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review 2014-07-29 23:02
Review: Looking For Trouble by Victoria Dahl
Looking for Trouble - Victoria Dahl
A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for an honest review at Romancing Rakes for the Love of Romance.

Alex Bishop spent too much of his life in a nightmare that started the day his no-good father ran off with a neighbor lady, never to return. Alex’s mother was already in a precarious mental state, but being abandoned by her husband pushed her over that ragged edge into something close to full-blown madness. After finally finishing school even as his mother would attempt to drag him and his brother around on wild hunts for their missing father, Alex moved away and planned to stay gone for good. But when his brother contacted him about the discovery of his missing father’s body, Alex knew he had to come back to town just one more time before he could shake the dust of Jackson Hole, Wyoming off his boots forever.

Sophie Heyer has lived most of her life in a nightmare that started the day her no-good mother ran off with Alex Bishop’s father, leaving a husband and two children in a town that would never let the scandal completely die away. It took years for Sophie to trust that her stepfather would never kick her out, but even now she still tries to do everything for him and her brother in a never-ending attempt to prove herself worthy of their love. Now Alex’s mother has resurrected the years-old gossip with a misguided attempt at a memorial service for her late husband, making Sophie’s life a fresh hell to bear. But when the woman who won’t leave falls for the man who can’t stay, it’s anybody’s guess as to whether scorching sexual chemistry between a couple who should never have met can turn into something more.

This was my first visit to Victoria Dahl’s small town of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, but after LOOKING FOR TROUBLE it won’t be the last. So many small town romances focus only on idyllic and charming features of that genre, but as we see here, a small town also has a long memory, especially when its citizens behave in highly inappropriate ways. Alex and Sophie were both deeply damaged by the behavior of their respective parents, but they reacted in completely opposite ways. Yet what we see in LOOKING FOR TROUBLE is that when two people really love each other, they also try to be honest with each other, especially when they see the person they love making a huge mistake. It was just as bad for Sophie to ignore her own desires for a life away from Jackson Hole as it was for Alex to ignore his family’s need for him to visit and be a part of their lives. When Alex and Sophie first met, it was sex they had in common. And even though it was amazing mind-blowing sex, both of them still needed to grow up before they could even consider seeing each other again, let alone plan a possible future together. Their slow but convincing character growth is the core of a rather interesting story about old scandals and new beginnings. That’s what made LOOKING FOR TROUBLE both an entertaining and touching romance for me, and it’s why I’ll be going back to read Victoria Dahl’s other books in the Jackson Hole world as well.


Source: romancingrakes4theluvofromance.blogspot.com/2014/07/reviewedbymichele-lookingfortrouble-victoriadahl.html
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review 2014-06-10 02:44
Review: Avenge Me by Maisey Yates
Avenge Me - Maisey Yates

A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for an honest review at The Romance Evangelist.

AVENGE ME is the first full-length novel in the Fifth Avenue series, where each story revolves around the suicide of Sarah Michaels, and the long-term effects of her tragic death on those who were closest to her. In this book, it’s been ten years since Sarah killed herself, and although her three best friends from college meet every year to commemorate the sad anniversary, it’s only now that justice might finally be close at hand. Austin Treffen, the last one to hear from Sarah and the son of the man they believe responsible for her suicide, has received an anonymous note claiming to have proof of his father’s guilt. So when he pretends to reconcile with his family at the company holiday party in an attempt to get more information, the last thing Austin expects is to be swept off his feet by a beautiful woman. But when that woman turns out to be Sarah’s younger sister, the two of them may have to choose between their desire for each other and their need to avenge the dead woman who still haunts them both.

I’ve always been a fan of Maisey Yates’s category-length romances, but AVENGE ME was a revelation in how well she was able to set a tone of impending danger and maintain it flawlessly over nearly three hundred pages. The true violence has already taken place before our story begins, but as we learn more about Sarah from her friends and her sister Katy, the loss feels recent, even as more details about Sarah’s final days are revealed. But even though Sarah is ultimately what brings Austin and Katy together, it’s their budding relationship which is front and center, as it should be in any true romance. What I especially enjoyed about AVENGE ME was how it wasn’t just sexual chemistry and their common loss that made the hero and heroine so well matched, but how they had both been damaged by their dysfunctional childhoods despite the vast financial gulf between them. Although it’s obvious to the reader that Austin and Katy belong together, it’s not a sure thing that they will permit themselves to embrace a shared future, and I was genuinely concerned that there would be some sort of cliffhanger somehow that would keep me from the HEA that I needed to read and they deserved to have. Any romance writer that can make me worry about the happy ending when I already know there IS a happy ending is uncommonly good at writing romance, and that’s what Maisey Yates has done in AVENGE ME. If the next two books in the Fifth Avenue series are half as good at maintaining this degree of delicious uncertainty, I am going to be a very happy reader.

Source: mharvey816.mh2.org/?p=592
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review 2014-06-07 20:33
Review: Flying by Megan Hart
Flying - Megan Hart

A copy of this book was provided by the publisher for an honest review at The Romance Evangelist.

