Round One (by Lucian Bane)

Erotic Fiction

Tara and Lucian meet in the queue for an audition for a pay per view TV show in which doms compete against each other until only one couple remains. Thrown together as a team Lucian needs to quickly show Tara the ropes (lol).

Lucian is a dom of his own making. He eschews the type of dom lifestyle depicted in erotic fiction. He doesn’t use whips or bondage, preferring to dominate in other ways.

Tara isn’t in the lifestyle and is only there because she desperately needs the money, but despite her naïveté her black belt in Ju Jutsu and her smart mouth make her someone to watch…but she needs to get over her modesty in the bedroom if they are to have any chance at winning.

As they explore their sexuality, they grow closer and eventually are able to help each other move on from a difficult past.

 
The very first book I reviewed on this blog, perhaps the reason I started it was The Siren by Tiffany Reisz. Since then I’ve dabbled with erotic fiction, read maybe a dozen books in the genre. Some were good, most disappointing. This book is one of the shining lights. It’s short, at 131 pages it’s only just a novel and there are some editing issues as you would expect with an independently released book but there is quite a refreshing honesty to this book. And despite a very simple story which is mostly about sex, there is quite a lot of emotional depth. My good friend Michele has been hounding me to read this book, and now I can see why. It’s very good.

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Resisting the Rancher (by Roxanne Snopek)

Contemporary Romance

When Celia returns to her home town to open her veterinary practice, she brings with her a world of trouble. While studying vet science, a family tragedy caused her to fall behind. Headed for failure she found a helping hand from the wrong guy and now she is being blackmailed and the family business is being threatened.

She turns to Jonah, the guy who she followed around when she was a kid. Now he’s a lawyer who goes out of his way to avoid sticky legal situations, but he’s always been attracted to Celia and before he knows it he’s helping her with her legal problems. As Celia pushes Jonah’s buttons, Jonah struggles to come to terms with the now grown up and very sexy woman he swore to always protect.
Resisting the Rancher is pretty good contemporary romance. It occasionally loses its way, some aspects of the story were a little under done, and the resolution was quite sudden but those problems are outshone by the main character Celia who is really kind of cool and saves this book from mediocrity.

She’s so cool that I wish the book was all about her. It didn’t really need the blackmail subplot and in some ways that detracted from the best part of the story.

Screen Shot 2014-02-15 at 8.51.33 pmMany thanks to Roxanne Snopek for providing me with this ARC

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Bird After Bird (by Leslea Tash)

Women’s Fiction /  Contemporary Romance

After the death of her father, Wren returns to her childhood home in Indiana. Her plan is to sell the family home as quickly as possible so she can return to her life in Chicago. But when she discovers a journal her father left her, a journal which calls into question the path she has chosen for herself, she is forced to make some choices.

Laurie is carrying the guilt over two deaths. His fiancée, a dog handler who died while on a search and rescue, and a friend who was killed by a road side bomb. When he meets Wren he finds a chance for redemption, a chance to move forward with his life. But Wren has her own issues and finds herself pushing him away even while she knows he is exactly what she wants.

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Bird After Bird is something of an odd bird. It doesn’t quite fit into the contemporary romance genre and it isn’t quite women’s fiction. It’s written with a measured pace from alternating points of view and honestly for the first 20% or so of the book I struggled. But that initial effort paid off and by the half way mark I was well and truly sucked in.

Laurie is a returned serviceman. Contemporary Romance would demand that he be a Navy SEAL. Thank you Ms Tash for making your hero a motor mechanic!!! I bang my head against the metaphorical wall every time I read a romance hero is a SEAL. That’s just one refreshing thing in a book which somehow manages to be both whimsical and show very real human emotions. A lot of love for this book.

DISCLOSURE: I am a friend of the author on both Facebook and Goodreads.

Screen Shot 2014-04-09 at 6.07.24 pmMany thanks to Leslea Tash for providing me with this ARC.

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Guidebook to Murder (by Lynn Cahoon)

Cozy Mystery

When Jill Gardner moved to South Cove, CA she was looking for a fresh start after her divorce and a quiet life running a café / bookshop. But then one of her close friends, Miss Emily tells her the council and a developer are trying to bully her into selling out and shortly thereafter she turns up dead. Jill knows there is something hokey going on and convinces the town’s detective to investigate.
Adding to her woes, Miss Emily left everything to her except the family bible which she left to her greedy relatives. Now the family are threatening to sue, council is threatening to condemn the house, someone is stealing from Miss Emily’s estate and a murderer is on the loose. Throw into the mix Aztec gold and expensive art works and the scene is set for a bit of a mystery romp.

