Friday, April 18, 2014

Review: Love In Straight Sets by Rebecca Crowley

Regan Hunter came to tennis late in life, but she's worked hard to become one of the world's top players. Beating the odds has made her unstoppable on the court and neurotically controlling off of it. So when her manager hires a new coach, a has-been who left the sport after a scandal, Regan wants him gone, fast.

Ben Percy, a former Grand Slam winner, is well aware of Regan's reputation for driving coaches away—usually screaming. But working with the notoriously mercurial Regan could be just the break he needs to take his career to the next level, and he's never been one to scare easily. He must stick to only one rule: hands off Regan.

Keeping his distance from Regan is more difficult than Ben ever imagined. Behind her tough, sexy exterior is a woman he wants to get to know better. And Regan feels a connection with her patient, easy-on-the-eyes coach that's hard to ignore. But with the biggest championship of all on the line, romance may be completely out of bounds…

Regan Hunter can’t keep a tennis coach, period. Of course, she’s the one firing or driving them away for any and all reasons. She’s impossible to work with, she’s set in her ways, she doesn’t want to listen to actual advice and criticism about her game and has found something wrong with every coach who’s come before Ben. Ben is her last shot, her newest coach and the one who’s going to help her finally win a Grand Slam title. She’s on her way to retirement but her ultimate goal is getting just one Grand Slam win, the Baron’s Open and she has two months to get on the same page with her coach and prepare for the tournament of her career. The only problem is, from their first meeting she wants Ben gone, but Ben has nothing to lose and isn’t going anywhere.

Ben Percy, a former Baron’s Open champion as a teen, ended up being tennis’s one hit wonder. After he stormed onto the tennis scene with his Grand Slam win, he was instantly shunned when his father stole all his earnings and ended up as a major news scandal. Ben, originally from Zimbabwe, was broke, found himself kicked out of the prestigious tennis circles he was in for such a brief period of time, and while he gained his US citizenship, he’s been barely making ends meet by coaching young players. He’s trying to save enough money to help bring his sister to the United States, but getting her VISA is expensive and coaching Regan is his chance to finally earn enough money to help her. Regan doesn’t make it easy on Ben, but even worse is Regan’s manager, Des, who warns Ben on his first day to not touch Regan or he’s fired. Too back those pesky sparks start up between Ben and Regan almost from the start.

I have to say, I enjoyed the first half of this story much more than the second. I loved getting Ben’s backstory. He’s still a tremendous tennis player, but being caught up in his father’s scandal all those years ago has made him so wary. He doesn’t care about rubbing shoulders with the tennis elite and being accepted in those circles again. He’s perfectly happy in his years old sedan, working paycheck to paycheck and earning a living coaching a sport that he loves. He doesn’t long for the tennis career he could have and should have had, he’s living in the now and it’s something that he tries to help Regan do.

Regan – what a mess this woman is! She has a tough, thick outer shell. She grew up being bullied and got into tennis to prove to all the doubters that she could do it and it’s that motivation, proving to others that she is as good as them, that’s propelled her to the top of the women’s game. But on the inside, she’s a mess. She has horrible anxiety and panic attacks. She’s terrified to get to close to anyone or to dare hope, in the case of Ben, that what she’s feeling for him might be reciprocated. She’s been alone for so long and hasn’t really had any close relationships or friendships, she’s lost when it comes to the real life outside of tennis. She opens up to Ben, one of the few people who truly gets to know her, and he, instead of using it against her (which is what she fears), uses what he learns to help her overcome some of her issues and to help manage them instead of letting all her emotions get the best of her. I really enjoyed seeing them get to know each other and seeing Ben start to crack Regan’s shell.

The second half of the story lost me a bit. I found their romance to be more on the sweet side and dammit, I wanted more sexy. Also, Regan’s main focus through the entire book is building up to the Baron’s Open (think Wimbledon) and while I get that she’s very tennis-smart but life-dumb in a way, she makes a few mistakes with Ben that causes the angst between them that they need to work through. There’s also a third party who butts their nose into Regan and Ben’s relationship and it felt a bit unnessesary to me. I was really enjoying the story of Ben and Regan, with tennis as their backdrop and didn’t need all the tossed-in angst and problems that they had to get through in the second part of the story. I’d have rather had more romance to be honest.

