Publisher: Forever

Review: Law Man by Kristen Ashley

Posted July 17, 2019 by Casee in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Law Man by Kristen AshleyReviewer: Casee
Law Man by Kristen Ashley
Series: Dream Man #3
Also in this series: Mystery Man, Wild Man
Publisher: Forever
Publication Date: December 17, 2013
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 508
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Casee's 2019 GoodReads Challenge, GoodReads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
three-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Love is just around the corner . . .


Sweet, shy Mara Hanover is in love with her neighbor. For four years, she has secretly watched her dream man from afar. Handsome police detective Mitch Lawson is way out of her league. She's a girl from the wrong side of the tracks, and there's no way a guy like Mitch would want anything to do with her. But when Mara has a leaky faucet that she can't fix, it's Mitch who comes to her rescue.

Mitch has been eyeing his beautiful neighbor for a long time. He jumps at the chance to help her, and soon their formerly platonic relationship gets very hot and heavy. But when Mara gets a disturbing phone call from her cousin's kids, she gets pulled back into the life she's tried so hard to leave behind. Can the hot law man convince Mara to let go of her past-and build a future with him?

140,000 words

Ah, Mitch Lawson. He’s one of my favorite Ashley heroes. Mitch is everything you look for in a hero. He’s sweet, but still alpha. He tells you how it’s going to be, but he does it in a quiet, but firm way. He cares deeply about his job upholding the law. Everything about him just works. That why it fucking sucks that he got such an awful heroine.

Mara Hanover appears sweet and shy just as the summary suggests. Appearances are deceiving. She has a serious problem. View Spoiler » Mara’s issues were so prevalent in the book that they overtook almost everything. She wasn’t worthy of Mitch at all.

As for Mitch, he was so sure that Mara was worth it. He could see little pieces of what he considered the “real” Mara shine through and he was determined to help her. That was Mitch. He was determined to help everyone.

When Mara’s two young cousins need to be taken away from the dangerous environment that their father has them in, Mara knows that she needs to take custody. She’s known that it’s been a long time coming, but everything has just now come to a head. That’s another thing that I couldn’t accept about Mara. She knew that her cousins weren’t safe at their home but she wasn’t “ready” to take custody yet. It showed her true character to me. Her taking them anyway meant nothing.

Mitch on the other hand completely stepped up. When he offered his help after knowing Mara for such a hard time, she did what Mara does. She turned him down even knowing that she couldn’t do it on her own. She was just completely ridiculous.

I really wanted to love this book, but I couldn’t. I don’t know what Mitch was thinking.

Rating: 3 out of 5 (and only for Mitch).

Dream Man

three-stars


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Review: Wild Man by Kristen Ashley

Posted June 28, 2019 by Casee in Reviews | 1 Comment

Review: Wild Man by Kristen AshleyReviewer: Casee
Wild Man by Kristen Ashley
Series: Dream Man #2
Also in this series: Mystery Man, Law Man
Publisher: Forever
Publication Date: October 29, 2013
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 528
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: Casee's 2019 GoodReads Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-half-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

She's about to walk on the wild side . . .

While filling the display case in her bakery, the bell over the door sounds and Tessa O'Hara looks up to see the man of her dreams. Within thirty seconds he asks her out for a beer. But after four months of dating, she discovers he's an undercover DEA agent-and he's investigating her possible role in her ex-husband's drug business. For Tess, this means their relationship is over.

Brock disagrees. He's committed to his anti-drug mission, but he's fallen in love with the beautiful woman who's as sweet as her cupcakes-and he'll do anything to win her back. Standing between Tess and Brock are their own exes, one of them a drug lord who's determined to get what he wants. Now as danger threatens, can Brock break the rules he's lived by and let loose his wild side to protect the woman he loves?

