Archive | February 2017

The One That Got Away, Melissa Pimentel. Laura Lake and the Hipster Weddings, Wendy Holden

The One That Got Away,  Melissa Pimentel

The One That Got Away by [Pimentel, Melissa]

Genre:  Romance,

I love second chance romance so was keen to read this. Its a second book from Melissa, I hadn’t read her debut novel so wasn’t sure what kind of writing style she has.
Its a fun read, very light and easy to follow, and told in the Past/Present alternating format. I di like that but it always leaves me horribly frustrated at not knowing what went wrong, and that’s what happened here.

I was enjoying the drama of Piper’s wedding, the characters and how they worked together but I was always wondering why, when what we’d seen from the past of Ethan and Ruby they were so perfect, did it all go wrong. what happened and when? Though I can see that revealing that earlier would have resulted in a different kind of read I was horribly frustrated by that.

I loved the characters, the B&B landlady, taxi drivers, locals in the pub, plus of course Ruby and Ethan and their families, and the dramas that went with them. Weddings are stressful and bring out all family dramas and issues and Piper was a real definition of Bridezilla!
It was clear Ruby had been kidding herself she was over Ethan, and I though he still had feelings for her but he plays it very close to his chest. I really wanted a bit more romance, more of the current feelings they had, but the only romance we got til the end was their past – still, others will love it this way. Maybe I’m just a sap.

There’s some real family issues here too, step parents and how hard that can be, how death affects a family,  the problems with too little money, too much, how family money v “new” money is always an issue, the rich v poor backgrounds, and of course weddings throw together people who really don’t get along.

Its not just a romance but a look into what really makes families gel, how they work together.
I enjoyed it but I didn’t love it.
Its an easy read, a lovely HEA, but I needed to feel more sizzle between Ethan and Ruby, more intensity, more love, and to me they just felt like two people who’d shared a past but were just friends now.

Stars: Three, a fun easy read but a little light on romance for me. .

ARC supplied by Netgalley and  publisher


Laura Lake and the Hipster Weddings,  Wendy Holden

Laura Lake and the Hipster Weddings (The Laura Lake Series) by [Holden, Wendy]

Genre:  General Fiction (Adult), Women’s Fiction

I’ve not read one of Wendy’s novels for many years, but recalled how funny and interesting they were so was keen to read this.

Maybe its the passage of time affecting my memories, maybe it is the book, maybe its just that my tastes have changed, but though I enjoyed this story I didn’t love it and at times found myself rolling my eyes at the more silly parts.

Its a frantic paced book, and I don’t recall the others being like that – but could be my memory. It did mean though that there was barely time to absorb one experience when we were on to another, and at times the humour was almost slapstick, not my preferred type. I like things a little more subtle.

I was disappointed that we kept getting snippets of Laura’s dad all the way through and yet never really did learn what actually happened, or if we did it was so brief somehow I missed it. I did find myself skimming the second half, getting a bit tired of the eternally comedic coincidences.

It’s a well written novel and if you like frenetic, slapstick humour, stories filled with incredibly detailed but pretty unrealistic scenes you’ll love this book. Me? I liked it but its a one off for me, and I think me and Wendy will pass on more reads.

Stars: Three, a fun read but not a keeper for me.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Single Malt, Layla Reyne

Single Malt,  Layla Reyne

Single Malt by [Reyne, Layla]

Genre:  Romance, LGBTQIA

I couldn’t find any other books by Layla, so was hesitant about requesting this – I hate writing reviews where the book/author style and I just don’t gel, so try to choose carefully. The synopsis of this really drew me in though, and I usually enjoy Carina books so I took the plunge…and I really enjoyed this story and look forward to the next two.

Aidan, still grieving after the senseless death of both his husband and his work partner in the same car accident, is moved into a new position at work, with a  new partner to train as a field agent.
Jamie is a tech whizz, former basketball star and 12 years younger than Aiden, yet from the first look there’s that magic sizzle of attraction between them despite Aiden’s grief, that draws the reader in.
Thing is, I want more than just a romance, I want a story that keeps me reading and this book delivered all that and more.

There’s quite a few tech references here and yet they’re written in such a way that non tech people like me can still grasp the importance, what part the knowledge plays to the plots, and that was perfect.
I needed to be able to follow some of the tech trail as it plays such a huge part in how the plots work out, how people are tracked, how the FBI have info on what’s likely to happen. That works for me, I hate this anonymous CI info that often gets used in novels. I reckon with serious crimes the FBI and other agencies need more to go on than some vague tip from someone who may or may not be telling the truth.
Computers can lie – its all in the programming but clever hackers ( hush my mouth, clever IT specialists who wouldn’t dream of illegal hacking…..) can get past that and lay trails of their own. Clever things Computers, and the people using them need to be several steps ahead. Its a skill you either have or haven’t and Jamie definitely has.

