Publisher: Pocket Books

Guest Review: At Close Range by Laura Griffin

Posted January 25, 2017 by Jen in Reviews | 8 Comments

Guest Review: At Close Range by Laura GriffinReviewer: Jen
At Close Range (Tracers, #11) by Laura Griffin
Series: Tracers #11
Also in this series: Deep Dark
Published by Pocket Books
Publication Date: January 31st 2017
Genres: Police Procedural, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 368
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-stars

New York Times bestselling author Laura Griffin “delivers the goods” (Publishers Weekly) again with the eleventh title in the gritty, heart-pounding Tracers series.
When a lakeside tryst ends in a double murder, police detective Daniele Harper arrives on the scene determined to get answers. Clues are everywhere, but nothing adds up. Dani turns to the Delphi Center crime lab for help, but soon regrets it when her secret attraction to their chief firearms examiner threatens to distract her from the most important case of her career.
As a ballistics expert and former Navy SEAL, Scott Black knows firearms, and he knows he can help Dani unravel her case. Scott has managed to hide his interest in his best friend’s younger sister for years, but when her investigation brings them together, the sparks between them quickly get out of control. Scott resolves to keep his hands off Dani and his eyes on the goal—identifying a killer. But when that killer zeroes in on Dani, all bets are off. There isn’t a line Scott won’t cross to convince Dani to trust him so that he can help her take down a ruthless murderer who has her in his sights.

Tracers book 11! This time we’re largely back on the police side of investigations, following detective Dani Harper as she investigates a double homicide. She gets forensic help from various experts at the Delphi Center, including Scott Black. Scott is her brother’s friend, a former SEAL, and a guy she’s had a low key crush on for years. Scott too has some pants-feelings for her, but he’s mostly stayed away because of his friend, he’s not good enough, you know the drill. The homicide case quickly gets much more complicated than anyone expected, and both Dani and Scott end up right in the middle of it all. They have to navigate their attraction while trying to put a stop to the killings.

This was the kind of book where I mostly enjoyed it while I was reading it, but after I put it down some things started bothering me. It was fairly fast paced and exciting. The first two murders turn out to be just the tip of the iceberg, and I liked that Griffin kept things interesting and exciting throughout. There’s no “figuring out” for the reader to do, but you do come along for the ride as Dani, Scott, and the rest of the police uncover details. I definitely got hooked and wanted to know how it all would be resolved. It was great to catch up with some past characters, and we get to meet another Delphi Center employee, Brooke, who I assume is going to be a future heroine. I am very intrigued by her so far!

There were quite a few weak points in the book for me, though. Like I said, while I was reading the book I was into the plot, but after I was done I couldn’t help thinking that some of the details were kind of ridiculous or unresolved. The villains have a really complicated plan that didn’t entirely make sense to me – it seemed far fetched.

I also wasn’t entirely feeling the romance. Scott is a really private, stoic guy. He seems to have PTSD or some other mental/emotional issues as a result of his combat experiences, but that’s just kind of glossed over. He and Dani have a lot of sex but do very, very little talking. Dani admits she really hasn’t spent much time with Scott after he came back from combat, so who is she really in love with? The kid/teen version of Scott she knew in the past, or the adult with piles of baggage and severe communication issues? Scott jerks her around a lot, acting like she’s just a fling and and saying some cruel things to her. He knows he’s hurting her but he selfishly continues doing it because he wants to, and I didn’t love that about him. Then the ending was also rushed, and Scott suddenly flips and is Mr. Commitment. It wasn’t entirely unsatisfying, but I would have preferred more build up. Plus, just like the hero in Beyond Limits (book 8), Scott steamrolls Dani and tries to take over her investigation. There was even a near-repeat of the moment I hated from book 8, where Scott grossly violates investigation protocol in a way that could get Dani in serious trouble, and instead of holding him accountable she caves and sleeps with him. I wanted Dani to stand up for herself a bit more, and I wanted Scott to acknowledge he was being a dick, but that didn’t happen.

