Sunday, October 16, 2016

Review: In Safe Hands by Katie Ruggle

Title: In Safe Hands
Series: Search and Rescue
Author: Katie Ruggle
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: October 4, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca

He was her hero, but one wrong move ended their future before it could begin.
Now he'll do whatever it takes to keep her safe, even if that means turning against one of his own.

As a member of the Field County Sheriff's Department, Chris Jennings is used to having it rough. The Colorado Rockies aren't for the weak-of-spirit, but he's devoted his life to upholding the law—and to protecting the one woman he knows he can never have. He'll do whatever it takes to keep her safe.

Daisy Little has lived in agoraphobic terror for over eight years. Trapped within a prison of her own making, she watches time pass through her bedroom window. Daisy knows she'll never be a part of the world...until the day she becomes the sole witness of a terrible crime that may finally tear the Search & Rescue brotherhood apart for good.

My rating:

Daisy Little has insomnia. She's also agoraphobic, having been locked up in her own house for the last eight years, resulting in her not having any friends beside deputy Chris Jennings, who she wants to be more than friends with, but he doesn't seem to bite....Oh, and she's also a bit of a Peeping Tom, but not in a bad way. Watching the world go by through her window is like her own special version of reality TV. Her reality TV gets very real when she sees someone moving what appears to be a dead body in the middle of the night.

Pity not everybody at the sheriff's department is like Chris. The sheriff himself thinks she's a delusional, hallucinating, attention-seeking basket case and someone is apparently gunning for her because of her nightly observations. But hey, at least she has new friends...And Chris is finally showing signs of wanting to get very "friendly" indeed.

What a great end to the series. Intense, gripping, intriguing, funny, sexy, a little scary at times, and with everything tying up in nice little knots and finally making sense. What a whopper.

Daisy was a nice character. Quirky and funny (not in Lou's category, mind you, but no one can come close to that), a little self-deprecating, but whip smart, although she and her phobia got a little annoying toward the end (preferring to stay indoors, risking your own death because you're too afraid of going outside got a little old and a lot stupid). The reason she actually made the big step was predictable, which made the big step a little disappointing, but that's probably just me.
Chris on the other hand was just like the rest of the guys in this series. Strong, smart, sexy, and protective, but thankfully not taciturn. Though he got the same treatment as Ian in the way the story was all about Daisy and the reader doesn't actually get an "input" into Chris, he got a better deal than the beautiful fireman, because the story itself was better (and his heroine much less annoying than Rory).

Despite the fact this was Daisy's story, there was more going on than just her. The plot was fast-paced and intense, the villains (yes, plural!) were literal monsters, no matter their justifications, the main plot running through the entire series was finally tied up with new information about previous, thought-to-be resolved cases, popping up, adding to the intrigue.

I loved the twist and turns, it was nice seeing characters from previous books again, I loved the revelations about the villains and their nefarious plots, loved the relationship between Daisy and Chris...A great book!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Review: Gone Too Deep by Katie Ruggle

Title: Gone Too Deep
Series: Search and Rescue
Author: Katie Ruggle
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: August 2, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca

In the remote Rocky Mountains, lives depend on the Search & Rescue brotherhood. But in a place this far off the map, trust is hard to come by and secrets can be murder...

George Holloway has spent his life alone, exploring the treacherous beauty of the Colorado Rockies. He's the best survival expert Search and Rescue has, which makes him the obvious choice to lead Ellie Price through deadly terrain to find her missing father. There's just one problem-Ellie's everything George isn't. She's a city girl, charming, gregarious, delicate, small. And when she looks up at him with those big, dark eyes, he swears he would tear the world apart to keep her safe.

With a killer on the loose, he may have no choice.

Ellie's determined to find her father no matter the cost. But as she and her gorgeous mountain of a guide fight their way through an unforgiving wilderness, they find themselves in the crosshairs of a dangerous man in search of revenge. And they are now his prey...

My rating:

Ellie Price receives a weird phone-call from her father, "Uncle" Baxter, in which dear old, slightly crazy dad goes off on a rail about someone being after him, having already killed Gray Goose. Ellie, despite not believing a thing coming out of her paranoid father's mouth, still goes off in search for him, determined to bring him back into civilization and on his meds again. The problem is, her father is apparently headed into a cabin in the middle of the Colorado wilderness that will be reachable by car only in summer. So Ellie needs a guide and gets one in the guise of a mountain.

