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review 2018-09-19 14:43
Safe From Harm by Kate SeRine
Safe from Harm - Kate SeRine

One year after the murder of his best friend, yet another person Gabe Dawson loves is in danger. He barely manages to save Elle McCoy's life and almost dies himself. It looks like the father of his friend's murderer, an anti-government fanatic, is behind the attempted assassination and Gabe knows this is just the beginning...


Another great read in this series.

The cast of characters was once again wonderfully portrayed, especially the Dawson family dynamics and the tight bonds that bind the five men together.

And the romance worked much better in this one as well (no formulaic, pace-stalling sex scenes for Gabe and Elle). I loved the UST-filled bickering at the beginning and though, IMHO, the "conflict" went on a page or two too long, the two resolved their mutual issues rather quickly and satisfyingly.
Gabe and Elle worked very well together in my view. They were strong-willed individuals and they brought that grit into their relationship as well. And I was very happy that Elle was the one who truly brought the real Gabe out in the open. Theirs was a very cute and hot romance.

The suspense angle was different from the one in the previous book. First, there was the major difference in the topic (religious anti-government fanatics instead of human traffickers) and the identity of the villain(s) was known from the start, leaving the characters to grapple with just how to make something stick.
I'm rather miffed the final showdown seemed very déjà-vu-ish. I felt like I read those particular scenes with those particular characters (maybe even with rather similar names) somewhere else.

Still, overall it worked and now I really hope to be able to read the eldest Dawson brother, Tom's story someday (the quirky doctor sounds rather good as a heroine, especially after learning just what was going on in the final days of Tom's marriage). And let's not forget Mac, the patriarch, deserves a second chance at a happy ending as well.

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review 2018-09-18 02:44
The Dating Game (Owen & Nathan, #1) by Jay Northcote 3.5 Star Review!
The Dating Game - Jay Northcote

Five sex-free dates—how hard can it be?

When they were at uni, Owen always had a bit of a crush on Nathan. But Nathan was apparently straight, and Owen was too busy with other guys to take his crush seriously.

When Nathan moves back to Bristol after a year away, Owen hears that Nathan has come out of the closet, and he propositions him. Nathan doesn’t want to be just another notch on Owen’s bedpost, though, so he challenges Owen to prove he can be serious: five dates before they have sex.

Owen doesn’t think that sounds too difficult. He’s expecting Nathan to find his charms irresistible anyway. But as they grow closer, Owen begins to care more about proving himself to Nathan than he does about getting him into bed.

 

Review

 

This is a charming read when Owen and Nathan date after crushing on each other in college. It could be richer in that we don't really meet families or see their work life but the dating is great. 

I love the time they spend together and watching them fall in love.

Jack and Simon, (Owen's coupled roommates) need their own book if that don't have one.

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review 2018-09-17 06:44
Stop at Nothing by Kate SeRine
Stop at Nothing - Kate SeRine

Kyle Dawson has spent almost his entire life defying authority, thanks to his family legacy in law enforcement and his deep resentment of his father, an almost legend in the field. That's why he went into the FBI instead of becoming one of his father's deputies, like his three older brothers did. And the job also served him well in order to leave Indiana behind to avoid his family, but mostly to try to forget the woman who broke his heart three years ago.

Unfortunately, his defiance of authority comes back to bite him in the ass, when he's reassigned from New Orleans, without finishing a big drug-trafficking case, back to Indiana and very close to home. And then Abby, the heart-breaker, ends up in danger thanks to her uncovering some shady dealings involving her brother-in-law and...Human trafficking. It might be a coincidence, but Kyle seriously doubts it...And in the end, both he and Abby will learn it's impossible to run away from the past, and family ties are too strong to be severed, no matter what.


I really enjoyed this book, heck, I loved it to pieces most of the time.

Most of all, I loved the dynamics in the Dawson family; the four brothers and their taciturn, austere father were so similar in some aspects, but so utterly different in others. I loved how, despite their differences and disputes, they came together in the end when one of them needed help, and I loved how they ironed over those differences and disputes in a very manly way. I'm looking forward to what the next story brings in the Dawson family department (and I really hope Ms SeRine decides to write the older brother's and father's stories as well; they both deserve a second chance at happiness, methinks).

Then there was the suspense aspect of the story, which worked very, very well. It was gripping, intense, and it kept the reader guessing for the better part of the story about who's involved, what might happen next and just how it all will be resolved.
Unfortunately, the author dropped the ball a little with the main villain, since his identity was glaringly obvious from the start, despite the attempts at misdirection.
And I loved the gentlemanly assassin/independent contractor and his helping hand in how the story started to resolve. It was a nice little twist.

