Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Take Me by Maisey Yates

★★
Sydney Davis is on track with her college goals to become a politician but the pride is replaced with shock when her roommate commits suicide at a party they were attending. Travis Beringer takes her away and helps her forget the night by escaping into passion. This is a prequel to the Fifth Avenue trilogy.

Take Me is an erotic romance short story. This was an odd short story in terms of pacing, tone and focus. The beginning is a brief glimpse at key characters in the Fifth Avenue trilogy and a vague overview of the event that ties them all together.

Over half the short story is just Sydney and Travis having sex. The scenes were edgy and sexy but I was really hoping for more plot and character development to see if I wanted to read the rest of the trilogy. 

The subsequent love confessions felt forced and overly wordy. The epilogue introduces the concept of the trilogy but I wasn't invested in the characters and lacked further interest by then.

[Disclaimer: I won a copy of this book through a Twitter giveaway from @HarlequinBooks.]  

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Tycoon's Temptation by Trish Morey

★★★
Franco Chatsfield needs to secure a deal with Purman Wines or risk being cut off from his trust fund. He offers a ridiculous amount of money with fair terms but is shocked when Holly Purman rejects the deal. Holly hates Franco's rich entitlement and the idea of Purman Wines' reputation getting entangled with the scandalous misadventures of the Chatsfields. Franco only has six weeks to convince Holly to change her mind. This is the fifth book in The Chatsfield continuity series, it can also be read as a stand alone.

Tycoon's Temptation is a romantic story in The Chatsfield series from Harlequin Presents. Holly is a feisty heroine that manages to remain likeable throughout the story. She reacts toward Franco with hostility though she often ends up regretting being overly harsh and readily admits when she was wrong.

Franco has always been the black sheep of the Chatfields. He's used to all the false assumptions others apply to him but he is determined to win Holly's confidence. He offers to help tend the vineyards along with other various winery tasks. He enjoys flirting with her and comes to respect her passion for Purman Wines. Yet the more he has to defend himself from her false accusations the more he is reminded of the stark truth he wants to keep only to himself.

I thought this was a good read but it didn't really leave a strong impression. I loved that the story highlighted the wine making process with rich description and enthusiasm. I liked both main characters and found Franco's back story intriguing. The romance was a slow build with lots of setbacks but I ultimately liked how the story ended.

[Disclaimer: I won a copy of this book through a Twitter giveaway from @HarlequinBooks.] 

Monday, November 24, 2014

Sheikh's Scandal by Lucy Monroe

★★★
Liya Amari has been transferred to the Chatsfield's London location in order to prepare the hotel staff for the arrival of Sayed's engagement entourage. When Sayed's fiance' breaks off the engagement abruptly and Liya's true purpose for visiting the Chatsfield ends in heartache they allow themselves a passionate night to forget their troubles. Now they must deal with the consequences and prevent a scandal from developing. This is the first book in The Chatsfield continuity series, it can also be read as a stand alone.

Sheikh's Scandal is a romantic story in The Chatsfield series from Harlequin Presents. I loved the amount world building that went into this story. I enjoyed reading the details included about the setting, culture, language, and customs. It gave the story a more immersive quality and made it stand out from other Sheikh romances I've read.

I was excited to read Liyah’s story every since I saw the Chatsfield's family tree. As the illegitimate daughter of Gene Chatsfield, Liyah's had a very different upbringing then her privileged step-siblings. She was raised solely by her mother who taught her to be independent and take pride in her work.  Her mother's dying wish was for Liyah to make herself known to her father.

Sayed is determined to uphold tradition and serve his country. Taking a wife was just another step in the plan laid out for him. He never thought the woman he had been betrothed to for years would run off with another man. Liyah is a lovely distraction but he soon finds his life becoming even more complicated for giving into his impulses.

I liked both of the main characters though I didn't find their drunken tryst entirely romantic. The beginning of the story is strong but there is definite lack of tension for the remainder of the book. Liyah's meeting with her father and Sayed's broken engagement were the most emotionally charged moments for the characters. Afterwards conflict in the story seemed somewhat subdued because both characters adjusted easily to opposition or the problems were immediately resolved. Enough happened to keep my attention and I still consider it an okay story but the world building and characters stood out to me the most. 

