Looking for Readers! I want YOU!!!

… >.> To review. I’ve never done a throwback post but – hee. Time for that always yes? Also I put a lot of work into the below.

What am I looking for as a starting point for a reviewer? I listed a number of “sources” for you to look into. Here: the reviews I’ve posted on this site are a great indication. I also actually have a general format – more guidelines than hard rules, but mostly I do NOT want plot summaries or book reports. That’s what the blurb – and you know, actually reading the book is for.

If you’re interested, contact me. We’ll talk and hope it’s a good fit. Got questions? I’d love to hear from you. If you’re not interested – do you have a friend who might be? Share the love!

Thanks – and let’s do this!!! 😀

ETA: Guest reviewers welcome! <3 [Seriously, I have enough ARCs and requests to drown me. And you. And you too in the back. Let’s make EVERYONE happy! More reading! More reviews! More love!] 😉

Mary’s Favorites of 2016

Gosh, I cannot believe it’s the end of 2016 already! Where did the year go? (Please, dear Lord, tell me the rest of you feel this way and it’s not just me!)

Anyway, I don’t always get a chance to write reviews for books I’ve read and loved, so this is a great time to do an end-of-the-year recap and share with all of you some of my favorites from 2016! There are a few so – far warning – you should hide your wallet if you don’t want to be tempted!

Infiltration (Omega Sector Series Book 1) by Janie Crouch
Romantic Suspense released by Harlequin Intrigue on December 14, 2014

The wrong place at the wrong time; that’s the only way Sophia Reardon could explain her predicament. She wasn’t even an FBI field agent and now she was being taken hostage. By her ex-boyfriend Cameron Branson. The moment Sophia walked into his undercover operation, Cameron warned her that his employers would want to break her. So keeping her by his side, pretending not to have feelings for her, was the best way to maintain his role in the dangerous organization, and the only way to keep them both safe. Because if they got their hands on her, she could expose him and his secrets. And then they’d no longer have any reason to keep her around.

I loved, loved this book. Actually, I really like Janie Crouch in general. She writes fast-paced romantic suspense with great characters and interesting plots. This one was no exception. Cam is protective but sensitive. He knows Sophia doesn’t have any reason to trust him, and yet, he works hard to show her she can. Sophia is a smart heroine thrust into in a dangerous situation she is incredibly unprepared for. Her feelings and former relationship with Cam color her actions but they never came across as stupid or naïve. I would highly recommend this book for anyone who loves romantic suspense.

Triple Dare (The Art of Seduction Book 3) by Regina Kyle
Contemporary Romance released by Harlequin Blaze on November 17, 2015

Globe-trotting fashion photographer Ivy Nelson is home to help her family out of a jam. When she donates her services to a charity calendar, the last thing she expects is hunky firefighter—and object of all her hottest fantasies—Cade Hardesty to walk through the door. Cade is ready to get naked for a good cause, and the heat Ivy feels is anything but professional.

When a sexy dare turns into a scorching kiss, they can’t help but give in to their desires. But Cade wants Ivy in his bed for more than one night. Can the hometown firefighter convince the photographer that her wanderlust should lead her into his arms for good, or will one of them run before they both get burned?

This book was just plain fun. Low angst and lots of humor. I mean, it’s starts off with the heroine photographing the hero wearing nothing more than a sparkly g-string and a Santa hat while holding a kitten. Heaven help me, it doesn’t get any better than that! Both Ivy and Cade are likable characters and the story flows smoothly. Small town, friends-to-lovers and a nice supporting cast of characters round the romance out nicely. If you are looking to kill a few hours on a Sunday afternoon, this is exactly the book you should pick up.

Killing Trail (Timber Creek K-9 Mystery) by Margaret Mizushima
Mystery released by Crooked Lane Books on December 8, 2015

When a young girl is found dead in the mountains outside Timber Creek, life-long resident Officer Mattie Cobb and her partner, K-9 police dog Robo, are assigned to the case that has rocked the small Colorado town.

With the help of Cole Walker, local veterinarian and a single father, Mattie and Robo must track down the truth before it claims another victim. But the more Mattie investigates, the more she realizes how many secrets her hometown holds. And the key may be Cole’s daughter, who knows more than she’s saying.

