Category Archives: Contemporary

Review: And Then He Kissed Me by Kim Amos

And ThenTitle: And Then He Kissed Me by Kim Amos
White Pine Series Book Two
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

PLAYING WITH FIRE . . .

Five years ago, Audrey Tanner flung caution to the wind and herself into the arms of an emerald-eyed bad boy biker she met at the White Pine Asparagus Festival. Two blissful weeks together convinced her that Kieran Callaghan was The One-until The One blew town without a word, leaving her brokenhearted. Now, starting a new job at the new Harley Davidson showroom, Audrey is floored to meet her new boss: Kieran. He’s still hot as hell, but she won’t fall for his sexy smile again. This time, she’s calling the shots.

. . . OR PLAYING FOR KEEPS?

Kieran never thought he’d return to White Pine, Minnesota, much less see Audrey again. Gorgeous and smart as ever, she’s just as irresistible as he remembered. She still doesn’t know why he had to leave-or that he’s missed her every day since. But he can’t deny he wants more than the no-strings fling Audrey proposes. As things between them heat up, Kieran must choose between the secret he’s sworn to keep and the woman he never stopped loving . . .

Review:

And Then He Kissed Me by Kim Amos is a delightful second chance at love romance. This latest addition to the White Pine series is a great story about forgiveness, love and friendship, but it is the growth of the lead character that makes it such a wonderful read.

Audrey Tanner is an ex-high school gym teacher who is desperate for a job when she is hired to work as a showroom model at the local Harley dealership. She is not exactly thrilled with her new “uniform” and her day goes from bad to worse when she learns her new boss is Kiernan Callaghan, the man who broke her heart five years earlier. Undaunted by his sudden reappearance in her life, she angrily stands up to him when Kiernan “suggests” she find other employment. Surprisingly, her new job gives her the confidence she needs to stop being such a pushover and make some much needed changes to her life.

Audrey is a good girl who always does what is expected of her. The only time she acted on a whim ended in heartbreak and in the years since Kieran left her, she reverted back to playing it safe. She is close to her sister Casey but Audrey is becoming increasingly frustrated with her sister’s attempts to micromanage her life. Audrey is surprised by how much she likes her new look and she carries a toned down version of her makeover into her personal life. She also seizes this opportunity to transform other aspects of her life and she explores new career opportunities.

Kiernan is reformed bad boy who is keeping a HUGE secret from Audrey. He has cleaned up his act in the time they have been apart and he is now a well respected businessman. He really has no choice but to return to White Pine but he hopes to avoid Audrey while he is in town. When that plan goes up in flames pretty much as soon as he steps foot in town, his only alternative is to keep quiet about why he left town so abruptly five years ago. But with their attraction burning hotter than ever, Kiernan knows it is only a matter of time before they give in to their mutual desire.

Since Audrey is trying to protect herself from further heartbreak, she is willing to indulge in a casual fling with Kiernan. They enjoy a couple of sizzling hot interludes but he is upfront that he is looking for a real relationship. He knows that he will have to be honest about why he left town but Kiernan must first convince her to give him a second chance. And if she does agree, will Audrey be able to forgive him once he reveals the real reason he left town five years ago?

And Then He Kissed Me by Kim Amos is a terrific addition to the White Pine series. Audrey and Kiernan are brilliantly developed and sympathetic protagonists with realistic flaws and imperfections. Although they spend a good deal of the novel apart as they deal with their respective issues, there is no denying the chemistry between them. Their feelings for one another are believable and they work through their problems with very little drama. The supporting cast of characters is likable and the small town atmosphere adds to the story’s appeal. A sweet, sensual romance that old and new fans are sure to love!

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Filed under And Then He Kissed Me, Contemporary, Forever, Kim Amos, Rated B, Review, Romance, White Pine Series

Review: Gonzo Girl by Cheryl Della Pietra

gonzo girlTitle: Gonzo Girl by Cheryl Della Pietra
Publisher: Touchstone
Genre: Contemporary (90s), Humor, Satire
Length: 272 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Alley Russo is a recent college grad desperately trying to make it in the grueling world of New York publishing, but like so many who have come before her, she has no connections and has settled for an unpaid magazine internship while slinging drinks on Bleecker Street just to make ends meet. That’s when she hears the infamous Walker Reade is looking for an assistant to replace the eight others who have recently quit. Hungry for a chance to get her manuscript onto the desk of an experienced editor, Alley jumps at the opportunity to help Reade finish his latest novel.

