Previous month:
November 2013
Next month:
January 2014

December 2013

One Night in Santiago by Audra North

Audra is twitter acquaintance of mine, who I first started following after seeing her tweets on diversity in romances. I ended up missing her first novel, (Falling for the CEO) probably because it had CEO in the title and my eyes just skate over that word in romance novel titles (along with baby, sheik or billionaire) but based on the strengths of this story I just went back and ordered it. This is her second novella in the Stanton family series for Flaunt.

Lily Stanton is hardworking consultant getting over a horrible fiancé (cheated with her best friend, while encouraging her to work longer hours to suport his art career). She is stranded in Santiago, Chile on the eve of her younger sister's college graduation. All she needs is warm room and her flight to take off on time tomorrow. The last thing she needs to find herself in is a competition for the last room at Santiago Ritz with a handsome stranger. Bruno Komarov is a Chilean-American businessman, trying to get back to California in time for the arrival of the first shipment of the season, a very important event for his family's import-export business. Bruno is wary yet fascinated by Lily whose beauty he admires, and whose hard-nose negotiation tactics delight and surprise him.

He cedes the last room to Lily who impulsively invites him to share it. Almost immediately regretting her decision her pride keeps her from recinding her offer of the suite's couch. Lily and Bruno's interactions are thick with sexual tension and they see-saw on whether acknowledging that would be a good thing or not.

Audra does a great job with the hesitant flirtation, and the building attraction while at the same time allowing Bruno and Lily to get to know each other beyond the superficial throught some great interactions and conversations. One night romances are usually a tough sell for me, but in the end I was left feeling that Bruno and Lily have chance at making a bi-costal relationship work. They are both career driven professionals who extremely family orientated but whose work lives led them to either stay in relationships longer than they should have or gave them excuses to keep them superficial and both are ready to make changes.

What I loved: Bruno was believably Chilean-American avoiding Latino clichés, and his family's backstory made sense. Lily's interest in a hot night in Santiago with Bruno makes great story sense, but it not without emotional complications.

This was really enjoyable sexy novella. 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Digital ARC provided by the author in exchange for a fair review.

Publication date Dec 30, 2013

 


Christmas Novella Round-up

I read a lot of Christmas-themed novellas this fall, but I didn't really get around to reviewing most of them but with Christmas just a couple of days away it is time I catch up.



Holiday Kisses Anthology by Harlequin\Carina

This Time Next Year\A Rare Gift\It's Not Christmas Without You\Mistletoe and Margaritas
by Alison Kent, Jaci Burton, HelenKay Dimon, Shannon Stacey

I requested this Anthology purely for the Shannon Stacey story. I really like her Kowalaksi Family books so I jumped at chance to read more by her.

Mistletoe and Margaritas by Shannon Stacey:

Claire lost her husband unexpectedly two years ago, and is finally starting to feel like she can move on, explore feeling desire and attraction for someone again. Justin was Claire's late-husband's best-friend and her constant-platonic companion since his death. Justin is deeply uncomfortable with this development as he has been hiding his feelings for Claire for a very long time and this change threatens everything.

I liked this story more the more I thought about it, but as I read it I struggled a bit with the pain the characters feel. In the end I liked how deeply guilty Justin feels, how hard he had tried to live up to his friendship and how he reacted in the absolutely wrong way in his behavior toward and what it took for him to fix it. 4 out of 5 stars.


The Publication date for Holiday Kisses was October 29, 2013 Digital ARC provided for free by publisher via NetGalley.

The second Anthology I requested was from Carina Press (Which is probably my favorite imprint right now).


All I'm Asking For: A Contemporary Christmas Anthology
which includes:

Tinsel My Heart\Season of Second Chances\Mine Under the Mistletoe by
Christi Barth, Brighton Walsh, Kat Latham

I have previously read and enjoyed Kat Latham's Knowing the Score London Legends #1, which has the honor of being the first sports romance I have read and enjoyed.

I read all three stories in this Anthology and enjoyed two of them.

Tinsel My Heart by Christi Barth

In Tinsel My Heart a now famous director Jack Whittaker returns to Minnesota to fill in for his directing partner, former best-friend Ty, who has let Jack down once again due to his drug addiction. Jack is unwilling to let Becca Huntley,their mutual old-friend suffer because of Ty.

