[603]: The Dirty Secret by Kira A. Gold

28277395 The Dirty Secret by Kira A. Gold
Carina Press | E-Arc via Net Galley
March 28th, 2016
Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


From the Desk of Donna Edith…

My services are unconventional. My clients come to me with needs and I match them to other clients with needs of their own…

Promising young architect Killian Fitzroy: Driven, clever, eager to prove himself. Starved for sex, though he’s come to me for professional assistance, not personal. Needs: Someone unique, creative and fast. An artist with a feminine perspective to breathe life into a house he’s built.

Aspiring scenic designer Vessa Ratham: Sensuous, spontaneous, but secretive. Recently returned to Vermont armed with an art degree that qualifies her for little more than waiting tables. Needs: An opportunity to shine.

Yes, Killian and Vessa will satisfy each other nicely—in more ways than one.


This is one for the ages, folks. I don’t usually give out five stars that easily, but I felt like this book deserved it. There are so many reasons and, or criteria as to why a book warrants a high rating. But for me, I simply go by how much enjoyment I derived from it. And this book is pure fun. Plus, I may be a little jealous of the author’s writing.

THE MATCHMAKER

Donna Edith is a matchmaker. Though you probably shouldn’t say that to her face if you ever want to hire her services. Because that’s far from what she does. Her company places people with the right employers. It just so happens that this woman has a knack for giving them what they need when they need it the most. Though in the case of her two clients, they didn’t even know what they needed when they each decided to avail of her services.

THE ARCHITECT

Killian Fitzroy is a man on the verge of greatness. He’s a brilliant architect well on his way to success. But he is a man starved for relationships – sex, in particular. With the long hours that he puts in and the demands of a job that he loves (on most days), he doesn’t have the time to make real connections.

THE DESIGNER

Fresh off graduation, Vessa Ratham moved back to Vermont to be closer to her family. Without any real experience as a designer, she needed  actual clients to start her portfolio. With Donna Edith’s help, she was seduced by a house and a man – both in need of her personal touch.

Truth be told, had I not been familiar with the author, I’d have bypassed this book in a heartbeat. After all, the matchmaking romances I’ve read in my lifetime is simply too many to count. I have not read a book by this author. I did, however, read her fanfiction work. At the time, I was already in awe of her writing. There is something magical, lyrical and beautiful about how she strung her words together. She writes pretty prose that are far from pretentious. It feels natural and easy. She gives her characters personalities that are unique that you’d think they are made from a form of magic. Vessa is a strong character who picks and chooses her battles. She’s determined and headstrong; vulnerable and courageous. It’s difficult to explain. The secondary characters were also far from ordinary. There’s her stoner friend who was far more aware than any lucid person you’d know; her landlord who shares her love for antiquities and interesting things; and Killian’s friends who made his lonely existence a bit more tolerable before he met Vessa.

But if there’s one thing I can complain about is the wild designs Vessa came up with. I’m not going to lie, I could not imagine myself living in that house because damn. I don’t deal with brightly painted, wildly decorated rooms. I just can’t. I’m a huge follower of the minimalist movement, so the very idea of living in a house where a room is decorated with red walls and Chinese lanterns makes me want to break out in hives.

I love that this book is pure romance. It’s relatively angst-free, unlike most NA romances nowadays. If you’re a fan of NA, chick lit and contemporary romance, Kira Gold is an author to watch.

 

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[602]: November 9 by Colleen Hoover

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November 9 / Colleen Hoover


Colleen Hoover’s novels are always sure money; I’ve rarely met one I didn’t like. She’s got a formula that works, and this is one of the few occasions when I hope an author would never ever “grow”, “experiment”, or deviate from what they know. New Adult novels tend to have a proven formula as well, but it’s a subgenre I don’t particularly like so they rarely grace my shelves. When I do, I’m even more selective. But I could never pass up on Ms. Hoover’s books. She’s got this thing where she’s able to thaw out my cold, cold heart and turn me into a puddle of barely recognizable goo.

SAME TIME, NEXT YEAR

Have you ever seen this old movie starring Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn? It’s about these two people who had a tryst and decided that they enjoyed it enough to want to continue seeing each other on the same weekend every year. Throughout the movie, you’ll only see a couple of characters; they’d talk about their lives outside of their affair. They were married to other people with families of their own. There was even a year when Doris was so pregnant they couldn’t have sex; a year when they fought because George was pro-war and Doris was against it. A year when Doris lost her husband. And finally, a year when there was nothing left but to finally be together.

