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Not Another Rock Star (Hot Under Her Collar #3) by Amber Belldene

51qVm7EJsDL._SY346_Suzannah's first year as a priest is off to a rocky start. The foodbank project her church called her to spearhead has run into unexpected opposition, she is putting in too many early morning and late nights working on her sermons and worst yet some of her parishioners have noticed. When her organist, Peggy, breaks her arm in the weeks leading up to Easter it is a stress she doesn't need, but the replacement, Peggy's former star pupil, Rush Perez, a troubled rock star, might just the thing that makes her break.

Rush is hiding out in SF, trying to sort through treatment options. Losing his hearing and battling vertigo might not be life-threatening but they are career threatening. His worry and frustration has isolated him from his friends, too worried about the possibility of life without music that he rather let them think he is struggling with addition than tell them the truth about his prognosis. 

I really love Belldene's Hot Under Her Collar Series. First because they are so familiar and feel so right. My husband was a pastor for 15 years, and I find myself nodding along, as her priests tackle church politics, difficult parishioners and crises of confidence. Her priest are smart and passionate, with genuine faith and calling and, so often in romance and fiction in general characters are either one or the other. I believe in Suze's distracting attraction to the brooding rockstar just as much as I believe in her desire to serve God in her community.

I really enjoyed the progression of Rush and Suze's relationship, from antagonistic and prickly to wary and hopeful. They both carry a lot of baggage when it comes to music, faith and how they handle peoples expectations and  work pressure. Their relationship becomes believably unbalanced as Suze tackles her fears and insecurities, trusting in Rush to listen and provide good advice. While Rush comes to trust Suze with his struggles, opening up about his pain, he almost unable to trust himself to let her care for him. I cried big fat tears when Rush finally comes to realize almost too late that the barriers to their relationship's success are almost exclusively of his own making. Those are some of my favorite kinds of resolutions, when a character realizes that they are the ones that need to change, that they need to bend, and that all the external conflicts are secondary and endurable together.

If you like me are hungry for more romance where spirituality, and faith are not antithetical to sexual desire and passion, where couples struggle to be truly vulnerable and intimate with each other, and do a wonderful job at portraying friendships and community give this series by Belldene a try.  The books standalone quite well, so you can start with any of them, but they are all worth reading.

 

I received a ARC via Netgalley from the author.


Sight Unseen: A Collection of Five Anonymous Novellas

Sight-unseen-b-small-2-377x600Sherry Thomas, Meredith Duran, Erin Satie, Emma Barry and J.A. Rock contributed to this anthology/guessing game. I have read multiple books by 4 out of these 5 authors, so it was an easy decision to pick up this book.  Even not knowing who wrote which story, I could count on enjoying the anthology as whole.

The stories cover a gamut of sub-genres, from fantasy to historical. These stories are clearly experiments by the authors to write outside their usual niches and play with settings and tropes they aren't know for exploring and push the boundaries of the genre.

The book opens with "Lost That Feeling" about rebel witch who has erased 7 years of her life & needs to figure next step when she is rescued by her former rebel leaders. I loved the depiction of magic in this story and how it played with the amnesia trope within a magic fantasy setting. Alma is a living "what if" moment, and is conscious of the possibilities, while confused about the reasons that led her to that moment.  I would characterize this story as fantasy with romantic elements because the romance takes a far back seat to the philosophical questions of how to end injustice.

In "A Clear View of You", I adored the angry and cynical fake-psychic grad-student heroine, drowning in college debt. Harmony "Kate" Marsh is estranged from her hippie-magic obsessed mother, Pangaea.  North needs Kate's help to retrieve a magical orb in Pangaea's possession.  It is a fantastic story about truth, trust and family. I loved the interaction between North and Kate, and how he challenges her entrenched beliefs without forcing or coercing.  It had a lot of fun banter and humor through out.

In "Free," Brad is a timid accountant who finally builds up the courage to confront an oblivious biker princess, Wren Masters, about her father's biker club's drug dealing. It is a small town romance about unrequited crushes, growing up and moving on.  Of the novellas this was probably the most conventional in tone and style. The subversion is in how it reworks the the typical Biker romance, rejecting slut-shaming tropes, and elevating the law-abiding hero over well-hung arrogant biker.  I loved Wren was the sexual instigator and that her motivations are not simple or easy.

