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review 2017-04-16 00:25
ARC Review: Forgotten Paradise by Shira Anthony
Forgotten Paradise (Dreamspun Desires Book 32) - Shira Anthony

This book made lovely use of the amnesia trope - with a twist, albeit one that was (un)intentionally revealed fairly early on.

Adam Preston is a programmer by heart and a computer business owner by trade. Having taken over the company his father built after Dad's untimely demise, he now has Entech, a giant, ruthless company, after his business and his brains. At odds with his younger brother, and stressed from having to deal with a merger he doesn't want, Adam takes his sister's advice and take a week's vacation in the Dominican Republic.

Where he meets Jonah James, who's lived on the island for the last 10 years after washing up on its shore without any memory of his former life. He's managed to become a Diving Instructor, and now leads groups of or individuals tourists on dives around the island. Any time he tries to remember his past, he's hit by massive headaches and mostly doesn't even try anymore. Except spending time with Adam seems to lift the murky veils that cover his past, and Jonah starts to get glimpses of events of who he might have been before.

The first half of the story describes what they presume is just a vacation fling - picnics on the beach, diving, spending time together as much as possible, talking to each other about whatever comes to mind, and realizing that the feelings they're developing may be more than just a fling. On Adam's last night, they finally fall into bed together and burn up the sheets.

The second half of the book deals with the fallout of Jonah regaining his memory (nothing like a night of great sex to get that clarity, amirite), and that changes the dynamic completely.

Adam finds out on the news that what they had joked about during an evening at the beach is actually true, and (view spoiler).

Which brings us to the second trope utilized in this book - getting a second chance. Jonah, upon regaining his memories, and reliving the event that caused him to ultimately wash up on the beach, uses this as a turning point in his life and begins to make amends, realizing that chasing success ruthlessly isn't all that life's about. There's a subplot here too with his business partner that for a while there causes Adam and Jonah's romance to fully derail.

Adam too has a chance to change - especially the relationship he has with his brother - and look at things differently. He's heartbroken, of course, thinking that he's lost Jonah, but deals with the pain as best as he can.

The author did a fabulous job realizing fully fleshed-out, three-dimensional characters in this book and allowed them to grow as well. Set against a gorgeous backdrop, the romance was absolutely believable, even if Jonah's background story is pretty unrealistic, but I expect that from the books in this series. I very much enjoyed reading this, especially as the author seamlessly weaves in fun facts about diving as well.

Obviously, this has a HEA - it wouldn't be a Dreamspun Desires title without. Recommended.

** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **

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review 2017-03-31 19:14
Release Day ARC Review: Tall, Dark, and Deported by Bru Baker
Tall, Dark, and Deported (Dreamspun Desires Book 31) - Bru Baker

This is a really cute and sweet romance using the fake-marriage-for-reasons trope, by pairing a young, kind and hard-working immigrant to the US with a somewhat jaded, slightly older businessman with a heart of gold he has protected behind some massive walls.

Hoping to renew his tourist visa by making a quick dash into Canada, so he can stay and help his brother and sister-in-law with their orchard, Mateus is at the airport waiting for his flight, when he happens to meet Crawford, who's waiting for the same flight, having been sent to Vancouver by his boss to help a failing hotel.

When their flight is cancelled, Crawford offers to rent a car and drive the two of them across the border to Vancouver. Knowing his visa is about to expire, and not willing to lose any time, Mateus agrees.

At the border, Mateus is denied entry into Canada since his US visa is about to expire, and then cannot return to the US, because his visa is about to expire. Seeing the young man in limbo and looking so scared to be deported back to Portugal, Crawford impulsively lies and proclaims Mateus his fiance, on their way to be married in Vancouver.

And now they're stuck. Obviously, for both of them to return to the US and not be in huge trouble, they have to get married. And they do. They even share a room, with one of them sleeping in the bed, and the other taking the couch, and the hotel's management giving them the best suite, and Crawford's assholish ex-husband a thorn in his side, and Mateus being ever so sweet and wonderful and supportive of his new husband, and... well, let it suffice to tell you that I had a blast reading this.

And there are some quieter, angstier moments too. Both Mateus and Crawford develop feelings rather quickly, but neither believes the other to return them, and neither has the guts to bring it up. Communication, they're a-lacking.

