The Christmas Wedding Swap – book review

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The Christmas Wedding Swap
by Allyson Charles
Release Date:  October 10, 2017
Publisher: Lyrical Shine
Contemporary Romance/Holiday M/F
Book #4 in the Pineville series
Number of Pages:  202
Kindle Edition
Source:  ARC from Net Galley
Rating:  NC-17
Read 9/29/17 to 10/2/17

How this keeps on happening to me, I don’t know.  I’m very careful when choosing books to make sure they are either the first in a series or standalone unless I’ve read the other books in the series.  Yet once again I chose a book that is 4th in a series!  Fourth!!!  Luckily, this really could stand on its own without the reader feeling lost or out of the loop.  It was very apparent to me that the main character Allison’s best friend had her own story, but I didn’t feel like there were any holes in this story by missing Sadie’s story.

One of the things that drew me to this book is its location.  I’m a Michigan girl and like when stories are set in my great state.  I’m also a sucker for a holiday romance.  It’s like my kryptonite.  The concept of this story is great and many things about it worked for me.

Allison always feels like the black sheep of her family.  Not that she’s the “bad” one, but she’s different and therefore the odd man out.  She doesn’t feel her parents, or even her sisters, respect the career decisions she’s made in her life.  They tend to treat her like “poor Allison” because she isn’t in a committed relationship.  To be frank, they ticked me off.  I’m happy to say Allison does speak up for herself at some point and that made me feel better.

Luke is a bit arrogant, but that’s okay.  He’s not a jerk so somehow he makes that arrogance work for him.  And although he found Allison to be a challenge when he first met her, once he got to know her his actions were thoughtful and sweet when it came to a physical relationship with her.

There’s a point where everything around Allison is going to you-know-what and I really assumed she’d be one of those characters that blows it all out of proportion without talking it out.  I was pleasantly surprised that I was wrong.  I love that the author didn’t feel it necessary to use that as a crutch and instead had all of the characters have some meaningful conversations and thoughts.

So there’s a lot of praise in the previous paragraphs.  Why would I only give this story 2 stars?  I never, ever, ever felt the chemistry between Luke and Allison.  Usually I get a feeling for when a physical scene is coming because of the warm-fuzzies the dialogue is giving me.  That didn’t happen here.  It was like they’d be talking and – BAM – they’re making out.  It’s not that the affection was out of character or inappropriate, it was that I just wasn’t feeling it at all.  I was being told how they felt about each other a lot, but what I was being told wasn’t matching what was coming across the pages to me.

I really loved Luke and could feel his connection to others in the town, I understood his allure.  Somehow I know he really did love Allison, but I got nothing…zip, zilch, nada.  I’m tempted to try another book by this author to see if it was just this pairing (although it really should have worked) or if I just don’t mesh with her writing style.  And I may some day.  Not not when I have so many other books to read though.  I’m not going to discount her over one book, but I’m also not going to run out for another immediately.

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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September Book Stats

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Books Read:  16.5

Books Acquired:  184

Most Read Genre: Contemporary Romance = 16

That’s right, all of the books I read (beside the DNF .5 book) fell under the contemporary romance genre.  Within that genre I had quite the hodge-podge of sub genre stories.  From erotica to suspense to western to sports.  And we can’t forget that I’m getting holiday romance back into the mix!  The feel-good holiday books were really needed in September.  We had another scare with my mother-in-law who ended up in the hospital for almost a week.  During that time, I had my own health issues and time in my own doctor’s waiting room.  That equaled some high stress days, but also a lot of reading time.

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Of course I hate having a DNF on my September list, but I also had three 5 star books!  Not only that, I had six (SIX!!!) 4.5 star reads.  And all the books other than the DNF were 3 stars or above.  Two new authors were read last month, one at the low end and one, Then Came You by Jeannie Moon, on the high end.  All in all it was a great month!

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I read all books on my Kindle in September.  I have some books here that are going to need to go back to the library soon so I should find time to read some actual paper books soon.

Net Galley = 3
MCL = 12
Kindle Lending Library = 1
Amazon Purchase = 1

I read two new to me authors in September, but I still got in plenty of reads from some of my tried and true authors. Including another two by Sawyer Bennett.

Nothing too old on my list last month.  I had a handful from 2007 and 2008, but most were from the last few years. 

