Tag Archive | sensual

The Stone Warriors: Kato, Book 2, Stone Warriors Series, D.B. Reynolds. Warrior of Fire, Shona Husk.

The Stone Warriors: Kato, Book Two of the Stone Warriors Series, D.B. Reynolds

The Stone Warriors: Kato by [Reynolds, D. B.]

Genre:  Romance, Sci-fi and Fantasy

Well, Wow. I think now I understand the overall plot and world building I really need to go back to book one, as I’m sure I’d rate it higher than I did on first read.
Some series are like that, it takes another book or two before the overall theme falls in to place for me, and this clearly is one such.
I think part of it too was over-expectation, I so love ViA, and was hooked from book one and expected this to be the same.

Its is the same great writing though, full of people who feel real, who I have strong mental images of, ladies who aren’t simpering kittens waiting for a big strong man to save them 😉
Grace is anything but one of those, though our and Kato’s first impressions could be forgiven for thinking that, because that’s the image she tries to project. she’s more than that though and a perfect lady for Kato.

He’s the second stone warrior, and I kept thinking how awful, to be trapped like that for thousands of years, seeing and hearing everything but unable to interact.
Sometimes books have things happening and I think “ how very convenient that he/she does that riiigght at this point”, and you could feel that about Kato coming out of imprisonment just in time to save grace from the Demon. D.B has the answer though, she’s made it so there’s a very real explanation why things are happening just now, and weaves every small thing into part of the larger overall plot that threads though the series.

Its another great read, a race against time to stop demons from being unleashed and creating mayhem. Another, well..brush with danger feels too subtle, its more than that, another solid drama where the characters face a horrible death over and over, but manage to scrape through, and without using any of that New Skills Gained Just at the Optimum Moment that I so hate. You know the sort, he or she has just learned of their place in the supernatural world, takes it in their stride, and by  the fourth page or so they’re killing the bad guys the others have been fighting and losing against for centuries, using some new skill that showed up just as the Demon or whatever is about to kill them! Gah, that really annoys me.
D.B doesn’t ever do that, and though here Grace saves the day a few times, it works because she’s the skills needed already, the training to keep calm and deal comes from her background. She gained her gun skills as a child, and as an adult she’s been involved in some dangerous and scary dramas. Add in how clever and analytical her mind is and she’s perfect for Kato.

I loved catching up with Damian and Cass, and yep, now want to re-read their story.
Two more warriors to go yet, and of course there’s also Nick, Nico, Nicademus…what a guy he is. When we first met him back in the early, the first book I think of the ViA series he was almost a throwaway guy, Cyn’s friend with benefits hot guy, but he grew in importance in later books, and then we learned he’s a powerful sorcerer.
I love how these two series interact, how we get snippets of other characters, even if only in conversation or thoughts.
I can’t help but wonder if there’s someone special in Nico’s life planned? The mysterious talented Lili maybe – or perhaps someone from the Via series? Loads of possibilities to pick from, and I look forward to D.B.s next book(s) of either series.

Stars: Five, a cracking, riveting, engrossing read and a great addition to D.B’s series.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

 

Warrior of Fire, Shona Husk

Warrior of Fire (Blood & Silver) by [Husk, Shona]

Genre:  Sci-fi and Fantasy

I really enjoyed Lady of Silver, the intro book to this series. that featured Saba, an Albah lady and Dale a human cop.
This book is about Liera. Saba’s sister, who we met in book one as a secondary character, and Julian who’s a son of cop Quinn, who is also the Albah’s “King”. Its a title that’s really name only, they don’t meet or live closely as its too dangerous.

There’s a faction called Guardians, who are out to kill Albah, though supposedly there’s been a truce for the last 200 years. Strange though how so many Albah die in accidents. That’s what happened to Julian’s mum, she died in a car crash when he and his younger brother were in the car. Its affected them both, as traumatic events do to young children, and they’re not a close family. In fact Julian has been away for the last 12 years and only returned six months ago.

He’s been working at a local hospital, somewhere he can put his healing skills to use without creating attention.
See that’s the thing the Guardians won’t recognize, that most Albah just want to be responsible, to do good and work in fields where their talents are best use to humankind. As far as Guardians are concerned the only good Albah is a dead one.
Its that potential to turn into an immortal blood sucking murdering Alabanex that worries them so they think killing all Albah means humans are safe. Shame they don’t focus on how humans can become murdering vicious killers too, or even look at their own behaviour, murdering parents, children, wiping out whole families proudly and bringing up their kids to believe in the same.
Hate rhetoric is so pervasive when instilled from a young age and that’s what’s happened here.

