Monthly Archives: August 2013

Equililbrium

Equilibrium
by Lorrie Thomsen
Published by Kensington
336 pages
Genre: women’s fiction
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
4 / 5

Laura Klein is two-for-three when it comes to saving her husband’s life. That one time she missed, things didn’t turn out so well.

Now it’s a year later, and Laura is adjusting to widowhood and being a single mother to her teenage children. She struggles with missing Jack; sometimes she aches for him, and sometimes she feels pure rage. He was bipolar and didn’t take his meds regularly. He made Laura do everything, including keep him alive. He was selfish, and Laura can’t quite bring herself to admit that.

Her fifteen-year-old daughter Darcy is also struggling. Darcy was a Daddy’s Girl, and while she doesn’t quite blame Laura for Jack’s death, she also doesn’t forgive her, either. She wants him back, despite him clearly being selfish with her as well. She is a girl in a tremendous amount of pain and grief.

Troy, the thirteen-year-old son whom Jack left behind, chooses to mourn by not remembering anything good about his father. As we discover, Troy didn’t have many happy memories. Jack was not a particularly good father to his son; he seemed to parse out what decent parenting he did to Darcy alone.

Into the Kleins’ lives come two men who will change everything.

The first is Nick, Darcy’s ne’er-do-well boyfriend. Nick has his own issues, including an abusive father. That he loves Darcy is not under question. He does. He even takes care of her in his own way. But as each character – Darcy’s friends and her mother – warn her about him, Darcy digs her heels in every deeper. They don’t know the Troy whom Darcy knows.

Then there is Aidan, an emergency room doctor in his late twenties, who rents out Jack’s old writing studio. Aidan is described as movie star hot, and we know it’s only a matter of time until he and Laura discover each other.

Nick and Aidan shake up the Kleins. Nick both protects and threatens Darcy, as Aidan does Laura. The danger Nick poses, however, is far greater than Aidan. He could break Darcy’s heart – or worse. Aidan, on the other hand, could be proof that Jack was not a good man, that he was cruel and selfish and weak. Nick’s threat is primarily physical; Aidan’s emotional.

Lorrie Thomson tells her story from Laura’s and Darcy’s points of view. We feel Laura’s frustration at not being able to help Darcy, just as we feel Darcy’s toward her mother. We remember what it was like to be fifteen and in love for the first time, and we experience Laura’s sadness, confusion, and hopefulness.

Thomson’s writing is not always clear or fluid, but she tells a strong tale. She makes us care about Laura, Darcy, and Troy, and she does a fantastic job representing the conflicting feelings that families of those who commit suicide.

A solid debut from Lorrie Thomsen.

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First Affair

The First Affair
by Emma McLaughlin and Nicola Kraus
Published by Atria Books
256 pages
Genre: women’s literature
Thanks to edelweiss for the preview
5 / 5

Do you ever wonder about the women involved in sex scandals? Do you want to ask them, “What the hell were you thinking?” Do you shake your head in disgust? Blame them? Salute them? Pity them?

I’ll admit that I was fascinated by Monica Lewinsky. I didn’t find Bill Clinton to be particularly good looking, and certainly not hot, but power is the ultimate aphrodisiac (thank you, Henry Kissinger, for giving voice to that), so who knows? Perhaps if I worked with him, I would have been more open to him, sexually speaking. Or any sort of speaking. Lewinsky was young, and when I was in my early twenties, my taste in men was ridiculous.

And so we come to First Affair, which tells the story of a young college graduate’s White House internship and the close – I do mean close – proximity in which she finds herself with the President of the United States.

Jamie McAllister is fresh out of college and watching all of the money that went to her degree appear to be worthless. She got an internship at the White House and is singularly unimpressed. Internships don’t pay for student loans. Thanks to the kindness of a friend, she’s able to live rent free … for now, anyway. But she is restless and wants a real, paying job.

As for President Rutland (I’m sure the “rut” part of his name is not an accidental choice on the part of the authors), he of the taint of rumors regarding a previous pass made at a young woman, Jamie has little to no contact with him. Until, that is, a chance meeting in the hallway. Their paths cross, and then they cross again. And then they cross with a little more passion.

Jamie’s affair resembles Lewinsky’s in many ways: the physical natures are quite similar, and the scandal surrounding it erupts with the same feral ferocity. Jamie is, remember, young. She is impressionable. She does not have the benefit of much life experience, and her decisions reflect that. She does not know, for instance, how to choose her friends or how to know whom she can trust. Can she trust Rutland? Herself?

