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One Last Verse, The Encore: Book 2, N.N. Britt

One Last Verse, The Encore: Book 2, N.N. Britt

One Last Verse (The Encore Book 2) by [N. N. Britt]

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction.

Gah, women’s fiction again…men write romance, men read romance, lets get with the 21st century.

So, book two. I loved the first book, but if anything, this was even better. The issues facing Frank and Cassy aren’t just the publicity, the media and her job, but the way Frank is coping with his injuries.
When they finally go public, the timing is bad, because within a short time Frank’s problems have them at odds once more. Poor Cassy, it feels like she’s always struggling, trying so hard to help Frank, and when he’s not drinking he’s wonderful. Caring, thoughtful, generous and the perfect man, but then – as anyone who’s had dealings with an alcoholic knows – the reverse side of this person is bitter, angry, cruel, and when the hangover is worn off, they’re sorry, won’t do it again. Its a continuous cycle.
Cassy saw all that with her dad, how her poor mum was ground under by it, and always vowed she wouldn’t be like that. She loves Frank though, she feels for him, understands some of why he’s so angry, upset, and in this book the bad parts get really heaped on Frank driving him t the edge. It was superbly written, having lived with an alcoholic I can vouch that part was spot on. The ups and downs, the highs when everything is wonderful, and then the sudden crash, often over the most trivial things.
I did feel for Frank, but as Cassy tried to tell him, he still has so much, but all he could see was what he had lost. His career was his life, and he’s lost if he can’t perform so he’s pushing himself, using drugs and alcohol to numb the pain so he can continue. He can’t see any other future, won’t admit he simply can’t do it. Its turning him into someone Cassy can’t continue with though, she loves him but can’t accept the person he is in the bad times.

I loved the drama in this, so intense, so perfect for me. Drama in a book is what I adore, proper drama, not the angsty, pseudo drama that many romances feature, but real, gritty, relatable stuff. I loved that Frank struggled, let people down, pushed Cassy away. His anger was palpable, I could feel his despair, even while I was so angry with him for letting others down, for his awful behaviour to Cassy. I loved that the drama lasted, wasn’t over in a few pages, but took a good chunk of the book to resolve. That made it feel real, I couldn’t get behind someone who claimed to be past the problems if they hadn’t used time to actually change their life. I so felt for Cassy, she was such a hard worker, looked after her family, tried to help Frank, and even Dante at times. She’s one of those folk that are good at heart, won’t hesitate to step up when its needed.
I loved her brother too, he was a typical teen, and really grew through this book. And of course Levi, her work partner for the past seven years.
Its not a rock star on the road type read, thankfully its not an alpha male, grunting, monosyllabic read, those ones that run “ you feel me?” “ I feel you” and that’s about the extent of a conversation. Its not a Kylie Scott or Kristen Callihan humour filled rock star read, they’re both Queens of Rock for me, but it is a superb book about fame, drama, human frailties, and lets N.N. Britt join that precious group, Queen of Rock Reads, for me. Its one that I know, along with the first book, will become one of my re-read staples. Right now, along with N.N. Brits other two books, they are on KU so a great time to read them.

Stars: Five, terrific read, a rock star romance, with so much extra in the story, full or drama and reality.

Arc via netgalley and publishers

The Album, A Cruise Control Novel, Sian Ceinwen V2

The Album, A Cruise Control Novel, Sian Ceinwen V2

Genre: Romance, Women’s Fiction

OK, start with my usual moan. Women’s Fiction – why? Men write romance, men read romance., ’nuff said…

So, this trope is a real favourite of mine and I really enjoyed Sian’s writing style. I had a few issues with the way the story was delivered in the first version. As Sian has continued the series, this book has been rewritten to make it fit the rest of the series better, and I’m pleased to say that past/present format that I struggled with has gone.
For me the new version reads SO much better, and I began to understand Ariana more. I think before all I could see was Gabriel’s heartache and it coloured me to Ariana’s feelings. Now I can see them clearer, with the heartbreak being kept to the later part of the book.
The ending now feels much more fitting to the book, not rushed or hurried but allowed to play out naturally. It was absolutely perfect, angst and heartbreak just as I love.

I didn’t notice in the first book, maybe I missed it or maybe its new but Ariana has taken steps while they are apart to deal with her issues. That was one of my complaints, that – and I see this over and over in romances – sadly Love Doesn’t Conquer All. If a couple have problems – and Ariana and Gabriel do – ones that separate them, they can’t get a HEA unless they take steps to address those issues. Just getting back together and proclaiming We’re In Love to the world doesn’t mean its all going to end well, chances are its not. I’m much happier when, as here, those issues have been addressed, and though Ariana is always going to feel scared of the fame I’m confident she can now deal with it.

