Long, Tall Christmas – book review

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Long, Tall Christmas
by Janet Dailey
Release Date:  September 29, 2015
Publisher: Zebra
Contemporary Romance/Holiday M/F
Book #1 in the Cowboy Christmas series
Number of Pages:  approx. 400
Paperback
Source:  Warren Public Library
Rating:  PG
Read 10/9/17 to 10/15/17

This book was put on my radar when I read an ARC of Just a Little Christmas and realized it was the 3rd in this series.  Of course, I had to go back and read from the beginning.  I love holiday romance books and hate not reading a series from the start. (A quick note for those that actually pay attention to the “date read” information: I did not have a lot of daylight reading time once I picked this book up.  Since it is a paperback copy I actually had to put it aside for a few days.  So no, it didn’t really take me almost a week to read this book.  It’s actually a quick read.)

Shane Taggert is such a lovely, understated hero in this story.  He has a slight swagger and a low level of cocky-ness, but he knows (or thinks?) his past puts a blemish on his reputation.  He helps people because that’s who he is, not because it’s how he wants to be seen.  He is a kind soul, even though when we first meet him it doesn’t seem that way.

Kylie and her kids, on the other hand, are something else.  I know they’ve been through a terrible ordeal.  I know life isn’t fair.  But the way Kylie forgives some of the tantrums from her children in the beginning is annoying.  Then she has the audacity to question if Shane is going to “influence” her son, Hunter, in a negative way.  So judgmental!  I actually came around to liking the kids far before Kylie wormed her way into my good graces.

Aunt Muriel and Henry are my favorite characters of all.  So wise and calm in all that happens through the book.  Which, by the way, takes place over the course of just a few days.  Even when Kylie’s daughter, Amy, is being a brat and ungrateful, Muriel understand and has sage words to impart on the group.

Overall, this is a sweet (and somewhat bittersweet) story.  The lengths Kylie goes to in order to provide her children a “perfect” Christmas are insane, but still thoughtful.  If only she would realize they expect these things because she gave them such expectations.  At least the kids seem to start understanding that even if she doesn’t.

And here comes some of my nitpicking.  Sometimes I can’t help it when it comes to military matters.  I lived in San Diego for 10 years as a Navy wife.  During that time I only knew of one very small group of Army personnel and they were in food services.  I find it extremely hard to believe Kylie’s husband was stationed (as an officer!) in San Diego, let alone that they would feel they would be there long enough to purchase a home there.  Then she can’t make ends meet?  What happened to his life insurance?  This is always an issue with me in this type of books.  They always make it seem the spouse and/or kids were left destitute. Only the extremely irresponsible service members do not take the government up on the offered life insurance.  And it would not leave a family struggling the way Kylie’s family was.  And then it somehow took them 4 days to drive from San Diego to Texas?  We drove back and forth from San Diego to Detroit quite a few times and that didn’t even take us 4 days.  That is some crazy slow driving that woman was doing if it took her that long to drive.  Did she feel she could only drive for 5 hours a day?  Things like these at the beginning of a book set my brain up to spot other little blunders along the way.  Things I may otherwise overlook.  I hate that!  Okay, rant over.

Regardless of my little paragraph of annoyances, I still enjoyed the story and will read the next book.  I’ve gotten glimpses of the sheriff in both books I’ve read so I’m ready to read his story.

3 stars

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Rode Hard, Put Up Wet – book review

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Rode Hard, Put Up Wet
by Lorelei James
Release Date:  October 23, 2007
Publisher:  Samhain Publishing
Book #2 in the Rough Riders series
Number of pages:  300
Kindle Edition
Source:  MCL
Contemporary Romance/Erotica M/F M/F/M
Rating: XXX
Read 10/2/17 to 10/6/17

Another re-read for me.  As I told you in my review of Long Hard Ride, I originally read the first few books of this series a few years ago.  Although I wasn’t overly thrilled with the first books in the series, over the years I have really loved some of this author’s other work.  This has prompted me to give these stories another look and get further into the series this time.  I can’t help but be hopeful the later books will start “sounding” like the Lorelei James I love in her other series like Need You or Blacktop Cowboys.

Like last time, I’m going to include my Goodreads review from back in 2014 before giving my current thoughts.  Here you go:

Something about this story was disjointed to me. I think part of it was how Carter was written. I understand him getting into his work and losing track of time. I even can see how an artist would get test if people saw their work before they thought it was ready. But there is something he does (with his art and in regards to Macie) toward the end of the book that just didn’t seem in character to me. 

