Thursday, March 5, 2015

Review: The Deal (Off-Campus #1) by Elle Kennedy

She’s about to make a deal with the college bad boy... 

Hannah Wells has finally found someone who turns her on. But while she might be confident in every other area of her life, she’s carting around a full set of baggage when it comes to sex and seduction. If she wants to get her crush’s attention, she’ll have to step out of her comfort zone and make him take notice…even if it means tutoring the annoying, childish, cocky captain of the hockey team in exchange for a pretend date. 

...and it’s going to be oh so good. 

All Garrett Graham has ever wanted is to play professional hockey after graduation, but his plummeting GPA is threatening everything he’s worked so hard for. If helping a sarcastic brunette make another guy jealous will help him secure his position on the team, he’s all for it. But when one unexpected kiss leads to the wildest sex of both their lives, it doesn’t take long for Garrett to realize that pretend isn’t going to cut it. Now he just has to convince Hannah that the man she wants looks a lot like him.

Goodreads | Source: Purchased


I'm always over the moon happy when I finish a book like this.

I bitch a lot about old, tired tropes - but the truth is I kinda love them. The problem is they begin to read like a broken record (especially if you're reading 100's of books per year like I do). At times, it can seem like if you've read one friends to lovers, damaged hero/virgin trope you've read them all. 

But maybe not. 

When it's done right and when an author delves deeper in to the characters you see why they are tried and true topes. Elle Kennedy did a beautiful job with one I dread the most (and probably wouldn't have even read had I known going in).

The Deal was surprisingly romantic and low angst - despite dealing with a serious issue - which is totally glossed over in the cover copy.  It's the kind of book that restores my faith that there are still romances out there for the readers who can handle some angst but want characters who strive to be better and want important topics handled with care. 

My advice is to ignore the standard (boring) cover and the summary because The Deal is about so much more than just a shy girl having a hook up with a hot bad boy.

The Deal is at times funny, sexy, heartbreakingly sweet and definitely romantic.

I would say it's a cross between Sophie jordan's Foreplay and Jennifer Armentrout's Wait for You - both of which I loved. 

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Review: Served Hot (Portland Heat #1) by Annabeth Albert

23450159In Portland, Oregon, the only thing hotter than the coffee shops, restaurants, and bakeries are the hard-working men who serve it up—hot, fresh, and ready to go—with no reservations…

Robby is a self-employed barista with a busy coffee cart, a warm smile, and a major crush on one of his customers. David is a handsome finance director who works nearby, eats lunch by himself, and expects nothing but "the usual"—small vanilla latte—from the cute guy in the cart. But when David shows up for his first Portland Pride festival, Robby works up the nerve to take their slow-brewing relationship to the next level. David, however, is newly out and single, still grieving the loss of his longtime lover, and unsure if he’s ready to date again. Yet with every fresh latte, sweet exchange—and near hook-up—David and Robby go from simmering to steaming to piping hot. The question is: Will someone get burned?

Goodreads | Source: ARC provided by Kensington in exchange for my honest review

This was such a sweet, low angst romance. Both guys are kind of awkward and unsure around each and David gives some pretty mixed signals to Robby as to whether he’s interested in him or not – or even gay.

He has a secret that is stopping him from moving forward with his life but Robby keeps up his flirtatious ways and slowly breaks down David’s walls with patience, kindness and of course - coffee :-)

Served Hot is short 112 page novella but packs an emotional punch, touching on grief, heartbreak and self acceptance while still being a light, swoon worthy romance. The Portland setting and Robby’s coffee cart buisness add a nice cozy feel. I’m looking forward to reading the next books in this series.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Review: Give it All (Desert Dogs #2) by Cara McKenna

22668806Keep your friends close—and your enemies closer….