Enormous, taciturn, bearded and scowl-y, George Holloway's preferably mode of conversing is shrugging and an occasional grunt, but Ellie is more than willing to put up with anything, since the mountain of a man makes her feel safe, and obviously knows what he's doing.

Little does she know there's more truth in her father's words than she thinks...And there's someone in the sleepy little town of Simpson that's willing to kill to keep secrets.

After the debacle that was the previous book, this one brought the A-game back. Suspenseful, gripping, intense, with a larger-than-life hero that was the amazing George Holloway (major, major crush, here), and a whopper of an ending, I couldn't have wished for more.

Sure, it had its issues—mainly the loss of momentum once the plot moved from the wilderness to the city, and the fact I couldn't really connect with the heroine (everybody and their uncle wanted me to believe she was cute and lovable and great, but I simply couldn't warm up to her), but the rest of the story more than compensated for it.

George was the lovable one in all his taciturn, grunting glory hiding a vulnerable, innocent core that made me all mushy inside from reading about it. His innocence was the best part of the characterization in this book, providing a great counterpoint to his outward appearance and quiet, intense nature, while also setting this story apart from other stories in the romance category.

The depictions of the hike and the wilderness surrounding George and Ellie were vivid and engrossing, the suspense intense and gripping, rising and abating at just the right moments...And that final paragraph...Oh boy, it made me think of the worse and I sure hope it's just a red herring to keep us guessing and fretting. Because it sure was a doozy. A perfect cliffhanger to make me want to immediately read the next (and final) book in the series.

Review: Whispers at Wongan Creek by Juanita Kees

Title: Whispers At Wongan Creek
Author: Juanita Kees

Read copy: eBook
Published: November 15, 2016
Publisher: Escape Publishing
ISBN: 1489221107
ISBN-13: 9781489221100

Wongan Creek has a second chance at life, but new possibilities unearth long-buried secrets...

Travis Bailey may as well be Wongan Creek. His family has farmed canola for generations, and he sometimes feels like he holds the community together with his bare, dirt-stained hands. Between caring for the farm, his orphaned niece and his elderly, ailing neighbour, he doesn't have time for himself. He doesn’t have time to fall in love.

Social worker Heather Penney is living on borrowed time. When her mother died of Motor Neurone Disease, she took the initial blood tests and now nothing is guaranteed, let alone a future with a family and a home and a child. Wongan Creek, and its resident protector, might be getting under her skin, but she can't afford to get attached.

But even as a new mine revitalises the small town, old secrets threaten resurface, and Travis and Heather find themselves fighting to save the farms and the futures of Wongan Creek's long-time residents—and possibly their own lives.

My rating:

***ARC provided by publisher through NetGalley***

The story was good and nicely written, the characters were interesting (if a little too stubborn and self-pitying on the heroine's side), the mystery or suspense was nicely drawn out and gripping at the appropriate times, but the story was a tad too long. By the half-mark it started dragging, and most of the scenes and/or inner monologues came off as fillers without much true purpose.

It would've worked better as a short story.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Review: Sugar, Spice, and Shifers by Elianne Adams, Calle Jaye Brooks, Rinelle Grey, J.K. Harper et al.

Title: Sugar, Spice, and Shifters
Author: Elianne Adams, Calle Jaye Brooks, Rinelle Grey, J.K. Harper, Loribelle Hunt, Ellis Leigh, Anna Lowe, Eris Sage, Vivienne SavageBethany Shaw, Kristen Strassel, Elle Thorne, Holley Trent, Catherine Vale, Lori Whyte
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: November 15, 2015
Publisher: Kinship Press
ASIN: B0160D014K

Ring in your holiday season with all-new holiday shifter stories from today's hottest paranormal romance writers.

From the sweetest of mating claims to the spiciest of holiday wishes come true, this set has a perfect present for every reader. Whether you've asked Santa for wolf shifters, werebears, or dragons, this box set of ALL NEW holiday tales from bestselling authors gives the best gift any lover of paranormal romance could want: a little naughty n' nice with a whole lot of sugar n' spice.

My rating:

Her Gingerbread Dragon by Elianne Adams (2 stars)
This one started really promising, then lost its way a little by slowing down (a lot), then got interesting again with the hole dragon-hating thing...That unfortunately didn't lead anywhere.
I guess that's for the full-length novels in the series (which I won't be reading anytime soon).

