Tag: Harlequin

Guest Review: Playing Dirty by Taryn Leigh Taylor

Posted April 27, 2017 by Tracy in Reviews | 1 Comment

Guest Review: Playing Dirty by Taryn Leigh TaylorReviewer: Tracy
Playing Dirty by Taryn Leigh Taylor
Published by Harlequin Blaze
Publication Date: April 18th 2017
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-stars


A game they both want to win

Lainey Harper has never been a puck bunny. She wants nothing to do with hockey or hockey players--not after what she's been through. So why can't she resist Cooper Mead?

Portland's newest hockey star, Cooper, is all muscle and charisma. And he's Lainey's worst nightmare. Hooking up with him would bring back memories that Lainey needs to keep buried. And risk the hard-earned anonymity she's sacrificed everything to protect.

When Lainey finally gives in to Cooper's sexy charm, the chemistry's intense--but so is the media exposure. And now Lainey's got even more to lose than her secret--she's got Cooper.

Lainey Harper grew up in a hockey family and loved it.  That is until her father walked out the door when she was 10 and never came back.  She did end up playing hockey, however, but ended her career scoring on her own net and never living it down.  Now she’s back in Portland, OR trying to sell the bar that her father left her when he died.  She wants nothing more than to sell it and get back to her life.

She meets professional hockey player Cooper Mead when her half-brother, Brett, brings him into the bar.   Cooper tries to get her number time and again but she doesn’t fall for his lines.  Despite that they end up hot and heavy after hours.  Lainey decides it was just sex and tries to move on.  Cooper, however, can’t get Lainey out of his mind and keeps showing up wherever Lainey is.  When she’s photographed with Cooper her past comes back to haunt her and she pushes him away. Lainey has to decide what she wants with Cooper, if anything, and what that means for her future.

Lainey was a wonderful character.  She was down to earth and realistic about life.  Yes, she had issues but she was open to change and that made a huge difference in the way I saw her.  Cooper was just a sexy as hell hockey player and I really liked him.  He was kind yet rough and tumble.  He has his own issues and secrets and because of them he tries to act, at times, like someone he’s not.  I loved how he dealt with everything in the book (I don’t want to give it all away) and how he came to tell Lainey, and others, about his issues.

The romance and sex was extremely hot and well written.  Taylor didn’t overdo it and throw too may sex scenes in when they didn’t further the story along, and I appreciated that.

This was a great little book.  Lainey really had a chip on her shoulder when the story first started but throughout the book she came to realize many things about herself and the way she saw life, her father, her brother, and love.

Rating: 4 out of 5

FYI – This kind of looks like it’s the second book in a series but the life of me I couldn’t find a series name.  The first book is Playing to Win.

four-stars

1 Comment
Tags: , , , , , , ,


Review: Pretty Face by Lucy Parker

Posted February 21, 2017 by Rowena in Reviews | 3 Comments

Review: Pretty Face by Lucy ParkerReviewer: Rowena
Pretty Face by Lucy Parker
Series: London Celebrities #2
Published by Carina Press
Publication Date: February 20th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 264
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-stars

Highly acclaimed, award-winning author of Act Like It Lucy Parker returns readers to the London stage with laugh-out-loud wit and plenty of drama

The play's the fling

It's not actress Lily Lamprey's fault that she's all curves and has the kind of voice that can fog up a camera lens. She wants to prove where her real talents lie—and that's not on a casting couch, thank you. When she hears esteemed director Luc Savage is renovating a legendary West End theater for a lofty new production, she knows it could be her chance—if only Luc wasn't so dictatorial, so bad-tempered and so incredibly sexy.

Luc Savage has respect, integrity and experience. He also has it bad for Lily. He'd be willing to dismiss it as a midlife crisis, but this exasperating, irresistible woman is actually a very talented actress. Unfortunately, their romance is not only raising questions about Lily's suddenly rising career, it's threatening Luc's professional reputation. The course of true love never did run smooth. But if they're not careful, it could bring down the curtain on both their careers…

This book is approximately 96,000 words

One-click with confidence. This title is part of the Carina Press Romance Promise: all the romance you're looking for with an HEA/HFN. It's a promise! Find out more at CarinaPress.com/RomancePromise

Pretty Face is the second book in Lucy Parker’s London Celebrities series and it was another winner in my book. I adored Luc. I loved Lily and I really, really loved their romance.

