Showing posts with label eARC. Show all posts
Showing posts with label eARC. Show all posts

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Review: In Your Dreams (Blue Heron #4) by Kristan Higgins

Emmaline Neal needs a date. Just a date—someone to help her get through her ex-fiancé's wedding without losing her mind. But pickings are slim in Manningsport, New York, population 715. In fact, there's really only one option: local heartthrob Jack Holland. Everyone loves Jack, and he won't get the wrong idea…. After all, Jack Holland would never actually be interested in a woman like Em. Especially not with his beautiful ex-wife creeping around, angling to reunite ever since he rescued a group of teens and became a local hero.

But when the wedding festivities take an unexpectedly passionate turn, Em figures it was just one crazy night. Jack is too gorgeous, too popular, to ever end up with her. So why is she the one he can talk to about his deep, dark feelings? If Em is going to get her dream man, she'll have to start by believing in him…
Emmaline, Manningsport's only female cop, needs a date to her ex-fiancé's wedding because she is still hurt by the way he dumped her. Jack Holland needs to get out of town and agrees to go to the wedding with Em because after having saved three out of four teenagers from an accident he is traumatized. Additionally as a result of all the publicity, his ex-wife is back in town hoping for a reconciliation.

I liked the couple in this romance. Em is a cop and a bit of a tomboy and Jack is a gorgeous man, but not superficial or vain about his looks, on the contrary, he's unaffected and sweet. Both characters were hurt in past relationships by selfish people and still bare deep scars. They work through those past conflicts as their own romance evolves.

A developing relationship between Jack and Em is interrupted by two over-long sections, the first covers Em's relationship with her parents and ex-boyfriend, and the second gives details about Jack's engagement, marriage and divorce from his ex-wife. Sandwiched between those two is the wedding section where Jack and Em get to know each other and a real attraction is born. Additionally, Higgins works her magic with funny, outrageous scenes, some riddled with lies, great dialog, and some hot sex thrown in for good measure. It is unfortunate that those overlong sections detailing background stories take away some of the momentum driving the romance forward in the wedding scenes, and that those three distinct sections give this romance a bit of a disjointed feel.

As always when reading a Higgins romance secondary characters impact the story, some of them popular characters already featured in this series. This time, however, a few of the new characters introduced are memorable for their actions: Em's ex-boyfriend for his struggle with obesity and overcompensation as a result of losing the weight, Em's parents' inadequacies and struggles to understand her, and her sister's sweetness and understanding.

Although the romance is interrupted, overall In Your Dreams is a very good romance read with a likable couple, some interesting secondary characters, and a few of those thoroughly embarrassing and/or funny moments we expect from Higgins. I particularly like Em and Jack. Em as an independent woman who doesn't need rescuing, and Jack as a caring, sweet man who takes his time, but in the end is just looking for true happiness.

Category: Contemporary Romance
Series: Blue Heron #4
Publisher/Release Date: Harlequin/HQN/ September 30, 2014
Source: eARC Little Bird Publicity
Grade: B-

The Best Man, #1
The Perfect Match, #2
Waiting on You, #3
In Your Dreams, #4

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Kristan Higgins is the New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author of more than a dozen novels and a two-time winner of the Romance Writers of America RITA Award. Her books have been translated into 21 languages and received numerous starred reviews from Publishers Weekly, Booklist, Library Journal, Kirkus and Romantic Times. Her books have been listed as Best Books of the Year by Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, National Public Radio, Library Journal and Amazon.

Kristan lives with her heroic and tolerant firefighter husband and two snarky and entertaining teenagers in her hometown in Connecticut. For more information about her books visit Kristan Higgins here.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Frozen by Meljean Brook

I've felt the onslaught of arousal, the sudden tightening of my body, that delicious shudder when a man's tongue penetrates my lips and takes possession of my mouth.
I've never been kissed as if he needed it. As if he'd die without it. 
Frozen is a stand-alone paranormal romance novella initially developed by Meljean Brook as a free on-line read. [This story includes a premise that some readers might find problematic or triggering]

The setting is contemporary with both male and female protagonists initially meeting through their jobs as civil engineers working on the same project for different construction companies. Deep attraction leads to an all-consuming kiss, but afterwards Erik Gulbrandr walks away with an apology. For a year and a half as they work together, Olivia Martin believes that Erik's cold regard signals disinterest and tries to forget that for a moment she felt that Erik was "the one." But when Olivia is asked to stop at Erik's isolated home to deliver paperwork, they find themselves snowbound during the winter solstice and everything changes. Olivia discovers that Erik is living under a terrible curse that includes her and in the end may destroy them both.

