Sugar Rush, A Sugar Bowl Novel, Sawyer Bennett
I loved the first book – except that damn cliff-hanger though. That’s a personal bugbear, though one shared by many readers…Now in book two we’ve another sex laden story, full of drama and secrets that ends in – yes you’ve guessed it – another cliff-hanger 😦
Things seem to be going well now for Sela and Beck, after the misunderstandings and dramas of the end of the last book are sorted. They get closer, Sela tells him exactly what happened, and he tells her some family secrets too – which all have major repercussions in this story.
Beck wants revenge on JT for Sela, he isn’t happy with him over the recent past anyway, seeing some of the things he’s been doing, and now with Sela’s revelations he sees them in a different light. He is distraught, determined to get justice for Sela one way or another, and it brings him into some murky waters…
The secrets that come out play a huge part in moving the story forward, and some of it came as a real surprise to me, though once revealed of course it made sense. Beck needs to decide just how far he’ll take his pledge for justice, how he and JT can continue as business partners when his actions are threatening the Sugar Bowl. Beck finds it hard to even look at JT now he knows the truth about him, but he needs to play a good game though if he wants things to work out, there’s so much riding on the outcome.
Its another great instalment, not quite as riveting as the first book, and Sela’s actions just at the end had me gobsmacked. For an intelligent lady she does something that’s just plain stupid, and TBH that didn’t really fit for me. I think Sawyer could have found a more believable way of getting to that part of the story without making Sela choose such a stupid, foolhardy course of action. That brought the story down for me, lacked credibility 😦
Its still a great read of course, with Sawyer’s trademark sensual and seductive sex, wrapped up in plots that twist and turn revealing things that then lead on to more questions.
I do want the last part now though – I really struggle with the whole trilogy and cliff-hanger novels issue, I want to read all of the story all at once, not months apart. Still, that’s clearly the market so….
Stars: Four, a good story but Sela’s action at the end….
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher
Last in the St Bart’s series, and Emme has released it in serial via her blog. The full story is there, it’s a great read and free! Start here and find the rest in later posts on Emme’s blog.
Deja Vu, St Barts, Emme Cross.
Review from Jeannie Zelos book reviews
I’ve loved this series right from book one and have avidly devoured them, got lost in another world for hours reading them.
Emme’s brought us some riveting romance, spiced up with sensuality and full of dangerous dramatics.
Sven, I really wasn’t keen on him at first, the way he was “Lothario Larsen”, and I didn’t think he appreciated just what a gem Sunny was.
I’ve seen criticism about her, saying she’s weak, a Mary Sue type character, but I feel actually that’s wrong, she was a very strong lady. She didn’t chase after Sven when he wasn’t pulling his weight in their relationship in the early days, didn’t run away, didn’t whine to friends about the unfairness of it, she just moved back to St Bart’s, to where it suited her best, and waited for him to realise what he risked losing. He did, and from then on he was a different man.
There’s a piece in this book where Lennon is described, “He’s so like his mother. Don’t mistake kindness for weakness”.
That’s so true, and Sunny’s kindness is what some people see as weak. She just tried to see the best in people, was a natural glass half full person, and instead of being jealous and bitter, she deflected people and ended with them loving her. Given a glut of lemons she wouldn’t make lemonade, she’s make something like a refreshing Ginger and Lemon Sorbet. She was a person I’d love to emulate.
Anyway – she passed much of that on to Lennon, her open nature, her ability to get along with anyone, learn a language easily, along with her love of cooking. He’s made some terrific friends and learned so much from his travels its hard to believe he’s still in his early twenties.
He’s a great character, and though he’d got a bit jaded by the easy, plentiful sex he’d had on his travels he wasn’t looking for permanence. Then he meets Alex…
I loved her, such a natural person, found sudden fame after her fanfic went wild, and she’s kind of startled by it, not ready for the huge changes to her life it brings. (would anyone be?)
After she gets a dangerous stalker she needs to retreat until things are under control and she’s safe. Her publisher suggests St Bart’s, where security is good and they are used to fame.
