Naughty or Nice Winter Blog Tour


Welcome to my stop on this holiday Naughty or Nice Winter Blog Tour. While the tour features six lovely holiday book treats, my special guest today is Nana Malone, the author of Mistletoe Mantra, half of the Wrapped in Red story bundle with Sherelle Green’s White Hot Holiday.

wrapped in red by nana malone and sherelle greenMistletoe Mantra is a terrific little holiday story that puts together some tried-and-oh-so-true romance themes and wraps them up in a red Christmas bow. This is story where, as Nana says in her guest post below, nice guys do not finish last. Not only that, but this particular nice guy has been hiding a big streak of naughty from his best friend for years and year. Because while Nomi Adams has never figured out it, she has always been Lincoln Porter’s “little redheaded girl”. Just like Charlie Brown, Linc has loved Nomi from the day she walked into his life, and he has loved her from the shadows, while she and his sister (and Nomi’s best friend) grew up and got even more beautiful right before his eyes. What Nomi discovers when she returns home after years away, is that Lincoln has had his own moment of transformation, and that the shy little boy she remembers has been replaced by a very hot and incredibly thoughtful man with some big secrets of his own. Including a secret that Nomi has come home to expose.

Guest Post by Nana Malone on Good Guys and Nice Girls

Good girl, beep beep…

Talking about a good, good girl…and guy. Well, maybe that’s not exactly how the song goes. But in a book world full of superalphas, I want to talk about the nice guy for once and his nice girl.

No, this isn’t your mother’s Mary Sue, and nice guys don’t have to finish last.
Okay, I get it. Inked, with a constant 5 o’clock shadow, alpha males are sexy and hot. They say what they think. They’re a little bit dirty. They flout authority. Having one as your book boyfriend keeps you on the edge of your seat and your heart racing. Because you never know when you’ll be on a train and they’ll slip a hand under your skirt…or maybe those are just my book boyfriends. LOL.

And don’t even get me started on the bad girls. You know the ones. They hang with the boys, wear killer stilettos and don’t seem to own a pair of panties.

But let’s face it, ladies. In every romance you’ve ever read, the tatted playboy changes for the heroine. Because of her, he becomes a better person.

I personally love a nice guy. You know, the one who thinks to bring you something when he comes home from a trip. The one who will walk your dog when you’re running a fever. But these guys can be super-sexy, too.

Just because they know how to open a door doesn’t mean in the bedroom, they can’t turn it on. Yes, I’m talking about the closet bad boys. The ones who are just a little bit dirty. The ones we get to muss up.

Who: the good guy.
Why he’s good: because he’ll always be the hero.
Why women miss out on him: because we think he’s boring or too stable.
Why he’s sexy: because he knows what you need before you do, and he knows how to give it to you.
Dirty little secret: he’s good with his words…in bed as well as out…

Can we just talk about the original good guy for a moment? Mmmmm, Mr. Darcy. Sure, he had his issues, but at the core of it, you could bring him home to Mama. LOL. He was respectful, kind and nowhere near being a rogue. But when it counted…whoo, that man was sexy.

Some of my favorites in books include Brody Lawson from Love So Hot, Josh Hudson from Can’t Shake You and even in my own books—Beckett from Sultry in Stilettos, Caleb from Sassy in Stilettos and let’s not forget Lincoln from Wrapped in Red.

Now let’s talk about my good girls. Nothing wrong with being nice. Jennifer Lawrence is nice, but she’s also hilarious. The trick is, no one wants their besties to be too nice, right? Nice girls these days aren’t like the ones from years ago. They might have a designer addiction like Becky Bloomwood from the Shopaholic series and my own Jaya from Sexy in Stilettos and Nomi. She could just be hopeless like poor Bridget from Bridget Jones’s Diary, but even the nice girl can be hot. The trick is, she can’t be Mother Teresa.

It’s all about the flaws. No one wants that bestie who is just perfect at everything and saccharine-sweet to boot. What makes today’s nice girls oh so sexy? They’re funny. They keep sweaters in their ovens, have addictions to shoes, chocolate, lingerie and books. They drink, they swear and gasp! get a little naughty in the bedroom. No more goody-goody nice girls who aren’t any fun.

Who: the good girl.
Why she’s good: because she’s fun and loveable, and everyone wants to be her bestie.
Why men miss out on her: because they think she’s too good and no fun.
Why she’s sexy: because she’s quirky and will try anything once.
Dirty little secret: she loves to role play…

So come on, who’s your favorite book nice guy and nice girl?

All About Nana:
nana maloneUSA Today Bestselling Author, Nana Malone’s love of all things romance and adventure started with a tattered romantic suspense she borrowed from her cousin on a sultry summer afternoon in Ghana at a precocious thirteen. She’s been in love with kick butt heroines ever since.With her overactive imagination, and channeling her inner Buffy, it was only a matter a time before she started creating her own characters. Waiting for her chance at a job as a ninja assassin, Nana, meantime works out her drama, passion and sass with fictional characters every bit as sassy and kick butt as she thinks she is.

Nana is the author of three series. The Love Match Series includes sassy contemporary romances: Game, Set, Match and Mismatch. The In Stilettos Series includes ultra-sexy and fun multicultural romantic comedies, Sexy in Stilettos, Sultry in Stilettos and Sassy in Stilettos . The Protectors series includes dark and sexy superhero romances, Betrayed (A Reluctant Protector Prequel), Reluctant Protector and Forsaken Protector.

The books in her series have been on multiple Amazon Kindle and Barnes & Noble best seller lists as well as the iTunes Breakout Books list and most notably the USA Today Bestseller list.

Until that ninja job comes through, you’ll find Nana working hard on additional books for her series as well as other fun, sassy romances for characters that won’t leave her alone. And if she’s not working or hiding in the closet reading, she’s acting out scenes for her husband, daughter and puppy in sunny San Diego.

Contact Nana at:


One grand prize winner will receive:
1 print copy of The Harder You Fall by Gena Showalter, White Wedding Christmas by Andrea Laurence, A Cowboy Under the Mistletoe by Vicki Lewis Thompson, Wrapped in Red by Nana Malone and Sherelle Green
1 eBook copy of A Copper Ridge Christmas by Maisey Yates and Under the Spotlight by Kate Willoughby
100,000 Harlequin MyRewards points
2 Harlequin Classics limited edition notebooks
1 Brenda Jackson Westmoreland limited edition notebook

a Rafflecopter giveaway


Review: If You Only Knew by Kristan Higgins + Giveaway

if you only knew by kristan higginsFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, large print, audiobook
Genre: women’s fiction
Length: 416 pages
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Date Released: August 25, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Wedding-dress designer Jenny Tate understands the happily-ever-after business, yet somehow she’s still involved in her ex-husband’s life. In fact, Owen’s new wife may—inexplicably—be Jenny’s new best friend. Sensing this, well, relationship isn’t helping her move on, Jenny trades the Manhattan skyline for her hometown up the Hudson, where she’ll be able to bask in her sister Rachel’s picture-perfect family life…and hopefully make one of her own.

