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review 2017-04-16 05:55
Gimme gimme that cracky fluff... aaahh!
Tall, Dark, and Deported (Dreamspun Desires) - Bru Baker

A tag team review with Sara

4.5 HEARTS--
And now I have another book to add to my top favorites Dreamspun Desires list!

I've been fluffed. Pour it all over my face, baby. Just watch me melt.

Mateus is a Portuguese botanist who is staying with his brother and pregnant sister-in-law on their orchard in Washington state. Mateus is helping with his family's failing orchard and wants to stay in America. Unfortunately, he has an expiring tourist visa and searched online for a scheme to stay in the country: go to Canada, get his visa stamped and reset and return to America for another 3 months. Sounds too good to be true?

It's because it is.

Luckily, older stoic boutique hotel auditor/ businessman Crawford is being forced to Canada for work. His boss is sending him to the chain's failing Vancouver hotel for the next two weeks... along with Crawford's ex-husband. The bitter divorce happened three years ago and he's still jaded from his cheating ex. He doesn't believe love exists.

Thanks to a plane delay in Seattle, love weary Crawford meets Mateus and the connection is imminent. They strike up a conversation and are just vibing off each other over Auntie Anne's pretzel nuggets out of all things. The delay becomes a cancelled flight and the new acquaintances are thrown together through a series of events. And events get crazier as an impromptu drive to the Canadian border becomes Mateus not being able to cross either side of the border.

Ring a ling ling, did someone call a knight in shining armor?

Crawford obviously heard the call and he rescues Mateus.

Older, jaded hero meets younger loyal family man who just wants to stay and help the orchard...

And then a fake marriage trope is added to help save the day.

Those tropes were a cracky fluff jackpot and I... ate... it... up!

Bru Baker wrote fleshed out main characters in Crawford and Mateus. She built a solid foundation by showcasing a glimpse of their daily lives. Crawford is a point where he's not exactly happy, his only family connection a brother and nephew he helped raise are going to move away. So there is nothing really holding him in Los Angeles. And Mateus wants to leave Portugal to help out with his only sibling's growing family. All the characters read like real people.

The cracky fluff button was engaged once the fake marriage to get a visa to stay in the USA came up. But reading how Crawford is, it worked. The two get married and thankfully the author showed the real side of marrying an immigrant...it's not as easy as they originally thought. The couple stays in Canada for two weeks due to Crawford's job. And we even get to experience his ex-husband, a good antagonist that didn't overtake the plot with obscene dramatics.

The bread and butter of the story is the undeniable, easy connection Crawford and Mateus have. The attraction is there and it's a slow burn. Crawford being a knight in shining armor tries to be noble and a gentleman. His heart is iced in the middle... good thing Mateus knows to make him melt.

There is only one sexy moment throughout the entire story. But the sexual tension was written strongly and was well paced. I lived for each kiss. Were there times that I wanted to knock Crawford in the back of the head? Yep... he's a stubborn one. And has bad Tim Hortons judgement. (I'm still trying not to hold it against him) Other than that, he's a dream guy, as is Mateus.

The story is split between Vancouver and Washington. And even when apart, they're still connected. And when the sexual tension finally comes to a melting point. Let's just say it was a swoon worthy moment.

And the last 5% of the story?

So damn romantic, I want to get drunk off the cracky fluff. *swoons* *gulps*

Recommended for fans of the Dreamspun Desires line, this is definitely not one to skip. Crawford and Mateus as a couple left a lasting impression from the Dreamspun Desires leading men I've read so far.

Not my first time reading this author, but I enjoy the way she writes her characters a lot. And if you're a fan of any of the tropes I mentioned, get ready for quality cracky fluff.

What a sweet treat!

A copy provided for an honest review.

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review 2017-02-14 05:15
Fake relationship cracky fluff? Consider me all over it!
Marriage of Inconvenience - M.J. O'Shea

A Hearts On Fire Review

THREE HEARTS--A lot of Dreamspun Desires have the fake-to-real relationship tropes.

