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Staged, Olivia Cunning.

Staged, Olivia Cunning.

Staged (Exodus End World Tour Book 3) by [Cunning, Olivia]

Genre: Romance

Way back when I got my first kindle I found a free book I liked the sound of. It was Brian and Myra’s story, the first Sinners book. I loved it and went on to buy the rest. I wasn’t so taken with the Sole Regret novels, liked them but as one off reads. I was so keen to read Exodus End books, having met Dare several times in Sinners novels. I’m still keen to read his story, he’s a solid, quiet, unassuming guy, and I think his novel will be special.

Still, we’re book three into Exodus End, and I’d expected to devour this story. I’ll be honest, Steve wasn’t one of my favourite characters, but we see some suprising depth to him here. At first though I really disliked him, sulky and sullen, whining because his best friend’s band has been replaced as opener, and the way he treats ladies….yep, he was misogynistic. Speaking of his best friend, Zach is a great character, and though he’s not involved in any of the bands so far, I think he has a great story in him.

I really wanted to like this story, but it took a while before events of last two books came to me, its been a while and several hundred novels since I read them. As well as the characters we already know, there are quite a few new ones. I did find this and some of the plot-lines a bit confusing, and at times the story was hard to believe, mainly the Tamara/Bianca/Susan aspect.
I felt too, that in this book the sex became the story – its fine for many readers but not me. In other novels the sex has always been to the fore, these are very erotic novels after all, but balanced with solid plots. Here the main plot seemed pretty thin, much of it only developing in last part of the book, and at a pace that felt rushed. I felt there were pages and pages and pages of sex, interspersed with a little bit of story and then yet more sex. To be honest after a while its gets boring, there’s only so many times I want to read about sex, only so many ways to write it without it becoming repetitive. Here it became just mechanics rather then sensual. There were several times when I felt the sex and the conversations about sex became OTT, frankly reading about Roux not being hungry any more because she’d had too much come, ( no I just can’t use the US expression…) and whether it was vegetarian or not was more than I wanted to read. Likewise his request for her to text him everything – even when she was “having a dump”. Really, that’s a good line – or lines, it came up more than once- for the story??

Then there’s That event, which I felt was incredibly serious, sadly happens too often, but between brushing it off or demanding it be reported I felt it wasn’t really given enough time, not the treatment it deserved. When copious pages have been devoted to sex surely a few more could have been spared for this. Its a horrific thing to happen, would it have been treated this way if it happened to a female? I felt it really let down its importance that it was just added almost as a quick filler plot.

Stars: Two. Overall this book wasn’t a success for me. I still love the others and want to read Dare’s story, but this one just didn’t cut it.

ARC via Netgalley and publishers

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The Girl in the Corner, Amanda Prowse

The Girl in the Corner, Amanda Prowse

The Girl in the Corner by [Prowse, Amanda]

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

Usual grump – Women’s fiction as a genre, just why? Men read all sorts of stories too….why alienate them?

Anyway, I enjoy Amanda’s books, she writes tales that make me think “what would I do in that situation”, has characters and settings that feel very real.
I didn’t enjoy this as much as some of her other stories though, the settings and characters were terrific as usual, but the story – I felt that for so much of the book I was waiting, waiting for something to happen, waiting for the other shoe to drop, and it wasn’t until very near the end that it did. I’d have liked a bit more of what happens then, instead of the brief opening into Rae’s future we see.

Its a tale that happens way to often, wife ( or husband) thinks everything is wonderful, and then finds out that their adored and loyal partner has been playing away…what next? Carry on regardless for the sake of the family? Try to forgive and move forward? Or divorce/separation? I always think, how could I trust that person again? That kind of betrayal is so hard to get past, I’m not sure I could forgive and move on. I think that would be a hard barrier for me, the one I can’t forget.
Can Rae move forward though? And in what direction? She really needed to talk it through but Dolly is Howard’s sister, and though they’ve been best friends for so many years, Dolly has divided loyalties. It meant Rae looking at her life introspectively, looking at not just her and Howard’s relationship, but all the family ties, at what happened to the Rae who wanted to be someone but instead became the person supporting everyone else. Its got a huge potential for looking at what could happen if she decided differently, and I so felt for her in her having to decide without the soundboard of Dolly to help her.

