Catch My Breath: Lynn Montagano

Catch My Breath: HarperImpulse Contemporary Romance


Catch My Breath: Lynn Montagano
Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews

Well..WOW! Lynn’s début novel is certainly a cracker. I really got pulled into the story, angry at Alistair so much that sometimes I was wanting Lia to SCREAM at him “Stop being a jerk!!” He was so loving one moment then- off like a light switch, cold, blank-faced and unfeeling. Poor Lia, she deserved better…Of course as time goes on we see there’s more to him that that, he’s got some demons from his past that make him behave this way, but Lia too has her share of problems, yet tries hard not to let them impact upon their relationship – she doesn’t always succeed but at least she shares with him. When he has problems he just shuts her out, and that she can’t deal with. Rightly so, a relationship is a two person process, it can’t function if just one is taking part.
I’m sure this book is going to get comments that it’s very reminiscent of FsoG. It’s inevitable there’s overlap in some books, there’s only so many ways one can write a romance, and only so many excuses for bad behaviours. I feel though that yes I did get a fifty feeling, but that Lynn has put her own stamp on the story, swung it round and made it her own book, and given a new slant to parts. There’s a myriad of novels following that hero/heroine with a tortured past theme, and some are good some not so, this one for me works well.
I was so angry at Alistair part of the time and yet felt for him too. I loved Lia, loved her independence, and that she wasn’t a simpering vapid heroine, but a strong lady who’d worked and struggled to overcome and get out of a relationship where she was under severe stress. That takes guts especially when the man is as powerful as her ex. I have to feel I like the main characters, that I can laugh and cry with them, and these two were perfect for me.
It ends with a HEA – but I just feel that there’s enough problems encountered that aren’t really solved, just solved for now, and that there’s potential for more from Lia and Alistair – that they will continue to have problems, that the exes on both sides won’t give up that easily, and that both of them still have work to do before they can be totally happy together. I feel they’ve really got a happy for now, and that another book about them would make me feel more confident about them having a happy ever after :-) Some books get strung out when they could be a stand alone, this one is the reverse, it’s a good standalone but I feel it could still deliver more. Hope so anyway, and I’ve asked Lynn if there’s more planned. I’ll edit my review when I have a response if there is more to come from these two….
Its priced at £2.48 for 260 pages.
Stars: loved it – four and a half. I’d have gone five except I feel they need a bit more work before they get a solid HEA.
ARC received via Netgalley

Before We Fall. The Beautifully Broken Series: Book 3. Courtney Cole

Before We Fall (Beautifully Broken)


Before We Fall. The Beautifully Broken Series: Book 3. Courtney Cole

Review from Jeannie Zelos Book Reviews.
I loved the first in this series If You Stay but hadn’t read the second book, then I saw this one and knowing I love Courtney’s writing style I requested it. What I didn’t realise is that though each book is a standalone complete romance, they are linked in that the characters are related or friends, and they crossover in the different books. So having loved this one I really need to read book two – its a series that will definitely join my keepers file for re reading.
I’m a great fan of contemporary romance but it needs to have that something extra, something that lifts it from a bog standard girl meets boys – they live HEA. The same way that some food is described as having Umami – that indefinable extra flavour that lifts food far above average tasting. Courtney’s writing does that – she writes a romance thats different, peopled with great characters that have flaws, big problems that affect their emotions and stop them finding happiness. People that we meet everyday, real people. They get by in life rather than living and enjoying it, and then the hero/heroine comes along, the one person that can see beyond the surly, difficult outer shell to the person insde. She writes the tension between them initially so well too – I could feel Dominics pain, his avoidance of anything that could touch his raw emotions, and as for Jacey – she seemed an insecure, slightly brittle person initially, and yet she had the strength she and Dominic needed to sort through the problems surrounding both their pasts, and to move forward to a happy future.
Thats the thing about romance novels – we know the characters will get there, its the journey they take that makes or breaks the book. Courney makes that journey a surprise, we don’t know what’s going to be revealed or how the characters will react. What I do know having read her work is whatever form it takes it will be a book I’ll enjoy. I need high emotions, tantalising sensuality in any sex scenes, and a plot thats unpredictable. Courtney gives all of those and more, to produce a novel thats perfect for readers of contemporary romance who want something more than a standard sweet HEA book.
Its priced at £4.49/$7.15 and though I don’t have length info the previous two were 352 and 384 pages and this feels a similar length. I love the way longer novels allow characters to be really fleshed out so we understand more about their actions and motivations.
Stars: loved it – five :)

ARC supplied via Netgalley

Rocked, Lost in Oblivion Series book one, Cari Quinn & Taryn Elliott.

