Tag Archive | contemporary romance

Aqua Follies, Liv Rancourt

Aqua Follies,  Liv Rancourt

Genre:  Romance, LGBTQIA

I loved this story, a great read, bringing in a very real feel of life in the fifties.
I was born at the very tail end of the fifties, but from my parents conversations about what they’d done this tale felt perfectly suited to the era.
Even in the sixties there was an emphasis on going out for entertainment. TV was limited, we didn’t have one like many families until i was maybe 9 or 10, and even then it was limited- no 24 hr TV, only two channels, definitely no daytime TV so we had to do things, not sit indoors. Carnivals, festivals etc all took place in the tiniest of villages even, with everyone turning out for what was a break from the usual work, home, sleep routine. As kids we were involved too so a festival like Aqua Follies which wouldn’t get off the ground now would have been high profile for many people. Liv does a terrific job or bringing that era to light.

Of course that makes it all sound like utopia, sunbeams and rainbows when it was anything but. Some of us lurked outside events, lacking the entry fee, trying to soak up a bit of atmosphere from the distance. There wasn’t parental leave, childcare etc in jobs so we were bundled off to others or left to roam when parents were working. It was work or starve, pay the rent or out, and Human Rights Act was a far off dream…
Life was tough if you were ordinary, toed the line, conformed, but if you dared to want a same sex relationship – woe is you….Still illegal back then. ( I’m not really sure when that changed, need to have a look at that) It was awful and guys like Russel didn’t even want to admit to themsleves they liked other men.
Its so sad, that pressure to conform, to stay safe and legal led to many marrying when there was no way they’d be fully happy. Russel certainly wouldn’t be and poor Susie, having a husband that doesn’t really love her. Sooner or later she’d realise that, and that’s what happened to so many couples, marrying to hide they really wanted a same sex relationship, but brought up to think it was perverted, against the Church, and risking prison if caught.
We’re a weird, judgmental group us humans.

I loved Russel and Skip. Skip’s sure in his desires for men, has found a group and places where he’s reasonably safe, but of course the police were given a pretty free rein then and he’s got one that keeps a close eye on him, never missing a chance to nip, berate, harass him.
Police brutality and harassment wasn’t recognised then so Skip had to just try to keep out of his way.
I loved Skip’s mum, in a sanitorium with TB, as happened to many then. The Fresh Air stance is very true, there was one near where I live and the huts were left open on one side all year round believing that it helped the lungs. Must have been pretty cold in winter!
When Skip is worried about being convicted, even if its a fine and caution he rightly says he’ll find it hard to get work. Who wants someone with a sex caution teaching music to their kids, joining their orchestra, working in their firm and of course without income he wouldn’t have anywhere to live, even if he could get a landlord to rent to someone with that on their record.
The world was a different place then, though some things seem good, there were things like this that made it a hard place for so many.

Russel, he sort of thinks he’s happy with Susie, there’s no grand passion but he has nothing to contrast with how he feels so he think that’s normal.
He knows his mum has been withdrawn after his brother died in Service, and he thinks it will make her happy if he gets married,so he’s planning to ask Susie to marry him – til he sees Skip. One look and he’s hooked, one word and he knows what he has with Susie isn’t Love.

What happens now though? What will they do, can they do living so far apart, when men cannot live openly with, be in a relationship with other men.
Is there a way through or are they a doomed, never to be together couple. And can he settle for Susie if that’s so?

Reading through the blurb I saw this was edited by KJ Charles, one of my favourite M/M authors – actually The favourite, she’s my number one for that genre, and it made me wonder if she had much influence over this book.
At the end reading through Liv’s explanations of how this book came to be she’s had the input of many people and it reminded me of the “it takes a village to raise a child” phrase. Maybe it takes a Team to raise a successful book.
Certainly its worked well this time, and its a great author who listens to critics, and shapes the story while still keeping it essentially the one they had in mind. You can please some readers some of the time and all that….

Stars: five, an enjoyable read, taking me back to a time when homosexuality was still illegal, still seen as perverted.

