Tag Archives: Deb

Review: Ever After by Rachel Lacey

Deb’s review of Ever After by Rachel Lacey
Contemporary Romance released by Forever on August 25, 2015

Ever AfterCAUGHT IN THE ACT

Olivia Bennett is not having a happy birthday. Instead of blowing out her twenty-nine candles, she’s stuck in jail, caught red-handed in a graffiti incident that (perhaps) involved one too many strawberry margaritas. Worst idea ever. The only bright side is that she ended up in the strong arms of the most gorgeous lawman she’s ever seen.

Pete Sampson (aka Deputy Hot Stuff) faces intense pressure from the sheriff to find out who’s behind a string of vandalisms. And after her spray-painting spree, Olivia is suspect number one. Still, Pete can’t stop thinking about her. Wanting her. Now he’s torn between his duty and his overpowering desire for the vivacious waitress. But he may have to bend the rules because true love is more important than the letter of the law…

Ever After is book 3 in Rachel Lacey’s Love to the Rescue series;  however, it can be read as a standalone.  It is a very sweet, well written, contemporary romance set in small town North Carolina.  I love small town romances with their interesting mix of quirky characters and fun goings on.  However, I’m not a sweet kind of gal.  I like my romances down and dirty with lots of the same in regard to the sex on the page.  And, shame on me, I have also been known to judge a book by its cover.  The cover of Ever After is…sweet. However, the hot guy and the dog on the cover roped me in, because guys who love dogs are just that much hotter, right?  So I gave myself a lecture to stop with the judging and eye rolling before I’ve even read a chapter.  And I’m glad I did because I truly enjoyed this book.

Olivia Bennett isn’t sure what she wants to do with her life.  Her parents, prominent attorneys, expect Olivia to follow in their footsteps.  She has two years of law school under her belt.  Admittedly, she’s a natural at it, but the thought of practicing law makes her cringe.  It really isn’t her “thing” so she’s taking a break to figure out just what her “thing” is.  Olivia’s true passion is animal rights and for the past year she’s gone on a crusade to close down Halverson Foods, a local chicken processing plant.  She writes a blog and has a Facebook page viewed by thousands, documenting the abusive conditions at the plant.  At this point, I’ll admit I started to step back.  This particular subject matter in a romance book?  But I kicked the judgment aside because I was liking Olivia.  She’s not a goody two shoes by any stretch and she’s not a fanatic.  She speaks her mind but doesn’t force her opinions on anyone else.  She’s a vegetarian but hey, she won’t condemn you if you are a carnivore.  She organizes peaceful protests, hands out pamphlets, and writes intelligent posts on the subject.  However, her efforts to enlighten the Halverson big wigs about the conditions at the plant repeatedly fail. So after celebrating her 29th birthday with a couple friends and imbibing in one margarita too many, Olivia goes a bit too far in her activist efforts.

When Deputy Pete Sampson comes across a teenager spray painting graffiti on the side of the Halverson Plant he’s mostly annoyed.  However, when he discovers the teenager is a very attractive woman who’s clearly indulging in a drunken prank, he’s pissed.  Since Olivia’s friends have run off, he assumes she is not only defacing property but also driving while under the influence.  A drunken driving incident he feels responsible for has caused Pete some demons he can’t let go of.  Even though he finds her cute as hell, duty prevails.  Once Olivia is sentenced to community service Pete finds reasons to check up on her.  All the while telling himself it’s just his duty.  Which is a load of baloney because he knows were it not for him being the arresting officer; he’d totally be asking her out.  Pete is adorable while at the same time frustrating as hell.  He flirts with Olivia, admits he’s attracted to her, but then comes to his senses since it’s a huge conflict of interest, and pushes her away.  Except when he’s kissing her.  And that seems to happen a lot.  When vandals begin painting nasty slogans on her car and house, it only draws Pete closer to Olivia.  He wants to protect her.  Pete is a good guy.  He adopted a German Shepard that failed the K-9 program, he takes care of his mom, he bakes muffins when he can’t sleep and donates them to the women’s shelter.  He’s also very hot.