Of course, upon their return to the US as newlyweds, Immigration has a few questions, and oh don't you know, they're going to make sure that Mateus and Crawford aren't fake-married, but then kissing happens and the border agent is all swoony and happy (which, you know, in the current climate, bwahahahaha, yeah, right), but this is a Dreamspun Desires romance, and of course there's a HEA in which they both get exactly what they never knew they always wanted.

I really dig this author's writing style. Full of emotions, but not purple, and she can really write the UST. The longing. The wanting, the needing - it all comes across in her words. The backstories for both men were well-crafted and believable, and, considering most of the books in this series tend to be slightly OTT, also rather reasonable. I loved Mateus from the start, his strong convictions, and his humble and kind demeanor, and Crawford won me over too eventually.

This was lovely. Super cute, super fun, and super sweet. I just adore this series, and I adored this book.


** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **

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review 2017-03-20 15:11
All the crazy
The Wallflower Duchess (Harlequin Historical) - Liz Tyner

What would now be called bi-polar mother, with rumours of illegitimacy for the heroine and a father who either had a series of strokes or Alzheimer's for the hero. And that's before all the fun and games and miscommunication happens between the two.  


Not bad but they could ramp down on the crazy but the way everyone colluded to get them together was very sweet. 

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review 2017-03-14 22:31
Release Day ARC Review: Two Cowboys And A Baby by B.A. Tortuga
Two Cowboys and a Baby (Dreamspun Desires Book 30) - BA Tortuga

On the surface, there's a cute story here. You got cowboys, small town antics, and even an abandoned baby on your doorstep that holds the twisted answer to a long-kept secret. So, I was ready for cute and sweet and lots of cowboys. And I got that, to some extent.

What didn't work for me as well were some parts of the relationship bromance between Hoss (the supposed baby-daddy) and Bradley, two men who've been friends forever and a day, but who had a falling out when Hoss came out to Bradley way back when in high school. I totally believed that Hoss was in love with Bradley, and that Bradley was in love with Hoss - no issues there - and when Bradley confessed to Hoss that maybe back then he was an idiot, and he's regretted that ever since, their bromance became much more and their romantic relationship really took off.

The parts that were harder to swallow had to do with the revelations about the little innocent baby Hoss finds on his doorstep one morning, and how she looks a little too much like Hoss, and how the DNA test shows that .... well, I'll let y'all read this yourself. The drama that unfolds between Bradley and Hoss was, while understandable, a little out of left field. Up until that point, I thought that the back and forth banter between them showcased their relationship, and they truly felt like they'd been friends for a very long time. So it was a bit of a shock for me to see Bradley react the way he did when that twist came about, and while the lack of real communication between them was indicative of their relationship, I would have thought that Bradley wouldn't be such a dumbass and trusted Hoss a bit more than what he did. Yeah, yeah, surely the "surprise" was a shock to them all, but when your man tells you "no, I didn't", then maybe you ought to stop and listen instead of being all Judgy McJudgerson, eh?

I also thought that the twist was a bit over the top, but then I've come to expect that sort of over the top kind of thing from this series, so I wasn't put off by it. I adored Hoss being all awkward with the baby, without a clue what to do, so that part rang true for me. Even if his mama came to help out a bit.

The author really captured the small town Texas feel, and made me feel like I was right there at the rodeo with Hoss and Bradley - well done, that.

Also, if your sheriff's name is Pooter - 'nuff said. I giggled a lot whenever he was on page. Stereotypical small town characters all around, and that part was a lot of fun.

This was an enjoyable read, even if I didn't like some parts. The book works well within the Dreamspun Desires series, and should be read the way it was intended - as a bit of fluff, a bit over the top, and a "love will save the day" kind of romance.

** I received a free copy of this book from its publisher. A positive review was not promised in return. **

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review 2017-03-07 22:39
Review: The Girl's Guide to Homelessness by Brianna Karp
The Girl's Guide to Homelessness: A Memoir - Brianna Karp

First, let's get the Trigger/Content Warnings out of the way:

Descriptions of Child Sexual Abuse

Descriptions of Domestic Violence

Descriptions of Physical Child Abuse

Gaslighting/Mental and Emotional Abuse

Religious Cultism (Jehovah Witness)

Descriptions of Suicide

Mental Illness (undiagnosed and untreated)


And that was just the first 50 pages


The book begins with Brianna giving the readers a run down on her family history with both mental illness and being in the Christian sect known as Jehovah's Witnesses. When she is born in early 1986, the family tree looks more like Jackson Pollack painting, just a hot mess of bad decisions and religious dogma. Her sister Molly was born two years later.