ARC supplied for review purposes by author

Just for the Holidays, Sue Moorcroft

Just for the Holidays, Sue Moorcroft

Just for the Holidays by [Moorcroft, Sue]

Genre: General Fiction (Adult)

I wanted something light, after a few dark, heavy reads and this was perfect, letting me relax while reading, lifting my mind up to bright and happy. Its not all smiles though, there’s some pretty sad moments, very real issues that will face many of us at some point in our lives.

So we start on holiday with Leah, and her sister’s family. It ought to be wonderful, relaxing, lazy days by the beach followed by nights spent with good food, wine and conversations. Well, that’s what * should * have happened. Instead poor Leah finds herself being a temporary parent to teens Jordan and Natasha, while her sister makes sporadic, desultory attempts to sort her life out, and her brother in law is mending a badly broken ankle….
Thankfully next door provides a distraction in the shape of hunky Ronan and his teen son Curtis.

Michele, Leah’s sister is a selfish woman. She’s two lovely teens – well, lovely as teens can be ;-), a husband who’s a kind, caring, responsible man and yet like many she’s discontented, has thrown herself into an affair with a younger man. Now she’s pregnant with her formerly happy, easy life strewn around her in ruins, blaming everyone but herself. I was so angry with her.
I haven’t patience with the “we just fell in love” mantra. There’s always a point when the harmless glances and occasional flirty chat moves forward, and its at that point a spouse should stop. Its not hard. just do the right thing.
Of course that’s not what they want, and Michele moves forward telling herself they can’t help it, ignores the heartbreak she’s going to rain down on her lovely family.
Sort your family issues out first is my solution, then once you’re separated there’s time for someone new.

And that’s my rant over, but you can see why I was so angry at Michele.
Right from the start she’s leaving Leah to do everything; shopping, cleaning, cooking, looking after the kids, citing morning sickness and feeling unwell as an excuse to stay away from anything resembling work/responsibility.
She’s actively jealous of Leah’s career, her child free life, but as Leah reminds her, she chose a different route, she shouldn’t be expecting Leah to take over her life now she doesn’t like it.
Her husband Alister is a lovely man, adores his kids and is trying hard to be civil, but his world has crashed and Michele isn’t making things any easier.
The kids were great, typical teens, ever hungry, full of energy – until they’re asked to do something of course, and they adore Leah. Until now she’s been cool auntie but now she’s a mum substitute, and after Alister’s injury a dad one too…
Teens are a mix, grown and wanting to be adults one moment but still kids inside and Michele’s actions have a huge impact on them.

Then there’s the family next door, Ronan and his son Curtis.
Curtis soon throws in with Jordan and Natasha, and the three are together having fun most days – and evenings.
Leah’s cooking is fantastic, she’s a trained chef, and soon they’re spending mealtimes with the family.
Ronan and Leah are attracted but the course of true love and all that…hasn’t hardly time to run smooth here with all the things being thrown up against it.

Its a fabulous read, heady warm summer days abroad, fabulous food – and lots of decadent chocolate desserts. The characters are a real mix of families, ones we all know, issues many of us have faced one way or another, and throughout I was rooting for Ronan and Leah, they’re two great guys and deserve each other. They’ve both been let down badly by others in the past, Leah especially is affected still by a past relationship that went bad, so though I wanted them to be together I kind of sympathised when I could feel her drawing barriers up.

A story that was fun, felt very summery, with real characters, ones we know, can feel have genuine issues and problems that face many of us at some points in out lives.

Stars: five, a fabulous summery read, with real people and genuine scenes.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Summer Stock, Vanessa North

Summer Stock,  Vanessa North

Summer Stock by [North, Vanessa]

Genre:  romance, LGBTQIA

I’ve loved several of Vanessa’s stories now so looked forward to this. It was a good read, but for me not a great one. Somehow I just wasn’t as glued to my kindle, transfixed by the tale as I have been with her other reads.

Its a fun read, has a real feeling of Summer, and here in the UK seaside towns like the ones I have either side of the village where I live have Summer theatres just like the one in this book so that felt very real to me.

