TBR Challenge Review: Unwrapping Her Perfect Match by Kat Latham

Review: Unwrapping Her Perfect Match by Kat Latham
Contemporary romance novella released by Kat Latham on November 11, 2014

Unwrapping Her Perfect Match’Twas a week before Christmas, and at the auction house…

At six foot one, Gwen Chambers has felt like a giant her whole life. She’s a calm, capable nurse saving lives in a busy London hospital, but healthy men give her heart palpitations. When larger-than-life rugby player “Little” John Sheldon convinces her to bid on him in his team’s fundraising auction, she discovers how pleasurable heart palpitations can be.

A rugby player was stirring, with desire no one could douse…

John has wanted Gwen since he first saw her, but when he’s injured in a match just before Christmas he suddenly needs her too. Not only can the sexy nurse help him recover, but she might be able to help him look after his daughter—a shy ten-year-old who speaks only French.

But will it be a Happy Christmas for all, and for all a good night?

From decorating the Christmas tree to ice skating at the Tower of London, Gwen helps father and daughter open up and bond with each other—and she bonds right along with them. But when John’s agent calls with a life-changing offer, Gwen has to decide how far she’s willing to go for her perfect match. Will their first Noël also be their last?

I’ve been meaning to read Kat Latham’s books for a while now, and this was the perfect opportunity to crack one open. I love sports romances, and Unwrapping Her Perfect Match is a really great addition to that subgenre. I do want to note it’s a novella, so there will be a difference, I’m sure, from the novels, but there’s a lot packed in.

Gwen is a really normal person, and I loved that in a heroine. She could be you – or me – and her struggles are so basic, but real. I liked that she was a regular girl. Of course, as a heroine, she’s a lovely person, and does have some quirks. Gwen is tall – 6′ 1″, which I can’t imagine is fun for anyone who isn’t a supermodel. (And even for one such person not until she’s of an age to model…) Gwen also has some hang ups that she’s let shadow her life, just as any one of us might to, despite hers and our best efforts. I liked that Gwen was so relatable, and had a great “safety net.” It’s always nice to see a heroine with a loving and supportive family.

John is such a sweetheart. Any girl would be lucky to have him – but he also knows how lucky he is to have found Gwen. I love that he’s willing to admit his mistakes, see fault with himself, and put himself out there. When John screws up (and he does just as any person would) – not only does he own up to it, he tries to fix it. That is what makes him a great hero to me. The professional athlete aspect is just frosting. (Complete with perfect ginormous body.)

I don’t know much about rugby, but I enjoyed the little peeks into the game/clubs (teams?) we’re given in the story. It’s clear Ms. Latham knows the subject, and something of how the inner workings go. However, it was nice to see a little bit of both character’s careers. John is a professional rugby player, Gwen is an ER nurse, and both are respected. Everyone knows the flash and superstardom of athletes, but I liked that Gwen’s job was given a lot of gravitas, and that Gwen stands up for herself. In fact, in Unwrapping we see more of Gwen at work than John.

Even more, however, is the nice touch of John’s daughter Agnes, who I think is really the “fairy godmother” character of the story. Agnes unknowingly brings John and Gwen together. It was really fun to see so many sweet moments between the three of them, and I especially loved how Gwen connected with Agnes so easily and immediately. My French is about as good as John’s was, but I muddled along and actually liked the untranslated dialogue.

Lest you think this is “just” a sweet romance, there are a lot of sexy scenes with John and Gwen. I don’t want to give spoilers, but I wanted to note I loved how things didn’t always happen perfectly. John  and Gwen have sex, and have fun with it.

I appreciated that Unwrapping Her Perfect Match can be read as a stand alone story. (Which was especially nice since I haven’t read the other London Legends Rugby books yet.) I’ll definitely be reading more of Ms. Latham’s books, and if you’re looking for a nice holiday romance, I suggest you read this one. I read it in one go, and I bet you’ll be going to check the other London Legend’s books upon finishing.

Grade: B-

You can buy a copy here.

Hello, November

We meet again.