Despite the problems, I still had a good time reading the book! The characters were interesting, the investigation details fascinating, and the plot fast paced. I think other Tracers fans will enjoy it too.

Grade: 3.75 out of 4

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

 

four-stars

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Guest Review: First Step Forward by Liora Blake

Posted January 17, 2017 by Tracy in Reviews | 3 Comments

Guest Review: First Step Forward by Liora BlakeReviewer: Tracy
First Step Forward by Liora Blake
Series: Grand Valley #1
Also in this series: First Step Forward
Published by Pocket Books
Publication Date: November 29th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
five-stars

Pro-football player Cooper Lowry is off the field and into some trouble—in the form of a very alluring, very free-spirited apple orchard owner named Whitney Reed—in the first installment in Liora Blake’s all new Grand Valley series.

After eight seasons playing pro-football, Cooper Lowry knows all the right answers.

Is he stubborn, short-tempered, and impatient? Yes. Are jersey chasers more trouble than they’re worth? Absolutely. Has he ever imagined a life beyond the game? Nope.

Cooper has built an enviable career—the result of staying focused, working hard, and keeping his head on straight—even as his body takes the brunt. So when a hard hit during a Sunday home game leaves him in a dazed heap on the field, it’s nothing more than another day at the office. The only thing that’s different about this Sunday is a chance encounter with a certain fascinating, beautiful free-spirited woman. And some sternly-worded instructions from his coach to take a little time off and give his body the TLC it craves—before he does lasting damage.

Whitney Reed is a few months away from losing the organic fruit orchard she bought three years ago in the tiny town of Hotchkiss, Colorado. At the time, she was just looking for a place to get lost. Instead, she found a home, somewhere she could finally put down roots. Now foreclosure is knocking on her door—along with a grumpy, gorgeous football player who might be just what she never knew she needed.

Cooper Lowry is a professional football player who is a “veteran” on the team.  He’s been in the NFL for 8 years and while his body is in top shape he’s definitely not as young as he used to be.  At one game he gets tackled and ends up with a concussion.  He is in the drugstore attempting to buy a large bag of Epsom salt but is having difficulty moving his body because his head hurts so badly.  He is assisted by a hippie looking woman who is in old man flannel pajamas and socks – who’s absolutely beautiful.  He pays for both his and her items, as a thank you, and goes on his way.  The next day he runs into her and is even more enthralled with her.

Whitney Reed is a woman on a mission.  She’s driven to Denver to attempt to get a loan that will save her orchard.  She’s in arears and needs to get the money to save her farm before she has nothing left.  She runs into the man who she helped the night before and finds him even more gorgeous in the daylight than he was in the drugstore.  They talk and she offers him a jar of the apple butter she made and goes on her way.  She doesn’t expect him to show up not long afterward at her home. He’s trying to take it easy with his concussion but all she wants to do is jump him.

The pair are hot for each other from the time they meet.  The longer they spend together the closer they get but Whitney is worried about her orchard and Cooper is worried about his career when he gets hurt yet again.  While Cooper is thinking of a future with Whitney he finds that she’s not being completely honest with him and it eventually causes them each to doubt what they have.

This book.  It was so good!  I almost everything about it.  Was it perfect? No, but there was so much love, laughter, romance, and reality to truly be a great book.

Cooper and Whitney had such a fabulous chemistry between them right from the beginning that it grabbed me and wouldn’t let go.  I loved reading about them and their experiences; they were so damned cute together!  Cooper was a fabulous blend of cocky, stubborn, loving man to Whitney’s hippie, organic, tree hugging relaxed self.  Of course she was a bit stressed because of the whole orchard foreclosure issue but other than that she was pretty relaxed.  Despite the differences between the two got along really well and had a great spending time together.

The humor, the love and the wonderful writing by Liora Blake made this a five star read for me.  I recommend that you don’t miss this one.