Lily Lamprey’s soap opera career is coming to an end and she’s looking forward to moving on from the homewrecking role she’s been playing for far too long. She’s young and she’s got the rest of her life and career ahead of her but not a lot of people think she’s got what it takes to really make a go of it in the theater world.

Luc Savage is renovating an old West End theater and he’s producing the first play that will debut in the new space and at first glance, Lily is not what he’s looking for in any role on the play. Her voice is all wrong for the theater and not even threats of investors pulling their funding is going to stop him from doing what he wants but that all changes when he meets with Lily and gives her a legit shot. Not only can he see her bringing life to one of the key characters in the play, but he can also seeing her being a star in the theater world.

There’s a huge age difference between the hero and heroine in this one. The hero is 40 and the heroine is 26 but that didn’t matter to me. The romance between the two of them worked well and that’s a credit to Parker’s writing style. There was so much going on and so many road blocks in between the two of these guys that something as small as the age difference just didn’t matter. I liked getting to know Lily and Luc on their own but I adored the two of them together.

They both had lives apart from each other but they were pretty drawn to each other and I liked that. Holly and I were talking just last week about how we’ve been noticing that romance novels these days have the hero and the heroine in each other’s pockets for the entire book. There doesn’t seem to be a lot going on in their lives apart from each other and we miss the couples of old, who had friends and family that were a part of their lives and their stories but that wasn’t the case here. Luc had his family and stuff going on with them whereas Lily had her best friend and family and her own stuff going on with them.

All in all, this was another fabulous read by Lucy Parker and she’s cemented her name on my radar and I will definitely be reading more from her. This was an entertaining novel about two completely different people who came together and made sense. Their love grew with passing page and I was completely on board with their feelings, their passion and their story. It’s a definite recommended read from me.

Grade: 4.25 out of 5

four-stars

3 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , ,


Guest Review: Bayou Hero by Marilyn Pappano

Posted November 3, 2016 by Jen in Reviews | 9 Comments

Guest Review: Bayou Hero by Marilyn PappanoReviewer: Jen
Bayou Hero by Marilyn Pappano
Published by Harlequin
Publication Date: January 6th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 288
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-half-stars

In this book from USA TODAY bestselling author Marilyn Pappano, one family's scandal is responsible for a rising body count…

Even for an experienced NCIS agent like Alia Kingsley, the murder scene is particularly gruesome. Someone killed in a fit of rage. Being the long-estranged son of the deceased, Landry Jackson quickly becomes a person of interest. But does Landry loathe his father as much as the feds suspect?

It's clear to Alia that Landry Jackson has secrets, but his hatred for his father isn't one of them. Alia feels sure Landry isn't the killer, but once more family members start dying, she's forced to question herself. What if the fierce attraction between her and Landry has compromised Alia's instincts?

I haven’t been able to get this book out of my head for DAYS, and I’ve been sitting on this review, trying to balance my desire to tell someone about this ambitious book with my uncertainty about how I really feel about parts of it. This is a good book…possibly even a great book, but it’s complicated, so this review is gonna be long!

Let me start out with a huge trigger warning: This book deals with the rape of children. There is nothing graphic, but this issue is THERE in a painful and persistent way through much of the book. So, take care!

Alia is an NCIS investigator assigned to look into the murder of an Admiral in New Orleans. He and some of his household staff were brutally stabbed. His son Landry absolutely hated his father, so he is naturally a suspect. When other people connected to the family start showing up dead, too, Alia and Landry start to realize the killings are connected to the family’s dirty secrets.

What did I like?