As the vandalism events toward Olivia escalate, so does the romance between Pete and Olivia.  Pete uncovers startling information surrounding the Halverson plant and the vandalism directed at Olivia, which only makes him more protective of her.  The suspense adds a lot to the story and even though it’s not too hard to figure out, I still enjoyed it.  Ms. Lacey has done a fine job with Pete and Olivia’s relationship as well.  I thought it might turn into a sappy story but I found myself really liking the slow build, the courtship, the care Olivia and Pete take getting to know one another. There really is something to be said for a nice sweet romance.  And just so you aren’t too disappointed, there’s some pretty hot sex as well.

Grade: B

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

Review: Him by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

Deb’s Review of Him by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy
New Adult (M/M) Contemporary Romance released by Rennie Road Books on July 28, 2015

HimThey don’t play for the same team. Or do they?

Jamie Canning has never been able to figure out how he lost his closest friend. Four years ago, his tattooed, wise-cracking, rule-breaking roommate cut him off without an explanation. So what if things got a little weird on the last night of hockey camp the summer they were eighteen? It was just a little drunken foolishness. Nobody died.

Ryan Wesley’s biggest regret is coaxing his very straight friend into a bet that pushed the boundaries of their relationship. Now, with their college teams set to face off at the national championship, he’ll finally get a chance to apologize. But all it takes is one look at his longtime crush, and the ache is stronger than ever.

Jamie has waited a long time for answers, but walks away with only more questions—can one night of sex ruin a friendship? If not, how about six more weeks of it? When Wesley turns up to coach alongside Jamie for one more hot summer at camp, Jamie has a few things to discover about his old friend…and a big one to learn about himself.

Warning: contains sexual situations, skinnydipping, shenanigans in an SUV and proof that coming out to your family on social media is a dicey proposition. (less)

Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy have blended their unique voices and amazing writing talents to create an unforgettable love story. I have always had a weakness for M/M novels since reading Mary Renault’s series about Alexander the Great. It’s a relic, and quite tame by today’s standards, but Ms. Renault blew my mind with her tender love story of Alexander and his best friend. Their’s was also a friends to lovers story; both students of Aristotle, then warriors in battle together, their love had no limits and held no fears. I’ve never forgotten Ms. Renault’s magnificent and moving novel. Him has these same beautiful qualities that will have me remembering these characters for a long time.

Friendship, crazy challenges, and playing the best sport in the world – ice hockey. That’s what Jamie Canning and Ryan “Wes” Wesley share every summer for six years at Elites hockey training camp in Lake Placid. Roommates from the start, their friendship grows stronger each year. Until the final summer before college, when one last challenge on the ice results in a bet that changes everything between them.

Have you ever been fired by a friend?

Jamie has no idea why Wes suddenly cut off all communication at the end of hockey camp four years ago. He’s almost forgotten how much it hurt. Now that both of their college teams are in the Frozen Four championship and he may come face to face with Wes, that hurt suddenly slaps him in the face. Jamie isn’t quite sure what to do about it: he only knows the loss of their friendship left a huge hole in his heart. And isn’t that one confusing admission? Because the feelings he’s had for Wes all these years just might go beyond friendship.

How do you apologize to someone for cutting them out of your life without so much as an explanation?

Wes has spend four long years trying to forget the day he took advantage of his best friend. At least, that’s what he believes he did with that crazy bet. Now, being thrown together for the Frozen Four is a wake up call. Wes realizes he’s been the only one harboring all these ridiculous feels for a man he has no chance with. He’s certain his very straight friend chalked it up to a big fat drunken mistake and hasn’t put an ounce of importance on it. Which is why Wes needs to man up, apologize after all these years, and make like it wasn’t the most memorable night of his life. He wants Jamie back in his life and will take whatever he can get. So he signs up for one last summer at hockey camp, this time as a fellow counselor.