Of course nothing happens in isolation and looking back we can see where the routes for different paths were going, where what one person perceives isn’t necessarily the truth – a great example of that was Rae’s view of her childhood and family relationships, where what she thought of events and decisions was how it seemed to her, but not what her parents intended her to feel. That sounds tangled, you’ll need to read the story to understand I think…What Rae sees as her parents not supporting her ambition to be a chef turns out to be her parents fearing that way led to hard work and no reward for Rae, whereas they wanted what they saw as the best for her, that she was clever enough to work in an office, the pinnacle of achievement in their eyes. She thinks they’re unsupportive, that her sister is the one they support, but what they intend is to make Rae be the best she can, and office work in their eyes is something their clever daughter can aspire to. As adults looking back we can see that what we though wasn’t necessarily what was intended.

Like I said, I enjoyed this story, but didn’t love it, its not one I’d reread. I just felt for so much of the story I was waiting for the next section, that so much of the book covered the same ground while Rae mulled over what had happened and what she should do – I’m sure that’s very real, what people in her situation do but for me it wasn’t very entertaining reading.

Stars: Three, another very real story from Amanda but not one of my favourites. Still, that’s just my opinion and I can see that its a perfect story for other readers.

ARC via Netgalley and publishers

Christmas Secrets by the Sea, Jane Lovering

Christmas Secrets by the Sea, Jane Lovering

Genre: Humour, romance

I’ve read several of Jane’s stories now, and she has a style of writing I really like. I’m cautious when a book is styled as “humour” as so many are just that forced, OTT that I simply just don’t like them. Jane’s humour though is typical British subtle humour.
The romance is muted, a side part of the overall story but was very satisfying and the perfect ending.
I loved the characters, Tansy, clearly escaping from something – but what? It takes the full length of the book for everything to come out, little bits are released along the story but you always know she’s holding back something more. Likewise Davin, he’s so obnoxious to begin then as we get to know the real man, the secrets of his past I really liked him. He’s got a real sensitivity about him, something that isn’t apparent until we get to know him.
The rest of the cast are great too, Karen from the cafe, Rory, a typical teen, written so well. Everything’s a drama at that age, its all highs or all down dramas….I loved his openness and how close he was to his mum, how protective of her he was. Even Larch had me warming to her by the end. People really aren’t as they first seem all the while, some just need you to get to know them, in real life and in books.
Then there’s the real stars of the story Brian and Seelie, they were so perfect. They brought a lightness into more serious moments, brought people together, brought in some gentle humour ( Brian and the ever present sardines and seaweed) and provided real emotional support to Davin and Tansy, something they both really needed.
Its a wonderful story, fully of whimsy and gentle humour, a terrific story and wonderful characters, all wrapped up in a very satisfying ending.

Stars: Five, a fantastic read, one that kept me gripped, sniggering one moment and emotional the next.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

A Recipe for Disaster, Belinda Missen

A Recipe for Disaster,  Belinda Missen

A Recipe for Disaster: A deliciously feel-good romance by [Missen, Belinda]

Genre: Romance, women’s fiction

Well, usual pet hate- Women’s fiction – why? Why not general fiction – men read romance too!

I liked the sound of this, light and easy, perfect for a lazy summer day reading. Its a second chance romance too and I’m a sucker for those.
It started well, and I was soon hooked into Lucy’s world, enjoying her anger about school meals, irritation with her boyfriend and loved meeting her family and friends. Lucy is like one of us, ordinary person with ordinary troubles. I felt I knew her, there are Lucys on every street.

I felt for her when things went wrong at work, and when she started with The Cakes, I was happy for her but…I didn’t really understand why someone so focused on ambition gave up everything. Reading later its as if her and Oliver have plans to conquer the culinary world, and then he’s gone and she just gives up. Maybe it was that boring thing that affects many of our choices, money. She certainly struggled with paying bills and keeping her house going.
I think that struggle is one reason I really didn’t take to Oliver – he left, became rich and famous and yet didn’t think of Lucy, love of his life at one time, struggling financially. Didn’t think – “oh, I really ought to keep up my part of the bills” and drop her some cash. Its not like he hasn’t got it.
I didn’t really warm to him for a long while, didn’t really feel the connection between him and Lucy, and as the story went on I even got irritated at Lucy at times. She let the big things go and nit picked at small ones, and her reactions sometimes got a bit annoying.
I did like Oliver more as I got to know him, did see he loved Lucy, and her him, but somehow I wasn’t convinced that they could work things out. They were still angry at each other, and they’d said some pretty horrible things. At times too it seemed like Lucy was a convenient wife for Oliver, something to give him a stable background and I kept wondering, did he really want her back or was this another step in his ambition? Lucy was so angry and upset still that I felt there needed to be way more trust, way more talking and understanding if they had a chance of working it out.
Sometimes love isn’t enough, and for me I just felt by the end these two were still on a rocky grounding.

