Home Forums Let’s Talk Romance Forum Recently Read: Summer 2016

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  • Caz Owens
    Participant
    Post count: 37

    Loved ’em or hated ’em – here’s the place to discuss your most recent reads.

  • Dabney Grinnan
    Post count: 0

    I just finished Annika Martin’s Dark Mafia Prince which I enjoyed. Dark erotic romance.

  • Tinabelle
    Post count: 0

    I just finished reading Anna Campbell’s new novella, Stranded With The Scottish Earl. It was an easy, quick read and I enjoyed it. This is a love at first sight story and takes place over a very short time frame – 3 days. Ewan and Charlotte spend 2 days together after he visits and is stranded by a storm that washes out the bridge. She has vowed never to marry and he has fallen in love with her after learning about her from her father and seeing her portrait. It was a sweet story as Ewan works to convince Charlotte that he loves her and they were meant to be together. Despite the condensed time frame, I could believe in the love.

    • Caz Owens
      Participant
      Post count: 37

      I do enjoy Anna Campbell’s books,Tinabelle, so I plan on reading this. I’m glad to know the romance works well within the format as that’s always a concern with novellas.

  • Reader
    Post count: 0

    Test to see if I can edit once I post.

  • Reader
    Post count: 0

    ….and I guess not. Once you post, you cannot go back and edit??

  • Blackjack1
    Post count: 0

    Nalini Singh, Rock Hard (C+)

  • e. b. wittmann
    Participant
    Post count: 27

    Just finished Dark Mafia Prince & The Hating Game. I liked/loved them both – so different, but so entertaining. Good stuff!

  • Blackjack1
    Post count: 0

    I’ve been unable type in a long-ish review I wrote or to copy and paste it into the comment box for Singh’s Rock Hard. Any ideas?

    • Dabney Grinnan
      Keymaster
      Post count: 110

      If you can’t cut and paste, it’s probably because the dev team is still ironing out kinks. Check back and see if you can next week. Sorry!

      • Blackjack1
        Post count: 0

        Dabney…

        “If you can’t cut and paste, it’s probably because the dev team is still ironing out kinks. Check back and see if you can next week. Sorry!”

        Thank you! I figured it was just a glitch in the system.

  • jaime
    Post count: 0

    Naomi Novik: League of Dragons – A. I am sorry to say good bye to these characters. I have loved this series.

    • Anne
      Post count: 0

      Jaime – I’ve been in a book slump recently (after declaring not one, but TWO books as DNF…ugh), so I was intrigued when I heard you mention these books. I’m just about to finish the first one, and I have to say I’m really enjoying it! It’s a really unique premise, and although at first the emotions and language felt a bit stiff/reserved, I am enjoying the slow build-up to the deeper feelings and camaraderie between the characters…especially the dragons!

      So thank you for mentioning this series!

      Anne

  • RichMissTallant
    Post count: 0

    I feel like I’ve read so many books lately, particularly ones with REALLY frustrating heroines, that I was absolutely delighted with The Billionaire Bachelor by Jessica Lemmon. I am not particularly into the billionaire craze in the romance world, but this book was a fantastic enemies-to-lovers/modern marriage of convenience blend. The hero was sexy but I think I liked the heroine even more. She was feisty but vulnerable. Definitely recommend this book.

  • RichMissTallant
    Post count: 0

    Forgot one worth mentioning: I also read Sweet Little Lies. I haven’t been the biggest Jill Shalvis fan in the past (I suppose this is an unpopular opinion!) but this one was OK. Not really special. I thought the chemistry with the leads was good and I liked the relationship with the brothers, but some of it annoyed me, like the whole premise of the book with the pay it forward theme. Not sure how to post things to hide spoilers on the new forum so I’ll just say some of the heroine’s actions made me roll my eyes.

  • Lillian Marek
    Post count: 0

    I just read The Black Madonna by Stella Riley and I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed it. It’s a romantic historical novel rather than a straight romance, I suppose, and I loved every page of it. Set in the period leading up to the English Civil War and continuing into the opening years of the war, it’s full of rich period detail and the complex issues of divided and conflicting and ambiguous loyalties. The characters are complex, except maybe for the villain who is just a polished sociopath.
    I couldn’t finish it in an evening—it’s some 600 pages long—but I didn’t get much of anything done until I did. I do love a book that lets me just sink into the story and stay there.

    • Caz Owens
      Participant
      Post count: 37

      Lillian, I’m delighted to hear that you enjoyed The Black Madonna. Stella Riley has been one of my favourite authors for around 30 years (she took a long writing break until a few years back) and I am only too happy to wax lyrical about all her books! There are three more books (so far) in that series, but don’t miss out on the companion novel, A Splendid Defiance, It’s the first book of hers I ever read and is still in my all-time Top 5 romance novels.

      • This reply was modified 1 month, 2 weeks ago by   Caz Owens.
  • Blackjack
    Post count: 0

    Nalini Singh, Rock Hard (C+) – After a really promising start, this novel took somewhat of a nosedive at about 40% into it. The first part of it though is charming and fun and hard to put down. It focuses on the chemistry and work relationship between the brusque CEO and former rugby star, Gabriel Bishop, brought into save a flailing company, and Charlotte Baird, a shy and reclusive admin assistant who would rather fade into the woodwork than be recognized for her hard work.
    As a general rule, I’m not comfortable with boss/secretary romances and though the hero here does at least acknowledge the ethics of pursuing his assistant, the acknowledgment is more lip service than any real examination of the inherent problems with the relationship. Still, the banter and submerged desire between Gabriel and Charlotte is entertaining and sexy in the early chapters.