She meets Lennon quite quickly, though they Do Not hit it off at first! That was good, showed her sharp side, and Lennon’s shortness, which wasn’t they way either were naturally, but like all of us real people sometimes we’re just not in the mood, and take it out on others, fairly or not. That made them feel so genuine.
Its something all Emme’s characters have, they are real people, with flaws, get things wrong, make mistakes and it adds that edge of authenticity I need in a story. I don’t want perfection and an easy romance, I want friction, drama, angst but also a HEA. It comes with sadness in this book too though – but it was needed.
I love that she’s older than Lennon, only a few years but its so rare to see romances this way round. No-one bats an eyelid at the older man, younger woman, even if there’s 15-20 years diff, but older woman – words like cougar get thrown around, along with the suggestion of desperation, shrivelling ovaries, man eater etc. Sad isn’t it?
Still, though she’s older in years she’s naive in so many ways, and Lennon with his background, his loss and his travelling seems older than his years, they balance each other perfectly.
I love the way the story unravels, and the addition of more drama from way back took me by surprise. That was so perfect though, really finished off the books, turned the story full circle.
Stars: Five, I thought the last book was a good end to the series, though it made me cry, this one does too but its perfect, a real joining full circle for the story.
ARC supplied by author
Wanting It All, A Naked Men Novel, Christi Barth
I hadn’t read the first book but that didn’t matter -this is a series of connected books, each a stand alone so that didn’t matter. I love those, it feels like meeting old friends and its great when you see how leads from earlier books are getting along together.
I liked the sound of the story and eagerly dived in. I was in the mood for a straightforward, uncomplicated romance and in a way that’s what I got.
I found it hard in some ways to accept the “naked men” part – yes, they’d been friends since the accident, and stayed true to each other but in to many ways they were like overgrown schoolboys still. I found Knox views on women as a bit misogynist. He outwardly valued them but his “no second helpings” stance, and the way he was so proud of himself for getting any woman he wanted was a bit jarring. Then he meets Madison.
I wanted to like her – I did like her, but her search for a husband really got old after a while, her insistence on not deviating from her Plan was irritating. She was as bad as Knox in some ways, he didn’t want repeat dates and treated ladies as disposable, she sees every man as potential husband, rather than looking at them as individuals.
The story was fun, the group of lads were great in how they supported each other, but at times Knox was too obknoxious for me ;-), shallow, uncaring – then he’d do something that came from the heart, and I saw a glimpse of the man the others loved and respected. Madison’s Plan, her intransigent view of not deviating from it at all, and her trying to make Knox fit into the image she visualised of the man she wanted seemed a recipe for disaster. You can’t change a person, love them for who they are not try to mould them into someone else.
I could see with both of them how the influences from each other mellowed their ideas and ways a lot, but I still wondered…were they really right for each other? I need to feel that leads are a match made in heaven so to speak, that they simply Must be together, and I didn’t get that with Knox and Madison.
Loved meeting the other characters too, and the idea of the podcasts, but though it was a fun read it made for an entertaining story, it wasn’t a can’t-put-down read for me. I’m hovering between a three/good read and a four/very good. All the elements were there for a four, the storyline was fun, and the lost/found brother intriguing, but somehow it all felt a little surface based, not much depth to it and thus not much real angsty drama and I do need that.
Stars: three, good storylines, but the magic wasn’t there for me.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher
Miss You, Kate Eberlen
Well, the romance in this book is brief, very brief and only covers the last few pages. As a novel though does that matter? Yes if you want the whole book to be about Tess, Gus and their romance, because its not. For me though it was still a great read.
I’m an eclectic reader so diverting off the romance path I expected was fine. What you do get in this book is a story that almost lives up to the motto “its better to travel than to arrive” The arrival was good, albeit very brief as I said earlier.
The real treasure of the book is the meandering way these two people keep meeting or nearly meeting – the Missing You from the title is very literal. Tess and Doll muse early in the book whether there is just one person for each of us, the real The One…. Somehow in this story its like there is Gus for Tess and vice versa, but it takes them a long, meandering journey, where they both grow and undergo so much before they finally find their way to each other.
