Reading Challenge: Holly's Summer Reading Challenge

Summer Reading Challenge Review: The Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran

Posted August 21, 2019 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Summer Reading Challenge Review: The Duke of Shadows by Meredith DuranReviewer: Holly
The Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran
Publisher: Pocket Books
Publication Date: May 8, 2010
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Historical Romance
Pages: 388
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: GoodReads Challenge, Holly's 2019 GoodReads Challenge, Holly's 2019 New to Me Challenge, Holly's Summer Reading Challenge, New to Me Challenge, Summer Reading Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars

In a debut romance as passionate and sweeping as the British Empire, Meredith Duran paints a powerful picture of an aristocrat torn between two worlds, an heiress who dares to risk everything...and the love born in fire and darkness that nearly destroys them.

From exotic sandstone palaces...

Sick of tragedy, done with rebellion, Emmaline Martin vows to settle quietly into British Indian society. But when the pillars of privilege topple, her fiancé's betrayal leaves Emma no choice. She must turn for help to the one man whom she should not trust, but cannot resist: Julian Sinclair, the dangerous and dazzling heir to the Duke of Auburn.

To the marble halls of London...

In London, they toast Sinclair with champagne. In India, they call him a traitor. Cynical and impatient with both worlds, Julian has never imagined that the place he might belong is in the embrace of a woman with a reluctant laugh and haunted eyes. But in a time of terrible darkness, he and Emma will discover that love itself can be perilous -- and that a single decision can alter one's life forever.

Destiny follows wherever you run.

A lifetime of grief later, in a cold London spring, Emma and Julian must finally confront the truth: no matter how hard one tries to deny it, some pasts cannot be disowned...and some passions never die.

I remember when The Duke of Shadows by Meredith Duran was first released. There was much fanfare and everyone seemed to love it. I often have bad luck when it comes to books everyone else loves, so I put off reading it. Years went by and, though it’s been sitting in my TBR pile for a decade, I never did read it. Casee chose it as one of her picks for me for our Summer Reading Challenge, so I dug it out. It turned out to be a lovely read.

This is a dark, complex read. Emmaline, our female lead, suffers much trauma. A shipwreck, then war in India. She is much affected by her trials and tribulations, and that came across well on page. I was fully wrapped up in her journey. Part one, especially, was hard to get through. So much violence. There was somewhat of a disconnect in Part two, however. I found myself getting impatient with the story, and also struggling to readjust to life in London ballrooms. Which, I think, speaks well of the author and how well she brought me into Emma and Julian’s story in India.

As for the romance, I truly felt the connection Julian and Emma had. I also felt their anguish at all that had come between them. I did find some of their actions not in keeping with their characters, however. Especially when they reunite in England. But I was able to move past it. Something I had a harder time moving past was all the exclamation points Duran used! They were relentless! Sometimes two or three per paragraph!

Still, all in all, I think Casee chose well for this one. Shocking, I know.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

four-stars


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Summer Reading Challenge Review: Long Shot by Kennedy Ryan

Posted August 12, 2019 by Holly in Reviews | 1 Comment

Caution: This book may include potentially sensitive content, including but not limited to: Sexual Violence or Abuse.
Summer Reading Challenge Review: Long Shot by Kennedy RyanReviewer: Holly
Long Shot by Kennedy Ryan
Series: Hoops #1
Also in this series: Hoops Holiday, Long Shot (Hoops, #1), Hook Shot
Publisher: Self-Published
Publication Date: March 22, 2018
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 460
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: GoodReads Challenge, Holly's 2019 GoodReads Challenge, Holly's 2019 New to Me Challenge, Holly's Summer Reading Challenge, New to Me Challenge, Summer Reading Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
three-half-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

A FORBIDDEN LOVE SET IN THE EXPLOSIVE WORLD OF THE NBA...

Think you know what it's like being a baller's girl? You don't. My fairy tale is upside down. A happily never after. I kissed the prince and he turned into a fraud. I was a fool, and his love - fool's gold.

Now there's a new player in the game, August West. One of the NBA's brightest stars. Fine. Forbidden. He wants me. I want him. But my past, my fraudulent prince, just won't let me go

*Certain aspects of this story may be sensitive for some readers.

Long Shot by Kennedy Ryan is the first book in the Hoops series. It won a RITA in 2019. This was a very difficult book to read. I understand why it won. This is an emotionally charged novel. It left me feeling emotionally wrung out.

Trigger Warning: There was a lot of abuse on page, including repeated sexual assault.

I started this book several times, but kept setting it aside in favor of other books. Part of it is the basketball angle. I’m not a fan and books that focus on the sport don’t appeal to me. More than that, though, is I’d heard this was a dark, difficult read and I wasn’t really in the mood to take that on. I eventually pushed through, however, and I’m glad I did.

