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REVIEW:  It Happened One Wedding by Julie James

REVIEW: It Happened One Wedding by Julie James

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“SHE KNOWS BETTER THAN TO SAY “I DO”

After a humiliating end to her engagement, investment banker Sidney Sinclair is done with commitment-phobic men. But when her sister winds up engaged after a whirlwind courtship, Sidney is thrown into close contact with exactly the kind of sexy playboy she wants to avoid—the gorgeous best man. She’s stuck with him, for better or worse, until her sister walks down the aisle, but that doesn’t mean she has to give in to his smooth advances, no matter how tempting they are…

BUT HE MAKES IT HARD TO SAY “I DON’T”

Special agent Vaughn Roberts always gets his man on the job and his woman in bed. So Sidney’s refusal to fall for his charms only makes him more determined to win over the cool and confident redhead. Only what starts out as a battle of wills ends up as a serious play for her heart. Because the one woman who refuses to be caught may be the only one Vaughn can’t live without…”

Dear Ms. James,

This has almost become a Spring ritual. The flowers start blooming, the trees start dumping chartreuse colored pollen on my car and I get to read the next book in your continuing FBI series. I’ll leave you to guess which 2 of those events I actually look forward to.

This book has a great beginning, a pretty good body and a wonderful finish which was more than I was expecting given the wedding theme, which is often a signal that the heroine is going to be embarrassed over the course of the story by well meaning people asking “So when are you getting married?” or she’ll be engaged in some frantic treasure hunt of an effort to snag a date for the big day. But even though Sidney actually is looking for a date for the date, it never felt like a pratfall to me as it was obvious that 1. Sidney’s got agency and 2. Vaughn was going to end up being The One and he was actually helping Sidney with Man-Speak. More on that later.

Sidney and Vaughn initially come together in a definitely not-meet-cute. Vaughn – in his guise of a bad-ass FBI agent who notices all – sees a hot woman on an obvious first date with a guy Vaughn soon pegs as an blowhard idiot. Later, when he tries to move in and ask Sidney out, she busts his balls. Sidney enjoys busting Vaughn’s balls and does so regularly and with great finesse which annoys yet intrigues him.

Sidney and Vaughn part ways thinking never to see each other again but of course we know better. Soon they know better too as they discover they are the siblings of the engaged couple of the title. Isabelle and Simon are just the most darling two people in love, so much so that, as Vaughn says, he almost expects singing birds and happy woodland animals to show up whenever those two are together. The set up that this allows, a wedding planner pressure cooker of three months, thus throws the best man and the maid of honor together all the time. Whenever anyone mistakes Sidney and Vaughn for a couple, the two recoil in horror and send out “wave off, wave off!!” signals. Since neither is looking to hook up with the other, they’re free to get to know each other in a way they never would have otherwise.

As they continue to talk along the way to helping get the whirlwind wedding off the ground, they don’t even realize that they’re beginning to share what’s most important to them such as Vaughn’s difficult early FBI assignments and the fact that doing those investigations was more professionally satisfying to him or Sidney revealing all the messy details on her father’s marital issues. And then Vaughn’ll do something nice like ask Sidney to tell him about her mother and what traits Sidney inherited from her. Plus he’s always available to interpret the texts and emails Sidney gets as she dates her way through Chicago’s single men. I enjoyed Sidney’s Man-Speak interrogations of Vaughn as he cracks the code men use to play women. His eye usually twitches when he does. I love that Sidney catches his giveaway mannerism fairly quickly and teases him about it all book long.

