Love Left Behind by S.H. Kolee

Book: Love Left Behind

Author: S.H. Kolee

Reviewed by: Judith

Basic Plot: Emma Mills flees small town Maryland after leaving her fiancee and boyfriend of 10 years practically at the alter. An old family friend puts her in touch with Claire, a wannabe actress living in NYC. Emma moves in with Claire and quickly integrates herself into Claire’s circle of friends, the most likable of which is personal trainer, Jackson. He is the hottest guy she’s ever seen and is also trying his luck at acting. They hit it off immediately and their relationship quickly moves into love territory within the first week of dating. As months go by, Jackson and Emma become inseparable. When she unexpectedly loses her job as an executive assistant and he lands the lead role in a movie, the timing couldn’t be more perfect. They pack up their lives and plan on moving to LA together when tragedy strikes Emma’s ex-fiance. When Emma goes to aid him through a trying time, her relationship with Jackson deteriorates and finally they break it off. Cut to five years later. Emma is once again moving to NYC from Maryland and Jackson is now an international Hollywood heartthrob. She never assumes she will see him again but fate has other plans for this couple that should have been.

Why you should read this: Jackson is sex on a stick! He’s the dreamy boyfriend you always wanted, the sexy Hollywood star who couldn’t let the normal girl go. Emma fulfills one of my biggest fantasies: having a celebrity fall in love with your average woman. Emma is curvy and has a boring, basic job so watching Jackson swoon all over her is magic. The story is set in NYC, particularly the East Village which provides a fantastically gritty backdrop for the story. The writing is decent and the sex scenes steamy.

What you might hate: Jackson starts off relatively perfect and devolves into a needy, whiny, spineless, and stalkerish caricature of his former self. He becomes violent at the drop of a hat and uses sex as a weapon against Emma. It’s so not sexy at times. Then there’s Emma. She calls him out on his abusive ways and STILL lets him sleep with her. Geez. You can’t have it both ways, lady! Either he’s an abusive ex or a potential suitor. Choose one and stop whining but don’t say how much you hate him being forceful with you and then go on to say that you like it.  It doesn’t sit well with the readers! The plot is basic, the villain easily predictable, and all their problems could have been solved very easily if they had just talked to each other which they don’t, of course.

Rating: 2/5. The co-dependency and crazy ways of Jackson really grated on my nerves. Read it for the sexy scenes and not for the plot.

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Book: Outlander

Author: Diana Gabaldon

Series: Outlander

Reviewed by: Judith

Basic Plot: Due to the outbreak of WWII, Claire and her husband, Frank, have endured a prolonged separation  Claire is an army nurse and Frank, a historian.  They come together in Scotland at the end of the war to have a honeymoon of sorts and after years spent apart, they spend their days learning to love one another again. While exploring the countryside, Claire chances upon a set of ancient celtic standing stones and is teleported back in time two hundred years.  Once there she must use her medical skills and smarts to help her survive.  But there seem to be pitfalls at every turn: British invaders, Scottish highwaymen, and warring Scottish clans. The only constant in all the upheaval around her is Jamie Fraser, a Scotsman with nothing to lose who ultimately protects Claire by offering himself as her husband.  With two men in different centuries both tearing at her heart, Claire must decide which one she truly loves and whether she is ready to make the ultimate sacrifice to keep that love.

Why you should read this: Two words: Jamie Fraser. This Scotsman will grab you from the moment you read him and he won’t let go.  He is steadfast, loving, sensual, sweet, honest, intelligent, a great fighter, ready to believe in Claire, and the best part of all, he’s a virgin! The exotic setting of 18th century Scotland as viewed by a modern woman is a big draw as well. The setting is realistic and learning about the history of the Scottish clans is fascinating. Even the time travel reads as believable.

What you might hate: the 600+ page length; all the raping, pillaging, and random violence really turn the stomach and the end will simply crush you with its emotional and physical extremes; Claire’s lack of emotion was difficult to stomach at times as well. She obviously cares for Jamie but spends a lot of her time mooning over her husband, Frank.

Rating: 4/5. 

If you love a good time travel romance and don’t mind suspending your belief system and spending a lot of time on the 600 pages that are only the start of a 7 book series, get it! Well researched and the love story is to die for! Jamie makes me swoon just thinking about him!

Reflected in You by Sylvia Day

Book: Reflected in You

Author: Sylvia Day

Series: Crossfire Series

Reviewed by: Onnica

Basic Story:

The story picks up from where Bared to You left off. Eva and Gideon are trying to make their tortured and fraught relationship work, despite not knowing how to be in a successful relationship. Their attraction is as strong as ever, but so are their shared insecurities and jealousy.

