Rough and Tumble- Rhenna Morgan 


Contemporary isn’t normally my jam. I like my romance to let me escape to another world or another time, but let me tell you: if Rough and Tumble represents now, I want to stay.   Ms. Morgan has previously been a fantasy fave of mine, but in this new series, her writing, her characters, and her heat level hit a new ballpark altogether.
The Story-

Vivienne has always helped her sister out of bad decisions. In fact, her sister’s bad decisions have informed how she lives her life: clean and safe.  When she meets Jace while saving her sister from yet another drunken scrape, he is anything but clean and safe. He is a rough alpha that immediately tempts her to let her wild side loose.
My Thoughts-

Jace is everything. He is the perfect blend of alpha: protective, directive, but aims to please in only the best way. Things that would sound cocky or annoying coming out of most character’s mouths just sound sexy when Jace says them. I melted my way through this book, reading and rereading chapters. Viv is totally relatable, with a great dog and a funky room that I wish I had in my own house. The Haven Brothers (just wait!) are each special in their own way, and I think Ms. Morgan decided to create a series based on the various fantasies of women. We have a cowboy, a doctor, a brooding security guy, a hot nerd, and a Scot. I think that about covers it, right ladies? I am personally most excited about the hot nerd, Knox, and the Scot. What can I say? I have a weakness for plaid… Either way, this book is the perfect introduction to what I believe will be an amazing series.
Bottom Line-

This book is special. Like 5 stars, life-changing, special. I will read it again, and I can’t wait to hear what they do with the audio book. If Jace sounds as hot as he is in this book, that is gonna be totally worth it. If you like contemporary, this is such a no-brainer. If you don’t, this book may just convert you. Warning: it is so hot. Don’t get me wrong; there is a definite love story, and it is not just sex, but Jace makes it hot as hell even when they are just chit-chatting.  Yes, I am raving, but if this book doesn’t get nominated for some stuff this year, I will be shocked. It’s that good. 5 very strong, shiny gold stars!

BUY IT NOW!

Amazon (Print, Kindle, & Audio) – http://bit.ly/RT1-A-US
Amazon CA (Print, Kindle, & Audio)- http://bit.ly/RT1-A-CA
Amazon UK (Kindle, & Audio)- http://bit.ly/RT1-A-UK
B&N (Print, Ebook, & Audio) – http://bit.ly/RT1-BN
iBooks (Ebook) – http://bit.ly/RT1-iB
Kobo (Ebook) – http://bit.ly/RT-Ko
Google Play (Ebook) – http://bit.ly/RT1-Go
Audible (Audio Book) – http://bit.ly/RT-Aud
Harlequin (Print, Ebook, & Audio) – http://bit.ly/RT-Harl
Carina Press – http://bit.ly/RT1-CP

Millionaire Makeover- Naima Simone

“Millionaire Makeover” is my first book by Naima Simone, and it will definitely not be my last. Right up front: this is not a typical millionaire book.  And for me, that’s a good thing. For some reason, the trope of some prick rich guy falling for his secretary doesn’t really speak to me (Pride and Prejudice notwithstanding).  The fact that the guy has money is not really integral to the plot; in fact, this is really more of a second chance romance. 

The Story-

When Niall’s best friend and practically brother died, he had a one-night stand with BFF’s younger sister.  It was everything, but when he woke in the morning, he found a letter from dead BFF asking him to take care of her and help her find a guy “worthy” of her.  Since he feels that he is definitely NOT that worthy guy, he backs off and leaves her.  Fast-forward a few years, and Khloe has a good job and a crush on her boss.  When her best friend suggests making her appear more desirable by taking a hot date from a bachelor auction to an upcoming function, Khloe reluctantly agrees.  Of course, the bachelors are masked, so she doesn’t realize that she is, in fact, bidding on Niall.

My Thoughts-

My favorite thing about this book is how much Niall appreciates Khloe for who she is.  He has no desire to change her; he worships her curves. He daydreams about all the naughty things that he wants to do to her. He showers her with gifts.  I also love how normal Khloe is.  She doesn’t normally dress up for work, preferring comfy, loose clothing (hello Lularoe!) and is generally laid-back.  Khloe’s “makeover” is not about changing who she is because Niall is all about who she is.  It’s more about pampering her and making her feel special. Who doesn’t want that?  The romance was perfectly built with so many hot moments before they even got it on.  And OMG, this book made me cry. Sentimental sigh. I did not expect to have so many feels from a “millionaire” book. 

