The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 9-13-15

Sunday Post

Last week’s schedule fell completely to bits by the end. Hopefully this week will hew a little closer to my intentions from this end of the lens. But sometimes, no matter my best inentions, a book just doesn’t do anything for me, and I drop it. Sometimes the feeling is temporary (I loved both Slave to Sensation by Nalini Singh and Heartmate by Robin D. Owens on the second go around, but felt very ‘meh’ about both of them on my first try). But sometimes its permanent, and I can never make myself go back. And of course, sometimes it’s not me, it’s the book. Either it turns out not to be for me, or just plain awful. Not that I haven’t occasionally finished some of those when I think it’s going to make a scathingly funny review.

And sometimes I bounce off of one book because there’s a different one calling my name so loudly that I can’t get a stray thought in until I read it. Has this ever happened to you?

paris time capsule by ella careyCurrent Giveaways:

Paris Time Capsule by Ella Carey (paperback)

Winner Announcements:

The winner of Wildest Dreams by Robin Carr is Anita Y.

autobiography of james t kirk by david goodmanBlog Recap:

Labor Day 2015
B+ Review: Paris Time Capsule by Ella Carey + Giveaway
C- Review: Circling the Sun by Paula McLain
D+ Review: Ryker by Sawyer Bennett
B+ Review: The Autobiography of James T. Kirk by David A. Goodman
Stacking the Shelves (152)



rebel queen by michelle moranComing Next Week:

The Aeronaut’s Windlass by Jim Butcher (review)
Leaving Orbit by Margaret Lazarus Dean (review)
Rebel Queen by Michelle Moran (review)
Sisters in Law by Linda Hirshman (review)
Penric’s Demon (World of the Five Gods #3.5) by Lois McMaster Bujold (review)

Review: Ryker by Sawyer Bennett

ryker by sawyer bennettFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook, audiobook
Genre: sports romance
Series: Cold Fury Hockey #4
Length: 269 pages
Publisher: Loveswept
Date Released: September 8, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

The stakes have never been higher for Carolina Cold Fury goalie Ryker Evans. With his contract running out, he’s got a year left to prove he’s still at the top of his game. And since his wife left him, Ryker has been balancing life as a pro-hockey star and a single parent to two daughters. Management is waiting for him to screw up. The fans are ready to pounce. Everybody’s taking dirty shots—except for the fiery redhead whose faith in Ryker gives him a fresh start.

As the league’s only female general manager, Gray Brannon has learned not to mix business with pleasure. And yet even this tough, talented career woman can’t help breaking her own rules as she gives Ryker everything she’s got. She hopes their hot streak will last forever, but with Ryker’s conniving ex plotting to reclaim her man, the pressure’s on Gray to step up and save a tender new love before it’s too late.

My Review:

I was planning to read something different for today, and then I decided I’d rather have a fun book, because tomorrow’s is so serious. But now that I’ve finished Ryker, I’m not sure I really DID pick a fun book.

garrett by sawyer bennettI read the previous three books in the Cold Fury Hockey series, Alex, Garrett and Zack. These are the key players on the fictional Cold Fury Hockey team, and they form a tight core group for the team. In those earlier books, even when the hero is being an arsehole or an idiot, or sometimes both, I really liked the books. The stories were compellingly readable, even if, or especially because, the guy really needed work to be a decent human being.

Ryker turns out to be the opposite. Ryker Evans starts the story as a really decent guy. He’s a loving and attentive single-father, he’s a great hockey player, and he’s decent to his friends. He absolutely adores his little girls and they are clearly the center of his world. Even though he’s clear in the story that the reason his first marriage broke up was that he and his soon-to-be-ex-wife drifted apart, he acknowledges that he left all the childcare to her and that it was a mistake on his part. His life is exhausting, but he realizes that he missed out by not being more involved with his girls. Now that his ex has left them all to chase after her new lover on the hockey circuit, he’s the girls only stable parent and he’s happy to be that for them.

The concept of the heroine, Gray Bannon, was a good one, but the results didn’t wow me. Gray is the daughter of the Cold Fury’s owner, Brian Bannon. She’s also a genius with numbers and a former Olympic women’s hockey player. At the beginning of her story, her dad has just named her General Manager of the Cold Fury, making her the first female GM in pro hockey.

