TBR Challenge Review: The Italian’s Suitable Wife by Lucy Monroe

The Italian’s Suitable Wife by Lucy Monroe
Contemporary romance released by Harlequin Presents on October 1, 2004

The Italian's Suitable WifeEnrico DiRinaldi wants a wife and children, even though an accident has left him unable to walk. So he proposes a marriage of convenience to Gianna Lakewood. Having always longed for a baby herself — and having secretly loved Enrico since she was a teenager — Gianna can’t say no.

The passion Enrico ignites in his innocent bride leaves her breathless. But when she realizes that his full recovery is imminent, and his beautiful ex-fiancée is waiting in the wings, Gianna is sure he won’t want her any more. So why is Enrico so intent on keeping his convenient wife by his side?

It’s TBR Challenge Time and I’m a day late and a dollar short, as usual. This month we were supposed to read a “RITA book” – whether it be a winner, or a nominee I believe. I have to be honest, I’ve never had much luck with RITA books, and aside from being happy for authors with their nominations and/or wins, I don’t take them into consideration. Accordingly, I went with a comfort read. I want to say I first read this book right around the time it was published, and have re-read it numerous times since.

Gianna is something of an atypical Harlequin Presents heroine, especially for 2004. She’s not a total doormat, and although she’s a total emotional pushover when it comes to Rico, she does get some of her own back. Gianna is warm, loving, uncertain, and passionate. I found her character and age realistic, especially as someone who had been pining for a man since ~girlhood. It was nice that Gianna gets along so well with the DiRinaldi family and already has an established relationship with all of them. It saved her from being too put-upon, and gave her the support and confidence she needed.

Enrico DiRinaldi is your typical Harlequin Presents hero. A take charge tycoon, Latin Lover, and something of an asshole. I liked that we got his perspective at time, and a look into his uncertainties. It was also nice that he admitted them to Gianna in the end, which really cements the fact that they have a real, believable relationship, not just something that happened because it’s the formula of the book/publisher line. Rico experiences all sorts of new emotions, and realizes he’s fallen in love in typical emotionally stunted male fashion. Lucy Monroe is a really great writer that digs into your emotions, and you really feel for Rico, even when he’s being a jerk outwardly.

There were a few things that I didn’t find believable – that she was an assistant  professor at age 23. I found that unrealistic even in 2004. Also the evil model ex-fiancée was borderline evil mustache twirling villain, but what mostly makes up for it is that Rico takes care of things in the end. The first intimate scene(s) are a bit extreme, but I’d put that down mostly to the Harlequin category format. (And the year.)

If you enjoy category and/or Harlequin romances, I definitely recommend this one. It made me tear up on the metro when I read it this most recent time. Yes, even knowing what was coming and on public transport. It might be a little bit of nostalgia and emotional attachment for me, but I really like The Italian’s Suitable Wife. I think it’s how Rico comes around and his character growth that forms his relationship with Gianna that does it for me.

Grade: B+

You can read an excerpt here or buy a copy here.

TBR Challenge Review: Lawless in Leather by Melanie Scott

Lawless in Leather by Melanie Scott
Contemporary romance released by St. Martin’s Press on May 5, 2015

Lawless in LeatherSHE’S GOOD AT HER GAME.
Raina Easton never dreamed she’d end up playing ring master to a bunch of baseball cheerleaders. But when the New York Saints offers her a job to coach its new squad–the Fallen Angels–Raina can’t refuse. As the owner of a burlesque club, she can certainly show the girls more than a few good moves. But as for her new boss? That is, as they say, a whole ‘nother story. . .

AND HE’S GOT IT BAD.
Army veteran, biker, and all-around tough guy, Malachi Coulter isn’t your typical sports-team owner. For one thing, he doesn’t think cheerleaders belong on the baseball field. Another: he can’t seem to separate business and pleasure when he meets his somewhat scandalous new employee. Seems the major-league bad boy has met his match in the gorgeous, feisty Raina. All’s fair in love and baseball…could it be that, after all this time, Malachi is playing to win?

