Book Review: Broken Play by Samantha Kane

Broken Play by Samantha KaneBroken Play by Samantha Kane
Rating: 3stars
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Broken Play is the first book in the new Birmingham Rebels series. This book is way more than I bargained for, but overall I still think that it’s a decent read.

*** SPOILERS FOLLOW ***

It’s a spoiler for sure, but I feel like it needs to be disclosed upfront: this book contains not only ménage scenes between three people, but also scenes between multiple partners. Numerous partners, even. I didn’t realize that the book went beyond typical ménage, and I would have liked a heads up prior to reading it. Some readers might be put off by this, so I think it’s important to mention.

Marian Treadwell is the new assistant coach for the Birmingham Rebels, an NFL team made up of misfits and troublemakers. Beau Perez and Cass Zielinski are notorious not just for their athletic skill, but for a sex tape involving a woman and the two of them. When Marian takes the job with the Rebels, she’s well aware of Beau and Cass’s reputation with women and finds herself intrigued by them.

Marian is a good assistant coach, but she has personal demons that become apparent early on. She has suffered a traumatic event of some kind, but it takes her a while to open up about it. Even after it’s obvious that her attraction to Beau and Cass is mutual, they have to earn her trust before she confides in them completely.

Beau and Cass are so different in their personality types. Beau has struggled with substance abuse in the past, but he’s sober now. He’s also incredibly sweet and a good communicator. Cass is more of an alpha male and it’s tough for him to express his emotions. So together, they balance and compliment each other pretty well.

In addition to their attraction to Marian, Beau and Cass realize that they have feelings for each other. So not only is there an m/f/m relationship going on, there’s also an m/m/f one as well. The three of them have to figure out how they’re going to make this unconventional relationship work, especially in light of Beau and Cass’s past–not to mention the fact that Marian is their coach.

If the story had stayed here and tackled these issues, I would have liked the book more. But because it goes further and involves other people in the sexual relationship, it lost some credibility with me. I had trouble believing that Marian would be willing to include people other than Beau and Cass, considering what happened to her in the past. I think that the story would have been stronger if it had focused solely on the three of them.

Having said all this, I enjoyed the book until the 80% mark or so. I still finished it, but the ending lost some steam for me because of the surprise multiple partners aspect. However, I did like the author’s writing style and would read her books again. So, I recommend this book, but with the caveat that readers should be aware that it’s not solely a ménage (threesome) story and some people might not like that big surprise.

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

Book Review: Ever After by Rachel Lacey

Ever After by Rachel Lacey Ever After by Rachel Lacey
Rating: 5stars
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Ever After gave me all kinds of warm fuzzies. The romance between the main characters is swoonworthy and I loved how the pets are supporting characters since they’re featured so much. Rachel Lacey is going on my Read Again list for sure.

First things first: I know the adage says that you can’t judge a book by its cover, but this book immediately caught my attention on NetGalley. That’s one pretty cover. Secondly, this is book three in the Love to the Rescue series. I haven’t yet read books one and two, but I was able to read this comfortably as a standalone. However, I intend on going back to the beginning of the series since I loved this one so much.

* * *

Olivia Bennett is an animal rights activist. She’s incredibly passionate about her cause, especially working to stop the abuse of factory-farmed chickens in her small hometown of Dogwood, North Carolina. When the story opens, Olivia is caught spray-painting the local chicken processing plant by Deputy Pete Sampson. Pete (aka Deputy Hot Stuff) arrests her for vandalism. Following the spray-painting incident, a series of events happen to Olivia that appear to be retaliation for her activism against the chicken plant. As more incidents occur, she finds herself increasingly involved with Pete as they attempt to find out who’s targeting her.

Everything about her was sexy as hell. And he had absolutely no business lusting after a woman he’d arrested.

Olivia is a strong character who I really enjoyed. At times, she behaves impulsively–such as her ill-advised vandalism incident–but she learns from her mistakes and makes restitution for them. She’s extremely passionate about her beliefs, but I never felt that she went overboard into fanaticism. For example, even though she’s a vegetarian, she isn’t preachy or judgmental to others about what they eat. In addition to her activism, she also helps foster dogs for her friend’s local rescue group.

Pete is an equally likable character. He’s an honest cop and has a great deal of integrity, but he also has some secrets that keep him up at night. I really felt for him because he has so much self-imposed guilt that just isn’t deserved. As he and Olivia begin a relationship, she has to figure out a way to help him center himself and rid him of his personal demons.

Olivia made him feel everything. And that might be even scarier than feeling nothing.

