Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Review: Miss Amelia Lands a Duke by Sandy Raven

Title: Miss Amelia Lands a Duke
Series: The Caversham Chronicles
Author: Sandy Raven
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: October 2, 2014
Publisher: Sandy Raven, LLC
ASIN: B00O59KH4G

Spinster Amelia accepts a position as a companion to her social-climbing aunt who is planning her next wedding before she is even out of mourning for her second husband. And the man her aunt is stalking is none other than the wealthy widower, the Duke of Caversham.

Horrified by her aunt’s behavior, Amelia decides to hide away in their host’s library and gardens for the duration of their visit. On an evening walk through the maze she meets an older gentleman who intrigues and arouses her. She flees without learning his name, only to stumble across that same handsome gentleman in the library days later, where to Amelia's astonishment, he kisses her. And she kisses him back!

Amelia and the duke are caught in their passionate embrace by her aunt. Embarrassed at her own wanton behavior, Amelia flees the room believing he’s used her to avoid her aunt. After confronting her aunt, the duke does what he believes is the honorable thing and makes plans to marry Amelia.

Only he never asks her.


My rating:

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

Amelia travels to a country party as her aunt’s companion, while the woman tries to snare a duke. While exploring a maze in order to clear her head, Amelia stumbles upon a handsome, older-than-her gentleman, but flees before they’re introduced.

The next night, she once more stumbles upon the man, this time in the library, where he kisses her, and, once her aunt discovers them, Amelia learns the gentleman whose kiss she’s been enjoying is the duke her aunts plans to marry.


The story started off well, but soon lost its grip with reality. And since we’re speaking of a fictitious story, the accusation is grave indeed. From the tableau in the library, this story went from interesting to unrealistic and almost bizarre in a matter of pages. (Although I did enjoy the slapping incident at the end of the encounter in the library.)

The whole premise with the lust-at-first-sight turning into an offer of marriage turning into love with a spattering of familial reunions along the way happened too fast for it to be even remotely realistic. While I enjoyed the heroine and her stubbornness and “independence” wasn’t annoying, it was the hero and his constant internal monologues about him maybe getting old that got old fast and became annoying even faster.
I also didn’t care much about the, albeit short lived, misunderstanding and the a little longer-lived “indecision” about accepting the marriage proposal and the incessant debates that elicited.

I felt the story was short enough to curb any deeper characterization and plotting, so the fillers in form of the above-mentioned misunderstanding and debating about not-accepting-for-not-being-properly asked created additional and completely unnecessary drama and conflict while not actually benefitting the story or its pacing.



Monday, November 28, 2016

Review: The Secret to Seduction by Ember Casey

Title: The Secret to Seduction
Series: The Fontaines
Author: Ember Casey
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: March 11, 2015
Publisher: CreateSpcae
ASIN: B00UKL5PEU

Felicia Liddle has only eight days to seduce Hollywood bad boy Luca Fontaine.

If she wants to keep her dream job, she needs to score an interview with the infamous actor—or with one of his equally legendary (and ridiculously sexy) brothers, the notorious Fontaine boys of Hollywood. And everyone knows that the Fontaines never give interviews--but everyone also knows that neither Luca nor any of his brothers can resist a charming woman, and Felicia's sure that's her way in.

The only problem? Historically speaking, Felicia's way more likely to put her foot in her mouth (or generally make an idiot of herself) than charm the pants off of anyone.

Enter Roman Everet: media mogul (read: billionaire), insanely sexy, and—oh yeah—Felicia's new boss. He might hold the fate of her job in his hands, but he's more than willing to help her become an expert in seduction...


My rating:

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

It took me a mere paragraph to realize the heroine is an idiot. But, in the spirit of sisterhood, I decided to give her a chance. However, she turned into an even bigger idiot by the end of the first chapter, and that final scene was it for me. I'm done after one measly chapter of a short story.

I have no idea why she was at the bar, because aparently the explanation comes in chapter two, but I don't care. Big mistake that, posponing the explanation for the heroine going all idiot in a bar. Especially when the heroine goes all over-the-top idiot.

Sure, it was free, but I don't care...Moving on.