  • Blackjack
    Post count: 0

    Continued…The second half of the novel went to a dramatically different place that changed the tone, the energy and the plot of the entire story, and it was unexpected. Charlotte, it turns out, is not just a shy and retiring “mouse,” as she’s referred to continuously early in the story, but instead, a victim of an abusive relationship with a boyfriend who stalked her and tortured her, leaving her hospitalized and emotionally scarred for years. Gabriel does not just have to find ways to date his secretary and encourage her to shine in her work, he has to help her heal. Much of the novel changes direction and follows Charlotte’s attempts at recovery and Gabriel’s teaching her to be healthy. To the novel’s credit, Charlotte’s love for a good man is not the answer to her health crisis, and there is a therapist involved that lends the story credibility. But nevertheless, the trauma from sexual and physical assault controls the second half of the novel. The story also takes a bit of a misstep by reintroducing the crazed boyfriend, conveniently released from prison at a crucial moment in Charlotte’s growing trust for Gabriel. This tangential plot felt unnecessary to me.

    I have to admit that I don’t think I care for Singh’s characterizations in general, and since this is the third or fourth novel of hers that I’ve read, I have to think that she’s just not a writer who works for me. Here, as in her other books, the hero is an over-the-top protective and virile man that inexplicably “growls” during nearly of all of his conversations with Charlotte. Gabriel’s decision early in the novel that Charlotte belongs to him didn’t sit well with me either. I cringe a little at primal language like “she’s mine.” And, this is well before the heroine even suspects she’s an object of desire.

  • Blackjack
    Post count: 0

    In Singh’s paranormal books, fate often intervenes to dictate romantic relationships and so there is a determinist aspect to her books, but in a contemporary romance without paranormal or fantastical elements, it felt weird. But even though I snickered at times over Gabriel’s characterization, I have to say that I disliked the characterization of Charlotte perhaps even more. She’s timid and afraid of her own shadow until she suddenly locates her inner core of feistiness, thanks to the hero’s love and some good therapy, and then she’s off stomping her foot to express her newfound ability to stand up to her domineering new love interest. And while Gabriel is a giant 6’5,” Charlotte, we are repeatedly told, is a petite, delicate and fragile little thing. I felt a little hit over the head by the stark contrast between this uber-alpha man and this tiny little timid woman. I’m sure we’re supposed to find this terribly romantic, but it didn’t work for me.

    Finally, in the end I didn’t know if I was reading a romantic comedy or a dark tale of survival, though I wished for the former.

    *I broke up this long message and it finally posted

    • JaneA
      Post count: 0

      In response to Blackjack’s post(s) on Rock Hard. I too find my self dissatisfied with her contemporaries, and I’ve tried several of them. As much as I enjoy many of the books she’s written in her two paranormal series, this new series has not worked for me. Her characterizations seem shallow and rather juvenile, IMHO her writing is better suited to action driven stories, though I know many people wouldn’t agree with me

  • Eliza
    Post count: 0

    Thanks to Mary Skelton, I finally got to read Neanderthal Seeks Human by Penny Reid which I give a solid A.. I had been wanting to read it for some time, so Mary’s posting about it being a free kindle offering finally got me moving and I thoroughly enjoyed it–the story, the unique characters, and author’s talent for picking great words, It was smart, funny and thoroughly enjoyable–and I don’t read that many contemps. So, thanks again Mary for the heads up. 😀

    • Mary Skelton
      Participant
      Post count: 12

      Eliza wrote: Thanks to Mary Skelton, I finally got to read Neanderthal Seeks Human by Penny Reid which I give a solid A..

      Sorry! I am just now reading this. We have had workers in the house over the past couple of weeks and they messed up the internet and cable. Had to have both techs come out, so I was without internet except on my phone for a few days. I am so glad you liked it Eliza!!!

  • Blackjack
    Post count: 0

    Eliza…It was smart, funny and thoroughly enjoyable

    I’m going to read it soon. My sister has read the entire series and according to her, Friends Without Benefits (Book #2 in the Knitting in the City series) is the best one of all, but she really likes all of them.

  • JaneA
    Post count: 0

    I’m going to read it soon. My sister has read the entire series and according to her, Friends Without Benefits (Book #2 in the Knitting in the City series) is the best one of all, but she really likes all of them.

    Ha, the second in the series is my least favorite, while I loved Neanderthal Seeks Human! But I do think she is a wonderful writer.

    I finally read Doing No Harm by Carla Kelly. How nice it is to sink back in to one of Ms Kelly’s books. I found this one thoroughly enjoyable. I particularly like reading historicals about the middle class, people who are not uber-wealthy but who do well enough for themselves to have a comfortable life.

  • Mark
    Post count: 0

    These are my humor scores for Reid’s books:
    reid, penny
    series
    neanderthal seeks human***
    neanderthal marries human****
    friends without benefits***.5
    love hacked**.5
    beauty and the mustache**.5
    scenes from the city [not yet read]
    ninja at first sight***
    happily ever ninja**.5
    series
    elements of chemistry parts 1-3 ***.5
    series
    truth or beard***
    grin and beard it***.5
    reid, penny and cosway, l. h.
    series
    the hooker and the hermit****
    the player and the pixie**.5

  • RichMissTallant
    Post count: 0

    Blackjack, thank you for the review because that series has been on my TBR pile for a while. I’ve never read anything by Nailini Singh as I don’t tend to read paranormal romance, but not sure I want to read these contemporaries now.