Some great characters here, I haven’t mentioned the other band members but they are an interesting bunch, feel very real, and took Ariana to their hearts. Not only Gabriel was upset when she left, and its going to be interesting seeing how and if they accept her again. I Loved, Loved the mean girls, the b itchy groupies, I was hoping their manager would prove to be a bit difficult too- one of the reason I love this trope is the potential for jealousies, back stabbing and some real b itchy characters. I’m glad they stayed in the re-write.

Stars: Five, I rated this four when I read the original version, but now the issues I had have gone its five, five all the way.

Rewritten Arc via author

Midnight Desire, Shari Nichols

Midnight Desire, Shari Nichols

Midnight Desire (Ravens Hollow Coven Book 1) by [Nichols, Shari]

Genre: Sci fi and Fantasy. romance
I enjoy books in the fantasy genre and where there’s romance too, that’s me happy. I enjoyed this book but didn’t love it as I’d thought. To be fair, as with other reviewers I’m writing this, reading this in the midst of the Covid19 crisis and my mind isn’t where it usually is so that could affect my enjoyment.

I loved the characters, the story flowed well and was a quick, steamy read. What I had a really hard time with is Alex being a – well, rabid witch hater wouldn’t be too strong, and yet within the first meeting he’s attracted to Willow and they’re quickly hot and heavy. I couldn’t see how he could put his years of hatred behind him, and how Willow could be with someone who’s held those views for so long. Lust only goes so far. Then there’s the way Willow was assimilated back into the coven with very few questions asked and apart form the initial snarky, hurtful comments its almost like a girls bonding party.
Get past those issues though and its an easy to read novel, a neat story, wrapped up properly, a little magic, a lot of mystery, and plenty of heat.

Stars: I’m hovering between three and four, I liked the story a lot, but the things I had issues with were for me pretty big. Three and a half.

Arc via author

Reveal, K. Bromberg, Wicked Ways book two

Reveal, K. Bromberg, Wicked Ways book two

Reveal (Wicked Ways Book 2) by [Bromberg, K.]

Genre: romance, general fiction (adult)

Confession time: I loved KB’s Driven trilogy, which I read years ago, and I’ve enjoyed several of her follow up novels, so when I saw she was the author of this book I dived in and hit request. Wasn’t til it was on my kindle I realised it was second part of a duet. Luckily book one was on KU so I borrowed that – loved it BTW – and went on to this.
What I love in a story is romance, but I want a novel that delivers more than just A meets B, and after a few struggles they live happily ever after. I want my characters to really get put through the mill and KB delivers all that in spades.

I loved Ryker, the type of guy you hate until you see beyond his surface, and when he meets Vaughn he’s hooked, though he doesn’t yet realise it. When we learn about his background its easy to see how that has influenced not just his career, but his whole way of living, and until he meets Vaughn he thinks he’s content. Now he’s seeing that he can have more – if he’s brave enough to try. Vaughn though, that girl has some real problems….
I adored Vaughn, been through so much with the loss of her sister, with the awful family situation they had, and now she’s determined to get custody of her niece Lucy, who has learning issues. Lucy is just adorable and loves Vaughn so much you just want things to work out for them, but life is stacked against them. Its hard already with Vaughn working two jobs to pay off the huge debts she ran up for her sisters medical care. Of course one of those jobs has to be kept quiet, hidden from social services, but that’s the one that’s bringing in the money.
Slowly the worlds she tries to keep apart start to collide, problems from her secret job start to create real issues to her custody application, and to her safety. She has secrets on all her clients, but some are bigger than others, and one in particular is bringing her into real danger. She can’t trust anyone, she thought she could trust Ryker but the events at the end of book one threw that into confusion, and left her distraught and feeling so alone.
This book is action packed, full of drama, of secrets, of issues that seem to come between her and Ryker, even though its clear they are totally in love ( and lust!!!) Can they make it through, will her adoption of Lucy work out or is it all doomed to fail?

I had anticipated a few events but there were some that really threw me out completely, and the action – bam, bam, bam, with scarcely a break before she gets hit with the next problem. I so felt for her, I don’t know what I’d have done in the same situation to determine what was the right for her, Lucy and Ryker, but I was so holding out for them.

