Category Archives: Contemporary

Review: Driving into the Sun by Dev Bentham

driving sunTitle: Driving into the Sun by Dev Bentham
Publisher: Loose Id
Genre: Contemporary, M/M, Romance
Length: Novel
Book Rating: A

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Author

Summary:

Bad choices. We all make them, some more than others. Dusty’s choices have left him unemployed, broke and practically homeless. Despite the major issues he has with his family, his only rational choice is to sell everything and move into his parents’ basement. At thirty. Looking for a ride west, he answers a phone ad. The voice at the other end of the line flows like dark, rich honey. Finally something to look forward to—listening to Joe’s voice all the way from Illinois to Idaho.

Rather than the hip crooner of Dusty’s fantasies, Joe turns out to look more like a panhandler. Is that because Joe dresses down, or are Dusty’s preconceptions about Native Americans clouding his vision? Joe is silent more often than not. He has a complicated past and still has amends to make. But he is ready to move on. Dusty feels trapped. Two damaged men, one small car driving two thousand miles into the sun—sometimes things need to break down before they can get fixed.

The Review:

Driving into the Sun by Dev Bentham is a beautiful romance of healing and new beginnings for two men who have finally begun to triumph over their disastrous pasts. This incredibly engaging story is an interesting study in contrasts between the men, their backgrounds, and their careers but the one thing they share in common is how much their personal choices have cost them both professionally and personally. It is also very fascinating that although their issues are completely different, the emotional impact is very similar.

Driving into the Sun opens with Dusty Walker at his lowest point as he begins preparations to leave Chicago and return to his hometown in northern Idaho. Unhappy does not even begin to express his feelings about moving back in with his parents, but he gets a bit of a pick me up when he hears the sexy voice of the man he will be riding with on his trip home. Joe Black has worked hard to repair his career and now with a clean slate, he is on his way to Seattle where he is looking forward to beginning a new job. But while Joe has made huge strides in his professional life, he is still carrying some pretty heavy emotional baggage in his personal life.

Both Dusty and Joe are fantastic characters and while both are immensely appealing, Dusty is still a frustrating mess in the beginning of the story. He has not really dealt with the fallout over the spectacular crash and burn of his career and he is continuing to make some pretty horrible decisions. Fortunately Joe is pretty unflappable and easily forgives Dusty’s questionable choices, but it is his calming presence that makes the biggest difference for Dusty as he sorts through his tumultuous emotions. But Joe’s past is not completely resolved and it is a huge shock to Dusty when his offhand suggestion leads to surprising revelations from Joe and their side trip leads to an unanticipated outcome for both men.

What makes Driving into the Sun such an refreshing read is the backdrop of the road trip as Dusty and Joe literally and figuratively travel from the past into the future. Joe knows what is ahead for him and he is eager to embrace what lies ahead. Dusty also knows what is next for him but he is dreading what is waiting for him at the end of his journey. Since Dusty has not fully reconciled his mistakes, he sees no other future for himself and this leads to a bit of anxiety regarding his relationship with Joe.

A richly developed and believable romance that resonates with strong emotion, Driving into the Sun is a superb novel that is quite captivating. Dev Bentham brings together two very complex and damaged characters who find love despite their insecurities and rather messy lives. The close confines of the car and the stops along the way provide an intimate setting for Dusty and Joe to divulge their secrets and explore their attraction. The sex scenes between them are exquisitely detailed and are a perfect blend of sweet and sexy.

Driving into the Sun is an  outstanding novel that I highly recommend to readers of contemporary gay romances.

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Filed under Contemporary, Dev Bentham, Driving into the Sun, Loose Id, M/M, Rated A, Review, Romance

Review: In Your Dreams by Kristan Higgins

in your dreamsTitle: In Your Dreams by Kristan Higgins
Blue Heron Series Book Four
Publisher: Harlequin
Imprint: HQN
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length:473 pages
Book Rating: A

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Everyone loves Jack Holland, but Emmaline Neal needs him. Her ex-fiancé is getting married in Malibu and, obviously, she can’t go to the wedding alone. In Manningsport, New York, tall, blond and gorgeous Jack Holland is practically a cottage industry when it comes to rescuing desperate women. He knows the drill, Em figures, so he won’t get the wrong idea.

What Jack needs is an excuse to leave town. Ever since rescuing four teenagers from a car wreck, he’s been hailed as a hero and the attention is making him itchy, especially since his too-pretty ex-wife is back, angling for a reunion. He’s always liked Emmaline. She needs a weekend date? No problem.