After surviving an absurd three-day “trial period” involving a .44 magnum, purple-pyramid acid, violent verbal outbursts, brushes with fame and the law, a bevy of peacocks, and a whole lot of cocaine, Alley is invited to stay at the compound where Reade works. For months Alley attempts to coax the novel out of Walker page-by-page, all while battling his endless procrastination, vampiric schedule, Herculean substance abuse, mounting debt, and casual gunplay. But as the job begins to take a toll on her psyche, Alley realizes she’s alone in the Colorado Rockies at the mercy of a drug-addicted literary icon who may never produce another novel—and her fate may already be sealed.

A smart, rollicking ride told with heart, Gonzo Girl is a loving fictional portrait of a larger-than-life literary icon.

Review:

Gonzo Girl is an engrossing debut novel by Cheryl Della Pietra. Based on the author’s experiences as Hunter S. Thompson’s personal assistant, this fictionalized story is a poignant and sometimes harrowing account of a recent college graduate’s daily life with an author whose days are a drug and alcohol fueled blur of outrageous and oftentimes, dangerous, excess.

Alley Russo has big dreams of escaping her family’s blue collar life and while she has a degree from an Ivy League college, she is still tending bar while working as an unpaid intern at a magazine. When she learns Walker Reade is looking for a personal assistant, she jumps at the chance to work for the iconic writer. She is horrified when her job interview entails dropping acid, snorting coke and binge drinking, but she desperately needs the connection to publish her own manuscript. Although she has a few reservations, Alley accepts the job and since she does not get paid until Walker finishes his latest book, she has more than enough incentive to motivate him to write. He manages to churn out a page or two a day, but Alley is appalled at the lackluster drivel he produces and she begins rewriting these dismal attempts before submitting them to his editor. Trying to manage Walker’s excessive behavior becomes increasingly difficult as he begins a downward spiral that turns violent and it is up to his long time assistant Claudia Reynolds to smooth over the numerous problems that threaten to topple the one time literary genius.

By the time Alley begins working for Walker, he is in his early fifties and definitely on the downside of his once illustrious career. His over the top behavior once enhanced his writing ability, but his brilliance is now lost in a haze of drugs and alcohol. He is verbally abusive to the women around him and once he adds coke to the mix, he is downright mean. Walker surrounds himself with a cadre of hangers-on who encourage his out of control behavior and their antics escalate to the point Walker is a danger himself and everyone around him.

Gonzo Girl is definitely an entertaining novel that is fast-paced and compelling (in a train wreck kind of way). Cheryl Della Pietra offers a fascinating peek into the self-indulgent and somewhat debauched lifestyle of a larger than life author whose once impressive talent becomes lost in a haze of addiction. All in all, a surprisingly enjoyable (if sometimes horrifying) read that I highly recommend to fans of Hunter S. Thompson.

Oh and if you’re curious about the title, check out this interesting article on Wikipedia.

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Filed under Cheryl Della Pietra, Contemporary, Fiction, Gonzo Girl, Rated B, Review, Touchstone

Review: Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica

Title: Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica
Publisher: Harlequin MIRA
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense, Thriller
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

A chance encounter sparks an unrelenting web of lies in this stunning new psychological thriller from the national bestselling author of The Good Girl, Mary Kubica 

She sees the teenage girl on the train platform, standing in the pouring rain, clutching an infant in her arms. She boards a train and is whisked away. But she can’t get the girl out of her head…

Heidi Wood has always been a charitable woman: she works for a nonprofit, takes in stray cats. Still, her husband and daughter are horrified when Heidi returns home one day with a young woman named Willow and her four-month-old baby in tow. Disheveled and apparently homeless, this girl could be a criminal—or worse. But despite her family’s objections, Heidi invites Willow and the baby to take refuge in their home.

Heidi spends the next few days helping Willow get back on her feet, but as clues into Willow’s past begin to surface, Heidi is forced to decide how far she’s willing to go to help a stranger. What starts as an act of kindness quickly spirals into a story far more twisted than anyone could have anticipated.

Don’t miss this thrilling follow-up to The Good Girl by master of suspense, Mary Kubica.

Review:

Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica is a very clever and intriguing mystery. Full of suspense and drama, an act of kindness takes several unexpected turns that make this compelling novel very hard to put down.

Heidi Wood is a giving and caring married mother whose altruistic nature is her best and sometimes, worst, trait. Her husband Chris is used to her unilateral approach to decision making but even he is stunned when she returns home one morning with a homeless teen and her baby. His questions about how long the pair are going to stay with the family remain unanswered and when he returns from a business trip, he is absolutely horrified by the changes that have occurred in his absence.