The Bottom Line-

This is a wonderful contemporary.  I will be reading more from Ms. Simone very soon. She has hooked me into her millionaire books, at least, and who knows? Maybe I judged the genre too quickly. Either way, this receives a sentimental 5 stars from me and a great big smile/sigh. 

Hooked- Christina Phillips

I’ll admit it: this cover “hooked” me. (tee hee!) Between the cover and the motorcycle club being the “Viking Bastards”, umm yeah, I was on board. This is my first book by Christina Phillips, but it will not be my last. 

The Story-
Grace’s car happens to break down in the “wrong side of town” on the day after she breaks off her engagement to a stuffy prick. When she wanders into Odin’s, a biker bar named after the Viking god, she and Zach have immediate sparks that they decide to act on… on the pool table in the back room. Neither one is looking for something serious, but they can’t get enough of one another in more ways than one.

My Thoughts-
It’s been awhile since I read something in first person, so that took a little getting used to. The only thing about it that bothered me was the multiple swaps in a chapter, but I really did love hearing the characters’ inner voices. With people who are withholding so much information from the other party, that inner monologue clears things up for the reader. Both Zach and Grace are incredibly likable, and they heat up the pages of this book. I found it to be an extremely quick read that kept me smiling and turning pages. 

The Bottom Line-
I will be back for more Viking Bastards. I hope they are all as hot as Zach, and I can’t wait to meet them. This book was a piece of candy that I ate a little to fast, but has me reaching for another… 4 stars

Best of 2016

2016 was a big year for my romance reading hobby.  I signed up for Kindle Unlimited, downloaded Overdrive for library books, and of course, started this blog which led to even more books.  So, without further ado, here are my favorite books that I read in 2016. (Not all books were released in 2016, but all were read by me in 2016.)

unexpected

Best Closed-Door Romance

Although I usually read romance that is very open-door, sometimes I enjoy a sweet story that doesn’t need to give me salacious details in order to be a very good romance.  My favorite romance in this category this year was “Her Unexpected Engagement” by Kyra Jacobs. It’s a very uplifting come-back story that left me feeling like no matter how bad things can get, there is still hope.

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Best Erotica

I also don’t tend to read erotica, and although I’m not sure this is technically classified as such, it should be. Friends, this is everything they said that 50 Shades was, but with much, much better writing. Why, oh why was this book not made into an international sensation and movie? I would watch that movie. This book is crazy-pants, that’s for sure, with the Russian mafia, sweat lodge bdsm, and some other insanity that I don’t want to ruin. A roller-coaster ride of a book that is totally worth it and impossible to put down.

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Best New-Fave Genre Book

Before this year, I had never read steampunk, and oh boy, did Bec McMaster provide an amazing introduction to this romance sub-genre for me with “Kiss of Steel”. McMaster is the “master” of the anti-hero, and this one is a doozy.  For literally like the first quarter of the book or so, I was like, “who is going to be the hero because, surely it can’t be this guy?” But it was. And it was so, so good. I loved this book and its sequel, and I cannot wait to read the rest of the series and start the next series and so on and so forth. McMaster has a fan for life. If you like paranormal or historical, try the steampunk genre. I think you may just love it as much as I do.

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Best Medieval Romance

It’s no secret that I love historical romance. In fact, I love it so much and read so much of it, that I had to create some sub-categories to include more of my historic faves. Sarah Hegger’s “Conquering William” was definitely my favorite medieval romance of the year.  Her world-building is so solid, which is not normal for medievals, and her characters are compelling- flaws and all. This was such a fast read with a plot that never let up and kept me engaged to the very end.

