Monthly Archives: February 2014

Waking Up Pregnant

waking up pregnantWaking Up Pregnant
by Mira Lynn Kelly
Published by Harlequin
224 pages
Genre: chick lit 
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
2 / 5


Yeah, that title. I mean … what in the world.

So I guess you figured out that someone in this book wakes up pregnant. Only it turns out that while that may be true, the real “wake up” here is more emotional than physical.

Darcy is a cocktail waitress on her last night of work in Vegas when she meets Jeff, a gorgeous businessman there for a weekend of fun with his best buddy. The two spend the night together, and one busted condom later, someone wakes up pregnant.

Darcy tracks down Jeff (we never find out how she did this, which is somewhat curious because I’m not sure how much information these two disclosed about their personal lives prior to hitting the sheets) to tell him the good news, and before she can say, “Hey, Daddy!”, Jeff moves her into his mother’s spacious LA home under the auspices of “helping” her.

The thing is, Jeff hasn’t forgotten those precious moments of nekkid joy with Darcy, and he doesn’t appear to be upset in the least that she is expecting their child. In fact, he all but does jumpy claps upon hearing the news.

For her part, Darcy is less than thrilled to cede control over any aspect of her life, but she goes along with Jeff’s plan.

You can write the rest yourself, I’m sure.

While there is a silly and extremely predictable plot, there is also some hot headboard rockin’, and that’s what saves this otherwise forgettable tome. Not graphic, but the detail is nice. Very nice. The sexy times are hot, girls, and for that reason it’s worth the $1.99 to get this on your Kindle.

Forget the plot. Read it for the sex.

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Filed under Hot Headboard Rockin' but not much else, predictable plot

City of Jasmine

city of jasmineCity of Jasmine
by Deanna Raybourn
Published by Harlequin MIRA
368 pages
Genre: women’s fiction; historical 
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
3 / 5

As a fan of Deanna Raybourn’s Lady Julia Grey series, I look forward to her novels. I thought my passion for Nicholas Brisbane was high until I discovered Andrei Dragulescu in The Dead Travel Fast. Raybourn always does a fantastic job of creating evocative moods in her novels.

Do you sense a “but” coming? Because there is one.

But … this book. I just couldn’t.

The plot is as convoluted as they come. Our heroine, Evangeline Starke, is a “famed aviatrix,” which means she goes barnstorming and barrel rolling around Europe. Currently on an aerial tour of the seven seas of antiquity, she finds herself enjoying a brief pit stop with her elderly Aunt Dove when the two come across representatives from a group of archaeologists who are digging for … something … in Damascus.

Evangeline becomes interested in them, largely because she has received a photo of her husband Gabriel on a Damascus dig. The photo strikes her as curious because Gabriel died on the Lusitania five years before the photo was taken.

Didn’t he?

And so Evangeline heads for Damascus, where she immerses herself in local history, local Bedouins, and the search for what really happened to Gabriel.

Maybe that doesn’t sound so convoluted, but trust me, IT IS. There are different factions searching for the same artifact, different agendas driving those people, and Evangeline wondering what is the truth about Gabriel.

I was, dare I say it, bored.

Yes, bored. BORED by a Deanna Raybourn book.

I didn’t particularly care for Evangeline, who seemed alternately supercilious and super silly. Whatever happened to Gabriel, I’m sure his reasons for faking his death were valid. Perhaps boredom was one of them …

If you are interested in a historical treatise on the peoples in Arabia, this is the book for you. There is occasional mystery, occasional – or should I say, frustratingly infrequent – romance, and a whole lot of history.

I’m giving it three stars because when it’s good – such as the sub plot with the German doctor and the mystery surrounding Gabriel – it’s interesting and fun. There just isn’t enough of that.

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Filed under historical romance, needs some hot headboard rockin', women's lit

Blog Tour & Review: Be With Me

Be With meBe WIth Me
by J. Lynn
Published by William Morrow
384 pages
Genre: New Adult 
Thanks to the publisher for the copy
4 / 5

Young love. It never seems to proceed without complications, does it?

In Wait For You, J. Lynn introduced us to Avery and Cam, a couple whose relationship began on a rather torturous note. Avery had suffered some personal horrors that led her to Shepherdstown, West Virginia (where she can be WATCHED OVER by SHEPHERDS), and, eventually, the arms of the hot dude living across the hall from her.

That would be Cam.

We also met, albeit a tad tangentially, Cam’s BFF Jase Winstead. Who, much like Cam, is quite hot. And while we never met Cam’s sister Teresa, we heard about her through Cam, who’d gotten himself into a bit of a scuffle where Teresa and her ex-boyfriend were concerned.

So now, with Be With Me, we get to spend time getting to know Teresa and Jase.

Much like Cam and Avery, this romance will not take off without numerous hitches, each of them related to Issues that our hero and heroine have.

Teresa (or, as Jase – but only Jase – calls her, Tess) is struggling to recovery from ACL surgery that threatens to end her dancing career. (Avery was a dancer, too.) She’s decided to come to Shepherdstown for her first college semester (SO SHE CAN BE WATCHED OVER BY A SHEPHERD), just long enough to get the knee back under control and then head to New York to resume her dancing career.

And, perhaps, the thought of seeing Jase on a regular basis might have factored into her decision just a wee tad.

See, about a year prior, Tess and Jase shared a hot smooch, and she would like more. But Jase? Well, that hunka hunka burnin’ love hasn’t exactly been Mr. Correspondence since. In fact, the two have exchanged nary a word.

But now they are back in each other’s orbits, and it appears that Jase might be interested. At least certain parts of his body are interested. VERY INTERESTED.

Alas, just being interested isn’t going to seal the deal for these two. First they need to come to terms with Jase’s current personal situation (which is broadcast about as loudly as you can imagine, yet nonetheless seems to surprise Tess), as well as Tess’s wonky knee. Oh, and there is also Tess’s roommate, who may or may not be getting abused by her boyfriend, which serves as a sort of trigger for Tess because she knows what it’s like to be abused.

As silly as this plot sounds – and I realize, as I type, that it sounds silly – the book, nonetheless, is entertaining and good. Tess is feisty and headstrong, but she’s also a girl in love with a boy who captured her heart several years earlier, and who happens to be her brother’s best friend. She is desperate to connect with him, but every time she does, his immediate reaction is to tell her he’s sorry it happened. Is it any wonder he confuses her?

One thing Tess knows for certain is that she cares deeply for Jase, and she wants to be with him. If only his intentions were as clear.

While this is a fairly standard YA plot, it distinguishes itself as NA because of the headboard rockin’.

There IS some hot headboard rockin’. More than in Wait for You, which gave us blue boobs waiting for Cam and Avery to shuck their clothes and get after it. Little sister Tess just needs a brewski or fourski and she is read to gooooooo. 

I got into the story, largely because I always get emotionally attached to female characters who suffer from unrequited love. When Jase tells Tess that he made a mistake – and he does this more than once – I might have teared up. In fact, a big fat tear might have rolled down my cheek. Maybe even more than one.

The hot headboard rockin’ is nicely done. Detailed, but not graphic. Let’s just say that your boobs won’t be too blue after reading this one.

Yes, it’s a bit overly dramatic and hyperbolic at times, and, yes, it’s predictable. But it still feels real. You can imagine these situations unfolding in a college dorm room somewhere. It isn’t as if one of Tess’s classmates turns into a vampire or anything.

Then again, we do meet Calla, and she does have a strange scar on her face. So I guess anything is possible in the third installment.J. Lynn

For more information about J. Lynn, check out her website, follow her on Twitter, and like her on Facebook.

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Filed under blog tour, hot headboard rockin', New Adult lit

Evening Stars (Blackberry Island #3)

evening starsEvening Stars (Blackberry Island)
by Susan Mallery
Published by Harlequin MIRA
368 pages
Genre: chick lit; women’s fiction 
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
4 / 5


I don’t know what it is about this book, but it made me cry.

Scratch that. I know exactly what it is about this book that made me cry: Nina Wentworth.