I love the personal bits too, the way Jamie has been watching Aiden from the shadows for three years, and now is partnered up to his crush? Attraction? Well, the guy he’s been lusting after anyway.
Then when they’re together there’s more than just that visceral attraction, they like each other, feel like friends, respect each others skills. All things that make a longer term relationship work. Are either of them ready for that though, do they want it? Aiden at least is still struggling with his grief and now feeling attracted to Jamie hits his guilt switch too.

There’s some sex in here, but its very muted, and the adage Less is More really fits. Its perfect for the plot, perfect for the two guys and because so much is build up, when it does come it feels right, rather than in so many where its shirts off, trousers (men wear trousers, not pants….) hit the floor on page six and downhill from there.
I want story first sex second and this book hits that really well, with the sensuality feeling inevitable rather than plugged in for titillation…

The novel has lots of good secondary characters too, Aiden’s brother Danny, who works in the family shipping firm, and his dead partner’s sister who’s also his boss. Then a host of characters at the other part of the investigation where they’re called in to help in a case that makes up the mainstay of this book.

I enjoyed the way the story wrapped together relationships and of course the usual employment unwritten rules against them at work, family dramas and the issues they bring, and a cracking story, complex enough to keep me gripped reading, and yet with enough info to let me follow the tech side without getting lost.
Kept me glued right to the end. And then there’s some surprises come out just when you think its all died down…
And the ending! Its not a cliff-hanger as such but there are some shocking revelations come out that are going to be the core of the next book(s). I can’t wait!

Stars: five, cracking read that has me drooling for more.
ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Reverie, Reverie Book 1, Lauren E. Rico

Reverie, Reverie Book 1, Lauren E. Rico

Reverie: Reverie Book 1 by [Rico, Lauren]

Genre: Romance, Mystery and thrillers.

I loved the sound of this, and most important, parts one and two are out now and three very soon. I hate, absolutely hate, waiting for rest of a story, and it seems that trilogies dominate the romance genre now. I love the way they give a solid extended story, but hate those that keep readers waiting months, years even for subsequent parts. By then I’ve lost the momentum, lost the magic of the story and have to recap just to remember what had happened.

So, its Julia, Jeremy and Matthew that dominate this story. Julia and Matthew share a flat, having been brought up in the same children’s home since they were around ten years old. Luckily Matthew has money inherited from his parents so they don’t have worries on that front.
Its just as well as both are devoted to their music, Matthew having already graduated from the prestigious conservatory, and Julia in her last year. they spend all their free time rehearsing, practice, practice, practice, so they wouldn’t have time for jobs.
I’m assuming Julia gets some form of student loan or something, she pays rent to Matthew for her room, though nowhere near what such a premium apartments would cost. There’s never any mention of where the money comes from.
Odd how two kids from a children’s’ home just happen to both get in to the conservatory, how she’s able to pay for all the private tuition too.

Likewise Jeremy, he shares with his older brother Brett, again both talented musicians, but there’s never any mention of where they get their money? Given what comes later Jeremy must have some generous source somewhere to allow him to pursue his research, allow him to follow his inclinations.
There’s a brief mention of their childhood, but never anything current as regards other family members, there just seems to be the two of them, no other relatives.

What I liked about this story was the passion for music that shows through. I know very little about classical music and orchestras, other than that I ejoy much of it but that didn’t matter, the story from that part flowed easily and I was kept into the way the music was such a way of life for the orchestra members.

What didn’t work so well – I felt at times I was being spoon fed the mystery, pointed to where I should look next. The bad guy almost has a huge X over his head from the first meeting, likewise the good guy was marked with a large heart round him…well, that’s how it felt for me.
I needed a bit more mystery, needed to see how the story built up, to have things kept in the dark so I could work it out myself.
It seemed right from the start it was clear that things were not going to go smoothly, for me I need to be persuaded into thinking they will, until they go wrong, but it was so clear here what was going to happen.
It meant that some of the more clever manipulations in the story were just too obvious,  whereas written differently they would have kept me guessing til later in the novel. That takes the Mystery out of a mystery read.

I felt Julia went from being best friends with Matthew, taking his advice and sharing support with him, to making him her enemy in a very short span given the years they’d been everything to each other.
I was astonished at how easily Julia was duped, how quickly she changed to Matthew when she began a relationship with Jeremy.
The things that made up the dark side cost serious money, there seemed to be unlimited contacts and influence, but I needed to know how and where the funding came from.
I’m not entirely sure of the motivation for what went on either, apart from the obvious. Maybe there wasn’t more than that?
I need that kind of stuff to be clearer, while the build up and bring down to be more subtle.
Ah well, I can see others are happy, love it as is so its one of those “its me not the book” moments. I’m uncertain whether I want to read more – book 2 is on KU, so maybe if I’ve time I might take a look. Maybe the story will work more my way in that part.

Stars: Three.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Before the Rains, Dinah Jefferies

Before the Rains, Dinah Jefferies

Before the Rains by [Jefferies, Dinah]

Genre:   Women’s Fiction, General Fiction.

