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Vivian Arend

REVIEW: Rocky Mountain Heat by Vivian Arend

REVIEW: Rocky Mountain Heat by Vivian Arend

Dear Ms. Arend:

Rocky Mountain Heat by Vivian ArendThis is the first book in Six Pack Ranch series which, given that there are six boys in the Coleman family, means that each book will likely feature one of the Coleman brothers.  The oldest brother is Blake and this story has a friends to lovers theme.  While I liked the concept – young girl blossoms into a woman who knows her own mind and pursues the reluctant prey, err, man – much of the story involving the family seemed extraneous and strange.

Jaxi is a friend of the Coleman family. She grew up around the boys and is considered by many to be one of the family. Perhaps kissing cousin may be a better descriptor because at one point or another, all of the Coleman boys have kissed her or more.  All except the one that she wants, Blake.

“You and Jesse kissed Jaxi? At the same time?” Blake was still reeling from the thought. “Was this before or after she went out with Travis?”

“Before.” Joel plopped on the bench next to Blake. “I still don’t understand why she ever dated him. I know he’s our brother and all, but sometimes he’s such an ass. Of all the guys she could have gone to Grad with, why’d she pick him?”

“I still don’t believe she kissed you and Jesse. Together.”

“Well, it wasn’t her idea, Blake. We were rather insistent. And she kissed us one at a time. It’s not as if I want my lips right next to Jesse’s. I’m not into that.”

Daniel sat across from them on a stool and joined in. “I kissed her once.” Blake barely stopped his jaw from hitting the floor. “Yup, only it was kiss her or kill her. She rode Thunder without permission, and when she managed to get him back into the barn without getting killed, I kind of lost my head.” Daniel winked at Joel. “You’re right, she is a sweet kisser.”

Joel poked at Blake. “You ever kiss her?”

“No! Course not. She’s just a little girl. I’m surprised at you, Daniel. She’s five years younger than you.”

“If I had been fifteen and her only ten, it would be have been a problem,” Daniel said. “She was old enough and she knew what we were doing. I didn’t give her much choice in the matter either. Looks like you’re the only Coleman boy she hasn’t kissed yet, Blake. Maybe we’d better set you up or something.”

…..

“Oh, that. Matt kissed her when she was thirteen. She told me about it.” Joel shrugged. “We were all down at the swimming hole, and Travis was teasing her how she didn’t need to wear a girl’s swimsuit yet, that she could still join them like she had as a little tyke, shorts and nothing else. Matt stopped the ass from being himself, then escorted her home. Jaxi told me he talked about changes, and how she would be a beautiful woman and not to worry when and where things would grow. Then he kissed her. She didn’t remember exactly what he said because she’d been surprised but it was something about a kiss for the woman she was going to become.”

When mother of the Coleman brothers gets injured, Jaxi comes to the house to help with the household duties.  While there, several of the Coleman boys flirt with her at nearly every encounter.

I struggled with all of the text around the romance between Jaxi and Blake.  Why did the story start out with Jaxi fighting with Trevor Coleman?  Why was she even dating him?  She had purportedly known that she wanted Blake forever so why would she date his brother when she had no real interest in the brother?  Her excuse was that she was trying to find someone her own age but why the brother?  At one point, she even offers to give Trevor a blowjob just to get him alone. There are no other boys in the region?  Some of her interactions with the Coleman brothers had an uncomfortable tinge of harassment in that they were constantly after her for some kind of sexual contact even though she wanted them to leave her alone.

After dinner Matt tugged her aside. “You want to go to the children’s summer theater performance at the community hall this Wednesday?”

She hesitated, panic flooding her. Not Matt too. Sweet, considerate, usually insightful Matt. He excited her about as much as a bouquet of dandelions. The expression on her face must have shown her fear because he chuckled and quickly reassured her. “I don’t mean with me, Jaxi. Hell if you need that kind of complication in your life right now. Not to mention you know Helen would have my balls if I stepped out on her.”

Her muscles unclenched slowly as he patted her shoulder. A pat from him felt proper, caring and supportive. It wasn’t a cop-out like the treatment from Blake the other day. If any of the Colemans was a big-brother figure to her, it would be Matt.

