Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Book Review for Rough by Vanessa Vale and Renee Rose

ROUGH (Wolf Ranch)

Pack Rule #1: Never reveal to a human.

I broke that rule the day I met the beautiful doctor.

I might be a rodeo champ, but one look at her, and I lost my concentration.

The bull tossed and gored me, and now the sweet female is on to me.

When I healed within hours, she knew something wasn’t right.

My alpha told me to watch her.

Not a problem. I’ll watch her all right. Real close.
I’ll stick to her like superglue.

And those human men who want to date her?
They’d better step back.

Because the doctor is all mine.
Whether she knows it yet or not.
"It seemed I was a glutton for punishment. And orgasms."

I am at a crossroads with this one. I read a shifter romance. Well, a COWBOY. SHIFTER. romance. And, well....

Put it

Crazy, coming from me - I can assure you, I can't believe it either. I haven't read one of these in a very long while, my first being Katy Regnery's It's You duet - and I loved that one, It's been four years, so I feel like I was ready to try this trope again - because, at that time, I wasn't sure anything could top my "first time" experience. This obviously tips into the PNR side of things and it's an area of reading I'd love to dive deeper into, so this was an easy purchase and read. 

How did I ever find this, you ask? Well, I have seen Vanessa Vale's name around quite a bit with the blogger sign-ups I get, but I have never read her. Most of the time, I catch her mid-series and I don't really jump into those. But Renee Rose was a completely new to me author in every sense of the word. I don't think I recall ever hearing her name. ANYWAY, I got an email and their book was listed in the sales section from another author I get a newsletter from....so, needless to say - $.99? Sure! Why not! I'll just grab this, see what it's like and see if I want to finish the series out. 

And there you have it. I found another series to tag along behind and read when I have a few moments to throw a quickie in. I seriously read this one in ONE sitting and I never do that. Ever. I'm still laughing at myself.

But, to be open and fair and honest with my review, as much as I enjoyed this one - the writing was.....young. Immature? Rough around the edges? I don't know if I can explain it accurately, because it was easy to follow, but it was almost basic. I'm sorry!! I'm sorry. I know that sounds rude, but I can assure you I am not trying to be rude. Again, look at the above bold sentences. I honestly couldn't put this down. 

Down and dirty? Check.
Raunchy? Ummm.....maybe? 
Hot? I mean, it could fall in that category.
Intriguing? Most definitely.
Will I read more? Yep!

With this being my first read by these authors, and my second shifter romance EVER, not only did I have some new voices to check out, but I also had a still very wet-behind-the-ears genre for me. So the discovery and exploration has me paying close attention since it's all new. I seriously enjoyed it. I am laughing at myself because I can't believe that I'm typing those words out. It's not that I never wanted to read it, I just didn't think I could wrap my head around the idea of a shifter romance, especially from new to me authors. But I did, and get this: I can't wait to read more. Not only do I want to find out about the other brothers in this series, but I want to read more of this trope. (Even from other authors) I want to see what can be done with this trope because it does pull at me to discover more. I may just have to ask for some shifter recommendations....

What fascinated me was I found myself flipping the pages and blowing right through it. I didn't stop for much....but I also didn't highlight much for reference or quotes either. Not sure I found much to highlight, to be honest, but it was entertaining nonetheless. 

I will say that I feel like I missed out on some good background building - especially if I were new to this genre (which, clearly, I am). It could have been explained and built upon in that aspect a little bit more, but it was most definitely entertaining enough that I read it quickly and easily - so, again, that makes me that much more interested in reading more. I am a slow reader. I have never been shy about that fact - but I seriously couldn't stop reading it!! 

MY TRUTH: Will I spend $5 for each subsequent story? No, probably not. It wasn't that mind blowing - but I won't lie and say I won't read more. If they go on sale - I will buy them up and happily (and excitedly) read them. It says a lot to me that I am willing to forego well-written for a great, entertaining story. I will always choose a story that keeps me entertained, and this one did exactly that. Again, not denying that I enjoyed it - because I did, but I just don't think I'm willing to spend that much for each one, unfortunately. I felt like it was missing a few key things that could have made it amazing, so that does give me pause on the price tag. Other than that, very fun read and I will look out for more. 


Personal read, no giveaways

USA TODAY BESTSELLING AUTHOR RENEE ROSE loves a dominant, dirty-talking alpha hero! She's sold over a million copies of steamy romance with varying levels of kink. Her books have been featured in USA Today's Happily Ever After and Popsugar. Named Eroticon USA's Next Top Erotic Author in 2013, she has also won Spunky and Sassy's Favorite Sci-Fi and Anthology author, The Romance Reviews Best Historical Romance, and has hit the USA Today list seven times with her Wolf Ranch books and various anthologies.