125,000 words

At the time of this review, I have completed the Dream Man series. Wild man is my favorite book in the series. There is something about Brock and Tess that I can’t get over. They are perfect for each other in a way that few characters are. I couldn’t quite put my finger on what it was until about halfway through the book. Everything is straight forward with these two. If they are feeling or thinking something, they say it. They don’t hide things from each other. They’re very open and honest. It was refreshing.

Brock meets Tess at the worst time in his life. He’s in the middle of an undercover investigation that involves her ex-husband. Not only that, but Brock walks into her bakery with the intent to investigate Tess herself. Brock doesn’t expect to fall for the suspect, but he falls hard and fast. After three months, it all comes to life and Tess is devastated. Instead of succumbing to despair, Tess does the opposite. She grabs hold of life and lives. It was incredibly inspiring to see a woman not pine after they get their heartbroken. While her heart is still broken, Tess doesn’t let it control her life.

Then Brock walks back into her life.

Brock never had any intention of leaving Tess’ life for good. He’s been waiting. When it becomes clear that she won’t be coming to him, he goes to her. He’s forced to when he sees a For Sale sign in her front yard. When he sees her, he makes it clear to her that he’s there to stay. I have to admit that I was a little taken aback by Brock’s attitude as well as how quickly Tess gave in. Then I thought about why Tess gave in so quickly and it made sense. Brock was Brock. You couldn’t not give into him. He was a protector when it came down to it. He would do anything for Tess.

The mystery part (as always) left a lot to be desired. It’s par for the course with KA. Honestly, it didn’t make me like the book any less. It just made me roll my eyes a little. As did the editing.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5.

Dream Man

four-half-stars


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Joint Rant: The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez

Posted June 24, 2019 by Holly in Reviews | 14 Comments

Joint Rant: The Friend Zone by Abby JimenezReviewer: Holly and Rowena
The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez
Publisher: Forever
Publication Date: June 11, 2019
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Point-of-View: Alternating
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 384
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: GoodReads Challenge, Holly's 2019 GoodReads Challenge, New to Me Challenge, Rowena's 2019 New to Me Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
one-star

Fall in love with this hilarious and heartwarming romantic comedy that USA Today bestselling author LJ Shen calls "an absolute treat." SheReads' "Most Anticipated Romance Books of 2019

Kristen Petersen doesn't do drama, will fight to the death for her friends, and has no room in her life for guys who just don't get her. She's also keeping a big secret: facing a medically necessary procedure that will make it impossible for her to have children.

Planning her best friend's wedding is bittersweet for Kristen -- especially when she meets the best man, Josh Copeland. He's funny, sexy, never offended by her mile-wide streak of sarcasm, and always one chicken enchilada ahead of her hangry. Even her dog, Stuntman Mike, adores him. The only catch: Josh wants a big family someday. Kristen knows he'd be better off with someone else, but as their attraction grows, it's harder and harder to keep him at arm's length.

The Friend Zone will have you laughing one moment and grabbing for tissues the next as it tackles the realities of infertility and loss with wit, heart, and a lot of sass.

"Harnessing sass, heartfelt struggle, and unapologetic sexuality, Jimenez's debut is as hysterical as it is tear-jerking.... Jimenez manages to fulfill all expectations for a romantic comedy while refusing to sacrifice nuance. Biting wit and laugh-out-loud moments take priority, but the novel remains subtle in its sentimentality and sneaks up on the reader with unanticipated depth." --Publishers Weekly, Starred Review

Warning: This review if FULL OF RANTING AND SPOILERS. Nothing is hidden behind a spoiler tag and there is cursing. Read on at your own risk.

Kristen’s best friend, Sloan, is marrying the man of her dreams, Brandon. Brandon’s best friend and best man, Josh, is new in town and Kristen and Josh are forced together a lot while they help with wedding preparations, and Josh acts as a stand in carpenter for Kristen’s business after hers quits unexpectedly. They hit it off pretty early on and they have chemistry in spades, but Kristen has a boyfriend…plus, she’s hiding a pretty big secret from Josh. He’s made it clear on several occasions that he wants a ton of kids, but she’s infertile. She suffers from fibroids in her uterus that are making her absolutely miserable. In fact, she’s having a partial hysterectomy in a matter of weeks.