Stars: Five, a cracking duet, full of scorching romance,and non-stop suspense

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

The Echo Trilogy Collection: The Complete Series  Lindsey Fairleigh 

The Echo Trilogy Collection: The Complete Series  Lindsey Fairleigh 

The Echo Trilogy Collection: The Complete Series (Echo World Book 1) by [Fairleigh, Lindsey]

 

I read this series as individual books as they came out, but it’s now available as a complete set, a massive 1143 pages for just £9.99 or free on KU.
I’ve just borrowed this on KU and reread them ( easier than digging them out individually on my kindle, I’ve almost 7K books there…. ) Each book has been renamed, maybe has been updated, from memory i didn’t notice anything different but it is several years since I’ve read them. Knowing the backstory and some of what would happen meant i feel I got more from the story this time round – that’s something i often find with complex reads such as this.
It’s set in modern times, but also there are periods when the story reverts to the past, from Ancient Egypt to current day and between. It’s a great read, totally absorbing, great characters that felt real to me, and some unusual world building. I love it, definitely a five star read, thought I can’t recall how I originally rated the stories individually.

I’ve added links to past reviews.
https://wp.me/p3gAhS-rQ

https://wp.me/p3gAhS-Q9

https://wp.me/p3gAhS-VZ

I’m about to read the fabulous Ink Witch series next, same world, a few years on and with secondary characters from this book playing the leads. Kat Dubois Chronicles (6 Book Series) by  Lindsey Fairleigh

Exquisitely Broken, A Sin City Tale 1, M. Jay Granberry

Exquisitely Broken, A Sin City Tale 1, M. Jay Granberry

Exquisitely Broken (A Sin City Tale Book 1) by [Granberry, M. Jay ]

Genre: Romance, multi-cultural interest

The story is told in three parts; today, four years in the past and ten years in the past. At times that was irritating, frustrating, there’d be something climatic happen then next page we’d be in a different time period. I don’t really see another way of telling the story though, other than giving it all away at once, and that wouldn’t make good reading 😉

I wanted to know what happened to split them up, after all six years together is a long time. I know he cheated, Sin tells us that, but I wanted to know exactly what happened, why, how long etc. When I did find out what went down I was a bit confused. Why? Was it a one off or ongoing? Was that the only time? There had to be a reason, was Jake just getting cold feet? Was he just arrogant thinking he could do it just because? I feel that part of the book needed more work, more fleshing out.
It was such a huge part of them and the story but kind of glossed over. “oh, he cheated, right, on to next plot.” It wasn’t treated with the awfulness cheating is, and Jake didn’t seem to appreciate just how his actions affected Sin, it was as if he felt it was in the past, she should forget it. I’d always worry though, if he could do it once, he could do it a second time. It made Jake into a person I didn’t really like, and it took a while for that to change.
Sin is so loyal to her friends, has worked hard for her success but her heart is still with Jake, she hasn’t really got over their break-up, and now she’s within his sphere again he wants her back. I was a bit undecided though, was her really worthy of her? I guess without knowing what went wrong I wasn’t convinced it wouldn’t happen again. Sin though is stronger now, and not just going to roll over.

We meet Jake’s family too, his dad isn’t so bad but his mum, what a piece of work she is. That’s fine by me though, I just love a nasty character on a book, makes the story so much more interesting 😉 I did feel though that Jake needed to stand up to her more, to stand by Sin, to tackle his mum about her past actions and her current attitude.

There’s lots going on in this story, some terrific characters and its a great debut read, but for me it needed a bit more – I needed to feel that Jake really regretted what he’d done. I felt he was sorry for it only in that he lost Sin because of it, not that he actually saw anything wrong in his cheating. There’s an important difference there, and its the one that makes me certain it won’t happen again.
I needed him to stand up to his mum too, to tell her to not interfere in his life, for him to stand up for Sin, rather than just let things play out and – kind of – apologise foe his mum after she’s been her usual unpleasant self.
Stars: Four, a great debut read. A few parts that didn’t work so well for me but I’ll be looking out for M Jay’s next book.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Waiting for You, Indigo: Book 2, Kate McBrien

Waiting for You, Indigo: Book 2, Kate McBrien

Waiting for You (Indigo Book 2) by [McBrien, Kate]

Genre: romance

Well, at the end of book one Justin and Lucy were apart, the fame/media aspect scaring Lucy. Its one of those things that’s so hard, if she wants to be with Justin she has to accept that the fame and publicity are part of the package. Even if he gave up his music, he’d still be hounded by media for a significant time – and anyway, its part of him, part of the man she loves.
He understands her fears, blames himself for the awful events that separated him even though they aren’t really his fault and were done without his permission or knowledge. He’s left it up to Lucy to contact him, says he’ll be waiting.

