Tag Archives: Contemporary Romance

Review: Blacklisted by Jay Crownover

Blacklisted by Jay Crownover
Contemporary romance released by Forever on October 27, 2020

Blacklisted by Jay Crownover book coverDr. Presley Baskin has always lived a quiet, calm life. Unfortunately, nothing about her life in Loveless, Texas — especially not the wild, rowdy, and impossibly close-knit Lawton family who’ve claimed her — is quiet or calm. Which is how loner Presley finds herself roped into patching up local bad boy Shot Caldwell against her better judgment. Presley wants nothing to do with the dangerous, brooding leader of the local outlaw motorcycle club. But when someone starts stalking her, Shot is the only person she trusts to help. Plus he owes her one . . .
Palmer ‘Shot’ Caldwell has always known his life isn’t made for relationships. At least until shy, secretive, Presley reluctantly pulled a bullet out of him. He’s oddly protective of the pretty doctor, so when she comes to him for help, hard-hearted Shot suddenly realizes there’s nothing he wouldn’t do to keep her safe.

I have not read a motorcycle club romance in a few years, so I was curious how this one would go. On the one hand, it was fairly easy to familiarize myself with the various family and friends of both of the main characters, and the plot and its conflict did not rely heavily on events in earlier books. On the other hand, the way mental illness is used in this book left me troubled after I finished it, which is why I delayed writing a review for this book. I’m also ethically uncomfortable with how a medical examiner is in a long-term relationship with the president of a motorcycle club by the end of the book, and this is clearly not a cuddly motorcycle club (like Rhenna Morgan’s Men of Haven). Presley is the medical examiner in the novel, and Palmer “Shot” is the motorcycle club president. Presley’s growth is perhaps best seen in how she stops retreating from good things in her life as the book progresses–she also stops retreating from bad things, which maybe isn’t a great development. Shot is more difficult to explain, partly because it felt as though he already knew he loved Presley from the beginning of the book, based on the little inner asides in his voice scattered throughout the book; his character arc is that he is willing to commit to Presley and express his feelings verbally. I wasn’t necessarily satisfied by these arcs, or the general plot. Continue reading

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: Once Upon a Rose by Laura Florand

Once Upon a Rose by Laura Florand
Contemporary romance released by Laura Florand on January 26, 2015 

Once Upon a Rose by Laura Florand book coverShe stole his roses.

Fleeing the spotlight, burnt out rock star Layla—“Belle”—Dubois seeks refuge in the south of France. That old, half-forgotten heritage in a valley of roses seems like a good place to soothe a wounded heart. She certainly doesn’t expect the most dangerous threat to her heart to pounce on her as soon as she sets foot on the land.

He wants them back.

Matt didn’t mean to growl at her quite that loudly. But—his roses! She can’t have his roses. Even if she does have all those curls and green eyes and, and, and…what was he growling about again?

Or maybe he just wants her.

When an enemy invades his valley and threatens his home, heart, and livelihood, Matthieu Rosier really knows only one way to defend himself.

It might involve kissing.

I’ve been hoarding this book for a moment of true need. Or at least, that’s how I’m explaining why it took me this long to read this book, considering that it’s been in my virtual TBR pile for a very long time. It was, as with other Florand books, lush, funny, and richly layered both in terms of plot and characters. I guess you could loosely describe this as a beauty and the beast retelling, in so much as we have a really grumpy love interest who has a very soft heart–Matthieu, and a love interest who is beautiful, kind and curious–Layla. But because this is written by Florand, it is more than that. It is a musician who inherits a house in France, and steps into a family involved in the perfume industry who are collectively going through some growing pains. Continue reading

Release Day Review: Take a Hint, Dani Brown

Take a Hint, Dani Brown (The Brown Sisters #2) by Talia Hibbert
Contemporary Romance published by Avon on June 23, 2020

Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert book cover Danika Brown knows what she wants: professional success, academic renown, and an occasional roll in the hay to relieve all that career-driven tension. But romance? Been there, done that, burned the T-shirt. Romantic partners, whatever their gender, are a distraction at best and a drain at worst. So Dani asks the universe for the perfect friend-with-benefits—someone who knows the score and knows their way around the bedroom.