Rating: 5 out of 5

five-stars

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Review: First Step Forward by Liora Blake

Posted December 23, 2016 by Rowena in Reviews | 0 Comments

Review: First Step Forward by Liora BlakeReviewer: Rowena
First Step Forward by Liora Blake
Series: Grand Valley #1
Also in this series: First Step Forward
Published by Pocket Books
Publication Date: November 29th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 368
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-stars

Pro-football player Cooper Lowry is off the field and into some trouble—in the form of a very alluring, very free-spirited apple orchard owner named Whitney Reed—in the first installment in Liora Blake’s all new Grand Valley series.

After eight seasons playing pro-football, Cooper Lowry knows all the right answers.

Is he stubborn, short-tempered, and impatient? Yes. Are jersey chasers more trouble than they’re worth? Absolutely. Has he ever imagined a life beyond the game? Nope.

Cooper has built an enviable career—the result of staying focused, working hard, and keeping his head on straight—even as his body takes the brunt. So when a hard hit during a Sunday home game leaves him in a dazed heap on the field, it’s nothing more than another day at the office. The only thing that’s different about this Sunday is a chance encounter with a certain fascinating, beautiful free-spirited woman. And some sternly-worded instructions from his coach to take a little time off and give his body the TLC it craves—before he does lasting damage.

Whitney Reed is a few months away from losing the organic fruit orchard she bought three years ago in the tiny town of Hotchkiss, Colorado. At the time, she was just looking for a place to get lost. Instead, she found a home, somewhere she could finally put down roots. Now foreclosure is knocking on her door—along with a grumpy, gorgeous football player who might be just what she never knew she needed.

A charming love story for romance and sports fans alike, First Step Forward is a sexy, heartwarming romp perfect for readers of Jennifer Probst, Kristan Higgins, and Julie James.

Liora Blake is a sort of new to me author. I read and enjoyed her True North series so when this book came on to my radar, I knew that I wanted to try it out. I’m happy that I did because Blake wrote a sweet romance between an NFL player and a hippie apple orchard owner that had me smiling throughout the entire book.

Cooper Lowry is a wide receiver in the NFL, playing in Denver and the book opens with him getting wacked pretty hard during a game. He might have a concussion so he’s ordered by the team trainor to take a couple of days and not do a hot damn thing. Get away for a little while and be one with his thoughts before reporting back to work. The time off finds Cooper heading to Hotchkiss, Colorado where he meets up with a quirky woman that he can’t get out of his mind.

Whitney Reed is on the verge of losing her apple orchard. She’s having money troubles but she’s not going down without a fight. She’s going to apply for every loan and try every thing under the sun before she’ll admit defeat. She’s tenacious and she’s strong and she’ll figure something out. When she meets Cooper Lowry in a liquor store, she didn’t really know who he was and he needed help reaching the bottom shelf so she offers her assistance. She is immediately attracted to him because he’s hot stuff and looks strong and he totally does it for her but when she leaves Denver to head home, she doesn’t think she’ll ever see him again so she was prepared to put him behind her. That wasn’t going as well as she’d hope but when he shows up on her doorstep, she’s surprised and also happy because she wants to jump his bones. She’s so glad that he seems to want to jump hers too.

What a great romance this turned out to be. Their problems were real life problems and they fumbled their way through each situation that came their way but what I really liked about this was how once they realized that they had feelings for each other, they didn’t shy away from feeling them. They were grown ups about everything and yeah, they weren’t perfect but they were a charming set of characters anyway.

I’m curious about who will get their story told next because I didn’t really catch on to any story set ups. I’m hoping that Garrett will get his own book but that’s all I can think of, off the top of my head.

This was a sweet romance that really dug its way into my heart and I’m glad that I read it. I’m looking forward to more from this series.