Her entire life has been centered around taking care of someone, whether her flakey mother, her self-centered sister, or her supportive boss. The roof needs replacing? Nina will wipe out her savings to pay for it. Her sister needs to go to college? Nina not only will pay for it, she also will make sure Averil gets off of Blackberry Island and pursue her dreams. Her boyfriend wants her to come with him to medical school?

Well …

Even then, though, Nina was taking care of someone. By sacrificing her love life, she was able to put Averil through college and keep a close eye on mother Bonnie’s questionable decisions.

The problem with being a caretaker is that you don’t know when – much less how – to quit the gig.

Now thirty, Nina has accepted her lot in life. She still lives with her mother (and her mother’s girlfriend), and she still assumes responsibility for all around her. She is not a martyr, though. It’s worse than that. Nina doesn’t believe she deserves anything else.

But within a few days, her dull, unsatisfactory life is thrown into a blender. First, she meets Kyle, a 26-year-old Air Force pilot who literally catches her off her feet. He’s come to find her, the woman who once was his sister’s babysitter. Kyle has nursed a crush on Nina for fourteen years, and he is determined to woo her. He makes his intentions quite clear; he’s in town for four months, and he’d enjoy nothing more than “connecting” with the babysitter.

And by “connect,” you know exactly what I mean.

At first resistant, Nina allows herself to be swept out of Bonnie’s home and into Kyle’s bed. And not a moment too soon, considering Averil has left her husband in California and come back home to Blackberry Island. With a dog.

Typical Averil, Nina thinks, accusing her sister of continuing to act in her own self-interests. The problem is that Averil isn’t quite sure what her self-interests are. Her husband accuses her of needing Nina’s advice and guidance, yet within five minutes of being in Nina’s company, the two sisters are bickering, reverting back to their childhoods. Averil thinks Nina is a control freak, whereas Nina thinks Averil refuses to take responsibility for her own decisions.

Then there is the biggest upheaval of all: Dylan, her high school boyfriend – the one who broke her heart when he left for college – is back, joining his father’s medical practice.

As Nina attempts to manage the various players in her drama, she receives no help from her mother or sister. Happy to assist with the sexy times is good old Kyle, who at least provides some pleasurable diversions. Nina can’t quite figure out what Dylan wants, though. He’s back, but is it just for his father? Or could it be for her, too?

I loved Nina. Yes, she’s obstinate and a bit of a know-it-all, and, yes, she’s too busy managing everyone else’s life to see that her own needs it just as much, but she’s so real. She worries about her tummy and her thighs, she tries to convince herself that she is content with her life, and she doesn’t want her younger, more vivacious sister to get too close to her friends lest they prefer Averil’s company to hers.

When Nina looks at her life and sees it for what it is – a woman who was forced at a young age to become the mother to both Bonnie and Averil – it is heartbreaking. As Averil observes, Nina is in a lose-lose situation. Averil and Bonnie rely on her to take care of things, yet when she does, they are never satisfied.

Meanwhile, Averil is stuck as well. She loves her husband, but something is missing from her life. The problem is that she can’t figure out what it is.

These two sisters – and their mother – have a way to go to sort themselves out, and thankfully Mallery takes us along. As much as I enjoyed Nina, though, I loathed Bonnie. She is nothing short of a terrible mother who uses the excuse that she had Nina at sixteen as a means of absolving her from adulthood and responsibility. Averil isn’t much better. She needs Nina’s interference as much as she resents it if for no other reason than when something goes wrong, Averil has someone to blame. Why her husband sticks with her is a mystery.

I enjoyed this book tremendously, largely because Mallery avoids turning Blackberry Island into a kitschy den of eccentricity. As flighty as Bonnie is, she’s also quite real. Everyone we meet is. As for the romances, they are fun more than passionate. There are some sexy times, but they are not explicit or wildly detailed at all. I’ve read more graphic headboard rockin’ in YA books.

Read, enjoy, and maybe shed a tear or two for Nina. She deserves someone on her side.