It is 1983, and CJ Crespo's band DonJon is falling apart. Donny, her creative but not romantic partner of a ten-years, has exchanged the excesses of the road for the strictures of religious conversion. Their careers are disintegrating but they are finally reaching toward each other. "Chariot of Desire" jumped forward and backward in time and it left me feeling pensive about passion & purpose & not terribly hopeful for CJ and Donny.

"The Heart is a Universe", the final novella is epic science fiction/romantic myth. Vitalis and Eleian are heroes to their planets.  Vitalis is the Chosen One, the brightest of her generation, chosen by her people as a child to face a deadly task that assures their ability to remain on their planet.  Eleian pulled his planet from the brink of chaos, facing off against a tyrant and helping them restore democracy, before retreating from public life. What most don't know is that he has been ill since birth, and only experiences brief moments of health and vitality.  He uses one of them to orchestrate a meeting with his hero and inspiration Vitalis.  I cried a lot reading this story, sympathetic frustrated tears, mostly as these two, struggled with anger, duty and doubt.  

As a whole this anthology was very interesting and ambitious. As a guessing game despite having read 4 out of the 5 authors and knowing for sure who wrote one of the stories, I don't feel any confidence in my authorial guesses but it was fun to read a set of stories without knowing who authored what. As a discovery tool, I will definitely try more books by the one author I had not read previously, J.A. Rock.


The Outback Bachelor Ball Series: Win Me by Joan Kilby, Woo Me by Karina Bliss and Wait for Me by Sarah Mayberry

With their love lives in shambles, Jen, Ellie and Beth, best friends since boarding school, decide to reunite for a weekend of drinking & dancing  at Bachelor/Spinster Ball in the Australian Outback, before they start over.  

Win Me by Joan Kilby: Ellie is returning to Australia and her father's remote cattle station after spending years overseas learning all she can about cattle management. Coming home means facing  Rick, her father's foreman, and the man she has been in love with most her life but who she thinks has never seen her as anything other than a kid sister and the boss's daughter. The Bachelor/Spinster ball revives old memories and new feelings.

Win Me started out really slow, burdened with most of background, set-up and exposition scenes in the series.  The romance relied a bit too much on incomplete conversations and misunderstandings to hold my interest. 

Woo Me by Karina Bliss:  Jen's office romance has just ended in the worst way possible, her boss/boyfriend Karl, reuniting with his ex-wife.  Frustrated and Angry, Jen plans on attending the Bachelor/Spinster ball in cow suit, as she is not in the least interested in find a new man. The cow suit attracts all the wrong kind of attention and Jen finds herself running into Logan, one of the security guards over and over again.

I didn't finish this one. Not sure why, but I just couldn't get into more than the first few chapters, I might try again at a later date.

 

Wait for Me by Sarah Mayberry:  Beth's marriage to Country music superstar has imploded under the weight of his repeated infidelities. Sick of being hounded by the paparazzi, Beth returns home to Australia, sad and wary.  The last person she expects to run in the Outback is her old friend Jonah Masters. Jonah has loved Beth for years, and even though they formed a strong friendship when his band toured with her husband's they never ever crossed the line into anything romantic. 

I really liked this story. Beth is in an emotionally messy place, and really fears hurting Jonah, who has been nothing but good to her because of stuff she still needs to sort out from the end of her marriage. What really worked for me was that while the set-up could have lead to a lot of angst, it wasn't.  Jonah is willing to wait for Beth, and Beth doesn't jerk him around. They talk about their feelings and act like grownups.  I read the book in one sitting. It was sexy, emotional and romantic all at once.

 

I received review copies of Win Me, Woo Me and Wait for Me from Sarah Mayberry.


