Review & Giveaway: Passion On Park Avenue by Lauren Layne

PASSION ON PARK AVENUE
Series:
Central Park Pact #1
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Author: Lauren Layne
Release Date: May 28, 2019

From the author of the New York Times bestselling Stiletto and Oxford series, the first in a sizzling new series following the unlikely friendship of three Upper East Side women as they struggle to achieve their dreams and find true love and happiness in the city that never sleeps.

For as long as she can remember, Bronx-born Naomi Powell has had one goal: to prove her worth among the Upper East Side elite—the same people for which her mom worked as a housekeeper. Now, as the strongminded, sassy CEO of one of the biggest jewelry empires in the country, Naomi finally has exactly what she wants—but it’s going to take more than just the right address to make Manhattan’s upper class stop treating her like an outsider.

The worst offender is her new neighbor, Oliver Cunningham—the grown son of the very family Naomi’s mother used to work for. Oliver used to torment Naomi when they were children, and as a ridiculously attractive adult, he’s tormenting her in entirely different ways. Now they find themselves engaged in a battle-of-wills that will either consume or destroy them…

Filled with charm and heart and plenty of sex and snark, this entertaining series will hook you from the very first page.

AMAZON

Since the day he’d met her, she’d gotten under his skin, pissed him off, confused the hell out of him, and he was damn grateful for it. Naomi Powell had brought him back to life…

The premise to this series is absolutely; three women realize they’ve been sleeping with the same man at his funeral, not realizing he’s been married the entire time. There’s two unknowing mistresses and the wife, who form a fascinating bond when they accidentally meet each other. I loved seeing these women not at each other’s throats and being catty, but rather putting the blame squarely on the shoulders of the lying and cheating man, where it rightfully belongs. But I digress…

Passion on Park Avenue introduces us to mistress number one, Naomi. Once a girl on the wrong side of the tracks and the poor daughter of a maid that cleaned apartments on Park Avenue. Now Naomi is a strong and fiery successful business owner that can afford any apartment she wants. But then a peculiar happenstance lands her on the waiting list for an apartment in the exact building where her mother used to work and also the place that changed both of their lives forever. It also lands her in front of the boy that made her life a living hell that’s now turned into a man that she’s desperately fighting her attraction to.

Oliver is absolutely perfection. Lauren Layne has written the quintessential nice guy but with plenty of broken edges that you can’t help but fall for. Oliver is just trying to adjust to his new normal after losing his mom to cancer and now dealing with his father’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Oliver doesn’t know why the woman sitting across from him in the apartment interview for the building he lives at is looking at him with so much animosity. All he knows is that he’s inexplicably drawn to her, no matter how much she sasses him.

Admittedly, while I understood Naomi’s grudge towards Oliver, I struggled with her inability to tell him who she was. I didn’t feel that this should have been something that was dragged for the entirety of the book. I struggled truly connecting to her reasoning pst the halfway mark. I did absolutely loved their slow burn road back to each other again. Two kids that hated each other years ago, now are the perfect match as adults. I loved the slower pacing of the relationship development and the additional peeks into Oliver and who he was then and who he is now. He was honestly my favorite part of the boom. I also really loved the friendship between the women and the camaraderie that they all share.

I really enjoyed the story but I also couldn’t help but wish there was slightly a little more romance. This is most definitely a slow burn, but I didn’t feel like we get enough when they finally DO get together to satisfy my romance cravings. This missed the typical sensual sizzle that Layne’s book usually have and I couldn’t help but wish we got that here. Ultimately this was still a wonderfully entertaining read that I enjoyed from beginning to finish and I eagerly anticipate the next books in this series.

Lauren Layne is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of more than two dozen romantic comedies. Her books have sold over a million copies in nine languages. Lauren’s work has been featured in Publishers WeeklyGlamourThe Wall Street Journal, and Inside Edition. She is based in New York City.

Enter HERE for a chance to win this stunning paperback copy of Passion on Park Avenue!

Review: Have Mercy by N.E. Henderson

HAVE MERCY
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Dark
Author: N.E. Henderson
Release Date: May 2, 2019

I never saw it coming.

It’s hard to get over that kind of betrayal. It leaves a mark on the heart. A slow bleed that never goes away. She was my girl. We were supposed to be partners. She was going to be the mother of my children down the road. The only girl to warm my bed. She was my forever girl.

Until she ran away.

I thought she felt the same. But if she did she wouldn’t have ditched me like I didn’t matter. All the plans we made meant nothing to her. She disappeared without so much as a goodbye. Those cuts are the deepest. A gaping hole that can’t be sealed. I could’ve stomached anything else—a meaningless one-night stand, drifting apart, vanishing love. But abandonment is a deadly strike that can’t be forgotten. It sticks with you forever.

Three months later she showed up, expecting me to welcome her back with open arms. Excuses, lies, not even her crying eyes could make me believe the manipulative bullshit coming out of her mouth. For months I felt like I was burning alive. She shattered my heart and stole my soul.

I moved on.