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Filed under chick lit, cute romance

Romance Impossible

restaurant impossibleRomance Impossible
by Melanie Marchande
Published by Fido Publishing
310 pages
Genre: women’s lit, romance 
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
3.5 / 5


Thanks to the Food Network and Gordon Ramsay, we know that temperamental chefs are out there. But surely all of that yelling and screaming is just for show, right?

Jillian certainly wishes it was, but as she experiences with Chef Maxwell Dylan, sometimes what you see on television is what you get in real life.

While working in a kitchen that she knows cuts corners, Jill is directed by the head chef to prepare a salmon dish for Chef Dylan, who has come into the restaurant. She does the best she can with fresh frozen – not fresh – salmon and her signature spinach dish. But Chef Dylan knows the real thing when he tastes it, and he demands that Jill come into the dining room and account for her cooking. He berates her in front of the customers and her boss, and for that she cannot forgive him.

Several years and jobs later, she has been out of work for nine months when she is offered a job by Chef Dylan himself. She accepts, largely because she has no other choice, although the job is a rung lower than her previous positions. The two work closely together, and Max comes to see that Jill – whom he remembers vividly from their first encounter – does not need him to rescue her, just as Jill comes to realize that Max doesn’t intend to be cruel; he simply wishes for you to give the best you have.

Naturally a romance develops. Or should I say that attraction develops. Max, for several reasons, wants to keep Jill at a romantic distance. She, on the other hand, is ready to commit to him, not just professionally but personally as well.

Melanie Marchande writes an engaging, interesting story, and she does a solid job of crafting characters who are not one-note or flat. Max could be the stereotypical tortured soul, but he’s more than that. He’s a man who knows what he wants, knows how to get it, even knows what he could do to keep it, but doesn’t feel that he deserves it. Worse for him, he doesn’t understand how he feels. His struggles are completely against himself. Jill, on the other hand, is open to all of the challenges and rewards that life with Max presents. She has learned enough about life and herself to know that she will not compromise on what she thinks she deserves.

There is some headboard rockin’, but it is not terribly graphic. Nor is there enough of it. I’d like to know more about Max as a lover, but maybe that’s just me. The man intrigues me … what can I say.

Occasionally some of the drama feels artificial, such as Jillian’s ex-boyfriend’s arrival or the reasoned counsel that Max’s brother is on hand to provide. Max’s path to self-discovery also seems easily solved, even if it spans considerable time. He is aided by a none-too-subtle coincidence that almost made me laugh.

Still, though, Jill and Max are interesting characters, and I enjoyed reading their story.

A word about the cover: it does not connect to the novel at all. Believe me, Max does not walk around shirtless. Unfortunately.

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Filed under chick lit, romance

Love and Liability

love and liabilityLove and Liability
by Katie Oliver
Published by Harlequin UK
Genre: chick lit 
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
2 / 5


About five pages into this book, I started to think it sounded familiar. Then I realized that I’d read another of Katie Oliver’s books, Prada and Prejudicewhich I … um … did not quite enjoy.

I wish I could say that my opinion of this one was better, but, well. It isn’t.

The basic story is fine. Holly James, daughter of a well-to-do family, is a junior writer for a teen-geared magazine in London and has been assigned to interview Alex Barrington, an up and coming – and single! – solicitor. They meet, sparks fly, and a romance blooms.

Problems ensue from there.

For starters, Holly professes to LOVE her job at BritTEEN, yet she would rather write about the plight of teenage victims of homelessness. She wants to befriend a young homeless girl she passes every day, yet she is so out of touch with homelessness that she thinks bringing a rucksack full of snacks with her when she spends a few days shadowing the girl is a solid idea. She loves Alex, yet she thinks he is inconsiderate, possibly cheating on her, and more concerned with winning an election than keeping promises. She is attracted to a restaurant owner, yet she claims she doesn’t care about him, yet she really does.

One of the characters has a sister who is bipolar, and sometimes I felt like this book was, too.

It reads as if Katie Oliver started writing it, put it away for a few months, and came back to it having forgotten what she already wrote. Some scenes directly contradict others, and no one is consistent. For instance, an American photographer Holly knows through work falls for a brittle magazine editor. They have an argument, but she tells him she can overlook their differences. Two scenes later, the photographer tells Holly that the editor is furious with him and that their differences are insurmountable.

