Tag Archives: Grade D

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: The Christmas Baby Bonus by Yvonne Lindsay

The Christmas Baby Bonus by Yvonne Lindsay
Contemporary romance released by Harlequin Desire on December 1, 2017

When his assistant finds an abandoned baby at his family’s lodge, wealthy Piers Luckman takes full responsibility. He might be clueless about children, but being snowbound with his capable, sexy employee has its benefits. Except Faye Darby shies away from little Casey and wants nothing to do with baby-rearing, Christmas…or the smoldering attraction between her and her boss. For the first time in his life, Piers must fight for what he wants—this little family…and Faye by his side and in his bed.

I’ve been crippled by “superstition” in choosing what to read as my “first book of 2018.” Then TBR day was fast approaching and I thought, well, Nalini Singh recommended this book on twitter, I like Yvonne Lindsey and her writing, and I’ve been wanting to read a Harlequin category, since I haven’t in so long. The premise that Nalini presented sounded adorable – the heroine is the “grinch,” and the hero so obsessed with Christmas he has a collection of holiday sweaters. I mean come on​ ​right?! Continue reading

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: An Affair Before Christmas by Eloisa James

N.R.’s review of An Affair Before Christmas (Desperate Duchesses, Book 1) by Eloisa James
Historical romance published by Avon on November 13, 2007

Image and video hosting by TinyPicMagic under the mistletoe . . .

One spectacular Christmas, Lady Perdita Selby, known to her friends and family as Poppy, met the man she thought she would love forever. The devilishly attractive Duke of Fletcher was the perfect match for the innocent, breathtakingly beautiful young Englishwoman, and theirs was the most romantic wedding she had ever seen. Four years later, Poppy and the duke have become the toast of the ton . . . but behind closed doors the spark of their love affair has burned out.

Unwilling to lose the woman he still lusts after, the duke is determined to win back his beguiling bride’s delectable affections . . . and surpass the heady days of first love with a truly sinful seduction.

I’ve been putting off writing my review because I didn’t enjoy this story, and I’ve been having a difficult time pinpointing the reason, or reasons, why. The story should hit all my sweet spots, it’s a second chance at love story with a subplot that has characters even more delicious than the main hero and heroine. It has a woman growing into herself. A hero who truly is all about his partner’s pleasure. And it starts and ends during the winter holiday season. So why was the book just meh for me?  Continue reading

What We’ve Been Reading in 2017

Hi friends! I always like to know what people have been reading, and more importantly, what they recommend. While this isn’t exactly that … (those posts come in reviews and later), this list and our grades should give you some sort of indication. This time, you’ll get a comprehensive lists from me, a general list from Babs, and Karen’s highlights.
 
I’d love to know if you’ve read any of these books and what you thought of them! [I’m also as usual it seems like treading through quicksand, so we’ll see how we go with links.]
 
I also want to note, Babs put me to shame with her organization. While I then also separated my books out by month, I can’t speak to accuracy of timing. Especially since you know, I was loopy for most of it.
 
As a refresher, this is the basic ALBTALBS “Grading Scale.”
A = OMFG BEST BOOK EVER – LOVED IT. LOVED IT AND IT MADE ME LOVE EVERYTHING.
B = Really great book. You should read it.
C = Good book. Average, enjoyable read.
D = It was good, but there were some problems, or the reader had [significant] issues with certain aspects.
F = this was not a good book. I am angry I read it.
DNF = Did Not Finish (Either the book was truly that terrible, or I wasn’t in the mood, or whatever else. I just didn’t finish.)

Review: Buck Naked by Evangeline Anderson

Karen’s Review of Buck Naked by Evangeline Anderson
Paranormal romance released by Macmillin on April 4, 2017

Buck NakedSadie Becker is not herself. A 40-year-old, divorced mother of two, Sadie wakes up one morning and realizes that she looks and feels like she did in her twenties. Suddenly she’s unable to walk around in her new town of Cougarville without men falling at her feet. Confused and alone, Sadie isn’t sure who to turn to…except answers to her problems might reside with her broodingly handsome reclusive neighbor, Mathis. An alpha shifter, Mathis lost the love of his life, and he knows he’ll never find another mate. But his innocent new neighbor clearly doesn’t know the danger she’s in, and he’s the only one who can save her. But when the attraction pulls too strong, will Mathis’ animal nature be unleashed and claim Sadie for his own?

