Book Review: Taking It Off by Claire Kent

Taking It Off by Claire Kent

Taking It Off by Claire Kent
Rating: 5stars
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I started reading Taking It Off with the expectation that it would be definitely sexy, and maybe light, fun, and sort of fluffy. It’s marketed as a romance for fans of Magic Mike, after all. What I got from this book was so much more. Taking It Off turned out to be a deeply emotional surprise that I just loved.

Matt (who I’m so tempted to call Magic Matt, but it’s just Matt) owns a male strip club called Bare Assets. While he’s a former stripper himself, he doesn’t get out on stage much anymore. Until he meets Elizabeth.

“You wear the ice princess like a costume, and the very first time I saw you, I wanted to take it off.”

Elizabeth is an art therapy teacher at a prestigious preschool. She makes a good living and is independent. Her father is seriously considering running for governor. Although Elizabeth would eventually like to meet a nice guy who’s marriage material, she doesn’t necessarily need a man right now.

Elizabeth’s upbringing has always been very ordered and polite. Maybe a little too polite and even forced. So when Elizabeth accompanies her friends to a bachelorette party at Bare Assets, she’s noticeably uncomfortable. She doesn’t understand the appeal of the dancers or the over-the-top atmosphere. Matt takes notice of her and issues a challenge: if Elizabeth will agree to come to the club twice a week for the next month, Matt is convinced that he can help her loosen up and let down her defenses.

Challenge accepted.

At first, Elizabeth is super hesitant and skeptical about the strip club experience. She sees that it’s fun for the other women, but she writes it off as just not being her thing. Slowly but surely, Matt convinces her that she doesn’t need to have her emotional guard up all the time, the way that she has her whole life. She can let go, let loose, have fun, and be free. He helps her with that and along the way, he and Elizabeth start to fall for each other.

Elizabeth felt like someone else–someone more fun, more spontaneous, less vanilla–had taken possession of her body. She liked herself this way.

Meanwhile, Matt’s got some secrets that he’s not keen on sharing with Elizabeth. Matt’s mother is a drug addict. He tries to help her, but she refuses to help herself. Matt’s almost ready to give up hope with regard to his mother when he meets Elizabeth. Elizabeth gives Matt new perspective. She helps him see that some things aren’t hopeless and encourages him to keep trying with his mother.

Matt had long ago given up hope about the important things in life, so it was a nice change to feel a spark of it about anything at all.

In the midst of all this–the juxtaposition of the fun club scenes and the heavy family stuff–there are some seriously smoking scenes between Elizabeth and Matt. We’re talking 5 out of 5 jalapenos, people. My ebook is highlighted within an inch of its life and I’m not complaining.

There’s some additional drama with regard to Elizabeth’s family, which I’ll avoid spoiling here. I’ll just say that it helped put the story in perspective, seeing how swept away both Elizabeth and Matt were with their new relationship. When this incident occurs, they realize they need to step back and decide who they each want to be–as well as what the future holds for them, separately or together.

As I mentioned, I really adored this book and have no hesitations giving it 5 enthusiastic stars. In Taking It Off, the author took a subject that I initially expected would be fun and lighthearted, and she created an intense story that’s incredibly satisfying on an emotional level. Claire Kent is a new author to me, but I’ve already bought a couple of her other books and I’m excited to read those.

Note: I received an advance copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my review. I’m slowly working through my NetGalley backlog and this book has since been published. My review is for the published version of the book.

Book Review: Hot Holiday Nights by Jaci Burton

Hot Holiday Nights by Jaci BurtonHot Holiday Nights by Jaci Burton
Rating: 4stars
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Hot Holiday Nights is book #10.5 in Jaci Burton’s Play-by-Play series. It’s a novella (hence the .5) and although it’s part of the series, it can be read out of order and as a standalone. This is also the first ménage story in the series, which I didn’t realize until after I had read a few chapters. As always, Burton’s writing is consistently good and I enjoyed this latest Play-by-Play book.

Victoria Baldwin is a sports agent who has appeared throughout Play-by-Play as a supporting character. She’s on Christmas vacation in Hawaii when she meets Alex, a professional surfer. It’s insta-lust and they hook up pretty quickly.