Rocked (Lost in Oblivion)


Rocked, Lost in Oblivion Series book one, Cari Quinn & Taryn Elliott.
Review from Jeannie Zelos book review.

I loved the prequel to this series, Seduced, and though this book can be read as a standalone I think readers will understand the band dynamics better if they’ve first read Seduced. It explains so much about how they started and the problems they faced.
Anyway – Its Deak, Deacon, in this book who’s main character. He’s always the steady man of the band, the sensible one who checks contracts, liaises with promoters, finds them places to play. At the start of this book they’ve just been signed up for a tour, as the opening band for another group, and the promoters have given them a manager Gordo, who takes over all the things Deacon used to do. He’s still the peacemaker in the band though, the glue that holds them together and Mr Dependable. He’s feeling frustrated at losing his mediator role to Gordo and using punishing workouts to get rid of his excess energy. At 6ft 5on the extra muscles he’s gained make him one Big Boy. He doesn’t really get into the girls/groupie thing as the others do, but when he sees Harper, new chef with Food Riot he’s entranced. She’s a hold on his psyche right from the start, but she’s aloof, polite but distant. Brought up on the road since she was 12 with her roadie parents she’s seen and done the musician scene, and is now concentrating on her career. Deacon eventually wears her down though, and they embark on a sensual, heady, torrid romance. The tour is for six weeks though, and she’s so determined that will be the end for them, as she could be working anywhere at the drop of a hat. Deacon though feels she’s his Forever person, and tries to get her to see they could be so much more than just a fling, but with two opposing careers, meaning time on the road in different places it’s a tough job.
Its a fabulous read, I felt I was there on the road with the band, twittering, scavenger hunting, watching the gigs, and it was so real to me. I loved that we saw the niggles, the little bits as well as the overall picture. That we really got to know the band members, warts and all. When things began to go wrong – wow I was shocked! How could that happen…but it made for a great drama in the book, and all good romances need drama and hiccups to be interesting, not just happy, happy, happy.
Its a terrific realistic read, and long – hurrah! Its priced at just 99p for a massive 474 pages, well worth a punt. I look forward to more from the band.
Stars: Five, has to be :-)
ARC supplied by Netgalley.

Kissing Drake, Butterfly Girls, Jenna Dales


Kissing Drake, Butterfly Girls, Jenna Dales
Review from Jeannie Zelos Book reviews.
New to me author = I’m never quite sure how I’m going to gel with the writing style. This was fun though, easy to read, well set out and with real feeling people in it. Its mainly focussed around Drake and Paige, though there are nods to other island inhabitants in the story. Paige sees Drake, knows he’s here for just a short while, and decides that as he’s looking at her like he wants her, a one night fling will be perfect. Give BOB a rest… She doesn’t get opportunity often with there being so few people living on the island so its Carpe Diem!
They have some shuffling about before they both take the plunge, Drake is surprised by her forwardness. “I’m a sure thing” she tells him at one point :) Then there’s fireworks, star-bursts and lots of hot, heavy erotic sex. That Drake may be staid on the outside but in bed he’s something else :) In between bouts of sex they talk, though he’s very closed about why he’s there, and they both start to look at the lives they lead. Is staying on the island the rest of her life what Paige really wants? She’s always thought so, lost her fiancé as she wouldn’t move, but talking to Drake she wonders if maybe its just that she’s settled, reading books about other people travelling, having adventures, finding romance, as a substitute for what she really wants to do but daren’t take the plunge. She loves the island but maybe she could spread her wings a bit too. Then there’s Drake, dragged himself up from very poor childhood to rich businessman, but on the way has he lost sight of what life means? Talking to Paige about his travels he realises that although he’s been to many paradise places, all he’s seen of them is the inside of a hotel room…They both need to do some inner searching. Things conspire to force Drake to stay longer on the island, and the purpose of his visit comes out. From then on its Islanders against Drake, and just when he and Paige were finding out how good they were together. Can they get past that when they are so diametrically opposed.
Its a shortish read at just 123 ( goodreads info) pages but its well put together and is a fun way to lose some time on a paradise island.
Stars: Four, enjoyable read but not one I’d re read.
ARC supplied by Netgalley