I'm not mad at it.

You can find this in M.J. O'Shea's "Marriage of Inconvenience". What's this book's take on the classic trope?

Jericho Knox is a Hollywood actor that is trying to break from the teenbopper mold. He's thirty, handsome and is a decent enough actor. Just one thing, his public person as a womanizer is a lie, a carefully constructed lie to hide the fact that he's gay. He doesn't want to remain in the closet any more, and one night's foolish indiscretion causes him to finally come out to all. That's where our other protagonist steps in, 25 year old public relations assistant, Kerry.

A sweet guy who is starting to see how much of these celebs are merely puppets and his company are the ones pulling the strings. When he's called in to save Jericho's job, sparks fly between both men...and not in a sexy way. Jericho is an asshat and goes out of his way to be one. Kerry obviously has his work cut out for him. When Kerry and his company concocts a fake relationship and engagement to provide stability for the public, Kerry is forced to be the fake love interest.

What I've come to realize, M.J. O'Shea excels well asshole characters. I think all of my fave stories from her feature a jerk main character.

The story is readable. The ingredients are there to make a decent enough story. I think my contention is with the rougher first and last third. I'm #teamgrump all day every day, but any grump in a romance needs to have either believable turnover or at least show that they fully care about the person they care about.

Jericho Knox....I'm finding it difficult to buy his story and his HEA. He told the reader more than showed any redeemable qualities. He's a jerk but on a scale of despicable things to do to a person, he's not downright cruel. He's just spineless, a privileged weak person who takes and doesn't really give.

If there were ever a story that needed an epilogue, I think Marriage of Inconvenience does. This is my first time ever question the HEA of a Dreamspun Desire title.

Kerry despite his publicist job isn't as worldly, doesn't use vices as a crutch to self care and doesn't go out of his way to be bitter. I can easily see Jericho splitting because he gets triggered or he gets mad enough that he reverts right back to that bitter man we see for the majority of the book when he showed something.

I think Kerry deserved better, despite having a few things in common with Jericho. Kerry read more genuine. Jericho had the jerk part down but his growth or rush into a love that is told but I'm not co-signing on. I loved the secondary characters. They provided a nice cushion in this fluffy-ish mix. The story has a few love scenes (it read a little one sided since it meant more to one guy than the other)

Overall, it fits the Dreamspun mold. If Jericho gave an inkling of growth, I'd have totally rated the story higher.

An easy enough read with a fun trope. I do like the Hollywood spin on it, just not feeling Jericho. (Even though the guy on the cover is drool-worthy - it's one of my favorites so far from the house line)

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review 2016-07-10 23:42
An Autistic alpha lumbersexual hero? Why not!
His Pretend Baby: His Pretend Baby: 50 Loving States, Oregon - Theodora Taylor

The fact that the hero in "His Pretend Baby" is on the autism spectrum was a big draw for me. Probably because of the field I'm in. Reading this made me smile at parts. This isn't the first book I've seen that featured a hero on the spectrum (yay!) and there should be more romances featuring main characters on the spectrum.

This story is a solid 3.5 stars because I couldn't put it down.

The premise is a little soap opera-y and towards the end it got to be too soap opera-y that I can't round up.

"Go" or Rodrigo (the nickname Go threw me off a lot) is a billionaire tech geek, a product of Mexican immigrants who thinks different. He founded a company that he had tailored to his needs. He thinks differently, loves plans (don't deviate from his plans), has sensory issues and is a success story.

Nyla, his heroine, is a former foster kid, punk alternative "freak" with tattoos and multiple piercings that she uses as an armor. She also works in a domestic abuse shelter, doesn't trust from years of rejection from people she tried to trust but loves her job to help others.

One drunken mistake lands Nyla pregnant with her ex-boyfriend's baby. Sadly, her ex is killed soon after sharing her positive pregnancy test. But her ex's brother steps in with a crazy plan to marry and pretend it's his baby.

