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September 2014

He's So Fine by Jill Shalvis

Cover49778-mediumHe’s so Fine by Jill Shalvis is the second to last book in the Lucky Harbor series. I have stuck with this series through ups and downs but I have enjoyed the last two more than any of the books since the original trilogy.

It has been several years since the oil-rig accident that killed Cole’s best-friend and left him with PTSD and other emotional issues, which Cole generally refuses to talk about. Most days ignoring it all works well enough that no one really notices that he is still struggling but early one morning prepping one of their charter boats, sparks startle him and he falls into the water. Before Cole can haul himself out of the water he is almost drowned by Olivia whose ill thought out but well intentioned rescue attempt re-injures Cole shoulder and leaves them both almost hypothermic.

Unlike Cole who is rooted in Lucky Harbor, with family, friends, business and history there, Olivia is a newcomer.  She has never really had a home to call her own and has been looking for place to set down roots.  Cautious and wary she has generally keep to herself and has been satisfied with simply admiring Cole and his partners from afar. However Becca (the heroine in the last book) and fiancee to Sam, one of Cole's partners has befriended her and has slowly been making connections around town. But  like Becca, Olivia has secrets about her past she rather not have become well known in Lucky Harbor as it would ruin her new start. She once use to be a child TV star, complete with a pushy stage-mom, jealous sibling and a horrible public post-career meltdown. Olivia used the last of her TV money as start-up funds for the her small antique store in Lucky Harbor. Far from LA, she hopes her new name is enough to help start off a new life.

The flashes of skin and the tantalizing brief touches Olivia and Cole shared as they tried to warm up after their dip in the harbor are enough to intrigue Cole, who hasn’t dated much since his last girlfriend broke his heart in the days after the oil-rig accident. Olivia however is trying to fend off her family’s attempts to bring her back to LA for another TV paycheck, and is wary of starting anything with Cole. Cole is persistent and charming enough that Olivia finds herself getting involved with him against her better judgement. Olivia has very little experiences with conventional relationships, everyone in her life has always wanted something from her, even if when they were catering to her needs. Going out on dates, meeting friends and family are wholly out of her realm of experience and she is confused and stressed by it all. Cole knows there is much she isn't telling him but out of self-protective habit answers his questions with evasions & half-truths and feeling guiltier and guiltier as she realizes their relationship might turn more long-lasting than she expected.

I liked that in the end it was Cole’s secrets that threatened and endangered their relationship more than Olivia’s. The only thing that marred my enjoyment of the book was Shalvis’ tendency to use “Alpha” as descriptor of Cole and the other Lucky Harbor heroes. It feels too meta, especially when the heroine isn’t a romance geek using the term ironically and it kicked me out of the story every time.  It was a small flaw in a otherwise fun and romantic book.

I am thankful for the review copy of He’s so Fine provided by Grand Central via NetGalley.

Frozen by Meljean Brook

FrozenOlivia Martin is on her way home for Christmas, with a winter storm threatening, but her boss John Gulbrandar has asked her to run a small errand for him on her way out of town, to get his son Erik and Olivia’s former co-worker to sign some paperwork. Once upon a time, while resolving some unexpected problems with a project, Erik and Olivia had shared late night meals, conversation and one scorching kiss. A kiss Erik immediately disavowed and their relationship has been frosty but cordial ever since. Erik is everything but cordial when Olivia shows up un-announced at his doorstep. He is irate, rude, ravaged by a fever and intent in getting Olivia gone as soon as possible.

I loved this story. I loved how the paranormal elements where introduced, from Olivia’s mother fore-knowledge to Erik’s Frost Giant heritage, the menace of posed by a clan of werewolves compelled to destroy Erik’s family to the details of the curse that afflicts him every solstice and the danger it poses to Olivia. The tension, confusion and emotional pain Erik and Olivia go through as they try to survive the solstice was fantastic and the resolution was deeply satisfying.


I already loved Brook’s steampunk series, but having loved this paranomal story I am extra eager for her upcoming Barbarian story written as Milla Vane.

5 out of 5 stars


A review copy of Frozen was provided by the author.


Sweeter than Sin (Secrets & Shadows, Bk 2) by Shiloh Walker:

I read this book with some hesitation. I enjoyed Walker’s handling of a recovering alcoholic ex-pastor Noah in Deeper than Need, but I found the romantic suspense plot which centered on exposing of a ritualistic child-sex abuse ring somewhat triggering. This book continues with the fallout of the abuse scandal.