Iris and August meet one night in a bar and have an instant connection. They keep crossing paths. Every time they do, they seem to fall in deeper with each other. He’s about to head into the draft and she’s dating someone else, so the timing isn’t right. Just when Iris decides she’s ready to leave her boyfriend, things happen and she ends up stuck. Then things turn bad and he started abusing her, and she’s stuck in a different way.

Iris’ personal journey, her strength and the way she pulled herself out of a bad place, was really inspiring. There’s an Author’s Note in the back that talks about domestic abuse and the women who suffer because our system is so flawed, and I really felt that. I felt Iris’ desperation, her pain, her lack of options. It hit me in ways I didn’t expect. This is a novel I’ll think about long after it’s done.

I really and truly loved August. He was wonderful from day one. His faith in Iris, the way he championed her, was so wonderful to read about. I loved that he wanted Iris to live her dreams, to become what she wanted.

I really enjoyed the family August was born into, as well as the one he made in San Diego. I also loved Iris’ cousin. I’m looking forward to her book.

Still, for all that, Iris made a lot a questionable decision at the end, and it kind of killed things for me. Just when I thought she’d come out of her situation stronger, she did something so ridiculous I can’t even think about it without getting angry. I wanted to love this book the way everyone else seems to, but honestly, I didn’t understand a lot of the decisions Iris made, so I didn’t connect with her the way I should have.

View Spoiler »

Still, I can’t deny this was an emotional, gripping read. I was fully invested in Iris and August finding their happily ever after.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

Hoops

three-half-stars


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Summer Reading Challenge Review: Huge Deal by Lauren Layne

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

Summer Reading Challenge Review: Huge Deal by Lauren LayneReviewer: Holly
Huge Deal by Lauren Layne
Series: 21 Wall Street #3
Also in this series: Hot Asset (21 Wall Street, #1), Hard Sell (21 Wall Street, #2), Huge Deal , Hot Asset , Hard Sell , Hot Asset, Hard Sell, Huge Deal
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Publication Date: February 12, 2019
Format: eBook
Source: Kindle Unlimited
Point-of-View: Alternating Third
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Content Warning: View Spoiler »
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 259
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: GoodReads Challenge, Holly's 2019 GoodReads Challenge, Holly's Summer Reading Challenge, Summer Reading Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

Even for a top-gun banker, temptation this hot is quite a gamble, in a sexy Wall Street romp from New York Times bestselling author Lauren Layne.

An alpha among the wolves of Wall Street, Kennedy Dawson rose to the top of the pack by striking the right contracts at the right times. But there’s one deal that’s been giving him a run for his money—a pact to never again let his assistant, Kate, get under his skin. She may be smart, gorgeous, and sharp as a whip, but she’s definitely off-limits.

Kate Henley isn’t a banker, but she knows a thing or two about risk management—specifically, about managing her attraction to her smolderingly sexy boss. She already fell once, and Kennedy showed no sign of paying a return on her investment. So when Kennedy’s brother starts pursuing her, Kate figures she has the best of both worlds. Jack is charming, rich, very attentive, and the spitting image of his older brother.

It’s also making Kennedy think twice. But to win Kate’s heart, he’ll have to broker the deal of a lifetime…and prove he’s worth the risk.

Huge Deal is the third installment of the 21 Wall Street series by Lauren Layne, and my final read from Rowena’s picks for our Summer Reading Challenge. I really loved watching Kate and Kennedy battle their attraction.

Kate fell in love with Kennedy the moment she saw him. For months she gazed after him adoringly, hoping against hope he’d notice her…until the day she overheard him insult her. That killed her feelings quick. She’s been his assistant for years now, and though they don’t have the easy relationship she has with her other two bosses, she doesn’t moon after him anymore either. Her traitorous body is still attracted to him, but her head and her heart know better.

Kennedy has been oblivious to Kate and her feelings all these years, until suddenly something changes between them. Now he can’t stop thinking about her.

Since the first time Kate and Kennedy came on scene in Hot Asset, I’ve been dying for their story. They have chemistry in spades, and I couldn’t wait for Kennedy to finally open his eyes and see what’s right in front of him.

Watching them come together was so sweet and sexy. I loved how well Kate knew Kennedy, and how much they both realized they didn’t know about each other, even after all those years of knowing one another. Kennedy’s surprised delight to find he and Kate shared a lot of similar interests was so fun to read, and I loved watching Kate let go a little bit.

It did lose me a bit toward the end. Kate’s about-face when it came to love didn’t ring very true to me. I loved that Kennedy had to fight for her, and how well he did it, but the conflict didn’t feel authentic.

Still, this was a satisfying read and I’m happy to report that Rowena chose well for my Summer Reading Challenge picks. These were just was I was in the mood for.