This is a story of unspoken feelings, lingering misunderstandings and regret. The circus atmosphere of the Holiday production crowded with overly colorful secondary characters with and Jack's hostility toward Becca kept me from connecting with this story. I kept wanting to shake the characters and have them stop talking so much without actually saying something. 2 out of 5 stars.

Season of Second Chances by Brighton Walsh:

On Christmas Eve Claire is exactly where she doesn't want to be: Stuck in O'hare airport with her former fiancee the only person to turn to. Rather than spend the night in the airport floor as hotels fill-up with stranded travelers Claire accepts Logan's offer of a place to stay. It is painfully confusing offer to accept. It has been two years since she walked away from Logan after too many cancelled dates, lonely dinners due to Logan's workaholism. Claire has made a new life for herself but going back to their old apartment reminds her of all she had hoped they would have.

I quite liked this story. Claire wariness and Logan's desire to prove to Claire that he is a different man than he was when she left him was naturally addressed without making Logan perfect man. 4 out 5 stars


Mine Under the Mistletoe by Kat Latham


Ashley Turner has swapped houses with Oliver Stansfeld leaving behind sunny San Diego for what she hopes is the idealize English Christmas she grew up hoping for. Oliver is fleeing London and all the feelings and grief Christmas there would mean.

But Christmas for Ashley and Oliver is not turning out as planned. Oliver is stuck in London after deep snows ground all flights out, so he heads back to his house and his bed to wait for the airport to re-open. His bed isn't empty however as Ashley made it in to London in one of the last flights to land. Their introduction is hilarious and worthy of the best of British farce.

This a story of about the best of intentions, horrible mistakes, regret, loss and choosing love, set in a beautifully drawn modern London.

I almost wrongly nitpicked myself out of enjoying this story due to a small insignificant detail about Christmas lights and the difference between British and American plugs in the first few chapters. However there is nothing to nitpick about the romance in this story. I really loved how Ashley and Oliver got on, how naturally their relationship developed with all its hesitancy, false-starts and set-backs. I thought the resolutions were also natural and emotional. 5 out of 5 stars


The Publication date was Dec.5, 2013, Digital ARC provided for free by Publisher via NetGalley.


Another Carina Press book and another Shannon Stacey book I read this fall was Snowbound with the CEO.

Snowbound with the CEO by Shannon Stacey

The more I read romance the better I am at recognizing the tropes that work or don't work for me. Workplace romances or Boss/Assistant romances really just tend fall flat for me, but because this was an Shannon Stacey book I decided to give it a try.

It was a real departure from the Stacey books I have read as the characters are urban professionals without many secondary characters to speak of.

Adrian Blackstone is the driven CEO of Architectural firm specializing in restoration. Rachel Carter is his executive assistant. Adrian thinks Rachel is an incredibly valuable employee, so won't risk his attraction to her show, and Rachel absolutely loves her job, and doesn't want to threaten it by making a move on Adrian. A unexpectedly strong blizzard cancels a long-planned business presentation and isolates Adrian and Rachel's in remote resort and gives them both a romantic opportunity to pursue their attraction to each other in a way seemingly disconnected from their regular roles.

The romantic tension and flirtation that builds for them was very nicely done, as was the precarious re-entry into their regular lives. The conflict and misunderstandings that arise after they return to Boston and have to figure out what it meant was some-what predictable but I liked the resolution. 4 out 5 stars.


The Publication date was Nov.4, 2013, Digital ARC provided for free by Publisher via NetGalley.


The last Anthology I am reviewing for this is:


A Christmas to Remember
from Forever (Grand Central Publishing)
which includes the following novellas Dream a Little Dream/Every Year/Silent Night/Have Yourself a Messy Little Christmas/A Family for Christmas by
Jill Shalvis/Kristen Ashley/Hope Ramsay/Molly Cannon/Marilyn Pappano

Dream a Little Dream (Lucky Harbor 8.5) by Jill Shalvis:
Ian and Melissa had a cozy friendship that blossomed into a friends-with-benefits situation till Melissa a serial-dater cut their relationship off. Six months later, Ian answers a fire-call to Melissa's apartment building where he rescues Melissa. Melissa wakes up post-rescue with changed mind-set and set out to make a place for herself in Ian's life again.

