Review and Blog Tour: Positively Pippa- Sarah Hegger

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Review
When I was in my twenties, I went through a phase where I loved the sweet Harlequin American Romance series and books by Debbie Macomber. But as I got in to my thirties, I abandoned those romances for something a little steamier. I’ve tried to go back to the sweet contemporary a few times, but each time I feel kind of let down by the lack of passion. “Positively Pippa” was the perfect remedy.
Story-
Pippa has just lost her fancy Hollywood television job because of some bad editing on behalf of her jerk ex-boyfriend. No one in Hollywood will stand up for her and tell the truth, so she heads home to Ghost Falls to lick her wounds.  When Pippa left Ghost Falls all those years ago, Matt stayed to take care of his family after tragedy struck. Now that Pippa is back, both need to reevaluate where their lives are headed.
My Thoughts-
I know this sounds like a typical “coming-home” romance, but it is really so much more than that. Even though Pippa seems likes exactly the kind of person I would not like, I totally got her and her motivations and found myself rooting for her hard. Matt is amazing, but he too, became more real as the book went on, and I liked him even more once we saw his weaknesses.  The secondary characters truly bring this novel to another level; I had a completely clear picture of Ghost Falls and the people we were dealing with. I can’t wait to get to know some of them even better in future books. The other thing I want to mention is the heat… These two have great chemistry and this book has some very nice sexy moments.
Bottom Line-
This book went very fast for me; so much so, that I stayed up late reading one night which almost never happens for me and contemporaries. The characters really drew me in, and I really enjoyed it. I think this would make a great movie; it’s a little steamy for Hallmark, but Lifetime or Passionflix would totally work. I would love to see Philomene on screen. This is the perfect blend of sweet, home-town romance and sexy times. 5 stars!

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“Note From Sarah: Thank you for stopping by the Positively Pippa Blog Tour. There’s a lot of goodies up for grabs I want to let you know about. I hope you’ll join me on release day for a very special Facebook Party where fellow author Kristi Rose and I will be giving away a $400 gift card to Stitch Fix! Everyone who signs up for my newsletter right now is also entered to win one of a kind, custom made adornments from local Colorado designer SimaG Jewelry. Finally, to celebrate Pippa on this blog tour, I’m giving away some things she would love – a planner, Ulta Beauty Gift Cards and, of course, books!”
 
Enter the Rafflecopter Giveaway Below – One Grand Prize Winner will receive a $150 Gift Card to Ulta + the Pippa’s Favorites Bundle (Planner, Pen and Pouch) and a book, two more winners will receive a $100 and $50 Ulta Beauty Gift Card as well as a book each and 5 winners will get a copy of Positively Pippa!
Gift cards and Bundle are only open to US Residents only, international entrants are eligible to win a Positively Pippa e-book. 

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Pippa Blog Tour Giveaway (1)

New Author Live Blog and Review “Slave to Sensation” Nalini Singh

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This is the first post in a new series where I try an author who is new to me. As a paranormal fan, I feel like my knowledge is lacking, having not read Nalini Singh. A few months ago, I bought “Slave to Sensation” with plans to read it soon, but it has sat on my Kindle unread, partially due to the cover.

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For some reason, this screams ’80’s to me or at least early 90’s. The eyes, the stance, all of it is cheesy and repels me from this book. At least the British covers (above), while somewhat boring, aren’t “Teen Wolf” like this one. I mean, doesn’t this scream “Nancy Drew and the Case of the Wolf Man”?

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Still, over and over all I hear is how wonderful Nalini Singh and the Psy-Changeling Series is.  So, here I go giving it a chance and hopefully getting hooked. I like paranormal, so this should be a slam dunk. I love different worlds and how paranormal worlds transport me to a place where my daily worries don’t exist.

