Prairie Passion: Cowboys of the Flint Hills Book 2, Tessa Layne

Prairie Passion: Cowboys of the Flint Hills by [Layne, Tessa]

Brodie and Jamey are just like bulls, locking horns to display dominance or play through sparring.  Their verbal wrangling quickly becomes physical and neither one can deny their mutual passion for long.  Secrets, affections, and complications all combine to create a whirlwind of temper and ardor and only heaven knows what will be left standing at the end.  Can they have the business and each other or will pride burn it all to ashes?

I love Brodie.  From the start we knew there was something behind all his bluster and swagger.  What we learn here just about breaks my heart.  The poor man struggles more than anyone should and years and years of browbeating and heavy handedness from Jake Sinclair have crushed his confidence.  His intelligence, tenderness, care, and concern are evident in everything he does.  But his devil may care attitude overshadows all that and is causing distrust and disappointment everywhere he turns.  His pride and insecurities are leading him to failure if he can't find a way to get help.

Help comes in the form of the redhead spitfire, Jamey.  In a mess of her own making she's accepted a job at the Sinclair's lodge with her tail tucked firmly between her legs.  Unwilling to confide her medical and business issues, she's bottled up a lot of her vulnerability and her fragile ego can't take many more hits.  She's determined to make the lodge's kitchen a success and no stubborn, cocky, dead sexy cowboy is going to change that.  If only he'd stop smoldering in her direction, and maybe keep his lips to himself too...

There's a ton of heat and chemistry between these two.  They have a lot going for their partnership when they're willing to lay aside their pride and actually work as a team.  I loved when they got along and Jamey allowed Brodie to really be himself.  He made himself vulnerable to her over and over again.  I wish that she had done that for him more than just during her medical confession.  Brodie deserved so much more honesty, openness, tenderness.  He gave and gave and gave and despite their arguments he bore the brunt of her temper far more often than I was comfortable with.

Brodie both breaks my heart and fills it.  I love his heart, vulnerability, cockiness, humility, and struggle.  His admission about his struggles with numbers and reading was heart-breakingly honest.  I seriously teared up.  To feel demeaned all his life so that he can't even be honest with his brothers, that Blake just saw the outward reaction to his struggles and didn't try to find out more...I ached for him.  After confiding in Jamey I was okay with her reaction at the outset.  But then when she made it a point to throw it at him during every argument?  No respect there.  I'm absolutely okay with her not coddling him in his weakness and to encourage him to improve is a mark of a true partner.  But I didn't respect the way dyslexia is thrown in his face.  To bring it up because it's relevant is totally fine, but the way she did it came across as degrading.

Jamey is fiery and a good match for Brodie's passion but her temper really is something awful.  I don't think she did enough to make up for it.  And I'm not including the chemical burn thing in any kind of "restitution".  That would be an awful thing to wish on another person just in the name of earning forgiveness.  Her struggles were absolutely real and valid, her points were spot on too.  I just think that she let her temper get out of hand on too many occasions and Brodie's love and sense of guilt allowed that to be okay and I don't agree with that.

Overall I found the story engaging, fun to read, passionate in so many ways, and a really great read.  Brodie was the star for me and while I don't agree with Jamey's actions most of the time I do feel that she is an excellent match for Brodie's character.  They are a fun couple that enjoy arguing just as much as they do making up.  I'm really looking forward to reading Ben's story in Prairie Desire next.

*$3.99 on Amazon!
 Prairie Passion: Cowboys of the Flint Hills Book 2, Tessa Layne

*Find out why Ben's taking Hope's return so oddly in Prairie Desire...
Prairie Desire: Cowboys of the Flint Hills by [Layne, Tessa]
 Prairie Desire: Cowboys of the Flint Hills Book 3, Tessa Layne
What’s a guy to do when the girl of his dreams makes a pass at him?
Saying no to Hope Hansen was the hardest thing Ben Sinclaire has ever done. Despite the fact that he’s loved her since grade school, between their age difference and a family feud, a romance between them was forbidden. But now she’s back and the girl he loved has become all woman. He’s finally ready to make his move, but he’ll have to get around her brothers and a field of admirers to do it.

What’s a girl to do when faced with the worst mistake from her past?
Eight years ago, Hope took a chance on Ben and got shot down. Heart broken and mortified, she left town. A fiasco at veterinary school foils her plan to avoid him forever by forcing her to come home to Prairie. When her brothers meddle in her love life by placing a Cowboy Wanted ad for her in the back of Rancher’s Monthly, Ben becomes her unlikely ally. As all her feelings come crashing back, Hope isn’t sure if she can trust him… or herself.

Cowboy Wanted: True Love Awaits
Ben comes up with a daring plan to win Hope, but when ice storms, weddings, and babies interfere, will it backfire? Or will Hope realize that true love has been waiting right under her nose the whole time?