And we finally come to the main couple. I liked them both separately and together, and I felt their romance was nicely done and portrayed, although the main "conflict" made very little sense outside the heroine's mind. What I didn't like were the sex scenes. They came across as rather cold and formulaic, even repetitive towards the end. What bothered me the most was the lack of "connection" between the two protagonists while they were bumping uglies. There was no intimacy in the scenes, it was just sex.
There was chemistry and tension there when they were fully clothed or making out, the connection was there even when they were fighting. Yet, once the clothes came off...nothing.
And instead of helping in moving the plot (at least the romantic sub-plot) forward, helping in establishing the connection between the hero and heroine, the sheer amount of the scenes and rather "clinical" execution, only served in stalling the flow of the story. Ugh.

Barring the last part, this was a very good read. Gripping and intense, with wonderful family dynamics and brotherly relationships, a solid suspense arc, and a great cast of characters.

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review 2018-09-10 12:05
Wolf Rising by Paige Tyler
Wolf Rising - Paige Tyler

***ARC provided by publisher through NetGalley***

SWAT Officer Jayden Brooks has his hands full. First, he has to keep his recently injured pack member, Zane, from possibly quitting and leaving the pack. Second, he has to deal with a locked-up werewolf hunter wanting to share information. Then there's the new drug lord in town cleaning up the gangs and selling his drugs in the form of energy drinks...Brooks certainly doesn't have time for a woman, even though she might prove to be the elusive The One.

Unfortunately, he hasn't much say in the matter, since first he has to save her from getting shot by a gangbanger...And then they both have to deal with the pesky little detail that she's obviously turning into a werewolf.


Having read the blurb, I was really looking forward to this story, especially once it was known Brooks's mate is an Omega. Unfortunately, the book ended up being quite a disappointment.

I still liked the action sequences; the drug busts, the saving of hostages and even the full-on assault on the SWAT compound (though those hunters are becoming rather boring). It was the romance that left me cold and severely slowed the pacing of the book.

Is it just me, or are the situations between SWAT members and their Ones starting to be repetitive? They meet under stressful situations, she either turns into a werewolf because of it or remains human, they have sex, he tells her the truth about him (and possibly her), she bolts, talks to whomever happens to pass by at the moment and blurts everything, then she's in danger and calls the werewolf, they make up, have some more sex, someone attacks them, and they all have the BBQ at the end.
It's always a variation on the same theme, and though sometimes the variation is rather nicely developed, this one came across as generic template.

I didn't particularly like the heroine. I didn't dislike her, but I didn't like her either. I felt as if Brooks was relegated to the role of window dressing on this one, since everything turned out to be about Selena (ending up in a slight retcon as to just what sort of werewolf one of the SWAT is—rather convenient, if you ask me)...Their romance was simply meh, but it did slow the pacing down.

I ended up skimming their scenes together and concentrated more on the action sequences. Which were also rather repetitive, but at least something happened. And the mole inside the DPD was so obvious, it was painful.

The slight foreshadowing at the end sent my teeth on edge as well with the newest member of the SWAT team, Rachel, letting one of the hunters go after both of them staring at each other strangely (although the fact she might mate with one of the hunters does offer quite a few nice plot possibilities and bucket-full of angst).
I do hope, Zane's story is next, though. Maybe he'll meet a nice California girl/werewolf while on assignment. He sure deserved a happy end.

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review 2018-09-04 00:52
An enchanted town, the power of believing, a mystery, and the perfect romance.
The Christmas Wishing Tree. An Eternity Springs Novel - Emily March

I am thankful to St Martin’s Press for offering me an ARC copy of this novel that I freely chose to review and for the opportunity to participate in the blog tour of its launch.

 Although I am not a big fan of Christmas, I do enjoy some Christmas stories, movies, and songs (especially out of season, when one isn’t surrounded by it). The offer to read and review this novel reached me in the middle of a pretty hot summer and it felt like the perfect way to combat the heat. It worked, for sure, and although I had never read any of the other novels in the Eternity Springs series, I quickly became enamoured of the place and its inhabitants. I can reassure you, though, that the story goes beyond the Christmas theme, and there are wonderful scenes that take place in other seasons (the Fall, the Fourth of July…) and other locations apart from Colorado (Nashville, Florida, Australia, and the Caribbean).  But I have to agree that the overall theme of the novel, and the spirit that suffuses it, is that of Christmas.

The novel, written in the third person, shares the alternating points of view (and locations) of a part-time resident of Eternity Springs, Devon Murphy (the son of Cam and Sarah Murphy, and brother to Michael, long-term residents of the town), and Jenna Stockton, a doctor specialising in Obstetrics and Gynaecology whom we meet in Nashville. While Devon seems to be a free-spirited man who loves the sea, boats, fishing, and women, but avoids commitment like the plague, Jenna is a model of responsibility. She is a single mom to Reilly, whom he adopted after looking after his mother, a young woman down on her luck who died when the boy was a toddler. She works hard and would do anything to ensure the safety and happiness of her son. But he has a Christmas wish that is out of her hands. Somehow, luck, magic, or the power of believing puts Reilly and Devon in contact, and in a roundabout way, the destinies of the three of them intersect in the wonderful town of Eternity Springs. Both main characters have secrets (as readers of the genre will probably expect): Devon has a traumatic past in the relationships department and has a lot in common with Reilly, and Jenna’s life is haunted by a stalker who seems intent on upping-the-ante and putting her and her son’s lives at risk.

