Regan Flay is on the cusp of achieving her control-freak mother’s “plan” for high school success―cheerleading, student council, the Honor Society—until her life gets turned horribly, horribly upside down. Every bitchy text. Every bitchy email. Every lie, manipulation, and insult she’s ever said have been printed out and taped to all the lockers in school.
Now Regan has gone from popular princess to total pariah.
The only person who even speaks to her is her former best friend’s hot but socially miscreant brother, Nolan Letner. Nolan thinks he knows what Regan’s going through, but whatnobody knows is that Regan isn’t really Little Miss Perfect. In fact, she’s barely holding it together under her mom’s pressure.
But the consequences of Regan’s fall from grace are only just beginning. Once the chain reaction starts, no one will remain untouched…
My Review This book is intense! In a good way. I waffled on 4-1/2 or 5 stars, because it’s not perfect and I like to save 5 stars for perfect, but this book has more feels than almost anything else I’ve read lately. And the longer I read it, the more perfect it became. Regan’s journey is so satisfying because I disliked her so much in the beginning. But I was four chapters in and ready to stuff my head in an oven I was so depressed. It went from sucky, to horrific, to oh my god can we please just end the misery, in five short chapters. But then something happened and I found that spark of hope I was looking for. And I’m not talking about the story, I’m talking about Regan’s life. The girl I didn’t care about because she was a self-absorbed narcissist. Except Cole Gibsen makes me care about her when I shouldn’t.
Regan is the queen bee of St. Mary’s, a Catholic high school with more girl drama than Mean Girls and Heathers combined. Having attended not one, but two Catholic high schools, I can attest this is a real thing. And her portrayal was spot on. But Regan’s world comes crashing down around her when an even meaner girl, Amber, decides to make Regan’s life a living hell, the same way Regan has done to countless other girls over the years.
Regan grows and develops so believably through the book, I’m won over. What I love is how the author got me there. Regan is every bitchy mean girl, and yet we’re allowed to see her insecurities, we get a behind-the-scenes look at why she is the way she is and it’s powerful. I rooted for her more because she became the ultimate underdog. Sure, she has her flaws, serious, ugly, heinous flaws, and yet I understand why she did the things she did. I wanted to see her fight back, redeem herself, and better yet, to not be the girl she was before, but better in all the right ways.
I attended two Catholic high schools, one in Ohio and the other in San Diego. The one in Ohio required the uniforms, conformity, conservative ideology. The one in San Diego, much less so. My high school here was more about status where designer clothes ruled the hallways and the parking lot was crammed with brand new BMWs, gifts for sweet sixteen birthdays. St. Mary’s seems to be a blend of my two schools, but it helped me relate. The one thing I realized both schools have in common is that Catholic students swear, bully, smoke, and get pregnant just like public school kids. And I think Cole Gibsen so perfectly captured that in Life Unaware, I almost felt transported back in time.
The primary plot revolves around Regan’s fall from grace and ultimate redemption, but her relationship with her best friend, Peyton’s older brother, Nolan is raw and powerful and threads through the main plot like a binding stitch, holding everything loosely together. The story moves from the opening pages, and as difficult as it is to read at times, it packs a solid emotional punch, forcing us to look at the world of bullying through the eyes of the bully as well as the victim. It’s easy to paint the bully as the bad guy, but no one is a two-dimensional cardboard character. Amber, as cruel as she can be, has her own issues and it’s hard not to feel for her, too.
Characters The characters are incredibly well developed with solid motivations that drive their actions. Regan especially is so incredibly three-dimensional, it’s hard to remember she’s just a figment of Cole Gibsen’s imagination. But even Payton, Amber, Christy, Nolan and her parents have their own arcs and issues that tell us who they are and why the tick the way they do.
The Writing The author’s voice is fresh and youthful, but what I really loved were her similies and metaphors. Her unique turn of phrase took me deep into the story and rooted me there.
The Ending I liked the ending, although I don’t know that I loved it. But it was realistic. And emotional. In a good way. I don’t know what I would want to make it better. My first thought was an epilogue, but I’m not sure that fits with what the author was trying to accomplish. The fact that I’m still thinking about the messages and the characters this long after finishing is the sign of a good ending, even if it’s not a perfect one. With more time to mull it over, I may decide it’s a brilliant ending.
Top Five Things I Loved About Life Unaware 1. The Video Apology. The video Regan and Nolan make in his room is so raw and real, it only made me love them both more.
2. Christy. She was so vulnerable, it was hard not to love her.
3. Regan. Watching her go from who she was on page one to who she became was one of the best character journeys I’ve read in a long time.
4. Nolan. Sure, he’s not perfect, but neither is Regan. I love Nolan, warts and all. His heart is in the right place most of the time.
5. Payton. She’s a great best friend. Yeah, again, not perfect, but she was there when it mattered and that’s what counts.
Bottom Line Life Unaware is an intense young adult tale of redemption and forgiveness with complex characters that are hard not to love. Eventually.
I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review
Today’s theme for 1 Line Wednesday, sponsored by RWA’s Kiss of Death Chapter is to post any line from page 155, 55, or 15 from my work in progress. Since my work in progress is, well, a work in progress, this required a bit of work on my part. I write in Scrivener and then send chapters as I complete them off to m y copy editor. I basically had to go through the chapters I sent off to figure out which chapter contained pages 15, 55 and 155. I’ve shared plenty from earlier chapters and wanted to go with page 155. So here it is, from The Ruins, releasing on June 16, 2015:
“What’s wrong?” I ask, unable to keep the tremor out of my voice.
He glances up at me and the pain in my eyes nearly tears me apart. “We should talk.”
You can see previous week’s themes and lines here.
The Phoenix Campaign (Grace Colton #2) by Heidi Joy Tretheway
Synopsis Ambition. Lust. Sacrifice. Politics just got a whole lot sexier.
Grace Colton’s life is a blur—security, appearances, and a desperately fast ramp-up to Election Day. Political consultant Jared Rankin is pulling the strings to win the White House with the Conover-Colton ticket.
But the fragile relationship Grace and Jared forged could be ruined by secrets traded for political leverage. She’s hiding her new relationship with Jared from the public, and concealing a deeper secret from everyone.
When Grace reveals the explosive truth to her running mate, squeaky-clean Senator Conover must confront his own haunted past. Grace’s future—and their campaign—could be ruined by the lies meant to protect what they love most.
Peek behind the curtain and under the covers in this sexy political drama that exposes the true cost of ambition, lust and sacrifice.
The Phoenix Campaign is an erotic romance set in the world of presidential election politics. Recommended for mature readers due to sharp dialogue, wickedly hot sex, and a few delicious taboos. This full-length novel is second in a series but can be read as a standalone.
My Review The Phoenix Campaign is a solid follow-up to The Phoenix Candidate. With the Conover-Colton campaign well underway, Grace’s secret could not only destroy her relationship with Jared, but could undermine the campaign itself. Keeping secrets drives a wedge between Grace and Jared, and Jared brings in Sasha, a ball-busting campaign manager, to take over with Grace so he can focus on Shep. Things go from bad to worse when tragedy strikes her office. And when Shep’s own secret is revealed, things go from truly awful to nearly insurmountable.
The romance threads through this story, the same as the first book in the series, but now that Jared has declared his love for Grace, their conflicts arise from secrets, half-truths, and lies. Once again, the strength of the book lies in the politics rather than the romance. Not that the romance isn’t well done, its just that romance is pretty formulaic, but the political aspects of this story are incredibly well done, it’s like an episode of The West Wing, Scandal, and The Good Wife all rolled up into one.
Once again, the political world building is incredible. The scandals, the intrigue, the backstabbing, they’re all so juicy and believable. Campaign events, debate prep, everything you think you know about presidential campaigns is here, with lots of steamy sex, because it’s D.C. after all.