Heidi is a bit off balance when she first crosses path with Willow and her baby, Ruby. Chris is frequently out of town for business and she is less than pleased that his beautiful, sexy co-worker often accompanies him on these trips. Her once close relationship with daughter Zoe has become tense and she is at a loss as to how to handle her now Zoe is entering her teen years. Years earlier, Heidi suffered two defining and life altering losses and although hit hard by these events, she appears to have fully recovered in the intervening years. However once she brings Willow and Ruby into the home, she is haunted by memories of what happened and the choices she made.

Chris is often distracted by work and while he still loves Heidi, he feels a little neglected as she pours her heart and soul into her job. He is also a bit resentful of how she makes decisions without consulting him and he is rightfully concerned about her bringing Willow and Ruby into their home. Chris wants answers that Willow is unwilling to provide and he takes steps to learn exactly what she is hiding.

Willow is shrouded in mystery and she is very hesitant to divulge anything about herself or her baby. She is clearly uncomfortable with some aspects of motherhood and Heidi is very concerned about Ruby’s welfare. Despite her current situation, Willow is very sympathetic and as more information about her traumatic and tragic past are revealed, it is easy to understand the reasons for her actions. Could Willow have done things differently? Absolutely. But once her age and her circumstances are taken into consideration, her decisions are reasonable, albeit misguided.

While always interesting, the first half of the novel is rather slow paced. The story is written in alternating points of views with Chris and Heidi’s chapters taking place in the present and following the events as they unfold. In sharp contrast, Willow’s chapters take place in after everything has occurred, but they give away few details about what actually transpired while she was with Heidi and Chris. It is through these chapters that the shocking truth about her tragic past is fully revealed.

Riveting and complex with a strong psychological aspect, Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica is a well-written, character driven novel. While not a traditional mystery, there is a great deal of suspense surrounding Willow’s identity and what happens after she enters Heidi’s home. Although the reader is eventually able to see where the story is going, the conclusion is still quite shocking and completely unexpected.

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Filed under Contemporary, Harlequin, Mary Kubica, Mira, Mystery, Pretty Baby, Rated B, Review, suspense, Thriller

Review: Thrill Me by Susan Mallery

thrill meTitle: Thrill Me by Susan Mallery
Fool’s Gold Series Book 18
Publisher: HQN Books
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 368 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Meet the Mitchell brothers of Fool’s Gold, California—five gorgeous men who’ve left a trail of broken hearts in their wake… 

Maya Farlow learned the hard way to depend only on herself, so when she fell too deeply for the bad-boy charms of Del Mitchell, she did the only thing she could—she ran. Stunned, Del left Fool’s Gold to make his name and fortune in extreme sports.

Now ten years later, Maya’s been hired to promote her hometown’s new slogan, The Destination for Romance. The celebrity spokesman is none other than Del, the man she dumped but never forgot. Awkward!

Although Del’s not the type to hold a grudge, he’s determined to avoid falling a second time for the woman who broke his heart. He’s a daredevil, not an idiot. Trouble is, in all his adventures, he never found a rush as exhilarating as Maya’s kiss. Maybe risking his heart will prove to be the biggest thrill of all…

Review:

Thrill Me by Susan Mallery is a very charming second chance at love romance. This latest addition to the marvelous Fool’s Gold series is the first novel featuring the Mitchell brothers and in this outing, oldest brother Del meets up with ex-fiancée Maya Farlow when the pair work on a publicity project together. Surprisingly, they easily reconnect without anger or recrimination despite the abrupt end to their engagement ten years ago but trust issues threaten to derail their semi-rekindled romance.

Maya never thought she would return to Fool’s Gold but she is now happily established in her new job as communications manager for the town. She and her stepbrother Zane have repaired their relationship and she has renewed some of her old friendships. Maya is about to begin working on a new project to promote tourism when she is stunned to learn that she will be working with Del, who is visiting his family for a few weeks. Maya still feels guilty over the way she ended their engagement but she is happy to discover he harbors no animosity towards her.  Although there is no residual tension between them, Maya is quick to apologize for the way she handled their break up and their failed romance is pretty much a non-issue for them.

Del is not close to his extended family and his relationship with his artist father is particularly strained. He has more in common with his mom, but she is a little out of sorts trying to put the finishing touches on her husband’s upcoming birthday party. Del gets along well enough with his brother Nick, but he is a little taken aback by his brother Aidan’s hostility. Twin brothers Mathias and Ronan live out of town but they do put in a brief appearance at their father’s birthday celebration. Overall, there is a lot of discord in the family due to the many secrets they have been keeping.

