The Trouble With Love by Lauren Layne

the trouble with loveBook: The Trouble With Love

Series: Sex, Love and Stiletto #4

Author: Lauren Layne

Format: Netgalley ARC

Review by: Onnica

Basic story: Emma Sinclair has adjusted to life in the Big Apple. She’s barely recognisable as the North Carolina southern belle she used to be. Determined to shed her former life, she now has the unfortunate reputation for being…well, a little ‘cold’. A mystery even to her closest friends, Emma’s past is something she’s not comfortable discussing, however, when Alex Cassidy steps in as interim editor-in-chief of Stiletto magazine, any hope of avoidance proves futile. Alex isn’t just her boss – he’s her ex-fiancé, and he’s determined to get some answers.

Alex Cassidy is convinced he’s over Emma Sinclair. It’s been seven years since she threw her engagement ring at him and told him she never wanted to see him again. So how is it that she has a slightly different version of events? Alex wants answers, so when he assigns Emma an article about all of her exes, he isn’t quite prepared for the emotional fallout. Will these two ever find the closure they’re looking for, or will they just make the same mistakes again?

Why you should read this: If you’ve followed my reviews of the other three books in the series – you’ll love this one! In my humble opinion, this is perhaps the best one in the series. The sheer build-up and emotional angst, balances so well with the humour and the inclusion of some well-loved secondary characters. I adore this series for the friendships, the positive female characterisations and the smokin’ hot heroes. This book is no exception.

What you might hate: I don’t know how you feel about second-chance romances? Usually they irritate the hell out of me, but this one was spot on. We have a feisty heroine, who you’ll either love and empathise with or hate for being distant. I totally got Emma, so I love her, but depending on where you stand on this will probably affect your enjoyment of the story.

Rating: 4/5 – made me smile, laugh and feel good inside. Lots of great dialogue and banter. A great read.

The Trouble With Love is out on March 3rd.

Vanilla by Megan Hart

vanillaBook: Vanilla

Author: Megan Hart

Publisher: MIRA

Review by: Onnica

Basic story: Elise likes to be in charge. She owns it, isn’t ashamed of it and even her family (including an overbearing mother) knows it. She models for her friend occasionally and is proud of the work and the light it shines on aspects of bdsm. The problem? She doesn’t want random assignations anymore. Esteban, one of her ‘boys’ is very exciting and they provide each other with mutual pleasure. The issue is she wants someone she can build a life with, do the shopping with and chat to about anything. And someone who can accept her lifestyle too.

When she meets her brother’s colleague Niall, she’s taken aback by how open he is. He’s sensitive and clearly interested, yet seems to have some misconceptions about her lifestyle choices. Elise has no interest in whips, chains and other paraphernalia, but convincing Niall will be one of many challenges she’ll need to resolve. Will she continue to pine for the one that got away, the sub who needs her but cannot commit, or Niall: possibly perfect, but as vanilla as they come?

Why you should read this: If you read a lot of Megan Hart books, you’ll be pleased to see the return of some well-loved characters. Alex Kennedy anyone? He’s Elise’s business partner and it was great to see him again. The book has a lot of depth to it – the story is bittersweet and full of self-acceptance and self-discovery. The sex scenes are hot but don’t feel gratuitous – they do move the story and the relationships along. The banter between Niall and Elise is on the button and the way Elise deals with her family is great. I’d love to be able to speak to my family like that!

What you might hate: Ok, now for the not-so-good points in the book. I really liked Elise’s character – but like most people, she was full of contradictions. She’s a strong person, but is weak in the face of her former-lover, George. She keeps messaging him, knowing he won’t reply, but putting herself through it anyway. It drove me crazy! Also, the relationship between her and Niall was perfect up to a certain point and then suddenly it wasn’t. It felt a little jarring and maybe that was the intention, but I don’t know, something felt like it was missing.

Rating: 3/5 – for a story full of pathos, some interestingly complex characters. It didn’t tick all my boxes like Megan’s previous reads, but it’s still a good read nonetheless.

The Hit and Run Bride by Nana Malone

hit and runBook: The Hit and Run Bride

Series: Hit & Run Bride (Contemporary Romance Series #1)

Author: Nana Malone

Review by: Onnica

Basic story: Life for Becca Daniels seems to be coming together. A new promotion has landed in her lap; her dashing boyfriend has proposed to her and decided to whisk her away to Hawaii for a wedding that involves the Ironman competition, mini-marathons and who knows what else. The fact that she’s more of a treadmill girl and can’t swim a stroke – well, how hard can it be?

Determined to face her fears and be able to at least doggy paddle on her honeymoon, she decides to attend an adult swim class. The terror of stepping into the pool is nothing when faced with her teacher. The guy she rear-ended in the parking lot earlier!

Liam Caldwell is dedicated to helping teach children and adults reach their full potential in swimming. Putting aside his personal goals to care for his ailing mother, he enjoys the coaching of others. When he sees Becca, he realises that the professional boundaries of teacher and pupil will be tested to the limit. And when she takes him up on his offer of private lessons? It’s game over.