Review: Wraith's Awakening by Virna DePaul

Title: Wraith's Awakening
Series: Para-Ops
Author: Virna DePaul
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: March 2, 2012
Publisher: Virna DePaul
ASIN: B007GO33UW

A naked female wakes up in an alley with no memory of her human life. Her blue-tinged skin, white hair, and hazy eyes exude "walking dead," and several individuals, including a sophisticated vampire named Colt, claim she's a ghost. Meet Wraith and witness her awakening.

My rating:

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

A different take on an old trope. It started strong, but lost its momentum and any spark it had along the way, until it lost all my attention. I won't be reading the rest of the series, that's for sure.



Friday, November 25, 2016

Review: The Daily Show (The Book): An Oral History by Chris Smith

Title: The Daily Show (The Book): An Oral History as Told by Jon Stewart, the Correspondents, Staff and Guests
Author: Chris Smith

Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: November 22, 2016
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
ASIN: B01BU1ITZU

For sixteen years (1999-2015), The Daily Show was a game-changer in television, blurring the line between opinionated news reportage and comedy. It launched careers, lampooned legions of public figures and garnered 18 Emmy's. Now the fascinating behind-the-scenes antics, controversies and relationships will be chronicled by legendary host Jon Stewart and the players themselves. Starting with the inception of the show and Craig Kilborn's turn as host, this history will cover the groundbreaking election coverage, Jon's famous monologue in the wake of 9/11, confrontations with John McCain and Hillary Clinton, The O'Reilly Factor, the war with CNN and every satirical moment in between, including legendary cast members Samantha Bee, Stephen Colbert, Lewis Black, Jon Hodgman, Steve Carell, Larry Wilmore, John Oliver and a foreword from Jon Stewart.

My rating:

Just like Bassem Youssef, I also first heard of Jon Stewart by watching CNN and its weekly (?) The Daily Show Global Edition. I wasn't a regular watcher, but when I happened to catch it, I loved it. I started watching it, still half-seriously during the 2008 election campaign, and became a regular watcher a few years later. Thank you, Internet.

Yes, it was funny (sometimes downright pee-your-pants hilarious), but there was depth there, nuance that made it obvious much thought went into each and every show. It wasn't until after reading this book, that I realized just how much thought, hard work, stress, (figurative) blood and (literal) tears were behind this show that pretended to be just a little oddball comedy, but was indeed more informative and straightforward than "regular" news it made fun of, and more honest and down-to-earth than the politics it criticized.

When Stewart announced his departure, I went on a marathon watch of all episodes made during his sixteen year tenure. Imagine my surprise when I first started with the episodes from way back in 1999. "WTF is this?" I went. "This is nothing even remotely compared to what I enjoy every day."
The change from that first formative year (after Stewart took over from Kilborn) was evident throughout the months, but (too) slow, and this book nicely illustrates just why that was. All the trials and tribulations, the stubborn refusal to yield to something new from the staff, Stewart's stubbornness and resolution to create something meaningful, while also creating a good working environment and a well-oiled machine that is capable of moving forward even without its captain.
The strain and stress Stewart must've been under all the years working on the show, which was also the reason for his "retirement" and which was only faintly seen on screen, was finally made starkly clear, and the man has all my admiration for carrying on as long as he did. Many would've crumbled sooner. Now, I can finally say, I understand what drove him to "abdicate" from his comedic throne.

I loved the narrative style of this book, told mostly from the point of view of Stewart and the crew/staff (old, new, and ongoing) of The Daily Show, and some of the "enemies", with the author injecting only minor points between the recounts. Reading it, it felt like sitting in a room with all these people, listening to their conversation.
The narrative follows the process of creating the show from (basically) nothing, how their own narrative, their point of view, and their "mission" changed throughout the years, what went into creating a single arc of the show or one single episode, with only minor glimpses of dirty laundry or details about backstage feuds. It was mostly a love ode to the show and its creator and "Dad".
I actually expected to see more anecdotes, instead of this being quite a serious book, but I'm not complaining.

If you expect page after page of jokes, you will want to look elsewhere. But if you enjoyed The Daily Show and you're interested in a "post-mortem" of its creation and the development and changes that turned it into a cultural phenomenon, this is the book for you.
Eloquent, a little introspective, and funny in just the right moments.