This fall I binged on Jill Shalvis' Lucky Harbor series set in a small town in the Pacific Northwest. The initial trilogy was fantastic and the second series has been charming. I quite liked this story, particularly the how Melissa's turnabout was handled. 5 out 5 stars.

Every Year(Chaos 2.5) by Kristen Ashley:
Kristen Ashley gives readers of her Chaos series and Motorcycle Man a glimpse into Christmas at Tack and Tyra Allen's house. It features bikers too-tough for winter jackets assembling tire swings and enjoying hot cocoa. Rough and tumble people devoted to family, allowing some of it to soften them just a little bit.

I have to been in certain mood to really dive into Kristen Ashley because her voice is so jarringly different than most contemporary romance novelists. This was christmasy epilogue for Tabby and Shy and teaser for romance featuring Landon Cage (Shy's brother) not a stand-alone story. 3.5 out 5 stars


Silent Night (Last Chance 6.5) by Hope Ramsay

A newly homeless single mother makes a last-ditch trip to a childhood sanctuary of Last Chance in hopes of finding open door and chance to start again. Instead she run out of gas miles from her destination and takes shelter with her baby in a abandoned barn in a darkened farm.

Obviously playing on the Nativity story, I think the story started out strong but lost it way in the second half and it rushed the romance too much.I am however tempted to try some of the full-length Last Chance books. 3 out 5 stars.

Have Yourself a Messy Little Christmas (Everston,TX 0.5) by Molly Cannon

Dinah is professional organizer sent to organize and ready Lincoln home for Christmas by his mother. When she shows up on his doorstep in a Mrs.Claus outfit he is completely befuddled and then resistant. As she brings order into his life, he grows increasingly attracted to her, but Dinah panics when she crosses what she feels is professional line by getting involved with him.

It was cute story that had I had little if any emotional connection to. The conflict felt forced and rushed. 3 out 5 stars.

A Family for Christmas (Tallgrass 1.5) by Marilyn Pappano Ilena is a war-widow with a young child making a life for herself in Tallgrass, where she has established strong friendship with other war widows. Dr. Jared Connors is new arrival at Tallgrass and he isn't quite sure if he is staying. In Tallgrass out of rebellion, seeking to disentangle himself from his pushy surgeon parents, he signs a contract to be the new family practitioner in Tallgrass. Attracted by Ilena who sort bulldozes her way into his life, he is wary of putting down roots. While I thought the resolution was rushed I did like how ambivalent and wishy-washy Jared is for most of the story. That is just a unusual characterization for a man in romance. He truly doesn't know what he wants for himself, just that he doesn't want what his parents want for him. I also liked quirky Ilena. Could have done without the Elf outfits however.

3 out 5 stars.

The Publication date was Nov.3, 2013, Digital ARC provided for free by Publisher via NetGalley.


Delphine Dryden's The Principle of Desire

The Principle of Desire

In one of the November DBSA podcasts Jane Litte from Dear Author commented that she is probably one of the few people reading Erotica for the story. I chuckled in recognition because I often feel the same way. I sometimes wish there was "sweet erotica" where we know there are plenty of kinky shenanigans happening off-page, without having to wade through the often repetitive technical descriptions in hopes of getting to the soul-affecting sex.

Del Drydren's books however are kinky, sexy and erotic in the best way. I never find myself skimming because the sex actually matters even when she happens to be introducing some BDSM principle or specialty sex-move. And the sex is funny and joyful. Her characters find joy in each other and their experiences together and it is incredibly attractive even if I can't imagine enjoying the some of the specifics.

The Principle of Desire is Dryden's third book in her "Science of Temptation" series that has frequently been described as BSDM meets the Big Bang Theory. In Theory of Attraction, Ivan, a rigid socially awkward scientist ask his neighbor Camilla for schmozzing lessons, so he doesn't lose the funding he needs for his scientific research to a departmental rival. She eventually discovers that in Ivan finds a sexual outlet in BDSM and he see sex as science experiement he is very good at. Sexual experiementaion and a surprisingly sweet love story develop. In The Seduction Hypothesis, Ben is trapped in a RV with his ex, Lydnsey on the way to a comic book convention. Earlier that summer Ben in moment of knee-jerk confusion broke up with her when she expressed interest in BDSM, an interest sparked by a kinky comic book series she and lots of other of his geek friends enjoy reading. Cos-play, role-play and lots of improvsation take place as Ben tries to win Lyndsey back by embracing his inner dominant.