Alex is traveling with his best friend/manager, Ben, whom Victoria meets and also feels an instant attraction to, despite having an interest in Alex. Victoria is not the type of woman to freak out or run off when confronting her emotions. In fact, although she has just met both men, she admits her attraction to both of them.

She felt safe with them, which made her want to explore and see just what would happen with them.

Even though she’s never done something like this before, Victoria has been curious about ménage in the past. When she shares her desires with Alex and Ben, they’re all for it. They’ve actually shared women previously, which is convenient for Victoria (and much easier in the long run for everyone involved).

The sex is mind-blowing and everyone is happy. Initially, Victoria is looking at the physical relationship as a holiday fling and nothing more. Additionally, she’s based in New York, while Alex and Ben travel extensively for their jobs. So that makes it easier for her to see them as just a fling.

But the more that Victoria spends time with Alex and Ben, the more emotionally attached she becomes to both of them. Pretty soon, it becomes clear that the feeling is mutual. The three then have to decide if they can make their relationship work.

She did not get emotionally attached to men. She never had. Before now.

I think that the book could have worked well as a full-length novel, with room to develop the characters more deeply, but I still enjoyed the story. It’s also nice to venture away from the standard football or baseball players that are typically featured in the series. The plot is a bit rushed due to the shorter length of the novella, but Burton makes up for this with likable characters and super hot scenes.

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

Book Review: Everything I Left Unsaid by M. O’Keefe

Everything I Left Unsaid by M. O'Keefe

Everything I Left Unsaid by M. O’Keefe
Rating: 5stars
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Everything I Left Unsaid is an intense and emotionally raw book. This story sucked me in and wouldn’t let go.

Fair warning: this book contains a cliffhanger ending. Thankfully, the next book (The Truth About Him) releases next month, so that’s not too long to wait.

I’ve read Molly O’Keefe’s contemporary romances before and enjoyed them. Her latest book, written under the name M. O’Keefe, feels like quite a departure from her usual books. It’s an erotic romance with elements of suspense. And I can’t emphasize enough just how intense the story is. There are dysfunctional relationships, family problems, phone sex, angst galore, more phone sex, heartache, actual in-person sex, but it all works within the context of the main characters, Annie and Dylan.

No one had worried about me. Not in a very long time.

When we first meet Annie, she’s on the run. She has fled her abusive husband and traveled across the country to North Carolina, where she’s now living in a trailer park. When she first moves into her trailer, she finds a ringing cellphone and answers it. The person on the other end of the line is Dylan, who is mysterious and cryptic, but to whom Annie feels inexplicably drawn.

I went into this story without many details, so I’m doing my best to avoid mentioning any spoilers here. Suffice it to say that the first phone call between Annie and Dylan has enormous consequences that alter the course of their lives. It’s strange how something as seemingly trivial as a phone call can have such far-reaching repercussions, but that’s the case here.

Just the thought of his name electrified part of me, like a filament in a lightbulb starting to glow.
Don’t. Don’t think about him.

At times, the book feels like an emotional roller coaster. As Annie and Dylan’s relationship becomes more overtly sexual over the phone, the more apparent it is that they don’t really know each other. Annie’s curiosity leads her to discover part of Dylan’s back story, but there’s a whole world that she’s unaware of. Likewise, Annie works hard to hide her past from Dylan. So much of their relationship is built upon lies; or at least, sins of omission. Eventually, the truth will have to come out.

I was caught in that wide chasm between what I’d had and what I could have. What my life had been and what I wanted it to be, and every step, every huge step I’d taken away from what I knew and into the unknown, felt terrifying.

This is probably one of the vaguest reviews I’ve ever written, but for me, a large part of my enjoyment of the book came from discovering Dylan’s secrets alongside Annie. He’s such a mystery to her. Even though what they have seems temporary and destined to fail–how can they have a future when they’ve never even met in person?–the longer their relationship continues, the deeper they fall for each other.

“When you’re in danger,” he said, “I’m going to do everything I can to keep you safe.”

Additionally, I grew to like Annie more as she evolved over the course of the story. She’s fearful and unsure in the beginning, but the more she explores her independence, the stronger her spirit becomes.