Lana Rossi fled Madison as teenager when her attempt to help her friend David escape his abusive parents went wrong. She has been in hiding for decades, emotionally and physically scarred from years on the street. Lana is drawn back to Madison hoping to finally get answers about what happened the night she fled town, and to make sure that the ring is truly shut down.

Adam Brascum’s life went into a tailspin right around the same time Lana left town. The uncertainty of not knowing what happened to her, of failing to protect her, turned him into an alcoholic. Sober since his parents’ death, but not quite healed, Adam’s world is rocked when he recognizes Lana despite her disguise. He is confused and angry to find that she has been alive all these years and conflicted about what to do. He is torn by guilt at wanting Lana when she was his friend’s Noah’s girl and for wanting her now, when he knows so little about where she has been.

I felt that once again the suspense plot overshadowed the love story in this novel and while Walker answered a lot of my most nagging questions about Caine and the peculiar Amish, I am not sure I can take more of the grimness to read his story. 3 out 5 stars


A review copy of Sweeter than Sin was provided by St. Martin's Press via NetGalley

Truly (The New York Series) by Ruthie Knox

Cover48015-mediumLast fall I had the opportunity to read this novel when it was serialized on the WattPad. I really enjoyed re-reading  a few weeks ago over Labor day weekend.

May is having a horrible weekend, her long-time boyfriend and NFL quarterback Dan’s tipsy and cringe-worthy public proposal incited her to stab him with a shrimp fork, and the video has gone viral. Everyone in her life is hoping she will come to her senses and forgive Dan, but the event has become a bright line for her. She won’t go back to Dan and their unsatisfying relationship just because everyone else thinks he is the best thing that will ever happen to her, not even when her attempt to slip away quietly is spoiled by purse-snatching paparazzo. Alone and friendless in New York City, with nothing but a metro card and a couple of bucks, and with her family out of cellphone range in the UP,  May ends up in Green Packer’s Bar sitting across from the angriest former chef in the city.

Anger, anxiety and stress have cost Ben his marriage and career.   Passionate about food, Ben's life became about reviews and Michelin stars, till his wife divorced him, giving him a large check in exchange for their restaurant and cookbook. Ben is trying to rebuild himself from scratch, but it is not going well.  When Ben looks across the bar to May, he sees an innocent milk maid type, and does his very best to ignore her but against all odds Ben ends up insisting in helping May.  His gift of beer turn into an offer of dinner, an offer of help finding a computer, then an offer of a place to stay till she can find a way home, till he finds himself not wanting her to ever go. The longer Ben is around her, the more he wants her there.  

Ben and May’s romance is journey through anger. May must let herself feel anger, and to respond to it by asking for more for herself from herself & others. Ben needs to forgive others and himself before he can start over to accept himself and his mistakes.

I loved Ben and May’s Labor Day Weekend in New York City, the food, the sites and the tension. Ben is a reluctant white knight, and fumbles badly several times which is actually just want May needs.

4 out 5 stars.


A review copy of Truly was provided by Random House Publishing Group - Loveswept via NetGalley.


Afternoon Delight by Anne Calhoun

AfternoonDelight-final-250x374Sarah Naylor has spent the previous two years of her life taking care of her aunt Joan till her death of ovarian cancer. A professional chef looking for a new start and return to the carefree life she had before, Sarah left San Francisco to help launch a new food-truck enterprise in NYC.

Tim Cannon lives a fast paced life. Rushing from call to call, bolting down food in his downtime and meeting fast women for uncomplicated sex is all he has time for as a EMT. After a hard day training a probie EMT, Tim heads toward the park to find a hot-dog vendor and inhales two dogs and pretzel before Sarah strolls up to him and offers him a free rice bowl from her food truck. Part-promotional strategy and all flirtation, Sarah encourages him to slow down and try her food. He likes the food but lusts after Sarah. A few afternoons and a couple of bad pick-up lines later Sarah goes off with Tim to his small lower East Side apartment complete with Murphy bed for sex hotter than either of them expected.

“Continuing his deceleration into the slow lane would mean feeling what he wasn’t ready to feel, not for Sarah, not for anyone.”

