Friday, February 28, 2014

River Road by Jayne Anne Krentz

Image linked from Goodreads
I quite enjoyed this return to the books I remember reading when I first started getting into romance. This story is proof that Krentz can step away from the Arcane novels to return to her contemporary novels (the ones without paranormal aspects) and still craft a really good story. At the same time this story felt fairly modern, I really felt the connection to Krentz's earlier works.
The book opens with Lucy Sheridan being taken away from a teenage party by a three-years-older Mason Fletcher. She has a crush on this enigmatic male but she's still pissed that he peremptorily pulled her out of a party that she was going to leave anyway.
But Mason has a good reason for pulling her away, one he doesn't want to tell her about. But the problem goes away when the teen at the heart of the issue vanishes.
Thirteen years later, Lucy, now a genealogical researcher, returns to Summer River to sell the property left to her by her aunt and deal with the shares in a family company left to her by her aunt's partner (Krentz isn't usually so coy about possible homosexual relationships but I prefer to believe because it's such a non-issue that she doesn't feel the need to spell it out.) Of course, Mason is also there, healing his psyche after a particularly bad outcome with his company.
Long time readers will be able to figure out pretty quickly what the twist at the end is going to be but I didn't feel like it took any enjoyment out of the story.
Why not five stars? I really wish that Lucy and Mason had kept using condoms until they were in a committed relationship.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Loving Lord Ash by Sally MacKenzie

Image linked from Goodreads
Talk about your big misunderstandings... this one is... oof... a doozy. And it's caused Kit, the Marquis of Ashton, eldest son of the Duchess of Love, not to go near his wife for eight years. 
Jessica grew up with the family but, as the daughter of the head groomsman, she wasn't really part of the nobility, but not really part of the lower classes either. When her father died, she was ecstatic that someone wanted to marry her. Well, that's part of the story anyway.
Almost immediately after the ceremony, Ash dumped her and went to stay at his parents' estate. Since then, rumors about both husband and wife have circulated the country. Well, the nobility at least.
Ash decides that enough is enough and he needs an heir (not to mention his two brothers are devastatingly happy in their new marriages), so it's time for a divorce. He's sort of a douche-hat about the whole thing, even in the face of Jess trying to tell him what really has happened, but he does end up growing out of it.
Sally MacKenzie is a consistent three- to four-star author for me and this is one of her best. Yes, the situation is over-the-top. No, it probably wouldn't have really happened. Yes, we do get some great character development.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Come Home to Me by Brenda Novak

Oh the feels. The many, many feels. Brenda Novak does not always craft a... comfortable story,
Image linked from Goodreads
but she always manages to evoke strong emotions in her readers. At least me. Lots of spoilers in this review so I'm going to hide most of it.

SECRET BABY! Maybe two secret babies. This is such an overused storyline in the Harlequin romance novels and it irked me for much of the first part of the story. But... these are damaged people that Novak is writing about. They're not some white-bread secretary who only hides the baby because of some twisted logic. Okay, yes, Presley should have told Aaron. But, by the stated parameters of their relationship, they were only hooking up. And she was taking a lot of drugs at that point so... who knows. Then there's the burden of the relationship she had after she ran away to Arizona. It sounds... dark. Very dark.
The whole plotline with Cheyenne wanting to artificially inseminate herself with her brother-in-law's sperm also felt like it should be irksome. But, it somehow wasn't that bad once we found out that Dylan was also hiding things in their marriage. Again, coming from the same families as Presley and Aaron, these are two people who love each other so much but have never been around a good marriage to see how burdens shared can be burdens lightened (oh, god, that's so twee but yet so true.) I spent the second half of the book with my fingers crossed that they would just talk to each other and trusting in Novak to bring all of the tangled webs to a happy conclusion.

Friday, February 21, 2014

All He Ever Dreamed by Shannon Stacey

Image linked from Goodreads
Another common romance trope (friends-to-lovers) with another common theme (Wha-huh? My best friend is a girl?) that Stacey manages to breathe some new life into.
Josh Kowalski is anxious to get out of town. He was the default caretaker for his family's lodge and finally admitted to them that he wants his own life, not the one that was left to him.
Katie Davis grew up alongside the Kowalski's. Her mother was their longtime housekeeper and default mother when their own died. She's been in love with Josh since they were kids. And everyone knows it. Except, of course, for Josh. But when Katie's mom falls ill and she moves back to the lodge, it might finally be time for Josh to open up his eyes and see what's been right in front of him all along.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Once in a Lifetime by Jill Shalvis