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Best Regency/Victorian Romance

Oh my goodness, I had so much trouble selecting my favorite for this category. I was between this one and Tessa Dare’s “Any Duchess Will Do”, but gave the tie to this book because it was actually released in 2016.  I love a good house party story, and this one with an identity swap and chocolate and bosoms accidentally spilling out at dinner had me in stitches, while still providing the heat.  Bell’s focus on character and comedy made me an immediate fan, and just writing this snippet has me wanting to revisit this one.

Best Fantasy Romance

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Juliette Cross is one of my favorite authors, and her Vessel series would be my best paranormal if I had read it this year, but I also love this fantasy series with hot half-dragons called Morgons.  Her first book with a Morgon heroine was wonderfully fresh and is a great continuation to this captivating series. Her world-building is second to none, and her continual reveal and tease of secrets and deeper plots is addicting. I recommend reading “Waking the Dragon” first, and you are in luck because I have decided to give away 5 copies of this book. Enter the giveaway by clicking on this link.

https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/7f756ccc03e143d9

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Best Paranormal Romance

Rhenna Morgon who, by the way is also my favorite new author of the year, hits it out of the park with the finale to her Eden series.  Morgon writes alpha males like no other, but just when you think she’s gonna zig and have this alpha save our broken heroine, she zags and totally surprises the reader in delicious ways. Yes, it is the 4th in a series, so if you want to catch up on all her amazing world-building, you need to read “Unexpected Eden” first, but I think this one can also stand on its own.  Hot, hot, hot sex and such wonderful characters will keep you coming back for more with Ms. Morgon. Speaking of…

roughandtumble

Most Anticipated of 2017

Ok, I’ve already read this one, but you should be anticipating it. Hard. This book is everything, and I can’t wait for you all to read it so we can fangirl together. Jace is one of the most drool-worthy alphas I’ve ever read, and Vivienne is so relatable that you will just want to let your hair down right along with her and cozy up to the Haven Brotherhood for as long as possible.  More books are coming in this series in 2017, and I cannot wait!

So that’s my list of 2016’s best. How many have you read? I am super-excited for 2017 and all the romance I’ll read along the way. I’d love to hear all of your suggestions in the comments below. Happy Reading!

Here’s another link for the Waking the Dragon Giveaway in case you missed it above!

https://giveaway.amazon.com/p/7f756ccc03e143d9

 

A December Bride- Hallmark Movie Review and Challenge

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Uncomfortable. Forced. Well, okay! Those thoughts pretty much sum up my feelings about “A December Bride”, Hallmark Channel’s 9th offering this year in the Countdown to Christmas line-up. A fake engagement can’t save this one… or can it?

The Story-

FLASHBACK! Layla is engaged and is planning on being a December bride.  Seth introduces Layla’s fiancé to her cousin. There are lots of undertones. So many, in fact, that I thought that there was no chance these two people hadn’t already gotten it on in the coat check room that day. Alas, no. But the meeting sparks something, and we learn that now, in present day, Layla has been invited to the wedding of her cousin and ex. It’s a December wedding, and she is all alone.  The cute neighbor, Cooper, agrees to go with her (can we give Cooper his own movie, please?!), but he gets sick. Enter Seth, who you’ll remember was the guy who kicked off this whole mess in the first place with his over-zealous introductions. One thing leads to another, and we have a fake engagement movie, y’all! Oh, and a boring home decorating side story.

My Thoughts-

Jessica Lowndes is beautiful. There were times in 90210 where she was the best, most interesting actress on screen. Unfortunately, this bar is slightly higher. With actresses like Jaime King knocking it out of the park this year, being beautiful is not enough for a successful Hallmark heroine.  Don’t get me wrong: the story and the whole premise of the December bride thing is worse than her acting, but she is not helping.  Daniel Lissing as Seth is very likeable, and I really believed that he was falling for Layla.  The cliché girly job drives the movie more than it should, and I do not believe that Jessica Lowndes’s character actually could decorate/stage houses to a high level.  She seemed so young and stupid to me, just completely naïve and ditzy.

Christmas Satisfaction-

Unless you consider a sleigh on the front lawn the pinnacle of a Christmas movie, you won’t find much true Christmas spirit here. We do have hot cocoa though, folks! Ooh, it’s hot!