Don't deviate from the plan. :)

Go (I can't believe I'm referring to a human man as Go) is an alpha male all the way. Nyla, with a master's in psychology sees him, understands him and instead of trying to change him to fit her norms, she makes him comfortable in his skin. She meets his family and though they mean well with a teasing nickname (Berger for Asperger's), tries to show them in a few words that the nickname isn't nice.

The two start with a fake relationship, or that's what Nyla thinks as she agrees to Go's plans and marries. But...it wasn't fake on his end.

Go likes it rough. And prefers to do all the touch. That first sex scene...just that illusion of breath play. I wished it was... *moans* oh how I wished it was.

The have chemistry, the internal filters work differently but whoo boy...they were on even ground in their relationship.

*smh* The villain and their antics with added concentrated drama (past off page incest), the way the ending sort of baits the reader into thinking the worst possible happened, I wasn't a fan of. I liked the interactions between Nyla and Go up until the honeymoon. A lot happens afterward and I'm sort of sold on how it all went down, sort of not.

The execution? Eh...it's okay. *squints* Sometimes the main characters read like caricatures, Nyla always emphasizing her piercings and tatts, Go being like a robot. Instead of letting them be them, they were their descriptors. I wished there was less of that, I might have rated higher.

Overall, the story is good, the premise is awesome.

This story made me happy in a way.

We're all wired when we get down to basics, sometimes differently but it's perfect & unique all the same.

"His Pretend Baby" attempted to show how.

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review 2016-07-10 22:48
Wheee!! Keep running in the cotton candy Harlequin feels!
First Comes Marriage - Shira Anthony
A Hearts On Fire Review

FOUR HEARTS--The Dreamspun Desires line is turning out to be a guilty pleasure for me. It's bringing me back to my Harlequin days. Tropes that are classic (for a reason) get revisited in this line. "First Comes Marriage" was fake-to-real relationship trope written in a sweet flufftastic way with a billionaire MC!

If you're one of the readers who are over billionaires, step aside.

Because I'm a billionaire reader.

Yes, still.

The probability for a young, single and attractive billionaire under 30 might be next to impossible but in Romancelandia...it rains from the sky. And I brought a gazillion empty Big Gulp cups to catch the rain!

Shira Anthony is a writer that I enjoy (I tend to forget how much I love her writing until I'm reading something from her). In "First Come Marriage", indie novelist Chris Valentine would love to churn more books out, has a small following but needs to pay the bills. He meets a geeky, ginger fan with a slight speech impediment in Jesse Donovan. Chris figures his fan is straight, thanks him and keeps it moving. Chris learns that Jesse is one of NYC's wealthiest wealthy bachelor hes floored. But what really throws him for a loop is when Jesse asks him to marry him to save his company! It's a cockamamie scheme, which Chris thinks he could do - he's gay, the billionaire is straight, all they have to do is stay married for a year to satisfy Jesse's deceased grandfather's stipulation and everyone will leave happy.

What's the harm in that?


The story happens mainly in Connecticut at a fairy tale mansion. Jesse wasn't completely honest when asking Chris to marry him. So while the two get married and try to fool the lawyers and their family, there is a sexual tension that subtly progresses along with the novel. Add this with Chris' humble background and having to deal with Jesse's wealthier society, it made for an interesting read.

Jesse wasn't a stereotypical billionaire - he wasn't confident, he was geeky, he had a stutter. He was an atypical billionaire that read like he was written just for me. All of his characteristics are types I love to read about.

And the scenes got fluffy at times. I mean there was an actual marshmallow fight...I couldn't read the story fast enough.

There was a step-grandmother Wenda, who almost seemed like a bitch but wasn't As she slowly opened up, I liked her. Some of the plot devices like poor little rich boy, worked. Some didn't, for me, like socialite who didn't make much of an appearance and then shows up to try and a steal a man who she never had a chance with. Jesse was clear where she stood, so her influence should have been nil. I do get I should expect over the top drama. But compared to the last Dreamspun Desires read I finished, this wasn't as dramatic. so when the antics were introduced...it kinda ruined my fluff buzz.