The main plot is still the romance between Grace and Jared, but it’s almost a neck-and-neck race to see if the political plot will overtake the lead. There’s so much undermining both plot points, with some of the same things affecting both, the author just keeps piling it on. But the campaign is by far the strongest, most unique aspect of the story. That said, it probably wouldn’t be nearly as much fun without the romance, so I’d say these two plots are as co-dependent as a vampire and the human he loves.
Delicious subplots involve Grace’s chief-of-staff, Trey, as well as Shep’s big secret, which I never saw coming, although I did figure out the second half of the secret once the first part was revealed.
Characters The characters are still complex and believable. There wasn’t quite as much character development this time around, but Grace still has a good arc, and Jared has his own arc that’s super-compressed.
Ending I liked the ending. It wasn’t the jaw-dropping conclusion we got in the first book, but it wraps up the main story lines, leaving open just enough for the third and final book in the series.
Top Five Things I Enjoyed About The Phoenix Campaign 1. The Politics. I’m still a political junkie, so the political bits were savored like the last bite of a key lime cheesecake.
2. Mama Bea. What’s not to love about Trey’s mom? She’s a spitfire with a heart of gold.
3. Jared. He loves deeply, even though he doesn’t always know how to express it. But the way he quietly pulls strings behind the scenes to orchestrate what he wants for Grace is really sweet, even if a little (okay maybe a lot) controlling.
4. Shep Conover. If he was running for president, he’d get my vote right now!
5. Sasha. She grew on me slowly, the same as she did Grace, but by the end, I adored her. She is exactly what Grace needs. Once this series is over, I’d love to see her in another series, or heck, even on The Good Wife. She could give Eli Gold a run for his money!
Bottom Line The Phoenix Campaign is equal parts romance and political intrigue and 100% pure fun.
I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review
About the Book Title: The Phoenix Campaign Series: Grace Colton #2 Author: Heidi Joy Tretheway Publisher: Jasper Ridge Press Release Date: April 20, 2015 Pages: 228 Genre: Adult Contemporary Romantic Suspense Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars Links:Goodreads |Amazon|Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo
Author Heidi Jo Tretheway
About the Author Heidi Joy is a sucker for campfires, craft cocktails, and steamy romance in books and real life. She sings along with musicals (badly), craves French carbs, and buys plane tickets the way some women buy shoes.
Her first career as a journalist took Heidi behind the scenes with politicians, rock stars, chefs, and detectives, all of whom inspire her stories. Heidi Joy is currently working on her eighth book from her home in Portland, Oregon. She adores hearing from readers at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Synopsis She knits, cans jam, and lives in the city. He’s an Amish college student, breaking the rules. They’re so right, it’s wrong.
Marigold, a recent high school graduate with a shady past, is looking to redefine herself. She doesn’t know what she wants exactly, but college isn’t it.
When she meets Abel, an Amish guy on Rumspringa, his ‘running around’ time, she doesn’t plan on falling for someone wearing a straw hat and suspenders. But she can’t help it, Abel is the breath of fresh air she’s been waiting for.
Abel, who’s moved to the city for a summer program at Jamestown, never imagined Marigold would be drawn to the life he was trying so hard to avoid. His family expects him to take over the family farm; college parties and dorm life don’t quite fit in with their plans for him.
Opposites attract, but nothing is easy with love. When they trade places for the summer they learn a life together isn’t as for sure and certain as they thought.
My Review I loved this story. The characters are fresh and original, the author’s voice is unique, and the tale is a sweet, winding one with several twists. Abel is an Amish boy on Rumspringa, accepted into an elite summer program at Jamestown. Marigold is a privileged teen who’s floundering in her quest to find herself. Yet these two click when they first meet, each seeing something rare and special in the other. But it’s not love at first sight. It’s more like intrigue upon first meeting.
The clash of cultures results in a lot of misunderstandings, and while this is a romance, it’s also a lot more. Both Abel and Marigold go through tremendous growth, making it read more like literary fiction. Even the writing style is very different than most contemporary romances, but it works here. It’s a formal style that still manages to remain youthful.
The author has done her homework, creating an authentic portrayal of the Amish community interwoven with contemporary college life both on and off campus. The slow-paced Amish lifestyle in humid Lancaster County without air conditioning is palpable, as are their mannerisms, ways of speaking, their daily lives. It’s all beautifully contrasted with the rush and craziness of life in D.C. It’s easy to see what Marigold and Abel see in one another’s worlds and that’s the true brilliance of Anya Monroe’s storytelling. We see both D.C. and Lancaster through the eyes of both characters– the jaded views of the teen who grew up there, and the wide-eyed wonder of the one who didn’t.
The main plot is two-pronged. It’s about Marigold’s search for her identity and Abel’s search for where in the world he belongs. The romance is a very strong subplot, and at times it appears to be the main plot, but because what each seeks is their true selves more than anything else, I finally came to the conclusion that it’s not a typical romance. Marigold made a lot of mistakes in her past, searching for where she fit in — at school, in the world, and even within her own family. Always feeling like she never quite fit in at home, she regularly reinvents herself. Now that she finally feels comfortable in her own skin, Abel lands in her life with his Amishness and his dreams, making her question where she belongs.
Abel wants more than life on an Amish farm. Even though he didn’t graduate high school, he aced his SATs, granting him admittance to the Summer Intensive at Jamestown. He’s like a fish out of water with his foul-mouthed, pot-smoking roommate, but what he learns in the program fuels his desire for knowledge and excites him about business in a way he’s never felt before. And although he and Marigold come from two different worlds, they have so much in common, that it almost feels as if they can overcome anything to be together.
The author throws in several twists and the ending is not the one I saw coming, one full of emotion and heart.
Characters All of the characters are really well done. Even secondary characters have their own complete arcs. Marigold and Abel are particularly well developed and through everything, they stay true to who they are, even though their growth is tremendous. No one comes across as two-dimensional or stereotypical.
Writing Monroe’s writing is refreshing. Her style sets it apart from other young adult/new adult contemporary fiction.
Ending The ending was a satisfying conclusion that wraps up all the loose ends, but in a way I didn’t anticipate
Top Five Things I Loved About For Sure and Certain 1. The Authenticity. The way the Amish culture is woven into the story proves the author has done her homework. She neither portrays it is idyllic nor faulty, only real, with good and bad, fitting the lifestyle needs of some, but not everyone.
2. Marigold’s Style. She alters and wears her great grandmother’s clothes, pairing them with leggings and boots in a fun and funky style that’s all her own.
3. Abel’s Straw Hat. Abel never turns his back on where he comes from in order to fit in. His straw hat is as much a part of him as “ja” and “’tis”.
4. Yarn. I love to knit, and reading about all the freshly died wool Marigold has to play with made my fingers itch to make something.
5. The Love Story. It’s a sweet take on two people from different worlds overcoming their differences, miscommunication, and misunderstandings in an unpredictable way.
Bottom Line For Sure and Certain is a beautiful tale of finding yourself through trial and error and living for yourself and not to please others.
I was provided a copy of this book by the author. It does not affect my review in any way.
About the Book Title: For Sure and Certain Author: Anya Monroe Publisher: The Lovely Messy Release Date: February 5, 2015 Pages: 390 Genre: Young Adult/New Adult Contemporary Romance Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars Links: Goodreads | Amazon
Author Anya Monroe
About the Author Anya Monroe likes to write stories and paint words on her walls. She believes in love at first sight and fights for happily-ever-afters. As a wife and mom to six kids, she carves out time to write between carpool pick-ups and date nights because words are her heartbeat. She lives a ferry ride from Seattle and is a total Pacific Northwesterner who drinks chai lattes and wears Birkenstocks and has dreadlocks. She’s a cliché, but doesn’t mind it. Not even a little.
She documents her lovely-messy life on IG @anyamonroe. Find her there!
Today’s theme for 1 Line Wednesday, sponsored by RWA’s Kiss of Death Chapter is questions. Basically any line that ends in a question mark. Once I started searching for the ? in The Ruins, I realized there are a LOT of them. Here is one of my favorites though.