    I just finished the first 3 books in Samantha Chase’s Shaughnessy Brothers series. There are 5 brothers and 1 sister (I’m hoping she gets a book, too, but she’s so much younger that the book would have to be set well in the future). The base of the family is in North Carolina (my home state!), although it takes place in different locations. The matriarch dies before the series begins, so each book starts with some kind of flashback that gives insight into the hero’s relationship with his mother, which I found really interesting. I think the family interactions are a strength of this story — they seem like a “real” family to me. Each book is a standalone but I’d read these in order because other characters make appearances and events happen in their lives that make more sense when you’ve read their individual stories.

    (continued…)

  • RichMissTallant
    Post count: 0

    (continued from previous post)

    1. Made for Us (Aidan / Zoe): I thought this was sweet. Aidan is the eldest and a total control freak. He was also a total jerk to the heroine at times and I found it incredibly frustrating because at heart, I think he’s a “good” guy and he’s a pretty beta, all things considered. I definitely liked the heroine more in this story; her mother passes away from breast cancer shortly before the book begins, I really identified with her because I lost my mother to breast cancer last year. This is technically an employer/employee romance because Zoe works as a consultant for him (and he ultimately has the power to fire her if he wanted to), but it didn’t feel like there was any kind of power imbalance. Despite Aidan being a jerk, I felt their relationship was believable and I bought into their HEA because I do think Chase does a good job of helping us understand why Aidan is the way he is and there are enough secondary characters (mostly his father and brothers) making sure he knows he’s being a jerk that he begins to see it for himself. I don’t tend to rate books but I’d give this a good 3 / 5 stars.

  • RichMissTallant
    Post count: 0

    Hmm, having trouble posting the rest of these reviews, and sorry for the multiple posts.

  • RichMissTallant
    Post count: 0

    2. Love Walks In (Hugh / Aubrey): Hugh is the second eldest and another control freak. Again, there are reasons why he is the way he is (all traced back to his mother’s death) and I found his overt jealousy at the beginning of the novel off-putting. This is another employer/employee romance in that Aubrey takes a job working for him as an event planner. They spent a lot of their early relationship traveling to different work locations so this relationship is always at the forefront. Aubrey’s toxic relationship with her parents is revealed bit by bit throughout the novel and made me warm up to her. 3 / 5 stars.

  • RichMissTallant
    Post count: 0

    3. Always My Girl (Quinn / Anna): I was looking forward to this one. We know from previous books she’s been in love with Quinn for years but he’s really self-absorbed. It took me a lot longer to warm up to him. I am not always a fan of books where the couple gets together fairly early as that can make the rest of the book really anticlimactic but the author used those chapters to have the hero come to terms with how he’d treated Anna in the past and make their transition from best friends to lovers a real HEA. 3 /5 stars

  • RichMissTallant
    Post count: 0

    One thing to note about this series—there’s plenty of kissing & sexual tension, but Chase leaves you at the bedroom door. I’ve been known to skim a book that has too many sex scenes, but I found this a bit odd because there’s so much build-up and then…nothing. In fact, I totally missed the first time Aidan and Zoe had sex in the first book. I feel like the intimacy established between characters in a well-written love scene reveals a lot about that particular couple’s relationship and thus this bothered me in all 3 books, to be completely honest.

    Can’t wait for Owen’s book; he’s a social awkward, ADORABLE scientist!

  • Blackjack
    Post count: 0

    testing

  • Blackjack
    Post count: 0

    Julie Anne Long, Hot in Hellcat Canyon (B+) – I’ve always felt that Long has a very contemporary voice as a romance author, despite writing until now only historical romances. So I was excited to read her first foray into contemporary writing, and overall I really was not disappointed. Just a couple of things made this slightly less than an -A- read for me, but first, I want to gush about all the great things I loved here. Hellcat Canyon as a setting is a fine rival to England’s Pennyroyal Green. And like Pennyroyal Green, it’s a small-town retreat from big-city life while still enjoying the hovering presence of big-city life in the distance. Los Angeles is an overarching presence and sometime-reason for the characters to hide out here and relax and enjoy a simpler way of living. I rarely read books set in Northern California, but Long captures a very specific geographical small-town life wonderfully. She also did a really nice job constructing a varied cast of characters who are realistic and compelling, without falling into sentimentality or caricature. I look forward to reading more about them in successive novels in the series.

  • Blackjack
    Post count: 0

    continued…

    The romance itself between Britt and J.T. is gentle and sweet and exactly the relationship both characters need. Long has a heroine in recovery from an abusive husband, and the abuse narrative helps explain Britt’s struggles to regain her former confidence in herself. In flight from emotional and physical abuse and a strong sense of self-failure, Britt has set aside her artistic talents, her education, her competitive spirit and even her fun-loving nature to withdraw from life. I found her struggles very believable and I was utterly charmed by Britt’s love of restoring things in life that had taken a beating: bedraggled plants, old furniture, and even a washed-up actor who arrives in town in the first chapter. J.T. is a bit of a mix of a-has-been movie star, a struggling pop icon, and a craftsman in the art of acting. I personally appreciated the craftsman side of his character, and I think it saves him from the pitfalls of celebrity culture in that he is good at his job and can ultimately survive the vagaries of a fickle public. Also, J.T.’s care for his craft lends him credibility in Britt’s eyes and allows her to see beyond the movie star to the very human beneath the facade.

