Tag Archives: Contemporary Romance

ARC Review: Sweet Little Lies (Heartbreaker Bay #1) by Jill Shalvis

4.5 gems

sweet little lies

It’s been a while since I’ve read a Jill Shalvis book. Sweet Little Lies was a good book to start reading her again. I do love a book with strong characters and zero unnecessary drama, and Sweet Little Lieswas exactly that. Sweet Little Lies is a gem of a book. Beautifully written, with strong lead as well as side characters.

Pru is one of the strongest and best heroines I’ve read recently. As a captain of a San Francisco Bay tour boat, Pru is used to handling the rough seas and having lived through tough times in the past, she is also used to a rough life. Now all she wants is to do right by the people she believes were wronged and live a content if not happy life. But she finds herself drawn to a man who isn’t exactly right for her, a man she believes will hate her when he learns of his past.

Finn O’Riley is six-foot something, hardworking man who always has his bar and is arms open for his friends. When Pru becomes one of his friends, he extends the same behaviour to her too. Finn too has had a rough past. Early on he had to abandon his dreams to take care of his brother Sean, who by the way still hasn’t grown up. Pru enters into his life as a breath of fresh air.

The chemistry between Finn and Pru is perceptible and hot as hell. They share a great rapport and the banter between them is fun-filled and sexy. I love how their relationship progresses. They start as friends and go on to become lovers. They learn new things about each other with each passing page. You can actually see how their relationship develops and grows. As individuals too Pru and Finn grow a lot over the course of the book.

Pru has easily become one of my favorite heroines. She is innately good, with a big heart and only love to give, with no expectations of any returns. She made me fall in love with her. She is the kind of woman you need in your life, the best friend who will stay with you through your thick and thin. Her past and her guilt also broke my heart. For a woman so pure and good, her circumstances were not so good. I loved how easily Finn’s group of friends accepted her. Even a tough cookie like Elle was won over by Pru. Pru’s chemistry wih Elle and Willa is exactly the kind I feel I have with my friends, which made it all the more relatable.

Finn too was a great character. He had no controlling or dominating tendencies and that made him love him. In the era of hard-core alpha males, Finn came in as a breath of fresh air. That’s not to say that he wasn’t alpha, he was, just not in the overbearing way. He helped Pru open up and grow as an individual. He made her want happiness and life and love, and I absolutely loved him for it. Pru and Finn were the perfect couple.

Like in any romance novel, in Sweet Little Lies too there was an anger induced break-up. But the way Finn comes back to Pru and everything that hew says, I just fell in love with him and that epilogue was just beautiful.

Sweet Little Lies was a mixture of love and heartbreak, laughter and cries, sexy times and honest love-making. It was beautifully written in a way that would win your heart and make you believe in love. I can’t wait to read the stories of the rest of the gang.

This review was first published in The Ever Romantic Arts

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Beauty and the Bachelor (Bachelor Auction #1) by Naima Simone

3.5 gems

the beauty and the bachelor

Lucas Oliver is all set to avenge his father. And he will do whatever it takes to get what he wants. Even if it involves blackmailing the innocent daughter of his sworn enemy into marrying him. All her life Sydney Blake was controlled by her family. She was nothing more than a disappointment to her fickle, indifferent mother and her driven, controlling and absent father. She was a mere pawn in her father’s games. The only good thing she did to please her parents was agreeing to marry the son of her father’s business associate. And even that appreciation is short-lived, when she decides to give in to Lucas’s blackmail and marry him to save her father.

At first when I saw that the people around Sydney, including her family was treating her like garbage, I was enraged. Not just at her family, but also Sydney herself. What person just stands and looks around while they are being beaten to an inch of their lives. But as I kept reading, I realized, Sydney is far stronger than she looks. She has the kind of inner strength that inspires. The kind of strength one can’t guess just by looking at her. Her actions are mainly driven by the guilt of an old tragedy, a tragedy even her father blamed her for. But the growth you see in Sydney with each passing page is commendable.

Lucas Oliver. I have mixed feelings about the guy. When I first finished this book, I was leaning towards the ‘I-hate-him’ tip of the scale. But now that I have had some time to think and process the book, I am more in the middle. The best thing I loved about Lucas was that he is the reason Sydney found herself. He encouraged her, made her feel special, made her more confident. I think without Lucas, Sydney wouldn’t have grown as much as she did in this book. He made her more independent and strong enough to stand up for herself.

Now as much as I loved Lucas for all the good he did to Sydney, I hated all the bad he did to her too. He was always clear about his agenda. Revenge. No matter what the cost. And that’s what he does till almost the end of the book. More times than not, Sydney had to pay for her father’s sins in some way or the other. He may not have physically hurt her, but he hurt her plenty emotionally. At every stage of their relationship he kept secrets, his actions would say something and his words something else. Like Sydney, I too was frustrated with his back and forth. And when he accuses her of doing something she wouldn’t dream of, all bets are off.