So what was the point of all the Coleman brothers panting after twenty one year old Jaxi?  Was it to show how virile the Colemans were? How sexy and desirable Jaxi was?  Did it show some kind of strange oversexed family dynamic?

Blake felt like he was far too old for Jaxi and despite the fact that he is intensely attracted to her resists because of their age differences.  The conflict felt weak to me.  Why was it that he felt too old for Jaxi?  Why did he feel like it was wrong to be attracted to her or wrong for her to be attracted to him?  After all, she clearly had kissed and felt her way around the Coleman brothers so surely she, like Goldilocks, figured out which bear was just right for her.

There was another romance that took place during the story between another brother Matt Coleman and his high school sweetheart, Helen.  I hesitate to call it a secondary romance because it took up a large part of the story.  Matt and Helen had never had another partner and Helen brought up the idea of a threesome. Matt really did not want to do this but he loved Helen and wanted to please her so he brought another man into their bedroom.  Matt looks at it as if honoring this request was respecting Helen’s wishes but I wasn’t convinced.  Matt really disliked the idea of having another man pleasuring Helen.  While it may have been sexy, emotionally it was very trying for Matt.  We had very little time spent in Helen’s head so I wasn’t entirely sure her motivations.  This was unresolved at the end.   The one sex scene that is included for Matt is a threesome and it felt very gratuitous as if there is some erotic romance checklist and we needed to have public sex, oral on a table, and menage. Check. Check. Check.

In the end, I felt like this was more family saga than romance.  Yes, there were romances or at least emotional conflict leading to a satisfactory ending for one couple in this story, but the conflicts and focus were really on the family dynamics of the brothers and their unsatisfactory sexual relationships.  Blake and Jaxi’s story resolves itself in the first third whereas the rest of the story is focused on the brothers.  Travis was dealing with finding the right partner and exploring his desire for pain that wouldn’t leave lasting wounds.  Jessie and Joel were brothers who wanted one girl to share.  Daniel had just been dumped by a long time girlfriend after finding out that Daniel couldn’t have children.  Matt and Helen had a complicated relationship.  Those storylines were interesting but I wondered why I had to field all of them in this one book.  I felt like this was a novella with a bunch of extraneous stuff, the oversexed Blake men seemed more comical than erotic, and the romance between Jaxi and Blake was simply not very interesting.  C-

Best regards,

Jane

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REVIEW: Turn It Up by Vivian Arend

REVIEW: Turn It Up by Vivian Arend

Dear Ms. Arend,

Turn It Up by Vivian ArendWhile heroines aren’t all the sweet young things they used to be when I started reading romances way too many years ago, it’s still nice to read about ones who are over age 30. And to have a younger man hot on her trail and determined to get her just tops it off nicely and is what got me interested in this story. But the book tends to skim over outside reactions to the relationship and when Max comes off as almost TGTBT, it waters the book down for me.

Maxwell Turner has been in love with Natasha Bellingham for years, ever since he was 17. When he discovers her plans, after a long string of failed relationships, to conceive via artificial insemination, he decides to make his move. He’ll volunteer for duty but with a caveat – he wants marriage and, eventually, forever with her. Can he get her to agree to his plans and then woo his way into her heart?

Okay, I do find a 17 year old saying he’s in love with a 27 year old slightly creepy but 24 + 34 = very much better, IMO. And he’s in love with her mind and personality as well as her bod which is okay too. The fact that Tasha was twitchy about any relationship with him, at least until he was years older, kept me reading. There’s marrying younger and then there’s cradle robbing and I know which I’d rather not read in a romance. At one point, Tasha wonders “A long term relationship. What exactly did that mean to a 24 year old?” which seems a legit worry to me. But Max is always shown as crazy in love with Tasha and this issue is never really explored to my satisfaction.

I’ve got to be honest and say that Max is almost too much of a good thing. Young, hot, attentive, mature outlook on life, good with children, great job, great family, clean bill of health, smart, honest and takes his responsibilities for her orgasms seriously. He’s like a Ken doll with gonads. Men like this – with no faults – exist? It’s nice not to have a rat bastard hero but come on.

