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REVIEW:  Echoes of Scotland Street by Samantha Young

REVIEW: Echoes of Scotland Street by Samantha Young

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Dear Ms. Young:

Shannon MacLeod is on the run. She’s fled Glasgow, her home town, to escape her last boyfriend, who beat her to a pulp. She’s come to Edinburgh  to start her life over. First order of business, find a job. She reluctantly goes to INKarnate, an award winning shop in town known for boasting the best tattoo artists. She’s reluctant because she’s a bit of a bad boy magnet, always attracting men who are bad for her, many of whom have abused the trust she puts into them. She knows the chances are high that she’ll meet someone unsuitable. But she tells herself that she’ll just be on her own, finally free to do as she pleases, including honing her skills as an artist, which she’s kept secret since her ex-boyfriend mocked her skills.

She gets the job at the shop, and soon meets Cole Walker, the shop’s manager and lead artist. Fans of the series know Cole. He’s the younger brother of Johanna from Down London Road, book 2 in the series. We first met Cole as a talented child who loved art and wanted to be a tattoo artist when he grew up. Sure enough, Cole is not only a tattoo artist, but a highly sought after one at that. He’s also gorgeous, and a genuinely kind person. Shannon is immediately wary of Cole. He recognizes her immediately, knowing that they met briefly when they were teenagers, but Shannon pretends not to remember, thoroughly intimidated by this obvious bad boy. Cole begins to flirt with Shannon, attracted to her “wee fairy” looks. But Shannon shuts him down in the harshest way possible.

Shannon is dealing with her own issues. On top of having been beaten and nearly raped by her ex-boyfriend, when she left him, she ran straight to her brother, Logan. Logan took it upon himself to beat the boyfriend so badly he was hospitalized. This landed Logan in jail and lead her family to blame her utterly for his imprisonment. Shannon knows they’re right. Her continued bad decisions about men have brought nothing but heartache to her, but now they’re affecting her family too. She’s completely resolved not to get involved with anyone.

But she’s deeply attracted to Cole. She knows that he’d be bad for her, but being around him all the time is torture. Needless to say, Cole is pissed and offended that Shannon made assumptions about the kind of person he is and their cold war is uncomfortable for everyone. Soon Shannon learns that she’s drastically misjudged Cole. Cole is not only universally known as a genuinely good guy, he’s got a wonderful family that loves him and a ton of friends. He’s on good terms with the women he’s been involved with in the past. It turns out Shannon has misjudged him. She apologizes, and Cole decides that they can be friends. But their attraction is still smoldering and one night they end up acting on it. Cole, of course, wants a relationship, but Shannon is afraid. She’s not sure she can trust anyone ever again, and she’s even more afraid that she’ll hurt Cole making him hate her. Cole assures her he realizes the risk, and is willing to take it, but when Shannon’s family insists that Cole is bad for her and she make a choice between them or him, what will she do?

I quite enjoyed this book, which is probably not a surprise to anyone. Cole is a classic Caregiving Alpha, wanting nothing more than to love and adore Shannon. He’s hot, amazing in bed, talented, sweet and generous. What’s not to like? Sadly, Shannon has a harder time than I would have liked learning to trust him. She’s got a ton of baggage and seems to be determined to make Cole carry it, despite the fact that he’s nothing but patient and loving to her. Because this is a New Adult book, I’m generally willing to allow for a level of immaturity from the characters, but Shannon pushing Cole away repeatedly was a bit tiresome. In the end, she messes up big, and at the urging of her brother gives a most excellent grovel, which was refreshing, as I felt strongly that it was her who needed to be worthy of him. Overall though, I felt like this couple was well matched and enjoyable to read. I always love revisiting past characters, and given that Cole and Hannah (the last book’s heroine) are a bit younger than the first group of characters, it’s really fun to see older characters with families now. Your sex scenes continue to be extremely hot and inventive, which I appreciate. In the end, I believed wholeheartedly in Cole and Shannon’s Happily Ever After and was glad to see the series get on back track after what I felt was a miss with Fall from India Place. Echoes of Scotland Street gets a happy recommendation from me. Final grade: B.

