Book Review: Riding Steele by Opal Carew

Riding Steele by Opal CarewRiding Steele by Opal Carew
Rating: 3stars
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I’m very picky when reading books about motorcycle clubs, but Riding Steele was an interesting read for me. There are some pretty dark events that take place, but there are also some very sweet moments, which I didn’t expect. Also, the epilogue is actually pretty cute. Although there are a few predictable elements, the book surprised me at times and I liked it.

Laurie is in danger. She has been trying to break up with her boyfriend Donovan, who has turned out to be a sadistic, abusive creeper who won’t take no for an answer. In an effort to protect Laurie, her brother Craig has contacted his good friend, who in turn is close with a group of bikers. The idea is proposed to kidnap Laurie to keep her safe.

Steele is the leader of the club and is opposed to the kidnapping. But when it becomes clear that Laurie is in imminent danger, Wild Card (one of Steele’s crew) actually does kidnap Laurie and saves her from Donovan.

When Steele and Laurie first meet, there’s a case of mistaken identity. After they get things sorted out, there’s a lot of insta-lust between them and they hook up pretty early on. (Never mind that they’re on the road, fleeing trumped-up criminal charges brought on by Laurie’s crazy ex, because there is sexing to be had, okay?)

Speaking of which, there’s a lot of sex in this book in various forms (m/f, m/f/m, m/m/f/m…I think I’ve lost track at this point, but you get the idea). So if you’re bothered by sex that’s all over the map, you probably should avoid this book.

Steele is actually a pretty nice guy when he wants to be. But Laurie has spent the past six months under Donovan’s thumb, so it’s hard for her to trust Steele fully at first. There’s also the issue of what it means for her to ride with this club. At first, Laurie is resistant to the idea of being “shared” between the various men in the club. But she changes her mind rather quickly–too quickly, I thought, especially considering she’s just coming out of her relationship with her ex. I didn’t find her change of heart that believable, but I just went with it.

It also seems like a contradiction that Steele would be willing to share Laurie. As his feelings for her intensify, he does become more possessive of her, yet he’s still willing to share her. But then he has moments when he gets jealous, too. I found that confusing.

As I mentioned, there are some dark and disturbing moments involving Laurie’s ex, but not so bad that I felt like I couldn’t keep reading. Those scenes definitely made me uncomfortable, though (and rightly so).

Overall, I liked the book. It has an interesting mix of suspense and tenderness. Even though there are some events that frustrated me, I liked the main characters. This book is actually #3 in an ongoing series, but I read it as a standalone and I didn’t feel lost as far as the plot goes. I plan on going back and reading books #1 and #2. Lastly, the author is a very good storyteller–the narrative is written in such a way that made me want to keep reading. I’ll be reading her more in the future.

I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my review.

Book Review: Back in the Game by Lori Wilde

Back in the Game by Lori WildeBack in the Game by Lori Wilde
Rating: 3stars
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I liked this book, but I had some issues with it that prevented me from loving it more.

Breeanne is an avid reader and aspiring writer. She self-published a book that didn’t sell very well, and in the meantime works at her parents’ bookstore. Breeanne was born with a heart defect which has caused her adoptive parents to be extremely overprotective of her throughout her whole life.

Rowdy Blanton is a former superstar pitcher whose MLB career came to an unexpected halt. He agrees to write an autobiography, but needs a ghostwriter. Breeanne ends up with the job.

There’s a lot going on in this book. There’s Breeanne’s overprotective family, Rowdy’s baseball legacy, some magical realism involving a mystical hope chest, and a conspiracy involving crooked baseball bigwigs. There’s also the romance element. I liked the book most when it focused on Breeanne and Rowdy’s relationship. There are just so many other subplots going on that I couldn’t fully appreciate the love story.

There are also a few things about the characters themselves that I didn’t love. For example, Breeanne is a 25-year-old virgin, which is fine in itself, but she comes across as super extra naive about sex–more than I expected she’d be, considering she’s pretty curious and well-read in general. Also, Rowdy struck me as a little too keen to settle down once he realizes he’s falling for Breeanne. I found it hard to believe that he would be so quick to commit.

I should also attach a disclaimer to this review by mentioning that I read the audio version and didn’t care for the narrator. I didn’t like how she made Breeanne sound like a squeaking teenager at times (especially during the sex scenes), while she made Rowdy sound like a gruff, much older man. It was a bit weird for me.

As for the things I liked about the book: in general, the writing appealed to me. The characters are very likable–especially the supporting ones such as Breeanne’s sisters and Rowdy’s brother, who I imagine will all be getting their own books later on.