Her timing couldn’t be more perfect, since Rachel will need her younger sister. Her idyllic marriage has just fallen to pieces in spectacular fashion after she discovers her husband sexting with one of his colleagues. Second chances aren’t in Rachel’s nature, but the desire for an intact family has her rethinking her stance on adultery, much to Jenny’s surprise. Rachel points to their parents’ “perfect” marriage as a shining example, but to protect her sister Jenny may have to tarnish that memory—and their relationship­—and reveal a secret about their family she’s been keeping since childhood.

During this summer of secrets and lies, temptation and revelation, Jenny and Rachel will rely on each other to find the humor in their personal catastrophes, the joy in their triumphs…and the strength to keep hanging on.

My Review:

This is a story about secrets and sisterhood. And its heart is in the relationship between two sisters, Rachel and Jenny, and in the sure and certain knowledge that no one on the outside ever really knows what happens between the two people who make up a marriage.

And it’s about a life-altering secret that achieves closure in the most surprising way.

Three women are trying to discover what comes next after they lose the man they think is the love of their life. Not just Jenny and Rachel, but also their mother.

Mom has been a professional widow for over 20 years by this point. She’s never gotten over the sudden death of her supposedly perfect husband, and has become a person always looking for the dark side of life. If there’s a silver lining, she’s skipped looking for the cloud, and starts immediately searching for the mercury poisoning.

But dear old dad wasn’t perfect. Not long before his death, Jenny caught him in the supply closet of his dental practice with one of his assistants, playing tonsil hockey. After dad’s death, his secret became her secret – neither her sister nor her mother ever knew about dad’s feet of clay.

Jenny always wonders whether things would have been, or would be, different if she let that particular cat out of the bag. It would certainly change her mother and sister’s opinions of dad. But it might also destroy them. Or their relationship with Jenny. Shoot the messenger is not an uncommon reaction.

Instead, Jenny holds this secret close as she puts her life together after her divorce, and she watches Rachel’s world fall apart after she finds her supposedly perfect husband sexting one of his associates.

The story is told in alternating points of view, switching from Jenny to Rachel. Jenny is still passively friendly with her ex and his new wife. He didn’t cheat, he just fell out of love with her, got a divorce, and married and knocked up the first woman he met afterwards. But Owen also gets to have his cake and eat it, too. He gets to keep Jenny’s friendship and have a perfect life in all the old familiar places that used to be Jenny’s.

No wonder she moves away.

Rachel’s world falls apart. She’s always said that infidelity was a deal-breaker, but she also wants to keep her perfect life in her perfect house with her suddenly not-so-perfect husband and their triplet daughters. We watch her flail around as the secret and the ensuing distrust undermine her world and her sense of herself.

In the end, both Jenny and Rachel find a future that is different from what they had always imagined, but that might, possibly, be better than they dreamed. And that perfect is an illusion.

Escape Rating B+: I stayed up until 4 am to finish this. I started it and couldn’t put it down.

Unlike some of the author’s previous books, this one is definitely women’s fiction (much as I hate that term) and not a contemporary romance. Jenny does find a relationship, but the resolution of that thread was not the backbone of the book. Instead, it’s about finding herself, and also about Rachel figuring out her future.

There were a lot of times when I wanted to shake either Jenny or Rachel for their passivity. Jenny knows that it is insane to be best friends with her ex-husband and his new wife. Note that I’m not saying friendly, I’m saying besties. Friendly is good if it’s manageable, because hate just eats at you. However, being an actual part of the life that used to be hers but isn’t does not let Jenny move on. Staying too connected to Owen is holding her back and she knows it. But she doesn’t make herself let go until near the end, and when she finally does, it made me want to stand up and cheer.

Rachel is in an awful position. It’s not just that her husband has been having an affair and continues to lie about it, but the way that he projects all the blame onto her for his inability to keep it in his pants, and to expect that she has to instantly forgive and forget because she’s a stay-at-home mother. I wanted to slap his smarmy, lying face. It’s not that it isn’t possible to rebuild trust after an affair, but that he expects all the work to be on Rachel’s side, and that he doesn’t have to do anything, including stopping the affair, in order to maintain his outwardly-seeming perfect life.

It takes Rachel a long time to finally realize that she can’t go on like this. He’s lying to her, and she’s lying to everyone else. The scene where she finally puts the mess in terms that he can’t ignore was awesome. And heartbreaking.

She also acknowledges that she has to do what Jenny has already done – figure out who she is and what she wants so that she can make a life for herself that might, someday, include someone else in it again. In her need to be a perfect wife and mother, and her exhaustion with caring for the triplets (OMG three babies) she has lost sight of her own person.

A lot of this story resonated with me. Rachel and Jenny’s mother is all too much like my own mother, so the things that she said that drove them crazy were all too familiar. And crazy-making. I understood why Jenny didn’t tell either her sister or her mother about their father’s affair. Some pains are not helped by sharing them, and this is one of them. If he’d lived, it would have been different, but once the person is dead, it’s too late.

And I did love that Jenny finally got closure on her dad’s secret, just not in a way that she expected.

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY ~~~~~~

I’m giving away a paperback copy of If You Only Knew to one lucky U.S. commenter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Back to You by Lauren Dane

back to you by lauren daneFormat read: paperback provided by the publisher
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: contemporary romance
Series: Hurley Boys #3
Length: 336 pages
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Date Released: May 26, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Former model Kelly Hurley has finally put the ashes of the past behind her. After a passionate but turbulent marriage to rock star Vaughan Hurley that ended in heartbreak and divorce, Kelly rebuilt her life in Portland, where she settled so their two young daughters could be close to their father. Just not so close Kelly couldn’t truly make her own way without interference from the man who shattered her heart. Now Kelly’s finally ready to move on, and she’s planning to marry another man.

But not if Vaughan has anything to say about it.

Vaughan knows he was a fool all those years ago. A young, selfish—and prideful—fool. Even as he buried himself in the fast, decadent rock star lifestyle, he could never drown out the memory of Kelly’s beauty and love. Or the sweet, searing heat whenever they touched. For years, he’s had to deal with the pain of seeing her only because of their daughters, but it was never enough. Now Vaughan must prove that he’s the only man Kelly needs, before he loses her for good. And there’s only one way to do it….

My Review:

August is Romance Awareness Month, so it seems appropriate that the first review of the month is a romance title. Today’s review is also part of the End of Summer Blog Tour, which features, you guessed it, a whole lot of romances all month long. See yesterday’s post for the giveaway.

Back to You is the third book in Lauren Dane’s Hurley Boys series, As the title of the series suggests, the interconnected stories are all about the Hurley brothers, who also make up the hit rock band Sweet Hollow Ranch.

best kind of trouble by lauren daneAll of the stories are second-chance stories. In The Best Kind of Trouble (reviewed here) Paddy Hurley gets a second chance at love with the one girl he never forgot. Now that more than a decade has passed, he has a chance to discover if the chemistry they had so long ago still burns hot enough for the happy ending he never thought he wanted.

In Broken Open (reviewed here), oldest brother Ezra Hurley gets a second chance at life with Tuesday Eastwood, a young widow who is finally ready for her own second chance at love. Ezra just needs to finally realize that he has earned back the love and respect he lost when he took a dive into addiction, and that he deserves to be happy.