So of course, now that she has just taken on a high-profile and highly contentious position in sports, what does she do next? Fall in love with one of her own players, entering into a relationship that when it gets out, will cause sports pundits everywhere to question her ability to do her job, a problem she already has way too much of.

Her credibility will completely tank when their affair is exposed. This is not fair, but it is still true. Unfortunately.

So this is a story about a hidden love affair that can only come to light if either Gray gives up her job, or Ryker, who is in his early 30s and whose playing days, while still terrific, are also definitely numbered, gives up his.

They are certain that they can only be together if one of them gives up the career that makes them whole? Who will make the sacrifice?

alex by sawyer bennettEscape Rating D+: As much as I enjoyed the other books in this series, even Alex where he was an absolute bastard but still made me smile (see review), this one was not just a slog, but it actually jumped the shark for me.

The story is written from alternating first person points of view. We see the world from inside Gray’s head, and then we switch to inside Ryker’s head. Ryker’s head is pretty level. He loves his daughters, he loves playing hockey and thinks he has a few more years left, he’s happy to be at the top of his game, he’s completely over his soon-to-be-ex-wife, and he’s fascinated by Gray both intellectually and sexually.

He’s a good guy leading a great life and is hoping he can share it with someone, who turns out to be Gray.

Gray, on the other hand, is a hot mess. She finally has the job of her dreams. It’s going to be a rough first year (and possibly second year) but she has things under control. Her plan is to build the Cold Fury the same way that the general manager of the Oakland A’s baseball team, Billy Beane, built the A’s. She’s going to play “moneypuck” instead of “moneyball”. Her concept of management through statistics has been proven to work in one sport, and she has the brains and the mathematical chops to try it in another.

In the middle of the toughest year of her life, she spends all of her emotional energy angsting over a relationship with one of her players. I mean she completely descends into mush and loses her edge. It’s not that I don’t want to see her get her happy ending, but her actions feel juvenile, particularly for a woman in her early 30s.

While the solution to their dilemma was very, very fictional, it also felt false. Either she is going to be pilloried in the press and lose the confidence of the board of directors, or Ryker needs to retire at the end of the season. He even offers to retire so their relationship can come out of the closet. While this is romantic, it feels like reality should bite somewhere along the way. She resigns and gets her job back, which doesn’t feel quite right. Yes, her dad is the owner and supports her, and they win the Stanley Cup, but if they don’t win it again the press will crucify her.

But if either of them gives up their career for the other, while it may be good for a while, there is a strong chance of resentment further down the road. This totally tripped my willing suspension of disbelief meter. Your mileage, of course, may vary.

***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.

Stacking the Shelves (142)

Stacking the Shelves

Before I forget, I want to wish everyone in the U.S. a Happy Fourth of July and everyone in Canada a Happy Canada Day. Those of you who got a long weekend for one of the holidays are probably off somewhere celebrating and not blogging, but we’ll still be here when you get back.

And when I’m forced to skip a week of shelf-stacking, the following week is just too huge. So here we are.

I tried to resist the impulse to pick up stuff at the ALA Exhibits. I didn’t totally succeed. I’ve been eagerly awaiting The Aeronaut’s Windlass, and hadn’t seen an eARC anywhere. While the print ARC is HUGE, I just had to scoop one up when I saw it. Art in the Blood is a Holmes pastiche, so it leapt into my bag. Deanna Raybourn is starting a new series, so I couldn’t resist A Curious Beginning. I also picked up a print ARC of Armada to pass around, even though I already have it in eARC. Galen raced through it on the plane home, and I think it’s going to make the rounds at his office.

For Review:
The Aeronaut’s Windlass (Cinder Spires #1) by Jim Butcher
Among Galactic Ruins (Phoenix Adventures #0.5) by Anna Hackett
Art in the Blood by Bonnie Macbird
Blade Dance (Cold Iron #4) by D.L. McDermott
A Curious Beginning (Veronica Speedwell #1) by Deanna Raybourn
Deep South by Paul Theroux
Ryker (Cold Fury Hockey #4) by Sawyer Bennett
Secret Sisters by Jayne Ann Krentz
The Terrans (First Salik War #1) by Jean Johnson

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 6-21-15

Sunday Post

For those of you wondering who won some of the recent giveaways, I was able to catch up now that I’m back home.