​I’ve been meaning to review this book, and the TBR Challenge is the perfect time for it! I’ve read book two (and talked about it over at H&H), and I was glad when I got the email about Lawless in Leather being available. I think I liked this book more than Angel in Armani. I read it a while ago, so forgive me for any mistakes … here we go!

​I really liked Raina Easton is a fantastic heroine. I liked that she was so self assured, practical, and – unusual to some, sex positive. (I’ve been seeing a lot of chatter about how this doesn’t exist, or isn’t the norm, and I think that thought [or truth] is a shame.) I do want to say the “cheerleaders” are actually the dance team, and … well there is a difference, as sports fans will know. It also makes more sense for a dancer/burlesque club owner to be their “coach.” I liked that Raina knows when to take a step back and take care of herself. She’s smart, and knows how to act for what is best not necessarily what she wants at the moment. Raina is someone I think everyone would want as a friend.

Malachi is … well he’s a workacholic and something of an ass, but he’s Raina’s ass, and she’s more than capable of keeping him in line. Mal is ex special forces, co-owner of a baseball team (the New York Saints)… but also head of security for the enterprise. I loved how taken he was with Raina from the start, and how is is a good guy. Just rather gruff and abrupt – we all know how people like a recalcitrant alpha hero though right? For all that Mal is a planner, I think this book is all about him going out of his mind, [and this is going to be hokey but bear with me…] because he’s in love for the first time and is bowled over by it. It’s rather sweet. And he is willing to admit when he’s wrong and crosses the line.

I will say I was “fooled” about who the “villain” of the book was, although I felt it was something of a letdown. I know, I’m contrary – I wouldn’t have been happy if it was obvious, but I just felt it was a bit to hurried/dropped in there. I don’t want to say more because I don’t want to give it away. Although it isn’t really a major plot point (in my opinion) I suppose it does inform – or influence really – the characters actions.

I quite liked Lawless in Leather and I think a number of you will too. It’s a well written, fun, and entertaining romance. Adult characters who are realistic, flawed, but impressive. The secondary characters are fun – there are the four+ from the two previous books, and a few new fun ones as well. I’ll definitely be keeping an eye out for future Melanie Scott books.

Grade: B

There is no excerpt, but you can buy a copy here.

Birthday Month of Random

So … if you’ve been around ALBTALBS for any amount of time you know I always LIKE to and TRY to do it up big.

No idea how that’s going to pan out, or if scheduled things are going to happen in 2015 as planned… and I kinda can’t find it in myself to care at this very moment. I tried last night, and it just resulted in me wanting to set things on fire … so you know what? Why would I want to do stuff that will only make me suffer, in an attempt to celebrate? Not only was I sick for about a month, the first time I think “hey – I can almost breathe normally again and only wheezing when I laugh!” …  I’m relapsing.

As such, my gift to ME this month, is the freedom to fuck up as much and as often as I like. And to feel – at least less guilty than I normally do. If authors I arranged to guest send their posts in, then awesome. I’ll do my best to have it go live when it should. If not … well, we’re all adults. Sometimes shit happens like death or other tragedy, and sometimes we don’t know how to use calendars. I don’t care to figure out which happens when right now.

My prize to you … um, random snarkery and posts like this that I’ll probably regret in the morning?

Oh and you know, if my mood improves, maybe a kindle or something. Or maybe a box of books. Or maybe such a creatively formed string of swear words that you’d make a sailor blush if you let that loose in front of him. OR HER. You never know. (No really – we none of us know how I’ll be feeling a few weeks from now. Especially since I’ll be traveling.)

So to all the haters out there… 😀

One year I’ll learn how to be an adult. Clearly this one is not it. (And anyway, I won’t technically be a year older until the end of the month, so maybe I’ll mature in a few weeks. We’ll see.) 😉

So you know, Happy Fucking Birthday Month to Me.