Vanessa Vale is the USA Today bestselling author of sexy romance novels, including her popular Bridgewater historical romance series and hot contemporary romances. With over one million books sold, Vanessa writes about unapologetic bad boys who don’t just fall in love, they fall hard. Her books are available worldwide in multiple languages in e-book, print, audio and even as an online game. When she’s not writing, Vanessa savors the insanity of raising two boys and figuring out how many meals she can make with a pressure cooker. While she’s not as skilled at social media as her kids, she loves to interact with readers.

You can find out more about Vanessa at VanessaValeAuthor.com




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Monday, April 12, 2021

Book Review and Giveaway for We're Made of Moments by Molly McLain


We were made of moments.

A handful of nights.
Two weeks of passion.
Four years of denial.

She was never mine to keep, but I took every second that girl was willing to give me.
I always knew she’d go back to him.
But I never expected she’d take a piece of me with her.
He changed my life forever, and it happened long before our two weeks together.
I didn’t mean to fall for him.
But how could I not when he gave me the most precious gift of all?

WE'RE MADE OF MOMENTS (A COLE CREEK NOVEL) is the first book in a brand new, small town romance series by Molly McLain. This series is full of Molly’s guaranteed feel-good vibes, amped up emotion, and page-sizzling heat. If you liked the River Bend and Velocity series, you will LOVE Cole Creek!

"He tastes like moonlight and stars, of wishes made and wishes come true."

I FEEL LIKE I leveled up in the book reading department!!! I love adding new to me authors, and I especially love finding an author that I can listen to tell me a story. This is my second new to me author in a row, and I am so glad to say that Molly McLain will definitely be an author I read more of.  If she can deliver me a story that has a small, hometown feel with a Hero that has all the benefits of a hardworking man as well as the morals and manners that his momma taught him - sign me up. This is exactly the kind of story that makes me love small town romances. McLain nailed everything there is about Jesse, but bringing in the "city girl" that he falls for and making her all the right kinds of perfect for him? I'm telling you, I am walking away all smiles with this one.

First of all, the draw to this book was the guaranteed turmoil that was sure to be going on in their hearts based on that synopsis alone. It's no secret I like a romance that proves a love never died, or that a love should never be ignored. You know, kinda like fate. I like a love story that gives me an uphill battle for something that I've known all along....but I wanted to watch it play out. I got that with this book. I got allll that with this book.

I essentially signed up for and received:
- Cool summer nights, hot chemistry, and an undeniable attraction
- Smiles were aplenty, the trust was easy, and the innocence was all natural
- A quiet lake to set the mood, complete with a bright summer moon and hours of stargazing

All together, I couldn’t stop smiling. This book gave me everything I needed!!! Their banter was so addictive! It was an easy, unforced banter with a very flirtatious undertone. They bounced smiles off each other in the dark of night by the lake and I couldn't help but giggling with them. I seriously got the butterflies and the giggles from not only their banter, but their innocent actions. They were a natural draw to each other and I could feel the electricity in the air. I liked that they had a flirty meeting, boundaries in place - but fate had other plans. I *loved* that. 

"Let's get something clear, city girl. Touching you would one hundred fucking percent be for me, too."

There was a good push and pull with all the relationships that were working in tandem - for and against each other. There was a realistic anger issue between Lane, Hayden and Jesse and it served its purpose and provided a truth that was relatable on many levels. It wasn't a manufactured anger either - which I can applaud McLain for (because we know how much I hate fake drama!!). I could appreciate the position Hayden was in because I understood the circumstances of their background and their history. It was real, (been there, done that) and I easily understood the different sides and the pull she had for each individual circumstance....and man. But, it never hurts to say that jealousy is a nasty thing. But sometimes, sometimes people need to stay in their own LANE.

This was the perfect introduction to Molly McLain's writing for me. She provided a story that held my attention while I fell in love with her characters and their plight. It really pulled on my heartstrings and gave me something that I could really relate to on a personal level.

I do want the last word to be about Jesse, though. Just Jesse. He is ALL MAN - a different caliber of man. A true gentleman that was all real, and no misguided illusions of strength or grandeur - just an honest, homegrown, genuine man. He is the kind of guy that is straight up confidence. Not cocky and rude, just very sure of himself - and rightfully so. A silent determination and he knew he was all that which made me weak in the knees. *bites knuckle* So sexy!! He definitely made me swoon hard....I can't deny that much. And the respect that he showed? A man that respects not only the mother of his child, but his woman too. Soooo sexy on a man. So very sexy. He was simply delicious. And perfect. Yes, oh so perfect.