Overall, I did enjoy the story, even with a few bumps toward the end. It’s not often we get a romance that’s set in the tennis world and I did enjoy that as it plays a huge role in both Regan and Ben’s lives. If you’re looking for a sweet romance with a hero who has to have the patience of a saint to deal with a crazy, hard-nosed and at times frustrating heroine, this story would be worth a read.


Rating: C+

Release Date: April 14, 2014
Publisher: Carina Press
Rebecca Crowley: Webpage | Twitter
Buy Here: Amazon.com | B&N
*eARC provided by publisher for review* 

 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Review: The King (Black Dagger Brotherhood #12) by J.R. Ward

J.R. Ward's # 1 New York Times bestselling Black Dagger Brotherhood continues as a royal bloodline is compromised by a grave threat to the throne.

Long live the King…

After turning his back on the throne for centuries, Wrath, son of Wrath, finally assumed his father’s mantle--with the help of his beloved mate. But the crown sets heavily on his head. As the war with the Lessening Society rages on, and the threat from the Band of Bastards truly hits home, he is forced to make choices that put everything--and everyone--at risk.

Beth Randall thought she knew what she was getting into when she mated the last pure blooded vampire on the planet: An easy ride was not it. But when she decides she wants a child, she’s unprepared for Wrath’s response--or the distance it creates between them.

The question is, will true love win out... or tortured legacy take over?

I love this time of the year – spring is here, the weather is turning for the better, everything’s in bloom and the BDB is back! This book had me even more excited (yes, that’s possible) because we return to the couple that started this whole craze off – Beth and Wrath. I loved Dark Lover, I fell hard for this couple and they hooked me into a world that I wasn’t expecting. Now, we get to go back to them, see how their lives and their relationship has changed, learn what their currently dealing with how that will not only impact their lives but that of the Brotherhood and all the people that Wrath leads. In place of a true review which I find virtually impossible to do with books in this series, below are my thoughts on the prominent storylines taking place.

Beth & Wrath: To start, I simply loved Beth and Wrath. To get to go back to the couple that started it all off and made me fall in love with this series isn’t something that always happens with long running series. I really enjoyed getting more to their story than just an update through another book or a novella. They’re dealing with some heavy issues, Beth wants a child, Wrath does NOT. Wrath is tired and acts almost beat down from his duties as King and they have a rocky road in trying to deal with their personal differences. What I really liked seeing was how Beth’s desire for a child and that idea of a child hits Wrath. He goes through every emotion dealing with this and the impact it has on not only his relationship with Beth but how he looks at being King and the good and bad of what that would mean should they have a son is eye opening. I loved everything about this storyline: hot sex and Beth’s needing, check. Angst and knock down, drag out fights, check. My only complaint, it didn’t feel like it was their book. Sure, they get the bulk of the pages with their story and of course the POV changes throughout as it has for pretty much the entire series, but I found myself getting pissed when the story would move away from Beth & Wrath because the other storylines, while good for their own reasons, didn’t compare to what Beth and Wrath were going through. This couple remains the heart of the series and they get a very sweet epilogue that while maybe the end result for them isn’t a complete game changer, the journey Wrath takes, especially related to his duties on the throne, makes Wrath realize just what it is that he wants and what purpose he wants his position to be about going forward.

iAm, Selena/Trez: I was indifferent about the Shadows, Trez and iAm, to this point. I guess I better get with the program since they’re leading the next book. We get development with Trez and Selena and most interesting to me was learning more about Trez (the man-whore) and why specifically he’s acted the way he has and what his parents did to him that’s now forcing his life into a different direction, one he doesn’t want to take. But always there and having his back has been his brother, iAm and this is the man I found most intriguing. Where Trez has slept with anything and everything for years, iAm is a virgin, more concerned with keeping his brother alive than finding any pleasure in his own life. Add into the mix Selena, a Chosen who’s attracted to Trez and wants him badly, but she’s suffering with her own pain and a disease that has her life slipping away. All in all, they have a nice set up leading into the next book, The Shadows.