Stars: I’m rating this a three star read, it was a decent read but I felt they needed more work for that HEA I want in a romance.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and Publishers

Discovering You, Indigo Book 1, Kate McBrien

Discovering You, Indigo Book 1, Kate McBrien

Discovering You (Indigo Book 1) by [McBrien, Kate]

Genre: erotica, romance

I loved this book, and am looking forward to books two and three. Book two is actually out now and three due soon. It amazed me that this is a debut novel, its very easy to read where debuts can feel disjointed and run out of steam at times. Everyone has to begin somewhere and writing is like any other skill, improves with practice. Reading this though, I would have believed Kate has been writing for years.

I love and hate trilogies, love that they really allow the reader to get to know the characters, that the length allows for plots to be fully explored. Hate because here I am engrossed in a story and it ends….and I’ve ages to wait for more. Some authors take 12-18 months between episodes and I’ve lost that impetus, that enjoyment by the time I pick up the story again. I usually wait til all three parts are out so I can read right through and avoid that, but fortunately book two in this trilogy is out now and book three should be along very soon.

I loved Lucy, hated her mum and thought her dad was weak. I love characters I can feel strongly about, really love/hate and there’s lots in this book. Sleazy Edward, I can see he’s got a big part to come- well, feels that way to me. I think Justin’s manager has something suspicious about him too, and of course there’s Rachel, Justin’s ex-without-dating, kind of fling when it suits them relationship, hot sex and nothing more. On his side anyway, though I think Rachel was looking for more. Not love, but the fame attached to being with him. All those promise some great fireworks to come.

When I saw the past present connection I thought maybe it was going to be along the lines of Susanna Kearsely’s stories. I’ve read loads of those, but so far the past is kept to a few small snippets at the beginning and end, and of course odd feelings and dreams both the leads have. I have the feeling the next book might show us more of the past, so far the connection is quite tenuous, but that doesn’t detract from a great story.
If you#’re not an erotica fan don’t be put off by the genre classification, there is plenty of heat, of steam here but its perfect within the story, nothing off-putting. So many “erotica” reads are just pages and pages of repetitive sex held together by a thin plot. This book is very far from that so I’d class it as a steamy romance rather than erotica.

Stars: five, a cracking debut read and I look forward to next two books.

Arc via netgalley and publishers

Legacy of Danger, Jillian David

Legacy of Danger, Jillian David

Legacy of Danger (Hell's Valley, Book 3): Paranormal Western Romance by [David, Jillian]

Genre: fantasy and paranormal, romance

I’m not convinced by this book, I was eager to know more of Vaughn but I didn’t really get a sense of the man he was and what seemed a huge issue between the brothers in the previous books, keeping him away from the ranch and family, just seemed to be passed over quickly now he’s back.
We’re ;earning more about the family’s strange gifts and the dangerous entity seeking them out but its still very much a real danger but from very vague sources, and the timing isn’t yet fixed. Its pretty clear its all coming to a head soon but I’m not sure I’m invested enough in the story to continue. Its well written and easy to read but I just feel a disconnect between the story and me, a personal issue. Possibly its down to current personal circumstances, and I’d feel differently at a later date, its not a story I in any way disliked, just that for now I found myself putting it aside several times, something I rarely do.

Stars: Three, a well written story but one that didn’t work for me right now.

Arc via ebook discovery.

For Once in My Life, Colleen Coleman

For Once in My Life, Colleen Coleman

For Once in My Life: An absolutely perfect laugh out loud romantic comedy by [Coleman, Colleen]

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

Ah no, not another Women’s Fiction 😦 I hate the way we rule out 50% of potential readers with this discriminatory genre…

Having got that out – well, a wonderful read. I adored Lily and her friends. After being left at the alter she’s thrown herself into her job, really enjoys the way the local paper she writes for is part of the community. She’s battling the Editor though, when his predecessor left he’s been onto cost cutting articles and increasing ads and they are losing readers rapidly.

Then after a quick visit from HQ she’s made editor temporarily, with a short time to bring sales up or the paper closes. HQ have left Christopher to help her, he wants a bigger role in the company and this is his test, help Lily pull things up. They come up with Buckley’s Bucket List, something adrenaline filled and adventurous Lily will do each week.

I love the way the team all pull together, clearly they think well of Lily but until now none of them really act as a unit, as friends, but now Lily has them so full of ideas and enthusiasm. I enjoyed seeing how the List become profitable for the paper, not just from the column increasing readers, but from the tie ins with local producers bringing sponsorship and ads, and how now the staff felt now that their input was valued they had such great ideas.
It was also interesting to see how a paper bases news outlet coped with becoming a paper and online outlet, and how lily relished the interaction with readers. It all felt very real.