Now, eighteen years later, a nightmare unfolds. Every detail makes my stomach churn. Lies come to the light. The truth is uncovered. And the people I thought I knew become strangers. The heartbreak I felt was only a scratch compared to the sliced open heart in my chest.

Winning her back seems like an impossible feat. She may never forgive me, because the thing about mercy—you have to give to receive.

***Have Mercy is a 107K word standalone, second chance love story.***

AMAZON

Eighteen years have gone by and Elise Thomas still owns me like no other woman ever has—or ever will.

This review is extremely difficult for me to write. I have sat on my rating for it for a solid week and I’m still struggling with it. Why? Because I binge read this story. I’m talking glued to the pages, completely incapable of setting it down for even a second sort of binge here, people. It was like a rockstar soap opera. No lie. If OTT drama, angst, and alphahole heroes aren’t your jam, I’d say this book won’t be for you. But this reader? I froth at the mouth for it. Don’t you judge me either. I yam what I yam.

I think that had it been for different execution on a few plot devices and elements of this book, it would have been a no brainer 5 star. As it was, there were things in this story that I really hoped would be better wrapped up then they were at the end. But I’ll get to those in a minute.

First let me start with what I loved; the set up. DELICIOUS. A second chance romance 18 years in the making. Jamie and Jenna were each other’s world as teenagers. They loved and they loved hard, until they fell apart even harder. Eighteen years later and neither of them is much closer to any sort of closure from each other. Jamie is now divorced and still as bitter as he was back when he though Jenna betrayed him. Jenna has tried to move on from Jamie, but how do you forget the love of your life? But how do you ultimately pick up the pieces when you realize that everything you thought you knew was wrong. And the person you’ve hated for years is not at all who you thought they were and that you’re ultimately responsible for breaking you apart? That’s the premise of the book.

The story unravels in alternating flashbacks. These were cleverly written to give the reader the whole story crumble by crumble, until you’re utterly desperate for the whole picture. I loved the over the top angst and drama of this book. The antagonistic sort of back and forth between Jamie and Jenna was book crack. Jamie made a terrible decision those years ago that essentially got all the dominoes to fall. A decision made by a young and immature boy that didn’t yet have his head out of his own ego long enough to dig deeper. I didn’t hate him for it, but I can see a lot of readers having an issue with it. This reader, however, did not. I loved to hate Jamie. What can I say? I live for some book drama every now and then.

Jenna struck me a great and strong willed heroine at first. I loved her spark and the added edge of what she keeps hidden below the surface with the scars of her past. This is also where the story began to lose me. I wanted Jenna to keep holding on to that edge, but I couldn’t help but feel that she began to lose most of it with Jamie. She gives in so easily to his every whim. After the betrayal that lies between them, I just couldn’t wrap my head around this, no matter how much she still loves him. I wanted her to make him work for it. Make him beg, crawl on his knees! But she does none of those things. The only thing she does do is keep him on the edge by not sharing the full capacity of the truth with him. This ultimately drove me crazy. It just seemed like an unnecessary way to drive the plot forward where there were plenty of other moving wheels in the story to do so. It dragged on for way too long. I also absolutely hate when a heroine is celibate for years while the hero is anything but when they’re not together and have no hopes of being together.  It’s unrealistic and it’s a huge pet peeve of mine so unfortunately this played a big part in my rating.

There is a very heavy element of suspense around the mystery of what happened those years ago. Though to be fair, it’s only a mystery to the reader for a short part of the book. It continues to be a mystery to Jamie for longer. I also really disliked that Jamie continually kept jumping to the wrong conclusion of Jenna no matter how much evidence he had to the contrary. I wanted this man to GROVEL, and I do mean GROVEL. And all he continues to do is jump to conclusions and think the worst of her.

I liked the inclusion of the secondary characters and the kids, however, I didn’t feel it necessary to have their POVs. While it didn’t take away from the story, it did convolute it a bit with the continuous flashbacks.

I wanted Jenna to be as strong of a heroine with Jamie as she is with every other aspect of her life, and unfortunately for me, she just wasn’t. A betrayal of that caliber needs a huge grovel, and that didn’t happen either. I wanted to 5 star this book so much. It took me out of a huge book funk and kept me glued to the pages. Unfortunately I just couldn’t look past the many issues that I also had with it.

I’m definitely a huge fan of the author and will definitely read her future books. This one may not have been perfect, but it still hit the spot, so give it a shot and see for yourself.

Review: Just My Type by @TaraSivec

JUST MY TYPE
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Romantic Comedy
Author: Tara Sivec
Release Date: April 25, 2019

A new standalone, romantic comedy from Tara Sivec!

Live in the best small town in the world? Check.
Have the greatest job ever working on my family’s pumpkin farm? Check.
Marry the town pharmacist and have a nice, quiet life with our son? Check-check.

“Oh, I’m sorry. Did you say you were happy? LOLOLOLOL!” ~ Life

Ember Hastings never thought she’d be dragged away from White Timber and everything she loved, thrust in the middle of a big city she hated, or have her husband of nine years say, “I can’t do this anymore,” all within the span of three months, yet here she is.

