Tag: Contemporary Romance

Guest Review: The Thing About Love by Julie James

Posted April 18, 2017 by Jen in Reviews | 1 Comment

Guest Review: The Thing About Love by Julie JamesReviewer: Jen
The Thing About Love by Julie James
Published by Berkley
Publication Date: April 18th 2017
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 368
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
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four-stars

Two undercover FBI agents can hide who they are from everyone but each other in the latest novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Suddenly One Summer.

FBI agents Jessica Harlow and John Shepherd have a past. The former lawyer and cocky Army ranger clashed during their training at Quantico, gladly going their separate ways after graduating from the Academy. Six years later, the last thing either of them expects is to run into each other again–assigned to work as partners in a high-profile undercover sting.
For both of them, being paired with a former rival couldn’t come at a worse time.

Recently divorced from a Hollywood producer and looking for a fresh start, Jessica is eager to prove herself at her new field office. And John is just one case away from his dream assignment to the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team.

In order to nail a corrupt Florida politician, they’ll have to find a way to work as a team–a task that becomes even trickier when they’re forced to hole up at a romantic, beachfront resort as part of the investigation. Suddenly, the heat behind their nonstop sparring threatens to make the job a whole lot more complicated. . .

It’s actually been a loooong while since I’d read a Julie James book, but something about this one sparked my interest, so I picked it up. Good choice, Past Jen!

Jessica Harlow (which, incidentally, is a super cool name for a heroine, no?) recently transferred to the Chicago FBI office. Her first case is to go undercover posing as an investor to catch a corrupt politician. The problem is, she’s paired with John Shepherd, her arch rival from the FBI Academy. John has been groomed to join the ultra-elite Hostage Rescue Team since he was first recruited to the FBI, but he’s been dragging his feet on applying. When his current relationship blows up at the start of the book, he decides it’s time to finally to do what he was groomed for and sign up for HRT. Jessica wants her first case in the new office to be a success to impress her new colleagues, and John wants to go out with a win. The problem is, neither one can stand the other. They have to figure out how to put aside their differences, and a pesky case of attraction, to get the job done.

I really loved the “he said, she said” premise of the conflict in this book. While Jessica and John share a history, they definitely did NOT experience that history in the same way! Hearing them each tell their own version of their time at the Academy was funny and very illuminating. Jessica obviously had a bit of a chip on her shoulder, but it felt very justified because she was a woman in a world dominated by hot shot men. She had to be tough, and it’s easy to see how that would make her seem standoffish and unapproachable. John has a very different take on the situation, and to him he was just trying to be friendly while she was the one being condescending. For example, both Jessica and John recall an incident from their very first meeting, where John makes a jokey comment and winks at Jessica. He meant it as a friendly, welcoming introduction, with no other agenda. She interpreted it as flirting and patronizing her. Yes, Jessica seems harsh in that scene, but to me it was such a clear example of how a man might not even consider that a gesture like a wink could seem off putting to a woman used to dealing with misogyny and harassment. For his part, John tries to be open and friendly with Jessica, until she starts obviously competing with him, which triggers his own insecurities about being all brawn and no brain. Both of them had perfectly understandable interpretations of the past, and both of them were very wrong about the other.

As usual, James does a wonderful job making the investigation details seem realistic. Jessica and John are both scarily good at their jobs, and both act like actual investigators would act (or at least how I imagine they would act!). While there’s a little bit of light action at the end, for the most part this book is all about the well-planned white collar investigation, not shoot-em-up high stakes battles. What James does so well, though, is blend the competent job performance and the intriguing personal relationship into an engaging story you want to keep reading.

There were a few missteps, though. First, I felt like the conflict with John’s friends and the kerfuffle over his girlfriend never really went anywhere. There was never any real resolution there, so I didn’t quite understand the point. Also, John leaving to do HRT seemed a little forced. I mean, that was sort of the point because he clearly was clearly conflicted, but I felt like his conflict went on a little too long. I also wanted Jessica to be more honest with John. Some of the end drama would have been resolved by both John and Jessica just having a solid conversation earlier, instead of dragging out the angst.

Still, this story had a unique perspective and characters I liked getting to know.

Grade: 4 out of 5

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

four-stars

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Author Interview: Julie James Dishes About the FBI and The Thing About Love!