So, I had mixed feelings about this story in that I really liked some parts and really disliked other parts. It took me a while to finish and I was actually eager to be done. But I do think I would have enjoyed it more if I had read the print version instead of the audio, so I plan on reading the next book in the series in print format since I did enjoy the author’s writing style overall.

Book Review: Brokedown Cowboy by Maisey Yates

Brokedown Cowboy by Maisey YatesBrokedown Cowboy by Maisey Yates
Rating: 5stars
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I have to admit, I wasn’t sure if this book would work for me. I loved the first Copper Ridge book, so I had high hopes, but wasn’t sure if I’d like Connor and Liss as much as I liked Eli and Sadie. While it took me a little time to warm up to Connor, I ended up loving this book just as much as the first one.

Connor is a broken man. A widower for the past three years, he hasn’t been able to let go of the grief and pain of losing his wife. As such, he has done a good job of keeping the people closest to him at arm’s length, such as his siblings and closest friends.

Connor’s best friend for the past 18 years is Felicity, aka Liss. Liss has been secretly in love with Connor since they were in high school. It’s a tricky situation because Liss was also close friends with Jessie, Connor’s wife. Liss had her heart broken when Jessie and Connor got married, then broken again when her good friend died.

One thing he was sure of now more than ever: if he didn’t move forward, he would die where he sat.

Since Jessie’s death, Connor has descended into a deep sorrow that no one has been able to lift him out of. And although Liss wants more with Connor, she knows he’s in too much pain to see her as anything other than his good friend. But Liss has stuck by Connor, even when he has drowned his grief in alcohol and pushed everyone away. She’s always been in love with him but she’s also his most loyal friend.

Through an unfortunate turn of events, Liss ends up without a place to live, so Connor offers to let her move in with him on his family’s ranch. After she moves in, the two of them have to confront their feelings for each other and reevaluate the other’s place in their life.

At first, the relationship becomes physical and they attempt to keep it that way. But ultimately, feelings, emotions, and hearts get involved. Soon, it’s not enough just to have sex and leave it there.

You just told me not to settle, well, I’m not settling. I’m not settling for friendship when what I want is everything.

Liss has spent her life conceding to other people’s wishes, so she has to learn to take a stand and tell Connor what she truly wants from him. But it’s not easy for Connor, either. He has spent so much time grieving that he doesn’t remember how to live. He is faced with a choice: stay where you are in misery, or choose to start again.

He might have spent time in hell, but right now he was walking straight through the darkest part. But he wasn’t alone.

This series is only two books (plus a prequel) in so far, but I just adore the Garrett family and Copper Ridge. The characters are likable and relatable, and the dialogue always makes me laugh–when it’s not bringing tears to my eyes. Several times during my read, I felt that emotional clench in my gut that only happens when I’m reading something really moving and special. I definitely recommend this book. It’s a keeper.

I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my review.

Book Review: Sweet Agony by Charlotte Stein

Sweet Agony by Charlotte SteinSweet Agony by Charlotte Stein
Rating: 4stars
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This book is basically the super dirty version of a modern-day gothic romance and I loved every word.

Molly begins a new job as a live-in housekeeper. She soon learns that her employer, Cyrian Harcroft, is extremely odd and aloof. He tells her not to look at him, not to interact with him, and never ever to touch him. Despite this, she finds herself drawn to him, weird as he is. And strangely enough, he cannot keep himself away from her either. The two engage regularly in what feels like conversational fencing: they’re both exceedingly quick, precise, and skilled.

Then allow me to disillusion you immediately. Your technique is that of a sixteen-year-old boy fumbling at the underwear of my mind.

Indeed, their conversations soon turn into verbal foreplay and it’s just a matter of time before things turn sexual. This is a Charlotte Stein book, after all. But there’s that whole “Cyrian hates physical touch” thing. As he and Molly become more involved, he’s still terrified of physical closeness. When he finally shares the reason for his fear, it’s one of the only moments when I felt some sympathy for his character. The majority of the time, he’s just an ass, but we don’t really know why. Once it’s explained, his character becomes more likable–but it’s difficult before that, since he is so constantly aloof.

He wants to be the evil wizard who has somehow imprisoned a princess. But he has to know he can never be. My life before was the prison: this is the escape.

Molly also shares a troubled past, particularly involving her family life. So when she and Cyrian bond over their similar experiences, it makes their physical interactions that much more meaningful.

