The Story Guy by Mary Ann Rivers

The Story GuyBook: The Story Guy

Author: Mary Ann Rivers

Review by: Onnica

Basic story: Carrie West is a librarian – single and happy with life. Well, that’s her story and she’s sticking to it. Hobbies include socialising and browsing the classified ads for fun. Never taking the ads seriously, she likes to imagine the people behind the profiles. One day she sees an ad that grabs her attention. He wants to meet on wednesdays, kissing only. For some reason Carrie can’t get the guy out of her head, but surely contacting a random stranger for a make out session would be crazy, right?

Deciding to take the plunge, (after all he seems nice from his profile pic) Carrie meets Brian, an attorney, who is keen to give no personal details away. Can she be satisfied with a very narrow relationship that consists of weekly appointments, but no emotional intimacy? Despite the rules, Carrie determines to draw Brian out and find out the reasons behind his self-imposed restrictions. She finds out more than she bargained for – Brian could be the one for her, but how will she convince him?

Why you should read this: this novella is so sweet, funny and intelligent. The characters are well drawn considering it’s a novella and I read it so quickly in order to find out what Brian’s deal was. The novella should receive an award for its descriptions of a kiss – it was so HOT! The development of their relationship had me pulling for them and I guarantee you will too. Brian is lovely. He’s not your typical hero – he’s a glasses-wearing, bike-riding attorney, which is why he’s just so damn sexy. The telephone scene is a must-read – that’s all I’m saying!

What you might hate: it’s a novella and I know they’re not for everyone, but this story will give you a rosy glow all over – it’s worth a look.

Rating: 5/5 for me – a perfect, short and snappy read with loveable characters and a lot of heart. It’s intelligent and has some great dialogue. Get your copy now.

Making it Last by Ruthie Knox

Making it LastBook: Making it Last

Author: Ruthie Knox

Series: The Camelot series

Review by: Onnica

Basic story: Amber and Tony Mazzara have been married for ten years. Three kids later they are exhausted; plagued with money worries and Tony is working around the click hoping that the house-building business will pick up and withstand the economic climate.

Amber is busy taking care of the three energetic boys and is starting to lose herself. Slowly but surely she’s disappearing, ceasing to be anything other than wife and mother. On holiday in the Caribbean for her brother’s wedding and surrounded by new couples, she longs for how things were before the children and before the bottom fell out of the market, when she and Tony actually ‘saw’ each other. Noticing his wife’s misery, Tony (with the help of Amber’s aunt and mother) insists that Amber stays on in Jamaica for a few more days to relax and have the holiday she wanted. However, it soon becomes clear that a few days to herself aren’t going to fix the cracks in their marriage. After a confrontation with his formidable mother-in-law, Tony determines to get back to Jamaica and get back to how things were when they talked and laughed and understood each other. He’s ready to try anything – even if that means role-playing and pretending to be someone shiny and new…

 Why you should read this: We first got to know Amber and Tony in How to Misbehave (set 13 years earlier) and now we get to see what happened following their happily ever after. The realism of this novella was striking – a story where the family are struggling in the economic climate trying to keep going, was so honest and refreshing. I could really empathise with Amber’s character, her sense of isolation and the longing she had for Tony. Tony loves his family and would do anything for them, even if that means he has no time to spend with them – working all hours. His sense of failure because he’s not able to give Amber and the children everything he wants for them was touching. These characters are as real as you can get and the challenges of marriage and beyond were handled so well.

What you might hate: In my humble opinion, there isn’t a whole lot to hate about this novella – it’s not exactly an escapist read, so if you’re looking for something far-removed from your life, then ok, maybe not for you.

Rating: 4/5 – Amber and Tony are good people. I rooted for them from start to finish and wanted them to find each other again. Well-written, honest and humorous – it’s classic Ruthie. Making it Last is out on 15 July.

Inevitable by Angela Graham

InevitableBook: Inevitable

Series: Harmony #1

Author: Angela Graham

Review by: Onnica

Basic Story: Cassandra Clarke has been single for a year following a very upsetting and humiliating breakup with the love of her life. After finding her boyfriend with the town tramp, she walked out and never looked back. Now one year on, she’s found her feet and is about to begin her career in teaching. Living in small town Harmony, Cassie lives in an isolated but idyllic part of the town. However, when the old estate near her sells, things get interesting. The new buyer arrives in town like a hurricane – moving trucks nearly knock Cassie off her feet, but it’s only when she catches a glimpse of the owner does her heart nearly stop.

Logan West is new to town, although he was born in Harmony and it’s immediately clear to Cassandra that he is T-R-O-U-B-L-E. He’s far too good looking, charming and makes no secret that he’s checking her out. Also he has a reputation – his sister makes that clear by warning her off him. Logan needs to settle in town and concentrate on raising his son. Cassandra has no intention of starting anything with her next door neighbour, but when she finds his little boy in her tree house and likes him a lot, keeping a safe distance from Logan will prove difficult.