Julian has been having a “casual” relationship with a woman for the last few months. He doesn’t know much about her, that’s what he likes, physical only stuff, no need for pleasantries and socialsing, not knowing she’s a Guardian and a killer.
She’s come to do a job, make her first kill and become a real Guardian, a role she’s trained hard for, encouraged by her Guardian mother and family.
She’s finding it hard though, she’s become attracted to Julian even though both agreed upfront this was simply a casual fling, and now she’s becoming clingy Julian is thinking the time has come to part ways. she won’t like that!

Liera has always known she’s meet the love of her life on a train, she and Saba are very good at seeing into the future, though its not fixed but depends on paths taken by individuals.
She doesn’t know who her future is with though, and so is astonished when she feels a visceral reaction to Julian at a meeting of the local Albah. It’s where they connect via the internet with others to discuss recent events. Julian feels the attraction too but its a kind of muted pull for them both, not a huge insta-lust kind of thing. Jut that feeling of rightness when they connect with each other.
Liera is puzzled. What about the future she and Saba had seen?
Julian isn’t sure he’s ready yet either, he’s always felt he would marry an Albah. His people need the males that come from only Alabah pairings, but he thought that was way in the future, loads of time yet. Until now he’s been content with simple casual relationships, like the current one with Emily. This has thrown him though,made him question that, and he decides Emily’s been getting clingy lately, not what they agreed and its time to let go.

She is Not Happy though. Pressure from home about why she hasn’t killed him yet and the excuse she’s given, he could lead her to more is wearing thin. Now he’s dumped her, and as she’s been spying on him she sees him meet Leira and just knows it’s all down to her. the knives come out, Liera is in the way, time to move her. She knows now Leira is an Albah so has no worries about killing her, she’s been brought up to beleive thats the right thing to do.

It all leads to a cracking story, brings danger to the Albah, not just here but across the globe, makes them think about the future of the race, brings the Guardians into the series in a big way and is a hugely entertaining read. One that flows easily, has that element of suspense I love, the wondering what if, and how will they…?
The romance too, I enjoyed that, the doubts both had, it makes a change from the one-look-and-they-are-in-love scenario we see so often. Instead they both talk, tread carefully, think about how they feel inside.

There’s no simply quick fix solution for the future of the Albah. It needs some decision if they aren’t to die out, and the way they’ve lived for the past few hundred years needs to change. Using the internet they can conference, avoiding the dangers when large groups get together, and hhopefully make changes to their lifestyles the majority agree to while keeping safe.
Maybe the time for Quinn as king has become the era for change, for the role to become more than the lip-service one its been. He’s certainly a decisive enough character to generate momentum for change.

I really enjoyed this installment, loved meeting Dale and Saba again, was intrigued as to how things were going to work between Julian and Liera, whether the change of place of their first meeting meant their future had changes in a big way, and of course the drama with Emily was pretty solid and full on.

I found it easy to believe in Emily, that she’d been brought up and trained to kill Albah, but in her greed to kill more by finding Julian’s family she actually came to like him, to see the good he did. Somewhere deep in her psyche she had to rationalise why she hadn’t killed him yet, rather than admit she was falling for him. She was a twisted individual but also a product of a very dark upbringing, brainwashed that Albah were all bad, potential killers.

Its an easy read, well paced, solid writing. Its not as in depth as many fantasy reads, but a fun story that made me look at the characters as individual, see them as real people, and wonder just where the story is going next.
I’m really hoping Quinn gets some happy, right now he gets all the flak and doesn’t really seem to have anyone close to support him when it goes bad.

Stars: five, a great story, building on the first one and expanding the world.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Strong Enough, Melanie Harlow.

Strong Enough, Melanie Harlow.

Strong Enough by [Harlow, Melanie, Romanov, David]

Genre:  Romance, LGBTQIA

I’ve enjoyed some of Melanie’s past novels and was delighted to get this for review – I do so like a good M?M romance, somehow there’s so often the tenderness, the real romance side that’s often lacking in hetero novels. And this book had bags of that, along with some very sensual heat.

I loved Maxim, he’s just such a true gentleman, loves his mum and little sister, opens doors for ladies, always polite, that sort of guy.
He wants more than the life waiting for him in Russia, with its anti-gay stance, and has taken a 6 month visa to the US to follow his script-writing dreams. Sadly though, like so many he’s unprepared for the vicious, cruel world waiting to take advantage of an innocent.
The guy who’s meeting him and showing him to his new home doesn’t show up, then having a drink in a bar wondering what to do next his luggage gets nicked, and he’s homeless, jobless, cashless all in one fell swoop.
Luckily Derek’s sister has a penchant for strays, for helping people and animals and when she hears whats happened she invited Max to stay with Derek, then rings Derek and tells him 😉

Derek’s kind of  a neat freak, a place for everything and everything in its place. His friends take the mickey but its how he is, along with his long held dream of wife and family. Times passing though, he’s approaching forty and hasn’t got there yet despite trying hard.
Of course when we see him with Max its clear why, he’s really not that into women, maybe he’s bi, but its clear he wants Max. He’s had an upbringing though that’s taught him Gay Is Bad.