When Lime sent a list of books out I kind of jumped at the chance to review this. From the blurb I felt that a female main character who was 40, in a place called Cougarville had immense promise. A twist on the shifter trope where the woman had control maybe, and something in there about women over 40 having agency in romance. Continue reading

Review: The Asset by Anna del Mar

Mary’s Review of The Asset by Anna del Mar
Romantic suspense released by Carina Press on February 1, 2016

The AssetAsh Hunter knows what it is to run. A SEAL gravely injured in Afghanistan, he’s gone AWOL from the military hospital. Physically and mentally scarred, he returns home to his grandmother’s isolated cottage—and finds a beautiful, haunted stranger inside.

Like recognizes like.

Lia Stewart’s in hiding from the cartel she barely escaped alive, holed up in this small Rocky Mountain town. Surviving, but only just. Helping the wounded warrior on her doorstep is the right thing to do…it’s loving him that might get them both killed.

Soon, Ash realizes he’s not the only one tormented by the past. Pushing the limits of his broken body, testing the boundaries of her shattered soul, he’ll protect Lia until his last breath.

I picked this book up while it was on sale. I’m a sucker for a wounded warrior story and romantic suspense is my most loved genre, so it was an easy purchase. I didn’t read any of the reviews on this book beforehand but I probably should have. What I thought I was buying wasn’t what I ended up with. Continue reading

Guest Review: Shanna by Kathleen E. Woodiwiss

Paige’s review of Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss
Historical romance released by Avon in 1977, republished in 2016 as part of their Diamond Anniversary

ShannaFrom New York Times bestselling author Kathleen E. Woodiwiss comes one of her most iconic and beloved romances of all time…

A pact is sealed in secret behind the foreboding walls of Newgate Prison. In return for one night of unparalleled pleasure, a dashing condemned criminal consents to wed a beautiful heiress, thereby rescuing her from an impending and abhorred arranged union.

But in the fading echoes of hollow wedding vows, a solemn promise is broken, as a sensuous free spirit takes flight to a lush Caribbean paradise, abandoning the stranger she married to face the gallows unfulfilled.

Ruark Beauchamp’s destiny is now eternally intertwined with that of the tempestuous, intoxicating Shanna. He will be free . . . and he will find her. For no iron ever forged can imprison his resolute passion. And no hangman’s noose will keep Ruark from the bride— and ecstasy—that he craves.

Originally published in 1977, Shanna tells the tale of a spoiled little rich girl and the convicted criminal turned bondsman (which is a nicer way of saying “slave who works to pay off their debt and eventually can go free but are treated like trash by anyone with a title”) whom she marries in order to gain a name. Why does she do this? To get her father off her back, because she’s so spoiled that every man she meets, she finds fault with. She even rejects one because his shirt is fraying a bit at the edges.

When I told one of my friends that I was getting ready to read a Woodiwiss novel, she got super excited and told me that Ruark (how do you pronounce that, anyway?) was her very first book boyfriend and that I was just going to love him.

I didn’t. At all. Continue reading

Review: Muscle for Hire by Lexxie Couper

CJ’s Review

Muscle for Hire by Lexxie Couper
Contemporary romance released by Samhain Publishing on January 29, 2013

Protecting her was never going to be easy.

After sixteen years as the personal bodyguard to the world’s biggest rock star, ex-SAS commando Aslin Rhodes excels in the role of intimidating protector, oozing threatening menace. Now that the singer has retired, Aslin takes a new assignment as a military consultant on a blockbuster film. But just as he’s getting comfortable in the world of Hollyweird, he faces an unexpectedly immovable object. An American martial arts expert no taller than his chin, who promptly puts him on his arse.