So, did you shoot any bad guys today?”
Bryce smiles. “Not today.”
“Oh.” Liam stares at the table as if someone just told him all his toys were stolen. “Do you think maybe tomorrow?”
You can see previous week’s themes and lines here.
Josh lives for soccer until the day of the accident.
Brooke knows what it is like to wake up in a hospital bed with your whole life shattered.
Inspired by true events, Penalty Kick is a poignant love story about a teenage girl who tries to help a fifteen-year-old boy overcome devastating loss.
My Review I’m a little torn on Penalty Kick. On the one hand, it’s got some really awesome themes and great characters. But it reads more like non-fiction than fiction. It’s a good story, but it’s lacking the raw, powerful emotions that fiction lends itself to, drawing the reader in, making us feel. I understood the emotions involved, but I didn’t feel them.
Penalty Kick is the story of fifteen-year-old Josh reeling from the loss of his mother in a car accident while he was behind the wheel. It’s also the story of Brooke, a sixteen-year-old cancer survivor who recognizes the pain and fear in Josh’s eyes. And it’s about Alan and Jessie, Josh’s father and nine-year-old sister, who are also dealing with the loss of Josh’s mom in their own ways.
It’s the story of love, loss, and redemption. Learning how to forgive. About second chances. It’s not really a romance though, so if that’s what you’re expecting, you won’t get much. There is a romantic subplot, but it’s tertiary.
This is one area I feel is lacking. As I said, it reads more like non-fiction than fiction. Even so, there is a main plot involving Josh recovering from the accident on an emotional level. Following the accident, he gives up playing soccer because he blames soccer for the accident. They were driving home from the game when it happened. There are also some subplots involving Josh’s relationship with Brooke as well as with his father. It’s a compelling story, but I never felt sucked in, getting lost in the pages.
World Building There is very little world building, although we do get a pretty in-depth view into the game of soccer. Many scenes involve technical descriptions of practice, technique, or the game itself. What world building there is centers around the world of soccer.
Characters Josh is a complex kid with deep wounds, both physical and emotional. It’s easy to understand his pain even if I never felt it. Brooke is his love interest, but she’s really so much more. She’s an anchor and a friend. Someone who won’t give up on Josh, even if he wants to give up on himself. The character development is pretty good as Josh and his family work their way through grief.
Top Five Things I Enjoyed About Penalty Kick 1. The Soccer Metaphor. Penalty Kick is described as a second chance and that’s really what the story is about — second chances.
2. Brooke. She recognizes a boy in need and is relentless in her desire to help him.
3. Jessie. Josh’s little sister has the ability to see things exactly as they are and saying what she thinks.
4. The Butterfly Metaphor. “Maybe love is like butterflies. You don’t chase butterflies. You wait and If you stand very still they come to you.”
5. Hope. The message of hope threading through the story, that forgiveness is yours for the taking and that grief is a process not a destination, is fluid and authentic.
Bottom Line Penalty Kick is a raw story of love, loss and healing, but it reads more like non-fiction.
Disclaimer I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
About the Book Title: Penalty Kick Author: Terence O’Leary Publisher: Swan Creek Press Release Date: May 13, 2014 Pages: 240 Category: Young Adult Contemporary Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars Links:Goodreads | Amazon
Author Terence O’Leary
About the Author Terence O’Leary was born in Chicago, Illinois, but has spent his teenage and adult life in Northwest Ohio where the varied seasons and sports provide the background for his three ‘sports as therapy’ young adult novels.
A graduate of the University of Toledo with a degree in Journalism, English and Psychology, O’Leary’s critically acclaimed realistic coming-of-age stories focus on teenagers facing a family crisis.
Synopsis Lauren Layne’s latest novel about the healing power of redemption tells the story of a crush gone wickedly wrong, proving that what you want isn’t always what you need.
Growing up in New York, Michael St. Claire never expected to spend his twenties wearing cowboy boots. But that was before he learned about his real father, a total stranger with a family in Cedar Grove, Texas. Once in the Lone Star State, Michael meets Kristin Bellamy, who is exquisitely refined and everything Michael always thought he wanted in a woman. The only problem is that Kristin is dating Michael’s new half brother, Devon.
Kristin’s mouthy, curvy sister Chloe has always been in love with Devon Patterson. So when Michael offers to help Chloe break up Devon and Kristin, Chloe agrees to a deal that seems too good to be true. Before long, Chloe finally gets her man, only to make a startling discovery: She no longer wants the guy she had to fight for—she wants the one who stood by her side.
After all he and Chloe have been through, Michael swears he’s damaged goods. Can Chloe convince him that love is worth the risk?
My Review I loved this story, but I feel like I need to address the really big elephant in the room. Who is the girl on the cover? She’s not Chloe. A primary thread in the story is Chloe’s big crazy, dark curly hair. Not long, straight and blonde. I mean, the hair is almost a character in an of itself. I’m not one to judge a book by it’s cover, but every time I look at it, I ask myself, “Were there no curly, dark-haired models available?”
Now that I’m done ranting, I want to rave about how much I loved the story of Chloe and Michael. Author, Lauren Layne, sucked me into the story in the first chapter, which isn’t something that normally happens for me with romances. It usually takes me a few chapters to care enough about the characters to be invested in their love lives. But Michael was a familiar character, even if only superficially so. He was the boy with the broken heart from Broken. The one Olivia cheated on Ethan with before fleeing to Maine.
Chloe was instantly likable with her snarky wit and can’t-give-a-shit attitude. The fact that she calls Michael, Beefcake, instantly won her my admiration. And even though I knew this was the story of Chloe and Michael and not Chloe and Devon, the boy she’s been crushing on since she was eight, there was a part of me that loved that relationship as well. Sure Devon is her sister’s boyfriend, but the long-standing friendship was so fully-developed, I could sense the chemistry between them as well.
The world building is subtle. Set in a small suburb of Dallas, it could really be anywhere in the United States. What world building there is centers on the lifestyle of the pampered country club set with private tennis lessons and personal trainers.
The plot centers around the relationship between Michael and Chloe. Chloe is not-so-secretly in love with her sister’s boyfriend, Devon, and Michael has is sights set on the sister, Kristin, who reminds him an awful lot of his ex, Olivia. Michael and Chloe end up spending time together, becoming friends, and both try to ignore the fact that they’re developing feelings for the other, because, well, Devon and Kristin. But as happens in romances, they can only deny their feelings for so long.
What sets this apart from other romances is the dynamic between Chloe and Michael. She’s bubbly and vivacious, everything he claims to hate in a girl, and he’s brooding and morose, something bubbly and vivacious girls usually steer clear of. But there’s more to Michael than meets the eye and Chloe sees more in him than he sees in himself. And Chloe doesn’t make a habit of taking no for an answer. Except when it comes to Devon. The only complaint I really have is a scene near the end. I didn’t feel it was necessary and in my mind, didn’t add to the plot. I would have loved for Michael to reach the conclusions he did without that push.
Characters I love the characters. They are what made this story really work for me. I mean, I absolutely adored Chloe. She is unlike any other female lead I can remember, and I already miss her. Michael is believable as the heartbroken guy who never wants to get hurt again, keeping everyone at arms’ length. Kristin is a bit of a stereotype, but I was glad to see some growth in her. Both Chloe and Michael have good growth as well, that’s both organic and believable.
Writing The writing is solid, and Lauren Layne has an excellent voice. Her witty dialogue and playful banter contribute to the light-hearted feel of the story. She does a good job of doling out backstory at the right pace. Although we knew some of Michael’s story coming into Crushed, the rest was new and was revealed at just the right time.
Ending Other than the above-mentioned scene that I didn’t think was necessary, the ending was satisfying. And while I was holding out hope for a Kristin story in the future, it sounds like that may not happen now, but I still love how the author wrapped up her arc.