This Time I Won’t Forget

Written by Johnny Kongos

Oh, I will try
But I tell you it ain’t easy using only words
And so I’ll begin
But I’ll start at the end, the day I said so long my friend

I still remember well
His smile that would not die
And the tears begin to swell
Tears I dare not fight

Cause now I’m alive
I’m taking my first breath
Oh I’m alive
And this time I won’t forget

Now as I look back
Wish I’d known that someday soon he’d long be gone
So, I will try
To remember the end, the day I said so long my friend

They go by many names
Mother, father, brother, son
And the tears begin to swell
Tears I dare not fight

Cause now I’m alive
I’m taking my first breath
Oh I’m alive
And this time I won’t forget

Oh I’m alive
And this time I won’t forget

source

SHHM is Smithsonian Hispanic Heritage Month

Hello darlings! The plan this year was to celebrate all the Smithsonian Heritage Months. We’re still in the process – and who knows, there might be a repeat. But! I just wanted to let you know what “SHHM” stands for because you’ll be seeing it in front of all the posts from September 15 – October 15. Which, actually, is when Hispanic Heritage “Month” is. (I don’t get it either.) Anyway … Yay Hispanic Heritage Month!!!

I also wanted to let you know that I’m basically coming out of a 4+ month hiatus, so fingers crossed things will finally look up and stop being so crazy!

Thanks so much for sticking with me – I miss you all! <3

TBR Read: Hard Time by Cara McKenna

Hard Time by Cara McKenna
Contemporary Romance released by Penguin InterMix on April 15, 2014

Hard TimeAnnie Goodhouse doesn’t need to be warned about bad boys; good sense and an abusive ex have given her plenty of reasons to play it safe. But when she steps into her new role as outreach librarian for Cousins Correctional Facility, no amount of good sense can keep her mind—or eyes—off inmate Eric Collier.

Eric doesn’t claim to be innocent of the crime that landed him in prison. In fact, he’d do it again if that’s what it took to keep his family safe. Loyalty and force are what he knows. But meeting Annie makes him want to know more.

When Eric begins courting Annie through letters, they embark on a reckless, secret romance—a forbidden fantasy that neither imagines could ever be real…until early parole for Eric changes everything, and forces them both to face a past they can’t forget, and a desire they can’t deny.

I got an ARC of this book, and had heard a lot of positive buzz about it, so I decided to read it. I’d read one of Cara McKenna’s [much] earlier books, so I was interested in reading this one. I also thought it was really interesting to read a book that featured a romance hero who had been (or is) a convicted felon. That’s … intense. And not your typical hero material. However, I wanted to give it a go because I’d say I know more than the average person about our criminal justice system, and how things work, or don’t work. Because of that, it’s possible I may have been more forgiving and open. (Or just that I think about these things way more than most people do.)

Like last month, this isn’t going to be a formal review for many reasons … but I do want to talk about some things.

One [totally insignificant] detail that irked me was the strip search scene Ms. McKenna wrote in when Annie first went to the Correctional Facility. With the caveat that my jurisdiction of license/practice isn’t Michigan, I believe a Correctional Facility in Michigan is a prison. I’ve only been to jails not prisons, but even so I don’t think a strip search is usual procedure. If you’re going through intake, than yes, of course. Or, if you’re a suspicious character, and the officers there suspect you of smuggling contraband. A visiting librarian/instructor I don’t think would fall under that umbrella. Unless it was a maximum security facility? (But then she wouldn’t be going there in the first place…) I could go on, but I won’t. So anyway, you see that having that right there in the beginning stuck with me. Thankfully, I gave it some time, then powered on. I’m so glad I did.

I liked Annie, and the fact that she was generally reasonable. I don’t think I’d ever be in the position she put herself in, but it was interesting to read. (And never say never, amirite? ;)) I liked that she put herself first – after a hard lesson learned well before she met Eric. Then also, that she was willing to give the relationship a try and not shut herself off just because of her past. What’s also nice is that Annie sticks up for Eric. I liked that in a way, she was his champion.