This is a super dirty book and I mean that in the best way. It’s also Charlotte Stein at her finest: deeply introspective, at moments both hilarious yet heartbreaking, and with a witty quickness that I rarely find elsewhere. She remains, as always, one of the best voices in romance.

I received an advance copy from NetGalley and the author in exchange for my review.

Book Review: Blush by Cherry Adair

Blush by Cherry Adair
Blush by Cherry Adair
Rating: 5stars
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Blush owned me as soon as I read the back cover. Imagine this plot: Amelia Wentworth, CEO of a multi-billion dollar cosmetics company, discovers that someone has put out a hit on her life. She flees the city and takes temporary refuge in a backwoods town while her security team back home investigate who’s trying to have her killed. But through a case of mistaken identity, she ends up sleeping with the assassin who’s been hired to kill her.

And that’s just the beginning.

Amelia was born into wealth through her family’s cosmetics company. As such, she has lived an extremely privileged life of private jets, mansions, bodyguards, and personal chefs. She also hasn’t really lived much.

She’d been excruciatingly lonely, but she’d always felt safe in that ivory tower.

While she is an extremely powerful woman in the corporate world, her personal life is ordered and predictable. So while in hiding in Louisiana, Amelia (now going by the name Mia) puts together a to-do list for all the mundane things she has never had a chance to do, such as learn to drive a car and bake cookies.

Also on Mia’s list: have sex with a stranger. So she calls up an escort service, eager to cross this item off her list. When she opens her door, she assumes that the man standing there is her escort, but it’s actually Cruz, the assassin hired to kill her. He plays along with the charade, amazing sex happens, and Cruz ends up not killing Mia that night. And needless to say, there’s something about her that gives him pause in his mission to kill her–something other than just sex that keeps him coming back for more.

To buy himself some time, Cruz offers to help Mia fix up her ramshackle house and she agrees. Initially, he thinks that this will make his job easier–he’ll just stage an accident in her home and the hit will be complete. But the more time that they spend together, the more Cruz begins to question the information that he was given about Mia. The client who hired him painted a truly awful picture of Mia, someone who approves of child labor and inhumane conditions so that she can increase her company’s profit margin. But this portrait isn’t at all in line with what Cruz is learning about Mia firsthand.

The really fun part–if I can call it fun–is that Cruz continually debates with himself about the job. He goes back and forth, telling himself that he needs to just kill Mia already so that he can retire, but he somehow can’t force himself to complete the hit.

Damn it to hell. He just wasn’t ready to kill her. Not yet.

Meanwhile, both Mia and Cruz are living double lives. They tell each other the truth some of the time and some of the truth the rest of the time. When Cruz becomes convinced that there’s more to Mia than what he was led to believe about her, he actually goes from being her hitman to being her bodyguard. Love it.

Cruz is very much a mystery for the majority of the book, until his real identity is revealed at the end. I never thought I would like an assassin so much, but Adair wrote him in such a way that makes him into a pretty great guy. Except for that whole killing people thing. Although, even that’s not as clear cut as it sounds.

The plot of who ordered the hit on Mia isn’t revealed until the end. I had my guesses as to who Cruz’s client was and I turned out to be wrong, so the book kept me guessing in that regard.

The story is filled with suspense and I might have stayed up past my bedtime so that I could finish. I was so pleased with the ending. After so much mystery, the ending is wrapped up fairly easily–maybe too easily–but it still worked for me. In case it’s not already obvious, I LOVED this book. I think I might have read Cherry Adair in the past, but after reading Blush, she’s definitely going on my Will Read Again list.

Book Review: Hot Alphas by Lora Leigh, Laurelin McGee, Shiloh Walker, Kate Douglas

Hot Alphas
Hot Alphas by Lora Leigh, Laurelin McGee, Shiloh Walker, Kate Douglas
Overall Rating: 2stars
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For something called Hot Alphas with that cover, I feel robbed! This compilation did not quite deliver. My actual overall rating is more like 2.75 stars, but I rounded down because I really didn’t like the book much.

Erin’s Kiss by Lora Leigh
Rating: 2stars
This story didn’t leave much of an impression on me. There are a lot of covert ops going on and I felt like I joined the story in the middle of the action. Apparently, this is part of an ongoing series, which explains my confusion at the ending. The romance portion was resolved, but there’s an obvious To Be Continued that didn’t make sense for me since I haven’t read the series.

