Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Mini Reviews ~ January 2018

Sometimes, I don't have the time or inclination to do a full review for a title. This will typically apply to books that are short stories, part of a mini-series, some novellas, etc. Instead of abandoning these reviews, I will be giving mini reviews. Check them out!

Title: A Diamond for a Duke
Author: Collette Cameron
Genre/Age: Historical Romance/Adult
Series: Seductive Scoundrels (Book One)
Publisher: Blue Rose Romance
Format: ebook via TRR
Rating: ✺✺✺
Review: Historical romance with a fairy tale twist.

Jules knows he needs to do his ducal duty and marry. However, none of the available women have left an impression on him--except for one. Jemmah is the second daughter and lives in the shadow of her sister as their mother showers the eldest with attention and fine clothes. But when Jules reunites with Jemmah, he realizes she is still the girl he once knew and he can't imagine marrying anyone else. 

This was a short read, finished in one evening. I'm not familiar with the fairy tale that the author mentioned in the forward note, but this story did remind me of Cinderella in some ways. We have a daughter who is being mistreated by her cruel mother and a duke who is looking for a bride that isn't like the other debutantes. The storyline itself was all new to me.

I liked our main characters and enjoyed getting to know them. I have to say that the first couple of chapters were pretty wordy, with a lot of internal dialogue, and nothing really happened until at least a quarter of the book was over. After that, the pacing does pick up some and the story gets better as things start to move along. The romance is sweet. There are mentions of naughty acts, but it's clean otherwise. It's a nice, quick read. Four suns!

Title: Stonetree Trilogy
Author: Ophelia Bell
Genre/Age: Paranormal Romance/Erotica
Series: Black Mountain Bears (Books 1-3)
Publisher: Self-published
Format: ebook via Freebie
Rating: ✺✺✺
Review: A naughty fun time!

This is a collection of the three Stonetree novellas which I picked up months ago. I just got around to reading them but I'm glad I did. Each story was a quick read with lots of dirty business with some heavy paranormal elements. It does require some ability to separate fantasy from reality, though. Everything here is pretty far-fetched and there is quite a bit of insta-love. If you can get past that, it's an enjoyable collection.

Emma's story is our introduction to this world and to be honest, it left me a little confused at times. From the first page, I had to pay very close attention to even understand her purpose for going into the forest and following the trail. It felt a little forced. I could see her being lured there by a magical force or wanting to find her father, but going off in the middle of winter to prove supernatural creatures existed? Huh?

And that wasn't the only thing that gave me pause. Emma's immediate attraction to the guardians didn't really bother me. But her ability to simply accept what her parents told her as truth was a hard pill to swallow. And the mating thing is much more complex than I anticipated, though I did get the hang of it eventually.

I think you just have to accept the story for what it is if you want to enjoy it. Could it have been longer and really explained why we were there in the first place? Yes. Should the characters have had more time to get to know each other before the craziness began? Of course. Did the part about Jasper spying on his cousin in the shower need to be included? I could have done without it. Still, I liked it enough to continue to the second story. 3.5 suns!

Jasper's book ended up being more enjoyable than I predicted it would be. I understood his hesitation in the beginning and I think his reaction was the most realistic of the three. But I still liked his two mates and the fact that they seemed to have more of an emotional connection to each other than I felt Emma had with her guys.

This one also left me on the edge of my seat, wondering how the threesome were going to find a way to be together. With the mysterious attacking looming overhead, I wasn't sure if something was going to happen to stop the pair from leaving Jasper or if he would go with them. I definitely did not expect that plot twist, but it excited me to read the next story because I had a good feeling about Aiden. Four suns!

Jade's story was probably my favorite. I think her inability to simply fall in line with the new rules of mating made me like her even more. She was used to the male being the dominating one and I can appreciate that. Women aren't usually attracted to weak-willed men and she needed someone who would challenge her.

I wasn't sure about the two men who she was stringing along. In some ways, I think she would have been better off just with Aiden as her mate. He ended up being everything she needed in a man and I feel a little bad for the other two guys. She didn't really want them and there wasn't much of an emotional connection between them. Alas, I can't change the story, but I was glad to see the outcome. Four suns!

