Staged, Olivia Cunning.
Way back when I got my first kindle I found a free book I liked the sound of. It was Brian and Myra’s story, the first Sinners book. I loved it and went on to buy the rest. I wasn’t so taken with the Sole Regret novels, liked them but as one off reads. I was so keen to read Exodus End books, having met Dare several times in Sinners novels. I’m still keen to read his story, he’s a solid, quiet, unassuming guy, and I think his novel will be special.
Still, we’re book three into Exodus End, and I’d expected to devour this story. I’ll be honest, Steve wasn’t one of my favourite characters, but we see some suprising depth to him here. At first though I really disliked him, sulky and sullen, whining because his best friend’s band has been replaced as opener, and the way he treats ladies….yep, he was misogynistic. Speaking of his best friend, Zach is a great character, and though he’s not involved in any of the bands so far, I think he has a great story in him.
I really wanted to like this story, but it took a while before events of last two books came to me, its been a while and several hundred novels since I read them. As well as the characters we already know, there are quite a few new ones. I did find this and some of the plot-lines a bit confusing, and at times the story was hard to believe, mainly the Tamara/Bianca/Susan aspect.
I felt too, that in this book the sex became the story – its fine for many readers but not me. In other novels the sex has always been to the fore, these are very erotic novels after all, but balanced with solid plots. Here the main plot seemed pretty thin, much of it only developing in last part of the book, and at a pace that felt rushed. I felt there were pages and pages and pages of sex, interspersed with a little bit of story and then yet more sex. To be honest after a while its gets boring, there’s only so many times I want to read about sex, only so many ways to write it without it becoming repetitive. Here it became just mechanics rather then sensual. There were several times when I felt the sex and the conversations about sex became OTT, frankly reading about Roux not being hungry any more because she’d had too much come, ( no I just can’t use the US expression…) and whether it was vegetarian or not was more than I wanted to read. Likewise his request for her to text him everything – even when she was “having a dump”. Really, that’s a good line – or lines, it came up more than once- for the story??
Then there’s That event, which I felt was incredibly serious, sadly happens too often, but between brushing it off or demanding it be reported I felt it wasn’t really given enough time, not the treatment it deserved. When copious pages have been devoted to sex surely a few more could have been spared for this. Its a horrific thing to happen, would it have been treated this way if it happened to a female? I felt it really let down its importance that it was just added almost as a quick filler plot.
Stars: Two. Overall this book wasn’t a success for me. I still love the others and want to read Dare’s story, but this one just didn’t cut it.
ARC via Netgalley and publishers
The Girl in the Corner, Amanda Prowse
Genre: , Women’s Fiction, General Fiction (Adult)
Usual grump – Women’s fiction as a genre, just why? Men read all sorts of stories too….why alienate them?
Anyway, I enjoy Amanda’s books, she writes tales that make me think “what would I do in that situation”, has characters and settings that feel very real.
I didn’t enjoy this as much as some of her other stories though, the settings and characters were terrific as usual, but the story – I felt that for so much of the book I was waiting, waiting for something to happen, waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it wasn’t until very near the end that it did. I’d have liked a bit more of what happens then, instead of the brief opening into Rae’s future we see.
Its a tale that happens way to often, wife ( or husband) thinks everything is wonderful, and then finds out that their adored and loyal partner has been playing away…what next? Carry on regardless for the sake of the family? Try to forgive and move forward? Or divorce/separation? I always think, how could I trust that person again? That kind of betrayal is so hard to get past, I’m not sure I could forgive and move on. I think that would be a hard barrier for me, the one I can’t forget.
Can Rae move forward though? And in what direction? She really needed to talk it through but Dolly is Howard’s sister, and though they’ve been best friends for so many years, Dolly has divided loyalties. It meant Rae looking at her life introspectively, looking at not just her and Howard’s relationship, but all the family ties, at what happened to the Rae who wanted to be someone but instead became the person supporting everyone else. Its got a huge potential for looking at what could happen if she decided differently, and I so felt for her in her having to decide without the soundboard of Dolly to help her.
