FicCentral received a free copy of this book from Wordsmith Publicity.
When football player Austin Lawson ends things with his supermodel girlfriend, he never expects a heavily edited video showing him in the worst possible light to go viral. And with the public now up in arms, his career is in almost as much trouble as his reputation. Heading home to Jessamine is supposed to be his chance to begin working on his image, and a girl-next-door elementary school teacher just might be the perfect solution.
Harper Bell is used to being overlooked in favor of her beautiful cousins, but while she may not be devastated by her lack of dating life, there are some in her extended family who won’t let her forget just how disappointing she is. When professional football player Austin Lawson comes back to town and volunteers at the school, Harper tries to keep her attraction to him under wraps. But the more time they spend together, the closer she comes to being completely head over heels.
The Verdict: I’m usually pretty judgmental when it comes to stories that center around some dark secret or ulterior motive, and I was afraid that Love So Perfect was going to take my enjoyment of the series down a notch. But Marquita Valentine has a way of spinning a romantic tale in such a way that even a romance novel standard like the big bad secret feels like a fresh idea.
Austin isn’t one of those jerks we’re used to meeting in romances, those guys that pick some poor, unsuspecting woman to con into reviving a career or saving a business deal. Yes, he has every intention of salvaging his reputation, and that’s exactly why he volunteers in Harper’s class, but he doesn’t really set out to lead her on. It’s more of a lucky coincidence in his mind; he likes her well enough, and the fact that the public would love to see him with someone like her is just a bonus. And let’s not forget that he’s one of the Lawson boys. Even at their worst, they’re still gentlemen.
Harper is a sweet, small town girl who teaches at the local school and doesn’t have much of a social life. But while she may not be overly experienced in dating and romance, she’s not exactly a wallflower. She’s also *gasp* older than Austin by a few years, and the fact that the age difference doesn’t even land on Austin’s radar just shows how right he is for her. His attention is such a surprise to her, though, that she doesn’t even recognize it at first, and when it does become clear that he’s interested in her, she shows her spunky side by going along for the ride, despite her surprise and reservations.
Obviously, the conflict arises when Austin’s secret motives come to light — if that’s not to be expected, then you haven’t read much in the way of romance novels. But in Love So Perfect, it plays out a little differently than I expected, and it just goes to show how well-developed Valentine’s characters are. The scenario might seem pretty typical for romance, but Valentine’s take on it is just different enough, with strong and likable characters, to stand out. Love So Perfect is another great piece to the series, and you’re definitely missing out if you don’t read them all!
FicCentral received a free copy of this book from The Romance Reviews.
Maddie’s pretty sure her luck can’t get any worse. Her cheat of an ex-boyfriend just got her fired, she’s got no prospects on the horizon, and her little sister is about to get married. That last part would be a good thing were it not for her cousin’s snide remarks and family’s unappreciated jokes about Maddie suffering from a supposed family curse when it comes to keeping a man. Humiliated and desperate, she finds a date through a service, hoping to shut everyone up and save some face. But her luck just got worse. Her “date” is her old high school nemesis.
The Verdict: Books like Wedding Date for Hire are like comfort food for me. The basic plot has been done before, I more or less know what to expect, and I’m rarely disappointed. There’s just something about these classic romance story lines that keeps me coming back, and this book in particular pulls it off in spectacular form.
Maddie’s definitely at a low point. Newly single and jobless, the last thing she wants to do is show up dateless at her little sister’s wedding, especially since her jerk of an ex is the best man. Her sister wants her to be happy, her cousin wants her to be miserable, and everyone’s getting a good laugh about some silly curse that apparently prevents the oldest girls in each generation from hanging onto a man. All Maddie wants to do is hang onto what’s left of her dignity, but that’s hard to do when everyone’s judging and pitying her. In a moment of desperation (and perhaps lunacy), she proudly informs everyone that she’s actually got a boyfriend — now she just needs to find someone to play the part.
Trent is successful in his own right, but when his cousin needs a stand-in for her dating service, he can’t say no. The last thing he expects, though, is to find out that his date is the very same girl he made miserable in high school, and with as much as she seems to despise him, it’s going to be hard to convince everyone that they’re a happy couple. But her can’t walk away, since his cousin is depending on him, and since he’s invested in her business, her failure is his problem, too.