Once again roommates, Wes and Jamie ease back into the friendship they’d abandoned. Both about to embark on careers in pro hockey, this is one last hurrah before the real world becomes all too real. This is their chance to explore what might be much more than a friendship. With seemingly nothing to lose, both allow themselves to give in to desires bottled up for years. The chemistry between these two is staggering. The sex intense. The banter funny and real.

The alternating chapters between Wes and Jamie wonderfully illustrate their distinct personalities. I anticipated each man’s version of the story as it unfolds seamlessly. The most refreshing aspect of Him is what it is not. It’s not about Wes’ struggle with being gay. He accepts it. It’s not about Jamie freaking out over Wes’ attraction to him or his own attraction to Wes. And it’s not about either one of them caring what others think, including Wes’ douchecanoe (love that, Ms Kennedy & Ms. Bowen!) of a dad.

Him is about being true to oneself, loving with abandon, and offering your heart without fear. I fell in love with Wes, Jamie, and Jamie’s  northern California hippie-ish family. Everyone should be so lucky to have one. In short, I loved everything about this amazing novel. Brava, Ms. Kennedy and Ms. Bowen.

Grade: A

You can buy a copy here.

 

Review: Falling Under by Lauren Dane

Deb’s Review of Falling Under by Lauren Dane
Contemporary Romance released by Forever on August 4, 2015

Falling UnderThe men of Twisted Steel are great with their hands.
And they’re not afraid to get dirty.

Duke Bradshaw, co-owner of the Twisted Steel custom motorcycle and hot rod shop, may devote his days to chrome and leather, but his nights belong to Carmella. His sultry redheaded neighbor has a smile like an angel and a body built for sin, and for the past year both have dominated Duke’s dreams. When a problem at Twisted Steel requires a fast fix, Duke sees his chance to finally make his fantasy a reality.

Ever since she first heard the low rumble of his engine, Carmella Rossi has wondered if Duke Bradshaw handles his women as expertly as he handles his bike. When he shows up at her door offering her a much-needed job at his shop, she gets her chance to find out. Beneath Duke’s masterful touch, Carmella soon submits to a world of unimaginable pleasure.

But history has taught Carmella how bad a boy boy can be. If she doesn’t put on the brakes fast, her hard-bodied heartbreaker could drive her right over the edge . . .

Falling Under, book two in Lauren Dane’s Ink & Chrome series, continues the story of the men of Twisted Steel, a custom build car and motorcycle shop, and the women they fall for. Ms. Dane can write a character driven romance like nobody’s business. I adored book one, Opening Up, about Asa and PJ. That story, like its two main characters, is intense, sexually charged, and leaps at you in vivid color.

Falling Under takes us into Duke and Carmella’s lives and, while no less compelling, conveys a much different vibe based on their personalities. Ms. Dane doesn’t write cookie cutter novels. She doesn’t plop same character/different name into a Doppelgänger plot. It is precisely this that makes me eager to read each new offering by this wonderful author.

Duke Bradshaw has been admiring his neighbor Carmella Rossi for a couple of years now. She is gorgeous in an old fashioned, pin-up girl kind of way with her luscious curves and long red hair. Everything about her has his man parts begging for an introduction. However, she’s been rather elusive and he’s been consumed with Twisted Steel. And, up until recently, he’s been quite satisfied dating oodles of women, often more than one at a time. But lately he finds himself envying Asa and PJ’s strong connection; their intimacy and sense of partnership. Duke is thinking THIS is what’s missing in his life. He’s also thinking he knows who he wants to fill that blank spot. He just has to convince her to give him a shot.

Carmella Rossi has been secretly lusting after her neighbor, Duke Bradshaw. The growl of his Harley as he pulls into his driveway always sets her heart pounding and her terrier Ginger spinning with excitement. Carmella has spoken to Duke a time or two and he’s made a habit of offering Ginger doggie treats. His tall, ruggedly handsome, works-with-his-hands look and sensual self confidence is everything she loves in a man. Add to that a Zen surfer temperament and he’s just about perfect. But Carmella has learned her lesson in regard to bad boy bikers and grease monkeys. Duke Bradshaw is definitely one to be avoided. When he shows up offering her a full time job as office manager for Twisted Steel she is torn. In dire need of a job, she’d be a fool to turn down the offer. The amazing Mr. Bradshaw as her boss? Holy bad idea, Batman. However, this job would give her independence and the ability to make her own choices. Carmella’s years of dealing with an ungrateful, demanding mother who is queen of bad choices has made her vow she would do whatever it takes to keep from depending on anyone else to survive. She will accept Duke’s offer and give her libido a stern lecture to keep her girlie mitts away from him at all cost.