Holly: The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez is one of my most anticipated books of 2019. It first came on my radar earlier this year when the cover caught my attention. The blurb intrigued me and, since I’m trying to branch out in my reading this year, I added it to my TBB pile. Then early reviews popped up and I got really excited. This book sounded like everything I needed in my life.

Rowena: This book was on my radar too because it sounded like a good time and I’m all about the friends to lover trope. I liked the cover too so I thought, yeah, this book looks like it’ll be a fun read so I agreed to buddy review this with Holly once the book came out.

Holly: Sadly, it was not. In fact, it made me so angry I ended up with an eye twitch.

Rowena: Like Holly, this book pissed me off the more that I read. Like, this book made me ragey. I’m still feeling rage when I think about this book. sigh

Holly: There’s a lot for me to unpack with this book. First, I absolutely adored Josh. He was so down-to-earth and secure in himself I couldn’t help but fall for him. His loyalty to his friends, his desire to make Kristen happy, his overall personality – I loved it all.

I loved Kristen at first, too. She’s brash, unapologetic about it and, in general, so comfortable with herself you know she’ll give it to you straight every time. Until she doesn’t, that is. Early in the book she tells Josh:

“There’s something you should know about me, Josh. I say what I think. I don’t have a coy bone in my body. Yes, you’re sexy. Enjoy the compliment because you won’t always like what I say to you, and I won’t care one way or the other if you do or don’t.”

Based on this, and many other things she says and does, I thought Kristen was a straight shooter. So why, then, did she spend the entirety of the book playing games with Josh? She strung him along, flirted, kissed him, slept with him, then ghosted him for weeks…only to reel him back in. She swore it was for his own good, but what she did was toy with him constantly. She never opened up to him about her problems or had a true, adult conversation with him about where she was at. She just kept telling him “This is just sex! Don’t get attached.” Even after it was clear he was attached, she’d weaken, sleep with him, then shut down.

Had she not been described as a drama-free unicorn for the majority of the book, maybe I would have felt differently about her actions throughout. But her hot and cold act, her immaturity when it came to having real conversations about shit, and the way she emotionally cheated on her boyfriend didn’t scream “Drama Free” to me. I loved her wit and sarcasm; how loyal she was to her best friend and how quick she was to take care of the people in her life. But she contradicted all of that by acting like a 12-year-old when it came to Josh.

Rowena: Yessssss, to all of that. She annoyed the shit out of me but in the early days of the book, I really enjoyed her. I loved her attitude and the way that she told Josh the truth when they were truly just friends. When Josh was working in her garage, building the little doggy stuff, their friendship was pretty awesome. I loved their banter, I loved that she was a shitty cook and Josh hated her cooking but ate everything she put in front of him because what else could he do? Sure, I thought Kristen was kind of weird for trying to look unsexy so that she wasn’t tempted by Josh even though emotionally, she was already hella tempted but it wasn’t until they started becoming more than friends that she really started to piss me off.

Holly: I want to address her looking unsexy so she wouldn’t be tempted by Josh for a minute. She was in a fully committed relationship with a man for over two years. In a matter of weeks he was coming home and they were going to live together. He knew about her infertility issues and he was okay with it because he didn’t want kids. He was deployed with the military, so they weren’t able to talk every single day, but they did talk rather frequently. Kristen claims she’s fully in, that she’s not a cheater. But FROM THE BEGINNING, she had to “remove temptation”? I did not get that at all. Being around someone attractive should not tempt you to cheat if you’re committed to someone. That seriously pissed me off.