The murder was just the beginning, and if Mattie isn’t careful, she and Robo could be next.

I’m a fan of mysteries and I adore dogs, so picking this up wasn’t a difficult choice. Mattie is a great character but untrusting. When she’s paired with Robo to form the first K-9 unit in her small town, it’s a real test for her – especially when they are thrown into their first case. Robo was his own character with a distinct personality. The mystery was well done and low on the angst side. An overall great read.

Act Like It by Lucy Parker
Contemporary Romance published by Carina on November 30, 2015

Richard Troy used to be the hottest actor in London, but the only thing firing up lately is his temper. We all love to love a bad boy, but Richard’s antics have made him Enemy Number One, breaking the hearts of fans across the city.

Have the tides turned? Has English rose Lainie Graham made him into a new man?

Sources say the mismatched pair has been spotted at multiple events, arm in arm and hip to hip. From fits of jealousy to longing looks and heated whispers, onlookers are stunned by this blooming romance.

Could the rumors be right? Could this unlikely romance be the real thing? Or are these gifted stage actors playing us all?

I picked this up because I have a love affair with the theater and was hoping this novel would feed my adoration. It did. Yay! Plus it used one of my absolute favorite tropes: enemies-to-lovers. Needless to say, my recommendations for 2016 would not be complete without mentioning this book. Richard starts out as a real jerk, and what I really love is that by the end of the book he’s still kinda jerky. Not in a mean way – but in a grumpy, manly way. Lucy is strong and no push over, which is the perfect foil for Richard. They were a great couple and it was lovely to be along for the ride as they got their HEA.

That’s it, folks. Some of my favorite reads from 2016. Have any of you read these? What are some of your recommendations? (My TBR list can never be too long!)

TBR Challenge Review: Egomaniac by Vi Keeland

EgomaniacEgomaniac by Vi Keeland
Contemporary romance released by Vi Keeland on January 14, 2017

The night I met Drew Jagger, he’d just broken into my new Park Avenue office.
I dialed 9-1-1 before proceeding to attack him with my fancy new Krav Maga skills.
He quickly restrained me, then chuckled, finding my attempted assault amusing.

Of course, my intruder had to be arrogant.
Only, turned out, he wasn’t an intruder at all.

Drew was the rightful occupant of my new office. He’d been on vacation while his posh space was renovated.
Which was how a scammer got away with leasing me office space that wasn’t really available for rent.
I was swindled out of ten grand.

The next day, after hours at the police station, Drew took pity on me and made me an offer I couldn’t refuse. In exchange for answering his phones while his secretary was out, he’d let me stay until I found a new place.
I probably should have acted grateful and kept my mouth shut when I overheard the advice he was spewing to his clients. But I couldn’t help giving him a piece of my mind.
I never expected my body to react every time we argued. Especially when that was all we seemed to be able to do.

The two of us were complete opposites. Drew was a bitter, angry, gorgeous-as-all-hell, destroyer of relationships. And my job was to help people save their marriages.
The only thing the two of us had in common was the space we were sharing.
And an attraction that was getting harder to deny by the day.

I first read Vi Keeland last year, when I got a notification that her book The Baller (which I quite enjoyed) was out – and since then I’ve had an eye on her releases. While the premise of this book had me giving it slight side eye, I was willing to go there with Ms. Keeland. I’m glad I did. It’s a story of “opposites” attract, which isn’t normally my thing, but it really worked here. The divorce lawyer and the marriage counselor. An introduction where each thinks the other is an intruder. It’s really cute.

Emerie Rose (what a romance heroine name!) is a great heroine. She’s just so nice. She’s someone you want to be friends with. Emerie is as I said, a marriage counselor. She’s from Oklahoma, but moved to New York to follow the guy she’s been half in love with for three years. I know, I know, cliche, right? But it didn’t annoy me here. He was her TA too. (Gah!) And yet Ms. Keeland wrote it in a way that makes it work and didn’t get my back up.  Pretty impressive if you ask me. Thankfully, Emerie meets Drew instead. (The TA-now Professor wasn’t worth it.) She’s well-rounded, and dynamic – she’s uncertain, a little spastic and neurotic, but grown up and does the right thing even when it’s hard. If nothing else, I thought she was a bit too nice. I understand why Drew acted as he did, but I wish that Emerie had made him sweat it out just a tiny bit more. (Or more than a tiny bit. … But then I’m mean.)