Of course nothing happens in isolation and looking back we can see where the routes for different paths were going, where what one person perceives isn’t necessarily the truth – a great example of that was Rae’s view of her childhood and family relationships, where what she thought of events and decisions was how it seemed to her, but not what her parents intended her to feel. That sounds tangled, you’ll need to read the story to understand I think…What Rae sees as her parents not supporting her ambition to be a chef turns out to be her parents fearing that way led to hard work and no reward for Rae, whereas they wanted what they saw as the best for her, that she was clever enough to work in an office, the pinnacle of achievement in their eyes. She thinks they’re unsupportive, that her sister is the one they support, but what they intend is to make Rae be the best she can, and office work in their eyes is something their clever daughter can aspire to. As adults looking back we can see that what we though wasn’t necessarily what was intended.
Like I said, I enjoyed this story, but didn’t love it, its not one I’d reread. I just felt for so much of the story I was waiting for the next section, that so much of the book covered the same ground while Rae mulled over what had happened and what she should do – I’m sure that’s very real, what people in her situation do but for me it wasn’t very entertaining reading.
Stars: Three, another very real story from Amanda but not one of my favourites. Still, that’s just my opinion and I can see that its a perfect story for other readers.
ARC via Netgalley and publishers
Christmas Secrets by the Sea, Jane Lovering
Genre: Humour, romance
I’ve read several of Jane’s stories now, and she has a style of writing I really like. I’m cautious when a book is styled as “humour” as so many are just that forced, OTT that I simply just don’t like them. Jane’s humour though is typical British subtle humour.
The romance is muted, a side part of the overall story but was very satisfying and the perfect ending.
I loved the characters, Tansy, clearly escaping from something – but what? It takes the full length of the book for everything to come out, little bits are released along the story but you always know she’s holding back something more. Likewise Davin, he’s so obnoxious to begin then as we get to know the real man, the secrets of his past I really liked him. He’s got a real sensitivity about him, something that isn’t apparent until we get to know him.
The rest of the cast are great too, Karen from the cafe, Rory, a typical teen, written so well. Everything’s a drama at that age, its all highs or all down dramas….I loved his openness and how close he was to his mum, how protective of her he was. Even Larch had me warming to her by the end. People really aren’t as they first seem all the while, some just need you to get to know them, in real life and in books.
Then there’s the real stars of the story Brian and Seelie, they were so perfect. They brought a lightness into more serious moments, brought people together, brought in some gentle humour ( Brian and the ever present sardines and seaweed) and provided real emotional support to Davin and Tansy, something they both really needed.
Its a wonderful story, fully of whimsy and gentle humour, a terrific story and wonderful characters, all wrapped up in a very satisfying ending.
Stars: Five, a fantastic read, one that kept me gripped, sniggering one moment and emotional the next.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
A Recipe for Disaster, Belinda Missen
Genre: Romance, women’s fiction
Well, usual pet hate- Women’s fiction – why? Why not general fiction – men read romance too!
I liked the sound of this, light and easy, perfect for a lazy summer day reading. Its a second chance romance too and I’m a sucker for those.
It started well, and I was soon hooked into Lucy’s world, enjoying her anger about school meals, irritation with her boyfriend and loved meeting her family and friends. Lucy is like one of us, ordinary person with ordinary troubles. I felt I knew her, there are Lucys on every street.
I felt for her when things went wrong at work, and when she started with The Cakes, I was happy for her but…I didn’t really understand why someone so focused on ambition gave up everything. Reading later its as if her and Oliver have plans to conquer the culinary world, and then he’s gone and she just gives up. Maybe it was that boring thing that affects many of our choices, money. She certainly struggled with paying bills and keeping her house going.
I think that struggle is one reason I really didn’t take to Oliver – he left, became rich and famous and yet didn’t think of Lucy, love of his life at one time, struggling financially. Didn’t think – “oh, I really ought to keep up my part of the bills” and drop her some cash. Its not like he hasn’t got it.
