Tag Archive | contemporary romance

A Place to Belong, Abbie Williams

A Place to Belong, Abbie Williams

A Place to Belong: A Novel by [Abbie Williams]

Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance

* sigh * women’s fiction, I seem to have been moaning about this genre for ages now. Its 2020, men write romance, men read romance, lets stop with the sexism.

Anyway, while reading this it had the feel of one in a series of connected books. The way the characters were intertwined, the places, and I checked – yes, Shore Leave Cafe series has many of these characters. It didn’t matter that I hadn’t read any of the books, this story was perfect and complete. I have downloaded the first book though, its on KU and I love Abbie’s writing style.
I adored Wy and Millie. They were so clearly in love with each other though neither were open about it until finally, they told each other how they felt. They had a few short days of happiness before the axe falls. I cold see that one coming, but it was so well done that I didn’t mind.
I so felt for Wy, he was trapped, stuck, didn’t want to disappoint his family, wanted to do what was right, but it brought him heartache all round. He finishes his studies, lives his life as best he can, but never forgets Millie, always wishes it was her in his life. Still, he tries, he tries so hard, but he doesn’t have a happy life. Hannah was a great character, sadly there are people just like her and I do love to see them crop up in a story,. Her actions were so very real, and show how easily lives can be spoiled by a thoughtless action. She wasn’t happy either, even though she had what she wanted.
Millie, she’s devastated when Wy leaves, understands why, but it leaves a hole in her heart. She tries to get past him but he’s always there in her head, won’t leave her.
Its heart breaking, you can feel how much they love each other, how good they would be together, and yet they’re stuck, hundreds of miles apart, and no hope of a future. Millie too tries to move forward but can’t.
Much of the book is about them being apart, always loving each other but with no contact for years, and yet the love in their hearts is so strong no-one else stands a chance. I was heartbroken for them both, this scene gets played out in real life too often, and its not happy for anyone. I so wanted something to happen for them to be together, was almost holding my breath at times, and gutted when they were still apart. I don’t usually like romances where the main characters spend much of the novel apart, but it works here, and I loved this story.
I loved the equine parts too, I’ve also studied Parelli and adore horses, so I understood Millie so well.

Stars: 5 A fabulous romance, with realistic characters and a heartbreaking story line.

Arc via Netgalley

He Owns My Heart, (Owned Heart, Body, & Soul 1), Evie Drae

He Owns My Heart, (Owned Heart, Body, & Soul 1), Evie Drae

He Owns My Heart: A Contemporary MM Romance (Owned Heart, Body, & Soul Book 1) by [Evie Drae]

Genre: M/M romance |M/M romance.

I enjoy a good M/M romance sometimes, I like variety in my reading. I was offered the chance to read this, and as the story extends into a trilogy I thought that hopefully we’d get a romance with some solid dramas. I do love lots of drama in romance 😉

Landon’s a sweet guy, you can just feel how he wants to be loved, for himself, not for his fame, not for what he can do for the other person, just for someone that wants him. Maybe that stems from his background, his family made it clear a gay son was not what they wanted. His dad’s in politics, and I’m thinking maybe in book two, or even three, we might learn more about him, and the conflict he perceives Landon’s sexuality to be.
Then there’s Toby, poor kid, has been brought into prostitution to help his family, and he lives an awful life. Then when they meet its clear that both can offer something to the other. But – sadly – I didn’t really feel the attraction somehow, I felt desperation almost, and of course some hot lust, but I wanted them to get to know each other apart from all the sex.

I think that’s my issue with the story, I like sex in a romance, but there was so much here it almost became all the story, and I found myself skipping yet another sex scene to get to what would happen. There’s so many potential plots, Landon’s family, Toby’s family, Toby’s awful situation and how Landon can get him out. Steffan, Landon’s friend, a sharp guy who feels like if he’s in your corner he takes no prisoners when it comes to defence. And of course Garret and the reality show saga ( why does anyone ever think its a good idea to do one of those?).
Garret had so much potential but he didn’t really get up to much til near the end, and even that bit of drama was over quickly. Its a personal thing, but I want to wallow a bit in the sad parts, and when the drama ends so quickly I don’t get that. I did feel too, after all the PI stuff and questions about how to help Toby, that resolution of that came way to quick. If it was that simple why not do it before? It kind of makes me feel maybe Landon wasn’t as certain of what he wanted do do as he appeared.

It reads well as a stand alone with a HFN, and I’m in two minds about whether I want to read more. There’s the potential of several problems and dramatics that naturally attracts me, but I was put off by the eternal sex scenes. I wasn’t bothered by the content, by the light BDSM, just that it seemed the story couldn’t progress more that a short while without yet more sex…..