I liked both Trey and Ryan but didn’t really get a great sense of them as people. Usually I have a kind of mental image, not so much a visual one, but of what kind of people they are and for whatever reason this time I didn’t.
I understood Ryan’s need for a bit of anonymity, but I’m not sure it was going to happen in a public theatre.
I really felt for Trey and what he’d been through, abuse can and does happen in all walks of live and the way he was picking himself back up but sometimes had problems and flashbacks, the way he was with the counsellor and the solutions they spoke about gave a sense of reality to the situation. I’m lucky, never been in that place but so many have and its good to see it treated sensitively and sensibly. Its not something one can shake off overnight or with a few sessions of counselling.
They were terrific characters as individuals, i just wasn’t so convinced by them as a couple.

I loved seeing the other characters here too, Mason and Caroline, theatre owners, the rest of the cast, Trey’s sister and her husband. They’re a good tight knit group, as happens in this kind of situation. Trey’s dog, Ferdinand, was a star too!!

Stars: Three, a good story, great characters but the romance didn’t quite cut it for me.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Back to Us, Phlox Beauty Series Book 2, Julia Gabriel

Back to Us, Phlox Beauty Series Book 2, Julia Gabriel
Back to Us (The Phlox Beauty Series) by [Julia Gabriel]

Genre:  Romance, Women’s Fiction

I loved Julia’s DRawing Lessons and Chiarascuro, but somehow I missed the first book in this series, featuring Jared and Phlox. They appear in this book too as secondary but important characters and I worked out much of their backstory from that but its a book I’d like to read. sometimes. when the TBR list drops a bit….

So even though this is a second in sereis its a stand alone, and it didn’t matter I hadn’t read book one.
I really enjoyed this story, felt so much for both characters and as before Julia doesn’t just stick to a standard romance of man meets woman, they fall in love, have a hiccup and then a HEA. No, Julia adds more and that’s what makes it perfect for me.
Its not just that Colt and Zee were in love four years ago, not that they are perfect for each other, but that they somehow lost their way, had a big breakup but after being captured and tortured Colt had lost huge chunks of his memory, including the fact he doesn’t live with Zee now….

Poor Zee comes home after a busy day, crawls into bed, only to find Colt in it. Colt who she’s not heard from in four years after living with him for a while and he left!
What a huge shock..and then he explains and she feels for him, but won’t open her heart again, it took her too long to recover the first time.
Since then she’s had more issues with her love life, when her lover who worked for the company she and best friend Phlox own sabotaged it, and nearly brought it to collapse. Its taken hard work and money to keep things going, and somehow Zee feels all the blame, has lost confidence in her judgement so has sworn off men.
And then Colt comes back, and she can feel him all over again, feel how right for her he is. Still, the reasons the broke up were solid, she can’t let herself go that route again.

Colt goes to stay with Max, her grandfather and the man who inadvertently brought them together.
He was Max’ writing professor, and there’s still a lot of respect between them. Colt has literally just left hospital and doesn’t know where he lives, doesn’t have access to his bank, which was emptied by his captors, so is in a really hard postition. As well as the memory loss, he’s physically weak from being beaten and starved and having a badly broken leg.
The trauma has left him with nightmares and he keeps losing bits of the present, such as forgetting where he is, right now. Its clear he can’t live alone so Max takes him in, although he’s away for a few days.
The first night he has a terrible nightmare, and in desparation somehow phones Zee, who collects him, takes him home and he ends up staying there for a few days til everything is sorted.
Of course Zee can’t stay in bed when she can hear him screaming in terror – who could, and slowly he works his way back into her heart.

She won’t tell him why they split up though, still trying to keep him at arms length and like Colt I was desperate to know. And when we did find out I was heartbroken for her, even though knowing Colt’s background I can see why he made the decision he did.
We all think time is limitless when we’re young, that there’s another chance, another time. Carpe Diem is a good motto, who knows what’s round the corner?
Trouble is when its two people who have different priorities for right now, different things they want to seize on the day.

