Review: The Wedding Deal (Heart in the Game #1) by Cindi Madsen

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Former quarterback Lance Quaid just inherited the most losing team in the NFL. He’s got only a few weeks until draft day to turn things around, and after firing more than half his staff, he can’t do it alone. Thankfully, his HR manager is more than capable, if only she’d stop focusing on “due diligence” and stop looking so sexy while she’s yelling at him.

Charlotte James has made a life out of following the rules. But nothing could have prepared her for Lance Quaid––he’s a human resources nightmare. The man is brash, has no filter, and, as her new boss, is constantly relying on her to cover his ass. Which is admittedly quite nice.

When Lance begs her to join him on a trip down the coast for his brother’s wedding so they can finalize details––on a strictly business basis––she agrees…after they fill out the necessary forms, of course. Away from the office, though, sparks start flying as the team starts coming together. But both of them know anything more than the weekend would be a colossally bad idea––after all, the extra paperwork would be a nightmare.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Wedding Deal will be available March 25, 2019. 

I’ve enjoyed several Cindi Madsen books and thought The Wedding Deal looked like the perfect book to feed my Contemporary craving. While I did like it, I didn’t enjoy it as much as I hoped I would.

I felt the book was much longer than it needed to be. I thought there was too much repetition and the story dragged a little bit. There’s only so many times I need to hear how distracted a character is by their attractive co-worker’s [insert body part here]. I also really dislike long chapters and the majority of the chapters were much longer than I prefer.

That said, I did really enjoy the romance. I thought Lance and Charlotte complemented each other so well, professionally and personally. While there was a little too much of the whole “he/she is so attractive” rhetoric, there was also a lot of discussion about how smart, caring, funny, and hard-working each other were. They helped make each other better, too. I really appreciated that the romance was based on so much more than the physical and I definitely shipped them.

Overall, I enjoyed The Wedding Deal. While it was a little too long for my taste, I did really like the romance and the sweet relationship Charlotte and Lance developed. I also thought the story was set apart a little bit from the normal Sports Romance by focusing on the owner of a team instead of a player. I would recommend it to someone looking for a light romance and doesn’t mind long chapters.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

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Review: Fumbled (Playbook #2) by Alexa Martin

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

A second chance doesn’t guarantee a touchdown in this new contemporary romance from the author of Intercepted.

Single-mother Poppy Patterson moved across the country when she was sixteen and pregnant to find a new normal. After years of hard work, she’s built a life she loves. It may include a job at a nightclub, weekend soccer games, and more stretch marks than she anticipated, but it’s all hers, and nobody can take that away. Well, except for one person.

TK Moore, the starting wide receiver for the Denver Mustangs, dreamt his entire life about being in the NFL. His world is football, parties, and women. Maybe at one point he thought his future would play out with his high school sweetheart by his side, but Poppy is long gone and he’s moved on.

When Poppy and TK cross paths in the most unlikely of places, emotions they’ve suppressed for years come rushing back. But with all the secrets they never told each other lying between them, they’ll need more than a dating playbook to help them navigate their relationship.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review. 

Fumbled will be available April 23, 2019.

I really enjoyed Alexa Martin’s debut, Intercepted, and her follow up book solidifies her status as one of my favorite Romance authors.

I am not usually a fan of the “Surprise, you’re a father!” trope, but that did not negatively impact my enjoyment of Fumbled. I thought that part of the plot actually worked out well, though I did feel it resolved itself just a little too easily. There were things that happened when Poppy first found out she was pregnant that I didn’t feel were really discussed enough and Ace, now nine, is old enough to have questions he never asks. He just 100% embraces TK as his father and there’s no awkwardness or anything. However, maybe the the lack of the mega drama I expected was why it worked for me.

I really liked Poppy and TK together. I would’ve loved to have had some flashbacks to when they were first together, but even without it the whole Second-Chance Romance worked for me. I definitely shipped them. I loved how sweet TK could be, both with Poppy and with Ace. I liked him in the previous book and I was glad to see more of him in this one. Poppy was a good main character, though her short temper did frustrate me sometimes. I also really enjoyed Poppy’s group of friends and seeing some of the characters from the first book again.

In a book with such a focus on professional sports, I thought it was really nice to see the subject of head injuries play such a large part of the story. I thought it was woven into the story really thoughtfully and you can tell it is something important to the author – a wife of a former football player herself – to shine a light on.

Overall, I really enjoyed Fumbled. Though it tackled (see what I did there?) some more serious subjects than the previous book did, it was still a really fun read that I didn’t want to put down. I loved the characters and shipped the romance. I am definitely anxious to read whatever Alexa Martin writes next.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: Passion on Park Avenue (Central Park Pact #1) by Lauren Layne

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

From the author of the New York Times bestselling Stiletto and Oxford series, the first in a sizzling new series following the unlikely friendship of three Upper East Side women as they struggle to achieve their dreams and find true love and happiness in the city that never sleeps. 