My Only Sunshine by Mary Ann Rivers

25610235A long time ago Mallory Evans and John Lake were friends. Their friendship was a secret to most everyone.  At night they would keep each other company in the dark talking through Mallory's window, but during the day at school they would walk past each other without acknowledgment in the halls.  Their secret friendship came to a dramatic end when it was discovered by Mallory's vicious and abusive step-father.  Mallory moved away and became a celebrated writer & John abandoned his parents' dream of a classical music career for alternative rock success. More than a decade has passed and their friendship is not a secret to anyone anymore because it was the subject of Mallory's second and highly regarded memoir.

This novella follows John and Mallory as they reconnect after years of estrangement. The story alternates between Mallory's memoir of their past friendship and their current day conversations and encounters where they finally consummate their once unspoken romance. The story is bittersweet and tentative. For love to bloom, John has to deal with his feelings of failure and guilt and Mallory has to risk accepting his desire.

I didn't find their current day romance convincingly urgent.  It felt like they were working out their past feelings for each other as they have yet to get to know each other enough in the current day to establish a credible HEA. Their love could grow and rekindle but it did not feel sure or certain. They might have been unknowingly waiting for each other and for this moment, but to me it was only a start.

It was pleasant to re-enter Rivers' Lakefield again and see familiar faces and locations again but I wish we had more time to spend with Mallory and John and see their current day relationship develop. 

P.S. Olivia Dade in a comment below reminded me of something I probably should have addressed in my review. Brain Mill Press made a big deal about doing a special photo-shoot to make sure their cover model accurately represented their vision for Mallory as plus-size woman. I thought Rivers did a wonderful job depicting and presenting a plus-sized heroine without making the story about her weight or body shape.  John is attracted to Mallory and finds her plus-sized body pretty and beautiful. He loves her breasts, shape and softness.  I thought it was erotic without becoming fetishistic. Mallory loves who she is and any self-consciousness she feels is just a natural part of becoming involved with someone she used to have a huge crush on. 

 

I received a review copy of My Only Sunshine from Brain Mill Press.

 


Back to You by Lauren Dane

Cover62583-mediumI liked this book much more than I expected to. As much as I love Lauren Dane's books and despite enjoying the first two books in the Hurley Boys series I was pretty sure I didn't want to read this story, but I am so glad I did.

Vaughan and Kelly married young and fast. Vaughan was just hitting it big as rock star, and Kelly was at the prime of her modeling career. Impulsive passion and a baby on the way had them rushing to the altar. While Kelly took marriage and parenting seriously, Vaughan, the hero, threw away his young marriage by cheating around on Kelly with a groupie. Eight years have passed and just as she agrees to marry another man, he decides to try to win her back. As much as I like the second-chance at love trope, coming into the book I really just wanted Vaughan to leave Kelly alone and let her move on with her life.

In Back To You, Vaughan has just finished a tour and is returning home to reconnect with his girls. As his brother prepares to become a father for the first time, Vaughan has slowly become aware how tangential a role he is playing in the lives of his own daughters.  He also never stopped wanting Kelly and never stopped thinking of her as his.  Vaughan wants to win her back so he can rebuild the family he wrecked before she marries someone else and closes that door forever. When Vaughan arrives at her door unannounced he discovers Kelly dealing with a medical emergency on her own, like she has had to do all along. Surprisingly at the right place at the right time for once, he is able to step in and accompany Kelly and his young daughter to the hospital.  After the crisis is over, he asks Kelly if he can continue to help out while their daughter recovers. Kelly graciously if somewhat skeptically invites him to move into a guest room in her house on temporary basis. That graciousness, causes a surprise schism in her relationship with her new fiancé Ross. Ross oversteps and overreacts exposing some strong and ugly opinions about Vaughan and the role he thinks he should have in the lives of Kelly's daughters.  Meanwhile Vaughan takes the invitation into her home for the opportunity that it is, but focuses first and foremost on  learning to be a real dad to his daughters.  

I really liked how Vaughan and Kelly end up dissecting their old relationship, killing it dead before establishing a new one. While Vaughan needs to prove to himself and to Kelly that he can be the man and father she needs him to be, Kelly has to show Vaughan the pain and anger he created when he destroyed their first marriage. That Kelly is able to finally trust him with all her emotions, even the ugly ones is something completely new for both of them. 