The romance – and it is a romance – is fascinating. We know why Jamie is attracted to Rutland, and we come to learn why he is attracted to her. What we don’t know is why he risked so much (the affair takes place during an election cycle) to be with her. We can guess, based on what we know of other powerful men brought down by their dangly bits. Perhaps he felt untouchable (no pun intended). Perhaps it is as simple as hubris. Or maybe Rutland’s passion for Jamie was so intense that the threat of scandal and ruin just did not matter.

There is quite a bit of intrigue going on here as well. Jamie gets betrayed, and betrayed again. She comes to question her character judgments, and rightfully so. She is hopelessly naive, but that’s what makes her so believable as a character. What twenty-two-year-old woman in love with an older man (or any age man, for that matter) manages to think straight? She believes in him and she trusts him. She cannot conceive of him ever abandoning her or betraying her.

Yes, there is the matter of Mrs. Rutland. We don’t find out much about her, but there is a photograph of her with her husband that piques Jamie’s guilt. Jamie is very much aware that Rutland has a wife, and, like most of us would, she justifies her relationship with him. She occasionally allows reality to creep in, but she refuses to let it take root.

Jamie is wonderfully written. She exasperates us and frustrates us, yet she makes us care about her. There were times while reading this that I hoped she and Rutland could be together and be happy. Like Jamie, I didn’t want to face reality.

I am a fan of McLaughlin and Kraus, having enjoyed Between You and Me a great deal. I enjoyed this book as well, and I had a difficult time letting go of it when I finished. I may not have always liked Jamie, and I may not have always agreed with her decisions, but I was on her side.

She made me more empathetic to the Monica Lewinskys of the world.

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Filed under this one made me think, what would you do if the President wanted you?, women's lit

One Night in the Spa

One Night in the Spa
by Kathy Lyons
Published by Entangled
77 pages
Genre: romance
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
3 / 5

The title is a dead giveaway, isn’t it? Pride and Prejudice this is not. Nor is it Gone Girl, The Husband’s Secret, or Dangerous Girls. This, my friends, is pure entertainment.

Kim is a former professional squash player, forced to retire due to injury. She works at a fitness gym, and David, the spa’s manager, offers to give her a stress reducing massage. In the spa. One night.

David, you see, doesn’t want to be relegated to the friend zone for one more moment, so he plans to let Kim know that he’s interested in more than something platonic. She, meanwhile, is in a delayed onslaught of puberty and finds herself all horned up in general, toward David specifically.

There is some sort of corporate mumbo jumbo going on regarding ownership of the spa, but who cares about that? You want to know about the one night! In a spa!

Let’s just say that it could be hotter.

I’m sure Kim enjoyed it.

But I wanted more.

We learn a lot about Kim’s backstory, but not as much about David’s. Like I said … I wanted more. It’s as if you’re getting half a massage, so to speak.

Sometimes you need something utterly fun and forgettable to read, and for those moments, this is as good a pick as any, I guess.

I just wish there had been more.

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Filed under not as hot as it should have been, romance

Hung Parliament

Hung Parliament
by S. A. Gordon
Published by Momentum
154 pages
Genre: erotic fiction (is there such a thing?)
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
4 / 5

Something I learned from this book: Australian politicians like them some SEX. And lots of it. Preferably with someone other than their spouse or significant other.

Rock on, Australia. You folks take that whole “down under” thing pretty seriously, don’t you?

So we have two opposing party leaders having an affair, two high ranking government officials having an affair, a reporter who had an affair with at least two of the aforementioned individuals, and a whole lot of other sex. And, oh yeah, some political intrigue. Those two opposing party leaders are about to run against each other for Prime Minister of the country. Each has been up to some shady dealings, and neither, quite frankly, deserves to win.

So who will? And how?

Interspersed between all the sex is an actual plot entailing political corruption the likes of which we Americans thought we had exclusive rights to. It takes a while, but you do find two reasonably decent politicians; their outcome leads you to believe that true love and politics are not meant to go hand-in-hand. Or naughty bit in naughty bit.

The problem with this book is that its ending is akin to a case of blue balls. There is a frenzy and passion and dirtiness and near evil, and we want a payoff! We want the bad guys to suffer! I mean REALLY SUFFER. If they don’t deserve to win, then they shouldn’t win, right?

Ah, but then it wouldn’t be politics.

If you find yourself frustrated by the end of this salacious little nugget, you aren’t alone.

Strange bedfellows indeed.

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Filed under erotic fiction, politicians like some sexy times!