Title: Playing
Author: Crystal Kaswell
Genre/Age: Romance/Erotica
Series: Inked Hearts (Book Two)
Publisher: Self-published
Format: ebook via KindleUnlimited
Rating: ✺✺.5
Review: This one didn't live up to the previous installment for me.

In the first book of this series, we met a brooding tattoo artist who fell for his sister's best friend. I loved it. Here, we have another tattoo artist who falls for his new booty call. The idea is a great one, but I think the execution just wasn't there for me to rate it higher. I still like Walker, but I'm not sure his story did him justice.

First, I'll say what I did like. Both of our characters were easy to connect with and mostly enjoyable to follow along. Iris was a girl with a difficult past who worked hard to better herself. And Walker was charming and quite romantic even when he didn't realize he was being that way. It was easy to like the characters.

My two major problems were the repetitiveness and the drawn out plot. It just didn't seem to want to end. Gracious, Walker was an indecisive character. Almost to the point where I hoped Iris would move on without him. It became an endless loop of 'will you forgive me?' and 'I don't know yet', over and over. 

I think the plot was just too light for this length of book. There are a lot of day-to-day scenes that I could have done without because it didn't progress the story or add anything particularly valuable. It was just to fill space. I would have preferred to see Walker trying to save his sister or maybe an argument between the couple that gave them something substantial to do. The sex was great but even that became repetitive and I started to skip over the love scenes. If I have to read 'one inch at a time' again, I may scream. 

I'm not giving up on the series, though. I'm looking forward to seeing Ryan find a happy ending and watching Dean get his rear whipped by some feisty woman. But for this one, 2.5 suns.

Title: New Year's Next Door
Author: Amabel Daniels
Genre/Age: Romance/Adult
Series: Romance on the Go
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Format: ebook via The Romance Review
Rating: ✺✺✺
Review: Fantastic evening read!

When a woman finds herself suddenly without plans on New Year's, she doesn't expect to also be lectured by a stranger for the actions of a dog. A dog that belongs to her mysterious neighbor. Yet, after returning the dog and meeting the man next door, she realizes he's not the strange hermit she thought he was. As the two begin to bond over pizza and tragic events, they discover what they were looking for might have been right beside them all along.

Short doesn't have to mean lacking. This book proves just that. From the first page, I hung on every word that the author wrote. And while the whole story spans a single day, it was filled with funny dialogue, entertaining backstory, and great chemistry between the couple that ended with a bang. What more could you ask for?

Both of our characters were likable and nicely fleshed out. I felt terrible for Ava when her friends dumped her and it was so easy to connect with her story. She was quirky but courageous. And Caleb was an enticing slice of man, I must say. I fell for him immediately and I loved the humor between these two.

The couple moved quickly, but I didn't mind it since their attraction was off the charts. The love scene at the end was steamy--and not just because of the hot tub. I could easily and happily read an entire novel or two with this adorable couple. And though I don't usually care for pets in books, I thought the dog was a cute addition too. Five suns! 

Title: The Fashionista and Her Lumberjack
Author: Larissa Vine
Genre/Age: Romance/Adult
Series: Romance on the Go
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Format: ebook via The Romance Review
Rating: ✺✺✺
Review: Not exactly what I was hoping for.

When April's best friend finds new love, she's happy for her. But a drunken night celebrating leads to a promise of flying across an ocean with her friend to visit the new man. Of course, her BBF's new beau is bringing his own best friend too. And to April's surprise, the group will be camping in the wilderness. It's not her idea of a good time, but the hot guy accompanying her just might make it all worthwhile.

My first problem with the book was that the male lead isn't really a lumberjack. He actually plants trees instead of chopping them down. I also didn't get a sense of ruggedness from him. No beard or ratty jeans with giant, muddy boots. Nothing I would typically find associated with lumberjacks other than his size. So that was a slight bummer.

Another issue was that the characters were both quite immature. That's saying something considering I enjoy reading YA. Our heroine acted whiny and ditzy. I have no problem accepting a HFN (happy-for-now) ending with such short stories, but I think it was too soon for our heroine to be thinking 'love' thoughts for Rory.

The couple were attracted to each other, physically. I wanted to see more of an emotional connection between them. Even when they became intimate, it felt superficial. It could have been the length of the story didn't allow much depth. Either way, I liked the idea of the story and it was a fine way to spend an hour. I just wanted more in the end. Three suns!

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