Top Five Things I Loved About Crushed 1. Chloe’s Hair. Let’s face it, the it was all about the hair.
2. Witty Banter. The way Michael and Chloe interacted ignited sparks that couldn’t be smothered.
3. Beefcake. Best pet name I’ve read in a long time.
4. Patriotic Bikinis. The fact that the Bellamy’s actually had a tradition of wearing star-spangled swimsuits was a riot.
5. Real Women. I think my favorite part about Chloe is that she’s not skinny. She gets into shape, but for health reasons and she is still curvy and soft, the way real women are.
Bottom Line Crushed is a fun, playful new adult romance with plenty of heat for a book with very little sex. The chemistry between the two characters is among the best I’ve read in the genre.
I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
About the Book Title: Crushed Series: Redemption #2 Author: Lauren Layne Publisher: Flirt/Random House LLC Release Date: April 14, 2015 Pages: 240 Genre: New Adult Contemporary Romance Rating: 4.5 out of 5 Stars Links:Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks
Author Lauren Layne
About the Author Lauren Layne is a snarky smartass with a serious weakness for happily ever afters. Marrying her high school sweetheart was a good start. *cue Disney soundtrack.* But Lauren wanted all romance, all the time.
Now she writes fictional happy endings, and considers her job done well if you swoon while reading her books.
Don’t worry. You will.
Once upon a time she lived in a Manhattan high-rise, but now she’s on the laid-back train in the Seattle area. If you ever find yourself in Issaquah, she’ll probably buy you a drink. Maybe.
Today’s theme for 1 Line Wednesday, sponsored by RWA’s Kiss of Death Chapter is chapter closings. This is my favorite theme ever! I love chapter closings. I love coming up with hooks. Here is a closing line from an early chapter of The Ruins.
I check my tablet and see a text from Jack. One simple number that sends icy fear careening through my veins: 12
You can see previous week’s themes and lines here.
A special thank you to author, Audrey O’Connor, for today’s guest post. To find out more about Audrey and her book, Lessons in Pure Life, see below.
Guest Post: New Adult in Tropical Paradise — A Raw Costa Rican Romance
I’d pitched three different story ideas to Tryst Books, but the tropical romance idea hooked me and I found myself daydreaming about a Costa Rican love story. It helped that it was February. Days were short and nights long, freezing.
Lia and Diego were born out of a memory-wish, and an excited feeling of potential. There was something so dizzyingly delicious about both the sexual tension and the open, beautiful maturity of young people who will easily drop the world’s prejudices to connect with one another.
Costa Rica is raw and gorgeous and unlike any other place I’ve been. The environment, communities, and individuals blend into these brilliant concoctions that begged to be written in heady description. Romance could bud all over the place – on the beach, in the rainforest, in the classroom, in the squares of small towns, on the patios of restaurants, even in the bed of a police pick-up truck headed to jail. (True story, but that’s a post for another time!)
Couples wander in the slow haze of evening, scanning tables of thousands of hand-made souvenirs, handling colorful shell bracelets, Bob Marley t-shirts, and 4/$1 ocean postcards. Motorcycles rip up and down the small pedestrian streets in beachside markets like Playa Coco, where the air smells like pizza and fried beans and exhaust and Australian Gold and saltwater.
Synopsis Freshly minted grad Emilia Noble arrives in Costa Rica to teach English in the tropical community of Pacifica. Its carefree, pura vida lifestyle is a welcome contrast to her dark and wintry origins. Tossing caution aside like an old winter coat, she plunges headfirst into an exotic cocktail of sensory pleasure.
Diego is a local whose surfer body and cool detachment make Lia buzz with a long-lost thrill. Fascinated by her new environment, she can’t help but wonder about the moody inner workings of the boy with triceps like Wolverine and a grimace to match.
Diego seems to have no problem ignoring Lia, though. Caught up in his family’s conflicted attitude toward foreigners, he notices her only when it’s convenient.
But as Lia thrives in her new surroundings, Diego might just find reason enough to defy his embattled, insular father. When north and south are mixed together, the results are intoxicating.
Author Audrey O’Conner
About the Author Audrey O’Connor can’t help but color outside the lines with big, bright markers.
She’s fascinated by the influence of popular culture on the female experience and inspired by creative boldness and the breaking of the dumb rules women are supposed to follow.
Audrey lives in Chelsea, Quebec, where she can be found DJ-ing at local events or scanning a cafe for outlets for her laptop.
Frederick, Duke of Falconwood, has vowed never to marry, instead dedicating himself to protecting his country.
But when he’s caught in a very compromising position with a coquettish debutante, Freddy does the only thing that will salvage her reputation—he proposes marriage!
Even though Minette Rideau craves the stoic duke’s touch, she knows she can’t become his wife.
For giving in to her desires will reveal a shameful secret, putting much more than her virtue in jeopardy…
My Review Other than the Outlander series, this is my first historical romance, and if this is what the genre is about, sign me up for more! The Duke’s Daring Debutante was equal parts romance and intrigue. When French debutante Minette Rideau has her sights set on retrieving something personal from a man named Moreau, she needs Freddy, the Duke of Falconwood, to help her. With his connections, he can get her into places she can’t go alone.
When they’re discovered in a compromising situation, Freddy’s sense of honor has him proposing to Minette, and her reputation and need to get to Moreau first, have her accepting. But what should be a relationship of convenience becomes something much more, making things more complicated than ever.
There are two main plots running in parallel, twisting and intertwining, becoming one. The first is the search for Moreau. Both Minette and Freddy are after him for very different reasons. The second plot line is the romance. But the two become one with the staged betrothal. Their common goal forces them to spend time together, and feelings of lust and longing become something more.
World Building I’m not even sure exactly when the story takes place, although I suppose if I knew my British and French history, it would probably be clear. My best guess would be somewhere in the eighteenth or nineteenth century, but I don’t think the year is all that important. What matters are the details the author brings to the book, the cultural differences between France and England, the political implications, the societal norms for the day, and those are all vividly woven into the story.
Characters I found all of the characters to be well-developed, and Minette and Freddy, especially so. Their growth over a short time felt rushed at times, but not so much that it didn’t ring true. Minette is bold, clever, loyal, and loving, making her quite complex. Freddy harbors deep wounds from a painful past that have him keeping everyone at arms’ length. Watching these two break down one another’s walls was quite satisfying.
Top Five Things I Enjoyed About The Duke’s Daring Debutante 1. Minette. She’s wild and free, strong, independent, and not afraid to go after what she wants. Minette is a woman who transcends time and genre.
2. Freddy. He’s got a dark side, but watching him twist the dark and light sides together and seeing the light win was fun.
3. Nicky and Gabe. They are the perfect couple. I’d love to read their story some day.
4. Ballroom Dancing. It never gets old, no mater the century.
5. Espionage. I loved this thread in the story and only wish there was more of it.
Bottom Line The Duke’s Daring Debutante was a thoroughly engaging read, one that has whetted my appetite for more historical fiction.
Disclaimer I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
About the Book Title: The Duke’s Daring Debutante Author: Ann Lethbridge Publisher: Harlequin Release Date: June 16, 2015 Pages: 288 Category: Historical Romance Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars Links:Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Author Ann Lethbridge
About the Author An army brat born in England and now living in Canada, Ann grew up loving history, but majored in business, with history on the side. She has a husband and two lovely daughters and a Maltese Terrier called Teaser, who likes to sit on a chair beside the computer while she works.
Her love of the past and the stories in her imagination led her to write her first novel in 2000, a never-see-the-light-of-day-effort, and after having her first book published in 2006, she knew she’d found her niche.
She loves the Georgian era, and within that, the period known as the long Regency. She also adores happy endings.
You will find her books in bookstores in the month of issue, as well as on line at Mills and Boon or E-harlequin.
The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things by Ann Aguirre
Sage Czinski is trying really hard to be perfect. If she manages it, people won’t peer beyond the surface, or ask hard questions about her past.
