Friday, May 27, 2016

Review: "It's Not You, It's Me" by Allison Rushby (Contemporary Romance)

It's Not You, It's Me
by Allison Rushby

Publisher: Red Dress Ink
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: May 1, 2004

(Affiliate links)
Description from Publisher: She's heard all the lines. Now it's time for the truth! Charlie has to keep pinching herself to believe she's leaving Australia for a trip to Europe - a generous gift from her family, who know how tough her life has been lately.

But the last person Charlie expects to bump into on the plane is Jasper Ash, international celebrity, rock-star sex-god - and Charlie's former best friend, flatmate and... almost-lover!

It's been three years since Charlie impulsively jumped into bed with Jas, then a struggling student. But their nearly-one-night stand had just been warming up when Jas began the male "backing off" ritual, practically sprinting out the door with the classic excuse, "It's not you, it's me." Yeah, right. Everyone knows what that means - It is you! Not pretty enough, not successful enough - just not enough.

Charlie has dealt with it - and a whole lot more - but the unanswered questions still niggle. Acting on impulse once again, she invites Jas to join her own European tour! And as they share hotel rooms, play at being tourists and dodge Jas's determined groupies, it becomes clear they're both at a crossroads in life. Before they can move on, they finally have to deal with the unfinished business between them - starting with a serious conversation about that night.

Former journalist Allison Rushby lives in Brisbane, Australia, where she writes full-time, usually with her cat Violet on her lap. It's Not You It's Me is her debut novel for Red Dress Ink.

My Rating:
Heat Rating:

To start, I need to explain that I read this book way back in 2004 around the time it first came out. At this time, I would often go to Barnes & Noble once a month or so and pick up 3 to 5 fiction books, mostly based on their covers. (See, book covers can totally matter!). This was one such purchase. I really enjoyed it at the time and, for whatever reason, it stuck with me for years. About 3 years later, I tried to remember the book so I could read it again, but couldn't find it and couldn't remember! I remembered almost everything about the book, but the title and author! It as a bit excruciating, to be honest. A couple of years ago, I tried googling some of what I remembered (the guy's name... Jax? Jaz?), but had no luck. Until earlier this year when the title all of a sudden came to me. Yes, 12 years later.

So, that is to say two things:
1) This is a fun book that you just might love enough to remember later!
2) This review is based on my second read of this, though with 12 years between reads. I didn't remember everything about the story, but did remember many things.
With that, I give you my review. :)

This book is so FUN! It's got some seriously laugh-out-loud moments and dialogue (the banter between Jas and Charlie, in particular) and what's not to like about a romance set mostly during Oktoberfest and then a CASTLE in Germany?

When Jas and Charlie first meet, you immediately fall in love with the two of them, both separately and together. And they only get better as you go! Their romance is a slow build, but really starts while they are both roommates living with a bunch of elderly people. The eccentricities of their neighbors and the way that both Jas and Charlie embrace those quirks endears you to them from the start. These two characters are built basically from the ground up and are just so darn likeable!

When you meet them again 3 years and one awkward (but sexy!) situation later, they are older, wiser, and a little more hardened versions of themselves. Jas as the Marilyn Manson-esque rock star and Charlie as the girl who has been dealing with some hard times are still a great pair.

The sexual chemistry and tension between them is awesome and sexy as hell, once they finally get their act together!

The misunderstandings and their one big fight are believable and not overly dramatic. I love that they don't have to make grand declarations of love for you to know they are in love. Their bond is just so well built throughout the book.

The Oktoberfest setting is also a lot of fun, as is the castle. You can really see and feel it all like you're there. And the descriptions of Zamiel (Jas rock star alter ego) are just as vivid, as well as entertaining.

There is a bit of action 2/3rds through that has some great tension and isn't necessarily what you would expect.

Overall, a seriously fun best friends to lovers romance.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Review: "Wish List" by Belinda Williams (Contemporary Romance)

Wish List (#4)
by Belinda Williams

Publisher: Momentum Books - Moonlight
Series: City Love
The Boyfriend Sessions (#1)
The Pitch (#2)
Modern Heart (#3)
(Affil Links)

Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: May 26, 2016

(Affiliate links)
Description from Publisher: Could the wrong man on paper be the perfect man in real life?

Cate Harmon likes lists. While this may serve her well as a financial planner, her girlfriends think that creating a checklist for her ideal man is going a step too far. But she has one, and she's sticking to it.

Cate has always dreamed of starting a family and settling down and yet she's the only one of her close knit friendship group still unattached. But that doesn't mean she's going to lower her standards.