NINTH CIRCLE OF HELL

While I was reading this book, I was reminded of how frustrating it would’ve been for me to be in George and Doris’ situation. I thought that if I felt so strongly about someone, I don’t know how I could stand having to wait an entire year to see them again. Imagine the prospect of the person you love meeting another in your absence. It’s simply unfathomable, but not impossible. The thing about Colleen is that she takes your relationship nightmares and raise to a whole new level of hell. That’s always been a constant in her books. So if you think you can sort of see where things are going, you are most probably going to be wrong.

PERFECTLY FLAWED CHARACTERS

There’s never a shortage of broken characters in NA novels. I get sick of them so easily because everyone seems to have gone through a minute variation of the same past or another. And while CoHo’s novels are also littered with angst-y cast of characters, she gives them personalities and identities outside of their past. Us, readers can’t get enough! She’s also got a whole arsenal of sweet, boy next door characters who has just enough darkness to make them perfectly flawed. The ladies aren’t too far away either. Fallon is an insecure character with a good reason. She went from a promising young star to a scarred, vulnerable woman.

IN RETROSPECT

It’s getting tougher and tougher to write a review for her books. One of these days, I’m going to stop trying. Because regardless of how familiar I’ve become with her writing and plotting style, I find that hers are far from regimented. There’s always something to look forward to her stories: the characters, the romance and even, dare I say it, the angst. Whatever it is, she makes the few tears worth it.


ATRIA BOOKS | Trade Paperback | November 10th, 2015 | 4 out of 5 Stars


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[598]: Steal Me by Lauren Layne

25058352 Steal Me by Lauren Layne
Series: New York’s Finest, #2
E-ARC Galley from Forever Publishing & Net Galley
Publication Date: November 24th, 2015
Adult Fiction | Romance
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars


IN HOT PURSUIT

Being a cop might be in Anthony Moretti’s blood, but protecting and serving the city of New York has always been more than just the family business. If that means his love life stays locked up, well then that’s just another sacrifice made in the line of duty. That is, until he sets eyes on the gorgeous new waitress at The Darby Diner and suddenly Anthony’s morning coffee is leaving him a whole lot more hot and bothered than usual.

Though waitressing at The Darby isn’t exactly Maggie Walker’s dream job, it pays the bills and gives her time to work on her novel. Now if only she could stop fantasizing about gorgeous Anthony Moretti every time he sits down at her table, she’d really be in great shape. But when he needs her help identifying a criminal threatening The Darby—and Maggie recognizes her ex-husband—she fears her fresh start might be a pipe dream. Faster than a New York minute, Maggie and Anthony find themselves in one perilous pursuit that only gets hotter with each and every rule-breaking kiss.


I could never resist a good romance featuring men in uniforms. I rarely request them from Net Galley, but since hearing a slew of wonderful reviews for this book, it was only a matter of time. I like reading these books on a lazy Sunday. It takes me a minimum of 3 hours to devour them. Even shorter when I enjoy them like I did with this one. I didn’t even realize that I was reading the second book to a series until I went snooping in my Kindle to find the first book (Frisk Me) still unread. Thankfully, you need not read the first one to follow the story line.

GRACELESS HEROINE vs. THE GRUMPY CAPTAIN

There is nothing more endearing than a clumsy heroine. Pair her up with a straight and arrow, unsmiling, unamused, man of the law and you’ve got yourself a perfectly well suited awkward couple. Maggie is not normally a clumsy person. There is just something about the oldest Moretti that reduces her into a bumbling klutz. Anthony doesn’t make it easy for her, though. But if he were to be honest, he’ll admit that he was intimidating her for a reason. They have an inherent chemistry. Even if they seem to clash whenever they’re within a 5-foot radius of each other.

A CASE OF PETTY CRIME

Adding to Anthony’s sour disposition is his frustration to solve a rash of theft perpetrated by a lone, petty criminal. The thief has a penchant for eluding the cops much to Captain Moretti’s chagrin. NYPD hasn’t caught a break in the case, that is until Maggie recognized the criminal as her ex-husband, Eddie.

Through the investigation, Maggie and Anthony will face decisions that could affect them in more ways than one. Maggie knew the score when she decided to give into Anthony’s only-sex-no-attachment rule. She’s used to men using her and leaving her once she’s done being useful. Anthony is focused on furthering his career no matter the cause. So Maggie just has to get used to the fact that he’ll never be the kind of man she wanted.

Maggie also learned a few things about herself. About what she really wants to do with her life. She has to work for it, but she’ll forever be a dreamer if she doesn’t work for everything she deserves. Anthony, for his part, has to learn to let go of the past. To stop blaming himself  and admit that Maggie can weather the storm of being with an officer of the law.