She’s learned to substitute causes for relationships, and it’s working just fine… until Shane Cavendish strolls into her math class.
He’s a little antisocial, a lot beautiful, and everything she never knew she always wanted.
Shane Cavendish just wants to be left alone to play guitar and work on his music. He’s got heartbreak and loneliness in his rearview mirror, and this new school represents his last chance. He doesn’t expect to be happy; he only wants to graduate and move on. He never counted on a girl like Sage.
But love doesn’t mend all broken things, and sometimes life has to fall apart before it can be put back together again…
My Review I realize it’s only early April, but I have no doubt this will go down as one of my top ten favorite books of 2015, and possibly in the top five of my favorite young adult books of the year. It’s definitely my favorite so far in any genre. Everything from the plot, to the writing, the the characters is flawless. The story centers around sixteen-year-old Sage, who has more quirks than all of the squinterns from Bones combined, and newcomer Shane, who tries hard to fly under the radar. They each have a dark past and secrets they would rather to keep buried, convinced the other would reject them if their true selves were ever revealed.
The two begin an unlikely friendship that evolves into something more, but there is no easy path to happiness. Between their broken pasts and their uncertain futures, there is a lot standing in their way. Not the least of which is school bully, Dylan, with a reputation to protect, one Sage has threatened.
While on the surface this sounds like a typical teen romance with flawed characters, it’s so more than that. The characters are what really makes this story shine. Every character from Sage and Shane, to Dylan, Shane’s father, Sage’s aunt, and even Dylan’s mom, are fully developed, deep, intriguing characters that transcend every stereotype. There’s so much to love in this book though, I don’t want to say it’s all about the characters, because it’s not. The writing is amazing and the plot is solid. This is the first book I’ve read in awhile, where I had absolutely no idea what was going to happen next. This is also my first Ann Aguirre novel, but now I feel as if I need to go buy and read everything she’s ever written.
The plotting is impeccable. The main story centers around Sage and Shane’s relationship, but there is strong subplotting involving Sage’s relationship with her best friend, Ryan, her relationship with her Aunt Gabby, her developing friendships with a broader student population, Sage’s backstory, Shane’s backstory, the Shane/Sage/Dylan dynamic, and more. Although that sounds like a lot, Ann Aguirre weaves it all together seamlessly, driving the main plot.
World Building Small town middle America is well represented in The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things. I’m sure the town was named, but it doesn’t stick with me, and I don’t think it matters. It could be any midwest farm town. The settings come alive through Sage’s eyes in fluid form.
Characters The characters are simply amazing. They are three-dimensional in every sense. I can not only picture what they look like, I understand them. They’re living, breathing figments of the author’s imagination, but she allows us to really know them. Sage is complex. She has a bright and shiny exterior, affixing Post-It notes on the lockers of fellow classmates who need an encouraging word (as an employee of 3M, I really love the use of Post-It Notes BTW). As a member of the Green club at school devoted to perfecting the environment, her refusal to ride in a personal vehicle is so endearing. Not many teens (or adults for that matter) would stick by that conviction when convenience is only a car ride away.
Shane is deep, wounded, sweet, caring, loyal, everything a book boyfriend should be. The fact that he’s also beautiful is irrelevant in this case. It wouldn’t matter if his eyes weren’t as blue as a summer sky, because his heart is as big as the midwest plains.
I love that Ryan, the best friend and potential love interest, isn’t the bad guy. Sure he screwed up royally, but I didn’t hate him. There was always a part of me pulling for him to find his own happiness. It’s even hard to truly hate Dylan, the antagonist, once I understood his motivations. There is some seriously messed up stuff going on with that boy, and I hope we learn more about him in a future novel.
Top Five Things I Loved About The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things 1. Post-It Notes. Yeah, I know, my retirement is in part tied up in 3M stock, but even so, just the idea of someone writing words of encouragement on a 3×3 scrap of paper and sticking to a locker is amazing.
2. Aunt Gabby. She’s everything an aunt and a parent should be.
3. Reflector Tape. I love that Sage does what it takes to give her aunt peace of mind, even if she knows she looks ridiculous doing it.
4. Sage’s Tenaciousness. Man, she’s like my dog when he’s got the end of rope. She just won’t let go. She growls, and pulls harder, never giving up, even when it appears there is no way to win.
5. Shane. There is so much to love about him. The way he gets Sage, the way he appreciates her, sacrifices for her, loves her. He’s pretty much the perfect book boyfriend.
My favorite book so far of 2015, and definitely one of my top ten of all time young adult reads.
Disclaimer I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
About the Book Title: The Queen of Bright and Shiny Things Author: Ann Aguirre Publisher: Feiwel & Friends Release Date: April7, 2015 Pages: 334 Category: Young Adult Contemporary Rating: 5 out of 5 Stars Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance Links:Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iBooks | Kobo | BAM | IndieBound | Powell’s
Author Ann Aguirre
About the Author Ann Aguirre is a New York Times & USA Today bestselling author and RITA winner with a degree in English Literature; before she began writing full time, she was a clown, a clerk, a voice actress, and a savior of stray kittens, not necessarily in that order.
She grew up in a yellow house across from a cornfield, but now she lives in sunny Mexico with her husband, children, and various pets. Ann likes books, emo music, action movies, and she writes all kinds of genre fiction for adults and teens, published with Harlequin, Macmillan, and Penguin, among others.
With no college ambition—or desire to care—Luke Hannon’s ready to bail on school before senior year even begins. But when he spots the hot new girl reading an upside down map, he changes his mind.
Hailey Saldino desperately wants to start fresh at a school where she’s free of the snide remarks and hurtful stares. A place where no one knows her past…or her son, Brady.
Luke wants a no strings attached, physical relationship, until Hailey becomes more than a cute girl in a skirt. Usually his bad boy reputation hooks the ladies but it won’t be enough to land a girl like Hailey. Needing a lasting approach, Luke decides to be honest. No lies. No BS. As the connection between them deepens, Luke shares all his shameful secrets.
Afraid to lose one of the few people who’s ever looked at her as something other than a slut, Hailey buries herself in compounding lies. And when Hailey’s purposeful deceit blindsides Luke, he must decide if he’ll walk away, or accept Hailey and the little man she already loves.
My Review Prove Me Wrong starts off slow and there is very little conflict in the first half of the book. But the second half more than makes up for it, providing an emotional roller coaster ride to a satisfying conclusion. New girl, Hailey, has a big secret, one so awful, she and her mom were forced to move two hours away to escape the bullying of her classmates. It’s not surprising then, that she isn’t quick to reveal her secret to everyone in her new school. And her mom encourages her to keep the secret, saying it will ruin her chances to be a normal teenager. Because normal teenagers don’t have babies.
Luke is a player, although it’s not clear if he’s part of the in crowd. He has no ambitions other than getting into Hailey’s pants. At least at first. The more he pursues her, the more she pushes him away, and the more he wants to know more about her. And the more he learns, the more he realizes he’s into her for more than physical reasons. But he’s got secrets of his own, so the road to happiness will be bumpy at best.
Author Tessa Marie does a good job of creating at typical high school in small town America. There’s not much more world building than that, but there doesn’t really need to be. The setting is far less important than the plot or characters.
It’s an engaging concept — what happens when a teenage boy finds out his girlfriend’s little brother is really her son. We all know it’s going to happen at some point, we just don’t know when or how. The lack of conflict early on makes the story drag more than it needed to, but there was some interesting sub-plotting involving Luke’s future and the source of the bad blood between Luke and Hailey’s new friend, Roxy.
Characters The characters aren’t particularly groundbreaking, but they are likable enough. Hailey’s biggest sin isn’t that she got pregnant at 16, or even that she lies about her relationship to her son, Brady. It’s that she doesn’t seem to know how to stand up for herself, either to the father of her child, to her mother, or even the other kids at school. And that is the big flaw she’ll need to overcome to get what she wants.