Fortune's Kiss, Anne Conley

Fortune's Kiss by [Conley, Anne]

A prophecy and a dream will have the power to bring two people together.  But will they have the strength, determination, and enough love to stay?

From the first moment that London sees the fortune teller's tent she knows something is different, real.  She's drawn to it and when she hears the prophecy about her dreamer she immediately makes the life choices she thinks will bring her to him.

Elliot wakes from a dream knowing the girl who saved him from his nightmare is the woman who will be his life.  But when you're homeless at 18 there's not a lot you can do about creating the kind of life his dream girl will want.  Trusting fate to guide them together he draws, dreams, and survives.

Twenty years later a nephew and a mugging bring them together.  It's difficult for both of them to admit to one another their "crazy" thoughts to explain how invested they are in an "us" after only a few brief moments of tense conversation and it's their hesitation that cause them to lose sight of what they've spent the last two decades longing for.  Their secrets almost cost them their destiny.  

Elliot and London have a great connection, though fast when they finally meet, it feels real because it's got a sense of fate and destiny.  Elliot's youth was rough and his responsibilities are heavy.  He's scared and feels ill-equipped to handle everything weighing on his shoulders but he's trying.  His priorities are to his nephew even when he finds London and his struggles are compounded by the lack of time to build something solid with London and to help his nephew heal and adjust.  Despite him pulling a runner when the pressure becomes unbearable, I truly like him and feel for him.

London is a full character with hopes, aspirations, motivations, history, etc. but there's a disconnect for me.  There's a constant reiteration about her age but she still feels 15 in a lot of ways.  Especially the reassertion by her and others that the runner interpretation is still the same and valid from a 15 year old's perception though she's seeing him figuratively running from her (well, it's literal too, but not in the marathon running sense) is a bit annoying.  Also, the dependence on the fortune teller's words from half a lifetime ago and then seeing her again but pretty much dismissing her second counsel doesn't fit with the picture painted of London or Elliot's acceptance of his dreams.

There are some slightly confusing sentiments near the end.  The reunion was a bit hurried.  Not rushed like going from one moment to the next didn't line up or had a too-quick escalation, but it felt like some middle ground was necessary instead of going from sitting on the bumper to the intense moment of confession in the motel.

The custody issue is casually taken care of after the relationship drama is settled and that's fine, if it were any larger it would have taken focus away from the point of the story.  I wish it had been used as a tool to bring the three of them closer together.  That one consultation, however, did put a ton of Elliot's situation out for London and avoided a ton of secrecy, angst, and misunderstandings at the outset.  Not all of it, obviously, but it cut down on the number of possibilities those frustrations could come from.

Overall this was a cute story that had amazing potential even if the reality was a bit lacking.  The characters were multi-faceted and the external drama was relatively low.  With a solid support cast and some introductions that are absolutely intriguing for another series, it was a solidly enjoyable story.

*$2.99 on Amazon!
 Fortune's Kiss, Anne Conley

Sexy Bad Boss: Sexy Bad Book 3, Misti Murphy and Tami Lund

Sexy Bad Boss (Sexy Bad Series Book 3) by [Murphy, Misti, Lund, Tami]

A botched seduction, a header off a balcony, amnesia, a cat, and lots of sexy times.  What starts as an unrequited love story that gets a second chance because of a head injury ends with the most nerdy awesome proposal I've read in a really long time.

I was expecting something a bit different.  James is painted as aloof and all about work, and that's definitely true, but the title hinted that he would be on the "I'm sexy and I know it" side of things.  Not that he wasn't sexy, just that his relationship to his member and getting women into his bed would be more in the forefront.  Instead, we have an endearingly oblivious man who knows he can't live without his assistant but is vehemently denying to himself how deep that need actually runs.  Aside from the first day where he noticed how sensuous his assistant was and his new awareness of her, he'd placed her firmly in the "do not screw" box and he's having a hell of a time reconciling the two different versions of her he's created.

Myra was cute, capable, and quite graceless sometimes.  It made her all the more likable.  While I'm not a huge fan of secrets and keeping the confessions to the end, for this couple it kind of worked.  Because she'd been in love with him forever she seemed to hold all the cards, the one that had the power to change their dynamic, but when it came down to it, it was her fear that held all the power.  Her fear of committing to a confession made a mess of the balcony moment, the "let's talk" moment on the couch, the moment of parting, and every sexy moment they shared.  Until the very end when she realized just how much she was losing out on by not being completely upfront about her feelings and intentions did she let it all out.  By then, James was on the same page.

 Sexy Bad Boss: Sexy Bad Book 3, Misti Murphy and Tami Lund

It sure took him long enough!  There were lots of moments that I sighed in exasperation because of the very predictable moments of his regret.  Despite regretting the actions because he couldn't seem to connect his body, head, and heart, he still couldn't keep his hands, mouth, and...uh...other parts off of Myra.  Seeing his thoughts all jumbled and adorably adolescent in their obliviousness didn't make me annoyed, rather it made me like him.  A befuddled sexy man is one I love reading about.  Yes, he totally acts like a dummy but I can't help but like him and root for him.