God of Nightmares by Calle J. Brookes (DNF)
I cringed at the blurb...And threw in the towel at the end of the first chapter. I guess I wasn't in the mood for so much "world-building".

Bringing Christmas to the Dragons by Rinelle Grey (DNF)
There's a limited amount of time to grab a reader's attention in a novella. For me, that's one chapter. If the first chapter leaves me cold, the rest won't be any better.
The first chapter in this one, was the equivalent of the Ice Age. Next!

Solstice Wolf by J.K. Harper (1 star)
Rather iffy, but manageable with a slightly PWP-ish "love" scene (no context and rather "cold" characters), and a heroine that didn't know what she wanted until she lost it, and didn't realize that what she thought she wanted turned out to be too good to be true. Lesson learned.

Mated By Christmas by Loribelle Hunt (DNF)

Claiming Their Christmas by Ellis Leigh (3 stars)
It was a little heartbreaking reading about Beast and his lingering feelings about Amber and her death. One one hand he felt guilty, because the witch died instead of him, on the other he still felt rage toward her for having manipulated him, and on the third a complete inability to comprehend just what Amber was supposed to mean to him.
It was a little heartbreaking, and a little angering, really, because I just didn't understand the reasoning behind everything. Why didn't he simply talk to his mate, talk it through with her, when he knew it was hurting her, when he knew he was hurting her. Why did it take him so long to just talk to her, why did it take everybody and their aunt to drum some sense into the guy? I loved his story so much, I loved the ending of Claiming His Desire, and he ruined everything, he even ruined Amber's sacrifice, in this short story.


Desert Yule by Anna Lowe (DNF)
An obvious collection of Christmas-themed epilogues to previous stories in the series. Since I'm not familiar with either the series (the context) or the author, these snippets did nothing for me.

Claimed by Heart by Eris Sage (DNF)
Something was off with this one. Maybe the "older" h/H, maybe the fact they has children from previous relationships, maybe the very slow and uneventful start...Or maybe the bland character and zero chemistry between them.

A Beary Merry Christmas by Vivienne Savage (DNF)
It was rather disappointing that even such a short story didn't really grab my attention. There was just something off, maybe even the fact we're thrown into the story in the middle or after it already happened. The two already got their HEA, what's there more to tell?

Healing Christmas by Bethany Shaw (DNF)
Another one that didn't register on the radar. I didn't care what was the heroine's problem with Christmas, I didn't care how h/H might have gotten together (I didn't get to that part), I didn't care how the plot with the robbers would end...I simply didn't care.

Celebrate Me by Kristen Strassel (DNF)
I know it's a novella, but still, pacing is key. Even knowing when to slow down the story. If you rush things, you'll blow it. And insta-love is rushing things, simple as that. Add to it the fact I didn't understand nor feel the insta-love, and the Romeo-and-Juliet vibe with everybody trying to keep the two apart...I couldn't finish it.

Fascination by Elle Thorne (2 star)
It started well, but then went astray with the main conflict and the slightly silly attempts at arresting the burglar. Also, the connection between h/H didn't really click for me...And the whole panther-polar bear combo was a tad odd.

Maker by Holley Trent (DNF)
The narrative was juvenile, making the characters more young adult than new adult (or whatever the new category is). The style and voice made my teeth ache, the MCs left absolutely no impression and somewhere close to the middle, I stopped caring...And reading.

Furever Yours by Catherine Vale (DNF)
The surprise bun in the oven screamed Harlequin for me, and the fact it happened in a novella wasn't encouraging. To top it off, the narrative style and voice didn't work for me.

Snowbound at Solstice by Lori Whyte (DNF)
I don't share and don't really understand those that do. Fictional or not. Pass!

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Review: Rebellious Cargo by Susan Lodge

Title: Rebellious Cargo
Author: Susan Lodge

Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: October 6, 2015
Publisher: Crooked Cat Publishing

Spring 1803

Jane Charlesworth, daughter of England’s foremost code breaker, is the only person thought capable of deciphering a vital government document. But when a naval frigate is sent to enlist her services and transport her to Malta, Jane is horrified. Haunted with terrible memories of an earlier voyage, she has no intention of putting herself under the protection of the Admiralty ever again.