So when they wind up in bed together, Em chalks it up to red wine and chocolate cake, just one impulsive night not to be repeated. But Jack’s pushing for more, and if she lets down her guard, either she’ll get her heart crushed again, or discover that Jack’s worth more than just dreaming about.

The Review:

In Your Dreams is the long awaited and highly anticipated fourth installment in the hilarious and poignant Blue Heron series. Tantalizing glimpses of Jack Holland in the previous novels piqued my curiosity about the enigmatic but lovable Holland brother and I have been very impatient for his story. Kristan Higgins’ unexpected pairing of him with local deputy Emmaline “Em” Neal is sheer brilliance and their ensuing romance is funny, sexy and oh so sweet.

Em is a no-nonsense woman who tells it like it is. She is smart, funny and loyal, but the end of her engagement shattered her self-esteem. It has taken her a long time to get over her ex’s betrayal and she is stunned when she receives an invitation to his wedding. Unfortunately, complicated family ties between the two families make it impossible for her bow out gracefully and she reluctantly accepts Jack’s offer to attend with the wedding with her. Em’s return to the West Coast brings her face to face with all of her unresolved issues with her caring, but misguided and clueless parents, childhood bullies, her ex and his cringe-inducing bride-to-be.

Jack is an all around nice guy who is charming, upbeat and friendly. He is devoted to his family and good-naturedly accepts his sisters’ teasing. Jack is everyone’s go to guy when a woman needs a date but he has not had a serious relationship since his divorce a few years earlier. Up until recently, he has led a pretty charmed life but his dramatic rescue of four teens has left him with lingering issues that he has been trying to deal with on his own. Adding to his problems is the unwelcome return of his ex-wife Hadley who is suddenly interested in a reconciliation. Needing a break from the pressures of his life, Jack quickly agrees to accompany Em to her ex-fiancé’s out of state wedding, but both are surprised when their faux relationship becomes real.

Back home, Em and Jack’s relationship hits a few bumps in the road when real life begins to intrude on the happy couple. Jack refuses to get help for his ongoing issues stemming from his heroic rescue and it is also frustrating that he continues to let Hadley manipulate him. The blow to Em’s self-confidence leaves her questioning what she has to offer Jack and she is also feeling threatened by Hadley’s continued presence in Jack’s life. With both of them under pressure, a family crisis leads to a misunderstanding that might end their budding romance.

In Your Dreams is written from both Em and Jack’s perspectives and flashbacks fill in the blanks about their respective pasts. The incidents from Em’s childhood and the events leading up to her ill-fated engagement are heartbreaking but she is surprisingly well-adjusted. Jack has always come across as a little too perfect, but the aftereffects of his rescue efforts provide him with some much needed depth.

In Your Dreams is another heartfelt and engaging addition to the delightful Blue Heron series. Once again, Kristan Higgins deftly blends her trademark wit with a serious and realistic storyline and the resulting story is insightful and moving. A compelling plot, strong family ties and a believable relationship make In Your Dreams a must read for anyone who enjoys contemporary romances.

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Filed under Blue Heron Series, Contemporary, Harlequin, HQN Books, In Your Dreams, Kristan Higgins, Rated A, Review, Romance

Review: Love on the Boardwalk by Christi Barth

boardwalkTitle: Love on the Boardwalk by Christi Barth
Publisher: Carina Press
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Word Count: 51,000
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Author

Summary:

Atlantic City is the perfect place for detective Bradley Hudson to nurse his broken heart. A week of beer and strippers is sure to erase his former fiancée from his memory for good. What he didn’t count on was running into a sassy redhead from his past. Maybe a rebound romp is an even better plan…

Trina Trimble, private eye in training, is thrilled to be reunited with the hottie she almost hooked up with last summer. She’s undercover on her first solo case, but there’s always time to lock lips with a sexy cop. Besides, a fun fling with Brad doesn’t have to last beyond his week in town.

Brad and Trina are supposed to be just flirting, not forging a new forever. Brad’s still healing, and although Trina changes careers the way other women change shoes, she has finally found her calling in her new life of disguises and stakeouts. But when an irresistible job offer threatens to lure her away, Brad will need to decide to let her go or bet it all on love and risk his heart again.

The Review:

Love on the Boardwalk by Christi Barth is a very cute, lighthearted romance set in Atlantic City. This easy to read sequel to Love at High Tide features the characters introduced in the previous novel, but it can be read as a standalone.