Together they were sweet and more than a little bumbling.  When they finally have their confessions it was just as sweet and awkward as the rest of the story.  Memorable and unique.  I mean, the graph, business terms, innuendo, is there any way those can be combined and not be notable?  And the way it's written is absolutely adorable!

Equally cute is the collection of animals from Sexy Bad Daddy and Sexy Bad Neighbor.  The inclusion of an animal in every story is cleverly written.  It could have turned out like a bad gag repeated for continuity but each animal has a unique place with each couple and in the story.  The pied piper of their little zoo, Abby, was really sweet.  Although she did read more as a 6/7 year old instead of 3/4 so that was a bit annoying but something that could be overlooked in Sexy Bad Boss because she wasn't heavily featured.

I'm absolutely going back to read the rest of the series.  Meeting the Frost men and their family on the periphery of this story has been a pleasure.  They're all unique characters and their interplay is fabulous.  They feel connected and the stories are connected not just because they feature a trio of brothers, but because of in-jokes, actual connection and chemistry between the characters, quirky pet choices, and a fun writing style.  I'm sold, I'm in.  Even though this is the third book in the series it's definitely a standalone and does a great job standing on its own with endearing characters and a well-rounded romance with very little external drama to detract or add tension beyond what's necessary for plot progression.

*$2.99 on Amazon or FREE on KU!
 Sexy Bad Boss: Sexy Bad Book 3, Misti Murphy and Tami Lund

Sexy Bad Neighbor (Sexy Bad Series Book 1) by [Murphy, Misti, Lund, Tami]What happens when your neighbor hires you a stripper?
It starts one hell of a prank war.  A war that involves goats, phallic chandeliers, stolen kisses in the rain, strawgasms, and eating out on the kitchen counter.

A war that could damn well involve two hearts and a plan.  Her plan doesn't involve falling in love.  His life doesn't involve plans.

This could be a problem.
 Sexy Bad Neighbor: Sexy Bad Book 1, Misti Murphy and Tami Lund

Sexy Bad Daddy (Sexy Bad Series Book 2) by [Murphy, Misti, Lund, Tami]Once upon a time Garrett Frost, bad boy of professional golf, found out he had a two year old daughter.
Okay, okay, it wasn’t that long ago. His escapades are still in the media, and his sponsors are all in a tail spin, but his daughter sure is cute. 
That’s where I come in. I’m his nanny. The kid’s nanny. Of course, I’m not his. He’s older, my employer, totally off limits. And I can’t forget that, even if he makes me want to fall for him with every lingering gaze, each secret touch. 
He’s trying so hard to reform his professional image and be the father his daughter deserves. If anyone knew he was screwing his nanny it’d be all over the media, ruining his sponsorships, and affecting his relationship with his daughter. Or worse, convincing everyone we could be a family. 
But Garrett Frost’s family is the game and his daughter. There’s no room for me. So why does it feel like I’ve finally found my forever?

Sexy Bad Daddy: Sexy Bad Book 2, Misti Murphy and Tami Lund

Deeper: Deep Duet Book 2, M. Malone

Deeper (The Deep Duet Book 2) by [Malone, M., Malone, Nana]

Deeper into trouble than she ever meant to go.  Deeper in love than he ever expected to fall.  Both Diana and Rafe are finding out just how deeply their trouble and love are interwoven in Deeper, Book 2 in the Deep Duet.

Rafe sees the security footage of Diana leaving him and it isn't until she's gone that he finds the bigger damage she's done.  The safe is open and the files that could get men killed is with his little thief.  And she's painted a giant target on her back.  He has to get to her before anyone else does.

Diana finds more information than she ever expected.  The kind of information that shatters her mission and her perception of her own family, makes her question herself, and the kind that could get her killed.  So she does what she does best.  She runs.  Knowing that she's essentially holding a ticking time bomb she's prepared to go into the wind.  But maybe, just maybe, if she gives the information back, she can disappear without bringing harm to the man she's come to love.

With Rafe's connections to both the FBI an ORUS on his back and threatening Diana time is of the essence and if he's going to save her from herself, he's got to do it quickly.  Diana's family won't let her go and when they get to her she realizes that it's not just capture on their mind, it's her death.

 Deeper: Deep Duet Book 2, M. Malone

Rafe's still a badass.  His heart is huge, his confessions are tender and honest, and his love for Diana is his redemption.  I loved his willingness to be vulnerable to Diana.  His reaction to certain big news is so sweet, so unlike the man we first meet but so very true to the man he really is.  With every moment in this story we see a melding of the boy he was, the man he is, the assassin he was, the protector he is, his past, present, and future, all of it.  I'm in love.