Anxious to be at the forefront of the action as the peace with France crumbles, Adam Marston is livid when his ship is diverted to collect a reluctant blue-stocking whose accusing eyes and insolent manner hold nothing but contempt for him and his orders. Sparks fly when captain and code breaker find they have different ideas on how to handle a French attack, a malicious chaplain, and boisterous midshipmen.

Duty and desire collide as they approach Malta, but Jane is determined that her judgment will not be clouded by Adam who, once he has dispatched his Rebellious Cargo, will sail out of her life again. But, as the ship docks, Jane’s life becomes a nightmare and she is forced to gamble that Adam is the only person she can trust.

As passion battles with duty, will future orders throw them together or tear them apart?

My rating:

***copy provided by publisher through NetGalley***

Couldn't be bothered, really. I didn't like the narrative style, jumping from one character to the next every few paragraphs, the story didn't pull me in, I couldn't be bothered to care what happened, and the heroine was all over the place, acting a shrew one moment, while disliking drawing attention to the herself the next, then rude, and the next second angry that someone called her on it.

I got to 65% by skimming pages, and then simply couldn't be bothered anymore.

Review: Fan the Flames by Katie Ruggle

Title: Fan the Flames
Series: Search and Rescue
Author: Katie Ruggle
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: June 7, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca

He's a firefighter.
He's a Motorcycle Club member.
And if a killer has his way...he'll take the fall for a murder he didn't commit.

Ian Walsh is used to riding the line between the good guys and the bad. He may owe the club his life, but his heart rests with his fire station brothers...and with the girl he's loved since they were kids. Ian would do anything for Rory. He'd die for her. Kill for her. Defend her to his last breath—and he may just have to.

Every con in the Rockies knows Rory is the go-to girl for less-than-legal firearms. When she defends herself against a brutal attack, Rory finds herself catapulted into the center of a gang war, with only Ian standing between her and a threat greater than either of them could have imagined.

My rating:

Argh! I hate it when this happens…When I love the first book in the series and then the second ruins all the good feels. All the feels.

I can’t even say I disliked the heroine. I didn’t. I didn’t like her, I didn’t dislike her, I felt nothing. And that’s the worse feeling of all. While Lou and her story were interesting, lively, funny, sexy, a little chaotic and funky, and gave the reader a glimpse (albeit not a full one, since the story was told from the heroine’s third-person POV) into the hero’s psyche and what made him tick, Rory’s story was all about Rory. About her gun shop (since I don’t understand or share the American fascination with everything gun related, my eyes glazed over every time the shop or the merchandise was mentioned), her windows-related paranoia, her bunker, her overall paranoia, her unconventional childhood, her social ineptitude...Blah blah blah. I suppose the reader is supposed to feel sympathy for the girl, but I simply didn’t care. It wasn’t endearing, it was simply annoying.

And since it was all about Rory and her (not-in-a-good-way) craziness, everything else suffered. The hero (he simply existed, catering to her Rory-ness), the story (slow, dull, and hole-y—Why did they target Rory’s shop, when she simply sold them everything they wanted? Why did no one look into the late-listed evidence/evidence tampering?), the overall murder arc was barely touched upon, the annoying characters (the deputy who I’m certain is crooked, the unfriendly fellow firefighter who I’m sure was the one to nick the pendant) became even more annoying thanks to the general un-appeal of the story...I won’t even mention the romance, because...What romance? The hero and heroine getting together and finally knocking boots was merely another plot device with no feeling, no depth, nothing.

I was seriously considering DNF-ing this one, but my stubborn streak kicked in and I wanted to see if the story got better. I wanted it to get better. Alas, I didn’t get my wish.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Review: Hold Your Breath by Katie Ruggle

Title: Hold Your Breath
Series: Search and Rescue
Author: Katie Ruggle
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: April 5, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca

In the remote Rocky Mountains, lives depend on the Search & Rescue brotherhood. But in a place this far off the map, trust is hard to come by and secrets can be murder...

As the captain of Field County's ice rescue dive team, Callum Cook is driven to perfection. But when he meets new diver Louise "Lou" Sparks, all that hard-won order is obliterated in an instant. Lou is a hurricane. A walking disaster. And with her, he's never felt more alive...even if keeping her safe may just kill him.

Lou's new to the Rockies, intent on escaping her controlling ex, and she's determined to make it on her own matter how tempting Callum may be. But when a routine training exercise unearths a body, Lou and Callum find themselves thrust into a deadly game of cat and mouse with a killer who will stop at nothing to silence Lou—and prove that not even her new Search and Rescue family can keep her safe forever.