Liam: Branded Brothers, Raen Smith


Liam: Branded Brothers, Raen Smith
Review from jeannie zelos book reviews
An author new to me plus the first book in a new series = fun :-) This is a romantic suspense, and certainly has some sensual, steamy heat in it. I love that first sizzle of attraction, and when Liam said “ Charla, I’m going to kiss you now” I melted….He’s such a conundrum, he’s tattooed, a big, well built man, Bounty Hunter, ex Services and owns a bar – sounds like a real toughie and yet when it comes to Charla he’s so gentle, so careful and protective of her. They made a perfect match.
Poor Charla, used and abused by her ex, brought up by an alcoholic mum, with a series of weird boyfriends she’s learned that the only person she can rely on is herself. She’s slow to trust and yet something about Liam draws her in. She’s charged with giving him a letter after the patient she’s been living with dies. And it brings along some big changes, some adventure and mysteries and some very real dangers to her and Liam.
There’s so much comes out once that letter opens, and its hard to review without giving too much away. Lets stick at telling that the letter says Liam has brothers, and once he and Charla get to tracking them down more secrets get revealed, leading to more danger for them all. I’m expecting the next books will be about the other brothers? – I hope so, and I hope we get to see more of Charla and Liam.
Its a great mix of mystery and suspense, wrapped up in a couple that find romance and have some sexy and sensual encounters! It’s priced at £2.45 for 196 pages.
Stars: Four. I enjoyed this, and found the suspense/romance mix was just right for me.
ARC supplied via Netgalley

Mansfield Lark, Katie Oliver

Mansfield Lark, Katie Oliver
Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews
I really expected to like this book, it sounded a lot like Katie Fforde’s writing, and I’ve several of those. Sadly though it just didn’t work for me :-( Writing was fine, its just the way the story played out and the characters that felt wrong to me.
Its perfectly well written and I’m sure there are loads of 4 and 5 star reviews. As ever we all like different things though thankfully, and that’s what gives us such a wide range of choices in novels. For me I just found the number of characters confusing – I had to keep going back to see who was with who, how they connected and what part of the story they belonged in. Then I need to feel a kind of empathy with the main characters, so I’m happy or sad for them, and for some reason I just didn’t really care about these two at all. There were what ought to have been some funny moments and lots of characters that could have been interesting, but it all seemed just too clichéd to me….just me maybe, perhaps as its been some time since I’ve read one like this my tastes have changed? Who knows, books that appeal at certain times in our lives can be ones that don’t work at others. I used to be a real thriller addict, Dan Brown, James Patterson Dick Francis, and yet now these leave me cold so maybe that’s my problem with this book.
So sadly a bad choice on my part, the novel is fine, just not to my taste. I think its a style you either love or don’t, its very distinct and I’m sure appeals to those who love light, comedic romance.
Stars: two, sad as it’s hard work writing and I hate to put anyone down but this just didn’t cut it for me.
ARC supplied via Netgalley