When big, brooding security guard Zafir Ansari rescues Dani from a workplace fire drill gone wrong, it’s an obvious sign: PhD student Dani and former rugby player Zaf are destined to sleep together. But before she can explain that fact to him, a video of the heroic rescue goes viral. Suddenly, half the internet is shipping #DrRugbae—and Zaf is begging Dani to play along. Turns out his sports charity for kids could really use the publicity. Lying to help children? Who on earth would refuse?

Dani’s plan is simple: fake a relationship in public, seduce Zaf behind the scenes. The trouble is, grumpy Zaf is secretly a hopeless romantic—and he’s determined to corrupt Dani’s stone-cold realism. Before long, he’s tackling her fears into the dirt. But the former sports star has issues of his own, and the walls around his heart are as thick as his… um, thighs.

The easy lay Dani dreamed of is now more complex than her thesis. Has her wish backfired? Is her focus being tested? Or is the universe just waiting for her to take a hint?

Take a Hint, Dani Brown is a delightful read and I highly recommend it to contemporary romance fans (along with the first book in the series, Get a Life, Chloe Brown, which I reviewed here). For me this book has the perfect balance of issues to resolve but not so angsty I had to set it aside to cry at the low point. Exactly what I needed to read right now! Dani and Zafir are #couplesgoals and #swoony! Continue reading

Release Day Review: The Dare by Elle Kennedy

The Dare (Briar U Book 4) by Elle Kennedy
Contemporary new adult romance released by Elle Kennedy on June 16, 2020

The Dare by Elle Kennedy book cover College was supposed to be my chance to get over my ugly-duckling complex and spread my wings. Instead, I wound up in a sorority full of mean girls. I already have a hard time fitting in, so when my Kappa Chi sisters issue the challenge, I can’t say no.

The dare: seduce the hottest new hockey player in the junior class.

Conor Edwards is a regular at Greek Row parties…and in Greek Row sorority beds. He’s the one you fall for before you learn that guys like him don’t give girls like me a second glance. Except Mr. Popular throws me for a loop—rather than laughing in my face, he does me a solid by letting me take him upstairs to pretend we’re getting busy.

Even crazier, now he wants to keep pretending. Turns out Conor loves games, and he thinks it’s fun to pull the wool over my frenemies’ eyes.

But resisting his easy charm and surfer-boy hotness is darn near impossible. Though I’m realizing there’s much more to Conor’s story than his fan club can see.

And the longer this silly ruse goes on, the greater the danger of it all blowing up in my face.

I devoured this book in less than 3 days. It was funny and angsty in equal measures, and did a good job of capturing college life without infantilizing the characters, which some authors can’t quite pull off. Before going further, a couple of content warnings: the book talks about revenge porn towards the end of the book, and Taylor (one of the love interests) is dealing with body image issues throughout the book. Taylor is part of a sorority, and Conor is an athlete, so there is a fair amount of drinking going on in the book. For all that Taylor and Conor’s experience of college was not like mine, I think that Kennedy did a good job of showing us how college students interact with each other and with the world outside of college. I liked seeing Taylor and Conor grow in confidence, both because of their coupledom but also because of their own separate choices. And despite how angsty this book can get, there are parts where I laughed aloud.
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Review: Pregnant by the Playboy by Jackie Lau

Pregnant by the Playboy by Jackie Lau
Contemporary romance released by Jackie Lau Books on May 26, 2020

Pregnant by the Playboy by Jackie Lau book coverI’ve got a pretty great life, if I do say so myself. I made a fortune when I sold my tech start-up, and I’ve spent the years since partying, drinking, and inviting a parade of women into my bed.

