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review 2017-09-02 00:30
Release Day ARC Review: Finding Mr. Wrong by Charlie Cochet
Finding Mr. Wrong (Dreamspun Desires Book 41) - Charlie Cochet

This story had a solid plotline, but suffered from a bit of overload with all the extra stuffing.

Matthew Hart is a successful business man and the heir to family fortune and high-end furniture and interior decoration company Hart and Home. Twenty years ago, he thought himself in love with Jax Foster, but when Jax and his father disappeared overnight, Matthew was crushed and hasn't really had a serious relationship since. When he has a near-death experience brought on by a severe allergy, he becomes a little scared about the future and decides he needs to find a husband and have children to carry on the family legacy. He even creates a list of attributes this husband needs to have. 

Jax Foster loved Matthew Hart, but his father's gambling addiction and subsequent debts required that they ran from the town. Jax resents his father for what he's put him through, but also loves the man and cannot leave him to his own devices. He's making a name for himself as an artist, designing and creating stained glass pieces. 

When a customer of Hart and Home requires special stained glass inserts for his doors, Matthew and Jax's paths cross and converge.

Mr. Hart Sr, Matthew's father, and Adam, Matthew's PA, both help this along. I liked both of these side characters, especially Adam who really looked out for Matthew.

As Jax and Matthew rekindle their romance, and some truths come out, the suspense part of the plot increases. We have attempted murder, a kidnapping, a mobster enforcer named Rai whom Adam would like to climb like a tree, and Matthew's cousin and crazy wife also play a role.

The sex is hot, with lots of dirty talking, the dialogue had some bite on occasion, and though I didn't like the obvious "big misunderstanding", I did like their relationship. Having both Matthew and Jax alternate in being the narrator helped to understand both of their perspectives, their hopes, and their fears, and made them more sympathetic to me. I could understand that Jax didn't want to give up on his father, despite the addiction, and I could understand that Matthew was wary Jax would run again. 

The lone female in this book was the designated villain, something that I don't particularly care for, and her portrayal was totally OTT. I could believe the mobster money collector, and I could even believe that Adam had the hots for him (hopefully, these two will get their own book), but all in all, it was just a little bit too much, even for a Dreamspun Desires title.

The romance though, that second chance at love, was well done, and I wanted Matthew and Jax to find their HEA. Which, no spoiler here, they did.

Charlie Cochet's writing style is a good fit here, and thankfully not flowery at all. The plot flowed smoothly, without any lulls, and I was engaged throughout the book. It fits within the series by having a somewhat implausible setting (Matthew being a young, hot, successful and rich guy, partnered with a young man from the wrong side of the tracks - fabulous trope, that) and the scenarios within are not close to the realm of realism, but it's entertaining nonetheless. There's not a whole lot of in depth character development, but I didn't expect that from this book. I do expect a whirlwind emotional romance when I read a title in this series, and I got that here. Mission accomplished.


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

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review 2017-08-16 02:06
Release Day ARC Review: Out Of The Shadows by KC Wells
Out of the Shadows (Dreamspun Desires Book 40) - K.C. Wells

I adored this so much! What a sweet romance between one hunky gardener/handyman and one damaged, hiding young man who thinks an accident 8 years ago that left him severely scarred turned him into a monster not fit for society. 

Josh is a gardener/handyman for an apartment complex and has been tasked with modernizing some of the apartments by upgrading the kitchens and bathrooms. The first apartment is the home of a mysterious resident, whom nobody has apparently ever seen. Josh is a really nice guy, easy-going and kind, and he has no preconceived notions about the man who lives in the apartment. Josh feels he's there to do a job, and he plans on doing a good one. He also has a nice group of friends, including two (Nate and Dylan) who may be given the "oblivious men of the year" award. I sure hope the author has a book planned for them as well. 

Christian made a horrific mistake 8 years ago while helping a stranded motorist to jump-start his car and hooked up the wrong side first, resulting in severe acid burns to his face, arms and chest. He moved to Boston to start a new life - if you can call it a life - and cut himself off from friends, family, and everyone. He orders what he needs online, groceries are delivered to his front door, and he only rarely goes outside, and when he does, it's at night, cloaked in darkness. He's afraid of people's reactions to his scars and would rather be alone than see them pity him or recoil from him.

Unbeknownst to Josh, Christian has been watching him work in the flower beds and such, admiring and lusting after him. Of course, Christian has no illusions of getting any closer to Josh than through the window, but ogling is enough. Or so he tells himself.

