Archive | May 2015

Sweet Agony, Charlotte Stein

Sweet Agony, Charlotte Stein
Genre: Erotic Romance, Women’s Fiction
Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews
I’ve read some cracking novels by Charlotte but to prove what I’m always saying – not all books suit all readers – this one was a fail for me…

Its hot, some very spicy and erotic scenes, almost crude at times but within the setting it worked. Sadly though I just couldn’t warm to the characters or the story. Its really just Cyrian and Molly in the whole book, and though we get their backstory released in snippets through the novel, for me it doesn’t add up to the people they’ve become. Their interactions seemed false and forced to me. Molly has some very funny snark remarks, but her actions – nope, I just couldn’t see any of that happening. Likewise Cyrian, I couldn’t add the person he was with the actions he did, and neither seemed to fit with what I knew of him from his  past. Usually I can make the connection, see why people act as they do, why they’ve become a certain way but here I just felt I was lost in a disconnection. I found I just couldn’t involve or interest myself in their story.
Sorry – I’m sure this read with be loved by many, as I’ve loved some of Charlotte’s past books but this one just doesn’t work for me.
Stars: two, one that didn’t work for me
ARC provided by Netgalley and publisher

How to Catch a (Rock) Star, A Story of Sex, Love and Rock ‘n’ Roll, Gabrielle Aquilina

How to Catch a (Rock) Star, A Story of Sex, Love and Rock ‘n’ Roll, Gabrielle Aquilina
Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews
Genre:  Romance,
I found this a little improbable to be honest….things seem to happen very slickly and the record company are far too accommodating….first they take on Lillie, an unknown, into a band already on tour, and then when things go wrong they just go with the flow, so to speak. In real life contracts are all and no matter what personal problems the companies what their pound of flesh, death or rehab clinics seem to be the only things that let one escape a contract…
So Lillie and Jed are having fun, touring, romancing, doing all the things new lovers do, but Lillie suspects he’s hiding something. It’s not obvious but sometimes he’s subtlety evasive about things, turning away from questions over his past, getting texts that he’s quiet about, and the explanations he gives don’t really ring true…Lillie’s had problems with that before when a lover turned out to be married, and she’s not going that route again. She can’t see Jed doing that though – he knows how she feels, she’s told him about her ex and how she felt.
The band members are fun too but we didn’t really see that much of them and how they interacted, or the mechanics of the rock star band on tour stuff, a few snippets of concerts, a brief hotel stay – I like the day to day detail to add flavour and drama. TBH it was all very light and fluffy, very surface based story, and nothing really happens  until the big reveal. That was perfect, and the way the drama played out from then on raised this to a four for me from a good but not great three. I like the way the sadness was drawn out, covered months and a decent portion of the book. It gave a depth to the drama. So often its a two page flick, but not here, its several chapters and has some great moments.
It wasn’t the kind of Rock Star book I was expecting and I found the first half at least to be pleasant enough but a little dull and predictable, but the drama part when it came was perfect for me. I could really feel the heartbreak from both of them. Jessica was a great “bad” character – I do love one that’s frankly just selfish, amoral and cruel! I’d have liked to have seen more of her, that type of character deserves a major role IMO and can make or break a book.
Its a fun read, but not one I’d read again.

Stars: Four, a one off bit of fun.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

While we waited Tammy Falkner.


While we waited Tammy Falkner.
Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews
Genre: Romance.
I read a lot of books and sometimes I just don’t keep track of new releases in series. That’s what happened here, I adored – a five star read – Tall, Tatted and Tempting, it was for me a perfect mix of hot, sensual romance, drama and a solid story wrapping it up. I did intend to look for more as they came out but….too many other books got in the way, so when I saw this one was part of the series I jumped at the chance to review it.
There’s a lot of links to characters and stories in past books, but this is a standalone so I thought it would be fine for me. From that viewpoint it was, although there were hints of previous things it didn’t stop me from being able to keep up with the story. I loved the characters, felt for poor Finn with her mum being mentally disturbed, it had given her an awful childhood and it made sense of why she didn’t do anything but one night stands. The foster parents were absolute gems, so solid in their love for the girls, so un-judgemental, they were just there to catch them when they fell and encourage them forward again. Sadly though it was a sweet, tender romance it lacked any real drama and I need that. I felt it was sort of one paced, all very sweet, and moving forward, with Finn and Tag quickly falling in love. It just seemed to be all too smooth, too slick, too happy, happy, happy, and I need some hiccups, some bumps in the road that fill me with emotion, and I just didn’t get it. I enjoyed reading this but its a one off only for me.
Stars: Three, I needed more drama, but for those who like a sweet, undemanding romance it’s perfect
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