I really dislike cliffhanger endings, but I’m super excited to read the conclusion to this story. O’Keefe has created characters who have so much to hide and so much to lose. I’m looking forward to learning more about Annie and Dylan, in addition to seeing how their story is resolved.

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

Everything I Left Unsaid by M. O'Keefe

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: 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: 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.

Book Review: 30 Days by Christine d’Abo

30 Days by Christine d'Abo30 Days by Christine d’Abo
Rating: 5stars
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30 Days is one of the best books I’ve read this year. Seriously, I loved this book SO HARD.

Alyssa Barrow is only in her mid-thirties, but she’s a widow after losing her husband, Rob, to cancer. They had a comfortable but loving marriage, having met when Alyssa was just nineteen. In fact, Rob is the only man she’s ever had sex with, but she’s always been okay with that.

I wasn’t still looking for that special someone–I’d found and lost him.

When Rob was nearing the end of his life, he told Alyssa that he wanted her to find happiness again after his death–to move on and fall in love again. So Rob, feeling a little bit like Alyssa has been deprived, leaves her with a stack of sex cards. Thirty cards, to be exact, filled with thirty days of sex challenges, to be used when she’s ready. It’s a strange gift to leave for your widow, but clearly Rob had an interesting sense of humor.

He wrote me freaking sex cards. I fell in love with him all over again. My best friend and lover was giving me advice on how to hook up with other people from beyond the grave. The idea was a mix of weird and sweet, the perfect descriptor for him.

It’s two years after Rob’s death and Alyssa comes home to her condo one day to find that she has a new neighbor. A ridiculously hot new neighbor, in fact. It’s the first time she has felt something for anyone since Rob died and she’s not sure what to make of it. But the presence of Harrison Kemp, her new neighbor, gets Alyssa considering that maybe–possibly–she can attempt to start living again.

I could either continue to live a solitary life with my head and heart stuck in the past, or I could do what Rob wanted me to and take a step out into the big world on my own.

Despite the fact that she barely knows Harrison, Alyssa decides to enlist his help with completing her thirty days of sex. Harrison agrees, on the condition that the two of them understand that it’s just sex, not a relationship. Harrison is in town temporarily due to his work contract, so he’s leaving in three months. He’s also vague about his reasoning, only admitting that his last relationship ended badly. He and Alyssa agree that, with her history, she’s not ready for a serious relationship anyway. This will be purely physical and fun. No serious commitments.

(That’s what they all say in the beginning.)

This was totally about sex. Yup. No way I was going to let myself fall for the first guy I hook up with after Rob, because that had bad idea written all over it. Really bad. Super bad.

So begin the thirty days of sex. I don’t want to spoil the challenges because they are amazing and wonderful. They’re also sweet at times and simply dirty at others, and isn’t that the beauty of it? Alyssa finds herself actually having fun with Harrison, not just in bed with slowly getting to know him as well. Despite their initial agreement that it’s only sex, inevitably, they become friends. With that come all of the emotional entanglements that they swore they’d avoid by relegating their connection to the solely physical. That’s just the thing–it becomes clear that they’re falling for each other, despite their initial intentions.

This was what I’d been missing. It wasn’t so much about the sex as it was the connection.

With Harrison’s impending departure looming, there’s always a bittersweet feeling that surrounds him and Alyssa. That imminent separation creates a sense of urgency when they’re with each other because they know that their time together has an end date. But the deeper they go with their relationship (despite the fact that they don’t want to call it that), it’s obvious that emotions and hearts are becoming involved. Alyssa decides that she will try to win Harrison’s heart.

I knew that maybe, possibly, I was in love with Harrison.

Alyssa’s plans get a bit derailed along the way and because I loved this book so much, I will refrain from spoiling the ending. Suffice it to say that this book simply blew me away. It’s such an interesting mix, at times bittersweet and heart-wrenching, while at other times smoking hot and unbelievably sexy. The tone of the story reminded me of Anne Calhoun’s writing, but with much more levity. I loved getting to know Alyssa as a character; she’s someone you genuinely feel for and can cheer on. After living with so much grief and tragedy, you just want her to be happy.

For the majority of the book, I felt that Harrison is very much a mystery. I didn’t mind that at first, but as the plot went on, I wanted him to open up more to Alyssa. Eventually we do learn what he’s all about, but I would have liked more candor from him a little earlier on in the book. That’s really the only small complaint that I have.