Alex and Holly say terrible things to each other. In fact, they don’t seem compatible at all. Yet they supposedly love each other? The one character Holly does seem to click with is someone she happily forgoes, even though he rescues her time and again when Alex is nowhere to be seen.

It is nonsensical, and I’m not sure who to blame. Katie Oliver? She writes her stories and submits them to a publisher. So her editor, maybe? Someone has to read this before it’s published, right? And someone else SURELY notices the vast number of contradictions in this book!

We won’t even get into how much of this is a basic retelling of Oliver’s first book. The two have so much in common that it’s easy to get them confused: heroines who are daughters of wealthy men and who routinely borrow from Dear Old Dad to make ends meet, raucously humorous mishaps a la Bridget Jones, cold and apparently unapproachable love interests, and a threatening force who poses great danger.

I don’t even know why I’m giving this two stars. I guess it’s because some of the characters are likable. Or maybe it’s because I know there is a good book in there somewhere, but the problem is that it doesn’t know how to find itself.

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Filed under chick lit, predictable plot, sometimes the book just isn't good

The Republic of Love

republic of loveThe Republic of Love
by Carol Shields
Published by Open Road Media
418 pages
Genre: women’s fiction; literature
Thanks to NetGalley for the preview
4 / 5


Tom Avery enjoys women to excess.

First, there is the abundance of mothers who tended to his care. Twenty-seven, to be exact. Oh, sure, only one actually gave birth to him, but he is a true product of getting raised by a village. Prior to turning forty, he went through three wives. Ever the optimist, he knows there will be a fourth.

Fellow Winnipegian Fay McLeod isn’t even sure she knows how to love, much less do so in such a hyperbolic state as Tom. What she does know, most resolutely, is that the man she has dated and lived with and been partnered to for five years – with whom she owns a condo – is not someone she wants to live with any longer. Their relationship has run its course, and Fay wants to end it.

Despite having quite a few friends in common, Tom and Fay have not met. He, a midnight disc jockey, frequents singles meetings, ostensibly because he knows his judgment in selecting the future Mrs. Tom needs some tweaking, but actually as a way to meet women. She is a folklorist who specializes in studying mermaids. They may know the same people, but their paths do not cross.

But of course they eventually do. Tom is immediately smitten and is determined to express his love and passion. Fay, completely unaccustomed to such a quick rush of intense feelings, is relieved to be headed to Europe for research; she wants to take advantage of this time to make sense of how she feels. When she receives a passionate love letter from Tom, she wonders if she loves him too.

Fay eventually returns home, and she and Tom begin to discover, appraise, create, and revise their relationship. Theirs truly is a case of opposites attracting, and it frightens Fay, much more than it does Tom. After all, he’s already had three wives and nearly thirty mothers. He greedily and eagerly embraces the optimism of love, whereas Fay’s reticence and fear convince her that love – whatever that may be – is temporal at best. Is she practical or fatalistic? Is Tom naive or addicted to the rush?

Carol Shields approaches these questions by making us slowly fall in love with Tom and Fay. He’s like an overgrown puppy, so full of enthusiasm and affection that you can see why he’s maintained good relationships with his exes (for the most part). His feelings for Fay are genuine and not at all something he wishes to hide or tamper down. It’s love! Real love! So what’s life all about if not feeling love and sharing love and giving love and making love? Fay would respond that life is for living in moderation, and where love is concerned, one must approach with skepticism and realism. They call it “falling” in love for a reason, Fay believes, because eventually you hit the ground and it all ends. She is more difficult to like than Tom, but yet her temperance is appealing. We understand her, even though we wish we were more enthusiastic like Tom.

The Republic of Love, then, is not a dictatorship. It’s a democracy, wherein each of us lives with our own definitions, constructs, and appreciations of love, where we are free to express and experience our feelings, even when others don’t share them. Can Fay and Tom find their way together? Can he soothe her fears while she moderates his exuberance?

Read and find out. You won’t regret it.

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Filed under literature, women's lit