I’ll be honest. I had a huge crush on Duke merely from the glimpses we were given in Opening Up. So it didn’t take much to make me fall in love with this guy. Dubbed the “machine whisperer”, his talent with restorations is fast approaching legendary. Twisted Steel is his life and his friends are his family. On the surface he is the suave, easy going guy, but as Carmella soon finds out, deep down he is totally alpha male. He races cars and engages in bare knuckle fighting for fun. I loved these two sides of Duke. He is truly interested in everything about Carmella. He brings her gifts of Kona coffee and flower bulbs. He appreciates her attention to details and even gets hot and bothered just from watching her clean. This guy has it bad. When he learns of the hell Carmella’s mom has put her through for years, he respects the way she handles it even though he wishes she would walk away. Best of all, Duke compares her to a phoenix; fierce, strong, beautiful, and a survivor.

Carmella is indeed a survivor. A selfish, pill abusing mother and a father in prison more often than not should have colored her life dark and dismal. But she refuses to allow that. She may not have a college education but she’s damn proud of her ability to manage a busy office and garner the respect of a bunch of grease monkeys. She made a bad choice early on and married the wrong guy but she is not the victim that her mother is. Hurt and disappointed too many times, Carmella doesn’t trust easily. So when Duke assumes something about her that isn’t true, she’s hurt but stands up to him and speaks her mind. She maintains her cool and makes it clear a broken trust means the end. I admired Carmella’s integrity and honesty. I even admired her dedication to her mother even though I wanted her to kick that bitch to the curb. And best of all, Carmella allows Duke into her life, breaks some of her rules, and takes a chance.

The slow build of attraction between these two is delicious. It crackles and sparks and is often more panty melting than the straight up sex. Hey, I said almost! Which, by the way, is also pretty damn delicious.

The honest relationship Ms. Dane has created between Duke and Carmella is beautiful. Her signature fun and witty dialogue did not disappoint. I enjoyed every bit of Falling Under and look forward to the next Ink & Chrome book.

Grade: B+

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

Review: Taking the Heat by Victoria Dahl

Deb’s Review of Taking the Heat by Victoria Dahl
Contemporary Romance released by Harlequin on July 28, 2015

Taking the HeatPassion this hot can’t be faked…

All revved up for bright lights and steamy nights, writer Veronica Chandler chased her dreams to New York City. When she hit a dead end, reality sent her back home to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Saving her pride and her new gig—writing a relationship advice column!—requires some faking. No one can know the truth about her big-city flop or her nonexistent sex life. But the town’s irresistibly rugged librarian is determined to figure her out…and give her hands-on lessons in every wicked thing she wants to know.

Gabe MacKenzie’s heart might be in Wyoming, but secretly his future’s tied up in his family’s Manhattan legacy. Getting down and dirty with Veronica is supposed to give him a few memorable nights—not complicate his plans. But the thing about heat this scorching is there’s just no going back…and it might be too hot for either of them to take.

Taking the Heat is a deliciously fun and sexy novel I guarantee you’ll want to devour in one sitting. I thoroughly enjoyed the first two books (Looking for Trouble and Flirting with Disaster), plus the novella (Fanning the Flames), in Ms. Dahl’s Girl’s Night Out series. This one just may be my favorite. To be fair, I say that after each of her books. Her female characters are smart, talented, and independent in a subtle way that knocks the wind out of the alpha men who pursue them and eventually win their hearts. It’s never an easy ride, because where would be the fun in that? But it’s a gleefully good ride full of steamy encounters (sex), giggle and sigh inducing banter, and characters who ultimately learn quite a lot about themselves.