Eric, for all that he’s a felon, is probably one of the most romantic heroes I’ve read in a long time. His letters and the way he acts … I think it’s necessary to counter the automatic assumption and stigma that comes with his criminal record. However, the violence of a moment doesn’t define him – it isn’t really who he is – even though to the world he’s stamped with the label and to many people that’s all he is, or will ever be. The strength of will and resolve that Eric has to build a life on the outside really impressed me. He did the wrong thing, and I can’t say his reason or motive was right, but he felt compelled to do it. I also appreciated the fact that Eric owned up to his actions, and made no excuses for them. I almost wished that he had at first, but the story was written exactly as it should have been. I don’t agree with “Street Justice” but I think I understand it. My hat is off to Ms. McKenna for writing that in a convincing and universal way.

Of course there’s family drama, and it was an interesting (and subtle) compare/contrast of Eric and Annie’s families. I in fact like the fact that Annie took a step back and the two didn’t immediately have a romantic relationship upon Eric’s release from prison.

I can see myself reading this book again. There’s so much more that I didn’t even begin to discuss – and it all fits so well. I don’t think Hard Time is an easy read, but it’s an enjoyable one. The journey to happily ever after for Eric and Annie isn’t your typical romance, and I appreciate the hangups and extreme amount of caution Eric employs throughout the book.

I can see myself re-reading Hard Time in the future, and definitely more of Ms. McKenna’s upcoming books.

Grade: B

You can read an excerpt here (warning: it may open as a PDF), or buy a copy here.

TBR Challenge Read: Savin’ Me by Alannah Lynne

Savin’ Me by Alannah Lynne
Contemporary Romance released by Alannah Lynne on August 6, 2012

Lies. Deceit. Backstabbing friends… Welcome to the jungle known as advertising…

Kat Owens can tell you all about the snake-infested world of big-time advertising. Thanks to an ex-best friend co-worker and a gone-wrong love affair with a client, she’s forced to leave her large Charlotte agency for a small-town coastal one. It’s do-or-die time to prove she can be a success to the aging grandfather she adores. Which means she can’t afford to be distracted by a client who’s a walking, talking definition of sex… Even if he is the man who stole her heart thirteen months before in a one-night stand she can’t forget.

Erik Monteague is a handsome, charismatic, highly respected businessman who has it all. Or so it seems. Only his closest friends know the truth about the guilt and emotional scars he carries, or why, following his fiancée’s death, he invoked the twenty-four/two rule. He never spends more than twenty-four hours with a woman, he rarely dates them twice, and he never thinks about them afterward.

But Kat Owens is different. She cheated him out of twelve hours, and now he can’t forget her. At least that’s what he tells himself, because admitting the truth is too dangerous. When she suddenly appears in his hometown, he sets out to finish what they started thirteen months earlier. But while his perfectly executed seduction gets Kat back in his bed, the emotional fallout is more than he counted on. Will he face his tragic past once and for all… or spend the rest of his life running?

This isn’t going to be a formal review because I’m bad … but I did want to make note of the book I read for the March challenge of A “New to Me Author” – and there are a lot to pick from. I think I saw Savin’ Me recommended as a kindle freebie, so I went for it.

I really like the romances where the hero falls first and falls fast. It might have something to do with reading all those earlier romances where the heroine just is in love with the hero “ever since she was a little girl” and just pines and pines for him for over a decade and he’s a total asshat and she’s a doormat – and you know those books. That is not the case here.

I think Ms. Lynne wrote wonderfully developed characters. Kat has a lot of depth, and is focused on her career, but she’s also willing to see reason. Even more than that, however, she’s not willing to take, or put up with Erik’s bullshit. I liked that she lived her life, and tried to do it without having to see or interact with Erik. Erik is sneaky though, and that’s the romance in the book. We all know they’re going to get together, but the journey was quite enjoyable. I found the story reasonable and realistic.

Obviously a lot of fun, and with lots of sex and chemistry between Kat and Erik too. There were some emotional moments, and I liked the focus on introspection from both Kat and Erik.

I liked this book – it was an enjoyable read and I can see myself looking for the rest in the series. If you’re looking for a solid contemporary romance, I suggest Savin’ Me. And you know what? It’s free for kindle right now.

Grade: C+

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

TBR Challenge Review: The Chocolate Temptation by Laura Florand

Review: The Chocolate Temptation by Laura Florand
Contemporary romance released by AOS Publishing on January 14, 2014

The Chocolate TemptationShe hated him.