Why you should read this: I really really enjoyed this story! It’s light on drama, but has enough to make you look forward to the HEA. Becca and Liam are hot together. She’s clearly with a guy who doesn’t know the first thing about her and once she meets Liam she’s able to be herself and he likes her just fine! The chemistry was off the charts hot and the banter and dialogue was totally realistic – I was swept up in the action and read it quickly. You know that feeling when you finish a good romance and let out a satisfied sigh? Yep, that was me.

What you might hate: Honestly, you may feel a little annoyed about Becca’s indecision towards the end, but it doesn’t last long – she’s a pretty sorted heroine who generally does the right thing and it adds to the dramatic tension. This isn’t a story about cheating. (Her fiancé-to-be is kind of a douche and frankly deserves it.)

Rating: 4/5 for a light, touching and very very sexy read. Likeable and engaging characters would know how to generate some heat. Read it!

Forbidden by Charlotte Stein

forbiddenBook: Forbidden

Series: An Under the Skin Novel #2

Author: Charlotte Stein

Format: ARC

Review by: Onnica

Basic story: As far back as she can remember, Dorothy has been told she’s evil, possessed by the devil and in need of correction. She’s used to the daily beatings at the hands of her mother and the priests who help with her ‘treatment’. When she wakes and sees a man freeing her from her prison, she believes it’s another form of hallucination. Her saviour is Killian: a soon-to-be priest who is disgusted with what Dot has been subjected to.

He offers to take her to a safe place in Boston, run by the church where she can recover and get back on her feet. The pair gradually get acquainted and find that they have a lot to learn about each other. The more time they spend in each other’s company, the clearer it becomes that Killian may be unable to take his vows…

Why you should read it: Anyone who is a fan of Charlotte Stein should take a look at this novella. It’s touching, a little bit sad, but also very optimistic too. It’s also as hot as hell – the chemistry and the journey of discovery Killian and Dot embark on is so perfect and so sexy! It really did it for me. Dot is a likeable character, who’s had a lot of bad things happen to her. Despite this, she’s determined to live life and not let her past hold her back. She wants that future to include Killian.

What you might hate: Well, organised religion doesn’t come out too well in this particular story but I don’t think there’s a lot to hate on here! I loved the characters, but as it was short I only got a glimpse of who these two were and who they could be together. I wanted more, but that’s always a good place to end a story, no? For a quick read that you can enjoy in one sitting, this is one to add to the tar list.

Rating: 4/5 for a satisfyingly sexy story about self-discovery and finding love against the odds.

Forbidden is out now.

The Hook Up by Kristen Callihan

imageBook: The Hook Up
Series: Game On #1
Author: Kristen Callihan
Review by: Onnica

Blurb:

The rules: no kissing on the mouth, no staying the night, no telling anyone, and above all… No falling in love.

Anna Jones just wants to finish college and figure out her life. Falling for star quarterback Drew Baylor is certainly not on her to do list. Confident and charming, he lives in the limelight and is way too gorgeous for his own good. If only she could ignore his heated stares and stop thinking about doing hot and dirty things with him. Easy right?

Too bad he’s committed to making her break every rule…

Football has been good to Drew. It’s given him recognition, two National Championships, and the Heisman. But what he really craves is sexy yet prickly Anna Jones. Her cutting humor and blatant disregard for his fame turns him on like nothing else. But there’s one problem: she’s shut him down. Completely.

That is until a chance encounter leads to the hottest sex of their lives, along with the possibility of something great. Unfortunately, Anna wants it to remain a hook up. Now it’s up to Drew to tempt her with more: more sex, more satisfaction, more time with him. Until she’s truly hooked. It’s a good thing Drew knows all about winning.
All’s fair in love and football…Game on.

Why you should read it: I thoroughly enjoyed this story – I worried it was going to be the standard running-from-love tale, but it actually had depth and I really got to know the characters and understood what made them tick. Drew ‘Battle’ Baylor is the big guy on campus – massively talented and the guy other men want to be. Despite this, he is kind, sensitive and desperate to find someone who wants him for him. Anna could have been a really unlikeable heroine but the author somehow found the right balance. She’s scared of being destroyed by Drew and the effect of his celebrity, which will only intensify – once you understand this, I think Anna becomes more sympathetic as a character. She does some stupid things but she finally recognises that Drew isn’t a bad guy. The story should come with a warning: there are some seriously hot sexy times – the time in the library? Off the charts!

What you might hate: The rules. Why do so many books have ‘the rules’? No kissing on the mouth? Personally, I think Pretty Woman has a LOT to answer for. This isn’t the first book I’ve read that features this idea. So you can let someone put a piece of themselves inside you, but kissing somehow makes things more personal? Please! I hate when characters make dumb rules for themselves for no good reason. As I said before, Anna is a work in progress – she learns a lot about life throughout the book and makes some weird decisions in the book, while Drew is pretty perfect all the way through. I liked the way the story evolved, where both main characters learnt something about themselves and whether they could be together for the long haul. I think you’ll enjoy it.