While the general set-up is a romance novel standard, the execution is fresh and fun. Maddie’s internal voice had me cracking up from beginning to end, her frank and sarcastic observations adding a whole new dimension to the story. And where it would have been easy for Trent to just play along through the wedding, he’s a bit more complex than that. He’s no longer the immature guy he was in high school, and he’s immediately attracted to Maddie, so he sets out to win both her and her family over. Maddie doesn’t play along quite so nicely, but Trent’s pretty hard to resist. T.rent and Maddie both have some issues when it comes to relationships, things that make them a little hesitant to believe in happily ever after for themselves, but that’s what makes them such a great couple. It’s almost like they’re stumbling into love and falling into each other, and seeing them grow emotionally in that sense was a lot of fun.
Wedding Date for Hire is a delightfully fresh, funny, sweet love story, and the scenes play out like the perfect romantic comedy film. With well-developed characters, a classic story line, and lots of laughs along the way, it’s an ideal read for romance addicts.
FicCentral received a free copy of this book from *the author*.
When Amelia stumbles into her childhood bedroom after a night of heavy drinking, the last thing she expects to find is her father’s best friend, the man who’s starred countless fantasies of hers. Before either of them are awake enough to realize that what they’re doing is more than a dream, they’ve crossed a line that neither can forget. And despite the age difference and almost certain conflict to come, they’re both in over their heads in no time.
But... While the story is all kinds of entertaining, there’s definitely something signature fanfiction about it. Since fanfiction is generally posted a single chapter at a time, each one has to have something to both immediately satisfy and keep readers on the hook for the next chapter. In many cases, that’s sex and a cliffhanger, and that pattern was pretty apparent in Just a Number. After a few, I found myself skimming past the sex scenes to get to the meat of the story.
The Verdict: Most romances have a hero who is a little older than the heroine, and a few stretch that out by a few more years, so the guy can successful and better able to ride in on his white horse and make all the girl’s problems disappear. In Just a Number, however, Owen is quite literally twice Amelia’s age, old enough in fact to have been her father’s best friend before Amelia was even born. And that little bit right there gave the story a lot more credibility than I expected.
Amelia is no shrinking violet, and once she gets a taste of Owen, she doesn’t hold back. It’s not that he steps in as some kind of father figure, but more that he’s there as her walking fantasy come true, and while she doesn’t really know where things will take them, she’s not about to give up her chance with him.
Owen is understandably conflicted, but Amelia proves to be too much temptation for him to ignore, and in no time their accidental make-out session becomes a pretty regular relationship. The story’s conflict, of course, is their age difference, and coupled with the sure disapproval of her father, these two have quite a few hurdles to climb if they’re going to make a real go of it.
The age aspect of Owen and Amelia’s relationship played out so realistically, though I wonder if readers who haven’t witnessed it in real life will pick up on it completely. The open curiosity of strangers, being mistaken for relatives instead of a couple, Owen’s insecurity about Amelia’s youthfulness… It was all really spot-on, and since it’s told in both points of view, we get the full perspective. What I liked best, though — aside from the crazy chemistry between Amelia and Owen — was the messy way everything fell into place as their relationship was discovered by those they cared about most. Instead of being neatly resolved within just a page or two, with everyone headed straight for happily ever after a few seconds later, there were realistic reactions of shock, hurt, anger, and suspicion, and it took more than just a simple conversation to set things right with everyone.
Just a Number is a wonderfully entertaining love story that doesn’t shortcut the age difference or the problems it causes, and there’s some real heat between Amelia and Owen from page one. Masquerading as a simple romance, there’s plenty of drama to be found in their story, without some contrived conflict thrown in to ratchet up the suspense.
FicCentral received a free copy of this book from Kensington Books (via NetGalley).
After a humiliating ordeal on national television, courtesy of a reality romance show, Cherry prefers to stay out of the limelight and avoid becoming tabloid fodder again. But when donating her time to a local community center project, she unexpectedly finds herself on stage, the not entirely willing participant in a charity bachelorette auction.
But... I think there was supposed to be a bit of a mystery in the whole thing with Jason’s work being sabotaged. Or at least it was supposed to provide some tension. However, the author made it obvious who the culprit was, pretty much from the beginning. At best, it got in the way of the plot. At worse, it was a bit insulting to either the characters or the readers, who are presumably too dense to to see the obvious.
The Verdict: Sure, I got into The Real World on MTV when it was groundbreaking television, but the reality schtick got old a few years later, and I can’t say I’m a fan. But a story showing the repercussions of the fame created by that gratuitous drama and partially scripted chaos? Now that sounds interesting!