Brad Hudson is in Atlantic City trying forget that he should be on his honeymoon when he recognizes Trina Trimble in a very unlikely place. Trina is working undercover in a strip club for a private investigator and she too is pretty surprised when she is recognized by her best friend’s boyfriend’s hot cousin. A walk on the beach eventually leads to sizzling vacation fling but can their attraction lead to something more permanent when Brad and Trina go back home?

Trina and Brad could not be more different but this is what makes them a great couple. Brad is a by the book cop while Trina is a pretty footloose and fancy free. Both have a few things weighing on their minds and their different perspectives are very helpful when it comes to making some much needed decisions. They each appreciate the difference in their personalities and while Trina helps Brad loosen up, Brad’s input is invaluable when it comes to Trina’s future. Trina is full of enthusiasm but her fun loving attitude makes her character feel a little superficial. Brad is much more serious and the issues that he is dealing with provide him with the emotional depth that Trina lacks.

Love on the Boardwalk is a fun romance that is delightfully entertaining. Trina and Brad are engaging characters and their love story is flirty and full of sexual tension. A little bit of intrigue energizes the plot and infuses Trina with some much needed confidence. Christi Barth perfectly wraps up the story with a wonderfully romantic conclusion.

All in all, Love on the Boardwalk is a lovely feel good story that fans of contemporary romance are sure to enjoy!

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Filed under Carina Press, Christi Barth, Contemporary, Love on the Boardwalk, Rated B, Review, Romance

Review: I Want It That Way by Ann Aguirre

want thatTitle: I Want It That Way by Ann Aguirre
2B Trilogy Book One
Publisher: Harlequin HQN
Genre: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Length: 352 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher

Summary:

Nadia Conrad has big dreams, and she’s determined to make them come true. But between maintaining her college scholarship and working at the local day care to support herself, dating’s the last thing on her mind. Then she moves into a new apartment and meets the taciturn yet irresistible guy in 1B….

Daniel Tyler has grown up too fast. Becoming a single dad at twenty turned his life upside down—and brought him heartache he can’t risk again. Now, as he raises his four-year-old son while balancing a full-time construction management job and night classes, the last thing he wants is noisy students living in the apartment upstairs. But one night, Nadia’s and Ty’s paths cross, and soon they can’t stay away from each other.

The timing is all wrong—but love happens when it happens. And you can’t know what you truly need until you stand to lose it.

The Review:

I Want It That Way is the delightfully charming first novel in Ann Aguirre’s new adult 2B Trilogy. This engaging series features college roommates and their sometimes rocky road to happily ever after.

I Want It That Way opens with Nadia Conrad and her friends, Lauren, Max and Angus moving from the dorms into a new apartment. Nadia’s interest is immediately piqued by one of the other tenants, Daniel “Ty” Tyler, but he is definitely giving off a “stay away from me” vibe. Not at all put off by his unfriendliness, Nadia soon learns that Ty is a few years older than she is, and he’s juggling work and night classes while raising his four year old son, Sam, on his own (with a lot of help from his parents). She and Ty become friends and their attraction for one another soon spills over into “friends with benefits” territory.

I absolutely adored Nadia and Ty right from the very beginning of I Want It That Way. Nadia is focused on getting her degree and although she always makes time to hang out with her friends, she is serious about her commitment to school and her job. She is sweet and friendly but she is not a pushover. She genuinely cares for her friends and she is quick to offer a shoulder to cry on when they run into problems. Nadia is pretty unflappable and remains friendly and respectful even when someone is behaving like a jerk (cough, Ty, cough :) ). Speaking of Ty, he is wounded by his past and he has a few insecurities but overall, he is a great guy. He is a wonderful father-fiercely devoted and just a tad over protective.  Ty is scarred by how things ended with Sam’s mom, and he has no intention of getting involved in a serious relationship.

I love how Ty and Nadia’s relationship develops over the course of the story. They take the time to get to know one another and Ty reveals things to Nadia that he has never admitted to anyone else. Underlying all of their interactions is a strong sexual tension that both work hard to ignore. They respect one another’s boundaries and they set ground rules when they decide to give into their sexual attraction. Their sex scenes are exquisitely sensual but also very sweet. There is a little bit of an “insta-love” feel from Nadia, but for the most part, the change in their relationship from friends to lovers is believable.

The secondary cast of characters is just as well-developed and likable as Nadia and Ty. Lauren and Nadia have been best friends for most of their lives but an unexpected distance forms between them after their move. Lauren’s story is next and I cannot wait to read it. Their roommate Angus is an absolute doll and although he experiences a relationship crises, everything goes fairly smoothly for him. Poor Max gets his heart broken and I am pretty eager for his book as well.