She misses her family, she misses the farm, and she misses having a backbone and caring whether or not the stain on her shirt is chocolate or shit. She works from home doing transcription. Does she really need to shower or leave the house?

Baker Matthews has been bringing everyone down lately with his grouchy attitude. His job is stressful, and sometimes depressing, but he wouldn’t change anything about it. When a glitch with the transcription company he’s using mistakenly sends him notes he wasn’t supposed to see, Baker finds himself laughing out loud for the first time in months.

He’s never met a woman who says whatever she’s thinking and doesn’t fawn all over him when she finds out what he does for a living. Until Ember Hastings comes barreling into his life, calling him Shit Mouth and asking if he has any balls.

But she wants to keep this professional. She made him pinky swear, and you don’t mess around with pinky swears. Baker will have to get creative if he wants to prove to Ember that he’s just her type.

AMAZON

Well, I’m sure if you let your boss stuff his sausage in your omelet, you’ll forget all your troubles,” Brooklyn tells me.
“There will be no sausage stuffing! Stop trying to make sex happen.”

Best. Email. Banter. Of. All. Time.

Seriously. I mean, SERIOUSLY. Y’all! This banter was EVERYTHING.

Whenever I’m in a funk and in need of a guaranteed laugh till I pee myself sort of romcom, I will always reach for a Tara Sivec book. What can I say? The woman always delivers on the raunchy humor, sassy heroines, perfect heroes, and some of the best female positive girlfriend friendships. I love it! And this book was no different.

Ember Hastings thought she had it all, until she lost it all. After a lackluster marriage for which she uproots from her family and beloved home town comes to a screeching end, Ember is left a little lost. She gave everything for the man she thought was the right type for her only to discover that even the seemingly “safe” guys can be a bad bet. Now she’s in a city that she hates, trying to make ends meet as she shares custody of their adorable son. Getting back into the workforce lands her with a transcription job. And then a huge (and most hilarious) tech glitch leads to some even more hilarious email exchanges with a client. And then those email exchanges lead to a meeting and realization that the man that gives her butterflies and makes her laugh over email is just as breath catching in person.

Baker Matthews was one of my absolutely favorite parts of this book. This man. *Swoon* He was perfection. He’s trying to get his gym the ground and gain more exposure. He should be insulted at the notes he sees his transcriptionist had unknowingly included in the file, but he’s only intrigued. A chance email leads to a planned encounter that soon leads to something so much more!

I loved and I mean loved the romance here. Baker is the epitome of a nice guy. This is the type of man you will want to root for. He’s not perfect and he definitely has his own scars, but he’s sweet and caring, and the way that he pursues Ember is sheer swoony perfection. I loved the relationship and banter between him and his sister. I loved the slow burn romance between him and Ember. And I especially loved the way that he develops the most charming relationship with Ember’s son.

There’s also an evil hedgehog, plenty of hilarious moments, and deliciously steamy romance. This book had everything and it had me grinning from beginning to finish. There’s no crazy drama. There’s no stupid misunderstandings. There’s no crazy angst. It was a light-hearted sort of romance with plenty of sizzle that will have you laughing until you cry and totally glued to the pages from cover to cover.

Review: A Cruel Love by SM Soto

A CRUEL LOVE
Genre: Dark Romance, Mafia
Author: SM Soto
Release Date: May 9, 2019

As a hitman for hire, Percivale is no stranger to violence.
From the moment he saw Blossom Jaymes through the window of her bakery, he knew he was in too deep. Not only was she as sweet as her perfectly crafted treats, but she was a soft-spoken, golden-haired angel that shone like a bright beacon in his dark world. And Percivale didn’t deal in angels. He dealt in death and crime. The even bigger issue? Percivale’s next hit is on said sweet little baker who doesn’t seem to realize how much danger lurks around her with each passing day.
If he doesn’t get the job done, who will?

When Percivale has to decide what’s more important to him—the life of a woman who may very well be innocent or getting his revenge on the men who murdered his family—the lines become blurred. Morals are twisted and a deathly chase ensues that can only result in one thing—Blossom buried six feet under.

Or can it?

Can Percivale let his lust for revenge go in order to save Blossom from the bounty on her head, or will the power she unknowingly holds over him be what gets her killed?

AMAZON

I’m going to enjoy breaking you, Blossom. Piece by fucking piece”

I hate myself a little right now as I write this review. Because here’s the thing; I really REALLY wanted to lovethis book. The blurb and the cover hooked my attention right away, and I was SO ready for a gritty and dark mafia romance. Sadly, that’s not what I got. And you know what? It seriously sucks being the black sheep that didn’t enjoy a book that so many others clearly did. Le sigh.

Now look, if you haven’t read very many mafia or even dark romance books before, I have a feeling you’ll really enjoy this. As for me? I’ve read enough to be extremely picky. And A Cruel Love was rough for me from start to finish. My first clue should have been that I had no problem putting it down. As a matter of fact, I stopped reading it at 5% originally. Then I picked it back up and stopped at 30%. Then I decided to try and power through it, while that annoying inner voice of mine kept screaming “I told you so” the entire freaking time.

