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Sunday, January 15, 2017

Ready Set Rogue by Manda Collins

I started 2017 with the best of intentions. I was going to read more and blog more and run more and do more. I signed up for a couple of blog tours as motivation to get back into it more regularly, and then I missed my post date for Ready Set Rogue by Manda Collins!  But better late than never...



WHO WILL WRITE THE BOOK OF LOVE?

When scholarly Miss Ivy Wareham receives word that she’s one of four young ladies who have inherited Lady Celeste Beauchamp’s estate with a magnificent private library, she packs her trunks straightaway. Unfortunately, Lady Celeste’s nephew, the rakish Quill Beauchamp, Marquess of Kerr, is determined to interrupt her studies one way or another...

Bequeathing Beauchamp House to four bluestockings—no matter how lovely they are to look at—is a travesty, and Quill simply won’t have it. But Lady Celeste’s death is not quite as straightforward as it first seemed…and if Quill hopes to solve the mystery behind her demise, he’ll need Ivy’s help. Along the way, he is surprised to learn that bookish Ivy stirs a passion and longing that he has never known. This rogue believes he’s finally met his match—but can Quill convince clever, skeptical Ivy that his love is no fiction?

Don't miss Ready Set Rogue, the first in Manda Collins' new series set in Regency England!


The plot of this is right up my alley. It's also almost commonplace these days, as every historical has a bluestocking or two. It almost makes me miss the headstrong beauties! That said, when the request came in, I was pretty excited to give it a go. As the story opens, Quill is decidedly against the ladies inheriting his aunt's house. He is rude, arrogant, and unlikable. I really questioned if he would ever be able to turn it around, and to be honest, it takes a while. Ivy is less intimidating from the beginning, but she's also less interesting to me. She's a language scholar, and while that should be interesting it almost feels like a tacked on quirk than something ingrained as part of her. This is one of my pet peeve- the quirky quality- and Collins narrowly skirts it here.   The mystery progresses nicely, if a bit openly for a secret, and the I was happy with the plotting of the book.  My biggest complaint with the book is the dialogue. It can't seem to settle on proper conversation for the time period, and awkward flirting. Collins does a poor job of integrating the tension with the characters natural personalities, and I found that it drew my attention to the fact that I was reading, instead of letting me sink into the book. It didn't make the tension seem real and I was always aware that I was reading a book. I wouldn't mind finding out what happens in the rest of the series though, and will likely continue reading.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Molly's Mr. Wrong by Jeannie Watt

I request an awful lot of NetGalley books that sound just terrific when I see them, and then they sit on my kindle unread. Part of the problem is that I can't quickly scan the book description from my Kindle and so I just overlook ones that the titles don't remind me. It seems I hate to read a book without having an idea of where it's going (sorry, Trish!)  But after October's dismal showing of books read, I decided to just pick one and dive in. So here we are.



They're both learning from scratch

Molly Adamson has moved back to the place that made her happiest: Eagle Valley, Montana. Teaching college English classes is also a fresh start…even if he's one of her students. Finn Culver. Athlete, heartthrob, homecoming date. After that disastrous night all those years ago, Molly never wanted to see Finn, now a handsome military veteran, again. But as she gets to know him through his writing, helping him conquer an undiagnosed learning disability, Molly sees much more than the swaggering charmer. Both teacher and student will learn a lot about love, and each other, if they can let the past go…


So first off, the cover is really accurate! I love that. This is exactly how I pictured Molly. She's a reformed nerd who went off to college, met the wrong guy, built up her self-confidence ("this guy loves me??") and then suffered through a horrible crash and burn. She's back to her hometown now, and has somewhat rebuilt her confidence and is determined not to let it go again. She has a new job teaching at the community college, and now Finn is back in her life. She doesn't believe he could ever be right for her and is certain she'd rather have no relationship than one she can't trust.

Finn is much more likable than Molly, frankly. He's a war veteran who has come back home to his old job (at a feed store) and his old life, and finds that neither gives him satisfaction. He's developed a new plan to return to school and find a career he does love, and ends up in Molly's class. He's shocked to discover that English doesn't come easily to him-- he passed high school after all!- and since he has a disastrous past with Molly, tension is high. She informally diagnoses him with a learning disability and convinces him to stay in school.