Although classified as a New Adult romance, I Want It That Way is a wonderful novel that will appeal to readers of all ages. There is very little angst and the characters handle their problems with surprising maturity (most of the time). The plot is refreshing and the characters are engaging, likable and easy to root for. The novel is well-written with a realistic storyline that is quite compelling. All in all, Ann Aguirre’s fabulous 2B Trilogy is off to a strong beginning that will leave fans very impatiently awaiting the next book in the series.

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Filed under 2B Trilogy, Ann Aguirre, Contemporary, Harlequin, HQN Books, I Want It That Way, New Adult, Rated B+, Review, Romance

Review: Facing the Music by Andrea Laurence

facing musicTitle: Facing the Music by Andrea Laurence
Publisher: Pocket Star
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 250 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

In this sizzling and hilarious contemporary e-book romance, pop sensation Ivy Hudson returns to her small town to face her ex. Only trouble is, she made her Taylor-Swift-like career with the hit song “Size Matters”—and the football hero has had to live it down ever since.

Five years ago, high school sweethearts Ivy and Blake’s relationship imploded and both their lives were changed forever. Ivy became a rock star and Blake lost not only his dreams of a successful NFL career, but his reputation. Ivy’s angry song about their breakup, called “Size Matters,” hit the top of the charts and Blake became a national laughingstock. He’s salvaged his career and returned to Rosewood to be the high school football coach, regaining his status as town hero and leading the boys to the state championships.

When a tornado whips through town and destroys the high school gymnasium and stadium, a committee is formed to help rebuild and plan some charity fundraisers. Blake’s grandmother requests that Ivy return to Rosewood for the events. Forced back together for the good of their hometown and their careers, Ivy and Blake have no choice but to put aside their differences, stop running from their pasts, and finally face the music.

For fans of Kristen Proby and Colette Auclair, Facing the Music hits a perfect balance between small-town romance and big-time success. Follow Ivy and Blake as they fall back in love and figure out what does matter in the end…

The Review:

Facing the Music by Andrea Laurence is a such a fun read! A wonderfully unique storyline, delightful characters and laugh out loud humor are just a few of things that make this romance such an outstanding read.

Ivy Hudson’s relationship with Blake Chamberlain ended when she discovered him in a compromising position and in the aftermath, she channeled all of her hurt and anger into the song that launched her singing career.   In the years since, her numerous breakups have continued to inspire her most popular songs but her latest breakup song results in a major public backlash against her. Needing a retreat from the public eye and generate some positive publicity, Ivy reluctantly returns to her small home town to use her celebrity status to help raise much needed funds for the high school’s new gym. Much to Ivy’s dismay, Blake figures prominently in the upcoming fundraising efforts and the passage of time has done nothing to dim her hurt or diminish their smoking hot desire for one another.

Ivy is a wonderful character and it is such a joy getting to know the woman behind the successful career. She has never forgotten her humble beginnings and she is still very down to earth. Her anger and hurt over Blake’s betrayal have not lessened with time but she is able to put aside her feelings for the sake of the fundraiser. Despite her successful career, Ivy has a few insecurities that a nemesis from her childhood exploits at every turn.

Ah, poor Blake. His mistake in judgment all those years ago indirectly destroyed his career and he is just now finally beginning to bounce back when Ivy returns to town. He readily admits that Ivy’s anger and hurt are justified but he also unfairly blames her for his football career crashing and burning. When he and Ivy can no longer avoid one another, they have a long overdue discussion about their notorious past and agree to leave the past behind.

The reconciliation between Ivy and Blake does not happen overnight and this makes the resolution of their past more believable. In the beginning of the story, they are both a little immature but over the course of the story, they each do some much needed growing up. This leads to a deeper connection between them as they get to know one another again. Their romance has a few bumps along the way when an adversary continually sabotages Ivy’s self-confidence and Ivy reverts to old behavior instead of talking things out with Blake. The part of the storyline with the vindictive foe takes a little too long to resolve and eventually becomes repetitious.

Facing the Music is a very entertaining novel with an all star cast of engaging characters, plenty of Southern charm and an exceptional storyline. The romance between Ivy and Blake is playful, flirty and quite sensuous and their banter is quite humorous. Overall, it is a thoroughly enjoyable story and fans will be thrilled to discover Andrea Laurence plans to revisit the small town of Rosewood in the very near future.

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Filed under Andrea Laurence, Contemporary, Facing the Music, Pocket Star, Rated B, Review, Romance