I didn’t really warm to him for a long while, didn’t really feel the connection between him and Lucy, and as the story went on I even got irritated at Lucy at times. She let the big things go and nit picked at small ones, and her reactions sometimes got a bit annoying.
I did like Oliver more as I got to know him, did see he loved Lucy, and her him, but somehow I wasn’t convinced that they could work things out. They were still angry at each other, and they’d said some pretty horrible things. At times too it seemed like Lucy was a convenient wife for Oliver, something to give him a stable background and I kept wondering, did he really want her back or was this another step in his ambition? Lucy was so angry and upset still that I felt there needed to be way more trust, way more talking and understanding if they had a chance of working it out.
Sometimes love isn’t enough, and for me I just felt by the end these two were still on a rocky grounding.
Stars: I’m rating this a three star read, it was a decent read but I felt they needed more work for that HEA I want in a romance.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers
Discovering You, Indigo Book 1, Kate McBrien
Genre: erotica, romance
I loved this book, and am looking forward to books two and three. Book two is actually out now and three due soon. It amazed me that this is a debut novel, its very easy to read where debuts can feel disjointed and run out of steam at times. Everyone has to begin somewhere and writing is like any other skill, improves with practice. Reading this though, I would have believed Kate has been writing for years.
I love and hate trilogies, love that they really allow the reader to get to know the characters, that the length allows for plots to be fully explored. Hate because here I am engrossed in a story and it ends….and I’ve ages to wait for more. Some authors take 12-18 months between episodes and I’ve lost that impetus, that enjoyment by the time I pick up the story again. I usually wait til all three parts are out so I can read right through and avoid that, but fortunately book two in this trilogy is out now and book three should be along very soon.
I loved Lucy, hated her mum and thought her dad was weak. I love characters I can feel strongly about, really love/hate and there’s lots in this book. Sleazy Edward, I can see he’s got a big part to come- well, feels that way to me. I think Justin’s manager has something suspicious about him too, and of course there’s Rachel, Justin’s ex-without-dating, kind of fling when it suits them relationship, hot sex and nothing more. On his side anyway, though I think Rachel was looking for more. Not love, but the fame attached to being with him. All those promise some great fireworks to come.
When I saw the past present connection I thought maybe it was going to be along the lines of Susanna Kearsely’s stories. I’ve read loads of those, but so far the past is kept to a few small snippets at the beginning and end, and of course odd feelings and dreams both the leads have. I have the feeling the next book might show us more of the past, so far the connection is quite tenuous, but that doesn’t detract from a great story.
If you#’re not an erotica fan don’t be put off by the genre classification, there is plenty of heat, of steam here but its perfect within the story, nothing off-putting. So many “erotica” reads are just pages and pages of repetitive sex held together by a thin plot. This book is very far from that so I’d class it as a steamy romance rather than erotica.
Stars: five, a cracking debut read and I look forward to next two books.
Arc via netgalley and publishers
Legacy of Danger, Jillian David
Genre: fantasy and paranormal, romance
I’m not convinced by this book, I was eager to know more of Vaughn but I didn’t really get a sense of the man he was and what seemed a huge issue between the brothers in the previous books, keeping him away from the ranch and family, just seemed to be passed over quickly now he’s back.
We’re ;earning more about the family’s strange gifts and the dangerous entity seeking them out but its still very much a real danger but from very vague sources, and the timing isn’t yet fixed. Its pretty clear its all coming to a head soon but I’m not sure I’m invested enough in the story to continue. Its well written and easy to read but I just feel a disconnect between the story and me, a personal issue. Possibly its down to current personal circumstances, and I’d feel differently at a later date, its not a story I in any way disliked, just that for now I found myself putting it aside several times, something I rarely do.
Stars: Three, a well written story but one that didn’t work for me right now.
Arc via ebook discovery.
Heart of Ice (Alice Worth Book 3) Kindle Edition
by Lisa Edmond
Genre:Fantasy and sci-fi, romance
I was lucky enough to get a copy of heart of Malice via Netgalley and loved it. Found Heart of fire on KU, and now this one. Its a fantasy read with a solid strand of romance, and which also delivered an exiting plot, ongoing over the series but with each book being complete in itself. You could read this without the earlier ones but you’ll get far more if you know the back story, the characters and the motivations. So many fantasy romance are just an OTT romance, with a thinly veiled fantasy backing it, so I love to find gems like this, books that are solid five star reads.