In The Principle of Desire, Ed, a recurring character in the first two books, gamer and aerospace engineer often in the background missing the sexual double entendrees and blundering into sexually charged moment bumbles through his initial introduction to Beth a lecturer in Psycology at a local university, and new friend to Camilla. Flustered Ed spills his drink on her and is gently blown-off. Ed is however undettered and eventually sneaks her number off his friend's phone is hilarious moment of self-justification:

Karma, he suspected. The instant kind, because he’d been doing something unethical. Under the pretense of searching Ivan’s phone for a better song selection, he’d flipped through his friend’s contacts and noted Beth’s number and email address. Ed spent his days looking at line after line of code, and complex formulae and algorithms, so it was no effort at all to hang on to a ten-digit phone number and standard firstname.lastname@nameofcollege.edu email for long enough to return to the music app, pick a song at random, then switch to his own phone to enter the information. Ivan, focused on the road and his compulsive mirror-checking routine, didn’t even notice.

If he wanted to keep people out of his phone, he should have a better password than his girlfriend’s name with numbers replacing the vowels. A fifth grader could’ve hacked that. Really, Ed had picked up the phone out of idle curiosity, not with anything underhanded in mind. He would have expected Ivan to use a random character sequence as a passcode, and was startled as hell when the altered name he entered got him in. It seemed like providence, though, so he’d taken advantage.

The universe was obviously smacking him down for it. When he’d worked up the nerve to try calling Beth around nine that evening, he’d finally noticed the absence of his phone. And now Ivan wasn’t answering his cell. Neither was Cami.

Despite what Beth had said about not having plans with Cami that evening, it was at least obvious that Ivan, Cami and their neighbor Ben had all gone somewhere together. Making the rounds of the connected duplexes, Ed confirmed that none of them were home, but only Ivan’s car was gone from the carport. It was a short logical hop to deducing that Beth had been covering for the group because Ed hadn’t been invited. That stung a bit, but it was hardly the first time something like that had happened to him. He’d been a self-professed curmudgeon since the eighth grade, and he wasn’t usually who people wanted along when they went clubbing. In this case, the real annoyance was that he wouldn’t be getting his phone back until morning.

And then, like a stray sunbeam streaming from the clouds, a thought shone through Ed’s brain.

I have that GPS tracking app on the phone.

 

What he sees when he tracks them down is both hilarious and awesome. Ed and Beth relationship begins with a kinky version of the tried and true romance trope "fake engagement", as Ed poses as Beth's Submissive at the club in front of her ex and former Master.

On Twitter Dryden referred to The Principle of Desire as Ed's story, but it is really Beth's book. Beth has recently detached herself from a consuming eight-year relationship. Her ex was more Master than boyfriend throughout their relationship, dominating her life choices beyond the bedroom and Beth is only just starting to realize how little she has paid attention to her own wants and desires since she met him. One of the desires her ex was unwilling to acknowledge, is for her to occasionally hold the sexual reins. Beth is a Switch, someone who enjoys being either a top or bottom in a sexual encounter and is just starting to learn what means to her. The book in the end is essentially true what Dryden described as her core story in a recent Wonk-O-mance post by Megan Multry, in that Beth needs to acknowledge her needs and desires enough to realize she can be in a relationship without simply disappearing again, and that she needs to choose someone for who they are, not who they are not.

Beth and Ed are my favorite of the Dryden's Science of Temptation couples. I really enjoyed the banter and interplay between Beth and Ed as they start getting to know each other, from their awkward negotiations of what actually counts as date to their long intimate conversations on dealing the disaproval of family members. The necessary conflicts that arose between Ed, Beth and her ex were legitimate and convincingly resolved and in end I was left wanting to spend more time with Beth and Ed.

 

Release Date: Dec 9, 2013

A digital review copy was provided by publisher Carina Press via Netgalley.