Bar owner Raina Harper can’t say for sure what Duncan Welch is to her. With her small Nevada town under siege by a ruthless casino development and still reeling from a spate of murders, she knows that trusting the public face of the corporate invaders is risky to say the least. Though, damn, it’s one fine-looking face.…

Duncan may be a mercenary when it comes to getting the job done, but he’s no villain. In fact, the calculating fixer soon finds himself in the bad guys’ crosshairs, framed and facing professional ruin. To clear his name, he’ll need help from Raina and her roughneck motorcycle club, the Desert Dogs. Gaining their trust won’t be easy, and the molten sexual tension between Raina and Duncan only makes things more complicated—especially since Miah Church, Raina’s friend and ex-lover, would sooner strangle Duncan than shake his hand.

One thing’s certain, though: If they don’t deal with their incendiary attraction soon, the whole damn town might go up in flames.…

Goodreads | Source: Purchased

Cara McKenna is a must read author for me, although I have to admit that I didn’t enjoy the first book in her new Desert Dogs series, Lay it Down. One of the reasons for that was how much the secondary characters overpowered the leading couple. Duncan and Raina (the couple in this book) lept off the page and stole every scene they were in. So despite not loving Lay it Down. I knew I was going to give book #2 a shot because it was their story.

I absolutely loved Raina and Duncan as individuals and their initial mating dance was hot as hell. Duncan is probably one of McKenna’s most f*cked up characters – and that’s saying something. But once you see past his snobbish, OCD, pill popping, elitist lawyer personality, he is one of the sweetest too. He’s not a typical romance hero and not nearly as dirty as McKenna’s previous heroes. He does have a kink but I’m betting you would never in a million years guess what it is.

Raina is awesome too. I loved how she has a tough exterior but she’s also refreshingly honest about her wants and desires. We learn more about her past, her relationships with her father and Miah – her friend and former lover – who’s still very much hung up on her and her hopes for the future.

I like how Raina and Duncan’s relationship slowly developed and they both saw past each others icy exteriors. But somewhere along the line it kind of fell apart for me. She an Duncan share a near combustible attraction and it turns to something more sweet and intimate but they had so many hang ups and issues that the resolution felt rushed. I wished I could have seen them outside of the bedroom more so I could see how they functioned outside of a sexual relationship.

Duncan is working to clear his name of bribery charges and goes way outside his $3000 suit, Mercedes driving comfort zone looking for clues in the Fortuity dessert but he mostly does this with every other character from the book except Raina. Don’t get me wrong – I loved those interactions – of Duncan bonding with Casey,Vince, John Dancer and even Miah. They were actually my favorite part of Give it All but he and Raina mostly come together for sex. Again, I want to point out that this isn’t your typical  kinky, sex solves all kind of thing. What they have is something more – waaaay more intimate but it doesn’t seem to extend outside of the bedroom.

For example, Duncan gets arrested or brought in for questioning several times. While Raina is worried, she never goes down there to check on him. She also repeatedly accuses Duncan of trying to change her but she’s never really called out on how she is with Duncan. Part of the attraction to him is her desire to break him down and make him unravel under her control. She also likes the fact that he needs her. It’s a super interesting dynamic but by the end it feels really one sided and unfair to Duncan. He’s making all the compromises and gestures. Taking all the risks. I love how it’s all wrapped up. Very gratifying and balance is restored. I guess I feel like the steps in between are missing.

The mystery of the bones continues form the first book and I found that more interesting this time around as well. Especially with Duncan doing all that dirty work, working through his discomfort and panic. He was really fascinating to read about.

Final thoughts: Overall this was a much stronger book than Lay it Down and I thought it was headed for a 5 star read but then the story kind of got messy for me. The romance and the mystery felt like two separate entities – both interesting but choppy in their transition from one to the other. There's crime solving Duncan and then here's relationship Duncan and Raina but the two don't mix.

Even so, I had a lot of fun reading this one and would still highly recommend it. I guess the romance part could be read as a stand alone but I think it’s better if you read the books in order. There is a bigger story and characters that carry over from each book.