Luke is a little more interesting. At least toward the latter half of the book. The first half, I’m not sure what Hailey sees in him except he’s pretty face with mesmerizing blue eyes. But he has substance that become apparent later on. His issues run deeper than Hailey’s, so he has more growing to do, and it’s fun to watch.
Hailey’s mom is not stereotypical and I love that about her. Same with Luke’s mom. Friends, C.J. and Roxy are also pretty well developed, so it was easy to overlook Russ, Amanda and some of the other supporting characters who lacked any real depth.
Writing Tessa Marie has a youthful voice that works well for this story. Hailey’s believable as a teen with too many responsibilities and Luke comes across as an authentic teen boy with sex on the brain.
Ending The ending was my favorite part. The conflict is palpable and drives to a logical climax, wrapping up in a satisfying conclusion.
Top Five Things I Enjoyed About Prove Me Wrong 1. The Romantic Gesture. I won’t spoil it, but the big romantic gesture is about one of the sweetest I’ve read in a while.
2. Hailey’s Priorities. She’s sixteen, so it’s tough to balance school, motherhood, romance, and a job, yet somehow she never forgets that she made a choice when she decided to raise Brady and as hard as it is at times, he comes first.
3. Becky. Hailey’s BFF is everything a best friend should be. I would have loved to have had more of her in the story.
4. Music. The modern music added a touch of authenticity.
5. C.J. He was funny, smart, and a great yin to Luke’s yang.
Bottom Line Prove Me Wrong is a decent young adult read that touches on teen motherhood, responsibilities, and happily ever afters.
I was provided a copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.
About the Book Title: Prove Me Wrong Author: Tessa Marie Release Date: March 2, 2105 Pages: 285 Genre: Young Adult Contemporary Romance Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars Links:Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble
Author Tessa Marie
About the Author
Tessa Marie lives in the same town she grew up in on Long Island, NY with her long time boyfriend and their fish. Her debut novel (NEVER) AGAIN, a NA romance, released in Fall 2013 with Berkley (Penguin) and (ONCE) AGAIN released this summer under her real name, Theresa Paolo.
She is also the coauthor of the Amazon bestseller KING SIZED BEDS AND HAPPY TRAILS and BEACH SIDE BEDS AND SANDY PATHS, a YA contemporary series. She has a hard time accepting the fact she’s nearing thirty, and uses her characters to relive the best and worst years of her life.
She put her love of writing on hold while she received her Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing from Dowling College. When she’s not writing, she’s behind a camera, reading, or can be found on Twitter, Pinterest and Facebook
Today’s theme for 1 Line Wednesday, sponsored by RWA’s Kiss of Death Chapter is opening lines. After humor, and then last week’s practical jokes (in honor of April Fools Day), I’m delighted to have an easy one. So here it is, the opening line from The Ruins.
Grief, guilt, heartbreak, fear, loss, abandonment swirl in my head, creating a vortex of pain and confusion keeping me awake.
You can see previous week’s themes and lines here.
Confessions of a Reformed Tom Cat (Modern Love Story #4) by Daisy Prescott
Synopsis I, Thomas Clifford Donnely, am a manwhore.
I’ve been told I’m irresistible to women. Like catnip for a different type of pussy-cat. I guess you could call me a Tom Cat.
This is the story about how I lost my wingman, broke all my own rules, and found myself falling in love.
Tom Donnelly isn’t the marrying kind, or the dating kind. Even after losing his #1 wingman to love, he doesn’t see the point in relationships. When his sister’s best friend returns to Whidbey Island and propositions Donnelly for a one-night stand, he breaks one of his biggest rules—no fooling around with his sisters’ friends. It’s just sex, nothing more. That’s what Tom does and does well.
What happens when “just sex” isn’t enough?
Hailey King is more than a match for Tom’s flirtations. She’s known him most of her life and has heard the rumors about his “skills” for years. When her perfectly planned future falls apart, will the last man she should ever fall for turn out to be more than a one-night stand?
My Review I love romances told exclusively from the male point of view, so this one piqued my interest. Daisy Prescott does an outstanding job of creating a believable manwhore with no intention of changing his ways. At least until he falls for his sister’s best friend. But this is no love-at-first-sight story. Instead, Tom falls kicking and screaming into love. It’s a straight-up romance, but the family dynamics the author weaves in, makes it something a little special in the genre. Each chapter starts off with a confession by Tom about his approach to women, love, and sex, and we know each time, he’s going to eat his words.
Tom is a player, and he likes it that way. His best friend, John, is settling down and Tom never misses a chance to chide him about it. His sisters are married and procreating, but he feels no pressure to do the same. Instead, he works his way through girls on and off the island where he lives until his sister, Lori’s, best friend, Hailey, comes back to town. Tom does have a few rules, however; he never leads women on and he never, ever goes after his sisters’ friends. So when Hailey, on the rebound from the recent breakup with her fiancee, comes onto Tom, he knows he should turn her down, but she’s all kinds of hot. What should have been a one-time thing slowly chips away at all of his rules, including the biggest one, he doesn’t date.
Characters I like Tom. He’s a dog, often crude, but beneath it all beats the warm heart of a lonely man who doesn’t realize what he wants or needs. I know guys like him. Heck, I’ve dated guys like him, but one thing he is, is honest. He never leads women on. So while I wouldn’t want to date a Tom again, I did pull for him, did want him to be happy in whatever way that was. But even the Warren Beattys and George Clooneys of the world eventually find their Annette Bennings, and Tom’s happens to be a girl nicknamed Idaho.
Tom’s family members and friends were all three-dimensional, adding color and depth to Tom’s character as well. And Hailey is completely believable as the strong-willed woman who falls for the wrong man, but never loses herself, nor gives into anything less than what she deserves.
World Building Set in on an island in the Seattle area of Washington, the author perfectly captures the essence of small-town life, where everyone knows your business and feel they have a right to tell you how to live your life. The settings were familiar enough that I could lose myself in the scenes.
Top Five Things I Loved About Confessions of a Reformed Tom Cat 1. Nicknames. Everything from his boat, the Master Baiter, to Tom Cat, and Idaho, the nicknames add a twist of humor that subtlety reveals Tom’s character.
2. I know. The sweet inside joke between Hailey and Tom is as endearing as they are.
3. Families. Tom’s family is his rock and that’s the hallmark of a really good guy.
4. Bar room brawls. Because what’s better than a bunch of testosterone-laden dudes getting liquored up and having a fist-fueled pissing match?
5. Female project managers. As a former project manager in a male-dominated industry, I could totally relate to the issues Hailey has to deal with, and I thought the author portrayed this aspect of the story particularly well.
An authentic male character, a strong female love interest, and plenty of light-hearted moments make for a fun read.
Disclaimer I was provided a copy of this book by the Author in exchange for an honest review.
About the Book
Title: Confessions of a Reformed Tom Cat Series: Modern Love Story #4 Author: Daisy Prescott Release Date: February 23, 2015 Pages: 269 Category: Contemporary Romance Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars Links:Goodreads |Amazon|Barnes & Noble | iBooks
About the Author Before writing bestselling contemporary adult romances, I dreamed of being an author while doing a lot of other things. Antiques dealer, baker, blue ribbon pie-maker, fangirl, freelance writer, gardener, pet mom and wife are a few of the other titles I’ve acquired over the years.
Born and raised in San Diego, I currently lives in a real life Stars Hollow in the Boston suburbs with my husband, our dog Hubbell, and an imaginary house goat.
Missionary Position is a spin-off from my first novel, Geoducks Are for Lovers. Like my second novel, Ready to Fall, it can be read as a standalone contemporary romance/romantic comedy.
Right Kind of Wrong (Finding Fate #3) by Chelsea Fine
Synopsis Sometimes wrong can feel oh so right . . .