But the romance was believable. I didn't mind the miscommunication. I wish Jesse didn't run away to NYC as much instead of being with Chris. It was obvious that there was a connection and mutual attraction from the start.

Loved the sex scenes, they were organic to the progression to real relationship. Nothing read forced. I loved the main characters equally. Loved the epilogue especially...okay maybe not the cheesy last paragraph. But I still wouldn't mind a follow-up to see if the line pans out. :D

I'd recommend this to Dreamspun Desires readers in a heartbeat.

Totally cute.
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review 2016-05-04 23:05
Kitchen Romance Fun!
King of the Kitchen - Bru Baker

A Hearts On Fire Review

3.75 Hearts--Where to begin with King of the Kitchen?

I've been keeping an eye on Bru Baker's work. When I read the premise of rivaling culinary families with a sort of Hatfield/McCoy-esque enemies to lovers feel mixed with gourmet cooking n a television cooking show, I couldn't wait to read it. Interesting premise is interesting. I'm not a foodie by no means - I can cook but it's not like I'm running to by the latest knives or food processor out there. (When I follow a recipe and it comes out the way the picture looks I feel super accomplished)

But I am fascinated by chef romances. To me, the art of cooking is a science. So my inner geek was ecstatic that one of the main characters was a molecular gastronomist. And this novel truly treated cooking with the passion and art it's all about. There were hiccups (which I'll get to) but the romance was light and bubbly underneath the cooking.

Told in alternating POV and set in Chicago, thirty-something(?) chefs Duncan Walters and Beck Douglas meet each other at a chance meeting & a little hidden identity on one of their parts. That sets the tone of some of their animosity...and attraction for nearly a decade when they finally meet again.

Each man is a celebrity chef in their own right, Beck is under his controlling uncle's thumb working more than there are hours in the day on a daily basis including hosting a national cooking show, never getting a chance to be his own man. And Duncan, a food whiz, is a chef nomad and has degrees in molecular gastronomy and hates his bigoted zealot of a father. Though he and his father can cook like a dream, his father has hurt him in more ways than one over the years and Duncan's sexuality is the main point of contention.

The author takes time to set the stage while making interesting dishes. Now I expected a romance. What I didn't expect was the lightness to the men's characters. They were snarky, sweet and had depth. These things I liked muchly. Beck was the uptight stick in the mud who really wants to have fun with the right person vs Duncan's rolling stone who needed someone to give him a reason to believe you can have someone to have to your back. You know good old opposites attract, a fave of mine.

And the book really knew what it was doing in the kitchen with well researched techniques. And it worked with the chef's interactions with each other. They're cooking, they're living life. It flowed in that aspect.

But...there were a lot of words.

I think too much words. And even if the romance was sweet and effervescent, I have to discuss the story's biggest flaw - repetition. I'd read thoughts that were made over and over. I'm not a reader who needs to be spoon fed all the information and then reminded in case I forgot. I got it. I'm ready to move on. Why must I rehash the same point made in the first chapter again? Sometimes it read like it was trying to stretch the word count. And I have to take away a heart from my rating for that despite the easiness to the romance.

And while I was going to go for 4 Hearts as my rating, going over my notes, I can't. The pace got a little clunky for me. (Example: we get an altercation between the feuding families and then it gets pushed to the wayside or a chance to read a first time relationship's experience.) The ending was a little abrupt. The family dynamics was left unfinished. It was reflected on briefly but I think this story would have done even better with an epilogue. Duncan and Beck totally deserved it.

But the good certainly outweighs the missteps.

And there were surprises...like fake to real relationship surprises. There was sex and a few fun places *coughs*desk*coughs* and this is spoilerish:

non-penetrative sex to boot!

(spoiler show)

A plus in my book.

Is this book for everyone? Probably not.

I think readers who are foodies, like light, funny stories, don't mind extra explanation could probably enjoy this best.

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