Cherry was pretty much screwed over by national television. A contestant on a reality romance show, she was not only dumped but made to look really bad to the masses, so she’s thrown herself into her work and is trying to stay under the radar. But when a participant in a charity auction is a no-show, Cherry has to step up and take her place, landing herself a date with a handsome stranger.
Jason isn’t really interested in dating Cherry, at least not for who she is. He is, however, interested in what she can do for him, which is land him the contract to renovate the local community center. So even though their first date ends with an incredible kiss, Cherry is soon disappointed to learn Jason’s true motives.
Cherry was pretty easy to like — and even easier to feel sorry for. The public and the media clearly don’t want to let her embarrassing time in the limelight go, and I can only imagine how true to life that actually rings. But as much as I wanted her to sort of fight back against the tabloids and stand up for herself in the public eye, it only makes sense that she knew better than to feed the trolls.
Jason was good-looking (of course) and capable, and I like that he wasn’t immediately bowled over by Cherry. A lot of that had to do with his having the same perception of her that the rest of the country had from her time on reality television, but it wasn’t long before he got to know her better and began feeling something more substantial for her. Unfortunately, he fell into that gigantic cliche chasm, the one in which the hero was screwed over by a woman in the past and is now permanently jaded; it’s an old, tired trope that I really wish would die. But of course, Cherry was the right woman to get him over that little problem, and in the end, Bachelorette for Sale was a sweet, fun romance.
FicCentral received a free copy of this book from Random House LLC (via NetGalley).
Connor still carries a torch for his old flame Tracy, but she moved on long ago after he left to pursue his baseball dreams. Now he’s back in town, though, newly traded to the local team, and she’s divorced from her husband, making it the perfect opportunity for him to rekindle their romance. He’s just got to convince her that he’s a changed man, one who will put her first and take care of her, not chase after his career. But she’s keeping him at a distance, going out on dates but insisting on getting home early, because when he finds out she’s a package deal with four kids in the mix, he might not be so quick to dive back into a relationship.
The Verdict: Second chance romance plus a hot athlete reduced to all kinds of adorable by a bunch of kids… What’s not to love?
Tracy and Connor didn’t exactly split on bad terms back in the day, but he headed off to pursue his dreams of a career in baseball, and she was left to move on, so that’s exactly what she did. Fast forward several years, and she’s mom to four wonderful children, but their louse of a father is no longer in the picture. He’s off making a new life with the family he had on the side, and it’s up to a now divorced Tracy to raise the kids on her own. But now Connor’s back in the picture, having just been traded to the hometown baseball team, and all those old feelings are coming back strong.
Tracy’s reluctant to rekindle things with Connor for a few reasons. For one, she hasn’t had the best luck with men, and while that hasn’t completely destroyed her faith in happily ever after, it’s definitely made her more cautious. There’s also the fact that Connor is no longer simply a local sports phenom; he’s a famous athlete who’s dated models and actresses — everything Tracy is not. He’s used to an entirely different lifestyle, and while Tracy may be looking pretty damned good for a mom of four, she’s not sure she can measure up or hold his interest, given his usual dates. And of course, there’s also that matter of having four children. Like any good mom, her kids come first, so she doesn’t want them becoming attached to a man who doesn’t intend to stick around for the long haul. She’s also not so sure the hot-shot athlete is willing to take on four kids or adjust to her life that pretty much revolves around them. And so while she gives in and goes on a couple of dates with him, she doesn’t offer up the facts about her family.
Normally when a character keeps a big secret like this, it snowballs like crazy and ends up creating some incredible drama that is so over-the-top and unnecessary that I become frustrated with the whole story. But Tracy doesn’t go to any insane lengths to keep her kids a secret, and Connor is pretty level headed — not to mention dead set on winning Tracy over again. While he doesn’t delude himself into becoming an instant father figure, he takes everything in stride, which is all it took to win me over. And I have to say that I understand where Tracy was coming from. Baggage from a previous marriage is always a potential obstacle, but when it’s four young children, that’s more than most people are willing to take on. Concern for the kids would have me keeping them out of the picture as well, if for no other reason than so they wouldn’t become attached to someone who might not be around all that long.
The Heat is On is a really heartwarming, fun second-chance romance with lots of sweet family moments and some steamy scenes to keep things hot, and the characters are easy to root for and love. I’d say this one is perfect for both sports romance fanatics and second-chance romance junkies, both of whom will be swooning over Connor within just a few chapters.