ALA san francisco 2015Next week I’ll be at the American Library Association Annual Conference. This year, ALA has done something sensible for a change. We’ll be back in San Francisco. Because San Francisco is generally cool, or cool-ish in the summer, it’s a perfect place to have to be dressed up and running around, unlike last summer in Las Vegas. Or next summer in OMG Orlando. If ALA decided to have every Midwinter Conference in San Diego or San Antonio, and every summer in San Francisco (with the occasional break for Chicago) that would be just fine with me. But c’est la vie.

For anyone who loves fantasy, and has not yet read The Goblin Emperor, go forth and get a copy post-haste. I have seen it described as manner-porn, which is a term I’d never heard before. The Goblin Emperor is set in a world where manners don’t just make the man (or elf, or goblin) but they also keep him alive in the midst of his enemies. It certainly runs counter to the recent spate of grimdark fantasy. And it is simply awesome.

There are still a couple of days left to get in on the Favorite Heroines Giveaway Hop. Just tell us who your favorite heroine is for a chance at either a $10 Gift Card of a $10 Book of your choice.

Current Giveaways:

favorite heroinesFlirt and Loveswept mugs + ebook copies of Rock It by Jennifer Chance, After Midnight by Kathy Clark, Alex by Sawyer Bennett, Wild on You by Tina Wainscott, Plain Jayne by Laura Drewry, and Accidental Cowgirl by Maggie McGinnis from Loveswept
$10 Gift Card or book in the Favorite Heroines Giveaway Hop

Winner Announcements:

The winner of her choice of title in Jeffe Kennedy’s Twelve Kingdoms series is Kristia M.
The winner of The Marriage Season by Linda Lael Miller is Maria S.
The winner of Let Me Die in his Footsteps by Lori Roy is Brandi D.

goblin emperor by katherine addisonBlog Recap:

A+ Review: The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison
B- Review: Zack by Sawyer Bennett + Giveaway
Favorite Heroines Giveaway Hop
A- Review: Waterloo by Bernard Cornwell
B Review: The Sage of Waterloo by Leona Francombe
Stacking the Shelves (140)




valentine by heather grothausComing Next Week:

Dissident by Cecilia London (review)
Ruthless by John Rector (blog tour review)
Epitaph by Mary Doria Russell (review)
Valentine by Heather Grothaus (blog tour review)
On a Cyborg Planet by Anna Hackett (review)

Review: Zack by Sawyer Bennett + Giveaway

zack by sawyer bennettFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: sports romance
Series: Cold fury Hockey #3
Length: 294 pages
Publisher: Loveswept
Date Released: June 9, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo

Rising star Zack Grantham has been stuck in a downward spiral of grief ever since the car accident that left him a single dad and put his career on hold. Back on the road with the Carolina Cold Fury and still crippled by emotional baggage, he’s in need of some serious help with his son. But while the nerdy new nanny wins his son’s heart, Zack isn’t sure he’s ready for a woman’s touch—even after getting a glimpse of the killer curves she’s hiding under those baggy clothes.

Kate Francis usually keeps men like Zack at a distance. Though his athlete’s body is honed to perfection, he refuses to move on with his life—and besides, he’s her boss. Still, the sparks between them are undeniable, tempting Kate to turn their professional relationship into a personal one. But before she makes a power play for Zack’s wounded heart, Kate will have to open him up again and show him that love is worth the fight.

My Review:

Sawyer Bennett has a gift for making the reader sympathize with heroes who are being complete arseholes to their heroines, and for making us understand why those heroines stick around to redeem the guy who starts the story jerking them around.

alex by sawyer bennettThis is a good thing, because it so shouldn’t work. But as Bennett has demonstrated in the two previous books in the Cold Fury Hockey series, Alex (reviewed here) and Garrett (here) she knows just how to make it work.

Zack isn’t the complete Grade A arsehole that Alex starts out his story as. No, Zack is only a prick to Kate. And even though it’s easy to understand where he’s coming from, there are a lot of points where you want to shake him for his idiocy, and knock some sense into Kate for putting up with it.

So how does this work out?

garrett by sawyer bennettIn the previous book in the series, Garrett, Zack is in a major automobile accident. His wife Gina is killed, and Zack is left the grief-stricken single father of an adorable 4-year-old boy.

There’s a whole lot of guilt mixed-in with that grief. While Zack is lost without Gina, especially when it comes to little Ben, he is also kicking himself that he never gave Gina the one thing she really wanted – they never did get married. He knew she wanted to (and they had a child) but he felt something was missing – that she wasn’t the person he was supposed to spend the rest of his life with.