There's a ton of drama in this one.  It's intense and gritty from the outset as well as very, very sexy.  Rafe is falling for someone he still doesn't truly know and isn't sure if she'll ever truly open up to him.  It won't stop him from loving her and confessing his own sins to her, though.  It's Diana's secrets that threaten to ruin everything.

Again, my feelings about Diana are quite mixed but on the more negative side of things.  The entire story she continually holds back even after seeing that he can handle himself and her.  He makes himself vulnerable to her by baring his past, his death, his resurrection, his heart and soul.  In return?  She's vague, secretive, and selfish.  No, she's not doing it to hurt him, she's not callous, cavalier, or cruel about it, but it's still selfish.  While she is undeniably badass when it comes to protecting what's hers and can throw down and defend herself and others extremely well, it doesn't give her a pass for withholding important information about herself that could have helped everyone protect her and give her a chance to be a vital part of the proceedings.

 In Deep: Deep Duet Prequel, M. Malone

...Possibly a spoiler in the next paragraph, but by this point with the third story in the Blake Securities series it's kind of an expected outcome so I don't actually consider the content spoiler-worthy.  But nevertheless, you've been warned...

Speaking of being a vital part of stuff going down, I'm kind of not liking that, yet again, the alpha men metaphorically bind the hands of the women they love and want to protect and, yet again, the woman goes behind their man's back to be bait.  Please, please let the next book have the couple actually talk to one another and be a true team before the end with all the confessions and "I'm sorry I held you back/surprised you with my possible death."

...Possible spoiler paragraph over...

The whole story was fierce and fraught with anxiety whether from secrets, danger, or tension.  The romance was pretty good with Rafe coming out way ahead of Diana in the character growth and development.  I enjoyed the physicality of this one even though it was far more dramatic in the whole scheme of things.  Diana's skills when they finally came out to play was really great.  Her skill and dedication to protect was just as impressive as Rafe's in her own way.  She was just as brutal and relentless in defending and safeguarding what she claims as hers.

When push comes to shove both Rafe and Diana will fight tooth and nail to protect what's important to them.  They ended up as a better couple at the end once all secrets were shared and both of them allowed to let their fierceness shine.  Their relationship drama was just as big as the drama surrounding it and while that was a pretty good balance, I was wishing for a bit more heart.  All the heart really came from Rafe.

I'm quite excited to see who gets their story next.  Will it be the quiet, deadly Matthias?  The blonde German hunk Oskar?  Whoever it is, their family is growing and I'm looking forward to see all of kick ass and meet their match.

*$3.24 on Amazon!
 Deeper: Deep Duet Book 2, M. Malone

*Fall in from the beginning...
Rafe and Diana's secrets start in Deep
Deep (The Deep Duet Book 1) by [Malone, M., Malone, Nana]
 Deep: Deep Duet Book 1, M. Malone
She didn't just bring me back to life. She brought me back to living.

You think you know my story, but you have no idea. How could you? I cover my tracks well.

After a hellish past, I’ve got a good thing going being hired at Blake Security. I’m one of the good guys now...protect and serve and all that jazz. Kicking ass and rescuing damsels in distress - all in a day’s work. 

Then I discover *this* damsel is not that innocent.

Come Home Again: The Donovans Book 1, Nana Malone

Come Home Again: New Adult Romance (The Donovans) by [Malone, Nana]

Delilah and the man that was hers to save.  Except fate and family both have a funny way of separating and bringing people together.  Nate was sure that he cut ties with the people that mattered most to him seven years ago, except he just walked into a conference room where his biggest regret is staring at him with a mixture of shock, confusion, fury, and desire.  Neither of them are sure what to do with all the feelings their unexpected encounter is bringing out but the one thing they can't seem to do is keep their lips off of one another.

Nate is a reformed hacker, a good man with a past.  He's got a lot of baggage he's erased from everywhere but the hearts and minds of the people that matter.  The Donovans took him in when he was at his lowest and gave him the home he had always craved but never thought he deserved.  His brother Trent is bad news and his appearances always spell disaster.  While he thought he lost him years ago it's clear that the necessary media coverage of his new job description has brought him out of the shadows and back into his life.  He's got to rely on the fixer but he obstinately refuses out of pride, fear, and stubbornness.

Delilah is the fixer hired by his friend's company to cover for the CEO's absence.  She once fancied herself in love with Nate but his disappearance quashed both any notion she had of his affection and her young heart.  She's no longer the naive young girl out to save everyone, she's a savvy woman who is extremely good at her job keeping the right kind of press involved in her client's life.  When the Nate/Manning assignment is given to her she knows she's faced with a choice.  Her career or her heart.  She can't bear to lose either and she knows one, or more likely both, will be the fallout if she helps Nate.

But neither of them can break away from one another.  They don't actually want to.  As they navigate the media, vindictive clients and board members, reconciliations, demons from the past, and seriously sexy bedroom/garage/storage closet romps, their connection deepens, strengthens, and they're well on their way to their own version of a happily ever after.  Except the past can never stay buried for long and Nate's poor communication and secrets are spelling disaster for everything tender and lasting they're building.