During both Paddy’s and Ezra’s stories we get glimpses of the events in their brother Vaughan’s slightly messed up life. Once upon a time, Vaughan was married to Kelly, but they were both much too young to make it work, especially in the middle of Sweet Hollow Ranch’s meteoric rise to the top.

Vaughan wasn’t ready to grow up. Neither was Kelly, but the birth of their first daughter forced her to be a parent whether she was ready or not. She hoped that a second child would pull together the pieces of their rapidly failing marriage, but that worked about as well as it usually does, leaving Kelly a divorced single-mother with two daughters and a broken heart.

Vaughan took a decade to finally grow up. He’s always been a good father to his two girls, but he also had a life on the road, and a house on his parent’s ranch. So it could easily be said that he still lived with his mother and never had to really face adulthood.

Kelly’s engagement to another man finally pulls Vaughan’s head out of his ass. He’s never stopped loving Kelly, and he’s pushed into the realization that if he doesn’t man up instantly, the love of his life is going to marry another man and his daughters will end up calling someone else “Daddy”.

So when Vaughan stops by the house to discover one of his daughter’s about to burst her appendix, he steps up and takes care of the family. His family. And by finally being the man he should have been all along, Kelly kicks the other guy to the curb. Not because of Vaughan, but because the idiot shows that his true colors don’t respect Kelly the way that she requires.

Basically, Mr. Almost Right shows himself to be a complete jerk. While Vaughan steps up to be a true partner in the care of his daughters, and Kelly has to ask herself whether indulging in the chemistry that has never burned out between them is worth the pain when he breaks her heart again.

It takes a lot of proving for Kelly to decide that it might be worth the risk to let Vaughan Hurley back into her heart, as well as into her bed. All it will take is for Vaughan to finally tell his family the truth about just how small a child and how big a jerk he was when their marriage ended the first time around.

Making Vaughan choose between his own mother and the mother of his children could be the worst mistake that Kelly ever makes – or the only way to have the life that she deserves.

broken open by lauren daneEscape Rating B+: I liked Back to You every bit as much as Broken Open, and quite a bit more than The Best Kind of Trouble. The tension in Back to You feels very, very real every step of the way. There’s no manufactured crisis the way there was in Best Kind of Trouble. Vaughan and Kelly have very real and very serious problems. They hurt each other a lot and over and over and for a number of years. They had a lot of trust at one point but Vaughan did an epic job at destroying that trust.

And groveling isn’t the solution. He needs to prove to Kelly, day by day and over and over, that he is ready to be her partner and not just a playmate.

One of the interesting things about this story is the way that it parallels Best Kind of Trouble. If Paddy and Natalie had attempted to stay together way back when they first met, they might have ended up like Vaughan and Kelly.

Another parallel is that all the women have real and serious parent problems. Natalie’s father and Kelly’s mother are both vicious and narcissistic users, of their daughters and anyone else who comes within their sick and twisted orbits. Tuesday’s problem in Broken Open is with her former mother-in-law, who is just as nasty as the other two, but had more time to screw up and over her late son than she did Tuesday. (Tuesday’s own mother is just plain awesome.)

It is ironic that Vaughan’s mother, is generally fantastic, but has been nasty to Kelly over the years because, well, Vaughan screwed that up for both of them and it’s one of the many things he has to make right before he can earn Kelly’s trust.

Although Vaughan is often the point of view character, this is really Kelly’s story. Not just because she has grown up into a fantastic person who Vaughan might not deserve, but because she also refuses to accept anything less than Vaughan’s respect before he earns her trust.

Also, unlike most romances, this is a story where the heroine is very, very clear that love alone is not enough. If Vaughan can’t prove he understands what he did wrong (and it was pretty much all on him) and can’t take care of all the other crap that he has piled up, Kelly shows that she is absolutely willing and able to kick him to the curb again.

In the end, I’m glad that Vaughan finally grew up. Because Kelly really deserves that happy ending.


This post is part of a TLC book tour. Click on the logo for more reviews and features.


***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: Broken Open by Lauren Dane

broken open by lauren daneFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: contemporary romance
Series: Hurley Boys #2
Length: 384 pages
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Date Released: December 1, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Beyond passion. And beyond their control…

Five years ago, Tuesday Eastwood’s life collapsed and left her devastated. After an empty, nomadic existence, she’s finally pieced her life back together in the small Oregon town of Hood River. Now Tuesday has everything sorted out. Just so long as men are kept for sex, and only sex…

Then she met him.

Musician and rancher Ezra Hurley isn’t the man of Tuesday’s dreams. He’s a verboten fantasy—a man tortured by past addictions whose dark charisma and long, lean body promise delicious carnality. But this craving goes far beyond chemistry. It’s primal. It’s insatiable. And it won’t be satisfied until they’re both consumed, body and soul…

My Review:

best kind of trouble by lauren daneI read Broken Open immediately after I finished The Best Kind of Trouble (reviewed here), and I have to say that I liked Open much better than Trouble. The crisis in both stories is precipitated by the guy acting like an idiot, but Ezra’s brand of idiocy in Open felt more organic to the character as he had been through the whole book. Paddy’s moment of complete WTF’ery in Trouble came out of left field (far left field) for this reader, but Ezra had been cruising for that particular brand of bruising throughout the book.

The relationship between Ezra Hurley and Tuesday Eastwood (nee Easton) begins in Trouble. When they meet, everyone can see the heat between them, including Ezra’s brother Paddy and Tuesday’s best-friend and sister-from-another-mother Natalie Clayton. It’s only a matter of time until these two get together.

Tuesday and Ezra are both equally wounded, and their very different wounds were inflicted at the same time. Five years ago, Tuesday lost her young husband to cancer. It’s taken all of those intervening five years to grieve, let go and start moving forward with her life.

Tuesday is not moving “on”. A part of her will always love the late and much-lamented Eric, but she’s still alive and starting to live again. Her late/ex in-laws are abusive pieces of work who want to hold her back for their own emotional gratification, and Tuesday is still in the process of kicking them to the curb. But her life continues, and the new, strong Tuesday is ready to make some changes.

Five years ago, Ezra was a rock and roll star on the road with his brothers, in their successful band Sweet Hollow Ranch. Then Ezra descended into heroin addiction and nearly pissed it all away. A year as an addict, a year in rehab and sober living, and the last few years producing the group’s music and otherwise sticking close to his family ranch. Running the ranch grounds him, and he needs that. Possibly he always will.

But Ezra and Tuesday are both ready to reach out for more than just a series of one-night stands. For both of them, their relationship is a second chance at life, not just love. The longer and hotter they burn for each other, the more they also get entwined in each other’s lives.

It’s not just sex, not that the sex isn’t fantastic. But Ezra and Tuesday fit each other’s broken places in a way that just works.

The problem is that while Tuesday has found happiness and healing in her growing relationship with Ezra, Ezra fears that he is substituting one addiction for another. He keeps walling himself away, fully convinced that Tuesday can do much, much better than a recovering addict and ex-rock star.