I’ve read a few books set in Japan and China but not read one set in India ( that I can recall anyway ) since loving Shadow of the Moon, M. M. Kaye back in the late 70’s ( Expecting our eldest son I wanted to call him Ashok…).
I love stories set in other countries when they give a real look at life for the locals, when we see real nitty-gritty parts of their daily lives, not just a UK/US person’s version of their life there. I want to understand what life is about for them, how they live daily, how things interfere with what they do.
In these countries too Religion often plays a large part of daily life, its not a church on Sunday then forget type of thing, but a belief system that affects every facet of their daily interactions. When I get a story like that AND a romance thrown in I’m in heaven 😉

So we’re back in time, to 1930’s when the British Empire was still around. Nowadays its hard to believe that such a tiny country as Britain could have been such a world force, and reading about it doesn’t stir patriotic pride in me, but sadness that we could ever think we had the right to take over another country.
In this story Eliza keeps asking why did the Indian Princes agree – and that’s something that always puzzled me. A country so vast, with an incredibly massive population – how on earth did tiny Britain persuade them to let go and let us rule?
Part of the answer I think, lays in the fact there were so many Princes, so much infighting and distrust, and a degree of taking the easy route, swayed by UK promises of how life would be as part of the British Empire. Not quite all lies, but a real manipulation of the truth – nothing changes in politics does it * sigh *

I loved the characters, from Eliza, so brave going abroad with her camera at a time when women were still kept “in their place”, Jay the younger son, second in line to rule, his mother who was a wonderful lady, but of course only wanted what was right (in her view) for her sons. Then there’s the ruling prince, Jay’s older brother, who’s a weak man, pushed around by his wife, and his conniving advisor.
There’s a girl, Indira, who features a lot in the book, she’s a very talented artist, and a kind of unofficial sister in a way to the princes. She was sent to the palace as a child when her life was in danger, and she’s kind of worked her way into a position, but not having any official role. I wasn’t sure whether to trust her or not. Like Eliza I tend to take people at face value, believe in the best of them, but it doesn’t always work that way.
I also liked Dottie, part of the British contingent, wife to a doctor, and a lonely lady. There aren’t many British ladies there and she’s desperate to befriend Eliza. She does prove to be a really good friend, and I felt for her in her loneliness, wanted her to be happy.
There wasn’t really a role in India for wives, they couldn’t work, had servants for everything, and were answerable to husbands for their every move. It really was a man’s world there.

Eliza had a difficult background, saw her adored father killed in front of her when she was a child, brought up by a mother who was an angry, bitter woman, an apathetic, alcoholic. They had a strained relationship but she was still very influenced by trying to please her mother.
Part of the reason she married was to escape home, but she jumped from frying pan to fire, and marriage didn’t bring about happiness. Now she’s a widow, her husband having been killed in an accident.
Then there’s the other main player, Jay, and he’s gorgeous. Indian by birth, a younger son but educated in UK at Eton, so he’s Westernised in many ways of thinking. He’s a moderniser, wants to help people, wants to make their lives better, but he’s constrained by money.
He doesn’t want to be prince, he’s happy to leave that to his brother. With the British running so much of their lives though, there isn’t much he can do for the people he wants to help
He and Eliza get off on a bad footing, like many others he thinks she’s been sent as a spy.
There’s a degree of naivety about Eliza, she really believes that photographing is the only reason she’s been asked to the palace…but slowly she learns more of life, from both sides. Her UK contact Clifford, quizzes her very subtly and its a while til she spots what he’s doing.
Back at the palace she feels watched, scared of Chataur, the ruling prince’s right hand and advisor.
He makes no secret about disliking Eliza, and tries everything he can to erode her confidence, to shift blame to her for events, to block what she wants to do. He’s a very powerful and influential man in the palace and makes for a bad enemy.

She learns of the little everyday cruelties, of how the palace is gem studded while the greater part of the population live in poverty, struggle for food and water, affected by the drought.
How girls are left to die ( taken by wolves is the usual excuse), how religion and fatalism/destiny plays such a huge part of life.
They’re a very superstitious people, as are most that live like that, people need something to blame, something to believe in that they might get a better life, and for most Indians its a Karmic force, working towards a better next life.
That really comes through here, the time period felt right, I loved seeing those snippets of life, from the dust and poverty, the cruelties ( not that I liked them, but that they gave a solid background to the era) and the contrast of life for those born to the right people.
I was astounded at the British influence, the arrogance, ( and for many that hasn’t changed sadly…) the way they saw themselves as better, more important, more able to rule.
Its breath-taking how blinkered people are, and of course we see just how powerful they are when it comes to getting what they want, and for Clifford that’s Eliza. He makes it clear how much he likes her, how he’d like to marry her and poor Eliza has a difficult path to tread. She needs him as her contact, as the man who set things up, but doesn’t want to be more to him than just a friend.
Like most men in his position though he’s used to getting what he wants.

