4 star review

Review + Blog Tour – One Snowy Night by Jill Shalvis

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It’s Christmas Eve and Rory Andrews is desperate to get home to the family she hasn’t seen in years. Problem is, her only ride to Lake Tahoe comes in the form of the annoyingly handsome Max Stranton, and his big, goofy, lovable dog Carl.

Hours stuck in a truck with the dead sexy Max sounds like a fate worse than death (not), but Rory’s out of options. She’s had a crush on Max since high school and she knows he’s attracted to her, too. But they have history… and Max is the only one who knows why it went south.

They’ve done a good job of ignoring their chemistry so far, but a long road trip in a massive blizzard might be just what they need to face their past… and one steamy, snowy night is all it takes to bring Max and Rory together at last.

I have been digging on this series for a bit now, and it was a surprise since contemporary doesn’t always do it for me and YA/NA (which this has a flavor of) is even chancier, but this group of friends I just can’t wait to keep hanging out with. And yeah lucky readers, there’s a giveaway that will give you a chance to get hooked up with the first two in the series!

Link to Follow Tour

Buy Links: Amazon | B & N | Google | iTunes | Kobo

Author Info
New York Times bestselling author Jill Shalvis lives in a small town in the Sierras with her family and far too many assorted quirky characters. Any resemblance to the quirky characters in her books is, um, mostly coincidental.

Look for Jill’s latest, SWEET LITTLE LIES on shelves and e-readers now, and get all her bestselling, award-winning books wherever romances are sold.

Visit Jill’s website for a complete book list and daily blog detailing her city-girl-living-in-the-mountains adventures.

Author Links: Website | Facebook | Twitter | GoodReads

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Edelweiss, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

I think it is possible to read these as stand alones, I just don’t know why you would want to. Part of the joy to me in this series is the group dynamics. We met Rory in the first book in the series, and she got a little more present in the second and we got a peek at touch of her background as one of Willa’s adoptees, connections made of those who did not grow up with a stable home life.

But now it is Christmas, and Rory figures it is time to finally take grown up stance in her life and mend some familial breeches. Which puts her into contact with Max, the one guy that she just cant settle her feelings with, and apparantly the one guy she has some sort  of mysterious history with.

This is a sort of snowed in trope, though they are driving, and it is a Big Mis. SO there aren’t a lot of interactions with others and they have some solid time to work out their issues. And since this is novella length, it works out for the best that they have both history and the extended alone time, and that every disaster (and there are several) gives them each the time to size each other up in a new light. And they are almost painfully cut with each other, and there is plenty of saucy banter. It is good stuff.

But, on the neg side, it is almost too short, and the age and theme skew even younger than the other books in the series. It is also a happily for now with glowing possibilities for the future, which actually does fit better my idea for two such young (to me kids) and the short format, so for me it isn’t a negative, but I know it could be for others. So take that into account.

Overall though, it is a good, quick, happy  read, perfect for the upcoming holidays and I do recommend it, along with the whole series.

And whoohoo for me, I have the 3rd full book in this series in the queue, so drop on by in January and see what the gang is up to next.

One Snowy Night (Heartbreaker Bay, #2.5)

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3.5 star review, 5 star review

OpenLibrary Review – Dream Man by Linda Howard

Dream man

This 1998 classic one was way overdue for a re-read, and the comments from my review of Troublemaker made it imperative. Dream Man is available from Openlibrary, but the usual disclaimers apply.

Detective Dane Hollister of the Orlando police department has never met anyone quite like Marlie Keen. While he has doubts about her supposed clairvoyant powers, she sees crimes as they’re being committed, there is no doubt about how much he desires her. To Marlie, Dane is all heat and hard muscle, and he makes her body come alive as it never has before. But not even she can foresee that their passion will lead them on a dangerous journey into the twisted mind of a madman who will threaten their happiness and their lives.