Tuesday finally has to tell him to either get over his shit and forgive himself, or just plain go so she can’t get over him. And just like his brother Paddy, Ezra very nearly blows his best chance at happiness by not getting out of his own way.

Escape Rating B+: A part of me wants to say that this is a “sex into love” story, but that isn’t quite right. Although Ezra and Tuesday’s relationship starts out with a lot of hot sex, that isn’t what really begins things. They have explosive chemistry from their very first meeting, and for a while they both resist it for very different reasons. At the same time, they keep running into each other because his brother is in a relationship with her BFF/house mate. They can’t avoid each other.

They are both realistically gun-shy of a relationship. Tuesday’s not sure she’s ready to open her heart again, and Ezra doesn’t think he deserves to be happy. So they ease into it slowly, using hot sex as a kind of emotional lubricant. Eventually they find themselves in so deep that there is no option but to admit that they love each other.

But while Tuesday has reached a place of healing where she is sure what she wants, Ezra backslides. He has a definite problem finding the line between doing things that feel good and doing things that feel too good. It’s part of how he got hooked. He’s afraid, realistically so, that he might have substituted an addiction to Tuesday for his addiction to heroin.

He also thinks he’ll be making up for his horrible mistakes to his family for the rest of his life. He doesn’t see, or can’t see, that he really has redeemed himself in their eyes. He feels as if his actions were unforgivable. But he is so unlike Natalie’s dad in Trouble. Her father is an addict who never sincerely owns his own actions, so he can’t get out of the trap of addiction.

Ezra maybe owns his actions a bit too much. He also, like Tuesday, needs to move forward from his past.

Ezra is very firmly in the mold of romance heroes who decide for their heroines that the woman can do much better than himself, and tries to asshole his way out of the picture. Of course it doesn’t work. Tuesday calls him on his shit. She knows she will survive if he leaves, but she’d rather he crowbar his head out of his ass and move forward with her. But she is willing to walk away if he won’t, and that felt right.

Part of the crisis in this story revolves around the parents of Tuesday’s late husband. They are slime. They alienated Eric while he was alive, and now want Tuesday to wallow in guilt because he’s dead. There is also a big dose of racism in their hatred of Tuesday. It was marvelous watching her stand up to them, and Tuesday’s mother reveals herself as a kick-ass heroine in her own right. Every daughter should have a mother like Diana Easton in her corner.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: The Best Kind of Trouble by Lauren Dane

best kind of trouble by lauren daneFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Series: Hurley Boys #1
Length: 384 pages
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Date Released: August 26, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

She has complete control… and he’s determined to take it away

A librarian in the small town of Hood River, Natalie Clayton’s world is very nearly perfect. After a turbulent childhood and her once-wild ways, life is now under control. But trouble has a way of turning up unexpectedly—especially in the tall, charismatically sexy form of Paddy Hurley….

And Paddy is the kind of trouble that Natalie has a taste for.

Even after years of the rock and roll lifestyle, Paddy never forgot the two wickedly hot weeks he once shared with Natalie. Now he wants more… even if it means tempting Natalie and her iron-grip control. But there’s a fine line between well-behaved and misbehaved—and the only compromise is between the sheets!

My Review:

I love the idea of a librarian as the heroine of a romance. There has always been way more going on in the stacks than our image in the public consciousness would lead one to believe.

I also love the idea of a rock star romance. It is possibly everyone’s fantasy at some point in their lives to get swept away into the glittering world of the rich, famous and supremely talented. While it may not be a good idea in real life, as a fantasy, it definitely works.

And parts of The Best Kind of Trouble worked really well, while other parts fell a little flat.

The story also reminded me an awful lot of Rock Addiction by Nalini Singh (reviewed here). This is both a good thing and a bad thing. Both stories feature the same type of characters, a librarian with tons of control issues because of serious shit in her past, and a rock star who won’t take no for an answer when it comes to starting a relationship in spite of two sets of very heavy baggage.

About The Best Kind of Trouble…this is the first book in Dane’s Hurley Boys series, and it is pretty obvious from the beginning that every one of the brothers is going to get their HEA by series end. It helps that they already have two fine examples in their midst. Their parents’ marriage is rock solid and clearly a strong love match, but one of the four brothers, Damien, has already found his Ms. Right and married her.

lush by lauren daneMary Hurley has become the center of the new family dynamic that the brothers are creating. I was about to say that I wish we had their story, but we do. It’s Lush, book 3 of Dane’s Delicious series. Oh well, throw another book on the towering TBR pile.

Dragging myself back to The Best Kind of Trouble. Again.

This is a second chance at love story, and it looks like the rest of the series will be also, for various definitions of second chances. In the case of Patrick (Paddy) Hurley and Natalie Clayton, when they run into each other in a coffee shop in Hood River, it isn’t the first time they met.

Way back when, when the band was still playing dive bars and Natalie was still in high school, they spent two torrid weeks together. They were both underage, and they were both so hot for each other that they couldn’t keep away.

That was a long time ago. Natalie got her act together and finished high school, college and graduate school while ditching her wild party ways and wild party days. She got control of her life and she wants to keep it that way.

The Hurley Brothers band made it big. They’re all rock stars and they’re all filthy rich. They’ve also learned the high cost of fame and fortune, and when they are home in Hood River, they help their parents run the ranch.

Paddy wants to see if he and Natalie can have more between them than just their still smoking hot chemistry. Natalie isn’t sure whether she wants to be anywhere near Paddy’s wild and crazy rock and roll life, but she still wants to be with him.

And they both have all too many buttons to push when it comes to fame, fortune, and the high cost of being famous. Whether they can manage to work around each other’s scar tissue is a question that only time and working on their relationship every day has a chance of solving.

Until all the shit hits all the fans and Paddy throws away the best thing he ever had. Even his famous charm may not be enough to help him get out of the huge hole he’s dug himself into. And maybe it shouldn’t.

Escape Rating B: Having read both Rock Addiction and The Best Kind of Trouble, it is hard for me not to compare the two. That being said, in reality the one had nothing to do with the other, the two books were published within two weeks of each other last fall, and they couldn’t have influenced each other directly.

But they are similar in an awful lot of ways, to the point where as I read Trouble I kept thinking about Addiction.

Also, The Hurley Brothers series is clearly a spinoff of both Dane’s Brown Family series and her Delicious series. I haven’t read either of those (yet!) but the references to previous events are mostly minor. It didn’t feel necessary to have read them to enjoy The Best Kind of Trouble.

The romance between Natalie and Paddy burns very, very hot. Natalie may seem buttoned up on the outside, but her wild side is still very much alive in her private moments. It’s just that she has reached a point in her life where she needs to keep her private stuff very private, including all the bad crap in her psyche about her addict-father, her runaway mother and her cold and emotionally manipulative grandmother.

Natalie is a classic poor little rich girl. She inherited a trust fund, but she raised herself in well-to-do-suburb where her house was filled with her dad’s addict friends and there was always puke on the floor and the furniture had all been sold to pay for drugs. He’s been in, and dropped out, of the 12-step program so many times that Natalie no longer believes his amends, especially since they are always half-assed in the first place.

broken open by lauren daneShe’s cut off her birth family as much as she can. Her real family are her college friends, especially the absolutely awesome Tuesday Eastwood. (I’m so happy that Tuesday got her own book, Broken Open, because she so deserves it).