Veronica. Dear Veronica! I loved her. As a matter of fact, many of her quirks and insecurities are strikingly similar to mine so I immediately appointed her a kindred spirit. She felt like a loser in high school, and developed the absolute worst opinion of herself. Running off to NYC after graduation didn’t change anything as she’d hoped. (It never does, does it?) She didn’t make those close friends or fall in love or take chances and do crazy things like she’d dreamt of doing. It’s five years later, and she’s returned home to Wyoming dragging along the same dismal opinion of herself. To make matters worse, her disapproving father, the town judge, uses his influence to get her a job; as Dear Veronica, no less, the local paper’s advice columnist. What the heck qualifies her to be an advice columnist? At 27, she still hasn’t found her own identity! Veronica is scared to pieces she will be found out as the fraud she believes she is. But she’s done with being ruled by insecurities. I fist pumped Veronica and the Post-it note affirmations she slaps on the fridge. I cheered as, one by one, she kicks her insecurities to the curb with an f-you to everyone who thinks she’s weird.

I loved the way Ms. Dahl played this out with Veronica’s amazing talent for giving advice. Through cleverly crafted letters and answers for Dear Veronica, we see Veronica’s instinctive grasp of her reader’s troubles and how to solve them. She may not have a wealth of life experience, especially in the sex department, but she darn well knows first hand how doubt and a lack of self confidence can hold you hostage. Dear Veronica’s bold, sassy, and jaw dropping advice is priceless and funny, resulting in overwhelming popularity. Advising her readers to go after what they want and stand up for themselves pushes Veronica to follow her own advice, especially with the hot new librarian. He makes her feel like the person she always hoped she’d be. Their chemistry was so hot it gave me delicious butterflies in the tummy. Watching her let loose her inner vixen and boldly flirt is so much fun!

Gabe MacKenzie is….adorable. I wish you could hear my sigh. Admittedly, I love my guys to be alpha, grouchy, sexy talking Neanderthals who take charge and are kind of clueless until someone knocks them over the head. So when I heard that the hero of this novel was a librarian, I cringed. But I knew if anyone could pull this off it would be Ms. Dahl. And boy, did she pull it off. Gabe is somewhat of a Renaissance man. He’s a librarian, but of the techie variety, in Jackson for one year to get the library up to speed with digital books and all the accoutrement that accompany. Even though he’s from NYC, Gabe is an outdoorsman at heart. He chose this job in Jackson so he could pursue his rock climbing passion. In other words, Gabe is no Pillsbury doughboy. He’s built; major upper body strength, muscled thighs, strong hands. He plays basketball with the firefighters at the station and trains with Search & Rescue. He’s all rugged good looks; beard and floppy hair included. He’s got the kind of sexy that sneaks up on you. And he’s crushing hard on Veronica. Mr. MacKenzie loves to whisper sweet somethings in Veronica’s ear and he’s a verra dirty talker, telling her exactly what he wants to do to her. As if that’s not enough, his dirty talking tongue has other talents, if you know what I mean. I loved Gabe’s maturity and honesty with Veronica. He truly cares about her and loves her crazy mixture of shy, quirky, unsure of herself, and goofy.

Of course, this story wouldn’t be complete without a dilemma that may tear Gabe and Veronica apart. It’s the perfect amount of uncertainty and drama. No dragging it out or making it ridiculous. Best of all, Veronica proves to be stronger than even we thought her to be. I loved this book for so many reasons! Not the least of which being Ms. Dahl’s subtle alpha hero who is thoroughly sexy, sincere, and all man. Plus, he’s a really good dirty talker.

​G​rade: A

You can buy a copy here.