Other than that, I thought that the story itself was fine. It’s pretty suspenseful but I didn’t see enough character development to get emotionally invested in the couple.

misTaken by Laurelin McGee
Rating: 2stars
I had so many issues with this story. There are some big, unnecessary misunderstandings between the hero and heroine resulting from poor communication. I wanted the characters to just talk already and stop dancing around each other.

Jaylene is an ardent feminist but when she hooks up with Noah, she suddenly realizes she’s sexually submissive–even though she’s never had an inkling of that in the past. I’m not saying it’s impossible, but I didn’t find it believable. Also, she’s constantly going on rants about how romance novels subvert the feminist cause. I liked how she eventually changed her view on this subject, but her judgmental stance for the majority of the book was off putting for me. She comes across like a parody of a strong feminist, rather than a believable one.

Also, I didn’t see what was so magnetic about Noah. He’s not a repulsive character, but I just found him sort of ordinary and I didn’t get a real alpha vibe from him. So, I didn’t understand what specifically about him makes Jaylene want to be submissive all of a sudden (other than him being into it).

In addition, there’s a bit of mystery surrounding Noah’s occupation because he constantly evades the issue, even when Jaylene asks him directly. So when his job is finally revealed, I had figured it out already and really thought that she should have guessed much sooner, too.

Something I did appreciate is that Jaylene is Asian. The majority of heroines in contemporary romance tend not to be women of color, so I’m glad to see diverse characters (and not just in supporting roles).

Burn for Me by Shiloh Walker
Rating: 4stars
Finally, 3/4 of the way through this compilation and I found a story that I enjoyed! Let me get this out of the way first and say that the hero, Tate, didn’t strike me as much of an alpha. I liked his character all the same, though. This was my first time reading Shiloh Walker and I enjoyed her writing style. Burn for Me is a love story at its core but it’s also got some complex family issues, too.

First, the romance: Ali’s a waitress and single mom who’s been seeing Tate, a mechanic and metalwork artist, for three years. They’ve had a casual, friends with benefits relationship, but Ali wants more.

But Tate has issues, especially with letting go. Fifteen years ago, Tate’s parents had a horrible fight and his mom stormed out of the house, never to be seen again. Tate has spent the past decade and a half thinking that his father had something to do with his mother’s disappearance, despite his father’s denials. As a result, Tate has been estranged from his father and has spent all those years with a sense of self-loathing and fear, believing that he’ll only hurt Ali in the end.

The story is equal parts romance and family drama. Tate has to figure out how to make himself a better person for Ali and that can’t happen until he confronts his past. In turn, Ali is a strong character who isn’t afraid to lay down an ultimatum rather than be strung along for another couple of years.

Both the romance and family issues are resolved by the end of the story, which has a satisfying conclusion. Additionally, several supporting characters are introduced in this book, so now I’m curious to see if they’ll get their own books.

Tangled by Kate Douglas
Rating: 3stars
Well, this final story is a mixed bag for me. I didn’t expect it to be as suspenseful as it is, so I liked those parts; but the speed at which the characters fall in love doesn’t seem realistic at all. If you like insta-love, you’ll love this because Cassie and Nate fall for each other the day that they meet.

Cassie is a winemaker and Nate is the new vineyard manager. Originally, Cassie’s father owned the vineyard but after some bad business decisions, he lost the vineyard, which was then bought by a new owner. Cassie kept her job, but her father was diagnosed with dementia and he moved into an assisted living facility.

In addition to the vineyard dealings, there’s a suspenseful subplot involving Cassie’s dad and a mysterious briefcase. When he was younger, he worked for the Secret Service but was forced to retire early after uncovering some unsavory information. So while Cassie and Nate are falling in love, there’s an outside danger threatening the vineyard and the lives of everyone involved.

I think I would have enjoyed the story more as a longer novel since the characters could have been developed more fully. Despite the fact that they fall in love so quickly, I liked the main characters. And Cassie’s interactions with her dad are really heartfelt. But I think that the plot’s wrapped up too quickly and easily.

To summarize, I didn’t love this compilation as a whole. The story by Shiloh Walker was my favorite, but I found the Lora Leigh story in particular to be quite forgettable. And for a compilation, the stories aren’t very cohesive. Thinking back, only one of the main characters strikes me as an alpha and the other characters just seem like ordinary guys. I kept hoping that the stories would get more enjoyable, but unfortunately they just left me feeling lukewarm about the book once I finished.

I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my review.

Book Review: Captivated by Megan Hart and Tiffany Reisz

Captivated by Megan Hart and Tiffany Reisz
Captivated by Megan Hart and Tiffany Reisz
Overall Rating: 4stars
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I’ve mentioned before how much I love Cosmo Red-Hot Reads from Harlequin and this book did not disappoint me.

Letting Go by Megan Hart
Rating: 4stars

It had been a while since I’d read something by Megan Hart and I’d forgotten how much I love her writing. Letting Go is about Colleen, a divorcee whose ex has really worked her over emotionally. He left her feeling like nothing but a controlling bitch, even though in reality, she’s a smart, capable woman who knows what she wants. And even though they’re no longer married, he somehow manages to slither into her life regularly.

Colleen frequents a bar weekly where she keeps to herself and makes the acquaintance of the bartender, Jesse. One night, a snowstorm hits and the two get snowed in together. They hook up and even though it’s meant to be temporary, they wind up seeing each other again.

Jesse is a single dad but he’s on civil terms with his child’s mother. As he and Colleen fall for each other, they have to rearrange their respective lives to make the other fit. Jesse’s child is his priority, but he wants Colleen in his life. And in turn, Colleen has to learn to let go of the power that her ex still holds over her and eliminate him from her life completely.

Spoiler alert:
It turns out that Colleen and Jesse are a really good match sexually because she likes to be in control and he likes to be commanded. That’s serendipitous, and maybe a little too convenient, but it works for the story. It’s explored in an interesting way because Colleen is still dealing with the mental abuse from her ex. He made her feel shame for wanting to have a certain level of control in her life, so when she’s able to explore that with Jesse, it’s incredibly freeing for her.

I really appreciate the way that Hart conveys emotion in her books. In this story, her characters are normal people with emotional hurdles to overcome. They both want to get to a better place. Eventually, they realize that it will be so much better if they do that together.

Seize the Night by Tiffany Reisz
Rating: 4stars

This is the first time I’ve read anything by Tiffany Reisz and I’m definitely a fan now. Seize the Night is a re-imagining of Romeo and Juliet. Several years ago, Remi and Julien did something that accidentally started a feud between their families and they’ve been forbidden to associate with each other ever since.

Their respective sets of parents own horse-racing farms and things in the present take an interesting turn when Remi discovers a potentially disastrous secret. To obtain additional information, Remi seeks help from Julien, for whom she’s always held a torch over the past several years.

The feeling turns out to be mutual and Remi and Julien fall for each other again. With the help of Remi’s employee/friend Merrick, they plot to destroy the feud between their families. Merrick is both ridiculous and hilarious and probably my favorite character from the story.

I wasn’t sure if this retelling would work, but it just does. There are several scenes where Reisz takes elements from Shakespeare and turns them upside down. For example, at one point Remi visits Julien in secret, in the middle of the night, showing up beneath his window. And in this story, it’s the male who’s much more innocent and inexperienced, rather than the female.

The story is smart, funny, and somehow manages to be both sweet and incredibly sexy. I loved the combination of wit and romance. As I mentioned, I’m new to reading Reisz but I’m looking forward to reading more from her.

I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my review.

Weekend Link Roundup

Random things I’ve clicked on around the interwebs this past week:

ABC News: Donations Pouring in for Elderly Man Who Called 911 for Food

Pilot Online: Va. Beach taxpayers find drive-through appealing
I tweeted this the other day but thought it was worth mentioning again. I was kind of dismayed when I opened my personal property tax bill (aka car tax), so I was super excited to read this story. In Virginia Beach, you can appeal your personal property tax bill through a drive-through service. No, really! I went on Friday–it was pretty early before noon, and there were only three or four cars ahead of me in line. I was out of there within five minutes and they reduced my bill by $20. Not bad for five minutes of waiting time! Kudos to the city for offering this service.

RT Booklovers Con on Twitter: Giant Book Fair
This is yesterday’s Giant Book Fair at the RT Convention, where I am tentatively planning on going with a friend/former coworker/fellow romance junkie in 2017. SO MANY AUTHORS AND BOOKS. (Click or tap the image for the panoramic shot.)

Book Review: Talking After Midnight by Dakota Cassidy

Talking After Midnight by Dakota CassidyTalking After Midnight by Dakota Cassidy
Rating: 4stars
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Talking After Midnight is the third book in Dakota Cassidy’s Plum Orchard series. Cassidy has mentioned that her inspiration for this series was the TV show “Hart of Dixie.” That influence is definitely apparent, from the small-town atmosphere to the group of mean girl characters to the heartfelt relationships that the people of the town have with each other.

