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REVIEW:  The Best Kind of Trouble by Lauren Dane

REVIEW: The Best Kind of Trouble by Lauren Dane

BKOT

Dear Ms. Dane:

I have a weakness for a number of romance hero types, billionaires, MMA fighters — really athletes of almost any sort, and rock stars. We were introduced to the Hurley brothers, who comprise world famous band Sweet Hollow Ranch in your book Delicious. In this book, we meet Paddy Hurley. One day, as Paddy sits in his favorite coffee shop in Hood River, Oregon, he spies a vision from the past. In she clicks in her heels and pencil skirt — Natalie Clayton, reformed wild child, now town librarian.  You see, Paddy and Natalie had a really hot two week hook up before Sweet Hollow Ranch made it big. Paddy never forgot Natalie, and her tempting tattoos. To his dismay, his flirtatious hello is roundly rebuffed by Natalie, who pretends not to recognize him. Well this is new, women don’t generally turn down flirting from Paddy Hurley. But he’s determined — he has extremely fond memories of Natalie, and would like to renew their acquaintance.

Natalie is frankly pretty horrified to see Paddy. She’s not that girl any more. After a rough childhood with her rich, constantly high as a kite father, and her subsequent young adult rebellion, Natalie is looking for a quiet life. There is absolutely nothing about Paddy that screams quiet. Oh sure, he’s still sex on a stick. But she knows that nothing about Paddy’s life is conducive to the low profile, quiet she craves. She can’t deny that she’s tempted though, and when Paddy launches a full on charm offensive, she agrees to dinner.

Of course, Natalie acts on that attraction and soon she and Paddy are embarking on an extremely hot affair.  Paddy is charming, kind and is only interested in wooing Natalie. But he’ll soon go on the road, and there will be other women pursuing him. Plus, Natalie has her own hang ups about the relationship. She grew up in a house where her father was always either addicted to something, or going through the 12-step process. And after giving him multiple opportunities to screw up their relationship, Natalie has resolved that her father should not be in her life. Her past has provided a big hang up for Natalie about addictive behavior, and Paddy lives large while he’s on the road. Natalie is reluctant to lay her heart on the line but she can’t help but be attracted to Paddy, who finds a peace in Natalie’s steadiness and sensibility. He knows in his heart that Natalie is the one, now he just has to convince her of that.

I’m a huge fan of the “hero in hot pursuit” trope. And Paddy Hurley is in hot pursuit. He knows almost immediately that Natalie offers him something that he’s found nowhere else — peace from the wilder aspects of his life. He’s determined to show Natalie that when he’s not on the road, his life is quite normal. But she knows that there are temptations everywhere for him and that despite the life he has here, life on the road is a different thing altogether. She has protected herself her entire adult life from the fast life that her father lived and that Paddy now represents. But is the Paddy she knows in his “real” life the one who she’ll find on the road?

This book is definitely a character/relationship driven book. It focuses on two strong individuals coming together and building a life-long love. It’s what works so well for me. No one is a villain. No one acts in an extreme way. Both characters have childish moments. There are speedbumps and hurdles they must cross. But the story remains focused on them coming together as a couple. The book does revisit Damien and Mary from the Delicious series, and also introduces both Natalie’s best friend, Tuesday, and the other Hurley brothers, Ezra and Vaughan, all of whom will be featured in subsequent stories.  As always, your love scenes are hot and varied and serve to build the characters’ relationship, rather than being gratuitous. Overall, I really loved the book, and finished it so excited to see what comes next in this sexy new series. The Best Kind of Trouble is the best kind of reading. Final grade: B+.

Kind regards,

Kati

 

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REVIEW:  Between the Spark and the Burn by April Genevieve Tucholke

REVIEW: Between the Spark and the Burn by April Genevieve...

spark-and-burn-tucholke

Dear Ms. Tucholke,

Between the Spark and the Burn is the follow-up to your debut, Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, which I read and enjoyed last year. It continues the story of Violet, whose life was rocked when the Redding brothers walked into her life. I won’t summarize what happened in that book — the review’s linked right there. But I will warn new readers that because the books are tightly linked, there may be spoilers in this review. Tread carefully!

The story picks up a few months after Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. Despite his promise, River still has not returned to Violet and she begins to fear the worst. Then one night, on a late night paranormal radio program, she hears rumors of weird occurrences and “devil sightings” in an isolated country town. Suspecting that it might be River–or worst, the murderous Brodie–she and Neely (the third Redding brother who stayed) go on a road trip.

They arrive, only to find that River–or Brodie–is gone. But they find clues pointing to other places the brothers may have gone. So their road trip leads them on a chase from one town to next, as they track the brothers. They always seem to be one step behind, until they catch up to River in a North Carolina island community. There, Violet learns her fears were quite founded. Now to find Brodie — except he might be closer than any of them ever suspected.

While I think Between the Spark and the Burn has the same dreamy gothic tone as its predecessor, I enjoyed this book a lot more. I’m fond of road trip stories, and this is basically a gothic monster hunter road trip story! All of my favorite things in one.

I really liked Violet in this. She loves River. She always will in some way. While I wasn’t really okay with these feelings in the previous book for reasons I explained in the linked review, I apprecated how much Violet has grown in the months between. She doesn’t trust River anymore because despite his promise not to, he’s used his powers and they’re harming people. Because of this, she refuses to let herself fall into the same trap again. He’s bad for her, she realizes it, and she makes the correct decision. Essentially, all of the misgivings I had about the first book are addressed. The screwed up relationship is presented as screwed up. It’s not presented as romantic. I loved that this happened!

I also really liked the burgeoning relationship between Violet and Neely. It’s a variation on one of my favorite tropes: Girl goes after guy… and ultimately ends up with guy’s brother/best friend instead. And while you can argue that it’s Bad Boy (River) versus Nice Boy (Neely), I didn’t view it as a love triangle for the reasons I stated above. I understand why other readers would, but by the time they catch up with River, I felt confident that Violet’s feelings for him stopped being romantic and became one more of responsibility and debt. Because of the things River did in the past, and because of the horrible things he does in this book, Violet will never feel the same way about him as she once did. She can’t.

The twist involving Finch made me gasp. It was so obvious. The signs were all there, but I was determined to believe that I was wrong. Never have I been so sad to be right! (I mean this in a good way.) Still, well done on that particular plot thread.

One thing I wish the book had more of is close female friendships. Violet’s friend, Sunshine, is absent for large stretches of the book and while Pine and Canto are introduced, the former only makes brief appearances and the latter is wrapped up in Finch. It just seemed like it was all about Violet and her relationships with the brothers. Yes, that is the premise, but it would have been a nice to see another dimension to her life.

If you imagine a Stephen King story written for the YA set in a gothic style, you’ll get this book. I think the two books together make a fabulous whole. And if you were like me, and viewed the romance in the first book with distaste, know this book will satisfy you. B+

My regards,
Jia

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