As a paranormal romance Frozen is filled with heavy sexual tension and secret longing. It offers danger and violence to the protagonists from outside sources, triggering those protective responses we have come to expect from alpha males. However, although Erik is icy-cool and sexy, he is not the typical alpha male who allows his "other" side to take control without a fight, and Olivia is depicted as a smart woman. The romance is a different story altogether. For most of the story Olivia is guided by that first moment of rejection just as Erik is tormented by the curse's compulsion and can't see past it to Olivia's real feelings. They don't communicate and as a result misunderstandings cause unnecessary pain for them both.

Brook utilizes a spattering of Norse mythology -- descendants of Odin's sons, Fenrir the Wolf and the Ironwood Witch -- to create a cursed family with the oldest son inheriting the curse and carrying it down the line, skipping some generations, but never going away until Ragnarok. Exposition is over utilized to establish world-building in some sections, i.e., Olivia's over extended thought process after alone-time research and conversations with Erik. However, Olivia's first point of view narrative works well for most of the story particularly at first when back flashes first clue in the reader on the protagonists backstory and later as Brook uses it to show the depth of feelings between the characters, to keep the reader immersed in the action scenes, as well as in all those wonderful lusty scenes that we all expect from a Meljean Brook paranormal romance.

Without giving away too many spoilers, I believe that the focus behind this novella is to establish consent within the perimeters of a paranormal romance by giving the female a choice that is initially taken away from both protagonists through "magical" means. Meljean Brook's paranormal romance novels are well-known for complex world-building and steamy couples. My expectations of Frozen were of a hot, steamy romance and good world-building with a narrower focus due to length -- they were met.

Category: Paranormal Romance/Novella
Release date: September 20, 2014
Source: eARC received from Author for an honest review
Grade: B-

FROZEN will be available in your favorite bookstores now at a special introductory price of 99¢. It is anticipated that a print version will be available shortly afterward.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Mr. Right Goes Wrong by Pamela Morsi

Pamela Morsi is a favorite writer whose Americana historical romances I dearly love. In Mr. Right Goes Wrong, Morsi's latest contemporary romance, she takes two people whose lives are made up of mistakes and bad choices and gives them the chance to prove to themselves and each other that change is possible.

Mazy Gulliver has been a doormat and a slave to love her entire adult life. She has chosen one wrong man after another with disastrous results. Mazy returns home with teenage son Tru to stay with her mother, determined to begin again and do right by herself and her son. Mazy's first move is to secure a job at the local bank as a loan collector working for Tad, Tru's biological father. She then visits her best friend Eli who is looking mighty fine these days. Sexual chemistry is still there between them, but Mazy is not sure Eli is for her until later when she slowly begins to believe that Eli may be her Mr. Right.

Eli Latham is the guy next door. He is sweet, nice and dependable and not Mazy's type, except when it comes to sex. Mazy is back in town and Eli's heart can't help but hope, but she is working with Tad the Cad -- does Mazy plan to get back with Tad? Eli still loves Mazy and comes to the conclusion that if she is looking for a new jerk in her life then he, Eli, is going to be her Mr. Wrong.

Morsi's Mr. Right Goes Wrong is both a romance and a personal road to wellness that encompasses both main characters, with Mazy the type of female protagonist that many readers may not like right off the bat. She has gone from one relationship to another, dragging her son Tru along the way. For a large portion of the novel as Mazy attempts to make sense of her life, she slowly turns a corner in her job but is still the clueless doormat I mention above in her newly minted relationship with Eli. She is downright pathetic at times and I admit to gnashing my teeth throughout many scenes. In Morsi's hands, however, there are reasons behind Mazy's actions as well as character growth and a good payoff at the end.

Of the two, Eli may be the most "sympathetic," at least initially. He's a fine, responsible man who loves Mazy unconditionally. Eli is also one of the most beta male characters I've encountered in a while -- caring, giving, and seriously laid back. But in his quest to win Mazy, Eli becomes as judgmental as the rest of those people he hated for hurting Mazy and goes too far. As he goes down the "beta to hard ass" road, Morsi brings Eli's character full circle and he makes a few personal discoveries of his own, not all them comfortable or pleasant.

Morsi excels at incorporating secondary characters from a small town and making their roles count. So we have tertiary characters that make an impact, as well as secondary characters such as Tru, -- a great character by the way and the love of Mazy's life -- Tad the Cad, Mazy's mother, and Eli's family. As a secondary storyline, Morsi successfully adds depth to this story by focusing on Tru's budding relationship with his biological father as well as on the relationship he develops with Eli.

In Mr. Right Goes Wrong, I find that the characters' journeys to personal wellness and happiness are interesting but equally frustrating. Morsi, however, has a talent for creating down to earth characters with depth and infusing subtle humor in her stories even when the issues they confront are complex. I recommend this romance to readers who appreciate Morsi’s writing style and enjoy a well earned happy ever after.

Category: Contemporary Romance
Series: None
Publisher/Release Date: Harlequin MIRA/August 1, 2014
Source: eARC Harlequin MIRA via NetGalley
Grade: B-

Visit Pamela Morsi here.