Dating Cary Grant, Emelle Gamble

Dating Cary Grant


Dating Cary Grant, Emelle Gamble
Review from jeannie zelos book reviews
I loved Emelle’s Secret Sister, and was keen to read this book Once again she delivered more than just the simplistic novel the description suggests. You’d think this book was a simple, easy to read romantic comedy, and it is but its also much much more, making the reader think about what’s truly important in a marriage and how best to achieve it.
I loved both Tracy and Mike, they’re like many people, so in love and yet also devoted to their careers and jobs and in this case the two just won’t merge. They married thinking time would sort it, Tracy tried commuting at weekends and that didn’t work, so she moved to living full time with Mike, and staying with friends etc when work commitments were too strong. That hasn’t worked either, with her being overtired and still seeing little of Mike as he’s been so tied up with Mayoral problems. Feeling she comes last in his priorities she signs a six month lease on a place in the city….hoping they can work things out. Mike isn’t happy, he cant see why she can’t live at home and commute, and maybe do less hours. He says he’ll cut back too but she doesn’t think he will follow through, she knows how he cant bear to leave a problem. She can’t see why he lets everything, people, town problems, even stray animals, take priority over her, or even why they can’t move to the city and he commute….I couldn’t see how on earth they could solve this, and yet it was clear despite the weeks spent away from each other, the missed dates, the angry phone calls that they were deeply in love. As her mum says at one point – Mike is still the person she married. It was his selflessness, determination to do the best for people, lack of selfishness that drew her to him….and then too it was probably her independence and strength that drew him to her…they’re like magnets which won’t connect when aligned wrongly. There’s attraction and yet a strong force keeping them apart.
Along the search for answers Tracy meets the delightful Philip; Cary Grant lookalike. She’s banged her head recently in a collision with a Katherine Hepburn lookalike too and wonders if that’s why she’s seeing him…but he eats and drinks so how on earth can she be imagining him….They were a great duo, and like Tracy I’ve a love for the old movie stars…Cary Grant, David Niven, Gregory Peck. They were such gentlemen. Him Indoors is a great old-film addict so though I don’t watch them very often I know bits of them well…they sneak into my concentration when I’m reading :-) Tracy tells Philip about her marriage, but is still attracted to him..add in some work problems for her, and the awful reality TV show that’s making a programme about Mike, he thinks its about Mayoral duties and they’ll show that side of his work. Poor boy, he really is a good man, an innocent, naïve, because of course what they want is dirt and Mike and Tracy’s problems are gold to them. They follow Tracy around recording all her despair and conversations with friends..I hate reality TV in the same way as Tracy does…its a nightmare for her and at first Mike thinks she’s exaggerating.
Its a fun read, full of humour and yet it has these moments when its really bitter-sweet, when her conversations with Philip make her miss Mike, when she talks to her friend Posey and everything seems so impossible. You just want there to be an answer, and yet feel there isn’t one. Right to the end I was still wondering how on earth they could make it work without one of them giving up everything, and of course that would bring resentment in time. It takes collective help and advice from the ghosts, from the friends and family, and from some unexpected sources before it all works out.
Its a fun read, and one I enjoyed. Its a lot more than just the light surface read it appears, and makes the reader think about what life priorities really are.
Stars: Four and a half.
ARC supplied via Netgalley

Grow a Sustainable Diet. Cindy Conner.

Grow a Sustainable Diet: Planning and Growing to Feed Ourselves and the Earth


Grow a Sustainable Diet. Cindy Conner.
Review from Jeannie Zelos Book reviews.
I was brought up with the idea that if we didn’t grow it we didn’t eat it, with a few exceptions of course. We had a fairly large council house garden, and dad had two allotments nearby, so as well as fruit and veg, we had chickens, rabbits, turkeys ( that was the xmas spending money!) and goats – I still hate the smell of goats milk! So home grown to me seems a natural way of life, and even though we’ve had some tiny gardens I’ve always tried to grow what I can. I know quite a lot about it by now but there’s always room for more info so this book caught my eye.
Its a useful, practical book. Packed with simple ideas to maximise the use of space, how to plan ahead to avoid feast or famine gluts, how to preserve what you can in the most efficient way. My mum always used to make jams, chutneys, preserve fruits and tomatoes in kilner jars ( we had a Rayburn always on the go for heating and hot water), salted runner beans in huge crocks, and preserved eggs in Isinglass solution. In US – this book is written in US terms – although you seem to go for canning rather than kilner jars we use in UK, it seems a similar premise. Then there’s a section on animal husbandry – useful for those with larger gardens or allotments as we had. Its not just a how to gardening book though, but one where Cindy looks at nutritional needs and advises how to get the calories and vitamins etc we need in our diet. There are some things simply not practical to grow – one thing that caught my eye was oils, and Cindy calculated just how much land would be taken up to produce enough oil. As she says if land is short that space is better taken with something more efficient.
I really like the approach she takes about balance…too often the gardening approach is grow it, and spray to kill weeds and insects. Of course that kills beneficial ones too and there are better approaches such as companion planting, and simply looking over crops and picking off bugs as much as is practical. Cindy shows how gradually if you work to attract birds, frogs etc and grow flowing plants to attract insects an ecosystem comes into play, where by and large problems take care of themselves. Composting too is another thing I’m very keen on and which is covered – Cindy looks at the garden in a holistic way, thinking about the circular approach where every effect has another side to it, and makes best use of this.
Overall a great book, packed with practical info and balances with an in-depth, scientific look at what’s needed for a healthy diet. Though its most practical if you have a large space its so interesting and informative that I’d recommend it to anyone interested in growing even small amounts of their own food.
Stars: five – fabulous, informative read.
ARC supplied by Netgalley.

Hard Time, Cara McKenna.

