Showing posts with label Molly O'Keefe. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Molly O'Keefe. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

December 2014 Recap: Books Read + Minis

I am finally going to close 2014 by posting my December recap. I was on vacation throughout the holidays and took the opportunity to read a few books that had been lingering in my TBR. As you can see below, there is only one new holiday book included in my least of reads.

Total books read in December: 11
Contemporary Romance: 1
Paranormal/Urban Fantasy: 1
Science Fiction/Fantasy: 3

1) City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett: B+
2-4) Provoked, Beguiled, Enlightened (Enlightenment Trilogy Books 1-3) by Joanna Chambers: B+
5) Turnbull House (Porcelain Dog) by Jess Faraday: B+

My favorite December reads were City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett, a SFF book that has received positive responses from readers. I meant to read it earlier in the year, unfortunately City of Stairs was the last book I read in 2014 and did not get a chance to review it. I plan to review it this month.

The other December favorites are Turnbull House (Porcelain Dog #2) by Jess Faraday, and Joanna Chambers' Enlightenment trilogy. Both were included in my LGBT Favorite Books and Authors list -- one as part of a duology and the other (all 3 books) as a highly recommended trilogy.

6) The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers: B
7) Night Shift with Nalini Singh, Ilona Andrews, Lisa Shearin, Mila Vane: B
8) Between the Sheets by Molly O'Keefe: B
9) Comfort and Joy with Joanna Chambers, Harper Fox, L.B. Gregg, Josh Lanyon: B

My B reads are all on the strong side. My thoughts about The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers are outlined in my review. However, I also enjoyed the PNR/Urban fantasy anthology Night Shift in its entirety. Although I do admit that my favorite story is "Magic Steals" by Ilona Andrews. I mean who doesn't love Jim and Dali?

The contemporary romance Between the Sheets by Molly O'Keefe deserves a better title. The content just goes so much deeper than that title implies. There is sex (seldom between the sheets), and it is the hot kind, but there are other, deeper issues going on in this story that make this contemporary by O'Keefe a strong read.

And, the Comfort and Joy m/m romance holiday anthology is quite solid and one I'm keeping on my reread pile. I gave two of the stories a higher grade, but all four are enjoyable! These were my minimalistic (rushed) comments at Goodreads:
Rest and be Thankful by Joanna Chambers - Great! (4.5)
Out by Harper Fox - Solid (4.0)
Waiting for Winter by L.B. Gregg - Cute (3.5)
Baby, it's Cold by Josh Lanyon - Yummy (3.5)
Overall, a solid anthology that may become a "comfort" holiday reread in the future. Recommended.

10) The Boy with the Painful Tattoo by Josh Lanyon: C
11) Memory of Water by Emmi Itaranta: C-

The Boy with the Painful Tattoo is the third installment of Lanyon's Holmes and Moriarity romance/mystery series. I have really enjoyed this series and the characters thus far. So I hate to say this, but this installment, although good, did not quite do it for me. Chris and JX do not spend enough time together or working on their relationship, and the level of Chris' neurosis is so high that it hurts to read it. All of the above interfered with my enjoyment of the mystery which, taken on its own, was good.

And Memory of Water is a young adult speculative fiction novel by Finnish author Emmi Itaranta. This is the English translation of the novel. I gave it 2 stars at Goodreads because frankly the writing is beautiful, but my enjoyment of the book was next to nill. Here are my comments such as they are: "I wanted to love this book. The writing style is beautiful and the world-building interesting [enough]. Unfortunately, I ended up reading it in fits and starts. It just became a tedious, slow read and I forced myself to finish it. Obviously not for me." This is an award-winning book, loved and lauded by some readers and not-so-loved by others. Obviously, I fall under the latter.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

July's Minis: Molly O'Keefe, Ericka O'Rourke, Marie Force, Garrett Leigh

As promised, I'm continuing my summer reading updates today by featuring four books I read during the month of July. As you will see below the categories are different and so are my reactions to each one.

I have read quite a few westerns this year within all different categories, and chose to read Seduced by Molly O'Keefe after Wendy brought it to my attention by posting a review at her site (see a link to her review, as well as to Dear Author's at the bottom of my mini). Dissonance by Ericka O'Rourke (new-to-me author) is one of the books I had on my summer wish list,  and both I Want to Hold Your Hand by Marie Force and Only Love by Garrett Leigh (new-to-me author) are books that I chose to read because the book summaries caught my eye.
Seduced (Into the Wild #1) by Molly O'Keefe: B+

I've read Molly O'Keefe's contemporary romances but that did not prepare me for her post-civil war historical western romance Seduced. It is not at all what I expected, it is much better. Our main characters are Southern Belle Melody Hurst and ex-soldier turned bounty hunter Cole Baywood. Melody's husband Jimmy, sister Annie, and Cole's brother Steven serve as the secondary characters in a self-contained, closed setting that keeps the high tension-fueled atmosphere going even after violence erupts and dissipates.