The Bottom Line-

Please, please, please let the next movie be better… This didn’t need to be a Christmas movie; it didn’t do the whole fake fiancé thing particularly well, and even Lissing’s best attempts at winning us over don’t last long enough.  While hate or dislike are both too strong to describe my feelings for this movie, ennui would encompass them. I would not leave this on to decorate my tree or make cookies; I would rather watch a DVR recording of Elf or Prep and Landing.  2 stars

Challenge

9 movies down. They need to get better. So far, A Mistletoe Promise has been the high point of the challenge. Watch that when it reruns…

My Christmas Dream- Hallmark Movie Review and Challenge

Summer Intern

We are clicking right along with our Countdown to Christmas movies from Hallmark, and the most recent offering stars an old favorite: Danica McKellar.  Once again, I get to revisit my childhood via Hallmark movie by seeing Winnie Cooper finally find love. (Poor Kevin!) My Christmas Dream is a very innocuous/bland title for a slightly better-than-average Hallmark Christmas Movie.

The Story-

Christina is a store manager for a large department store, which was founded by Deidre Hall. Or her character. You get the picture. What’s important, is that the boss is played by Deidre Hall, having a blast, getting paid, and chewing the scenery. Oh Marlena! Anyway, Christina has always had dreams of living in Paris and, lo and behold, a job is opening up in Paris if only she impresses her boss with an enormous annual Christmas display.  Kurt is a painter who gets fired in a roundabout way by Christina because he accidentally spills paint on her.  Enter cute kid with wish for his dad to be happy. Guess who his dad is?

My Thoughts-

Danica was perfectly serviceable here, but nothing too impressive. The minority best friend is the worst I’ve ever seen in one of these movies.  Like, she made Danica look uncomfortable trying to act with her.  But, there was a shining star. Well, actually two. First David Haydn-Jones, who played Kurt, is perfectly natural, affable, and charming.  I totally believed his situation, his relationship with his mom, and even his relationship with the overly cutesy kid. The other standout performance was from Bruce Dawson as Henry, the boss’s old flame.  He made a small part very poignant and added some much-needed truth to this movie. Deidre Hall was perfectly over the top.

Christmas Satisfaction-

Ehhh. We have the whole “you don’t know what Christmas really is, so we’re gonna show you” storyline which mainly features the kid and decorating and eating.  Christina works with Kurt to create a Christmas display in order to win the job, but also has to discover Christmas spirit in the process. Other than that, there’s nothing especially Christmassy to recommend this one.

The Bottom Line-

This was more of a work/love story with a Christmas overlay and a saccharine kid.  Haydn-Jones makes this watchable, and I might would watch it again, just to swoon over him.  Danica McKeller is always pretty good in these, and this was no different. But, if you are looking for something to really put you in the Christmas spirit, I’m not sure this would be the movie to do it.  3 stars

Challenge-

This was movie #8, and fatigue is beginning to set in. I’m going to need something pretty good, and soon, in order to keep my momentum up.  There have been a few too many blah movies in a row. I’m tempted to watch one of the really good ones from last year just to boost my spirits…

Christmas Cookies- Hallmark Movie Review and Challenge

christmas-cookies

Perhaps the Hallmark Christmas Movie most hazardous to your diet this year, “Christmas Cookies” is a slight veer from the predictability that usually arises when a corporate suit descends upon a small town.  The always-beautiful Jill Wagner makes this one more believable and more watchable than you might expect.

The Story-

The town of Cookie Jar (yes, I already want to go) has been a long-standing Christmas destination, due to its most famous export: Aunt Sally’s Christmas Cookies.  Even Hannah, our heroine and corporate climber, visited as a child.  Of course, she has been sent by her corporation to negotiate the terms of the sale of Aunt Sally’s after the death of the founder.  And after they buy the company, they want to move production to Buffalo, leaving the town of Cookie Jar without its namesake cookies. Jake is the man who has inherited Aunt Sally’s, so Hannah must convince him to sign the contracts.  Bet you can’t guess what happens…

My Thoughts-

I was surprised by how much I liked Hannah as portrayed by Jill Wagner. She isn’t the typical corporate suit who hates Christmas and needs to see the spirit of the season etc. Hannah is already a good person: funny, loving, sarcastic, good with kids.  Of course, Jake likes her.  Now, being in the town of Cookie Jar does remind her of how much she likes to eat cookies, and just a side note— if Wagner eats cookies like she does in this movie and still looks the way she does, life just isn’t fair. Please let her normally eat salads, Lord!  Stepping out of my jealousy and getting back to the story- the blossoming relationship is believable, and the cookies look amazing.