Hard Time


Hard Time, Cara McKenna.
Review from Jeannie Zelos Book reviews.
So, what to expect from this book? Well, I had no idea. How could someone write a romance when one party is in prison? How could/would that work? Would it just be conducted by letters? All questions I had, but didn’t know the answer to – so I was intrigued to see what Cara would do, and if I would like it.
Well, a great surprise, I didn’t really feel convinced this would work and yet – I Loved it – a beautiful and inspiring read. From the moment Annie and Eric set eyes on each other there’s a searing, visceral attraction that bounces out from the story. Tension the reader can feel. Cara sets that up so well, they felt real and I was excited and nervous along with them. Annie – she’s lovely, been hurt terribly by her ex, and he was her only experience of boyfriends, but she’d managed to leave him and his mental and emotional abuse, however it left her scarred and scared, and unwilling to even contemplate another relationship. Now several years on she starts her new role as the prison outreach librarian, and seeing Eric has made her feel something she thought was dead, an attraction to another person. She feels safe imagining a time when its her and Eric together, after all she knows he’s in prison for years so it can’t really happen. That’s further than she’s done for a long while, so a huge step for her, and then Eric takes a chance and writes to her. Something neither are supposed to do. His letter touches her and stirs her emotions, and they embark on a surreptitious correspondence, that quickly devolves into erotic, sexual writings. Annie is both scared and excited. How can this man, this prisoner, who must have done something bad, make her feel this way just with looks and words on paper? Eric wasn’t expecting to meet someone this way either, but Annie has him hooked, he’ll take any risk just to feel close to her.
Then….parole. Something he wasn’t expecting and hadn’t told Annie might happen. Can they work in real life. Will she want to? Will they be the same or was the prison experience all they can have? Lots of questions to answer, and all I can say without spoiling it is this was beautiful. I felt so cross with Annie sometimes for not taking an risk, but also understood her fears, and why she held back. Eric, what a man, and eventually we find out why he was in prison, well part of it. Can Annie let that go or not, he’s scared she won’t and yet desperately hoping she will. There’s a lot for them to work at, and though the sex between them is sensational, hot, erotic and well written, that didn’t make up for the problems facing them. Eric said he’d do the same again in the same circumstances, and that’s what Annie is afraid might happen – and that she’d lose him for good. They need to work hard to make a go of their relationship, and the problems and possible consequences made me thing “what would I do? /How would I react?” and I love that sort of read, where I can put myself in the other persons place and feel its all real.
So, a fabulous read, one to mull over and think about how and why people act as they do, that life isn’t good/bad, black/white but a myriad of incidences in between. Its priced at £2.42 for 310 pages.
Stars: Four and a half, unusual and surprising read.
ARC supplied by Netgalley

The Playboy’s Dark Secret, Madeline Ash

The Playboy’s Dark Secret, Madeline Ash
Review from Jeannie Zelos Book reviews.
An interesting romance this one. Its not a heart stopping race, but a slow burn, push and pull one. Dean and Rafi are attracted right from the start, but he’s given up on romance, and concentrating on the vineyard, and she’s decided no relationships, just quick, live for now, enjoyment as she’s her baby to care for.
They’re both escaping from troubled pasts, and I felt for them both. The title is a bit of a misnomer and Dean really isn’t in Playboy mode any more, but a hard-working and supportive brother to Rue. I loved the background story, the vineyard setting and the day to day grape harvesting. It gave a feeling of camaraderie. I’m glad too that looking after a baby wasn’t glossed over as so often happens, that we saw how tired Rafi was, how difficult her life had become.
Despite their convictions though it seems they just can’t keep apart, and one night leaves Rafi wanting more but failing to persuade Dean that his demons, whatever he’s hiding from, aren’t enough to stop them from being together. It becomes a stalemate with them both wanting more, but only Rafi willing to try. She’s got her demons too but she keeps quiet about them, and though they’ve been affecting her badly slowly she’s coming to terms with them. Dean though – he’s still running. When what he was hiding did come out I had a clue from some things that had happened, but can honestly say its the first time I’ve seen it in a story. Well done to Madeline, it’s something that actually happens too often, and yet still gets glossed over, made fun of. The reaction of the police sadly is something that seems all too real still, and so people like Dean keep it hidden. Cryptic I know :) but I just want to say how good it was too see problems take a new angle, without giving it away. .
Stars: Four, enjoyable read but not one I’d re read.
ARC supplied by Netgalley News

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