Genre: Romance

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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Guest Review: Otherworld Renegade by Jane Godman

Posted March 30, 2017 by Jen in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: Otherworld Renegade by Jane GodmanReviewer: Jen
Otherworld Renegade by Jane Godman
Series: Otherworld #2
Also in this series: Otherworld Protector, Otherworld Challenger
Published by Harlequin Nocturne
Publication Date: May 1st, 2016
Genres: Paranormal, Romance
Pages: 304
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four-stars

Claiming her felt like his destiny…but could prove to be his ultimate undoing.

Desperate to flee a horrific arranged marriage, Princess Tanzi turned to the only man who could help. Lorcan Malone, infamous necromancer, had vowed to come to her aid whenever she needed him. And even as they traveled from the mortal world into the fantastical Otherworld, Tanzi knew her true need ran deeper than just a rescue.

She was his enemy’s daughter. A renegade like Lorcan had no business craving a Fae princess, one intended for a greater calling. Yet he was powerless to resist the pull to do more than protect Tanzi…

Back to the Otherworld and my favorite book in the series! As I mentioned in my review of book 1, things get more exciting in book 2. We met Lorcan in Otherworld Protector, but here we get to know him even better. He’s a friend of Cal’s and a powerful necromancer in his own right. He’s a comedian who can always lighten the mood, but of course it hides the fact that he’s tortured and can never love anyone. In the big final battle in book 1, Lorcan saved Tanzi Moncoya, the daughter of the evil Faerie King. Tanzi stayed behind after her father escaped and started participating in the new reconstruction government Cal and Stella were organizing, but when her father arranges a truly despicable marriage for her, she knows she has to run. Unsure about who to trust, she runs to the human world and to Lorcan, hoping he’ll save her again. When it becomes clear she can’t hide, Lorcan agrees to help her escape to the one place her father could never reach her. But will either of them be able to let go once they get there?

My favorite part of the book was Tanzi. She and her sister Vashti were groomed their entire lives to serve Moncoya. Both trained with the Valkyries and are brutal fighters, and Moncoya used them as propaganda tools to intimidate and awe his enemies. Both girls also knew that some day they’d be expected to marry to further their father’s ambitions. Moncoya was a cruel and love-less father, but until he left they didn’t realize the scope of his evil activities. At the start of the book, Tanzi feels torn because he’s still her dad, but the marriage he arranges finally lifts the veil from her eyes, and she understands he is just plain a bad guy. Throughout the book she learns even more about the truly awful things her dad has done, and she has to come to terms with the role she played in his power, even if it was largely inadvertent. Even though she’s a trained warrior, she’s mostly lived a sheltered life, and it was nice to see her take control of her own destiny and have new experiences. I found her story very compelling. I really liked Lorcan and Tanzi together, too. Lorcan is patient and thoughtful, especially once he recognizes Tanzi’s life wasn’t what he thought. Seeing them come together, despite the fact that they both knew it was probably not a good idea, was sweet. Lorcan is also really committed to helping Tanzi on her quest, and their dangerous journey was exciting and gave a lot of time for them to fall in love.

Annoyingly, there’s a secret Lorcan keeps from Tanzi throughout the book, and it was kind of silly. First, the secret isn’t even that big a deal, and I don’t know why Lorcan thought Tanzi couldn’t handle it. Second, instead of having a conversation about it Tanzi pushes Lorcan away and of course ends up in danger. It was contrived and frustrating. In my review for book 1, I had mentioned that this felt like the kitchen-sink of mythology, mixing tons of different myths, stories, and traditions, and that continued here. The problem is, these are category romances, so there’s just not the page space to go too deep. Consequently, it felt like everything was painted with big broad strokes (both characters and the world) instead of finely wrought details. It’s maybe a little too ambitious to take on in a shorter book, even a trilogy.

But still, I am having such a good time reading these books! They aren’t perfect, but boy are they fun. They hit the right notes of adventure/paranormal/fantasy/romance for me, and I love the premise and the characters.

Grade: 4 out of 5

four-stars

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Guest Review: The Unyielding by Shelly Laurenston

Posted March 30, 2017 by Jen in Reviews | 1 Comment

Guest Review: The Unyielding by Shelly LaurenstonReviewer: Jen
The Unyielding by Shelly Laurenston
Series: Call of Crows #3
Also in this series: The Undoing
Published by Kensington
Publication Date: March 28th 2017
Genres: Paranormal, Romance
Pages: 400
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four-stars

Stieg Engstrom, Angriest Viking Ever, has got big problems. The human Viking Clans of earth are in danger of being obliterated—along with the rest of the world—and the only one who may be able to save them is a super pain-in-the-ass Crow. Most people annoy Stieg, but this is the one woman he really can’t stand…

Erin Amsel loves being a Crow! Why wouldn’t she when the other Viking Clans are so hilariously arrogant and humorless? She’s not about to let all that come to an end! She just didn’t expect to be shoulder to shoulder in battle with Stieg. Then again, he’s so easy to torment—and also kind of cute.