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Engaged At The Chatsfield by Melanie Milburne

★★★
Juliet Montague desperately wants to be a part of Kendra's posh clique and being invited to her party at the luxurious Chatsfield hotel is more than Juliet could hope for. Not wanting to feel out of place Juliet tells a small white lie but it quickly snowballs into a comedic turn of events. Now Juliet must rely on her friend Marcus to keep up the appearance of them being engaged for the weekend or both of their reputations could be damaged. This is the prequel to The Chatsfield continuity series, it can also be read as a stand alone.

Engaged At The Chatsfield is a short story that introduces The Chatsfield series from Harlequin Presents. I enjoyed reading the story, its lively prose keeps the tone light and engaging. It was amusing how each small lie led to more drama.

I liked the setting of the Chatsfield hotel and it was fun to see glimpses of the characters that will be in future books. Both the main characters were likeable and I liked how their romance was allowed to gradually develop despite the strange course of events. The ending was abrupt though it hints at the course the couple will take. I wish the story had been longer because I enjoyed reading it so much but it made me excited to continue reading The Chatsfield series.

[Disclaimer: I won a copy of this book through a Twitter giveaway from @HarlequinBooks.] 

Saturday, November 22, 2014

More Precious Than A Crown by Carol Marinelli

★★★★
Prince Zahid is honor bound to keep up the friendship with the Foster family but is continually appalled by their scandalous behavior. The only highlight to each visit is getting to see the willful Trinity and remembering the passionate kiss they shared. However the playful Trinity he once knew has become troubled by secrets she can't reveal. Learning a portion of her secret he whisks her away to his homeland to keep her safe but he must choose a bride soon and her presence more than complicates the situation. This is the second book in the Alpha Heroes Meet Their Match series, it can also be read as a stand alone.

More Precious Than A Crown is a romantic story from Harlequin Presents. Trinity's family is wealthy and dysfunctional but always manages to keep up appearances. She's avoided family events ever since she was brutally betrayed by one of them. Everyone knows what transpired but no one will let her speak out or even acknowledge what happened. She's slowly reemerging from her life's reckless downward spiral and is happy to be reunited with Zahid again. Zahid was always someone she could trust and she hopes he can also help her overcome the damage that's been done.

Trinity was a surprisingly different type of heroine but managed to remain likable. Where Zahid is honest and straightforward, Trinity is more likely to contradict herself and offer half truths. She's garnered a shady public reputation but through the course of the story those rumors are gradually proven false. Her brash behavior stems from anger and deep seated grief as a result of a intensely tragic past. 

I liked Zahid's character and it was interesting to learn his family's history as well as where his values stem from. His characterization as a duty bound prince made him a bit bland in comparison to the other characters who were all given more attention and seemed more rounded. Zahid's sister, Layla, stood out the most and I was happy to learn that she also has her own book.

Overall, I enjoyed reading the story. I thought it wrapped up nicely by addressing all the main issues and I liked that it introduced the setup for Layla's subsequent story. 

[Disclaimer: I won a copy of this book through a Twitter giveaway from @HarlequinBooks.] 

The Housekeeper's Awakening by Sharon Kendrick

★★★
Luis Martinez is recuperating in his mansion after crashing in a charity race. Tired of the endless fussing, he fires his nursing staff and recruits his housekeeper, Carly Connor, to aid in his physical therapy. Luis is surprised to find himself becoming attracted to her stubborn personality and plain, unfashionable appearance. He offers to become her lover and show her every sensual pleasure but only if she promises not to fall in love with him.  

The Housekeeper’s Awakening is a romance story from Harlequin Presents. In the beginning, Carly tolerates Luis' playboy antics because her only goal is to save up money for medical school and provide a better future for herself. She's used to fading into the background but when she becomes Luis' lover she realizes that she also has to look and act the part. It forces her to deal with old insecurities and the more time she spends with Luis the more she realizes she can't stop herself from falling in love with him.