What a disservice parents do when they inflict their bias and views on their kids, and how hard it is to come out and go against parental dictates.
Its not good parenting doing that, but sadly for so many people its what they get. I get the feeling its not so much homophobia, as not really understanding it and fear that drives his parents.
Never the less Derek is not going to act on his attraction, it makes him angry with himself and Max, just knowing its there. And then it all gets too much and he snatches Max into one searingly sensual, erotic, life changing kiss that shocks them both.

Gah, Derek made me so angry with his hot/cold, not-my-fault attitude, and poor Max was totally confused.
I did understand and sympathise with Derek though, he’s repressed these feelings for so long, won’t even acknowledge them to himself, so he’s had his world turned upside down when he cant do that with Max.
Max isn’t going to be anyones dirty little secret though, had to hide himself in Russia, isn’t doing that again…

So can they make it through, can they find a HEA or is their romance doomed?
Its heartbreaking at times wanting them to be together and yet seeing Derek’s barriers fall down tight again.
I really enjoyed their story, the emotions, the sweetness, and of course the angst.

Stars: five, a really emotional read, with a sweet and yet steamy romance.

ARC supplied for review purposes by author

Savaged Dreams, Jennifer Lyon

Savaged Dreams, Jennifer Lyon

Savaged Dreams: Savaged Illusions Trilogy Book 1 by [Lyon, Jennifer]

Genre:  Romance,

This is part one of a trilogy, and has quite a dramatic ending but books tow and three are scheduled for July and September this year so not too long to wait 😉
I can live with that, its waiting a year of more that I hate! Forgotten half the story by then, and lost the impetus that kept me reading. a few months means its still reasonably fresh.
I’d still like trilogies like this to be all three parts out simultaneously – but that’s not going to happen.

Anyway, great start. Liza is young, but not one of those lightweight main characters, she’s solidly ambitious, she’s got a dark past and a big secret.
She needs the intern position that comes if her band wins the competition, but they’re one of three in the finals and they’re all out to win.

Justice, band leader isn’t happy they’ve a college student for their PR. He expected someone with experience, but as he and the band are learning, the contracts they signed are tough and there’s lots of things were hidden carefully in the wording.

From that rocky start though they soon are into a hot and heavy romance, and while he’s focused on leading his band to win, she’s also dealing with things as they crop up. Some of the band have secrets too, dark pasts, things that can damage their reputation, and its her job to ensure they don’t.
There’s a fierce and vindictive rivalry with one of the other bands that’s above usual issues, and brings them into danger and dirty tricks.

There’s lots going on in this read, a fun and real feeling romance, dark secrets, dramatics, and of course the band stuff, songs and music making, the TV show that’s strongly skewed to ensure top viewing more than letting the band and their music show through.
The fireworks really light up, with the TV guys positioning things to let the sparks fly, regardless of the damage it causes to people, reputations and the bands as a whole.
Its the whole viewers attract ads, ads bring in money and money is God that rules reality TV ( and why I never watch it).
Its done really well in this book, shows exactly how badly people can get hurt in the quest for maximum viewers.

I really enjoyed this story and though it ends on a cliffhanger its also a natural break point. Not one of those reads where you’re expecting the story to continue and just run out of pages.
Roll on parts two and three, I’ll be waiting to read the rest of the story. Its for me a perfect blend of great characters that feel real, problems and issues that many people face and which make for a good story, and its balanced out by sex that adds heat but doesn’t dominate. Great read.

Stars: five, a great story, lots going on with main and secondary plots that feel genuine and lots of drama and excitement, plus of course some very sensual heat.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Exclusive, A VIP Desire Agency Romance, Mel Teshco

Exclusive, A VIP Desire Agency Romance, Mel Teshco
Exclusive (The VIP Desire Agency  Book 3) by [Teshco, Mel ]

Genre:  Romance, Erotica

Ping, Rock-star romance and erotica? Yes please 😉 I was keen to read this, sneaked it up the TBR list but its wasn’t a must-keep-reading book. I enjoyed it but its not a keeper/re-reader for me.
Its quite a short read at 125 pages, and I hadn’t realised that. Maybe if I’d read books one and two I would, but I hadn’t, simply noticed they were there but that each novel was a stand alone but connected one.