Lucas does come to his senses and realizes what an ass he was for treating Sydney the way he did. And he does promise to keep her happy and love her for the rest of his life. But I would have loved to see some more grovelling on his part.

What was irrefutable was Lucas and Sydney’s chemistry. Oh boy did they have chemistry. Oozing hot was what they were. Since the moment their eyes met across the stage, they were sizzling. The sex was hot and even when they were angry with each bother they were burning up the pages. Their attraction to each other through all the ups and downs was so palpable, it was undeniable. Their kind of passion is one of the reasons that I think their relationship made it.

The only secondary character I liked was Aiden, Lucas’s best friend. He was a fun guy who could clearly see that what Lucas was doing was not right. He tried to talk him out of it too. And when Lucas inevitably messes up his relationship with Sydney, it’s Aiden who gives him the much-needed kick in the ass. Tyler, Sydney’s ex-fiance too was a guy that I really liked. As we find out in the book, he has his own mess to clean up and I can’t wait to read more about him. I hope Naima Simone decides to write his story, because that’s one that I definitely want to read.

The people I hated most in this book were Sydney’s parents. There are no two parents worse than Jason and Charlene Blake. The way they chipped at their daughter was just despicable. They reminded me of vultures picking at a carrion. I am really surprised though that Sydney turned out the way she did with the kind of parents she had. But I guess, when you have the worst kind of parents, you are determined to be the best kind of person. And Sydney was definitely the best kind of person. Though Jason too realizes his mistakes and apologizes to Sydney, for e it was too little, too late. Twenty years of indifference and hurtful attitude can’t be overcome by one apology. But Jason was still better than Charlene, because that woman never even bothers to apologize to her daughter for all the agony she has caused.

Overall it was a really good book with an emotional roller coaster ride and an amazing lead heroine. Sydney is the kind of woman one would like to emulate. Her innate goodness, her strength, her kindness and courage are the best part of her. I have a total girl-crush on her, because let’s be honest, she may not wield a sword, but she is totally bad-ass.

This review was first published in The Ever Romantic Arts


Book Review: Witness to Passion (Guarding Her Body #1) by Naima Simone

4 gems

witness to passion

Fallon Wayland hates birthdays. After all nothing good has happened to her on any of her birthdays. On her tenth birthday her dad stood her up because he was on a business trip, on her fifteenth birthday, her mom took her puppy to the pound and on her eighteenth birthday she kissed her childhood crush and got rejected. If you think all this was bad till you hear what happened on her twenty-fifth birthday. She gets dumped by her boyfriend on twitter, witnesses a mob hit and gets fired from her job. And now her life is all turned around.

Shane Roarke has avoided his baby sister’s best friend, Fallon for the past seven years after sharing a hot as hell kiss with her. But now that Fallon’s life is in danger, he can’t stay away. I doesn’t matter if just seeing Fallon turns him on. Her life is more important than his need to stay away.

With Fallon’s life endangered at very turn, Shane takes it upon himself to keep her safe. With both of them cooped up in a safe house, desires flare, clothes come off and hearts are at risk. Even when the clothes are flying off, danger is creeping in. Fallon and Shane need to survive if they must have a chance at love.

Fallon and Shane have a love-hate relationship, more hate than love. Being rejected does not sit well with Fallon after all. After avoiding her for almost eight years, when Shane shows up at her doorstep ready to be her knight in shining armor, she is skeptical.

“If you were truly ‘here for me,’ you would have a Kahlua in one hand and Henry Cavill’s number in the other. Since I’m not having drunken phone sex with Superman, there must be another reason you’re darkening my living room.”

Their banter is what made me love Fallon and Shane. Their back and forth was fun and oozing chemistry.  Both came from similar emotional backgrounds. While Fallon’s parents had money and never love to give her, Shane’s mom had loads of love, but was reckless and self-involved. They never tried to see the people behind the masks, and now that they do, they might not survive long enough to act on it.

The suspense in this book was good. I figured out who the traitor was once a couple of hints were dropped, but otherwise this book was majorly unpredictable. The characters were strong, the sex was hot and Addy, Shane’s sister and Fallon’s best was friend was super fun.

Witness to Passion was a good blend of romance and suspense. The action in the book kept me on my toes, and the author did not disappoint.

This review first appeared on The Ever Romantic Arts.


Book Review: Wilde at Heart (Wilde Security #3) by Tonya Burrows

4.5 gems

wilde at heart

I was so happy to receive an early copy of this book, ’cause since the day I finished Wilde for Her,  I was looking forward to Reece and Shelby’s story. And Tonya Burrows didn’t disappoint.Wilde at Heart was by far my favorite book in the series.