Megan Hart was one of the very first writers I found when I started looking for quality contemporary erotic romance books in the past few years, and she’s still one of the best. To be fair, what she writes is more erotic women’s fiction than romance specifically, since there is absolutely no guarantee that any of her books will have a true Happy Ever After for her main characters, but enough of her books have qualified that she’s one of my favorites in the genre. However, and I’ll acknowledge this is on me more than her, her last few books haven’t been as enjoyable for me as her earlier works, and I was becoming concerned that I might have to stop reviewing her books, as we just didn’t seem to mesh well anymore.

So it was with some trepidation that I started reading FLYING, although the blurb made it sound like something I would absolutely love. I’m so happy to say FLYING is Megan Hart back to where I love her - ripping my heart out for a heroine who could just have easily been me, in a situation that only she could make me understand and want to see end in a better place than where it began. 

Stella is hanging on to her sanity by her fingertips, and it’s only by spending weekends away from home with strangers she picks up on airplanes and airports that she can temporarily forget all the loss in her life. Matthew starts out as yet another sexual escape for Stella, but ends up being someone who could make her break all her rules, including the one about never letting another man into her heart.

I had a tremendous amount of sympathy for Stella and refused to judge her for how she had chosen to cope with what had happened to her family. So when she found herself falling for Matthew, I was more worried about how she could possibly survive another loss than about any repercussions in her real life. But as damaged as Stella might be, Matthew is even more, and although I loved them together, I was so proud of how she finally called him out for not valuing her as much as she had him, and how she forced him to take the next step toward a genuine relationship with her if that’s what he really wanted. So when she went on to finally deal with all the dangling ends in her real life after the events which had blown it apart, I was cheering and happy even before the surprise happy ending, because I knew that she was going to be okay with or without Matthew.

The only problem I had with FLYING was what kept me from giving it a full 5 star review, and that’s the deliberate use of the third person present voice for all the scenes where Stella is living through one of her “flying” sequences. I realize that was done to help set those off from her “real” life, and it definitely works in that respect. But that type of writing is extremely difficult for me to read, and when the entire first chapter of the book was in that style, it took me several days to finish, resisting my impulse to DNF the whole book at that point. Once the second chapter began in third person past voice, I was able to read and enjoy the rest of the book without issue. It’s likely most other readers won’t have this problem reading third person present, but if you do, just hang in there and finish that first chapter, because FLYING is definitely worth every effort.

Source: mharvey816.mh2.org/?p=587
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review 2014-06-07 19:31
Review: Arrest by June Gray
Arrest - June Gray

A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for an honest review at Seductive Musings.

This review may contain spoilers for DISARM, the first book in this series. You should not try to read ARREST as a standalone, as it assumes you are already familiar with events of the previous book that are not always fully explained in this one.

I enjoyed reading June Gray’s DISARM romance novelettes after they were released as a full length book back in 2013, so when that book was acquired by a major publisher, I was happy that there would be two more books in the series. ARREST picks up where DISARM left off, with Henry and Elsie newly married and embarking on the rest of their Happily Ever After together. But just because they got past all their previous obstacles doesn’t mean that there aren’t new ones now that they are finally married. The primary source of their problems now is Henry’s new career as a law enforcement officer. It was bad enough when he was still in the US military and being sent into a war zone for months on end. Now Elsie has to worry about him every day and night, forever dreading a future where he doesn’t come home safely at the end of his scheduled shift. Their shared adjustment to this new reality, combined with his reaction to Elsie’s independent career as a web designer and the usual dips and bumps that happen in a marriage, constantly threaten their happiness even as they both know that they could never survive away from each other. The story of ARREST is how each crisis in Henry and Elsie’s marriage ultimately makes them stronger together, and better able to deal with whatever life throws at them next. But the journey isn’t easy and when Henry begins to rely on his old destructive coping mechanisms, it will take both of them working as hard as they can to get to the true happy ending they’d thought they already had on their wedding day.

As much as I enjoyed the previous book, the way Henry was always retreating from Elsie when he was upset did get to be tiring after a while, so I was worried that I might not be as sympathetic to him when all the new bad things started happening to them both in ARREST. However, I was quite happy to be proven wrong in my concern, as it appeared that Henry has indeed grown emotionally since then. The love he and Elsie have for each other is never questioned, and it never wavers. But as they and we already learned before, love isn’t enough to keep them together if they can’t communicate and compromise, and in ARREST, Henry and Elsie must both relearn those painful lessons if they’re going to stay married and happy together. 

ARREST also has the advantage of hanging together better as an complete story from the start, as opposed to the previous title. We are shown once again how their past continues to affect their present, but also how they are aware of how easily they could fall back into a vicious cycle of hurting each other, however inadvertently. Being able to see Henry and Elsie take real steps toward a fully reciprocal relationship made reading through all their pain and sadness worth it for the true happy ending awaiting them both. ARREST is an excellent example of how the “marriage in trouble” trope can be realistic without being too depressing. But I’m relieved that the next story in the series will be about someone else, so I can be content in the knowledge that Elsie and Henry have finally earned their HEA and won’t have to suffer any longer.


Overall: 4
Sensuality level: 3.5

Source: mharvey816.mh2.org/?p=585
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review 2014-03-17 23:46
Just finished Sweetened With a Kiss by Lexxi Callahan
Sweetened With a Kiss - Lexxi Callahan

and I absolutely loved it. I had just finished raging over a disappointing review book and this was just what I needed to get back into enjoyable reading.

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