Enter Dave, a reformed bad boy with gorgeous hair and eyes the wrong color. Dave doesn't tick any of the boxes on Cate's list. It's unthinkable that she would develop feelings for him, and yet ... Cate finds herself being drawn to Dave in a way she's never felt before.

Will Cate confront the reasons behind her list? Or will she risk losing a man who could be better than any list she could ever dream up?

My Rating:
Heat Rating:
I received a digital ARC from the publisher through for an honest, unbiased review. My opinion is my own.

So, I liked this. Surprising depth and even some darkness (primarily with Cate's family - they are definitely toxic!).

Cate's character was likable, but there were things about her that put me off. For instance, I didn't actually get the impression that she was as much of a romantic as everyone claimed. That may be because this was the first book in the series that I have read and it's the 4th. It was disappointing to me that Cate found out about Dave's wealth so quickly and the timing for that reveal wasn't great. She does more open to dating him soon after that, which doesn't dissuade you from thinking that she is a snob. I wanted her to find out about his wealth AFTER falling for him.

Dave was a bit too gruff for my tastes, though I did like him as well. The thing I liked most was how he treated people, generally being happy to help in any way that he could. The issues that came to light about his dad and how they were dealt with felt melodramatic.

The tension between the two was great though, and I liked them as a couple. They seemed to be well-matched.

I do wish this had more of a focus on her list, as it seemed to imply in the description. I had been under the impression that she was going to actually have a list that she took too seriously that included things like a certain eye color. Mostly, she wanted a rich guy who was successful and that's what she got. There wasn't a love triangle, despite the fact a few dates with a guy who "checked several boxes" were mentioned. I didn't ever believe that she cared much for James.

Overall, this was a nice read and likely a good ending to this series.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Review: "Never Let Go" by Allison B. Hanson (Contemporary Romance)

Never Let Go
by Allison B. Hanson

Publisher: Kensington Books - Lyrical Shine
Series: Blue Ridge Romance
When Least Expected (#1)
Nick of Time (#2)
(Affiliate Links)
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: May 24, 2016

(Affiliate links)
Description from Publisher: Riley Fisher doesn't have time to chase after men. As a single mother working two jobs, she barely has time to eat or sleep. But a girl has needs. So when handsome veteran Sam Brooks asks her out, she decides she deserves some R&R. She doesn't expect anything else from him—after all, he's hardly the type to get serious.

Sam came back from Afghanistan lucky to be alive, despite PTSD that hits whenever he lets down his guard. His therapist told him to forget about relationships. When he meets Riley, he's not planning on breaking the rules. She's cute, petite, and a total smartass—not even his type. But she's hard to forget. Especially once he runs into Riley and her toddler on a rustic mountain getaway and sees what he's missing. Her kid makes him laugh all day. And Riley makes him burn all night.

Too bad a relationship is impossible. But they can enjoy the attraction. It's not like they're going to fall in love…

My Rating:
Heat Rating:
I received a digital ARC from the publisher through for an honest, unbiased review. This in no way influenced my review. My opinion is my 100% own.

What an unexpectedly deep and heartwarming story! This is so much more than I thought it would be. It starts as a romance of a couple, but quickly becomes a love story of a FAMILY.

The little boy, Luca, is wonderfully adorable. It's not always easy to write chils characters, but Hanson did so with so much heart and Luca is just so real.

You also can't help but sympathize with Sam and Riley. They both have so much baggage, but are both trying to do the best they can with it. I liked that they are so open about their feelings and expectations, and that it wasn't a miscommunication that cause a rift. The issues that they have, Sam with PTSD from being deployed to a war zone, and Riley having to deal with a jerk ex-husband, are very genuine contemporary issues. Because of this, my heart broke at the climax, fearing things wouldn't work out like I wanted them to.

I hadn't realized that this was a part of the "Blue Ridge Romance" series until partway through, but it wasn't really necessary to read the others - this really is standalone. The supporting characters all play their parts wonderfully. Most notably, I enjoyed the unusual, but not improbable, way Riley's ex-mother-in-law, Anita, who chose her ex-daughter-in-law over her a-hole son.

Considering the focus on the family over the couple, I might classify this in more of the Womens Lit genre than romance, but I think this is still something your average lover of contemporary romance will thoroughly enjoy.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Review: "The Accidental Boyfriend" by Maggie Dallen (Contemporary Romance, Chick Lit)

The Accidental Boyfriend (#2)
by Maggie Dallen

Publisher: Lyrical Press
Series: Chance Romance
The Accidental Engagement (#1) (affil.)
The Accidental Elopement (#3) (affil.)