The story and the characters were one giant cliche after another. None of it made sense to me. The characterization was so inconsistent that it made my head spin. Here you have a mousy, introverted, scared out of her whits heroine that gets kidnapped by a stranger after shooting a man that tried to rape her point blank in the head in front of her. Said man is also a mafia hit man that was sent by his boss to kill her because she’s been asking too many questions about her missing (actually now dead) neighbor. So this heroine then goes from crying hysterically, trying to make a run for it, being threatened to die by our hero at every turn, crying hysterically, having odd sassy outbursts that revert just as suddenly back to her crying outbursts, to lecturing the man threatening to kill her about his motel room choices and second hand smoke.
Oh and through all this, and Percivale’s constant hot and cold behavior, cruel treatment of her, shackling her to the bed and leaving her for hours on end, and constant reminders that he’ll kill her if she so much as steps out of line, she still can’t help but be sexually drawn to him. I just didn’t buy it. Here’s a woman that’s basically been shying away from anything sexual since a terrible assault in high school, yet a man that’s killed several people in cold blood in front her get her engine revving.

Through all this, Percivale’s characterization is incredibly inconsistent as well. I couldn’t help but feel he was just one giant dark romance cliche. The constant cigarette smoking, the smirks, the reminders of his cruelty and darkness. And then he also discloses to Blossom what happened to his family years ago to make him into who he is today. At a point of the story where it made absolutely ZERO sense for him to disclose such a hugely personal and private detail. He also uses the term “seed”. *shudders* I didn’t buy the reasons for the hit on Blossom. It was weak and hard to believe. I also struggled to connect to them as a couple since I feel like that wasn’t as developed as it could be. It struck me as being very sudden.

There’s too much necessarily obvious descriptions when it comes to the darkness of this book. Like this:

We’re the Cavalieri Della Morte. We surround ourselves with danger, and we’re all the same, violent and deadly.”

And way too many things that are so far out of the realm of believability that I struggled to keep reading. Like a point of the story where Percivale gets stabbed in the stomach and then proceeds to fight in 5 back to back fights to the death. I mean….yeah.

I get that it’s fiction and I should suspend my disbelief somewhat. But there still has to be a hint of SOME believability for me to buy it and connect to it. And sadly this book skated on the skirts of it until finally skating right out of the rink entirely.

The characters were such extremes that it felt cliche. The sweet, somewhat innocent, good heroine that lectures a hit man about second hand smoke and hasn’t seen the right end of a razor in her female area for years. The extremely dark, super violent and cruel hitman with a penchant for chain smoking. It was all just too much for this reader.

I wanted to love this book, guys. I really, really did. But sadly, I’m just way too picky when it comes to my mafia and dark romances, that I spent the majority of the book picking apart almost everything. It’s a problem. I know. But I just couldn’t help myself.

Do I think the majority of readers would enjoy this book? Absolutely. I’m just a picky asshole here. Clearly. So take what I said with a grain of salt and read it and judge for yourself.

Review: The Moth And The Flame by BB Reid

THE MOTH AND THE FLAME
Series:
When Rivals Play #2
Genre: New Adult Romance
Author: BB Reid
Release Date: May 20, 2019

THE FLAME

Here lies Louchana Valentine. She was a homeless, orphaned virgin.

I never cared what my gravestone would say until I landed in deep with a powerful gangster. Lucky for me, my best friend happens to be ruthless too. I should feel guilty that he’s forced to turn on the man who’s been a father to him. Except I’ve always known that Wren’s soul wasn’t as black as he claimed.

He was good.

He was beautiful.

He was mine.

He just didn’t know it yet.

And with Wren keeping me safe, I’ve got time left to rewrite the end of my story. But if he has his way, virgin is already carved in stone.

THE MOTH

I’ve never known anyone as alluring as Lou. Or as frustrating. Since the night she saved my life and stole my wallet for her troubles, I couldn’t stay away.

She became my onus.

My light.

My…anyway.

With nowhere to run, I’m forced to trust someone I never expected. At least with Lou safe in Blackwood Keep—far away from me—I’ll die with my conscience intact. Because she no longer looks at me with friendship in her eyes. Those iridescent blues shine with a different need entirely, and I’ve never been able to deny her.

It is strongly advised that you read The Peer and the Puppet before diving into The Moth and the Flame. Content suitable for ages 18+.

AMAZON

I’m the moth to your flame, Lou. I’d rather be burned a thousand times than be free of you.”

I feel like I’ve been waiting forever for this story, and holy plot twist, batman! This was so much different than I had expected!

Firstly, this is NOT meant to be read as a standalone. You need to read The Peer and the Puppet to get a lot of the nuances of this continuing story arc. Ever since the end of Peer and the Puppet, I’ve been salivating for Lou and Wren’s book. And while the timelines of the two books cross over eventually, The Moth and The Flame begins earlier than the events at the end of PATP.