I felt that Amos, the definitely no-relationships Amos, fell in love and changed his mind about that far too quickly for me.
Likewise that Tiffany was ready to give up everything for a man she’d known a few days when she has a serious and compelling reason for working in the VIP Agency.
I guess the books brevity meant that was inevitable, but its why I so rarely read novellas, they just don’t have enough detail and timescale to make the stories feel real.

There’s some sensual, erotic heat here, really well written, not just the same scene churned out ad-nauseum as often happens, and that fitted the story perfectly.
There was a secondary thread, an issue that was one of the reasons Amos didn’t do romance, that if the book was longer would have been a really great addition, but it was simplified and soon over 😦 Tiffany’s issues too with the man she thought she was in love with would have been good if expanded but…

As a full length book I think I’d have loved this, the writing is good, the background plausible and the characters great, but it just felt too abbreviated, plots over almost before they start and with the romance full pelt from the off, that it didn’t make for a great read for me.  Others love novellas though, perfect length for them so you choose.

Stars: Three, at full length this would probably be a five, but its just too short and condensed for me.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Hunter’s Captive, Cassandra Bella. Memory of Love, JJ Keller

Hunter’s Captive, Cassandra Bella

Hunter's Captive by [Bella, Cassandra]

Genre:  Romance, Mystery and thrillers

I enjoyed this story, but parts were a little hard to take, and though they moved the tale to where it needed to be they lacked real credibility.

Paxton, rich girl, daddy’s girl, trust fund baby, shared a beautiful summer with Hunter ten years ago. Then it all went wrong, and he’s been bitter about it ever since.

He’s focused on his career, and the boy from the poor side of the town has done well, is a top agent and he thinks he’s moved on.
Then the case he’s on involves Paxton. He can’t bear to think of her locked up just because its her wedding day to the jerk who’s finally being brought in. So….he kidnaps her.
That part one of the hard to take bit. Would a professional really do that? and get away with it with his boss and colleagues? Still, they’re on the run now and it seems her fiancee has sent killers after them.

Paxton is so angry at Hunter and thinks he’s just doing this out of revenge. Her fiancee a wanted man? Please ( roll eyes), he’s not like that she says, he’s a good man, her father admires him, he’s a solid businessman.
She won’t believe Hunter until the others track them down and they’re running ( well driving) for their lives, at breakneck speed down the mountain side. How did they find them?
Well, that’s the second hard to take part. She’s an intelligent woman and would she really do that? I can see the first part, out of concern and worry but the second thing she lets out, perleease…she’d have more sense surely. Or maybe she is just a dumb blonde…

Anyway, there they are running out of danger and the tensions are high. The attraction between them that each thought was gone is clearly still there, and before long they’re talking about the past, have become close again, very close and are into some erotic and sensual sex. Can they have a future?

Well, first thing is to escape the danger they’re in..

Its a fun read, some hot and heavy sensuality, some danger and excitement and made for a decent read to pass away a coupe of hours.

Its not one I’d re-read, but I did enjoy it despite those couple of irritations in inconceivability factor.

Stars: four, a decent but one off read for me.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Memory of Love, The Valkyrie Series, JJ Keller

Memory of Love (The Valkyrie Series) by [Keller, JJ]

 

Genre:  Romance,

I was so taken with the synopsis that I didn’t do my usual checks so missed that this was thrid in a series, and also its a novella. My bad.

Lots of readers love them, but for me they just don’t work, I don’t feel they have the space I need to understand the story, the characters or really get to feel for them.

Its a good read if you are following the series, and of course, if you like novellas.

I was able to keep up with the story OK, but it would have worked better for me if I’d read the first two books, as the characters and plots follow – or I assume they do – from things that happened back then. It meant I had to guess at parts, and how each person was connected.

Its a fun read, I liked the Viking legend part, something not often seen in fantasy sadly, as its very interesting and can create some great stories.

If you’re happy with shorter reads this could be a great series for you. For me it’s just not in-depth enough, even if I had read the first two novels.

Stars: three, interesting premise, and a good series if you like shorter novels.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

 

CHASING WICKED, KATHYRN L. JAMES. The Lie of the Land, Amanda Craig

CHASING WICKED, THE MITCHELL BROTHERS,- WICKED SERIES BOOK 1, KATHYRN L. JAMES

Chasing Wicked (The Mitchell Brothers - Wicked Series Book 1) by [James, Kathryn L]

Genre:  Romance, erotica

Well, a good start to a new series if you like a hot and steamy read. I enjoyed it but I didn’t love it.
For me I felt the story was a little weak, a wonderful story-line but in practice I felt Stone and Avery had little in common after all those years, and needed to focus a bit more on their lives rather than the hot sex.
Still, its erotica as well as romance, and for many readers heat and sensuality is what they want. Its what I love too but I need to feel the story, the characters are real.

I felt for Avery, what an awful thing to happen and understood her actions.
Stone, when he found out what happened after, is back in her life and they’ve both had a huge life change to take in. Not the best time then to leap into sex…but that doesn’t stop them.
I did feel she was a bit of a doormat for Stone, letting him dictate terms, when she knew that kind of relationship wasn’t for her and would break her eventually. As she keeps saying, she’s got Savannah to think of.
Stone had been through a lot too, and I wondered how he’d ended up owning all those hotels, 54, given what had happened to him in the intervening 6 years.
That’s a heck of a business to grow, when its not the family one he was born into. Even if they funded it initially, it takes time to build sucess like that.
He was so adamant about a sex only relationship, a friends with benefits was all he could offer and then – well, I found his about turn very hard to take. That quick, after all that stone walling (oops, unintended pun there..) earlier, all those proclamations about what he couldn’t do?
There’s some drama at the end and maybe that kind of fright would have felt right for me to change his mind, but it wasn’t that which did it.

Some of the story lines felt a little unfinished to me, there was a good ending, but it wasn’t really clear about reasons and the how and why’s of what happened. Maybe that doesn’t bother others but it left me thinking “how did that, why did he/she, what about…?”

Stars: Three, a hot, sensual and steamy read if you want just that but for me the story lines felt a little thin.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

The Lie of the Land, Amanda Craig

The Lie of the Land by [Craig, Amanda]

Genre: General Fiction

Usually novels I read have romance somewhere, but I like to read stories that stretch me a bit, make me think “what if” and some of them, as this one does, come under a General Fiction heading. What if Quentin hadn’t had affairs, what if there hadn’t been a recession, what if Xan had got into his chosen uni? As for down in Devon, there’s any number of What Ifs that would change things hugely.

I really, really didn’t like Quentin for at least the first half of the book. He’s like a big kid – its always someone else’ fault, he’s a man, can’t be expected to be faithful, he can’t help his straying ways etc. etc..
Ugh, I hate hearing that,  and it made me wonder what Lottie ever saw in him. Xan seems to hate him now, calls him Dud, which made me snigger. Yet from what we read he idolised him until recently, much his two younger hald sisters still do.

Poor Lottie, they can’t even afford a divorce. Quentin is moaning all the while but it seems she’s the one making sacrifices, getting things to work, dealing with day to day issues, the kids, the house, the lack of money, while he keeps swanning back to London in pursuit of another job, another story, another woman.
He’s acting like one of those awful men who still imagine they’re single and what they’re doing won’t hurt anyone….
When we look deeper into their backstories though its not quite so cut and dried. He still makes me angry, I still think he’s appalling as a husband and father, but do understand him and his actions a little better.

There’s a subtle danger in the so called peace of their retreat though, and they find out the countryside has claws, and its not all rural idyll, bohemian joy and rhapsody, but dreary, damp, dark and dangerous…and that danger comes knocking very, very close to home.
Some of it I’d guessed from the story but not all, there’s a really tangled web to unravel.

There are some great characters here, ones that felt so real, as if I could know them.
The descriptions of country life are spot on at times too, work in factories as grim as Humbles does abound, minimum wage, long hours, zero hours contracts, no regard for safety and no job security.
There are few other jobs in the countryside though. Work is mind numblingly boring, life is hard to cope with, and we see just how so many different families are doing that, most people simply struggling day to day, and a select few are thriving. It’s not just Lottie and Quentin that are having issues, both work and personal, but others that hide their struggles carefully behind a public face. The old UK Putting a Brave Face on, Stiff Upper Lip and all that.

Its not a story I’d reread, very uncomfortable at times, but one which I enjoyed as a one off, one that made me really think about the characters and situations.
What would I have done if I was Lottie? Not let him back home is my first thought, but then he’s a good dad to the girls, was good to Xan when they first got together, and of course she’s the memory of that man and the hope he’ll come back to her.
Will he though, or are the changes too much?

Stars: four, a fascinating read into what can happen to those affected by financial issues, marital issues, jealousy, unplanned pregnancies, lack of quality/well paid work…

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

The Idea of You, Robinne Lee

The Idea of You, Robinne Lee

The Idea of You: A Novel by [Lee, Robinne]

Genre:  Women’s fiction,

Well, what an amazing book, and how hard it is to write a review.

Its not classed as romance, but the blurb suggests its a romantic tale and it is – and yet it isn’t.
If you want the HEA its not for you, but it is a beautifully bittersweet story that’s worth reading for itself, not for the ending grab this book now.
It’s a romantic story but not a Romance novel, featuring a 39 year old polished, confident, successful lady, mother of 13 yr old Isabelle, and Hayes, 20 year old pop star sensation.
You read that and think “no way, what will they have in common?” and that’s my unrealised perceptions and bias coming in because if Hayes was 39 and Solene 20 who’d take notice?
Its accepted for men to have vastly younger girlfriends and yet for women? Nope, that’s just Not On. Why though? If they’re in love should age matter?
Hayes isn’t like the average 20 year old, in fact all the lads in the band act older than their age. Is it their upbringing? Education? Or what they’ve been through to get so far with the band?
It means though that for me the romance is believable, Solene and Hayes really do feel in love.

I enjoyed Solene’s character, beautiful but not Barbie model style, she loves her daughter, gets on OK with her ex – who does have a younger girlfriend – and of course that’s easily accepted.
When the ex is criticising her about Hayes I wanted to say “look at yourself first before throwing stones”, but its back to that unfair divide between the sexes.
Its like when men have lots of sexual partners they’re Playboys, eternal bachelors, and no one thinks anything of it, but when it’s the women they’re with, they’re described its shameless, sluts, tarts etc. All the derogatory comments get thrown at them, but never at men for doing exactly the same thing. And that’s my rant over 😉

What I love about stories like this is how the characters get together.
Hayes is always open about what he wants, but Solene? She knows how it’ll be seen even while she’s feeling the pull of attraction to him, kids herself its just lunch, then a little more and so on, until they’re deeply in the throes of passion, fallen hard for each other.
The age gap honestly doesn’t seem to matter. Hayes is mature enough to know what he wants and go for it, and Solene’s able to enjoy time with him, in and out of bed.
He’s intelligent, a good conversationalist, educated, interested in so many things.
I loved that Solene was successful in her own right, that she and her partner ran a flourishing art gallery. The way the art, the exhibitions, promotions and artists are talked about suggests its either a field Robinne is familiar with, or has researched very well.
Its things like that which lift a novel and make it stand out from the hundreds of thousands of similar works. A novel for the Thinking reader 😉

The media: once their story was out, the way Solene was savaged in print and on the net, the way it over spilled into her personal and business life, all embody just what I hate about the media.
Truth isn’t important, only the sales that come with a story, the more scurrilous the better. Destroy a family, pushing someone to suicide, ending someone’s career, all become unimportant casualties in the quest for sensationalism.
I hate it – please don’t buy/read those kind of stories, without readers there would be no adverts, without adverts and the income they bring there will be no life breaking untruthful or deceptive stories.

What I hated – really, really hated – was the ending. I just didn’t expect that, didn’t like it, and find it hard to accept. I’ve mentally decided there’s another book 🙂 giving me the ending I wanted.
As I said its not billed as Romance, but the way the story unfolds lulled me into thinking it was going to be one…

Its an incredibly believable tale, even if like me you think “20?? what will they talk about?” Its written so cleverly that you very soon forget their ages, and get caught up in their lives. There are times it hits with a bang, when the band do something, someone says something, that reminds the reader of the gap, but those moments seem to serve as a harsh reminder of people’s perception, of Solene’s fear of where it will end, what the future holds.

Stars: five, a fabulous story, and if the ending had been different its would be one I’d happily reread – but its not, and I won’t!

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

I Knew You Were Trouble, An Oxford Novel, Lauren Layne

I Knew You Were Trouble, An Oxford Novel, Lauren Layne

I Knew You Were Trouble: Oxford 4 by [Layne, Lauren]

Genre:  Romance, Humour

I’m always wary when a book is classed as Humour, too often I find its overdone and forced, but Lauren’s books aren’t like that, they’re perfect for me with lots of humour but of the more subdued type. The sort where words and undercurrents provide the laughs, where its what’s left unsaid that is often the part that makes me smile.
Its often clever, subtle snark, not in-your-face, dumbed down comedy.  Its not laugh your head off humour but the gentle sort that makes me smile, feels so satisfying and provides a counterpart to the the emotions floating round the story.

This one was typical, full of drama and action, people with real issues, hard backgrounds, sad stories, who just knuckle down and get on with life and don’t give up, don’t turn it into drudge and bitterness, where the humour shows us they can still smile, can still appreciate the lighter side of life.

I loved Nick back in Lincoln and Daisy’s story, and here we get the full-on Nick experience.
Part time Oxford worker, part time fiction writer and part time bartender, he’s a busy man and yet still finds time to help others, appreciate his freinds. I felt he and Taylor were just perfect together.
If only they could see that…Taylor is prickly though and something about Nick rubs her the wrong way, she snarks at him and he’s reciprocates in a similar vein. Methinks the lady – and the gent – doth protest too much. Its kind of how their freinds feel too.

Taylor though is about to move to a new apartment with the love of her life…until she finds a note at the flat in place of Bradley. The jerk dumps her by a note on moving day. What a first class burke he was, gone back to his old love.

Taylor has a sad past, orphaned young, brought up by a career driven aunt and now she’s no-one left.
She very focused on her career, knocked hard by Bradley’s actions, and feels lost. Lucky she’s got her good friends who can see the attraction between her and Nick, and are on hand with some advice!

Its a fun story, lots going on, great characters that are very believable. You can feel this story, these people could be real, imagine it happening to people you know.
Life is a b itch sometimes, we do get cut back just when it looks like things are going well, and that’s where good friends come in.

I love the whole Oxford crew, Lincoln has a special place in my heart, he and Daisy are my favourite couple, but Nick comes close to Linc, he’s such a lovely man, can see under Taylor’s act, supports her even when he thinks she hates him.
His actions towards the end were hard to take but I understood how he felt, loved the way that played out, the deep emotions that plot engendered.
Have to mention Twinkle (Twinkie?) I adored her, a great character, fitted the story really well 😉

Its another great read, and I know it Should be the last…but Lauren, what about Hunter and Brit? I’m sure there’s loads of us rooting for them too.

Stars: five, a fabulous story, not quite up to Lincoln and Daisy, but very close.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers
 

Back to You, Chris Scully

Back to You, Chris Scully

Back to You by [Scully, Chris]

Genre:  Romance, LGBTQIA

I loved this story. a beautiful slowly unfolding romance, a tantalising mystery, and a look at just how much childhood influences our lives.

Alex seemed pretty selfish when we first met him and I didn’t really like him. It seemed pretty straightforward, alcoholic father loses job, or could have been jobless father becomes alcoholic….depends on your view, and then parents separate and mum moves away with kids and remarries.
Alex loves his mum and stepfather but carries a real resentment that his own father didn’t make more effort to see him and sister Janet, didn’t even phone them.
Janet’s older so her view of the past is not the same, she recalls more of their parents being happy. She leaves home and ends up back in the same town as their dad, and now Alex is back as their father is dying he can see that she’s got issues too, another alcoholic, though a functioning one who covers it well.

We only see things from Alex POV which is a shame, as I’d have loved in insight into Ben’s mind.
He’s stayed in the same town, made a life for himself quietly, and clearly the event that had impact on him back then is still affecting him. His sister Misty, Janet’s best friend, went missing while Alex and his family were still living there. In fact he and Ben were the last people to see her.
Her mum, Angela, was like many parents, wrapped up in day to day stuff, the slog and grind of working, running a home, looking after teens, didn’t really make time for the kids, let them roam freely without much checking. Now she’s thrown the last 20 years into finding out what happened to Misty, as if she blames herself for not being there so much of the while.
She’s turned Misty into some kind of a saint, and rewritten the past to give them a close, devoted almost, relationship when it simply wasn’t that way, and Misty was a pretty mean, malicious individual.
She’s really no time for Ben, kind of dismisses him as doing OK, and just doesn’t appreciate that she still has one child, albeit grown now, living near her.
Ben looks after her, helping out when she’s in trouble yet again in her search for answers. She’s very single  minded.

Somehow Alex gets caught up in her search, partly because he feels there’s a good story in it, partly because he wants something, anything, to give him an excuse to spend as little time as he can with his dying dad…

This book is a really close look at families, childhood, mistakes, the things that happen, that we can’t evade but which have so much impact on us as adults.
Its clear that Alex thinks he’s left the past behind but inside he’s still seeking his dad’s approval, but knowing its never coming, so everything he does is tinged with that sense of failure in his view of dad’s eyes even before he starts it. My view of him changed as the story unfolded and I grew to really like him.

I love Ben, so quiet, so internal, and so helpful in an unobtrusive way to others in the town. He sees people for what they are, what they need, what he can do to help, not what problems they have.
He’s always loved Alex, that’s clear, even though they were only 13 when he left, and I get the feeling his life without Alex, with his mum there but in a way absent from his life in her search, means he’s kind of lonely. Its a small town, everyone knows everything, or thinks they do – or so it seems, and towns like that aren’t likely to have too many openly gay people.
Still, he’s made himself a quietly successful life as an artist, and in his unique way gives so much back to helping others.
I just couldn’t help wanting things to work out, was really worried he’d get his heart broken again. I could understand why he wasn’t overjoyed to see Alex again.

Alex changes a lot over the course of the story. Forced to look at himself he finally learns he doesn’t like what he sees, what he’s been doing, kidding himself he’s happy, but knowing and ignoring that his childhood issues were still driving him.
Was his attempt to find Misty altruistic, an attempt at atonement or a cynical plot for the next big news story?
For me it starts as one and ends as the other, he and I learned a lot about him over the course of the book.