Since my book count stayed steady for the month, my page count was about the same.  I only counted the pages in the DNF that I actually read, so I was at 5309 for September.  Just a few hundred more than the month before.  Wife by Wednesday by Catherine was just over 200 and my shortest read at 206 pages.  No One But YouNo One But You by Brenda Novak was the longest I read at 448 pages.

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As I said earlier, I read a lot of phenomenal books in September.  My average rating was over 4 stars…4.21 stars to be exact.

I only acquired one of my September reads in the month of September.  The Real Thing is the first book in a new Melissa Foster series.

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Total books purchased in September = 4
Total money spent on books in September = $8.96
Total money spent on books read in September = $4.99

I got 111 books through the Book Bub email links in September.  My pick for the Kindle First book for September was I Am Watching You by Teresa Driscoll.  I got 43 books through author emails, 5 books from Net Galley, 2 through the Just Add Spice e-newsletter, 7 with the Red Feather e-newsletter, 9 through Shifted Sheets, 1 through a link on Twitter, 1 through Book Funnel, and one directly through Amazon.  (In case you missed it, I finally posted information on my book sources.)

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Here’s a breakdown of September’s books by genre:

6             BDSM
2             chick lit
106         contemporary romance
46           erotica
13           fantasy
22           historical romance
4             holiday
1             literary fiction
2             medieval
4             military
1             motorcycle club
15           new adult
13           paranormal
8             regency
4             science fiction
5             shapeshifter
10           sports
8             suspense
3             thriller
5             western
8             YA

I’ve already found my reading pace has slowed down so far this month.  I haven’t pinpointed the reason, but I have a feeling my list will be much shorter for this month.  I could be wrong because I always have so  many books I want to read!

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Ryker – book review

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Ryker
by Sawyer Bennett
Release Date:  September 8, 2015
Publisher:  Loveswept
Book #4 in the Cold Fury Hockey series
Number of pages:  250
Kindle Edition
Source: MCL
Contemporary Romance/Sports M/F
Rating: XXX
Read 9/27/2017

How can you not love the man who was thrust into the single parent role after his wife leaves him and the kids for another man?  It’s such a sympathetic character.  When Ryker and his adorable daughters were introduced in the book Zack I knew I would love his story.

A lot of times when characters like Gray are introduced they are tough and unbending.  I liked that Gray is a business minded woman who knows her own mind and what her goals are, yet she doesn’t feel the need to come across as unattainable.  She’s approachable but firm in her resolve.  I really admire her. (Although I had a challenging time with her full name, Gray Brannon.  It just didn’t roll off the tongue for me.)

So many times in the single parent trope I feel the kids are introduced to the girlfriend/boyfriend way too fast.  I like that Gray was aware of this as well as Ryker so she got to know the girls as “a friend” to make sure they got along first.  I also like the way Ryker dealt with his ex-wife when it came to the kids and Gray.

There are things that played out in an unrealistic way, but it was definitely to drive the story.  I have a problem with that when there’s not a purpose or it seems the author didn’t do their homework.  In this case I felt the author did a few things in regard to Gray’s job in order to give the characters a true HEA and I was okay with that.

4.5 stars

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Long Hard Ride – book review

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Long Hard Ride
by Lorelei James
Release Date:  May 1, 2007
Publisher:  Samhain Publishing
Book #1 in the Rough Riders series
Number of pages:  287
Kindle Edition
Source:  MCL
Contemporary Romance/Erotica M/F M/F/M M/M
Rating: XXX
Read 9/23/17 to 9/25/17

This was actually a re-read for me.  I originally read this story a few years ago.  And, although it’s not a favorite of mine, it holds a special place for me.  It was actually my introduction to menage and M/M romance.  (Please note, this story isn’t about the M/M romance but it does come up in this book.)

Since I actually reviewed this on Goodreads back in 2014, I’m going to give you that review here first.  Then I’ll add to that with my new perspective on this book.  Here’s the old review:

Okay, I’m naïve. Don’t take that to mean I’m a prude, I’m not at all. But for some reason it didn’t click in my head that this book was going to be so x-rated, even after reading the description. I don’t want to ruin the story for anyone, but just know this book is NOT for a prudish type person.

Now that I got that out of the way, I will say I did enjoy the story of this book. There were quite a few things that were easy to predict early on in the story, but it was still an enjoyable read. And talk about steamy! Whew!

Ms. James did let us see into the inner lives of most of the characters, which was nice. I wanted more though. Since this is a series I can only hope we get to know the inner workings of these cowboys (and cowgirls) a bit more.

