Category Archives: Contemporary

Review: The Half of Us by Cardeno C.

half usTitle: The Half of Us by Cardeno C.
Family Series Book Four
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic, M/M, Romance
Length: 206 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Author

Summary:

A Book in the Family Series

Short-tempered, arrogant heart surgeon Jason Garcia grew up wanting a close-knit family, but believes he ruined those dreams when he broke up his marriage. The benefit of divorce is having as much random sex as he wants, and it’s a benefit Jason is exploiting when he meets a sweet, shy man at a bar and convinces him to go home for a no-strings-attached night of fun.

Eight years living in Las Vegas hasn’t dimmed Abe Green’s optimism, earnestness, or desire to find the one. When a sexy man with lonely eyes propositions him, Abe decides to give himself a birthday present—one night of spontaneous fun with no thoughts of the future. But one night turns into two and then three, and Abe realizes his heart is involved.

For the first time, Abe feels safe enough with someone he respects and adores to let go of his inhibitions in the bedroom. If Jason can get past his own inhibitions and open his heart and his life to Abe, he might finally find the family he craves.

The Review:

The Half of Us by Cardeno C. is an extremely hot but achingly sweet romance between two very unlikely lovers. Old and new fans of the Family series are going to LOVE this fourth installment where a one night stand unexpectedly leads to love. It can be read as a standalone story, but I recommend the entire series.

Jason Garcia is a divorced doctor with a demanding practice who uses sex as a way to de-stress. After a difficult day in the operating room, Mr. One Night Stand picks up cute, friendly, sweet Abe in a local bar. Now one time hook ups are not the norm for Abe, but it is his birthday, so he decides to indulge his attraction for the smoking hot stranger. Somehow their one night turns into two nights, then three and before Abe and Jason know it, they are spending all of their free time together. Their relationship builds slowly over several months and challenges Jason’s long held beliefs about home and family.

Insta-lust is what initially draws Jason and Abe together, incredibly hot, satisfying sex is what keeps them coming back to one another, but in the end, love is what binds them together.  Now what makes The Half of Us so fascinating is how they make their relationship work since they are complete opposites.

Jason is in his mid thirties, arrogant, bossy and carrying a lot of emotional baggage.  Abe is in his mid twenties, open, talkative and comfortable in his skin. Jason does not understand why he is so drawn to Abe but he does not fight their attraction. He is not very self-aware, so he does not really recognize what he feels for Abe. Fortunately, Abe is in touch with his emotions and more importantly, he is good at reading people. He gets exactly what their relationship means and he quietly moves into Jason’s life and his heart.

Now, let’s talk sex because there is LOTS of it in The Half of Us. Jason has a high sex drive and he does not believe in denying himself. He is passionate, demanding and pushy and Abe is pretty much his for the taking. Jason is firmly in control and he brings all of Abe’s deepest darkest fantasies to life. Their sex scenes are scorching hot with lots and lots of dirty talk, but there is also a emotional connection as well.

The Half of Us by Cardeno C. is a wonderful, angst free love story that is sexy and sweet.  The characters are appealing, the storyline is engaging and the lack of conflict is refreshing. There is substance to the plot and the characters evolve throughout the story. It is an absolutely fabulous addition to the heartwarming Family series that I absolutely loved.

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Filed under Cardeno C, Contemporary, Dreamspinner Press, Erotic, Family Series, M/M, Rated B+, Review, Romance, The Half of Us

Review: Farewell to Cedar Key by Terri DuLong

farewellTitle: Farewell to Cedar Key by Terri DuLong
Cedar Key Series Book Six
Publisher: Kensington
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 321 pages
Book Rating: A

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Author

Summary:

New York Times bestselling author Terri DuLong welcomes you to the colorful community of Cedar Key, Florida–a place where hearts are warm and friendship is true…

Josie Sullivan adores her Cedar Key home. It’s been the ideal place to raise her daughter, Orli, who’s just turning sixteen. Now that Josie has realized her dream of becoming a registered nurse, she’s been offered the perfect job too–helping Dr. Simon Mancini run his new practice.