Rowan Hemsworth’s focus is two-fold—keep her famous brother grounded, and never again be a defenseless victim. She has her hands full as the fun police, keeping her brother’s money-sucking entourage at bay. But nothing prepared her for the British mountain of muscle who makes her knees go uncharacteristically weak.

When a string of accidents on set convinces Aslin that Rowan—not her brother—is the target, things get bloody tricky as he tries to convince the stubborn woman she needs his protection. And accept that she belongs with him. In his arms, in his bed…and in his heart.

Warning: The strong, silent type don’t come much more silent and strong than Aslin Rhodes. But when he does speak his British accent will drive you mad with desire. As will his menacing, dominating power. And what he can do to a woman on the back of a motorcycle.

When I first saw this ARC up for grabs, I leaped on it without hesitation. A strong, loyal heroine? A guy who could effortlessly throw me against the bed? Yes, please!  Oh, and the fact he had a British accent didn’t hurt either. I’d never heard of Ms. Couper or her books before, but after reading the blurb I thought I was getting into a pretty standard romance with some spicy bits. I didn’t realize just how hot it was going to be.

When I first started reading I was a little hesitant. The story seemed scattered, with too many outside influences obscuring what was really going on. All that changed as soon as Rowan puts Aslin on his arse, but not for long.

Ms. Couper seems to have drawn Rowan from some of the most common tropes in fiction, trying to blend them into one character. She’s both the overprotective big sister, who doesn’t know when to let go, and the girl who’s turned badass to hide her vulnerability. Unfortunately she comes off two-dimensional and pasted together. She’s frustratingly stubborn and can’t seem to accept that others might be right. Usually a strong, protective heroine automatically endears herself to me, but Rowan’s irrationality tested my patience on numerous occasions.

Aslin falls into genre stereotypes too, although he didn’t annoy me nearly as much. It probably helped that he ticked off my fantasy boyfriend checklist: tall, strong and British with biceps worth talking about. And let’s not forget the ability to bring a woman to orgasm three times in the space of several paragraphs… and then over and over again all night long.  I’m not the only one who’d need an ice cream break, am I? I was pleasantly surprised by a couple of lovely tender moments later in the book which gave depth to his character in a way I wasn’t expecting.

I really liked the premise of this book, and the mystery element was pretty well done. I managed to guess the culprit in the first chapter or two, but confirming my suspicions was probably the main reason for me sticking with the book until the end. I also enjoyed Ms. Coupers ability to make me giggle with her one-liners. Chris and Rowen were particularly good at it, with such gems as “You insured your face? Oh, Chris, I thought we talked about that kind of pretentious crap?” and “That’s taking my animal magnetism to a whole different level,” when a kangaroo takes particular liking to Chris.

I’ll admit, I’d thought, hoped, the relationship would be explored a little more carefully. The sex seemed to overshadow everything else.  I found the insta-lust, although not unbelievable, rather crude, and the insta-love way over the top. It seemed to be mere days before they’re declaring their love for each other.

I found the action in some sequences to be confusing and difficult to imagine; several times the characters seemed unaware of their particular spatial constraints. The catalyst for Rowen’s desire never to become a victim feels contrived and not very thought out and I struggled to understand how Aslin saw enough of a pattern in two accidents to jump to the conclusion that Rowen was the target, not Chris.

Overall this book didn’t really excite me. I don’t think its potential was fully explored but aspects of the plot pulled me through to the end. I’d say people who like a side of a whodunit with their sex give this book a try.

Grade: D+

You can buy a copy of Muscle for Hire here.

Review: Protector by Loribelle Hunt

Liz’s Review

Protector (The Elect, Book 1) by Loribelle Hunt
Paranormal romance released by Samhain Publishing on June 26, 2012

He will protect her. No matter the threat.
The Elect. They aren’t human. They’re the next step in evolution and they’re hiding in plain sight. They’re stronger, smarter, and faster. Nature’s perfect predator.
Welcome to the top of the food chain.
Braxton Lee is the protector of the Elect and it’s a job he takes seriously. As president of the committee that governs the Elect, he overseas everything from finance to security to keeping their existence hidden. He’s driven and ruthless. The Elect will not be exposed on his watch.
Unfortunately his research chief, Zach Littman, is contacted by a former colleague who’s run a DNA analysis of a blood sample and gotten weird results. The blood isn’t human, and Dr. Esme Durand is smart enough to know it. Brax will do whatever it takes to keep her silent. Until he meets her. Because Esme has a secret. She’s one of them. Brax wants nothing more but to bring her into the fold and into his bed.