So things to note, I adored this book, it got 5 stars from me and I have reread it so very many times. And I still love it, but, just bear in mind these comments are me trying to read this thing with 2016 eyes. If you still love and have fond memories of this book, you just may want to look away. Because as much as I still enjoyed it, I think perhaps it didn’t hold up to time as well as others have. And considering this is such a widely read and reviewed book, well there may almost certainly be spoilers, and my comments are going to be more directed and specific than I would otherwise be. You have been warned.

Holy crap, I DID NOT remember Dane being such a stalkerish pig. I really didn’t. I will grant you that he is no where in the alphahole league as the ones I really trash, but I remember him as being a sweet hero. But really his bowling her over and moving in was slightly creepy to me now. I mean there is some genuinely witty banter, and he is rather sweet at times, but still. On the plus though it was the late 90’s version of this Athur Dayne guy-which is a must read. READ IT!!!!

Other pluses include a psychic heroine, but it somehow doesn’t strike as hardcore paranormal, she is a strong heroine who shows a huge personal growth pattern (some would say too much), the romantic connection, the sex scenes, and Dane’s partner, and the mystery and truly creepy villain. There is a ton of good stuff.

On the side of I don’t know if this is a plus or a minus-the prose is remarkably purple and I enjoyed the hell of it in the way that only a reader of the old skool possibly could, your mileage may vary.

On the negative Marlie kind of gets healed by the magic Peen, there is some acknowledged condomless sex that I had completely forgotten about (and Linda Howard is usually so wonderful with this), the hero flat betrays the heroine (not sexually, but…professionally), and there wasn’t nearly enough groveling… but the make-up sex was hot and sweet.

And back to the pluses, the epilogue, the magical wonderful baby epilogue. I know that epilogues in general get a bad rap, and baby ones even more. But seriously, this one simply must be read, to quote one of the nurses “There may be justice in this world, after all.”

So in the end what was formerly a 5 star book is probably down to a 3.5 star book for me now, still goo, still maybe a re-read, but not the top of the re-read stack. And maybe subconsciously I knew this and it was why I had such a delay in re-reading it. Who knows?

Dream Man

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3 star review

Review – Troublemaker by Linda howard

Troublemaker

A thrilling, fast-paced novel of romantic suspense from sensational New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Linda Howard.

For Morgan Yancy, an operative and team leader in a paramilitary group, nothing comes before his job. But when he’s ambushed and almost killed, his supervisor is determined to find out who’s after the members of his elite squad—and why. Due to worries that this unknown enemy will strike again, Morgan is sent to a remote location and told to lay low and stay vigilant. But between a tempting housemate he’s determined to protect and a deadly threat waiting in the shadows, keeping under the radar is proving to be his most dangerous mission yet.

The part-time police chief of a small West Virginian mountain town, Isabeau “Bo” Maran finally has her life figured out. She’s got friends, a dog, and a little money in the bank. Then Morgan Yancy shows up on her doorstep. Bo doesn’t need a mysterious man in her life—especially a troublemaker as enticing and secretive as Morgan.

The harder they fight the intense heat between them, the closer Morgan and Bo become, even though she knows he’s hiding from something. But discovering the truth could cost Bo more than she’s willing to give. And when Morgan’s cover is blown, it might just cost her life.

Linda Howard is one of my loves. I have been with her through a lot of the years. For some reason though I was really late realizing she had a new release out, and so was completely blindsided when the reviews started coming in. And they were mixed to say the least. So I was really late getting around to it. It appears to be a series…maybe?

Where to start, so much where to start? The initial set up is pretty good, rough tough cream puff has been shot, his organizational leader sends him to recuperate with said organizational leader’s former step-sister who is the chief of police of a small town. We have the feisty chief of police with a cute little plot pet, who isn’t immediately on board and asks some questions and asks for assurances of safety for herself and her town.