Its full of snippets, of real incidents and characters, of how life isn’t a smooth run for most of us but a bumpy ride, of how things from our pasts can affect us for so long and shape how we behave. I loved Tess and Gus, Hope was a real star, Doll a wonderful person, so vivacious and full of life. The butterfly connection too – was it just co-incident or something more?
At the end we still don’t really know if life has a plan for each of us, if there really is just one person we need, whether things are predestined or is it all just chance, and would Tess and Gus have got together, stayed together even if they’d met and taken the chance with each other earlier in their lives? Who knows?
Among the light hearted parts of this there are some pretty serious issues, Hope and her problems, the families reactions, PTSD, how families cope with grief, parenting – how what we think we do it right and yet viewed from another perspective its very different. Its a book that made me smile, made me think and at times made me really sad.
I really enjoyed it and yet its not one I’d reread, its a one and done story for me.
Stars: Five, a romantic journey rather than a Romance Book.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher
All the Ugly and Wonderful Things, Bryn Greenwood
Genre: Literary Fiction.
Well, one thing puzzles me – this is described as a Debut book, and yet goodreads lists two earlier ones by Bryn?? Never-the-less its an incredible, thought provoking read, and surprisingly a beautiful romance IMO despite the circumstances.
I’ve seen comparisons to Tampa by Alissa Nutting, which I also enjoyed – as a story that made me think, made me look at the way society treats people, how a clever groomer manipulates children and even the story, to get the results they want. That definitely wasn’t romance for me, was very clearly abuse, and yet this one was a real love story for me despite the circumstances. Two very unique and individual novels but with similar themes, that play out so differently.
In Tampa the female teacher, married and in her twenties, grooms adolescent boys for her sexual benefit and once she’s done she drops them. She cares nothing for their feelings, its purely self gratification.
In contrast here Kellen is much older than Wavy but mentally young for his years, and Wavy is beyond mature from the harsh upbringing she’s had. It still doesn’t make things right, but its written in such a way that despite their ages they’re both such incredible characters that you can feel love, and actually sympathise with them. I really wanted things to work for them.
The only part I wasn’t really happy with was the ending, it just felt rushed after the rest of the book, and I felt I’d somehow missed a huge chunk of time with Wavy and Kellen, months were condensed into a couple of pages, where the events were very important to the story IMO and needed more.
So Wavy, she’s very young when we first meet her, drug addict, cuckoo mother, meth cooking, addicted, dealer father. Mum is obsessed with germs in food for Wavy and throws her meals in the bin, telling her about putting dirty things in her mouth, veers from “nice mama” to “nasty mama” in the blink of an eye, spends most of her time spaced out, and its left to Wavy to bring up her little brother. Her dad Liam doesn’t even live with them, but at the meth factory ranch down the road with various girlfriends, though is still married to her mum Val and visits for sex and to throw his weight around. Its a harsh upbringing, one where food is scarce, laundry is never done, and mostly there are strung out, addicted people round the home. One where seeing syringes and sex is all just everyday life for Wavy.
She reacts by not eating when people can see, scavenging rubbish bins later when no-one is around, or stealing food from neighbours in the early hours. She learns that one of the ways its best to be with Val is to say nothing so she doesn’t speak, hates being touched as she doesn’t know whether to expect a hug or a hit. You just feel so much for her.
In the early part of the book she’s living temporarily with Val’s sister and her family, but her issues cause so many problems there, and then when she returns she has a younger brother Donal, who she tries to look after. At eight she’s doing the housework, cooking and cleaning for Donal, and getting herself off to school. That doesn’t go well either – she’s odd and kids are cruel.