Kind regards,
Kati

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REVIEW:  Catching Hell by Mindy Klasky

REVIEW: Catching Hell by Mindy Klasky

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Anna Benson is an eager “May” to Zach Ormond’s downright sexy “December”.
At age thirty-seven, Zach is a veteran catcher in the last years of his contract, grateful for a no-trade clause that will let him retire a star in Raleigh. Twenty-five-year-old Anna has grown up in the Rockets’ front office; her grandfather has long groomed her to take over the team.

When Zach finally realizes Anna is no longer a star-struck kid, their passion flares like a game-winning grand slam. But after a freak accident injures a young phenom and forces the team to land a new player, Anna must sacrifice Zach for the Rockets, convincing him to forfeit his hard-won no-trade guarantee.

There’s hell to pay. He’s doing everything in his considerable seductive power to make her keep him—on the team and in her bed. How can Anna and Zach live happily ever after when their romance will destroy the team they love?

Dear Ms. Klasky,

I’m glad that you kept listing your Diamond Brides series on our submissions site until I wised up and decided to give one a try. For readers looking for a shorter length novel or those interested in sports romances, I can recommend this one as a good starting point to what looks like a long season of baseball romance. Though this is the second book in the series, I never felt lost for not having read the first one yet.

When I realized “Catching Hell” was in the short category book size, I wondered if it would feel complete without also being rushed. You manage to tell a whole romance arc because for one both characters have known each other for years even though the beginning of their association is when the heroine is ten and the hero is twenty-two. The second reason is that the story is ruthlessly focused on just these two people and their issues. The hero of the next story is mentioned and the heroine has a small role here but they are included only to the extent needed to work for this story and do not act as obvious sequel bait.

The difference in ages between Zach and Anna did have me squirming just a bit as the story opens but both Anna and Zach do think about and acknowledge this and move past it. Still it’s 12 years for those who are counting.

I’ll be the first to admit that I enjoy baseball more in a story than I do in real life. However the baseball stuff feels real or at least it seems real to me. As well as having older Zach concerned about his aching knees, there is a lovely scene where he and Anna watch a game together and bond some more over the intensity with which they analyze it like a chess game.

As well it has the nitty gritty details of owning and running a team but with the real counterparts who would be there – scouts, the manager, coaches, etc. Anna isn’t trying to do all this on her own. I also love that Anna is shown having agency and being competent and also being respected for this. True fans of the game will probably appreciate that it features a made up team with a fictitious name in a town without an existing major league team.

The conflict here is genuine and not something silly that could have been solved by the ubiquitous five minute conversation. Anna has the team’s overall future to worry about while Zach is obviously concerned with his own. There’s no real villain here just two people working out issues. Real Life stuff.

At first the methods that the Rockets management use to try and encourage Zach to wave his no-trade clause are funny – and he treats them that way, brushing them off as minor inconveniences – but as the situation drags out, I started to wonder how this would play out in the real world. Would a MLB team be so petty or would they go straight to the finale that Anna devises? I’m not sure but as the stakes escalated I thought about how it might negatively impact the rest of the team.

So how was the romance? Sexy and smexy. Anna knows what she wants. Zach knows what he wants. They both end up wanting the same thing and going for it with gusto. There’s no double standarding here and Zach appreciates Anna’s enthusiasm and skill as a lover.

As for the long term relationship, I was delighted that so many opportunities for a Big Mis to rear its head were avoided. Yeah, Zach and Anna are on opposite sides in the contract dispute but they manage to still work on that and keep up a separate romance at the same time. When the chips were down, a compromise – that I sort of had worked out in my head – was reached and everyone got what they wanted and needed. And for those wondering, they might be surprised at just who ends up suggesting the compromise.

It’s fast, fun, and flirty. It’s a shorter novel but it concentrates on the essentials so it feels complete. There is enough time that passes so I can believe that the attraction is more than a passing fling – well, Anna has moved through all those stages already and Zach figures it out fairly soon. As I said, I do like that Anna is shown as knowing her baseball stuff and being respected for that.

I had fun reading this, the time seemed to zip by, the characters are intelligent, talk to each other and the conflict is real. The resolution makes sense and I can see myself continuing further with the Raleigh Rockets and their love lives. B

Jayne

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