Friday, November 18, 2016

Review: Truth or Date by Susan Hatler

Title: Truth or Date
Series: Better Date than Never
Author: Susan Hatler
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: April 24, 2013
Publisher: Hatco Publishing
ASIN: B00CJ3GPDM

Gina Hall is done with men who won’t commit. Ten years waiting for her ex to propose wasted her time. Never again. When her friend Kristen starts a game of Truth or Dare, she dares Gina to go on a date with Ethan, who’s amazing and total marriage material.

As Gina plans the going away party for office playboy Chris Bradley, she spontaneously initiates a game of Truth or Dare with him. When his turn comes around, he dares Gina to pose as his girlfriend to help get a flirty colleague off his back. Gina finds playing couple with Chris way too much fun.

Even though Gina and Chris are pretending, their relationship begins to feel painfully real. Fearing she might be falling for another fly-by man, Gina must focus on Ethan so she doesn’t make the same dating mistakes all over again.


My rating:

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

In Love at First Date Gina finally dropped her boyfriend of ten years because he wouldn’t fully commit (to Gina, full commitment is marriage and kids). Now, she’s single, but still living with her ex, since he won’t move out. Kristen, one of the bridesmaids at her friend Ellen’s wedding has a solution. Gina would move in with her and Kristen has the perfect guy to set her up with. Newly single and utter marriage material.

Gina is determined to give it another go. First with a new roommate and second with a new guy. But, you see, there’s this another guy, a soon to be ex-coworker that’s sort-of roped her into a pretend date. Of course, it’s pretend. Chris is a serial dater, and Gina is looking for a serious commitment. Chris definitely isn’t a serious-commitment kind of guy...So why can’t she stop pretending to be his girlfriend?


This would’ve been a very good story if it wasn’t for the heroine and her fixation on marriage and children which she saw as serious commitment. Come on, she’d lived with her ex, was in a monogamous relationship...And what is it with the idiotic mentality that a woman must have a guy and/or be married with kids to feel fulfilled? A mentality subtly enforced by romance novels, if you ask me.

Anyway, Gina and her idiocy annoyed me like heck, since she kept pushing away a great guy. A guy who wanted the same thing as her, mind you, but she wouldn’t stop prattling (aloud or in her head) about serious commitments long enough to listen to him, to see what he was trying to communicate.
Also, as in the first story in the series, the stringing along of two guys at the same time bothered me, although in this one a little less, since the other guy was a complete bore.

Still, could’ve been better by scaling down on the heroine’s fixation.



Review: Cop On Her Doorstep by Karen Docter

Title: Cop On Her Doorstep
Series: True Love In Uniform
Author: Karen Docter
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: June 14, 2015
Publisher: Karen Docter
ASIN: B00ZPZ47KE

In the six years since her husband was killed by S.W.A.T., Carrie Padilla has spent long hours at work, rebuilding a life for herself and her son. The little time she has at home is spent keeping her eight-year-old son out of trouble, but he is all too eager to try to be the man in the house. When a handsome cop shows up on her doorstep, her errant son in tow, Carrie's heart stutters. The sexy Italian cop sets off all kinds of bells in her system, and she knows there's only one thing she can do to save what is left of her family, her husband’s memory, and her heart...avoid her new neighbor at all costs.

S.W.A.T. officer Jake Stafani already lost one little boy to gang violence, the dead boy’s older brother is missing, and Jake's not about to let the same thing happen to a neighbor's son. He drags the youngster home only to discover much more than a passing interest in the boy's beautiful, but wary, mother. Forced to take a leave of absence after a bust goes awry, Jake can think of nothing better to occupy his time than to keep Carrie and her son safe, and locate the missing teen who holds the key to taking the gang off the streets, once and for all.

But Jake doesn’t count on his stubborn, intriguing neighbor distracting him from his job, or the passion that flares between them. He doesn’t expect her amazing son to steal a piece of his heart. Jake is ready to risk everything for Carrie, body and soul. But it’s not all up to him. If their new love is to survive, Carrie will need to be strong enough to see the man's beating heart behind the badge, to look beyond the pain of her past, and decide that loving again is worth the risk.


My rating:

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

This story offered nothing original, nothing out of the most common of templates, and the narrative style and voice left me cold and bored.

I checked the last two chapters, just to be sure, and ended up confirming my initial thought about the heroine (annoying), and surprised by the hero (pussy-whipped).

Certainly not incentive enough to actually finish the book.