Oh, and that cover? MAGIC. Pure magic because I could ONLY picture him every time Hayden described him. It was a delicious addition to my overall enjoyment of this book. I'm probably not explaining well just how much I fell in love with this story and Jesse....but I hope that you can see and understand how hard I fell. 

"Love is never wrong."


And now....I will anxiously await Aiden's story in More Than a Memory.  

Releasing December 17, 2021


Detective Aiden Enders & Dr. Olivia Bishop's full blurb coming soon!

A small town second chance romance with his best friend's sister.

Molly McLain lives in a tiny Wisconsin town with her husband, three kiddos, and two adorable
German Shorthaired Pointers. She's addicted to 80's ballads, 90's rock, cheesecake, and office
supplies, and she's been scribbling down love stories in spiral notebooks since she was old enough to
daydream about hunky boys and happily-ever-afters. Now, she turns those daydreams into steamy,
small town romance novels.





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Thursday, April 8, 2021

Book Review and Giveaway for The Truth Pact by CM Albert

Ryan Wells 
Olivia North was everything I always wanted. From the moment I laid eyes on her, I knew nothing would stop me from having her. Not even being her professor. In the end, I got her. Got the white picket fence and historic home, too. But nothing could replace the babies we lost before they were ever born, or the sleepless nights that followed.

We made a pact once, in those early days of grief. We would always put each other first and be honest about everything. Because the only way through our mourning would be together. Until it wasn’t. When our last baby was stillborn, I was afraid I’d lose Olivia forever. The vibrant woman I’d married was slipping away under the weight of her unbearable pain. So, when Brighton Kerrington moves in next door to renovate his uncle’s property, and I see light return to those haunted blue eyes, what do I do? The one thing that could cost me my entire world.

I’d do anything to see Liv happy again—even if it means ripping my own heart in two to sew hers back together again. But when pleasure replaces pain, the truth exposes more than we bargained for. What was meant to bind us together in love might be the very thing that tears us apart.

They say the truth shall set you free. They never tell you the cost.

Trigger Warning: The main character is dealing with grief as a result of miscarriages and a stillbirth.

"The eyes held feelings one couldn't speak from the heart."

FIRST ORDER OF BUSINESS: I’m not here to judge anyone’s personal beliefs or ideas or desires. I like different things and the excitement of discovering new things. So naturally, gravitating towards this book was a no-brainer for me - I knew what I was getting into. I knew the premise down to the very reason for this kind of storyline, so with that in mind - I enjoyed this one immensely. The taboo thought process and how well it all fell into place was of great interest to me. And, might I add, the WTF moments correlated well with the OMGosh moments. This won’t be for everyone – but I liked following Ryan, Olivia, and Brighton as they made their way through a time when feelings trumped morals, whether it was right or wrong....and in whose eyes. There was an unmasked desire that flowed through all three of these characters, and for once - I loved the breakdown of communication, but also the pickup that resulted from it - THE TRUTH PACT. I'm still smiling thinking about how this all came about: how curiosity and need turned sexy and, eventually, tumultuous. 

NOT ONLY was this a new to me author, it was a story that wasn't exactly mainstream and I loved the taboo side of it, as well as all the feelings that this one encompassed. Innocence and guilt shared the same lines. There was a bevy of emotions to dissect within the pages of this book. The hurt, the unchecked hurt, the hidden and very apparent anger, the happiness....and, in turn, the cause of the happiness. It could be perceived as so, so wrong-  on a moral compass of sorts. So so wrong, but there was energy in their touches, electricity in the air between them, and emotion thick in their lungs. You can completely visualize their reactions to each other and that was fun to experience. I mean, at that point....who's to say it's wrong?

"The feeling of two sets of hands, and two sets of lips, worshiping every inch of my body as if I were the most precious treasure on earth was more intoxicating and all-consuming than I ever could’ve dreamed."

So many things run through my mind, mainly the thought wondering what Olivia's actually feeling at that very moment Brighton takes her hand. First kisses her? Takes her? Is she feeling alive for the first time in months? A weight off her shoulders but heavy in her heart knowing this shouldn't feel so right? That warring feeling has to be hard mentally and emotionally on all of them involved because emotions....those pesky emotions, can be volatile things. But, honestly watching the love of your life light up again and the conflicted nature of your own feelings has got to be devastating for Ryan, to top it all off.

I couldn't get enough of the emotional impact every action and reaction had on these people. I was thoroughly intrigued beyond words...