For as long as she can remember, Bronx-born Naomi Powell has had one goal: to prove her worth among the Upper East Side elite—the same people for which her mom worked as a housekeeper. Now, as the strongminded, sassy CEO of one of the biggest jewelry empires in the country, Naomi finally has exactly what she wants—but it’s going to take more than just the right address to make Manhattan’s upper class stop treating her like an outsider.

The worst offender is her new neighbor, Oliver Cunningham—the grown son of the very family Naomi’s mother used to work for. Oliver used to torment Naomi when they were children, and as a ridiculously attractive adult, he’s tormenting her in entirely different ways. Now they find themselves engaged in a battle-of-wills that will either consume or destroy them…

Filled with charm and heart and plenty of sex and snark, this entertaining series will hook you from the very first page.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review. 

Passion on Park Avenue will be available May 28, 2019.

I’m a big fan of Lauren Layne and always look forward to her books. While Passion on Park Avenue was enjoyable, I have to admit I found it a little underwhelming.

I’m going to start with the things I liked:

-I loved Oliver. He was smart and sweet and loyal and I just adored him. I liked his dedication to his family, even though they had their issues. I liked the romance between him and Naomi, even if it was frustrating sometimes.

-I liked Naomi’s new friends, Audrey and Claire. We actually don’t see as much of them as I expected, but I’m interested in both of their upcoming stories.

-While Lauren Layne is one of my favorite Romance authors, my usual complaint with her books is that there are always a few scenes more graphic than I care for. I’m so happy to report that that was not the case with this book! There’s innuendo and suggestive talk, but there are no sex scenes and I really appreciated it. I thought it put the romantic focus much more on emotions and actual relationship details instead of just physical stuff and I found it much more meaningful.

Ok, so now onto the things that didn’t quite work for me:

-For a good long while in this book, I did not like Naomi at all. She just came across so shallow to me. Everything was just about status and money and expensive stuff and I just couldn’t care about it. Also, her big revenge plan was to move back into her old apartment building and then let her mom’s former employer and his son know who she was and how she had as much money as them now. I wasn’t really sure what that would accomplish? It’s not like she was buying the building and kicking them out. Or buying their business out from under them. It just didn’t make a lot of sense to me.

-I also thought Naomi was an odd choice for the first book in the series. She was that brash character that always speaks her mind, even if it could be hurtful. The kind of character that is usually the main character’s best friend that you don’t really like until she gets her own book and then you get to know her better. I did eventually like her, but it took me awhile. I’m much more interested in Claire and Audrey’s stories (particularly Audrey and Clarke).

-One of the subplots include the development of a tv show based on Naomi’s rags to riches story. I found that interesting, but thought it could have been explored much more than it was.

Overall, I did enjoy Passion on Park Avenue. I liked the friendship and Oliver and how the romance focused more on the relationship than on the physical stuff. I felt like not a whole lot really happened in the story, though, and it took me a really long time to start caring about Naomi, so I’m giving this a little lower rating than I do most Layne books. However, I am definitely looking forward to the next books in this series.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 3 Stars

Review: Cold Day in the Sun by Sara Biren

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Synopsis from Good Reads:

Holland Delviss wants to be known for her talent as a hockey player, not a hockey player who happens to be a girl. But when her school team is selected to be featured and televised as part of HockeyFest, her status as the only girl on the boys’ team makes her the lead story. Not everyone is thrilled with Holland’s new fame, but there’s one person who fiercely supports her, and it’s the last person she expects (and definitely the last person she should be falling for): her bossy team captain, Wes.

I received a copy of this title from the publisher. It does not impact my review.

Cold Day in the Sun will be available March 12, 2019. 

I really enjoyed this book. I’ve really been in the mood for cute contemporary stories lately and Cold Day in the Sun gave me that, plus a little more substance.

Holland is the only girl on the boys varsity hockey team. She’s a great player, but there’s obviously a lot of pressure that comes with her position on the team. A lot of people don’t think she should be allowed to play with the boys and she spends every game trying to prove them wrong. What I thought was an interesting twist on the situation is that there is a girl’s hockey team she could play on. Holland really makes a point of saying her decision isn’t about the girls team not being good enough for her, but that she has always played with her brothers and their friends growing up and she wanted to keep playing with them. While at first I didn’t think it was a good narrative decision for there to be both a boys and girls team, giving Holland a choice really is important to the plot. Other than to satisfy my preconceived ideas, why should she have to justify her decision? Why can’t her explanation be “because I want to”? I liked that this situation challenged my thinking a bit.