The stories revolve around Alice and her past, and her job as a PI. She’s in a romance with Sean, alpha of the local Werewolves, and as she isn’t a shifter, that’s not gone down well with all of them. In addition there’s local vampire Charles. He’s pretty high in Vampire structures and has made no secret of his attraction to Alice. He seems to think her being with Sean will wear off, and of course Vampires have the luxury of time. And are masters of manipulation – but so is Alice, her past has taught her to watch for all catches. Thinking in 12D she calls it at one point, and that sums it up perfectly.
There’s a section towards the end of the book when I was afraid of what was going to happen, really got drawn in to the story and wasn’t certain how Alice could sort things to everyone’s satisfaction. The route she took – wow, what a risk, but I understood perfectly why she didn’t take the easier way, and oddly I also understood Sean’s seemingly ungrateful reaction. Sometimes when we have a big scare it does make us react in what seems an odd way, does throw up all sorts of odd feelings. That unpredictability is what makes this series a must read for me, Lisa really keeps me thinking, working out what may or may not happen, where the story is going, what Alice is going to do and how….and all that I love to read. Its a story to get lost in, lose the real world for a few hours, and one I’ll re-read right through when all the books are out.
There’s secrets all round here, with characters knowing bits about each other but not the whole story, links to past events and books, and a whole new investigation for Alice which of course brings her into danger, and adds to the overall story arc. Its another tautly written adventure for readers who want more than thin plots and grunting alpha males who spend the greater part of the book having sex…..there’s sex here but it fits the story, doesn’t dominate it as in so many fantasy reads.
Stars: Five, a fantastic read, a great addition to the series and a welcome change from so much fantasy romance dross that dominates the best sellers.
Copy via KU.
For Once in My Life, Colleen Coleman
Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction
Ah no, not another Women’s Fiction 😦 I hate the way we rule out 50% of potential readers with this discriminatory genre…
Having got that out – well, a wonderful read. I adored Lily and her friends. After being left at the alter she’s thrown herself into her job, really enjoys the way the local paper she writes for is part of the community. She’s battling the Editor though, when his predecessor left he’s been onto cost cutting articles and increasing ads and they are losing readers rapidly.
Then after a quick visit from HQ she’s made editor temporarily, with a short time to bring sales up or the paper closes. HQ have left Christopher to help her, he wants a bigger role in the company and this is his test, help Lily pull things up. They come up with Buckley’s Bucket List, something adrenaline filled and adventurous Lily will do each week.
I love the way the team all pull together, clearly they think well of Lily but until now none of them really act as a unit, as friends, but now Lily has them so full of ideas and enthusiasm. I enjoyed seeing how the List become profitable for the paper, not just from the column increasing readers, but from the tie ins with local producers bringing sponsorship and ads, and how now the staff felt now that their input was valued they had such great ideas.
It was also interesting to see how a paper bases news outlet coped with becoming a paper and online outlet, and how lily relished the interaction with readers. It all felt very real.
Of course Chris is gorgeous, good looking, ambitious and kind, he really helps Lily when she’s struggling with the challenges, and the attraction between them was very real feeling. Still, the course of True Love n’eer did run smooth and all that, and just when things are going well they suddenly aren’t.
There are some great characters here, some fabulous humour and an enjoyable romance. Its as much about learning ourselves as romance though, with Lily’s situation with her work, family and love life paralleling that of so many of us. I’d have liked a stronger side of romance but that’s just me….its a perfect story as it is, though it’s unlikely to be a re-reader for me because of the subtle romance angle.
Stars: five, a wonderful, fun filled story.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers
A Village Affair, Julie Houston
I loved Julie’s earlier books, and we get sneak updates into some of those characters in this new story, but if you haven’t read them its not a problem, each book stands alone and can be enjoyed on its own.