Guidebook to Murder isn’t perfect, then again nobody really expects this genre to be considered for the Man Booker Prize. The story is quite straightforward, entertaining without ever being particularly challenging. But Jill is pretty damned awesome (what’s not to love about an amateur sleuth who runs a book store?) and even if the male characters don’t light up the pages, the female characters who inhabit her world are really quite delightful and set this book a little higher than most in the genre.

Screen Shot 2014-02-15 at 8.51.33 pmMany thanks to Kensington and Netgalley for providing me with this ARC.

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Grace and the Guiltless (by Erin Johnson)

Younger Readers (to Young Adult)

After her entire family is brutally murdered by the Guiltless Gang, Grace travels to Tombstone in search of justice. But what she finds is a sheriff who is being paid to turn a blind eye and a town full of people who would rather cheat her than offer help.

Leaving Tombstone she travels into the mountains on a vendetta to bring the bad guys to justice, dead or alive. But after only a day, she finds herself attacked by a bear and paralysed with violent stomach cramps after eating poisonous berries.

Rescued by Joe, she is taken to a Nde camp (The People…I’m presuming though it isn’t mentioned that they were Navajo), where she is healed and returns to strength, all the while learning skills that will help her in her quest for revenge.

 
Grace and the Guiltless is book one of what will be a series of Westerns aimed at young readers and possibly young adults –– I really want to give this book to my 10 year old niece because I think she will love it. The story is quite simple, the language is aimed at younger readers but I found myself really enjoying this book.

I guess the one caveat I would offer is there is some violence in this book and it is quite gruesome. It’s important to the story and not gratuitous but parents might want to keep that in mind if they have especially sensitive children.

OK…just have to say, that cover is sublime!!!  I see so many covers that fall short and when I see one that nails it, I just have to say.  Whoever the artist is who put that together is worth more money than they’re getting. 

Screen Shot 2014-02-27 at 9.12.41 pmMany thanks to Capstone for providing me with this ARC

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Four Friends (by Robyn Carr)

Contemporary Romance (maybe Chick Lit)

Three women, neighbours and friends, find themselves facing marriages that are falling apart. Then a neighbour who moved in 12 months earlier but has always avoided any overtures of friendship steps in and through simple acts of kindness manages to bring them even closer and mover them towards healing.
Gerri has always relied on the rock solid partnership she has with her husband. Even if their sex lives aren’t what they were they are partners in every sense. Then she discovers that five years earlier her husband had an affair.

Andy kicks her husband out after discovering he is a serial cheater. She opens up to the carpenter who has been remodelling her kitchen. Over the weeks she comes to value his steadiness and wisdom. She finds herself falling in love but has a hard time trusting her feelings.

Sonja is a health food fanatic who teacher yoga and advises people on the feng shui of their homes. But when her husband walks out on her, her carefully constructed world crumbles around her and she descends into severe depression.

BJ arrived in the neighbourhood 12 months earlier. But she has a secret that she needs to guard for the sake of her children and keeps to herself.

 

Four Friends is a book which doesn’t neatly fit into its genre. It’s contemporary romance and as you would expect from contemporary romance everything is neatly tied up at the end. But life is messy and the issues Robyn Carr is exploring are some of the messiest of all. However, written as contemporary romance I loved this book…and I don’t think I would say that if it was written with a more “chick lit” aesthetic.

The book reminded me a lot of a previous book by Robyn Carr, Summer in Sonoma. Both books deal with four female friends facing some difficult life challenges but where Summer in Sonoma focuses on women from their late 20s to early 40s, Four Friends is about women who are a little older, from their late 30s to early 50s.

It’s a very satisfying book for fans of Robyn Carr and contemporary romance.

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Stay (by Allie Larkin)

Contemporary Romance

After Peter, the guy she has loved for years, marries her best friend, Van goes on a bender drinking a lot of vodka and watching re-runs of Rin Tin Tin. Alone and lonely she impulsively buys a dog online. When the dog arrives at the airport from Slovakia she finds a whole lot more than she was expecting. Joe turns out to be a fully trained law enforcement German Shepherd that only obeys commands spoken in Slovakian.

Joe soon brings Alex, a vet specialising in large dogs into her life and in him she finds a chance to move forward and get over her lost love. But with Van’s own past refusing to let her move on she might lose the first man she has a chance at loving since Peter.

 

I have so much love for this book. It’s sweet contemporary romance –– perhaps even chick lit, about a woman who has sacrificed everything for the happiness of others, finding her own happiness. If I have a criticism it’s only a small one. I’m not a fan of flash-backs as a plot device…more often than not they interrupt a story rather than moving it forward and I think that’s the case here. But I still loved this book and I’m going to call it a favorite.

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