Xoxo!!! Thanks for sticking around, loves! <3

TBR Challenge Review: It Must Be Your Love by Bella Andre

It Must Be Your Love by Bella Andre
Contemporary romance released by Oak Press, LLC on November 20, 2013

It Must Be Your LoveSuccessful Seattle Realtor Mia Sullivan is nobody’s fool…apart from that one week five years ago when she gave her heart to a sexy musician who gave her nothing in return but a few sinfully perfect days—and nights—in his bed. Though she swears she never wants to see him again, he’s the one man she’s never been able to forget.

One of the hottest rock stars in the world, Ford Vincent can have any woman he wants…except Mia Sullivan. But he knows millions of strangers singing along with his songs can’t fill the hole inside him. Only Mia’s love has the power to do that—so he vows to do anything and everything it takes to win her heart again.

From the first moment they see each other again, intense sparks of attraction fly. But can Mia and Ford finally rediscover a love strong enough to last forever?

I’ve wanted to read the Sullivan books for quite some time. I’ve started a few, but life always happened, so I’m really happy I made the effort to read It Must Be Your Love.​ I want to say this is the first time I’ve intentionally broke TBR review challenge “protocol.” I did initially plan on reading a book that was published 10 years ago. I got a lot of great suggestions and decided to read one that is basically universally loved. … I couldn’t get into it. I’m not going to say which book because I don’t want to be pilloried and run out of the community. I decided to read It Must Be Your Love because it’s basically hit all my reader buttons. Successful heroine, rockstar hero, hero that is desperately in love, and lots of hero grovel. Yes please. It also is perfect (in my mind) because it’s also APAHM, and Bella Andre was the first guest of the month.

I usually talk about the character individually, but today I want to address another aspect first. Mia Sullivan ​is the youngest sibling with four older brothers. I think that really helped build her character. It gave her a great backstory, support network, and explained how she’s so strong and independent. As someone who wanted to tag along with her older brothers and as a girl she always had to work that much harder to keep up, and be kept in the fun. It’s a contributing factor to what drove her in childhood and stayed with her, making her an incredibly successful realtor with her own business at age 28. (I’m sure her family and their connections helped too, but the book doesn’t focus on that.) Mia knows who she is and what she wants. I liked that she made Ford work for it, but she didn’t act to her (or their) detriment out of pride. Mia’s a great girl and she’s someone you want as your best friend. In fact it wouldn’t hurt being her either.

Ford Vincent was an interesting twist in my opinion, with his “poor little rich boy” back story. I liked that he didn’t let it damage or define him though. Sure it affected him, but didn’t let that hold him back. Mia and Ford have their history from five years back, and while he was an asshole, I don’t think his childhood was the deciding factor. In fact I think any guy around 25 (the book actually never says Ford’s current age) with the world at his feet would have made the same demands and assumptions that he as the rockstar should have his way. Full stop. I like that from the beginning of the book once he makes up his mind to see Mia he is all in. All the way. He’s willing to make the same “sacrifices” he asked Mia to make five years ago. It’s quite the gesture.

Breaking more protocol, no real character analysis this time because while I think Mia and Ford are great, it’s the usual suspect of adjectives thrown out there. Definitely they’re people that you’ll enjoy reading about – and would want to know in real life too. They’re friendly, fun, loving, and grounded. Throw in the massive success and wealth? What’s not to love.

The romance picks up pretty much as soon as Mia and Ford meet again. It’s as if they never spent five years apart, which I found interesting. Mia makes noises and some lip service about resisting at first but in actuality does nothing of the sort. That, and the fact that (in her mind) the relationship was so “all or nothing” bothered me. Those were the only two things. On Ford’s part, it made sense, because he has to show that he’s willing to make the grand gesture by “giving up everything” – the lifestyle he’s had since ~highschool, and has changed. On Mia’s part … I wondered where her basic problem solving skills went.