IN RETROSPECT

I enjoyed this one. As far as romance goes, this one was sweet. I like the comic relief that the entire Moretti family provided. They were meddlers – the lot of them – but they all have their hearts in the right place. I’m looking forward to reading Vincent’s story!

 

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[587]: Brown-Eyed Girl by Lisa Kleypas

18126966 Brown-Eyed Girl by Lisa Kleypas
Series: Travis Family, #4
St. Martin’s Press | August 11th, 2015
Hardcover, 304 pp.
Adult Contemporary Romance
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars


Wedding planner Avery Crosslin may be a rising star in Houston society, but she doesn’t believe in love-at least not for herself. When she meets wealthy bachelor Joe Travis and mistakes him for a wedding photographer, she has no intention of letting him sweep her off her feet. But Joe is a man who goes after what he wants, and Avery can’t resist the temptation of a sexy southern charmer and a hot summer evening.

After a one night stand, however, Avery is determined to keep it from happening again. A man like Joe can only mean trouble for a woman like her, and she can’t afford distractions. She’s been hired to plan the wedding of the year-a make-or-break event.

But complications start piling up fast, putting the wedding in jeopardy, especially when shocking secrets of the bride come to light. And as Joe makes it clear that he’s not going to give up easily, Avery is forced to confront the insecurities and beliefs that stem from a past she would do anything to forget.

The situation reaches a breaking point, and Avery faces the toughest choice of her life. Only by putting her career on the line and risking everything-including her well-guarded heart-will she find out what matters most.


R  E  V  I  E  W

Most fans of this series have waited years to get their hands on this instalment. I wasn’t even aware that there was going to be more books to this series, to be honest. Thank God for that. One off the list of things I didn’t need to wait for. 🙂 Honestly? I don’t even remember the stories now. But reading this book made me want to revisit the ones that I’ve already read. Unfortunately, I’ll have to find them somewhere between my basement and our cabin. So…maybe not now.

Brown-Eyed Girl tells the story of Joe Travis. A photographer by trade, and a member of the affluent Travis family of Texas. This is his romance with Avery Crosslin, a wedding planner who have seen way too many broken hearts (including her own) many times over, but still see the beauty of two people in love. She’s one tough customer though – skittish to say the least. Joe had to show her that not all men were made from the same cloth her father was made from.

This is the type of book that really had no earth-shattering plot points. It was just a lovely story of love and family. With that being said, this wasn’t a Kleypas favourite of mine. It just lacked fire and angst. And as much as I love those type of stories, I think I expected more from Lisa Kleypas. Still a good story, though.

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[585]: Maverick by Julianna Stone

22927007 Maverick by Julianna Stone
Series: The Family Simon, #3
Self-Published | February 18th, 2015
Adult Fiction | Romance
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars


Maverick Simon lost his mojo somewhere between the last film he scored and a nasty break-up with one of Hollywood’s elite. Burnt out, a vacation is just what this California boy needs. His brother’s empty house in Maine offers the perfect sanctuary. But plans go awry when he meets a woman who rocks his world in more ways than one. She’s not his usual type—she’s edgy, opinionated, and downright rude. But something about the prickly Charlie Samuels sparks his interest. Maverick must decide if that something is exactly what he needs, or if the smokin’ hot chemistry they share is nothing more than a vacation fling…

Charlie Samuels had always dreamed of leaving her small New England town for something bigger. But that dream disappeared the day her father died, leaving her to raise her younger brother and keep the family business afloat. Now a mechanic, she’s knee deep in grease and oil, and with a pile of bills to pay, has no time for someone like Maverick Simon—a guy who’s just passing through. She can’t deny the tall, brooding, sexy-as-sin, Maverick, causes her pulse to race, but she knows that he’s way out of her league. So why is she contemplating an affair? Especially when she knows that Maverick Simon could cost her more than she’s willing to give, namely, her heart…


R  E  V  I  E  W

Perhaps the least favourite of mine amongst the series. Oh don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t kick him off my bed if I find him lounging on it, I just don’t have the same love for him as I do for Jack. Maverick is one of those take-charge-manly-man, but he’s far from annoying. He doesn’t throw his weight around. But he’s a sucker for women who’s down in the dumps. It’s what drew him to Charlie to begin with. Along with her brother who hasn’t spoken since the day he witnessed a traumatic event.

Charlie is a strong heroine. She’s trying to keep both her and brother afloat as a mechanic. But even the strongest heroines hides a weakness they wouldn’t want to expose. Maverick has the potential to destroy rock her world. She also knows that he’s just passing through. And as in the case of strong heroines in romance novels, Charlie is reluctant to risk her closely-protected heart.