I liked the characters and their relationship, that follows the well-known formula of will-they/won’t-they so successful in the romance genre (they both have very valid reasons for their hesitation, although if you get easily impatient, I must warn you that the book is quite long and the story develops over close to two years), and I liked many of the secondary characters as well (despite not having read other novels in the series, I got a fairly good sense of who they were, and I did not feel I could not fully enjoy the story because of lack of background information. And I wouldn’t mind getting to know more about many of them), particularly Celeste, her resort, and the wonderful idea of the Wishing Christmas Tree that gives the book its title. She has a touch of the magical and is the fairy godmother of the town and all the characters (and I’d love to meet her).

What I most enjoyed of the book was the town of Eternity Springs. I have read a number of novels that take place in charming towns (islands or other locations) where outsiders come and are quickly adopted by the community, becoming, in many cases for the first time, part of a big family. I always enjoy the fact that the town becomes a protagonist in its own right and when the novels works well, you feel as if you had spent time in a real place and look forward to future visits to the magical location. Eternity Springs is one of those towns, and to add to its attraction, it is located within a marvellous natural setting, and the writer does a good job of introducing us to parks, lakes, mountains, taking us on sledge rides, fishing, camping, and exploring the wonderful facilities and the traditions of the place. Although it has more than a touch of the fairy tale (everybody seems to be well-off, everybody is fairly happy, apart from the main protagonists, temporarily, and even the bad things that happen are pretty mild) and it can be a bit sugary at times, I think it would take a very cold heart to read the novel without falling for the magic of the town and its inhabitant. (And perhaps shed a tear or two. Good tears, though).

If I had to point out some things that readers might have issue with, one would be the mystery element. Jenna’s background story and her circumstances bear heavily upon her actions and how cautious she is when it comes to meeting new people and possible romances. Although the mystery element ramps up the tension and adds to the interest of the story, on occasions it seemed to be more of an afterthought and an opportunity to show Devon and his friends (all male) as a team capable of investigating and keeping everybody safe (and yes, some elements of the rescue fantasy and the knight in shining armour were clearly at work there). Although Jenna herself complains at times about being treated like a weak woman in need of protection —despite being a competent professional who had managed well by herself until that moment— this novel keeps to conventional and traditional gender roles rather than challenging them. I know that such plots and story-lines are typical of many romantic (wish-fulfilment) novels but might not suit all readers, especially those who prefer women in charge of their own destinies. As a reader of thrillers and mystery novels, I did not feel the mystery would have satisfied fans of the genre, as we are not given enough information to solve it (we get some details of the case but others are brushed over quickly and the resolution, when it arrives, is somewhat anticlimactic), and it takes a backseat to the romantic part of the story. Having read other books that mix both genres, and this being a romance with some mystery thrown in, rather than the other way round, I did not think its intended readers would be too disappointed.

There are many other subplots I have not mentioned, including dogs, pregnancies, health scares, fishing, older motherhood, baking, National Parks, love of nature, adoption, social media, stalking, counselling, vocation, tropical storms, family, traditions, Santa Claus, magic, traumatic relationships… There are wonderfully vivid and memorable scenes, the style of writing is easy and fluid, and the descriptions bring to life both the locations and the characters (without going overboard with the physical descriptions of the protagonists and love interests, although yes, don’t worry, they are attractive), and there are some sad moments, some funny ones, and many emotional and heart-warming scenes as well. There is plenty of sexual attraction and tension between Devon and Jenna, but there is no graphic sex and although there are some thrilling scenes, the doors stay firmly closed behind the protagonists when it comes to that side of things.

I know readers of romantic novels expect a happy ending. Well, you won’t be disappointed here. What’s more, I know some readers can get really upset if they feel there are elements in the story that are not fully solved and hate it when they feel that writers are using hooks and unresolved issues to keep them buying books in a series (not everybody feels the same, though). As I have said before, this novel can be read independently from the rest of the series, and all the plots and subplots of the story, even the secondary ones, are solved satisfactorily. So don’t hesitate to pick up this novel just because it’s part of a series. You will feel sad it has ended but it won’t keep you awake at night trying to guess what happened next. I kept imagining this novel as either a movie, or better even, a TV series, and would be surprised if some production company didn’t snatch it up. Done well it would be irresistible.

In sum, this is a novel that takes place in a magical location, in gorgeous settings, with a Christmas theme and a hopeful message, a romance that includes elements of mystery/thriller, with likeable characters that will make you feel home. I, for one, won’t hesitate to visit Eternity Springs again in the future.

 

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