Though Cam and Jude were the most fun Wilde brothers and they are, except, Reece is better. He is adorable, sweet and sexy as hell. Reece and Shelby together were amazing together. Tonya Burrows had me laughing from the very first page. And considering that the heroine was Shelby, this book was guaranteed fun.

Shelby as usual spoke her mind and was fun as always. She is an independent young woman who knew her strengths and weakness. People never gave her a chance to be anything other than the flighty, reckless girl that she was. She tried so hard to be the responsible adult, but people’s views including that of her sister Eva and the Wilde brothers, including to some extent Reece, never changed.

While I loved Eva for the kick-ass woman that she was in Wilde For Her, I strongly disliked her in this book. She never really understood Shelby and she didn’t try to. She was always the first one to point out Shelby’s shortcomings and reprimand her. She was also the very last person to believe Shelby could make a sane, responsible decision. True Shelby was impulsive, but even behind her impulse she had good reason.

While I loved Reece for the kind-hearted, geeky nerd that he was, I was sometimes disappointed with him for his behavior with Shelby. He too never saw behind the mask of Shelby’s impulsiveness. He tried to change her from what she is to what he thinks she should be. But on the other hand he also didn’t want Shelby to change. His complexity and duality made for an intriguing read.

This book was suspenseful, fun and mostly unpredictable. There were two tracks working parallel in the story- one was Reece’s blackmail and the other was Shelby’s. While it was easy enough to guess who had a bone to grind with Reece, I honestly couldn’t predict who the villain in Shelby’s life was till the end. The sex as usual in Tonya Burrows style was hot has hell. Burrows has made sure to pave a footpath for both Vaughn and Greer Wilde. Tonya Burrows made sure to throw us crumbs about the upcoming books. I can already feel the fun and intensity in Lark and Vaughn’s book.

The surprise element in this book for me was Reece. In the previous books he came across as uptight and snobbish. But in this book Reece truly shined. He was just a lot more shy and reserved than his brothers. Trying to shoulder the weight of his brothers took a toll on him. Shelby was the perfect woman for him. She brought out the fun, geeky, artistic guy that he was. But what really threw me was the fact that Reece was a virgin!! I NEVER and I mean NEVER expected that. Thank you Ms. Burrows for surprising me!

Wilde at Heart truly encompassed what both Reece and Shelby were, and they were incredibly wild. This book is undoubtedly my favorite book in the series. Can’t wait for Vaughn and Greer’s story to come out.

This review first appeared on The Ever Romantic Arts.


Book Review: Rock Hard(Rock Kiss #2) by Nalini Singh

4 gems

rock hard

I’ve been looking forward to Charlie and T-Rex’s story since I read Rock Addiction. We already got a hint as to how Charlie and Gabriel’s relationship would be in that book. And boy, oh boy did I love it? Heck yeah. Rock Hard is my favorite book in the series. Rock Hard tells the story of a sweet, shy and invisible mouse, Charlotte Baird and a hot, strong, T-Rex of a man, Gabriel Bishop.

Charlie’s previous relationship was an abusive one. And she didn’t get out unscathed. Since her relationship with Richard ended, she has been living in a perpetual state of fear and apprehension, still plagued by the nightmares of that horrendous relationship. She was never an outgoing person to begin with, but after what Richard did to her, she just closed in on herself. The only person who knows who Charlotte really is, is her best friend Molly. But when her new boss, Gabriel Bishop pushes her far enough, she realises that she too has the strength to fight back.

Gabriel Bishop is a successful business man, and he was a successful rugby player. His kind of success doesn’t come without a lot of determination and a spine of steel. The man knows what he wants and how to get it. When he meets a closed off, shy, buttoned up Charlotte, he is tempted to break down her walls and reveal the beautiful woman beneath.

Now Gabriel Bishop is the kind of alpha male that I love. He never pushed too hard, just hard enough. I loved the way he coaxed Charlie out from her shell. It takes her a while, but she comes out on the other side, stronger. Gabriel always knew that Charlie was hiding a painful past, but he never coddled her. He never tried to patronized her. He treated her as his equal, like the strong woman that he knew she was.

Charlie has never been one to pick up a fight, but her boss drives her to almost committing murder. His murder. She just can’t understand why the man keeps pushing all her buttons, and she definitely can’t understand why he is so interested in her. After all T-Rex is a rugby god, a superstar with hoards of female fans, a successful businessman and hot to boot. So what does he see in a mouse like Charlie? The answer was quite simple. Gabriel saw beneath the protective layers of her. He saw the smart, sexy, talented yet vulnerable woman. And all he wanted was to protect her and have her. To call her his.