FicCentral received a free copy of this book from Kensington Books (via NetGalley).
Still pretty messed up from the events of her childhood, CC Calhoun sticks to herself, sharing her life only with her cousin Kris, her dog Walter, and occasionally her mother. It’s the only way she can manage to tamp down the ever-threatening panic attacks brought on by crowds, attention, and society in general. But when a mishap in public has her close to fainting, it’s a kiss from a handsome football player that has her snapping back to normalcy, and now she’s wondering if it’s something about this man, and if she can somehow work her way out of her self-imposed exile.
Judging Covers: This one is another case of continuity paying off. I wasn’t even looking for the next book in the series yet, but the similar design, matching font, and then the title wording caught my eye, and I immediately recognized it as being the follow-up to a book I recently enjoyed. I’m not buying that the guy on the front is a football player, but I can definitely say the design works.
The Verdict: It’s not unusual for a romance to center around a heroine who’s suffered some kind of trauma. What’s different about this story, though, is how it actually played out. Kidnapped as a child, CC survived the truly terrifying order and would probably have worked her way past it by now if not for the selfishness of her famous father. Paraded around for the press after her rescue, she was her father’s ticket to reviving his stagnating music career, and the repercussions of that time have turned her into an agoraphobe as an adult, always avoiding her worst nightmare — the limelight.
A random mishap in public, though, has her wondering about her issues and whether or not she’s found a way to resolve them. A panic attack that brings her near fainting is abruptly stopped when a stranger kisses her, and CC is curious as to whether he may be her ticket to a normal life. But he’s a famous football player, not to mention a player with the ladies, and she doesn’t want anything to do with fame or serial flirting.
Tuck is uncharacteristically struck by the effect CC has on him, though, and he tracks her down, only to come away with an unexpected agreement. He’ll take her out, get her to push her social boundaries, and snap her out of it when a panic attack looms. She’s hoping this little exercise will get her out of her house more, but he’s hoping it might get her into his bed.
Tuck is incredibly sensitive to CC’s problems, despite his otherwise irresponsible behavior with women. And the more time they spend together, the more they become attached, leading to a fun friendship and seemingly temporary hot romance. There’s plenty more that happens, of course, but I don’t want to give all the details away. Instead, I’ll say that To Win Her Trust is a great, lighthearted and often emotional read that avoid any unnecessary or over-the-top drama while focusing on a couple that doesn’t immediately realize how perfectly matched they are. CC is surprisingly strong and outspoken, despite her issues, and Tuck is open and romantic. Their story is quite different than the first book in the series but still every bit worth the read.
FicCentral received a free copy of this book from Random House LLC (via NetGalley).
Jane’s life revolves around her son, and right now that means proving herself at work, building a better life for them, and making sure he has everything he needs. It does not mean falling for her boss, a man who is far too charming for his own good, and giving her ex a reason to challenge custody.
Judging Covers: This is where continuity pays off. You see, I finish another book every day or so, so you can imagine how impossible it is to remember every title, author, and series name. But when I saw this cover, I immediately knew this was one I wanted to read. I had to check the synopsis to remind myself which series it belonged to, but the layout and font style did their job in telling me in an instant that this book is part of one of the many series I’m trying not to lose track of. And that picture? Simply beautiful.
The Verdict: Jane’s managed to keep her head above water since leaving her ex, but just barely. The bakery where she was working closed when the building being leased was sold out from under them, but she landed a job as a pastry chef at the Briarwood Golf and Yacht Club, and if she can prove herself during her ninety-day probationary period, she’ll have herself a permanent position where she can grow and continue to bring in enough money to support herself and her son.
Her abusive ex is hardly out of the picture, though. He may not be popping up from behind every shrub and corner, but his very existence is a constant threat, and Jane doesn’t have the financial resources to keep fighting him in court every time he decides to torture her by threatening to take custody of their son. And it’s her single-minded commitment to being the best mother she can be that has her hesitating to give into any flirting with Preston North, the once playboy, hard-partying co-owner of the club.
Press is a much more complex guy than I would have guessed from the previous books. A recovering alcoholic, he’s got a rather jaded view of everyone around him, and he even dresses the part that he expects people judge him to be, simply because that’s what they expect. In his world, someone like Jane is a breath of fresh air, and while she seems to be holding him at arm’s length, he’s willing to patiently wait her out and hope she gives him a real chance.