Warning: This book contains hot sex, the next evolution of mankind, hot sex, a race to find a bad guy, a hot hero trying to prove his love, and did I mention the hot sex?

As a child of the 80s, I grew up with a healthy fascination of all things sci-fi from the hilarious ALF to Alien Nation to the revival of Twilight Zone.  Protector, at its core, is a sci-fi book about a new generation of humans, in which a small number have been born with some pretty amazing psychological and physiological talents, including mind-reading and thought projection.  I haven’t read anything by Loribelle before, so I wasn’t sure what to expect.  What I hoped for, when I read the blurb and saw the cover (he reminds me of a young Jeremy London), was that she would be able to mix the futuristic idea of human evolution in modern times and make it work.  And she does!  After just the first chapter, I found myself wishing I had some of the talents that she mentions her characters have.  Such as, I’d love to know what my husband is really thinking when he says “whatever you want,” when I know for sure he doesn’t really mean that.  Loribelle starts the book off with a bang, and keeps the momentum going.  It’s not a novella, but it’s not a full-length book either (under 100 pages), and she manages to weave a compelling and curious world about the Elect, a secret society of advanced human beings that have been around since the 50s.

Brace yourselves, kids, because I’m about to rant about alpha-holes again.  On the surface, I like Brax.  Hot, sexy, protective, good at keeping secrets.  But under that, is a man that expects things to go his way all the time.  When he meets Esme, it’s not too long before he figures out that she’s his mate.  (As an avid reader of paranormal books, I don’t have any trouble accepting the instant-mate-attraction that most of these books contain, although usually for me, one or more of those involved gets furry once a month…but I digress.)  Brax knows that Esme has got nary a clue about what her powers really mean, the special group that she’s now part of, or that Brax is her mate.  Instead of just giving her time, he pushes.  Pushes her to accept their connection, pushes her to make decisions after a crisis that would knock anyone on their butt.  He can’t stand that she’s feeling torn about her brother and nephew, that she would choose her family over him when she’s only known him for a minute.  He’s been waiting years for his mate; she never knew that anyone besides herself and her brother had extra powers.  So the protectiveness, instead of giving me the warm-fuzzies, makes me want to tell Esme to run far away in the other direction.

Esme is a perfect heroine.  Plucky, independent, loyal, smart, and not swayed by heaven in tight pants.  When her world is flipped upside down, she wants to first protect her brother and nephew and then second, go back to work.  I love that.  I love that even when she was in Brax’s arms, she was still her own person, not carried away in a flood of hormone fueled oohs and aahs, but grounded and steadfast.  When she is rightly confused about the new world that is suddenly open to her after an attempt is made on her life, she doesn’t drown in her anxiety and reach out for the first strong pair of male arms.  She demands answers and she reasons her situation out.  As a scientist, she wants to seek the answers to questions about herself and family, find the cure to her nephew’s mysterious illness, and lastly figure out just who these Elect are and what that means for her.

The few secondary characters in the story – her fellow scientist Zach, her brother Carter, and her nephew Kaden – are not well drawn.  Zach is virtually invisible as a character, only a vehicle with which her scientific discovery of something unique in a blood sample is given to the Elect.  Carter is angry and reserved, played as a typical hardened military man who believes he and his personal resources and contacts can protect his son and sister better than the Elect.  He has no time to grow as a character; he’s just an outline, a sketch.  And little Kaden, who is so ill and no one has been able to figure out what is wrong with him…but he’s also lost in the sea of the non-memorable, half-drawn cast.

