Freebie- Turning up the Heat

Turning up the Heat
by Laura Florand

After eleven years of marriage, Léa Laurier knew her husband. Knew how he could take on responsibility for a world-famous restaurant, a wife, and her two teenage siblings at nineteen years old and never falter, never tire. Knew his drive and his ambition, that took him to the stars. Knew how briliant his gray eyes looked when they met hers for just one moment across a host of cameras. She didn’t know why she was so tired. She didn’t know why she needed to just get away. For a while. Maybe a week or two. A month. She’d be back.
After eleven years of marriage, international superstar chef Daniel Laurier knew his wife. Knew how she could lavish caring on everyone, her siblings, his staff, and most especially him. Knew the way her face lit up when he won yet another television contest, and the way she hugged him for it. Knew how her hair smelled when he sank into bed exhausted at one in the morning. He didn’t know what to do when he came home from a consulting trip to find she’d disappeared to remote South Pacific island: I just needed to get away for a little while. A week or two. I’ll call you.
As the whole solid world under his feet turned into a sandcastle in the tide, Daniel knew only one thing: whatever was wrong with his marriage or his wife, he wasn’t losing her. So as a top chef, he did the one thing he always knew how to do: turn up the heat.

This is a novella about how lack of communication can ruin relationships and how time together is the most important thing in a relationship.

It’s currently available for free on Kobo and iTunes.
4 star review

Review- The Cowboy and the Vampire: Blood and Whiskey

The Cowboy and the Vampire: Blood and Whiskey
by Clark Hays & Kathleen McFalls

I did not receive an ARC of this book, but liked the first book well enough, and am anal enough to read a series in order (I received ARC’s of the first and third books), so I picked this up at amazon.

This book jumps right in after The Cowboy and the Vampire: A Very Unusual Romance. (IF you haven’t read the first book you are going to want to stop right here and go back-major spoilers ahead)

We have Lizzie Vaughn the reluctant vampire queen and her erstwhile cowboy lover Tucker. Following the epic and tragic conclusion of the first book, they have returned to Lonepine, Wyoming to settle down with their impending family. Lizzie is still struggling with her new nature, including the fact that she will have to drink blood and kill. And Tucker is still struggling over basically everything, impending fatherhood, Lizzie’s new nature, and his own mortality in comparison to Lizzie’s immortality. Right when things seemed to be settling down, chaos ensues. Lennie needs a favor, finding his missing niece who has been kidnapped. And just when they are headed out, Rurik, a mysterious and powerful vampire pops up out of the woodwork to enlighten Lizzie on just how precarious the vampire situation is; if she can’t turn more vampires, the whole balance of the world will be destroyed. Events are a whole lot more complicated than any of them were expecting challenging love, friendships, and loyalty.

This story maintained it’s dark humor but showed us a whole more politically savvy side to Lizzie. The writing seemed a lot smoother and more polished than the first book, or maybe I just got used to it, but I didn’t struggle as much to determine whose POV I was looking through. What worked for me was the snarky dialogue, Marion (Dad), Lennie, Elita, and the love and devotion between Lizzie and Tucker. I also enjoy how this series blends evolution, morality, ethics, and politics. What didn’t work for me was the set up for a love triangle with Rurik coming between the two, I am just not a fan of this trope and I can see potential for this to be truly miserable.

Lizzie proved herself to the vampire nation in a most surprising way, heartbreak ensues for all the characters, and Lizzie and Tucker’s relationship ends on a solid high point.

Another solid 4 stars for this unlikely duo.

4 star review

Review- That Camden Summer

That Camden Summer
by LaVyrle Spencer

I remember reading this first on one of those rare breaks during college where I could not stand to write another paper but felt like I had too much to do and couldn’t go home. So, I found myself on the second floor of the library where the scanty fiction section was. I wasn’t expecting much because this wasn’t an author that had ever interested me, but I was instantly captivated and re-read this book several times over the next several years, naturally I was pleased to find a copy of this on OpenLibrary. As with most books you can check out through open library, because they are scanned your best bet is to use Read Now or download PDF using Adobe Digital Editions.

In 1916, Roberta Hewitt returned to her former hometown newly divorced from her philandering and gambling husband, with her three daughters and a job as a nurse and a tendency for independence. The residents of the town are dismissive and critical, even her own family, and her brother in law is worse. Gabriel Farley is the town’s handyman and jack-of-all-trades ACS he works on her house. Initially he is as crude as her brother-in-law, but over time they develop a friendship that sets tongues wagging.

So first things first on this. There’s a trigger warning. There’s a moderately graphic rape scene. It isn’t gratuitous and is integral to characterization and plot for several reasons, but may be distressing to some readers.