Eliza is falling for Jay though and he for her. It comes about slowly, from that bad start they spend time together while he takes her to places, and introduces her to people she can photograph. They both learn more about each other, find out there’s more than their first perceptions, and get closer.
Its hard though, they know they can’t have a future. He’s important to his people, next to rule if anything happens to his brother, and his mother is trying to make him a match already, with another influential family, to strengthen the family’s position and force. They know that, know that the country would never accept Eliza, that law prevents any children they have from being in line to rule, that as a widow Eliza is supposed to wear white, bear the blame for her husband’s death and stay in mourning for the rest of her life. Jay’s already warned her not to tell people she’s a widow as they are so superstitious and believe a widow brings bad luck. Many won’t even touch one, and Eliza could be in danger of word gets out.

Its a lovely story, beautiful romance built up carefully, full of decisions, some heart-breaking, dotted with things that bring the time and place to reality such as the Suttee burning of a widow, a practice outlawed by the Brits but something that still goes in in some parts, even if the poor wife doesn’t want to die…
I loved the palace, the twisting turning tunnels, the tiny rooms and then the vast light and richness of other parts.
Loved seeing Jays irrigation project come to fruition, was taken in along with Eliza about some people, and yet others were incredibly kind to her. It was difficult to know who to trust.
Some people and events I thought followed a predictable route, and I could see what was coming, except occasionally it veered off and I was completely wrong.
Great fun, and I love to be taken by surprise about events. There’s times, especially in the latter part of the book, where I just couldn’t see how things could work out, was heartbroken for Eliza, convinced Dinah would do something to make it come right, but where I just couldn’t see how. That’s why I’m a reader not a writer of course!!

Stars: Five, one to keep, to savour rereading, a story to really get lost in, transported to another time and place.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Roman, A Cold Fury Hockey Novel, Sawyer Bennett

Roman, A Cold Fury Hockey Novel,  Sawyer Bennett

Roman: A Cold Fury Hockey Novel (Carolina Cold Fury Hockey) by [Bennett, Sawyer]

Genre:   Romance,

I love Sawyers writing style, the way she creates characters that I find feel real, that I can believe in, and plots that I could see happening.
Well, almost all, there’s a couple that haven’t worked for me, but then each book is individual and even if I love an authors style that doesn’t mean they’re an auto buy for me.
I’ve enjoyed a couple from the Cold Fury series, each are stand alone but the characters are connected via the CF team so you don’t need to read them all to follow the series. I’m not a sports enthusiast either, have never seen an ice hockey match, its not a big sport in UK….but I still can enjoy this series as it just provides background and a setting for the plots.

So – Roman, bad boy and proud of it, its what he’s known for, brings results, keeps him in the public eye, and makes him money.
Its kind of unfair the way manager Gray pushes him for it as its one of the reasons he’s so popular, and why her team wanted him in the first place.
Dichotomy time: she wants him to be bad enough to help the team win, to bring in the publicity, but not that bad that it brings the team into disrepute. Roman’s got a tough line to straddle, trouble is they’re not agreeing where the line is drawn.

Then Lexi comes into the story, waiting to meet her father – and give him the news that he is her father – she gets chatting to Roman. He’s entranced by her and they start dating.
Brian, team owner, is convinced by her story right from the off and delighted to meet her, but his other daughter, Gray, isn’t so convinced and is pleased he’s having a DNA test done – Lexi’s suggestion. She comes to like Lexi though while they’re waiting for results but isn’t so keen on her dating Roman, for her the team is mega important and she worries that Roman may bring negative publicity to them if things go wrong between him and Lexi once the news of who she is gets out.

Its a great story, with a second helping of romance between Lexi’s boss Georgia – a fab woman, I want to be her – and Brian.
I love the way Lexi is such a sweetheart, everyone loves her and yet she’s not a spoiled lady, she’s a hard worker, happy with her life even though its not been easy, and that seems to rub off on everyone.
The scenes between her and Roman were perfect, hot and sensual yet not OTT, and it showed him in a different light to the cocky, aggressive public side he presented.
It was good to see more of Gray and Ryker and the kids too – they were in an earlier book and I love when we catch up with characters in a series like this.

Its a great read, great love story, solid plots and scenes, and a nice touch of drama towards the end. Being me I’d have liked that to play out a little longer, to be taken a bit further, I love some angst in a story and this could have taken more but its perfect for others just this way and I really enjoyed it as it is.

Stars: Four, a great addition to the series. A little more drama and angst would have been a five but it’s a solid four.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Lady of Silver, Shona Husk

Lady of Silver, Shona Husk

Lady of Silver (Blood & Silver) by [Husk, Shona]

Genre:  romance, paranormal and fantasy

I’d enjoyed a couple of Shona’s stories and liked the sound of this, a hopefully new series.
It turned out to be a great read, a perfect balance of romance and fantasy. The main characters were interesting and felt very real and that’s always important for me. If they and the plots don’t feel as if they could happen (in the event magic etc is real..or maybe it is??) then I just don’t enjoy a story.