I had no trouble with the “science” of the story.  Loribelle created a world in which ordinary humans eventually began to evolve new powers, and as such they knew they needed to be kept secret to prevent the government from experimenting on them.  The way she wrote the story makes that seem not only plausible, but possible, and for me, that just makes the story.  As an avid reader of both straight sci-fi and paranormal romance, I would have preferred this story without the romantic sub-plot because it detracted from the story that needed much more fleshing out and the characters that needed more time to develop.

What bothered me most about the story, besides Brax’s arrogant behavior, was the ending.  There I was, reading along, when WHAM! it’s over.  It ended so abruptly, and with so many loose ends, that I actually thought the book had been cut off accidentally.  But I couldn’t ignore The End.  I don’t mind the occasional cliffhanger, but this ending took the cake, and in essence, ruined what had been up to that point a decent read.  The characters had some major emotional reveals in the last few paragraphs, when up to that point neither had really been given the chance to show that they were moving to those conclusions.  I can suspend disbelief about a lot of things, but the revelations coupled with the abrupt ending brought me right back to a reality in which I didn’t care for this book and I won’t be looking for any further in this series.

Grade:  D+

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

Review: Table for One by Ros Clarke

Liz’s Review:

Table for One by Ros Clarke
Contemporary Romance released by Entangled Publishing on February 13, 2012

When food critic Claudia Thomas gets dumped on Valentine’s Day, she finds herself occupying a table for one at London’s hottest new restaurant. If her job wasn’t on the line, she’d skip the whole affair, but her editor’s waiting for a review—and with luck, an interview with sexy chef Ward Nicholls. Ward, intrigued by the single woman in a restaurant full of couples, sets out to tease her palate. Claudia has never tasted anything so luscious as the special meal Ward prepares for her, but when the seduction moves from the restaurant to his bedroom, Claudia discovers the only thing more tempting than his food is the chef himself. Their connection is instantaneous, sizzling, and spicy—until Claudia comes clean about her job, reopening a wound Ward had thought long-healed. Could one accidental lie of omission end a delicious relationship before it even has a chance to start?

This short story revolves around the idea of one lie of omission being the thing that potentially destroys a relationship before it gets off the ground.  There is nothing new to the premise, and unfortunately, the author fails to bring anything to the table but the occasional witty bit of dialogue.

Claudia is spineless and weak.  She makes the wrong choices time and again and then is surprised when she loses the person she most wanted to have.  While her bossiness is funny at times, it grew stale quickly, and she appeared to be a very one-dimensional character.

Ward is the stereotyped overworked chef who takes an opportunity to seduce a woman with his food and then changes his mind when he finds out her occupation.  Ward has past demons to battle so it’s no surprise when he flies off the handle about Claudia’s selective truth.  He’s a shallow character at best, taking something that happened to his parents as a child and using it as a shield.  While that does happen in real life, it feels tacked on and trite so his reaction to the truth seems over the top and childish.

There is little more that annoys me in books then when characters do something so patently stupid just so that it creates tension in the story.  Claudia has several inner monologues about revealing her occupation as a reviewer to Ward, knowing that it is important to share it, but each time she decides to leave things as they are.  The very little bit of drama in the story was created by the heroine herself and left a lot to be desired.

The story could have been helped a great deal by adding to the length.  It’s quite a short book, and by choosing a shorter length, the author didn’t give the characters depth and time to shine, and to go further into their relationship.  The book is a quick read with a happy ending, but no surprises.  While I didn’t hate the book, I certainly won’t be reading it again.

Grade: D

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

Guest Review(-ish): Sweet Addiction by Maya Banks

A guest review(-ish) by Kati Brown (aka @KatiD of Katidom fame! Totally excited she agreed to share/post her review here!) 
**SPOILERS AHOY**

Sweet Addiction by Maya Banks
Contemporary erotic romance released by Berkley on April 3, 2012

He awakened a need within her…

Cole is successful beyond his dreams. He can have any woman he wants, but there’s only one he can’t stop thinking about. His childhood sweetheart, Renita. He’s never forgotten his first taste of innocent love and the desire that consumed them—or the pain he brought upon her…