Now on to the more pleasant things. I loved how much information we got about cars of that time period, the way they were run and serviced and the way people felt about women owning and operating them. It’s a big part of the story, and while I was fascinated, and in the end, it actually did turn out to be integral to the plot, I can see why some people might get bored or frustrated. However, what I loved most was the characterizations and how the people changed throughout the story, or how our perceptions of them changed. Rarely have I loved and hated characters in such equal measure throughout a story while still feeling they were believable characters and not merely caricatures. Roberta was no Mary Sue; she was a strong and determined woman who even by her own admission was overly stubborn. She wasn’t always as tidy, reserved or circumspect as women of her era were expected to be, but she was joyous and true to herself. Gabriel wasn’t perfect either. He was just as crass and crude towards a divorcée as one might expect from men of that era, and he wasn’t a perfect father either, being more reserved than a motherless daughter might need. But it didn’t take long for Gabriel to open his eyes and take another accounting of the situation. And it was so lovely watching these two very different individuals first learn to be friends then to integrate their lives, and finally for Roberta to learn to lean and Gabriel to open up his emotions and play. And while Elfred, her brother-in-law was ultimately unredeemable, it was clearly his own choice. I despised him unreservedly. Myra, Roberta’s mother, on the other hand, while I certainly couldn’t like her, I did learn to understand, just as Roberta did.

So, I’ll rate this as 4 stars for a touching and realistic journey into love the second time around.
4 star review

Review- The Cowboy and the Vampire: A Very Unusual Romance

The Cowboy and the Vampire: A Very Unusual Romance
by Clark Hays & Kathleen McFall

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

This book was initially published in 1999, so if you were reading vampire romance before it was cool, you might want to double check your shelves and make sure you hadn’t already picked it up. Fortunately for me, this was not something I had previously seen (small town libraries did not have this sort of fun when I grew up). This book was a wild ride even in today’s market, so I can only imagine how wild it must have seemed 15 years ago.

Tucker is your any-man cowboy in Wyoming with his faithful horse Snort and his faithful dog Rex. Lizzie is an urbane and sophisticated New York City reporter. When they meet during an article she is writing on cowboys, irritation turns to attraction, attraction into lust, and lust into love. But when a different article she is writing, one on vampires, sets her on a dangerous path, she turns to the only man she feels like she can trust, Tucker. Because Lizzie harbors secrets, secrets that have even been hidden from herself. There’s danger, drama, and change in this exciting and wild ride.

There’s also a strong cast of secondary characters. Like Lennie, the paranoid conspiracy theorist who can create the most dangerous things using duct tape. For the record, in small rural towns, guys like this do exist, there’s nothing coincidental about it. And Tucker’s dad, a grizzled somewhat snarky older man. Or Lazarus, yes that Lazarus from the bible.

Overall the writing is really fairly good, my one issue is for the first half of the book it ping pongs between first person views and it can be a bit like whiplash trying to figure out whose eyes and head you are in.

The vampires of this world have a very interesting mythology complete with their own bible and prophesies and distant ways in which vampires can breed and feed. It’s dark and funny with wicked insights into politics, ethics, and morality. It’s is kind of like a darker and less vapid version of Maryjanice Davidson’s Undead series, only with cowboys. Not like she ripped it off, but reading this made me seriously contemplate whether or not Davidson had read and been intrigued by this series prior to writing the Undead series.

A had a ball with this book and it rates a solid 4 stars. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the next book in this series.

4 star review

Review-Lay Me Down

Lay Me Down
by Erin Kellison
Lay Me Down

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

I got into this series because of Darkness Falls in Dark and Deadly: Eight Bad Boys of Paranormal Romance, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Maise has been working in the illegal side of Reve as a courier in an attempt to earn enough money to start her own business. Steve is the head of Chimera, an organization attempting to police the Reve.

What is the Reve? It is dreamscapes-personal and collective, and with the right hardware, or the right talent it is possible to link up with others to share dreams.

Honestly, I did not get quite the same buzz from this as I did Darkness Falls, because I knew what the setting was and some of what would happen. There were still a few new surprises that opened this world up though, plenty to keep the reader intrigued and wanting the next book.

Maise is such a fun character; she’s strong, tough, practical, and vulnerable. Steve though, he’s the mystery man. He has all kinds of complicated layers and secrets. I can really see Maise and Steve, as different from each other as they are, doing well together.

But Vincent must have some pretty serious skills and secrets too, and I’m really hoping the next book is his.

This fast-paced novella  gives the reader a slice of what looks to be a very complex world. There isn’t any of that onerous info dumping, so you really need to read these in order to understand what is happening. Thoroughly enjoyable, I am giving this book 4 stars.