I loved that instead of forcing a "let's fall in love again" narrative or playing around with a love triangle, Dane wrote a frank but loving book about parenting, the sacrifices, the mistakes and the blessings of it. All the conflicts in the book come back to parenting in some way.  The narrative centers on the relationships between Vaughn and Kelly and their mothers, Sharon and Rebecca and the impact that played in their relationship. Vaughan's reformation, and commitment to becoming a better man come from a realization about how deluded he was about himself. He has to own up to all that he has missed and who he has hurt through his selfishness and immaturity. He finally has to face his own mother and tell her the truth about how he destroyed his marriage and how he let her think otherwise. His deepening admiration for the kind of woman Kelly turned out to be is rooted in learning how much work it took for her to rise above her pain from her own childhood and walk away from him in a way that did not deprive him of his children. 

I found the HEA believable. I believe that both Kelly and Vaughan have grown up, that they are committed to each other and that they will be able to find a way of making this relationship endure where their first marriage failed. And most of all I believe that they have what they never had at the start, a circle of friends and family that wants them to succeed and will support them at every step of the way.  This was wonderful way to close the Hurley Brothers trilogy. All the relationships were deepened.




Rise by Karina Bliss

Rise-KarinaBliss-1600x2400I read a handful of Karina Bliss’s Harlequin SuperRomance titles when I first started reading contemporary romance. I found them emotional without being manipulative, engaging and fun.  Which is why was very interested in reading Rise.

Rise is the story of Zander Freedman  who appeared as a supporting character in a several of the SuperRomances  I read (What the Librarian Did, A Prior Engagement & Bring Him Home).  Apparently fans have been lobbying Bliss for a happy ending for this charismatic and interesting villain.

Zander Freedman is the front man for a legendary rock band, Rage. When his original band mates jumped ship after his brother Devin collapsed on stage due to alcohol abuse, he refused  to stop touring.  Zander re-populated the band with younger and up-and-coming musicians through a reality show competition.   To some of his former band mates this is just another cash grab and betrayal, but the truth is not as simple.

Zander is incredibly ambitious and driven.  His career is his whole life. And he has gambled his whole future on his newest tour. He is playing a dangerous game of denial with his voice. Warned by doctors to cut the tour short or risk permanent damage, he refuses to consider stopping because it will leave him financial ruined.

Elizabeth Winston is a Pulitzer prize-winning biographer and celebrated historian. She lives a quite life, baby-sitting her nieces and nephews, teaching at a local university, sharing a whiskey at the end of her day with her elderly neighbor. She thinks it is a prank when Zander comes calling. She writes biographies of complex dead people, not megalomaniac rock stars. But it is no mistake or prank, after firing his second ghost-writing biographer, Zander wants to recruit Elizabeth to help him write his memoir. He wants her to lend credibility to the project & he makes all the right promises, and his charisma eventually overcomes all of Elizabeth’s objections.

Before long Elizabeth isn’t just prying into Zander’s past with probing questions, she is interfering in his everyday life and not letting him get away with ignoring the consequences of his actions have on others.

I loved Zander’s slow & determined pursuit of Elizabeth. It was nice to see them develop a friendship, to cultivate a somewhat adversarial working relationship, before Zander is finally able to lure Elizabeth to his bed. And I loved that sleeping together didn’t resolve their relationship issues, but instead complicated them.

I particularly liked that Elizabeth is not some sexual innocent looking to be debauched by a rock sex god or a prude in need of liberation. She might live a quiet life in Auckland, but she isn’t sexually inexperienced. She has lived a little more life than her siblings think she has, she just prizes her privacy and independence.

I thought Bliss did a good job over-all with her portrayal of the complicated repercussions of being a pastor’s kid. Elizabeth’s familiarity with life in a fish-bowl, her caution about her personal & professional reputation, and the complicated role faith plays in her life were very well drawn. There was one odd moment, where early in the book Elizabeth mentions Chakras, but it isn't followed up again, so we don’t get to explore if she has if has added any other unconventional religious beliefs to her traditional religious practice and without any kind of follow up or further mention it feels like remnant from a discarded plot line.

Bliss did a wonderful job building a redemption story for Zander that did not excuse his prior bad actions, or try to minimize the cost of those actions on others. The dark moments in Zander and Elizabeth’s relationship are well executed. I felt the weight of their choices and was really happy with the resolution.

4 stars

Rise has been  available at the usual e-book retailers since Jan 28, 2015

I received a review copy of Rise from Karina Bliss via Julie Brazeal at AToMR Promotions.


Once Upon a Rose (La Vie en Roses #1) by Laura Florand

Once upon a time in a rose-filled valley in southern France, Layla Dubois, lost and stranded, walks into a stranger’s house and is nearly mauled by the big resident bear. Matthieu Rosier, heir to that rose-filled valley is the blushing, growling, sweetly fumbling but very drunk bear of a man, she encounters.  Having drunk much too much wine with his cousins, while celebrating his 30th birthday, Matt really wants to pick up and kiss the beautiful “Bouclettes” who walked in his house and keep her. Thankfully Matthieu’s friends and family intervene before any harm is done except to his pride. The following morning Matt wakes to a huge hangover, a great deal of embarrassment and the discovery that Layla is unexpectedly his new neighbor.  He soon is torn between wanting to scare Layla “Bouclettes” Dubois away from his valley, and wanting her to stay forever.

Layla, has just finished the last gig on her European tour supporting her first hit album as Belle Woods. She has three weeks till she is due back in the studio to start work on her second, but she hasn't written any new songs. She is running away from the crushing weight of the studio’s expectations and her own fears that she won’t be able to match her first album’s success by retreating to the small house she has recently inherited in the middle of the Rosier Valley. The little house Layla has inherited was supposed to be Matthieu’s and it is right in the middle of his family’s rose fields, in lands central to his family’s perfume business.

This romance was delightful. Layla and Matthieu set up to be opponents, as she has something he wants and she doesn't want to give it up.I loved their flirtation, how Matt’s burning blushes make Layla bolder and saucier and how Matt's sweetly romantic gestures, surprise and unbalance her.

I loved that they can’t quite trust each other’s intentions even if they can’t deny their attraction. Is Matt trying to seduce her to get her little piece of the valley back? Is Layla simply playing with Matt to build her own confidence?  

 At first glance they seem to opposites that can’t help but be attracted to each other. Matthieu  a farmer so tied to his land it is his whole identity, and Layla a nomadic musician, running away from expectations,and unencumbered by family but that is not the whole story. Matt and Layla have huge vulnerable hearts, that they  handle very differently. Those hearts and how they respond to hurt and vulnerability come into play when they come close to having “Big Misunderstanding” moments. Twice their relationship comes close to dissolution but the fights don’t quite work out the way they usually do in Big Misunderstanding books.  I loved that they work out their anger before confronting each other or stay to figure out what they misunderstood.  Layla lays out her feelings and emotions for all to see, and Matt does his best to hid his gentle heart but neither can hold a grudge. That they are unwilling to tear each other when they are feeling extremely vulnerable and exposed is what most convinced me of their HEA despite the obstacles they will have to surmount to make their lives one.

I loved the way Florand depicted the family relationships in this book and how it forms and affects the way Layla and Matthieu respond to each other. The Rosiers are complicated, prickly and full of history.  Tante Colette & Pépé Rosier both deeply love their shared family, have sacrificed much for it but have long ago stop listening & speaking to each other. Despite their missteps and machinations they have raised a band of Rosier cousins who are in turns playful, loving and infuriating. I loved how much the cousins tease Matt,  while loving and protecting him.  I loved that their love & camaraderie  doesn't erase family rivalries and true tensions exist.

Florand gives Layla a very different upbringing & family relationships to contrast with the Rosier's without casting one as better than the other. Layla knows little of her family history, almost nothing about her absent father’s family and has few ties to any particular place in the world. She has her mother, and her grand-parents, Lebanese-refugees torn from their homeland by war. They are physically far away in the US, but always a close as phone-call. The closeness and love they share is never in doubt even if they are world's apart.

In the end, Matt and Layla's love and the machinations of Tante Colette & Pépé Rosier work to push the Rosier's to redefine their ideas about roots & belonging opening up doors for HEAs for all of them.