The writing and characterization in It Must Be Your Love are of course excellent. Bella Andre is a wonderful writer and story teller, and everything fits in so seamlessly you don’t even think about how many little details there are that all work together. I liked fact that Ms. Andre paints a vivid picture of each character’s life, but doesn’t get bogged down in the descriptions. You get the feel of how much Mia loves houses and her jobs. How Ford commands a stadium when playing a show. Their families and the love – or lack thereof. It was a good balance I think of Mia and Ford, and with Mia as the one dragging her feet it was nice to see her family encouraging her. (Or her brothers acting like … hilarious awesome stereotypical big brothers.)

I definitely recommend It Must Be Your Love to anyone who enjoys contemporary romances, and I’m glad there’s such a backlist for me to go through. The Sullivans are a really large family, and there’s something for everyone, with a variety of characters and professions, I’m sure there’s “reader catnip” for all in this series.

Grade: B

You can buy a copy here.

5 Things About Me

Hi Y’all! So, a long time ago Ki tagged me (on Facebook :X) in one of those “five things about me!” posts. And … I really wanted to do it but then I never ~got a chance to – and figured then I’d do it on the blog but you know how 2014 went … and then 2015 I was trying to do stuff and trucking along, but then I saw this empty space on the calendar and I hope to god I don’t get some “hey I thought I had that date email.” … >.>

SO ANYWAY, HEADCASE: THIS IS ME.

That Scandalous EveningErm … five things you don’t know about me. I actually can’t even quite remember what the task was? So I’m going with the general gist. [I bet I have it right though!]

1. I love skating on carpet. I don’t know if I’ll ever outgrow it. What do I mean? Getting a pretty good buildup, and then just sliding on your bare – or socked (stockinged…) feet. This is why I hate berber. No sliding there. Well, one of the reasons I hate it. I don’t know if I’ll ever outgrow carpet skating. Not for a long, long time I think. So … maybe in my 40s? Later? Possibly about the time I’m too embarrassed or old to go by Limecello?

2. I’m pretty sure I have [undiagnosed] ADD. Come on now – as if we got tested for things like that when I was a kid. Or at least, it definitely wasn’t the norm. That’s like … a 00s phenomenon! Sidenote: I basically ADORE ALL ANIMALS. Unfortunately, I’m also allergic to them. It’s a cruel cosmic joke.
… Wait what was I supposed to be doing? >.>

3. I think I love the idea, concept, practice of baking things … more than baked goods themselves. Sure, some things I’ll probably gorge and eat myself sick. But generally? I’d rather give it away than eat it. Or like … cupcakes. I LOVE cupcakes. Or so I think. I love looking at them, talking about them, even getting them. But eating said cupcakes? … I don’t know. Maybe I’ve built up cupcakes so much I’m destined to be disappointed. … Or maybe I haven’t yet found the ultimate cupcake and cannot give up my noble quest!!! So you know, send me cupcakes. Please? *angelface* 😉 I’ve got a birthday coming up … 😀

4. “Small towns” freak me out. As in, the actually isolated ones. (Not the ones in romances that pretend to be an island but really are like … walking distance (long walk, admittedly) between city borders, and whatever, Martha, but I just can’t comprehend living in town of less than 2,000. [Less than 10,000 if I’m being honest … and even that is too small for me…] But all these stories (of real people!) with their towns of less than a hundred and or high schools of less than 100 and I like … get itchy and panicky. No. How does that even work?!?!? Why??!?! How do you get things?! Or alone time?! Or away from people??? Or have any sort of anonymity?!?!? Although I guess I don’t know how isolated some towns of 1,000 or so are. BUT WHY ARE THERE SO FEW PEOPLE? WHAT’S WRONG WITH THAT PLACE?
… >.> Clearly I did not grow up in, nor have I ever lived in the country. … Nor do I ever plan on doing so.