Stars: Three, well written and for many readers its perfect. Its just my quirks that make me want a bit more story, a bit less sex.

Arc via author

The Love Scam, MaryJanice Davidson

The Love Scam, MaryJanice Davidson

The Love Scam (Danger, Sweetheart) by [MaryJanice Davidson]

Genre: Romance

I really wanted to like this, sounded like a fun and quirky read but sadly I just couldn’t get on with it, gave up eventually and DNF.
Rake is a barely functioning alcoholic, what Delaney saw in him I’ve no idea. When thwarted he acted like a petulant spoiled child, he rambled incessantly about unimportant things, and seemed to feel the answer to everything was to throw money at it. Not a nice man, and that was a real disappointment for me. Maybe he gets better as the book progresses, I struggled to 30% and gave up.
I’ve no idea what was going on with Delaney other than she had the patience of a saint with Rake, I’d have pushed him back in the lake…and Lilith is 11 ( I think) going on 111 in her speech and actions. Its clear she’s been through a lot and to have this self obsessed, spoilt man child as her possible father gave me shivers, heaven knows how she really felt.
I felt everything was so pushed, so full on, so more, more, more that it became confusing, the more I read the less I understood. I’ve enjoyed MaryJanice books before but this one just didn’t work for me. As always though it’ll be perfect for others, we all want different things and though I don’t like this you may love it.

Stars: Two, an OTT manic read, with a dislikable lead that just didn’t work for me

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Love Disregarded, Rachel Blaufeld

Love Disregarded, Rachel Blaufeld

Love Disregarded by [Rachel Blaufeld, Pam Berehulke]

Genre: Romance|R

I’ve mixed feelings about this book. I loved Bex, but when it came to Aston she was a bit of a doormat. I loved Aston too, it was clear how he felt about Bex but…he let money and revenge guide him. That was OK ish when they were young, we all make mistakes, especially when young. We haven’t yet had enough life to assess whats important. When they reconnected though that first time Aston did it again, without the excuse of age. Then after years he decides he wants her and now….and she really just rolls over. Yes, I got that they had a Grand Passion, but the hurts of the past were still there. They had that passion then, this time they’ve both got others to consider, not just themselves. If I was Bex I’d have made him work Much Much harder the third time.
I felt for Seth, he was just there. Used TBH and though Bex came to love him – sort of – it wasn’t the passion she had for Aston. Poor Seth could never live up to that. Never the less he’s a good guy, really steps up even when faced with unwanted surprises. He got a hard time IMO.
Milly and Mike, loved them. Hope things worked out for them.
The kids, all of them, were great. Really well balanced considering all they went through.
Aston’s parents, weak mother, vicious and cruel father. It kind of excuses his actions a little IMO, but only a little and only when he was younger.

Overall its a mixed book for me. I loved the passion, the so strong feelings between Bex and Aston. I loved the angst, I can never get too much of that, and would have liked it to last a bit longer. I hated that she let him get away with so much, and even up to the end he was just steamrollering his way through, expecting everyone to fall in line with his plans. It doesn’t matter if they were good plans, I felt for a solid future Bex needed to make him understand they were a partnership, she had equal say, not just let him carry on as before.

Stars: Three and a half, a good read but I had quite a few reservations about parts.

Arc via netgalley and publishers

Side Trip, Kerry Lonsdale

Side Trip, Kerry Lonsdale

Side Trip by [Kerry Lonsdale]

Genre: General Fiction (adult), Women’s Fiction.

* sign * Women’s fiction again, oh how I hate that outdated category. Its 2020, an outdated category.

Anyway, I love Kerry’s stories, and was keen to see where this would take me. It was incredibly emotional, heartbreaking for both the young Joy and the person she is now. She’s doing her dead sister’s bucket list, mirroring what she thinks her sister wanted in life. Joy has her life planned to Judy’s lists for her future, and they are pretty fixed but Joy feels she needs to follow them. I felt she was so entrenched in Judy’s would-be life she has repressed her own wants and needs, its clear that she isn’t enjoying things in the way she expected. There’s no room for spontaneity in her life, its only whats on one of Judy’s lists that’s allowed. So what on earth happened to let Dylan on the trip with her? Well, blame Judy’s list for that :-), fortunately it has things that push Joy out of her familiar zone and having Dylan along helps her cross things off the list.
Dylan is totally opposite to joy, on his own private trip, he’s all for free spirit, no plans, spontaneity, his views are so opposite to Joys, and yet the two get on so well. I loved Dylan, was intrigued by his reasons for making the journey when it was so clear he hated what he was doing.