On the first day of the renovation job, Josh believes that Christian isn't home, but the truth comes out, and Christian has a difficult time believing that Josh's reaction to the scars (and the monster he sees in the mirror) is so calm and accepting.

A mutual love for Harry Potter brings them closer, they share lunch every day while Josh is working on the apartment, and even after he's done and has moved on to the next place, and it was so lovely to watch Christian begin to trust Josh, who starts to draw the slightly older man out of his shell. Shared lunches turn into watching a movie at the theater (late at night, of course), and meeting Josh's friends.

Christian blossoms under Josh's unfailing support, and their mutual attraction fairly quickly turns into real emotions and a desire to be together. Josh helps Christian realize that what he sees in the mirror is not a monster after all, and that while some people may react in a way Christian expects them to (recoiling in horror), the majority of folks do not. 

I would have liked Christian to consider therapy to deal with his self-hatred, because Josh is not a therapist, and while he provided steady support, love, and understanding, I wasn't sure that Christian's rather rapid progression to being comfortable in public spaces (after hiding for so long) was completely realistic. However, considering that this is a Dreamspun Desires title, this did not influence my rating or enjoyment of this book.

The author did a great job with the characters, and their romance was believable within the parameters of this series. Their story is, while definitely on the fluffy side, super romantic and hopeful, and their HEA was well deserved. A quiet, low-key romance, very little angst, and so very sweet - I had a fabulous time reading it.

And I'm serious about Nate and Dylan needing their own book. Please get right on that, Ms. Wells.


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

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review 2017-08-02 01:20
Release Day ARC Review: The Teddy Bear Club by Sean Michael
The Teddy Bear Club (Dreamspun Desires Book 39) - Sean Michael

The blurb sounded fun, and the general idea of this book was great, but the execution left me wanting. I expected more than talk about diapers, and burping, and bottles, and just kids in general from a book being billed as a romance.

Aiden has adopted his sister's two children, since his sister struggles with mental health issues and cannot take care of them. He works from home, mostly at night, and his adult interactions are pretty much limited to his twice-weekly trip to the local coffee shop where he meets with friends.

Devon is taking care of his much younger sister's newborn baby after she left town. He is completely over his head taking take of a baby, even three months in, and he hasn't started any legal proceedings either. Invited to join Aiden and the others at the coffee place, he's glad for some adult company too.

Most of this book is told in dialogue. Most of this dialogue is trite, bland, and non-engaging, and while a romance develops between Aiden and Devon, amidst taking care of the children, there just didn't seem to be any kind of believable spark. 

For a romance to work for me, there has to be more relationship development, and more to the relationship than just the commonality of taking care of kids. The kids just took over this book, and I was often rather bored while reading about their feeding times, their bedtimes, and their baths. While the romance itself was fine (what there was of one), the constant talking about the children was a major turnoff. 

There's some drama with Devon's mother who wants to take the baby from him, but that's also easily resolved, and her role in this book was slightly OTT, as was Devon's reactions to her threats. 

So yeah... this didn't do it for me. YMMV. 


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

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review 2017-07-16 02:58
Release Day ARC Review: All In (Wild Cards #3) by Ava Drake
All In (Dreamspun Desires Book 38) - Ava Drake

On his way back to NYC to attend the meet-sees hoping for a job or three, Zane Stryker, fashion model, nearly 30, is detained at the airport because his suitcase was flagged for possible contraband. Inside the interrogation room, Zane meets Sebastian Gigoni, formerly British Special Forces, who asks that he opens the suitcase.

Inside are two metal tablets and a suit - none of which belong to Zane. 

From there, the story takes off as Sebastian and Zane try to work together, though their goals may be at odds, in foiling the plan of the international crime syndicate from the previous installment of this loosely connected series, with a little help from one of Zane's friends, Sebastian's brains, Zane's ability to think on his feet, and the super-sekrit British organization for which Sebastian now works. All while falling in love, because this is a romance, after all. 

The reader needs to suspend disbelief for most of the novel - realistic, this is not. However, it's definitely a fun ride, in and out of the bedroom. There's intrigue, mystery, an inside look at a fashion shoot, bad mob-like dudes with guns, good dudes with guns, a couple of major crime bosses, and a super hawt romance as well.

The attraction between Zane and Sebastian burns brightly from the start, and this book is probably one of the raunchier titles in the Dreamspun Desires series. I'm not complaining, hahaha. The sexy times were hawt! 