Despite the difficulties with his family, Del is fairly easygoing and not much ruffles his composure. He enjoys working with Maya and he has learned a lot from her during their project. Both of them are still attracted to one another and they eventually act on their desire. Their relationship is a bit undefined since Del is leaving town soon, but Maya slowly realizes her feelings run deeper for him than just lust. Before they can decide what comes next for them as a couple, Del feels betrayed and lied to when he discovers Maya has been keeping a major secret from him.

Heartfelt and engaging with an exceptional cast of characters and a unique storyline, Thrill Me is a splendid addition to the Fool’s Gold series. Del and Maya are a terrific couple and their relationship is comfortable with a strong undercurrent of sexual tension. As always, the town of Fool’s Gold is warm and inviting and the townspeople are genuinely concerned for another’s well being. The glimpses of the Mitchell brothers are quite intriguing and it will be very interesting to see what Susan Mallery has planned for them in upcoming books. All in all, another sweet installment in a favorite series that old and fans of this wonderful series are sure to enjoy.

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Filed under Contemporary, Fools Gold Series, Harlequin, HQN Books, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Susan Mallery, Thrill Me

Review: Taking the Heat by Victoria Dahl

taking heatTitle: Taking the Heat by Victoria Dahl
Jackson: Girls’ Night Out Series Book Three
Publisher: HQN Books
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Passion this hot can’t be faked…

All revved up for bright lights and steamy nights, writer Veronica Chandler chased her dreams to New York City. When she hit a dead end, reality sent her back home to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Saving her pride and her new gig—writing a relationship advice column!—requires some faking. No one can know the truth about her big-city flop or her nonexistent sex life. But the town’s irresistibly rugged librarian is determined to figure her out…and give her hands-on lessons in every wicked thing she wants to know.

Gabe MacKenzie’s heart might be in Wyoming, but secretly his future’s tied up in his family’s Manhattan legacy. Getting down and dirty with Veronica is supposed to give him a few memorable nights—not complicate his plans. But the thing about heat this scorching is there’s just no going back…and it might be too hot for either of them to take.

Review:

Taking the Heat is another scorching hot installment in Victoria Dahl’s fabulous Jackson: Girls’ Night Out series. In this outing, newcomer Gabe MacKenzie is paired up with Veronica Chandler and their romance is a delightful blend of light-hearted banter and fiery sex scenes.

Veronica Chandler’s dream of living in New York was not everything she hoped it would be so she returned to Jackson where she writes an advice column for the local paper. Although her column is well received, she feels like a huge fraud handing out advice when her own life is such a mess. She lives in fear that everyone will see the insecurities and inexperience she keeps carefully hidden. Her insecurities stem from her emotionally distant father and the long term bullying she endured from her ex-stepbrother. But it is her lack of experience with relationships that makes her feel completely inadequate when it comes to dispensing romantic advice.  It is not until Veronica decides to take her own advice that she begins to become more self confident and find the courage to stand up for herself.

Gabe absolutely loves everything about Wyoming, but his time in Jackson is limited due to family obligations. Despite his enjoyment of rock climbing and other outdoor activities, he has never regretted becoming a librarian and he is still very enthusiastic about his career. He is not looking for a romance but he is very intrigued by Veronica and he cannot seem to stay away from her. Gabe is a really great guy but he also likes to take care of people so he has a tendency to keep unpleasant things to himself. Which turns out to be a bit of problem in his burgeoning relationship with Veronica.

The romance between Veronica and Gabe is so much fun to watch unfold. Although Veronica wants to rush headlong into a physical relationship, Gabe insists on taking things slow. Their scenes are full of sexual tension and mercy, it is amazing that Gabe is able to resist Veronica as long as he does!

However, there is much more to Gabe and Veronica’s relationship than witty dialogue, sexy flirting and naughty love scenes. With Gabe, Veronica does not hide who she is and she is completely honest with him about her past which is not exactly all sunshine and roses. Gabe has a lot of excuses for not coming clean about his future plans and while he is a great listener, he deflects the conversation away from anything too personal about himself. It is only a matter of time before everything blows up in his face and when it does, Veronica’s reaction is much worse than he expected.

Taking the Heat is another fast paced and engaging romance by Victoria Dahl. Veronica and Gabe are fabulously developed characters with realistic flaws and issues to overcome. Their sex scenes are deliciously naughty and sizzling hot. It is another non-traditional but completely satisfying love story that old and new fan of the Jackson: Girls’ Night Out series are going to love.