My rating:

Seven months after joining the Field County's Rescue Dive Team, Louise "Lou" Sparks's kick during an exercise dislodges a dead body, bringing it floating to the surface. Feeling guilty for kicking the poor guy, Lou embarks on a DIY detective mission to discover the man's identity, since he doesn't possess his head. To keep things interesting, the leader of her diving team, and her secret crush, grumpy, taciturn, and hot-as-hell Callum Cook offers to help her investigate...And to keep things even more interesting, Lou appears to have gotten herself a stalker that seems to mind a lot that Callum is poaching on his territory.

After the iffy start to this series, I was a bit apprehensive before reading this book, but I needn't have worried. Not one bit.

This was an amazing story. Fast-paced, well-plotted, and well-written action-packed when it needed to be, rife with humor, and with a varied and fascinating cast of characters. I absolutely adored Lou. She was quirky, funny, resilient, sarcastic, smart, wry...I loved her to bits. Her special brand of humor was right up my alley, and if she were real, I'd want her to be my best friend. I suffered with her, I feared with her, I laughed with her, and I loved Callum with her.
Because who wouldn't love the guy? I mean, the reader doesn't truly get to know him, since the story is (mostly) told from Lou's perspective, but what I got to see through her eyes was just perfect. Grouchy, growly, snarly and frown-y on the inside, but once those layers were peeled off, thanks to Lou and her special brand of crazy chaos and sardonic wit, the glimpses into his inner layer were sweet and precious. He wasn't a man of many words, but he more than compensated for his taciturn nature with his actions. It's true what they say, that actions speak more than words.
The rest of the characters, the search and rescue crew, the cooky smelly guy, and the occasional patron of Lou's coffee shop were appropriately intriguing, there when they were needed, and/or offered an additional laugh or two. I also liked Derek (the hero from the prequel) more in his secondary role in this book than as a hero in his own.
The villain might've been a tad predictable if it weren't for all the red herrings thrown into the mix, and he might've also been a little over the top crazy, but it worked, and provided the story with a gripping, action-packed, nail-biting scene.

The "secondary" suspense plot, if it may be called that, since it's obviously part of the main series arc spanning multiple books (an educated guess, since the "main murder" wasn't resolved at the end of the story) is equally intriguing, and I can't wait to see how it pans out. Although it sort of stuck out a bit in this book, since Lou and Callum were pretty much amateur detectives (if they can be called that), and yet they made more progress than the official investigation. That struck me as a little strange and added a weird, unrealistic vibe to the plot. But I guess I'm just picky.

Overall, this was a great intro to the series and I'm looking forward to what comes next.

Review: Sweet Dreams by Nina Lane

Title: Sweet Dreams
Series: Sugar Rush
Author: Nina Lane
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: September 20, 2016
Publisher: Snow Queen Publishing

He may own a candy company, but this wealthy bachelor is no Willy Wonka.

Sugar Rush Candy Company CEO Luke Stone is a devoted businessman who doesn't do relationships. He does short-term affairs with clearly defined rules. But when a sexy bohemian angel propositions him in a bar, Luke is tempted to want more.

Polly Lockhart is horrified when she wakes the morning after her twenty-third birthday to realize she made a fool of herself with a sinfully delicious man. She tells herself she doesn't have time for romance anyway, as she's fighting to keep her mother's beloved bakery afloat and finish her culinary studies. That all changes when her class tours the famed Sugar Rush headquarters, and Polly collides with her dream man again.

As she succumbs to their hot attraction, Polly soon realizes her bakery isn't the only thing that needs saving. Luke, driven and unyielding, will burn out unless someone convinces him to taste the sweetness of life. But can Polly remember this sugar rush is only temporary?

My rating:

I couldn't relate/empathize with the characters (I actually felt nothing about either the two, absolutely nothing); the domineering hero is a trope only few authors can get away with in my book, and once the heroine started spouting about zodiac signs and communes, it was over...Add to it absolutely no chemistry between the two leads, the predictability of the plot, and the snail pace at which it moved, I couldn't get past the 40% mark.

Review: On His Watch by Katie Ruggle

Title: On His Watch
Series: Search and Rescue
Author: Katie Ruggle
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: January 5, 2016
Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca

In the remote Rocky Mountains, lives depend on the Search & Rescue brotherhood. But in a place this far off the map, trust is hard to come by and secrets can be murder...