Grade: 4 out of 5

four-stars

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Review: To Love and to Cherish by Lauren Layne

Posted October 20, 2016 by Rowena in Reviews | 3 Comments

Review: To Love and to Cherish by Lauren LayneReviewer: Rowena
To Love and to Cherish by Lauren Layne
Series: Wedding Belles #3
Also in this series: From This Day Forward, To Have and to Hold, For Better or Worse
Published by Pocket Books
Publication Date: October 18th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 320
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-stars

Sex and the City meets The Wedding Planner in The Wedding Belles, a contemporary and witty romance series about three high-powered New York City women who can plan any wedding—but their own.

Alexis Morgan has spent the past eight years devoted to turning her tiny start-up into Manhattan’s premiere wedding planning company, The Wedding Belles. Now that her business is thriving, it’s time to turn towards her much neglected personal life, and Alexis approaches her relationships like she does everything else: with a plan. Not a part of that plan is Logan Harris, the silent partner in the Belles, and the one person who’s been there for her since the very beginning. But Alexis needs someone fun, and Logan’s all business, all the time—except when a late night at the office ends with an unexpected kiss that leaves the usually cool and together Alexis reeling.

Logan has lusted after Alexis since the day he walked into the tiny Harlem apartment that used to double as her office. But the ambitious wedding planner has always been untouchable...until now. Alexis has made it clear that she’s on the dating market—and equally clear that he’s not in the running. But when Alexis finds herself in need of a date for her sister’s last minute wedding in Florida, Logan knows it’s the perfect time to show Alexis that there’s more to him than numbers and spreadsheets—and beneath the pinstripes and glasses lies a hot-blooded heartthrob. As Florida’s sultry days turn into even hotter nights, Logan’s out to convince Alexis that the fling of a lifetime could just maybe turn into forever...

As soon as this book hit my inbox, I was all smiles because…finally. Alexis and Logan. It feels like I’ve been waiting FOREVER for this book even though it’s only been a few months. That’s how anxious I was for this book.

Logan has had a serious thing for Alexis Morgan for years. His love for her has gone unnoticed for all of those years and in this book, Logan is fed up. He’s fed up with Alexis being blind to him as a man and he’s fed up with loving someone who doesn’t seem to love him back. Changes need to be made and things need to be shaken up and Logan is more than ready to toss things up in the air and see where they land….especially after he gets a call from his father with the news that he is going to retire and Logan needs to pack his shit up and come home to take over.

Logan knows that he’s stayed away from home for all of these years because of Alexis. She wasn’t ready for him and his feelings back then but things are different now. Logan needs to make some life plans and he needs to figure out where Alexis fits into those plans. Will he continue to be her accountant or will she come to realize that they were meant to be together forever.

Alexis’ past has caught up to her and running away from it and them isn’t a choice anymore. She spent so much of the last few years trying to move on from the hurts of the past that she didn’t realize how big and strong those walls around her are. Things are changing and closing in on her and she really can’t handle much more change so when Logan, the most constant companion and friend she’s had in the last 8 years starts changing their rules on her, she’s really thrown for a loop. She’s kept Logan at arms length because the risk of losing him was high and she couldn’t bear to lose him. The business has always been there for her and has always been the priority but over the course of her story, you see her realize that while the business will always be a priority, it didn’t have to be the only priority.

Lauren Layne has fast become my go to author for fun contemporary romances. She has consistently written books that I have loved and each book in this series has been fantastic. These characters have wormed their way into my heart and taken up residence there. I love all of them and I’m low key hoping that Jessie gets a story of her own because she was just as much a part of the Wedding Belles as Brooke, Heather and Alexis.

There was much to love about this book. Alexis and Logan fumbling their way through and finding their way to each other made for a great reading adventure but the friendships between the Belles and then the boys were great fun too. I want to be a part of their circle of friends. This was another fabulous addition to Layne’s back list and its one that I’ll re-read again and again because Logan is full of yum! I definitely recommend this book. It’s great!