Posted April 17, 2017 by Holly in Giveaways, Promotions | 10 Comments

Today we’re excited to have Julie James here to answer some questions about THE THING ABOUT LOVE (Berkley Romance, April 18, 2017). If you haven’t pre-ordered it, you must! It was such a wonderful read. Full of witty banter, with an exciting plot, it’s not to be missed.

Author Interview: Julie James Dishes About the FBI and The Thing About Love!The Thing About Love by Julie James
Published by Berkley
Publication Date: April 18th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Contemporary Romance
Pages: 368
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads

Two undercover FBI agents can hide who they are from everyone but each other in the latest novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Suddenly One Summer.

FBI agents Jessica Harlow and John Shepherd have a past. The former lawyer and cocky Army ranger clashed during their training at Quantico, gladly going their separate ways after graduating from the Academy. Six years later, the last thing either of them expects is to run into each other again–assigned to work as partners in a high-profile undercover sting.

For both of them, being paired with a former rival couldn’t come at a worse time. Recently divorced from a Hollywood producer and looking for a fresh start, Jessica is eager to prove herself at her new field office. And John is just one case away from his dream assignment to the FBI’s elite Hostage Rescue Team. In order to nail a corrupt Florida politician, they’ll have to find a way to work as a team–a task that becomes even trickier when they’re forced to hole up at a romantic, beachfront resort as part of the investigation.

Suddenly, the heat behind their nonstop sparring threatens to make the job a whole lot more complicated. . .

 

 

 

Order the Book:

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Interview

Is it true that you were once interested in a career with the FBI?
Yes! I went to law school with the thought of possibly becoming an FBI agent. My first semester of law school, I met with an FBI recruiter, and he told me I was ineligible because I didn’t meet the vision requirements. (I’d planned to have Lasix surgery, but back then, that didn’t count—a rule that has since been changed.) While I was discouraged at the time, becoming a trial lawyer turned out to be a good fit for me. And, knowing what I do now, I’m not sure I would’ve made it through the PT part of the FBI Academy. 🙂

What research did you do for THE THING ABOUT LOVE?
I had to do research into the FBI Academy, and the Hostage Rescue Team. The FBI has some information about Selection and HRT on their website, but I also had to rely on news articles about the Team, and I read a memoir written by a former HRT operator.

I also had to do research on the specifics of the undercover investigation in the book, so that I knew what my heroine and hero would actually be doing. The case in the book is loosely based on a real-life case: the mayor of Charlotte, NC was arrested and convicted for accepting bribes in a manner similar to the mayor in my case. For research, I pulled news stories about the Charlotte mayor’s trial, court hearing transcripts, and press releases from the FBI and U.S. Attorney’s office.

Your female characters always have the best quips and comebacks. What inspires your dialogue?
I’m a film buff, and I started my writing career with screenplays. I think my focus on dialogue stems from that. And I think all of my heroine/hero pairings have a dynamic that’s one part Elizabeth Bennet/Mr. Darcy and one-part Princess Leia/Han Solo.

Why do you enjoy about writing about talented, career-focused women who find love?
I write women who are like the women I know. The “finding love” part of those stories comes from being a longtime fan of romantic comedies.

 

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About the Author

WEBSITE | TWITTER | FACEBOOK | INSTAGRAM | PINTEREST | TUMBLR | GOODREADS

Julie James is the New York Times bestselling author of six previous novels. James graduated from the University of Illinois College of Law and clerked for the United States Court of Appeals in Jacksonville, FL. She lives in Chicago with her family. Learn more at juliejames.com, Facebook.com/JulieJamesFanPage, and Twitter.com/juljames.

 

Meet Julie

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Guest Review: Cold Sweat by J.S. Marlo

Posted February 23, 2017 by Tracy in Reviews | 1 Comment

Guest Review: Cold Sweat by J.S. MarloReviewer: Tracy
Cold Sweat by J.S. Marlo
Series: Heart & Endurance #1
Published by Champagne Books
Publication Date: February 6th 2017
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Mystery
Pages: 204
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three-half-stars

Can they conquer the mountains and the past in time to save Hope?
***
Seventeen-year-old Hope Craig is deaf and training hard to make the biathlon Olympic Team. But when she is kidnapped from the groomed trails and taken into a remote cabin in the mountains, she must battle more than the elements to survive.

On the hunt for her daughter's abductor, Colonel Amelia Matheson enlists the help of Richmond Morgan, a local sheriff who once hurt her. To find Hope, Sheriff Morgan and Colonel Matheson must untangle a web of secrets, including their own.