Assail & Sola: Honestly, I found this storyline to be the most boring and couldn’t care less at this point. Assail is a drug dealing, drug using vampire who finds a mate in Sola. But he can’t tell her and her Grandmother who he truly is, so in the end when Sola is ready to leave and make new lives for herself and her Grandmother, he lets her go and they end the book apart. Yawn.

Layla & Xcor: There wasn’t enough page time given to them to really make an impact. But I wouldn’t have been surprised had they been announced as the leads for the next book because of one important scene they had. Layla, still pregnant, meets Xcor and makes a deal with him. At first glance, it seems like she made a deal with the devil, but come on, we all know Xcor is falling hard for her. It’s only a matter of time for these two, but overall their storyline didn’t progress much here.

The Brothers: They, of course, move in and out of the story but I felt like for the most part they were missing. John Matthew gets the most time on page because of his connection to Beth, but I missed the interactions between the Brothers. A real opportunity lost was a potentially emotional scene between Wrath and Tohr when Wrath went to talk to Tohr about how he handled Wellsie and her pregnancy since it’s such a huge issue for Wrath to deal with. This happened off page and I’d have loved to have seen that play out. Otherwise, I latched on hard to the scenes when the other Brothers came on page to play, but it didn’t happen as much as I had hoped it would.

Wrath and Beth carried this book for me and for that I enjoyed the story overall and give it a B. I feel like the various points of view switch a lot more than they did earlier in the series and it’s becoming more distracting and frustrating to read. Just when a scene between Beth and Wrath would be hitting that big moment, boom – POV change and it took me right out of the story and frankly made it easy to set the book down. It’s just a minor thing that in no way took away from Beth and Wrath, but it didn’t exactly pull me into the supporting storylines that were otherwise getting quite a bit of attention.

As always though, I just can’t get enough of this series. I love the characters still after all these books and I’ll stick with them until the very end. I loved revisiting Beth and Wrath, seeing how their relationship has changed, how Wrath is dealing with the pressures of being King and his legacy and how their different feelings about having a family works itself out. Now, I’m ready for some Shadows.


Rating: B

Release Date: April 1, 2014
Publisher: NAL
J.R. Ward: Webpage | Facebook
Buy Here: Amazon.com | B&N
*Book provided by publisher for review* 

 

Monday, April 14, 2014

Review: The Kraken King Part I: The Kraken King and the Scribbling Spinster by Meljean Brook

A former smuggler and thief, Ariq—better known as the Kraken King—doesn’t know what to make of the clever, mysterious woman he rescues from an airship besieged by marauders. Unsure if she’s a spy or a pawn in someone else’s game, Ariq isn’t about to let her out of his sight until he finds out…

After escaping her fourth kidnapping attempt in a year, Zenobia Fox has learned to vigilantly guard her identity. While her brother Archimedes is notorious for his exploits, Zenobia has had no adventures to call her own—besides the stories she writes. But when she jumps at the chance to escape to the wilds of Australia and acquire research for her next story, Zenobia quickly discovers that the voyage will be far more adventurous than any fiction she could put to paper…
His [Ariq] voice lowered. “On the flyer, I liked the feel of you against me. Now I’d like to feel you beneath me.”

(…)

“Is this a condition of us staying in this town?”

A frown darkened his face. “No. I ask because I would enjoy it.”

Of course he would. He was a man. It was common knowledge that they always did.

She [Zenobia] pursed her lips. “But would I enjoy it?”