4.5 Stars 

I received a review copy of "Once Upon a Rose" from Ms. Florand.


Rock Courtship (A Rock Kiss Novella) by Nalini Singh

Thea is an amazon, a senior partner for a music industry PR firm. She is fantastic at her job and looks great doing it. Not too long ago her heart was bruised when she discovered her then fiancee was cheating on her, but the real damage he did was in the big and small ways he tried to diminish her skills and failed to appreciate her. David Rivera is a client, drummer for Schoolhouse Choir one of the most successful bands Thea works with, but he is also a friend. Over the years David has been there with a kind word, an easy smile and conversation whenever Thea needs him. David would love to be more than just a friend to Thea, but when Thea expertly deflects his attempt to ask her on a date, David is heartbroken but backs off. Thea notices his withdrawal to careful cordiality and feels the loss, but still isn’t willing to cross the line of dating a client and risk compromising herself professionally.

Any hopes of a relationship might have faded if not for the fact that Thea’s very observant half-sister Molly realizes how crazy David is for Thea and encourages him to write Thea a memo, knowing Thea’s inability to ignore her email is the chink in her armor. The novella takes an epistolary turn as Thea and David exchange scorching memos on their attraction, compatibility and their odds in making a relationship work.

After long work related separations Thea and David finally come together and decide to see if they can sizzle in person as much as they did on paper and whether they can figure out how to be there for each other’s despite their busy lives.

When I read Rock Addiction I was annoyed at the intentionally vague references to the climactic crisis in Thea and David’s relationship, which I felt intruded and didn’t inform so much as annoy. Now having read Rock Courtship, I am convinced that instead of overlapping the same time period Rock Addiction it would have worked better for the bulk of this novella including its climax to have occurred after the end of Rock Addiction. While that choice diminished Rock Addiction it doesn’t negatively affect Rock Courtship. I really enjoyed how the romance between David and Thea is set up as a negotiation. I liked how the crisis arises naturally from tensions and insecurities introduced from the start of the story and its resolution was well earned.

 

4 out 5

 

I am thankful for the review copy of Rock Courtship provided by Nalini Singh & TKA Distribution via NetGalley.  


Rock Addiction by Nalini Singh

Rock Addiction is Nalini Singh’s highly anticipated self-published return to contemporaries. I am a big fan of her Psy-Changeling series, and I was eager to read it despite the fact that rockstar romances are far from my favorites.

Rock Addiction is the story of Fox, the hugely famous American front man for Schoolboy Choir, a globally successful rockband and Molly Webster a reclusive and virginal New Zealand librarian. In an instant Fox becomes fascinated with Molly, half-sister to Schoolboy Choir PR expert & publicist Thea, when he spots Molly giving Thea a genuine affectionate hug and he is covetous of it. Molly Webster is the last person to want to attract the attention of a Rock god and despite the teasing encouragement of her best friend Charlotte and gentle prodding by her sister, Molly is more than happy to admire Fox from across the room instead of allowing Thea to introduce her. It is not simple shyness that drives Molly, she is the sole survivor of a political sex scandal that left her orphaned as a teen-ager, after her father’s sexual escapades were exposed and her mother alcoholism led to fatal DUI. Molly’s teen years were incredibly traumatic and as a result she is incredibly vigilant about her privacy and independence, however she is also human and Fox apparently has superpowers that are able to render her impulsive and pliable. One elevator ride later, Fox has convinced Molly into taking him home, and has her promising to herself that she can get involved with him as long as it is in a limited sexual basis, that won’t risk her exposure to the paparazzi. While Molly finds Fox undeniably hot, I still had to be generous with my suspension of disbelief, because this is a departure from Molly’s typical behavior.

Fox is also acting out of character having become obsessed with the idea of making Molly is his, despite professing a disbelief in love and having serious abandoment issues. But Fox does his sneaky sexy best to keep her at his side, planning to use sex as the tool to break down her resistance.

“I won’t hurt you.” He wanted Molly with him all the way, and he suddenly realized he goddamn liked the idea of initiating her into sex.

Addicting her to it, to him, sounded even better.”