As for Cash and Gemma, I was looking forward to reading their story. The actual dialogue and trial and tribulations they had were beautiful. The whole thing with Trevor, again, seemed to be out of character and just thrown into the mix. In fact, it seemed out of character for Trevor, too. 

So while there were many, many pieces that were great with good writing, there were other pieces that just confused and fell flat. Of course, I’m sure there are plenty of people out here that don’t read this series for the story. In that regard you will not be disappointed.

Now for my current feelings:

In some ways I liked this story better this go-around.  In other ways I liked it even less.  I’ll try my best to explain.

I still find the story disjointed, but I also think I understand Carter better this time.  Until it comes to the same issue toward the end that I had with him last time.  That I understand even less.  Go figure.

I can say for sure that I understand Cash and Gemma a lot more this time.  And even Trevor.  I said before that it was out of character for Cash and Trevor, what happens with them.  I now think I’m wrong.  They both respect and love Gemma (in different ways) and were just trying to make her happy.  They went about it in an odd way, but it all came from a good place and they are both good men.

I couldn’t help but feel this was Lorelei James’ book she used to experiment with different sexual scenarios.  And it didn’t really work.  At least not between Carter and Macie.  It worked a bit better with Cash and Gemma but their relationship still didn’t seem seamless and natural. 

Reading her other stories I never got the feeling this author is racist or discriminatory to any particular group.  In this day and age, the writing of this story seems both racist and discriminatory.  I’m going to go with the assumption that she was trying to portray her characters in that way when it came to the homophobic flags that were raised.  But it’s hard to ignore some of the descriptions she used to describe Cash and his daughter, Macie.  I’m going to chalk it up to her educating herself over the years since she wrote this story so she now realizes how she comes across.  Nobody is perfect and as long as you are willing to learn and adapt and make changes to do the right thing I can’t fault you.  This author has seemed to do that through the years, but I hope I don’t get that feeling through any more of this series.  It’s uncomfortable to say the least.

So once again I’m going to stick with my initial rating.

2 stars

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Crazy in Love – book review

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Crazy in Love
by Crystal B. Bright
Release Date:  October 17, 2017
Publisher: Lyrical Shine
Contemporary Romance
Book #1 in the Love & Harmony Romance series
Number of Pages:  approx. 248
Kindle Edition
Source:  ARC from Net Galley
Rating:  NC-17
Read 10/12/17 to 10/14/17

I am going to do my best to keep this review from jumping all over the place.  That may be hard because, although I enjoyed the overall story of Truman and Chantel, I feel this book was all over the place.

First, some of the good.  I really liked Truman from the start.  He seems like a guy just trying to do what’s best for his friends and his family.  He really cares about making a name for the band…not just himself.  He realizes the sacrifices they are all making, that it’s not just him.  And although Chantel (aka Shauna, but I’ll be calling her Chantel for this review) did some things in her first scene that had my back up, I also sympathized with her and could see the scared young girl underneath it all.  Plus, when Truman and Chantel are together I definitely felt their chemistry.  That’s always a good thing in a romance book.

Chantel was hard to get a read on.  I think part of that was intentional, she was coming into her own and learning to be independent.  But some of it was just disjointed.  Until about halfway through, it was hard to see her true heart.  I don’t think it’s any coincidence that’s about the same time Truman’s son Gage starts playing a more significant role in the story.

There is a big, crazy family that is part of Chantel’s world.  And to be honest, sometimes it confused me.  I got the cousins…no confusion there.  But sometimes I wonder if Chantel’s manager Craig was an actual uncle.  Maybe because I’m not part of that same world, but I didn’t quite understand everyone living there when they didn’t need to (I only understood Chantel living there) so that’s where a lot of my confusion came into play.  Craig was not a great person (although his wife is wonderful!) and he was the most confusing of characters for me.  I had a hard time figuring out if I should hate him or not.  That would be fine if this book was a mystery, thriller, or suspense novel.  But it’s not any of those so I feel his character had to be more clearly defined.

Some of the word usage was so stilted and unusual for me.  This time I am sure it’s not a cultural thing…it is an editing thing.  There is word usage that is downright wrong and makes no sense.  I could tell the difference between words and phrases that just are not part of my regular vernacular and those that were just stilted and out of place.  It really didn’t help with the flow of the story.  Especially since that flow was already a bit choppy.

There are times Truman’s band mates make a big deal out of trivial things, and times they let something that seems like it should be huge just drop.  There’s a particular character, Sully, that is a real jerk and nobody calls him out on it until it explodes into something major.  It just doesn’t make sense. Especially with the rest of the band being such great guys and some of them being family men.

