Stable Hand, The Braided Crop Ranch Book One, AE Lister
Genre: LGBTQIA, Romance
Well, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect, but TBH whats in the description is pretty much the whole plot. Its fun kink erotica, not deep, sensual romance.
Jensen, that interview. That made the whole book worth it, somehow I could just see this slightly naive cowboy expecting some fancy horses, “ Arabians? No? Maybe you have Lusitanos?”…or something like that while poor Adam and Connor are barely able to hold back sniggers…..
The rest is really Jensen’s journey into kink, and real “hands on” education. I’m not sure six weeks holiday is as realistic as the author makes it sound but hey, its fiction. Consent was the order of the day, all the time, not just in training, and that’s very important IMO. If both parties consent and its harming no one then that’s fine, if there’s no fully informed consent at all times then its a No Go for me. I was bothered that it was gloves and lube all the while, but a real lack of condoms for oral work, especially as Jensen can’t have been tested yet? A big hole there I think. Hopefully to be filled in later books. ( and her I am sniggering about holes and fillings. One day I’ll grow up!)
What I did like, though at times it was repeated a little too much, was the psychology of kink, that Adam was actually a qualified therapist, and oversaw all training plans. Playing, even just through kinky sex, with peoples different issues and backgrounds, can cause real harm, and needs careful thought.
I like that there wasn’t the typical stereotyping that often happens in erotic fiction, where the dominant folk always are obvious, always dominant, never have their own issues, and always have the answers. Luke was a complex personality, in that he was naturally dominant, yet also had the submissive need but that he seemed to fight. Noah was one of these folk who are happiest when able to let go and someone else make all the decisions. The others were somewhere in between these two. We’re all complex people, some like Noah, have more simple needs, while others take more work to see what they really want, what issues they have that may be causing problems.
I really like human and animal psychology, and that part of this book resonated with me, the explanations how animals are just into “now” unlike us who mull over the past constantly, and worry about tomorrow. If you don’t know animals well, and how they work you may not understand why some things are so freeing to people.
It covers a short space of time and the romance, such as it was, was more HFN rather than HEA and I felt that’s more realistic. It wasn’t heavy on romantic emotion and connection, more the physical side, where I’d like more emotion and romance. But I hate when there’s insta-love and all is well, even though they’ve only known each other a few days or weeks so given the time constraints this works better for me. Ideally I’d like more romance but for everything to cover a longer time-span, which simply isn’t possible given the immersion therapy type of set up here.
Stars: Three, it made me laugh so much at Jensen’s interview, but as I said its kind of light on the romance side even though I understand why. I thought there would be more romance though. Its a good book, hot smut and fun, some real issues but not wholly what I was expecting, that’s why its three.
ARC supplied by Netgalley and publishers
The Wedding, A Cruise Control Novel, Sian Ceinwen
I loved book one, The Album, and this one catches up with Gabriel and Ariana, while focusing on Heather and Harrison, and is another riveting read.
I loved that Heather and Sebastian gave Ariana a hard time when she came back. Hayden and Harrison are content in that Gabriel’s happy, but Heather and Sebastian can’t get past the hurt and damage she caused so easily. Heather thought they were close friends, and Ariana just dropped her, ghosted her, didn’t answer her calls or texts. Plus of course they had a ringside seat to Gabriel’s heartbreak and devastation. That felt so very true, the anger and loss came over very realistically. Heather, Sebastian and the Yoko convo 😉 that felt very real and I could picture it.
In the middle of Ariana’s return its Harrison’s birthday, and he proposes to Heather, his long time girl. They’re like an institution, nothing can shake them and marriage – well its just icing on the cake. Until it isn’t, something terrible happens that affects the whole band, and causes a massive, humongous rift between the two.
This kind of angst and heartbreak is what make a romance novel so special to me. I love this kind of plot, where someone does something totally unexpected, and that causes issues. Very big issues, and I was sucked in to the drama, the unhappiness, the problems, the heartache that befell them all. In the midst of all this poor Heather is running her new and incredibly successful fashion line.
I loved this story, loved that the problems set in quite early which left lots of time to explore them thoroughly, see what could work, what would work, what and who is behind the issues, and whether given time they could be overcome. For a while, even though this is book-land and its going to be a HEA, I really felt that it was possible that actually Love couldn’t conquer all, that perhaps some things are just too devastating to get past, to forget.