  • Blackjack
    Post count: 0

    continued…

    The lure of Hollywood is the competing narrative to counter Britt’s trauma recovery storyline as the obstacle to the romance. J.T.’s wealth and fame threatens Britt’s emerging feelings of confidence, and here, I completely believed her issue. I’m not terribly keen on one member of a relationship as a celebrity because it tends to create a very lop-sided dynamic between the main couple. But I did appreciate that Britt’s insecurities about her new lover’s celebrity status upends her ability to be happy and safe with him. The arguments they had about their relationship felt very authentic and even painful at times, and though there were moments when I wished Britt could be the better person and trust J.T., I kept returning to the sense that I don’t know if I would handle the pressure of being with a celebrity any better.

    It’s not a perfect book, and I don’t know if I will reread it, which led me to think it’s probably a little more of a B+ than A- read. It also features the trashing of an ex-girlfriend, which is not an element I love in romance writing. Does J.T.’s ex have to be such a monster? Does the entailing girl fight over the guy really need to happen here? I didn’t enjoy this aspect of the story (though I did laugh at Britt’s revenge). Overall, I actually laughed quite a bit reading this one, and I’m really looking forward to Wild at Whiskey Creek this fall.

  • stl_reader
    Post count: 0

    Finally decided to try Kristen Ashley. The one available on Overdrive was Motorcycle Man, and it has high Goodreads ratings, so I went with it.

    That book was so bad in so many ways, I can’t even.

    A bullying neanderthal and a doormat who doesn’t mind a controlling boyfriend get together. For some reason, I just was not perfectly fine with that.

    If you don’t mind a “love” story where the woman finally decides that “I’ll accept essentially being a second-class citizen in your biker world, but only if I’m treated with respect to my face and that shit does not come home,” I guess this could be for you. Personally, I was offended.

    I admit I was at a bit of a disadvantage reading this because I don’t speak Caveman, the mother tongue of the uber-alpha dickwad who features as the story’s “hero.” Maybe my lack of familiarity with that language caused me to misunderstand the plot line. Or the connection between the H/h. Or…well, everything.

    I realize many folks have read and enjoyed this book, and I get the allure of the “bad boy/alpha male with a bad childhood being tamed by the love of the right woman” trope. But there’s alpha maleness and then there’s colossal me-tarzan-you-jane jerkdom, and for me, the male protagonist in this book falls squarely in the latter camp.

  • Blackjack
    Post count: 0

    stl_reader…”The one available on Overdrive was Motorcycle Man, and it has high Goodreads ratings, so I went with it.

    That book was so bad in so many ways, I can’t even.”

    Hated this book, and it was my only Kristen Ashley. And yes, “caveman” is a perfect way to describe the hero and his communication skills. Afraid I don’t get the attraction to this writer.

  • tigz
    Post count: 0

    I’ve attempted to read two Kristen Ashley books. Didn’t finish either of them. She’s just not my cuppa tea, I guess. Listened to a podcast a while back where they drooled over her books, and decided that podcast wasn’t for me. 🙂

  • RichMissTallant
    Post count: 0

    Ah, Kristen Ashley. I wish I had saved my rant about her from the old boards. I read one of her books – never again! I didn’t even enjoy it (Ride Steady, I think?) in a guilty pleasure sort of way. I straight up hated it and the quality of the writing/dialogue was awful.

  • stl_reader
    Post count: 0

    Allegiance of Honor by Nalini Singh

    As others have posted on other boards, this was in large part an epilogue to Nalini Singh’s Psy/Changeling series. We revisit various devoted couples. About 500 times we are reminded how the Packs love their children. If I never hear the word “pupcub” again, it will be too soon.

    I believe there may be plans for a new series continuing to explore the evolving psy/changeling/human world. Think I read that a couple of places. To that end, a new power player (who may or may not be evil and who may have been mentioned in previous books in passing) is revealed. Oh, and someone called The Architect.

    There is a plot line in this story (trying to find a kidnapped water changeling). Not bad, though not resolved with as much follow-up as I would have liked.

    For me, this book is the Nalini Singh equivalent of a Mary Balogh Christmas novel. A little too much saccharine sweetness all the way around. Too many cute children doing too many cute things. Too many couples perfectly in tune., paraded before us one after the other. Thank God Hawk and Sienna had a moment, because frankly I was starting to get a little bored.

    Disappointed that Nikita + Anthony were alluded to (everyone thinks they are spending time together doing, well, something) but not featured in a scene together by themselves.

    An okay ending to a very good series. Would have been better with about 100 fewer pages. (It clocked in at 479 pages on my Kindle.)

    • MEK
      Post count: 0

      Wow! Allegiance of Honor was the end of the series and I didn’t even realize it? I’d also be willing to read a “sequel series”. Nalini Singh is my go to author for enjoyable reads. I often reread her books when I’m between new reading adventures and need a tried and true.

      • Enya Young
        Participant
        Post count: 2

        It’s not the end of the series. Thank of it as a season finale, or the end of an “arc” as she calls it.

        I was bored senseless by the book. It took me 5 tries to make it through because all of catchups drove me crazy. I wasn’t so attached to all the couples that I actually cared to know that they were still happy (and really, they all kind of read the same when you dump them together); even the couples that I did care about lost their allure in the midst of eleven other partnerships. Like stl_reader I liked the kidnapped water changeling subplot, but that’s a lot of other stuff to sift through to get to it.