Of course Chris is gorgeous, good looking, ambitious and kind, he really helps Lily when she’s struggling with the challenges, and the attraction between them was very real feeling. Still, the course of True Love n’eer did run smooth and all that, and just when things are going well they suddenly aren’t.
There are some great characters here, some fabulous humour and an enjoyable romance. Its as much about learning ourselves as romance though, with Lily’s situation with her work, family and love life paralleling that of so many of us. I’d have liked a stronger side of romance but that’s just me….its a perfect story as it is, though it’s unlikely to be a re-reader for me because of the subtle romance angle.

Stars: five, a wonderful, fun filled story.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers

Silk and Thorne, Olivia Rayne

 

Silk and Thorne, Olivia Rayne

Silk and Thorne by [Rayne, L. K.]

Genre: Romance

** since reading/reviewing this the size info has been added. Its 53 pages. We’re also told next instalment due early 2019. I’d still like to know how many installments to expect, and a rough timetable, along with pricing. Series written this way work well for many readers, I like to get a story all in one though, not bite size pieces, and to know roughly how much the story is going to cost me **.

Well, first point is Nowhere in the blurb does it say this is a part novel, a very short part in fact. The description is almost as long as the novel it felt 😉 I was reading away and glanced down to see I was at 48%. I was sure that was an error – I’d been reading maybe 15/20 minutes, but no, it really is that short.
Total kindle locations 870. Average full length novel locations are between 3,500 and 5,000.
There’s no info on how many more parts, when they’re out, how much they’ll be. TBH I was pretty resentful of time wasted reading this not knowing more information.

Still, the story was a little slow to start but excellent writing, and I really enjoyed what there was of it, kept me wondering what was going to happen next. There’s a lot promised in this short sample, hopefully the rest will deliver and it will be an excellent read. The characters were interesting, the premise very mysterious and I want to know more….

As I said, I need Much more information though before I can decide whether to continue. I’ve been caught before on novels that are part one and never get any further, novels that do get further but take a year or more before part two comes out, with remaining parts still to come at unspecified prices. Readers deserve that info, money is tight for most of us and deciding where to spend isn’t easy.
I’m still waiting for part three of a series which started well in 2012, second part came out not long after and since then its just been all promises. If it did continue now I’d have to think hard before deciding if I wanted to read more and risk waiting another few years for more.
Like lots of others I also got caught up in the Crossfire fiasco where a trilogy became a five book series but readers weren’t told until release day of what they thought was final part. Having pre-ordered I had what should have been the ending delivered to my kindle only to have to decide did I want to wait for more, again time and price unspecified, or waste my time and hard earned money spent on books one and two….( I sent back part three and abandoned the series on principle)
Readers deserve better than to be treated this way.

Stars:Three, What there is was excellent, but there was way to little to make a proper judgment and I want to know more about when and how much the rest will cost.

ARC supplied by author

Until the Last Star Fades, Jacquelyn Middleton

Until the Last Star Fades, Jacquelyn Middleton

Until The Last Star Fades by [Middleton, Jacquelyn]

Genre: Romance

Well, I loved London Can You Wait, not so much London Belongs To Me, and this book falls in between.
I guess I was spoiled with LCYW, its a hard book to live up to, I loved it so, so much. We get cameos of characters from the other books here, but its a story in its own right, and you can read it without having read the other two.

Riley seems to have everything, mother who loves and supports her, dashing boyfriend, who’s set to break into the big time, and her own career plans going well.
Like always though its what’s under the surface that counts. Riley’s mum is very ill, Josh isn’t quite the wonderful man he seems and Riley is struggling financially. And then Ben crashes into her life.
Its a slow burn romance, there is no cheating, and for a long time Ben and Riley are just very good friends. You can feel there’s that simmering attraction, but they both know where to draw the line. I like that, hate the “we just fell in love” excuse so often used. Here they hold back on feelings, wait til relationships are sorted. Thats’ so much better than the cheating we often see, that leads to heartbreak all round.

I loved Ben, a fabulous character, very unassuming, very natural in a world where everyone is presenting a false face. That’s the nature of acting, its difficult to see the real person behind the facade. He’s a long way from fame yet though, struggling as so many do, holding down other jobs to make the rent.
Riley is a great lead too, so genuine, she’d do anything for her friends and adores her mum. Her mum’s illness hits her hard, but with the support of Ben and her friends she’s managing.