I should be happy, but I feel an annoying lack of fulfillment, and there’s no way I’m going back to the work I did before.

At a friend’s party, I meet Marissa. We have hot sex against the door and agree to spend the weekend together. Just one weekend. I never expect to see her again.

Except now she’s pregnant with my baby…and I think this is the solution to all my problems. This is what will bring meaning to my life. I’m going to be a devoted father and husband.

Marissa—whose last name I still don’t know—wants me to be involved, though she rejects my marriage proposal. But before the baby arrives, I’m going to prove to her that I can be something other than a playboy.

And the rare times I set my mind to something, I don’t fail…

This was a fun read, and it didn’t feel like a rehashing of the surprise/secret baby trope I remember from my early days of romance reading. I enjoyed getting to know Marissa and Vince. This book reads well by itself, but it is part of a series, so some of the secondary character interactions will make a little more sense when you read the other books; don’t let that hold you back from starting with this book. Marissa is older than the women in Lau’s other books that I’ve read, so it was interesting to see how she dealt with her conflicts differently; Vince is younger than Marissa, but this is not a huge deal for either of them and it is not a big deal in the book. Marissa has to learn how to trust in others and herself, and Vince has to learn how to take a more balanced approach to life. Continue reading

Release Day Review: Sure Shot by Sarina Bowen

Sure Shot by Sarina Bowen
Contemporary romance released by Tuxbury Publishing LLC on May 12, 2020.

Sure Shot by Sarina Bowen book coverOn the eve of her thirtieth birthday, sports agent Bess Beringer is ready to make some changes. Armed with a five-year plan—indexed and color coded—she’ll tackle her personal life with the same zeal that she brings to her successful agency.

A big, tall, ripped hunk of hockey player who’s just been traded to the Brooklyn Bruisers is not a part of that plan. Mark “Tank” Tankiewicz has a lot of baggage. He’s a ride-or-die loner with a bad reputation. He’s on the rebound. He’s also the sexiest thing on two legs, and for some crazy reason it’s Bess that he wants.

She knows better. But then she falls stupid in love with him anyway. And for a while it seems like maybe he’ll do the same.

Until she asks him for the one thing he can never give her…

You guys! This book is darling! I’m so glad I got my hands on an ARC of Sure Shot as it’s one of the best books I’ve read in a while. Times as we all know, are … crazy. Unfortunate. Stressful. It’s a fucking goddamn pandemic. So along those lines it was a bit of a mind trip reading a contemporary romance where life is normal. Obviously I understand this was written well before global lockdown happened. (Before there even was an outbreak anywhere in the world …) But you know. I was pretty engaged with the book – but it took a bit. I think it was mostly me/the everything, and not the book – but up until about chapter 17 I kept putting the book down every chapter or so. Nevertheless once things started rolling I couldn’t put it down, I laughed out loud in places, teared up, and basically wanted to hug the book upon finishing it.

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Release Day Review: Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai

Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai (Modern Love #2)
Contemporary romance published by Avon on April 21, 2020

Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai book coverIn Alisha Rai’s second novel in her Modern Love series, a reclusive investor goes viral, shoving her into the world’s spotlight—and into the arms of the bodyguard she’s been pining for…

OMG! Wouldn’t it be adorable if he’s her soulmate???

I don’t see any wedding rings

Breaking: #CafeBae and #CuteCafeGirl went to the bathroom AT THE SAME TIME!!!

One minute, Katrina King’s enjoying an innocent conversation with a random guy at a coffee shop; the next, a stranger has live-tweeted the entire encounter with a romantic meet-cute spin and #CafeBae has the world swooning. Going viral isn’t easy for anyone, but Katrina has painstakingly built a private world for herself, far from her traumatic past. Besides, everyone has it all wrong…that #CafeBae bro? He isn’t the man she’s hungry for.

He’s got a 🍑  to die for.