Jane’s reasoning for keeping Press at a distance didn’t seem like the typical half-hearted excuse you get in most romances. With Press’s reputation and past drinking problem, he’s just the kind of ammunition her ex would use against her in court, and Jane knows it. She’s also worked hard to give her son a new, stable life, away from the fear-filled home in which they lived with his father, and she doesn’t want any potentially temporary attachments to a new man to undo her progress. But Press is big-hearted and understanding, and he wins both Jane and her son over even before she fully lets him in.
I have to say that I absolutely loved Jane’s story. She’s been beaten down, both literally and figuratively, and there’s evidence of that in the cautious way she’s trying to put her life back together. But she’s also determined to stand on her own two feet, and she refuses to give in to her ex’s demands and pressure, even when it seems like he may hold all the cards. She’s pretty much the epitome of single mothers everywhere who stay strong for their kids, even as the world keeps trying to kick them down. Press, of course, is just wonderful. He’s great with Jane’s son Andy, understanding of Jane’s need for independence, and (of course) all kinds of hot. For all his sweetness, when things heat up between him and Jane, they really heat up!
I also love the way that the situation with Jane’s ex was somewhat easily resolved. While I was expecting a lot more drama on his part, the way it played out was more true to life. Not every custody battle is worthy of the evening news, and it was a good show of how Jane handled things well on her own. Instead of Press having to save the day with his money or influence, it was Jane’s character and perseverance that won the battle.
The Best of Me is a heartwarming and romantic story of a single mom not just trying to make it on her own but succeeding. The love story is somewhat slow to develop, as it should be when a kid is involved, but when it does, it becomes a wonderful, emotion-filled path to happily ever after.
I really liked Zack in the previous book, so I was excited to find out this book is his love story. And true to form so far, the story is chock full of lust, danger, and crazy suspense!
Zack and Corrine don’t meet under the best of circumstances, to say the least. Their introduction is a fender bender that’s all Zack’s fault, and Corrine launches into belittling him for it. It’s the crappy icing on the big cake of awful that is currently Zack’s life, what with losing his house, having to give up his car, being unable to pay off his dad’s gambling debts, and having his ass chewed out constantly at work. But everything takes a much more dramatic turn when the station gets its first call of the day.
Upon reaching their water rescue victim, Zack immediately realizes it’s the woman he rear ended earlier, and with her life now in the balance, she’s lost her snark. They manage to save her (of course!), but Zack is very nearly killed in the process, setting off a chain of events that will change both their lives.
Realizing just how much Zack sacrificed for her, Corrine all but refuses to leave his side, and when he’s released from the hospital to find himself evicted from his ghetto apartment, she takes him in. Their romance develops hot and heavy in no time at all, and it’s a case of opposites being perfect for each other. Zack, at twenty six, is completely inexperienced, whereas Corrine is a stripper trying to pay her way through nursing school. But their chemistry is sizzling, and they’re connecting on a more emotional level as well, so their pasts (and lack thereof) don’t get in the way.
As always, danger lurks, though no one can figure out quite the cause. Someone’s been watching Corrine, and Zack knows his dad’s gambling debts have people looking for him, so it’s anyone’s guess who the real target is and why. I have to say that this is really where you have to suspend belief. Someone initially ran Corrine off the road, which nearly killed Zack trying to save her. But then he gets to deal with a gunshot wound, getting knocked out and left to die, a host of broken ribs… Seriously, how many freak “accidents” can one guy survive in less than a month? If nothing else, though, it definitely ratchets up the suspense factor.
It’s impossible to explain the many twists and turns this story took, but through it all, Corrine and Zack burned strong. Getting another look at all the guys at Station Five was a bonus, too, and I’m definitely looking forward to the rest of their stories. Under Fire is a crazy thrill ride of dangerous attacks, hot hot hot chemistry, and of course, romance at its most addictive.
Cherry’s life has always been simple, but for the most part, she’s been happy running the diner her grandparents left her and carving out a niche for herself among her lifelong neighbors in Broken Falls. But everything changes overnight when her cousin is killed in an accident, leaving Cherry to care for her young nephew just as her diner is badly damaged by a grease fire. When Cherry’s ability to take care of the boy is called into question, the man who once broke her heart steps up to help, putting Cherry in a precarious situation. She stands to lose her heart all over again when he leaves… or when he finds out the truth she’s been hiding all these years.