  • Lindareads
    Post count: 0

    I can’t believe how many good books I’ve read so far this summer. And some were in my TBR box, patiently waiting until I got to them, which is even better! These books led to other books in a series or books by the same author. I read the entire “Ice” series by Anne Stuart and just finished the first book in the connected “Fire” Series. I loved Consumed By Fire as much the books in the “Ice” Series. It has been so much fun watch these men fall and fall hard for the heroines. Morally ambiguous heroes are a favorite of mine, along with heroes who turn out to be not who or what the heroine thought they were. And in that vein, I also recently read an ebook from a new to me author called Wild Encounter by Nikki Logan. Wonderful storyline about saving Wild Dogs in Africa and a botched kidnapping that should have not happened. The longer I read the book, the more I got into the story. She has another book coming out soon, and I can promise that I will be watching for it. And then there’s my first Lisa Marie Rice book, Dangerous Lover. Oh my goodness, it was hard to put down. I loved the writing, storyline, hero and heroine. Which made me buy copies of Dangerous Secrets and Dangerous Passion, which I am reading right now. There are things I should be doing – weeding, painting, crafting etc. -but I just want to read to see where things go in the story. I am so glad I have lots of other books to read by Lisa Marie Rice in the future. I also reread two books by Linnea Sinclair – Games of Command and Hopes Folly, two of her best, in my opinion. HF is the third in her Dock Five series and I so wish she would release another book soon. I’d also like to see a book about Branden Kel-Patons brother, who sounds like a really interesting character. Hope you’re listening Ms. Sinclair! So far, great reading this summer.
    Lindareads

    • Blackjack
      Post count: 0

      I think I mentioned in the Anne Stuart thread how much I loved reading Consumed by Fire, and in fact, I just reread it. After looking at Stuart’s website, I read in a blog from six months ago that she is busy at work on Book 3 in the Fire series and so hopefully that will be out in 2016.

  • Lindareads
    Post count: 0

    Thanks for the update on Anne Stuart, Blackjack. You’ve made my day!

  • Kristen Donnelly
    Participant
    Post count: 35

    If anyone like suspense, and you live in the UK or Ireland (the book isn’t available anywhere else yet, from the digging I’ve done..) I HEARTEDLY recommend Lying in Wait by Liz Nugent. Stunning piece of work told over decades and from multiple PoVs. I INHALED this book.

  • RichMissTallant
    Post count: 0

    I just finished To Have and To Hold by Lauren Layne, the first book in a new trilogy. (There’s a prequel novella but I haven’t read it.) I loved it! I read it in one day. I’m not really into zillionaire heroes as a trope but it worked for me here. My only MINOR complaints are about the conflict with h/h toward the end (don’t want to spoil so I’ll stay vague!) And I loved the glimpses of the secondary romance with hero’s sister. I wish we could have a novella with her story (we know the outcome so something that would basically take place at same time as this book). But won’t hold my breath for it. Layne is really on my autobuy list and she didn’t disappoint. Can’t wait for Alexis and Logan’s story out in October!!

    • Kristen Donnelly
      Participant
      Post count: 35

      I loved that one, too! The novella is super fun, by the way. The resolution to the hero’s character arc was pretty quick for me, that’s my niggly complaint, but otherwise I’d agree it’s a fun and charming read. I’m excited for the rest of the series, too!

  • gracec
    Post count: 0

    Undecided – Julianne Keyes, rating: A. I don’t read New Adult that often but this one caught my eye, thanks to ‘Steal and Deal’ and the good review it received from this board. I think the author painted a realistic portrayal of college life, and the main three characters were also realistically portrayed. I appreciated the fact that there’s no insta-lust in this book. There were sex scenes between the H/H, don’t get me wrong, and they’re scrochingly hot! But it happened after they gradually get to know each other. The hero, Crosbie, is really so sweet and much more than what he originally appears to be. I highly recommend this book to anyone looking for a sweet romance set in college world.

    After Undecided, I downloaded and read Ms. Keyes’ other books (Time Served and Going The Distance), which are straight forward romance (not New Adult genre).

    Time Served has a reunion theme, my favorite trope. The hero and heroine were lovers when they were in high school, then she left in the middle of the night without word or warning to anyone. Ten years later, she’s now a high-powered lawyer in a big city and the book opens when she runs into her former boyfriend at a Mexican restaurant and the story goes off from there. It’s a good story but definitely with a darker undertone than Undecided. The story is told from the Heroine’s POV so it’s tough at times to understand the hero’s perspective. Ms. Keyes did a good job in portraying the hero’s initial anger, resentment, and not a little bit of need for revenge for the way she left him 10 years ago, and then showed the heroine’s guilt and remorse for the way she handled their separation long ago. All of those ugly emotions are vividly shown in their first sex scene together, an ugly yet important scene with no hold-back. I would give this book a solid B.

    Going The Distance has a hero that’s a bit harder to like. It’s your typical hero with daddy issue and a big dose of insecurity and inability to trust. But I loved the heroine, who gives as good as she gets, and not an iota more. It’s also a good thing that this is not a 1st person narrative book. Otherwise I would have had a hard time understanding the hero and simply saw him as a ba$$tard beyond redemption. I gave this book a B-.

  • Kerry
    Post count: 0

    The Rake by Mary Jo Putney. I bought The Rake on the recommendation of this website, and I’m glad I did. The majority of Regencies leave me cold, but this story was told with an originality that kept my interest, and its hero’s – and to a lesser extent, its heroine’s – growth tugged at my heart.

    Sunset Shadows by Bronwyn Parry. Bronwyn Parry’s romantic suspense novels are auto buys for me. Like the very best of Nora Roberts, they’re among the few novels I can enjoy re-reading. The romance is more about the growth of love than sex, although the attraction between hero and heroine is painted with some evocatively sensual description. The suspense is original and edge-of-the-seat, provided I suspend my incredulity at the occasional coincidence. Dark Country remains my favourite Bronwyn Parry novel, but I think the last third of the novel is among the author’s best writing.