Logan is a playboy – the ladies love him and he has no problem accepting the attention. He’s a devoted single father with no time for relationships especially after how things ended with his son’s mother. Meeting Cassie cannot prepare him for what lies ahead – the possibility of more. But can he offer her more than a casual hook up? Can two people so clearly attracted to one another be just good friends?

Why you should read this: this story took me by surprise – the characters are well-drawn, I have a clear picture of Harmony and its inhabitants and the heroine was so likeable. That’s a really important factor for me at the moment. She’s slightly insecure at times (as we all are) but not to the extent that she’s whiny or a complete pushover. I could really get behind her and enjoy the journey. Logan is a womaniser but likeable and it soon becomes clear that there’s more to him than meets the eye. I really enjoyed the slow burning chemistry between them. The pace was just right. No insta-love here! Their friendship felt real as it was allowed to develop over time and Logan’s little boy Oliver was great too. There was no syrupy sweetness there thankfully.

What you might hate: Well, you’ll have to wait until October 2013 to find out what happened next – the ending was very dramatic and I loved the high drama. Despite Logan’s development through the book, he does something monumentally stupid that may have you tearing your hair out – but I’m sure all will be well in the end!

Rating: I give this 4/5 – I was really impressed by the story and how it developed – I’m rooting for Cassandra and Logan. They’re not perfect, nor would I want them to be. Roll on October.

Cover Reveal – Come Together by Jessica Hawkins

Hi all! Onnica here.

So I jumped the gun yesterday and already shared Jessica Hawkins’ new book cover on Facebook and Twitter. I was just so excited! There are so many great books being released at the moment and I feel so grateful when people I admire ask us to spread the news. Due for release on 19th September, Come Together will conclude the Cityscape series and we’ll finally find out what’s in store for Olivia, David and Bill. So what’s book 3 about? Here’s the synopsis and the cover – which is my favourite so far:

Come Together on GoodreadsPhoto: © iStockphoto.com/VikaValter

Come Together is the third and final instalment of The Cityscape Series.

With a single decision, Olivia Germaine’s fantasy has become a reality. Now she is faced with two commitments: one she must make and one she must break. But in order to accept a love she never thought possible, Olivia will have to let go of the broken past that defines her – and of deeply-rooted fears that could ruin everything.

Everything is what David Dylan wants to give her, and it’s what he wants in return. He must prove to Olivia that despite his playboy ways, he’s worth leaving behind the stable future her husband can offer her. David is a man who always gets what he wants . . . but this time he may be fighting for something unattainable.

Can Olivia escape the past that threatens to consume her?
And can David break through to her before it does?

Fancy a copy of Come Together? Head on over to Jessica Hawkins’ blog and enter the rafflecopter competition.

Cover Reveal – Just Human by Kerry Heavens

Hi Everyone, Onnica here. I know you’re all drowning in books at the moment – I certainly am, but I’m a sucker for misunderstandings and second-chance love stories. So, when I was asked to share a new release with you all, how could I refuse?

Just Human is Kerry Heavens’ debut novel and here is the cover:

Just Human on GoodreadsSynopsis:

Meet Liv and Danny…

 
Liv loves Danny. She knows she loves him more than he loves her, so she lets him go without a fight when his parents make him move back to America. She knows she will never love anyone like she loved him, but she has to move on.
 
Danny loves Liv. He knows he loves her more than she loves him, because she does nothing to get him to stay, so he goes quietly when his parents leave the UK. He knows he will never love anyone like he loved her, but he has to move on.
 
Twelve years on, they have made a good job of pretending, they may have almost forgotten. But when they get in touch via Facebook, it seems that it is all still there. They quickly find that they are intensely compatible in ways they hadn’t even begun to explore before they were forced apart. 
 
Can they put aside their fears and give it a go? Or will deep rooted doubts and insecurities tear them apart?
Just Human is out on July 22nd. Click here to add to your Goodreads list.

The Marriage Merger – Jennifer Probst

Marriage_MergerBook: The Marriage Merger (Book #4)

Author: Jennifer Probst

Format: Unedited arc

Review by: Onnica

Basic Story: Julietta Conte is successful, stylish and has a wicked business brain. Life is good and she has it all. Practically. Who cares if she’s single? She doesn’t, that’s for sure. So what if all of her family are happily married and she’s the last single one with no change in status on the horizon? Convinced that love is not for her, Julietta buries herself in her work, carrying on the family baking empire with determination. A brave new business venture arrives in the form of family friend Sawyer Wells. The dynamic and dashing tycoon wants Julietta on board for his new venture – her bakery to be present in all of his luxury hotels.