Review: The Bad Assassin by S. Doyle

Title: The Bad Assassin
Author: S. Doyle

Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: May 9, 2016
Publisher: Bad Boy Romance / S. Doyle
ASIN: B01FGRG6MM

Zeke Rodgers, the government's most deadly agent, is known only as the Poltergeist. He's on the run, and getting lost is the only way to stay alive. Luckily Hope's Point Alaska, is the end of the world. Now he's living a quiet life, his past a memory.

It's all about to go to hell.

When Eve Donner stumbles into Hope's Point to do research, she's the only woman in a world of uncivilized men. One man has decided she's worth protecting - but Eve has no idea her new bodyguard is one of the most badass killers alive.

Zeke's past quickly catches up to him and bullets start to fly. However, he can't keep his mind - or his hands - off the sexy scientist.

He'll have to find away. Because he can protect her, or he can trust her.

He can't do both.


My rating:

They meet in the wilderness of Alaska, when he saves her from being raped thanks to her being a lone woman in a small town of men. She immediately comes up with a plan—she’s a scientist in obvious need of a bodyguard, and he’d do nicely. She’s even prepared to pay him, but the only payment he wants is her body.


This one started off great. Slightly unconventional in its premise (the bargain between h/H), with a very unconventional hero, with hilarious convos and situations abounding.

By chapter five the hero started to get on my nerves with his single-mindedness and pushiness, the heroine was a blank with no discernible personality traits (a characteristic she shared with the hero), and the pacing was slow.

At about 50% they did the deed and she showed her true face. Me: Now we’re talking... *record scratch* We weren’t talking. Because the h/H turned into sex-craved idiots.
He woke tied up and (still) naked with her pointing a gun at him, punching him in the nuts, demanding something he stole. And what does he do? He forgives her, because she has holes in all the right places. That’s the reason I gleaned. Yes, he also talked about liking her for her spirit (a spirit I didn’t see, since she was a blank), about knowing she wasn’t who she said she was (having spent most of the time in his head through the 3 person POV, I didn’t realize he actually knew that), but I didn’t buy it. She was a convenient piece of meat with conveniently placed orifices.
And what does she do? This supposedly badass bounty hunter? She lets him convince her to untie him, because he was the first man to give her an orgasm. Not because of his personality, of her liking of him, of maybe some sliver of affection...Nope, she pivoted (again) because of his massive (his words—men and their delusions of grandeur), obviously hydraulic operated, pleasure-giving schlong.

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

And what happened next? You think they’d left the cabin in search of whoever shot at them? Wrong! They spent the next chapters (I don’t know how many because I stopped reading by the third consecutive chapter of boning) fucking (yes, the only fitting word, because there was nothing there, no feeling and no emotions) like rabbits with no care that there was still someone out there after them. For a supposedly trained government assassin, this was a very stupid move.
Also, the constant boning pretty much obliterated whatever story or plot came before, as if the author used this medium to get it all out, to figuratively scratch and itch, and cram all the possible sexual positions and/or fantasies into one single story. But since there was nothing behind it, it read like porn, making the story appear a metaphor for a dirty magazine hidden inside a hollowed out book.
The language also quickly turned off-putting. I don’t mind dirty talk, but everything has its time, place, and context, and I think the motto “less is more” should’ve been applied here. Again, I had the feeling the author had a list of vulgar words from a Merriam-Webster dictionary and wanted to see how many she could cram into a sentence.

In the end, I just couldn’t take it. I officially DNF-ed it at 52%. However well it started, it didn’t continue at the same level, the characters were complete blanks, I couldn’t even picture them (how they looked) in my mind, which usually comes easy, the pacing was shot to hell, there was no feeling or emotions in the narrative, the plot disappeared somewhere around the middle mark...And I stopped caring.



Monday, November 14, 2016

Review: Not a Hero by Sarah Robinson

Title: Not A Hero
Author: Sarah Robinson

Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: October 4, 2016
Publisher: Sarah Robinson
ASIN: B01L4XZ858

Former Marine, Miles Kydd, is trying to readjust to civilian life after ending his career and returning to his small home town when he learned his father was diagnosed with a terminal illness. Once the town hero and star quarterback, Miles no longer feels like the man he was, or who he’s expected to be—possibly because his demons have followed him home from Afghanistan.