Now for my current feelings:

A lot of my thoughts are the same, but obviously I’m not so naïve about the descriptions of such books anymore.  And unfortunately, this go around, I noticed more inconsistencies.  I still liked the story as a whole though.  And since I love so many of Lorelei James’ other books I had decided I need to read this whole series.  Back a few years ago I had stopped at book #3 and there are at least 16 books in this series.  From experience, I know a lot of authors start off rough in their series.  Plus, this seems to be some of her first works.  So, since I find the characters compelling and I feel the later books in this series are probably outstanding, I’m diving back in from the beginning.  I’m still keeping my rating the same as I did a few years ago, though.

3 stars

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No One But You – book review

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No One But You
by Brenda Novak
Release Date:  5/30/17
Publisher:  Harper Collins
Book #2 of the Silver Springs series
Number of pages:  448
Kindle Edition
Source: MCL
Contemporary Romance M/F
Rating:  R
Read 9/21/17 to 9/23/17

It surprised me that I enjoyed this book so much more than the first book in the series, Finding Our Forever.  Not that I didn’t like that story, but this one really had me engaged from the start.  I was mistaken when I finished book one, I thought this story wouldn’t have anything to do with the New Horizons Boys Ranch.  We don’t actually go to the ranch, but there is a connection and many of the characters from the first book make an appearance in this one.

This story had my stomach in knots!  Not just because it was well written, also because I could see this scenario playing out in real life.  I know it has in the past and it still does to this day.  There are many, many, many good cops in this world.  Unfortunately, there are also some bad cops.  Those that use their authority for their own gain and to intimidate.  Brenda Novak wrote Sly’s crazy very well and convincingly.  Like I said…knots in my stomach.

Dawson is such a wonderful person.  From the moment Sadie meets him on his front porch I just want to be his friend.  The way he’s so careful to keep distance between them and understands her discomfort without judging her about her reactions, that takes quite a man.  His will-power and morality as the story progresses just kept sinking him under my skin deeper and deeper.  And then there’s his sister, the way he treats Jayden, and his determination to do what is right no matter what.  **swoon**

I loved watching Sadie gain confidence as the story progressed.  She was obviously very determined from the beginning, but I didn’t feel as though she actually believed she’d ever get out of her dire situation.  As Sadie and Dawson learned to trust each other and that it was okay to lean on each other, Sadie became stronger and stronger.  It was lovely to watch her bloom.

Before I wrap this up, please note there are a lot of triggers in this story.  If you are sensitive to sexual, verbal, or physical abuse you will have a hard time with this one.  Which brings me to one more point.  The author did a lovely job of getting the point across that there was rape in the Sadie/Sly relationship.  Sadie felt as so many women feel, that it can’t be called that if it’s your significant other or you don’t struggle and fight.  Do not be fooled, non-consensual sex is rape no matter how it happens.

4.5 stars

Please know there is help out there if you or someone you love has been raped.  https://www.rainn.org/ or 800-656-HOPE

If you are in an abusive relationship or suspect someone you know is in an abusive relationship, please reach out for help.  http://www.thehotline.org/ or 800-787-3224.

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To All A Good Night – book review

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To All a Good Night
by Donna Kauffman, Jill Shalvis, HelenKay Dimon
Release Date:  September 1, 2008
Publisher:  Kensington Books
Standalone - Compilation
Number of pages:  318
Kindle Edition
Source: MCL
Contemporary Romance/Holiday  M/F
Rating: NC-17
Read 9/15/17 – 9/17/17

‘Tis the season for me to read Christmas-themed books I guess!

This book is another one I read to read through the Jill Shalvis library.  It’s a compilation of three short holiday stories by three different authors.  One a new-to-me author, one I’ve only had minimal exposure to, and one is a favorite of mine.

Unleashed
by Donna Kauffman
Pages: 110

I’m a whole bag of mixed thoughts on this one.  The only other time I read this author was another compilation with Jill Shalvis, Men of Courage.  I really enjoyed her story in that book.  While I love the concept of this story, there was something missing for me.  I think it may have been a case of telling and not showing.  Plus, we are told too many times how NOT extraordinary the heroine, Emma, is in her looks.  It got annoying.  I did like the characters as a whole so was disappointed I didn’t feel their heat.  ~ 2.5 stars