Image linked from Goodreads
If you like character development, this one's a doozy. Former bad girl Aubrey Wellington is trying to make amends. She's also trying to avoid one man she wronged but the fireworks between them are hard to ignore.
Ben McDaniel has spent the five years since his wife's death traveling around the world installing water systems. But he's finally ready to stay home for awhile.
When the rest of the townsfolk notices the attraction between them, they aren't shy about warning Ben (the local hero, though, that title seems to belong to whoever this Shalvis book is about) off of a girl who is most recently known for being involved with a man who had a girlfriend. Actually, many, many girlfriends.
I gave this book three and a half stars because I mostly had good feels for this book. But thinking back, there were many frustrations as well.
I spent half the book appreciating what Aubrey was trying to do and the other half annoyed because it really didn't seem like what she did was really that out of line of normal teenage angsty-type stuff. Her so-called "bad deeds" were generally in retaliation for a very real slight that someone else had done to her. It's almost like Shalvis was trying to create excuses for her behavior. It wasn't like Victoria Dahl's Jane who truly was a wild child.
Ben, I enjoyed. Except for his ass-hat duncery at the end but the town of Lucky Harbor holds up a mirror and makes him face that. Oh, and the fact that he disabled her car? That's not romantic, that's creepy. Even though he admitted it, it's still creepy.
The plot was interesting but the last Big Misunderstanding the sex kitten pictures was cleared up rather too fast and didn't really need to be included at all.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

All He Ever Desired by Shannon Stacey

Image linked from Goodreads
We've met both Ryan Kowalski and Lauren Carpenter in earlier Kowalski books and we also know that there is some "mystery" in their past that causes Ryan to avoid Lauren as much as he can whenever he returns to their hometown.
Well, it turns out that Ryan has always loved Lauren, even when she was married to his best friend. And he betrayed his best friend by asking Lauren to run away with him (it's in the first part of the book, not exactly a spoiler).
So... awkward. Right? And it's worked out for the two to avoid each other. But they can't now because Lauren's teenage son has caused some major damage at Ryan's family home and now he needs to work it off. Which mean the Lauren and Ryan will be seeing a lot more of each other. (heh)
I loved that conflicts were solved so fast because the damn characters talked to each other. Does that happen in romance novels? Not often. And Stacey made it work! Love it. That was what really bumped this book from a three to a four for me.

Monday, February 10, 2014

No Good Duke Goes Unpunished by Sarah MacLean

Image linked from Goodreads
What a wonderful story. I fell into it, splashed around in MacLean's world for almost two hours and emerged wishing that the fourth book in the series were already in my hands. 
Twelve years ago, Mara Lowe, the lovely daughter of a wealthy merchant, faked her own death. Terrified of her fiance, indeed, marriage in general, she picked up an unassuming boy in the pub and then drugged him, hoping to make it look like he had deflowered her. Then she ran, not realizing that she had vastly overestimated how much blood was needed and everyone assumed that William Hart had killed the girl who was to be his step-mother.
Though in line to be a duke, and even without proof of a body, everyone assumed William was a killer. Which spawned a nickname of "the Killer Duke." However, he has already re-branded himself as Temple and seeks absolution in the boxing ring, hoping that the pain he feels will help in find forgiveness for himself. You see, Mara drugged him so he never knew whether or not he was, in actuality, a killer. So, when Mara shows up at the Angel (his gambling establishment, where all of his fights earn the club a lot of money) he's none to happy.
We get to see two damaged characters find their way into love. It's a muddled process and there is a last sort-of Big Misunderstanding but all turns out as it should and we are left with wondering how it's all going to turn out for fourth owner of the club, Chase.

Friday, February 7, 2014

All He Ever Needed by Shannon Stacey

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I was on quite a Shannon Stacey roll and this book really helped to keep it going.
Mitch Kowalski is in town to help out at the family lodge while his brother recuperates from a broken leg. He left town to evade the gossip and the past that everyone thinks they know about him. But, as long as he's back, he might as well scout out the fresh meat (my terms, Stacey's words are much classier.)
Paige Sullivan has been in town for two years and has finally set down the roots that were missing during her nomadic youth. She's not really interested in a fling with Mitch (though most of the rest of town thinks that she should definitely go for it, and they tell her).
I liked the secondary characters in this book. Yes, they're almost all sequel bait, but their stories are in the background with just enough setup to get a feeling for who they are without taking away from Paige and Mitch's story.
I love the Stacey's books avoid the Big Misunderstanding. When Mitch or Paige has the feels, they tell each other. There is no drawn out, "Oh, he'll change his mind and love me soon..."