Embrace, The Affair Series, book 2, S. Layne


Embrace, The Affair Series, book 2, S. Layne
Review from Jeannie Zelos Book reviews.
Genre: Erotica, Romance
I loved part one, full of action and drama but somehow part two has lost that magic for me. Laurie is looking for answers, reeling from everything that was dropped on her in book one, where her private and business lives collided and collapsed. James refuses to give up on her, but she’s still head over heels with Liam. He seems to be promising more one moment but in the next saying he’s happy as they are…running hot and cold again really. That’s what put me off in the first book, even though he’s clearly an incredibly charismatic man. It makes me wonder just why he’s like this. What happened to him? Sadly we don’t get any answers to that – maybe in another book? I feel he’s got such potential if the right person could unravel all the things holding him back. He doesn’t seem to thing there’s a problem though, so until then he’ll carry on as he has been. Its going to be a lonely time for him at some point in his future.
James; he really made up for so much here, though at times like Laurie I was – what the heck is he annoyed about – he’s the one who cheated, had someone else’s hands all over him when Laurie thought everything was perfect. He’s so jealous of Liam, even though he acknowledges he’s at fault. He still can’t seem to tell Laurie what was wrong though, but she discovers though he wouldn’t go for counselling when she suggested it he now is seeing a counsellor. That’s a huge step in the right direction and finally it seems as if he realizes they need to work out what went wrong somehow if he is to persuade her to try again. At the moment though she’s still tied up with Liam, though reeling from the fact he’s been planning for a long time with her father to take over the business she works for. She feels betrayed by her dad, who knows she doesn’t want to work for him, betrayed by Liam because he knew the day after they met who she was but didn’t tell her, and of course there’s still the shock of Becky – her former best friend – and James affair…Poor Laurie.
Then another big shock comes, which takes precedence over everything else. It’s coming up to decision time, Liam or James, or nobody and a fresh start perhaps. James wants her back for good, as his wife, Liam just wants her for as long as they are having fun and won’t commit to more, but his attraction for her is magnetic. What will she do? That’s a great question and a hard decision to take, especially when she has this latest drama to contend with.
Somehow this book didn’t work so well for me, its still a good read but after all the drama of last time it felt a little flat. I got to like James more, especially once he recognised he needed to do more than just say sorry and send flowers. Liam, he’s still Mr Sexy and a real lust magnet for Laurie, but he seems colder, not the same man we first met and as I said I’m curious as to why. I’m also still a bit confused as to why Laurie keeps seeing him, knowing how he acted, and that he isn’t interested in a future with her. Does she think maybe he’ll change, or is it just that she needed to feel attractive, sexy, wanted again after James betrayal? She just doesn’t feel like the kind of lady who’d do flings…
Stars: Four, a neat finish but lost the magnetism of book one for me.
ARC supplied by Netgalley.