But... There was one point toward the end that didn’t make a lot of sense to me. Cherry’s cousin Reed pulls a pretty awful move that clearly falls into assault and kidnapping territory. He’s not some psycho who meant for it to be that way; he’s just an entitled bully who thinks he can intimidate people into doing things his way. But the law is the law. Yet, neither Cherry nor Sam even mentally voiced that fact, much less played that card with Reed. It’s not that I expected them to figuratively hit him back that hard, but being that Sam’s an officer of the law, I would have expected him to at least bring it up, even if just to say he and Cherry weren’t going to press charges. It didn’t ruin the book at all, but it was just a bit odd the way it was disregarded without any real explanation.
Judging Covers: I am loving these covers. It was the cover to Tucked Away that had me wanting to read the first book, and this one is no different. And aside from it just making the book attractive to readers like me, it’s clear the designer/publisher/random person involved is sticking with a theme. And I have to say, that’s important. Being constantly bombarded with reading options like I am, it’s easy for me to overlook something good. So I love it when a series sticks with a general design, making sure I notice it looks a lot like another book I loved and cluing me into the next book in the series being out. I’m sure I would have found this one eventually, given that I’m basically turning into a Jennie Marts fangirl, but it was the cover that jumped out at me when I was browsing, and you can bet I didn’t want to miss this story..
The Verdict: We first met Cherry in the Tucked Away, but we didn’t get more than a brief introduction to her before that book ended, so it was interesting to see the less two-dimensional side of her in Hidden Away. But while there are probably thousands of romances out there with plots predicated on a man finding out he fathered a child with a woman he left years ago, Jennie Marts throws in a twist that makes this one altogether different.
Cherry just might be having the worst day ever. A grease fire in her diner puts her temporarily out of business, injures her arm, and brings her face to face again with the boy — now a man — who broke her heart nine years ago. But that’s nothing compared to the phone call she gets telling her that her cousin was killed in a car accident, and Cherry’s been named as her nephew’s guardian. A few miles into racing to the hospital, her car breaks down, and Cherry finds herself riding shotgun with the same man she’s been trying to avoid since he came back to town. As if that’s not enough, though, the family that has gathered at the hospital is convinced that Cherry’s not fit to raise Sam and does their very best to intimidate her into giving up custody. And that’s when things get really interesting.
As it turns out, Sam isn’t just Cherry’s nephew. He’s the son she gave up for adoption shortly after Taylor left town nine years ago, so her determination to keep him now is rooted in more than simply loyalty to her cousin. Taylor, however, hasn’t got a clue, though he steps up to help Cherry fend off her awful extended family, and he knows he feels an immediate connection to the boy. But while Cherry’s relationship with Taylor heats up rather quickly, her heart is held back by several things.
For one, they’re only really together for appearances, to ward off her cousin Reed, his wife Olivia, and their Aunt Bea, all of whom believe Sam would be better off with them. Whatever feelings Cherry may have for Taylor, she knows their being together is only temporary, and she’s afraid to let herself completely fall again. There’s also the matter of his leaving in the first place. She simply doesn’t trust him to stick around this time, so she’s holding her heart back as best she can. And then, of course, there’s the matter of Sam. As much as she wants to tell Taylor the truth, she’s understandably worried about the consequences.
I think what makes Hidden Away stand out, aside from the great writing, is simply that Jennie Marts doesn’t play into the cliches that tend to plague romance. The most basic part of the plot might be standard, but nothing about what she does with it is. Cherry and Taylor’s breakup when they were teens was a matter of juvenile stupidity and general immaturity, and now that they’re back in the same vicinity, there’s no perfectly manicured she-devil trying to catch Taylor’s eye, no slightly psychotic but boring ex trying to win Cherry back, no one threatening to spill some dark secret that will ruin everything. It’s just life the way it could play out in reality, with a little believable drama and a big heap of happily ever after just over the horizon. It’s rare to find a contemporary romance that simply sticks to the story without throwing in all kinds of unnecessary crazy, so when I come across a series like this one, I’m following it to the very end.
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FicCentral received a free copy of this book from Brook Cottage Books.
Heath Wild likes to keep his one night stands far from home, generally cutting loose while at medical conferences in other cities, where he can be sure his fun doesn’t interfere with his daily life. Never one to take advantage of women, he lets them know up front that he’s just looking for a temporary fling, and that’s what he has in mind when he spots Ally Jenner volunteering at his latest conference. But his one night with her quickly proves to be not nearly enough.