This is a much more character driven story than the first book. Lou and Wren have anything but a conventional friendship and it takes quite a few pages for the reader to be ingrained into their world. At times I felt like it was a little too long if I’m being perfectly honest. The first half of this book was much slower paced for me. It builds the backstory of how these characters met and the hugely antagonistic sort of friendship that they develop. Lou is an orphan that has prefers life on the street over putting down her walls around her heart that would allow it to be broken again. A chance encounter introduces her to a gangster with a heart of gold. Lou is anything but accepting of Wren’s choice to stay in Exiled. She also doesn’t agree with his desire to deny the chemistry between them and stay away from her because he’s not good enough for her.

There’s about two years of backstory here and there’s quite a lot that’s packed into it. And while I struggled a little with the first half of this book, I flew through the second half. There’s so much that gets unraveled here that it left my head reeling. Secrets get unearthed, and plot twist after plot twist keep you utterly riveted to the pages.

I loved Lou and Wren together. I love that Lou doesn’t back down from him and she’s not afraid to give as hard as she gets. Sure she can be a little immature with what she does at times, but she’s also fiercely protective of him, even if it’s from himself. I loved her fierce strength and unyielding love for her friend. I loved her broken heart and shattered pieces. Wren was EVERYTHING. This is a man that’s caught between a rock and a hard places and forced to make decisions that still haunt him. There’s just something so endearingly broken about him that you can’t help but love.

This installment was so much more than just a romance. So much happens in this book that I’m practically frothing at the mouth to get my hands on the next one. And if I don’t get my hands on Jamie’s story next, I’m pretty sure I’m going to be crying in a corner somewhere clutching a bottle of wine. True story.

B.B. Reid is a bestselling author of new adult romance. She grew up the only daughter and middle child in a small town in North Carolina. After graduating with a Bachelors in Finance, she started her career at an investment research firm while continuing to serve in the National Guard. She currently resides in Charlotte with her moody cat and enjoys collecting Chuck Taylors and binge-eating chocolate.

Please visit her website for more information: www.bbreid.com

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#DGRFave & Review: Midnight Valentine by @JTGeissinger

MIDNIGHT VALENTINE
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Author: J.T. Geissinger
Release Date: February 5, 2018

A hauntingly powerful love story in the tradition of The Notebook and The Time Traveler’s Wife.

“How can you remember someone you’ve never met?”

Megan and Cassidy were childhood sweethearts who thought they’d be together forever, but fate had other plans. Soon after they were married, Cass’s life was tragically cut short. Still grieving her soul mate five years later, Megan moves to the small town of Seaside, Oregon, hoping to rebuild her life.

Her first night there, she meets the town recluse, Theo. Withdrawn, guarded, and mysteriously silent since a terrible accident left him scarred, Theo takes an instant and inexplicable dislike to Megan. But as their paths cross again and again, Megan becomes convinced there’s more to Theo than meets the eye.

When she discovers the reason for his silence, his nightmares, and especially his pointed dislike, Megan becomes convinced of something far more astonishing.

Is a second chance at a once-in-a-lifetime love possible, or is a broken heart the cruelest kind of liar?

AMAZON 

People say time heals all wounds, but that’s a lie. Grief is a chronic disease. The pain just keeps on coming.

Wow. WOW. Just WOW. What an incredibly powerful, unique, and utterly unforgettable story. I’ve been a long time fan of Geissinger, but after this book? I’m a die hard. Ride or die. I’m talking rabid fangirl here, people!!!

First of all, you need to experience this book blind. Don’t read spoilers. Try to read as few reviews as possible as not to ruin even the smallest detail for yourself. All you need to know is that you’re in for one rollercoaster of emotion.

If there’s one thing I love about J.T.’s books, it’s her heroines. The woman knows how to write some of the best, strong yet vulnerable, sassy yet not overboard sort of females. Megan was EVERYTHING I love in a heroine and yet so much more!

I’m not the kind of woman who thinks surliness is charming. All these alpha-holes from romance novels have given women the wrong idea that bad manners are attractive.

This is woman that lost her childhood sweetheart and the love of her life and is still dealing with the never ending grief of that loss. She may be a grief-riddled widow, but that’s not all she is. There’s this spark to Megan that you can’t help but feel right away. This is a woman that’s tough as nails and isn’t afraid to cut anyone to size. She moves to a small Oregon town in order to fulfill a long time dream that she had with her late husband. And even though he’s no longer with her, it doesn’t mean that she can’t do what they both hoped to; remodel a cute yet debilitated house into a beautiful inn.

I kiss him again. I have to. There is no choice. His mouth is the oxygen I need to survive, and I no longer care about anything else but this

The relationship between Megan and Theo is anything but an easy one. The man seems to hate her on site. He’s the town mystery. He also doesn’t speak. But his eyes seems to speak a thousand words when it comes to Megan. The romance is a sizzling sort of slow burn. And what I loved the most is never once does it diminish the connection that Megan once had with her husband. She still loves him, but the connection that she has with Theo is undeniable.