Finn is one of the most interesting characters that I've read in a romance in a long time. He has a desire to move on and do more with his life, and is absolutely shocked to discover that college isn't easy. He sailed through high school with Cs without even trying! He's a military veteran, and it's not a major point (this is not a man in uniform romance) except to explain how he left his life and came back to discover he didn't enjoy it any longer. He finds himself falling for Molly and very gently pursues her. He's not an alpha take charge guy, which is not to say he can't lose his temper, but that he doesn't need to fix everything for everyone, and he has weaknesses and vulnerabilities. Plus, he finds a kitten in the rain! I loved him.

The romance is not easy. Molly fights and fights it. There wasn't enough of the falling in love for me, and way too many subplots with his grandfather and her sister, but it was a pretty good overall read. It tackles some issues that you rarely see in a romance (learning disabilities, high school football players, helicopter parents, education) and I thought those parts were well done. Molly is never going to be a favorite of mine, but she's easily balanced out by the rest. Overall, a solid book.

Molly's Mr. Wrong will be out on January 1st.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Miracle on 5th Avenue by Sarah Morgan

Miracle on 5th Avenue is the 3rd and final book in Sarah Morgan's From Manhattan with Love series. As I mentioned in my review of Sunset in Central Park, I found the first book to be a bit mediocre but the second book picked it up. Happily, the series finishes strong and my love for all books Sarah Morgan continues.

Here's your summary, from Amazon:

It will take a Christmas miracle for two very different souls to find each other in this perfectly festive fairy tale of New York!

Hopeless romantic Eva Jordan loves everything about Christmas. She might be spending the holidays alone this year, but when she's given an opportunity to house-sit a spectacular penthouse on Fifth Avenue, she leaps at the chance. What better place to celebrate than in snow-kissed Manhattan? What she didn't expect was to find the penthouse still occupied by its gorgeous—and mysterious—owner.

Bestselling crime writer Lucas Blade is having the nightmare before Christmas. With a deadline and the anniversary of his wife's death looming, he's isolated himself in his penthouse with only his grief for company. He wants no interruptions, no decorations and he certainly doesn't appreciate being distracted by his beautiful, bubbly new housekeeper. But when the blizzard of the century leaves Eva snowbound in his apartment, Lucas starts to open up to the magic she brings…This Christmas, is Lucas finally ready to trust that happily-ever-afters do exist?


This is a rare series that I think is a bit strengthened by reading in order. While starting here wouldn't really hurt your appreciation for the romance, you'd have a much fuller picture of Eva if you'd read all three in order. Eva is a romantic to the bone and was raised to believe in a happily ever after, as well as to always be the happy one, the cheerful one. She was always taught to hide her feelings if they might be depressing to someone else, and so when Eva is sad and lonely following the loss of her grandmother she keeps that bottled up. When her job sends her to an empty apartment away from her friends during the holidays she leaps at the chance to cry in peace.  Unfortunately for Eva, the apartment turns out not to be empty at all.

Lucas Blade is also holing up for the holidays. He has told his family that he's off to a writers' retreat in Vermont so that they will leave him alone while he struggles with the third anniversary of his wife's unexpected death. He's suffering from a severe case of writer's block and his very near to missing his deadline with nary a word written. When Eva shows up at his apartment to transform it into a picture of holiday cheer, he wants no part.  Eva has the upper hand though, because if he sends her away she will report back to his grandmother that Lucas is hiding in the apartment. A sudden blizzard means that the decision is taken out of their hands, and they are thrown together for a few days without a choice. During the storm, Lucas finds inspiration in Eva and his writer's block is lifted and he becomes fairly desperate to keep her around.

This is one of those romances that happen really quickly, with the entire book taking place during the holiday season between Thanksgiving and Christmas. You might need to suspend disbelief that two people with so many fairly major issues can overcome these things to be together so quickly. While Eva is ripe to fall in love, and does so easily and quickly, Lucas has much darker things to overcome, and as expected it does not come easily.  Eva has to admit how hard the holidays are and how lonely she is, and weigh this against her feelings for Lucas to be sure it's real and not just a placebo and Lucas will need to really examine his relationship with his wife and her sudden death. It is a bit rushed but the story still works. The romance is both sweet and hot, with several over the top scenes worthy of a romantic movie (as fitting when one of your main characters is a gazillionaire author.) This is really a perfect Christmas romance with a highly romantic setting full of balls, snowflakes, snowmen, happy puppies, and of course, Tiffany's.

Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Hold Me, Cowboy by Maisey Yates

Hold Me, Cowboy is the continuation of the Copper Ridge series. The series seem to circle around a couple groups of people, so I'm not clear on if this is the end or not. Sadly, I missed the one before this, and it's the one I'd most like to know the story on!  I started Hold Me, Cowboy several weeks ago, and through no fault of the book, set it aside and forgot about it. Occasionally, I like to go through and finish up anything I've started, and swept this one up again.


Here's the summary:
Oil and water have nothing on Sam McCormack and Madison West. The wealthy rancher has never met a haughtier—or more appealing—woman in his life. And when they're snowed in, he's forced to admit this ice queen can scorch him with one touch…

Madison had plans for the weekend! Instead she's stranded with a man who drives her wild. A night of no-strings fun leaves both of them wanting more when they return to Copper Ridge. His proposal: twelve days of hot sex before Christmas! But will it ever be enough?


So I didn't really like Madison in the previous books, and the other book with Sam (his brother's book) is the one book in the series that I DNF, so going into this my expectations were not high. Madison is just a total bitch, and she knows it. Amazingly, Yates is able to take her from a bitch to someone you can understand, who is a bitch for good reason. Madison learns early that men can't be trusted and that even if they were equally complicit in scandal that the blame will be unevenly places (very Scarlet Letter.) She's ready to start enjoying life again after a decade of playing the ice queen, and the first man she finds is Sam.

Sam doesn't like Maddy, because he buys into her persona. Sam doesn't like to admit that he has emotion, and as an artist he's completely blocked without admitting he is feeling things. He's determined to fight his way through artist's block without thinking about the things he's pushed down. When he starts this 12 day affair with Maddy it forces him to realize that by ignoring what he feels, he'll be in the same place looking in forever. I liked Sam quite a bit. He's bluntly honest about everyone's life but his own, and doesn't take anything from Maddy.

Is the romance believable? It is very fast (WHAT IS WITH FAST IN EVERY BOOK???) and the climatic ending is fairly anti-climatic. It is true that they have known each other for a long time, and the 12 days are very emotionally intense so I suppose it is entirely possible. Is it a satisfactory ending to the Copper Ridge series? No, I really need to see Daddy West get his, but as everyone pairs up and has babies it seems that the end is nigh without that bit of resolution. Would I recommend the series as a whole? Yes-- but only to someone who has already developed a love for a small intertwined town. I would not recommend this one to a new reader as it is very hit or miss.

Hold Me, Cowboy comes out on November 8th.

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Pile on the Miles in November.

I have failed miserably at working out lately, so when Trish asked me if I wanted to go for 4 days a week in November I reluctantly agreed. Then when I saw this November challenge, I decided that maybe being accountable in TWO places would help...



So let's do this, November.

Tuesday, November 01, 2016

October Reading Update 2016

It's a good thing I did so well in September, but October was awful for both new books and getting things read.


What I read in October:


Hillbilly Elegy by J.D. Vance. This was good, but not as good as I expected. I saw a lot of my relatives in it though, which was eye opening.


Do you Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare. This was so so good.


The Underground Culinary Tour: How the New Metrics of Today's Top Restaurants are Transforming how American Eats by Damian Mogavero. I'm at 63%. It feels pointless.

And uh, that's it. Which makes this next bit even worse....

New to My Kindle:


Hillbilly Elegy by JD Vance, from a daily deal, and I read it immediately!

Do You Want to Start a Scandal by Tessa Dare. FULL PRICE on Kindle, but also read immediately.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. (Kindle)

Strong Poison by Dorothy L. Sayers. (Kindle)

Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow (Kindle) And no, I haven't read Hamilton yet.