  • Alia is tough and smart and I want to know her in real life! I love her dedication to her job, her occasional gallows humor, her good-natured bickering with her ex husband, her quiet support for Landry, and her love for food. She’s also part Vietnamese and her heritage actually seems like a part of her life, not just window dressing. She brings a much needed lightness to the book, and I loved her.
  • Even though we never “meet” Alia’s family in person I loved them too, based on a couple short phone conversations and what we know of them from Alia. I thought it was so important to get an example of a healthy family (and a healthy military family, at that) to contrast with the sick dynamics of Landry’s family. Alia’s parents aren’t perfect, but they love her unconditionally and support their daughter in her endeavors without trying to be overprotective or bossy. Hooray for functional families!
  • It’s set in New Orleans and uses that city to excellent advantage. The sticky heat, the hidden wealth behind the wrought iron gates, the amazing food, the tourists who come without seeing the real city…all of it is evocative without being some kind of caricature of New Orleans.
  • There is no instalust, no lightning bolts from the sky, no uncontrollable pants feelings. Alia and Landry act like two normal people who at first can’t trust each other for very legitimate reasons. The attraction builds slowly, and even once they start spending social time together they move slowly because of Alia’s job investigating Landry’s dad’s murder. (The romance does still move pretty fast in terms of actual days, but in page numbers it’s well paced.)
  • THEY DON’T CREATE A CONFLICT OF INTEREST BY SLEEPING TOGETHER! Yes I am yelling because I am not sure I can think of another romantic suspense I’ve read, and I read a lot of them, where the solution that Alia and Landry use here has ever come up. I won’t tell you what the solution is, but it is mature and responsible and why the fuck have I never seen it before?
  • I haven’t mentioned Landry yet. Don’t get me wrong, I liked him too, though maybe not as much as Alia. What I did appreciate about him is that he isn’t afraid of his feelings for Alia. He knows he feels something serious for her, and he knows he wants it to be long term. He isn’t a closed off, broody a-hole, which would have been the easy route to take with this character.

And now for some very spoilery discussion, because this gets at the heart of why I wasn’t sure exactly how to feel about parts of this book.

As a child, Landry was repeatedly raped by a group of his father’s male friends for years before escaping with the help of a distant relative. The friends actually traded their kids around as sex objects; Landry’s younger sister and all the male and female children of the friends were also raped routinely. It is completely horrifying and disgusting, and reading about it made me nauseous. There aren’t any graphic descriptions at all, but Landry’s pain is excruciating to read about.

I’m always leery of books that use rape as a backstory or sensational plot, and it’s hard to escape the fact that the rapes do add a level of sensationalism to the story, although I think the author is careful to portray it as the awful crime it is. On the other hand, there are almost no romances where the hero is the one who was raped, and I worry it’s because authors and readers think it makes the hero seem less manly. So perhaps this is a story that is important to tell, if it’s done properly.

Part of why I hesitated to write this review was because I was going over all the details in my mind searching for mishandling of this topic. Overall, I do think the sexual abuse was handled sensitively. Landry certainly has issues, but he is able to have a largely functional life and build relationships with other people. The book makes it crystal clear he doesn’t do it on his own, though. He needs years of therapy with a skilled doctor, and even then he is still struggling with certain things. He has heartbreaking moments where he feels ashamed or angry at himself, though he talks himself down from those moments by recalling his therapist’s advice. And most importantly, Alia and the other characters in the book don’t treat Landry as less-than because of his trauma. To my untrained eyes, it felt respectfully handled. 

So why my complicated feelings? Most of my hesitation was due to the killer. I could see it coming, and I didn’t like it. The killer had their own very serious mental health issues, which were less gracefully handled. Was it too cartoonish? Was it a cheap “crazy killer” cop out? Was it just there for sensationalism? I’m honestly not sure, but I do know that I didn’t want that character to be the killer. While Alia and Landry get a happy ending, nobody else really does.

To be honest, I am impressed with Pappano and Harlequin for even trying to tell a story like this, because I sure as hell did not expect this when I picked up the book! This was much deeper, more nuanced, and more gut wrenching than your average category romance. While I’m still not exactly sure how I feel about some elements, I am not sorry I read it. 

Grade: 4.25 out of 5

four-half-stars

9 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , ,


Guest Review: Man of Action by Janie Crouch

Posted June 24, 2016 by Jen in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: Man of Action by Janie CrouchReviewer: Jen
Man of Action by Janie Crouch
Series: Omega Sector: Critical Response #4
Published by Harlequin Books
Publication Date: June 21st 2016
Genres: Romance, Suspense, Contemporary, Romantic Suspense
Pages: 288
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
two-stars

He was a man of action—especially when it came to protecting his new undercover partner…

At nineteen, Andrea Gordon's life was forever changed. After proving herself instrumental in a bank hostage crisis, she became one of Omega Sector's top agents. Four years later, her skill at reading people is unrivaled—until she meets fellow profiler Brandon Han. Paired together to track a serial killer who has been targeting at-risk women, the two become entangled beyond the case. Their mutual attraction deepens as they get closer to the truth. But when Andrea's own sordid past surfaces, they will both be forced to question everything about the assignment…and each other.