He fucks me like he owns me, body and soul. And he does. But I own him too. Every look and touch is evidence of his total surrender. Every kiss is one more link added to the chain.

There are so many twists and turns that are to be discovered in this story. But the romance? Oh my heart! THE ROMANCE. It was everything. EVERYTHING.

I fell so hard for these two characters that I couldn’t bear to put this book down for even a second. It was beautiful, emotional, incredibly powerful. It was utterly hypnotizing. I loved it so hard!!

If you’re looking for something truly unique and unlike anything you’ve ever read before, you need to experience Midnight Valentine.

Review: Ache by SM Soto

ACHE
Genre: New Adult, Abuse,
Author: SM Soto
Release Date: April 9, 2019

A second chance romance

What happens when you fall for the boy next door?

Bea Norwood had the market on normal.
Drama free life? Check.
A single-mother who doubled as her confidant and partner in crime? Check.
A neighbor and best friend she trusted more than anyone? Check.
But that was until the day her mother remarried. The day that changed everything.

When her best friend’s cousin, Liam Falcon, is sent to live with his aunt and uncle to clean up his act, Bea finds herself falling for the boy next door. With their hearts so infinitely entwined, Bea turns to Liam as her only escape from her new step-brother’s daily torment at home. Bea thought their love could conquer anything. But she was wrong. Love was for fools, and she was the biggest fool of them all. When Liam left Lakeport, he took her heart with him, shattering the organ to pieces.

Six years later, Liam takes a trip back to Lakeport to visit his family, and to see HER.
His first love.
The girl who holds his heart.
The same girl who shattered it six years ago without looking back.

Liam is hell-bent on seeing Bea again after six years, but what he finds tears his heart in half. Bea Norwood is a shell of the girl he fell in love with. Underneath the baggy clothes, and pale skin, he knows she’s still in there somewhere, he just needs to find her.
Liam will stop at nothing to win his girl back, but sometimes, ignorance is bliss, and Liam isn’t prepared for Bea’s truth.

Warning: Contains themes of abuse. May cause triggers.

AMAZON 

How do you save someone if you don’t know they need saving?

This book has been on my radar for so long that the second it released, I jumped on the chance to read it. Second chance romance is my catnip. The blurb made me damn near salivate because it sounded emotional and angsty.

Truth be told, I struggled with my rating. Because while there were a lot of things that didn’t work for me, it’s clear as day that this author has some real writing chops. I’m definitely a new fan and would eagerly read any of her other books. Unfortunately, not every book is for every reader, and this was that case for me.

First of all, I didn’t find this to be a romance at all. At best, this read like women’s lit with a bit of romance thrown in. But the romance is not center stage. It plays second fiddle to the abuse for practically the entire book. Now normally, I wouldn’t have a problem with that. But since I felt absolutely zero chemistry between the hero and the heroine, the romance did absolutely nothing for me. The way they got together in the beginning felt rushed and entirely unbelievable to me. And then the way they get together in the end felt rushed again.

The story is told in two parts, and I’m not really sure why it’s broken down that way. Aside from one part being set in the past and the second in the present, there’s still flashbacks that continue well into the second half. I suppose because they separate in the first half and reunite in the second? I don’t know. It felt a little…blah. But I digress. I struggled with Liam. As much as I wanted to love him, I just didn’t have enough of him to love. There was zero, and I mean zero character development to him. He just was. He felt extremely two dimensional, and considering that part of the book is in his POV, that was extremely disappointing.

Look guys, I will tell you to heed that trigger warning. It’s no joke. Practically the entirety of this book felt like it was about the abuse. I’m talking graphic, detailed, constantly happening abuse. It got to the point where I just couldn’t take it anymore. And not because I couldn’t handle the heavy subject matter, but because it was just so much that it stopped adding anything to the story. A story can be just as powerful without the repetitive reminders. It felt like that’s all there was to the story, to be quite honest. There’s a little of that second chance romance that’s slapped in there, but it just felt….off.

As for Bea. Man. I really REALLY wanted to love her. But sadly I just couldn’t. This girl was a victim. But as a survivor myself, I wanted to read about her finally finding her courage and being just that. A survivor. But she never came off as that. It takes someone else to constantly ride in to save her. It’s never her. And yes, she has one moment where she takes the leap with something. But it wasn’t enough. She was a victim until the very end to me. I hate stories like this where the man rides in to save the poor helpless little female. And that’s how this felt to me. It was so disappointing.

There’s a little romance that happens at the very end but it felt a little too late and definitely not enough. I think had I connected to the rest of the story, I may have felt different. But sadly, it is what it is. Ultimately there were too many character, plot and overall pacing gaps that just took me way out of the story. The author is an incredible story teller, and I enjoyed her writing style. It takes a lot to pull off a story like this, and I give her so much props for doing it. I’m sad that it didn’t work for me, but I’m sure I’ll be in the minority. So I suggest reading it and seeing for yourself. If you’re in the mood for an emotionally powerful book, this one will certainly fit the bill.