Feminism is obviously a strong theme of the story. While it did hit on a lot of important topics, there were a few things that didn’t work for me. Any time someone uses a common, but male-centered expression (like “that takes balls” or “man down”) Holland goes off on them about it. Yes, I understand the reasoning for wanting to correct this kind of rhetoric, but honestly it just comes across a little petty to me. And I don’t think yelling at people when they say it is really the way to get people to change the way they speak.

While there were sexist remarks made about Holland by some people in their community, I loved that her teammates didn’t act like that. None of them seemed to be angry about having a girl on the team, even when she was better than some of them. While a few players were a little over-protective at times, they mostly just treated her like any other player and I liked that. I also really liked her relationship with her brothers and that none of them were threatened by her, either.

And then there is Wes. I absolutely adored him. He is so sweet and I loved how much he supported Holland. Besides hockey, they also share a love for glam metal. I am not really familiar with the music and bands that are mentioned (a lot) so I feel like some of the impact that might have had was a little lost on me, but I did like how they texted each other about it. I absolutely shipped the two of them together and I was glad to see Holland finally wise up when it came to him.

Overall, I really enjoyed Cold Day in the Sun. I liked the characters, the hockey, and the romance – especially Wes. While I didn’t always appreciate the way in which some points were made, I did like that it challenged the way I think about some things and thought it had a good overall message. This was definitely the cute read that I wanted it to be, plus more, and I’m looking forward to reading more from Biren.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Olive is always unlucky: in her career, in love, in…well, everything. Her identical twin sister Amy, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. Her meet-cute with her fiancé is something out of a romantic comedy (gag) and she’s managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a series of Internet contests (double gag). Worst of all, she’s forcing Olive to spend the day with her sworn enemy, Ethan, who just happens to be the best man.

Olive braces herself to get through 24 hours of wedding hell before she can return to her comfortable, unlucky life. But when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning from eating bad shellfish, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. And now there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs.

Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him is suddenly at risk to become a whole lot bigger. She and Ethan now have to pretend to be loving newlyweds, and her luck seems worse than ever. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of… lucky.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Unhoneymooners will be available May 14, 2019. 

This book was so fun! The Unhoneymooners is definitely among my favorite of Christina Lauren’s books and I know it’s one I’ll be re-reading in the future.

I absolutely loved the banter between Olive and Ethan. There was also a lot of humor surrounding Olive’s very large, very involved family. I was smiling a lot while reading this book. I also loved that the story employed two of my favorite tropes: Hate-to-Love and Fake Relationship. I enjoyed watching their relationship change as they got to know each other better and the awkward moments as they pretended to be a couple.

Both main characters were likable and I shipped them together. That said, Olive was frustrating at times. She had communication issues and she jumped to conclusions pretty easily. I also thought she was a little too stubborn on things she shouldn’t have been. One of the big obstacles between Olive and Ethan comes from them disagreeing about Ethan’s brother’s (who is also Olive’s new brother-in-law) behavior. The fact that Ethan would give his brother the benefit of the doubt instead of automatically agreeing with Olive seemed a reasonable response from his character and her treating it like such a betrayal seemed a little over the top.

Speaking of Ethan, I wish we would’ve gotten more from his point of view (we only get one chapter at the end). I went into this expecting it to be dual POVs, so it took me a little while to get over that, but I did ultimately enjoy Olive’s POV, so it still worked for me.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Unhoneymooners. I loved the banter and the fake relationship situations and the romance (though there are a few scenes a little more graphic than I prefer). This is a perfect read for somebody in a real Rom-Com type of mood and I definitely recommend it.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

Review: The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary

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Synopsis from GoodReads:

Tiffy and Leon share an apartment. Tiffy and Leon have never met.

After a bad breakup, Tiffy Moore needs a place to live. Fast. And cheap. But the apartments in her budget have her wondering if astonishingly colored mold on the walls counts as art.

Desperation makes her open minded, so she answers an ad for a flatshare. Leon, a night shift worker, will take the apartment during the day, and Tiffy can have it nights and weekends. He’ll only ever be there when she’s at the office. In fact, they’ll never even have to meet.

Tiffy and Leon start writing each other notes – first about what day is garbage day, and politely establishing what leftovers are up for grabs, and the evergreen question of whether the toilet seat should stay up or down. Even though they are opposites, they soon become friends. And then maybe more.

But falling in love with your roommate is probably a terrible idea…especially if you’ve never met.

What if your roommate is your soul mate? A joyful, quirky romantic comedy, Beth O’Leary’s The Flatshare is a feel-good novel about finding love in the most unexpected of ways.

I received a copy of this title via NetGalley. It does not impact my review.

The Flatshare will be available May 28, 2019. 

The Flatshare is a super cute and fun debut and I really enjoyed it!