Until the clinic opens, Josie is filling in at Yarning Together, where she launches a series of knitting classes for men. Yet for all the vibrant changes, there are some tangled threads. Josie’s romance-author mother, Shelby, receives a worrying diagnosis. And though Josie has always guarded her independence, her connection to Orli’s father, Grant, seems to be rekindling. Most of all, as Shelby’s college classmates rally around their dear friend, Josie begins to see that “home” is more than a place;it’s the relationships woven into each life, strand by strand…

The Review:

Farewell to Cedar Key is the sixth and final novel in Terri DuLong’s delightfully heartwarming Cedar Key series. This charming installment is a little bittersweet since it is time to bid a fond farewell to the town and its inhabitants, but it is also another beautiful story of family, friendship and love.

Josie Sullivan is an independent single mother with strong ties to Cedar Key.  She never married Grant, her daughter Orli’s father, but they have a good relationship and he has always supported her decisions.   Josie has a sometimes difficult, but always loving, relationship with her controlling mother Shelby, a best-selling romance novelist. With a new career opportunity on the horizon, Josie’s life is turned upside down by romance, a scary health diagnosis for her mom and Orli’s unexpected decisions about her future.

Josie has not dated much over the years, so she is a little surprised by her attraction to newcomer Simon Mancini, the new doctor in town and Josie’s new boss. Although she has concerns about an office romance, Josie does see Simon socially, but she is unclear if his interest in her goes beyond friendship.

Even more surprising to Josie are her suddenly complicated feelings for Grant. They have maintained an easygoing friendship over the years and she has never questioned her decision to raise Orli on her own. But when she and Orli travel to Boston to celebrate Christmas and Orli’s sixteenth birthday with Grant, Josie is stunned at her renewed feelings for him. Returning to Cedar Key clarifies which man her heart belongs to, but that only makes her decisions about her future that much more difficult.

As with previous novels in the Cedar Key series, the storyline is refreshingly light and conflict free. Matters of the heart are resolved fairly easily with little angst or fanfare. The story arc that deals with Shelby’s health issue is handled realistically and this part of the plot is a turning point for Josie’s relationship with her mother.

While it is always difficult to say goodbye to familiar friends and faces, Farewell to Cedar Key is the perfect finale for the Cedar Key series. Many of the characters from previous installments make guest appearances and Josie is not the only person who unexpectedly finds love. It is another warm and inviting novel from Terri DuLong that old and new fans do not want to miss.

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Filed under Cedar Key Series, Contemporary, Farewell to Cedar Key, Kensington, Rated A, Review, Romance, Terri DuLong

Review: The Perfect Mother by Nina Darnton

perfect motherTitle: The Perfect Mother by Nina Darnton
Publisher: Plume
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery, Suspense
Length: 257 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

When an American exchange student is accused of murder, her mother will stop at nothing to save her.

A midnight phone call shatters Jennifer Lewis’s carefully orchestrated life. Her daughter, Emma, who’s studying abroad in Spain, has been arrested after the brutal murder of another student. Jennifer rushes to her side, certain the arrest is a terrible mistake and determined to do whatever is necessary to bring Emma home. But as she begins to investigate the crime, she starts to wonder whether she ever really knew her daughter. The police charge Emma, and the press leaps on the story, exaggerating every sordid detail. One by one, Emma’s defense team, her father, and finally even Jennifer begin to have doubts.

A novel of harrowing emotional suspense, The Perfect Mother probes the dark side of parenthood and the complicated bond between mothers and daughters.

The Review:

The Perfect Mother by Nina Darnton is an intriguing novel loosely based on a real life crime. More than a mystery, this story delves deeply into the impact the case has on the accused’s family. It also raises some very interesting questions about how much responsibility a parent should take for their children’s successes and failures.

Jennifer Lewis’s perfect life is shattered with a middle of the night phone call from her daughter Emma, who is currently studying abroad in Spain. The reason for the call? Emma has detained for questioning in the death of another student and needs her parents’ help. Of course Jennifer knows there has been some horrible mistake and she hurriedly makes arrangements to rush to Emma’s aid. It does not take long for Jennifer to realize that Emma has been less than candid about her life in Spain, but does this mean her daughter is capable of murder?

With very few exceptions, none of the characters in the novel are particularly likable or sympathetic. Jennifer is overly involved in her children’s lives and her entire identity and self-worth are wrapped up in their achievements. She makes excuses for their mistakes and instead of letting them accept responsibility for their actions, she does everything possible to smooth over their missteps. Jennifer has an unrealistic vision of what her family’s life should be and if something does not fit into the “perfect” life she has envisioned, she ignores it. Now, for the first time since she became a parent, Jennifer is forced to deal with life as it is, not what she wants it to be, but is she ready to deal with some harsh truths about herself, her marriage and her daughter?