Melody has been to hell and back and after Jimmy is gone, she has nothing left to give of herself. Melody was a manipulative southern beauty before the war and will do whatever is necessary to secure a future for herself and her sister Annie to keep them safe. Seducing Cole is her answer. Cole can't see beyond the horror of war and everything he lost -- his family and innocence, his true self. All he sees is blood in his hands. Melanie's beauty and company remind him of who he used to be, but Cole will not settle with a woman who can't give him everything.

Gritty, that's the word that comes to mind when I think of Seduced. Melody may have been a Southern Belle in her past, but she's no wilting flower and Cole is passionate and tender but tough and not easily manipulated. The violent scenes at the beginning of this romance are not gratuitous and instead serve to anchor this romance to the historical time. The secondary characters are also explored and contribute much to the story adding to the central conflict of civil war torn lives and the developing relationship between Melody and Cole. This is a gritty, redemptive historical romance with depth of character and feeling, a big scoop of hope, and the beginning of love for our romantic couple at the end. I can't wait to read the second book in this series. (Historical Romance/Western, 2014)

Other reviews for Seduced:
The Misadventures of Super Librarian by Wendy: B+
Dear Author by Jane: B-

Dissonance (Dissonance #1) by Erica O'Rourke: C+

This YA science fiction/fantasy novel is set in a great multiverse world where music and musical notes are incorporated as a basis for travel between parallel universes. The first book of Ericka O'Rourke's Dissonance series is also heavy on the romance. Expect a few sections with info dump here and there and predictable characterization such as the rebellious, reckless teenager with major authority issues, the love triangle, and the absent, unlikable parents. The characters, with few exceptions, are not immediately likable.

As with other YA romances I have read in the past, I wondered when and why the love happens. There is a disconnect between the sudden crush that turns into a sort of immediate obsession coming from the sixteen-year-old female protagonist, the young male protagonist's lack of awareness of her, and the relationship that develops whereby she is willing to sacrifice it all -- including family, friendships, and world -- for him, while he is willing to sacrifice all for his mother. It comes off desperate and off-balanced to say the least. I don't know how young adults will feel about the romance aspect of this book, but that's how it struck me personally.

Regardless, the premise for the world-building and the overall mystery are both very good, and for those reasons Dissonance was worth a read for me. The story ends satisfactorily, if with a bit of a cliffhanger, ready for book two of the series. (YA/Fantasy, 2014)

I Want to Hold Your Hand by Marie Force: Grade C-

Great premise, but an oddly executed romance where the female protagonist's dead husband gets almost more page time than the hero of the piece. Whatever it is that Hannah feels for Nolan -- lust, attraction, admiration -- her life, her thoughts, even her new relationship, revolve around her "husband" Caleb. And she and everyone else, including Nolan, think of Hannah as "Caleb's wife." She cares more about what her dead husband's family think about her new relationship than her feelings for Nolan or Nolan's feelings for her -- a man who loves her deeply and passionately and waited for her for five years. This is a frustrating read where even at the end I was not convinced that after 7 years of grieving Hannah was ready for a new man in her life.

I believe that Marie Force wrote a good book about the process that widows of soldiers go through when they lose a beloved husband. I also believe that if the timeline for Hannah's and Nolan's romance had been longer, if they had gone through what they experience in this novel and came together later when Hannah was really ready, this romance would have worked beautifully. But as it is, I did not buy it. Nolan, as the new man in Hannah's life has to be more than a saint to accept the fact that he will always be second best -- and that's the way this strikes me. He will always be second best.

Force does a great job with the sexual tension and build-up to intimacy between Nolan and Hannah and I enjoyed that aspect of the story for the most part, until the couple makes it to the bedroom which was a big disappointment. A great addition, the Abbott family and townspeople helped me get through this odd romance. (Contemporary Romance, 2014) 

Recommended book with similar storyline that really works: Joe's Wife by Cheryl St. John

Only Love by Garrett Leigh: Grade B

This is a double hurt/comfort book with tons of angst. A war veteran suffering from an incurable decease and PTSD comes home and moves in with his sister-in-law's brother, a man who suffers from severe epilepsy and is monitored by his trained dog. The two men find solace in each other, with the dog becoming a bonus both to the relationship and the story. This is a well written, multiple tissue read with some surprisingly deep issues and a slew of emotionally draining moments. Only Love is my first book by Garrett Leigh, but it won't be my last. (LGBT/MM Romance, 2014) 


I will return with more updates. Yes, I read more! My summer reading is going well so far and I haven't even picked up my August 'must reads' yet. :)



Monday, January 27, 2014

Review: Can't Buy Me Love (Crooked Creek Ranch #1) by Molly O'Keefe

I've read and really enjoyed Molly O'Keefe's category romances, but none of her full-length contemporary novels. I've had Can't Buy Me Love and Can't Hurry Love in my TBR pile for a long while and decided it was time to give them a try, particularly since I'm interested in reading her 2014 future release Never Been Kissed.