Rating: 4 out of 5

21 Wall Street

four-stars


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Summer Reading Challenge Review: Hard Sell by Lauren Layne

Posted July 10, 2019 by Holly in Reviews | 0 Comments

Summer Reading Challenge Review: Hard Sell by Lauren LayneReviewer: Holly
Hard Sell by Lauren Layne
Series: 21 Wall Street #2
Also in this series: Hot Asset (21 Wall Street, #1), Hard Sell (21 Wall Street, #2), Huge Deal , Hot Asset , Huge Deal , Hot Asset, Hard Sell, Huge Deal
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Publication Date: September 4, 2018
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 247
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: GoodReads Challenge, Holly's 2019 GoodReads Challenge, Holly's Summer Reading Challenge, Summer Reading Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
four-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

He’s a Wall Street wolf. She’s been hired to tame him. From New York Times bestselling author Lauren Layne comes a wildly sexy novel of business and pleasure.

Twenty-eight and filthy rich, Matt Cannon is the youngest broker on Wall Street. He may be a “boy wonder,” but he’s every inch a man. Ask any woman—any night. But when Matt’s latest fling makes scandalous headlines, his clients get anxious, and his bosses at Wolfe Investments level an ultimatum: keep his assets zipped, get a “real” girlfriend, and clean up his act. Only one woman can help Matt with something this hard.

For PR genius Sabrina Cross, the best fixer in Manhattan, playing Matt’s steady is going to be a challenge, even if it’s just for show. They already have an explosive history, she can’t stand the cocky party boy, and worse—she can’t stop thinking about him. So who’ll dare to break her “no touching” rule first? Because when that happens, Matt and Sabrina’s game of let’s pretend will get so hot it could set both their reputations on fire.

Hard Sell is the second book in Lauren Layne’s 21 Wall Street series. This is another book Rowena chose for me for our Summer Reading Challenge. I enjoyed it more than the previous book.

Four years ago Matt and Sabrina had an amazing night together. Then Matt said something insensitive and they ended up in a weird cycle of hating each other and fucking occasionally. Since Matt’s best friend is the brother of Sabrina’s heart, they see each other a lot socially, but they mostly avoid each other in private. When pictures of Matt at a strip club end up in the Wall Street Journal, his firm makes it clear he either cleans up his image or he’s out. He needs a relationship, stat. And there’s one person who can make that happen.

Sabrina is a PR genuis and New York’s best fixer. Need a reservation at an impossible to get into club, a date for Friday night, dirt on your soon-to-be? She’s your girl. So she isn’t surprised when Matt comes to her asking for help. She is surprised when he insists she be the one to act as his fake girlfriend. But she isn’t one to back down from a challenge.

I really liked Sabrina’s job. It was great watching her schmooze and dazzle.

People think they’re paying me big money to solve their problems, and technically they are, but what they’re really paying for are my connections and how well I know people. Name a judge: I know her favorite type of French wine. Name an attorney: I know his phone number and his niece’s birthday. Name a socialite: I can give you a list of every person she’s ever dated. Name a hedge fund manager: I can tell you the name of his wife and his mistress. I don’t have a little black book; I’ve got an entire encyclopedia, and there’s nothing little about it.

When she comes to Matt’s rescue the first time, I cracked up at how surprised he was.

Sabrina lets out a little gasp of pleasure. “Mr. Feinstein, is that you?” She taps her hand against the man’s knee as he sits on the barstool, the gesture playful and familiar.

I brace, expecting him to glower at her, but instead he’s grinning broadly.

“Look at you, sitting all quiet in the corner,” she says, leaning in to peck his cheek. “Does Geraldine know you’re brunching without her?”

Geraldine? Who the hell is Geraldine?

Feinstein adjusts his glasses with a smile. “She’s visiting her sister in Fort Lauderdale this weekend. The Sams were kind enough to let me be a third wheel.”

“And Amy?” Sabrina asks. “How’s she liking Harvard?”

“Nothing but happy phone calls these first few weeks,” Mr. Feinstein says proudly. “We couldn’t be prouder, and also, more grateful. Without you making that phone call . . .”

“Oh stop,” Sabrina says with a wave of her hand. “Amy’s brilliant. I’m sure she’d have gotten into Harvard without my help.”

My head is spinning. Sabrina knows Adam Feinstein? And his wife? And helped his daughter get into Harvard?

I really liked Sabrina and Matt together. They had a great love/hate thing going on with lots of chemistry. They knew each other well after years of pseudo-friendship and hanging out together, so they played the fake-relationship well. But they also had the power to hurt each other because of that, and Matt often said insensitive things. Most of the time he didn’t even mean to be an ass, but that’s how he came across. I liked watching him realize he was hurting her, then try to make it right.