How this works:

I will live blog as I read this book, noting my reactions along the way.  There will likely be spoilers, but I will endeavor to not spoil big surprises that would ruin the book for future readers. Much like Goodreads, I will note the percentage  or chapter I have reached with each reaction. I hope you enjoy, and I look forward to your comments along the way! Here we go!

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1 Chapter in….

I’m interested in the heroine and what this whole “psy” business means. She switched pov in the middle of the chapter with no warning, which was interesting. I’m gonna read more, but it wasn’t the hookiest first chapter I’ve read. Lots of questions….

3 Chapters in…

Singh is brilliantly building a case for her heroine. I have to know what is going on with her; the mystery is wonderful. She is also gradually introducing me to the dichotomy of the changeling world vs. the psy one. Of course, we are meant to identify with the changelings since they are closer to humans. Nice build of sensuality with a simple hair stroke. Yeah, I’m getting hooked…

5 Chapters down…

Brava, Ms. Singh, brava! Sex dreams are my fave, and you turned it on its “head”.  So to speak… 😉 THIS is how you build sexual tension. Sigh.

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61%

Whew! This is going fast. I’ll admit: I got drawn in and couldn’t put it down. It’s so interesting how Singh builds her world through mystery. We find out new things about the world as the characters do, and the rest is assumed knowledge, which is still meted out piece by piece. It’s so interesting how she treats her paranormal characters. I can’t quite place it, but even though they are paranormal, that isn’t what drives the character. Like, sometimes I feel when I read a paranormal, the author is so intent on building that world around that type of creature that everything is about that, whatever it is: vampire, werewolf, something I’ve never heard of, whatever.  Any feelings they have are secondary to that paranormal drive. (the beast within, the lure of blood, etc.) Singh’s characters feel more real to me because their paranormal natures almost serve to illuminate human characteristics and failings that we all deal with.

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Also, there is so much tension and danger throughout that the pace just flies because I am constantly intrigued by what will be discovered next. Yes, I am liking this book quite a lot. More to come!

Finished!

This was the perfect paranormal to get me out of my recent reading funk. Although it got a little much for me toward the end with finding the bad guy etc., I loved this paranormal world and Nalini Singh’s writing. She is the master of building heat and suspense while still stringing you along until she’s ready to let loose. And boy, does she ever let loose! I am so glad I finally read this one, silly cover and all, and I will be delving deeper into the Psy-Changling World soon. 5 stars!

How to Lose a Highlander- Michelle McLean

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This one was an easy read. Light on sexy-times, but still fun. I love Highlander books, so you know I was ready for this one.

The Story-
The Campbells and the MacGregors have hated each other for a long time. Both happen to be visiting the King to ask him to help with the feud, and his solution is for the Campbell daughter to marry the MacGregor laird. Of course it is. Even though these two had a meet-cute at the ball the night before in which they could barely keep their hands off each other, now that they know who the other is, they hate each other and want to drive the other to annul the marriage. Which leads to a fairly quick and predictable plot about how they eventually come together.

My Thoughts-
I liked the hero better than the heroine, but neither character was super developed. Luckily, the plot clicked right along and I was never bored even though I knew where this story was headed. I wish there had been more sexual tension because there was so much that could have been built upon from the initial meeting. That sort of thing doesn’t just disappear overnight, and I think the love/hate would have been more interesting. When the sexy times did come, I felt like they were slightly brief considering how long we had to wait to get there.

Bottom Line-
If you like Highlander books, this one will not disappoint. It is a fun, quick romp that will keep your interest. 3 1/2 stars

Solo- Lauren Rico

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Check out that cover! Hot guy with glasses? Ummm. I had to read this book since sexy, smart guys are totally my thing. Blurb? A music grad student SNOWED IN with her hot professor! Ok, so I minored in music in college AND love the snowed in trope. Did Lauren Rico write this book with me in mind? Couldn’t wait to read it at this point…

 

The Story-

Katherine is a grad student who is almost finished with her masters degree in composing. She is under a ton of pressure with a politician dad that results in her getting followed by reporters and tons of shade thrown her way from other students etc. because of her dad’s stances. On top of all that, her professor HATES her and gives her no slack when she is late due to her stressful job(s).  When she accidentally gets snowed in with him, nothing good can happen, right?