Unlike Rock Addiction, Rock Hard did not have a sex scene in every second chapter. I enjoyed the way Gabriel peeled off Charlie’s layers and showed us the woman beneath. It’s only when they both had established unwavering trust in each other, that they decided to consummate their relationship. It was a nice change of pace. The minimal sex scenes and abundance of emotions worked very well for me. Another thing I loved in this book was the smartly crafted, funny titles for all the chapter. Those itself were enough to bring a smile to my face.

Rock Hard was the prefect mix of good, strong characters, well-put together story-line and great writing. I look forward to going back to the boys of The Schoolboy Choir.

This review also appears on The Ever Romantic Arts.


Book Review: All for You (Shore Secrets #2) by Christi Barth

3.5

All For You

***I was provided an e-ARC by the author in exchange for an honest review***

After a year of reading mediocre and boring romances, I was glad to read All For You. Once again, Christi Barth’s writing was a refreshing surprise. While I liked the first book by her, the second book has raised my expectations for her works.

This book focuses on Casey Hobbes (forest ranger) and Zane Buchanan (author/professor). Casey is used to flirting but she has never let her heart get involved seriously. Her past left her scarred and even though she recognises that fact, she has never been tempted to risk her heart. With the arrival of Zane, everything changes. Casey is the ‘forest flirt’, and she flirts with Zane as well. To their surprise, the fireworks between them are off-the-charts. Instead of hopping into bed at the first chance, they both choose to take it slow. Maybe its more because Zane’s persuasion that they give each other a serious chance, but Casey lets herself be persuaded for the first time.

But this development doesn’t come without its own slew of complications. After her affection for Zane grows, Casey discovers that he belongs to the same group of people she has been hiding from forever. Further, Zane has a broken marriage behind him, it is bound to make him a bit wary. Still, his baggage is nothing compared to hers and while he loves making her smile, the secrets of Casey’s past might just be the end of them.

I have read romance novels with similar plots. What made this one different are the characters. Though it might take a bit of time, one still connects with them. The author pens them in a manner which provides a certain depth and it doesn’t go unnoticed. There is no childishness to suffer here. They are mature and over the course of the novel, they grow more so. Tiny amounts of banter involved at almost every other incident in the novel grants the story a lightheartedness that is refreshing. This story delves into serious issues but it never overwhelms, making it a fun read.

Casey and Zane’s relationship might have been doomed from the start, as the author clearly portrays. With Casey’s nature (due to necessity) for keeping secrets and Zane’s penchant for exploring and exposing them to the world, it is hard for them to find harmony. Both are human and both have their faults and they are equally blind to their faults as well. So where does that leave them? With both of them taking a step towards each other. It’s a romance between two people who came together because of a rarest of all chance meetings and ends with the rarest kind of happy ending.

Unlike the last time where I chose a favourite, I was happy with both the central characters this time. Zane’s honesty, his funky persona and easy sense of humour was charming, and Casey’s amusement and her reactions to almost every character in the novel was something I could connect to. I was afraid that Casey might be one of those pathetic characters who follow the two-steps-forward-one-step-back routine. It would have been justified in this situation but I would have still disliked her. But Casey never did that. If anything, she kept her fears and doubts aside because she knew and appreciated the importance of the moment and where the events were leading her. I also found Zane’s viewpoint and ability to see through the truth quite commendable.

The book has some elements of angst but once again, they are perfectly balanced with the bouts of laughter. The author has a great grasp of non-romantic relationships as well. Dawn and Casey’s relationship was sweet and full of warmth. I admired Dawn and it was only at a later stage that I realised that the story with all its bonds and web of small town connections is very intricate in its form. To pull on a single thread means creating a huge ripple effect. In this book, I actually got to see and understand what that meant.

Which reminds me, I finally came face to face with the characters involved in the romance brewing in the journal. That was a huge and adorable surprise. Now I am eagerly looking forward to what happens next.

I found the ending of All For You a bit open-ended but I think it was more because there wasn’t an epilogue than anything else. So the questions I have will be answered in the next novel, I guess. Since I am not one of the most patient people, it doesn’t sit well with me but it is something I can live with. I am eagerly looking forward to Ward’s story and Joel’s story. I loved the revelations about both of them (direct or indirect) and I can’t wait to see more of the amazing characters that Barth has created. Though it has been written from multiple points of view, this book still retains distinguishing qualities for the narrative views of different characters.

On a side note, I was happily surprised to realise how apropos the cover and the title is to the story. I felt something similar for Up To Me, but it was more apparent for All For You.

I was eagerly anticipating the arrival of All For You and I am glad I got my hands on its ARC. My anticipation was not in vain. All For You was a fun read with exactly the perfect amount of emotions, angst and laughter.

Click here for the review of Up To Me(Shore Secrets#1)