Both Joy and Dylan are in a way escaping from their pasts, affected by what happened then, even to the current day. The novel breaks into time periods, the past, the present and the future ( which is of course also the present). I don’t usually like stories set out like this. I find it frustrating, as just as I’m desperate to know more then time zones jump, but here Kerry keeps it short so it works – and works well. I was in tears more than once, and towards the end I was devastated. Gutted. Ugly crying. I really didn’t think that was coming, I almost stopped reading. I’m so glad I continued to the epilogue though – it was perfect. Wonderful. Satisfying. And cleverly done.

Its something I again don’t usually like, have only seen it done as a kind of escape effect when writer seemed desperate to get the H out of a situation that seemed to have no answer. Here though, I should have kept in mind the plots premise of fate v the what if’s.
“ What if Joy and Dylan had exchanged last names? What if he’d told her she made him believe love was worth the risk? And what if they hadn’t made that second deal when they couldn’t say goodbye?”
Its so important to bear that in mind and keep reading. I didn’t and it wasn’t until I re-read the description just before writing my review that I realised how intentional it was, and it made sense. Its a plot device I’m still not a fan of, but it works here. For me though it did mean I dropped half a star, as even though it works I just don’t like that kind of mechanism for a story. Maybe if I’d realised at the time I was reading, rather than next day just prior to review. If I’d not been reviewing I wouldn’t have read the description and realised that it was intentional, part of the “what if” premise that’s integral to the story. That’s my personal issues though, and of course others will feel very differently. A really emotional read.

Stars: four and a half. I’m being picky but I can’t get past how easily I could have missed that a huge part of the story was intentional, and not just the plot device I’ve seen before and disliked.

Arc via Netgalley and publishers

Lead Me Back, CD Reiss

Lead Me Back, CD Reiss

Lead Me Back by [CD Reiss]

Genre: General Fiction (adult), Romance.

I’ve read a few of CD Reiss stories, and one, Bombshell, is my favourite., so much so that I’ve read it three or four times now and still find new things in it. I expected to love this book as much but…I didn’t. 😦

I loved Kayla, and loved Justin’s gran Louise – I want to be her when I’m her age! Justin though, at first he was such a jerk and I found it took me a while to get past that.

What I really struggled with is that I felt there was so much going on the I was expected to understand but didn’t. The band and the separation – I didn’t really understand that, likewise it took over half the book before the truth about the last incident with them came out. Kayla and what she was running from, the significance of those bolts of cloth – they kept cropping up but they didn’t really mean anything. Even when I found out the backstory I didn’t understand really why they played such a big part, when it didn’t really go anywhere.
I found Kayla, Justin and others having conversations where I only understood part of what they were talking about – you know, the way long time together couples, friends that are very close – can talk and say so much with just a few words. Kayla and Justin would discuss something, come to a decision and I still didn’t follow what they were discussing, never mind where it was going. Justin and his agent, Justin and his band-mates, they’d talk and make decisions and I was in the dark. I just felt lost as to what was happening much of the while.

Sadly that meant I didn’t really love this book as I’d hoped, it was a fun read but not one I’ll re-read. I wasn’t really convinced of the love either, when Justin seemed ready to push her to the background even though she told her what happened, I felt, as with his band, he was putting his career above his friends and lover. I just can’t forgive that so easily as Kayla did, she was so spunky, had been through so much that she needed support, not pushing to behind the scenes. Possibly that wasn’t what they meant too – it was more of those conversations that I found hard to follow.
I loved the way Kayla finally got justice, and of course that things worked out for her and Justin, but it was a little too slick, too rushed, and I’m not sure that was best for long term happiness.

Stars: Three, for me there was too much unsaid, too much confusion, and Justin went from jerk to justice too quickly for me to really believe in him.

ARC supplied by Netgalley and publisher

One To Watch, Kate Stayman-London

One To Watch, Kate Stayman-London

One To Watch: real love . . . as seen on TV by [Kate Stayman-London]

Genre: Women’s fiction, Romance,

Arghhh, Women’s fiction again. Why? Why assume men won’t read this? Men write romance, men read romance.

This was a real treat to read. Somehow Kate brings in so many minority groups, plus size, black/coloured/LGBT/even asexual, and that rarely crops up. You missed my group though Kate ;-( Disabled. Wheelchair users very rarely crop up in romance, yet we want love too.
Still, it was wonderful to see so many groups here and brought in as part of the story, everyday stuff, not a triumphal “ wow!! look! A minority person!” I so hate the token folk – usually LGBT – that are the stereotyped lip service to inclusion in so many novels.