I really enjoyed this story.  Delilah was feisty, strong, capable, intelligent, fierce, motivated, and the hints of vulnerability and fear made her human and likable.  She was multi-faceted and believable.  She was more than a good match for Nate.  I do wish that some of her direct, blunt, eager manner from childhood stayed with her but I didn't dislike the way pain, abandonment, and her pluck turned her into the woman she became.

As for Nate, he kind of stalled from the scared teenager that ran but I didn't dislike him at all.  He was so lovable, so kind, generous, and vulnerable.  Not to mention sexy, intelligent, capable, and his own man.  When he finally stood up to the aggressors with more than his fists I wanted to cheer for him.  Being cowed by his fear became a thing of the past.  And the confession to Delilah during their own reconciliation was sweet.  They make a really great pair and I'm really going to enjoy seeing them again on the periphery of the rest of the Donovan's stories.

*FREE on Amazon!
 Come Home Again: The Donovans Book 1, Nana Malone

*Did you like the little glimpse you got of the sassy Mia?
Read her story in Love Reality...
Love Reality (The Donovans) by [Malone, Nana]
 Love Reality: The Donovans Book 2, Nana Malone

A romantic who believes in love...
Walking love disaster, Mia Donovan, is a reality television production assistant by day, secret dating blogger, Lonely Girl, by night. All she has to do to get the job of a lifetime is face her fears and step in front of the camera. Unfortunately that also means dating her nemesis, Single Guy, for the entire world to see.

A cynic giving love advice...
Reluctant, dating columnists, Ryan Matthews, otherwise known as Single Guy, thinks reality-dating shows are soul-sucking endeavors that have more to do with selling unrealistic expectations than love.  But for a shot at writing serious stories, he's willing to go undercover on Love Reality to do an exposĂ© on the dating competition.  What he doesn't count on is falling in love.

Runway Runaways, Kevin Sean

Runway Runaways (The Royal Lexingtons Book 2) by [Sean, Kevin]

Ty and Liam are both trying to avoid the issues that come with family.  For Ty, his whole identity is under attack by a circumstance of birth and he's terribly afraid that the truth will ruin his career and romantic life.  It's happened before.  And then there's Liam.  All he wants is to write something important, to make an impact, and he's stuck writing fluff pieces because his superior is bent on getting any dig he can on his "royal" employee.  Opportunity knocks on both their doors leading them both to a future in both journalism and love, but only if the cutthroat world of Runway Weekly doesn't ruin them first.

I liked Ty, even with all his panic attacks.  His vulnerability came off more sweet than paranoid, though it was definitely paranoid too.  He was earnest and invested in his love of fashion.  The surprise to him was that someone like Liam wanted him in return.  Unable to be honest he almost ended something that had the strength to support and love him through his trials.  His secret was kind of a big deal, but it was blown way out of proportion, in my opinion.  Not that it wasn't a valid concern, but it was just kind of an over-the-top preemptive strike where their relationship was concerned.

But thank goodness for Liam's roommate.  If it weren't for her there would be no Ty and Liam at either time she intruded on their relationship.  She's quirky, crazy, funny, and generally awesome.  Her character was a win for the story.

Liam was written well.  I liked him and his honesty.  Yes, his parentage is kept under wraps, but it's for a good reason and I was really glad that his name wasn't made to be the huge make-or-break moment in the story.  His earnestness toward Ty was really sweet, it was also a bit much in the beginning, but not so much that it weirded me out.  The way he handled Ty's freak-outs was really nice and I was happy to see Liam's role as the rock in their relationship.  His generosity and willingness to make Ty happy was a great quality.

The drama surrounding them at the magazine was over the top.  The culprit was one of three suspects to my mind and toward the end it was pretty predictable.  When the confrontation finally came it was a bit underwhelming.  Crazy, expected, and big-bad-villain monologue all together made the scene more campy dramatic than merely a dramatic end to their untenable workplace situation.

At the outset of the story we're led to believe something that is actually a non-issue because the synopsis is leading and the reality is different.  The photo incident?  Totally blown over.  You'd have to read it to know how NOT big of a deal it was.  And the spotlight thing?  Again, not addressed at all aside from the possibility in the beginning of the interview when he's afraid of being nominally outed.  Aside from that, the drama came from other sources and mostly within the couple's dynamic rather than outside pressure.

So overall, the story was pretty good.  There were a ton of elements that had a great start but were either blown up too big or not given enough page time to matter which left the feeling of deficiency.  Everything was wrapped up with nice pretty bows for everyone in the story except the villain and that was fine, it was just a bit unrealistic and like the author was trying too hard to give every single character a happy ending.