So since Max is onboard with the relationship from before day one, the issues are almost all with Tasha. We haven’t really “seen” the losers she’s dated, not in this book, so the background provided has to stand in for why she’s so reluctant to drink the Koolaid of Max’s devotion. Her early childhood lack of love from parents + the drips she’s dated would account for this hesitancy on her part. That plus just getting over her initial reluctance to finally date Max and accept that he can be an object of desire after years of mental “hands off.”

I do like how Tasha’s movement towards emotional intimacy with Max is begun. She fesses up to him why she’s been holding back instead of stonewalling or denying. To me that’s a great sign of her growing trust in him and dismantling of the wall she erected around her heart. Thank goodness it’s not an instant “oh, now I’m ready for emotional intimacy after baring my heart.” She still needs some time. Maxwell doesn’t rush his fences, doesn’t push Tasha for something she’s not ready to give and that yields the results he wants and made me feel more comfortable about the HEA. The book takes time to allow for the natural development of love beyond the initial lust/like that Tasha readily admits to. Since this is such a big step for them – what with the baby already on the way and all – that’s important to me.

Since the rest of the Turner clan embraces Tasha and Max’s relationship, almost the only external conflict in the story is from one person. The vitriolic scenes with Lila are the only external sand in the Vaseline to the path of the HEA. The reasoning behind her intense opposition isn’t really made clear but that’s okay with me. Maybe you have future plans or maybe you’re going for realistic “some things we’ll just never understand” and let’s not dwell on this person’s negatives. The ultrasound tech’s mistake that Max is the brother instead of the husband and the one mention of Tasha’s thoughts about how a few people have given them “raised eyebrow” looks are the only other brief reminder to the reader that these two have faced some outside confusion/rejection of their relationship.

The reason for the MOC is for Tasha to get pregnant so I expected sex and lots of it. Fans of public sex will be happy to know that happens. And more than once. Plus lots of very intense – but emotionally as well as physically – private sexing. TBH, after the first encounter or two, I tend to skim sex scenes but for readers who savor each and every one, you provide lots of opportunities for them to do so. The sexual match up is perfect though with Max still ready at the drop of a hat and Tasha reaching her sexual prime.

I don’t get all mushy about children or pregnancy, so I was relieved that despite the fact that a baby figures so prominently in bringing about Max and Tasha’s relationship and is often mentioned for the rest of the book, that it isn’t All Baby, All the Time. And, as discussed earlier, that Baby doesn’t magically provide the only reason for Tasha to fall for Max. The birth scene is a hoot though.

Oh, hang it.” Tasha bent slightly, hands on her knees, her breath escaping in rapid gasps. Far too rapid.
He rubbed her back, feeling more than a little helpless. “Hey, remember our classes. Slower, if you can. You’ve got a long time to-’”
“Maxwell, I’ve been in labor for the past three hours, I think I’ve figured out the damn breathing bit.
Oh damn. Fuck, fuck, fuck, that one hurt.” She stopped again, trying to catch her breath, but it was a struggle. In the far distance, the siren of an ambulance cut through the air. The pain shifted, and suddenly instead of squeezing her to pieces, a sharp pressure speared between her legs. “Umm, Max?”
He ducked in front of her, staring up into her eyes. His face was white in the pale light, and he looked far older than usual. “What?”
“I need to push.” And like right now. She might want to wait, but this kid had other ideas.
“Shit, are you sure?”
She snapped at him. “No, it’s just a sudden fancy I have. Arghh, crap, this hurts. It didn’t so much-shit-until now, but- Oh my God.”

The road from “I’ll fill in for a turkey baster and btw I want forever” + Tasha’s acceptance of a MOC to a HEA on both sides is a long one. While Maxwell verges on almost TGTBT, it’s a nice fantasy. But it’s his constant showing of love and willingness for forever that helps breaks down her reservations. I wish there had been more time devoted to the few roadblocks on the way but they are dealt with and overcome by Max and Tasha working together and talking which trumps the “suddenly it’s all sunshine” resolutions I’ve seen before. Not everything worked here for me but enough to give it a B-

~Jayne

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