Ice rescue diver Derek Warner never meant to be a hero. But when two little girls go missing, he's the first in line to bring them home—even if that means scouring the wilderness with the woman he once loved and lost, Artemis Rey.

Artemis has never stopped wanting Derek. Now, racing to find the girls before it's too late, minutes turn to hours. Night falls. Old flames rekindle. And a danger grows in the darkest wilderness that may be more than even the Search and Rescue brotherhood can hope to face...

My rating:

***eBook available for free on Amazon***

Four years ago, he let her go for her own good. Now, as they work together to find two missing girls, they both realize their feelings for one another are far from gone.

I don't really know what I expected from this new-to-me author and this new-to-me series, but I guess it was more than I got in this short story.

It was slow, mostly bogged down by the unresolved issues from the MCs past relationship, the characters weren't that interesting (him with a martyr complex and her with a slightly codependent mentality), for two people who were supposed to be searching for two missing little girls they were quick with going all grope-y and moan-y with each other on a derelict shack floor, and the one promising thing (the discovery of a possible arsonist hideout) amounted to nothing.

I guess I'll have to read the next book in the series, then.

Saturday, October 8, 2016

Review: One Step Behind by Brianna Labuskes

Title: One Step Behind
Author: Brianna Labuskes

Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: September 26, 2016
Publisher: Entangled Publishing

London, 1812.

When the unconventional Gemma Lancaster embarked on a mission to infiltrate high society and avenge her beloved cousin’s murder she never would have guessed she’d end up in the arms of a thief. At least, that’s what she assumes when she discovers Lucas Stone breaking into a private safe.

Lucas Stone, the Earl of Winchester, has a reputation for arrogance and a soft-spot for his sister, which is how he ends up in the predicament of hiding behind a curtain at midnight with the dreadfully dull Miss Gemma Lancaster. But he soon discovers appearances can be deceiving when the country mouse turns into a spitfire in front of his eyes and she makes it clear she wants nothing to do with him.

Though one is chasing a blackmailer and the other a murderer, they quickly realize they are on the hunt for the same villain. Now they must work together, which would be fine, if they could decide if they’d rather fall in love or kill one another.

My rating:

The bespectacled country bumpkin with no fashion sense is the disguise Gemma Lancaster uses to traipse around ton unnoticed in order to discover who murdered her cousin. The only one who sees through the disguise is Lucas Stone, the infuriatingly handsome Earl of Winchester. The same man who finds Gemma in a gentleman's study one night. Since he's also searching for a villain, someone who's been blackmailing his sister, it makes perfect sense for the two to combine their forces in their pursuit of, as they come to believe, the same culprit.

And the easiest way for them to spend a lot of time together under the watchful, gossipy eyes of the ton is to claim to be affianced. But the fake engagement soon starts to become something more...

I chose this book simply based on the excerpt—the first chapter—on the author's website. And I must say the beginning of the story was quite promising. The premise was indeed quite promising.

Unfortunately, the story was soon bogged down with a mystery too many, a secondary romance that didn't take well with me, because I didn't much care about the chit, and unnecessary filler in the form of different issues dealing mostly with the MCs inner scars, and incessant parties, coach rides, strolls around parks, and chatter about finding the villain instead of concentrating on actually doing anything about it.

The main characters were nice, somewhere around the middle ground, actually, not really making any impressions, though I wouldn't call the characterization bland, and the villain was nicely insane, though the reveal of his identity was no surprise, since I deduced who it was from the second scene he appeared in. Once the initial "novelty" wore off, the whole story slowed down considerably (maybe it could've been shorter and the plot more condensed instead of stretched so far it became thin), and though some sort of predictability is expected, since the HEA between the MC is accepted in any romance, I didn't appreciate the predictability in the villain department. Though, I should give the story points for veering off the template hero-saves-the-damsel routine.

Review: Tall, Dark and Royal by Vanessa Kelly

Title: Tall, Dark and Royal
Series: The Renegade Royals
Author: Vanessa Kelly
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: November 25, 2014
Publisher: Zebra

He’s the man behind the mission to track down the illegitimate children of England’s Royal Princes and help them get their due. But his deepest desire is far more personal...