He gave a short laugh that spread into a grin. “If you’ll have me, I’ll make your pleasure my only goal.”
Zenobia Fox has lived through her brother’s adventures for years. Archimedes (Heart of Steel) always finds himself in the craziest situations and has corresponded with Zenobia telling her of his travels while she has turned his tales into stories. She’s now writing about Lady Lynx, a female lead, but she’s tired of not experiencing some adventure herself and although her life is often times in danger due to her brother who has racked up many enemies over the years, she sets off on an airship to Australia with her close friend Helene who’s flying there to see her husband, an ambassador, who she’s been away from for months. Zenobia is hoping for an adventure of her own and longs to see something that her brother hasn’t already described to her, but when their airship is attacked and Zenobia along with her two undercover bodyguards and Helene are rescued by two men, the adventure of her life begins.

Ariq, the Kraken King, is intrigued by Zenobia from the moment he hauls her out of the water after her airship catches fire. He knows she has secrets, he knows she’s hiding something from him (including her real name) and he knows he wants her. He wants to know everything about her and he wants her in his bed, but after some misunderstandings, Zenobia wants nothing to do with the man she’s insanely attracted to. Ariq is the leader of his small town of misfits on the western coast of Australia. He’s welcomed people who had nowhere else to go to Krakentown, so long as they don’t cause trouble. He’s a former thief and Zenobia knows of him through Archimedes and some of his past questionable adventures which involved Ariq and his Uncle (more on him later). After being initially attracted to him, Zenobia’s now shut down towards Ariq after hearing that he and his brother spoke badly of her (a complete misunderstanding) but it’s causing tension between them. However, I doubt Ariq will let that stay between them for long.

I enjoyed Ariq as soon as he came on page. He’s dangerous, adventurous and sexy. That’s quite the trio and he’s completely taken with Zenobia and refuses to stop his pursuit. I’ve liked Zenobia since she was first introduced into the Iron Seas series. She’s funny, has a wicked sense of humor and she’s a heroine that will be easy to cheer for throughout this series.

Part 1 finds our team of characters staying in Krakentown but Zenobia learns the truth as to why it’s so important for her friend to reach her husband as quickly as possible. With tension currently high between Zenobia and the Kraken King, he still remains her only hope of getting them on the move across the dangerous Australian territory. Meanwhile, Ariq is busy trying to figure out who sent the marauders who have been attacking the airships in his area. He needs to do this quickly before the empress takes matters into her own hands because she will level the entire area to end the fighting. As Ariq describes it, the marauders are a splinter and the entire western Australian coast an arm and if the splinter can’t be stopped the empress will just cut off the entire arm. Even with this huge distraction for Ariq, you can bet he will also figure prominently into Zenobia’s travel plans, no matter what she decides to do.


Rating: A-

Release Date: April 15, 2014
Publisher: Intermix
Meljean Brook: Webpage | Facebook | Twitter
Buy Here: Amazon.com | B&N
*eARC provided by publisher for review* 

 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Review: On the Surface (In the Zone #1) by Kate Willoughby

NHL player Tim Hollander lost his temper one time and threw a water bottle at an abusive fan. After "Bottlegate," he's traded to the San Diego Barracudas, where he'll need to keep the bad publicity to a minimum while proving he can still compete with the younger guys on the ice.

Erin Collier is a pediatric nurse who's never seen a hockey game, but gets in line for Tim's autograph at a PR event in hopes of impressing the doctor she has a crush on. When an obnoxious fan gets pushy toward Erin, Tim rushes to defend the pretty stranger, throwing a punch in the process.

Grateful for the rescue, Erin agrees to stand by Tim during the resulting press conference and host him at a hospital charity event. Their chemistry is palpable, and soon their lives are intertwined. But Erin doubts a hockey player is capable of anything resembling a real relationship. And if Tim can't get her to see beyond what's on the surface, they'll never last longer than a single season…
His lips turned upward, but his eyes narrowed. “Sweetheart, this is not foreplay. I’ll show you foreplay. I’ll foreplay you all the way into tomorrow.”

“Promise?”