Poor Cassie, what a denouement, what a way to find out your husband and best friend have been deceiving her, but it was wonderful to read. I could just imagine the frisson of shock rippling through the attendees, all dressed in their finery, getting a treat in gossip that will enthrall them for days.
Of course its happens right before Cassie starts her new job, and then that suddenly gets upgraded too. And what about her kids, just teens, how is she to tell them. As almost always happen the woman gets left with sorting the fallout 😦
Its a fabulous read, I really think Julie’s writing gets better (for me ) with each new book. This one has the perfect mix of heavy, intense drama and lighter moments. Some of the things the kids say – I used to help at a local primary school and kids really do tell teachers and helpers everything, and of course the parents sometimes need handling with kid gloves, convinced Their kids do no wrong its All Them Others…..The staff too were a great mix, and I really liked the cleaner, especially when she tells Cassie she’s studying English and Cassie replies in an unintentionally patronising way, and gets told said cleaner has a degree in astro-physics in her home country, and its Only the English language she needs help with….I think we can all be guilty of making mistakes like that, having been both a cleaner and cleaning manager in the past myself, I know how others can see them as “just” the cleaner, and ignore that jobs like that are still very important. Someone is needed to do them. Classes can be joined if a teacher is away, but if the cleaner is away and there’s no-one to clean the loos…..that’s when schools get closed. Surprisingly important job cleaning 😉
I loved the mix of Cassie’s personal life, the effect on the kids, her friends, Mark’s family ( a nice battenburg – definitely the answer to infidelity…) and their joint friends. Its difficult when couples split, often the lose friends too just when they need them and we see how hard it is for some of Cassie’s friends to deal with.
She’s got a wonderful family, steadfast granddad Norman, of Norman’s Meadow, a slightly batty but very intense mum, goth daughter and studious son Tom, who has secrets of his own. Oh I so felt for him, a real Rock and Hard Place scenario.
Somehow with the help of friends and family Cassie pulls through, and becomes stronger, more her own person. Dealing with the threat of a huge housing development which she and others feel would ruin the village she’s fighting hard against it. The developer though and his son, Xavier, bring out more issues for Cassie to deal with and its a deliciously complicated tangle of events and emotions. Of course I’m a romance reader, and books with some element of romance work best for me and I wasn’t disappointed here, I loved that part.
Reaching the end reminded me so much of a song my kids loved when they were pre-teens (and of course really didn’t know what it was all about!) “Shame and Scandal”, it really was like reading a book version of the story, and probably something that plays out more often than we imagine.
Stars: Five, a perfect escapist read, with both drama and romance, and lighter parts to lift the whole feel of the novel.
ARC supplied by netgalley and publishers
The Last Duke, 1797 Club, Jess Michaels
Genre: Historical Fiction, Romance
I’m an eclectic reader, and sometimes I lie to dip back to gentler times – well, real life wasn’t gentler but historical romance tends to be. I was really hoping I’d Like this story because Jess has written so many novels and I’d not read any of them. There’s nothing like the discovery of a new-to-you author who has loads of novels you can then devour. Sadly though this was an easy read, it wasn’t one that gripped me.
The characters are pleasant, the storyline pretty simple, lady goes down in station when fortunes fall, becomes governess and falls in love with a duke. I liked meeting the other dukes and duchesses, and maybe if I’;d read their stories I’d have got more from this. Maybe…
I tend to want a bit more drama and angst, even in historical reads, more tension and problems that I can’t see how to work out. This was just a well written, simple, easy tale full of gentle problems, a developing romance and a sweet ending. I could see from the start how it was going to end and while I don’t mind that – after all I constantly re-read favourites while knowing exactly what will happen – in this instance I just felt it was all too light and cute for me.
As always though the reminder, what I like and what you like aren’t necessarily the same. What doesn’t work for me about this story could be just what makes it perfect for you. I’ve devoured many novels others have rated one and two stars because they hate what I love. Horses for courses and all that.
Stars:Three, A well written story but one that just doesn’t excite me.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers