Review: Turn It Up by Inez Kelley

Turn It UpTurn It Up by Inez Kelley

230 pp. // Contemp. Romance // Carina Press // August 2011

SUMMARY: Charlie and Bastian, aka Honeypot and Dr. Hot, are sex-pert radio hosts whose show covers any and everything under the sun regarding relationships and sex. Off-air, Charlie is a bombshell who’s open and upfront with her sexuality, while Bastian is a good-boy doctor. The two have been friends for years and Bastian has been secretly in love with Charlie for almost just as long.

When Bastian finally admits his feelings to Charlie, Charlie’s intrigued by the thought of sex with Bastian but she refuses to commit to more for fear of losing her best friend to a doomed relationship. Bastian is desperate to show Charlie that they can be great together and proposes a bet: can he get Charlie to agree to marriage before she can seduce him to bed? It’s a battle of willpower as they both try to get the other to crumble first, and in this case, all’s fair in love and sex. Continue reading

Review: Real Men Will by Victoria Dahl

Real Men Will (Donovan Brothers Brewery, #3)Real Men Will by Victoria Dahl

Donovan Brothers Brewery #3 // 336 pp. // Contemp. Romance // HQN // Oct. 2011

GOODREADS SUMMARY: It was meant to be a one-night stand. One night of passion. Scorching hot. Then Beth Cantrell and Eric Donovan were supposed to go their separate ways. That’s the only reason he lied about his name, telling her he was really his wild younger brother. Hiding his own identity as the conservative Donovan. The “good” one.

But passion has its own logic, and Eric finds he cannot forget the sable-haired beauty with whom he shared one night of passion. When Beth discovers that Eric has lied, however, she knows he cannot be trusted. Her mind tells her to forget the blue-eyed charmer. If only every fiber of her being did not burn to call him back.

Continue reading

Review: Nothing But Trouble by Rachel Gibson

Nothing But Trouble (Chinooks Hockey Team, #5)Nothing But Trouble by Rachel Gibson

Chinooks Hockey Team #5 // 354 pp. // Contemp. Romance // Avon // Apr. 2010

GOODREADS SUMMARY: Trouble… Chelsea Ross’ acting career has been a total bust. The closest she ever came to stardom was her brilliant performance as “Pretty Dead Girl #1.” But leaving Hollywood to become the personal assistant to a famous hockey player could be her stupidest career move ever.

More Trouble… Injured superstar Mark Bressler’s glory days are over. The bad-boy ex-jock could at least be civil to the pint-sized, pink-haired bombshell who the Seattle Chinooks hired to be his P.A. If Chelsea didn’t need the money, she’d be running from the world’s biggest jerk as fast as her feet could carry her.

Big Trouble! Chelsea can deal with Mark’s rotten attitude and dark moods. The problem is those biceps and that red-hot bod! And when the bad boy starts to put the moves on her, Chelsea knows it’s time she banished him to the penalty box…if only she could resist the kind of trouble he has in mind.

I gobbled this book up in less than two days! I have read all but one of the Chinooks Hockey Team books and they always make me laugh out loud. This was definitely the case here, as Chelsea and her “cell phone antics” had me giggling while reading on the subway.

As much as I wanted to give this book 4 stars like I did with all the previous Chinooks titles, it started a bit slow and the relationship between Chelsea and her twin sister, Bo, kind of irritated me. Bo came across as judgmental and condescending and Chelsea just sort of took it laying down simply because they were sisters. I did like Chelsea’s character and her witty attitude, but for someone who could talk back so easily, it seemed far-fetched that she would let her sister get away with treating her like that.

I was also a bit disappointed with the sex scenes in the book. They were very watered down and took forever to get to. I understand that in contemporary romances there must be tension built between the characters, but the steamy scenes (if you can call them that) between the two characters doesn’t even occur until about 200 pages into the book – when you’re more than halfway done with the story!

The saving grace of it all was the characters. Chelsea is a smart ass with a love for ostentatious clothes, while Mark is a gruff, broken-down (ex) hockey player who is brought to life by her. Plus, Gibson glosses over a few of the other players on the team and they make great side characters because they’re so believable and their personalities make you smile (Vlad, anyone?).

Review: Power Play by Nancy Warren

Power Play (Harlequin Blaze, #502)Power Play by Nancy Warren

212 pp. // Contemp. Romance // Harlequin Blaze // Nov. 2009

GOODREADS SUMMARY: Keep her hands to herself?

Not easy for Emily Saunders, who’s in Elk Crossing, Idaho, for a family wedding. She’s double booked in the same hotel room with a sexy cop attending–of all things!–a hockey tournament. As a massage therapist, Emily’s soon itching to soothe Jonah Bett’s gorgeous muscles–both on and off the ice.
Jonah can’t believe his luck–a sexy single woman sharing his cozy room, albeit temporarily. Okay, her orange bridsemaid dress is a disaster and her family is convinced he’s actually her boyfriend. He’s ready to go along with it even as he makes his play…

Until Emily is suddenly calling for a TIME-OUT! Will Jonah’s fantasies be permanently iced?

I’m finding that the more I like a book, the quicker I gobble it up. Seems like an obvious cause/effect, but it really hit home when I finished Power Play in THREE HOURS!

The only things that stood out more than the steamy bedroom scenes were the unexpected and hilarious laugh-til-you-cry scenes. It’s been a while since I’ve literally laughed out loud when reading a book and there were multiple moments where I not only smiled and giggled, but I bellowed out full-on laughs during this book.

Good-girl Emily returns to her hometown as a bridesmaid in her cousin’s wedding. Since she’s single, she always been labeled the ‘reliable one,’ and constantly bends over backward for her family’s requests. Dependable as she may be, Emily refuses to bunk at home and books a hotel room (far away from her family) for the week. As luck would have it, the hotel experiences a bedbug infestation the first night during her stay and she is booted from her room.

Jonah is staying across the hall from Emily when the infestation occurs and the evacuation definitely throws a wrench into his week-long hockey tournament. Because of a hotel mix-up — and because they’re both stubborn — Jonah and Emily become roommates for the week. There is one up side to Emily’s new roommate, however — an excuse to get her family off her back, as she pretends Jonah is her boyfriend. The sheets sizzle between these two and their banter is absolutely hilarious!

Emily is quick-witted and multifaceted, enjoying a cold beer as much as painting her nails, while Jonah is as big (in a sexy, hover-over-you kind of way) and lovable as a teddy bear. The author also adds a secondary romance to the mix which at first seems confusing, but soon becomes a charming touch that adds another dimension to the story. Rounding things out is a climax with an unexpected clinch, and in the end I was left with a chuckling grin on my face.

Review: Full Blast by Janet Evanovich & Charlotte Hughes

Full Blast (Full Series, #4)Full Blast by Janet Evanovich

Full series #4 // 344 pp. // Contemp. Romance // St. Martin’s // Apr. 2004

GOODREADS SUMMARY: There’s never a dull moment for the residents of Beaumont, South Carolina. Lately, a heat wave’s spiked the mercury-and everyone’s sex drive! These days, when Jamie runs into Max, it’s all she can do not to tear his clothes off-and the feeling is mutual. But trouble seems to follow Max like moths to a flame, and Jamie suspects he’s all wrong for her. Meanwhile, the lingerie shop is having a sale on edible underwear, while the bakery’s selling aphrodisiac-laced brownies and x-rated birthday cakes. Even Jamie’s dog, Fleas, is dodging passes from the amorous French poodle next door! But when someone starts bumping off some of the town’s more annoying citizens, all clues lead straight to the new personals section in Jamie’s newspaper. Pretty soon, things are getting hot and heavy, as Max and Jamie start uncovering secrets-and undressing each other…

This was my first time reading a romance by the Evanovich/Hughes duo and it was okay. There were some entertaining aspects that made me smile and there were some blah parts that made it hard to get through.