Meeting Zoe Brooke, his father’s live-in nurse, gives Miles the slightest glimmer of hope that he can still find happiness despite the dark secrets he holds inside. The chemistry between them is undeniable, and together they are explosive—in more ways than one.

A helper at her core, Zoe is more than willing to care for Miles’s heart, but not at the expense of her own, and she’s not afraid to tell him that. She knows what having a painful past is like, and she wants to help him with his, if he’ll let her.

Things get complicated fast when Miles realizes burying his secrets isn’t actually the same as healing from them and if he wants the girl, he’s going to have to tell her the truth—the one thing he can’t do.


My rating:

This wasn't my first rodeo about an ex-military guy (although I've heard there is no such thing as a former Marine) suffering from one form of the other of PTSD, but this was the first case where I just didn't care what happened to the guy. Would he drink himself to oblivion, would he hack everybody up with a kitchen knife, would he get the girl...Barely 18% into the book, I couldn't care less. Whether it was the characterization, the voice, the narrative style, I don't know, I simply didn't care.



Sunday, November 13, 2016

Review: Primal Force by D.D. Ayres

Title: Primal Force
Series: K-9 Rescue
Author: D.D. Ayres
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: September 1, 2015
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
ASIN: B00UG65NPK

Passion is always worth fighting for...

Jori Garrison trains dogs for Warrior Wolf Pack, which provides service animals for disabled veterans. Four years ago, she was wrongly convicted of a crime—thanks to her no-good ex-fiancé. Now she just wants to live her life in peace with her beloved dogs. No men, no complications. But it’s hard to play it cool when a lethally hot male is on her tail—and the attraction is fierce, mutual, and dangerous...

PRIMAL FORCE

Lauray "Law" Batisse is a Military Police veteran who was wounded in Afghanistan. Haunted by the loss of his K-9 partner in combat, he’s reluctant to accept a service dog named Samantha into his life. But once he meets her trainer—the gorgeous Jori Garrison—he can’t fight his primal instincts. And neither can Jori. This sexy alpha male might be the only man strong enough to unleash her desires. And when unseen enemies start hunting them down, he and his new K-9 partner might be her only hope...to survive.


My rating:

Lauray "Law" Batisse is a mess. His last tour in Afghanistan resulted in him missing a leg and developing one hell of a case of PTSD. Such a case that he needs a service dog that's an utter embarrassment for a tough guy like him. The only thing that makes walking around with a girly dog he's saddled with, is the dog's trainer, easy on the eyes, sexy as all hell, Jori Garrison. Pity the girl keeps him at arms length...As if she knew his motto about loving them and leaving them.

That's not Jori's problem. Having fallen for the wrong guy before resulted in her being an ex-con, and although she knows Law isn't such bad news, he's bad news for her nevertheless. The man is irresistible, and he knows it. He's also unreachable and unattainable, and she knows it. Buy maybe, just maybe, she could have him on his terms...If only her damn heart would listen to reason.


Having read some of the reviews for this story, I was rather apprehensive given Law's behavior and attitude toward relationships with the fairer sex. Imagine my surprise, when I didn't see the asshole everybody was describing. He was a player (or he used to be, before he met Jori), but he wasn't the bastard I feared he would be. He had his moment of jackassery, but he never pretended to be a saint or someone he wasn't and he did warn Jori of what to expect from the start. Whatever happened next was a mutual decision between two adults in (more or less) their right minds and in possession of all their faculties...Although I did like the fact Law was the one a little more out of his depth in their relationships.
I also didn't detect a specific doormat behavior on Jori's part. She was a woman who knew what she wanted, wasn't afraid of going after it, and once she saw a goal, she went after it no matter the obstacles. She stuck it out, and she made her man see reason (no matter how long it took).
I loved the two of them together, I loved their relationship and how it progressed from one-day-stand to something more serious. And even though, as is customary with this series, that "more serious" never got established as love and HEA, it didn't bother me as it did in its predecessor. It went perfectly with who and what we read Jori and Law were as characters.

The suspense was a bit on the mellower side, with the relationships between Jori and Law and Law and Sam (which to me was the main relationship in the book) taking top spot, without much intrigue and mystery, since it was pretty much all in the open. The suspense-light plot bothered me a little, as did the occasional misstep in the pacing department; sometimes the story lost its flow and momentum, resulting in a few slightly dull moments.