Drew Jagger is a good man. He’s got a heart of gold, but it’s buried under some tarnish, and locked down tight. His ex-wife did him dirty. Really dirty – when he was really young, so I get the bitterness. He got burned so badly he isn’t interested in any relationship anymore. It doesn’t help that he’s a divorce lawyer, often seeing the absolute worst of imploding marriages. However, that’s when it comes to relationships. For other things, he’s quite nice. He’s gorgeous – of course (classic romance hero requirement) – but he’s kind. He’s had the same best friend since sixth grade. He’s loyal and constant – just a bit gun-shy. He also was extremely generous upon meeting Emerie when he didn’t have to be, and it was so fun seeing how they clicked. Drew is a bit crass, but that’s all surface. I liked that he’s got some rough edges and contradictions to his character.

Emerie starts out a bit of a mess and adorable. Professionally, she’s set. However, she starts out in New York [City] with a lot going on. Drew helps her out – who wouldn’t when it’s a damsel in distress flailing (especially since Drew notes she’s got a great ass and rack)? Not to say Emerie doesn’t pull her own – she runs her own practice and helps Drew, keeping his office running smoothly and rearranging his schedule skillfully – and Drew needs it more than your average bear. (In fact, Drew is the one who has a lot going on through the book. Way more than Emerie, who becomes the constant steady presence.) Emerie even mentions it at one point – that when one has more going on than the other, they can lean on the other person. They’ve established a relationship and are making it work.

I don’t want to give away the plot points – I hate “book report” reviews that just offer a summary of what happens – but I found everything realistic, and quite believable. It made sense, and was one life event after the other – just as things always are. Drew and Emerie are just meant to be together. I had a lot of fun seeing the two of them develop an emotional connection. There’s a lot of humor, fun, sexy times, and healthy respect between them. It was nice to read about two characters who have a strong sense of self falling in love. I can see myself re-reading this book, and I’ll definitely look for more by Ms. Keeland. In fact, I’m hoping the best friend gets his own happy ever after too.

Grade: B-

You can buy a copy here.

Review: One Snowy Night by Jill Shalvis

Mary’s Review of
One Snowy NightOne Snowy Night (Heartbreaker Bay series) by Jill Shalvis
Contemporary Romance released by Avon Impulse on November 8, 2016

It’s Christmas Eve and Rory Andrews is desperate to get home to the family she hasn’t seen in years. Problem is, her only ride to Lake Tahoe comes in the form of the annoyingly handsome Max Stranton, and his big, goofy, lovable dog Carl.

Hours stuck in a truck with the dead sexy Max sounds like a fate worse than death (not), but Rory’s out of options. She’s had a crush on Max since high school and she knows he’s attracted to her, too. But they have history… and Max is the only one who knows why it went south.

They’ve done a good job of ignoring their chemistry so far, but a long road trip in a massive blizzard might be just what they need to face their past… and one steamy, snowy night is all it takes to bring Max and Rory together at last.

I love a road trip romance. There’s something about two characters with loads of unresolved issues being trapped in a car together for miles and miles. With the holiday angle added in and a goofy, lovable dog…well, I just couldn’t resist picking this book up.

Rory was very interesting. She ran away from home at seventeen and hasn’t been back. She’s now 28, a little older and a little wiser. She’s tough – having survived and then thrived in San Francisco, putting herself through school and working. She wants to make amends with her family and decides to go home for Christmas. The problem: she’s told them that before and flaked every time. It’s easier for her to run away from her problems than face them and she’s working hard to change that.

Max was a lovable character. He’s protective of Rory but not in an overbearing way. He’s also smart with a good heart. Plus he has a dog and, let’s be honest, there is nothing better than a tough guy who melts like butter when it comes to his pet. Max agrees to give Rory a lift home – they are going in the same direction, after all. But what starts out as a good deed is later revealed to be far more than that. While Max likes and is attracted to Rory, he’s also very upset with her for some things she did in their shared past. He’s holding a grudge (for a good reason) and it makes his actions towards her only better because it would’ve been so easy for him to be nasty and dismissive. I really liked Max a lot.