Eva grows ever more frustrated by Gideon’s reluctance to share his past with her, while he knows many of her intimate secrets.  This unleashes the darker flaws of her personality, putting further pressure on the already fragile relationship. Can their bond withstand the external pressures from all around, not to mention the internal struggles from their troubled pasts?

 Why you should read it:

It’s been eagerly awaited all summer, following the success of Bared and you’ll want to find out what’s next for Gideon and Eva. Gideon is a very sympathetic character in this book – he’s a well-drawn character, sexy as hell and you will want more. The steamy scenes (of which there are many) are hot, hot, hot!

 What you might hate:

The story is told from Eva’s skewed point of view, so it’s impossible to get away from her. She’s immature to the point of idiocy, taking her petty revenges against Gideon whenever and wherever she can. She’s behaves like Serena van der Woodsen and the book at times does read like Gossip Girl (albeit the kinky, late night version). Eva doesn’t grow as a character and I’m afraid I lost patience with her. This couple needs round the clock therapy, not twice a week sessions. And Eva’s mother? Don’t get me started on her; her issues are for a whole other review.

Rating:

I give this book 2/5 because I don’t feel that it lived up to the hype. I really wanted to like it. The back and forth between Gideon and Eva grew tiresome and while the sex was steamy, there really was too much of it. It didn’t move the story along at all. The only time I engaged with the story was during the closing chapters where they were actually talking to each other. Having said that, another great cover though!

Angel by Laura Lee

Book: Angel

Author: Laura Lee

Reviewed by: Judith

Basic Story: Paul’s beloved wife died a while ago and now he’s just going through the motions.  He ministers to his congregation, sermonizes, interacts with them but never really relates to anyone and feels as if his life is stagnating. He knows he’s depressed but can’t do anything but pray that his life will get better. Then one day, God answers his prayer by sending him an angel. Only Paul is completely mistaken: Ian is definitely not anyone’s idea of an angel. He’s merely a misguided youth who stumbled dead drunk into the church while looking for an AA meeting. When Paul helps him find his way, their brief meeting sets off a chain of events that catapults him out of his depression and makes him realize that love can be found in unusual places and with those we least expect.

Why You Should Read It: the love story between Ian and Paul is so real and vivid that you can’t help rooting for them. They are two lost souls who desperately need someone to love who will love them in return; they also need someone who will allow each to be himself with no limitations. Their tentative forays into friendship and then love are awkward and telling.  They show that any sort of relationship requires time and trust for it to evolve. The fact that the protagonist is a minister who happens to fall in love with another man in no way makes this feel like commentary on the church, religion as a whole, or homosexuality.  In fact the budding romance between minister and gay man humanizes the ministry and gives some understanding into the stress of being the guiding force in a congregation. Ian is a bright spot. He oozes confidence and charm, enjoying the pleasures that life has to offer and forcing Paul to lighten up. He’s also gorgeous and larger than life.

The writing is superb with an easy flowing storyline that reads beautifully and effortlessly. The dialogue is fantastic, especially the religious conversations between the believer, Paul, and Ian who is most definitely searching for answers to the meaning of life.

What You Might Hate: the fact that this story shows a gay relationship between a member of the clergy and another man might be off putting if you have a deep rooted faith. Even if you don’t, a gay relationship in and of itself might turn you off.  The male lead, Paul, is in no way dreamy. He’s a middle aged, balding widow with a lot of stress and a bit of a depression. Ian is a recovering drug addict who can’t stick with anything when the going gets tough. The realism of their relationship might leave you wanting something more upbeat.  Also the cover leaves a lot to be desired.

Rating: 

5/5 stars. I loved this story mainly because it was NOT glossy and perfect. It shows how love can evolve in the most unlikely of places and rarely ends as happily as books/movies/etc make it out to be. Paul and Ian’s relationship takes time and effort to begin and maintain and I love the realism of that.  Also, even though he bats for the other team, Ian sounds like a dreamboat.

Seduction and Snacks

Book: Seduction and Snacks

Author: Tara Sivec

Series: Chocolate Lovers

Reviewed by: Onnica

Basic story: Claire always wanted to do something with her life and get out of small town Butler. For her that meant finishing college. That was the plan anyway – until that night she met a boy at a frat party.

Following their one and only night together, she soon has to re-adjust her life plan as she’s pregnant. Fast-forward a few years and Claire is looking after her 4 year old son Gavin, while working at the neighbourhood bar. She still thinks of the boy she snuck out on in the middle of the night. The boy whose name she doesn’t even know.

Carter gets a work transfer back to Butler following the end of his relationship. He can’t quite forget the girl from that night years ago; who smelt like chocolate and shared his love of the movie Heathers. When their paths finally do cross, Claire is forced to face up to telling Carter that she is that girl and that he is a father. Can they do things right the second time around?