Despite these last two hiccups, this was yet another well-written story with a good plot and even better characters (of the human and canine variety—Sam was so utterly adorable and had such a big heart and miles of courage she's definitely my favorite characters in the story) and relationships between them.



Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Review: The Beast of Bath by Chasity Bowlin

Title: The Beast of Bath
Author: Chasity Bowlin

Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: June 2, 2015
Publisher: Chasity Bowlin
ASIN: B00XTEMJR6

Lord Victor Mayhew, Viscount Norcross, lives in the shadows, hiding his scarred face from those who would fear him...or worse, pity him. He's become accustomed to the dark, and to the aching loneliness that is his only and constant companion. But while traversing the city in the dark of night, he encounters a beautiful woman who is running for her life.

Lady Thessaly Shade has discovered that the prettiest of faces can hide the ugliest of hearts. While Lord Norcross keeps his face carefully concealed from her, he cannot hide the fact that he is a man of honor, a man for whom the word gentleman is a way of life and not merely an honorary title.

With no way to repay him for his kindness, for his courage in aiding her at great risk to himself, Thessaly bargains with the only thing she possesses of value...herself. Can she convince him to trust her, to believe that she can see beyond the scars he bears to the man he is? Or will he push her away out of fear and retreat into the loneliness that he knows so well?


My rating:

They meet on a night-shrouded street in Bath as he saves her from running from her stepfather who wants to sell her to a brothel. She'd rather have a choice who to give her body to, and she decides, since her virtue is the only thing to her name she has, to give it to him as payment. But he won't settle merely on her virtue, proposing a bargain that would offer her utter protection and security, and his title an heir...Even if she'll leave him afterward.


This was a wonderful retelling of The Beauty and the Beast story. I loved Thessaly in all her gumption-filled, resilient, smart, and stubborn glory. Because she needed that stubbornness to chip away at her hero's defenses. Damn, the guy was thick, and I could even say shallow with all his thinking himself the beast because of what happened to him. But as Thessaly informed him upon their first meeting, beauty comes from within, and she slowly taught him that lesson throughout the story.

The villain was a nicely-added touch, much needed to create the breakthrough between the hero and heroine, but also to keep the story flowing nicely and add some mystery and intrigue.

Well-written, well-paced, with wonderful characters, and even better message.



Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Review: Unmasking of a Lady by Sophie Dash

Title: Unmasking Of A Lady
Author: Sophie Dash

Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: July 23, 2015
Publisher: Carina Press
ASIN: B00YALQON2

A woman is revealed…
By day Miss Harriet Groves is a highly respectable lady, and a darling of society with her quick wit and blonde beauty. But by night Harriet dons a disguise, riding out into the countryside as the feared – and often revered! – Green Highwayman.

A life of crime was never the plan, but saving her family from ruin keeps Harriet riding into danger under the cover of darkness. A danger made all the more acute by the arrival of Major Edward Roberts, the man commissioned to unmask Harriet’s legendary highwayman and bring him to justice!

Harriet’s far too clever to fall into any trap the Major sets to capture her alter ego. Understanding it’s best to keep your enemies close, she sets out to thoroughly distract the Major from his duty using all of her womanly charms.

Only allowing Edward closer has unexpected consequences for Harriet. How could she have guessed that time spent sparring and flirting with Major Roberts could inspire an excitement in her equal to the adrenaline surge she experiences on her night-time adventures? It seems the dashing Major is a danger to her life, and to her heart…


My rating:

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

By day, she’s Miss Harriet Groves, a blonde beauty flitting through society, currently pretending not to hear the gossip about her family’s monetary troubles. Come night, she don’s man’s clothing and a green velvet mask, robbing the rich on the winding roads of southern England as the Green Highwayman. You see, her family’s financial troubles are real and Harry, abhorring taking “charity” from her aunt, feels this is the only way to get her family through the tough times.

Fate soon throws a wrench in her plans, in the form of Major Edward Roberts, tasked with apprehending the highwayman and see him hang. Harry knows she should hate the guy for wanting to kill her, but she can’t...Because he’s just so hot.