Even though their relationship begins on a casual level, over time it becomes apparent to both Olivia and Pete that they’re falling for each other hard. As I mentioned, the romance itself is the focus of the story, which makes it a really strong one. There’s some conflict when they must reconcile their diverging lives with their desire to be together, but the emotion between Olivia and Pete comes across as genuine and believable.

“Wherever you are is where I need to be.”

Additionally, I liked the supporting characters, who are couples from the previous two books. Olivia and Pete’s family members also play a huge role. And as I mentioned, I felt that the sweet dogs and cat are supporting characters in their own right because they’re such a big part of the plot. Their presence makes the story that much more heartwarming.

Ever After has the elements that I love so much in romance: a combination of humor with a lot of heart, not to mention that the romance itself is downright sexy. Fans of Jill Shalvis will love Rachel Lacey’s series. I highly recommend this book and look forward to reading the others in the series.

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

Book Review: Evening Storm by Anne Calhoun

Evening Storm by Anne CalhounEvening Storm by Anne Calhoun
Rating: 2stars
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I have mixed feelings about this book. On one hand, Anne Calhoun is one of my favorite authors and I adore her writing style. On the other hand, I didn’t connect with this particular story the way that I’ve connected with her other books.

Ryan Hamilton is a hotshot Wall Street investment banker. He’s hugely successful, but he has also just discovered that his firm is involved in the largest Ponzi scheme in decades. Ryan is working with the FBI to obtain enough evidence to take down the firm.

Meanwhile, Simone Demarchelier owns and runs an upscale lingerie boutique, Irresistible. She prides herself on creating exquisite pieces that not only pamper women, but also give them confidence. When Ryan comes into her shop one day with a supermodel on his arm, she’s taken by his presence, but recognizes that she must stay at a distance since he’s clearly with someone.

Here’s where the story just didn’t work for me. So, Ryan is seeing this supermodel, but it’s a casual thing–basically just sex. However, Ryan goes back to Simone and tells her about his sexual encounter with the model. And later in the story, after he hooks up with a famous actress, he goes to Simone and tells her about that encounter as well.

I have so many issues with this. Despite the characters’ reasoning that Ryan was really fixated on Simone the whole time, I just couldn’t accept the fact that he’s with other women for 80% of the book before he and the heroine even get together. That really bothered me. Yes, the circumstances are special because of Ryan’s involvement with the FBI, so he has to keep up appearances by not altering his existing lifestyle. But I just really didn’t enjoy reading about him being with women other than Simone.

So when Ryan and Simone finally do get together, it was a bit too late for me. I was glad that they get their happily ever after, but I wasn’t invested in the relationship because of the events that led up to it.

Having said all that, the writing itself really is beautiful. As I mentioned, Calhoun is one of my favorite authors. Even though I didn’t connect with these particular characters and this story, I can’t deny the quality of the writing itself. But unfortunately, this isn’t one of my favorites by her, so I hesitate to recommend it.

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

Book Review: Right Wrong Guy by Lia Riley

Right Wrong Guy by Lia RileyRight Wrong Guy by Lia Riley
Rating: 5stars
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Note: This is book #2 in the Brightwater series and I strongly recommend reading book #1 first in order to enjoy the unfolding story fully.

Man, I loved this book.

When I started it, I was a little leery when I realized that the hero, Archer Kane, is a self-confessed manwhore. Generally, I stay away from characters like him, but I adored the first book in this series (Last First Kiss), so I knew I wanted to keep reading. I’m so glad I did.

Archer is the brother of Sawyer, the hero in Last First Kiss. Archer’s a bit of a wild child–he’s got quite a reputation in town for being a ladies’ man, as well as someone with a devil-may-care attitude about life in general. When Archer wakes up in Vegas after an excessively wild night, he starts to think that maybe it’s time he put aside his reckless ways.

Did he really want to live out these shallow morning-after scenarios forever like some warped version of Groundhog Day?

While in Vegas, Archer meets Eden Bankcroft-Kew, an heiress from New York who has just discovered that her fiancé has been cheating on her. She learns this just in the nick of time–on the morning of their wedding day, just in time to call off the wedding.

When Eden meets Archer, she realizes he’s headed back to his hometown of Brightwater, which is where Eden’s cousin Quincy (also from the first book) now lives. Archer agrees to let her ride along with him.

“I’m glad we crossed paths. You’re the right guy at the wrong time.”
“Usually I’m the wrong guy at the right time.”

I wasn’t prepared for how much I’d grow to like Archer as a character throughout this book. In the beginning, he comes across as cocky and charming, but without much depth. As he and Eden (aka Edie aka Freckles) grow closer, his best qualities are brought to the surface. She has that effect on him.