“Absolutely.”
Tim meets Erin at fan event when she gets in line for his autograph to give to a doctor that she has a crush on at the hospital where she works as a pediatric nurse. She has no idea who Tim is and doesn’t understand anything about hockey, but her doctor-crush loves hockey and she wants that autograph to help break the ice. While in line, a fan gets out of hand and Erin, not one to keep comments to herself, gets into it with the fan who pushes her down and Tim doesn’t let that go. He gets into a fight and unfortunately, he’s still known from another incident in his past, “Bottlegate”, when he threw a bottle at a fan during a game who was talking trash to Tim and hitting very close to home when the comments were about his daughter who had recently died. Tim’s reputation can’t take another public beating, so he does a press conference with Erin to set the record straight on what happened and it’s the beginning of a relationship that I simply could not get enough of. Tim and Erin are two people who at first glance seem to be mismatched, end up being exactly what the other person needed.

I couldn’t put this story down, that’s usually the biggest sign of how much I love a story and in this case, the characters. There is something completely likable and 100% enjoyable about both Erin and Tim. They’re good people. And it was such a joy to read their story, it’s not one filled with a bunch of outside angst or obstacles for them to get through to be together. It’s about these two people finding a way to combine their lives, both of them with demanding careers and both with dreams about what they want in life. Some of those things don’t actually mesh and the result is an emotional story that shows both Erin and especially Tim letting themselves be vulnerable and trying to move beyond past heartache, pain and fear of starting their lives together.

Tim’s story got to me the most. He lost his 5 year old daughter to leukemia and it’s something that’s he’s never been able to move past and has vowed that he’ll never go through that kind of heartbreak again. He doesn’t want kids and it’s a big issue for him and Erin to talk about and figure out if it’s going to be a relationship deal breaker. I loved how it was handled. Tim and Erin actually talked (I know, right!) about the important things that impacted both their lives and they didn’t do the common things I so often read in romances: keep secrets, put off talking about something, lie, etc. etc. etc. They talked about everything and it just felt refreshing in a way. Tim is such a good guy, I dare anyone to not like him. Erin is sweet and it’s endearing to see her want to learn more about hockey for the simple reason that the man she loves plays and she wants to understand that huge part of his life. These two characters were charming on page from the moment they were both introduced and I actually hated to come to the last page. I wanted their story to keep going.

I’m a sucker for a sports romance and there’s no shortage of hockey here. While not overwhelming, it served to show just how important hockey has been in Tim’s life, where he’s at in his career which is on the downside now and how he’s working hard to make one last big push to better himself before retirement comes calling. The scenes centered around hockey also serve to introduce us to Tim’s teammates and best friends and I can’t wait to get all of their stories. Each guy was given just enough page time to get me really interested and I loved the scenes with Tim and his best friends, Alex and Jason.

For as much as I loved the sports theme and the overall romance (which is completely sexy by the way, always a nice plus when the couple is crazy hot together) the scenes that will stand out most to me are the ones with Tim finally opening up to Erin about his daughter and how her death gutted him. He breaks down, he is still trying to deal with his grief and he leans on Erin for support which she gives him unconditionally. All of these scenes were so well done and so emotional it added just another layer to this relationship that I was already completely caught up in.

This is one of the best, most satisfying romances I’ve read in a long time. I love the added element of Tim being in the NHL, I love a good sports story! But Tim, Erin and their romance was so well done, I couldn’t get enough. Theirs is the type of romance that was easy to fall into because they’re both so likeable, so easy to root for and if On The Surface is a sign of what’s to come in this new series by Kate Willougby, I can’t wait for more.


Rating: A

Release Date: April 14, 2014
Publisher: Carina Press
Kate Willoughby: Webpage | Twitter
Buy Here: Amazon.com | B&N
*eARC provided by publisher for review* 

 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Review: Wallflower Gone Wild (Bad Boys & Wallflowers #2) by Maya Rodale

In the second in Maya Rodale’s delightful Wallflower series, London’s Least Likely to Cause a Scandal is taking Society by storm…

Being good has worked out very badly for Lady Olivia Archer. All she has to show for four seasons on the marriage mart is the nickname Prissy Missy. Her prospects are so bleak that her parents have betrothed her to a stranger with a dire reputation. If Phinneas Cole—aka The Mad Baron—wants a biddable bride, perhaps Olivia can frighten him off by breaking every ladylike rule.