With the internet on the hunt for the identity of #CuteCafeGirl, Jas Singh, bodyguard and possessor of the most beautiful eyebrows Katrina’s ever seen, offers his family’s farm as a refuge. Alone with her unrequited crush feels like a recipe for hopeless longing, but Katrina craves the escape. She’s resigned to being just friends with Jas–until they share a single electrifying kiss. Now she can’t help but wonder if her crush may not be so unrequited after all…

I’m an Alisha Rai-fangirl and have nothing but praise for Girl Gone Viral. Girl Gone Viral is book two in the Modern Love series, a spin-off from her Forbidden Hearts series. Girl Gone Viral is my favorite of the two books in the series so far. Katrina and Jas are great characters. It’s funny and sexy while tackling some tough topics and problems. Continue reading

Review: Transpire Together by Mercy Zephyr

Transpire Together by Mercy Zephyr
Contemporary own voices romance published by Mercy Zephyr on November 14, 2019

Transpire Together by Mercy Zephyr book coverHer intimately familiar voice whispered softly in his ear, “Pretend you know me.”
Lynn Hall has a formula for success. As a child in the rural island town of Selaruk, Alaska, she ate ramen; now, she’s an aspiring accountant. The last step of her plan: Liquidate her family’s Selaruk assets for her mother, then leave those memories behind for good.
Keith Kendall’s parents threw him away years ago. Now they are gone, and Keith is back to forge a new life…surrounded by painful memories. But his favorite memory—his high school sweetheart, Lynn—just walked back into his life….Too bad she doesn’t recognize her high school girlfriend.

I read this book because it’s an #ownvoices romance and I like to give those any boost I can, which includes writing reviews. Also gender roles in romance are something I’m interested in, and I wanted to see how this novel would take on the challenge. In the interest of full disclosure, I am an effectively cis-gendered mostly-hetero lady. I say effectively cis and mostly hetero because while I am comfortable with being female I am bad at being femme, and I tend to be attracted to androgyny. (I have read exactly one (1) romance novel which featured a hero who is the exact kind of person I’m attracted to, and it is Untamed by Anna Cowan.) All of this is to say, I read this as part of an active effort to diversify my romance reading experience and learn something about the genre as a whole while, hopefully, having a good time. Continue reading

Team ALBTALBS TBR Challenge Review: The Art of Three by Erin McRae and Racheline Maltese

The Art of Three by Erin McRae and Racheline Maltese
Contemporary romance published by Avian30 on March 28, 2017

The Art of Three 24-year-old Jamie Conway has just moved to London, is starring in his first feature film, and hasn’t yet figured out how to navigate fame, adulthood, or being bisexual in public.

When Jamie hooks up with his much older polyamorous costar Callum Griffith-Davies, he sets off a chain of delightful complications, including an unexpected affair with Callum’s no-nonsense wife, Nerea.

This Rainbow Awards-winning romance features three countries, two men, one woman, and absolutely no love triangles.

I read The Art of Three for the November #TBRChallenge and enjoyed it. It was a quick, relatively low angst read for me. They’re just so nice to each other and happy to be together! I’m a fan of MMF romances and when I heard about this book, I immediately put it in my TBR list. It’s not what I’m used to reading in a MMF / ménage / poly relationship story and I liked that! Continue reading

Release Day Review: Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

Get a Life, Chloe Brown (The Brown Sisters #1) by Talia Hibbert
Contemporary Romance published by Avon on November 5, 2019

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert book coverChloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. The next items?

  • Enjoy a drunken night out.
  • Ride a motorcycle.
  • Go camping.
  • Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.
  • Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.
  • And… do something bad.

But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.

Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.

But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior…

It’s a rare book that I can feel myself smiling while I’m reading it and this was one—in public no less! I also cried but that may not be the selling point some are looking for (more on that later). Anyway, this was an awesome read. I love Chloe and her family and Red and am excited for the next book about Chloe’s sister, Dani. And you should stop reading my review and read this book now! Continue reading