Jenna Lacombe needs complete control, whether it’s in the streets . . . or between the sheets. So when she sets out on a solo road trip to visit her family in New Orleans, she’s beyond annoyed that the infuriatingly sexy Jack Oliver wants to hitch a ride with her.
Ever since they shared a wild night together last year, he’s been trying to strip away her defenses one by one. He claims he’s just coming along to keep her safe-but what’s not safe for her is prolonged exposure to the tattooed hottie.
Jack can’t get Jenna out from under his skin. She makes him feel alive again after his old life nearly destroyed him-and losing her is not an option. Now Jack’s troubles are catching up to him, and he’s forced to return to his hometown in Louisiana.
But when his secrets put them both in harm’s way, Jenna will have to figure out how far she’s willing to let love in . . . and how much she already has.
My Review This is my first book in the series and I’m ready for more. Both Jenna and Jack are interesting, well-developed characters with rough, realistic back stories. This isn’t just a fluffy new adult romance. There was danger, serious drama, some pretty awesome sex, and a cast of colorful characters. Author, Chelsea Fine, does a great job of hooking us with clues. Clues about why Jenna keeps Jack at arms’ length, why Jack has so many scars, how Jenna feels about Jack, and how Jack feels about Jenna. The conflict is almost constant which is how I like my stories.
There are only two things that really kept this from being a five-star review for me. One is the fact that Jenna waffles way too much about her feelings and what she wants, seeming to revisit the same things over and over again. And the other is that there was so much potential for things to really go all kinds of wrong during the climax, and I think this could have been explored more fully than it was.
The main plot centers on Jenna and Jack and their on-again-off-again relationship. Jenna values the friendship, considering Jack to be her best friend. Jenna doesn’t do relationships, so even though they have fantastic chemistry, she halted their physical relationship after the one and only time they slept together because she realized it could never be just sex with Jack. She’d rather keep Jack as a friend than risk anything more and lose him all together. Jack is crazy about Jenna and doesn’t want to accept the status quo. He’s determined to get her to change her mind. When both are called back home to Louisiana towns within a couple of hours of each other, Jack sees the road trip as a chance to change Jenna’s mind.
The main plot is good enough, but it’s the subplot that takes this from just another new adult romance. Jack has a dark past he ran away from. A past that now threatens his family. As Jack tries to keep Jenna safely on the sidelines of his family drama, she realizes she cares enough about Jack to do what it takes to keep him safe.
Characters Jenna and Jack are both very likable, intense, deep, flawed, and I couldn’t help pulling for both of them. But what really works here is the supporting cast. Jenna’s best friend, Pixie, Jack’s brothers, his mother, they’re all equally well rounded and are the kind of people you’d want to hang out with. No one comes across as two-dimensional or stereotypical. These deep, layered characters are what sets apart strong writing.
Top Five Things I Loved About Right Kind of Wrong 1. Jack’s mom. Oh my god, she’s hilarious. I would totally love to hang out with her all the time.
2. Jack’s past. He has one of the best back stories I’ve read in awhile.
3. Pixie. She’s fun and wild and I can’t wait to read her story.
4. NOLA. One of my favorite cities is the setting for some great scenes.
5. Road trips. Because when you put two people in an enclosed environment, sparks are bound to fly.
Bottom Line Right Kind of Wrong is filled with wonderful characters, a solid romance, and a layer of danger that makes it a fun, fast read.
Disclaimer I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
About the Book
Title: Right Kind of Wrong Series: Finding Fate #3 Author: Chelsea Fine Release Date: September 2, 2014 Publisher: Grand Central Forever Pages: 312 Category: New Adult Contemporary Romance Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars Links:Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble | iTunes | Kobo | IndieBound | BAM!
Author Chelsea Fine
About the Author Chelsea lives in Phoenix, Arizona where she spends most of her time writing stories, painting murals, and avoiding housework at all costs. She’s ridiculously bad at doing dishes and claims to be allergic to laundry.
Her obsessions include: superheroes, coffee, sleeping-in, and crazy socks. She lives with her husband and two children, who graciously tolerate her inability to resist teenage drama on TV and her complete lack of skill in the kitchen.
Synopsis Her story began long before she started working at The Sky Launch…
Screw fairytales. The only reward Gwen Anders got from her rough childhood was a thick skin and hard heart. She’s content with her daily grind managing a top NYC nightclub—Eighty-Eighth Floor. So hers isn’t a happily ever after. She doesn’t believe in those anyway.
Then she meets J.C.
The rich, smooth talking playboy is the sexiest thing that Gwen has ever encountered, but she’s not interested in a night-in-shining latex. But when a family tragedy pushes her to the brink, it’s J.C. who’s there to teach her a new method of survival, one based on following primal urges and desires. His no-strings-attached lessons require her to abandon her constant need for control. Her carefully built walls are obliterated.
Gwen discovers there’s a beautiful world outside her prison. Freedom is exhilarating—and terrifying. When she starts to feel something for J.C., she fears for her heart. Especially as she realizes that he has secrets of his own. Secrets that don’t want to set him free.
BOOK ONE OF TWO. This series can be read alone or with the Fixed Trilogy.
My Review It took me longer than normal to get into this story. In fact I was on the fence for nearly two-thirds of it. Anyone who follows my reviews knows I like my romances with a healthy dose of angst and there wasn’t much happening early on. And if I can’t have angst, I need something else to drive my interest. Free Me definitely gets there, but it took until about Chapter 15 to reach that point for me. That said, Laurelin Paige’s writing is strong, it’s just my personal preferences in story telling. And as I said, the story did reach the point where I didn’t want to put it down.
I think my biggest problem early on was that I didn’t care for the two main characters. Like at all. Gwen came off as spineless, needy, and in desperate need of a healthy dose of self esteem. J.C. came across as arrogant, controlling, douche-baggy. So their relationship was something I didn’t really care much for. Sure, the sex was hot, but that wasn’t enough to make me care. Then something happens and Gwen finds the inner strength I never knew she possessed, and J.C. transformed into a pretty good guy. Suddenly I cared about both of them and what happened to them.
Its also possible my issues with the characters are a result of the narration. I might have had a different reaction to them had I read the book instead of listened to it. Narrator, Tanya Eby, has a sultry, sexy voice and injects enough emotion, but I think her inflections turned me off to Gwen. And I think the way she voiced J.C. made him come across as less sexy and more arrogant than maybe the author intended.
The plot centers around the relationship between Gwen and J.C. Gwen is uptight and in need of of J.C.’s particular skills, and J.C. just wants to sleep with Gwen. They forge a no-strings-attached physical relationship. What could possibly go wrong? In order to maintain the emotional distance necessary for this to work, they agree to not reveal anything about themselves except their first names. But life has a funny way of not staying on the sidelines, and things get messy when feelings develop. The subplotting revolves around the back stories of J.C. and Gwen, the reasons they are who they are, and how they became people who would agree to settle for a strictly physical relationship.
The back stories are doled out slowly, like a fisherman letting out line, teasing us, luring us further into the story. It was this deft plotting that kept me going, even when I was convinced I didn’t care about the characters or what happened to them. And just when I thought I had it all figured out, the author threw in a twist I never saw coming.
Characters Although I initially didn’t care much for the characters, they grew on me. The development that Laurelin Paige does, took me from apathy to actually caring about them, hoping they could finally get their shit together. Both the main characters have deep-seated issues that are so ingrained in who they are, I finally understood them. I think there is something so real and human about that. Every one of us has a story that tells the tale of who we are. The fact that the author could get me from loathing, to simply not caring, to wanting them to be happy was pretty brilliant when I think about it.
The world the story is set in is the nightclub scene of New York City. And while the setting is important to the story, it’s not heavy on world building. Since many of the scenes take place inside a hotel suite, it could easily have been set in any metropolitan city without impacting the story.
Top Five Things I Enjoyed About Free Me
1. Siblings. The relationship between Norma, Gwen, and Ben felt real, it was the way siblings should interact with one another.
