contemporary · hollywood · romance · suspense

One True Pairing by Cathy Yardley

♥♥ 2 Fandom Stars ♥♥

Reading the synopsis, I was completely sold on this. There’s fandoms, geeks, and Hollywood stars — what’s not to like?! Unfortunately, it just didn’t live up to what I was hoping for.

Jake Reese, a hot and sweet actor, literally runs into Hailey in a coffee shop while running away from some overzealous fans. Hailey, independent, blunt, and struggling for money, helps hide him and they make a connection. When Hailey has a family crisis and cuts their date short, they think they’ll never see each other again. But when Hailey needs a favor from him to save her sisters’ bookstore and Jake needs someone to pose as his girlfriend, they strike a bargain. In essence, I love this trope and always enjoy it. But I found both the hero and heroine naive and kind of annoying. Hailey doesn’t do relationships; she does one-night-stands. I’m all for women having the sexual freedom they desire, but it was annoying that in order for Hailey to not want commitment, Jake had to be weak and borderline emasculated. Why can’t they both be strong and independent? This just took the gender role reversal too far for me and made it difficult for me to connect to the characters.

Additionally, the tension in the plot was a tad over-contrived. I won’t give anything away, but I felt like the characters didn’t adequately address the threat, and Jake was pretty oblivious to the people messing with his life. The climax was…anticlimactic. I found myself rolling my eyes a little too often and almost marked it as DNF. Overall I was disappointed; I think the tension could have been developed better and the characters could have used their heads a little more.

**ARC generously provided via NetGalley in exchange for honest review.

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contemporary · dark · erotic · haters to lovers · mob/mafia · romance · suspense

Consent by Charmaine Pauls

♥♥ 5 Nail-Biting Stars ♥♥

Different reactions while reading…

I feel like it’s been forever since I’ve fangirled over a series like this. This dark romance is amazing and brings so many different factors to the table. For one, it’s hella sexy and has a lot of kinky sex, and who doesn’t like that? It deals with forced seduction and how two people can build a real relationship after having such a rocky start, and how far they’ll go to protect each other.

The last book left us hanging with Valentina running from Gabriel. She takes her brother with her and tries to start over, but she’s dealing with conflicting emotions. She thought she’d be happy to have escaped his manipulations, but finds that she still misses him and cares for him even as she’s accepting her new future without him. Of course, Gabriel won’t let her leave him and does everything in his power to find her. I won’t spoil anything, but Gabriel’s plan for saving Val in the last book backfires, leaving a mess of miscommunication and angst on both sides.

When Gabriel finds Val, they try to start their life over, moving out of his mother’s house. Val’s past is intricately tied with Gabriel’s family, and we get a lot of answers as to why Gabriel’s mom hates her so much. As they fall in love, they both struggle with accepting that they can have something real, and it leads them to both make some stupid decisions. Gabriel killed me and I couldn’t decide if I wanted to smack him for being so dumb or if I wanted to wrap him in a bear hug for being so selfless. Either way, Val’s response to Gabriel’s actions had me tearing up for basically half the book and let’s just say that their connection is the only thing that keeps her going for a while.

I was so pleased with this series for so many reasons. I’ve found it so hard to find dark romances that have solid character development and plot arcs, and this had it all. Great plot, packed with action and sexual tension, and a sizzling connection between the hero/heroine that went beyond the physical. A must read!

 

**ARC provided via NetGalley in exchange for honest review**

romance

Dubious by Charmaine Pauls

♥♥ 5 Dubious Stars ♥♥

This gave me all of my recent cravings all rolled into one intense book. There’s servitude to repay a debt, dubious consent/forced seduction, and mob/mafia influence. Set to release this October, it’s definitely one to put on your tbr shelf.

Valentina is a vet student who takes care of her brother after he suffered serious brain damage in a car accident. Set in Johannesburg, there’s a lot of poverty and paying people off for protection. Val finds her brother gambling one night and discovers he owes a debt to a loan shark for 400,000 rand. Obviously, Val doesn’t have the money to pay the loan shark, Gabriel, off so she’s forced to work off the debt for nine years. What she doesn’t know is that Gabriel wants to make her his and doesn’t plan on letting her go at the end of the contract.

However, Gabriel’s mother, who runs the family business, wants both Val and her brother dead. She puts Val through grueling tasks to set her up for failure, but Val doesn’t break. Meanwhile, Gabriel trains her to desire his body and what it can do to her, and she struggles with her heart and her mind’s attraction to him. Gabriel starts having deeper feelings for Val and he devises a plan to ensure her safety from his mother.

I thought this was really well-written because it felt real; Val’s reluctance with Gabriel was believable and I loved that she didn’t really secretly desire him outside of the bedroom. When the heroine starts falling in love with her captor right after a sexual encounter, it kind of ruins the whole dubious consent thing, so I really appreciated this. It also showed Val’s desperation and strength through all her interactions with Gabriel and his mother. There was solid character development and many secondary characters started to steal my heart. I can’t wait for the conclusion to the story!

Arc provided via NetGalley in exchange for honest review

contemporary · romance · royalty

Royal Pain by Tracy Wolff

ARC provided through NetGalley

Unfortunately, this was a DNF at 48% for me. There was just too much going on that I kind of hated to let me get through the whole book. Kian is the ‘spare’ to the heir of Wildemar. When his brother disappears, he is forced to drop his party boy ways and start acting in his brother’s place. Kian is flirty, hot, and hates politics. He meets Savvy during an event at the castle where she was working as a waitress.