 

My Thoughts-

Lauren Rico is a talented writer. You should know that right away. She has a great way with words, super developed characters and drives the plot throughout. I was completely immersed in her world and identified with Katherine intensely. So intensely in fact, that I had some trouble when the hero was mean to her. Yes, Drew is insanely hot and damaged and smart and talented, but I had some trouble forgiving him.  This could have been a quick and easy ride of super sexy fluff, but it ended up having so much more depth than I expected. So, if you are expecting a typical contemporary with a billionaire-type guy who seduces an ingenue, think again. This is more of a thoughtful tale with carefully-drawn characters who are flawed and have some real struggles. Is it hot? Absolutely. Does it still fulfill my love of snowed-in tropes? Yeppers. There just happened to be more going on than I expected. Was I disappointed in that? Not at all.

 

The Bottom Line-

This is a contemporary with some great tropes and twists, but it doesn’t happen to be a fun romp. This is more like a real relationship with ups and downs, smiles and tears, and complex characters, but ultimately extremely satisfying. 4 1/2 stars

Payback- Christina Phillips

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After reading the first book in the Viking Bastards MC series, “Hooked”, I knew I would be coming back for more. This second installment did not disappoint, but it did surprise me.

The Story-
Amelia comes from a family that was involved with a rival MC of the Viking Bastards. There was enough bad blood that she wants revenge, and the only way to do it is to go undercover as a bartender at Odin’s. She doesn’t expect her mark, Gage, to be anything like the sexy, protective guy she immediately has the feels for.

My Thoughts-
This second book is definitely darker than the first one, but has all the heat and pace that this author is so good at. Toward the end, it raised my eyebrows and had me wondering about how far she was willing to go to raise the conflict stakes in the story. I’m still not sure if she crossed that line or not, but I will say that it made me think… which fun Viking MC romance/eroticas don’t tend to make me do. The characters are well-rounded
(with a great alpha hero) with intricate motivations, and the book reads incredibly fast. I only sort of hope that the next book in this series leans back in the “fun romp with a bad boy” direction.

The Bottom Line-
If you like alpha males and MCs, this is probably your thing. If you want a quick, hot read with some emotional depth and a dose of darkness, this is right up your alley. If you want fun, hot sexytimes without the angst, I suggest the first book in this series. All that being said, I will be back for the next Viking Bastard! 3 3/4 stars

Buy it Now: Amazon

Never Trust a Pirate- Valerie Bowman

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I love a good pirate book, so I was pretty thrilled to get my hands on this new one by Valerie Bowman. It is the 7th book in her “Playful Brides” series, but it works completely as a stand-alone. Twists, undercover identities and pirate sexy times? Yes, please!

The Story-
I don’t want to give too much away because this one is so much fun to read and discover as you go, so I’ll keep this fairly brief. Danielle is a new lady’s maid, and the brother of the master of house is the “black sheep” rake of the family. He starts a flirtation with her and gets way more than he expected… That being said, there is SO MUCH MORE going on, and I think you will enjoy the game, the ups and downs, and the surprises as much as I did.

My Thoughts-
The plot drives this book which makes it a fast and fun read. The characters are interesting and have hidden depths, but this sure isn’t angsty. Reading this book is like watching an action/romance movie that you can’t look away from and can’t quit smiling about when it is all over. The pirate mention in the title is a tad bit of a misnomer because there is way more going on here than pirates, so if you don’t happen to be a fan of pirate stories, but like a great, fast plot, you should try this anyway, If you do like pirates, there is enough in there to satisfy.