  • Kerry
    Post count: 0

    Oops – I should have said “the last third of Sunset Shadows is among the author’s best writing.”

    While I’m here, I’ll add that I particularly enjoy Parry’s writing for the way in which she paints places, and the people who live in them. Here’s a snippet that appealed to me: “She had to grin. There was a man who’d just fallen in love with a shed. And a fine looking shed it was, even she could see that. A fine looking man, too, even with bruises on his face and his arm in a sling.”

    • Manda
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      Kerry, I didn’t realize there was a new Bronwyn Parry book out! Yay! I love her writing too–her suspense plots are satisfyingly complex and she brings rural Australia to life for me. I wish she had better distribution in the US so that she’d be as widely read as she deserves.

  • Blackjack
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    The Hating Game, Sally Thorne (A) – The very strong review here earlier in the week convinced me to drop everything and read this book immediately, for which I am so grateful. It’s every bit as good as readers and reviewers state and is probably also just about the funniest romance I’ve read in ages. It’s kind of a cross between an office romance and The War of the Roses given that the hero and heroine appear to despise each other while allowing readers to see how secretly infatuated they truly are with each other. It’s difficult to pinpoint all that I loved about this book, but right up there I would have to include the sharp banter and sparkling dialogue that does justice to the pent-up frustrations the two main characters are feeling. I love that two smart, talented and highly competitive people are reduced to such juvenile and unbecoming behavior that is laugh out loud funny in places. The single office space in which Lucy and Josh are forced to share is such a ridiculous corporate contrivance that it seems logical from the start of the novel that they’ll be at each other’s throats, and the strict no-fraternizing policy combined with a serious case of physical attraction sets in motion an incredibly sexy and hilarious read. I did adore the first third of the novel for the infantile pranks and insults that fly by in every page. But the novel has a turning point in which the hero is able to reveal to readers how much Lucy means to him, and several of these scenes were swoon-worthy. I felt teary in a few of them. Josh through Lucy’s eyes is a jerk at times, but as she slowly comes to understand him better, she sees what readers have been able to long before. If I have one small complaint it is that Lucy takes her time understanding him as well as her love for him. I love unrequited love tropes and I love enemies-to-lovers stories, and so this was just about perfect for me. Amazingly too, Sally Thorne is a debut romance author with this book, which fills me with all kind of joy and hope that she will have many more wonderful novels for readers.

    • Kay
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      Blackjack, I also loved The Hating Game and am so glad I saw it reviewed here. I was put back by the $9.99 price for a debut author, but I downloaded the sample and it was so good I had to buy it. It is my favorite book of the year. I loved the humor. I look forward for more to come from Ms. Thorne.

      • Blackjack
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        @Kay – The book was a little pricey, but I already want to re-read it! I’m really looking forward to her next one, which I saw at the end of the book is due out next summer. So happy I read the review of it too!

    • LeeB.
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      I read The Hating Game last night (thanks library) and I also enjoyed it. But what really really really annoyed me was that while this book was written by an Australian author but published in the US, it seems as if all the references to anything Australian have been omitted so the book feels like it’s in some unknown or generic country. I love reading books set in different countries and aren’t afraid to figure out words or terms that might be strictly Australian or English or Canadian or whatever. I hope the author’s next book isn’t subject to the same treatment.

      • Blackjack
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        I wouldn’t have minded a more vibrant Australian vibe either as I too like different settings other than the U.S. and England. I think that since I knew the author is from Melbourne though, I automatically visualized an Australian setting. It did not feel American to me.

      • RichMissTallant
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        I know the author is Australian, but I still couldn’t figure out where the book was supposed to be set. I just assumed she was Australian writing a book set in the US, but it didn’t occur to me that it’s still set in Australia, just edited so that Americans don’t get confused by the vocabulary (some of it is still in there, like “hire car”). Hmm. It didn’t bother me, though.

      • Blackjack
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        It’s a very generic setting and I hope that once Thorne becomes more established, she’ll be given more creative freedom. I did visualize Australia in the road trip and in the descriptions of the strawberry farm, but the book felt as if it was stripped of “foreign” markers to sell better to American audiences. It didn’t affect my love for the book either though.

  • RichMissTallant
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    OK, I also jumped on The Hating Game bandwagon. I just read this in a day. I started it this morning and my roommates thought I wasn’t home because I didn’t leave my room until I finished it! What an absolutely delightful book from start to finish. I agree with others that it’s worth the price.

    My only issues with the book is some of the language used. I’ve seen others comment on this elsewhere, so I won’t harp on it here, but it was disappointing in an otherwise quirky, funny, and super romantic story.

    Can’t wait to see what else this author has in store. I’ll certainly buy her next one.

  • Mark
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    Since the review here and several other posts suggested that The Hating Game by Sally Thorne has a lot of conversational humor (repartee), and the ebook was just barely within the price range I’m willing to pay (at my maximum of $9.99), I bought this in ebook & read it yesterday.
    I’m afraid this is a strong demonstration of how individualistic the perception of humor is. I ended up scoring the humor at 2.5 stars on my scale with a 5-star maximum. It was an enjoyable enough read, but I barely saw any humor. There was a huge amount of time spent on mental/interpersonal games, but very little of that was actual conversation or repartee.
    These examples give an idea of what I see as conversational humor:
    Black Sheep by Georgette Heyer, especially the first two conversations between Miles & Abby.
    A cross-conversation in during a ride in the park in A Rake’s Reform by Cindy Holbrook.
    Several parts of Pepper’s Way by Kay Hooper.
    Parts of The Mad Miss Mathley by Michelle Martin, though that is more slapstick than conversational.

