Tag Archives: romance

Naturally, Charlie by S.L. Scott

Release Date November 1, 2012
Published by The Writer’s Coffee Shop
Obtained for Review from NetGalley

 Naturally, Charlie is one of those books that I had never heard of, found on NetGalley and thought, “Hmm. Why not?” The premise of the book is very fun – a woman trying to escape the past and start anew and a man who’s trying to shake off social pressures to be himself. I really think it’s this part of the summary on GoodReads that sealed the deal for me: “Rejecting family money, and fast-lane friends, he is snubbed by his family as he follows his own compass to a life more extraordinary.” I’m always a fan of stories that shake their fist at society and resist authority. It’s probably a sign of my inner rebel that’s dying to get out. I’ll keep her quiet for now.

I’ll be honest, I opened this book three times before I read it. Each time I never got past the first page of my e-reader. I guess it was just bad timing? I was a little apprehensive about the male & female characters sharing a name; I didn’t want it to be cliché. Something about it called to me this past weekend though, and once I opened it, I couldn’t stop. I can’t even put my finger on exactly what it was about these characters that compelled me to keep reading, but it’s been a while since I’ve become so lost in a story this way.

The characters were likable, believable and REAL. They try to do the right things, they make mistakes, and they sometimes get it more right than they know. It’s written in an alternating point of view; since the main characters share the same name, Charlie, each chapter is denoted with a male (♂) or female (♀) symbol so you’ll know who’s narrating. I was happy to see S.L. Scott didn’t follow a true M/F/M/F… pattern; sometimes the same same person narrated two or more consecutive chapters.

The first time the Charlies encounter each other you see the connection. I applaud the writer for not making this a true love-at-first-sight, insta-love kind of story. It would have been so easy to do.  There are so many obstacles in their path, but after a few blunders, the Charlies establish a friendship. Friendship is the right word for it, although It’s apparent to the reader that perhaps each wants more. Their friendship is so easy, I loved their witty banter. I did find myself a little frustrated after one particularly steamy scene (by steamy I mean HOT) where they each give in to their attraction when they go back to maintaining friendship. The reason for it makes sense – neither wants to lose this relationship with the other, but I was rooting for them SO HARD.  It hurt to see them take a step back.

The emotions in this book were raw for me. Each character is dealing with some heavy baggage, and you feel it all. Charlie (♂) seems to realize what Charlie (♀) is becoming for him well before she does. He doesn’t want to push her, and the way he finds to express his feelings is just so…sweet is the wrong word. Incredible and powerful. The fact that it became so important in the end made it all the sweeter. There were two distinct moments where I felt like S.L. Scott ripped my heart out and stomped on it: one was a scene in the Adams’s dining room and the other was in Chapter 30. I’m not just talking “Awww! :'(” kind of moments here. I am talking HEART = BROKEN. Me finding the author’s twitter handle so I can virtually shake her. (In a moment of rare self-control I refrained. LOL) Instead I read on until finally I reached that moment where all became clear to everyone involved. I swear it was like I could hear a choir of angels singing. HALLELUJAH! :)

To find a book I loved like this from a new author is a total WIN. I cannot wait to see what else S.L. Scott has in store for us in her future works.

RATING: BAD ASS BOOTS!

 

Diplomacy by Zahra Owens

Published by Dreamspinner Press

Free ebook as part of the Dreamspinner’s OctoberGanza TweetAway promotion

I really thought I’d be sitting here writing a review that said you need to read this book NOW. If you’d asked me half way through, I’d have told you it was a great story that elicited strong emotions about the characters and their situation. At one point I thought there was no way this could end except very badly for all the players involved. How could these guys behave so rashly as to jeopardize everything for everyone?

Before I was halfway, BAM. One issue resolved. It had the potential to cause problems, but  nothing comes of it. Still hanging on the edge of my seat to see how the rest would pan out, my emotions very involved and nervous for the delicate balance of things. Again – BAM. 2nd issue moves to conflict and this one festers a while. Still unsure what will happen and BAM. 3rd issue leads to the heartbreaking resolution of issue #2. *sob*

This is where it got wonky for me. The next thing I know there’s a huge time gap. Uh oh. All my warning lights were going off: DANGER. BEWARE THE UNEXPLAINED TIME GAP. You see, the unexplained time gap is where writers like to fix things without really having to fix them. That’s exactly what happened here. All of a sudden issue #3 is no longer an issue and everyone can continue on their merry way. Things just pick up like two and a half years never happened. No one is awkward, tentative or uneasy. Well, they say they are, but they don’t act like it. There are weak excuses why neither of them has been in touch and the the biggest BAM of them all – things just pick up where they were. Call me crazy, but I need a little bit more than that. Now very suspicious, from that point on I couldn’t help but read with a more cynical eye.