 Although I really disliked the cliched pairing of a promiscuous bad boy with a virginal librarian, the book was highly readable, and enjoyable but it is also very easy to nitpick. While all the characters are interesting and engaging, I struggled to believe some of the character choices. I liked how Singh worked with issues of addiction, and family history especially in how Molly had constructed her life prior to meeting Fox to minimize her exposure to scandal and to avoid repeating the damaging addictions of her parents. Her choices as presented are understandable but also very limiting. Fox’s own vulnerabilities I felt were under-explored only really creeping up in the later half of the second half. Still the choice Molly makes to abandon her career and life in New Zealand and move to LA with Fox after only a month together, seemed very drastic too me. Even though I understood how she comes to want to live with Fox openly, I wish there had been a middle step where she could be involved with Fox without leaving her whole former life behind.

I enjoyed the significance of the non-romantic friendships present in the book, particularly Fox’s female best friend Kathleen. However too many of these secondary characters had side-plotlines that are obviously set ups for future related books. There were some particularly awkward scenes revolving around Molly’s half-sister Thea and the band’s drummer David, where the reader is basically told, that something huge has happened but it will be dealt with in their book “Rock Courtship”.

The climactic conflict in the second half of the book was well-set up within the book and I thought very well executed. Molly must face her greatest fears head on, and instead of tearing Molly and Fox apart it draws them together in a very satisfying way.

Overall I have mixed feelings about Rock Addiction since I strongly disliked the underlying tropes, but I continue to enjoy Singh’s writing. I will probably come back and at least try Rock Courtship, where hopefully the more jarring series-setup flaws will not be as obvious.

A review copy of Rock Addiction by Nalini Singh was provided by TKA Distribution via NetGalley.


Best Kind of Trouble by Lauren Dane

Natalie had a wild wild youth, but she has put all of that behind her, and settled in to a happy and fun life in Hood River. She has the tattoos and the memories but nowadays she is happier to forget just how out of control her life used to be, so much so that when she runs into Paddy Hurley she tries very hard to pretend she doesn’t remember him. Even if Paddy is the absolutely delectable lead singer for Sweet Hollow Ranch, and once her former lover. Paddy has very good memories about Natalie and the couple of weeks they spent together as teenagers right before his band made it big. He doesn’t understand why she would brush him off the way she did, and can’t stop thinking about her.

This books made me so happy. I was gleeful at poor Natalie’s dismay when she realizes that Paddy has taken her brushoff as a challenge. I loved the good natured ribbing Paddy gets from his brothers and family for sudden focus on catching Natalie’s attention. But most of all I love their banter and chemistry.

But Natalie has very personal reasons for not wanting to be involved with a Rock God, beyond keeping her past in her past and most of them have nothing to do with Paddy. I really liked the internal conflict this provided for Natalie. Natalie is passionate and successful in her career (Public Librarian), she is active in her community, and has a close and loving circle of friends. She is also an incredibly private person, and she knows inviting Paddy into her life is not something she would be able to contain. Paddy has big personality, fame and she knows she won’t be able to compartmentalize her feelings and just enjoy the ride while it lasts.

Paddy, a serial dater and hedonist is attracted to Natalie beyond the challenge of bedding her again. He finds himself wanting to understand her and is sure quite quickly he wants her in his life beyond a quick fling. In her he recognizes the potential for something beyond the moment.

I really liked how Dane built up Natalie and Paddy’s relationship, and the various challenges they faced, particularly Natalie’s need for control and Paddy’s well camouflaged insecurity. The sex was hot, emotional and incredibly sexy.

While the books starts out with fun chase plot, it really becomes about what it takes to stay together, to take on major challenges,  and to trust and reassure each other. The misunderstanding and failures in communication were heart-rending and believable. I never felt jerked around, instead I could see how both Natalie and Paddy could be trying their best and still fail to understand each other. And when Paddy screws up he grovels just the way he needs to.

I can’t wait to for the next book in this series, because Tuesday and Ezra’s story is going to be epic.

 

A copy of Best Kind of Trouble was provided by Harlequin HQN via NetGalley for review purposes.