Review: Unbroken by Jay Crownover

UNBROKEN
Series: Loveless, Texas #0.5
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Western
Author: Jay Crownover
Release Date: May 14, 2019

From the New York Times bestselling author of the Marked Men series comes a captivating novella about a rugged rodeo star who will do anything to protect the people he loves.

When rodeo star Crew Lawton loses everything in a bad bet, he has no choice but to take a new job to pay off his debts – even if it means becoming the face of an expensive male skincare line. Crew is used to getting sweaty and rustling in the dirt, not posing for photo shoots. And he’s certainly not used to being bossed around by a woman who doesn’t even know the difference between bulls and broncs. But Crew owes money to dangerous criminals, and he’ll do anything Della says in order to pay them back and keep them far away from his family in Loveless, Texas…

The launch of her new men’s line for her family’s company means everything to Della Deveaux, and she’s not willing to let some rugged, arrogant cowboy ruin her campaign. Crew Lawton is the last man she would have chosen to represent her chic, sophisticated brand. Unfortunately, her father already invested millions in Crew’s stupidly handsome face. Yet the more time they spend together, Della and Crew realize that opposites doattract. But when the time comes for Crew to face his past mistakes, will he be able to protect his family…and the woman he’s come to love?

AMAZON 

You can be my bad habit, Crew. You can be the entirety of my rebellious phase.”

Confession: it’s been a hot minute since I read a Jay Crownover book. I know, I know! I’m ashamed of myself and I don’t even know why it’s been so long. And it has been. TOO LONG. And this was the perfect novella to throw me right back into my Jay lovefest. Consider me hooked. Line and sinker. I’m frothing at the mouth for more of her Loveless series. FROTHING AT THE MOUTH I TELLS YA.

This was a short yet satisfying story to introduce readers to the Lawton siblings. Starting with the bad boy rodeo star, Crew. Crew has been drowning in his own mistakes for a long while under the water starts rising over his head and he realizes just how much trouble he’s in. When a deal that he would never jump on under any normal circumstances lands in his lap, he knows it’s his only way out.

Della Deveaux is Crew’s exact opposite. The good girl to the bad boy. The woman that’s never so much as stepped out of line and has worked her butt off to prove herself to her father and show him that she has the chops to run their company. The attraction between Della and Crew is inconvenient but undeniable and it’s not long before the sparks ignite into flames.

Now look, I hate to be one of those readers that knowingly picks up a novella and then complains that it was too short to be satisfying. But…I am. Because here’s the thing. I couldn’t help but feel that this story should have been a full length novel. There was so much that happens off page (Crew’s fall from grace specifically) as well as some other things that I would have loved to sink my teeth into. There are some stories out there that you know are better suited as a short novella. Yet this didn’t feel like one of them. Don’t get me wrong, I still enjoyed it, and it was most definitely satisfying. But I also would have loved more. So much more!

I will definitely tell you that it did a heck of a job introducing and launching this new series. Because this reader is instantly hooked! If you’re looking for a quickie novella that has a little of everything, opposites attract, and some sexy cowboys, definitely give this one a go!

Review: The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

THE UNHONEYMOONERS
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Author: Christina Lauren
Release Date: May 14, 2019

Olive is always unlucky: in her career, in love, in…well, everything. Her identical twin sister Amy, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. Her meet-cute with her fiancé is something out of a romantic comedy (gag) and she’s managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a series of Internet contests (double gag). Worst of all, she’s forcing Olive to spend the day with her sworn enemy, Ethan, who just happens to be the best man.

Olive braces herself to get through 24 hours of wedding hell before she can return to her comfortable, unlucky life. But when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning from eating bad shellfish, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. And now there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs.

Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him is suddenly at risk to become a whole lot bigger. She and Ethan now have to pretend to be loving newlyweds, and her luck seems worse than ever. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of… lucky.

AMAZON 

Are you nauseated?” he asks me quietly.
“Beyond at the sight of this? Or you? No.”
“Impending diarrhea?”
I stare at him. “How are you single? Frankly, it’s a mystery.” 

This book needs to come with a warning; do NOT read in public! Why? Because you’ll look like a slightly deranged person sitting and giggling to yourself while twitching happily. Ok. Maybe you won’t twice. But I did! Because this book gave me all of the happy tingles and I was a flailing pile of reader goo at the end. Basically, I seriously and I mean SERIOUSLY loved The Unhoneymooners.

I adore all things Christina Lauren but man did they step up their usual a-game even more with this story. If you follow my reviews than you already know that enemies to lovers is my jam. And Olivia and Ethan are the enemies that dreams are made of! I tell you. These two brought the banter so hard. SO HARD.