Shona takes the vampire legends and makes some subtle changes, the way they are made, where they begin and how to kill them.
She brings in a new (to me anyway) group, the Albah, a group that can do certain magics, that share Elf features and felt very Fae descended to me. They keep hidden from humans, scared of past repercussions, the witch hunts and bigotry.
They’re a race that’s slowly dying, as though they can have children with humans, only those from another Albah will produce males. They don’t have ambitions to dominate humans, just want to live peacefully and enjoy their lives.
The dangerous part of them is that they can be turned into the undead, called Albanex, vampires who aren’t pretty, sparkly, romantic, brooding heroes, but creatures that need blood to continue, and who kill relentlessly to get it.

The Albah thought they’d got rid of the last of the Albanex and that the ways to make them had been forgotten centuries before, but then local killings get blamed on a cult, Saba gets involved and the dangers to her stack up. Not only to her though, to anyone important to her, which now includes Detective Morgan.

Dale is a sceptic and doesn’t like her at first, thinks she’s a charlatan, but he’s been advised to ask for her help and does so reluctantly.
From the first meeting there’s a sizzle between them and soon they seem as if they can’t resist each other, even though they want to.
He doesn’t know what she is though, and doesn’t know that the man he thinks is behind the killing is more than that, that he can’t capture and imprison him. Saba has to decide what’s safest to do for them all, how much to reveal, what’s the best answer.

My only criticism is that it was perhaps a little too light and slick in parts, especially the ending, the way the problem was resolved. That just felt a little too easy, a bit too simplistic given the dangers so far, and that’s why for me its a four and not a five star read. If you want an uncomplicated read that feels genuine maybe its a five for you, I just needed that little bit more.

I really enjoyed this story. Its not a solid, complex fantasy, ala Patricia Briggs, Kim Harrison, Debbie Reynolds etc. but a lighter one, easy to read, easy to follow, but with a storyline I quickly got drawn into.
Its a stand alone read, but there is more from this world to come with Saba’s sister taking the lead in the next book. Its a series I’ll happily read, and probably reread when I have more books so can read through the stories, immersing myself fully into their world.

Stars: Four, a fun, light fantasy and I look forward to the next one.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Pretty Face, Lucy Parker

Pretty Face,  Lucy Parker

Pretty Face by [Parker, Lucy]

Genre:  romance,

I loved this, so much so that I’m off to look for the previous novel, Act Like It. Its a story that’s such fun, full of humour, snappy sharp dialogue, real characters and problems and kept me reading “ just a bit more “ til I finished! Definitely one I’d re-read.

So I mentioned sharp dialogue, and that’s such a treat to find an author who doesn’t feel every word has to be simplified, brought down to lowest common denominator, have three syllables or less. There seems to be a real trend to “dumb down” language in so many books, and it turns stories from potentially good reads into meh-just-like-any-other read 😦
I want to enjoy the richness of language, to see  authors use it to really set free plots, to let me really feel I’m there, seeing what the characters see, feeling what they feel. I want to read words that make me think “not sure exactly what that is” and look it up – of course context provides an educated guess, but its fun learning new to me words. As I read a lot that’s a bit of a challenge but this book gave me a few new ones 🙂

The characters were wonderful, I loved how Luc and Lily went from a bad start to a can’t keep hands off situation. I adored the clever and witty humour, which kept me sniggering. Wish I could think of things like that when I need instead of coming out with the mundane and conventional, and only thinking long after of things I could have said….
Lily’s speech issues reminded me so much of UK actress Sandra Dickinson ( think that’s her name), a gorgeous lady with a voice that really just comes out as a kind of breathy squeak. Our voices are so individual, and not everyone is blessed with a beautiful speaking one, some have ones that just make people snigger.
I remember some friends of ours from years back, sadly died now but back then one of the men was a very masculine type, but when the poor guy opened his mouth this high pitched squeak came out. People who didn’t know him would think he was taking the pi ss, and it must be very hard to deal with.

Its a very genuine kind of premise too, stage shows are hard work, illness, family issues, accidents all play a huge part and it must be a real nightmare getting a show to fruition.
I loved the way we saw it play out, understanding the minds of everyday pressures shows cause.
The characters were a good mix, and felt very true to type, and of course there’s the media, and they way everything gets exaggerated, a simple lunch together becomes a secret romantic assignation, catching someone as they trip turns into a passionate embrace, and of course the eternal “friends of ….said that….”
I have a real hatred of media hype – well, the truth twisting part – and yet clearly its what people want or they wouldn’t sell.

Its a great story, perfectly paced, loved the way Luc went from dismissing Lily as an airhead to not being able to keep his hands off. I enjoyed the fact that the characters were older – hurrah, romance isn’t confined to the younger generation!
I really liked the bit where everything falls apart, understood exactly how Lily felt, despite Luc not intending his actions to have that interpretation. That’s was so very believable, and made the drama perfect for me.

Overall a really fun read, with some solid drama and terrific humour.

Stars: Five, a great read when you need some decent romance with something extra that will make you smile.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

An Unseen Attraction, KJ Charles. Dating Ryan Alback, J.E. Birk

An Unseen Attraction,  KJ Charles

An Unseen Attraction (Sins of the Cities) by [Charles, KJ]

Genre:  romance,LGBTQIA.

