Tag Archives: CJ’s Review

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: Wake by Amanda Hocking

CJ’s Review

Wake by Amanda Hocking
Young adult fiction released by St. Martin’s Griffin on August 7, 2012

Gorgeous. Fearless. Dangerous. They’re the kind of girls you envy; the kind of girls you want to hate. Strangers in town for the summer, Penn, Lexi and Thea have caught everyone’s attention—but it’s Gemma who’s attracted theirs. She’s the one they’ve chosen to be part of their group.

Gemma seems to have it all—she’s carefree, pretty, and falling in love with Alex, the boy next door. He’s always been just a friend, but this summer they’ve taken their relationship to the next level, and now there’s no going back. Then one night, Gemma’s ordinary life changes forever. She’s taking a late night swim under the stars when she finds Penn, Lexi and Thea partying on the cove. They invite her to join them, and the next morning she wakes up on the beach feeling groggy and sick, knowing something is different.

Suddenly Gemma is stronger, faster, and more beautiful than ever. But her new powers come with a terrifying price. And as she uncovers the truth, she’s is forced to choose between staying with those she loves—or entering a new world brimming with dark hungers and unimaginable secrets.

I guess what initially attracted me to this book was the story behind it. You know–the one about self-publishing’s darling and the huge commercial deal. I wanted to know whether Hocking had written something genuinely worth publishing, or if St. Martin’s Press had simply seen a sure profit in her previous success. I wasn’t overly excited to read Wake. It had an interesting premise and I tried to approach it with an open mind but I just couldn’t stave off the sense of trepidation as I started reading.

Gemma, like every other person in this book, is a cookie-cutter-character. She’s a Mary-Sue to the nth degree—beautiful, athletic, and perfect. Oh, sure, she’s got a rebellious streak—she enjoys going swimming at night—but there is no depth to her character and I couldn’t make myself like her.

Harper, Gemma’s older sister and the other main character, doesn’t even warrant a mention in the blurb. She’s a walking cliché—the over-protective older sister trying to take the place of an absent mother—not to mention a complete and utter pain in the arse. Harper actually made me care about her, but in a ‘what the hell are you doing?!’ sort of way. From the moment I met her, I detested her desire to control Gemma’s life and her attitude towards Daniel. She could have such a bright future. The scholarship she worked so hard for guaranteed her a place at any college she wanted, but she chose a local school just because she doesn’t trust that Gemma and their father can look after themselves. When executed properly this trope makes the character in question appear multi-faceted but Harper just seemed controlling.

The romance in this book was almost depressing. Alex, the boy next door, is sweet and nice, but his initial description painted him in such a way that he was so far out of the realm of love interest he could have been Gemma’s brother. Daniel, on the other hand, was obviously a romantic interest even though Harper was so intent on being rude and haughty when he was around. It made me question what he saw in her and made me feel sorry for him.

It’s hard to believe just how much this book dragged on. Wake is marketed as a tale of sirens and fantasy but, for the most part, it’s simply about family relationships, which isn’t what I signed up for. The catalyst for the events in the cover copy doesn’t even occur until the book is half-finished leaving the first fifty percent a hard slog to get through. If I didn’t have a thing about finishing what I start, I would have given up a quarter of the way in when I was still wondering when the real story would start.

My biggest gripe with Wake was the voice. I don’t read to be told a story, I read to escape. The best books drag you under the surface and wrap you in sensory details without actually shoving them down your throat. From the very beginning I choked on the back-story flooding the prose and, if that wasn’t doing the trick, the unbelievable dialogue kept me from enjoying the tale at all.

I feel like I’m grasping at straws to try and find something good to say about this book. I made it to the end, but it was a struggle. I couldn’t picture the world and none of the characters made a lasting impression on me other than dislike. In fact, the more I force myself to try to think of something good I find myself detesting it even more. The only thing that endeared this book to me was the fact the sirens weren’t that of the Disney variety.

I can’t bring myself to recommend it. It just annoyed me too much.

Grade: F

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