Emma is spoiled, sullen and unappreciative of her mother’s efforts to help her. She steadfastly stands by her account of the events that led to the murder despite mounting evidence to the contrary. She refuses to answer questions and continually lashes out in anger at pretty much everyone around her. She is disbelieving that anyone could doubt her claims and this plays right into Jennifer’s uncertainties about herself. In the end, neither of Emma’s parents really care whether she is guilty or innocent. Instead, they are focused on gaining her release from prison and bringing her home.

In the beginning, husband Mark is just as unsympathetic as Jennifer and Emma. Instead of dropping everything to rush to Emma’s side, he stays behind to wrap up a court case, so it is easy to assume the worst about him. He is on the periphery of his children’s lives, but it soon becomes clear that is exactly where Jennifer wants him. His efforts to change the status quo are met with extreme resistance and instead of fighting her, Mark just finds it easier to let Jennifer have her way. But as events spiral out of control with Emma, Mark is finally ready to act like a husband and father. A little unvarnished truth from Mark is just what both Emma and Jennifer need to get them to pull their heads out of the sand.

Since the main characters are so frustrating, uncovering the truth about Emma is what really drives the story. The picture perfect image of the straight A, idealistic student soon gives way to the darker aspects of her personality and her past. The main goal of everyone involved in the case is her release from prison and no one really seems interested in her guilt or innocence. Which in turn raises some very interesting questions of how far parents should go in their efforts to help their children. When do parents step aside and let their children accept the consequences for their decisions? Should parental support be unconditional no matter what? And what if, in their efforts to help their children, parents ultimately do more harm than good?

The Perfect Mother is a very compelling read and Nina Darnton easily draws readers into this complex character driven story. The novel’s conclusion is utterly shocking and the final twist is completely unexpected and jaw-dropping. All in all, a worthwhile read that mystery lovers are sure to enjoy.

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Filed under Contemporary, Mystery, Nina Darnton, Rated B, Review, suspense, The Perfect Mother

Review: Lovely Wild by Megan Hart

lovely wildTitle: Lovely Wild by Megan Hart
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher

Summary:

From New York Times bestselling author Megan Hart comes a haunting and insightful novel about a woman trying to find her place in the world…

Brought up in the savage captivity of her unstable grandmother’s rural Pennsylvania home, Mari Calder once yearned for rescue. Now she struggles every day to function as an adult in the confines of normal society. Left with only a foggy recollection of her childhood, she’s consumed with being a dutiful wife to her husband, Ryan, and mother to their two children.

But an unexpected twist of events returns her to that long-forgotten house in the woods. Soon, Mari is greeted with reminders of a past life, the clarified memories only inviting a new level of strangeness into her fragile world. To protect her family, she must find the beautiful, powerful strength hidden in her inner chaos. Because someone is bent on exploiting Mari’s trauma, and as normal and wild begin to blend, a string of devastating truths force Mari to question all she thought she knew.

The Review:

Lovely Wild is an absolutely riveting and occasionally heart wrenching novel about a woman fully coming to terms with her long forgotten past. Once again, Megan Hart has crafted another unique and creative story about some of life’s darker moments that beautifully demonstrates how remarkably resilient a person can be despite a traumatic and neglectful childhood.

Mari Calder is a devoted wife and stay at home mother who has a seemingly perfect life. She has an excellent relationship with her two children and a happy marriage. Mari is serene, placid and unflinchingly honest but she also has a few idiosyncrasies that stem from her very unorthodox early childhood. Her memories from that time in her life are quite hazy and Mari does not waste time trying to recapture those long ago moments. She instead focuses on the life she has now but unfortunately, current events will soon bring Mari face to face with the secrets of her past.

While Mari is an extremely likable and sympathetic heroine, her husband Ryan is not exactly hero material. A horrible lapse in judgment has jeopardized his career and his marriage, and his reaction to these problems is self-serving, selfish and exploitative. It soon becomes clear that Mari’s past has left her blind to his faults, but as she becomes more self-aware, she also begins to recognize his less than desirable traits as well. Of course, Ryan is not all bad, but will Mari be able to overlook, and ultimately forgive, his betrayals?