With the future of the world riding on them, Stieg knows he’ll have to put aside his desperate need to kiss the smirk right off Erin’s face. Wait. What? He didn’t mean that—did he? No! They have one goal: To conquer the idiots. Because nothing bugs Stieg more than when idiots win. If only he can keep himself from suddenly acting like one….

Another Call of Crows book, and another review from me gushing about how much I love this series!

We finally get Erin Amsel’s book! For those who’ve haven’t been reading along I won’t waste time with too much summary, but the very abbreviated version is that the Viking Clans, who are each in service to a different Nordic god/goddess, have to work together to stop the rogue goddess Gullveig from bringing about Ragnarok (the Viking end of the world). It turns out that the only one who even might be able to stop her is Erin, and she has to go on a quest to get the tools she needs to do it. She’s aided by Stieg Engstrom, a grumpy, fierce Viking who REALLY doesn’t like Erin (or at least that’s what he thinks). Erin and Stieg have to journey to the very edge of hell while the Crows and the rest of the Clans have to prepare for a battle to save the world.

Erin, as we are repeatedly told by literally everyone in this series including Erin herself, is a dick. She loves to stir the pot, never hesitates to speak her mind, and has basically little filter between her brain and her mouth. She isn’t  exactly malicious, but nor does she particularly care if what she says or does hurts anyone’s feelings. It has ensured nearly every other Clan can’t stand Erin, and even her Sister Crows want to murder her more often than not. (Don’t be alarmed though–pretty much everyone wants to, or explicitly tries to, murder someone else in these books at some point! These are violent, crazy fairytales!) I have totally enjoyed Erin right from the start, and it was great to see her own story. She is just so damn hilarious.

The things that I loved about the first two books in the series were what I loved most about this one, too. First and foremost, the female friendships are SO AWESOME. These women have each other’s backs no matter what. I especially liked that it’s clear by this book that the three heroines of the series (Kera, Jace, and Erin) have a particular bond, and watching them try to protect and support each other was so great. I also love the Norse mythology of the series. Probably my favorite is when we get to “meet” the gods and goddesses, like Odin and Tyr. They are so self-absorbed and ridiculous–Laurenston has taken all the outrageous behaviors from the myths and imagined the kind of being that would do such things. It is a total riot and so clever. The secondary cast of characters is also pretty amazing and add so much richness and comedy to the story.

And yet…there were a few things that bothered me. First, I wanted to learn a bit more about Erin. I wanted to know WHY she’s such a dick. We hear a little about her family and her death, but there’s just not much explanation. I know, it’s probably unfair of me to start wishing for more depth, because that’s not what this series is about. I just found Erin so fascinating and fun that it was hard not to want more. I also didn’t really understand Stieg. Frankly he was kind of forgettable even in the earlier books, and I still felt that way about him by the end of this one. Erin does certainly soften towards him in her own Erin-way, but I wanted a touch more to the romance, even though I know that’s not really what these books do.

Despite wanting a bit more from this book, I still had an amazingly good time reading it. It is funny, clever, and exciting, and I never regret spending time in the world of the Crows.

Grade: 4 out of 5

*I received a review copy of this book from the publisher.

four-stars

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Guest Review: Otherworld Protector by Jane Godman

Posted March 29, 2017 by Jen in Reviews | 2 Comments

Guest Review: Otherworld Protector by Jane GodmanReviewer: Jen
Otherworld Protector by Jane Godman
Series: Otherworld #1
Also in this series: Otherworld Renegade, Otherworld Challenger
Published by Harlequin Nocturne
Publication Date: December 2015
Genres: Paranormal, Romance
Pages: 293
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three-stars

When Stella Fallon journeys to Spain for a dream job, she never suspects that a cataclysmic confrontation is looming. Or that she is the last in an ancient line of dark sorcerers. For her new employer--an electronics billionaire--is actually a Faerie King desperate to harness Stella's powers so he can rule the Otherworld.
The only one who can protect Stella is a man she once thought her guardian angel. Cal becomes human, but his centuries-old secret could destroy her trust. Still, the pair cannot deny their white-hot attraction as they seek refuge in a cave to prepare for a battle of epic magnitude...

The set up: The Otherworld is an alternate world that exists alongside the world we all know. (The mechanics aren’t entirely clear, nor are they very important!) Who lives in Otherworld? Magical and fantasy creatures, like faeries, vampires, werewolves, sorcerers, etc. The Otherworld is at a crisis moment, though, and the evil Faerie King is trying to take over. He is also making evil inroads to the human world, and he needs to be stopped.

This book focuses on Stella Fallon, a video game designer. She moves to Spain to do an internship at a big game company owned by the mysterious Ezra Moncoya. She brings with her someone she likes to think of as her “protector”, a mysterious figure who literally hangs around her peripheral vision (she can sense him but never quite see him full on) and has been saving her from catastrophe her entire life. When it’s clear Moncoya wants Stella for more than just her programming skills, her mysterious protector intercedes and finally shows himself to be Cal, a sorcerer sent to guard her. Cal tells her that she’s actually a powerful necromancer and the key to saving the Otherworld. As Cal and Stella grow closer, she must learn to control her powers and figure out what role she and Cal must play in the coming confrontation.