Brianna's and Molly's parents were just the cream of the crop of shitty parents. Their mother was beginning her journey into Bipolar Disorder and their father was a shiftless womanizer who liked to use his wife as a punching bag. They divorced when Brianna was two years old. Her dad had visitation rights, and when he exercised those rights, he used Brianna as a stand-in for an intimate partner until he started dating/ending up marrying Charlie and having two more kids before divorcing her.


Brianna never knew about her half-sisters or saw her dad ever again after he decided to give up on family number 1 to work on family number two. So as a now 22 year old Brianna is at a Jamba Juice, trying to get her dickhead of a current boyfriend to stay with her and end the affair with his co-star, we get a glimpse of a broken child. More flashbacks of her mother beating her to the point of scaring and irreparable damage, and the unstable life of living with her mother, her sister (who is hella into the JW lifestyle), and their step-dad (a spineless asshole). It was at this Jamba Juice that Brianna gets a call from the LA county coroner's office, with news that her father committed suicide and she was the sole next of kin and executor of his will. There are descriptions of both the suicide, what the victim looked like dead, and the scene of the incident. After divvying up most of her father's possessions between the four sisters, she walks away with the truck (1999 Dodge Ram) and a thirty foot Fan Coach travel trailer.


Which is a good thing, because this being the last days of 2008/early days of 2009, there is a global recession going on and Brianna loses her job as an executive assistant at Kelly Blue Book. She can't make rent, so she moves back in with her mother and step-father; issues arose and she is kicked out of the house, leaving her with the only shelter she can afford - the truck and trailer. She parks the trailer at the edge of the Wal-Mart parking lot (many of the stores have such policies in place because the creator of Wal-Mart/Asada, Sam Walton, was a big fan of RV-ing) and joins the fast-growing homeless population of Southern California.


Again this is just the first 50 pages.


The next 25 pages or so describes how she is living on unemployment and how she is managing to live with her big-ass dog (a Neo-Mastiff named Fezzik). She starts a blog (title of the book is the same title as the blog) and works hard to save what little she could and look for jobs. Here is where I think the book does the most good - shining a light on what it really means to be homeless or even just the working poor in America. She talks about why it is important to hold onto her laptop and cellphone, as that is how prospective employers can find her and contact her (for example, loading a resume onto Monster.com). She doesn't put a donate button on her blog because she doesn't want to be seen as a charity case or as someone who is e-panhandling. The only assistance she applies for is unemployment; she feels others are in more need of food stamps and shelters.


The rest of the book deals with her toxic relationship with a Scottish dude named Matt. Matt is a "homeless activist" who is living in a council flat and receiving disability benefits due to a having emotional and mental breakdown after his first wife divorced him. Matt was finally diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder and needed medication to keep him healthy. Matt also had a blog about homelessness, and they met while networking among the homeless activist community online.


Before I go on any further, here is a second list of Trigger/Content Warnings:



Intimate Partner Abuse

Mental Illness (untreated)

Animal Cruelty


So after a few months of talking and falling in love online and on the phone, resourceful Brianna turns into Dumbass Brianna. This would be the time to let you know the publisher of this crap book is Harlequin - yep that one. This had to be the shittiest Presents line book ever, except it actually happened (well, maybe happened - some of this stuff had to be made up, nobody is THAT unlucky in life).


Dumbass Brianna finally gets a job, but it doesn't pay much over unemployment. She uses the last of her unemployment money to buy Matt a plane ticket so he can come to California for "sex and getting to know you in person" stage of the relationship. Just before he comes out to see her, his ex-girlfriend (Lori)  tells him she is pregnant and he is the father. Dumbass Brianna buys a second plane ticket so that Matt can go back to Scotland for an ultrasound and then comes back to California. Brianna and Matt spend time living in the trailer, and sometimes staying at motels/hotels (on Brianna's limited dime). By this time, Brianna is also paying for her dog to be boarded at a kennel because the California summer heat inside her trailer is too dangerous for a dog to stay in while she is at work. Come to find out, Brianna makes a surprise trip to visit Fez at the kennel and he is looking sickly and abused - turns out Brianna didn't read the fine print on her contract and the dog is only getting one cup of kibble a day and no exercise - a healthy Neo Mastiff needs about 8-10 cups a day. Each additional cup is $1, plus there is an exercise charge. Brianna finds someone to foster Fez so she can get him out of the kennel.