Poor Zee, still working long days, trying to assuage her guilt over the sabotage, trying to put things right even though it wasn’t her fault, and now she’s more pressure with Colt back in her orbit.
He’s determined to wear her down, to get her back. he knows that for him she’s it,. and now he’s a better sense of life priorities.
Zee can’t trust he’s changed though, and she’s her own background issues to contend with. her mother is famous, an award winning actress and for much of Zee’s life she was dragged around, tutored privately and following her mother as she worked on yet another film. Her only stability came from her grandparents and after her grandmother died Max is the closest person in her life.

Its a book full of love, full of small and bigger dramas and one I loved. I was so wanting Zee to let Colt in, so understood why she didn’t though and was engrossed in seeing how on earth Julia could resolve things for them. And she did, in a perfect way.

Stars: five,a lovely story, sensual romance, with real issues and characters

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

So Wicked, Melissa Marino

So Wicked, Melissa Marino

So Wicked (Bad Behavior Book 3) by [Marino, Melissa]

Genre: Romance

I was in the mood for something light and flirty so chose this one. Well, it is light and flirty but also has some heat and a solid romance behind it.
What coloured it too much for me though was Alexis’ past. I just couldn’t respect or like someone who could do what she did. I know there were reasons, I know its all explained later in the book, but for me that just didn’t fit, didn’t excuse her actions.

Though I’d have loved her if I’d met her as she’s presented in the novel if I didn’t know her past, I did know and I found that changed all that I thought about her…..Wrong? Maybe but internal issues and bias often affect what we read and how we feel about stories and characters.

I could see easily how she and Marshal disliked each other – or hated on Marshals part! The way they slipped slowly into them having a relationship didn’t feel right though, just felt a little forced to me.
I did love the bar and the cake parings, my mouth was watering at some of the desserts.

If you want a quick sweet romance and can get over Alexis actions then you may love this.
If you’re a surly, judgmental person when it comes to book characters then like me you may find things too difficult to get past.
I can’t help how I feel, a well-written book brings characters to life, and then of course I think and judge them as real people.

Stars:Three, a good read with some gentle humour, a real light chick-lit story for summer on the beach.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Faking It, Christine d’Abo

Faking It, Christine d’Abo

Faking It (Ringside Romance Book 2) by [d'Abo, Christine]

Genre:  Romance, LGBTQIA

I really enjoyed book one in this series, which was also a first read of Christine’s books. Book two is Max and Grady, Max being involved in Ringside as well as owning a busy nightclub.
I loved that we met Zack and Nolan from book one again too.
Grady kind of stumbles into Max life, escaping from his bullying father, his unwanted fame and now he discovers he’s not escaped.
Dad’s taking advantage of the Gay side of him, hoping to cash in on the Liberalist views, marry Grady off to the son of a wealthy connection and bring even more profit to his investments.
Poor little rich boy….and yet Grady’s likable, we can see that underneath his seeming to despise his father he really just wants his approval. But that’s not been forthcoming for a long while, and Grady isn’t prepared to marry a stranger just to get it.
Max seems like an honest guy, he didn’t try to rip him off when he had the chance, didn’t snap photos or tell stories to the press, and he wonders – would he pretend to be engaged if they agree a suitable recompense? It would only need to be for a few weeks.
Max’s first thought is no, he feels sorry for Grady, is of course strongly attracted and knows that’s reciprocated but no, just no, he can’t do it. Well, until something happens to change his mind on the spur of the moment.

Its a fun story, I liked Grady and Max, loved seeing updates on Zack and Nolan but overall it was a bit ..slow. There was lots going on but it was all very subdued, understated and when it came to the wrap up, I just couldn’t really see it happening that way. It was such a complete turnaround that it didn’t feel real, and that’s a kicker for me, situations need to feel that they could happen. This time I didn’t see how it could roll out that way.
Its still a good read, a well written story with the good sex v story balance that book one had for me. I hate when sex overtakes the story, for me that just doesn’t work, but this read had it just right.

Of course the lack of drama and the ending that didn’t work for me will be perfect for others. Such is life so make your own judgement, if you liked soft and understated romance this could be just right for you. I love drama and an element of realism, and that lack was what brought it down for me.