THIS SHOULD HAVE BEEN MY CATNIP!!! But it wasn’t 😦

For some reason they harped on the fact that Bo’s position is purely administrative so she isn’t a real cop. And while it is a legal option in some states, I find it a) irritating that this is harped on, b) irritated that this was the choice that the author made when she could have been a real police officer, and c) that she doesn’t stick to her purely administrative position when her role is defined that way. I am also kind of flipped off at the reasons she needed money and so acquiesced to her step-brother’s demands. It made her seem weak which irritated me.

On the pluses, these two experienced no insta-love, they took their time and got to know one another. So it was completely lovely and relaxed how they got together. Unfortunately, looking at it closer, WE THE READERS never really got to know the main characters, we never got the text of their conversations with one another….what we got was a ton about Tricks the plot pet. Don’t get me wrong, I like a good plot pet as much as the next person (probably more), but this was effing ridiculous. It was too much.

So I am torn on how to rate this and whether or not to recommend it. In the end I did enjoy it, and it was super relaxing to read and kept my attention well, but I am not going to re-read it. And it was interesting enough that I would be interested in continuing to read the series, if it is indeed a series. But there were the aforementioned issues. Plus, it is still 12.99 and that is quite insane. So I don’t know, YMMV, and it isn’t a complete nix.

Troublemaker: A Novel

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5 star review

OpenLibrary Review – Open Season by Linda Howard

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Be careful what you wish for….On her thirty-fourth birthday, Daisy Minor decides to make over her entire life. The small-town librarian has had it with her boring clothes, her ordinary looks, and nearly a decade without so much as a date. It’s time to get a life — and a sex life. The perennial good girl, Daisy transforms herself into a party girl extraordinaire — dancing the night away at clubs, laughing and flirting with abandon — and she’s declared open season for manhunting. But her free-spirited fun turns to shattering danger when she witnesses something she shouldn’t — and becomes the target of a killer. Now, before she can meet the one man who can share her life, first she may need him to save it.

This is one of my favorite books of all time, not the least of which is that much like Cry No More, it has excellent treatment of birth control, though in very different ways. I figured I would come back to it after the way I had to shelve a few of Howard’s books in my Shame Files.

Daisy Ann Minor is a 34 year old librarian who has sadly let her life pass her by. She lives at home with her aunt and mother in something of a rut. She wakes up on the morning of her 34th birthday and decides she has to MAKE her life different. And the banter between her hormonal side and her sensible side is just too hilarious for words.

Fortunately for dear Daisy, she IS a librarian, and as such a researcher. So she sets out a plan to get a freaking life, and it is cuter than hell. And her mom and her aunt are fantastic and feisty, and completely on board with the plan, I’d be thrilled to have both of them in my family.

Chief Jack Russo is a jock, and alpha, and a grown up with some sexy grey in his hair, and underneath the gruff exterior doesn’t take himself too seriously. And between him and Daisy the sparks fly right from the beginning. And they keep bumping up against each other and rubbing each other the wrong way. We have the prissy classy librarians with a plan and the chief keeps getting completely, if sometimes obliviously, in the middle of it…until it is entirely on purpose. This jock really wants the librarian.

But on to one of my favorite components of the story-the birth control. There’s this one particular scene with condom buying (it was part of Daisy’s plan to let the community know she was looking-and if you ever lived in a small town you know how accurate it is) that is too funny. I thought about quoting it here, but really, it should be read in its entire glory. And then when they do decide to have sex, there is frank talk about birth control AND expectations if it should fail, but rather than being clinical it is just fun and funny and as little raunchy.

The mystery is perhaps solved a little too simply, like dominoes falling in a row it is lined up and knocked down in short order, but the characters are just such a riot that I don’t even care.

Seriously, it is a delightful book that I recommend to anyone.