“Everything okay here?” Ian’s quiet voice comes from behind me.

I let my chin drop to my chest for a moment. I love Ian like a brother. I do. He’s my best friend. But sometimes . . . sometimes . . .

I envy him. I envy him the role of Sabrina’s savior. Her friend.

I envy that he’s the one she runs to. That he’s the one who gets to look out for her. Protect her.

Meanwhile, I’m the one who hurts her. The one she needs protecting from.

I really like Layne’s writing, too. It’s engaging and makes her novels easy to breeze through. I’m super excited to jump into the next book. I’m told we’ll get a book for Jarod, one of the secondary characters, too. I can’t wait.

Rating: 4.25 out of 5

21 Wall Street

four-stars


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Summer Reading Challenge Review: Hot Asset by Lauren Layne

Posted July 3, 2019 by Holly in Reviews | 4 Comments

Summer Reading Challenge Review: Hot Asset by Lauren LayneReviewer: Holly
Hot Asset by Lauren Layne
Series: 21 Wall Street #1
Also in this series: Hot Asset (21 Wall Street, #1), Hard Sell (21 Wall Street, #2), Huge Deal , Hard Sell , Huge Deal , Hot Asset, Hard Sell, Huge Deal
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Publication Date: May 22, 2018
Format: eBook
Source: Purchased
Point-of-View: Alternating First
Cliffhanger: View Spoiler »
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 266
Add It: Goodreads
Reading Challenges: GoodReads Challenge, Holly's 2019 GoodReads Challenge, Holly's Summer Reading Challenge, Summer Reading Challenge
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Ripped Bodice | Google Play Books
three-half-stars
Series Rating: four-stars

A sexy agent hounds Wall Street’s hottest new wolf in an exhilarating novel from New York Times bestselling author Lauren Layne.

Ian Bradley is the definition of a Wall Street hotshot: seven-figure salary, designer suits, and a corner office. His drive off the floor is just as potent. Every woman who knows him has felt the rush. But now he’s met his match in Lara McKenzie—a woman with the power to bring Ian to his knees.

An ambitious, whip-smart daughter of FBI agents, Lara is a rising star in fighting white-collar crime. Her latest case—the investigation of Ian Bradley for insider trading—could make her career. She knows a scoundrel when she sees one. Ian fits the bill: a cocky, ridiculously handsome bad boy with a slick swagger.

She’ll do anything to prove he’s guilty. He’ll do anything to prove he’s not. But it’s only a matter of time before their fierce battle of wits gets oh so hot and personal. Now, taking down Ian has become more than business for Lara. It’s become a pleasure—and there’s more at risk than she ever dreamed.

Hot Asset is the first book in Lauren Layne‘s 21 Wall Street series. Rowena assigned this to me for our Summer Reading Challenge. It was a quick, light read.

Ian Bradley is at the top of his game as a Stockbroker on Wall Street. He’s making seven figures and living the high life both in and out of the office. But there’s more to him than meets the eye. He grew up in foster homes after his parents died in a car accident, and he’s never forgotten his roots. Still, work hard, play hard. That’s his motto. He’s happy to play the field just as much as he plays the market. Until Lara McKenzie turns up in the break room. Ian is immediately attracted, but he’s completely intrigued when she turns him down. …Until he finds out just who she is, and why she’s there.

Lara is determined to join the FBI. Both her parents are career FBI and she wants to follow in their footsteps. She’s biding her time and making a name for herself at the SEC until she can get a recommendation for Quantico. Taking Ian Bradley down is just the kind of high profile win she needs to secure a letter of recommendation for the FBI. But from the beginning, things aren’t adding up with Ian. There’s no evidence to prove the anonymous tips they’ve gotten about his Insider Trading. But Lara isn’t giving up until she’s uncovered everything about Ian. And if she’s extremely attracted to him and falling for him with every piece she uncovers, well…no one has to know.

This was a super fast read for me. I fell right into the story and didn’t come up for air until I’d finished it. There isn’t anything new or outstanding about it, but it was a fun read nonetheless. I really liked Ian right from the start. He’s a total player, but he has integrity and works hard for his play time. I liked his baffled attraction to Lara, and how he couldn’t seem to get her out of his head.

I liked Lara, too, but I struggled a bit with her role in Ian’s life. The fact is, in the real world, if their relationship had come to light Ian could have suffered greatly for it. But this is fiction, so I let it go (mostly). Still, I liked her as a character and I was impressed with her integrity. She did the right thing, even when it was difficult.

There’s not a lot of relationship angst outside of Lara investigating Ian. They both admitted they were attracted and I felt like, right away, they were there for one another. I’m really looking forward to the next two books.

Rating: 3.75 out of 5

21 Wall Street

three-half-stars


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