The Duke and the Domina, Jenn LeBlanc

The Duke and the Domina, Jenn LeBlanc
Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews
Genre: Romance, Erotica
This was a fun read, something a bit different for me from my usual genres, and that keeps reading fresh for me. It’s an interesting premise, time travel whether intended or accidental, and throws up so many issues.
Poor Lulu found herself back in a time when women were definitely subjugated to men, and for a strong character like her it was a harsh awakening. Luckily she’s intelligent enough once she realises its not all a dream, to follow Gray’s lead. He’s got a friend, Gideon, who’s married to Francine who claims to have been thrown back in time the same way – he’s always felt maybe she’s a bit touched, lovely lady though she is, as it’s something very hard to believe in. Now though – well, he’s seeing it from a different perspective.
The history side isn’t very strong, really just (IMO) used as a back up as to why Lulu had to follow Gray’s decisions, and to give the need for secrecy and danger to the erotica side of the story. It revolves mostly around Gray and Lulu, with smaller parts from his loyal friend/manservant Rakshan and friends Gideon and Francine. There are occasional forays outside the house, but most of the story seems to take place within it, and it could have been today or a hundred years back….what does feature from the history though is that Lulu could get sent to Bedlam for her time travel claims, and Gray imprisoned for his masochistic needs. He’s learned to hide them, only Rakshan knows of them though there’s indication that another friend also has suspicions, but as he’s keeping secrets himself he says nothing.
As the time is so harsh on those who have needs outside the narrow conventional box, Gray has learned to hide his inclinations, but of course as a Domina Lulu can spot them, even though he’s hiding everything. When she indicated she can help him he’s shocked, scared and draws back. That upsets her, so far he’s been a perfect gentleman, given so much help for her even though her story is unbelievable, he’s married her ( though he also has reasons for that), hidden her til she’s ready, introduced Francine who’s been a huge help and in general given her all the protection he can. Now all the progress they seemed to make has taken a step back – a huge one, with him threatening to send her to one of his isolated country homes. He’s just scared and thankfully his friends and Rakshan persuade him she’s not a danger, she means well and to give her a little trust. He’s learned through painful experience from a very young age to keep secrets and opening up doesn’t come easily. They both need to help and trust each other if they are to be happy together , but its hard , given they’re both risking so much and could lose their liberty.
Its a fun read, learning who they really are, watching the trust develop and seeing how they finally realise how well they complement each other sexually.
Stars: Four, its a fun light read.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

The Twelve Kingdoms: The Talon of the Hawk, Jeffe Kennedy

The Twelve Kingdoms: The Talon of the Hawk, Jeffe Kennedy
Genre:  Romance, Fantasy/Sci-fi.
Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews
So, home stretch now but some fierce battles to be fought first. I’ve been enjoying this trilogy, not as much magic as Rogue but enough to keep things interesting, and to take the story in the right directions. I adored Rogue – the books and the character – and its hard to follow up that with another trilogy.
This trio has a very different feel to it – its got the magic connection, but focuses on the princesses as individuals. How they’ve changed – or my perception of them has changed – from the first novel. There they seemed so innocent in many ways, Ami, sweet and pretty but kind of vacuous in personality and focussed on the fairy-tale ending for princesses, Andi, tomboy, very uninterested in political machinations, just wanting to go out in the countryside and be with her beloved animals, and Ursula the Heir, brought up to reign after her King, and to put everyone and everything above her own needs. Now Ami has gained strength and a new love, and become someone who knows she has a place and a duty to uphold, Andi has found love with King Rafe and is fiercely protective of her people and Ursula – she’s trying her best to do what her King commands as ever, but its become tougher with his weird actions.
I’ve enjoyed the growth in the girls, love the way they’ve changed and found love. The story now brings the three back together and they find they can finally recognise each others strengths and support each other as their mother hoped. Her messages to them have been very cryptic and mystical, and have led them very close to disaster at times. The trouble with trying to foretell the future and help her daughters is that its fluid, it changes so she could only give them tools to fight what she could see. Poor Ursula, she has a hard row to hoe here, struggling with her duty when it goes against  her Kings commands. Fortunately the leader of the mercenaries her father has purchased proves to be a great source of support – being Ursula though can she learn to trust him, his help is essential but she’s un-used to support, she’s always been the support for others, needing none herself. this time though if they are to retrieve Ami’s baby daughter and save the Kingdoms they need to work closely and rely on each other for support.
There are some real shocks revealed finally, and I so felt for Ursula when certain things come out. The witch – its easy to see what she wants and yet their father seems entranced by her- something that proves all too true, and of course witchcraft and witches are hard enemies to have. This one is a particularly difficult enemy, having roots in Dark magic…they need all the help their mother has left them if peace is to reign.

Stars: Four, a fun, magical read
ARC provided by Netgalley and publishers

Color Me Crazy, Carol Pavliska

Color Me Crazy, Carol Pavliska

Genre: Romance

Review from Jeannie Zelos Book reviews.

I love rock star romance when its like this, a step up from NA.  Olivia Cummings and Kylie Scott being two authors that use older characters, not teens, and for older readers like me that’s great. I’m always looking for more works that run in a similar style but recently have had a disappointing run. Not finding anything else by Carol I hadn’t any idea what to expect,and after my recent let downs wasn’t hoping for too much. Its a fabulous read though, full of characters that feel real, have flaws, act just like we do, has a terrific storyline that kept me gripped and is well worth reading if you enjoy novels by the above authors IMO – its not quite as erotic,but a fantastic and romantic plot-line.