All Our Wrong Todays by Elan Mastain (NetGalley)

Molly's Mr. Wrong by Jeannie Watt (NetGalley)

Tempting the Best Man by Tanya Michaels (NetGalley)

A Circle of Quiet by Madeleine L'Engle (NetGalley)

Princess in Black Takes a Vacation by Shannon and Dean Hale (NetGalley)

Let it Snow by Jeanete Grey (NetGalley)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Lauren Layne's Wedding Bells series

Anyone who's been around here for a while knows how much I enjoyed Lauren Layne's New York's Finest series last winter. When I saw that she was writing a series that was about wedding planners, set in NYC, I couldn't snatch them up quick enough. But then I had them all on my Kindle, and they titles are so similar that I couldn't keep straight what order they were supposed to be read in, and I'm way too lazy to look it up, so I just read other stuff. A couple weeks ago I decided that I'd just read them out of order, but I needed to dive in, and I did.


First up is a little novella called From This Day Forward, which I really didn't like at all. This one is about two wedding photographers, who have a history (which is a plus in a novella) but the entire story was about sex between two childish people who couldn't just use their words. This really didn't leave me wanting to move on, but I reassured myself that it was just the novella length and kept going.


The first full length book in the series is To Have and To Hold and it is definitely better than the novella. Brooke Baldwin is a rock star wedding planner on the West Coast, who has just planned the wedding of the decade-- her own-- when she is horrified to find out that he fiancee is a con man. She flees to New York and joins the Wedding Belles, where her first job is the plan the wedding of rich heiress Maya Tyler.  Maya's older brother, Seth, is certain that there's something fishy going on with the groom, and attempts to enlist Brooke's help in uncovering it. But how do you convince a wedding planner to sabotage the wedding she's planning?

One thing that Lauren Layne does really well is sexual tension and this book is no exception. Seth and Brooke are on fire from the first moment they see each other. I love seeing them deal with this, in the middle of client negotiations and planning that thwarts each other. Seth is impossibly wealthy and accustomed to getting this way in all things, and occasionally  pouts badly when he doesn't get what he wants, but his love for both Maya and Brooke shines through very clearly. It's hard to pin down the time line, so it doesn't feel rushed, but at the same time the book is lacking the falling in love that I enjoy so much. This one goes right for the physical, which to be honest is also a good book, but it doesn't really make me close the book with the same type of satisfaction that a good love story does.



The second book in the series is For Better or Worse, and features the assistant wedding planner and her sexy next door neighbor. Heather has never really been in love and believes it's not for her. She's from small town Michigan and her entire life's goal has been to be a wedding planner in New York City. She doesn't have time to fool around or look away from her goal. Josh has recently overcome a bout with cancer, and can't take life seriously-- he knows how short it can be and refuses to add anyone else to the list of people who would be devastated by his death.

This one hit almost all of my sweet spots. The dialogue is truly excellent, the plot is believable, Josh is terrific. I believed that these two could fall in the love, and the romance itself is much better than in the previous book. The ending isn't tied with a pretty bow- Josh IS a cancer survivor- but so realistically handled that you can believe that these are real people and you close the book with complete satisfaction. (If you can ignore Josh's extraordinary wealth, but hey, everyone needs a superpower.)

The last book in the series,To Love and to Cherish, has SO much potential. Alexis, owner of the Belles, is a bit of an ice queen. I never really liked her through the whole series, so I was hoping that all would come to light in her book.  Her hero is Logan, who is the Belles accountant. Logan has been madly in love with Alexis since the moment he laid eyes on her, eight years ago. Eight years is a long time to patiently wait, and Logan is ready to make his move.

This one is really hot, and the plot outline is equally good, but both Logan and Alexis were misses for me. Alexis has a standoff personality, that could have been good but I didn't feel was very well written. Logan would be my ideal beta hero turned alpha, but he "knows what Alexis really wants" way way too often. He's not abusive, but very high handed and not always in a sexy way.  Plus, his sudden ability to BE an alpha at all, after years of being the polite accountant, isn't really believable.While I didn't dislike this one, and it doesn't finish the series nicely, I would not recommend it.

Overall, it's very hard not to compare the series to Nora Robert's Bride Quartet. Both feature a cast of women planners, and while this one doesn't break it down the same way, both feature a complete badass-in-control leader (Alexis here, and Parker for Roberts). Unfortunately, Roberts does it much better. I'm still a fan of Layne, but the New York's Finest series beats this one hands down.

To Love and To Cherish will be out on October 18th.

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