Natalie has a lot of bad baggage, and Paddy keeps tripping over it. The development of their relationship hinges on her learning to tell him when something feels wrong instead of just running away. But Natalie is very big on handling her own bad stuff, even if she can’t handle it alone.

The crisis in the story hinges on a huge misunderstandammit. It also involves Natalie’s horrible family. But it isn’t Natalie who goes off the rails, it’s Paddy. And the way he explodes doesn’t really make much sense in context. He acts like an asshole and tells Natalie to leave. She tries to discuss the problem with him and he turns away. Then she leaves.

I felt for her and also felt like she did the right thing. Staying and begging for scraps of attention and understanding in those circumstances felt wrong. Natalie is good, sometimes too good, at owning her shit. In this case, her best option was to own it and take it home with her. Which she does.

Eventually Paddy figures out just how big an ass he’s been, and starts groveling. I’m glad they found their HEA but still not sure Natalie made him grovel nearly enough.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: The Marriage Season by Linda Lael Miller + Giveaway

marriage season by linda lael millerFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: hardcover, paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genre: contemporary western romance
Series: The Brides of Bliss County #3
Length: 304 pages
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Date Released: May 26, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Since Hadleigh, Melody and Bex—the best of best friends—entered into a marriage pact, two of them have found (and married) the men of their hearts. But Bex doesn’t think she’ll be as fortunate as the others. Her own first love died years ago in a faraway war, and Bex has lost hope for a happy marriage of her own. She concentrates on her business, a successful chain of fitness clubs, instead.

Then, when single father Tate Calder comes to Mustang Creek with his two sons in tow, who befriend Bex’s eight-year-old nephew, she and the handsome, aloof newcomer are constantly thrown together. But is the marriage season over? Or can a man with doubts about love be the right husband for a woman who wants it all?

My Review:

marriage pact by linda lael millerThe Marriage Season is a different kind of second-chance romance from the first two wonderful books in this series, The Marriage Pact (reviewed here) and The Marriage Charm (likewise, here).

Hadleigh, Melody and Bex really are BFFs forever. They grew up together, and also continued to grow towards each other as they graduated high school, left Mustang Ridge for college and business opportunities, and all moved back to be with their families. And find their happily ever afters.

The difference is that Hadleigh and Melody found their HEAs with men who they loved earlier in their lives. While the time wasn’t right then, it is now. It just takes each of them some time (and some home truths delivered by their friends) to finally figure things out.

Bex is different. The love of Bex’ young life was Hadleigh’s husband’s brother Will. They were all set to get married after Will returned from his deployment to Afghanistan. He never did, and Bex has never found anyone else to fill his place in her heart.

She’s successful in business, and her life is full and happy, but there’s something missing. Even though she recognizes that her life would have been much different if Will had lived, the fact is that he didn’t. And that Bex hasn’t trusted herself to love again, out of fear that anyone she loves will be taken from her again.

Her younger sister’s disastrous marriage to the wrong man probably hasn’t helped Bex’ trust in the institution, but she loves her nephew Josh to pieces. She just wants better for him than to be a pawn in the midst of his parents acrimonious arguments.

Of course, her friends Hadleigh and Melody are matchmaking for her, just as she helped them when it was their turn. But the friends’ sights are fixed on a newcomer in town. Tate Calder is a single father, his wife dead and his two young sons surprisingly well adjusted.

Tate isn’t looking for love either. Actually, what Tate isn’t looking for is marriage. His was a disaster that was just about to end in divorce when his wife died, leaving him with the two boys and a need to be a much more present father than his own had been, or than he had been while he was running away from the hell of his marriage through overwork.

Tate and Bex collide with a thud when her sister finally runs away from her cheating husband, and leaves little Josh with Bex for the forseeable future. Bex has suddenly, and temporarily, become a single mother, with uncertain custodial privileges and a brother-in-law who will threaten his own son’s welfare to get another chance at his wife taking him back, just so he can cheat on her again.

Bex knows how to run a successful business, but this situation is a little more than she can handle. When Tate steps up to defend her and Josh, they find themselves spending way too much time together to continue ignoring the simmering heat they’ve always had.

Can a woman afraid to love again, and a man afraid to marry again, find a way to make a family together?

christmas in mustang creek by linda lael millerEscape Rating B+: Although there is a Christmas book (Christmas in Mustang Creek) on the way, The Marriage Season is really the end of this series. All of the women’s stories come to lovely HEAs, and we see the happiness of not just Tate and Bex and their children, but the fulfillment of the happy endings for the couples featured in the earlier books in the series.

Which is very important, because as much as The Brides of Bliss County is a series of romances, it is a series that celebrates the importance of women’s friendships. None of these women would be either as happy or as successful without their two BFFs to cheer them on – and occasionally to kick them in the ass when they need it.

While it is not strictly necessary to have read the other two books to enjoy The Marriage Season, it really does help to already be invested in these people and know how they fit into each other’s lives, and into the life of Mustang Creek.

Neither Bex nor Tate are looking for a relationship at the beginning of the book. They both are in places in their lives where there is simply too much on their plates to believe that they have time to put into building a new relationship. They also both have a lot of scars, even though Bex’ are mostly happy ones. She loved Will, and she still misses him, but it’s been ten years and life moves on, even when you don’t want it to.

Tate has uprooted his entire life in order to be a present father and make a good life for his two sons. He’s given up a high-pressure and high-travel job to start a business breeding, selling and renting horses in Wyoming. There’s still plenty of pressure, but Tate is there with his boys every step of the way, and vice versa.

The conflict that brings them together is an integral part of the life of the town. Everyone knows everyone in Mustang Creek, and everyone knows that Bex’ sister Tara should never have married Greg, and that Greg is a lying, cheating, bullying louse. And that Tara is a doormat who has taken him back too often and that their son Josh is suffering for it.

The uncertainty of Bex’ situation when Josh is dumped on her doorstep is confusing, but we feel for both of them. Tara runs away to get her head together, leaving big sister Bex holding the bag and the six-year-old boy. Greg could challenge Bex’ informal custody at any time, and finally does as a threat to get Tara back.

Bex needs help, and at the same time knows she’s going to be heartbroken when one or the other of Josh’s now absent parents demands him back.

At the same time, the way that Bex and Tate reach for each other is now out of desperation on Bex’ part. She appreciates Tate’s help, and his good example of how to raise his kids, but she would manage if he weren’t there. Their discovery that they belong together, and that they are in the middle of a relationship whether it’s a good time for them or not, happens slowly enough that it isn’t forced.

That the kids bond like glue gives the adults the excuse they both needed to explore what was bubbling between them all along. And it works well.

I also think we could have the next generation of stories right there, as those three boys look like they will be every bit as much BFFs in the future as Hadleigh, Melody and Bex were in this generation.