I thought the odd flatshare arrangement was really unique. Since Tiffy and Leon work different shifts and Leon is always away on the weekends, their paths never need to cross – and Leon’s jealous girlfriend will make sure of it. However, they still need to communicate to each other sometimes and they start leaving each other notes. As time goes on, the notes go more from business to personal. I really enjoyed the notes and how their relationship develops. It’s several months before they do actually meet in person (in spectacularly awkward fashion) and I loved how it developed further from there, as well. Their banter was funny and quirky and I completely shipped them.

I really thought all the characters were well done. I loved Tiffy’s group of friends and the different perspectives they brought to the story. I also liked Leon’s brother who managed to still be a point of lightness in the story, even though he was going through some awful stuff. I even thought Justin, Tiffy’s abusive ex-boyfriend, was well done – though obviously I hated him. While they were sometimes a little over-the-top, all the characters came off as real and relatable and I enjoyed reading about them, even when it didn’t feel like a lot was going on at times.

The story isn’t all fun and romance, though. There are a couple of really heavy topics woven throughout the book. Leon’s brother, Richie, is in jail for a crime he claims he didn’t commit and Leon has been working tirelessly to get him an appeal. Tiffy is dealing with trying to break free of her psychologically and emotionally abuse ex-boyfriend who keeps popping back up. It seems I’ve read a lot of books lately with this particular plot line and while I’m happy that such a prevalent and important topic is being addressed more often, it is really hard for me to read. It’s hard to not get frustrated with the person being abused because it’s so obvious what has been happening and it’s hard to understand how that person doesn’t see it. I did really appreciate Tiffy’s journey, though.

There were a couple things I didn’t love, though. The chapters from Leon’s point of view had kind of a weird narrative and structure. Leon is a really quiet guy and doesn’t use any more words than absolutely necessary. Dialogue was also presented more like a script than with “he said/she said” format. It took a long time to get used to how his chapters were written.  It was a little off-putting at first, but eventually I kind of stopped noticing it. Also, while it never got super graphic, there was more focus on sex than I prefer in my books. And though it doesn’t take up much of the story at all, there are a few mentions of American politics that I didn’t love. I read fiction to get away from all the craziness of real life. And doesn’t Europe have enough of their own problems to talk about instead of bringing the US into it?

Overall, I really enjoyed The Flatshare. I loved the characters and the humor and the romance. Even though there were some heavy topics, I really enjoyed almost every moment of the book. I thought it was a very impressive debut and it’s a book I know I will read again.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars

 

Review: Huge Deal (21 Wall Street #3) by Lauren Layne

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Synopsis from Goodreads:

Even for a top-gun banker, temptation this hot is quite a gamble, in a sexy Wall Street romp from New York Times bestselling author Lauren Layne.

An alpha among the wolves of Wall Street, Kennedy Dawson rose to the top of the pack by striking the right contracts at the right times. But there’s one deal that’s been giving him a run for his money—a pact to never again let his assistant, Kate, get under his skin. She may be smart, gorgeous, and sharp as a whip, but she’s definitely off-limits.

Kate Henley isn’t a banker, but she knows a thing or two about risk management—specifically, about managing her attraction to her smolderingly sexy boss. She already fell once, and Kennedy showed no sign of paying a return on her investment. So when Kennedy’s brother starts pursuing her, Kate figures she has the best of both worlds. Jack is charming, rich, very attentive, and the spitting image of his older brother.

It’s also making Kennedy think twice. But to win Kate’s heart, he’ll have to broker the deal of a lifetime…and prove he’s worth the risk.

I have wanted a Kate and Kennedy story since book one in this series and Huge Deal did not disappoint. Lauren Layne reminds me once again why she is one of my favorite Romance authors.

Kennedy has been my favorite of the trio of guys in this series. I liked that he was more serious and less playboy-esque. He tends to be a little oblivious, though. While it was obvious in the first couple of books that Kate had a thing for him, it takes him a long time to really catch on. Meanwhile, Kate is trying to not have a thing for him anymore. For the most part, I liked the way their relationship evolved throughout the book. I liked seeing Kennedy realize his feelings for her and then pursuing her. I also like that he had to work for it a bit.

However, I thought he had to work for Kate’s affection for the wrong reasons. It’s one thing that she would want to be cautious because he’s hurt her in the past with careless words. Instead, the reason she started to pull back felt kind of disingenuous to her character. I don’t want to go too into it since it could be a spoiler, but she was basically one of those women giddy about the thought of love and then after a sad circumstance decides that it couldn’t possibly be worth the risk. It just didn’t really work for me. Thankfully, though, the story didn’t dwell too much on this stage.

Overall, I really enjoyed Huge Deal. I loved seeing the characters from the previous books and the addition of Kennedy’s brother, Jack. I wouldn’t mind a Jack book, actually. I loved seeing my Kennedy-Kate ship finally sail. This has been one of my most anticipated books of 2019 and it lived up to the hype for me.

Overall Rating (out of 5): 4 Stars