Julian – ah poor Julian, he’s one of those with such talent but using it comes at huge cost to him via the Synaesthesia that he has to such extremes, no odd pretty colours or scents, he gets bombarded with them to the degree that he gets almost catatonic. I so felt for him, he’s such a lovely man and coping with this and the pressures fame brought him nearly killed him. Then he meets his sister’s friend Cleo, and somehow he ends up not only employing her but opening up his home and letting her stay there….

Cleo – She’s great and such a klutz. I know how that feels, I’ve done so many things she has, where things just seem to fall over as soon as we look at them, and objects develop a life of their own. My mum used to say I was the only person she knew that would fall UP the stairs ( I fell down them often too!) Cleo comes from the “perfect” family and feels like an oddball, pressured to conform and yet with a strong streak of individuality, along with a weakness for musicians that got her into her current scrape, jobless and homeless, and how she ends up with Julian.

They spark off each other, fit together perfectly and are exactly what the other needs even though they are opposite – Julian like control, order, tidiness, his clothes are colour coded and arranged in order and even sticky notes are set out in order and pattern,and then Cleo bursts in to his life, and she is Chaos personified. Always wearing things that look like she’s thrown on the first thing to hand, clumsy and creating mess wherever she stands or looks it seems. Yet they work and I loved it when Julian finally recognised that. There was some amazing humour and sarcasm in this novel that lifted up some of the darker times, and kept a perfect balance.

Then he’s off on tour and the pressures get to him. Cleo is so worried for him, and wonders if all they’ve got will fall apart. I just loved this part, the drama, the touring and rock star pressures. It felt like I was there with them. The band muscle, Sheik, was a terrific character and really helped Julian. I thought he was an important presence in the story. When things went wrong it was just as I love, a real drama, a tear-jerking moment that lasted for ages, chapters, beautifully drawn out. There were times when I thought they were going to work out, then some other misunderstandings would crop up and it was all so realistic, that when it finally worked I was so happy for them. There’s a short epilogue that was fabulous for wrapping up any lingering questions. I loved this read, and it will join the keepers files.

Stars: Five, a great story, full of emotion, drama and realism. I’ll be happy to read more from Carol.

ARC supplied by Netgalley.

Delivered Fast, Annabeth Albert

Delivered Fast, Annabeth Albert

Review from Jeannie Zelos Book reviews.

Genre: GLBT, Romance

This is part of a connected series, featuring different characters in each book, but as a stand alone novel. I hadn’t read any of the others but found that wasn’t a problem, everything was made clear and it read easily.

Chris, Mr Grumpy. He gave up his dreams to follow those of his ex, an older man. At the time it didn’t seem like a sacrifice, everything was fun and went well until they opened a second shop and fell apart years later. I like Chris, he’s loyal, a good boss, hard working and even though he comes across as a bit gruff and  irritable he clearly has a very loyal staff who care for him. Life for him seems to just be existing from day to day, working, sleeping, eating and fun and frivolity seem lost. He’s only 35 but seems much older, kind of resigned to his life and I felt so sorry for him. He deserved love – his ex is a jerk, and Chris needs someone new, someone better.

Then Lance drops in to his life. There’s an attraction there straightway but Chris thinks nothing can come of it – he’s so much younger at 22. Lance is determined though – he wants Chris and has that dogged, never give up outlook. Somehow he wears Chris down and they have one hot and sensual time together  – that Lance then stretches to a second and then to a friends with benefits relationship. He wants more but Chris can’t, or rather won’t, do that. He’s scared, he doesn’t want the heartbreak that comes from a breakup he sees as inevitable, the age gap figures large with him, and knowing Lance is off to uni hundreds of miles way he’ll only agree to the summer as the FWB affair. Its odd isn’t it this hook we have about age gaps? Usually we see the concern being older woman younger man, other way round it seems to get applauded ….In a gay relationship though it varies. I can see much of Chris concerns stem from how he now regrets giving up so much for his ex, and he worries that in time Lance could feel the same. Plus of course Lance has had this dream of going to that uni for so long, and has worked so hard. Chris is making decisions for him though, not recognising that Lance is an adult too and capable of making his own mind up. Its a huge block for them, and creates a real problem.