  • Mark
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    (cont.)
    These are all books I’ve read for the first time this year and found funnier than THG:
    Title; Genre+Author; Sub-genre; Year Pub.; Humor Score
    The Fix Up; (r) Fenske, Tawna; c; 2015; 4.5
    Nuts; (r) Clayton, Alice; c; 2015; 4
    The Undoing; (r) Laurenston, Shelly; pc; 2016; 4
    Playing by the Greek’s Rules; (r) Morgan, Sarah; cc; 2015; 4
    Because of Miss Bridgerton; (r) Quinn, Julia; h:G; 2016; 4
    Betting Hearts; (r) Tenorio, Dee; c; 2006; 4
    Twice Upon a Road Trip; (ssr) Stacey, Shannon; ra; 2005; 4
    Dukes Prefer Blondes; (r) Chase, Loretta; rh; 2016; 3.5
    Grin and Beard It; (r) Reid, Penny; c; 2016; 3.5
    The Nobinata Gambit; (r) Roberts, Val; sf; 2014; 3.5
    Wolf Tracks; (ssr) Arend, Vivian; pc; 2010; 3.5
    When Good Earls Go Bad; (ssr) Frampton, Megan; h:V; 2015; 3.5
    Indirect Lines; (r) Bell, Dana Marie; pc; 2015; 3
    The Friend Zone; (r) Callihan, Kristen; c/na; 2015; 3
    When a Scot Ties the Knot; (r) Dare, Tessa; rh; 2015; 3
    Dark Deeds; (r) Diener, Michelle; sfr; 2016; 3
    The Hang Up; (r) Fenske, Tawna; c; 2016; 3
    Run to You; (r) Gibson, Rachel; c; 2013; 3
    Santa Viking; (r) Hill, Sandra; me; 2012; 3
    The Study of Seduction; (r) Jeffries, Sabrina; rh; 2016; 3
    Just This Once; (r) Jensen, Trish; c; 1998; 3
    Taming the Beast; (r) King, Lucy; c; 2015; 3
    The Curse of Lord Stanstead; (r) Marlowe, Mia; rh/p; 2015; 3
    Artistic License; (r) Pierson, Elle; c; 2004; 3
    Ninja at First Sight; (r) Reid, Penny; c; 2015; 3
    The Valmont Contingency; (r) Roberts, Val; sfr; 2012; 3
    Open Mike at Club Bebop; (r) Roberts, Val; sfr; 2014; 3
    Blade’s Edge; (r) Roberts, Val; sfr; 2009; 3
    Runaway Vampire; (r) Sands, Lynsay; pc; 2016; 3
    Taste for Trouble; (r) Sey, Susan; c; 2013; 3
    Second Chance Summer; (r) Shalvis, Jill; c; 2015; 3
    My Kind of Wonderful; (r) Shalvis, Jill; c; 2015; 3
    Nobody But You; (r) Shalvis, Jill; c; 2016; 3
    The Virgin’s Revenge; (r) Tenorio, Dee; c; 2012; 3
    Rocked by Love; (r) Warren, Christine; pc; 2016; 3
    Best Man . . . with Benefits; (r) Warren, Nancy; cc; 2015; 3
    A Viking for Christmas; (sr) Hill, Sandra; c; 2012; 3
    Wolf Signs; (ssr) Arend, Vivian; pc; 2009; 3
    Wolf Nip; (ssr) Arend, Vivian; pc; 2013; 3
    Lord Dashwood Missed Out; (ssr) Dare, Tessa; rh; 2015; 3
    Two Week Turnaround; (ssr) Lee, Geneva; c; 2015; 3

  • Lil
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    I have been reading Anna Lee Huber’s As Death Draws Near, and I’m not sure I’m going to be able to finish it. I’ve read her earlier books and really liked them. This has all the virtues of the earlier books—good characterization, strong plot, good historical background—but all the Irish characters keep saying dis and dat for this and that. Admittedly I have a low tolerance for phonetic misspellings for dialect and accents—just tell me someone speaks with a mild or strong brogue and I can hear it in the dialogue. But this is driving me crazy. Plus, every time i see dis and dat I am transported back to a Stepin Fetchit comedy.

  • Blackjack
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    Grin and Beard It, Penny Reid (C) – This is the second book in the Winston Bros. series and follows the romance of the eldest of the six brothers, Jethro, as he falls in love with a movie star recently arrived in the small Tennessee town to film a popular movie. It has many of the hallmarks of Reid’s writing, including very likable and relatable characters, and in this case, the strong family ties that keep six brothers living not only in the same small town but in the same family homestead. I liked Jethro’s brothers, especially Cletus and Billy, who both offer promising stories of their own in the near future. The main couple, Jethro and Sienna, however, did not excite me overly much here. Sienna is supposed to be a very funny woman and famous comedic actress, but the humor didn’t especially work for me in this novel.

    I have to admit too that I don’t typically enjoy romances when one of the main characters is a celebrity, and this book reminds me of many of the reasons why I dislike this plot. Sienna is so famous that her celebrity status produces too much conflict for the main characters to overcome without numerous misunderstandings and subsequent break-ups. Just when she and Jethro resolve one issue, another one crops up. By the end of the book and the final near break-up, I no longer felt invested in the romance. I do find it believable that such conflicts would logically occur, but I just don’t enjoy stories where the power dynamic is so skewed in favor of one person over another. Sienna is not just an actress, she is an A-list global celebrity, which only heightens the problem for her to be in a relationship with a non-celebrity. Jethro also is not just a non-celebrity because instead he is a former bad boy “hillbilly” known more for carjacking and hanging with the local badass motorcycle gang. It was mildly interesting that Jethro hires a crisis manager to help redeem him in the public eye so that he can have a future with Sienna, but this storyline is not sufficiently developed. It’s more of a “love conquers all” kind of message by the end, which felt a bit weak.

    All in all, I got tired of the conflicts that kept erupting. I didn’t really ever find the heroine very appealing. Jethro was fine though a bit bland as the hero. He was so keen to run away from his risque past that he turned himself into a dud.

    I never read the first Winston brother story in the Knitting in the Series books and so I’m still at a loss to understand what the heck is going on with the beards? Why are all of the brothers bearded? I find this odd, and not in a cute way in which I think readers are meant to interpret it. Facial hair is not really my thing though and so perhaps for some readers, this is sexy.

    Cletus’s story is up next this fall and it looks good from the short chapter and blurb I’ve read. I like Penny Reid and am hopeful that this series will pick up for me. If not, her Elements series continues in 2017 and I really enjoyed Elements of Chemistry.

    • RichMissTallant
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      I read the first book in this series and I’m sorry but I can’t get past the names. Usually character names only bother me if I have a negative association with that name or if it’s a historical the the name is an anachronism but the brothers here…. it’s just so unsexy to me 🙁

      • Blackjack
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        I know what you mean! I think the hillbilly names, the Appalachian setting and all the bearded men are supposed to be unique and folksy, but it’s hard to work past it in a romance. I don’t know even know if I could name a dog “Cletus” and pull it off. Something about this series is not working for me yet.

  • Blackjack
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    Unlocked, Courtney Milan (A-) – Hard to believe that I still have unread Milan’s given that she’s a favorite for me, but I still have a sizable backlist of her books which I parse out every few months to keep me going until her next new release. What a joy then to read Unlocked for the first time and find it so very good. I wasn’t quite sure where this one fit in with the Turner series, though Mark Turner makes a brief appearance at a ball, but otherwise it reads very much as a stand-alone.

    Social bullying is the primary theme in this novella, and it’s a theme Milan tackles later and quite well in the full-length novel. The Heiress Effect. I find bullying such a worthy theme in a novel, historical or contemporary, as it crosses over and translates well to contemporary audiences. The heroine here, Lady Elaine, in her first season out in society, becomes the object of admiration (or lust, more appropriately) of a titled young man named Evan Carlston, Evan finds Elaine lovely and somewhat remote and in an effort to get her attention, he teases her. The teasing makes her notice him, but it unfortunately garners the attention of others who find it rewarding to make a stranger an object of mockery. Milan’s theorizing about bullying centers around the idea that people are inherently insecure and hurt others to avoid getting hurt, and the social milieu of high society balls provides the perfect setting to separate humans into predators and prey. Evan quickly relishes the attention he gets as a predator and is initially rewarded by capturing Elaine’s attention as well. But while his barbs get laughs, they hurt Elaine deeply. To his credit, once he sees what his insults do to her, he tries to stop and to stop others. The damage is alas done. The novella actually starts with Evan returning to society after a lengthy self-imposed absence. He is reformed and rightfully ashamed of the young man he used to be.

    Much of the story therefore examines forgiveness and reparations. Can Elaine let go of the past and accept Evan’s remorse? Can she heal and develop self-esteem? I loved Elaine and thoroughly enjoyed reading of her internal pain and attempts to put herself out in society over and over even when confronted with some of the worst of humanity. I don’t know if I ever really could though accept Evan’s reformation, and I’m not sure if that is my failing or the author’s, though I suspect it’s mine. Milan does a wonderful job of depicting a genuinely kind man who is willing to work very hard to win Elaine over. Some of his sacrifices are definitely swoon-worthy. My problem with the book though is that I continued right to the end to doubt the premise of bullying or the believability that bullies change. Authors that write about reformed rakes can win me over, but there is something so ugly about what Evan did to the heroine that I really struggled to get past it, even though the happiness they achieve by the end feels worthy.

  • RichMissTallant
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    A Duke to Remember by Kelly Bowen – I gave this 5 stars on GoodReads. I didn’t want to put this book down! It’s even better than the first book in this series, which I greatly enjoyed. The hero is pretty beta with a heartbreaking background. And I loved Elise, the heroine. She’s had an unusual upbringing and has an unusual profession, which is always a treat in a historical romance. The chemistry between the two leads is so good and I really wanted to SWOON during some parts of this. Highly recommend. I can’t wait for the next one.

    • Blackjack
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      So glad you posted this. I bought A Duke to Remember after reading a rave review here a few weeks ago. Looking forward to it!

  • tigz
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    I’d recommend any Kelly Bowen title! Excellent new historical author.

  • Katariina
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    I read Kerrigan Byrne’s The Highwayman and The Hunter this summer and she is now one of my favorite authors. I loved these books. This week I’ll be starting the third book in the series, The Highlander. Her next book won’t be out until next year 🙁

  • Beecali
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    I had a chance to read two new releases First Star I See Tonight by SEP and First Comes Love by Giffin.

    Although both were worthy books, I didn’t find that magic that I had hoped would happen in these summer reads.

    I was expecting more humor with SEP and perhaps more closure within the ending of Giffin’s novel.

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