Magnificent and stubborn. Fourteen years apart had not changed Chloe Steele, or Dominic’s love for her. He’d been a street urchin, a boy raised at court, and finally a magistrate, yet he’d never belonged anywhere—except by her side. Now Chloe devoted herself to girls threatened by scandal—like she had been. But she was in danger, and Dominic was determined to help—and hopefully make up for lost time...

Even in childhood, Dominic had made Chloe feel safe. Now she also felt thrillingly flustered by the powerful man he’d become, and by the longing he inspired. Because Dominic meant not only to protect her, but to untangle the lies that had separated them. Yet for Chloe, surrendering to temptation may be easier than risking a future that could ruin them both...

My rating:

After twenty-eight years, Dominic Hunter is finally reunited with Chloe Steele, the only woman he's ever loved. She's in trouble, and he's determined to do everything in his power to keep her safe...While also making up for lost time. If only the woman weren't so damned stubborn.

I must confess to be rather disappointed with Dominic and Chloe's story. I was looking forward to it since the start of the series, wanting to see Dominic brought down to his knees by a woman as retribution for all his matchmaking in the previous two books. But although I wanted him to finally be happy, I couldn't help but feel Chloe wasn't the heroine for him.
With all her guilt, and self-esteem and other issues, she really got on my nerves, because by punishing herself for her past sins (which were not of her doing, by the way), she ended up punishing the two men she loved, Dominic and her son Griffin. I know I should be supportive of a fellow female, but I found her actions and reasoning extremely selfish.

The story itself was good, if a little too short, which made it come through as crammed with information and rushed, and I liked that by the end all was well, but I cannot help but feel a little cheated.

Review: Caiden by V. Vaughn

Title: Caiden
Series: Intergalactic Dating Agency, Galaxy Alien Mail Order Brides
Author: V. Vaughn
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: October 5, 2015
Publisher: Sugarloaf Press

Mandy Thorne thinks she’s just testing the new Intergalactic Dating Agency’s site when she pushes the initiate match button. The moment she does though, she discovers she’s just requested a super-hot alien be delivered to her doorstep the very next day. While Mandy’s excited about the sexy man she’s about to get, the strings attached are a different story.

Caiden TS-461 lands on Earth before he’s been properly trained for the culture, but as soon as he meets his human mate he’s willing to do whatever it takes to win her heart. When he breaks a rule to make Mandy happy, the pair end up back on planet Eroscia to face punishment for their crime, and the sentence could make Mandy resent him forever.

My rating:

In a (not-so-distant-future) half of the male population has been wiped out by a freak plague, leaving the unscathed women to fend for themselves to see to their sexual needs. Some use government approved toys, some settle for one-night stands...For the rest, there's a new "exchange" program, still in beta-testing, to import males from a recently-appeared planet, Eroscia, where men are in abundance.

Mandy Thorne's best friend Lexi is the one in charge of beta-testing the new "dating app", but Mandy is the one that pushes the "initiate match" button while fiddling with it. The result: her future husband will be delivered to her doorstep the next morning. The caveat: no sex before the wedding.

The blurb with the rule-breaking and punishment-facing was promising, but unfortunately that happened in the last two chapters of this 11-chapter story. And even that wasn't as promising as the blurb might hint at.

But let's start at the beginning. The story is told from Mandy's (first-person) POV, but since Mandy sounded like a fifteen-year-old, I was the opposite of impressed. She was immature, abhorred getting bossed about by men (probably thanks to living in a women-ruled society), but had no qualms in bossing her hero around all the time. Even when he specifically told her they were breaking the rules, that there might be consequences, the entitled female simply waved her hand in that no-one-will-know-so-what-can-possibly-happen way.

Well, turns out they did know and something did happen. I wished for the punishment to be harsher (for Mandy, to teach her a much needed lesson), but unfortunately they both got it pretty easy.

Since the story was told from an immature chick's POV there was no possibility to actually get to know the hero, besides the fact he was apparently hot and had cool alien telekinetic ability to "touch" the heroine without actually touching her (in the end, he actually caressed her heart, which is either really gross, or cause for alarm, because it might've been a serious condition and not the touch of her alien, but I digress). He's also bossy and doesn't listen when someone warns him about imbibing too much. A typical male, then. And without personality. At least he knew English and didn't sound like an idiot.

So, we had an immature heroine (without much personality), a cardboard cutout of a hero (without personality), an uninteresting and rather redundant plot with absolutely no conflict despite what the blurb claims.