I love KJ Charles writing style, very apt for the era she brings to her stories. It feels very much as if one is there in the time period, from the descriptions of characters, what they wear, their occupations, what they do and how they meet, the actual buildings, the London smog.
Even the actual wording used is full of things I have to look up, occupations now unknown or rare but common then, words I’ve never heard of but which seem so apt to the time and are so enriching to the story. (Gamahuching from one of the first novels of hers I read – what a fabulous word).
I hate the trend for dumbed down books, where words all seem to be three syllables or less!

We think of UK history as being mainly white people, and yet when people were so often seen as property they were brought back from other countries as such, and its not uncommon to see people of every race and colour in the cities in UK. KJ often weaves them into her stories.
I loved Clem, half Indian, with a very real backstory, one that happened so very often. He’s an amazing man, and I could see just how his slow and careful nature led to bullying as a child. He needed time to assess, to think, to speak and society both them and now doesn’t like that. People ( me) get bullied of they don’t grasp instantly what’s to be said or done. I don’t have so much difficulty now, but as a child I was very silent, always worried about saying the wrong thing, needed to mull over conversations, think carefully before answering or I’d get flustered just as Clem does. I feel for him.
I sympathised with  Rowley too ( sounds like slowly – I loved that quip!) When he’s talking about his glasses, he describes how someone discovered he needed them, and says how it never occurred to him that he wasn’t seeing what others could. I was ten when a teacher noticed I was very short sighted, until then everyone just thought I wasn’t very bright, was clumsy and slow…so I understood perfectly how Rowley felt without his specs. Mine are a lifeline to the real world. Rowley has had a difficult upbringing too, not uncommon for them time but wich of course affects his personality. He’s so understnading opf Clem, so in tune with what he needs, they make a breat pair. You just want them to be happy, to be left alone.
There’s as usual lots of sex, but not the eternal but dull stuff so often found, where it feels like pages and pages of the same thing.
Clem and Rowely have a varied and intersting way of love making, and again that fits, when sex was something not mentioned in polite society, sex between same sex people forbidden. Even something simple like a quick touch on the hand, a passing clasp of the shoulder could mean so much.
Sometimes I think we miss just how sensual a touch or glance can be, how it can have so much meaning between two people. When things have to be worked at, when they had to find ways round society’s constraints then a simple look could carry a world of meaning.

Once more we’ve some wonderful characters, a careful, slow burn romance, one that simmers, builds very gently, with each wondering about the other. Given the penalties for homosexuality at the time they had to be extraordinarily careful.
I loved the taxidermy descriptions, though they were really interesting I did have to skip the more queasy parts….wimp I know!
You won’t find edge of seat drama here, no histrionics, or death defying stunts, but plots that develop cleverly, lead us around wondering who and why. Though I’d an inkling this time of the Who, I’d no idea of Why, and its a real quest for answers, very much time period apropos.
With a terrific cast and setting, a mystery that weaves all parts of the story together and introduces characters that hopefully we’ll meet in later books, and its another winner. I look forward to more from this group.

Stars: Five, a fabulous start to the trilogy.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers


Dating Ryan Alback,  J.E. Birk

Dating Ryan Alback by [Birk, J.E.]

Genre:  Romance, LGBTQIA

A new-to-me author so I wasn’t sure what to expect. It sounded fun, and was, but I found it a little too sweet, cutesy.
A good read, just not a great one for me. That’s fine though, others love sweet’n’light, cute’n’fluffy.

I liked both characters, there wasn’t anything to dislike. The setting, how they met, was a little stretching credulity to think either would do that when they both value their privacy, but the reasons given helped.
I could see why they’d connect, but though I felt a good friendship between them I didn’t feel the love, sexual tension, must-be-together feeling I need in romances.

When it went wrong, well I could see why Ryan reacted that way, but he was a bit OTT knowing only too well how the media screw things up, print anything regardless of the truth just to make money. I didn’t feel his past excused his antagonistic reaction. He’d been let down badly by a lover – it happens, and it was wrong to still be reactive, rather than proactive and his agent and friends were advising. Then to behave so callously to Jason. #justnoton

Then Jason, he’d also got a difficult past, but I felt he was far too forgiving when Ryan eventually came calling. It just didn’t feel right, I felt he should have held back more, make Ryan realise just how badly his actions hurt.

Family and friends on both sides added to the “cute” feel, they were all supportive, loving, protective, and that part felt detached from real life where sadly so much prejudice goes on, so many people are vicious gossips, always put to knock people down.

It was a sweet story, cute characters, a HEA but too sweet, too nice for me to rate higher than a three, I needed more connection between them and more angst.
Its exactly what some readers want though, look at any book and you’ll see some love it and others hate it for exactly the same reasons. this isn’t one for me to keep but may be just what you’re looking for.