Maybe The Grooms of Bliss County will blossom as a series when they boys have grown up. It would be every bit as awesome as The Brides have been.

~~~~~~ GIVEAWAY~~~~~~

I’m giving away one paperback copy of The Marriage Season to a lucky (U.S.) commenter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: First Time in Forever by Sarah Morgan + Giveaway

first time in forever by sarah morganFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genre: contemporary romance
Series: Puffin Island #1
Length: 384 pages
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Date Released: February 24, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Windswept, isolated and ruggedly beautiful, Puffin Island is a haven for day-trippers and daydreamers alike. But this charming community has a way of bringing people together in the most unexpected ways…

It’s been a summer of firsts for Emily Donovan. From becoming a stand-in mom to her niece Lizzie to arriving on Puffin Island, her life has become virtually unrecognizable. Between desperately safeguarding Lizzie and her overwhelming fear of the ocean—which surrounds her everywhere she goes!—Emily has lost count of the number of “just breathe” pep talks she’s given herself. And that’s before charismatic local yacht club owner Ryan Cooper kisses her…

Ryan knows all about secrets. And it’s clear that newcomer Emily—with her haunted eyes and the little girl she won’t let out of her sight—is hiding from something besides the crazy chemistry between them. So Ryan decides he’s going to make it his personal mission to help her unwind and enjoy the sparks! But can Puffin Island work its magic on Emily and get her to take the biggest leap of trust of all—putting her heart in someone else’s hands?

My Review:

Get it out of my head! It took me way too long to recognize where I’d heard the phrase “First Time In Forever”, but once I did, I couldn’t get the song from Frozen out of my head. The ear worm is driving me crazy.

At the same time, the song is a perfect descriptor for the story. And also Frozen. It gets damn cold on Puffin Island in Maine in the winter. Not that we experience one during this particular book, but as the series continues, I bet we see at least one snowstorm before we’re done.

Both Ryan and Emily have faced the sudden responsibility of caring for young children at different points in their lives. It provided them with a shared experience, and some of the same reactions to that experience. It means that they understand each other from the beginning of the story, even if they don’t quite see it.

Ryan was forced into adulthood at 13, when his parents were killed in a crash. He became an adult while caring for his younger siblings, including his then 4-year-old sister Rachel. While Ryan was not the responsible adult in the household (his grandmother had custody), she relied on him as if he were an adult, while his baby sister looked to him as the one stabilizing force in her young life.

While he wouldn’t miss the close relationship he still has with Rachel, he did escape the Island the minute he got old enough. He never had the chance to be a teenager, but he did move out to have child-free adventures all over the world as a Pulitzer Prize winning reporter. Then he came home, and started a business on the island.

But his experience raising his siblings gave him a life-long aversion to having children of his own, or even of settling down and getting married. He likes children – they all go home with other people. He just doesn’t want to feel that tied down ever again.

Until Emily arrives on the island. Emily, along with her college friends Brittany and Skylar, came to the island while they were in college. Brittany’s grandmother Kathryn owned a cottage that now belongs to Brittany. All three women vowed to return to the cottage whenever they needed a place to be safe. And Emily needs one now.

She is on the run from the paparazzi that chased her famous sister Lana into a fatal accident. Emily is protected Lana’s 6-year-old daughter Juliet from reporters and cameramen who have invaded her home in search of their “big story”. Juliet is six and traumatized. Emily, who hadn’t seen her sister in years, is now the guardian of a 6-year-old that she never met, and is an instant parent who never planned to have children.

Emily’s last experience guarding a child scarred her forever. She blamed herself for a tragedy that should never have happened, not because Emily screwed up, but because her alcoholic mother left her 6 year old self in charge of her 4 year old baby sister. Emily never got over the result, and never let anyone else into her heart.

Until little Juliet, who she renames Lizzy to protect her from the paparazzi, comes into Emily’s life and steals her heart away, a heart that Emily believed was no longer there to steal.

Lizzy is a good little heart thief – she steals Ryan’s too. But can either of the adults in this trio manage to admit that they love the little girl, and each other?

Escape Rating B: In Puffin Island, the author has created a marvelous place, not without its ups and downs (particularly of the economic variety) but a place where the characters, and the readers, can feel like they belong.

The story starts out because of friendship. The enduring strength of the friendship between Emily, Brittany and Skylar shines every time the women are together, or even talk about each other. They have all found a solace in this family-of-choice that none of the had in their birth families, even though the reasons for that vary wildly.

We don’t even meet Brittany in person, but she is still very much a part of this story. Also, it is her past and her friendship with Ryan that starts his initial involvement, and allows Emily to trust him at the beginning. The absent Brittany serves as much-needed glue, both for Emily’s initial panic and the start of her bond with Ryan.

Speaking of Emily’s panic, it did feel as if Emily was a bit too panicked for too much of the story. She comes into this suffering from a huge childhood trauma that has never been resolved, and is scared to death of the paparazzi. While that last part is a reasonable fear under the circumstances, she was so scared in so many different directions that it was amazing that she functioned at all. It felt a bit like the author piled on her so that she would need Ryan, and then he gets to be her white knight. I might have liked her more if she had one tick less to panic about at the beginning.

There are two secrets that hang around the first half of the story – the nature of the traumatic mess in Emily’s past, and the event that caused Ryan to retreat back to the island to start over. Ryan’s secret in particular felt like it hung in limbo a bit too long, looming over events more than it perhaps warranted. There was a point where I just plain wanted to KNOW already, and then the reveal felt anticlimactic.

some kind of wonderful by sarah morganThat being said, I enjoyed Ryan and Emily together. Their shared experience of becoming sudden surrogate parents before they were ready was unusual, but it gave them a strong bond. I love the relationship between Emily, Skylar and Brittany, and can’t wait to see more of them, and how their HEAs unfold. Skylar really needs to get a clue and drop the guy she’s with. He’s not a bad person, he’s just bad for her. It’s too bad that the author is saving Skylar’s story for book 3. The next book is Brittany’s story, so it will be great to have her be back to the island in person in Some Kind of Wonderful. (OMG it’s another song title. I feel the ear worm coming in for another turn!)



Thanks to Sarah and BookTrib, one lucky reader will be able to take their own virtual trip to Puffin Island with a copy of First Time in Forever.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: The Marriage Charm by Linda Lael Miller

marriage charm by linda lael millerFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: paperback, ebook, hardcover, audiobook
Genre: Contemporary romance, Western romance
Series: Brides of Bliss County #2
Length: 304 pages
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Date Released: January 27, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

The women of Bliss County have a pact—to find husbands. The right husbands.

One already has: Hadleigh Stevens, who married rancher Tripp Galloway a few months ago. Now Melody Nolan thinks it’s her turn. Melody has recently found success as a jewelry designer, and her work is the focus of her life. She’s not exactly unhappy, but she wants more. She’s always been attracted to Spence Hogan, the local chief of police, but she’s convinced that Spence, a notorious charmer, isn’t what you’d call husband material.

Spence is a good cop who isn’t scared of anything—except love. And he’s done everything he can to preserve his reputation as a womanizer—a reputation that keeps marriage-minded women, including Melody, at bay. And yet…there’s something about Melody he can’t forget. Something his heart can’t ignore.