I loved how tBen and Riley interacted, how her friends were so supportive, listening when needed, but pushing her when that was essential too. Those are the best sort of friends to have, those who don’t just sit back, but give you that shove into the scary zone when you need it.
I mentioned in another review recently I am getting a little tired of the gay best friend thing…..it seems every romance has to include one now, and they all seem born from the same mould 😦 very stereotyped. What about a gay best friend who’s 6ft4, and a big, burly rugby player? Think there’s not one ? Think again, my eldest son works with a guy just like this.

Its a great story but doesn’t quite have the magic of LCYW, but has all the drama and sad bits that I love. Its got lots of side plots too, and for me that really adds to a story, makes it feel more rounded, and of course they too have their own dramas and tensions, and I’m all about that!
There’s a section that really surprised me, something Ben did that was so wonderful and unexpected. How many of us would do that? Then when more secrets come out I understood a little more about why he felt drawn to do this. It just made me love him more.

Stars: Four, a story I really enjoyed, not quite up to LCYW for me, but well worth reading if you enjoy a romance with real people, genuine plots, not ladies that make the most idiotic decisions and monosyllabic lead males….Sadly the romance trope is dominated by them, when real stories, well written ones like this, that feel as if they could happen need more attention and applause.

ARC supplied by author.

Fall ,(VIP Book 3), Kristen Callihan

Fall ,(VIP Book 3), Kristen Callihan

Fall (VIP Book 3) by [Callihan, Kristen]

Genre: Romance

I love a good rock star romance, but though there are thousands in that genre good ones are few and far between. Trawling though some time back I came across the first in this series and fell in love with this band. Bought that, and book two – which is still my favourite- and now bought book three. In between review copies, KU and the loads of free books offered its pretty rare I actually spend money on a book, but this series are ones to read and re-read and well worth twice the price.

So this time its Jax, or John as he introduces himself to Stella. Poor John keeps things deep inside, plays the happy, light and fun guy, hiding his sadness, but just before the start of this series he tried to kill himself and it brought the band to their knees.
They’re slowly recovering but John is a work in progress, still carefully finding his way forward and feeling so guilty for what he sees as letting his friends down.
The depression factors in this story are really well handled, I understood John and his feelings so well, and of course seeing the impact potential suicide has, it changes everyone in the vicinity. Its hard to imagine being that much in despair but when you feel so down that everything seems pointless its looks like a way out, if you’re just tired of the struggle getting through each day becomes. Thankfully John was found in time and has been getting some excellent help. What made it feel very real though was despite that he’s still struggling, some books make counselling a miracle cure and its not, it gives people tools but the change has to come from them and it takes a lot of time and support.

You’d think a book with the MC going through this would be grim, but its not, its full of humour, sharp one liners, ongoing jokes and the Chlamydia incident gave rise to some wonderful humour. Gabriel threatening Sex Ed for them all, the Gritty Kitty phrase, John’s horror at having Brenna know about it. It was humour within a serious issue and one so sadly ignored often. I’ve read thousands of books, and this is only the second time I’ve heard dental dams mentioned….its a very important topic.

Its a story full of vitality, shows what a support good friends are, and of course I loved seeing the gang again, ( Whip and Brenna, that mystery really tweaks at me, it gets hinted at more and more and I so hope we find out soon). It was great seeing the softer side of Gabriel, baby Felix, Killian’s pets, all the little everyday fun parts that lifted this book. Of course there’s a good deal of steam here, the sexual tension between them can be felt right from the Mint Ice-cream Incident. ( You may take my Oreos but you’ll never get my mint choc chip) They’re not down and dirty straight off though, but a gradual simmering build up, so that when they do finally get there its incredible, shocks them both just how good they are together. I like that, books which have MCs in bed within the first few pages sometimes work, but more often have me skipping pages and chunks of text, bored with the repetitive sex scenes. Here that didn’t happen, everything was so perfectly paced.

Johns past and current issues are so serious, but though they guide the direction of the book they don’t make it dull, sad reading, but just give a balance to it, make the characters feel more real. I can imagine these people, their actions, mistakes, words, feel so genuine.
That kind of thing makes a book work for me. Intelligent characters, not grunting, monosyllabic alpha males, ladies that are inspiring, work hard to overcome difficult circumstances, not just flutter eyelids at said Alpha males and expect to be taken care of.
Stella, she really was a star, a fabulous character. She was the perfect foil to John, they were each what the other needed, someone each could depend on, not someone watching John’s every move expecting him to regress, but a friends, someone who saw beyond his issues, and she didn’t need him to support her financially, she’d do that herself, but to just Be there when she needed someone, though it took a while before he could believe in himself enough to be that man.

It really is a fabulous series, and for me on a par with the fabulous Kylie Scott and the Stage Dive guys and ladies.

Stars: Its a five, as are all three books for me. A welcome rock star read that has intelligent characters.

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