Christmas Satisfaction-

Cookie Jar is a Christmas lover’s dream. What is it with these small Christmas towns in movies this year? Why can’t I visit one? Are any for real? Anyway, there’s the obvious cookies in the title… over and over and over again.  There are sled races and snowmen, presents and big family dinners. Lots of Christmas spirit here.

Bottom Line-

I seriously had to stop watching the movie and make Christmas cookies.  The ending was a bit trite and tied up with a ridiculous “realization”, but I would watch this one again if it happened to come on while I was cooking or cleaning.  And then I would have to make more cookies. When is it showing again…? 4 stars

Challenge-

Movie #5 down! Anyone have a new favorite yet?

 

Every Christmas Has A Story- Hallmark Movie Review and Challenge

everychristmas

Aunt Becky is back! Lori Loughlin was perfect as a news anchor back when she was Aunt Becky on Full House, and she is back to her old job in the newest Hallmark Christmas movie.  “Every Christmas Has a Story” is one of those movies that, although they are full of tried and true tropes, is still fun.

The Story-

Kate is a news anchor of a morning talk show who happens to work with her ex from college, Jack. A microphone mistake at the end of a broadcast leads to Kate exclaiming for all the world to hear that she “doesn’t really like Christmas”.  Of course, viewers protest, advertisers threaten to pull, and Kate needs to fix her image or be fired.  Coming to the rescue is the (fake) town of Hollyvale, North Dakota.  (I lived in North Dakota for 5 years, so there is no fooling me about what is and isn’t in that state.) Kate is invited to Hollyvale to find her Christmas spirit because they are just bursting with it.  Of course, her ex-boyfriend and producer must go as well.

My Thoughts-

When people in these things don’t like Christmas, the reasons and believability of said dislike range. I must say, I didn’t really buy Kate’s reason and her reaction when things begin to turn.  I blame the writing more than Loughlin, but relationships and character development are what is lacking in this movie.  Silly mysteries and odd town characters are a focus (stop trying to do Gilmore Girls in a 2 hour movie! The reason that worked is that we got to know and love those people and that town!).  I hated that we barely got to know Jack and what was going on in his head. Again, the acting is not the problem: the story is. I thought Loughlin’s daughter as Mia was great and funny.

Christmas Satisfaction-

Christmas is the focus of this movie, not just an afterthought.  There are no magical or supernatural elements at work here, just sweet, home-town Christmas in a place that defines quaint.  Kate participates in a variety of Christmas activities to “win her over”, and Jack dresses up as an elf. So, there’s that.

The Bottom Line-

I have a feeling this movie is going to land somewhere in the middle of the pack of all the Hallmark Christmas movies this year. Fun, but not much true emotion. Nothing too different or intriguing. Will you enjoy watching it as you put up your tree? Yes. 3 ½ stars

Challenge- This was movie #4 this year! Is anyone still with me? What has been your favorite one so far?

A Perfect Christmas- Hallmark Movie Review and Challenge

a-perfect-christmas

“A Perfect Christmas” is Hallmark’s 3rd entry this year into their Countdown to Christmas promotion, and it is definitely a departure from the others. At the beginning when we are introduced to a cute couple who are shopping for a Christmas tree, I began trying to figure out who my couple that I would be rooting to get together were. My thought process went something like this… “The girl seems like a likely suspect: maybe the guy is a typical jerk boyfriend. Hmmm. Well, he doesn’t seem like a jerk; he’s kinda cute. What!?! They are married? Oh no! He’s gonna die, and she’s going to be a widow. That’s so sad. Wait. The story is continuing and no one is dead, and they are together… OH, this is not THAT kind of Christmas movie. Huh.”