Her parents though, they really don’t like him, and are determined to push Edward in her way. He’s got himself highly placed at her work too, so she’s really no way of escaping him. He is such a horrible sleaze and in this book we see more of that. I loved it, someone appearing so genuine, caring, respected outwardly, and yet behind the scenes, in the pursuit of what he wants he’s a horrible, manipulative bar- stard. That’s reality – we often see friends and family of people who’ve committed some awful crime saying it can’t be true, the person simply wouldn’t do that. But they can and do, manipulators are expert at presenting one face to the world while doing the opposite.
He arranges for Lucy to travel to London, with him of course, to deliver the Cross to its new buyer. As usual he’s moving events to suit his purpose but Justin is in London too, and Lucy is thinking its a chance, fate maybe, to reconnect. Once more though Justin’s fame comes between them with yet more horrific allegations against him. Its a time that’s testing Lucy to the fullest, and she needs to decide, trust her heart, her instincts or believe the media and of course the person behind things. I really wanted to shake her a couple of times, shout at her “c’mon Lucy, give the guy a break, he loves you, you love him” but she was so cautious.

I’ve seen criticism about the attack, that it wasn’t reported. In reality something like over 80% of attacks go unreported and given that only a small percent of those that are reported lead to conviction, its almost understandable why some women choose not to put themselves through the trauma of reporting and all it brings. I don’t agree with it, that’s what lets predators continue, but it’s reality and I can see why it went unreported.
In the same way the false allegations against Justin, that happens too, folk wanting revenge, wanting to cause harm, just making allegations for malicious purposes or attention. Sadly, things like that lead to the non reporting data, because people are afraid they won’t be believed.

The connection to the past, the supernatural element is very muted, only appears on a peripheral basis, it’s clear how events are linked re Justin and Lucy, but I’m not entirely sure if Edward is who I think he was, or if there’s some kind of turnabout coming….

Its another great installment, though I did get a bit cross at Lucy’s dithering. I adore Justin and none of what happened was his fault, sure he has a past, but he can’t change that, only change how he is in the future and Lucy needs to accept who is was, and who he is now. I did find it not quite as gripping to read as the first book, a bit slower paced, didn’t quite have me lost in the story the same way but its still a cracking read, especially from a new author.
Luckily I’ve book three on my kindle as an arc, but its out very soon, later this month, and the whole trilogy has been released within six months. I love that, hate waiting a year, eighteen months or more between episodes, its why when I’m buying I wait til story is complete before buying, so I can read all in one go, I find I enjoy the story best that way.

Stars: Four and a half, not quite as good as book one, the story lagged a little at times, but I really did like the reality of the attacks and how they were dealt with.

Arc via author and Netgally

A Place Without You, Jewel E. Ann

A Place Without You, Jewel E. Ann

A Place Without you by [Ann, Jewel E]

Genre: romance

well, my third book by Jewel, loved the first, enjoyed the second but wasn’t a re-reader for me so I was unsure of how I’d feel about this. The description though, the “forbidden” romance aspect all drew me in. An aside: school kids I understand the no relationships between tutors and pupils, but once they’re past 18, legally adults, why not?
So I started reading, absorbed by the story, the setting but Henna. Good Grief she annoyed me at times, real poor little rich girl syndrome. Its easy to be flouting rules when school won’t do anything because of your parents, its easy spending the day drug addled on pot when your parents let you, encourage you almost in the case of Juni, and she has the excuse of “pain”. She had been in a horrific accident which left physical and mental scars, but somehow to me that’s just become an excuse to while through the day high on gummies….
Fortunately underneath that Henna is a really like-able girl, thoughtful and talented. I’m not sure she’d have found success as an artist quite so easily though, I know from my own art and friends that its a very hard world to make a living from, not as easy as just meeting someone who’s instantly able to put your art in front of top buyers, but again maybe the name, the fame, the money all played a part. Weird isn’t it how those with money have others falling over themselves to give them opportunities to make more.