Stars: Three, a happy read, but too nice for me to keep, just a one off read.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Royal Affair, Parker Swift

Royal Affair,  Parker Swift

Royal Affair (Royal Scandal Book 1) by [Swift, Parker]

Genre:  romance, erotica

So, a debut book I think, can’t find any more by Parker anyway.
Its always a gamble not knowing what writing style you’ll get in a debut book, could be perfect for you or could be something you hate – I got lucky here, I love it.
Actually I’ve had several really good, well written and fun debut reads this year.

Inevitably this will get Fifty comparison. That trilogy has spawned so many others, some good, but far too many more that are really dire IMO.
Reading is subjective, and everyone wants different things. When I read an erotic romance I want sensuality, heat, and steamy sex but I need the  simmering tensions and dramas that make up the balance for me and a read I can enjoy. royal does that.
In fact rather than Fifty it reminded me much more of another favourite, Pippa Croft’s Oxford Blue trilogy. Both feature US females, UK titled males, and have a perfect for me balance of sex to story.
That’s really important, for me too much sex is just off-putting, I want story first backed up by the steamy parts, not dominated by them.

I’m pleased too that plans are for the next two books to be released fairly soon, later this year. I really, really hate waiting for further parts of a story.
I hate the trend into splitting romances up, they used to be either stand alone, or a series such as fantasy paranormals reads, but after Fifty though its all trilogies, some with very long gaps between releases, some that turn trilogies into five book series 😦 ( As the Crossfire one did. I got the “final” release delivered to my kindle after pre ordering, to find I needed to buy two more, unspecified price and date – returned it and gave up on that one. In my opinion its taking readers for a ride, abusing them)

Anyway, having got that off my chest more about this book.
I really really liked the story. Lots of steam, well written and fun, some proper dramas, perfect storylines, it all felt very real. I loved the UK setting, as a UK resident, though I think maybe we’re less hung up on titles than US readers 😉
It is an odd world though, duty and tradition do still reign in so many titled families, so Dylan’s family pressures didn’t feel wrong.
He’s an intelligent, successful man in his own right, has turned his life around but parental/family pressure is hard, and add on the media invasions….Yep, sadly the UK press laps up every little bit of “news” that helps them sell papers. Truth doesn’t really matter to them so long as they’re first to break a story, and they’ll go to scurrilous lengths, legalities get cast aside, anything to crack that first bit of news, without any thought for their actions on the people concerned.
Yep – you can tell what I think of UK media outlets, papers, TV, magazines – they’re all awful, and I don’t buy papers or magazines and only read news online where I can stay away from, the stuff that hurts people involved. That part of the story added real authenticity though, as a UK reader I can confirm its horribly true.

I loved Dylan and Lydia, they were perfect together, and the secondary  characters, Lydia’s best friend, her work colleagues and boss, Dylan’s family and friends all felt genuine. I need that, need to feel people and situations could be real or I just don’t enjoy it. I really want things to work out for them as characters I like, but of course as a story I really want fireworks along the way!! Lots of in depth, solid drama, blocks that seem imsurmountable, the stuff that makes me feel emotional for them.

There were some partsthat niggled me, but thankfully only cropped up in the early pages….Chapter 2, loc 178, she claps eyes on him and instantly is rambling on about the wonders of his hair, how she imagines running her hands through it, then a couple of paragraphs later she’s looking at his hands, imagining them grabbing her hair, holding her…I thought it was going to turn into one of those novels where the girl had wet knickers every time she looks at him, but I was wrong. Thankfully. I always think that must be horribly uncomfortable 😉

So its a great start, fun but solid story, sexy without being OTT, plenty of potential dramas and I’m looking forward to more.
Bonus points too for avoiding the – to me – dreaded cliff-hanger. I HATE  those, fiercely hate them, and I know many other readers do too. In fact I rarely buy romance trilogies until all parts are released (see my earlier rant…) so I can read straight through – far better experience for me that way.
This time we’ve a proper ending, but a sneaky set up for book two promising some fireworks without leaving the readers hanging in limbo.

Stars: Five, a fabulous start to the trilogy.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

For 100 Nights, A 100 Series Novel, Lara Adrian. Breaking The Girl, by M.C. Webb

For 100 Nights, A 100 Series Novel,  Lara Adrian

For 100 Nights: A 100 Series Novel by [Adrian, Lara]

Genre:  romance, General Fiction (adult)

Well, I looked back to my review of book one on getting this – as usual its quite a time and many, many other stories since I read that. I couldn’t remember the minor details, just the very basic facts.
That’s the main reason I prefer to read trilogies/duos etc back-to-back, so the story stays fresh in my mind. It just loses impact for me when its months or more between parts.

So, moan over, what about this part? Well, I loved it once more.
Once the story started filtering back into my brain I was able to pick up connections, though possibly missed some – I’ve found with trilogies that when I do a back-to-back read there’s always things I’d missed, little hints and snippets that I passed over unnoticed.