Anyway, the writing was sharp and funny, very on-point, I loved it. I really felt for Bea. She’s the odd one out in a happily married family, and knows her parents love her but inside she misses what the rest of the family have. She’s successful, loves her work, has good friends and yet still there’s that tiny bit that you can feel she misses, will she get love? Is she doomed to forever reminisce about her lost love?
Why don’t programmes like so many people’s secret addiction reality shows have people like her, minority groups, she wonders. So after her diatribe on exactly that, when the programme wants her to be their next star, she stipulates she does not want 25 of the usual, white, well muscled males but a group that represents reality.

There were some fabulously funny moments, and some emotional ones that made me almost tearful. Surprises? They are there in spades, this was a totally unpredictable novel and I loved that I just didn’t know what would happen next. The clothes she got – I know nothing really about fashion, so the names went over my head but the descriptions sounded so perfect. I want a clock like that first one!
I loved the mix of men, guessing who really meant what they said, who was just there for publicity, who was secretly thinking about Bea’s weight in an unpleasant way. ( Way to go Tim! Bea’s brothers certainly teach an excellent lesson in respecting their sister! )
Then there’s the wonderful dates, so enjoyed reading about them. Balloon trips, museums and art, Marrakesh and camel rides, just wonderful.

The ending? TBH I’m not wholly convinced by how it played out. I want to be, but after all the things she’s been through I’m not entirely certain its a HEA, but its certainly HFN.
I’ve seen some criticism of the way its laid out, tech style, and that made me cautious. I’ve tried – and failed – to enjoy books written in film script style, and was concerned this might be. Its not. There are a lot of email/twitter posts but that was fine. I use those everyday so embraced it, and it gave a way of the story connecting to the outside ( of the tv prog) world easily. I’m 62, its not a book just for the young, tech savvy people.

Stars: Difficult, I’d say five but I’m not entirely happy about the ending. So four and a half, the rest is just perfect and well done for all that inclusivity but fitting the characters in so naturally. Real world.

Arc via netgalley and publishers

Just Saying, Sophie Ranald

Just Saying, Sophie Ranald

Just Saying: An absolutely perfect and feel-good romantic comedy by [Sophie Ranald]

Genre: Humour, Romance,

My first Sophie Ranald read, and what fun it was. I really enjoyed this, laughed at parts and had tears at others. Its a very apt book with the #metoo still causing notice, and of course stories from the Windrush generation. .

I loved Alice, she was like so many people I know, internalising hurts, showing one face to the world while feeling very different inside. I think what I found so, so sad was her reaction to what happened, to blaming herself for not doing anything to stop it. That doesn’t make her complicit, its a natural reaction to shock, and yet still something used as a defence far too often. Victim blaming – despicable defence.

When Alice met Joe it was a perfect match. Joe is wonderful, solid, dependable, a true support to Alice, and when she loses her job and starts at the pub he’s very supportive. It means though that their work hours conflict and they see little of each other, just at the time their new, gorgeous lodger, Zoe, Joe’s ex, the girl he says he loved and broke his heart, has moved in. Zoe is stunningly attractive, a great chef, and Joe loves to cook. Alice enjoys eating but cooking isn’t her thing. Slowly it feels like its Joe and Zoe, rather than Joe and Alice, she’s always there, laughing with Joe over their shared past, reminiscing over old mates, singing along as they cook, and of course enjoying the garden. The one Joe and Alice had such plans for but never found the time to do so. Poor Alice, Joe assures her they’re just friends when she moves in, but its hard seeing that toned body parading around in sexy, skimpy nightwear. Does she want Joe back ? That’s what Alice fears, and feels “less” in comparison to the gorgeous, talented Zoe.

Then there’s the pub ( and that picture – I could just visualise it!! I loved Shirley’s poem too, Princess Diana has that reaction for some people…). There’s Alice’s brother Drew, her best friend Heather, landlady Shirley and the locals, and of course handsome Archie, who owns the craft brew shop next door to the pub. They all form a tale that’s is cleverly woven together, along with a secret burden poor Alice has been carrying for far too long. Its a fabulous read, well written, paced out just right and

Stars: Five. A great read. Has a perfect blend of romance and jealousy, topical issues, things that affect real people, us with our imperfect lives. And of course a HEA, a romance isn’t right without that for me.