I loved the premise of this book. I am always up for the “person thinks they’re ordinary but really they’re the key to saving the world” storyline. It is great to see Stella learn about her powers and about the world she never knew existed. I was fascinated by the Otherworld, too. It mixes so many different fantasy concepts. At times that does get a little bit like the kitchen-sink of mythology (Christian-like angels, necromancers, Valkyries, vampires, etc all in the same book?), but it’s still great fun. I also enjoyed Cal and Stella together. The sex was steamy, and I liked the way Cal was hesitant to get involved with Stella but helpless to avoid her pull.

Unfortunately, this book suffered from a little too much info dump. This is a complicated world, probably too complicated for the length of the books, and this first book in particular feels a bit plodding sometimes because of all the information. It’s also kind of hard to escape the fact that it’s a little creepy for Cal and Stella to fall in love. Cal has been watching Stella since she was a child, but suddenly he’s thinking about banging her. You really can’t think too hard about that part or it’s kind of skeezy! While there was a lot of info dumping about the world, there wasn’t much about Stella’s powers, and that disappointed me. She is supposedly so powerful, but we don’t see a ton of her work. She learns quickly and with few hurdles, and she has little trouble adjusting to the whole situation. I thought there were some major missed opportunities for character development there.

Really, this book is simply ok. However, the series gets much better in books 2 and 3, so I am very happy I kept reading. Because there’s so much world building in this book, I can’t recommend skipping it. All I can say is that if this premise interests you, consider reading Otherworld Protector so you can move on to books 2 and 3 (reviews to come).

Grade: 3 out of 5

three-stars

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Guest Review: Immortal Unchained by Lynsay Sands

Posted March 28, 2017 by Tracy in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: Immortal Unchained by Lynsay SandsReviewer: Tracy
Immortal Unchained by Lynsay Sands
Series: Argeneau #25
Also in this series: Immortal Ever After, Runaway Vampire, Immortal Nights
Published by Avon
Publication Date: March 28th 2017
Genres: Paranormal, Romance
Pages: 400
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four-stars

Ever since Domitian Argenis recognized Sarita as his life mate, he’s been waiting for the perfect moment to claim her. Those fantasies did not include him being chained to a table in a secret lab or both of them being held hostage by a mad scientist. Somehow, they have to escape…

Sarita has seen some crazy things as a cop, but nothing to rival Domitian. A vampire? Seriously? But his healing ability, incredible powers, and their mind-blowing physical connection—none of it should be possible, yet her body knows differently. Now, not only do they have to save each other, but other innocent lives are at stake. Failure is not an option, for Sarita intends that Domitian show her exactly what an eternity of pleasure feels like…

Domitian is an Immortal but also a chef.  He takes a job with Dr. Dressler thinking that he can get onto the doctor’s island and find all the Immortal’s who have gone missing.  Unfortunately he ends up on a small island with his life mate, Sarita.

Sarita’s grandmother has worked for Dr. Dressler for many, many years.  When the doctor calls and tells her that her grandmother has taken a fall she heads straight from Canada to Venezuela to see her grandmother.  After hanging out at Dressler’s house for a few days thinking he’s off-island she finds out he’s on-island and in his labs.  She heads into the labs and finds a what looks like a corpse cut in half.  When Dressler comes in and brings the man back to life she’s shocked but doesn’t have time to voice this as she’s then sedated.  She too wakes up on a small island with a man chained to a table who is supposedly her life mate.

While Domitian tries to woo Sarita they both try to find a way off the island.  They both know that Dressler wants them for something but they can’t figure out what it is.  When they finally do make it to the doctor’s island once again they must try to find a way to save the kidnapped immortals, the innocents who are on the island along with each other.

I can’t believe this is book 25 in the Argeneau series!  How Sands keeps coming up with good stories is amazing to me.  This one was definitely a keeper.  I really liked both the romance portion of the book as well as the bit of mystery that was involved with Dressler and what he was doing with the Immortals and others on the island.

Sarita was a bit of a stubborn woman but she was tough cop so I didn’t hold it against her.  She had been told that Domitian had known she was his life mate for 15 years and had been having her followed so she was a little leery of him.  When he explained about that she was much more open.  I liked how they talked about themselves and got to know each other.  Of course they’d had sex by that time but…ok, it worked.  The thing that really didn’t work for me was the sex.  Not that the description of the sex was bad just that I wasn’t feeling the attraction between the pair at that time and that’s what felt off about it.  They didn’t seem like two people who would jump into it like that but yet they did.  I would have loved to have seen that the author made them wait, but that’s me. 🙂

The issues with the Island and the horrific things that Dressler was doing on it were written really well. Dressler was a monster and Sands didn’t sugar coat anything for us – she went for it and I liked that.  We really needed to see what a bastard the man was to appreciate all the horrible things he’d done.

Overall it was a good addition to the series and a good PNR in general.  I’m not sure where the series is headed next but wherever it goes I’m looking forward to it.

Rating: 4 out of 5

four-stars

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