I like Tara Jean. How could I not? She's been through hell in her life and is doing whatever is necessary to survive. After having come clean with old man Lyle Baker about her past, Tara agrees to go along with a fake engagement to the 89 year old man just so he can bring his children home before he dies. But, Tara Jean has some major unresolved issues and seems to have multiple personalities: one minute she's a sex bomb, the other she's a smart woman with insight into other people's pain, and the next she's a 'mean as a skunk' survivor, refusing to turn into a pile of goo or a vulnerable flower. And, the reader never knows which Tara Jean is going to come out and play at any given point.

Luc Baker may be an aging, injured hokey player, but please don't get him confused with the type you'll find in other sports romances. It's true that he's steaming hot! Hockey is his world, and he has a lot of unresolved anger. But Luc is a good, honest man, with the patience of Job, who cares about his family and will do anything for them -- sister Victoria, mother Celeste, and nephew Jacob -- and that includes going back to Crooked Creek Ranch to stop his abusive father from marrying Bimbo Barbie because his sister Victoria insists that she needs her portion of the inheritance to survive.

Luc plays the asshat for about a minute, but it doesn't take him long to see past Tara Jean's Bimbo Barbie masquerade, and he likes what he sees. So does Tara Jean. They both have issues, but hers become the problem. He harbors unresolved anger toward his abusive father and is fighting for his career, but he's also honest, sweet and more than understanding. She's scared, confused, dishonest, and allows her dysfunctional past to interfere in her new life, but is also insightful and gives Luc and others the support they need when needed. And don't get me wrong, as a couple, Luc and Tara Jean share some scorching chemistry and emotionally charged moments. O'Keefe throws in a sex scene in the backseat of a car that is smoking!!

Secondary characters are a mixed crew -- some are likable and others not so much -- with their futures left hanging at the end of Can't Buy Me Love. Victoria, Luc's sister, plays the type of woman who has been so damaged by her father's abuse that she has zero self-confidence and less than zero judgment. She has always relied on others to look after her -- her brother, the wealthy dead husband who left her with a mountain of debt -- and hopes her father's money or a future husband will continue to do the job. Victoria plays the angry, pathetic figure in this story, with plenty of room for growth. On the other hand, Luc's mother Celeste, a wealthy ex-model, is cool with more insight and empathy than expected. Eli, the ranch foreman, plays the angry man who feels cheated by the Bakers and shows some redeeming qualities that give me hope for his future.

External conflicts involving Tara Jean and her past provide some rather over-the-top climactic scenes and are used as a device to resolve some of her issues, and in turn Luc's. I love Luc's character in this romance and the way O'Keefe portrays an aging athlete without making him a total idiot, even as occasionally he plays the asshat. But after all is said and done, Tara Jean is one of those female protagonists who feels undeserving of love, and although as readers we share her magnificent struggle, we never witness what exactly made Tara Jean turnaround and believe. Too many unresolved doubts, and as a read, a mixed bag for me.

Category: Contemporary Romance
Series: Crooked Creek Ranch #1
Publisher/Release Date: Bantam/June 26, 2012
From: TBR Read - Kindle Edition
Grade: B-

Friday, June 21, 2013

His Wife for One Night by Molly O'Keefe

I enjoyed the second book of this two-book series, Unexpected Family, but this first book, His Wife for One Night, was a great, great read! It's not just that the romance works between the protagonists, childhood friends who marry out of necessity and do not consummate the marriage until one decides that it is time for a divorce, it is also that O'Keefe builds this story with characters that truly become three dimensional to the reader.

I love the premise of this story. Mia and Jack grew up together on a ranch, and they have been best friends forever. Jack married Mia when his crazy mother threw her mother Sandra and sister Lucy out of the property after her father died and Jack's alcoholic father, Walter, failed to stop it. Then as Mia took up the role of foreman in the ranch, Jack left to live his dream of bringing water to places like Darfur by using his engineering skills.

Mia and Jack see each other away from the ranch a few times throughout the years, and each time Mia is hopeful that Jack will see her as a woman, his real wife, that things will change between them, but that never happens. Not until she gives up. On that last meeting she asks him for a divorce and the two finally give in to their mutual attraction and end up having some explosive sex! It's one of those instances when you don't know what you have until you're about to lose it? That's what happens to Jack and it's not all about the sex for him either. Although he doesn't think he loves Mia at that point, he knows he doesn't want her out of his life. Mia on the other hand is done. She is a sucker for Jack and knows him better than anyone else. He is her friend, but she can't continue to hope. For her that sexual encounter was good bye and there is no more waiting or going back. And so the great battle begins.