Then she meets Kellen, one of her dad’s go-to guys, a biker, gruff, scruffy and though he’s ( I think) around 22 he’s so much younger in many ways. He was brought up on the Indian reservation, and his family were always in trouble. He’s had a few scrapes but as he’s grown he’s tried hard to bring himself out of that place, to work, to get something better. He’s a mechanic and has a half share in a garage with the elderly owner, who seems something in him and helps him to make the most of it. He has his own house too, but the life as Liam’s hit man isn’t easy.
When he sees Wavy at first he doesn’t want anything to do with her, but seeing how awful her life is he slowly starts to help her. She’s entranced by the first person to treat her well, to listen to her despite the lack of words, to try to understand her and she does begin to talk to him when they’re along. Not much though, the bare minimum of words.
These two forge a really close friendship but from early on Wavy decides they’re going to marry, and she’s very set on getting her own way. She watches her mum, her dad and his girlfriends, and the other addicts always around – its not like she has a choice much of the time, they don’t care who sees them, and whatever they are doing when Liam feels horny. She’s like a little girl trying to emulate those girlfriends, trying to be grown up for Kellen, trying to make him love her.
Her parents don’t take her to school, ensure she has food, clothes, that school fees are paid etc, that’s all Kellen. And then That Happens…and things really take off!! Its harrowing in so many ways, you know its not right and yet Wavy isn’t like most teens, she’s had to grow up fast emotionally to cope and survive. Her aunt, Val’s sister steps in and boy – I so disliked her! She ostensibly wanted to “protect” Wavy, but I felt much of her actions and emotions came more from a place of guilt, from not doing more for her and Donal when she knew what kind of life they had, but wouldn’t push to take them in herself as Wavy caused such problems in her family when she had visited. She took the easy route and now feels guilty, pushing all the blame on to Kellen, ignoring all the good he did and how her sister and husband treated their children.
Its a story told from different points of view, Wavy, Kellen, Wavy’s cousin Amy, Amy’s sister Lesley and later Wavy’s room mate, and that gives us more of an insight into what they were thinking, and let us see other people’s reactions from different perspectives.
That’s really important in a story like this, that we look at issues from all angles and not just go with preconceived notions of what is right.
I loved the way it ended, but did feel that it was a bit rushed after the way the rest of the novel was so carefully drawn out, presented so we knew as much as possible. Its a great read, for me a romance even, despite their ages, and I would never have thought I could feel that way. Kellen didn’t intend to go so far, knew he needed to wait, but was so entranced by Wavy, and when she was set on a course she hated to be turned down and reacted in extreme ways, and he tried to prevent that when he could. It meant that so often he let her lead when he should have been turning her in a different direction, but I understood why he did, that it came from his heart, from a place of good intentions.
Stars: Five, an amazing, thought provoking story that just blew me away, kept me gripped wanted to see how things panned out, hoping, hoping and yet fearing the worst, it totally surprised me in my reactions
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher
Starting New, S.C. Wynne
Genre: Romance, LGBTQIA
Well, I liked the sound of this and it was a good read but…a few things detracted from it for me It felt a little superficial;. where plotlines opened up but never explored in any depth.
I liked both Francis and Randy, though did feel he and his parents were just that little bit too good to be true – maybe I’m just too much a cynic. I did like their reactions about Randy, that felt very real and helped with the up-to-now Pollyanna feel of them to me.
There’s a bit with Francis and Baxter that felt very much like part of the Riptide published Market Garden series – where Rolex is with Tristan and Jason ( could have got the names wrong there …) and the issues and punters reactions very similar. It felt real with Rolex, maybe because readers knew him a little better, whereas I didn’t feel Baxter would have reacted like that? Maybe he would, but I just didn’t get the sense he was that sort of guy.
I really felt for Francis, his background made that kind of lifestyle almost inevitable, its a sad trap to get caught in and I feel for anyone who’s trapped that way. I was so glad when Randy and his parents found him, and I did understand Francis scepticism about them and their intentions.
Like I said it was a good read, just not a great one for me. I just didn’t really feel I knew the characters very well, was a bit concerned about the reality of things, about the way Randy was so adamant early on about his feelings. Francis is old beyond his years, had to grow up too fast and I can see him as the person described really well, but Randy has been loved and supported all his life, I wasn’t convinced he’d be so ready to risk all, to go as all in. However, that’s me, its still a fun read and very thought provoking at times.