It’s a real shame there wasn’t a better flow to this story.  It has a great premise and an important message.  Like I said, there is chemistry there.  But overall it fell flat for me since I kept getting pulled out of the story by stilted language and changes in character personalities.  I’m not sure I’ll give the next in the series a chance or not.  Especially because it seems to start out with a woman falsely accusing a man in power of sexual misconduct.  This is bad timing for something like that.

I was excited to read an interracial love story and was disappointed I couldn’t like it more.  Now, that has nothing to do with the couple being interracial, but there are so few of these stories out there in the grand scheme of things that it’s a shame this one didn’t play out more smoothly.  I see this author has other books and series dealing with interracial love and think I may check one of those out in the future.  When I read a book by a new to me author that has promise, I don’t like giving up after only one try.

2 stars

**I received an ARC of this book courtesy of Net Galley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review**

 

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Thrill of Love – book review

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Thrill of Love
by Melissa Foster
Release Date:  October 4, 2017
Publisher:  World Literary Press
Contemporary Romance
Book #6 in the Bradens of Peaceful Harbor, MD series
Book #22 in the Bradens series
Book #37 of the Love in Bloom series
Number of Pages:  296
Kindle Edition
Source:  Pre-purchased through Amazon
Rating:  XXX
Read 10/6/17 to 10/8/17

This one took me a bit longer than most Melissa Foster books, but that’s because it had quite a bit more meat to its bones.  There is love and fun and adventure and even some laughs.  But there is also some very serious issues to be dealt with.  I believe most readers will figure it out pretty quickly, but this story is not about what happens to Aiyla and Ty but how they deal with what happens.

The love story of Aiyla and Ty – how they initially met and how they found each other – is sublime.  Even as the pieces started falling into place about what the conflict would be, I fell deeper and deeper in love with them as a couple.  I just KNEW they were meant to last. 

There’s an underlying theme to this story that deals with mothers.  Most often it was with Ty’s own mom, Maisy, that this played out.  But Ty and Aiyla thought about and dealt with what family means and what it means to have a mom to have your back means throughout the book.  There’s a scene with Ty and his dad where Ty says he didn’t remember something from his childhood his mom had referenced.  Ty’s dad said, “You don’t need to.  That’s what mothers are for.”  Aiyla thinks often of her own mom and her sister, who is a wonderful mom and a mother figure to her.  It’s a very sentimental and sweet undertone throughout the story.

If you’re a regular reader of this series, we get to see Nash and Tempe get married.  I loved the visual of their wedding and the choices Tempe made.  There’s something that happens at the wedding I wasn’t crazy about, but as I was questioning the incident I read a paragraph that showed the family didn’t mind the incident.

As usual, Melissa Foster hits a home run.  The fact that she took a chance of going a bit more serious within this series, and it worked, is a testament to her talent and her eye for detail.

4.5 stars

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Cowgirl, Unexpectedly – book review

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Cowgirl, Unexpectedly
by Vicki Tharp
Release Date:  October 17, 2017
Publisher: Lyrical Caress
Contemporary Romance/Military M/F
Book #1 in the Lazy S Ranch series
Number of Pages:  approx. 248
Kindle Edition
Source:  ARC from Net Galley
Rating:  NC-17
Read 10/8/17 to 10/11/17

Another story with the woman character being the military veteran.  When I read His Cowboy Heart it seemed this type of heroine was few and far between.  Then I read two books with a female military hero as the main character within a week of each other.

I found myself thoroughly respecting Mac from the very beginning, but not being sure if I really liked her very much.  No worries, I grew to love her.  She reminded me (in her attitude) of a crusty old sailor.  She has a heart of gold but you have to get her to stay in one place for more than a day to learn that.  Lucky for Hank, Jenna, and the rest of the Lazy S Ranch she decides to stick around a few days since she needs the cash.

The same can be said for Hank, but in a different way.  I understood what he was trying to do but didn’t know if I liked him.  His past relationship with his daughter had me on guard.  He definitely made some mistakes in his past.  Mistakes I wasn’t quick to forgive him for…until I realized how much it tore him up inside. Plus, when we first start learning his sins, we are getting them from his teenage daughter’s point of view which is fraught with emotion.

This is really a romantic suspense.  There are a lot of shady things going on at the ranch that had my mind hopping around from suspect to suspect.  Once we learn about a particular person who is on the “list” I thought I had it figured out.  I did in a way, but it was quite the convoluted operation and it made the climax intense!