*$1.00 on Amazon or FREE on KU!
 Runway Runaways, Kevin Sean

Why I Need You, Colette Davison

Why I Need You by [Davison, Colette]

Fin and Noah are both men who are missing out on life.  While Noah hiding from one, Fin is nearly buried under the responsibility in his.  When they meet it's under less-than awesome circumstances but it opens Noah up to something more and Fin might just have a chance with to find his ideal partner.

Fin struggles with the grief he's never truly allowed himself to feel.  He's raising his little sister, Olivia, and is trying to give her the best life he can.  His own life is kind of on pause, especially the romantic side of life, and he's not sure there's a possibility for one.  When he takes on an extra shift and ends up serving an incredibly homophobic table he's unaware that his future may be with the guy who's now drinking himself stupid at the bar.

Their relationship progresses slowly but their feelings grow quickly.  With secrets on Fin's side and insecurities and hang-ups on Noah's they're bound to fight an uphill battle, something has to give.  Patience, understanding, genuine affection, and a meddling roommate all combine to give them a great chance at a future.  And then Fin confesses.

Noah was smart, to take something so serious and actually think about it.  Yes, it wasn't giving Fin hope for more from them as a couple but I respect him for actually thinking of Olivia as not just a fun little girl he chats with during his visits but as a potential daughter.  He was doubtful of his place in life, what he was capable of, and where he thought his life was going.  Absolutely well-founded concerns considering his upbringing.  And acknowledging that if this kind of news were brought up further into their relationship that it might not be as big of an issue because they'd forged something indelible showed foresight, intention, and a realistic view of what they were building together and the reality of raising Olivia.

 Why I Need You, Colette Davison

I was quite frustrated with Noah's sister.  For giving him grief about not trusting her with his secret.  For one, it was Noah's secret to share, no matter how much you think you should have been trusted.  And for two, fears are that way for a reason, they're not always rational but it doesn't give you the right to punish the person for keeping a secret.  Just because they were close all growing up doesn't mean she has the right to know about his sexuality as soon as he does.

Honestly, it's a scary world for kids who grow up in extremely bigoted families, not knowing if they'll have a home, if they'll face their family's vitriol, if there's physical abuse coming, etc.  It's tough even for kids who have loving supportive families.  Their fear is there because they've heard of other families pulling a 180° and don't know if the love they've counted on lasting after sharing something so fundamental.

So yeah, I'm not a fan of characters or people punishing the secret-keeper for feeling like they've been betrayed because the family member's sexuality was hidden, especially in someone like Noah's situation.  The feeling of betrayal is natural, yes, but taking it out on the person who was afraid to confess isn't right.

Overall the story was good.  There wasn't enough transition between the reconciliation and the epilogue and seemed to be quite a jump.  Not that we didn't think it would end up that way, but going from Noah knocking on the door to being on the skateboard was a bit rushed.  The romance was sweet, troublesome, but hopeful.  Fin and Noah together were a great partnership and I feel that the story focused a bit heavily on the slow slog to a mutual desire to the future and then ended rather abruptly.  That end, though, was full of nice things that brought the story full-circle from solitary hesitance to confident togetherness.

*$2.99 on Amazon!
 Why I Need You, Colette Davison

Undefeated, Jane Harvey-Berrick and Stuart Reardon

Undefeated by [Reardon, Stuart, Harvey-Berrick, Jane]

A man on the cusp of a bigger arena for his rugby dreams, a woman on the cusp of her career finally taking off, together they have the makings of greatness and incredible passion.  But it's when their pasts come back to threaten them that their inner-strength and determination to fight will be tested.  Will they remain together, unbroken, and undefeated?  Or will their love be their demise?

The development of the relationship was organic, natural, and very sweet.  I loved their playful banter and their email and text conversations were the absolute best.  There was chemistry, trust, and love from their very beginning.  Well, the love came later, but the foundation for their love was strong, passionate, and tender.  I was absolutely in love with this couple.

 Undefeated, Jane Harvey-Berrick and Stuart Reardon

The drama, however, was much, much, MUCH bigger than I was expecting.  While I was thinking that it would just be about Nick overcoming his injury and mindset that followed his struggles it ended up being so much more than that.  I can't say that I enjoyed watching everything shatter around them multiple times, but I will say that it did make the theme and title of the story much deeper and more profound.  To literally lose everything you felt your life meant and to come out on the other side undefeated.

I enjoyed Anna despite her fear and the frustration that came with clinging to her career more than love at one point.  Her cowardice made her run the first time and her fear made her unable to use her training and affection for Nick to help him see that something proactive needed to be done to save her, her career, and their relationship.  I admired her strength and even after she fell apart I couldn't dislike her or pity her.  She had immense struggles and needed Nick to do more than what he did.

Nick was surprisingly humble and full of heart where I was expecting someone cocky and full of hubris.  His do-nothing attitude regarding Molly after his initial rage-fueled berserker binge was disappointing.  I get the first time where he decided that he just wanted to be done with Molly and Kenny but when Anna was threatened on numerous occasions because of their jobs, their relationship, and his jealous ex I couldn't help but be disappointed.  To constantly make Anna feel like she was blowing things out of proportion was a selfish move that ultimately cost her her professional life and reputation as well as their romance.