Stars: Three, a good read but a little surface based feeling for me
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher
The Bourbon Kings, J. R. Ward
OK, Confession time *blush* I have never read the Black Dagger Brotherhood series….I know, I know, I love fantasy/paranormal romance, but those names, I simply couldn’t bring myself to go there 😉
Now though, when I’ve seen how J.R.Ward can weave a tale of magic that keeps me gripped to the page I’m going to have to try to overcome my name prejudice!
I loved the sound of this series, it reminded me of Dallas and Dynasty of the 70’s, of those long, intense, escapist reads written by Joanna Trollope, Jilly Cooper etc. It reminded me of how they covered multiple family members and friends, and really dug out the dirt in people’s lives, that brought together romantically the most unlikely of characters.
The Bradford family are a strange mix, typical of that type of patriarchal family where appearance is all, where there are all sorts of cover ups going on, back biting and double dealing are normal family practices, infidelity is usual, and the only mantra for anything seems to be “don’t get caught”
I loved Miss Aurora, Lizzie and her German colleague who’s name I’ve forgotten ( maybe there’s something in those other names – at least they don’t get forgotten!!) Tulane, former playboy, married to the awful Chantal – I love characters like hers. Every good series needs a a few b itches IMO, they add such fun and I love to wonder just what awful things are coming out next.
I so felt for Lizzie,she tried so hard to get past her romance with Lane, and yet just setting eyes on him two years later she’s transported back into his sphere, while he tries to persuade her to listen to him.
Then there’s the parents, his mum seems to spent her days in bed, doped up on whatever gets prescribed to get her through, his father, the awful William, Edward, his brother who we hear of but don’t meet until well into the story. He’s been through his own high drama and its left him a different man, bowed and almost broken. What’s going to happen between him and Sutton, heir to a rival distillery? Anything – or will Shelby intervene?
What about Max, the brother we’ve not yet met? Then there’s Lane’s friends locally and from away. Seems they’ve all got parts to play in this multi layered, constantly moving novel about the Rich and the not so rich, and the life of the Bourbon heirs.
Its full of Americanisms, some of which I could guess from context, but others I had to use the kindle wiki/dictionary function to learn what was meant, or because I was curious. Still, that’s easy to do and its broadening my education 🙂
Its a great fun read – its not Anna Karenina, War and Peace, not Kafka, Dickens or any of the Classics, or prize winning coffee table reads, but a solid, long ( hurrah – when 100 pages is a novel how great to get one this length), drama filled, fantastical novel that keeps the reader guessing just what is going to be revealed next. At the same time we learn that appearances are deceiving and I was rooting for Lizzie and Lane, they were perfect together and I wanted them to have a chance to make it through.
It stops at a good point, lots has come out, lots to continue into further books, but a natural ending place and then – sneaky woman, she included a peak at the next read, which brings in yet more high drama, more problems for Lane and Lizzie to pile onto the things Lane already has to deal with.
Stars: Five, a good, solid read, long when so many so called novels are 100 pages or less, which is filled with larger than life characters, multiple plots, drama and non stop action.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher
Summer of Irreverence, The Rock Star, Cathrine Goldstein
I’m a sucker for the rock star romance trope so requested this. It was a light and fun read but….
I missed the intensity I expect in this trope, the jealousy, the groupies, the drugsnsexnrocknroll media sh it storm that almost always finds its way into this trope, and that make it such a great read for me.
I’ve just finished rereading the wonderful Paige Toon duology Johnny be good/baby be mine and that’s exactly what I look for in this kind of story. Passion, drama, heartbreak – all that stuff.
Here though everyone was just so nice,so kind and helpful.Throw in that the plot just didn’t really cut it for me, Summer pretending to be a model to attract Malcolm just felt too forced, Malcolm as a top of the tree rock star just donned a hat and glasses to go out unhindered, him spotting Summer in a crowd of thousands that first night, even if she was with someone he knew and in the front row, it all was just too easy,too smooth, too simplistic.