Picture this: Your twin sister is the epitome of all things lucky. She wins EVERYTHING. Free trips, free dresses, free meals, free everything. Basically her giveaway entries have essentially paid for her entire wedding. And you’re the antithesis to that luck. If your twin is lucky, then you’re the unluckiest person ever. Oh, and your soon to be brother in law is also your arch nemesis that you may or may not have lusted ever for a hot second until he proved to be a total buttonhole. That, my friends, is Olive’s life. She’s a bit dramatic at times. She’s also self-depreciating and self-conscious about pretty much everything revolving around her body. But she’s also endearing AF. I don’t even know what it was exactly, but I couldn’t get enough of her.

Enter Ethan; groom’s brother, buffet avoider, and all around Olive hater. The hate lust is strong between these two, people. But what I loved the most is that it’s subtle and its a delicious slow burn. When every single person at the wedding except Olive and Ethan, manages to get the food poisoning from hell, all of sudden Olive and Ethan find themselves taking her twin’s honeymoon and barely tolerating the other’s existence.

My favorite thing about this book has got to be the banter. I loved the back and forth these two have. I also loved the subtle change of hating each other to the realization that there’s something between them. I loved watching them grow closer and closer until the chemistry between them sparks to fire. If you’re expecting a super steamy romance, you won’t get that here. This was more of a warm heat rather than sparking fire, but it was still so satisfying. It was more sweet than spicy and this reader was perfectly alright with that.

I laughed, I swooned, and I binge read it from cover to cover. This is one of those books that will put a smile on your face and keep it there. It was an endearingly sweet romance of opposites attracting with plenty of bubbly secondary characters that added a bit of flare to an already great story. If you’re looking for a light and funny, feel-good romance, look no further. The Unhoneymooners delivers in spades!

Review: The Lying Hours by Sara Ney

THE LYING HOURS
Series: How To Date a Douchebag #5
Genre: New Adult Romance
Author: Sara Ney
Release Date: May 9, 2019

ABRAHAM DAVIS—Honest Abe to his friends—IS IN OVER HIS HEAD…

He’s a fixer and a do good-er. The all-knowing, resident “grandfather” on the wrestling team who everyone relies on to fix their problems. His teammates go to him for everything; advice, homework, or when they need a sober driver at three in the morning–whether he likes it or not.

Abe’s current mission is easy: mend his roommates broken heart by helping him find a girlfriend on the LoveU app–without getting caught in the lie…

SKYLAR GABRIEL. IS. OVER. IT.

Over her bad grades. Over her meddling older brother and his two best friends. And over dating douchebags. What she wants to know is: where have all the nice guys gone?

She longs for a handsome, sweet, and honest guy who can make her laugh. In one last ditch effort to prove that he exists—Skylar turns to LoveU.

On her worst day, Skylar has no filter (it’s a miracle she hasn’t been ditched mid-date).
On her best, she’s as wholesome, and sweet, as pie.
On Thursday? She matches with Abraham Davis’s roommate.

Skylar Gabriel is falling for the wrong guy—she just doesn’t realize it yet.

Why?

BECAUSE ABE DAVIS IS A LIAR.

AMAZON 

I’m the guy they go to when they want something fixed, like their car. Or their love life.

Looking for a fun, light-hearted New Adult romance that packs plenty of laughs along with a sweet and steamy romance? Look no further! The Lying Hours was everything I’ve come to love about Sara Ney and everything I love in New Adult romance. It had amazing secondary characters, a cameo from my TOP FAVORITE douchebag. Oh, and I’m pretty convinced that Skylar’s BFF happens to be my spirit animal. But I digress.

Contrary to the title, Abe is definitely not a douchebag. He’s the quintessential nice guy. He’s the fixer, the one everyone goes to with their problems. He’s also the one currently trying to pick out dates for his lazy roommate who’s trying to get over his ex. The only problem? His roommate is most definitely a douchebag. And the last girl that he matches him with on the university’s dating app happens to be a lot more of his type. But she thinks she’s talking to JB. And poor Abe is in way over his head.

Admittedly, this got off to a somewhat slow start with me. I’m not even sure why, or if I can put my finger on why exactly. But I also know that it didn’t last long before I was completely enraptured in this story. Skylark is everything I love in a great heroine. This girl takes zero sh*t. She isn’t shy about putting anyone in their place, including JB and then sooner or later, poor Abe too. Her best friend and roommate Hannah was the comedic relief of the story. This chick was AWESOME. I seriously couldn’t get enough of her quirky humor and loud mouth. I’m seriously thrilled to get a novella for her next. But I digress again.

I loved that Skylar makes Abe work for it. And I loved that even though Abe is a super nice guy, he’s also not perfect. The man messes up on more than one occasion but he’s not afraid to own up to it either. The chemistry between them was instant and potent. I loved the two of them together once they finally get there.

I would have loved to have an epilogue or another chapter for them, though. I couldn’t help but feel like I wanted just a little more of the romance at the end because it IS a slow burn for them for a while. I suppose I just wanted more of them together to appease my selfish wants. Le sigh. But that aside, I still seriously loved this book. It was quirky and fun and absolutely delicious! I adore this series and I adore everything Sara Ney writes. This was certainly no exception.

Copyright © 2015 · Dirty Girl Romance

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