Max is definitely my favorite aspect of of the book. I’ll admit, he seems a bit unrealistic – a little TOO perfect with his über richness, his computerized car with a personality, his private jet, etc… But he comes across as a genuinely nice guy who is pretty down to earth for someone who has it all. His sister Dee Dee, on the other hand, is like nails on a chalkboard for me. She may only be a secondary character, but she’s in enough scenes to grind my gears with her incessant whining and prissiness.

There’s also a mystery aspect, like most books by Evanovich, but the climax is extremely anti-climactic. I know this book isn’t supposed to be hardcore romantic suspense, but the mystery solving is like having the rug pulled from under the reader: quick and totally from left field. There were barely any clues during the book that hinted at who the culprit could be.

Overall I guess you can say I enjoyed this book. I’ll admit that I’m probably giving it more credit than it deserves, only because I’m such a big Evanovich fan. I’m pretty sure I’ll be sticking with Stephanie Plum from now on, though.

‘Tis the Season for… Cowboys!

cowboy boot + hatWhen the weather outside is frightful, or you just want a reason to snuggle up indoors, nothing will warm you up quicker than a strong, hot-blooded man. More specifically, a cowboy. There’s just something so rugged and masculine about them that makes it easy for a gal to want to get wrapped up in their lasso. Amirite??

If you’re a cowboy-lovin’ lady looking to live out your fantasies between fictional pages, I recommend checking out Carolyn Brown’s holiday release, Mistletoe Cowboy. This book has all the trimmings needed to make your Christmas cowboy vision complete: a snow-covered ranch, a spitfire heroine, a duo of strays (squee!) and lots and lots of mistletoe that seems to show up at the best (and worst) time. Paired with a pair of fuzzy socks and a giant mug of cocoa (with extra marshmallows, of course), and you’ve got yourself a guaranteed good time.

Mistletoe Cowboy by Carolyn Brown

Lucky Harbor is Simply Irresistible

Sometimes a book comes along right when you need it, making it the right book at the right time. Simply Irresistible was the “right time-right book” for me. I’d been in a reading rut and, eager for something light, humorous and full of just-right romance tropes — small town, clumsy heroine, sure-of-himself hero — Jill Shalvis’ Simply Irresistible more than delivered. This book is the epitome of a romance done right.

SYNOPSIS: Seeking a fresh start, Maddie Moore heads to Lucky Harbor where she’s been left part-ownership of a broken down inn with her two estranged sisters. As soon as she steps foot into town, she runs into Jax Cullen, who’s instantly smitten with Maddie and wastes no time telling her so. Having sworn off men, Maddie makes it clear that she’s off the market, but decides that the “new” Maddie should have a bit of fun while in town. “Fun” includes a no-strings fling with Jax, which soon turns into something more that neither of them expected. In addition to juggling between her heart versus head, Maddie realizes that running the inn could be her new calling, but has to find a way to convince her sisters to hop on board with the idea — if she can get them to reign in their catfighting. Will the “new” Maddie reign supreme in the end, or will everything backfire and crumble to pieces for the timid middle child?

From the start, Jax makes it clear that he wants Maddie and though it takes her a minute to catch up, Maddie eventually comes around, making their cat-mouse game enjoyable to follow. Maddie has a serious case of middle-child syndrome and watching her come out of her shell was a real treat and had me cheering for her success.

Since this is the first book in the Lucky Harbor series, it also deals with the fledgling relationship between Maddie and her sisters. Though the three of them are complete opposites, it’s clear that they would do anything for the other, despite not having grown up together. Their storyline is wrought with emotion, revealing what I feel is a true-to-life depiction of sibling interaction (you can’t pick your family, am I right?).

In the end, a trip to Lucky Harbor was exactly what I needed. Now, not only do I have a renewed love of romance books, but I also have a new favorite author as well as a new fictional town to add to my list of “fictional places I wish were real.”

*Click here to read my review and view my star rating on Goodreads.

Roaming Around the Web

Howdy! Consider this the first edition of Roaming Around the Web, a linkfest for romance and bookish-related happenings. Depending on how much good stuff I come across during the week, R.A.W. posts will range from lengthy to short ‘n sweet. Yikes… One paragraph in and this post is already dripping with double entendre (including this sentence). Shall we begin?