Open Season

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1 star review, 5 star review

Openlibrary Review – After the Night

After the might

FAITH DEVLIN: A poor, outcast child in Prescott, Louisiana, she’d always adored the town’s golden boy from afar. But he called her white trash that sultry Southern night when his rich, respected father disappeared, along with her pretty Mom. Now Faith wanted to hate Gray Rouillard…not to feel a powerful surge of desire. But she couldn’t quench her passion, any more than she could hide the truth about the past she had waited so long to unravel.
GRAY ROUILLARD: Even when he raised hell, he did it with style. Reckless, charming, and backed by Rouillard money, Gray controlled the town of Prescott — and Devlin was a name he never wanted to hear again. But when he gazed at Faith Devlin, all he saw was a swirl of tangled sheets and her silken flesh beneath him. To care for her was impossible, unthinkable…because Gray Rouillard planned to use all his power to ruin her.

So this one is another Openlibrary (read for free legally-just get pdf not epub) AND Shame File. And unlike Shades of Twilight, I am just going to go ahead and admit, yes, I have actual shame for enjoying this book, despite the fact I’ve gone back to it on numerous occasions like an addict looking for my next fix.

Here’s my obligatory warning, there will be spoilers here. I can’t very well discuss the issues if I can’t say what they are. Also, trigger warnings, all the trigger warnings.

So it starts with Faith Devlin as a small child. She is infatuated with Gray, and as she grows older (she is a young teen now) this infatuation turns sexual in nature-of course. In any event Faith grew up in the town’s trashy family, and her mother is having an affair with the town scion who happens to be Gray’s father. When the two disappear, it starts a chain reaction that culminates in Gray and law enforcement going out to the shack the Devlin’s live in and running them out of town. It is the middle of the night and Faith is in a nightgown trying desperately to get her family’s thing packed as LEOs are throwing their stuff in the dirt. The cop cars have their headlights on and it turns her nightgown transparent and all these grown damned men, particularly the “hero”, are gawking and lusting after this teenager, thinking how she looks sexy like her mother. Hence the title – After the Night.

Eventually Faith grows up and finds out her mother actually didn’t run off with Gray’s father, so she heads back to her hometown to find out the truth. And back home all anyone can think about is how Faith looks like her mother and must be a trashy whore like her too. Sparks immediately start striking off Faith and Gray, and while Faith may be a feisty one in any other situation, when it comes to Gray she is a perpetual and unremitting doormat. He pushes her, and coerces her, and manhandles her and is in general a misogynistic a-hole toward her. And basically she just lets him treat her that way and the least little bits of anything remotely resembling kindness she just soaks it up like a sponge-forgiving his every transgression. Never mind that he and his family would have cheerfully bought out her house and run her out of town if she hadn’t bought it outright, that they would have messed with her banking if she hadn’t kept that out-of-state, that he turned the entire town against her so that she couldn’t buy gas or groceries in town, never mind any of that-he says he’s proud of her and she preens. This is a woman who needs freaking therapy, not the dubious love of a jerk who holds literally all of the power in the relationship.

Eventually they do end up together, but he never really apologizes for any of it, and then there is quite possibly the creepiest thing EVER said by a so-called hero. They are talking about the night that her family was thrown out of town and he tells her it wasn’t all bad because he wanted her then. That’s right the most traumatic night of her entire life wasn’t all bad because she gave him a boner when she was 14 years old. Add to that the fact that apparently the villain had been using Gray’s sister as a sexual surrogate for their mother, and she felt compelled to let him so her wouldn’t leave like their father supposedly did, and there are entire levels of sexual creepiness here. And that last was just gratuitous, there wasn’t a real need for it to further the story.

So why do I keep circling back to it? Damn but there are sparks there. And their banter is often hilarious. And Gray could also be funny and humorous, and once he quits trying to run the heroine out of town he’s oddly likable. And there is this just intense and funny and bonding intimate scene that I always go back to. Linda Howard just has a way of writing characters that I can always come back to.

In this case I think I shouldn’t come back to it. There is everything wrong and really nothing really redeemable about this story. And looking at it objectively, the things I enjoy about it should never have outweighed the bad. It is just that I never looked at it objectively. As it always left me on an emotional high, that is the way I always think of it, and I never went past the surface of the emotions I was left with.  ANd now I am looking at it objectively, and it is objectively horrifying…and yet…I still enjoy it. What does that say about me I wonder?