It's not the most remarkable story but I thought it was a decent read. I liked both of the main characters and found them more endearing after learning their full backstories. Their pasts were dramatic and dark. It was interesting seeing how it shaped the person they became and how it still affected their beliefs. Character development was given more focus throughout the story which invested me as a reader but also seemed to give the story a slower pace.

The romance also had an peculiar understated feel to it. I almost expected them not to get together in the end and I would have oddly been okay with that because it fit with their characterization. The ending felt a bit forced but the epilogue more than made up for it.

[Disclaimer: I won a copy of this book through a Twitter giveaway from @HarlequinBooks.]

Friday, November 21, 2014

Burn For Me by Lauren Blakely

★★★
Jaime's been trying to suppress her attraction towards the firefighter Smith ever since they first became friends. Tired of resisting temptation she offers him the bold proposition of a no-strings attached arrangement for a week. Smith wants more than just a fling and he's determined to win her heart before the week is over. This is the first book in the Fighting Fire series.

Burn For Me is a contemporary romance novella. The story didn't make the best first impression with its simplistic setup but the story developed more after a quarter of the way in.

The world building and secondary characters were interesting. I liked that there was a sense of community. It made me curious about the other characters and I was happy to hear that their stories would be in future books.   

Jaime is a reserved romantic that loves poetry and views Smith as a carefree playboy. Jaime gives into temptation for one night but wants more of the dirty talking rough play Smith has shown her. Hoping to avoid heartache and being another cautionary tale like her sister she proposes a no-strings attached arrangement for a week.

Smith is actually pretty straightforward and more compassionate than Jaime gives him credit for. He tries to express his fondness for her in other ways outside of seduction. As the week comes to a close, Jaime realizes she wants more than the arrangement she offered but continually questions if a committed relationship can be built upon lust.

I really liked Smith's character, he had sexy dialogue and some cute romantic moments. Jaime was a frustrating character, her mentality and actions were unnerving and worrisome. So while I wanted Smith to end up in happy relationship I didn't necessarily care if Jaime ended up alone. The ending would have been cute and sweet but it was spoiled by Jamie's jealous insecurities.

[Disclaimer: I won a copy of this book through a Twitter flash giveaway from @HeatherHowland.] 

Thursday, November 20, 2014

The Protea Boys by Téa Cooper

★★★★✩
Georgie Martin left Sydney with a wounded ego and a promise to never be fooled by her heart again. She returns to her family's protea farm determined to renovate it and make it a successful business once again. She enters into a joint venture with her best friend to employ a group of hired hands to create a side business called the Protea Boys. Georgie's attraction to Tom Morgan is not part of her plan and he continually tests her resolve to keep the promises she made to herself.

The Protea Boys is a romantic contemporary novella set in Australia. I loved how vivid the setting was portrayed and how it was incorporated into the story. Georgie is a competent woman though somewhat accident prone determined to remain independent. Tom is troubled by the loss of his sister and wants to avoid any form of attachment or excessive responsibility.

There was immediate attraction between the main characters but mostly awkward tension in the beginning since they were both intent on remaining single. It was amusing to read their chance encounters that were often embarrassing for Georgie but allowed Tom's personality to be established.

I thought their back stories were interesting especially how it influenced their behaviors and beliefs. They were both stubbornly intent on not repeating past mistakes so their courtship was hesitant and gradually unfolded. A dangerous situation throws them together forcing them to question whether to allow themselves a chance to be together. Overall, I thought The Protea Boys was an enjoyable romantic read and I loved how prominent the setting was portrayed.

[Disclaimer: I won a copy of this book through Goodreads First Reads.]

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

★★★★★
Mr. Lockwood is the new tenet of Thrushcross Grange a beautiful house opposite of the foreboding Wuthering Heights occupied by his irritable landlord. Cooped up in his new residence recuperating Mr. Lockwood persuades his housekeeper to tell him the tale of his landlord and how things came to be as they are. She reiterates the dark history of the two houses filled with love, loss, jealousy and the desperate pursuit of vengeance. 