Using her wits and skills, Hope sets out to escape the mountains and save the man her mother had sent to rescue her—a man who is not who he appears to be.

Hope Craig is kidnapped while doing her biathlon training.  Her mother is in the Army and is using all of her resources to find her daughter.  When she walks into the local Sheriff station she’s shocked to find her old college boyfriend, Rich Morgan, is the Sheriff.

Rich and Amelia broke up when Amelia graduated.  They had been dating but his rich, snobby parents didn’t like her and gave him an ultimatum – money or Amelia.  He chose the money.  He regretted his decision immediately but still didn’t go after Amelia.  He is a different man now than he was then and has changed his thinking and basically cut ties to his parents.  He’s thrilled to see Amelia again even though it’s under horrifying circumstances. He never stopped loving her and as hard as Amelia tries to deny it, she never stopped loving him either.

Rich works Hope’s case with Amelia but also another one with a local Senator.  When the two cases start to intersect Rich is shocked when all the evidence in both cases are exposed.  There are many secrets that are revealed and ones that will change everyone’s lives.

This was a good little mystery/romance.  I liked the characters in the story, even though I never really got that close with Amelia or Rich.  I did like their background story and all the secrets that were revealed, I just couldn’t get into the two of them.

Hope was a little fighter and I loved her character.  I wish that we had gotten to spend more time with her during the course of the story.  I also liked how the author twisted and bent the story so that three different cases were brought together into one.  I actually think I would have enjoyed this better as a straight mystery without bringing the romantic element into it.  I just found that part lacking.

The end was…odd, imho.  Rich and Amelia were on the road to something good but it was rushed in the end and again the romance left me unsatisfied.  If you’re looking for a mystery with romantic elements than this might be a good book for you, but not if you’re looking for a romance with a bit of mystery – at least in my opinion.

Rating: 3.5/3.75 out of 5

three-half-stars

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Guest Review: A Crown of Bitter Oranges by Laura Florand

Posted February 1, 2017 by Jen in Reviews | 9 Comments

Guest Review: A Crown of Bitter Oranges by Laura FlorandReviewer: Jen
A Crown of Bitter Orange (La Vie en Roses, #3) by Laura Florand
Series: La Vie en Roses #3
Also in this series: A wish Upon Jasmine
Published by Laura Florand
Publication Date: January 24th 2017
Genres: Contemporary Romance
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five-stars

From international bestselling author Laura Florand:
Childhood friends. Tristan Rosier might have asked Malorie Monsard to marry him when he was five years old, but things had only gone downhill from there. She’d spent the rest of their lives ignoring him, abandoning him, and destroying his perfumes. Now she was back, to wreak who knew what havoc on his life.
Lifelong enemies. Tristan might choose to dismiss the generations-long enmity between their two families, but Malorie didn’t have that privilege. Like all the other privileges wealthy, gorgeous Tristan took for granted that she couldn’t. But if she was going to restore her family company to glory, she might just need his help.
Or the perfect match? They’d known each other all their lives. Could these childhood friends and lifelong enemies ever uncross their stars and find happily ever after?

I gobbled up the newest book in Laura Florand’s La Vie en Roses series as soon as I got my hands on it, and once again I’m left in a puddle of mushy, smiling, love-soaked goodness.

I have loved funny, kind-hearted Tristan Rosier from the start of this series. (Quick recap: The Rosiers have been growing flowers and manufacturing perfume in Grasse, France for centuries. The books are about the cousins in the family.) He is the perfumer in the family, a genius artist who can capture most any feeling, memory, or dream in a scent. While it’s never named, it appears he has something like ADHD. He’s learned to cope now, but it made his school years excruciating. One way his teachers tried to rein him in was to sit him next to Malorie Monsard. Malorie was quiet and studious and sitting next to her gave Tristan a tiny dose of calm he badly needed, but she left home after graduating and rarely returned since then. Malorie’s family was once part of the area’s perfume royalty just like the Rosiers, but after they were disgraced in WWII, they were outcasts. Malorie’s grandmother managed to keep the company hanging on by a thread, but now that she’s dead Malorie comes back to Grasse to figure out what to do with her legacy. Can she resurrect her family’s perfume house with Tristan’s help, and does she even want to?