The couple’s children, fifteen year old Kendra and eight year old Ethan, are absolutely delightful. Ethan is blissfully self-involved with an endearing innocence that allows him to see what others sometimes overlook. Kendra is a typical teen in many ways, but she is also surprisingly mature. She is old enough to recognize that Mari is different than her friends’ mothers and although some of her mom’s behavior is a little bizarre, Kendra is very protective of her.

Lovely Wild is written in third person from alternating points of view. Mari’s perspective is the most poignant and while watching her come face to face with her childhood is heartbreaking, she is strengthened by what she learns. Ryan’s viewpoint shows him in a less than flattering light and it is very difficult to see him justify his reprehensible decisions. Kendra’s view of the unfolding events is refreshing and realistic and she plays a vital role in the story’s conclusion.

Lovely Wild is a mesmerizing psychological drama that is incredibly captivating and infinitely fascinating. Megan Hart has again created an incredible cast of characters that is flawed but likable and for the most part, redeemable. The storyline is thought-provoking and insightful with unexpected twists and turns. This extremely well-written novel slowly builds to a dramatic ending that will stay with readers long after the last page is turned.

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Filed under Contemporary, Fiction, Harlequin, Lovely Wild, Megan Hart, Mira, Rated B+, Review

Review: The Second Time I Saw You by Pippa Croft

second timeTitle: The Second Time I Saw You by Pippa Croft
OxFord Blue Series Book Two
Publisher: Penguin
Genre: Contemporary, Erotic, New Adult, Romance
Length: 366 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Lauren and Alexander’s journey continues in the second novel in Pippa Croft’s Oxford Blue romance series.

It’s the beginning of a new term at Wyckham College, Oxford, and a fresh start for Lauren Cusack. Her fingers were badly burnt when a whirlwind romance with gorgeous English aristocrat, Alexander Hunt, became too hot to handle – and now she’s determined to keep her distance.

Her resolve is shaken when Alexander appears on her doorstep – he’s been completely torn apart by some devastating news. Lauren knows that she should stay away, but their chemistry is undeniable and she soon finds herself back in Alexander’s arms.

Can Lauren handle the drama that comes with Alexander Hunt? Or will she have to sacrifice the most exhilarating passion she’s ever known . . .

Fans of E L James, Tammara Webber and Beth Kery won’t be able to get enough of Pippa Croft’s Oxford Blue romance series. The First Time We Met and The Second Time I Saw You are the first two novels in the series, followed by Third Time Lucky, which is also available to pre-order from Penguin.

The Review:

The Second Time I Saw You, the second novel in Pippa Croft’s Oxford Blue series, is a continuation of Lauren Cusack and Alexander Hunt’s tumultuous but scorching hot romance. Beginning with Lauren’s return to England following Christmas break, this installment follows this passionate couple through a few more ups and downs and ends with a dramatic cliffhanger.

Lauren returns to England for her second term at Wyckham College and she is firmly resolved to stay away from Alexander. But that vow is quickly set aside upon her arrival when Alexander is waiting for her with stunning news. Lauren finds herself swept back into the Hunt family drama as they cope with the aftereffects of an unexpected tragedy. Still unable to resist their smoldering desire, Lauren and Alexander resume their relationship but will their fragile bond survive when a secret comes to light?

Lauren considers herself strong and in control of her life, but her helpless response to Alexander brings this opinion into question time and again. She is compassionate and caring, so her willingness to support Alexander is not surprising nor is it unexpected that she complies with his request to be there for his sister, Emma. What is surprising is the lack of judgment Lauren displays when Emma confides in her and she agrees to keep the information from Alexander. Lauren has compelling reasons for keeping quiet, but it is just a matter of time before the information is revealed.

Alexander is still rather enigmatic and taciturn but in this outing, he is beginning to unravel as the weight of responsibility falls squarely on his shoulders. Torn between duty and his dreams, Alexander is juggling his studies, his career and unexpected family obligations. He is much more vulnerable during the course of the story as his life implodes, but Alexander remains firmly in control of his relationship with Lauren.