Ally knows better than to get involved with a doctor. Working in the lab, surrounded by doctors, she’s seen exactly who they are and how they can be, and she wants no part of that. But there’s just something about the hot doctor she hooked up with at a recent medical conference that she can’t quite shake, and despite their agreement to leave their fling behind when they left the conference, Ally and Heath stay in touch but keep their personal details quiet. Of course, Fate won’t let them remain semi-anonymous, and Ally is floored when Heath strolls into the lab where she’s working.
Heath was an incredibly likable character, a little on the wild side but surprisingly considerate and tender with Ally. Their relationship started off hot and accelerated to fully combustive once they ran into each other in the workplace. Where most romances would have these two trying to deny their ongoing interest, Melissa Foster gives us characters who don’t follow the usual formula. Sure, neither was certain that what they had together was going to lead to forever, but there was no futile denial of attraction or crazed avoidance of involvement. Instead, they both sort of internally questioned themselves and what they were looking for, all fueled by insecurities caused by their pasts.
As Ally and Heath quickly proved they just couldn’t stay away from each other, their attachment grew, and their communication stayed open — another refreshing change from typical romance cliches. Heath, for all his playboy tendencies, proved to be a fantastic hero, open with Ally and more accepting of their blooming relationship than I initially expected. And of course, these two were hot as hell together!
As much as I enjoyed the Logan, the first book in this series, I have to say that Heath really hooked me from the beginning, and I couldn’t turn the pages fast enough. Heath and Ally were easy to understand and relate to, and they were just perfect together. Like all of Melissa Foster’s books, the romance is wonderfully sweet, but this series takes the heat factor up a notch with its more erotic flair.
Lexie’s used to (and bored with) home-schooling and life in a small town, so she’s thrilled when she has the opportunity to stay with her aunt and uncle in the city of Paradise for the next school year. Eager to spread her wings and experience life to its fullest, she’s ill-prepared for her obnoxious cousin, sneaking out at night, and delinquent surfer boys. In Paradise City, C.J. Duggan once again perfectly captures that idealistic, awkward, drama-filled, and sometimes disappointing existence that is the life of a teenage girl.
Judging Covers: I absolutely love this cover. It perfectly embodies that recaptured youth that C.J. Duggan’s books create, and I couldn’t have picked a better design. Unfortunately, this is no longer the cover you’ll get with the book, as someone had the not-so-bright idea to redesign it so that it now looks like 99% of the other books out there. Instead of portraying the light, youthful feel that Duggan’s series evokes, the new covers feature that generic, shirtless guy that appears all over book retailer sites, ensuring these books blend in with the crowd instead of standing out like they should.
The Verdict: With as much as I loved the unfortunately unfinished Summer series, there was no doubt I’d be reading this one. Truth is I read it as soon as it was released; it just took me forever to get around to reviewing it.
Amanda, the cousin that Lexie was once close to, has practically become a different person since she moved away years ago, and it’s clear that Amanda not only doesn’t want anything to do with her, but actually wants her gone. Amanda’s tougher than that, though, and resolves not to let Amanda’s attitude get in the way of this new opportunity she has.
At school, things are a bit different, and it seems that Lexie has attracted the attention of local bad boy surfer Luke Ballantine. But he’s not all his reputation would have her think he is, and they form a bit of a friendship that soon blooms into deeper feelings. True to their ages, though, these two let all kinds of teenage drama, from simple miscommunication to malicious rumors, get in the way of their relationship, and while it was certainly frustrating, it was also very realistic. Watching Lexie navigate her new life in the city, her new high school experience, and her relationship with Ballantine was like a trip back to a simpler time in all our lives, and I was turning the pages as quickly as I could through every second of it.
My only real problem with the book was the ending. Whereas the Summer series concluded each story fully at the end of each book and still left me wanting more, Paradise City ends on an awful cliffhanger that left me wondering why I’d bothered reading it in the first place. Duggan’s already established herself as a phenomenal writer, so leaving readers hanging in an effort to get us to snatch up the next book upon release seems like a very unnecessary step backwards. Perhaps that wasn’t really her impetus for the disappointing ending, but it had the same effect on me. I’m sure I’ll be continuing with the next book, but only after I check to make sure I’ll get an actual ending in it.