Patrick Chevalier. The charming, laid-back, golden second-in-command of the Paris pastry kitchen where Sarah worked as intern, who made everything she failed at seem so easy, and who could have every woman he winked at falling for him without even trying. She hated him, but she’d risked too much for this dream to give up on it and walk out just so he wouldn’t break her heart.

But he didn’t hate her.

Sarah Lin. Patrick’s serious, dark-haired American intern, who looked at him as if she could see right through him and wasn’t so impressed with what she saw. As her boss, he knew he should leave her alone. The same way he knew better than to risk his heart and gamble on love.

But he was never good at not going after what – or who – he wanted.

He could make magic out of sugar. But could he mold hate into love?

The theme of February’s TBR Challenge is “Series Catch Up” and to be honest, there’s nothing for me to technically catch up on because I haven’t read any of the series. (Although isn’t starting at book six something of a catch up reading wise? ;)) I have to say, I read this because of all the Laura Florand buzz I’d been seeing constantly … but really because the premise of this book. I’m not usually one who goes for the “enemies” trope, but I’d say this one isn’t that.

I loved Sarah. She’s so neurotic and clueless and wonderful. I just think she’s fantastic. And actually, Sarah is really great – she’s just suffering from a total lack of self confidence, and I think we can all relate to that. I liked that she’s sweet and shy, but has a steel core. She seems so closed off and contained, but has such a huge heart. Patrick describes her as the fairy godmother, and that sums her up perfectly. She’s not the fairy tale princess – Sarah makes things happen on her own for herself, and the ones she loves. It might not always be the grand sweeping gestures, but the little things people take for granted, and she just continues on. Sarah is everyday in that she could be any regular person off the street – but one who excels at what she does.

Patrick Chevalier might be one of my favorite romance heroes because he’s just so perfect. Sarah pretty much describes him as a golden surfer god in looks and character. But he’s so messed up. It’s delightful. Patrick is a phenom in the kitchen, and I loved his casual arrogance. He’s not an asshole, just that he so summarily dismisses anything basic. He knows how good he is and can back it up – but he doesn’t throw it in your face, it just is. That’s sexy. What’s more sexy though, is how he falls for Sarah. He meets her and develops a crush on her basically on sight, and for the next five months just goes gaga for her. Only he can’t show it because basically he’s her boss. Patrick being denied something he wants is a lot of fun. Even sulky Patrick is charming and delightful.

Even though Patrick is Sarah’s superior in the kitchen it doesn’t seem skeevy. I think what helped is that Sarah has had a longstanding attraction to him as well – just that she suppressed it. Also that there are definite boundaries, and they remain professional in the work environment. The turning point (and I don’t consider this a spoiler because it happens so early in the book) is when Sarah tells Patrick she hates him. That’s the catalyst and spurs him into making his move. Sneaky loveable wonderful bastard that he is. One thing that I waver between is his interpretation? I’m not sure if Patrick is like “yes! She hates me! That’s a powerful emotion and means she feels something so I’m going for it! I can’t resist!or if he’s like “hate? She hates me? No! That … no! She can’t hate me – I have to change this.” Perhaps a mix of the two? (I kind of like the latter more, but that’s just me.) The aspect that makes this okay for me is that Sarah doesn’t really hate him – she just “hates” how he makes her feel and act, because she thinks she’s got this major case of pointless, consuming, unrequited love. How can you not love all this?

I had some issues with the book that I won’t get into because they’re hyper technical, and wouldn’t bother 99.9% of people. But if I think about them, it drives me crazy. … So yeah.

This book is just so freaking romantic (and sexy), and emotional – that line – and the following passage with the quote “then why are you still here” – if you’ve read it you know – it makes me cry every time. Every. Damn. Time. I love how developed Sarah and Patrick are. I love the relationship Patrick has with Luc. The way the relationship develops, how Patrick sets out to court Sarah, wooing her from the start with treats from the kitchen then treats outside of it … It’s even nice that there’s conflict and Sarah and Patrick work through it naturally.

I’ve already re-read this book, and I just know I’ll be reading this book many more times – and the other books in this series too. The Chocolate Temptation is probably one of my favorite books of 2014. Get a copy, read it. You’ll thank me.