Rowena: Same. She may not have gotten physical with Josh but she was emotionally cheating on Tyler the entire time she was there with Josh, especially when she stopped taking Tyler’s calls at the end to spend as much time as possible with Josh before Tyler came home. I thought that was super stupid.

One of the fastest ways for me to fall out of love with a character, or even, a story, is when one character decides for another character that they know best and keeps secrets for their own good. Kristen does this to Josh and every single time that she missed an opportunity to come clean about everything with Josh, my blood pressure would rise. It took way too long for Kristen to come clean and with every page that she didn’t, every time that she played with Josh’s emotions, I cared for her less and less. Even in the end when all is revealed and the happy ending comes along, I still didn’t fully forgive Kristen for all that she put Josh through. I didn’t understand it and I hated that Kristen thought she could make decisions for Josh like it was her place. Ugh.

Holly: You’re absolutely right, she did make decisions for Josh. She decided what she thought was best for him and just went on her merry way. I understand that she didn’t want to be treated differently because of her health issues. I get that she didn’t want to take the chance that Josh would reject her. I also understand she was dealing with a lot of stuff from her childhood, because she was never good enough for her mother. But it wasn’t enough to make what she did okay. She should have been upfront with Josh and let him make decisions for himself.

Rowena: She had legit reasons for keeping her situation under wraps…at first but all of that shit went right out the window when she started playing those ridiculous games with Josh and her reason of, “It’s for his own good” made me want to smack some damn sense into her. She just kept right on making stupid decision after stupid decision and I hated that Josh kind of just goes with it all. Her ex shows up in town and she leaves for hours with him, leaving Josh at her house and then comes back and when Josh asks about it, she’s all, “You really want to talk about my boyfriend?” Not her ex-boyfriend but her boyfriend like she didn’t spend the night in bed banging the shit out of Josh before the ex shows up. Like Josh really is just a fuck buddy.

Holly: Stringing two guys along, lying, treating the person she loved most in the world like shit and making him feel unloved….I just couldn’t with her.

Rowena: And then after the ex, who she knows she’s not in love with anymore proposes to her, the bitch had the audacity to say, “Maybe”. The bitch has already come to terms with the fact that she is madly in love with Josh but she tells the ex, “Maybe” and the hot and cold shit just kept coming up and even in the end, I still wanted to punch this bitch in the mouth. Goodness, I just…AHHH.

Holly: OMG girl, when she told Josh that she said “maybe” to Tyler’s proposal, I thought my head was going to explode. YOU DID WHAT?!? She full on admitted she was in love with Josh. Josh straight up admitted he had feelings for her. She was ACTIVELY FUCKING JOSH ON A REGULAR BASIS. But Tyler comes home and proposes and she says “maybe”?!?!?. OMFG the rage.

To make matters worse, halfway through the book Brandon, Josh’s best friend, was in a terrible motorcycle accident and eventually dies after months of being in the hospital. I have no idea why that was even included. It served no purpose other than to add additional conflict. It didn’t bring the MCs closer together, it didn’t do anything but add additional trauma to an already traumatic story.

Rowena: Yes. Just…yes about Brandon. I completely agree with everything you said regarding that whole matter because I felt it too. I finished this book in the early hours of the morning and I couldn’t go to sleep because of it. I was super ragey over this whole thing because IT WASN’T NECESSARY! I’m getting ragey about it again so let me step away and calm my ass down.

Holly: And that’s not even the worst part. The worst part is this…

The story is ultimately about Kristen learning to love herself and to accept she’s worthy of love even though she can’t have children. For all my frustration and anger over her actions with Josh, it really touched me. My heart broke for her, because it came down to her health vs her dreams. When she finally accepts that she is worthy of love, and can be with Josh, I truly felt that inside my heart. I was all in with her.