Why do I read romance novels? They’re fast reads and has the ability to let me forget about time and real life passing. I could devour them in one sitting. So I’m never going to stop reading them. This book is exactly that: a bag of chips I couldn’t resist eating bite after crunchy bite. On a side note, I’m not a fan of that demented looking Maverick on the cover.

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[584]: Before We were Strangers by Renée Carlino

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Before We were Strangers \ Renée Carlino


R  E  V  I  E  W

Le sigh. I may have read this book at least three times already. You know, sometimes, I try to tune out the cascade of five-star ratings for a book simply because I’m a cynical reader. It’s a character flaw, but it had saved me money on some occasions. I picked it up a couple of weeks ago in San Diego. I basically read it on our flight home, and since it was a bit of a tear jerker, I might’ve made a mess of myself somewhere between California and Colorado.

The romance between Matt and Grace was just one of those intense things that wasn’t meant to be at first. They met at a time when things were simple, but life was not. Grace was dirt poor and was putting herself through college. She was a gifted musician who plays the cello. Matt, though in a different situation financially, was trying to make do without smooching off his father’s money. Their attraction was instantaneous, but they were both driven to succeed in their fields. Matt was a brilliant photographer who had dreams of working for National Geographic. They both knew a relationship was not the best idea at the time. But they’re young and attractive – and attracted to each other. Long story short, fate intervened and broke them apart. Bitch.

Anyway, they met again after 15 years. Matt was a divorcee; Grace was a widow. So much unresolved resentment between them, but only a blind person wouldn’t be able to see how much they still love each other.

I absolutely loved this story. See? Sometimes, it pays to heed the hype. If you’re a fan of second chance romances, this one is a doozy. Though can I be honest and admit that I’m hung up on Matt wearing a man bun?  A MAN BUN, y’all. A man bun. But hey, trust me when I say the story was good. From time to time, I find myself flipping through my favourite scenes just to remember that feeling. Le sigh. Sorry this wasn’t much of a review.  I’m a little tired. Lol.

Peace out.


GOODREADS SUMMARY | Atria Books | August 18th, 2015 | Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars


 

 

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[580]: Tucker by Juliana Stone

20827547 Tucker by Juliana Stone
Series: The Family Simon, #1]
February 4th, 2014
E-book | Adult Fiction
Romance
Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


When all hope is gone, can love still find a way?

Tucker Simon has given up on love. After a tragedy, it’s just not in the cards for him, and he wishes his family would get off his back. He’s fine—or at least he thought he was–until a family wedding forces him to address a few things, namely his date, Abby Mathews. She’s been put in the ‘friend’ category, mostly because she deserves so much more than what he can give. But the more time that he spends with her, Tucker begins to think that maybe there is a chance for love after all…

Abby Mathews has been in love with Tucker Simon since he walked into her family’s bar nearly a year ago. But he’s got baggage and heartache a plenty. His one-night-stands aren’t going to lessen that no matter what he thinks. Tucker needs a friend, but Abby wants to give him more, and as they navigate their way through a weekend in Florida, their attraction can’t be ignored. Abby has to make a choice. Does she cherish their friendship and take what she can get? Or does she go after what she really wants, which is Tucker’s heart…


R E V I E W

I found Juliana Stone last year when I was browsing through iBooks and a couple of her books were free at the time. I read her books and found them to be so much fun. The kind of romance novels that were easy to read with men who were easy on the eyes, but terror to the hearts of their female counterparts. I could not get enough. Needless to say, I went on a stretch when all I did was read her books. This past week, I was yet again, ensconced in nothing but Juliana Stone. And yep. The obsessive personality reared its head again.

IN A NUTSHELL

Friends to lovers trope. Who can resist them? I’m not typically a fan. But I must admit that there’s something exciting about two people realizing how dense they’ve been the whole time. That exact moment when they realize that happiness was staring at them in the face, because they were an oblivious couple made in heaven.  In Abby’s defence, she already has feelings for Tucker. But Tucker was too busy living in the past and screwing every available woman within a ten-mile radius. Anyway…

Tucker’s wife disappeared years ago. And while he’s not living with the illusion that she might still be alive, he hasn’t really been too open for the possibility of moving on. He’s been friends with Abby for months, but lately, he’s looking at her in a different light. When they finally decided to take their friendship to no man’s land, things didn’t really change. I mean, they’re still friends. But now, they also know each other in the biblical sense. Things are looking up…until news that his wife resurfaced in a Cuban hospital reached him.