They apparently have this insta-love connection that I just didn’t see. Kian doesn’t know anything about her, and as he tries to find where she lives so he can talk to her again, he can’t stop thinking about her. I’m not trying to say that their first meeting is forgettable, but it doesn’t warrant the emotional connection that was established in my opinion. And on top of that, I just didn’t see Savvy reciprocating his feelings basically at all. We’re told that she is from her POV, but her actions didn’t convince me. If anything, she seemed to be playing with him and didn’t have any interest in him at all.

The other thing that really bothered me was just how twisty the plot was. It seemed like every chapter there was some new groundbreaking plot twist that changed everything. From who Savvy is to the circumstances surrounding Kian’s brother’s disappearance to even just Kian’s interactions with others. The way Kian’s body guards watched Kian at Savvy’s house was way too much like babysitting when they could have just looked through her place and kept surveillance. Overall, I was just not very impressed and there was too much going on that didn’t seem believable to me to keep me interested.

contemporary · haters to lovers · kindle unlimited · romance · sports

Cold Hearted by Winter Renshaw

♥♥ 3 Icy Stars ♥♥

As per my rating, I have mixed feelings about this one. It’s a hockey romance, which is one of my favorite subcategories in sports romance, but I there was just too much going on that I wasn’t in love with.

Okay, so Rhett is hot, talented, and (hot) tempered — but he’s got a heart of ice (see what I did there?). His best friend, Ayla’s half-brother, recently died and the circumstances of his death leave Rhett hating his guts. When he meets Ayla, she knows how he feels, but doesn’t tell him who she is. They start getting together, and soon it turns into something more than just a fling. Ayla is (usually) honest, humble, and not materialistic. She has reservations for not telling Rhett who she is, and when he finally does, things go south real quick. He basically tells her to get the hell out of his life and she moves across the country. They don’t see each other for another year and a half, and eventually start hooking up again — well, more like hate-fucking, but you get it.

One of my biggest frustrations with this book was Ayla’s (dis)honesty. The author kept bringing up how she never lies, and values transparency so much, blah, blah, blah. And yet…she has no hesitation or trouble lying about her relation to her brother. How does that stay true to her character? We’ve only been told that she’s honest, and her friend is so shocked because Ayla always tells the truth, even when it’s hard. But we never see that, like ever, and it drives me crazy.

The other thing that I just couldn’t really get with is the jump in the timeline. I think it would have worked a whole lot better if the first part was used more for reference, or the fight was the opening scene to set the stage for the second part. It just seemed like I was reading a two-part series in the span of one book, so there wasn’t enough room for the plot to build as much or for me to get to know the characters enough to feel invested in them.

 

kindle unlimited · new adult · romance · suspense

Caveman by Jo Raven

♥♥ 2.5 Rugged Stars ♥♥

And yet another book that left me wanting recently. Matt, a hot single dad hires Tati to nanny for his kids. Tati is straight out of high school and barely legal. She’s naive, loving, and selfless. Matt lost his wife a few years before this story takes place, and he still hasn’t really dealt with losing her. He’s angry and gruff, and everyone in the town he just moved to thinks he’s a total dick.

After Tati starts working for him, however, Matt starts coming home to threatening messages stabbed onto his front door. He doesn’t know what they mean or who’s sending them, and the local police are less than helpful. One thing that bothered me with this was how neither Tati nor the kids heard anything; if someone rammed a knife through a solid door, I’d like to think that I’d notice that. It also felt like these messages kept getting brushed under the rug by everyone involved — Matt, Tati, even the police. How is it that a knife in someone’s door isn’t seen as a serious threat? Especially when other things start happening, no one thinks to connect the occurrences, and it drove me crazy.

I also struggled with Matt and Tati’s relationship. I’m all for age gaps, but this one was hard for me to swallow; Tati literally just graduated high school. How does she know what she wants to do with her life yet? How does Matt see her as mature enough to be equally paired with him? Sure, she’s good with kids and grew up taking care of her siblings, but that’s only one aspect of her development. I just don’t like that she would be willing to limit her future for someone she’s only known a couple months. Also, this could just be me, but I think 18-year-olds still look like babies, so idk how I feel about that.

contemporary · haters to lovers · romance

Captain by Lauren Rowe

♥♥ 3 Stars ♥♥

I wanted to like this one. It had so much promise. But I just can’t do the whole insta-love thing. Tessa meets Ryan under false pretenses at a bar, and yet from the moment Ryan saw her, he knew he had to have her. He knew that she was it for him, and he didn’t want to let her leave without him. When his crazy ex storms into the bar, yelling at him (and Tessa), Tessa slips out before he can explain what’s going on or get her number.

I guess I just don’t like insta-love. Ryan is sexy, tatted, and confident. He knows what he wants and is willing to work for it. But there’s something about a capable man who hands his balls over to a girl the moment he meets her that’s just too unbelievable to me. It just takes so much of his sexiness away; like how do you enjoy the chase when he’s ready to propose the first night? Anyway. The two end up running into each other at a wedding, and things get steamy. Ryan lets her think they’re just having a fling, but he’s in it to put a ring on her.

It’s a sweet story, just not for me. Knowing that Ryan was in love with Tessa from the start detracted a lot of the sexual tension for me, so while it was hot, I wasn’t that invested in it.