Each time Sarah and Tim got together there is a challenge heightening the tension and before long they are both much more involved with each other than is prudent if all they want is an uncomplicated spring fling. Between shared meals and intense sexual encounters Sarah and Tim become increasingly intimate, surprising each other by asking the deeper questions and honestly answering them. But just when they both seemed poised to accept the fact that they want more from each other something Tim said or more accurately failed to say to a co-worker has them parting in the drama-free way they always expected. But instead of relief at the end of a temporary arrangement they are both miserable. There is fantastic groveling and believable character interactions that lead to a satisfying reconciliation.

“But unlike him, she was letting the experience slowly simmer inside her, letting it change her for the better.”

As someone who loves food and exploring cities, I wished I could have tasted and seen everything they did. I loved how Tim sets out to show Sarah why he loves NYC, not in a touristy way but in the way of someone who knows it intimate rhythms and is happy to take on the challenge of impressing someone hard to impress. I also particularly liked Tim’s point of view, how we see it slow-down as he slowly starts surrendering to feeling and tasting again. I also loved the way Sarah’s progression from someone trying recapture a particular way of living out of obligation and eventually accepting her changed self gently unfolded.

This is the first Anne Calhoun novel I have ever read but it won’t be my last. Afternoon Delight should be listed under the definition of Erotic Romance as almost all the major relationship breakthroughs happen during sex or shortly thereafter and it does it just right.

I am thankful to have received a review copy of Afternoon Delight from Penguin/Intermix via Netgalley.

Private Politics by Emma Barry

The second book in the Easy Part series by Emma Barry, Private Politics is the story of Washington fundraiser Alyse Phillips and political blogger Liam Nussbaum. Alyse didn’t always know what she wanted out-of life, only what she didn’t want. She knew she didn’t want to have a just-good-enough-marriage in the upper East Side just like her parents and sister. Alyse essentially stumbled into a career she loves. She is passionate about her work raising funds for an international girl’s literacy non-profit, even if most people see her as a glorified party-planner. Often dismissed by others because of her good looks and sparkling persona, Alyse is distraught to discover irregularities in donation paperwork as she gathered materials for their auditor. Alyse turns to her roommate Millie for help, who calls her fiance’s good friend Liam to help Alyse investigate and figure out what her options are.

Liam Nussbaum has been infatuated with Alyse for months, a crush Alyse does little to encourage. When Alyse turns to Liam for help, he is wary and guarded. Exposing the bad-actors in at YWR could catapult his political blog to the big-leagues but working with Alyse could either be his best shot at getting closer to her or put his heart through the wringer. Liam with his round soft face, less than chiseled body is acutely aware of how out of his league Alyse is.

Private Politics is well rooted in Washington DC, the city’s pulse and local color a vivid part of the book and Alyse and Liam are distinctive and original main characters. Alyse is beautiful and knows just how to use her beauty as distraction and manipulation. She is not mean-spirited just calculating and skilled at managing people. She knows the value of appearances, of head tilts, timely words, and has the right touch to make her a very successful fundraiser. She is a serious person who excels at appearing un-serious. Liam is affected by her, infatuated even, but all the same deeply aware of the artificiality of the composed persona Alyse presents to the world and treasures any genuine interaction he has with her.

While Alyse is careful and calculated, Liam is a not. He open,genuine,earnest, brilliant and principled. He has built up his college blogging hobby into a thriving small business. The transition isn’t without growing pains, as Liam is learning to trust his staff with editorial decisions and to take the necessary journalistic risks order to make waves. He is the perfect anti-dote to the alpha-hole hero. He is a responsible, thoughtful adult who cares how the decisions he makes affects the people around him.

When a threatening note pushes Alyse out of her apartment, Liam invites her to stay at his place, much to the amusement of their mutual friends who have been waiting for Liam to make a move for months. Liam’s struggles with the appropriateness of expressing and acting on his desires and complicating both their lives. I just loved them together, how they surprise each other, and how hard it is for them to negotiate their relationship. I loved the romance, how Liam’s honesty about his feelings and wants both spook and fascinate Alyse. I loved how Alyse slowly comes to see Liam as increasingly attractive the more she gets to know him. I loved their self-deprecating inner voices, their banter and the perfect dose of investigative hijinks. As soon as I finished Private Politics I jumped online and bought Special Interests.

Come to Washington for the political intrigue and fall in love with Alyse and Liam, who are almost too smart for their own good. 


I am grateful for the review copy of Private Politics provided by Carina Press.