During the ride home, the couple runs into some trouble. They end up stranded, of course, but how each of them reacts to that is what makes the book so good. Rory knows her family will believe she flaked again and she hates that. Max, knowing some of the history between Rory and her family, comforts her and does his best to make the best of a bad situation. On top of that, under pressure from Rory, Max reveals his reasons for keeping a distance. When Rory discovers what she unknowingly cost him, her reaction is very moving. It was easy to see Rory was working hard to change who she was. Max recognizes this and it made the romance between them so much sweeter.

My biggest complaint with this was the length. There was so much going on in this little novella, I think it really could have been longer. Also, if you haven’t read any of the novels in the Heartbreaker Bay series – like me – you might be a little lost in the beginning. It didn’t detract from my enjoyment of the novella but I wish the author had given a touch more background on the characters.

Grade: B-

You can read an excerpt of this book here or buy it here.

SNAHM: Yasmine Galenorn

Hi friends – I’m … still here. It’s been … a year, huh. Lots going on. Lots. Let’s just move right along. I have to say straight up, this post is a year late, and it’s on me. It is entirely, absolutely, 100% on me. My apologies. My apologies to you, my apologies to Ms. Galenorn. I messed up. I did want to share her post though – but also note – it was written almost a year ago, it should have gone up at that time. I will say, I definitely think it’s still relevant. (In fact, maybe it was meant to be – to be posted now considering…)

So without further ado … Yasmine Galenorn

I want to thank Limecello for asking me to write a blog post on diversity/being a writer of mixed background. The world of media’s been filled with a lot of controversy this year—well, every year, I guess, but this year I’ve noticed it more.

And I’ve been thinking about the concept of diversity in books, movies, etc., a lot because this relates to me directly—as both an author, and as someone who has a mixed heritage background. Maybe I don’t look it…my Irish side seems to comes out a lot stronger than my Cherokee in my looks…but yes, I am mixed blood and honestly, it has never played a big part in how I think about myself. Probably because of that very fact—nobody bothers me about it because hey, I look white, to be blunt. No, I get attacked in other ways.

It hit my mother though, right where it hurts most, with family. With her husband’s family (my stepfather). And I knew it hurt her because when she was alive, she talked to me about it. I’d like to say he stuck up for her, that he put a stop to his mother treating my mother like a second-class citizen, but I can’t, because he, himself, was a racist though he would never have accepted that fact. But honestly, when you marry someone who is part Native American and then refer to NAs as “warhoops” and Hispanics as “wetbacks”…I’m sorry, you’re racist. When you won’t let your wife drink any alcohol because she’s part Native American, you’re racist. And so on.

Anyway, I had a long, long post written with all sorts of examples and I deleted most of it and decided to rewrite…just a blunt post.

I’ve seen so much ugliness in the past few years on the net. I’ve been called a whore/slut because my female characters are unapologetically sexual and lead alternative lifestyles. I’ve been trash-talked as a writer because of my looks—because I’m fat and unapologetic about the way I choose to dress, about the fact that I have a wonderful marriage, and that I’m successful and not ashamed of myself. Apparently, size has something to do with how well the words come out of my brain, according to a subset of trolls. I’ve seen friends get death and rape threats due to speaking out about the nature of being a female who writes science fiction and fantasy.

Enough. Just. Enough.

I no longer care about making my valid arguments and refuting the idiots because: Diversity? Whether it be in gender, color, size, sexuality, it’s not going away, people. The “good old days with family values” only existed for a minor subset of society. Women were struggling for equality. People of color were struggling for equality. L/G/B/T people were struggling for equality. The only ones who weren’t struggling with some form of discrimination were white men.

So here’s the thing: yes, you have less power when you share that power around. You have less power over others. That doesn’t mean you don’t have the power to shape your life into awesome…

What does it mean? This:

  • It means you can’t beat your wife.
  • You can’t rape your date.
  • You can’t terrorize the neighbors because they’re black.
  • You can’t pass over someone for a job simply because he’s Cherokee.
  • You can’t spit on a woman entering the military because you think she can’t handle the training.
  • You can’t deny Jim and George the right to marry.
  • You can’t pass over Linda for a promotion just because she’s fat and you would rather promote the size 4 blond so you can ogle her boobs.
  • You can’t force the local pagans to attend your church or to stop practicing their religion.