The Bottom Line-
I literally put the book down and laughed out loud at one point, saying “oh my goodness, I am so glad that happened and can’t wait to see what happens next!” Imagine the odd stares I got from my high school students… Anyway, if you like your romance with a heavy dose of fun, great pacing, and twisty plots, this is so for you. 5 stars!

Buy it Now: Amazon

The Bad Luck Bride- Janna MacGregor

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The Bad Luck Bride is the debut book of author Janna MacGregor, but you certainly wouldn’t know it by reading it. As a fan of historicals (and beautiful covers), I was super excited to dive into this one. What surprised me most was the combination of emotional depth and gorgeous prose coming from Ms. MacGregor. This is not a light, fluffy story about some bride who keeps having trivial “bad luck”.

The Story-
Alexander has vowed revenge on his supposed friend who ruined the life of his sister, and part of that revenge includes taking his fiancee. Since he has the financial means to do so, and she happens to be somewhat desperate, this task isn’t a particularly hard feat to manage. But actually connecting with his new bride and building a life with her? That’s another matter entirely. Especially since the marriage was built on deception.
Claire believes she is cursed. Her previous fiances have all died or broken engagements. When Lord Hallworth saves her from yet another broken engagement embarrassment, she begins to hope that her luck has changed. But old demons don’t die, and marriage alone cannot save her.

My Thoughts-
From the very first page, I was struck at the vocabulary and gorgeous figurative language that the author uses. Disclaimer: yes, I am a high school AP English teacher. It reminded me of reading something closer to Jane Austen than many modern historical romances. Don’t get me wrong: it isn’t too difficult or flowery for the modern reader, but I appreciated that Ms. MacGregor respected the readers’ intelligence enough to put more thought into word choice and imagery. Okay, I’ll quit my English “critique” and move on to what most of you really care about: the characters and the story.
I felt for both of these characters: they both had such tough things to work through. I like that the author dealt with these issues realistically and didn’t just “heal” them with sex. Just like real life, real things take time and hard work to process.
The story was fast-paced in the beginning and slowed a bit in the middle, but by the end, I was racing again to see what would happen. I have to say: I was surprised by the outcome. Rather than relying on an obvious trope, the author changes course in the final chapters. There are some questions left unanswered which will lead into book 2 (which I cannot wait for), but I found the ending satisfying and more realistic than I expected.
I guess that is one of the more interesting things Ms. MacGregor brings to this book: people act more like real, flawed people than is normal in these types of books. Situations are more realistic. This is no fairy-tale, and I am not disappointed by that. After all, dashing Willoughby leaves Marianne, and Anna and Wentworth screwed up their lives for years, waiting to be together. Sometimes happy endings are hard to come by because we make it hard on ourselves.

The Bottom Line-
Janna MacGregor is poised to be included in the top echelon of historical romance authors. This is an outstanding debut novel, and fans of historical romance should definitely check this out. I cannot wait to see what else she has in store. 4 1/2 stars

Buy it Now: Amazon

The Duke’s Unexpected Bride- Lara Temple

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I am having some trouble putting my thoughts together about this book. I’ve never read Lara Temple before, but I love historical and Regency romance, so I couldn’t say no to this one. On one hand, this was cute and hilarious, on another, it was pretty dark and disturbing. Actually, that is a pretty good description of the two mains…. Let me try to break it down for you.

The Story-
Sophie is a country-girl, staying with her wealthy aunt (? can’t remember…a wealthy old lady that never shows up in the plot), and she has out-lasted other members of the family who came to stay due to her willingness to take care of the aunt’s dog, Marmaduke. The pug is hilarious and is really another character in the story. Duke something-or-other, Max, runs into her on a walk with the dog and is captured by her enthusiasm and spirit. (Although he won’t admit it for most of the book.) Max is dealing with some dark things that happened in his past, but is seemingly continually drawn to Sophie which leads to an engagement of convenience sort of thing.