This story started off great...And ended up a disaster thanks to the heroine who was an utter mess. She was all over the place, her schemes always failed, although she considered herself so intelligent, she had no idea how to plan for any contingency, she was self-absorbed and selfish (despite her protestations she was donning the guise of a highwayman for her family, she was actually doing it for herself in a rather foolish quest of asserting her independence—what would’ve happened to her family if she got caught? Oops, she didn’t think of that.), and in the end not that likable because of her volatile behavior and emotional games she played with the dashing Major.

Yes, emotional games, because the blurb got the part with her using her womanly charms to distract the guy. She didn’t use her charms, she didn’t flirt with him, plainly, she was an utter bitch to the poor man, her moods flipping in a blink of an eye, and I’m surprised the poor bastard didn’t get whiplash.

Speaking of the poor bastard. There wasn’t really much of him to speak of, since the story was told from Harriet’s point of view (albeit in third person POV). Some insight into the Major would’ve been appreciated, especially once his “feelings” toward the heroine were revealed, because they weren’t believable. I couldn’t believe or understand just why he’s fallen for her, because I didn’t see it or shared his opinion.
Neither did I buy her returning his feelings in the end. All I’ve read were two people attracted to each other. She to him because he was hot, he to her for some unknown reason. And because I didn’t buy the deeper connection between them, I couldn’t buy the story from the point (around 30%) I realized the heroine was an annoying bitch forward.

Also, the story was definitely too long, piled with layer upon layer of “conflict”, while just the first one (the highwayman thing) would’ve worked best in a shorter “setting” (and with a differently characterized heroine and a better developed hero). But no, we had to have another villain, granted, a pretty good one to add to the conflict between Harriet and her family, Harriet with Edward, and add to Harriet’s misguided martyr’s complex and her views of herself as some sort of hero.

Overcomplicated, overwhelmed with too much conflict, with an overly-annoying heroine, and a bland, under-developed hero.



Sunday, November 6, 2016

Review: Force of Attraction by D.D. Ayres

Title: Force of Attraction
Series: K-9 Rescue
Author: D.D. Ayres
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: March 31, 2015
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
ASIN: B00NKBEGDS

The only thing more powerful than fear is desire...

A seasoned K-9 officer with the police in Maryland, Cole Jamison has left her old life behind her. With a new home and a new partner—a protective canine named Hugo—Cole is ready for fresh challenges. A crucial position on an important drug task force is exactly what she wants...until she discovers her gorgeous, infuriating ex-husband will be the DEA agent in charge.

FORCE OF ATTRACTION

Agent Scott Lucca may be a pro when it comes to undercover assignments, but this job is daunting even for him. Posing as a happy couple on the dog competition circuit means he and Cole need to get a lot closer than they've been in years. Playing a live-in couple should seem like a walk in the park compared to tracking a brutal criminal, but suddenly nothing could be more dangerous than the passionate fire they've rekindled...


My rating:

Two years ago their short marriage imploded due to his undercover work, now they have to work undercover together to catch a drug smuggling ring. Turns out, playing pretend boyfriend and girlfriend, skirting around their issues, and trying to keep their hands off each other is the easy task. The tough one is trying to keep one step ahead of a killer intent on destroying him by targeting everything he holds dear...


Now we're talking. I was thinking of dropping the series thanks to the first two not-so-good installments, but turns out perseverance pays off. Big time.

This book was everything the previous two weren't. And it had everything the previous two didn't. The main characters were sympathetic, realistic, and relatable (if we discount their expertise in their field of work). Yes, they had some major issues, both by themselves and with each other, but those were nothing we don't see in every day life...Their quickie marriage based on mutual lust and attraction imploded at the first hurdle, now, two years later they've both changed (hopefully for the best) and matured, they have different priorities, different goals in mind, and they've actually realized that lust and attraction (although still there) isn't enough, that an emotion of some kind has to be involved to make anything work. And that one particular emotion was involved before, but they were both too proud and stupid to heed it. Second-chance romances, when done well, provide great reads.
I liked both Scott and Cole, yes, they also annoyed me sometimes due to their issues and continuous misunderstandings and miscommunications; not telling each other important information on their encounters with the bad guy made them come off as a little thick and inexperienced despite their apparent long-period work in law enforcement. But I liked both of them, because they worked. Alone and with each other. They started off as complete opposites, but somehow, throughout the story, found the middle ground, the compromise it was needed to really make their relationship work.
And although the back-and-forth they were doing in their minds got a little old and stale toward the end, the characterization was good, and the progress from enemies to friends and lovers was organic, well-paced, and believable.
And I liked the analogy between Cole and Hugo, the way the pooch mellowed toward Scott as gradually as did his handler.