I thoroughly enjoyed the first two Plum Orchard books. While it took me a little longer to warm up to Marybell, the heroine of this book, overall I enjoyed this latest installment as well. I should note that it’s much more enjoyable if you read the books in series order. The supporting characters are especially prominent in this plot.

Marybell is a woman of mystery who stands out like a sore thumb in the town of Plum Orchard. Her style is pure rebel, complete with colorful mohawk, multiple piercings and tattoos, and goth makeup. But don’t make assumptions from her appearance, because she’s an utter sweetheart, as her fellow Call Girls (of Plum Orchard’s phone sex company) know well.

But even though Marybell and the other Call Girls have become dear friends, there’s a huge secret that she has been keeping from them and everyone in the town. So things get really complicated when Marybell and handyman Tag Hawthorne start seeing each other. The relationship starts out casual (as relationships so often do in romance!) but the closer Marybell and Tag get, the more they both start to confide in each other. There are also elements of Marybell’s past and upbringing that she slowly reveals to Tag. In turn, Tag shares his past failures with Marybell. But even after they’re exclusive, Marybell is still holding back from fully trusting Tag.

This part of the story left me conflicted. On one hand, I understood why Marybell is so hesitant to reveal herself, to her friends but especially to Tag. Once the secret was finally revealed, I was pretty stunned. I listened to this on audio and at the big reveal, I gasped loudly while driving in my car. Maybe I should’ve seen the twist coming, but it was a surprise for me.

On the other hand, I just wanted Marybell to take a chance and be fully honest with Tag already, especially after he told her about his awful mistakes. So I could see both perspectives and while I was frustrated at first, I understood Marybell’s motivation later and this made me warm up to her more as a character.

Lastly, the ending was positively swoonworthy and I loved it so much.

I don’t listen to romance on audio very frequently because I’m super picky about narrators, but the narrator for this book, Scarlet Chase, does an excellent job. She uses distinct voices for each of the characters and has a very pleasant, expressive narrating voice.

As I mentioned, the supporting characters are a huge part of this story and I’m hoping that the third Hawthorne brother will get his own book. If so, I’ll definitely be continuing the series since I love Cassidy’s writing style.

Book Review: Working with Heat by Anne Calhoun

Working with Heat by Anne CalhounWorking with Heat by Anne Calhoun
Rating: 3stars
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I had trouble with this book for a few reasons. First, while I’m a huge fan of Anne Calhoun’s work, this book is a departure from her normal material. Working with Heat feels like a New Adult novel, which is not one of my favorite genres or what Calhoun normally writes. Also, since this is a Cosmo Red-Hot Read, I went into the story expecting it to be more lighthearted and not so angsty, but there are definite moments of drama in this one. However, all that being said, it’s really well-written, which is why I’m giving it three stars.

Milla is an American who lives in London. She works in an art gallery but her real passion is her social media presence. She writes a travel blog and is constantly updating her various accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube). And when I say she’s constantly updating them, I mean she is posting things ALL the time. Because of this, I really struggled to like Milla. She’s not a bad character, but her obsession with social media drove me nuts. I’ll admit, I’m pretty addicted to my phone too and always have it close by, but Milla can hardly set aside her phone for five minutes at a time. It’s pretty sad. She’s so focused on building her “brand” through constant selfies and tweets that I’m kind of surprised her friends put up with her.

One of those friends, Charlie, is a painter turned glass artist and vehement Luddite. Eventually, Milla learns the reason for his anti-technology stance: he was burned by his ex via social media, which hurt him not only personally, but also professionally. So, it was really curious to me that Charlie would even consider getting involved with Milla, given how deeply she’s immersed in her online persona.

Milla meant well, but he felt more than he wanted to feel, which meant they were banging into each other like shins against furniture, hurting each other.

Granted, Milla and Charlie’s relationship starts out pretty casual and they agree to keep it a secret from their group of friends. But it’s still really odd to me that Charlie would want to get involved with her, even on a casual level. Since they’re already friends, the chemistry between them is built in from the beginning of the story, but I don’t know that it feels entirely believable. Maybe if the story had been longer and their relationship had been more developed, I would have believed it more easily.

Lastly, the ending feels a little rushed and wraps itself up pretty easily. After Charlie’s earlier hesitation, I think it should have taken him longer to adjust to Milla’s public persona.

I didn’t care much for Milla and Charlie as characters, but I enjoyed the narrative itself, if that makes sense. There’s a level of sophistication and beauty to Calhoun’s writing style that sets it apart in my mind. So, despite the fact that I didn’t love this book, I always love Calhoun’s unique voice and that’s the best part of this book for me.

I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my review.