The Bride and the Beast5. If I could live on the east coast/in east coast time but operate on pacific time I think I’d be the happiest little girl in the world. I’m naturally a night owl, so this whole adulting and working and shit is … for the goddamn birds. And I’m not a bird.

… We’ll do a serious APAHM post later. … Probably much later so I don’t feel this little blip of mine is too inane. Heh. My fingers typed “insane” first despite my brain sending the instructions to type “inane” so it’s both, most likely. So yeah! That’s my five random things about me I don’t think I’ve ever blurted out to the world wide web before!

How about you? What’s a little known secret about you? And uh … to bring APAHM into this at least a little … what’s your favorite Asian food? 😀 [Oh and the covers are just … books I like that I think are under appreciated :P]

TBR Challenge Review: Rock Hard by Nalini Singh

Rock Hard by Nalini Singh
Contemporary romance released by Nalini Singh/TKA Distribution on March 10, 2015

Rock HardPassion ignites between a gorgeous, sinfully sexy man who built himself up from nothing and a shy woman who has a terrible secret in her past…

Wealthy businessman Gabriel Bishop rules the boardroom with the same determination and ruthlessness that made him a rock star on the rugby field. He knows what he wants, and he’ll go after it no-holds-barred.

And what he wants is Charlotte Baird.

Charlotte knows she’s a mouse. Emotionally scarred and painfully shy, she just wants to do her job and remain as invisible as possible. But the new CEO—a brilliant, broad-shouldered T-Rex of a man who growls and storms through the office, leaving carnage in his wake—clearly has other plans. Plans that may be equal parts business and bedroom.

If Charlotte intends to survive this battle of wits and hearts, the mouse will have to learn to wrangle the T-Rex. Game on.

​You guys, I miss football. I miss it a lot. So … I guess I’ve been filling the void with rugby heroes? XD It’s kinda funny though, because Gabe isn’t even a rugby hero, so much as an uber tycoon. Semantics – there’s a rugby ball on the cover. Good enough. Also, I really like Nalini Singh’s writing. I’ve been reading her books since her Silhouette Desires. Which was also right around the time of the first Psy/Changeling stories I believe… Anyway I first heard about her new contemporaries at RT last year. So here we are! Book Two of the Rock Kiss series!

Charlie-Mouse. What a name. Charlotte is a mouse in some ways, but it’s because she hasn’t entirely recovered from her brutal attack yet. Who could blame her? I love that almost from the start Charlotte is able to be herself around Gabe. Sure, she’s scared of him at first, but not physically. More professionally, and that ends quickly. You can see Charlie overcoming a number of her issues with love, care, protection, and space. It makes sense that Charlie had to take this time to just survive and take each day as it is. With her new boss and someone seeing her and appreciating her – her intelligence, drive, humor, and looks, well it might sound like a cliche, but Charlotte blossoms. She needed someone new to give her a push, and of course still has the support of Molly, who has been there with her for years. Even though Charlie didn’t have a wide support system she still has people at her back, and I liked that Ms. Singh didn’t write her into a vacuum. She’s complex because Charlie knows she has issues that she accepts, but it also frustrates her because she wants to do and be more.

T-Rex. Gabriel Bishop. You guys, Gabe is about as far from a T-Rex as it gets. At least, in the terms of his romance and relationship with Charlotte. He’s a giant marshmallow. Sure, if you’re his colleague, employee, or business opponent, you better bring your A game. And even so, you might get crushed. But when it comes to love? Gabriel has a giant soft fuzzy underbelly. It’s beyond adorable. I really liked that Gabe had such a great family, and that he gets on with them so well. He’s a warm, loving, and supportive to those he cares about. Gabe protects what he considers as his, and he does so intensely. He’s an alpha hero in that he’s a leader and protector. He’s also possessive, and I love the [basically one time] he acts jealously. He’s not an asshole about it, and doesn’t overstep his bounds. Gabe knows when his issues are something that he needs to deal with and not take out on someone else. And in my opinion all the sexual tension Gabe has to experience is good for his personal growth. 😉