A part of me wonders what the hell he was going to do if he met that right person while he was still in the relationship, but that’s not what happened. However, that thought does not endear me to Zack.

In the depths of his still very real grief, Zack also has a dilemma. He’s recovered from the accident, and he plays pro hockey for a living. There are going to be a lot of days and nights on the road, and he no longer has Gina to take care of Ben. His sister picks out a nanny for Ben, and in a fog, Zack lets it happen.

That nanny is Kate. She’s a poor girl from a tiny North Carolina town, but she’s starting graduate school in the fall and needs the money. Her undergraduate degree is in child psychology, and she and Ben bond instantly.

Zack can’t stand seeing someone else in Gina’s place. He also can’t see how bubbly, nerdy Kate in her baggy clothes could possibly be the right person to take care of Ben, or to fit into their life. But she is.

Not just because Ben adores her, although he does. But she also falls in love with the little guy, and does a terrific job of caring for him.

It’s dad’s negativity and sometimes outright antagonism she can’t get past. Until Zack sees the very pretty woman hiding under the baggy clothes, and can’t make himself unsee the first woman he’s wanted since Gina died.

But Zack decides that he’s only in it for the fantastic sex. He tells Kate at the very beginning that he absolutely does not want a relationship outside the bedroom, and if she can’t deal with that, then she needs to tell him at the very beginning.

Kate is an incredibly blunt person. She lets him know that if she can’t handle it, she’ll tell him. And she means it.

The real problem isn’t that she can’t handle it, but that he can’t. As much as he keeps saying all he wants is sex, he keeps letting Kate further and deeper into his life and his heart. A heart he doesn’t think he has. And the more he breaks past his own boundaries, the more Kate hopes that there is something real between them.

Until he’s an arsehole one too many times in front of one too many people, and she tells him she’s had enough. Finally.

It takes Kate standing up for herself to bring home to Zack exactly how big a stupid idiot he’s been.

Escape Rating B-: A long time ago, someone told me that it is impossible to make love with someone and not feel at least a little love. Zack and Kate’s story is an illustration of that conundrum.

Kate has been hiding under those baggy clothes and thick glasses because she developed early, and got threatened by the guys who started noticing her when she was much too young to know how to handle it. So she wore armor and hid in plain sight behind her glasses and her bubbly sense of humor. Also behind her nerdiness – she’s a bookworm and happy to be one.

At first Zack just thinks she’s too goofy to be a good caregiver for Ben – and Zack has an understandable problem seeing another woman in Gina’s place.

He does start caring about her before he sees in her in pjs and discovers what she’s hiding underneath the baggy sweats, but he kind of gets obsessed at that point. She’s the first woman he’s wanted since the accident, and he can’t let her go, even though he knows their relationship is bad for her, and that he isn’t treating her well.

At first, Kate can’t believe that the hot hockey player is interested in her. By hiding under the baggy clothes, she’s mostly kept herself from having a love life. Having fantastic sex with a handsome lover is a welcome change for her. And she understands the limits from the get go, even as she questions how long she can manage to protect her heart.

Zack plays a “come here/go away” game with Kate that is very hurtful, and he knows it. While she puts up with his crap a lot longer than she probably should, her hope is also realistic. He does feel more than he’s admitting to himself, and his arseholishness is his way of navigating that river of Denial.

Someone still needs to clock him one. And Kate finally does. It just takes her awhile.

In many ways, Kate is the much more interesting part of this story. She starts out hiding herself, and ends the story by reclaiming the parts of herself that she hid. She is also very self-motivated, and does not wallow in grief when she tells Zack to take that hike. She’s hurt, but she never loses sight of her goals, and those goals are an education and a future brighter and bigger than her family circumstances would have normally led her to. She’s a winner whether Zack ever comes around or not.

But he does. I just wish Kate had made him grovel a little more.


zack virtual tour banner

Loveswept is giving away a prize pack of Flirt and Loveswept mugs along with a Loveswept ebook bundle.

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.

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 6-14-15

Sunday Post

We are on the road again, so I’ll have to let everyone, including the winners, know who won what of last week’s giveaways next week.

And I’m not just writing this early, but I’m writing in the middle of a thunderstorm. I’m wondering when we’ll lose either power or ‘net. Or both. The fweeping sound the UPS (uninterruptable power supplies) make drives the cats absolutely bonkers.