The Story-

So, no. It isn’t about a cute couple getting together, but it is about an adorable newlywed couple who are experiencing a really tough Christmas. She is pregnant, and he is losing his job. And his overwhelming mom lost her luggage, and his brother’s family’s hotel reservation was cancelled, and her father’s camper broke down… Yep, this is that kind of story.

My Thoughts-

I don’t love this type of story. It usually makes me feel secondary stress for the couple until things finally work out. And the things working out usually takes so long to happen, that I spend an entire movie feeling secondary stress. And this movie didn’t even give me a love story to root for. The acting was fine; I feel sorry for these lovely young actors who were probably so excited to be cast in a Hallmark movie, only to find out that it was this one. To be fair, this is not a BAD movie. It just really isn’t my cup of tea. I need my Christmas movies to provide that happy, comfy feeling, to make me feel good about life and Christmas. This movie never really got there for me.

Christmas Satisfaction-

There is plenty here, but most feels contrived.  They have snowball fights, make gingerbread houses, open presents on Christmas Day, and visit a Christmas concert that they claim is amazing, but is not.  No supernatural wishes or Santa (other than a costume) in this one.

The Bottom Line-

If you like this kind of story, go for it! The acting is good. If not, watch many of the other great Christmas movies that are coming this season. 3 stars!

Challenge- 3 movies down! I hope the next one is better than this was. It features Aunt Becky (Lori Loughlin for everyone who didn’t grow up on Full House), so I am hopeful!

The Mistletoe Promise- Hallmark Movie Review and Challenge

“The Mistletoe Promise” is Hallmark’s second entry this year into the Countdown to Christmas movie promotion. With a typical name and typical selections of actors for the leads, you would expect this movie to follow the pack, but you would be wrong. “The Mistletoe Promise” breaks the mold by being a movie about adults, for adults. The Christmas magic is not sprinkled on, but comes out of the goodness of people. 

The Story-

A divorced owner of a travel agency, Elise, has a hard time with Christmas because it is during that season in which her jerk ex-husband and co-owner of the agency tries to bully her in to selling the business to him. Even though she built it before she even met him. Nick has just been tapped to compete for partner in his law firm, but the firm is very family-friendly, and a girlfriend or wife seems to be a “must”.  When he encounters Elise in a food-court, they share their disdain for Christmas and offer to help each other make it through the season.  This “promise” morphs into a contract in which they will pretend to be dating to help keep her ex-husband at bay, and help him make partner.

My Thoughts-

Like I said before, this movie is about adults and adult situations. Therefore, it feels more real than Hallmark’s usual fare.  Santa isn’t coming along to make silly things happen to Elise’s mean ex-husband. Ok, I know she started as a model, but can I just say that Jaime King is beyond gorgeous? And girl can really act. I felt every bit of Elise’s pain and rejection, her insecurities (even though she is a goddess) and her desire to overcome.  Perfection.  Luke MacFarlane is hot, very believable as the hardworking lawyer who has been hurt and has pushed past the pain with work.  See what I mean about the adult stuff? Yes, people actually DO work in real life and don’t just sit around making Christmas cookies with their moms and visiting old inns. I’m not disparaging those movies; they are a great escape and part of the reason I began my quest to watch all the Hallmark movies, but it is refreshing to watch a movie about real people finding Christmas spirit in themselves and just trying to be good people. 

Christmas Satisfaction-

The premise of them both hating the Christmas season is there, as well as a snowman-building contest and some Christmas parties.  Oh, and carolers. Let’s talk about the carolers for a second: who would go up to someone and start singing, and when they look super uncomfortable, continue singing and get closer? If you do this, you would be the worst caroler in the world. I felt secondary discomfort for the main characters who were forced to endure this caroling torture.  But, the Christmas spirit is very much present in this movie, and is perhaps even more palpable because it suggests that we, no matter how busy we are, what background we come from, if we have kids or not, can share goodness with the world. 

The Bottom Line-

Way to go, Hallmark, on this thoughtful, well-acted Christmas movie! It is based on a book by Richard Paul Evans, which probably helped the story, but the execution was very good and it is another top-notch entry into their line-up of Christmas movies. 5 stars!

Two movies down! 17 to go… How are you keeping up with the challenge?