Stars:Three, a good story but I felt for me it needed more drama and a bit more realism in the ending.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Solo, Lauren E. Rico

Solo, Lauren E. Rico

Solo (Symphony Hall) by [Rico, Lauren E.]

Genre:  Romance, New Adult.

Well, I hesitated over reading this one. I read book one of Lauren’s music trilogy, and though there were parts I loved, such as the music, there were parts I found really hard to get along with, and haven’t yet decided if I’m going to read parts two and three. Eventually I took the plunge with Solo – and I’m So glad I did.

Its a wonderful story, perfectly written as far as my reading tastes go, mixing story, sex, drama and intrigue to make a tale I was gripped by. I’ve said often I hate when sex becomes the story, here its just right, sensual and erotic but fits within the book so very well.
I have to say though, that cover is just awful, really tacky and just doesn’t do the novel justice IMO. I’m one who rarely looks at covers, just reads the blurb, its only the brilliant or awful ones that catch my eye….

I loved Katherine, such a hard worker, so loyal to her father even when he’s acted so harshly, when she could make her life easier if she did things another way.
She doesn’t though, she’s strongly moral, and just keeps her head down, works hard, and struggles through whatever the personal cost.
I so felt for her all the awful things she had to endure. Drew’s hassling of her, he really picked on her, her advisor Tessa, wasn’t any help, she seemed to dislike Katherine so its no wonder she didn’t go to her for help, the other students were horrible to her.
She’s so alone, friendless, family less and just has learned the only person she can rely on is herself. Isn’t that horrible? When Drew asks her when was the last time someone gave her a present and its years, my heart cracked a bit, such a simple thing, a gift that shows someone cares about you and she’d had nothing from her father, had no freinds with whom she could exchange gifts, just this lonely, solitary life.

Drew, he was a real piece of work the way he singled her out, the way he picked on her for every imagined infraction. I did wonder how he got away with it, and I guess its only because Katherine avoided anything that might throw controversy on her father that she didn’t complain.
Then they get thrown together and he sees a different side to her, sees that he’s projected his anger at Cassie onto her. There are some really emotional moments when the penny drops as to just how awful he’s been to her over the last five years. We see a different side to him too.

Of course as student and professor anything between them is forbidden and they’re risking so much, and they do try to stay on the right side. Still, you know how it is, in the first throes of attraction we tend to think we’re being careful when it reality we’re anything but.

There’s drama here too with the press, in particular one sleazy guy, always sneaking round for a story, trailing her for months, asking everyone about her, trying to find dirt, especially now her father may announce his bid for presidency.
With their actions and they way they don’t see just how much they’re giving away its not long before it all goes wrong.

When it does,  well – boy – is Drew a first class jerk!
I kind of understood where he was coming from, understood that he hadn’t really let go of the past, and I’d guessed who was behind things and why – well, part of the why 😉
I loved the way it wasn’t all hate on one page all love again on the next. I like my drama dragged out, I like to wallow and poor Katherine really hit the depths.

I did find the way they fell headlong into romance despite the risks a little bit, teeny bit difficult to take, both had so much to lose, but I put that to one side as it made such a great read for me.
See, I like some realism in my novels, but this wasn’t too far off course, people do act in stupid ways when in love 😉

Stars:Five, a story I really enjoyed, Lauren’s love of music really comes through and gives a solid, realsitic background to the novel even to someone like me who knows little about orchestras, composing, conducting and the world of Classical music.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

The Distance Home, Orly Konig. Dating the Undead, Juliet Lyons

The Distance Home, Orly Konig

The Distance Home: A Novel by [Konig, Orly]

Genre:  Women’s fiction,

What a terrific debut book, absorbing story, well told and one I enjoyed reading.

Emma is the consummate career woman, successful, polished, and never really switches off from working. Her boss wasn’t keen to let her have the week off to attend to affairs after her fathers death, and she almost agrees with him, that could wait, work is more pressing. HR insists though so Emma makes the journey home ( great title , fits perfectly BTW), somewhere she’s not been for 16 years.  She’s no other realtives now so its a lonely journey.