Then also I didn’t see why she kept her career a secret, why she was so afraid to tell him. The stuff Malcolm is hiding behind – well, that was a tough one, and I understood well why he had been quiet about it for so long, but it still was a bit small to be a major drama, though it could have been if more emphasis had been put on it. Winston – he is a star and I loved him 😉 .
They’re just two such sweet, kind, thoughtful people that it all felt a little sickly for me. Its a good read, well written but I did need more friction and angst to rate it higher.
Thats just a personal thing though – we all want different types of stories, and this kind of read resonates and is perfect for many readers.
I can’t close without saying that Name is Awful. I hate twee names and Summer Wynters is horrible – it does provide a bit of extra text when they refer to it and her parents but I really don’t think it was worth the nausea inducing feelings I got each time I read it 😉
I read another recently where the main lead was Autumn Rayne – no- as with Wynters, putting the Y in doesn’t make it OK.
I’ve never read the much heralded Black dagger brotherhood saga, though I love vampire romances, as I just can’t get past the cringe worthy names, Rhage, Zsadist, Vishous. Each time I think I’ll give them a try I think of those names and just can’t bring myself to read them!
Stars: Three, a bit too sweet for me but perfect for others.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher
Recovery, JC Harroway
I wasn’t sure about this, it seems to be JC’s debut book as I can’t find any other novels, and of course as its an ARC no writing sample either, but took a punt and I’m so glad I did. Its a perfect blend of great characters, believable story with solid plots and a beautiful romance.
I’m a sucker for the Hollywood trope romance, and Nathan was the perfect gentleman. Tired of the mindless sex he was looking for something more, when out of the blue along comes prickly and reserved Sophia. She’s not swayed by his fame, if anything it seems to put her off. She’s unlike the bimbo’s, groupies, and image obsessed stars he usually meets, and he’s intrigued. Looks like she’s shut him off at the start though until a rogue photo of them gets out.
He’s furious at first, she’s incandescent with anger, and its a real, passionate head to head moment. Wow that heat from the fierce scenes was incredible. I like dramatic moments like that, which feel so real. I understood the fury on both sides, each thinks the other has taken advantage.
For Nathan its publicity though and a day to day hazard, but for Sophia and her family it has far more dangerous connotations, and when Nathan realises that he comes up with a solution that brings them together for a short time, hoping to let things burn out and turn attention off her family. They get closer though, that spark fans into an inferno and they’re soon caught up in a torrid and sensual affair.
Fame though has its pitfalls, the media are always out for blood, and I so felt for her when she was worried about her family, worried if she and they could cope with the attention, wanted to hug her when some other jealous females did their worst. I just wanted them to be able to love each other. Nathan was such a perfect man, so obsessed and in love with Sophia, we could see that quite quickly, that the initial ruse became truth, but there were so many pitfalls, so much to go wrong.
Its a great read, passion and fury, sensuality and scorching sex, jealousy, anger, trickery, all the things I love to find in a good romance. I need my characters to feel real, need them to face genuine problems, for it all to not be plain sailing, and JC really put Nathan and Sophia through the wringer.
I loved too the addition of Sophia’s Autistic brother, played so very realistically, loved how we saw that there are so many degrees of disability, that some can go in to lead fulfilling lives, to have degrees of independence, that so much depended on just how badly they were affected, and what support had been given to help them achieve a happy life. I just loved his words to Sophia at the end, where she and we could see how far he’d come. Too often disabilities are used in books in a totally unrealistic way, almost brought in for the sympathy factor, and real life isn’t like that. Disabled kids attract smiles at the things they say and do – when their grown though it seems so many people want them shut away, out of sight, to be hidden, and what we should aim for is that disability is just another facet of life.
It can and does affect many families, and to see inclusivity done in such a positive way as in this book is really gratifying.
Stars: Five, a fabulous, realistic and passionate romance
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers.