Thursday, February 26, 2015

Review: Closer Than You Think

Closer Than You Think
Karen Rose
Romantic Suspense
Cincinnati/Book 1
Signet/February 3, 2015

Psychologist Faith Corcoran is desperate to escape the stalker who’s made her life a nightmare for the past year—desperate enough to run to the one place that has been her nightmare far longer. Both boon and bane, her recent inheritance of her grandmother’s old house in Cincinnati offers sanctuary in which she can start her life anew, but requires that she face the dark memories that still resonate to this day. 

But she has no idea how close to home her fears still are. 

Two college girls have gone missing in the area, and FBI Special Agent Deacon Novak is called to work on the case. When his inquiry unexpectedly leads him to Faith, he finds a beautiful and brave woman he can’t help but fall for. Soon they’ll discover that this seemingly simple investigation is anything but. Reaching back decades into Faith’s own past, it will shatter everything she believes to be true and will give terrifying new meaning to flesh and blood.

The start of a new series from a favorite author can be exciting. While this is a new location and some new characters there are a few familiar characters, most notably the hero, Deacon Novak.

Deacon is a very physically distinct character but beyond his physical attributes, he is intelligent, determined and a risk taker. He's an FBI agent and while he follows the rules, he also thinks outside the box. It was good to learn more about Deacon, about his past and his family. It helped make him a more complete character rather than this shadowy form in a leather coat. I did find him almost ordinary but I think that was due more to the build up in previous books as well as his unique features. Was I expecting some type of superhero? Maybe. Turns out he's more of an everyday hero.

Faith Corcoran is an intelligent psychologist who is trying to escape her past. She has changed her name and moved in an attempt to be safe. Faith's intelligence is not hidden or downplayed in a false attempt to make her seem more vulnerable and I liked that. Faith certainly still has vulnerable moments, but through intelligence and sometimes luck, she survives. She also doesn't treat Deacon like a freak of nature but sees the allure of his physical differences.

I've always thought Rose can write some creepy, nasty villains,but this time she may have just outdone herself. Sick bastard sounds about right. Rose keeps the reader guessing as to who the villain really is. We are also introduced to some new secondary characters who added another layer to the plot. The plot itself is intrinsic to both Deacon and Faith resolving the struggles and suffering in their pasts.

Like many of Rose's romances, this one happens quickly but doesn't feel rushed. Along with the quick pace of the suspense, so goes the romance between Deacon and Faith. At one point I couldn't believe it had only been two days since Deacon and Faith met. It felt like they had known each other for years. It had to do with the way they clicked with each other. The suspense and danger do throw them together in stressful situations which only seems to enhance the attraction.

With the first book in a "newish" series read, I already find myself looking forward to the next book. I wonder who the hero and heroine will be? For now, only Ms. Rose knows.

Rating: B+

Cincinnati Series ~

Closer Than You Think

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

ARC Review: The Girls of Mischief Bay

The Girls of Mischief Bay
Susan Mallery
Contemporary Fiction
Mischief Bay/Book 1
Harlequin/February 24, 2015

Spoiler Alert/Warning Below Rating

Nicole Lord wants to be a good wife, but there's a difference between being supportive and supporting her husband, who quit his job to write a screenplay she's never seen. He won't even help take care of their son, leaving Nicole to run the house and work full-time at her Mischief Bay Pilates studio. Can she say enough is enough without losing the man she loves?

Sacrificing a personal life for her career is how Shannon Rigg rose to become vice president in her firm, but she wonders now whether she made the right choice. An exciting new relationship with a great guy convinces her that it might not be too late—until he drops a bombshell that has her questioning whether she can have it all. And if she can, does she want it?

Although Pam Eiland has a beautiful house and a husband she adores, she feels… restless. She wonders who a stay-at-home mom becomes after the kids are grown. Finding sexy new ways to surprise her husband brings the heat and the humor back to their marriage, but when unexpected change turns her life upside down, she'll have to redefine herself. Again.

Through romance and heartbreak, laughter and tears, three very different women will discover that friends can become family, and that life is richer with sisters at your side.

This isn't what I would consider a romance. It's a contemporary story about friendship with some romance but not in the traditional sense of following the relationship of a main hero and heroine. What it is is a story about three women, Nicole, Shannon and Pam, who through their friendship, weather some very rough seas together.

One thing about Nicole, Pam and Shannon that sets them apart from what might be called the typical friends story is their age differences and the stage that each is in their lives. Pam is the eldest at fifty. She has been married for many years and has three grown children. Shannon, closing in on forty, is single and career driven but hoping to find love. Nicole, the youngest at thirty, is married with a young son. All three have struggles in their love lives but those struggles are different because each woman is at a different phase in her life. This kept the plot moving along.

We get points of view from each of the three women which helps give insight to how they are feeling and thinking. They share a lot of their thoughts with each other but do hold back some. Also, getting the same scene from different points of view shows how perceptions of others isn't always accurate, even with close friends.

With three different women there is a greater chance the reader will relate to at least one of the women. The downside is if the reader only relates to one of the lead characters that leaves a possible disconnect with approximately two-thirds of the narration. I found myself able to relate easiest to Pam but less so to Nicole and Shannon. Nicole mostly because of how she allowed her husband to treat her. She didn't stand up for herself, but rather tried to justify his self-centered actions. This left me feeling little sympathy for her. Shannon was a little different. With Shannon there is sympathy for her situation even though she has been in control of her life and where it has lead her up until now. Her decisions were intelligent and well thought out. I actually liked her the best.

The first half of the book was enjoyable getting to know the three women and seeing where their lives were going. It was when the bad things started to happen the story took a turn that turned out to be a turn off. It was as if some terrible, life shattering event had to happen to each woman and they might not make it back from the brink they found themselves on. I found certain parts simply depressing. Yes, they did band together and overcome and pulled each other back from the brink but in the end, the trip was a little too rough for me.

Rating: C+

Mischief Bay Series ~

The Girls of Mischief Bay

Spoiler Alert / Warning

If you have recently, and that could be months or years, depending on where you on in the grieving process, suffered the death of your spouse then this might not be the book for you. One of the main characters' spouse dies and we see her go through the aftermath of his death. It wasn't easy to read and might prove to be too difficult for someone who has been there. Or, it could have a positive affect. Reading about a character going through this might make you feel like you're not alone. I felt a warning was needed because the death in the book came as a surprise. Not the blurb nor the story leading up to the death made me think this would happen.

My sincere condolences if you have suffered the death of your spouse, at any point in your life.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

TBR Challenge: Fallen from Grace

Fallen From Grace
Laura Leone aka Laura Resnick
Contemporary Romance
Five Star/June 2, 2003
Reissued/Blonde Trifecta/January 31, 2011

* Rita Award Finalist for Best Contemporary Romance
* Desert Island Keeper,
* No. 29 on DearAuthor.Com’s list of the Top 100 Romance Novels

My TBR pile is huge! There are any number of books that I have no idea how they got there because they have been there so long. The book I chose for this month has been sitting on one of my bookshelves for years but I do remember who recommended it. Kristie from Ramblings on Romance was kind enough to share her enjoyment of this unique romance. I'm so glad I listened to her advice and scouted this one out at the used bookstore many years ago. I just wish I had not waited so long to read it!

After thirty-something Sara Diamond experiences professional and financial setbacks, she moves into an eccentric little apartment and works on reviving her career. Before long, she becomes good friends with Ryan Kinsmore, the handsome twenty something man next door, who shares her balcony—and her unreliable utilities.

But Sara’s new neighbor conceals painful secrets and a double life behind his gentle charm and good looks. As their friendship blossoms into love, Sara gradually learns the truth about Ryan, who’s trapped in a world of lies, danger, and sex-for-hire. With his spirit renewed by love, he becomes determined to find a way out of the life he was drawn into as a runaway minor, and equally determined to rescue a street kid whom he finds falling into the same traps that once caught him. But Ryan’s secret life is lived in a ruthless world which won’t easily let him go. Having fallen so far from grace, can he find his way back?

This is certainly something different. Given that it was first published over ten years ago, I doubt there were many novels that could compare at the time. A hero prostitute is not something you come across everyday. Luckily for Sara Diamond (and me) this hero came into our lives.

Sara Diamond has downsized. Sold her condo and moved into an interesting apartment with crooked stairs and an eccentric landlord. The move was not planned but inspired by circumstances which were out of Sara's control. She is now self-employed, attempting to revive her career. The one truly bright spot in her new life is her neighbor, Ryan Kinsmore. He is not only good looking but kind, caring and simply fun to hang out with. Sara is attracted to him but is aware of the age difference, he's 26, she's 35. She thinks there is no way Ryan would ever see her as more than just a friend.

Ryan Kinsmore is exactly what he seems when he is with Sara. But there is much he is hiding and he knows when it eventually comes to light, things will never be the same between him and Sara. The situation is complex, made more so after Ryan and Sara sleep together. Ryan had to know how Sara would react after they made love and he is called into work. Which is why his disappointment towards Sara's reactions surprised me. If he knows women and Sara so well, there's no way he could have expected Sara to react any differently. This isn't casual to her and there is no way to expect her to be okay with him sleep with other women. It doesn't matter if it's only work to Ryan, in Sara's eyes it's cheating.

There are so many elements that made this story so compelling. Ryan's coping mechanism for living the life he does. He keeps his personal life separate from his work life. He even has a different name for work. No one from work knows where he lives. He takes in strays - a bird, cat, and dog. Yes, a psychiatrist would have a field day with Ryan. But it's Sara who pushes into both Ryan's personal and work life. Sara is pushy, sometimes too much, not always knowing when to back off. It did become a little irritating when she had such tunnel vision to get Ryan to talk to her, even when he was clearly in pain, either physical or emotional. She did help him realize he is worth so much more than being used by Catherine, his boss.

The ending felt a little rushed and tidied up too neatly. After everything Ryan and Sara went through, the end was almost anti-climatic. Still, the story as a whole was captivating with well developed characters and a plot surely different than most.

Rating: A-

Monday, February 16, 2015

ARC Review: One Wish

One Wish
Robyn Carr
Contemporary Romance
Thunder Point/Book 7
MIRA/February 24, 2015

Grace Dillon was a champion figure skater until she moved to Thunder Point to escape the ruthless world of fame and competition. And though she's proud of the quiet, self-sufficient life she's created running a successful flower shop, she knows something is missing. Her life could use a little excitement.

In a community where there are few eligible singles, high school teacher Troy Headly appoints himself Grace's fun coach. When he suggests a little companionship with no strings attached, Grace is eager to take him up on his offer, and the two enjoy…getting to know each other.

But things get complicated when Grace's past catches up with her, and she knows that's not what Troy signed up for. Faced with losing her, Troy realizes Grace is more than just a friend with benefits. He's determined to help her fight for the life she always wished for but never believed she could have—and maybe they can find real love along the way.

Can't believe we're already on book seven in the Thunder Point series.  In a way it feels like we just started but then again these characters feel so familiar, much like the Virgin River characters began to feel like family. One Wish was a relaxing romance. The hero and heroine are both intelligent, mature adults who didn't irritate the heck out of me with stupidity. That's always a relief!

Troy is attempting to heal his broken heart. Poor Troy! I didn't really feel sorry for him after his crush on Iris McKinley (see previous book) didn't pan out. Troy likes playing the field and it never felt like his heart would stay broken for long. Which is why it was no surprise when Troy took notice of Grace who just happened to be Iris' best friend.

Grace isn't blind and Troy is certainly easy on the eyes! Not only is she attracted to him physically but she finds she enjoys spending time with him. Grace's usual male friends include a medieval knight, a vampire and a Navy SEAL. Yep, Grace has book boyfriends! This made me like her that much more! She has convinced herself that she wants a quiet life and her life in Thunder Point suits her. Except she finds, after meeting Troy, a need for a little bit of excitement outside of her books. Troy offers that excitement and at first Grace thinks it's enough.

The romance starts as casual, friends with no strings but soon both Troy and Grace realize they want more. They're comfortable with each other and find they have much in common with their humor and their dedication to their work. It was a sweet friendship to lovers romance but nothing earthshaking. I found Grace's background and how she came to Thunder Point nearly as interesting as the romance.

Rating: B

Thunder Point Series ~

The Wanderer
The Newcomer
The Hero
The Chance
The Promise
The Homecoming
One Wish
A New Hope (June 30, 2015)
Wildest Dreams (August 25, 2015)

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Review: Can't Help Falling In Love

Can't Help Falling In Love
Bella Andre
Contemporary Romance
The Sullivan's/Book 3
Self Published/December 2011

Gabe Sullivan risks his life every day as a firefighter in San Francisco. But after learning a brutal lesson about professional boundaries, he knows better than to risk his heart to his fire victims ever again. Especially the brave mother and daughter he saved from a deadly apartment fire...and can't stop thinking about.

Megan Harris knows she owes the heroic firefighter everything for running into a burning building to save her and her seven-year-old daughter. Everything except her heart. Because after losing her navy pilot husband five years ago, she has vowed to never suffer through loving - and losing - a man with a dangerous job again.

Only, when Gabe and Megan meet again and uncontrollable flames of desire ignite between them, how can he possibly ignore her courage, determination, and beauty? And how can she deny not only his strong bond with her daughter.but the way his sweetly sensual kisses are challenging her to risk everything she's been guarding for so long?

This winter, if one - or both - of them aren't careful, they just might end up falling in love.

Even though I started with the third book in the series, this can be read as a standalone. It did make me want to know about the two Sullivan brothers who came previously as well as the other Sullivan siblings whose stories come after Gabe's.

Gabe Sullivan is a firefighter. A genuine hero although he does see himself as that. Instead, he sees himself as a dedicated firefighter just doing his job. It's his job that brings him into very close proximity with Megan and Summer Harris. Saving their lives was only the beginning for Gabe. He feels an attraction to Megan but had decided he would not get involved with anyone he rescues. It doesn't' take long before Gabe changes his mind.

Megan Harris is a strong woman and that strength has sustained her during some very difficult times. Her husband, a Navy pilot was killed during a crash five years ago. Ever since, she has raised her daughter Summer on her own. Megan has also vowed never to date a man with a dangerous profession. I can understand her viewpoint but when she compares her deceased husband to Gabe, the comparison was only correct on the surface. The reality is her husband was a thrill seeker where as Gabe takes what he does seriously and doesn't take unnecessary risks. Gabe loves his job because he can help people, not for the danger or the thrill of it.

Gabe can't get Megan off his mind but she holds fast to her rule of not dating someone with a dangerous job. Gabe goes into firefighter mode and uses his rules to win Megan around to giving him a chance. I did like that Gabe didn't give up but was able to see how well he and Megan fit together. She was too stubborn and set in her ways to see what a good guy Gabe was. This did not endear me to Megan, in fact, she got on my nerves. At certain points I felt Gabe deserved better than Megan. Not the best feeling to have towards the heroine of the book I'm reading.

In the end, this is a romance novel so they do get their happily ever after but Gabe had to work too hard for his.

Rating: C+

The Sullivans ~

The Look of Love
From This Moment On
Can't Help Falling In Love
I Only Have Eyes for You
If You Were Mine
Let Me Be the One
Come a Little Bit Closer
Always on My Mind
One Perfect Night (novella)
The Way You Look Tonight
Kissing Under the Mistletoe
It Must Be Your Love
Just to Be With You
I Love How You Love Me,
All I Ever Need Is You (April)

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

ARC Review: RISE

Karina Bliss
Contemporary Romance
Rock Solid/Book 1
Self Published/January 28, 2015

Acclaimed literary biographer Elizabeth Winston writes about long-dead heroes.  So bad-boy rock icon Zander Freedman couldn't possibly tempt her to write his memoir. Except the man is a mass of fascinating contradictions – manipulative, honest, gifted, charismatic and morally ambiguous.  In short, everything she seeks in a biography subject. When in her life will she get another chance to work with a living legend?

Suddenly she’s having heated fantasies about her subject, fantasies this blue-eyed devil is only too willing to stoke. She thought self-control was in her DNA; after all, she grew up a minister’s daughter. 

She thought wrong.

Rock star Zander Freedman has been an outlier–many would say an outcast–for most of his life. But there’s no disaster he can’t overcome, from the breakup of his band to the inevitable damage to his reputation. His Resurrection Tour is shaping up to be his greatest triumph – if his golden voice holds out. 

Contracting a respected biographer is simply about creating more buzz. Elizabeth’s integrity is the key to consolidating his legacy as one of rock’s greats. All the damn woman has to do is write down what he tells her. Not force him to think. Or encourage the good guy struggling to get out.  And certainly not make him fall in love for the first time in his life.

It's been a few years since What the Librarian Did was released and when I first met Zander Freedman. He was an ass. A drunk, entitled, rude, immature ass.  Hero material he wasn't.  Or was he?  No way could I believe Zander could change.  Boy was I wrong!

Zander Freedman is determined to bring his band back on top, even if it means doing it with all new band mates. What he also needs is money to make it happen. In addition to touring, Zander has been writing his memoir but it's not going well. Then Elizabeth Winston comes into his life and Zander finds someone who doesn't cower under his angry glare. At the beginning, Zander had already started his transition from stereo-typical rock star indulging in excesses of parties, women and drugs to a more responsible businessman when he meets Elizabeth. I loved seeing how Zander continues to change under Elizabeth's influence, even though he'd probably deny it. He's stubborn like that.

Elizabeth Winston finds herself in a foreign world of opulence, excess and fame. It becomes a learning experience in not only what is real and what is fake but how she fits in to this very different reality. I adored Elizabeth for her intelligence, kindness and her faith. Watching how she reacted to Zander who was like a wild animal and completely out of her realm of experience, was a pleasure. The concert scenes, with Elizabeth experiencing the full impact of Zander on stage, were thrilling.

As Elizabeth becomes more integrated into Zander's world, Zander becomes more open to Elizabeth, allowing her to see him at his most vulnerable. It wasn't easy for him to do this and he didn't do it all at once, he fought it, which made it that much more believable. He also made some mistakes along the way which only made his rebirth more genuine.

I'm so very happy Ms. Bliss decided to give Zander a chance and paired him up with Elizabeth. There was a scene when Zander and Elizabeth were flying and Elizabeth is nervous (read terrified). Zander begins reading an aviation safety manual to Elizabeth, to take her mind off of her fears. It was one of those quiet moments, a small gesture showing what a big heart he has. Yes, Zander Freeman is a hero.

Rating: A

Rock Solid Series ~