Go forth and read this. It’s amazing and put me through a gamut of emotions: sadness, joy, frustration, elation, and finally, the lightness that comes after you’ve read something completely wonderful and unexpected. I love, love, loved this book and highly recommend it.

Love wasn’t an either-or situation. It was a limitless entity that grew in strength the more it was shared.

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

Book Review: Priest by Sierra Simone

Priest by Sierra SimonePriest by Sierra Simone
Rating: 4stars
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This book is wildly inappropriate and sacrilegious and I absolutely loved it.

I should start by saying that if you’re easily offended by religious themes used in an erotic context, you probably shouldn’t read this. And if you’re an observant Catholic, you definitely shouldn’t read this.

The sex in this book is crazy super extra dirty filthy hot. So if you’re offended by extremely explicit sex scenes, you also should not read this. (Sidenote: I’ve seen this book categorized on Amazon and Goodreads as BDSM. While there are faint elements of this in the sex scenes and Tyler is certainly dominant, I personally didn’t consider it heavy on the BDSM.)

Now that I’ve told you why you potentially shouldn’t read this, let me explain why I loved it so, so much.

Father Tyler Bell is a 29-year-old Catholic priest who took his vows three years ago following the suicide of his sister. In many ways, her death was the catalyst for Tyler wanting to find meaning and purpose in his life. Tyler is certainly not a conventional priest. When not tending to his congregation, in his off-time he listens to Britney Spears and peruses The Walking Dead reddit. He sincerely loves his parish and throws himself into his ministry through various forms of community outreach to dull the grief left behind by his sister’s death. He also does this as a form of penance because he blames himself, in part, for her suicide.

So when a stranger enters his confessional one day, the last thing Tyler expects is to be drawn to this woman. Her confession is filled with sordid detail but also anguish, and as a priest, Tyler’s first instinct is to want to comfort her and help her find peace. But in another sense, Tyler finds himself drawn to her in far more inappropriate ways.

I was supposed to be a shepherd of the flock, not the wolf.

Poppy Danforth’s family life growing up is the definition of American blue blood. But immediately upon her graduation from Dartmouth with her MBA in hand, she walks away from her family’s privileged life. She knows what’s expected of her, but she wants more than marrying someone as a business transaction and ultimately becoming the requisite trophy wife.

So Poppy moves from city to city. She is a classically trained dancer but somehow finds herself working at an extremely high-class, exclusive strip club. She ends up in Weston, Missouri, where Tyler lives. She feels directionless and in an effort to find clarity, enters Tyler’s church and confessional.

Thus begins Tyler and Poppy’s relationship. She’s not Catholic, yet she finds comfort in the act of confession and Tyler is increasingly pulled in by Poppy’s magnetic personality. He also sees how hopeless she feels and wants to help her find her way. But from the beginning, their relationship is anything but appropriate. Tyler continues to hear her confessions, even though he knows he should step aside and refer her to someone else because he’s undeniably attracted to Poppy on a sexual level. Tyler has an interesting way of justifying his decisions. I’d say that he’s not a very good priest, but in some ways that doesn’t feel entirely accurate. In terms of his love for the community–and God Himself–Tyler actually is a very good priest.

The voice in my dreams that had comforted me, enlightened me, guided me. The voice that had told me what I needed to do with my life, where I needed to go to find peace. And the worst thing was that I knew He wasn’t angry with me. He’d forgiven me before it had even happened, and I didn’t deserve it.

Tyler is a good priest in many ways–he’s just not good at the celibacy part. Which, by the way, doesn’t last long. As you can imagine, Tyler breaks his vow of celibacy with Poppy early on and at times it’s almost comical how he splits hairs in efforts to justify his sins. Although he confesses them to God and prays for forgiveness, he also continues doing the same things over and over again, so obviously he’s not really interested in ending his sexual relationship with Poppy–despite the fact that they both know they should. In addition to this, by necessity they have to sneak around to spend time with each other, so there’s a constant shadow of secrecy and shame whenever they’re together.