I have been reading the Omega Sector and Omega Sector: Critical Response books by Janie Crouch for a while now, and while they’re not exactly ground breaking, they’ve been solid Intrigue series, so I was looking forward to the newest title. While I appreciated the somewhat ambitious themes the author took on in this book, I got so damn frustrated with the hero. The more I thought about the book, the more angry I got at him, so here I am to review rant.

Omega is an elite federal law enforcement team that handles “special cases.” I’m a little fuzzy on their precise mission, but they seem to help local law enforcement with tricky cases, hunt down terrorists, you know the drill. In this book, Agent Brandon Han and Andrea Gordon are assigned to help catch a serial killer. Andrea is not technically a field agent, but she’s called into this case because of her incredible abilities to read people and because the murders are taking place in her hometown. Brandon is the agency’s top profiler and a literal genius, and he is not happy about being partnered with the very young, standoffish Andrea. For her part, Andrea is not happy either because her hometown holds nothing but terrible memories, and she’s terrified someone at Omega will find out about her past. Andrea has to come to terms with her past, and Brandon has to help her, until he screws it all up (more on that later).

Andrea is interesting and my favorite part of the book. She’s only in her early twenties but she has achieved a lot, even if she wouldn’t agree. She grew up with an abusive uncle, running away from home when she was still a teen to live in her car and work menial jobs until finally getting a job as a stripper to support herself. When she accidentally helps Omega catch a bank robber using her uncanny ability to read people, they recruit her. She has major insecurities born out of her abusive childhood and the fact that she’s dyslexic, so to protect herself she acts standoffish and remote to her colleagues. She dropped out of high school, though once at Omega she got her GED and started on some college courses. You can imagine how a very young, very shy, and very intimidated young girl would feel way out of her league at an elite law enforcement agency, especially one that employs geniuses like Brandon. Seeing Andrea start to recognize her talents and give herself credit for all her very hard won successes was awesome!

Right from the start, though, Brandon is an entitled, selfish dickhole. He instantly judges her as an ice queen because she keeps to herself. He thinks she’s lazy because she doesn’t read the case notes he gives her right away (instead she stays up half the night in her hotel room so she can read them alone and concentrate, so fuck you Brandon). He assumes she won’t be prepared to meet with local police and is shocked when she shows she does in fact have some skills. But lots of books start out with a case of misinterpretation, and it didn’t bother me until he just keeps up the judging. It all comes to a head when Andrea reluctantly goes undercover as a server at a strip club to try to help catch the killer. Based on a few minutes simply watching her (not, you know, a conversation with her or anything), Brandon decides she’s enjoying herself too much and therefore she’s a slut who likes other men to leer at her. What the actual fuck?! He knows she hated her past and only went undercover to stop more murders, and even if she DID like it screw him because there’s nothing wrong with it! Andrea, who is already massively ashamed of her past and miserable that she’s forced to be back doing the work she hates, even temporarily, is heartbroken by his withdrawal and the disdain he’s obviously communicating. Keep in mind, this is AFTER he learned about her abusive past and how she ran away, AFTER she’s confessed her shame and insecurities, AFTER they’ve slept together several times, and AFTER he claimed to understand and admire her.

Now, I want to be fair and point out that the book itself wasn’t slut shaming Andrea. Many characters go out of their way to highlight that there is nothing wrong with what she did, and in fact she should be admired for surviving. My issue was specifically with Brandon. I grade books, in part, on how much I believe in the couple and in their compatibility. I did not believe Brandon deserved Andrea–he deserved a swift kick in the junk, and she deserved a much better hero. I might have gotten over his behavior if a) it had taken place earlier in the story before he really knew Andrea, b) it had just been a minor thought that his genius brain quickly discarded because clearly everything he had learned about Andrea contradicted this interpretation, or c) he had done a major, massive, epic grovel to make up for it. Instead it happens later in the book, the big man-baby whines about it for days, and he only offers up a weak AF apology after two separate people had to put him in his place. Moreover, the whole thing felt like an awkward device to add conflict. Brandon can pick up on the most minute details of facial expressions and behaviors–he should have been able to read Andrea. I guess we’re supposed to think it’s because his judgment is clouded by love, but nope, I’m not buying it.