Review: Opening Up by Lauren Dane

Deb’s Review of Opening Up (Ink and Chrome Book 1) by Lauren Dane
Contemporary erotic romance released by Forever on June 16, 2015

Opening Up

The men of the Twisted Steel custom hot rod and motorcycle shop are great with their hands…and they’re not afraid to get dirty.
PJ is exactly the kind of woman Twisted Steel owner Asa Barrons doesn’t need. The last thing he wants to do is mix business with pleasure, and PJ has some of the best custom detailing he’s ever seen. But the chemistry between them won’t be denied, and soon he’s introducing her to a whole new world in the bedroom, pushing her far beyond anything she’s ever experienced. PJ finds she can’t get enough, but how far is too far before he consumes her completely?

Lauren Dane owes me a new Nook. Fine, I’ll take a Kindle but it had better be fire-proof because it’s all her fault my Nook began overheating in Chapter ONE. By Chapter Three, I was using oven mitts and I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but the darn thing eventually melted in my lap.

Alright, alright, I’m exaggerating about the Nook. But I’m not exaggerating about the incredible chemistry that ignites when Penelope Jean (PJ) Coleman and Asa Barrons collide in this first book of Lauren Dane’s new Ink & Chrome series, that centers around Twisted Steel, a custom build bike and hot rod shop owned by Asa and his buddy, Duke. I’m not a gearhead but I do appreciate great art and the artists who create it. The men at Twisted Steel are definitely artists and Dane successfully conveys the love, enthusiasm, and pride these guys have for their work which is a big turn on, indeed. PJ’s character intrigued me, she is a woman working her way into the macho world of custom car painting. That takes talent and spunk, both of which PJ has boatloads of. And maybe I was a tad bit interested in Asa as well. *smirk*

If I was given the chance to choose a new identity, it would hands down be Penelope Jean. She is passionate as hell about life and knows what she wants. She sports piercings, tattoos, and you never know what color her hair may be on any given day; but she owns it and makes it beautiful. A true artist, PJ is able to look at a car, talk to the owner, and know just how to paint and detail it to perfection. She has given her all to Coleman Enterprises, the family business, and tried to remain loyal. But when her ideas to expand the business are repeatedly shot down by her father, PJ walks away. And straight into Asa’s life. She’s admired Twisted Steel’s work and is set on convincing Asa he needs her not only in his business, but in his life as well. She knows he’s older and could most likely eat her alive but she’s willing to take her chances. She’s been fantasizing about this beautiful hunk of man ever since they locked eyes and touched hands at a recent industry party. PJ does in fact hold her own against Asa without being a whiny snit. I loved that she called him on his shit but never held a grudge. Their chemistry permeated the pages, and the looks they give each other… Whew! Almost as erotic as the kinky sex Asa introduces PJ to. For being a mere 25 years old, PJ has an incredibly mature outlook on relationships, which I found refreshing as well as a relief. She may have been emotional at times over her father’s undisguised disappointment in her; however, she held her head up and continued on.

Asa Barrons is the perfect compliment to PJ. He’s tall, tattooed, and pierced. His cut body and tough-as-nails attitude is irresistible. I adored Asa’s fierce love and loyalty to his mom, sisters, his friends and his former military buddies. His early childhood was terrifying, but rather than turn him hard and bitter, the experience humbled him. He has scruples. As a matter of fact, his intense attraction to PJ made him uncomfortable because he felt she was too young. But after being coerced to participate in a photo shoot at Twisted Steel where he is paired up with a very sexy PJ, his resolve begins to shatter. (Yes, people, this was the first Oh, My! Nook melting scene) She evoked raw feelings of lust and desire he was ultimately unable to deny. When they get together to talk business, Asa is even more smitten by her business savvy and maturity. At this point, he’s a goner. As if all this wasn’t enough, Asa actually admits when he’s wrong and makes endearing efforts to right things when he’s screwed up with PJ. *swoon*

In addition to PJ and Asa, the secondary characters are so well written that I found myself excited to know more about them as well. They are all family in every sense of the word, related or not. I love this dynamic. Quick, witty, and very clever dialogue had me laughing out loud. Ms. Dane knows her characters inside out and stays true to them throughout the story. All of this combines into a very fun, hot-as-hell, page turner that I couldn’t put down.
And guess what? Duke’s book is next up in August!

Grade: A-

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