However, although he spends a great deal of time justifying his actions, I don’t want to make light of Tyler’s struggles. He actually is tormented by his guilt, along with conflicted about his faith and his future as a priest. He not only has to reconcile who he is with who he wants to be, but also he has to figure out where Poppy fits into all of this as well. These issues become even more complicated when Tyler realizes that he’s not merely in lust with Poppy; he’s falling deeply in love with her.

Ultimately, Tyler has to make a choice. As a Catholic priest, he obviously can’t be with Poppy and remain in his spiritual position. However, he’s so conflicted by his feelings and how they just won’t reconcile with the vows he has made to God. As much as he tries to avoid making a choice, he has to decide whether he wants to follow what he thinks God wants, or what he knows his heart wants.

“Si vis amari, ama,” you tell me. If you wish to be loved, love.

One of the only things I didn’t like is Poppy’s ex, Sterling, and how prominent he is in the second half of the book. I wanted more of the focus to be on Poppy and Tyler, and the conflict necessarily involves Sterling, so unfortunately he’s in the book quite a bit. I also thought that the resolution is a little rushed, but the ending is satisfying.

For obvious reasons that I’ve already mentioned, this book is not for everyone–not even for every romance reader. But for me, it worked on pretty much every level and I loved it. There are passages throughout that are so beautifully written that I had to go back and reread them. There’s a poetic quality at times that’s so lyrical as to be Biblical in nature. The author did an amazing job of showing the dichotomy of Tyler the man of God versus Tyler the man in love. I just loved the author’s writing style and really want to read more from her.

Book Review: Hard Ride by Opal Carew

Hard Ride by Opal CarewHard Ride by Opal Carew
Rating: 2stars
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A+ for that cover. That’s an awesome cover.

I wanted to like this book, but unfortunately there are several things that didn’t work for me. I read and enjoyed the previous book in the series, Riding Steele, but Hard Ride seemed disjointed to me.

The basic plot is that Liv needs money to help her sick sister, so she enters into a contract with Shock that she’ll be his sex slave for a month.

Okay, what? Let me back up.

Liv knew Shock in college (back when he was called Devin) and they had a close relationship, but it didn’t go beyond friendship even though they both wanted it to. But Liv pushed him away, for reasons that become clear later. When Liv and Devin (who now goes by Shock, his ride name) meet again, she asks him for money and he agrees to help her out–on the sex slave condition. Seriously, he has his lawyers draw up a contract and everything.

At this point, I feel like I’m reading a surprise billionaire Dom book, rather than a biker book. In general, I don’t like billionaire Doms. So you can see why I had trouble there. But really, what kind of friend is he? She’s clearly desperate for money, but she doesn’t tell him that it’s for her sister. He agrees to help her, but uses it for his own sexual gain. That’s…not a good friend.

Even though he’s living as a biker, Shock is very wealthy. His family lost their wealth after a scandal, but after that, he went off and made his own fortune. Even still, he chose to walk away from the business world in order to join the other bikers. (He still owns his company, but obviously doesn’t run the daily operations since he’s always on the road.)

Meanwhile, Liv has an extremely painful past that she explains to Shock and which also reveals why she pulled away from him emotionally back in college. When Shock learns this, he’s incredibly sweet and supportive. He even offers to tear up the contract. But Liv has this duty-bound thing where she insists on fulfilling the contract.

So, they go forward with the sexual relationship, but it just didn’t feel natural to me, considering Liv’s past. Additionally, I found it really tough to like her as a character because she withholds communication from Shock throughout the book. He asks her why she’s upset, but she’ll lie to save face and say she’s fine. That drives me crazy. I wish characters would talk to each other! You can have conflict in other ways, but let the characters be honest with each other.

There’s also the matter of how the bikers share their women. Even though Liv has a traumatic past, she basically is open to being shared amongst all the men in the group. I had a really hard time believing that she would be so willing, certainly not this soon.

Lastly, there’s this other odd subplot where Liv finds out that Shock may or may not actually be married. It’s explained away and dismissed so quickly that I didn’t understand why it was included in the story to begin with.

I was disappointed with this book because I liked the previous one, but I will probably read the next in the series anyway. I like the ensemble of characters and would like to see how the rest of their stories turn out, but this is one that I wouldn’t recommend.

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