Her mum, Juni, annoyed me. She’s a parent, not a friend and to me Henna needed the discipline a mother brings to the relationship, not another friend. She can find them herself but you only get one mum. Juni means well but for me she wasn’t a great parent, and its Henna’s own nature that stopped her being a horrible spoiled rich girl.
Then there’s Bodhi….gorgeous guy, talented drummer, and they meet at a music festival. I loved that setting, the way they met though even then there were little things about Henna that irritated me, where she’s being all madame of mystery I just got annoyed at it, needless subterfuge, that came over as more of the “look at my connections”.
Then its back to school and ….oops, Bodhi is Mr Malone, school guidance counsellor. In the same way as you need to suspend belief to accept Henna and the art sales you need to just accept that talented drummer, fallen through drugs, drink and other circumstances is now a school counsellor….its unlikely in real life, he’s still under thirty, he’d need a degree and further study to get into that field and with a rehab stint on record it would be hard. Still, fiction, go with the flow. I can do that but TBH I do wish authors would inject a bit more realism into situations, not let characters just swan into top positions.
Bodhi is a lovely man, needs his job, but its Henna and he needs her too….the more we learn about him though the more we see what he can’t afford to risk, and it irritated me that Henna saw that but still pursued him. Why not wait a year? But then there’d be no story 😉 so I have my answer.

Towards the last third of the novel there’s some very serious stuff, more about Bodhi’s past, more about his fractured family, there are some hard choices to be made and plenty of heartbreak and angst. I was thinking “what would I do” and its a tough question, guilty feelings whichever way one decides. Sadly its a situation so many folk find themselves in. Life isn’t always easy.

There was lots of angst in this novel, and I adore that in a story, but Henna let it down for me, I found it so hard to actually respect her. She’s not horribly obnoxious or anything, just been brought up by very indulgent parents and has no real understanding of other people issues, what a lack of job, money, means to them. She’d undergone something pretty horrific a couple of years previously and I think her parents let her down in not getting her more help, in letting her waste her days on a high, popping gummies for pain instead of sorting it another way. That’s not a long term answer, but goes along with the parenting that left her this lack of understanding of others, and made her a bit selfish.
Perfect ending though, I love an epilogue that isn’t long, just fills in how things work down the line. Those few pages were exactly what I want.

Stars: Three and a half. There were parts I loved, parts I felt were stretching credibility a little too much, and then Henna herself, the way she was didn’t make her a great lead for me. As always though she and the story are perfect for others and that’s OK, we all enjoy different things.

Arc via author and social butterfly PR

Bad Breakup, Billionaire’s Club Book 2, Elise Faber

Bad Breakup, Billionaire’s Club Book 2, Elise Faber

Bad Breakup (Billionaire's Club Book 2) by [Faber, Elise]

Genre: romance

I liked the sound of this, wasn’t expecting intense, but sometimes though I love drama, angst, intensity I want something a little softer and this sounded great for that.

Sadly it wasn’t a good fit for me, nothing wrong with the writing, the characters or the story in itself, it was the characters actions that spoiled the story for me.
I don’t like the way two “so in love” characters wouldn’t even speak to each other after a major event like that, especially after they’ve already had one bad break-up. Having got past that would they really not talk about what happened? Most of us would want to know why at least, its human nature to want to know why we weren’t good enough.
That let the story down from both characters, I really liked them but didn’t feel that behaviour was reflective of the people they were – or seemed to be.

The past/present format is one I quite like, it lets me see the past as it plays out, not via a POV of someone who may have slanted opinions.
The Present in this novel covers so little time though that I just didn’t really get a sense of reality, of the seriousness of what was happening. It felt like events were very lust driven when both characters were the strong type that I felt would have wanted to know they whys of the past first.
I couldn’t see that Cecelia would have caved so quickly given what she thought would happen, and likewise Colin. Would he really have pursued her believing what he did? I know it was a pretty convincing lie that was set up, but to so easily be duped when you supposedly love someone enough to share the rest of your life with them?

Its a shame I couldn’t empathise with the couples’ actions as the story plot and set up was excellent. I could see that others actions may well lead to That Event, in just the way its described. Its the shock factor, the sense of betrayal that governs immediate reactions, not the side of our brain that says “this person loves you, would they really do that?” so a short breakup is understandable. I don’t feel either lead behaved in the way I’d have expected them to, by letting it go on not just months but years. Its hard to believe either would just let all that time pass without trying to find out what, why and how, for a couple so in Love to just let it drop, fade away without challenge.
Maybe a much shorter separation, a few weeks say, and more reality in the present actions, and this would have been a perfect read for me. Still, as always what I want isn’t what everyone wants, and this will be perfect for other readers as it is.

Stars: Two and a half. I didn’t dislike all the book, loved the characters, and the cause of breakup number two was so cleverly done. Sadly the actions, or rather the inactions, of the couple let to it being a story that didn’t work for me.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

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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