Rating: 4/5 for a seriously sexy story full of banter, angst and life lessons. The story is long but not repetitive and thoroughly entertaining.

Abuse by Nikki Sex

abuseBook: Abuse

Author: Nikki Sex

Format: Kindle ARC

Review by: Onnica

Basic story: Grant Wilkinson, having left active service a while ago, no longer has the frenzy of combat to keep his mind busy. Left to contemplate the things that happened to him as a child, Grant knows he needs help. André Chevalier, his counsellor sees through his façade and gently leads him to face the truth: he’s an alcoholic who needs to face up to his demons, stop hiding behind his facial scars, or he’ll eventually self-destruct.

In order to help Grant face his demons, André enlists the help of his ward Renata – someone whom he helped years before. Despite not speaking for most of her life, she has an extraordinary gift of helping others to overcome their fears of intimacy and cope with severe trauma. When the pair meet, it’s clear that they will be able to help each other. However, just when things seem to be falling into place, a case that should have remained dead and buried comes back to haunt Grant…

Why you should read this: Abuse is unlike anything Nikki has ever written before. This really is a book that has depth, substance and takes a serious look at abuse, without basking in the gory details (as some books seem to). It was very intelligent and it’s clear that the author has done her research here, because it wasn’t sensationalist at all and the therapy session scenes were done really well. The character of Grant is a complex one. He’s clearly struggling with his past, yet desperate to have a ‘normal’ life. I teared up quite a few times at this story actually. The sex in this particular book is fairly incidental, which is really unusual for a Nikki Sex book! I was glad of it, as it didn’t hold up the progress of the story.

What you might hate: I incorrectly assumed this book was a standalone, so when I got to the end and read the last line and was left with a doozy of a cliffhanger, I was a little peeved. I was so interested and invested in these characters and really wanted to read what came next. Also, I did get a little exasperated by the French typos. I’m reading a lot of authors lately who write French characters, but the French isn’t correct, which really does take away my enjoyment of the story – it really does pay to get a French speaker to check your sentences on forums or professionally – hell, I’ll do it!

Rating: 4/5 for a well-written and insightful tale. Two damaged souls who may or may not go the distance. A truly heartfelt story, that wasn’t salacious or over the top on the characters’ family histories. I would definitely say it’s worth a read.

Abuse is out now.

The Lily Drake Series by T. Michelle Nelson

Lily Drake

I have been reading like a crazy person this holiday! I’m currently typing this review on 5.5 hours’ sleep after staying up until 4am this morning finishing book 3 in the series. Yes, I’m going to regret that decision later, but for now, there’s coffee.

Basic story: Lily Drake is a hardworking, single mum whose son is the most important thing in her life. When a well-meaning friend sets her up on a blind date and she mistakes him for the handsome stranger at her door, life for Lily will never be ‘normal’ again…

Mathias is a vampire who has watched Lily all her life (though not in a creepy way…kind of). He knows she is destined for great things and will be the person to lead his people to peace by eliminating the threat of rogue vampires hunting humans. He just needs to get her to agree to turn. Simple.

Lily is not in the least bit interested in the proposition. Becoming a vamp was never on her to-do list and she’ll be damned if she’ll watch her son grow up and grow old without her in his life. After refusing, she was supposed to forget. However, Lily can’t seem to shake the memory of Mathias and his associates. Suddenly the choice to turn may not be hers to make, if she’s going to continue protecting her son…

Why you should read this series: It’s a really original, fresh and well-thought out story. Lily isn’t eighteen. She’s a thirty-five year old woman who’s comfortable in her own skin. Yet she isn’t perfect. When she meets Mathias, she’s convinced he’s the one, but then she meets Valentine, his cousin, and all hell breaks loose! I loved the dilemmas and the banter between the characters. Lily is truly kickass and she is nurturing at the same time. Mathias and Val are great eye-candy (or should that be word-candy?) and they play an integral role in the story, but Lily is clearly running the show. The developing story of her and her son is also very touching. They are devoted to each other and it’s great to read. The pair are sarcastic, funny and loving. A great combo.

What you might hate: The first book was a little rocky in places. I felt as though the shift in Lily’s affections from Mathias to Val came out of nowhere. There was no build up and I felt that is was shoehorned in a bit. Then the pacing seemed to settle down and I got carried away in the story. Books 2 and 3 really show how T Michelle Nelson has grown as a writer and it truly flows.

Rating: For the whole series I give it 4/5. The book is plot driven – don’t be expecting smut – it’s all about the adventure. Don’t get me wrong, it is a sexy read. Just a bit more subtle than your average romance story.

At the time of posting, the entire series is on sale for $0.99/£0.99 – get your copy if you like the vampire trope with a bit of originality.