Grade: 4.25 out of 5

four-stars

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Review: For Better or Worse by Lauren Layne

Posted September 2, 2016 by Rowena in Reviews | 3 Comments

Review: For Better or Worse by Lauren LayneReviewer: Rowena
For Better or Worse by Lauren Layne
Series: Wedding Belles #2
Also in this series: From This Day Forward, To Have and to Hold, To Love and to Cherish
Published by Pocket Books
Publication Date: August 30th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 368
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Will a budding wedding planner and her bad boy neighbor stop banging heads and start hearing wedding bells in the sexy second novel in USA TODAY bestselling author Lauren Layne’s irresistible new series that marries Sex and the City with The Wedding Planner?

When small-town girl Heather Fowler finally gets promoted from assistant to actual wedding planner, she’s determined to make it as one of Manhattan’s elite Wedding Belles. Unfortunately, her first client demands an opulent black-tie affair at the Plaza…in five months’ time. Heather’s days quickly become a flurry of cake tastings, dress-fittings, RSVP cards, and bridal tantrums. But what she’s really losing sleep over is the live music blaring from her playboy neighbor’s apartment all night.

Five years ago, Josh Tanner was an up-and-comer on Wall Street, complete with the penthouse and the migraines. But a grim cancer diagnosis made him realize there is more to life than the corner office. If only he could convince his pretty, workaholic neighbor to let loose, too. As Heather lets down her guard, Josh is surprised when he starts falling for the sweet, vulnerable woman hiding beneath those power suits. Soon, it’s Heather’s turn to convince Josh to take the biggest risk of all: love.

Lauren Layne has cemented herself on my favorites shelf. She has consistently written fantastic contemporary romances that have rocked my socks and For Better or Worse is no different. This book had it all, a steamy romance with characters that warmed my heart and a hot hero who is a complete flirty spice which is seriously my jam.

I have no complaints. Well, just one and that is the book ended. I didn’t want it to end. This was a fast and flirty ride that I loved to pieces.

Heather is and assistant wedding planner with her eyes set on the promotion that is just around the corner. She’s been working toward becoming a wedding planner her entire life and she’s thrilled that the title is within reach. She works for the highly sought after Wedding Belles and her wedding planning firm has just been hired to work on a Kim Kardashian like celebrity’s wedding and Heather has been given the green light to plan her little heart out. Only thing is, the bride doesn’t want to have anything to do with the planning. She’s confused as crap about that and as time goes on, she becomes frustrated as all get out but she’s determine to nail this job because she wants to drop the assistant from her job title.

It’s hard enough to work on a wedding where the bride wants no input and yet wants you to deliver the wedding of a lifetime but when you’ve got a noisy neighbor that keeps you up all night with his constant band practice and loud guests, nerves are going to be shot and Heather’s nerves are definitely shot.

It’s no surprise that she can’t stand her neighbor and her neighbor? He loves that he gets on her nerves. Josh Tanner is living the life. He does what he wants day in and day out, he goes wherever he wants to go and he rocks out with his band whenever he feels like it much to his neighbor’s chagrin. She likes to come banging on his door to tell him to shut up and every time she does, he gets excited. He looks forward to bickering with his neighbor because she’s one hot piece of action that he wants to have…but when the relationship he doesn’t want to have starts becoming more real with each passing day, Josh has to decide if Heather is worth telling all of his secrets to.

There wasn’t much that I didn’t enjoy about this book. I loved Josh. I loved Heather. I loved the Belles and seeing Seth and Brooke again. I loved the bromance that is forming between Josh, Seth and Logan and really, I just love all things Lauren Layne. I’m probably starting to sound like a broken record but hot damn, she writes my kind of romances. The fun and flirty romances that has me happy sighing all over the place. Josh was a great hero and I adored his family and that meddling Mom of his. His whole secret wasn’t hard to figure out but that’s okay because everything else was fan-fricking-tastic.

If you’re looking for a good reading time, pick this one up. It’s my favorite of the series so far. I cannot wait for Logan and Alexis. It needs to be October already. Kudos to Lauren Layne for another home run.

Grade: 4.5 out of 5

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four-half-stars

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