IOW: You can’t deny others basic rights simply because you don’t like them, you don’t agree with their religion, or you think they won’t serve you or that they are less than you. And, to be blunt, if you have a problem with this, I suggest you reexamine your ethics because…sorry, you’re wrong.

Anyway…I’ve seen too much online over the years to make me truly ever trust anybody I don’t know personally. Because those anonymous trolls and flame baiters? They aren’t bots. They are real people. Maybe the neighbor next door. Maybe the person you pass on the street. And they’ll smile to your face, and turn around and harass and hound and attack in private when they think nobody’s watching. When they believe they can get away with it. They’re cowards, but they’re dangerous cowards because sometimes, they take their hatred into the streets with guns. Or they beat up their girlfriends. Or they bully a little black girl just because they can.

So ya know…Enough.

Take a deep breath and decide—what do you want people to remember you for when you’re gone? Do you want to make the world a better place? Start by speaking out when you hear someone making a racist joke. Don’t sit by while the guys in the locker room talk about date-rape. Just stop adding fuel to the fire or enabling it by remaining silent.

Maybe I’m preaching to the choir…but if the choir doesn’t keep singing, all of this crap will slide back into acceptability. And it will just go on. And on. We can change things…one person at a time. One family at a time. But it starts with us. With the person in the mirror.

Yasmine

SNAHM = Smithsonian Native American Heritage Month

Hi friends! Remember how I used to try to celebrate each month, line up guests, and do all the things?

Well, my “give a damn” broke a while ago, but I definitely still want to do something. Something that makes me happy though – that is positive, that isn’t a burden. And, allows for interaction.

So from now on, I’m going to start each Smithsonian Heritage Month with a post, a list, and an open call.

What do I mean? I’ll let you know when it is a Heritage Month.

Since this site is heavily romance slated, I also want to celebrate romance authors who are POC according to month. November is Native American Heritage Month. These are the authors *I* know to be [at least in part] Native American. Check out their books! Support these authors! 🙂

In alphabetical order:
Pamela Clare
Isobel Carr
Cynthia Eden
Yasmine Galenorn
T.J. Michaels
Sharon Sala
Dee Tenorio

If you know of any more please let me know! I’d love to add to my list – and be prepared for suggestions for future and other Smithsonian Heritage Month posts! <3

Review: The Man Behind the Mask by Barbara Wallace

Mary’s review of The Man Behind the Mask (Best Friends Series Book 1) by Barbara Wallace
Contemporary Romance released by Harlequin January 7, 2014

The Man Behind the MaskA weekend to change everything…

Delilah St. Germaine fell for New York’s most in-demand bachelor, Simon Cartwright, the moment she began working for him. Four years later, her heart still flutters every time he saunters into the office—much to her frustration. He’s so far out of her reach it’s embarrassing!

Thrown together with him for a working weekend, Delilah glimpses the cracks in Simon’s glittering facade. Now she’s tasted the sweetness of his kisses, she’s determined to uncover the secrets he’s hiding and learn who the real Simon Cartwright is. But will innocent Delilah’s life ever be the same once the truth is revealed?

Boss/secretary isn’t a trope I pick up often since the lawyer in me is usually screaming, “Lawsuit! Lawsuit! Don’t do it!” Occasionally, however, it finds its way onto my Kindle. The blurb caught my eye because it has an unrequited love element which is something I do enjoy. I thought this novel would be lighthearted and quick but, boy, was I mistaken. What I got was so much better!

Deliah is the stereotypical ugly duckling. She views herself to be as boring as plain yogurt. But right from the start, she’s kind, amazingly organized and a hard worker. It’s that dedication to her own professional success that has left her lonely on Saturday nights. That and the massive crush she has on her boss. She believes he’s out of her league – smart and handsome with a revolving door of beautiful socialites to keep him company. Despite her feelings, which she’s never shared with anyone – not even her closest friends – Delilah and Simon make a great team. Together, they’ve built up their advertising company with Deliah being Simon’s necessary and non-expendable right hand.