My Review:

Bliss County Wyoming is a place where second chances at romance turn into happily ever after on a wonderfully regular basis. It’s also a place where lifelong best friends don’t just stay friends, but help each other find, or maybe finally recognize, the loves of their lives.

Of course, nothing wonderful ever happens without a few challenges along the way.

marriage pact by linda lael millerIn the first book in this series, The Marriage Pact (reviewed here), we meet Hadleigh, Bex and Melody, three women who have been friends all their lives. Now that they are all pushing 30, they make a pact – none of them are going to settle for second-best. They all want the whole thing, happy marriages with men who adore them, and whom they love completely in return. Children if they want them, but most importantly, a marriage where they never feel like they settled for anything less than someone who loves them unquestionably as they are, successful and happy with themselves and who they have become. .

Melody, the jewelry maker among them, makes them each a charm bracelet to symbolize the marriage pact. In that first story, Hadleigh finally recognizes that her happiness lies with the man who slung her over his shoulder and carried her out of her first attempt at a wedding. Tripp was right, Oakley was no good. It takes them ten years to admit they belong together.

Sheriff Spence Hogan slings Melody over his shoulder to rescue her and her impossibly high heels from Hadleigh and Tripp’s wedding reception. It’s not the first time Spence has swept melody off her feet. Ten years ago, for one glorious summer, Spence and Melody were everything to each other. But Melody was still in college, and Spence did the right thing and let her go.

Unfortunately for him, he let her down by refusing her offer of marriage. Since that awful day, Melody and Spence have tried their best to avoid each other whenever possible – difficult in a small town where everyone knows everyone else’s business.

The wedding of their best friends has thrown them back together, and made them both think, not about what might have been, but about what might yet be now that they are both adults and more sure of who they are and what they are going to be.

The road to a possible happy ever after has more than a few roadblocks. Spence’s refusal of Melody’s long-ago proposal has left her untrusting of men in general, and Spence in particular. Spence has spent the last decade looking for a woman who might take Melody’s place in his heart – and everyone in town knows just how wide that net has been cast, even if they didn’t know the reason for it. Spence has acquired quite the reputation as a player, a fact that doesn’t engender any trust in Spence’s motives when he pursues Melody again.

Not that Melody runs very fast, but just because they still have amazing sexual chemistry (and way more knowledge about what to do with it) doesn’t mean that they are both heading down the same road.

Melody wants a happy ever after or nothing. Spence’s refusal all those years ago wasn’t all that tactful – enough to make Melody sure that he isn’t ready to settle down with anyone, including her. And she has zero interest in being a notch on what is rumored to be Spence’s well notched bedpost.

Adding a little zest and some serious danger into Spence’s and Melody’s mutual pursuit is an antiques thief who is robbing anyone in town who might have some antiques or even just unique and valuable items in their Mustang Creek homes. While the thief is targeting any home where there are antiques on the mantle, he or she seems to have a special vendetta against Spence and Melody. Or maybe because Spence is finally after Melody.

While Spence is glad of the excuse to get Melody to move in with him, he’s seriously concerned about the series of thefts on his watch, and the very real danger to the woman he loves.

Escape Rating B+: Just like Thunder Point in Robyn Carr’s series (see Tuesday’s review of The Chance), Mustang Ridge is one of those places that sounds like it would be terrific to live in, especially if you want to live in Big Sky Country. The town in the heart of Bliss County seems almost, but not quite, too good to be true. And the people are terrific.

One of the things that is great about this series is the celebration of women’s friendships. Hadleigh, Bex and Melody really are BFFs forever. They grew up together and with each other. Even though their lives are changing, they still make time for each other and support each other. They also tell each other the unvarnished truth, the kind that you may not want to hear, but that you need to hear. In the end, they’ll support each other even when one of them (in this case Melody) is being pig-headed.

Spence broke Melody’s heart ten years ago. He also did exactly the right thing. She was only 20, and she needed to get out and see the world a bit, finish her education and decide (or not) that Bliss County was where she wanted to be. Unfortunately, he didn’t tell it to her quite that way. He may have thought his seeming heartless was for her own good, but it left her with a lot of justified resentment.

The background mystery in this love story wove into the main thread remarkably well for a second-strong plot. While I had a guess at what kind of person it was, narrowing down the actual suspect was difficult, not just for me but also for Spence. And it was terrific the way that the whole town came together to root out the perpetrator.

marriage season by linda lael millerThis series is a delight to read. I’m looking forward to Bex’ story and seeing who her friends matchmake her with. Unlike Hadleigh and Melody, there is no one in Bex past for her second chance. The full story will be in The Marriage Season, coming in May.

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: In Your Dreams by Kristan Higgins + Giveaway

in your dreams by kristan higginsFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, paperback, audiobook
Genre: contemporary romance
Series: Blue Heron #4
Length: 480 pages
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Date Released: September 30, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Emmaline Neal needs a date. Just a date—someone to help her get through her ex-fiancé’s wedding without losing her mind. But pickings are slim in Manningsport, New York, population 715. In fact, there’s really only one option: local heartthrob Jack Holland. Everyone loves Jack, and he won’t get the wrong idea…. After all, Jack Holland would never actually be interested in a woman like Em. Especially not with his beautiful ex-wife creeping around, angling to reunite ever since he rescued a group of teens and became a local hero.

But when the wedding festivities take an unexpectedly passionate turn, Em figures it was just one crazy night. Jack is too gorgeous, too popular, to ever end up with her. So why is she the one he can talk to about his deep, dark feelings? If Em is going to get her dream man, she’ll have to start by believing in him…

My Review:

perfect match by kristan higginsVery much like the initially fake marriage in book 2 in this series, The Perfect Match (reviewed here) the romance in In Your Dreams is kicked off by the strong and quite natural desire to show one’s ex that one has SO gotten over the breakup–especially if one hasn’t.

Emmaline Neal receives an invitation to her ex-fiance’s wedding back home in Malibu. Some of us might just throw it in the trash and have a private pity party, but Em knows that reaction isn’t going to work for her. Well, it might work for her, personally, but her parents are still friends with the erstwhile groom and his family, and they will expect her to come.

Not just that, but both Em’s parents are psychologists. They will analyze her (badly and incorrectly) if she does come, and do more and worse if she doesn’t. All their messages about what she should and shouldn’t do with her life and her relationships would make any adult child flee to the opposite end of the country.

Her parents are in Malibu, and Em is one of two Deputy Police Officers in Manningsport, NY. Just about as far across the continent as she could get.

So she needs a date for the wedding, and doesn’t have one. After a certain amount of persuasion and lots of people taking care of her business for her, Em ends up going to the wedding with Jack Holland. Jack is handsome, amiable, and every woman in Manningsport’s perfect date to any function. He is NOT the town bicycle, he’s a perfect gentleman about all of this. It just gets him away from his loving but slightly intrusive family.

best man by kristan higginsJack is the youngest of the Hollands, and we’ve seen most of his family’s story in The Best Man (review), The Perfect Match and Waiting on You (review). The story we see in flashbacks is Jack’s late marriage to the extremely high-strung Hadley, and Jack’s incredible act of heroism that has left him with an untreated (let’s face it, Jack isn’t willing to acknowledge it) case of PTSD.