Julietta is reluctant to give up control of her company to this risky project, but it makes great business sense. Gradually she becomes aware of her attraction to the domineering Sawyer but she is clear that their union will be business only. Sawyer has no such qualms about mixing business with pleasure. He sees beneath the frigid façade and is eager to unleash the passionate side she keeps buried. As their mutual passion grows, Julietta realises that she isn’t frigid, she just hadn’t found the right man – but can Sawyer be that man outside of the bedroom, or will his personal demons come between them?

Why you should read this: Jennifer Probst has a lot of hardcore fans who adored books 1, 2 and 3 in the Marriage series. The power play between Julietta and Sawyer is full of energy, there’s plenty of heat between the pair and even though you know what’s going to happen, fans will be pleased with the outcome and the journey.

What you might hate: For me, the journey to get to the happy ending was a little laboured. Sawyer, tormented by his past is convinced that he can’t offer Julietta anything more than sex. This went on for quite a while. And then there was the whole plot with the mother forcing them to get married, under the pretense that it was for business, but really, it was because she knew best and did it with other members of the family. What is this the 19th century? I know it’s about an Italian family, with old-fashioned views but come on – arranged marriages are not sexy. I’ll confess, I haven’t read the earlier books in the series, so I really didn’t buy the whole mystical theme running through the book. I can only suspend my disbelief so far and it snapped by the end of this story I’m afraid. Also, Sawyer had this uncanny ability to read Julietta’s thoughts just by looking into her eyes and knowing all her secrets. Please. Guys are thick – even the more perceptive ones never know what’s going on with women!

Rating: 2.5/5 – There were some great elements here – the gradual thawing of Julietta and her owning her sexuality. Sawyer was pretty hot and his back story was interesting, if a little drawn out. A pleasant summer read, with a happy ending all round.

The Marriage Merger is out on 30th July.

After Hours by Cara McKenna

afterhoursBook: After Hours

Author: Cara McKenna

Review by: Onnica

Basic Story: Erin Coffey is starting a new job as an LPN in a mental hospital. Usually she’d be excited about a new job but she is extremely under-qualified, having only nursed her grandmother during her studies. She only went for the job to be closer to her kid sister and nephew and for some financial security. To say she’s overwhelmed by this frightening new job would be an understatement. On her ward, there are various characters all with different diagnoses. Some are dangerous and she spends her training learning the art of restraining patients under the tutelage of a certain Kelly Robak. Kelly is tall, forbidding with a buzz cut and muscles on his muscles. He has bruises and cuts which tell a story about his time working on the ward. His stern demeanour is misleading, as he has a gentle way with the patients, making the staff feel safe without making the patients uncomfortable.

Erin begins to feel safer just knowing that Kelly is around, but he’s definitely not her type. Her sister’s been burned by men that look just like Kelly. She’s content just watch him from the corner of her eye. That is until one night when Kelly arrives at her door, with something else on his mind. Unable to deny that there is definitely something between them, Erin allows herself to have a little fun with him. He’s confessed that he’s hard work and likes things his way, so a relationship is out of the question, right? But surely a little colleague-with-benefits couldn’t hurt?

Why you should read this: This is my first Cara McKenna book (she also writes under the name Meg Maguire) and I’m wondering why on earth I didn’t read this story sooner. The story is HOT. Erin and Kelly together are super steamy. It’s smart and it has humour – which is just as well, considering its setting. The characters have depth and I really admired the heroine Erin. She’s independent, with feminist principles, likeable and just as confused as everybody else. She’s confused by her feelings for Kelly; how she’s happy to be dominated in certain situations and not in others. Kelly also has hidden depths, although dominant by nature, he slowly transforms into something else entirely as he gradually lets his guard down. I really enjoyed how they got to know each other and didn’t let their past experiences dominate their future.

What you might hate: The story is quite gritty. It’s not a fairytale; there is the ugliness of tough upbringings. It’s set in a mental hospital. The characters aren’t rich and famous. For me, this book was a breath of fresh air – a great story set in a realistic setting.

Rating: I’m giving this 5/5 – I loved everything about it and was tempted to start it again when I finished. I am now a HUGE fan of Cara McKenna and cannot wait to read the rest of her books. Read it!

Collide by Gail McHugh

CollideBook: Collide

Author: Gail McHugh

Series: Collide #1

Review by: Onnica

Basic story: Emily Cooper is starting the next chapter of her life by moving from Colorado to New York City. Following the death of her mother, she relies on the strength of her boyfriend Dillon Parker and the support of her best friend and roommate Olivia. Waiting for her first teaching job to come up, she fills her days waitressing at the local diner. After finishing up her first successful day on the job, she’s asked to deliver a takeout meal downtown. No problem, it’s on her way. Nothing can prepare her for what meets her there; a chance meeting that will change the course of events forever.