Tucker has the propensity to be an asshole, but Abby do not take his asshole-ry sitting down. She tells it like it is and she stands up to him. They’re the perfect match, to be honest. And while you may have read your share of this kind of stories, these books has one going for it:  I am a fan of familial series. The Simon family consists of 4 boys and 1 girl. But the series is also about their cousins, Maverick and Cooper. I love reading about the entire clan. Their back stories and the family dynamics. There’s Jack who’s well on his way to a Presidential nomination; there’s Teague, Tucker’s twin brother who spent much of his career chasing the next dangerous story. There’s brothers Maverick and Cooper; and then there’s the lone girl amongst the boys, Grace. I like reading about their romantic entanglements. It’s always something to look forward to.

Fans of romance novels will find this enjoyable. It was fun, bittersweet, and in a Juliana Stone fashion, highly addictive.

 

 

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[568]: Chasing River by K.A. Tucker

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Chasing River / K. A. Tucker


Amber worked tirelessly for two years to pursue her dream of taking a trip around the world. To see the sights and experience the culture. She’s lived the protected life; always having to be the good child to make up for her brother being the black sheep of the family. When she found herself on the ground after a pipe bomb almost took her out, she briefly thought of how the sheriff’s incessant worry for her safety might have some weight. But thanks to a green-eyed stranger, she’ll live another day to tell her tale. What she doesn’t know, however, is that the pipe bomb is just the beginning of her misadventures in Ireland.

The third book to this series brings us to Ireland right in the thick of a gang war. For a moment, it would seem as if Ms. Tucker  would highlight the fierceness of the historic Catholics vs. Protestants war in the region, but as you delve deeper into the story, it will show that the war was anything but a conflict based on religions. It’s about gang territories and extortion. I applaud Ms. Tucker for showing that in the end, it’s all about money and power. Because anything more than that would be an ambitious undertaking for anyone, really.

Burying Water is a series that I’ve grown to love in the recent months. Since reading the first book, I’ve looked forward to reading Amber’s story and whatever romantic entanglement would be in the cards. Better still, the story is set in Ireland. However, I’m a little disappointed that Tucker didn’t really spend a lot of time showing us the sights. The best thing about reading books set in an unchartered country is that it’s the cheapest way to travel. I would’ve love to see Ireland through her words.

I’ve always enjoyed the characters that Tucker introduce us with every book. I must say that River is probably my favourite amongst her male characters. There was just something about his controlled intensity that was so appealing. Amber somehow brought it out of him. On a side note, I would love to see River’s younger brother get his own story.  I think his easy-going personality hides something worth discovering.

Over all, KA Tucker can do no wrong in this series. Each book offers its own tenor of suspense and titillating romance. She does this New Adult thing well. I’m never bored with her stories, nor does she regurgitate the same old tropes commonly found in this genre. Incidentally, the fourth book is up on Net Galley (which I’ve requested tout suite). Let’s hope it’ll be sitting prettily on my dashboard soon.


Chasing River | Atria Books | July 7th, 2015 | Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars


 

 

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[504]: Confess by Colleen Hoover

22609310 GOODREADS SUMMARY
Atria | Paperback, 320 pages
Publication Date: March 10th, 2015
Adult Fiction | Romance
Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars


I didn’t think it would be possible to feel a little underwhelmed with a CoHo book, but there you have it. Don’t get me wrong, I would buy anything she’d sell, but that doesn’t mean I’ll always enjoy it. Such is the case for Confess.

While I wouldn’t be so quick to say that my problem with this one was the instant-love most have griped about, my disenchantment is rooted to the fact that it was lacking in romance, which she’s famously known for. Colleen also introduced some pretty convincing antagonists that I’ve rarely encountered in her previous works. I think my annoyance with these characters contributed to my not liking this book so much. On the other hand, it’s great to see Colleen exploring the kind of characters that add variety and depth to a novel. It shows her willingness to break the mould.

Auburn was a pushover character, but one that incites empathy instead of apathy. Without giving too much, readers would most likely find it in them to forgive her seemingly weak trait. Colleen has an arsenal of charismatic love interests, and Owen was no chopped liver. I have a deep love for artists in novels, and though Owen was not my preferred tortured soul, he’s still a good 7.

I’m always good for a tear or two when I read her novels, but this one fell short on the ‘feels’ scale, sadly. That’s not to say I wasn’t vested in the story. It’s one of those inexplicable things, when you know it’s a subpar version of what you’ve always expected from the author yet you’re still absolutely hooked. Thus is the power of her storytelling.

Colleen included another form of media in her last book to enhance her readers’ experience, and I’m happy to say the art work here are nothing short of perfection. I love the artist’s interpretation of the featured confessions – mostly vague, but somehow very fitting.

Overall, I think ardent fans of CoHo would love this. I guess I just expected more.

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