Its handled wonderfully, and the solutions are not quick fix, instant everything’s OK now, type answers. That we see them working so hard, and yet still there are problems. Real life is like that, there are no magic fixes, its a slog getting past something like this and not everyone can do it.
I especially liked that when things are finally resolved, there’s another person that got caught in the crossfire and had their life turned upside down, but they weren’t forgotten, they were helped to resolution too.
I can just imagine how vicious the fans were, in this day of instant tweets and posts things spread like wildfire, and some folk hide behind anonymity to say the most appalling, cruel things. We – and I’m one – often blame the media for the intrusion in people’s lives, but if we -as the public- didn’t buy the papers and magazines, didn’t salivate over the photos, there wouldn’t be a demand for them. Its a two pronged fault, the papers and media for chasing and intruding, but the general public for creating the demand.
Stars: Five, a wonderful follow up and I can’t wait for the next book.
Arc via author
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
Tangled Up In Christmas, Lisa Renee Jones
Genre: General fiction (Adult), Romance
Well, having read several of Lisa’s books now this one caught me out. I’m used to her hot and sensual, suspenseful and edgy reads, and this one – well it felt like Lisa Renee Jones does Mills and Boon. It was a fun read and I enjoyed it but I didn’t love it.
Maybe if I’d read the previous book I’d have got more from it, although they are stand alone reads. I might try the truth about cowboys and see.
Roarke, wow, what a man, hot and sensual he drips sex with every word. And horses, he helps horses, so how could I not love the guy. Yet I didn’t feel his excuse for not coming after Hannah was really enough. I also wasn’t convinced by her running away – did she love the guy or not? That though does get a proper and plausible explanation later in the story.
Of course poor Hannah is still in Hate Roarke mode, and yet deep down she still harbours feelings for him, something that’s obvious to the whole town, and which Roarke makes full use of. They end up having some steamy encounters, so maybe its M&B racy version 🙂 I did like that there was lots going on in the novel, not just Hannah and Roarke, but little side plots that added to the enjoyment for me.
Its a fun read, easy to follow, but although there was a lot going on it lacked real depth for me. I felt the past issues were glossed over too easily, especially with regard to her parents. I’m not sure I could be that forgiving.
Stars: Three and a half, more than just a simple Good read, but not the drama I look forward to in a LRJ novel that makes for four and fives.
Arc via Netgalley and publishers
Reveal, K. Bromberg, Wicked Ways book two
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
Exquisitely Broken, A Sin City Tale 1, M. Jay Granberry
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
Always With You, Indigo: Book 3, Kate McBrien
Well, a very climatic, drama filled finish to the trilogy. TBH it felt – cough- a little too drama filled. I love action, intensity and drama but there was so much here that I felt it became almost wearying to the senses, took away from the actual events. Having said that its still and amazing read, and a fabulous trilogy for a debut writer. Very well written, full of excellent plots and very polished overall.
Lucy; at times I want to say to her “what are you doing!!” when she dithers. She’s grown in confidence though, and there’s a lot less of that in this final part. Justin, well, he’s just fabulous, so very solid in his love, so very protective and I enjoyed how the past events affected him in this life. I loved Lucy and Justin together, but did feel they got a little lost in the other events that filled this story. Sometimes Less is More, and for me less additional plots ( the Russian connection) and more of Lucy and Justin would have worked better. That’s just me though, others will love it as it is.
Edward…Gah, I hate that guy, but I love characters like his. He played a terrific part in the story, very believable. I wasn’t so convinced on the Rachel story-line, especially with how things ended. I disliked her intensely, didn’t want to change my stance on that and though events could have proved otherwise I’m holding fast to my dislike 😉
I would have liked to have seen a bit more connection between Justin and Lucy’s nightmares and the past, maybe snippets of what they were dreaming or something? The past in each book is really kept to just beginning and end, which makes for a wonderful ending, where we see just what did play out, but I’d have enjoyed a bit more linking through the story.
I love the way the Cross links past and present Justin and Lucy, and how its creation from Love held fast, and meant so much to them when they touched in in the present. I enjoyed the history, past and present story of Lapis Lazuli and the issues behind it. Everyone has heard of Blood diamonds, but I’d never connected this stone with terrorism financing.
From the book blurb, and important. Note to readers: This book contains scenes which may be triggering to survivors of sexual violence
Stars: Four and a half, a great trilogy, but I wasn’t quite as gripped by this part as by parts one and two, especially part one, which I loved.
ARC via Netgalley and publishers
A Place Without You, Jewel E. Ann
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
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.
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