Phinn has admired Olivia’s poise and refinement from afar…qualities that appear to have vanished now that they are officially engaged. This Olivia is flirtatious, provocative, and wickedly irresistible. She’s not at all the woman he bargained for, yet she’s the only one he wants.

He’s determined to woo her. She’s determined to resist. But Olivia is discovering there’s nothing so appealing as a fiancĂ© who’s mad, bad, and dangerously seductive…

Lady Olivia Archer is being forced into marriage by her father after spending 4 years out in society and never losing the tag of being a Wallflower. She’s been promised to a man known as the Mad Baron, a man who according to gossip, killed his first wife. Needless to say Olivia is willing to do anything to make this marriage not happen. And when she learns that the Mad Baron is looking for a wife who’s docile, quiet, biddable, he believes Olivia to be the perfect woman because, according to gossip, she’s known as Prissy Missy, always toeing the line and doing what’s proper and expected, she’s going to be anything but the woman he wants.

Olivia decides that in order to be less desirable to the Mad Baron (Phinn) she’s going to cause all kinds of scandals – which she does to much success but it ends up only making Phinn even more attracted to her. Once Olivia gets to know the real Phinn and not the man she’s heard about through mean gossip, she realizes that while their relationship may not have started out as a love match, the potential is there and she’s determined to find out if, given the chance, love might be possible between them.

I found this story to be completely delightful. None of the characters, especially Olivia, takes themselves too seriously and I especially liked seeing what crazy antics Olivia and her best friends would come up with next in Olivia’s quest to be as undesirable as possible through the scandals she creates. Her various schemes included getting drunk at a ball, wearing revealing dresses, talking to scoundrels, arming herself with random weapons when she’s alone with Phinn, wearing too much face paint making herself out to be a trollop – the list goes on and it was fun to see her loosen up through all these actions, but ultimately she makes herself even more intriguing to Phinn, who just can’t get enough of her.

As crazy as her choices were, it was nice to see Olivia finally start to live her life making her own choices. For so long she was forced into this box that her parents put her in and then society did the same and that’s not the person Olivia feels like on the inside. She starts to speak her mind, do what she wants and this is encouraged by Phinn, he wants her to be her and that’s when she starts to realize that Phinn isn’t at all what society has made him out to be.

I sympathized with Phinn, being known as the Mad Baron, a name and a scandal that just won’t stay in the past for him. There’s of course much more to the story of how his first wife died but just as it happened with Olivia, once society labels someone and believes what they want, there’s no getting away from any labels they put on a person. Because of this, I really liked the relationship between Phinn and Olivia and how they were probably the only two people, save for their close friends, who refused to buy in to what they heard about the other (though to be fair, it takes awhile for Olivia to realize that Phinn, is in fact, not out to kill her) and their romance through dates and various meetings was sweet and enjoyable to see unfold.

Wallflower Gone Wild was simply a fun, delightful read. There’s nothing that came across as heavy or too angst filled and I just had a fun time getting to know Olivia and Phinn. I finished the book with a smile on my face and look forward to seeing the last Wallflower find her man in the next book.


Rating: B

Release Date: March 25, 2014
Publisher: Avon
Maya Rodale: Webpage | Facebook | Twitter
Buy Here: Amazon.com | B&N
*Book provided by publisher for review* 

 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Review: The Sweetheart Rules (Sweetheart Sisters #2) by Shirley Jump

The Sweetheart Sisters are ready to give some old-school lessons in love

Rescue Bay veterinarian Diana Tuttle is a great single mom, but she has a harder time taking care of herself. Having been burned in the past by her son’s noncommittal father, the last thing she wants is a man who isn’t in it for the long haul—until a foolish one-night stand from her past walks back into her life.