When Eden moves to Brightwater, she wants to leave her awful ex behind and start fresh. Even after her ex attempts to blackmail her, she refuses to be defeated. She reinvents herself as Edie Banks and follows her dream of opening a bakery/coffee shop. Most of the residents in town accept and welcome her–although she does hit a couple of bumps along the way.

Edie and Archer are worlds apart in terms of their lifestyles. Edie has lived her life on the upper crust of New York society, always prim and proper. Archer is a cowboy who has never committed to much in life, especially not to a single woman. On the surface, they seem utterly incompatible, but the simple truth is that they’re perfect for each other.

The romance in this book is volcanic. Edie tries to resist her feelings for Archer at first, but then she decides to follow her heart. I think it’s that initial slow burn that makes their chemistry so off-the-charts. And have I mentioned how amazing Archer turns out to be? Seriously, he’s in the running for one of my favorite heroes of 2015.

High time to stop running away from responsibility and see what he was made of. Instead of living up to his reputation, he’d create a new one.

Edie truly transforms over the course of the story. In the beginning, she’s insecure and unsure of herself as well as the sincerity of other people. As she becomes more comfortable in Brightwater–making new friends in addition to falling for Archer–she learns to trust her instincts and open herself up to the possibility of so many good things in life. Before coming to town, Edie/Eden’s life lacked color and passion. She went through the motions but didn’t really feel alive. In this small town, falling in love, she’s discovering who she really is–and she likes the person she sees.

“You deserve nothing but the best life has to offer. And in the future, if you ever need me, don’t hide–tell me and I’ll be there. I’ll always be there.”

I highly and completely recommend this book. It put such a good feeling in my heart while reading it. I can’t wait to read the next book in the series.

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

Book Review: All Wound Up by Jaci Burton

All Wound Up by Jaci BurtonAll Wound Up by Jaci Burton
Rating: 3stars
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Note: This is book #10 in the Play-by-Play series. I’ve read several books in the series, but not all of them (yet). Characters from previous books make appearances in this latest one, so that’s something to be aware of if you’re a stickler for reading a series in order. Regardless, All Wound Up can be read and enjoyed as a standalone.

The book opens with a simultaneously comical and painful scene. Tucker Cassidy, major league pitcher for the St. Louis Rivers, has just had an unfortunate run-in with his now ex-girlfriend’s knee. She was a huge clinger and he couldn’t take it anymore, so he broke up with her. As Tucker is attempting to recover from his injury, Dr. Aubry Ross stumbles onto him and immediately goes into patient care mode.

What happens next is kind of outlandish but pretty funny, too. Aubry, an ER physician, examines Tucker to make sure he doesn’t have any serious injuries. He doesn’t, so she sends him on his merry way. Over the following weeks, Tucker repeatedly injures himself–not on purpose–ending up in Aubry’s ER every time. At first, she doesn’t know if he’s just trying to make excuses to keep seeing her, especially after he asks her out and she turns him down. But eventually, she relents and agrees to go out with him.

“I have a terrible feeling if I say no that you’re going to end up in my ER again.”
“I’ll take a pity yes for now. And then I’ll convince you I’m worth it.”

Aubry and Tucker are definitely sexually compatible, so that aspect of their relationship is off to a great start. They’re also both very busy people, considering Tucker’s professional baseball career and Aubry’s hectic schedule as a doctor. At the start, their relationship is mainly physical, but as they get to know each other better, they discover how much they genuinely like each other.

However, Aubry insists on keeping their relationship on the down low. Her father is the owner of the St. Louis Rivers, so she doesn’t want to make things awkward by admitting that she’s seeing one of her father’s players. Additionally, her father is extremely adamant about Aubry’s job being her number one priority in life. Even though Aubry is out of medical school and no longer lives with her parents, her father is incredibly overbearing and pushy when it comes to Aubry’s career.

Ultimately, Aubry and Tucker have to make some serious decisions about what their respective priorities are–with regard to their careers as well as their deepening feelings for each other. When they finally start telling people that they’re dating, they become more comfortable with the idea that they’re getting serious about each other. Things get complicated, though, when Aubry brings Tucker home for dinner one night to officially announce that she and Tucker are together.

“Once you find someone you want to spend the rest of your life with, it really is that simple.”

For me, this was a super easy read. I really enjoy the Play-by-Play series because while there’s obviously conflict in each book, there’s very little angst and the romance is always the focus of the story. In All Wound Up, I really liked the strong, comedic opening, but would have preferred a less rushed ending. Also, there are a few scenes with characters from the other books where I got a little confused as to who plays for which team/who’s married to whom/who’s dating whom/who’s related to whom. Those moments were a bit confusing. Overall, though, the majority of the story is enjoyable. It’s a solid read and a good addition to the series.

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