I love that it’s Gabe that suggests (additional) therapy for Charlotte. Our big, bad, T-Rex takes no prisoners tycoon understand psychological and emotional care. Also that things weren’t magically suddenly resolved, e.g. Charlie and Gabe sleeping together. And yes, I mean actually sleeping. There are setbacks and problems, and the relationship develops so realistically. Both Charlie and Gabe know they have to work at the relationship. Not just because of the myriad issues each has, but that it’s a natural thing for people to have to make an effort to establish a connection.

What I appreciated is that although most of Rock Hard focuses on Charlotte’s issues and her overcoming them, she’s not the only one who is a mess. Gabriel is far from perfect, and he has to change as well for them to truly move forward. Not him getting in touch with his emotional side or anything, but true deep seated personal baggage to let go of. It all comes full circle that Charlie is confident enough to not only call Gabe on his shit, but demand that he change – not just for them, but for himself.

You’ll have to read it … so I’ll mention that I also adore the bracelet. I knew when Gabe made Charlie pick it out that he was going to give it to her. Ms. Singh is tricksies though and leaves it until you’ve almost forgotten about it. I’ve also decided Ms. Singh is something of a closet sadist, because she seems to love ripping your heart out. And then when you think it’s safe and we’re on an even keel, with the characters experiencing something fun and lighthearted, she’ll jab her little finger straight into your heart again. Rock Hard is an easy read, but it’s also an emotional one. You’ll want to devour it in a day, but maybe keep some chocolates, possibly a tissue or two handy.

I can’t wait to read more from the Rock Kiss series, and the spinoff with Gabe’s brothers as well. More rock stars and rugby stars for all!

Grade: B+

You can read an excerpt here and buy a copy here.

TBR Challenge Review: Rise by Karina Bliss

​I really wanted to review a romance written by, or featuring African American character(s) for SBHM but … it just didn’t happen. I feel really guilty about that, but it just didn’t pan out.​ Alas. That being said … ​

Rise by Karina Bliss
Contemporary romance released by Karina Bliss on January 28, 2015

RiseRise – The redemption story of a rock star going straight(er) through the love of a good(ish) woman.

Acclaimed literary biographer Elizabeth Winston writes about long-dead heroes.
So bad-boy rock icon Zander Freedman couldn’t possibly tempt her to write his memoir.
Except the man is a mass of fascinating contradictions–manipulative, honest, gifted, charismatic and morally ambiguous.
In short, everything she seeks in a biography subject.
When in her life will she get another chance to work with a living legend? But saying yes to one temptation soon leads to another.
Suddenly she’s having heated fantasies about her subject, fantasies this blue-eyed devil is only too willing to stoke.
She thought self-control was in her DNA; after all, she grew up a minister’s daughter.
She thought wrong.

Rock star Zander Freedman has been an outlier–many would say an outcast–for most of his life.
But there’s no disaster he can’t overcome, from the breakup of his band to the inevitable damage to his reputation.
His Resurrection Tour is shaping up to be his greatest triumph–if his golden voice holds out.
Contracting a respected biographer is simply about creating more buzz. Elizabeth’s integrity is the key to consolidating his legacy as one of rock’s greats.
All the damn woman has to do is write down what he tells her. Not force him to think.
Or encourage the good guy struggling to get out.
And certainly not make him fall in love for the first time in his life.
Turns out he is scared of something: being known.

​I’d seen a lot of buzz for Rise, and most notably (to me) was Nalini Singh recommending it. She also touted Laura Florand and Sonali Dev, so I figured there was a good chance I’d enjoy it. I quickly figured out this was the connected book to What the Librarian Did (which I still need to read :X). Rise was more easily found in my digital library though, and who doesn’t like a rock star hero? Honestly a prevalent reflection was Rise is reminiscent of a Susan Elizabeth Phillips novel. SEP updated, we’ll say.