The story is told from Emma’s POV, and in present/past flashbacks. That works well to slowly let the reader see what happened, how she grew up, why she is the person she is now. We think we know who she is and what happened, but it’s a very slow reveal to the full truth, and along the way Emma learns that her view of events is just that – her view, and things weren’t necessarily as simple as a child sees them. There were reasons she either didn’t understand or simply didn’t see.
As her stay gets extended she gets more drawn into the reactions of people around her about that one catastrophic event, the things that were a catalyst for it, with her recall set against why things happened.

I loved Emma, she was such a lonely child I felt for her. The horses had become her world and being a horse mad child and adult I could see how she got strength from them. My last horse died this year, 25 years of horse-owning, a childhood dream that took much effort and sacrifice but horse lovers will understand it was all worthwhile.

Of course while she’s being slowly drawn back, increasingly entrenched in that past life her current one is blowing up the internet. Frantic emails pass back and forth, demands to know how soon she can go back etc.
I did find it hard to see why she accepted there was something huge going on and yet happy to wait til she was back on the following Monday, some days away, to find out what. I wasn’t a quarter the workaholic Emma is and yet I couldn’t have waited, would have to have answers now, and that bit didn’t sit right with me.
Its a small crit though in a fabulous book I really enjoyed. Not sure its one I’d re-read now I know the story, favourite romances and some other books I love to read over and over but I don’t think this will join them.

Stars: four, great characters, including the animals, and a terrific debut read

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

** Pricing. £16.82/$20.98 for a debut read!! Wow, not sure I’d risk that – in fact I know I wouldn’t when there are top authors and best sellers in the £5-10 range

Dating the Undead,  Juliet Lyons

Dating the Undead (Undead Dating Service) by [Lyons, Juliet]

Genre:  Romance, Sci-fi and Fantasy

First book in a new series and writing this I’m still undecided exactly how I feel. I didn’t Not like it but I wasn’t grabbed by it either…
The premise is good, sounded fun, a vampire dating site. No risk of relationships there you’d think, not with the potential age differences 😉 That’s just what Silver is looking for, sex and spice without the other guy wanting a HEA for them.

Well, I liked Silver – and then there were parts of her I didn’t. When it comes to her mum and how she died she feels a bit shallow almost, especially at the end when she learns more. “Oh, that’s how she died. OK then, what shall we do now?” that’s sort of how her reaction feels to me. Given all her former questions it just felt underwhelming somehow.
She gets on with her dad but isn’t really very nice to her step-mum, and I didn’t know why except that she’s acting like a teen and she’s not, she’s an adult. I think this shallowness about her is what I didn’t like.
I did like her independence and confidence, but she was just that bit too unfeeling. She has a great kiss with Logan, so joins V Date in search of more, and she’s happy to let a total stranger, one who could kill her easily, bite her.
The police interaction was just weird, that’s all I can say about that!

Logan, a great guy, loyal to his vampire lord/boss and yet the whole Anastasia saga make him look weak and feeble to me.
Somehow after all those years vampires have been around, most of them hidden from humans, you’d think they’d come up with a way round these rules that constrain them, even when keeping them risks so much.
Then that ending, rounds off the story neatly but too slick for me, a bit too convenient…I’m not a quick fix girl, I like solutions to come from things we know, to be worked hard for.

It sounds like there’s a lot I didn’t like here and that’s not true, it was a fun read, some good humour, and its a well written story, with potential for more. I did like the sound of Cop Vincent, subject of the next book.

Maybe its just first-book-in-series syndrome, where it has such a lot to achieve, setting out story for this book and future ones and introducing different characters. Its a hard ask for any book, and maybe for ones like this that also have a humorous side its more difficult.

Its was an ok read for me, I didn’t not like it, and bits made me smile, but its not one I’d read again. If you want a fun and light supernatural read with a gentle HEA this is for you. I just need a bit more depth and angst.

Stars: Three, an ok read, fun in parts but a bit light for me.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

The First Year, Genevieve Gannon

The First Year, Genevieve Gannon

The First Year by [Gannon, Genevieve]

Genre:  General fiction (adult), women’s fiction

I really enjoyed this read. Marriage is hard work to make it successfully, just being “in love” isn’t always enough to overcome all the issues thrown at couples. And when they’re from such diverse backgrounds as Saskia and Andy its even harder. Both have baggage too in the way if Exes that are still around….