In any event, I should probably quit picking exclusively on Ms. Howard, whom I still love and who has some of the absolute best and favorite books, the author who got me to see that birth control in romance is a good thing and that it can be sexy and funny and good, and that heros could make me cry too. It is just that I have read and reread her books so many times, and her characters and stories are complex so that it was inevitable that some would have issues. So I think I’ll pick another excellent one next, and then try to pick on someone else next time.

After the Night

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4 star review

Review – Sweet Little Lies by Jill Shalvis

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Choose the one guy you can’t have . . .

As captain of a San Francisco Bay tour boat, Pru can handle rough seas—the hard part is life on dry land. Pru loves her new apartment and her neighbors; problem is, she’s in danger of stumbling into love with Mr. Right for Anybody But Her.

Fall for him—hard . . .

Pub owner Finn O’Riley is six-foot-plus of hard-working hottie who always makes time for his friends. When Pru becomes one of them, she discovers how amazing it feels to be on the receiving end of that deep green gaze. But when a freak accident involving darts (don’t ask) leads to shirtless first aid, things rush way past the friend zone. Fast.

And then tell him the truth.

Pru only wants Finn to be happy; it’s what she wishes for at the historic fountain that’s supposed to grant her heart’s desire. But wanting him for herself is a different story—because Pru’s been keeping a secret that could change everything. . . .

I received an ARC of this book from the Publisher, via Edelweiss, this does not affect my opinion of this book or the content of my review.

Jill Shalvis is one of those authors that I hear about quite a bit, but for some reason or another, I’ve just never picked up. But when this was offered to me, it just caught my eye. While the Big Secret isn’t a favorite trope of mine and contemporary doesn’t always do it for me, I do enjoy a heroine who is large and in charge (boat captain seemed to fit) and the friends to lover trope (which this sounded like it might be), so I snatched it up and prepared to dive in.

And right off the bat we have a homely plot pet in the form of a fat old dog, so it is just checking my boxes right and left. We’ve also got a tight circle of friends, yeah, they are sequel bait, but who cares? They’re fun to hang out with and have interesting and apparently varied back stories. So that is another check box for me as I enjoy stories that explore communites and don’t simply rest on the shoulders of the main couple.

Really the relationship between the two main characters is a vehicle to explore their neurosis, of which they each have plenty. And it isn’t so much friends to lovers as it is that our girl is a teensy bit of a stalker…I liked her anyway (martyr complex and all), and naturally enough so does our hero.

We also have, joy of joys, actual condom use incorporated into sexy times, which is another thing that pushes all my buttons in the best way possible.

The story and the setting, for the most part, can best be described as…cozy. Yes, there was a big blow up when the Big Secret came out (par for the course), but the author didn’t drag it out so it worked ok for me. And the secondary characters, they seriously rock and since the next book comes out in September and the one after that in January, it is a very doable wait. It kind of has a Molly Harper feel that I am digging. It isn’t perfect (though I can’t quite put my finger on what was off-maybe that they are so young and dang I am getting old?), but I think I have a new contemporary series to glom onto, the next two are now on my TBR.

Sweet Little Lies (Heartbreaker Bay, #1)

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4 star review

OpenLibrary Review – Shades of Twilight by Linda Howard

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Dear listener,

Shades of Twilight is the story of Roanna Davenport, who grows up in a wealthy southern family but never quite fits in. She isn’t pretty or popular, and she has a real talent for saying the wrong thing at precisely the wrong moment. She’s in love with a distant cousin, Webb Tallant. But Webb marries their cousin Jessie, the bane of Roanna’s life. When Jessie is found murdered, Webb is blamed for her death, even though there isn’t enough evidence to charge him. Webb leaves town, and Roanna is left to pick up the pieces.