4 star review

Review- Shattered

by Tracy Wolff

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

This is the second book in Wolf’s Extreme Risk Series. At the end of Shredded Ash Lewis receives a call informing him that his brother is in surgery and his parents are dead. This book starts with Ash having thrown his career away and working in the rental shop, going down the same meaningless sex path Z, from the previous book was on. There he meets Tansy, a 19-year-old virgin who has spent the last decade battling rhabdomyosarcoma. She’s got wild hair and a crazy love of life, which leads her to try to get him, involved with Make-A-Wish. As might be expected of this sort of angsty situation, Ash refuses to snowboard anymore because his brother is paralyzed and no longer can.

This book was much better than the first of the series, Shredded. The mix between child-like and adult-like behaviors was much more appropriate and the slang was toned down to levels that are more manageable, so the book didn’t seem to drag as much.

Tansy and Ash were both characters you can have empathy for. Tansy is trying so hard to determine her identity now that she feels her identity is no longer just girl with cancer. Ash, who wasn’t exactly Mr. Irresponsibility before, is still struggling to cope with now being the guardian for his younger brother. They felt like real people. And it was really nice to see Z being the grown up semi reasonable one.

I did have a few quibbles. First, there was a big continuity issue, in the last book, Z’s sister is named, April, this book Ash is calling her Lily. Second, their resolution, while sweet, was just too fast.

What I want, but probably won’t get, is the book 6-8 years from now with everyone settled, happy and grown up, and Logan is getting his HAE. I really want Logan’s story, but instead we’ll probably get Cam and Luc’s story, which I just don’t want. Luc’s such a sweet guy I want a real HAE for him, and not just for him to get to be Cam’s second choice.

3 star review

Review- Shredded

by Tracy Wolff

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Netgalley, in exchange for an honest review.

Z (whose actual name we never do find out) is a 21-year-old world-class snowboarder with self-esteem issues and a death wish. Granted, he’s had some effed up stuff happen in his life, so maybe he’s slightly justified, though the people around him aren’t for the way they’ve enabled his behavior. Ophelia is an 18 or 19 year old who is just trying to escape her past following a fairly traumatic event. Ignore the part of the Goodreads story blurb that says “But laying low is her only option after her ex, a rich boy who couldn’t take no for an answer, nearly killed her in a jealous rage.” Because that’s so far off base in its implications that I’m not sure whoever wrote it even read past the first few chapters. Every other blurb says “But after nearly dying in the same drag-racing accident that killed her boyfriend, she needs a place to heal, both physically and emotionally.” They are two very damaged individuals who haven’t even begin to work through their own issues and are either going to find a way to help each other or both have cataclysmic melt downs.

This is a book about a snowboarder so you rather have to expect some slang words. In this case, it was grommet that caused me the most difficulty. For the uninitiated, apparently this means a young boarder (the word originally applied to surfing). There are quite a few other words outside the common vernacular relating to the sport and/or culture, though those are either explained or easily inferred by context. I didn’t really have an issue with the slang though. My issue is with the fact the author fails to realize or portray the fact that new adults are still adults. These characters seemed very immature. You’d expect at least a little bit of grown up behavior with the sort of backstories these characters have, but nope, zilch, nada. It is high school if not worse all the way. They seem to be attracted to the things in each other that are the absolute worst things they can look for in a mate. Plus, they spoke in a kind of exaggerated slang that I don’t even hear junior high kids try to pull off. And if I never again read “As if” or casual use of the word “front” without meaning the foremost part or surface of anything, it will simply be too soon. I struggled through most of the book, snorting at all the ridiculous angst ridden young love tropes where magical hormones fill the air and twue love happens in less than a week, hits you in an instant, and makes you want to be a better person etc. They were just the same tortured bad boy with a heart of gold and sassy, damaged heroine who supposedly will not take any crap off the hero (though she does, repeatedly). They are cardboard cutouts of characters and there wasn’t anything fresh or new to make them stand out or make me care, heck, I didn’t even completely buy any chemistry between them. That is until the very end. So stop reading now if you aren’t up for spoilers, just know this is a 3 star book……………………………………………………..

I hate to spoil but this is what saved this book for me. They actually have a grown up conversation about their issues, it’s obliquely intimated that love isn’t going to magically fix their issues, they make a commitment to actually communicate, and Z seeks professional help from a therapist, which is what he’s needed for the past decade. Not only that, but Z starts realizing that he’s getting help not just for Ophelia but for himself too. So, I guess in the end this works fairly well as a New Adult novel, albeit at the very, very start of that journey. Fair warning on one other thing though, there’s a really heavy cliffhanger to set up the next book in the series, though since it doesn’t specifically involved Z or Ophelia, that to me isn’t so much a cliffhanger as it is a teaser for the next book.