Its clear they adore each other, came together very suddenly after each had split from a serious relationship. Its been a whirlwind meeting, engaged and married within months of meeting, they vow on their honeymoon to show each other how much they love them every day- in an ingenuous way. They “contract” to make love each day, to carve out time to remind themsleves how precious their relationship is.
Well, on honeymoon that’s perfect, but back home the work pressures are high, families aren’t as supportive as they could be and slowly cracks appear.

Its kind of bittersweet, seeing it from both POV, and knowing how much they love and respect each other. Or do they? Does Andy really understand how important her art is to Saskia? Does she really follow how important this job is to him? There are rippling undercurrents of resentment, when first Andy and then Saskia spend time on work that they think should be relationship time, Andy-and-Saskia time.
Of course we can see it from outside, whereas they only have their own view, don’t know what else is going on, and as we all do, seethe resentfully when we feel we’re in the right….be honest, we’ve all done it. Justified a stance where maybe, just maybe we aren’t quite as right as we want to be.

Then there’s some huge pressures hit the couple and …they need to pull together quickly or fall apart. Its wonderfully played out, letting me understand both of them, see how easily one day becomes a week, becomes several weeks…so realistic when each struggles to make a move.

The copyright issue that affected Saskia and was a big part of the latter half of the book was so very true to life. As an artist I know people who’ve had work copied, not just by firms printing tea towels, mugs, place-mats of artworks etc but from factory style foreign artist companies who see a popular image, and copy it faithfully, using inferior materials and paying the artists next to nothing. Thus they can knock out an exact copy of a work at a fraction of the price. And the artist is pretty much helpless, all that time spent planning, painting, altering, studying before finally deciding this is the perfect work, all that is lost. Authors have the same issue when others try to copy their books, or – horrors- put them online on free-to-download sites. Makes me furious, and some series I’ve been following authors have stopped writing as there are more free downloads than sales.
Yes we do own copyright to our works but enforcing it takes time and money and sucess isn’t ensured.  As we see in this book, its very difficult to prove even when it looks on the surface very obvious, and for most its a risk to time and money they just don’t have. Bills need to be paid, people need to work, so finding time to deal with court legalities isn’t easy. I loved the way Saskia and co did it here, and the end result was very realistic, and perfect for the story.
Copying original work of any sort, evading paying an artist/author for their time is wrong, just plain wrong! Hurts everyone eventually when there’s no original stuff left. Why should people bother when all their time is wasted, when Ikea or some such store sell copies at a fraction, when their books aren’t selling because of free copies….We’ll get the bland, high street, chain store stuff we deserve if not careful. And that’s my rant over, promise 😉

Like I said its a very real look at life, marriage and how two individuals need to adapt to make a successful marriage. Its not one bending to the other, but both working equally, trusting each other, sharing problems as well as sucess. Looking at Saskia and Andy you can’t pinpoint where issues actually started, when  tiny problems became a huge ones and that’s what its like for most of us, its the tiny things that left untended grow to have the potential to destroy.

Stars: five, a fabulous look at life, realities of two individuals living as one while retaining separate identities. Looking at the pitfalls facing those couples who want to stay together, showing how love isn’t enough, successful co-habitation and respect takes a bit more.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Sex in the Sticks, A Love Hurts Novel, Sawyer Bennett. A Bride for a Day, Matchmaker Cafe Series Book 2, Pam Binder

Sex in the Sticks, A Love Hurts Novel, Sawyer Bennett
Sex in the Sticks: A Love Hurts Novel by [Bennett, Sawyer]

Genre:  Romance,

I’m a great fan of SB’s novels, and I think the only one so far that wasn’t a hit for me was Uncivilised. Now its been joined by this one. a good-ish book, well written of course but content? Romance? well, for me it was kind of meh…I can see others love it – well, I’m glad but it didn’t hit the expected spot for me.