Its not an overly sexual read, the parts where they do come together are very erotic and sensual but not frequent, and it takes a long while before they even touch each other, let alone do more. That was perfect for this story though, there was so much to tell, so much to learn that too much sex, them getting together quickly despite their pasts would have felt wrong. This way the balance felt perfect for me.
I used to read a lot of thrillers/suspense, but found their focus on thriller action first and romance second didn’t really work for me, I need the romance to be quite a strong, solid part of the story even if kept in the background.
This book, putting the suspense angle into a mystery, a story to be worked out that involves so many characters we’ve already met works better for me than an out and out thriller type read, bringing in lost of external characters.

Stars: five, a great read, perfect blend of romance ans suspense for me, and one I simply devoured in one sitting.
Riptide novels tend to be like that for me, stories that engross me, seduce me into another world, and let me escape from this one for a few hours. I was there with Ben, Alex, Janet and Angela, wondering just what was coming out next.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Royal Treatment, Parker Swift, Train Wreck, Elise Faber

Royal Treatment, Parker Swift

Royal Treatment (Royal Scandal Book 3) by [Swift, Parker]

Genre:  Romance,

I loved the first two parts of this trilogy, a story with a domineering – but not in a bullying OTT way – British Duke and an American girl. She’s focused on her career, bright, intelligent and it’s so refreshing to read a heroine that’s not afraid to stand up for herself. Not that she needs to with Dylan, as he’s very proud of her work ethic, very supportive of her ambitions.
They’ve both got demons in their backgrounds though and this book lets the effects of them on them both run free.

I enjoyed the story, but felt after the dramas in the last two novels this was a little low key.
It does a very good wrapping up of past events, finishing off odd little loose ends. I hate when a book finishes and I’m thinking – but hey, what about ….?
I wasn’t convinced by the MI6 story-line, I just cant be persuaded that a top intelligence agency would let a civilian get involved to that degree. Then for all that’s it brought up through the book when it does happen it kind of is underwhelming…but that’s my only minor gripe about this book.

I love seeing things from alternating POV, lets me really get an insight into how the characters are feeling, what they really think.
I loved Dylan’s sister, and That was a surprise at the end 😉 Next book maybe?
His mum, I liked her opposition to Lydia, it felt very real, and given how some of these Lineages continue for hundreds of years back that importance parents stress of having the “right” person to marry is genuine, and I’m sure still goes in in many circles. That said I didn’t like that way things ended up between her and Lydia, just didn’t feel to me as if that would have happened.

This book takes the couple out of England to the US for part of the time and that worked really well, let Dylan see Lydia in her home setting. I loved meeting her dad’s old freinds, they felt like Lydia’s family.
A huge, massive thank you too, for Parker for releasing these books close enough together that the story remains fresh in the readers mind.
So often there’s a year or more between parts and I’ve simply forgotten exactly what happened. we readers who love books consume huge amounts of them and when trilogies have a similar story-line – and many romance ones do – then its easy to muddle them, forget exactly which one(s) belong to which books. Having to keep checking back to earlier ones t see what happened takes away a lot of the magic.
TBH my favourite way to read trilogies – and series – is to wait until all parts are released and have a total immersion, reading them back to back. That way I get the most from the story, feel the action and emotion as it happens.
Stars: four, a terrific, fresh trilogy with some great characters and plots but that MI6 storyline brings it down a bit for me.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

Train Wreck, Elise Faber

Train Wreck (Life Sucks Book 1) by [Faber, Elise]

Genre:  Romance,women’s fiction

I’ve enjoyed some of Elise other books, especially the paranormal ones and was keen to read this. It didn’t really work for me though ;-( It was well written but I just didn’t engage with the characters, or really get into the story.

I found Pepper’s constant klutziness very OTT. I’m a klutz, can fall upstairs, leave cooker on, disasters happen here regularly. the most spectacular being when I broke my hip after a fall….out of my wheelchair.
I know how Pepper feels getting blamed when its just not her fault but the disasters happened so often and over such unlikely incidences that it didn’t feel real.
I hated her family, but liked her. I liked her neighbour too, and her sweet daughter, with a useless dad/husband. Just proves deadbeat dads aren’t all unemployed alcoholics!

Then there’s Derek, and somehow he wasn’t convincing, he’s a nice guy but focused on his future and I found it hard he was now all about Pepper when he’d ignored her in the past, and I didn’t really feel he’d give up years of trying to make his way for someone he knew from the past, but has only known as an adult a few weeks.

It wasn’t one for me but others love it – that’s how reading is, one man’s meat is another man’s poison and all that! This wasn’t poison for me, but maybe just gave me a little indigestion 😉

Stars: 2.5/3 – not a bad read, just not a great one for me.

ARC supplied for review purposes by Netgalley and Publishers

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