What a disappointing waste of nary an hour. If it were longer, it would be a DNF.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Review: Confessions of a Royal Bridegroom by Vanessa Kelly

Title: Confessions of a Royal Bridegroom
Series: The Renegade Royals
Author: Vanessa Kelly
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: April 1, 2014
Publisher: Zebra

They are the Renegade Royals, illegitimate sons of the Royal Princes, each finding his rightful place in society—and the woman destined to be his perfect match...

Some men are born into scandal. Others pursue it with a passion. Griffin Steele, secret son of the Duke of Cumberland, is guilty on both counts. Yet somehow London's most notorious scoundrel has been saddled with an abandoned baby boy—and with the unflappable, intriguing spinster summoned to nurse him...

Justine Brightmore may be a viscount's niece, but she's also a spy's daughter, determined to safeguard the infant when his suspected royal parentage makes him a target. Yet how to protect herself from the rakish Griffin? Marriage might shield her reputation, but it can only imperil her heart, especially with a groom intent on delicious seduction...

My rating:

Notorious Griffin Steele is in the process of selling all his properties and leaving England for good, when a baby, delivered to his house, delays those plans. He calls his quasi-mentor and friend, Dominic Hunter, for help in getting rid of the baby, but is dismayed to discover Dominic has every intention of leaving his little charge right where he is. Someone has delivered the baby to Griffin for protection, and so it shall be. But Griffin is not to worry, for Dominic will bring a competent nurse to help take care of the baby.

Enter Justine Brightmore, daughter of one of Dominic's spies, Dominic's own goddaughter. She had no intention of leaving her comfortable post in the country, but she did it for her godparent. How hard can it be, taking care of an infant? Not very hard, despite the baby's colicky behavior, but there's the master of the house to deal with, which is an altogether different matter. She doesn't know whether to club him over the head with a teapot or succumb to the attraction his smoldering looks provoke. But she's determined to do neither, and simply endure the few weeks she has to spend under the same roof as Griffin Steele.

But with her penchant for saving more-or-less lost souls, Justine ends up embroiled in a little bit of a scandal that will surely ruin her reputation...And Griffin, the gentleman that he is, offers a simple solution of becoming his wife. With Dominic all but forcing her into the stupid marriage of convenience to save her reputation, Justine has no choice but becoming Mrs Steele. But only in name only...If only her husband would stick to the plan.

Another great installment in the The Renegade Royals series, and the one I've been truly looking forward to, since it had the fascinating, brooding, angry-at-the-world, hot as sin, sexy as hell, crime-lord extraordinaire Griffin Steele as the hero.

And I wasn't disappointed. Griffin was everything I imagined and envisioned as soon as he made an appearance in the first book, and more. This was the man of contradictions; cold, dangerous, and ruthless, yet deeply loyal, loving (when the mood struck), and protective of those he considered his. He's been forged in the fires of hell, yet, despite his "best" intentions, he didn't let it define him (much). He could've become the same bastard as those that shaped him, but he didn't, choosing to rise above it all, making his own life and creating his own future and destiny.
It's tough finding the right heroine for such a charismatic character as Griffin Steele, but Ms Kelly succeeded in drawing the perfect heroine for him in Justine Brightmore. A bluestocking yes, a woman disliking adventure and any sort of disruption in the life she's carved for herself, but with a core and nerves of steel, a strong backbone, and intelligence to match. Justine and Griffin were eerily similar in some ways, both doggedly loyal and protective of those they cared about, both stubbornly guarding their independence, and both carrying deep scars from their childhoods.
Their love story, though sometimes playing second fiddle to the mystery subplot revolving around the baby and the danger lurking around it, was beautifully written and plotted-out, progressing slowly and steadily, as they slowly got to know each other, trust each other enough to reveal their deeper secrets (mostly Griffin), from initial attraction through admiration to that final elusive destination. I had my misgivings as to how their romance might end up, what with Griffin's plans and whatnot, but it all ended the way it was supposed to end. Nicely tied with a bow.

Everything else pretty much paled in comparison to Griffin and his love story with Justine, and I must say the mystery subplot with the baby in danger was starting to grate a little toward the end, and the mystery, once solved and explained, lacked that something special, that "oomph", if you will, that wow factor that makes you think it was worth the wait. The solution or the explanation was a tad too convoluted for my liking, and the exposition of it was the only dragging part of the otherwise well-paced story.

Now, I'm looking forward to the resolution between Chloe and Dominic. ;)