Gavin Blake knows the moment he sets eyes on her that Emily is the girl for him. Finally he sees what everyone’s been talking about – love at first sight isn’t just a myth, it’s real. Desperate to get to know her better, he rides with her in the elevator to find out more about her. When that doesn’t work, he continues his pursuit at her workplace the following day. Whatever is between them, it’s clear she feels it too. Despite the fact that she has a boyfriend, he’s not about to let that get in the way of destiny. Or so he thinks. When it transpires that Emily is in fact the girlfriend of a close friend, Gavin is forced to evaluate his priorities and decide whether all is fair in love and war.

Why you should read it: Like rich playboys with empires to run? Then you may enjoy this book. Gavin Blake is tall, dark with piercing blue eyes and a body for sin. Emily is the typical good girl torn between her history with her controlling boyfriend and a possible future with Gavin. If you are fond of a love triangle then give it a shot. The sex scenes are steamy and very hot. The book also attempts to deal with a serious topic – mental abuse and a controlling partner.

What you might hate: One word: Emily. She’s one step away from becoming a battered girlfriend. She has no fire, no backbone and absolutely no idea what’s best for her. The only thing she has going for her is her beauty. Everyone’s always going on about how beautiful she is – like that’s a virtue. It’s the only virtue she’s given. She makes bad decision after bad decision and bats back and forth between Dillon and Gavin. She’s honestly one of the THE worst heroines I’ve read in a long time and believe me, that list is LONG. There were glimmers of a great story at times but then it went from bad to worse and Emily is hell-bent at times on wrecking her life. Dillon has issues with fidelity but he doesn’t want anyone to so much as look at Emily without him losing it. Gavin is the more normal of the characters but even he is prone to stalker tendencies. It’s all a big mess.

Rating: 2/5 – honestly, I feel as though heroines should learn something on their journey if they start out weak in a book. They should be the type of person that the reader wants to be or can at least identify with. I honestly am curious to see whether she’ll come through in book two, Pulse, (out on August 10) but I’m not sure I’m prepared to re-visit these characters.

Taken by Storm by Kelli Maine

Taken by StormBook: Taken by Storm

Author: Kelli Maine

Series: Give & Take (Book 3)

Format: Paperback

Review by: Onnica

Basic Story: MJ Rocha, son of Merrick Rocha, successful businessman, is in trouble. Under his grandfather Enzo’s influence and powerless to get away from him, life isn’t working out. He’s been kicked off his baseball team for fighting and his ex-girlfriend Maddie is back in town after an absence of a year and a half. When she took off she took his heart with her – or maybe it would be more accurate to say that she ripped it from his chest and decimated it. Convinced that he hates her, he’s still determined to get answers. Why did she break her promise to him? Why did she leave without any explanation? Why did the one person in the world he could trust abandon him? Not only facing matters of the heart, MJ has more issues to deal with – his father Merrick has only just found out that he exists. At first it seems as though he’ll be rejected once again, but a trip to his father’s island on Turtle Tear opens the way to the family life he always dreamed of, if only he can be brave enough to embrace it.

Maddie Simcoe has a lot on her mind. Determined that she would never return to Enzo Rocha’s home, she has no choice. She needs to see her father who works for the old man. She also has to decide whether to accept her new boyfriend’s proposal. She isn’t prepared for being around her ex-boyfriend MJ again. Unable to tell him why she had to leave him behind, she is resolved to let him hate her and move on with her life without him. However, MJ is not going to make moving on easy for her – he won’t back down and demands answers. He’s not giving up this time.

Why you should read this: This continues the Give and Take series and if you read Taken and No Takebacks, you’ll want to find out what’s in store for Rachael, Merrick, MJ and Maddie. Kelli Maine created a compelling story featuring Rachael and Merrick and now she’s opening it up to include the rest of the family. It’s a saga in the making.

What you might hate: Clearly this story is different to Taken and No Takebacks because it’s not focusing on Rachael and Merrick. The storytelling is engaging but I felt a distinct lack of intensity that was present in the previous books. While I enjoyed getting to know MJ and Maddie, I wasn’t compelled by them.  When the big secret that was looming over the pair for three-quarters of the book was finally revealed, it was a complete anti-climax and then there were further plot complications thrown in that didn’t totally work for me. The drama just seemed to trickle away and if I’m honest I was a bit disappointed by this instalment. I view Taken by Storm as a vehicle to moving the story forward for the next book Given, but I wasn’t blown away.

Rating: 3/5 – for an engaging tale and introducing the reader to the growing Rocha clan, but lacking in the ingredients that made Taken so compelling and such an epic trip.