 Undefeated, Jane Harvey-Berrick and Stuart Reardon

He was pretty immature about it until near the end when he realized that there would be only one thing he could do for her and that was to support her from afar and assure her of his commitment to her.  That moment was very sweet and full redemption.  Anna redeemed from her cowardice, fear, and determined loneliness, Nick from his inaction, selfishness, and immaturity, and them together, their relationship rising from the ashes.

Ending with hope, boldness, tenderness, love, and so much happiness, Nick and Anna found what they weren't sure they could ever attain.  Success and love.  Undefeated by everything that was bent on destroying them.

*$3.99 on Amazon!
 Undefeated, Jane Harvey-Berrick and Stuart Reardon

*Meet Stuart Reardon, the rugby player on the cover and co-author of the book...
Stuart Reardon
Stuart is a retired England International Rugby League Player who's career spanned 20 years. He played for various top Rugby League teams throughout his career. 
He is now a personal trainer with a successful online fitness programme called Fear Nothing Fitness or FNF. You can find details on his web page of the fitness program and all other info on Stu. 
He Is well know in the book world as a cover model and graces over 30 book's and now he is an Author. He has co-written Undefeated with Jane Harvey-Berrick with a second book due out in 2018.

Parallel Lives: Unexpected Book 1, Ava Marce

Unexpected Book 1: Parallel Lives Edward & Jax by [Marcé, Ava]

I was interested in the idea of two men falling in love too quickly to be believed finding their way back to one another.  This story fit that brief in the most basic sense.  They fell in love quickly, deeply, and were never brave enough to be honest with one another.  When pressure and seemingly caring advice combined with fears and insecurities they broke apart only to spend the next five years unable to find anyone else to fill their hearts in the same way.

With Jax, he was young and at the start of his adult life after college.  There was so much potential for him and when he found Edward he was just as surprised as Edward.  Openly gay and happy with where his life is headed he's scared by how intensely he feels for the older man.

Edward has spent his life denying himself to everyone around him, but most ardently to himself.  A pair of stunning eyes has him questioning everything.  His fiance isn't about to let him break up with her peacefully though.  His coming out is less than ideal and he struggles with it but the affection he has with Jax gives him a sense of rightness, happiness, that eases him through his family drama.  What he least expects is for their burgeoning love to be shattered by the very man who held his heart.

I didn't mind Jax's side of things and I even understood the reason for the breakup.  But what I don't agree with is the idea that just because you accept that you're gay you all of a sudden need to screw every man you find attractive to find out what you were missing.  That flawed logic led to their separation as well as Edward's spiral after Jax's departure.  I felt that Jax's side of things was one-sided but ultimately understandable.

I had a much harder time with Edward's side.  For a chapter to start off with the shouts and erotic situation between him and Zane was jarring and disturbing for me.  And his attitude toward Zane the entire time they were semi-involved, including the America portion, was callous, cruel, and self-serving.  Completely unfair to Zane because Edward couldn't get his head out of his ass.

Overall the story was fine, I wasn't really invested or drawn in and felt the need to skim quite a lot.  There were an incredible number of editing issues that I hope were caught.  Really, all it would take would be one read-through to find most of them because the majority were word choices, grammar, and general awkward wording.  Also awkward is what the reader is made to feel during most of Edward's scenes after they see one another again.  Awkward in so many ways.  And then Jax's moment at work in the conference room makes him seem uncaring and shallow rather than empathetic and sympathetic to his new employees.  It was an unnecessary scene, in my opinion, and just made him seem like a not-so-awesome or understanding person.  So I'm not completely thrilled with the story but it wasn't horrible.

*$4.99 on Amazon or FREE on KU!
Parallel Lives: Unexpected Book 1, Ava Marce

She Asked for It, Willow Winters

She Asked for It by [Winters, Willow]

There's so much heartbreak in the beginning that you find yourself yearning, hoping for something to give, something to shine light into their minds to give them the determination to fight for life instead of giving in to the immense pressure surrounding them from both deep within and all around.  The MC's are both lost.  They need something and while Dean isn't sure what his future will look like, Allison is set on a course that may prove her ultimate downfall.  She wasn't counting on Dean.  She didn't expect love.  She couldn't give in to what he was offering.

The intensity runs deep and never lets up throughout the entire story.  I quite liked Dean despite his anger issues.  His counseling sessions and focus was honest, inspiring, and admirable.  The chemistry and interplay between Allison and Dean was on the dark side of nice.  Their passion for one another was palpable.  With a hopeful and healing ending I could accept all the harshness of the story as a whole.