Arc via netgalley and publishers

Something Like Perfect, S.C. Stephens

Something Like Perfect, S.C. Stephens

Something Like Perfect by [S.C. Stephens]

Genre: | General Fiction (Adult), Romance

Well, Thoughtless, S.C.Stephens debut book was one of my earliest kindle reads, and I loved it. Even then though the cheating aspect made me a little uncomfortable, I know its fiction, but I’m pretty strong on cheating – don’t do it. In real life that is 😉 In a novel I can excuse it if the characters at least try to avoid it, make some real effort. So, seeing this book included it made me pause, but I decided she’s such a great writer it was worth trying. After all I loved Thoughtless and the other stories that followed.
Its a quick easy read, sweeping the reader along with a host of emotions. I could feel the connection between Valerie and Jake from that first coffee shop meeting, and could imagine her shock at that family dinner. What a nightmare.
It puts them both in a difficult position but wisely they both decide to do the right thing and really do make a solid effort. And then….something huge happens that changes things. I wasn’t expecting that, and I can see that its got its lovers and haters. Yes, it is a little far fetched, but things like this do happen in reality, life can be far fetched at times and I just went with the flow and enjoyed it. I understood what happened and why, I think in those circumstances most folk would have acted the same.
Then of course comes the later part of the story where they’re both struggling in their lives, Val loves her sister, Jake feels guilty and doesn’t want to hurt his girlfriend and it looks like a story where no-one will be happy. I feel this was one of the best parts of the novel, drama abounds, emotions and tensions are high and I felt for all three of them. They were all heartbroken, and it looked like none would get a happy ending. I liked that this took some time to resolve, I hate reads where characters are heartbroken one page and all over it by the next page. I want the characters to hit bottom, I want to wallow in their pain….and then when it comes right I am so happy.

Stars: Five, its a quick, light read, a wash of emotion. Its not one I’m likely to re-read but I really enjoyed it.

Arc via netgalley and publishers

Party of Two, The brilliant opposites-attract rom-com from the author of The Proposal!, Jasmine Guillory

Party of Two, The brilliant opposites-attract rom-com from the author of The Proposal!, Jasmine Guillory

Party of Two: The brilliant opposites-attract rom-com from the author of The Proposal! by [Jasmine Guillory]

Genre: Romance,

I didn’t realise this was book 5 in a connected series til I’d finished it, so you can read and enjoy without having read earlier ones. Like most character connected books though I suspect it will read even better if you’ve knowledge of some of the side characters from earlier reads.

I really enjoyed this, it wasn’t a five star for me, but a solid four. I loved Max and Olivia, I understood why she was a planner, not a spontaneous jump right in with both feet character. She puts it down to her life experiences as a black lady, but some of us are just that way without any real reasons. I did feel her reactions were very deeply entrenched, and I understood the fear that she felt about being in the spotlight with Max. That’s his life though, not just his job but his passion, so how are they to get round things?
Max was just adorable, loved his impulsiveness, even though, like Olivia, that would scare me. I can’t understand how people can just make decisions on the fly like that. He was so in love with Olivia, that came over really well, but were the differences between them insurmountable or could there be a way through.

When things come to a crux I felt for both of them, I understood Olivia’s horror but at the same time could see exactly why Max did what he did. He just wanted to help someone, and it seemed to him putting two folk together could do that. And maybe if there weren’t a few hundred eyes on them at the time it would have been fine…..

I can see the author is in a position to understand racial issues more than me, though being naturally dark skinned I was bullied as a kid because folk assumed I was coloured, and then when I married a Zelos…..that assumption became more prevalent. However for me I felt I didn’t need the constant reminder Olivia was black, I’m interested in her as a person, and of course being black affects that but its not all she is. She’s an intelligent, talented businesswoman, a good sister, a great friend. She’s more than *just* black, and I felt that the reminders all the way through that being black had affected her was a bit OTT for me. That’s just a personal feeling though. I guess its a book where the race issue counted but when I’m reading I don’t really think of people as being black or white, blonde or dark, fat or thin, they’re just people to me.

When things went wrong – perfect, I loved that drama, and they seem to be in a position where I couldn’t see how they could meet. Sometimes Love just isn’t enough, but thankfully Jasmine found a way through, saw what could change where I couldn’t see how they could get there.

The food – oh wow, loved all that, though being UK not US I have never had yellow cake with chocolate frosting? Unless yellow cake is just some kind of Victoria sponge? Sometimes English as a language used by different countries can be very confusing. And pie. Strawberry rhubarb sounds horrible to me, give me apple, apricot, blackberry, raspberry but not strawberry/rhubarb. (Rhubarb, my late husband loved it. I once made a crumble for him and a friend of mine who was also a rhubarb addict, but forgot the sugar….. My poor friend said it was really eye watering)

Stars: Four a fun read, good story with real issues between the couple that I wondered how the author could resolve. Good job I’m a reader not a writer as I couldn’t see a way through.

Arc via netgalley and publishers

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