Wuthering Heights is a classic Gothic novel. I put off reading this book for a long time so I was pleasantly surprised by how much I actually enjoyed reading it. I adored how dark and dramatic it was. The setting and time period were wonderfully conveyed. The supernatural elements further heightened the atmosphere of the setting.

The narrative approach was interesting. Its conversational gossipy tone and perceptive look at the characters' lives made it an engaging read. The fact that the main narrator seemed the most level headed heightened the drama. I found the overly melodramatic moments amusing and continually wanted to know more about the characters. There were so many layers to the story that I'll definitely have to reread it at some point.

It was a rewarding experience to finally read the book that influenced some of the authors I follow and identify which elements inspired books I've previously read. So even though it was my first time reading Wuthering Heights it still felt oddly familiar.    

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Press Play by Eric Devine

★★★★★
Greg Dunsmore wants to escape the small town whose main source of pride and revenue is the high school's sports team that has made his life hell. Now in his junior year, Greg focuses on putting together a portfolio that will ensure he gets accepted to film school. While documenting his weight loss story he inadvertently captures the violent hazing and abuse the lacrosse team endures during practice but what shocks Greg even more is everyone who's involved.

Press Play is a young adult story that delves into hazing and bullying with a dark intensity and unflinching honesty. It presents an interesting social commentary on high school life, family dynamics and society. I liked that it had a deeper message about honesty, integrity, courage and change.

The narration is engaging with a cadence and distinct voice that makes the main character feel genuine and relatable. The characterization was great and I enjoyed reading the interactions between the characters as their relationships strengthened. I liked that each of the characters had their own issues and that they supported one another as they worked through them.
 
The story explored the different variations of bullying and their effects. It was interesting that it also showed how these issues aren't isolated to just high school but can also bleed into adulthood. The story presented a variety of moral dilemmas and I liked that the main character struggled with them before choosing a course of action.

I enjoyed reading about the interests the main character had. It helped offset the intensity and was fun to read. I liked that technology factored into the story while also showcasing the culture and effort put into filmmaking. The main character's weight loss story felt authentic and honest. I was surprised at the depth it held and how it further strengthened the impact of the story. 

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher, Running Press Kids, through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.]

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Organ Reapers by Shay West

★★★★
Detective Eli Robbins is trying to adjust to having Ava Aguilar as a new partner after months of relying only on himself. Their first case together is bizarre and perplexing. Bodies are being discovered with their organs missing. The only leads are eye witness accounts of a bright flash of light. Similar cases are being reported internationally and the death count continues to rise but the only possible explanation is bordering on science fiction.
 
Organ Reapers is an urban fantasy with a portal murder mystery. The story wasn't as dark as I expected it to be. I enjoyed reading it because it was somewhat reminiscent of the crime dramas I enjoy watching. The portal element gave it a refreshing and unique twist that was fun and added a different form of suspense. 

I immediately liked Eli and Ava's characters. As the lead detectives on the case it was interesting seeing how they tried to make sense of the situation. Their frustration was palpable and I loved how they utilized modern technology receiving questionable results in return. I liked the partnership they established and their witty interplay was fun to read. Though there was attraction between them I liked that it remained subtle and didn't interfere with the story. They made a good team and shared similar values which made me wish there were more cases for them to solve so I could continue reading about them. 

Keena and Tani were young and idealistic characters that offer a different perspective on the situation. Though I didn't want to like them, I eventually ended up caring for them as well. I liked that their narrative portions had a distinctly different voice in comparison to Eli and Ava. It was more youthful and their attraction to each other was given more focus. It was fun and amusing seeing them react to the modern world as their world resembles the medieval era with steam technology. I thought their world's political structure, culture, and need for organ harvesters was interesting. I really wanted to see more of their world but a majority of the book is spent in Eli and Ava's world.

Through the course of the story all the characters face difficult moral dilemmas with often harsh consequences. At times it even made me question my own thoughts and values. As a result I was nervous for everyone involved and worried about the outcome. The ending plays on this drama nicely and wraps up the story without any loose ends.

[Note: I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I have since personally purchased it.]