But then there’s a miracle fucking pregnancy at the end. So, all the work the author did convincing me that Kristen was okay as she was, that she didn’t need to give Josh kids to make him love her? Went right out the fucking window. I just can’t. I was so angry when I finished the book I was shaking. Because that’s so wrong. What was the point of the book, then? And what message is the author sending out to other infertile women? If they just wait long enough, they too will get pregnant? So.Much.No.

Rowena: I was too mad at the stupid games that Kristen played with Josh’s heart for me to fully forgive her when everything was said and done. Too many things made me so angry and when I came to the end, I was still so rip-roaring mad that I couldn’t even talk about it. I sat there and I stewed over everything and I’m still not really able to talk about how much I hated this book. Everything was too little, too late and on top of the whole Brandon thing, and then the miracle pregnancy, I just…nope. This book gets a giant nope from me.

Grade: 1 out of 5.

Holly: It gets a giant nope from me, too. I really loved Josh, Brandon and Sloan, but Kristen killed all my good feels for them. All my happy feelings are as dead as Brandon.

Rating: 1 out of 5

Final Grades

Holly: 1 out of 5
Rowena: 1 out of 5

one-star


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Review: Meet Cute by Helena Hunting

Posted May 14, 2019 by Holly in Reviews | 5 Comments

Review: Meet Cute by Helena HuntingReviewer: Holly
Meet Cute by Helena Hunting
Publisher: Forever
Publication Date: April 9, 2019
Format: Audiobook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 384
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: GoodReads Challenge, Holly's 2019 GoodReads Challenge, Holly's 2019 New to Me Challenge, New to Me Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
three-half-stars

Talk about an embarrassing introduction. On her first day of law school, Kailyn ran - quite literally - into the actor she crushed on as a teenager, ending with him sprawled on top of her. Mortified to discover the Daxton Hughes was also a student in her class, her embarrassment over their meet-cute quickly turned into a friendship she never expected. Of course, she never saw his betrayal coming either...

Now, eight years later, Dax is in her office asking for legal advice. Despite her anger, Kailyn can't help feeling sorry for the devastated man who just became sole guardian to his thirteen-year-old sister. But when her boss gets wind of Kailyn's new celebrity client, there's even more at stake than Dax's custody issues: if she gets Dax to work at their firm, she'll be promoted to partner.

The more time Kailyn spends with Dax and his sister, the more she starts to feel like a family, and the more she realizes the chemistry they had all those years ago is as fresh as ever. But will they be able to forgive the mistakes of the past, or will one betrayal lead to another?

This is my first book by Hunting. Based on the cover and blurb, I thought it would be a light, fluffy romance. While it had light, fluffy elements, the overall theme was actually quite somber. Once I adjusted my expectations, I easily fell into the story. I listened to the audiobook and I really enjoyed the narrators, Holly Warren and Teddy Hamilton. I hadn’t listened to a book narrated by either of them before, but I enjoyed them enough to seek out other books they’ve done.

Kailyn and Dax went to law school together. They met on her first day when she literally ran into him, then fangirled all over him. They spent the next 3 years as friendly rivals, constantly sparring with and pushing one another. They didn’t spend time together outside of class, but there was mutual respect and liking there. Until Dax screwed Kailyn over by not turning in her last paper on time, which bumped her GPA down enough to secure him the top spot in their class.

Five years later, they meet up again when his parents hire her firm to draft a family trust for them to protect their 13 year-old daughter. Kailyn is less than thrilled to see Dax again, but she’s a professional and figures she won’t have to see him again. Until the unthinkable happens and Dax is left with guardianship of his sister. Kailyn is appointed conservator of the estate while things are in limbo, and they’re forced to spend a lot of time together.

Meet Cute was one of my most anticipated books of 2019. The blurb and cover really got me, and I couldn’t wait to dive in. I absolutely adored Dax. He was such a sweetheart. The way he cared for his sister and took care of his responsibilities was wonderful, not to mention the way he was with Kailyn. He truly paid attention to who she was as a person, and what she wanted for her future. He was so great.