Or at least more bonkers than they are normally.

One of the things about being on the road is that while I may get plenty of time to read, time and space (and quiet) to write in can be hard to come by. Some people are multi-taskers – Galen can write and even code in the living room with the TV on. Me – I need surround-silence, as opposed to surround-sound.

On that other hand, when I’m reading, the world could go to hell in a handbasket right next to me, and I wouldn’t hear a thing. I’m not there. I’m in Middle-Earth, or wherever the book takes me.

Current Giveaways:

Hot Cowboy Nights book bundle by Victoria Vane
$25 Gift Card + ebook copy of The Rhyme of the Magpie by Marty Wingate
5 copies of Night of the Highland Dragon by Isabel Cooper

night of the highland dragon by isabel cooperBlog Recap:

A- Review: Rock with Wings by Anne Hillerman
B- Review: Sharp Shootin’ Cowboy by Victoria Vane
Guest Post by Victoria Vane on Art Imitating Life + Giveaway
B+ Review: The Rhyme of the Magpie by Marty Wingate + Giveaway
A Review: Night of the Highland Dragon by Isabel Cooper
Guest Post by Isabel Cooper on her Favorite Author + Giveaway
A- Review: Sinner’s Gin by Rhys Ford
Stacking the Shelves (139)

favorite heroinesComing Next Week:

The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison (review)
Zack by Sawyer Bennett (blog tour review)
Favorite Heroines Giveaway Hop
Waterloo by Bernard Cornwell (review)
Inherit the Stars by Laurie A. Green (review)

Stacking the Shelves (127)

Stacking the Shelves

I love our cats. I really do. Even when, sometimes especially when, they sit on my morning newspaper or try to get between my eyes and my iPad. That’s adorable. Howsomever, Mellie peed on my clothes last night. (No, I wasn’t wearing them, but still…) It’s moments like this that make me ask, “Why was that again?” in reference to the question, “Why do we keep them around?” But then someone does something cute and the whole thing is self-explanatory.

mellie face on box
Mellie being cute


But someone still needs to explain to my why Mellie only does this to my clothes, and never Galen’s clothes. it’s a mystery.

Of course I’d much rather read than do laundry. But needs must.

For Review:
17 Carnations by Andrew Morton
The Case of the Invisible Dog (Shirley Homes #1) by Diane Stingley
Hard as a Rock (Gargoyles #3) by Christine Warren
Idol of Blood (Looking Glass Gods #2) by Jane Kindred
The Irish Brotherhood by Helen O’Donnell
Last First Snow (Craft Sequence #4) by Max Gladstone
Let Me Die in His Footsteps by Lori Roy
Master Thieves by Stephen Kurkjian
Night of the Highland Dragon (Highland Dragons #3) by Isabel Cooper
The Race for Paris by Meg Waite Clayton
Selfish, Shallow and Self-Absorbed edited by Meghan Daum
Sharp Shootin’ Cowboy (Hot Cowboy Nights #3) by Victoria Vane
Three Moments of an Explosion by China Mieville
The Thunder of Giants by Joel Fishbane
Zack (Cold Fury Hockey #3) by Sawyer Bennett

Purchased from Amazon:
Neanderthal Seeks Human (Knitting in the City #1) by Penny Reid

Borrowed from the Library:
Butcher’s Hill (Tess Monaghan #3) by Laura Lippman
In a Strange City (Tess Monaghan #6) by Laura Lippman
The Last Place (Tess Monaghan #7) by Laura Lippman

The Sunday Post AKA What’s on my (Mostly Virtual) Nightstand 3-1-15

Sunday Post

Earlier this week, in my review of The Interstellar Age I spent a lot of virtual ink on the way that the real story of the Voyager missions resonated with my memories of Star Trek. Which probably said as much or more about Trek’s place in my heart and how much of it I remember fondly. That struck me with full force on Friday with the announcement of Leonard Nimoy’s death. Watching as the internet exploded with the news, it was obvious that the show, and especially his performance, touched the hearts and minds of so many of us who grew up geek. He’ll be missed.

This week’s upcoming reviews include entries in some long-running series, as well as the start of Sarah Morgan’s Puffin Island series, First Time in Forever. Once I finally remembered where I had heard that phrase before, I got infected with an ear worm that just won’t let go.