Coast Guard Lieutenant Mike Stark has never wanted to settle down. But when his ex-wife leaves their two small children on his doorstep, he is forced to become a family man in a hurry. His return to Rescue Bay, Florida and fatherhood isn’t easy, but reconnecting with Diana makes the challenge all the more worthwhile. Except becoming the long-term lover she has in mind may be one commitment too many…

Luckily, when Diana’s and Mike’s pasts begin to threaten their future, the Sweetheart Sisters have the perfect scheme to make this second chance last a lifetime.

Family drama all across the board is the main focus surrounding the relationship between Mac and Diana. They were together months ago for a little fun, but when things got heavy and Diana uttered those three little words starting with an ‘I’ and ending with ‘You’, Mac ran as fast as he could back to his work, a base in Alaska. Now, he’s back in Rescue Bay forced to be a father for the first time to his two little girls who he barely knows. He has them for a month and has no idea what to do with them other than bark out orders and keep their daily routine scheduled down to the last second. Yeah, an angry 8 year old and stubborn 5 year old won’t play by his rules at all. Add in his feelings for Diana and it’ll be a month that will change Mac’s life forever.

Ah, family drama - starting with Mac and his adorable daughters. I loved seeing this man who has no experience being a father and no clue what to do with two girls, stumbling along, trying to forge a relationship with them. I loved this entire dynamic. It’s not a cake walk, the girls certainly don’t make it easy on Mac and his strict routine doesn’t help either, but with some outside advice and just learning to stop and listen to them, he starts to get them to open up to him and he begins to wonder how he’s ever going to be able to leave them when he goes back to work in Alaska. Especially when he finds out what their life is like with their mother, someone who doesn’t seem to want the responsibility of the girls anymore and leaves them alone more than she’s with them. This ended up being the storyline I was most drawn too. I loved Mac’s journey that he takes from being the ultimate single bachelor, to a father who will do anything to keep his girls with him.

The other major family drama comes from Diana and her teenage son Jackson, who’s going through some typical teenage angst that finds him in with the wrong crowd surrounded by drugs and skipping school. There was something about how this all played out that I found myself being annoyed with Diana and Jackson, as opposed to feeling for them. Jackson comes off as a whiny brat and while I did sympathize with Diana as she tried to do the best she could with Jackson, there was something about her inability to open up to those closest to her that bugged me. I think the most obvious example was when she wrote a letter to her father, a man she’s never met, reaching out to him wanting to meet and when he finally shows up, she initially bolts. It was little things like that that started to add up and bother me.

The relationship between Mac and Diana was interesting, I liked that they did have that history together and how wary Diana was of starting up anything with Mac again, but of course they do and it was nice in that it seemed like Mac took the lead this time in opening up and forcing Diana to do the same. She has trust issues, that one, and some big issues in her past that are hard for her to talk about – and seeing her finally do just that, first with her sister, then her father and eventually Mac, it’s a tough road for her, but I was satisfied with how her journey progressed.

I ended up enjoying the Sweetheart Rules, primarily because of Mac and the storyline he has with his daughters. That more than balanced out the annoying moments I had with Diana and her son and I only wish that more time would have been given to Mac and his girls, who my heart went out to. If you’re looking for a quick, sweet read and want to see a hero struggle with going from a single guy to a father his girls desperately need, give this book a read.


Rating: C+

Release Date: April 1, 2014
Publisher: Berkley
Shirley Jump: Webpage | Facebook | Twitter
Buy Here: Amazon.com | B&N
*eARC provided by publisher for review* 

 

Friday, April 4, 2014

Review: Wild Wolf (Shifters Unbound #6) by Jennifer Ashley

In the latest Shifters Unbound novel, a man has resigned himself to a life half lived. But a beautiful, courageous woman has him longing for something more…

Graham McNeil knows that his pack is unruly, but he’s not sure he can take the next step toward pack stability. After losing his first mate long ago, Graham has worked hard to keep his heart in check. Besides, even if he was inclined to choose a new mate, his girlfriend, Misty, is human—a fact that won’t sit well with Graham’s old-fashioned pack.