There are so many layers to this story.  We have the vet with PTSD, the cowboy with regrets, the daughter with self-worth issues, the dangerous odd events happening on the ranch, and the relationships developing and being mended among all of the players involved.  On top of all of that, the love story of Hank and Mac gave me MAJOR feels.  They are just so good together.  I love his nickname for her, too.

Vicki Tharp is a new to me author and I am excited to see more from her in the future.  She doesn’t have a huge library of published works yet, but I’ll be looking for the next book in this series for sure.

4.5 stars

**I received an ARC of this book courtesy of Net Galley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review**

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His Cowboy Heart – book review

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His Cowboy Heart
Jennifer Ryan
Release Date:  February 21, 2017
Publisher: Avon
Contemporary Romance/Western M/F
Book #6 of the Montana Men series
Number of Pages:  416
Kindle Edition
Source:  MCL
Rating:  NC-17
Read 10/3/17 to 10/5/17

Hoo boy!  This one hit me close to home.  I’ve read plenty of contemporary romance that touch on PTSD and former military characters.  Seldom is the character female, and almost never is the issue dealt with in this much depth.  So be warned, this book has a LOT of triggers if you are current or former military.  As much as I really love the story, there are just some people it could be too painful for.

There are a lot of aspects of this story that you know.  You know Ford will not be easily deterred.  You know (to a certain extent) what happened to Jamie overseas.  You know (again, to a certain extent) what Jamie cannot remember.  None of that matters.  Jennifer Ryan does a beautiful job of getting the reader to want to see it all play out.

One of the wonderful things about this story is how much time we get to see Ford and Jamie where it’s just the two of them.  I’d say about 50% of the book it’s just those two with nobody else around.  That can go horribly wrong and I’ve read books where it has gone awry.  Due to Jamie’s issues and Ford’s personality, it really works here. 

The book went on a few chapters after I thought the book could have easily been over.  They weren’t necessary to the overall story, but they did help wrap some things up with the Kendrick family.  They also introduced another family, but I’m not sure if there will be a continuation of this series with them (or Jamie’s brother!) or a whole new series for them or neither.  Only time will tell and as of right now I don’t see anything on the author’s website indicating another book in this series coming any time soon.

I want to reiterate how brilliantly Jennifer Ryan handled this PTSD storyline.  Of course, I can’t know for sure if she got it 100% correct and everyone’s experience is different.  But from what I’ve seen and heard from my loved ones who have served I think she did a great job giving the story the care it deserves.

4.5 stars

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Sweet Little Lies – book review

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Sweet Little Lies
by Jill Shalvis
Release Date:  June 28, 2016
Publisher: Avon
Contemporary Romance M/F
Book #1 in the Heartbreaker Bay series
Number of Pages: 387
Kindle Edition
Source:  Borrowed from MCL
Rating:  XXX
Read 9/28/17 to 9/29/17

At the beginning of the year, in my review of Nobody But You, I gave a bit of a breakdown of my self-imposed rules I was following for my reading of Jill Shalvis stories.  Unfortunately, I have not been overly impressed with some of her older works and I was getting a bit discouraged.  In general, I really love Jill Shalvis books.  I decided it was about time to break my own rules and jump into some of her more modern stories.  I decided on the Heartbreaker Bay series because I already own the second book of the series, The Trouble With Mistletoe.

Pru is really one of the most selfless heroines I’ve come across.  Of course, many of the things she does are done out of guilt.  But since she really has nothing to feel guilty about and only feels the guilt because of her own soft heart, I still place her firmly in the “selfless” category.  The problem I had with her was when she started making a million excuses to herself about why she was keeping the full truth from Finn.  Her internal fight started to get old after a while.

Finn is a perfectly swoon-worthy hero.  He’s such a good guy that I was really getting annoyed with his brother, Sean, more than necessary.  By the end of the story Sean started redeeming himself though.  But really, Finn is such a loyal and hardworking friend and brother.  Even when Sean is screwing up or being selfish he still knows that Finn is a great guy.

Of course, this being the first in the series, we get introduced to a vast cast of characters.  Finn’s group of friends is wonderful and has me excited to read more in this series.

There are a few inconsistencies in the story that jumped out at me.  Especially since I expect so much from this author.  If you regularly read my reviews you know I’m a stickler for continuity and probably notice little things more than others would, so take that with a grain of salt.  Regardless, I still really enjoyed the story and getting to know this group of friends.

3.5 stars

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