Em doesn’t want to go with Jack because she likes him just a little too much. She neither wants him to see her at her worst, nor does she want to further explore the crush she has on him.

But when their crises run into each other at the wedding, they decide (not exactly decide, more like mutually exploit) to temporarily forget their problems by having one really hot night together.

Jack wants more. Em wants to forget it ever happened, which is impossible. But she refuses to believe that Jack wants her as more than anything but a fun diversion. His ex is back in town, and she’s chasing him with every “helpless female” weapon in her arsenal.

Jack is a sucker for a woman he can rescue. And Em, the very competent police officer, is not a woman who regularly needs rescuing–or ever wants to be.

Escape Rating B+: As with most of the Blue Heron series, the author tells the love story in the present day while using flashbacks to show the trauma that both characters have suffered in the past that makes them right for each other; even when they both use the scars from that same past to push the other away.

Em’s memories of her relationship with her ex are particularly heartbreaking. They were childhood sweethearts, the only two not-perfect kids in their Malibu high school of perfect-bodied beautiful children with important Hollywood parents. Em had a stutter and her ex was the only “fat kid” in the school. They bonded over not being perfect, and always being the last kids picked for everything.

When he finally starts to lose all the weight he’s accumulated, her ex loses everything that made him who he was, and restarts his life with his trainer. Even worse, when he’s featured in People Magazine he trashes Em in print. It’s not just heartbreaking, it’s downright devastating.

There was some codependence there, he didn’t like it when Em figured out how to stop stammering, so he started getting back at her; or it felt that way to me.

Jack is the Manningsport golden child. He’s always been perfect, and he always comes to everyone’s rescue. The incident that causes his PTSD is tragic but understandable. And the aftermath affects the story deeply.

He has to convince Em that she’s not just a way of getting him through the nightmares, and he finally has to get his ex out of his life. His inability to see through Hadley went on just a bit too long.

But it was terrific to catch up with the Hollands and all the wonderful people in Manningsport. I can’t wait to see what happens next!


Kristan is giving away a copy of In Your Dreams to one lucky U.S. commenter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.

Review: No Limits by Lori Foster

no limits by lori fosterFormat read: ebook provided by NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, hardcover, mass market paperback, audiobook
Genre: contemporary romance
Series: Ultimate, #1
Length: 432 pages
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Date Released: September 1, 2014
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Cannon Colter is quintessential hero material: chiseled jawline, shredded body—the works. He’s also the guy who rescued Yvette Sweeny from kidnappers, only to put an end to her romantic dreams. These days, she’s older, smarter, determined to face whatever life throws her way. Even the prospect of sharing a house and business with Cannon.

Cannon knew Yvette wanted him three years ago. But she was young—and some things are worth waiting for. Thrown together by her grandfather’s legacy, he realizes how deep Yvette’s scars really go, and how much danger lurks in their quiet town. As pent-up desire explodes between them, protecting her becomes the only fight that matters. And he’ll break all the rules to do it….

My Review:

No Limits is a Lori Foster story that ties together the alpha romance of her SBC Fighters series with the romantic suspense of her Love Undercover series.

dash of peril by lori fosterIn fact, the beginning of Cannon and Yvette’s relationship, including the horrific event that sent Yvette running to California, is part of the case that Dash and Margaret finally solve in Dash of Peril (reviewed here).

The way that Cannon and Yvette’s story begins in Dash of Peril, Cannon helps the police solve a serial rapist/murder case by trying his best to protect Yvette from the perpetrators. Although the bad get their just desserts, Yvette still suffers the terrible trauma of being kidnapped and doused in kerosene, threatened with rape and immolation, and forced to watch as another woman is raped.

Cannon is angry with himself because he wasn’t able to protect her, even though he was merely a neighborhood do-gooder, and not a police officer.

Yvette has always had a crush on Cannon, but he’s sure she’s too young for him. But she’s 20, not 18, and he never knew. She also throws herself at him, just before she leaves town to heal.

He never forgot her. He also kept kicking himself for thinking she was younger than she was. In three years, he’s been hoping for a way to start over, or to start where they didn’t quite leave off. Her grandfather’s death gives him that opportunity. Grandfather left his property in equal shares to Yvette and Cannon, not because Cannon needs it, but because Yvette’s grandfather is certain that Yvette needs to find a reason to come home to stay, and that Cannon will provide that reason if he ties them to each other.

Cannon’s perfectly willing to get with that program, its Yvette who balks. Everyone in their small Ohio town knows exactly what happened three years ago, and Yvette hates being the center of everyone’s attention, and especially their pity.

In California she can be exactly who she wants to be, and has carved out a life that allows her not to lean on anyone. She hates feeling like she’s still a victim.

Unfortunately for Yvette, there is more than one person in her town who is all too eager to make her a victim, yet again. But this time, she definitely has Cannon in her corner, and moving in to her life.

It’s up to her whether her inability to let herself lean on anyone will keep her from relying on Cannon and his friends when she really needs them, or whether she can finally let herself live her life.

hard knocks by lori fosterEscape Rating B: No Limits is the first full-length novel in Foster’s Ultimate series, after the short and sexy novella Hard Knocks (reviewed here).

No Limits does a terrific job of filling in the stage and providing further background and setup for the characters, while letting long-term readers get a glimpse and what our old friends are going from the two previous series.

Cannon is definitely an alpha hero in Foster’s marvelous of pattern of strong, sexy men who can’t help their protective instincts, while still believing that the women in their lives have agency and control over their actions. He’s there to keep Yvette safe because the things that are after her are beyond any single person’s control. She’s being stalked by an ex who has lost his marbles and really wants to hurt her.

It’s not that she’s not capable, but that there is more going on than any one person can handle. She’s willing to let her friend Vanity look out for her, but it takes her longer to accept that she’s become part of Cannon’s inner circle, and that all the guys want to watch out for her.

She has a huge chip on her shoulder about the attack from three years ago. It’s a small town, and everyone knows what happened. Her desire NOT to be the center of any more attention is understandable, even if she does take it way too far.

That there is someone in town who seems determined to both attack her and make her the center of even more negative attention adds suspense and makes Yvette want to retreat back into her shell.

Everything that happens gives Yvette further reasons to doubt herself and any relationship with Cannon. His patient but relentless pursuit is surprisingly sweet, while his eventual “catching” of her provides some serious heat.

I really enjoyed Cannon’s character and all the guys at the rec center. It was fun to see where the next relationships are going to be, and who is getting involved with whom often in spite of themselves.

I wish that the chip on Yvette’s shoulder hadn’t been quite so large. I wanted to shake her and get her to wake up and smell the proverbial coffee pretty often. Still, it’s obvious at the end that she realizes both how lucky she is, and what a close escape from danger she had. Again.

She gets by with a little (sometimes a lot) of help from both her own and Cannon’s friends..

***FTC Disclaimer: Most books reviewed on this site have been provided free of charge by the publisher, author or publicist. Some books we have purchased with our own money or borrowed from a public library and will be noted as such. Any links to places to purchase books are provided as a convenience, and do not serve as an endorsement by this blog. All reviews are the true and honest opinion of the blogger reviewing the book. The method of acquiring the book does not have a bearing on the content of the review.