But Misty is going through a crisis of her own, one that brings danger and death to the pack. With the wolves doubly convinced that there needs to be a shake-up, Graham must now defend his leadership and save the woman he has grown to love—before Shiftertown is pulled into an all-out war.

Graham, the leader of his pack is still trying to find common ground with Eric Warden and his pack since their forced merger into one large Shiftertown. Eric is the leader but Graham still has to prove dominance over his own wolves to keep control and to keep his nephew, who needs constant support and reassurance, safe. He’s also being forced to pick a mate. But his eye is set on a human, Misty. He hasn’t mate-claimed her, but the more he’s around her and especially when her life is in jeopardy, he can’t hold himself back and their romance hits fast and hard as the mate-claim comes for Graham and can’t be stopped. But Misty doesn’t accept right away and it puts Graham’s life on the line when he’s caught in a Fae’s spell that will impact all shifters through their collars.

Misty doesn’t have an easy go of it right from page one. She’s attacked in her flower shop by a man her brother came across in prison. Her brother’s out now and this man wants him. They trash Misty’s store and take her, wanting a meeting with her brother. Misty, who keeps her head during the most extreme situations, fools them by calling Graham instead of her brother, and Graham comes to help her. During the rescue process, Graham is injured and when Misty tries to find help, she runs into a stranger, a very dangerous stranger, who wants her to drink his water (never drink the water!) and with Graham badly injured, Misty gives him the water too, but it’s too late and the stranger, a dangerous Fae, traps Graham under his spell. The spell’s main purpose is detailed out as the story progresses but a segment of the Fae plan to use the shifters through their collars to start a war that will put them fully in power.

I found myself really caught up in Misty and Graham’s relationship. There’s something intriguing about it – she’s a human in this world where shifters aren’t completely welcome, they still have to live separated from humans in their own Shiftertown’s. And they’re still dealing with the collars (collars that activate at any sign of aggression from the shifters, although the humans don’t know that they’re starting to find ways around the painful effects of the collar). Misty isn’t prejudice against the shifters and has in fact been dating Graham for a few months. Graham has refused up to this point to start a sexual relationship with Misty because she’s full human and he’s expected to mate with another shifter, have shifter babies and secure his family’s legacy with his alpha status. But, he can’t keep denying the urge he has to be with Misty and knowing deep down that she is his mate, regardless of the fact that she’s human. I liked seeing a softer side to Graham. We hadn’t gotten that in previous books, he was just the alpha of a Shiftertown that was forced into being merged with Eric’s town and they butted heads a lot. But here we see Graham’s feelings for Misty, how much he cares and how much he cares about his nephew and his people in general.

Misty was a very likable character. For as much stuff that gets thrown at her, she takes it all pretty much in stride and deals with things the best she can, which is saying something considering she doesn’t know a lot about shifters and their instincts which comes up a lot regarding Graham and his actions toward her. I liked how their romance played out on page and I’m kind of a sucker for a shifter who just can’t deny his feelings for the woman who’s meant to be his mate. It’s fun to see him try, but we all know how that will always play out.

The Fae storyline provides the main conflict in this story as they’re trying to get the shifters under their spell so they can control them through the collars. It brings in many past characters as this has the potential to impact every one of them. I felt like this Fae vs. the shifters was interesting, the fight scenes were engaging but I guess I’m kind of getting tired of the collar aspect. I know it’s a huge part of this series and what makes it stand out from other paranormal books out there, but there’s always constant talk about the collars and how the shifters are close to either just getting them off or wearing fake collars, but nothing major gets resolved with that yet again.

This series overall has been hit or miss for me lately, but Wild Wolf was a hit. I was caught up in Misty and Graham’s lives, their romance and their roles in the Fae’s plan to take control of the shifters. It’s a solid read that brought back me back into the series with renewed interest.


Rating: B

Release Date: April 1, 2014
Publisher: Berkley
Jennifer Ashley: Webpage | Facebook | Twitter
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*eARC provided by publisher for review* 

 
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