Lauren and Alexander’s romance continues to be based on their mutual lust and their sex scenes are still incendiary. But the change in Alexander’s circumstances makes him a little easier to relate to and he is more open with Lauren. They agree to be complete honest with one another and Lauren’s omission is a betrayal of trust that he finds impossible to overlook. While at first unbending and unforgiving, Alexander makes an unexpected gesture that is quite romantic and makes the cliffhanger that much more shocking.

The Second Time I Saw You is an absolutely brilliant addition to the Oxford Blue series. Lauren and Alexander are vibrantly developed, three dimensional characters that are quite appealing. But it is Pippa Croft’s fresh and innovative storyline that makes the novel such an outstanding read. She makes it impossible not to become fully invested in the final outcome of this beleaguered couple’s relationship and I am very eager to read the conclusion to this fabulous series.

Read my review of The First Time We Met HERE.

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Filed under Contemporary, Erotic, New Adult, Oxford Blue Series, Penguin, Pippa Croft, Rated B, Review, Romance, The Second Time I Saw You

Review: Broken Open by Lauren Dane

broken openTitle: Broken Open by Lauren Dane
Hurley Boys Series Book Two
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Beyond passion. And beyond their control…

Five years ago, Tuesday Eastwood’s life collapsed and left her devastated. After an empty, nomadic existence, she’s finally pieced her life back together in the small Oregon town of Hood River. Now Tuesday has everything sorted out. Just so long as men are kept for sex, and only sex…

Then she met him.

Musician and rancher Ezra Hurley isn’t the man of Tuesday’s dreams. He’s a verboten fantasy—a man tortured by past addictions whose dark charisma and long, lean body promise delicious carnality. But this craving goes far beyond chemistry. It’s primal. It’s insatiable. And it won’t be satisfied until they’re both consumed, body and soul…

The Review:

Broken Open is the second delectably steamy installment in Lauren Dane’s hot rocker Hurley Boys series. In this outing, deliciously tortured rancher/rock star Ezra Hurley and sinfully sexy widow Tuesday Eastwood give in to their searing passion and unexpectedly heal the wounds of their respective pasts.

The few glimpses of Ezra and Tuesday in The Best Kind of Trouble hinted at some kind of connection between the couple so it comes as no surprise that their relationship begins pretty much right away. These two share a sizzling attraction to one another and while they have danced around it for months, they finally are ready to explore their mutual lust. What Ezra and Tuesday both find surprising is how much they enjoy one another’s company outside of the bedroom. And this becomes a little tricky for Ezra as he tries to navigate the unknown: a real relationship.

Tuesday has had a difficult time moving on since the death of her husband. She disconnected from real life for a long time but through her close friendship with Natalie (from book one in the series), she has finally made a new life for herself. She has a successful framing and jewelry business and she has also indulged in a few short-lived, casual hook ups. Although she is very open to a relationship with Ezra,Tuesday does experience some guilt over the depth of her emotions and the strength of her desire for Ezra.

Ezra might have shaken his addiction to heroin, but he has been unable to let go of the guilt and shame of what his addiction did to his family and friends. Needing a complete lifestyle change after his stint in rehab, Ezra quit touring with Sweet Hollow Ranch and focused his energy on the family ranch, songwriting and studio work with the band. In the past few months, he has performed live with the band in a few small shows which really highlights how far he has come in his recovery. While Ezra is delighted at his surprising romance with Tuesday, it also makes him very uneasy as he tries to find the same balance in their relationship that he has found in the rest of his life.

Ezra and Tuesday’s relationship is mostly conflict free and it is very enjoyable watching them build their relationship. Their lives perfectly complement one another’s and their shared interests bring them closer together. Their social lives also intersect since Ezra’s brother is involved with Tuesday’s best friend and this provides them with added opportunities to get to know one another. While there are several scorching hot love scenes between Ezra and Tuesday, the novel mainly focuses around their deepening emotional bond and the impact this has for them as a couple.

Emotionally compelling, Broken Open is a beautiful novel of healing for Tuesday and Ezra as they find the courage and strength to open their hearts to the possibility of love despite their emotional baggage. The characters are multidimensional with believable obstacles to overcome. The storyline is realistic and Lauren Dane never shies away from difficult topics. The resulting romance is quite heartwarming and one that I highly recommend to old and new fans of the Hurley Boys series.

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Filed under Broken Open, Contemporary, Harlequin, HQN Books, Hurley Boys Series, Lauren Dane, Rated B, Review, Romance