2. Plot twists. I love when an author can totally stun me.
3. Piano sex. It may or may not be a fantasy of mine.
4. The last third of the book. It was intense and impossible to put down.
5. The epilogue. It really piqued my interest in the next book.
It started off slow for me but slowly built into a solid story that left me wanting more.
Disclaimer I was provided with a copy of this audiobook by the author in exchange for an honest review.
About the Audiobook
Title: Free Me Series: The Found Duet #1 Author: Laurelin Paige Narrator: Tanya Eby Release Date: February 24, 2015 Length: 10 hours and 7 minutes Genre: Contemporary Erotic Romance Story Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars Audio Production Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Author Laurelin Paige
About the Author Laurelin Paige is the NY Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of the Fixed Trilogy.
She’s a sucker for a good romance and gets giddy anytime there’s kissing, much to the embarrassment of her three daughters. Her husband doesn’t seem to complain, however.
When she isn’t reading or writing sexy stories, she’s probably singing, watching Mad Men and the Walking Dead, or dreaming of Adam Levine.
Looking for the Spring 2016 YA Scavenger Hunt? You’ll have to wait just a little longer. The post goes live at noon, PDT on Tuesday, March 29, 2016. Stay tuned, you won’t be sorry!
Welcome to YA Scavenger Hunt! This bi-annual event was first organized by author Colleen Houck as a way to give readers a chance to gain access to exclusive bonus material from their favorite authors…and a chance to win some awesome prizes!
Author T.H. Hernandez
My name is T.H. Hernandez, and I’m your host for this leg of the hunt. How does the hunt work? I’m glad you asked! Follow the authors from blog to blog, gaining access to exclusive content from each author, and collecting the clues. Add up the clues, and enter for our prize–one lucky winner will receive one signed book from each author on the hunt in my team!But play fast: this contest (and all the exclusive bonus material) will only be online for 72 hours!
If you landed here first, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page to get all the details about the hunt. There are EIGHT contests going on simultaneously, and you can enter one of them or all of them! I am a part of the PINK TEAM –but there’s also teams for RED, BLUE,GOLD,GREEN,ORANGE,TEAL, and PURPLE, each with a chance to win a whole different set of signed books!
If you’d like to find out more about the hunt, see links to all the authors participating, and see the full list of prizes up for grabs, go to the YA Scavenger Hunt page.
Looking for my exclusive bonus content? You’ll have to keep searching. Somewhere on a Pink Team blog is a bonus scene from The Union. All I can tell you is that it may involve a shirtless Cyrus. Before you go looking for it, check out the amazing author I’m hosting, Clara Stone.
Scavenger Hunt Puzzle
Directions: Below, you’ll notice that I’ve listed my favorite number. Collect the favorite numbers of all the authors on the PINK TEAM, and then add them up (don’t worry, you can use a calculator).
Rules: Open internationally, anyone below the age of 18 should have a parent or guardian’s permission to enter. To be eligible for the grand prize, you must submit the completed entry form by April 5, at noon Pacific Time. Entries sent without the correct number or without contact information will not be considered.
Scavenger Hunt Post
Author Clara Stone
Today, I am hosting Clara Stone. Clara Stone lives in the beautiful city of Boise, Idaho. Unlike what most believe about Idaho, it’s more than a sack full of potatoes. When she’s not writing, you’ll catch Clara reading YA and NA books, mostly romance, and enjoying time with her family. She is a proud CW TV addict.
Synopsis Hudson and Blake Lovelly lead a charmed life—successful careers, loving family, beautiful home. Now, on the eve of their daughter’s birth, they’re counting their blessings. Life wasn’t always so generous . . .
Fifteen years ago, seventeen-year-old Blake Voss walked into Cranbrook Preparatory High to participate in the school year’s most-prestigious debate competition. She never expected to fall for the pretentious, golden-haired boy on the opposing debate team, and he never expected to be ensnared by the quick-witted prankster with a heart of gold.
Their mutual love for joking pretense soon leads them to pull their biggest prank yet–pretending to be in love. But when danger threatens, Hudson can’t conceal his growing affection. He’ll do anything to be with Blake, even if it means risking his heart to protect her.
They didn’t plan for their friendship to grow into a love story. But sometimes, all it takes is a little Hope.
This powerful companion to Forever Kinda Love tells the history of Hudson and Blake’s relationship. Laced with haunting emotion and beautiful sentiment, this is a tale about overcoming even the darkest moments, reminding us all to love more. Give more. Without regrets.
A NOTE FROM CLARA:
I had always intended to write only one story in the Lovelly series. It was about Heath and Ace, two best friends that found each other through loss and friendship. But by the time I was done with their book—Forever Kinda Love—the other Lovelly brothers demanded their story be heard. That was how I came about writing a story for Hudson Lovelly—Flirting with Love— and currently plotting Harrington Lovelly’s story—Title TBA, Release early 2016.
Since not a lot of you are aware of the Lovelly brother, I figured I’d sit down with the boys and do a quick “This or That” interview with them for the YA Scavenger Hunt. Just know that they might have deviated from the interview at times.
Without further ado, here’s the special interview for all YA Contemporary Romance readers! Please welcome: Heath, Harrington, and Hudson Lovelly!
Clara: Hello boys! How are you? So we’re here celebrating Spring YA Scavenger Hunt and I thought it’d be fun to interview you all. Remember this is YA readers, so be good. **glares at Harrington*
Harrington: *raises an eyebrow* Why are you look at me like that? I didn’t do anything.
Clara: Yet. *looks at notecards * Okay, so first question. Villian or Hero?
Harrington: *grins* Villian
Clara: Question 2: In Love or For Love?
Heath: In Love
Hudson: In Love
Harrington: *gag* I refuse to answer that question.
Clara: *rolls eyes* Always so dramatic. Anyhoo. Moving on. Ghosts or Sci-fiction?
**Heath and Hudson look at Harrington*
Harrington: *shrugs* What? Ghosts are freaky dude!
Clara: Question four: Flight or Fight?
Harrington and Heath respond at the same time: Fight
Hudson: *Looks at his brothers* *Blinks* Seriously? *Sighs* Fight—But only if it can’t be avoided
Clara: **looks at notecard then to Harrington, then back at notecard* I seriously don’t’ know what I was thinking writing this question down… But alas… **sighs*: Brains or Beauty?
Harrington: You both are such losers! Beauty. I don’t care what anyone says, but you get judged in this world for how you look. And being beautiful matters.
Heath: Beauty is so subjective.
Hudson: And it doesn’t last long.
Harrington: Says the two dou—
Clara: Harrington! Language!
Harrington: *clears throat and continues* Can you two be any more hypocritical? It’s easy for you to say it cause your woman are H.O.T.
*Heath rolls eyes*
Hudson: Did you every think that maybe you think they are ‘beautiful’ because you see their inner beauty.
Harrington: That’s like telling a homeless guy “You’re hungry cuz you haven’t eaten anything in days.” It doesn’t make sense.
Clara: Okay! I think it’s safe to say that’s all the time we have Lovellys. Thank you all for joining and taking part of this fun –get to know your characters for FUN interview.
Heath: Thanks Clara, from all of us!
Clara: **looks at Hudson and Harrington with worry*
Heath: Don’t worry about them. They’ll be okay once they figure out they can’t stay mad at each other for long.
Clara: Hope you guys had fun getting to know Heath, Harrington, and Hudson during this short, but fun “This or That” interview. Be sure to check out Forever Kinda Love and Flirting with Love if you get a chance. Both books can be read as standalones!
Don’t forget to enter the contest for a chance to win a ton of signed books, includes a signed copy of The Union by me, Flirting with Forever by Clara Stone, and more! To enter, you need to know that my favorite number is 5. Add up all the favorite numbers of the authors on the pink team and you’ll have the secret code to enter for the grand prize!
Continue the Hunt
To keep going on your quest for the hunt, you need to check out the next author, Cidney Swanson!