Grade: A

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

TBR Challenge: The Plus One Chronicles by Jennifer Lyon

The Plus One ChroniclesSince this is the first challenge, I went all out, and read three short stories! They were all combined though, and really should be read all together. I read (as you can see) The Plus One Chronicles by Jennifer Lyon. (The Proposition, The Possession, and The Obsession.)

​I remember reading Part I: The Proposition around the time it came out. I also remember being surprised that it was a series series … because a) I tend to avoid them b) it was still relatively new for romances to not have closure at the end of the “book.” So, I knew I didn’t want to read on until it was finished and I could read the series in one go. I like Jennifer Lyon’s writing, and have since she wrote as Jennifer Apodaca. Remember those Brava anthologies? Good stuff. I know the theme for this month was “a short,” but I’d also been wanting a well written sexy story. I re-read The Proposition then immediately glommed on to The Possession, and immediately The Obsession​​.

The PropositionI’m not going to write a formal review because … well I don’t want to. But I do want to talk about the stor[ies]. Here’s the book blurb.

Savagely sexy billionaire Sloane Michaels ruthlessly controls his life and everything in it. Even his sex partners are carefully negotiated plus-one arrangements, including his latest, the fiery bakery owner, Kat Thayne. But Sloane’s control is challenged when his mentor becomes seriously ill, and his need for Kat, his need to possess her at all costs, rivals only his single-minded goal of vengeance for the murder of his sister.

After surviving an attack six years ago, Kat Thayne escaped her fears in the protective world of her beloved bakery. Then Sloane Michaels storms into her life, making her feel beautiful, strong and sexy. Yet as Kat pushes her boundaries and uncovers a dangerous secret in her past, Sloane’s controlling side emerges. Worried that Sloane will possess her mind, body and soul, Kat fights to keep her hard won independence. But just as Sloane demands her complete surrender, she discovers he has a dark side that could destroy them both.

The PossessionKat Thayne is a great character. I love how real she is – she’s damaged, but not broken, flawed, insecure, yet steady and certain. She’s basically the best we can all hope to be. I’d really love to be her friend, and to have a friend like that. Sloane Michaels is … as close to perfect as a guy (and hero) can get. He’s a giant teddy bear. And I mean giant. I liked how Ms. Lyons made the MMA aspect relevant, but not pedantic. The story is hot, but it’s also all about the relationship, which I find great. There was a part either in the second or third story where I got a little eye-roll-y, but the third story also made me cry. There’s this section that just … tears you up emotionally.

I don’t want to write huge spoilers, but I think Sloane’s driving force is habit, and his horrible mother. She’s what leads to the resulting conflict between Kat and Sloane, but they work it out. Usually I think the heroine is too soft for giving the hero another chance, or pursuing the relationship, but here it really worked, and I think was the best possible way for the story to be written.

Sloane’s light bulb moment is also a tiny bit deus ex machina, but I’m ok with it nonetheless. I know I sound incredibly vague, but I want you to read this trilogy! And then come back and talk to me about it!

I mean, chemist turned baker heroine, and MMA fighter turned billionaire mogul hero. They’re both damaged in different ways, yet the best they can be. Even the uber tragic past works – and usually I’m turned off by the excessively sad back story that doesn’t seem that realistic. (Thanks a lot for that, real life.)

The ObsessionI finished The Obsession at 3:30 AM and was practically screaming. Ms. Lyons is evil for ending Part II thus, and I was so glad I already had The Obsession on hand, so I could keep reading until I felt I reached an ok (and sufficiently happy) stopping point.

I also appreciate how Ms. Lyons gives us sufficient closure, and ends on a high note. I knew that things were good, that Kat and Sloane were going to work, and have their happy ever after, and that life would continue to happen, but they’d be ok. And isn’t that all we can ask for anyway?

So yay TBR challenge for pushing me to find and finish this series. I know I’ll be re-reading it, and looking for more of Ms. Lyon’s books. In fact, I found myself wishing for Marshall’s story, despite him already being engaged. In a way though, I hope that’s the end – always good to leave people wanting more, right? And I expect more wonderful, different stories from Jennifer Lyons.

(Incidentally, The Proposition is free right now for kindle/the kindle app, so go and get it right now!) Have you read these stories? Or anything by Jennifer Lyons/Apodaca? Any thoughts? :)