Run to You

Run to You
by Charlotte Stein
Published by HarperCollins
200 pages
Genre: erotica
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
4 / 5

Strap on those vibrators, girls. This is a hot one.

Alyssa leads a dreadfully dull life, one so uninspiring that when she discovers her roommate’s agenda with an appointment titled “assignation,” she takes off for the hotel, planning to masquerade as the roomie.

She meets a gorgeous, electric businessman named Janos, and although the two exchange no words (she even hides from him in a closet), she is drawn to him. He leaves her his business card, and the two soon meet again. And again and again.

As their relationship progresses, Alyssa struggles with understanding why Janos is attracted to her. She believes herself the physical embodiment of her dull job and dull life. Janos sees more than that, though, and fights to be with her.

He also, it must be said, brings her a considerable amount of sexual pleasure. So much so that you might want to try and knock some sense into Alyssa.

For all of the headboard rockin’ that goes on in this book, there is also an equal amount of character development. We understand Alyssa’s reluctance to allow herself to fall deeply for Janos, even if it frustrates us. We also understand his attraction to her; she changes him, and he lets her. That he so willingly forsakes certain unproductive patterns in his life for her tells us that he is a good man. Her sexual satisfaction is as important to him as his own – more so even. Connecting with her sexually is Janos’ way of showing his affection for her.

I liked these two. I liked how she challenged him, both to admit his weaknesses and shortcomings and to be honest with himself. I liked how he was willing to do both of those things for her and, more importantly, for himself.

The weaknesses are a bit too much time spent in Alyssa’s head and an ending that borders on cheesy. Still, though. It’s good.

The sex scenes are scorching hot. There is one in an elevator that just … whoa. Really, all of them are detailed and explicit and seriously hot. Some spanky panky takes place, but unlike the Christian Grey rabbit hole, this truly is a manifestation of Janos’ need for power and dominance.

Read it and enjoy. Just make sure you follow the step in the first line of this review.

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Filed under erotica, hot headboard rockin', not another excuse to bring up Christian Grey again, spanky panky

The Rebound Guy

The Rebound Guy
by Fiona Harper
Published by Harlequin Kiss
224 pages
Genre: chick lit; romance
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
3 / 5

Kelly is a divorced mother of two young boys and she needs a good job. When she lands a temporary position with Jason Knight’s athletic apparel company, she hopes for the best. What she gets is a hot boss who has no problem checking out her cleavage. The thing is, he is hot. And kind. And creative. And fun. So when business takes the two to New York, would anyone blame Kelly if she took “dictation”?

This is a flimsy, frothy book with little going for it aside from cute characters you will absolutely enjoy. We understand Kelly. She has two sons, her marriage was not a success, and she just wants security for her family. But she also needs love and romance, even as it scares her. Jason Knight is a man with a reputation for loving the ladies, yet he seems to enjoy her boys. And he treats her respectfully (once he stops staring at her cleavage). He’s also a man trying to prove something, whether it’s that he can run his company successfully or that he is not a womanizer.

Don’t go looking for sexy times, because you won’t find them here. The love scenes are fairly tame, especially considering the vast quantity of smut that I read. There were times I wanted more explicit writing, but that might diminish the cutness factor. And this book most certainly is cute.

I enjoyed it, I have to say. It is not without its flaws, but it’s an enjoyable, quick read.

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Too Fast

Too Fast
by Alexia Haynes
Published by Alexia Haynes via Amazon Digital
163 pages
Genre: new adult; romance
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
4 / 5

So you go out with friends for the evening and promise yourself you will let loose and have some fun. You even allow yourself to be open to the possibility of a one night stand. Have a few drinks, meet a hot guy, take your clothes off, and after the lovin’, say goodbye.

Simple, right?

But what if that one night stand turns out to be someone you just can’t forget? What if you want more than one night? What if he does too? Do you stick to your original plan or do you reboot?

Savannah finds herself in just this very situation when she wakes up to the gorgeous Luke. Their night of passion was more than she dreamed of, and apparently he enjoyed it just as much. When he pursues her for more than one night, she needs to decide if that’s what she wants.

I’m pretty sure you can figure out how this goes. The good news is that despite its transparency, this little novella is fun – and HOT – to read. Alexia Haynes does a solid job of letting us get to know her characters in a compressed amount of time, as well as writing some hot and delicious headboard rockin’.

Let me just say that if I were Savannah, there is no way I could settle for one night with Luke. It’s like dark chocolate covered caramels: can I stop at one? Uh, no.

Enjoy this one for what it is: a quick, hot read with characters you’ll enjoy.

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Filed under good characters, hot headboard rockin', New Adult lit