I guess Valentine had a lot to do with that. I just didn’t really like her, found her shallow and almost vacuous, kidding herself her blog was “work”.
She’s a trust fund lady, has never know life without riches, luxuries there for the taking, spending – as she says $10,000 dollars on a weekend isn’t that unusual for her. She wasn’t unkind to those who didn’t have her kind of money but there’s no way she could understand them or their lifestyles.

The blog: Well, as a blogger and blog reader I know that for many blogs are Big Business, a full time job and very important.
Valentines a bit more like me, a hobby blogger. I do it to get ARCs as I could never afford to indulge my love of stories without them, Valentine does it for ? Well, I’m not really sure. Seems to be she thinks of it as a job, but a non paying one.
Some of her comments verged on cruel, and that kind of thing can be funny, but needs care and when she’s identifying who the other people are, but they don’t know about it I feel its kind of nasty.
It felt as if she was somehow looking down on them, that she was hinting they didn’t live up to what dating Valentine French was all about. It just made me think, what exactly does she feel is so attractive about her, why does she think she’s such a catch.

Logan, a great guy, loved him and the way the locals respected him.
When things went wrong between him and Valentine the first time he overreacted, IMO. Acted like a thwarted teen. Just ASK man, that’s all you have to do. He of all people should know about that kind of situation and how the truth gets twisted.
The second time I had more sympathy for him, but somehow by then I’d got a bit bored with the whole thing.
You may love it, lots of others do but for me, well, it was just between 2 and 3 stars.

Stars: two and a half, I did like a few bits but most of it I just didn’t enjoy.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

A Bride for a Day, Matchmaker Cafe Series Book 2, Pam Binder

A Bride for a Day (Matchmaker Cafe Series Book 2) by [Binder, Pam]

Genre:  Romance, Women’s fiction

My first book by this author so I didn’t know what to expect. Sadly its one that didn’t work. I think that though this author’s work is perfect for many readers I’m looking for something different. That’s life.
I was intrigued by the synopsis but in practice the story has so much more. Unfortunately it wasn’t what I look for in a novel, and unfolded in a way that left me with more questions than answers.

Everything happened so fast, one morning she’s at work as usual, then later that day she’s marrying Michael!
I understood – just- the issues around the marriage, but in practical terms I just don’t believe they would work. Arranging a wedding in such a short time too isn’t possible, Scotland might be the land of elopement but even then there were/are time restrictions. You cannot simply get married on the day you think of it…Legalities just don’t allow it and without some kind of explanation of how they got round them I can’t put that aside.

Then there’s the reasons: I thought Tatiana’s issues felt contrived, I didn’t see that the marriage would affect that, and I didn’t like her or her mum.
Michael’s film and image problems too, well, they may be real but marrying one day, filing for divorce the next isn’t going to change them. Studio heads don’t make decisions this way, they wouldn’t have given him the role so quickly just because he got married on a whim. That doesn’t scream stable and settled even if he could convince them he’d known CC a while. Especially when his involvement in Tatiana’s life is well known..the practicalities just wouldn’t work.

And then there’s the second thread, the description makes no mention of this, the sisters and the magical matchmaking. I was pretty confused when that all started, I love fantasy novels but this was just…odd…and I found it hard to believe in.
I hadn’t read the first book, thinking it wouldn’t matter as these are connected but stand alone reads, so maybe that would have helped me understand what was going on there. Perhaps? I don’t know.
As it was I felt it was a book that had maybe just too much packed into too short a space, as it’s just 133 pages long.

I didn’t ever feel I knew the characters more than just a surface gloss of them, and I wasn’t really invested in them or their issues. Either a longer book so more detail, or less complex story might possibly have made a difference for me, but of course not all books suit all readers, and for very many readers this book will be perfect as it is.

If you like light and fluffy, don’t bother about practicality and reality and are happy to accept the story as its presented then you’ll love this.
If like me you need reasons for decisions, ones that feel real and are practical/legal, and want to get to know your characters well then probably you won’t.

Stars: Two, too unbelievable for me – and I don’t mean the fantasy side, but the practicalities.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

J.A. Hazel

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