I struggled more with Kailyn. She jumped to a lot of conclusions early on in the book, and her constant skepticism and attitude toward Dax was frustrating. Plus, she kept a major secret from him for the majority of the book, which made her seem like a complete hypocrite for the way she acted toward him. I came to like the two of them together, and I enjoyed her relationship with Dax’s sister, but overall she just frustrated me.

I also had a hard time with the secondary plot featuring Dax’s aunt. It wasn’t really necessary to the story, aside from adding additional conflict. The way it was resolved was silly as well. It sort of just fizzled out. I don’t really understand why it was included at all.

That aside, this was an emotionally charged novel. My heart hurt for Dax and his sister, and I was really pulling for Dax and Kailyn by the end.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

three-half-stars


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Review: Mystery Man by Kristen Ashley

Posted May 9, 2019 by Casee in Reviews | 2 Comments

Review: Mystery Man by Kristen AshleyReviewer: Casee
Mystery Man by Kristen Ashley
Series: Dream Man #1
Also in this series: Wild Man, Law Man
Publisher: Forever
Publication Date: August 27, 2013
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 528
Add It: Goodreads
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Night time is the right time...

Gwendolyn Kidd has met the man of her dreams. He's hot, he's sexy, and what started as a no-names-exchanged night of passion has blossomed into a year and a half-long pleasure fest. Sure, it's a little strange that he only appears in her bed at night, but Gwen is so sure he's the one, she just can't turn him away.

Hawk Delgado knows more about Gwen than she could ever imagine. She's gorgeous, headstrong, and skittish about relationships. But Hawk is facing his own demons, demons that keep him from connecting with anyone. Yet when Gwen is drawn into Denver's lethal underground scene, Hawk's protective nature comes out full force. The problem is, when Gwen gets a dose of Hawk's Alpha attitude in the daylight, she's not so sure he's the one anymore.

I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from this book. On one hand, I knew Hawke was a right bastard after reading Own the Wind and Ride Steady. OTOH, Holly warned me this book would be hard to take because Hawke wasn’t just a bastard. He was a downright ass. Holly was right. Hawke was pretty hard to stomach. He went beyond alpha into alpha asshole. He didn’t basically tell Gwen what to do and expect her to do it. He did exactly that.

Moving onto Gwen. Are you fucking kidding me? Who on God’s green earth would take a stranger home and let him keep coming back without even asking his name? For a year and a half. Hawke threw that in her face a number of times. It wasn’t very sensitive, but very apropos. Gwen was a fucking moron. Which begged the question…why did every man in her radius want her? Not just get into her pants. No, they actually wanted Gwen herself. I really think she called to the protective instinct that men have in them because honestly, if Gwen kept living on her own? She would nothing more than a dead body.

I have to admit, when I first finished the book, I really liked Gwen. Then Holly and I started discussing and I started questioning everything I thought. Which was, frankly, annoying as hell. I already knew what I knew and thought what I thought. Even if my feelings might have aligned with hers a little bit here and there as I was reading, I didn’t completely feel that way when I finished the book. Like I said…annoying. The saying “The truth hurts” really applies here.

The book is so cliché. Hawke didn’t intend to fall for Gwen like he did. He was only obsessed with her and her safety. Then shit hit the fan with Gwen’s sister Ginger (enter the awful KA mystery plot) and Hawke had to step in to protect Gwen. Seeing her outside the bedroom at night made Hawke want Gwen more, of course. When he realizes how much she is starting to mean to him, he doesn’t want that so he pushes her way. Like I said…cliché. And predictable.

Why did I still like this book? Because of Hawke. And Tack. And Mitch. And Gwen’s dad. And her stepmom Meredith. And how Gwen treated Meredith. All those things above really bugged the crap out of me, but as I was reading the book, I really loved it all. It just works. I can sum up why in two words: Kristen Ashley. That is really a thing.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Dream Man

four-stars


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