As with all the books in this series, Florand makes the descriptions of the sights, sounds, smells, and feelings so incredibly vivid that you just get lost in their loveliness. Part of Malorie’s inheritance is her grandmother’s beloved bitter orange orchard, and the scents and sights of that space are Malorie’s home base, so to speak. She goes there when she needs comfort, and she lets no one in. (So of course, when she finally invites Tristan there it totally cracks open your heart.) This book drives home the point that our concept of home can be tied up in our sense memories, and that is especially true for these two families who make their living with their senses.

Tristan could so easily be a big jerk – he’s rich, brilliant, gorgeous, women falling all over themselves to get close to him – but instead he’s wonderfully adorable and big-hearted. He definitely does have some entitlement as Malorie repeatedly points out, but to me it was mostly a positive kind of entitlement that we’d all like to have. He comes from a family that loves and supports him unconditionally, and that gives him strength and a certain confidence that everything will be ok. He isn’t unwilling to accept his privilege; he just needs it pointed out sometimes. He is constantly described as a happy guy. At first I thought that must be a false front, but as the book went on I decided it’s more that he truly believes that happiness exists everywhere, and that’s a direct result of the security that came from his family. He does need to learn during the course of the book that his situation is unique and that his name has helped him, but you can tell he does still genuinely appreciate his family and the life he has.

Malorie, on the other hand, got little love or support from her family. Her father was a shallow, selfish narcissist who gambled away family treasures, tried to buy everyone’s affection with charm and presents, cheated on her mother relentlessly, and then got himself killed while Malorie was still fairly young. Now, her sisters and mother have scattered and don’t have much of a relationship. As if that wasn’t bad enough, her great-grandfather was a Nazi sympathizer who betrayed the local resistance (of which the Rosiers were members), and that got the Monsard family cast out from Grasse society. It’s always a little difficult for those of us in America with our comparatively short history (and even shorter memories) to imagine, but I can see where something like that would cast a very, very long shadow on a family and a town.

So, Malorie has more than a few chips on her shoulders, to say the least. She has some pretty severe trust issues, and when Tristan shows up acting charming and wanting to help her, she simply can’t understand his motivations. Her memories of her dad keep getting in the way of her present despite the fact that she knows intellectually Tristan is not the same, and those feelings of shame and worthlessness that were drilled into her from birth prevent her from fully letting anyone in. For his part, we can see that Tristan is head over heels for Malorie, and all the charm and flirting has always been one of his ways of showing her how he feels. They start the book with a ton of antagonism and bickering, which of course is really just hiding their insecurities and true feelings. As they spend more time together, Tristan is definitely in love with her, but he moves slowly so as not to scare her off. I loved the build up of the sexual tension. It’s kind of a slow circling that goes on longer than I expected, and by the time they finally get together the scene is so emotional and gorgeous that it had me melting.

At first I was going to say these two had a communication problem, but the more I thought about it, I realized it was really more like a comprehension problem. Malorie craves family, craves security, and craves self-reliance, because she didn’t have much of the first two and has had to rely exclusively on the last one her whole life. She appreciates but doesn’t really understand the way Tristan bears his soul to her. She dismisses it not because she wants to hurt Tristan but simply because she doesn’t realize what he’s giving her. Similarly, Tristan makes a serious misstep when he doesn’t tell Malorie about something she really should have known. While I wasn’t thrilled with his omission, I truly believed he did it because to him, security and a sense of family legacy was always a given, and he didn’t anticipate how important something that gave those comforts to Malorie might be. It was like they were simply speaking different languages, and I enjoyed seeing them suddenly “get it” and learn to give the kind of love the other needed.

In case you couldn’t tell, I loved this book. I loved everything about it and I cannot believe I have to wait to read the next one. (Ooh boy, based on the ending of A Crown of Bitter Oranges, shit is going down in that next book!) This is a book full of lovely imagery, vivid characters, and so much sweetness. Seriously, if you haven’t already, go spend 15 minutes Googling “grasse france” to ogle some painfully beautiful pictures, and then go read this book.