The suspense wasn't bad either. Although the main plot revolved around Scott and Cole's undercover work to bust up a drug-smuggling ring, the "main" suspense sub-plot was all about the past coming back to bite Scott in the ass in the form of a villain intent on destroying him by destroying everything and everyone Scott loved.
The descriptions of how an undercover operator might get sucked into the "fiction", how physically and psychically draining undercover work is, how not everybody makes it out alive or whole were vivid, gripping, and intense, and the juggling the man had to do to keep the current assignment floating while he tried to cover all his bases from an imminent attack from the ghost of the past, trying to keep one step ahead (and failing) was well-paced and intriguing.
Yes, it was an additional side-story, but it was so ingrained into the main storyline, a vital part of it, actually, since it provided more than one breakthrough in the relationship between Scott and Cole, that it didn't slow the story down, but kept adding to its momentum, keeping the pace steadily increasing toward the big finish.

Well-written, well-paced, with great characters, an intriguing plot, and good suspense. A page-turner.



Friday, November 4, 2016

Review: Irresistible Force by D.D. Ayres

Title: Irresistible Force
Series: K-9 Rescue
Author: D.D. Ayres
Read copy: eBook (Kindle)
Published: August 26, 2014
Publisher: St. Martin's Paperbacks
ASIN: B00IHCFB8E

When adrenaline runs high, so does the force of desire...

For Shay Appleton, it’s love at first sight when a gorgeous stray dog is brought into the animal shelter where she works. She just knows he’ll make a terrific watch dog—and with an abusive ex who won’t let go, she needs all the protection she can get. But Shay never suspected that her new pet is actually a trained police K-9 named Bogart—until Bogart’s even more gorgeous, human partner shows up on her doorstep.

Officer James Cannon is one tall, strong alpha male who’s convinced that Shay stole his dog. But once he gets closer to the suspect, he realizes that this stubborn, independent woman not only needs a guard dog, she needs James as well. It seems that someone from her past is stalking her, and threatening her life. When danger meets desire, will James risk his career and his best friend...to protect the woman who’s stolen his heart?


My rating:

James Cannon's been searching for his lost dog for the past month. Fancy finding the pooch cozied up with a sexy woman in the middle of nowhere. A woman who desperately needs a guard dog, even though she won't admit as to why...


Really? Really?! This might get spoiler-y, but I don't care. I'm spitting mad. Because this could've been a good story...Until it wasn't.

Again, there was this disconnect between me, the story and the characters, and I have a feeling it's because the narrative style isn't my cuppa. Something is simply off. I cannot empathize or sympathize with the characters, I cannot connect to them, it's like there's a barrier preventing me from immersing into the story.

And again, there was also no connection between the characters themselves, except for the physical, that is. But, as in its predecessor, there was no emotional connection, just two strangers scratching an itch. Why was Shay drawn to him, and James to her? I didn't understand it, I didn't see it. There was attraction, yes, he was hot and she sexy (apparently), but physical attraction only takes you to a certain point. You have to have something in common to make it work; everything these two had in common was their love for Bogart, the dog. Call me weird, but I don't think that's enough.

The second problem was the heroine. She wasn't smart, quirky, funny, resilient...She simply was annoying. I didn't hate her, I didn't like her, she was just annoying. And that's the worst part, when you don't feel anything about a character beside the mild annoyance as if an insect is buzzing around your ears. That's what Shay was for me. An annoying bug. She was all over the place, had no idea what she wanted, fixated on the "huge" issue from her past that turned out to be just a ploy to create conflict...Bla bla bla.

And the third problem was the overblown story. We already had an obsessive, stalker-ish ex. That could've worked well. But no, we had to have a dog-napping ex of the hero, who had the MCs followed by a shady character that turned into a crazy, cat-under-the-car-throwing, would-be rapist of a stalker whose motive was never revealed, or maybe I just wasn't paying attention at that point toward the end of the book.

Did we really need all that? Because it didn't make the story better or more interesting, just the opposite. It took a mediocre story with bland characters even deeper into the dark hole.