Current Giveaways:

Miramont’s Ghost by Elizabeth Hall (paperback)
One Wish by Robyn Carr (paperback)

Winner Announcements:

The winner of Those Rosy Hours at Mazandaran by Marion Grace Woolley is Linda R.

interstellar age by jim bellBlog Recap:

B Review: Miramont’s Ghost by Elizabeth Hall + Giveaway
B+ Review: One Wish by Robyn Carr + Giveaway
A Review: The Interstellar Age by Jim Bell
B Review: Garrett by Sawyer Bennett
A- Review: Jam on the Vine by LaShonda Katrice Barnett
Stacking the Shelves (124)



bring on the dusk by ml buchmanComing Next Week:

First Time in Forever by Sarah Morgan (blog tour review)
Madness in Solidar by L.E. Modesitt Jr. (review)
Hush, Hush by Laura Lippman (blog tour review)
Bring on the Dusk by M.L. Buchman (blog tour review)
Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear (review)

Review: Garrett by Sawyer Bennett

garrett by sawyer bennettFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher via NetGalley
Formats available: ebook
Genre: sports romance
Series: Cold Fury Hockey #2
Length: 278 pages
Publisher: Loveswept
Date Released: February 17, 2015
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, KoboAll Romance

Carolina Cold Fury star Garrett Samuelson never wants to miss out on a single minute of fun. Whether he’s playing hockey, hanging out with friends, or walking the red carpet with a new date on his arm, he lives every day to the fullest. When he meets Olivia Case, he sees someone who’s exactly his type—confident, sexy, smart . . . his next fling. But the more he pursues her, the more Garrett shares a side of himself that other women don’t normally get to see.

Olivia has been keeping a secret. While Garrett lives for the next thrill, Olivia’s not sure she’ll live to see the next day. She’s undergoing treatment for some serious medical issues, and she doesn’t have time for a relationship with no guarantees—especially one with a hot-as-sin womanizer who won’t take no for an answer. But as she gets to know the real Garrett, Olivia can’t help falling for him . . . hard. To reveal the truth would mean risking everything—but you can’t score without taking the tough shots.

My Review:

alex by sawyer bennettI read the first book in this series, Alex (reviewed here) as a review assignment for Library Journal. And it absolutely hit the spot. I just plain enjoyed it, even though the hero starts out as a complete arsehole and the heroine occasionally comes off as Pollyanna. They grew towards each other, suffered a bit, and found their HEA. As icing on the cake, the group surrounding the Carolina Cold Fury hockey team were a fun bunch, and when I saw Garrett it looked like a great chance to see more of them.

Which it absolutely is. And because this is the second book in the series, we meet even more people and the world takes on a bit more depth. (It’s also nice to see Alex and Sutton again and see that their happiness continues.

Garrett is Alex’ best friend, now that Alex has become a real human being and is capable of having a best friend. Or any friend at all. (Read Alex for deets).

And Olivia is Sutton’s cousin, and one of her best friends. It was inevitable that Garrett and Olivia would meet. It was not inevitable that they fall in love. They begin with two strikes against any possibility of a relationship.

Garrett is the “king of the one-night stand”. He falls into bed with nearly any woman who offers, but always flees by the next morning. He NEVER comes back for a second date. He’s definitely a man-whore, and doesn’t care who knows it.

Olivia has just been diagnosed with cancer. It’s a slow-growing, easily treated type of cancer, but still cancer. And treatable does not mean curable. Her best diagnosis is that she will go into remission and stay there for years, and that when it crops up again she can repeat the cycle. She feels like someone has just lowered the boom on the rest of what she expects to be a relatively short life.

When they meet, sparks just don’t fly, they explode like an aurora. Garrett seems to be looking for his usual one-night stand, and Olivia is looking for a distraction, but she doesn’t take him up on his offer.

It’s only after Olivia gets a serious talking-to by her bestie and boss, Stevie, that she decides that a hot, sweaty sexual distraction is just what she needs to feel alive. She’s not worried about getting involved with Garrett, because the man just doesn’t do relationships. After all, he doesn’t do second dates. Olivia is expecting one glorious night, and a good-bye note in the morning.

Instead, she gets Garrett back at Stevie’s flower shop the next day, wanting another date. She still thinks he’ll disappear soon, his record is three dates. She’s sure he won’t be around by the time she has her first chemotherapy treatment.

Instead, they form a connection, based not just on fantastic sex, but also on a shared sense of humor and the ability to make each other laugh.