My Thoughts-
The first half of the book is an enjoyable piece of fun and is a unique take on a Regency romance. The second half feels more like a book you’ve read, albeit with some twists and surprises, but it misses some of the joy in the beginning. The characters, especially Sophie, are masterfully developed, and the secondary characters make me want to look through this author’s backlist to see if their stories have been told. I guess the somewhat dark turn of the plot threw me a bit considering I had been laughing at the highjinks of a pug getting his portrait painted in an earlier chapter.

The Bottom Line-
If you like dogs or humor in your historical romance, this is a no-brainer. If you like historical Regency romance, this is much better than many that are out there. The characters are well-written, and the story clicks right along. I will be reading more by this author and am going to check out her backlist now. 4 stars

Hard-Hearted Highlander: Julia London

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I love highlander books, so I was pretty excited to get ahold of this one. It sounded totally up my alley, but an unlikable hero and odd subplot made this feel disjointed and somewhat unsatisfying for me.

The Story-
Rabbie has to marry an English girl to save his family land etc. His ex/true love died at the hands of the English following Culloden, so suffice to say, he isn’t happy about the arrangement. His bride-to-be is an unlikable little ninny who still has a governess of sorts: Bernadette. Bernadette is, of course, sassy and worldly, which is more interesting to Rabbie than the ninny. Both have tragic backstories and lots of built-up sexual tension.

My Thoughts-
Rabbie broods and sulks through most of the novel even though the heroine, Bernadette, went through something way worse and seems well-adjusted considering. He never really turns a corner and does anything particularly likable; they just start having sex. At one point, I thought that the ninny was going to have a HEA and maybe be alright because the author did some scenes from her perspective, but no. She’s just an idiot that gets embarrassed by a creep. Then, there is all this weird backstory written in italics that actually made me wish Rabbie’s first love hadn’t kicked it. I know Bernadette would have been better off if her jerk father hadn’t screwed up her live and love. Oh, and don’t get me started on the whole “here’s a couple of kids!” thing. I won’t go into detail, but he pulls a very man move out of the blue that left me like “huh?”.

The Bottom Line-
So, why the 3 stars if there were so many things that annoyed me? The plot clicked along pretty well, and although I am not super happy how she ended up with Rabbie, Bernadette is a pretty kicking heroine. I enjoyed their banter and was truly intrigued to see how they would get together because it really wasn’t seeming likely. The writing is solid, and I have a feeling that I would enjoy something else by this author. She writes in my fave subgenre, and clearly has talent; this just went in too many directions and didn’t redeem the hero enough for my taste. 3 stars

Drakon’s Prey- N.J. Walters

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Second books in paranormal series can be difficult. The first book often has all of this interesting world-building and the introduction of the “big bad” to make it exciting. That was certainly the case with this series. I loved the first book, and I feel that it is absolutely necessary to enjoying this one at all. I’ll explain:

The Story-
Picking up where we left off in book 1, Valeriya, the sister of the big bad, has pocketed a secret address to the hideaway of a drakon (dragon-shifter). She heads there, of course being tracked by sis’s men, then gets kidnapped/stowed away by Tarrant, a drakon we met in the first book. He keeps her. They have insta-sex. Bad guys try to find her.

My Thoughts-
If I didn’t love this author’s characters and world so much, this one would have been difficult to get through. But, I do want to know what happens to the drakons and how they will eventually defeat the bad guys. My biggest issue was that the plot didn’t feel like it moved forward overall. It felt more like a chess move: Valeriya to the drakon’s side of the board. The sex was hot, and Tarrant is a true Alpha-male that keeps it interesting. But, nothing happens! It’s like a snowed-in trope without the witty banter and self-revealing that usually comes before the sex and love.

The Bottom Line:
I will read the third book in this series and hope that the action picks back up. If you read the first book, this is a natural progression, and you will probably enjoy it enough to give it a read to continue the series. If you want to read a “stuck-together so they have sex and fall in love” book with heat, this one will also fit that bill. 3 stars