Avery, I really like her but…sometimes I get irritated when she takes the least logical course of action. She has to, to let the plots advance that way they do but there are times when I feel an action could have been written differently, so as to make her not such a berk…to not let her do things I feel she wouldn’t have.
I do like the art snippets – as an artist myself I appreciate seeing just how hard it is to get work seen and sold. So many books make someone pick up a brush, and from that first picture they get fame and fortune really quickly. real life isn’t like that, there’s many, many artists like me who have a shed full of unsold paintings 😉
And the food…mmmm….got my mouth watering! Food scenes can be very raunchy and erotic and thats shown well here.
I love the way her secrets finally came out in part one, but got the feeling – especially after that ending – that there’s more to come. And there is, something huge, though looking back perhaps not quite so unexpected…

Dominic, another rich, I-don’t-do-commitment guy. Seems the romance genre is full of those, and usually they fall in the end. Will Nick though or can he hold out?
Looking at his past he’s cut loose as soon as there’s any kind of real emotion hits a relationship. Will he do it this time, or does he feel more for Avery? Its clear she’s in love with him, and she’s told him so, and thats been the thanks for a good time, and on-your-way message from him before. She’s still here though.

Its a great story, more secrets from both characters coming out, lots of searing sensual sex, and a solid plotline backing it.
Regular readers of my reviews will know that’s a must-have for me, sex without story is just boring, bland, dull. I know there are a couple of books made up purely of sex scenes from different books – to me they’re pointless, and I just can’t see why they sell so well – takes all sorts though 😉

I’d kind of half guessed at one of the secrets, but not the whole thing, and that played out very well. Katherine is here again, and I actually managed to feel sorry for her, when after book one I really disliked her. I still don’t actually like her, but can understand her a little better now.

The ending – wow – didn’t see that coming, and gah…cliff-hanger. Hate those, but fingers crossed next book due out very soon. Its middle of Feb now and it’s due this spring so on the way I hope!

Stars: Five, another hot and sensual instalment with lots of surprises and story.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers


Breaking The Girl, by M.C. Webb

Breaking the Girl by [Webb, M.C.]

Genre:  romance,General Fiction

A new-to-me author so I wasn’t sure what to expect, but the premise sounded interesting. What does happen when a porn star gets tired of his/her work? Why do people get into this line anyway?What happens when they fall in love?

So, I was looking forward to what would unfold, but sadly this book was a huge fail for me.
I found the characters flat and dull, and the situations veered from boring and bland to start, then going from ludicrous to simply unbelievable. As usual though what doesn’t work for me is just what makes a story perfect for others, and this book has lots of 5star reviews. I’ve often bought books that garner one and two star reviews as what others hate is just what I love. Its all down to that personal choice issue, just because I don’t like it doesn’t mean that You won’t.

At the start we learn Payton was homeless when picked up, desperate and I understood why she’d maybe go for something like this. She’s naive, gullible, but it was too hard to take that this innocent, untouched, precious girl would see Axel and fall in love, right from the off. She’s seen some of his vids and “jumped at the chance” Really? Reluctance as its her last option I can understand, but being excited at having sex with a porn star, being trained for porn films? I thought it was the money she wanted, but she seems to want the experience too, even looking forward to it. She says she can’t wait to get close up to certain parts of him..She talks about him as if she knows him, and yet she’s just seen his vids ( not sure where when she was homeless, don’t expect shelters go in for pay per view porn 😉 and doesn’t actually know him. She’s no idea what kind of person he is, kind or cruel, helpful or grasping, caring or just ready to beat her into shape. He could have been more like Travis, a sadistic, cruel, sex fiend.

Axel sees her and says she’s got “full, not-too-big breasts on an hour glass figure”. Fair enough so why does he then say in the next sentence that she’s long and lean, but a bit on the thin side?
Still, he’s being paid good money so back to his place they go. Its downhill from then on for me basically, nothing much happens really, they’re in his home, talking about sex and porn, why, how and when…and then bam – and its all action, violence and a totally unbelievable last third. No way to explain to the Law – which his friend Reece is part of – what went on, and as the story continued it just lost what little credibility remained for me.

** Warning: there’s a pretty nasty rape scene towards the end (not Axel) Those who’re affected by such scenes may wanr to avoid that **

This is probably one of the harshest reviews I’ve ever written and I hate doing that, authors work hard on a story, and bad reviews must hurt, but if reviewers aren’t honest about how they feel then reviews become pointless. Two stars from me simply means that I personally didn’t like it, NOT that its a bad book. No-one can make that decision, only how we feel as individuals.

I’ve not read other books of Ms Webb, and maybe they are great, they do seem to be a different genre, and perhaps I’d love them but just not this one. who knows?
I can see on Goodreads that there are some 5* love it reviews, so I felt I had to put in full all the things I really didn’t like about it for balance.
Ultimately its up to each reader to make their own choice, maybe the things that irritated me here you won’t bother about and can ignore.
I’ve loved some stories others have one and two starred, that illustrates just how subjective reading choice is, though I hated this you may love it for all the reasons I don’t.

Stars: Two, sadly I just did not get along with this story.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

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