  • One of my fave authors, Carly Phillips, waxed poetic on the Penguin blog on what makes a contemporary romance. It’s no secret that I’m a sucker for small-town romance, and Ms. Phillips does an excellent job at articulating why they’re just so darn charming (and addictive!).
  • What’s better than scoring a new read? Scoring a free new read. Double it and you’ve got yourself a surefire good time. Currently, Ripped Apart (a romantic suspense by Miriam Minger) and At His Mercy (an erotic short story by Alison Kent) are listed as freebies in the Kindle store. If you’re anything like me, you’ve already DL’d them or you’re eagerly clicking the links before you can even finish reading this sentence!
  • Ever wondered what goes on in editors’ minds while wading through the slush pile? Thanks to Carina Press Exec Editor Angela James’ Edit Report, your burning questions can be quelled. Her most recent report answered questions like what percent of submissions are sent R&R (revise and resubmit) letters (A: 5%) and what type of books do editors decide to accept (A: Said of recently acquired book, “I love [its] vivid small town setting, rich secondary romance & how author explores the complex family dynamics.”). Be sure to follow @AngelaJames and/or her #editreport on Twitter for more of her behind-the-scenes POV in the world of editing & books.

ROAMING QUESTION: Have you come across anything interesting (romance/book-related or not) in the World Wide Web? If so, please share! I’m especially keen to links that feature cute animals doing even cuter — and quirkier — things.

Beer ‘N’ Books

Drinking and driving is a no-no. But what about drinking while reading? Pretty sure there’s no rule that prohibits it — well, unless maybe you’re in a library. But even if there were, I’m pretty sure I’d brush it off just so I can read Victoria Dahl’s Bad Boys Do while tossing back a cold one. As the second installment in the Donovan Brothers Brewery series (see my review of the first book HERE), not only do we get to know Jamie — the charming, yet irresponsible brother — better, but we also get a more behind-the-scenes look at what goes into running a brewery and all the components of beer that make it just so darn tasty (depending on your personal palate). After reading page after page about hops, ale and boldness, I just knew I had to crack open a pony-neck bottle to accompany my page turning.  In the end I settled on SweetWater Blue, a pale ale with a hint of blueberry. Mm, mm! Just like a wine and cheese pairing, I suggest picking up a case of fine brew to go with this delicious story.

Synopsis: Olivia Bishop is one cat away from becoming an old maid. She’s never strayed from her hum-drum routine, much less taken part in anything… fun. So when she meets Jamie Donovan, the drop-dead gorgeous bartender at Donovan Brothers Brewery, and actually — gasp! — flirts with him, she knows she must be losing her marbles. Why else would she decide to take him up on his offer to experience the naughty exciting things in life? She may be a professor, but she could stand to learn a few things from the charming — not to mention younger — man.

Their first time together is one for the books and Olivia floats into class the next day still on Cloud Nine. Imagine her surprise when she realizes that Jamie is one of her students! Despite their teacher-student relationship, the couple realizes they have more in common than originally thought, plus can kindle one hell of a spark in between the sheets. But can Olivia get past her own insecurities long enough to enjoy it?

My fingers couldn’t press “Next Page” quick enough (I read this on my Kindle) as I devoured Bad Boys Do. Olivia’s spinster-turned-sex kitten behavior was interesting to watch unfold, but to be honest, it was Jamie who actually shined as a main character in my eyes. He’s more than just a pretty face — he had goals and was driven to actually achieve them. As far supporting roles, I have to say that Jamie’s brother, Eric, was as frustrating as a hang nail/splinter/itch-you-can’t-reach combined! Much satisfaction was had when Jamie finally stood up for himself, not just against Eric, but against all the obstacles that tried to get in his way. We all know how stories like this end (HEA, of course), but the road taken to get there was compelling enough to keep me traveling along, anxious to see where it goes.

*Click here to read my review and view my star rating on Goodreads.

**I received Bad Boys Do as a complimentary copy for review from NetGalley.