Grade: 5 out of 5

five-stars

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Joint Review: Hard Hitter by Sarina Bowen

Posted January 31, 2017 by Holly in Reviews | 4 Comments

Joint Review: Hard Hitter by Sarina BowenReviewer: Holly and Rowena
Hard Hitter (Brooklyn Bruisers #2) by Sarina Bowen
Series: Brooklyn Bruisers #2
Also in this series: Rookie Move, Rookie Move, Hard Hitter, Rookie Move
Published by Berkley Books
Publication Date: January 3rd 2017
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Pages: 336
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-stars

From the USA Today bestselling author of Rookie Move comes the second novel in the series that s hot enough to melt the ice.
He s a fighter in the rink, but he s about to learn that playing nice can help you score...
As team captain and enforcer, Patrick O'Doul puts the bruise in the Brooklyn Bruisers. But after years of hard hits, O'Doul is feeling the burn, both physically and mentally. He conceals his pain from his coach and trainers, but when his chronic hip injury becomes too obvious to ignore, they send him for sessions with the team s massage therapist. After breaking up with her long-term boyfriend, Ari Bettini is in need of peace of mind. For now, she s decided to focus on her work: rehabilitating the Bruisers MVP. O'Doul is easy on the eyes, but his reaction to her touch is ice cold. Ari is determined to help O'Doul heal, but as the tension between them turns red hot, they both learn that a little TLC does the body good..."

Rowena: Hard Hitter is the second book in Sarina Bowen’s Brooklyn Bruisers series and it features Captain Patrick O’Doul. We first met Patrick O’Doul in Rookie Move. He was one of Leo’s new teammates and he hit on Georgia, Leo’s girl. I don’t remember much else about Patrick, aside from he helped make Leo feel more comfortable transitioning to a new team.

Patrick is the team enforcer and over the years, his body has taken some beatings. He’s coming off a wrist injury and his hip is acting up but every night, he goes out on that rink and he fights whoever needs fighting.

I’ll admit that when I first heard that Patrick was getting his story told next, I wasn’t all that excited. I’m not sure why that was since I didn’t hate Patrick, I just didn’t really think much about him.

Well…I love him now. Ha!

What about you? What did you think of Patrick and the rest of his book?

Holly: I really liked Patrick. He was quiet and intense and private. I kind of expected some deep dark secret or tortured past after the way he acted about being touched.

Rowena: Something more than the deep, dark secret about his parents? I liked the way that Bowen handled Patrick’s issues in this book. He’s had a pretty rough childhood and he had some hangups about them but he wasn’t saddled with those issues. He was an adult. He wasn’t this angsty hot head who lashed out at every turn or anything like that. He ignored them for as long as he can and then he fixed them. I dug it.

Holly: No, I just meant that I expected there to be something, and I was right. I dug the way his issues were handled, too. I thought there might be more angst over it, but he just handled his business.

I’m kind of on the fence about the heroine.I didn’t dislike her, but she isn’t my favorite Bowen heroine.

Rowena: Ari isn’t my favorite heroine either and she got on my nerves throughout the book but not nearly as much as Georgia did in Rookie Move. My thing with Ari was that she taught all not judging and how to listen with your heart in her yoga classes but holy cow did she turn into the biggest judger of all judges when Patrick lands himself in trouble. That annoyed the snot out of me…even if she did buy him a coffee maker.

Holly: I didn’t like how she turned her back on him either. I get being angry, but her reaction was over the top.

Rowena: What did you think about all of the crap that Ari went through with her ex-boyfriend?

Holly: I don’t know how I felt about Ari’s boyfriend troubles. It didn’t seem like she made very good choices when it came to him. Not calling the cops on him, agreeing to meet him alone, etc. I wasn’t impressed.

Rowena: I think that was part of my gripe with Ari. How dumb she was where Vince was. Why did she wait so long to tell the Security guys at the Bruisers about everything that was going on? For someone so smart, she sure was dumb a lot.

View Spoiler »

Rowena: I’m not all that into yoga so I didn’t think that I would care much about Ari and what she did for a living but damn…can you imagine working as a masseuse to all of those hot guys? Getting paid to rub down all of those yummy hockey players every day? I’m low key jealous. Ha!

Holly: Omg, girl. I need some of that in my life.

Rowena: I would have married all of them if they asked me…and I would start every appointment with a foot rub so those marriage proposals would keep rolling in.

Are you looking forward to Beacon and Lauren’s story?

Holly: I am looking forward to Beacon and Lauren’s story. I like this world and I’m definitely glad we’ll see more.

Rowena: Overall, I enjoyed the story and the romance between Patrick and Ari. At least, when Ari wasn’t being a dumbass and I really liked Patrick. He was a complete dreamboat.

My grade for this one is 4 out of 5.

Holly: I liked the romance, too, as well as the additional time with the team. I didn’t love Ari on her own, but I did like her with Patrick.

I’m giving it a 4 out of 5 as well.

Final Grades

Holly: 4/5
Rowena: 4/5

four-stars

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