Seriously, I had a blast reading this, and I think you will too. This can be read as a standalone, no problem, but I think to get the full impact, you'll want to read the first two books as well. The writing is crisp and well-suited to the story, and there wasn't a dull moment to be found within. 

Nicely done! 


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

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review 2017-07-14 17:01
Review Request: All The Way To Shore by CJane Elliott
All the Way to Shore - C. Jane Elliott

When the author approached me with a request to read and review this book, I took a look at the blurb and happily agreed.

This book has all the elements I look for in a romance novel - well-fleshed out, complex main characters with imperfections, a believable romantic relationship, a realistic stumbling block derailing the romance for a little while, and a wonderful supporting cast. Add to that the underlying theme of figuring out who you really are, and what you really want out of life, and I was hooked.

Jonathan's love is classical music and his piano, and he wanted to attend college pursuing his passion, but was roped into a business job by his domineering and rather cold father to come work for the family business, Vallen Industries. Jonathan loathes the job, but doesn't feel that he has a choice - his older brother James who was supposed to follow in their father's footsteps passed away in a tragic accident, and Jonathan feels he owes it to his father to take James' spot. 

But he hates it, and it shows. He's not business material, and while he's good with numbers and charts, he feels stifled. From the start, I felt that Jonathan was depressed and unhappy, especially in light of having to hide his sexuality from his disapproving father, and having thus no personal life to speak of.

Since the business isn't doing so well, the older Vallen hires a new temporary CEO, a young hot-shot of Italian heritage, studly and smart and ambitious Marco Pellegrini. Marco sees pretty quickly that the younger Vallen has no sense for or interest in the business, but tries to train the younger man anyway, all while planning to increase business profits by at least the margin for which he was hired.

All Jonathan sees is that he'll never compare and uses this opportunity to escape. His late mother left him a cottage on Cape Cod, and Jonathan quits the company and runs, hoping to find himself and his music again.

A year later, after having got a dog and losing quite a few pounds, after trading his glasses for contacts and his old sweats for more fashionable clothing, Jonathan is convinced by his cousin Anthony to go on an LGBT cruise in the Caribbean. 

Marco Pellegrini is also on the same cruise with his younger sister Sophia, taking his first vacation in a year, but doesn't recognize Jonathan due to his rather different appearance. 

And Jonathan, with help from Anthony, pretends his name is Jonah Rutledge, secretly happy that Marco doesn't recognize him. 

I loved both Jonathan and Marco. They were very different in many ways, but also alike in others. Jonathan felt unlovable, and didn't think he deserved someone like Marco, where Marco was rather driven, having worked his way up from poverty to being a sought-after CEO, while not making time to find someone with whom to share his life. Both are very lonely deep down.

The romance begins on the cruise ship, with lots of UST, trips to shore and having fun in the sun, but it's clear that both Jonathan and Marco long for more than just a quick roll in the hay. They have a connection, they have similar interests and likes, and they get along fabulously. All the while, Jonathan knows he has to come clean about the lie, even if the only lie was his name and all the other things he's told Marco are true.

Even though the bulk of the book is told from Jonathan's POV, the author utilizes an interesting method to give also insights into Marco's mind by giving us diary entries. I especially liked that Marco included a section of gratitude in each entry - just things he was thankful for - and how those changed over time. 

As you can glean from the blurb, things don't go smoothly all the way, and Jonathan's lie is abruptly exposed when his overbearing father shows up at the last stop of the cruise to bring Marco back to work, sees his wayward son with his CEO, and nearly ruins everything Jonathan and Marco hoped to build.

Marco initially cannot forgive Jonathan for pretending to be someone else, but as they both return to their respective homes, they both realize that if you really want something, you have to fight for it. And Marco understands Jonathan well enough by then to also realize that he has to wait for the other man to come to him, even if he's normally a go-getter and not very patient at all.

The way they work things out to get back together was ever so romantic and sweet, and it was very clear that they did want to be together. Jonathan especially had to find his backbone to go after what he really wants, and boy, does he ever. 

The climactic high-point of this book takes place in a boardroom, and it was a joy to behold how Jonathan stands up for himself and for Marco, and thus finds himself to be the person he was meant to be, and the person I knew had been simmering underneath the surface all along. Fabulous! 

With a satisfying HEA ending, this book is truly a grand romance, and I would definitely recommend you give it a try. I enjoyed this author's writing style, I loved the characters, including the supporting cast in Anthony/Andrew and Sophia, I would have loved to clock the older Vallen a few times, and I had a fantastic time reading this book. 


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

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