But now she belongs to another…

Her long ago brush with submission awakened a longing in Ren that drove her to walk the darker edge of desire. She’s become a beautiful woman at ease with her sexuality and unapologetic about her need for a dominant man. When Cole finds her again, he’s gutted that she belongs to another. Ren’s current master agrees to give her to Cole for a short time, but then she must return to his keeping. And though Cole agrees to this bargain, he knows he will never be able to let Ren go again…

I’ve been an avid reader of Maya Banks for quite some time. I followed the “Sweet” series and have liked most of the books. This is the final book in the series, and it’s Cole’s book. For the last five books, readers have been wondering about Cole. He’s dark, got a past, and not averse to serving up a little pain with his sexytimes — all things that draw me immediately as a reader.

It turns out that Cole’s “darkness” comes from his past with Renita, a woman that he loved as a young man. They met young, and immediately saw in each other a particular need: Cole’s need to dominate and Ren’s need to submit. Cole, knowing next to nothing about a D/s relationship, stumbled his way around, doing what felt good for both of them. But one night, after going too far, he realizes he’s caused Ren actual pain, and ends things. For her part, Ren loved the encounter and is devastated that Cole would end their love affair.

Years later, his handling of the ending of his relationship with Ren haunts Cole still. So he’s shocked when he hears her distinctive laugh in a restaurant. When he turns, he finds Ren with a very handsome man. They are definitely together, and she looks really happy.   Cole is immediately overcome with jealousy and coerces one of his friends who is acquainted with Ren’s man to arrange a meeting. Ren is beyond shocked to see Cole. All of the feelings she had come rushing back, and she’s immediately torn between her new love, Lucas, who provides everything she’s ever wanted, and Cole, the man who she has her most visceral connection to.

When Lucas witnesses Ren’s reaction to Cole, he decides to gift Ren with two weeks with Cole. His hope is that those two weeks will erase or mitigate whatever feelings she has for him. As Ren has agreed to submit control of her life to Lucas, it is his right to give her to Cole. Cole is not stupid and immediately agrees to what Lucas offers. He knows that once Ren is in his possession, he’s never letting her go.

This is a relatively hardcore D/s storyline. Ren is very much a beloved piece of property to both men. While it is her choice, and she willingly allows both of them to dictate to her, it is the men who make decisions for her. It is how she feels safest. She is, by her choice, a slave. While it’s clear in the story that both men have strong feelings for her, and are quite tender with her, she is also placed into situations that stretched my comfort levels beyond what I felt was appropriate.

In the scene where Lucas “gives” Ren to Cole, the three end up in a sexual encounter, and Lucas “marks” Ren by coming all over them while Cole is penetrating her anally. To say that my squick factor was exercised would not be an understatement. On top of that, in several scenes, Cole has other men have sex with Ren. At one point, allowing one to spank her with a wooden oar. This was in no way a turn on for me. It felt like debasement, in a way that made me deeply uncomfortable. I found many of these scenes to be gratuitous, adding nothing to Ren and Cole’s developing love story.

My second problem, and a more significant one at that, was that I never really understood the inclusion of Lucas in the threesome. In the end, the decision is made that Lucas and Cole would find a way to live together with Ren, sharing her. For me, this was never credible. While it was clear that Lucas loved Ren, he never struck me as hero material. As a reader of the series, I’d never heard of him, never encountered him, and had absolutely no investment in him. I didn’t understand why someone whose role in the book was minor became the third part of the threesome. If the author wanted me to become attached to him, she needed to make him more sympathetic, and a more integral part of the story. I never invested in him as a character, and therefore was dissatisfied with his part in the Ren/Cole Happily Ever After.

For me, Sweet Addiction fails because the romance between two of the characters (Lucas and Ren) was not credible, and also for several sexual encounters that did nothing to advance the connection or love story between the main characters and felt gratuitous and debasing. It disappoints me deeply to say that this story really adds nothing to a strong series from Ms. Banks. I walked away from the book with a bad taste in my mouth and a strong dissatisfaction that Cole didn’t get the Happily Ever After that he deserved.

Grade: D-

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