went off on him based on her assumptions was frustrating. Ward wasn’t perfect, but his regard for her came across clearly. He admired and respected, as well as loved, her. I didn’t get the sense she felt the same; not by her actions.  Oddly enough, I really liked her. She was funny and warm and had a great sense of family. I just didn’t necessarily love the way she acted toward Ward. I did think she redeemed herself in the end, though. She realized she was repeating the same mistakes over and over and corrected them.

There were a lot of loose ends that weren’t tied up. For example, Ward mentions Spencer quite a bit. He was his mentor and the man who acted as a father to him once he went to college. Yet Ward never visits him. Piper questions him about it and he brushes it aside, then it’s never revisited. I would have liked to know why he doesn’t visit and what their relationship is like now.

That aside, I really fell into the story. I loved the friendships the characters had with each other. There were strong family bonds there, even though they weren’t blood related. I also really liked the winery backdrop.

This is the first book in the series I’ve read, but I plan to go back and pick up the others very soon.

3.75 out of 5

three-half-stars

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Review: The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West

Posted July 29, 2015 by Rowena in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie WestReviewer: Rowena
The Fill-In Boyfriend by Kasie West
Published by Harper Teen
Publication Date: May 5th 2015
Genres: Young Adult, Social Issues, Dating & Sex, Love & Romance, Friendship
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four-stars

When Gia Montgomery's boyfriend, Bradley, dumps her in the parking lot of her high school prom, she decides to do the unthinkable…convince the cute guy waiting to pick up his sister to pretend to be her boyfriend for the night. The task is simple: two hours, zero commitment, a few white lies.

The problem is that days after prom, she can't stop thinking about her fill-in boyfriend. But can Gia turn her fake boyfriend into a real one without exposing her lie and possibly destroying her friendships and her newfound relationship?

Smartly observed and wonderfully romantic, Kasie West's talent shines in this tale of one girl's unexpected quest to find love…and possibly herself.

Kasie West delivers another winner for me. It doesn’t surprise me one bit that I enjoyed this book. Kasie West is one of those authors that I will binge read like crazy because I love her stuff. The Fill-In Boyfriend was another great read and I can’t wait to see what she has in store for us next.

Gia can’t believe that she just got dumped by her college boyfriend in the parking lot at prom. He doesn’t even have the decency to walk her in and then break up with her in front of her friends (that don’t believe he exists) and to save face, Gia begs some random guy sitting in his car to be her date for prom and pretend to be her boyfriend Bradley. Sounds kind of dumb, right? Well, Kasie West makes this story line work.

When we first meet Gia and she’s more worried about her friends thinking she’s a liar than about being dumped on prom and then becoming the liar she doesn’t want her friends to think she is by bringing a fake Bradley to prom with her, I thought I wasn’t going to like her but I did. I liked her and wanted her to get her crap together…with Fill-In Bradley.

This book took me back to my high school days because who didn’t obsess over a boy? Seeing Gia’s crush on Fill-In Bradley grow with each passing page had me grinning like a school girl because Fill In Bradley was a great boy to crush on. I loved seeing them become friends and I really enjoyed seeing her friendship with Bec grow. I thought Bec was a far better friend than any of her regular group of friends and she was a great sister to Hayden too.

This was such a fun read and it took me no time at all to read it because I couldn’t put it down. It’s not a book that takes itself too seriously or is bogged down with angst, it’s the perfect summer read with characters that will make you laugh a sweet romance that will make you happy sigh. I definitely recommend.

Grade: 4 out of 5

This book is available from Harper Teen. You can purchase it here or here in e-format.

four-stars

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Review: Once in a Lifetime by Jill Shalvis

Posted July 21, 2014 by Holly in Reviews | 2 Comments

Review: Once in a Lifetime by Jill ShalvisReviewer: Holly
Once in a Lifetime by Jill Shalvis
Series: Lucky Harbor #9
Also in this series: Simply Irresistible, Forever and a Day, It's In His Kiss, He's So Fine, One in a Million, Merry Christmas, Baby
Published by Forever, Grand Central Publishing
Publication Date: February 18th 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Romance, Family Life, Fiction, Friendship, Romantic Comedy
Pages: 294
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four-stars

SOMETIMES WRONG IS OH-SO-RIGHT

After a wrenching loss, Ben McDaniel tried to escape his grief by working in dangerous, war-torn places like Africa and the Middle East. Now he's back in his hometown and face-to-face with Aubrey Wellington, the hot-as-hell woman who is trouble with a capital T. Family and friends insist she's not the one to ease his pain, but Aubrey sparks an intense desire that gives Ben hope for the future.

Determined to right the wrongs of her past, Aubrey is working hard to make amends. But by far, the toughest challenge to her plan is sexy, brooding Ben - even though he has absolutely no idea what she's done . . .

Can this unlikely couple defy the odds and win over the little town of Lucky Harbor?

For those of you who haven’t read a Lucky Harbor book before, they’re split into trilogies. Though this is listed as the 9th book, it’s actually the third in a series about friends Jack, Luke and Ben (It Had to Be You, Always on My Mind, Once in a Lifetime). So don’t let the number of books intimidate you.

Aubrey was a troubled teen and one of the mean-girls in high school. She’s spent a lot of years making mistakes, but when she comes home to Lucky Harbor to re-open her late-aunt’s bookstore, she determines to right past wrongs and make amends for her behavior. In a small-town with a long memory, this isn’t easy. Especially when it comes to one Ben McDaniel, the man she wronged more than any others – even if he doesn’t realize it.