Don’t get me wrong – the rest of the story is very sweet. I like how it ended and really appreciated all Jack & Lucas shared. Many of the supporting characters were very entertaining and helped me enjoy the story even more. The last half was just kind of meh. A little predictable. Another unexplained time gap. No more angst or surprise to keep me riveted, and I found myself losing interest in learning how it would end because I pretty much knew. I liked the characters, so I kept going. It was great to see that things really could work out for them after all they’d faced to be together. I’d still recommend this book to anyone who likes a sweet HEA with some hot, steamy scenes mixed in.

RATING: SNEAKERS

The Recruit by Monica McCarty

Highland Guard Series #6
Published October 30, 2012
Published by Random House
Obtained for Review from NetGalley

I think this is my favorite of all the Highland Guard novels. Then again I say that EVERY TIME I read a Highland Guard novel. It’s possible that they just get better and better or that I just love this group of warriors that much more with each story.

I was thrilled to get this book for review early on NetGalley since it’s been killing me to wait for it after reading Highland Guard #5, The SaintKenneth Sutherland has appeared before, but as his role became more significant I was really anxious. This story was everything I hoped it would be and more. I tweeted that these books are like crack, and I swear they are. I couldn’t put it down!

The depth of emotion you feel in the writing is incredible, and there’s quite a range: anticipation, fear, anger, happiness and regret to name a few. I love how these strong, fierce warriors are tender and sensitive at times. There is always that untold vulnerability lying underneath, and for Kenneth it’s Mary. He doesn’t expect his reaction to her, and I enjoyed watching them both realize and accept what was growing between them. The sadness and despair Mary suffered from her first husband was heartbreaking. To see them find happiness together was really satisfying, but it’s not without it’s ups and downs. There were so many times I wanted to scream at them – I didn’t care how they fixed it, I just wanted them to make it better.

As if Scottish Highland warriors and English knights aren’t enough, Monica McCarty paints truly picturesque imagery as if you’re there. You become part of the story and can imagine the castles, the weapons, the conflict, the people. It’s all breathtaking. I love how she mixes in just the right amount of fiction & history. I’ve learned quite a bit about 14th century Scotland and Robert the Bruce from her novels and the great detail she gives in her author’s notes. See? I’m not just reading for the hot, steamy scenes, it’s about HISTORY. ;)

Speaking of the hot, steamy scenes this book has PLENTY. I can’t tell you how hot these two are together. Not to give too much away but there’s a scene in a barn that was just… WOW. I’ve never thought two people could spontaneously combust when they weren’t even touching. IT WAS HOT.

RATING: STILETTOS!

 

Hard Mated by Jennifer Ashley

Shifters Unbound #3.5
Published by JA/AG Publishing
Purchased Copy

First rule of Fight Club is you don’t talk about Fight Club. Same is true in Hard Mated. In this Shifters Unbound novella, we get an up close and personal look at Spike, one of the Austin Shiftertown’s top trackers and fighters. His success in the underground shifter fights is unparalleled, but all that brawn is a cover for loneliness inside.

I love Jennifer Ashley’s incredible ability to describe the Shiftertown world as it exists in Texas. She creates a society that is not only believable but relatable. Spike’s story is action packed – no boring lulls or time to catch your breath. I loved to see his character in depth as he faced, accepted and conquered his obstacles. Bad guys, watch out! He’s one tough jaguar and when push comes to shove he won’t back down.

One thing I frequently dislike about romance novellas no matter the genre – historical, contemporary, paranormal, etc. – is the usually rushed feeling of the relationship between the hero & his heroine. It has to be challenging for a writer to include all the essential elements and in about half the number of pages. Readers are just expected to accept that characters are in love without any reason or proof for it, especially with shifters where a lot of things are attributed to instinct. I didn’t feel that with Hard MatedThere was plenty of tension, build up and the payoff was very sweet.

RATING: SNEAKERS