I love reading Intrigues specifically because I like the shorter length sometimes, but in this case I actually think this story really needed more pages. Besides the relationship conflict, there was a lot going on in this book, with a complicated murder investigation, confrontations with people from Andrea’s past, and this tension between genius and “darkness” in Brandon that really didn’t get fully explored. I wanted to see more of Andrea’s self-actualization, and I wanted to see more of Brandon genuinely supporting her in that process. I think with some more pages to develop and more time for Brandon to actually show learning and growth, I would have believed in this HEA. While I’ll happily keep reading the series, this book left me thinking Andrea could do so much better.

Grade: 2 out of 5

two-stars

0 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , , ,


Guest Review: Possessed by Passion by Brenda Jackson

Posted May 12, 2016 by Judith in Reviews | 0 Comments

Guest Review: Possessed by Passion by Brenda JacksonReviewer: Judith
Possessed by Passion by Brenda Jackson
Published by Harlequin
Publication Date: March 1st 2016
Genres: Romance, Contemporary, African American
Pages: 224
Buy on Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Goodreads
four-stars

They're discovering the healing powers of passion

Burned-by-love architect Hunter McKay came home to Phoenix to open her own firm, not rekindle her fleeting high school romance with playboy Tyson Steele. But when she runs into the sexy surgeon at a nightclub—and he unleashes that legendary Steele charm—Hunter fears she's headed straight for heartbreak once again.

Tyson hasn't forgotten the one who got away. A weeklong fling should be just enough to get the sultry beauty out of his system for good, even if he has to let Hunter set the ground rules. But the rules are suddenly changing for the no-strings bachelor. Can Tyson convince this sensual woman that he's the real deal—that they deserve a second chance together?

Brenda Jackson is one of the few authors I believe has the talent and skill to make this family saga a continuing success.  I think it is largely because within the framework of a very erotic love story there is the reality of family and caring connection that keeps these people grounded even when they live in ways that seem at odds with the morals and standards that guide their families of origin.  A plus for me is also the fact that her characters are real people who are driven by real dreams and goals, whose evident success has been won often in difficult circumstances.  That they are people of color has not been a help but they know their own worth and are not afraid to go for what they want.

Such is the attitude of the intrepid Dr. Tyson Steele who, like so many of the men in this family, is a player romantically.  Steady and stalwart professionally and connected and loving to his siblings and family members, he still likes to play and keep his options open.  In truth, he has yet to be fully bitten by the love bug, except when he came close while a high school lothario and was enamored with Hunter McKay.  Those days are long gone, but she’s back.  And in typical, no-strings bachelor fashion, Tyson is going to use a sexy fling to get himself free of any lingering feelings that might pose a future complication to his free and easy bachelor ways.

This is another fun love story from a wonderful author, one of my favorites, actually.  She creates a heroine who is real, not a stick woman who lives on lettuce leaves and coffee.  Hunter is a curvy woman who is proud of the body she loves, enjoys her life and displays inner as well as outer beauty.  She has the capacity to rope in Tyson Steele, but she isn’t convinced that she wants to.  She really isn’t in the market for hurt.  But Ms Jackson loves the happy ending, and although their love story is not free and easy, twisting and turning and surprising the reader,  these two characters are good people and their relationship is fun to watch grow and develop into a real love story.  I also think that Tyson is the kind of man many women would love to know just because he is not only good looking and successful, but in most ways he knows how to treat a woman with respect and dignity.

Another aspect of Ms Jackson’s stories that I have always appreciated is that her characters grow even more as the story progresses.  I have come to really dislike romance fiction with main characters who are childish and immature and tend to remain that way.  Such is not the case in Ms Jackson’s novels and that is not the case here.  Hunter and Tyson not only take a long look at one another but they are honest enough to take a long look at themselves.  It is watching their character grow and expand as they interact with one another that makes this another fascinating love story with many levels of interest and ways for the reader to connect to the story.

If you haven’t read a Brenda Jackson novel before, here’s a good place to start.  If you are one of her fans, you will like this novel just as well as you have liked others in her extensive writing resume.  It’s another winner, IMHO.  I give it a rating of 4 out of 5.

You can read more from Judith at http://www.drjsbookplace.blogspot.com.

four-stars

0 Comments
Tags: , , , , , , ,