Simon is completely obvious to Deliah’s feelings for him. He’s not self-absorbed or unkind, just unobservant. He’s stuck Deliah in the “do not touch” box and automatically believes she sees him in the same way. He respects her, enormously, and appreciates her hard work. Along with his clear professional lines, he’s also uninterested in having any kind of long term relationship. He dates women who expect little from him because that is all he wants to give. Normally, this attitude would bother me but Simon reads as a really nice guy. Like a really nice guy. He’s not arrogant or conceited. He’s simply a man who knows what he wants and what he doesn’t, what he’s willing to give and what he isn’t.

The romance in this book was slow burning, but I loved every minute of it. It was also unexpected. Simon has some dark demons – darker than I thought from looking at the cover and reading the blurb. A business trip forces him to face them and he fights it every step of the way. At the same time, he and Deliah are growing closer and, as his feelings grow for her, he is terrified she will find out – and it will change how she thinks of him. For Deliah, the change isn’t as dramatic but it’s no less impactful. Once she starts to catch glimpses of the real Simon, she understands the man she had a crush on doesn’t exist. Her fantasy fades and when reality takes it place, she doesn’t run or hide. She meets the challenge head on, and for that, I loved her all the more.

I have nothing bad to say about this book. Literally nothing. It was perfect from start to finish and I’m marking as one I will re-read if I fall into a book slump. Yes, it was that good.

Grade: A

You can read an excerpt of the book here or buy it here.

 

Review: Playing with Fire by Kate Meader

Mary’s Review of Playing with Fire (Hot In Chicago Series Book 3) by Kate Meader
Contemporary Romance released by Pocket Books September 29, 2015

As the only female firefighter at Engine Co. 6, Alexandra Dempsey gets it from all sides: the male coworkers who think she can’t do the job, the wives and girlfriends who see her as a threat to their firefighter men, and her overprotective foster brothers who want to shelter their baby sister at all costs. So when she single-handedly saves the life of Eli Cooper, Chicago’s devastatingly handsome mayor, she assumes the respect she’s longed for will finally come her way. But it seems Mr. Mayor has other ideas…

Eli Cooper’s mayoral ratings are plummeting, his chances at reelection dead in the water. When a sexy, curvaceous firefighter gives him the kiss of life, she does more than bring him back to the land of the living—she also breathes vitality into his campaign. Riding the wave of their feel-good story might prop up Eli’s flagging political fortunes, but the sizzling attraction between them can go nowhere; he’s her boss, and there are rules that must be obeyed. But you know what they say about rules: they’re made to be broken…

Enemies-to-lover’s is a trope I can never get enough of. It’s also one that’s difficult to pull off well. This book (sadly) has been languishing in my TBR pile for months and months. Had I known how good it was, I would have read it much sooner!

Alexandra – called Alex by everyone except Eli – is one tough lady. She’s smart, loyal to a fault, mouthy and quick tempered. Not from lack of trying, she’s also having terrible luck in the dating department. All the frogs she’s had dinner with can’t manage to make it past the first date. To make matters worse, the one man she finds irresistible is the same one she can’t stand. When her past mistakes come back to haunt her, she’ll have to make a deal with the devil.

Eli is arrogant, domineering and has a decidedly backwards view of the world. He believes women shouldn’t be firefighters (probably also cops, Marines, etc. You get the picture). He’s a former Marine himself, a POW, and the current mayor of Chicago. With the re-election too close to call, he’s in desperate need of a ratings boost. Too bad it comes in the package of a fiery red-headed, female firefighter.

These two were perfect together. From the first chapter I was hooked and couldn’t get enough. Everything Eli gave, Alex turned it right back. The banter was fantastic, the chemistry electric. It was clear from the first page, the two of them were sniping at each other but under all that antagonism was real attraction. The pacing was well done and there was constant movement forward. As their walls started breaking down, and feelings became real, both of them didn’t shy away from addressing their different points of view.

My only complaint is with the final conflict. It felt a bit over-the-top. Alex reacted in a way I found immature and, while she apologized, she wasn’t the one groveling. Eli’s choices to get Alex back were more than what should have been required. In the end, I didn’t feel Alex grew in the way she should have but Eli did.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and will definitely pick up another by this author. And this time,  I won’t let it linger on my TBR for very long!

Grade: B

You can read an excerpt here and buy a copy here.