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Filed under Contemporary, Harlequin, HQN Books, Rated B+, Review, Romance, Taking the Heat, Victoria Dahl

Review: Bad News Cowboy by Maisey Yates

Bad News CowboyTitle: Bad News Cowboy by Maisey Yates
Copper Ridge Series Book Three
Publisher: HQN Books
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
Length: 384 pages
Book Rating: B+

Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley

Summary:

Can the bad boy of Copper Ridge, Oregon, make good—and win the rodeo girl of his dreams?

Kate Garrett keeps life simple—working hard, riding her beloved horses, playing cards with her brothers. Lately, though, she feels a bit restless, especially when family friend Jack Monaghan is around. Sexy and shameless, Jack is the kind of trouble you don’t tangle with unless you want your heart broken. Still, Kate could always use his help in learning how to lasso someone a little less high risk…

Jack can’t pinpoint the moment the Garrett brothers’ little sister suddenly stopped seeming so…little. Now here he is, giving flirting tips to the one woman who needs zero help turning him on. Love’s a game he’s never wanted to play. But he’ll have to hurry up and learn how before the best thing that ever entered his life rides right back out again…

Review:

Bad News Cowboy, the latest installment in Maisey Yates’ fantastic Copper Ridge series, is a deliciously sexy friends to lovers romance.  This outing pairs the Garrett family’s youngest sister Kate with their bad boy friend Jack Monaghan and the resulting story is a sizzling hot story of love and healing.

Kate was only two years old when her mother abandoned her and her older brothers, Eli and Connor. With their alcoholic father unable to take care of himself let alone his children, the boys stepped in and raised her while at the keeping the family ranch from going under. Another constant in her life is Eli and Connor’s best friend, Jack, but lately, their once easygoing, sibling-like friendship has turned into a source of friction for Kate. She does not understand why Jack suddenly rubs her the wrong way but when he offers to teach her how to flirt, Kate rapidly figures out she is attracted to him. After they share a very steamy and unexpected kiss, Jack is rather disconcerted by his sudden desire for his friends’ little sister. There is absolutely NO way Eli and Connor will approve of Kate dating Jack, but one passionate night turns into a romance both are determined to keep hidden from prying eyes.

Growing up with nothing but male role models, Kate is a bit of a tomboy. She is most comfortable in jeans and boots and she practically breaks out in hives at the thought of wearing a dress. Kate has not been interested in dating but now that her brothers have fallen in love, she has come to realize that everyone else is moving forward while she has become stagnant. Getting a little experience in the romance department is just one of several changes she is planning on making and Jack is the safe choice to help her learn how to interact with men as a woman instead of just one of the guys. He is also the logical person to go to when she needs some assistance making sure she is ready to hit the professional rodeo circuit. Kate is feisty, independent and stubborn, but she feels safe revealing her vulnerabilities to Jack since their backgrounds share many similarities.

Everyone views Jack as a laidback and easygoing man who does not take anything too seriously. He has a well-earned reputation as heartbreaker since he prefers one night stands and he has never been involved in a serious relationship. However, underneath his surface charm and carefree exterior, Jack is a bit damaged and carrying a lot of pain from his dysfunctional childhood. He hides his insecurities behind his cocky attitude and he also harbors a great deal of residual anger toward his absentee father. While Jack eagerly accepts the blame when he does something wrong, he is unwilling to take credit for the good things he does. Kate quickly picks up on this pattern but she is reluctant to push the issue with him and eventually Jack will have to do a little soul searching on his own so he can make peace with his past.

The chemistry between Jack and Kate is off the charts smoking hot and their friendship easily withstands the change in their relationship. They find it easy to confide in each other about their fears and they also have some very serious discussions about their respective childhoods. Kate is surprisingly intuitive despite her age and her perspective helps Jack see himself more clearly. While they are in agreement about indulging in a short term fling, both are very concerned about not letting anyone find out about their romance. However once Jack realizes how deep his feelings for Kate run, he does not hesitate to attempt to move their relationship out into the open. Unfortunately, Jack underestimates Kate’s reaction to going public and he stands to lose everything he holds dear when their romance is revealed.

Bad News Cowboy is another captivating addition to Maisey Yates’ Copper Ridge series. Jack and Kate are wonderfully developed protagonists with believable flaws and realistic problems to overcome. Their relationship is greatly enhanced by their longstanding friendship and their transition from friends to lovers feels natural. Both of the characters grow and evolve throughout the novel and this is, in part, a direct result of their romance. Sweet, steamy and heartfelt, it is an absolutely delightful romance that old and new fans to the series are going to love.

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Filed under Bad News Cowboy, Contemporary, Copper Ridge Series, Harlequin, HQN Books, Maisey Yates, Rated B+, Review, Romance