Brianna hopes that talking to Matt about formalizing custody arrangements prior to the baby's birth would get things settle so that Brianna and Matt can work on their future together - yep, marriage and kids were already being planned! Matt doesn't like to talk about Lori or the baby or anything uncomfortable - shades of her step-father ALL OVER AGAIN, but Dumbass Brianna is so blindly in love, she doesn't see it and decides to drop any topic Matt finds uncomfortable. Brianna was all set to marry Matt (even buying her own engagement ring), and Matt really wanted kids with Brianna RIGHT AWAY. Brianna doesn't think this is a good idea since they don't have a steady place to live, so she goes to Planned Parenthood for a copper IUD (aka Paraguard). See Brianna can't do hormonal birth control because she gets to hella bitchy on it; however, the IUD she got was designed for women who had at least been pregnant before - it is not for those who have never been pregnant, due to the changes that come with pregnancy. An IUD can come dislodged in women who have never been pregnant.


Matt returns to Scotland for the birth of his daughter. Lori really doesn't want to take care of the baby (baby was just a way to get Matt back into her life), so Matt (now off his medication because he was in California and didn't know how to go about getting more after running out) is a full-time SAHD with a newborn. Dumbass Brianna, who already lost her new job, decides to borrow money from a friend to buy herself a plane ticket to Scotland and surprise Matt for Christmas! She also decides to spend some unemployment money on expensive gifts for the baby and Matt. The best gift, one she has known about for some time but doesn't want to tell Matt via email or phone, is that Brianna is pregnant!  Turns out that IUD was not the best choice in birth control. Dumbass Brianna can't wait to tell Matt in person that they are going to be parents.


We all know where this is going, don't we?


Brianna shows up in cold, snowy Scotland, on Matt's council flat and who does she find hanging out with Matt and his daughter? Why it's Lori, and she is none too happy to see Brianna. Lori is quite the loser in the character and morals department, so I'm not taking sides. Matt tells Brianna to find a hotel (on Christmas Eve in a foreign country that takes the winter holidays seriously) to stay in for the night and he will sort all this out.....


Needless to say, conversations are had and promises made, leaving Brianna alone in Huntly, Scotland with little money and a bun in the oven. There is a plan to meet at the train station, but Matt never shows up (and doesn't call) and Brianna ends up getting hyperthermia and is found by a local, who calls the cops. Cops rescue Brianna and looks for Matt, who fled the city and is nowhere to be found. Brianna is staying at the inn again, and it is New Year's Eve; she decides to drink five or six shots of Scottish whiskey. Soon she doesn't feel so good; she makes her way up to her room and into the bathroom in time to miscarry. She holds her dead son in her palm for a while, then begins to clean up and shower some of the blood off. She doesn't have enough money to buy sanitary napkins or tampons, so she is using towels and toilet paper. The next day Brianna wraps her son in a blue scarf, walks down to the river, says her goodbyes, and places him in the river. Then goes back to the hotel as if nothing happened.


Another homeless activist contacts her and tells her to come to London and stay with her. Brianna is very vulnerable mentally and emotionally as her body recovers from the pregnancy. No one in their social circle online can find Matt; however, the News of the World paper (a British tabloid owned by Rupert Murdoch and akin to the US Enquirer) runs a story on Matt and Lori's beautiful relationship and their family. Because Brianna was getting national and international press attention for her blog, there were statements from "sources" that painted Brianna in a bad light. Thanks News of the World, but Brianna can do bad all by herself.


Brianna went home to California, got a job with a theater company, and is doing promo for the book/blog, and is continuing with being an activist for the homeless community. There are people who are/were close to her family and Matt who don't quite see things the same way as Brianna - some have come out publicly against Brianna. Many within the homeless activist circle, however, side with Brianna and have severed all ties with Matt.


Harlequin has truly jumped the shark with this book. The soap opera-level drama and piss poor decisions were way over the top. The book was supposed to be about homelessness, and shattering preconceptions - not someone's bad Live Journal post. I feel bad for my library, as this was one of my "rescues" from the weeded out pile and now the library is stuck with this book for two more years. Stay away.





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