All of her life, Roanna has tried to win the love of her grandmother, of Webb, and of her extended family – and every time she’s been slapped down. She’s had enough. Roanna withdraws from the family, and that’s when her grandmother, Lucinda, realizes how very important this misfit is to all of them. Lucinda tries to make amends to Roanna by setting in motion a chain of events that brings Webb back home. But the plan disturbs a killer who is set on vengeance – and this time, the whole family seems to be the target.

I hope you enjoy Shades of Twilight.

Sincerely,
Linda Howard

I actually dithered over whether or not to add this to my shame files, or if I should just be ashamed period. In any event it is available through OpenLibrary if you are interested, though the usual disclaimers apply.

This is a tough book for me to parse, and spoilers for this book will abound. It turns out that while the first sex scene and the heroes initial abhorrent behavior toward the heroine are what stick in my mind, that actually isn’t what bothers me most upon further inspection. Yes, the hero treats her awfully when they meet after 10 years, but he realizes his actions are awful (to an extent) and gives her the chance to back out. And yes, for the most part Roanna is a doormat. But frankly they aren’t really the problematic characters, nor are their actions what make this story somewhat objectionable.

That family, they are freaking awful. We have basically all the adults treating Roanna awful, talking about how they don’t care to have her around. They don’t really love her or care for her, and they let her older cousin treat her abysmally. They spoil and cosset Jessie to ridiculous levels to the point that she becomes such a sociopath that she actually starts sleeping with her own father (who is unknown to them), and when she gets pregnant she plans to pass the baby off as Webb’s. This leads to the matriarch of the family bashing her brains in, and then letting first Roanna and then Webb be accused of the crime. Not only that, they don’t pay attention or show much real care to anyone beside themselves. They don’t note when their family members are drug addicts or collapsing. They basically let Roanna starve to death before finally noticing her, and it appears no one gets her any therapy or help. And later with another cousin Corliss, they let her grow up just that spoiled too and don’t even really notice that she has a substance abuse problem and is spiraling out of control. And when she upsets them instead of getting her help they just boot her out of the house. She is painted as wholly a villain when really she is a product of that toxic family. And then, when the truth comes out about the fact that the matriarch killed Jessie, it is all forgiveness. Seriously, an awful family.

So why do I even like this book? Well, honestly, I kind of like Roanna, strange as it might be to say. She gets a bad rap from reviewers for being such a doormat, which from a certain perspective might be true. But I think there are a lot of ways to be, and not everyone has to be a ball buster, or spunky, or a spitfire. And she works on herself and I don’t know, she just hunkers in when there are things she can’t change, which is I think where a lot of us are at in our lives. So it is kind of nice to see someone like that have her dreams come true. Now Webb, he isn’t one of those heroes I swoon over, he’s somewhat overbearing and autocratic, he doesn’t give the women in his life the information they need to protect themselves. But, once he gets over himself, he really is rather sweet in his head about Roanna, and to his credit he likes for Roanna to stick up for herself and buck him on things. And here is where it got me, the whole deal was that the matriarch would give him the inheritance, despite the fact that he wasn’t a direct line descendant, while Jessie and Roanna were. He marries Jessie for it even. It was the lure that the matriarch used to bring him back, even though Roanna had been heir in his stead during the 10 years he was gone. And he just gives it up, the land and the house and the money, he wants Roanna to have that power and security.

I don’t know, the two main characters work for me, and the rest of it is like a trainwreck of a soap opera and it keeps me entertained. This definitely isn’t a book for everyone, you’ve got father daughter incest, abuse, maybe not your most upstanding main characters, completely ignoring birth control, and accidental pregnancies. And oh, I almost forgot, but yes, cousins marrying…but I don’t know if it is geography but I just don’t have that big of a hang-up about 2nd cousins getting married. Down here it isn’t that uncommon for people to show up at big weddings and a couple to realize they are actually 2nd or 3rd cousins. So yeah, there is a lot to be bothered by in this book.

Shades Of Twilight

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