Finding Mr. Right
Jill Shalvis
Pages: 89

So, I initially picked up this book to read this particular story.  I thought the name sounded familiar but didn’t do my research. Turns out I’ve read this story in the compilation Merry and Bright a little more than a year ago.  I didn’t re-read it since I have so many books on loan right now I need to get to.  Just know that as soon as I started reading it I knew I had already done so and I remember really enjoying the tale.  Here’s my review from a year ago on this story:

I love, love, loved Maggie and her word vomit. She cracked me up. And Jacob was wonderful. Maggie might have felt awkward and nervous around him at first, but not because of anything he did. He found the quirks that bothered her about herself cute and endearing. The whole mystery/sci-fi aspect of her work has me a bit torn. It was interesting, but a somewhat over the top. Yet I feel like that’s what the author was going for here. ~ 4 stars

Can You Hand Me the Tape?
Helen Kay Dimon
Pages: 86

Goodness, this story had my stomach in a big whirl of warm-fuzzies.  I love how Spence and Natalie totally misjudged each other through the years they knew each other on a professional level.  Respected each other, yes.  But didn’t necessarily like each other.  Until they truly got to know each other and let go of all of their preconceived notions.  The author also did a wonderful job of portraying Natalie’s insecurities while giving the reader the true sense of the male perspective when it comes to women’s bodies.  Oh, I know a hot, tight, curvy body will turn their heads and even be the subject of fantasies.  But men don’t nitpick apart a woman’s body (in most cases) the way a woman will do to herself.  I really loved the chemistry and overall lesson in this story. ~ 5 stars

The average rating is 3.8 so I will round that up to 4 stars.  I’m thinking I need to look into Helen Kay Dimon as I thoroughly enjoyed her story in this compilation the most.

4 stars

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Her Renegade Rancher – book review

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Her Renegade Rancher
Jennifer Ryan
Release Date:  September 20, 2016
Publisher: Avon
Contemporary Romance/Western M/F
Book #5 of the Montana Men series
Number of Pages:  400
Kindle Edition
Source:  MCL
Rating:  XXX
Read 9/13/17 to 9/14/17

Somehow this series fell off my radar for a little while even though I have really enjoyed the books so far.  It could be that I read Stone Cold Cowboy (book 4) before this book came out and during the whole “my baby left for the Army” thing.  My life got a bit hectic at that time.  All I know is I’m glad, for no particular reason, this author popped into my head the other day. 

There were a few points from the previous books that took me a few chapters to remember, but it didn’t matter.  This story pulled me in pretty quickly.  I think it would have pulled me in even if I never read the other stories.  Colt is a wonderful hero.  Even though he doesn’t explain to Luna why he won’t go into her apartment, the reader knows and it’s so heartwarming.  The fire between Colt and Luna is red-hot even before they ever get their second first kiss.

The mystery involved in this story kept me bouncing from person to person.  With good reason.  There were many players.  I found myself getting as angry as Colt and as scared as Luna.  This story was told with great flair.  Sometimes I would like Simon, but was a fool to do so?  Was Josh all bluster or really an evil jerk?  So many questions that all kept me reading.

Although we don’t really get to know Luna’s family, we do get to know about them.  Her brother has Asperger’s Syndrome and she wants to eventually have him live near her so she can give her parents a break from being his caregivers.  There is a small comment made by her mom that I think is meant in one way that I took a totally different way.  She said something along the lines of not expecting Luna to take responsibility for her brother YET, not until they’re gone.  That upset me so much.  I have someone close to me who has a younger brother with developmental and learning disabilities.  I few years ago his mom and I were talking college and she made a comment about him not being able to go away to school because he HAS TO help with his brother.  We were discussing Griffin wanting to go in the military and she said that is absolutely not an option for her son because of his little brother.  I was so f’ing mad I couldn’t even look at her.  How is it EVER a siblings responsibility to plan their life around their other siblings?  If they make it their choice that’s one thing.  But to put it on them that it’s expected?  That is so messed up.  That one little line in this story brought that all back and upset me all over again.  (FYI: that boy just started his Freshman year of college.  Yes, it’s close to home and was the only university he applied to when the time had come.) *stepping off soapbox now*

Back to the matter at hand.  This story has it all.  Love, heat, mystery, loss, friendship, family, threats, thrills, and chills.  The next book in the series is actually a .5 novella about one of the characters I somewhat suspected a few times in this story!  After that, we get the last of the Kendrick brothers to be paired off.  I’m looking forward to a story with the woman being the one that went off to war while the man stayed behind.  It should be interesting.

5 stars

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