It ends up being Garrett who holds her hair back as she pukes after her first chemo. So she finally lets the cancer cat out of the bag she’s been keeping it in. And Garrett decides that he’s way too interested in Olivia to walk away.

The story in this book is the ups and downs of their relationship as Garrett decides he’s all in for a woman and a relationship, and that he’ll be there for her whatever happens. Even after the death of a teammate’s wife brings home to him just how devastated he would be if Olivia lost to the cancer.

He thinks the pain is worth the risk. She decides that he will be better off suffering less now than more later after they build 10 or 20 years of life together. So she runs.

There’s more than enough stupid to go around in the way that Olivia handles things. Ironically, it is former arsehole Alex Crossman who makes her see the light, and give herself and Garrett a second chance.

Escape Rating B: Unlike Alex, Garrett starts out the book as a likable and friendly guy. He knows he’s a man-whore, he admits that he’s out for a good time and that sex is a very good time. He’s enjoying sowing his very plentiful wild oats. He doesn’t do relationships and he’s pretty upfront about it.

Because of Garrett’s track record, both Alex and Sutton discourage him from chasing Olivia.

Olivia has just been hit with one of the worst things that can happen. She’s 25 and she’s just been told she has cancer. She is reeling. Stepping out with Garrett is the opposite of her usual behavior. She normally likes to get a to know a guy and see if they have any connection before hopping in the sack.

But she has just discovered that her life is shorter than she realized, and Garrett is a big and gorgeous distraction from everything that has just gone wrong.

Neither of them expects him to stick around. Olivia never stops worrying that he will leave when things become too difficult. She needs him to be all in, or she needs him out of the way before he breaks her heart. No matter what he does, no matter how much he shows her that he loves her, she’s never quite able to accept that he really is going to be there for her if things get really tough.

Her act of stupidity is pretty damn stupid, but makes a kind of backwards sense from her perspective. She says she’s protecting Garrett, but she is really trying to protect herself. She’s not listening to that little voice in her head that says it’s already too late. But then again, the only voices she’s hearing in her head are the ones that say she has cancer and she’s going to die before she turns 45.

There is a tragedy in the middle of this book, and its not Olivia’s. One of the other players, Zack, loses his wife in an automobile accident. The event brings home to everyone that life is much too short. Garrett’s and Olivia’s reactions to Gina’s death cause the grand misunderstandammit that almost does them in.

As I read this book, I kept wondering how the author was going to get this story to an HEA. Not because the relationship doesn’t stand the test, but because the heroine has an illness with a median life expectancy of 20 years. I thought we might end with a Happy-for-Now. Instead, the author chose to write an epilog set 40 years in the future, showing everyone in their 60s and Olivia still alive and having been cured by medical advances in the meantime.

While I understand the desire to reach an HEA by whatever means necessary, the epilogue felt “tacked on”. One of the good points of a series with interrelated characters is that we get to find out how couples from previous books are doing in subsequent ones. The discovery in that is gone because we know how everyone turns out far in the future.

And yes, I prefer my Harry Potter without the damn epilogue too.

***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.

Stacking the Shelves (120)

Stacking the Shelves

As you read this, I am at the American Library Association Midwinter Conference, which is being held in Chicago. While voluntarily going to Chicago in January may seem strange, it could be worse. Last year the conference was in Philadelphia. We may be cold in Chicago, but we’re not snowed in. Or out.

Actually out might not have been so bad. It is way warmer back home in Atlanta than it is in Chicago in January. Oh well, the June conference is in San Francisco. But then again, there’s that famous Mark Twain quote: “The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco.”

For Review:
Behind Closed Doors (DCI Louisa Smith #2) by Elizabeth Haynes
The Belles of Williamsburg edited by Mary Maillard
Below the Belt (Worth the Fight #3) by Sidney Halston
BiblioTech by John Palfrey
The Dead Key by D.M. Pulley
The Diamond Conspiracy (Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences #4) by Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris
Footsteps in the Sky by Greg Keyes
The Kill Shot (Jamie Sinclair #2) by Nichole Christoff
Never Too Late by Robyn Carr
The Poser by Jacob Rubin
Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Purchased from Amazon:
Against the Cage (Worth the Fight #1) by Sidney Halston
Full Contact (Worth the Fight #2) by Sidney Halston
Kingston 691 (Cyborgs: Mankind Redefined #2) by Donna McDonald