I really liked the heroine Elizabeth. Elizabeth Winston is so very relatable. She’s normal, staid, reliable, the under appreciated responsible family member. She’s a professor and while at the top of her game, still “regular.” I liked that she kept her sense of self and agency throughout. And what makes her special, though, is that you get why Zander is so intrigued, and then smitten. Let me explain. Elizabeth is regular in that she’s “one of us.” She could be someone you know – a star young professor at a university. But her person – her character, personality, wit, mischievousness, all set her apart. Elizabeth is a prime example of still waters run deep. She’s someone you want to know, and someone you want to be. She’s also kind. A peacemaker, but someone who stands in her own truth. She doesn’t preach at you or belittle you, but she doesn’t let people run all over her either. And that’s exactly what Zander needs.

Zander Freedman. Rock God. Bad Boy. Darling of … nobody? What saves him from being an ass is first, his actual physical concern(s). But next, the fact that he’s already on his journey to bettering himself. His willingness to be self deprecating. I think Zander’s sobering up is a split between the wake up call ” ” from his brother/the original band falling apart, and his health – but it makes him take a long hard look at himself. I won’t spoil you, but the very end, when Zander reveals his deepest darkest secret, you understand why he’s acted how he has for the past twenty or so years. He’s damaged but ignoring it – and being a rockstar has allowed him to do so. Of course he’s insanely hot and talented, but what makes him dynamic [as a character] is how he’s kind to his ex, and immediately sees Elizabeth’s worth. He appreciates her, and is indignant on her behalf. Zandar has depth but he doesn’t want you to see it.

The intricacy of the characters is the biggest draw of Rise. I don’t even have enough space to mention the great cast of secondary characters. The relationship between Zandar and Elizabeth develops slowly and subtly. I like that both of them have push and pull at different times. And I really appreciate there aren’t any over the top or too stupid to live moments. Sure, Zander and Elizabeth both might have moments of idiocy or bad behavior. They’re human. Overcoming their problems is what makes the story special. Living is hard enough – especially with such different people, and one constantly in the public eye. The story is organic, and doesn’t rely on outside factor to make things more exciting. I might be making the story sound boring (I don’t see how though) – but it isn’t. It’s wonderful and draws you in. You’ll start reading, and make sure you have time, because you won’t want to stop.

Oh and I didn’t even mention how the fact that both their professions are an integral part of the story. Much of Zander’s conflict has to deal precisely with him being the lead singer of Rage, and her of course “the biographer.” It’s refreshing (although I wish it was more commonplace) when the character’s profession matters to the story. The grueling tours, the physical demands, the professional responsibility and reputation to maintain – all of that is addressed nicely. Ms. Bliss touches on all that in a realistic manner that adds to the complexity of the story without making it dull or pedantic. Tricky stuff.

I really don’t have any complaints. I think I like and respect Elizabeth and Zander as much as I do because they were sure of themselves before they get physical. (Also different from so many books out there, especially rockstar romances.) Oh – one thing – I wanted more from the ending. It’s good, but just … a tiny bit more oomph would have made it perfect. I think it’s left the way it is though, because this is the first in a series, and we all know we’ll be seeing more of Zander and Elizabeth in the various band member’s romances. (And I’m good with that.)

So in short, not only is this one of the best romances I’ve read this year, it’s one of the best I’ve read in a long time. (I mean come on – reminiscent of old school SEP! And if you don’t know what I mean … who are you?!) Rise is a beautifully crafted and written contemporary romance. I recommend it to anyone. Even if you don’t like rockstar romances, or contemporaries, I think you should give it a try.

Grade: A –

You can read an excerpt here or buy a copy here.