With a leading synopsis like this book has you're expecting something different than what you actually get.  Same with the author's note at the end of the story about the stigma attached to those four condemning words, "She asked for it...".  By the end I was wondering why the thought was even put in there.  I can see where she might have wanted to go with the dark themes in the story but the flow of the story didn't actually support that.  Instead what we get is hints about kinks that the world would shame women for, a past secret that could hurt new love, and angst city between Dean's anger and Allison's hiding/running/secret agenda.

The secret agenda thing took foooorrreeeeeevvvvvverrrrrrrrrr to get to.  It dragged and instead of increasing my interest and anxious anticipation it left me feeling flat and wishing I could skim to get to the point.  And the reveal was pretty lackluster as well.  I honestly have no issue with the theme or the kink or the intent of the story at all, it was more the execution of everything together.

The family stuff was kind of open-ended and dramatic without resolution, the relationship by the end was hopeful, and Allison was on the way to healing.  I might feel better about the story if the synopsis weren't so leading or if the story actually conformed to the bold message confronting shaming opinions contained in the synopsis and the author's note.  Combined, however, the disconnect was frustrating and left me unsatisfied.

*$3.19 on Amazon!
 She Asked for It, Willow Winters

Too Easy by [Winters, Willow]As the prequel to She Asked for It, it's the prologue and first five chapters of the full novel.  It gives an excellent start to letting you into the darkness surrounding the souls of both Dean and Allison.  There's something buried within their hearts that has the potential to bring them together or to tear them apart.  While Dean is in control of their encounters it's Allison who has ultimate control over their fate.   With her secrets, her past, her damage, she could bring hell down on them both merely because she couldn't deny the intense pull toward Dean.  A great prequel to whet your appetite for all that the full novel will provide.  3 stars.
 Too Easy: She Asked for It Prequel, Willow Winters

The Candidate, Alice Ward

The Candidate by [Ward, Alice]

A man drowning under the weight of disappointment and expectations of living someone else's dreams, a woman determined to achieve her dreams no matter the cost.  Both of these people have something the other desperately needs, if only they'll open their eyes, and their hearts, to the freedom that comes with honesty, balance, and love.

Cameron is a senate hopeful trying to achieve what his father was shamed into leaving.  He's also being forced into a life he doesn't want but can't find the strength to turn his back on.  His only escape is to dark sex clubs where he can get his kink on in order to find a little freedom through control and release with anonymous partners.

Brooke is undercover working on Cameron's campaign team.  Her hope is to find enough dirt on him so her real employer, Cameron's opponent and her best friend's father, will deem her worthy to put in a good word at the FBI for her.  What she doesn't expect is the man behind the attitude and wealth.  A man who brings out a confident, sexy side of herself that she didn't know she had.

So I think I'll start with my grievances and then end with the great stuff...

I'm getting increasingly tired of the sex-club themes of Alice's latest books.  One reason is I keep expecting similar plots with each one.  I know, I know, that's my own problem, I get it.  It doesn't change the fact that I'd very much like to read something else from Alice.  Her work is so good that I find this theme becoming pretty banal.

Then there are the similarities in the men.  Rich, entitled men who feed the darker side of their desires with willing women they never seek to know beyond what it takes to find release.  Yes, there's a more vulnerable reason behind their need for control and anonymity, but that doesn't change the fact that a lot of these men start of extremely similar to each other.  Their proclivities are all starting to blur together so it takes almost half the book to find enough differences to draw me into their character.

And finally the women.  Many of them begin as naive and innocent to a fault.  Also stubborn and forgiving for slights that should be addressed directly.  Some of them have had difficult lives and are awakened by the men's desires, which is fine, but the way they capitulate is wearing on me.  This is oversimplifying the women's situation and sexual awakening by a whole heck of a lot so I know a lot of people might argue with those thoughts or just disagree, and that's totally okay.  It's just how I'm feeling.

And here's the praise...

Now Brooke, though, is an improvement.  I really like her by the end.  In the beginning she's self-serving and has a narrow view.  She's incredibly judgmental and foolish.  But by the end, she's unwilling to back down from her beliefs and actually discusses them instead of just becoming irate and judgy.  Her ability to apologize sincerely is commendable.  She also learns to love the man inside and encourages him to be more, better, closer to the man who's hiding behind the douchey facade.  She's the strongest female MC I've seen in these recent books since The Surprise.

At the point that Cameron finds his cojones and Brooke her remorse I was invested.  The story finally felt good to me.  Like all the slogging through the first 2/3 didn't feel so bad when all the awesome started happening.  And the ending, Alice is the master at perfect endings.  Big reveals, apologies, confessions, reconciliation, passion, combine all that with tenderness, forgiveness, healing, humor, and the brightest hope in their future and I'm sold.

So while I've rated the book 3.5 stars here for the ending and character grown alone, it'll show as 3 stars on the review sites because the first 2/3 was quite difficult for me.  Rounding up to 4 stars would be disingenuous to how I felt while reading most of the book.

*99¢ on Amazon or FREE on KU!
 The Candidate, Alice Ward