Why you should read it:

It may not sound like it from the synopsis, but this book is actually a romantic comedy in book form. The plot runs a mile a minute and there are jokes and embarrassing situations throughout. Gavin, the four year old is potty-mouthed (foul-mouthed children are funny on paper only!) and in my opinion is one of the best characters.

What you may hate:

If you don’t enjoy cursing in books, then this book is definitely not for you! I have nothing against bad language, but the book is littered with  f-bombs; so much so that I wondered whether the characters had Tourettes – it was a little much.

I found the plot enjoyable, but the pace I mentioned earlier is a little frenetic, making me feel that the author was trying a little too hard to be funny all the time. The story doesn’t take a breath and for that, I wasn’t always able to relate to the characters or engage with the plot.

Rating:

I give this book a solid 3/5. It’s fun, silly and very crass but if that doesn’t put you off then look out for the sequel, Futures and Frosting – what happens after the happily ever after.

About Last Night by Ruthie Knox

Book: About Last Night

By: Ruthie Knox

Series: Loveswept

Reviewed by: Onnica

Basic Story: Cath Talarico is a woman who has made a lot of mistakes in life. She documents them on her body in the form of tattoos so as not to repeat them. Determined to make a fresh start, she leaves her native Chicago behind and heads for London. Eager to shed her former life, she resolves to focus solely on work until one night she meets Nev.

Nev Chamberlain is a banker in the City and she has him all figured out – she thinks. However, beneath the custom-made suits and the vast wealth lies a would-be artist struggling to find independence from his dominant family.

When she wakes up in Nev’s bed after an alcohol-filled night out, she’s convinced she’s made yet another huge mistake. Nev doesn’t share her opinion. The passion is instant but Cath fights her intense feelings for the kind, incredibly sexy Nev, convinced there’s no place for her in his privileged world.

Why you should read it: This book is incredibly smart – Ruthie Knox is a very talented writer and she recreates London beautifully. The love scenes are seriously hot but not gratuitous and the story itself has a lot of heart. For quite a short book, the characters are well-drawn, complex and flawed. Cath’s secrets and vulnerability are often very moving, while Nev’s quiet patience makes him the perfect leading man.

What you might hate: Please don’t let the terrible cover put you off this read. It bears no resemblance to the story beneath it! You may also get a little frustrated with Cath’s attempts to keep Nev at arm’s length and Nev’s inability to stand up to his family.

Rating: 4/5 Ruthie Knox knows how to write engaging characters that you’ll care about. The story is intelligent as well as passionate and I fell hard for Nev. Definitely worth a look!

Sugar Daddy by Lisa Kleypas

Book: Sugar Daddy

Author: Lisa Kleypas

Series: Travis Family

Basic Story: Liberty Jones has a rough life living across the tracks in the trailer park of Welcome, Texas. When she meets Hardy Cates, she thinks she’s met her soulmate.  Hardy is the sort of handsome loner who’s always looking out for her and acting as her biggest advocate.  But when Hardy leaves unexpectedly and then her mother dies, Liberty must do what it takes to stay afloat while also raising her younger sister, Carrington.  She puts herself through beauty school and eventually meets the enigmatic oil tycoon, Churchill Travis while working at a Houston salon.  After slowly getting to know one another, Churchill offers her the opportunity to live in his mansion and act as his personal assistant. When she agrees, everyone including Churchill’s children who are Liberty’s age, assumes that she is looking for a sugar daddy.  But over time, the animosity between Liberty and Churchill’s oldest son, Gage, in particular blossoms into something more.  Then Hardy Cates reenters her life and Liberty must choose between two men she loves dearly.

Why You Should Read It: Lisa Kleypas is a master storyteller weaving an engaging tale about love that is uplifting and not maudlin; three wealthy hunks (Hardy, Churchill, Gage) all looking to make Liberty happy each in his own way; seeing the bonds of love extend throughout an entire family. Some of the most touching scenes are watching Liberty and Carrington or Churchill and his children; the opulent Texas lifestyle is fascinating to northerners; everyone speaks in a drawl and you can practically hear it through the pages!

What You Might Hate: all the weird names–I’m a big proponent of 1 or 2 wacky names but here there are 5 in the main characters alone (Liberty, Hardy, Gage, Carrington, Churchill) and it drove me batty. Who names their kids names like this?!; everything is a little too easy for Liberty who just happens to have a billionaire walk into the beauty salon where she works and who eventually offers her a LIVE IN job doing something that has nothing to do with being a beautician; all the talk of the rich lifestyle might make you jealous (I know am); Hardy the bad boy you love to hate shows up at the worst moment possible.

Our rating: 5/5. Lisa Kleypas can write a convincing love story like no one else .Her books are effortlessly enjoyable and crazypants names aside, this was one of my favorites from her.  You wouldn’t think an established historical romance writer could craft such a good contemporary, but she does. BUY IT!