The decision needs to be made, and the way it looks it seems as if both are going to get hurt…can they find a way forward, a way to keep together? They really work so well as a couple and complement each other. Can Chris stop comparing Lance to himself at a younger age, and what went wrong? Can Lance persuade Chris that he knows his own mind, that one persons mistake doesn’t mean another will make the same error? Its a compelling read, and with real problems and concerns that faces many couples whatever their sexual orientation. There’s a good balance of sex to story here too – enough to give some heat, some spice, but not to dominate the story. That’s how I enjoy books best.

Stars: Four, a fun read with very realistic feeling characters and issues.

ARC supplied by Netgalley.


The Alchemist’s Daughter, (Bianca Goddard Mysteries 1), by Mary Lawrence


The Alchemist’s Daughter, (Bianca Goddard Mysteries 1), by Mary Lawrence
Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews
Genre: Women’s literature, Historical fiction
I like the Tudor period in history, and this books brings it vividly to live. Not the richness of the Courts and moneyed classes, but the dark, grimy underbelly of those grubbing and scrabbling to survive daily in the poverty that most of the London lived in. I was disappointed that though Bianca is the daughter in the title, she abhorred the word alchemy, and thus there was little actual reference to it in the novel itself. I was expecting more, and its a subject that was very prevalent in “science” at the time and that fascinates me and was one of the draws to this novel. Still, it’s an interesting read, brings the time period to life vividly and is at times stomach churning ( the rats)….
I loved Bianca, a very strong, forthright character. John wants to marry her but she feels she can’t fit in to the Wife and Mother mould, without leaving her beloved experiments. That’s a part of who she is, though I feel John accepts that and wouldn’t expect her to drop everything. Never the less for now she’s still single, and poor John is still waiting – that’s about the extent of their romance in this book. Maybe later ones will take it further? There are some fabulous characters here, well drawn and who feel very true to the period. The story bases around the death of Bianca’s friend, and how Bianca needs to solve who killed her as she faces being hanged for the murder. It takes us on a winding tale, bringing in more murders and mysteries, blackmailing and bribery, smuggling and skulduggery– that seems to have been a way of life in this period, and takes us on a twisted journey before all is revealed.
Like other reviewers I wondered if I’d missed some kind of prequel featuring Bianca’s parents and the poisoning accusation, but there isn’t one even though this incident is referred to many times, and is one of the lynchpins of Bianca’s hate of the word Alchemy. Which brings us to that subject and how disappointed I was that there wasn’t more than simply that dislike of hers in the book. I’d have loved a bit more description about her remedies too – but that’s just a personal thing, I find mediaeval remedies fascinating, dead mice tied in a scarf for a sore throat, mercury to cure syphilis – that kind of weirdness! The mystery itself is fairly simple, but takes us on quite a twisting journey before we get to the true story. I’m still a bit puzzled even after finishing by the Rat Man who is at the beginning and the end….
Stars: Four, a fun read and a vivid portrayal of everyday life for the underclasses in this period of history.
ARC supplied by publishers

Truly, Madly, Greekly, Mandy Baggot

Truly, Madly, Greekly, Mandy Baggot
Genre:   Romance, Women’s fiction
Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews.
I adore Mandy’s books, and by coincidence have just finished rereading the fabulous Excess All Areas. I was really looking forward to this one, back on the wonderful Greek Islands, sun, sand, sex – all the elements for a great read. Sadly though this one just didn’t work for me, the first of Mandy’s novels that I’ve read that I didn’t fall in love with.
So, what went wrong for me? Well Ellen, for a serious character who runs her life by a Plan she made a stupid mistake, and I didn’t feel that her character would have done that. I liked her as a person, its just the actions didn’t fit the character I saw. Lacey, her sister, was a real irritation, selfish, self absorbed and spoiled – you can tell I didn’t like her can’t you 😉 though right at the very end she did redeem herself. I liked the entertainment gang, especially Dasha, he was a treat! Yan seemed a nice guy, but not the hero type I’ve come to expect, kind of an understated man. He was solid at the end, but I didn’t feel that connection between him and Ellen, that magical sizzle that I need if I’m to believe they’re in love after a week….
The secrets too…just didn’t ring true for me, and I just felt they were a bit OTT. Still, as always that’s just me. This is a good read, a fun, well written romance, but it’s not the five star one I’ve come to expect from Mandy now – she’s set the bar high, and of course not every book will make it for every reader. Though this one doesn’t for me I’m sure it will for many others.
Stars: Three, an OK read only for me.
ARC provided by Netgalley and publishers

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