Ben has spent the past five years working in dangerous places, looking to escape the loss of his beloved wife. He’s back home now, trying to decide what he wants to do with his life. When Aubrey’s uncle asks him to help her renovate her bookstore, he agrees just to have something to do.

The two are extremely attracted to each other, but neither is willing to put their hearts on the line. They agree to act on their attraction as long as neither looks for any kind of relationship. Too bad for Aubrey, since Ben’s overprotective nature and ability to read her like no one else really tugs at her heart. She knows better to get attached, even without his warnings. Since she knows as soon as she works up the courage to tell him how she wronged him, he’ll walk away and never look back.

I often feel like a broken record when talking about Shalvis. Her books are comfort reads for me. They’re easy to fall into and blend the perfect amount of humor, romance and emotion.  Once in a Lifetime is another classic Shalvis read. Aubrey’s struggle to make amends for her past sins and her father’s neglect, while trying to earn the trust of the town, mend her broken relationship with her sister and create a friendship with some of the women in town really tugged at my heartstrings. I teared-up several times at the way her family and the town treated her. Her insecurities really made my heart ache.

Ben was really good for Aubrey’s self-esteem. He recognized her hurt and did his best to take her out of her head. His anger at her struggle was sweet. He was fighting demons of his own and trying to rebuild his life in town, but he made time for her. As with all Shalvis heroes, he was brooding and alpha, but sweet and caring. I don’t know how she always manages to write the perfect alpha-man for the heroine, but she pulled it off again.

I love the town of Lucky Harbor, but the constant making-out by past characters bugged me. I don’t like all the matchmaking, either. I get that all the happily married/together couples want everyone else to be the same, but it was kind of ridiculous. On the other hand, I loved the friendships between the men and women. They were really there for each other, and not just while pushing the relationship angle.

Overall this is a a well-rounded story. Fun characters and an emotionally compelling story made this hard to put down.

4.25 out of 5

This book is available from Forever. You can buy it here or here in e-format.

four-stars

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Review: Running Back by Allison Parr

Posted July 20, 2014 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Running Back by Allison ParrReviewer: Holly
Running Back by Allison Parr
Series: New York Leopards #2
Also in this series: Rush Me
Published by Carina Press
Publication Date: October 21st 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Romance, Friendship, Humorous, Love & Romance, New Adult
Pages: 229
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four-stars

Natalie Sullivan is on the verge of a breakthrough most archaeology grad students only dream of: discovering a lost city. Her research points to a farm in Ireland, but to excavate she needs permission from the new owner: the Michael O'Connor, popular NFL running back.

On TV Mike seems so charming and good-natured that Natalie figures getting his cooperation will be a breeze. So she's not prepared to deal with the arrogant—and adamantly opposed—man she meets in person. Or the way one look from him sends shivers down her spine…

Determined to kick-start her career, Natalie travels across the Atlantic and finds herself sharing an inn with Mike, who has come to Ireland in search of his roots. She tells herself her interest is strictly professional, but the more she gets to know him, the harder it is to deny her personal attraction to the sexy sports star. And when Mike confides why he refuses to allow the dig, Natalie must decide if she can follow her heart without losing sight of her dreams.

Natalie is a grad student who is planning a dig in Ireland to search for the lost city of Ivernis, which would prove a connection between Ireland and Rome, something she and her mentor have been working toward for years. It’s become something of a wild goose chase, but she’s done a lot research and thinks they may actually find it there. Only problem? The landowner who agreed to let her do the dig died and left the land to his nephew – New York Leopard’s running back Mike O’Connor.  He denies her request, stating personal reasons.

She decides to go on her trip anyway. Even if she can’t dig – which she hopes will change – there’s still research to do and she doesn’t want to pass up a trip to Ireland. As it happens, Mike and his family are also going to Ireland for the wake of his uncle and they’re staying at the same inn (the only inn).  Despite the tension over the dig, Mike’s family draw her into the circle and the two of them form a solid friendship, which eventually turns into more. But Natalie’s parents have taught her that love doesn’t last, and with the dig still there she knows they can’t last.

This was a fairly enjoyable read. Natalie and Mike were both fixed on their careers and neither was looking for love. They developed a friendship that seemed genuine and included a lot of heavy sharing and emotional support, which made the relatively short timeline of the romance work.

In the beginning Natalie’s assertion that love was a myth rang true considering her upbringing. It started to sound hollow the more their relationship developed, considering the amount of time they spent together and how committed they both were to one another.  It was hard not to feel sorry for her, though, especially once her family dynamics changed. The way she felt about Mike’s family was sweet. He was embarrassed and annoyed with them (as we tend to be with our families) but she made him realize they were a tight, loving group.

Mike was dealing with his own set of issues, namely the drama that came with inheriting the land and a secret about his parents he’d held close for far too long. His pain came through well. It was lovely how Natalie pushed him to open up and let him do the same for her. Both were damaged, which really worked in the context of the story. Their upbringing shaped them both and their family dynamics were interesting.

What was missing was the football. Since this story takes place in Ireland during the off season, there were no games and little from the other players. One of the things I enjoyed most about Rush Me was the football backdrop. It was definitely missed here.

There were a lot of editing issues in this book. Mostly spelling errors, but some continuity issues as well. I was surprised, since I read Parr’s first book, Rush Me, and don’t remember seeing them.

The Irish backdrop, strong friendships and heady romance made this a read well worth falling into.

4 out of 5

This book is available from Carina Press. You can buy it here or here in e-format. 

four-stars

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