Yet still these two insist they’re not in love, no siree bob, not us, no way. Everyone around them senses something but Vaughn still swears that he’s not interested in giving up his fun bachelor lifestyle and Sidney won’t consider him since he fails her 34 Rules for knowing if a guy is worth bothering about for a long term relationship. Since I’m having so much fun watching them together I didn’t mind it taking them a while before the penny dropped and each realized that the other is the person they want to see after a sucky day at work, or just anytime for that matter. Not only did I like listening to their conversations but I loved watching them actually change and grow to be the people who are ready when Vaughn starts to talk about forever. B+

“So, I have a question.” She looked Vaughn right in the

eyes, for once not trying to hide her vulnerability. “What does

it mean when a guy who has spent years avoiding commitment

says he’s suddenly changed his mind? Is it a fluke thing he’s

going to regret in a couple of months, or is it the real deal?”

His hand caressed her cheek, his voice husky with emo-

tion. “It means he’s found the one woman who makes him

want to be a happily- ever- after type. So bring on the damn

singing birds and woodland animals.”

~Jayne

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REVIEW:  She’s Got Dibs by A.J. Nuest

REVIEW: She’s Got Dibs by A.J. Nuest

Dear Ms. Nuest:

I picked up She’s Got Dibs when it was free a few weeks ago, but then deleted it when the ebook opened to a dedication that made me think it would be a particularly heavy inspirational. Lesson learned. After I saw some enthusiastic discussion on Twitter, katiebabs was kind enough to lend it to me. I mostly enjoyed reading it, though not as much as she did.

dibsShe’s Got Dibs is most notable for its twist on the billionaire hero. Actually, two twists: Dibs (David Isaac Brenner) is not only a very sweet beta but — unusual realism — he’s not entirely in control of his money. His domineering family holds the purse strings to his charitable foundation, a fact that will lead to trouble.

The story is told from the point of view of events planner Tessa, who shares a steamy one-night stand with Dibs after they meet in an airport, then resolutely tries to shake him off. A very painful broken engagement has left her cynical and somewhat hysterical about love and relationships. Dibs pursues for awhile, then — again, a twist — actually gets the message and backs off. But when they wind up sitting next to each other on a plane, his hurt feelings burst out and an ashamed Tessa agrees they can be friends.

Since Dib’s idea of friendship is wining, dining, flowers, and caring for her every need, and he’s pretty darned hot, it’s not too surprising that Tessa finds herself falling for him against her will — which is, of course, exactly what he was aiming for. But things get complicated when both Dib’s disapproving parents and Tessa’s ex come into the picture.

This is the sort of story that inevitably brings the word “cute” to mind. For the first half, it was  fun to see Dib’s playful, semi-subtle wooing of Tessa, whom he nicknames Rex because of the way she attacks her food. Even if I didn’t entirely get why he was so into her, a hero with strong feelings who isn’t a controlling asshole is just kind of delightful to read about.  The book seemed overly long and there were a few editing errors, but since the storytelling was generally good, it was nothing I couldn’t overlook.

The second half of the story goes in a much angstier direction, and I started having some real issues with it. The prose began to feel over the top:

She longed for Dibs to arrive, needed the comfort of his arms, the soothing murmur of his voice in her ear. And at the same time, terror sizzled along her nerve endings each time she envisioned meeting his discerning gaze.

But there was no stopping the clock, and when the doorbell rang at five forty-five and she lifted her chin, a sob lodged in her chest, the weight of her decisions almost to much to bear.

Love shone like a ray of light on his face.

I also kept tripping over odd turns of phrase:

Cold steel hardened his gaze, and with the next stuttering heartbeat, grim reality sharpened every facet of the room down to one abhorrent truth.

And I started to get tired of the repetition. Tessa’s wangsting about how relationships always go wrong, Dib’s constant adoration, even the frequent references to his cologne got on my nerves.

But the kicker was when Tessa lied to Dibs when he most needed her honesty — practically gaslighting him — and not only was she hurt by his completely justified mistrust, but the lying was later framed as a virtue on her part, something she did for his sake.  That rocketed her into my heroine Hall of Shame.

I’m really torn on what to grade this, but because I was engaged for much of the book, I’ll potentially err on the higher side. C-

sincerely,

willaful

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