Genre: Contemporary Romance, Chick Lit
Publication Date: May 24, 2016

(Affiliate links)
Description from Publisher: Holly Sinclair is ready to have it all. She's even found her Mr. Right--a steady, reliable guy who just needs a little convincing. Now all the former wild child has to do is free herself of her very inconvenient attraction to Jack Everett. Not only does the notorious playboy and tabloid king seduce her at her sister's wedding, he follows her to Paris! Suddenly, Holly is alone with Jack in the most romantic city in the world--and his family is leaping to the wrong conclusions…

The world's most infamous bachelor has finally met his match. If Jack was the type to settle down, Holly would be the woman of his dreams. There's just one hitch: Holly actually believes she wants to marry Mr. Oh-So-Boring. Intent on proving that she deserves someone better, Jack finds himself playing the role of the perfect boyfriend…a little too well. If he's not careful, he might just lose this game--and his heart.

My Rating:
Sexiness Rating:
I received a digital ARC from the publisher through for an honest, unbiased review. My opinion is my own.

Let me start out by saying that I really like Jack, the male lead here. I had read "The Accidental Engagement" before reading this, and even with just the small glimpse you get of who he is, you can't help but like him. In this book, you get to know him for more than just an intelligent playboy and see him for who he actually is: a sweetheart who is also funny and sexy.

This story has one of my favorite type of male leads: the guy who sells himself short and doesn't realize how awesome he is. I suppose that's referred to as the "beta male." I am a sucker for underdogs, so this really works for me! His humor and sweetness conjured up the image of James Marsden.

I felt Holly wasn't quite as developed as Jack was, so I mostly rooted for them because I liked Jack so much and they seemed like a good fit. She's still a solid character that is very likable, however. She felt, amusingly enough, similar in disposition to Holly Golightly in "Breakfast at Tiffany's," but with more sass.

The sexual chemistry was electric between these characters, and the way their romance grows really works. There was no doubt that a solid foundation of friendship is built first and the bonding is sweet. There were many 'moments' between them that will make you smile, and the heat between the characters is all the better for it.

I was impressed with the fact that Maggie Dallen chose her catalyst for wanting to "settle down" to be a miscarriage (worth noting here that it is merely mentioned and is unlikely to make anyone uncomfortable). As common as miscarriages are, they rarely come up and it was nicely handled here.

All of that said, this does seem a bit predictable and while this can easily be read as a standalone novel, the reader will get more out of this if the first book is read. And, having read the first, that wouldn't be a hardship. ;)

I would recommend this to anyone who is a fan of the contemporary romance/romantic comedy genre. I look forward to the next book of the series!

Friday, May 20, 2016

Review: "Conflicted" by Ruby Black (Contemporary Romance)

by Ruby Black

Publisher: Ruby Black
Genre: Contemporary Romance, New Adult
Publication Date: April 27, 2016

(Affiliate links)
Description from Publisher: She’s the only one I’ve ever needed and the only one I’ll never have.

The only problem is…she’s my best friend.

I’ve always felt the connection, but I just can’t go there. Not with her. She deserves better than what I can offer her. So I drown myself in women and booze, certain I’m doing the right thing, keeping her at a distance.

Or so I thought.

When Lacey tells me about the internship she’s scored with a hotshot criminal attorney, I’m happy for her. This could make her career. If anyone deserves success, it’s her.

Then I learn who her new ‘mentor’ is.

My father.

Now, the secrets I’ve been keeping may cost me the very friendship I’ve been trying to protect.

My Rating:
Heat Rating:
I received a digital ARC from the publisher for an honest, unbiased review. This in no way influenced my review. My opinion is my 100% own.

I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My opinion is my own.

By about 1/3 through, I realized that this wasn't quite the story I thought it was. Reading the description, I didn't realize this had a love triangle between a girl, her best friend, and his dad. That's just not my cup of tea.

I was also not a fan of how little romance there was between Lucas and Lacey... all of the sex and even romantic scenes were between them and other people. :/ They didn't feel like best friends who were in love with each other to me, despite the many times we're told they are.

The cliffhanger at the end was a bit of a strange one. The secret Aaron had revealed wasn't necessarily cliffhanger-worthy, though I suppose maybe the love triangle continues in the next installment as well?

So, why 2 stars and not 1? Because I liked Ruby Black's style of writing. The descriptions of the city, the personalities of the characters, the dialogue... They were all well-written and I think that I would enjoy something else written by her in the future!

Mostly, I didn't care for the squicky 'dad' sex and love triangle. Honestly, I'm not a big fan of May-December romance anyway, but wanting sex with a guy AND HIS DAD? Just not the story for me.