Through the development of the romance the family history is explored, so that a secondary characters the family is important and the reader becomes invested in their lives, although truthfully the extent of their full history is not fully revealed until the second book, Unexpected Family. But His Wife for One Night is all about the romance and main characters.

I loved Mia. Mia is a strong heroine who develops fear of abandonment after five years of giving all she can to her marriage and a lifetime of loving a man damaged by childhood abuse, and clueless when it comes to recognizing her true feelings. And Jack? Well, as his life unravels -- both personal and professional -- Jack realizes that he must deal with the past in order to have a future and Mia is at the center of it all. Clueless? Yes. But smart enough to fight for what is important. I love this couple and the way O'Keefe makes her characters come alive with faults and strengths as they deal with the highs and lows on their way to happiness. I was truly happy when this couple's future finally clicked into place. Grade: B+

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

TBR Review: Unexpected Family by Molly O'Keefe

This month's theme for the TBR Challenge is "More Than One -- author who has more than one book in your TBR pile." I've had this Harlequin Super Romance by Molly O'Keefe in my TBR pile since last year, as well as a few of her other books. Since I have never read a book by O'Keefe, just purchased books because they appealed to me, I decided it is about time I read the first one! :)

Jeremiah Stone: rodeo superstar. Good-time guy. Father of three? That's one pair of boots Jeremiah never expected to fill. Then his three nephews are orphaned, and his entire life changes. Not only is he now playing parent, he's also running the family ranch. It's almost too much for this cowboy.

Until he encounters Lucy Alatore.

He recognizes that look in her eye and knows a steamy fling could make him feel more like himself. But the intense heat between him and Lucy is distracting him from three little boys who need his undivided attention. He's forced to choose one over the other…unless he can convince Lucy this family isn't complete without her!
I enjoyed Unexpected Family. Molly O'Keefe weaves a romance where both the main and secondary characters are flawed and in dire need of love and support. Jeremiah is "playing" parent to his three orphaned nephews, but misses his life as a rodeo superstar and resents giving up the limelight. Lucy and her mother Sandra returned to the ranch they called home, but Lucy is lying to everyone about her business failure in Los Angeles. Jeremiah's nephews, Aaron, Ben, and little Casey miss their dead mother and feel unloved by their uncle. Ben in particular is resentful, angry and acting out. It soon becomes clear that Jeremiah doesn't know what he is doing with the boys, and when Lucy attempts to help, she's not great at it either! Jeremiah's life is a mess and a half. Additionally, Lucy and Sandra live with Walter who not only owns the ranch but is an alcoholic refusing help and in love with Sandra. So there you have it, a mess all around.

O'Keefe makes some great lemonade out of these lemons though. Lucy may be deceitful and crazed over the failure of her business, but she's a loving daughter, a caring woman, and straightforward in what she wants from Jeremiah, plus when the time comes she calls him out on his bullshit too. Jeremiah is lost when it comes to the boys, which I like because what the heck does a self-centered, single, rodeo superstar know about parenting? Particularly since he is repeatedly advised not to seek help from outsiders. I like that he tries and is vulnerable and insecure about his role as a parent. I also like that Jeremiah is human enough to resent the sudden changes in his life, but still takes the responsibilities seriously. That doesn't mean he doesn't make an ass of himself with Lucy and the children more than a few times, he does.

Lucy is crazed and sometimes rather immature, but she's fun and her humor and straightforward wickedness with Jeremiah made her character likable. I mean this girl just goes out and seduces that man until he is a puddle of nothing! This is a Super Romance and there are not too many bedroom scenes, but the ones included in the book are hot! Extra points for the excellent kissing scenes, and building sexual tension. Yeah...

This is the part I wasn't sure I liked though. I don't know exactly when Lucy and Jeremiah fell in love. The "I love yous" felt rushed and not quite organic -- Lucy's thoughts of love definitely were! I believe Lucy and Jeremiah liked each other, became great friends who cared for one another, and had delicious, passionate chemistry. In other words, this was an excellent beginning to something more. O'Keefe finds a satisfactory resolution with a "happily for now" not resolved until a year later in an epilogue. So, the reader goes through the initial conflicts, but the real work that takes place to build love between our romantic couple is not part of this story.

You know what I really like about this romance? I like how O'Keefe handles a complex family situation with a large cast of characters while building a romance. The characters came alive for me in this story and kept me reading. I came to care for them! All in all this was a very good read for me.
May 2013 - More than one

Category: Contemporary Romance
Series: None
Publisher/Release Date: Harlequin/June 5, 2012
Grade: B-

Visit Molly O'Keefe here.