A few times Brighton had a more feminine, more softer tone to his thoughts and actions, but I imagine that part of the draw for Ryan and Olivia was his emotional availability - as much as he wanted to hide it, they saw it. No doubt he was ALL man; he was a very strong and humble man. But I found myself questioning, how do you go into this type of an arrangement with a clear mind? With the best of intentions (and desires) and not expect to come out with a jumbled heart or questions and emotions you don't know how to internally process, let alone discuss? My emotions were all over the place with this one. I can’t imagine trying to make something work like this and not knowing how intense emotions can and will affect everyone involved. I fell hard, so very hard for Brighton, and HE had my heart during this entire story. He was one of my favorite characters.....ok ok, I’m lying. He’s my favorite out of this throuple - he has me giggly and weak-kneed. I understand now why she called it The Brighton Effect. 

I LOVED this story for the push and pull that this type of relationship offers and what this book actually provided in terms of emotional chaos. It really worked for me. My gosh - this throuple was exactly what I needed in this story. The men were both great guys and didn’t provide much animosity when it came to me falling for either of them, and my empathy for Olivia was definitely there. While I haven’t been in her shoes, I’ve been in her situation, so I could feel her pain and I’m sure that endeared me to her a little bit more. I suppose she may irritate some, but at some point, my heart could release any perceived misgivings and understand the needs of Ryan's desperate need to help his wife heal....and Brighton's willingness to help. Best intentions and all, right?

In the truest of truths, I have to admit that I initially struggled with Ryan’s push more than anything else. It didn’t sit well with me in the beginning. It had nothing to do with adding a third - because, yummy. I had no issues with that at all. It certainly wasn’t my reasoning for feeling off about it because I've read and loved many throuple stories. It was more to do with how Ryan presented it. But, as I got deeper into the story, I noticed the trust Olivia had with him - it was earned for a reason, because she gave that willingly to him. But going deeper into the context, the memories they had and shared... it all lined up and made a lot more sense. It was just the original way it was presented that caught me off guard. And of course, that was the added benefit for the turmoil NECESSARY to carry this type of book for me. And I loved it!! HA!

This read won’t be for everyone and I walked into this knowing that very truth. But for those of us that like these kinds of stories that don’t necessarily follow a normal path and like to explore the opportunities other relationships provide - this one is for us. It’ll fit the reader that has the ability to walk away from normalcy and add a different thought process to their imagination. It definitely takes a special kind of man/men to go along with this type of plan. And that is exactly why I couldn't put it down and I couldn't walk away. If you're looking for a moral, or safe story, this isn't it. If you're looking for a story that allows three people to test the boundaries of their emotions with an entanglement worthy of a few gasps and some angst to top it off, this just might be for you. I personally loved it. As in, I cannot wait to read more of this throuple. 

One of my favorite things is to find a book that makes me think, one that draws me in and makes me feel. The discovery is the best part of the journey and when a book makes me think or makes me feel outside of my own comfort zone, that’s the kind of book that I can and will recommend. Props. Serious props for thinking up, writing and releasing this story. I, for one, am glad she did. And now, I (im)patiently await Brighton’s POV because I’m a thousand percent invested in him. For my first read of Ms. Albert’s, what an impression. Thank you!

"Nothing turns me on more than watching the two of you surrender together."


Releasing on May 6th


Releasing May 6th
Brighton Kerrington
Olivia North was everything I always wanted. From the moment I laid eyes on her, I knew nothing would stop me from having her. Not even her husband, Ryan. In the end, I got her. Maybe it wasn’t all to myself, but Olivia was worth every sacrifice I made to be with her.

What started as a chance to help Olivia heal from the loss of her babies, ended up changing us all forever. Because there wasn’t anything Ryan and I wouldn’t do to make her happy—including sharing her love. Forgiveness and healing are strange bedfellows, but when it comes to love, nothing is off limits.

But everything comes at a cost, and there are key moments that end up changing our lives forever—altering the trajectory we were once on. Before all is said and done, the three of us end up paying more than we ever bargained for. Could our unorthodox love survive the hands of fate, or was it all just the beginning of the end?


USA Today bestselling author C.M. Albert writes heartwarming romances that are "sexy and flirty, sweet and dirty!" Her writing infuses a healthy blend of humor, high-heat romance, and most of all--hope. When not writing, or kid-wrangling with her handsome hubby, she's either meditating, kayaking, reading, hugging a tree, or asleep. But first, coffee. #TonyStarkForever




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Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Book Review and Giveaway for Master of Salt and Bones by Keri Lake


When I was a little girl, I dreamed a handsome knight would come and rescue me from my wretched mother. He'd ride up on his white steed and break the curse I've been fated to carry since the day I was born.

Funny how things changed over time. How the fairy tale twisted into something far more crooked, darker than I ever imagined.

In reality, my knight is scarred and broken, living alone in a castle of bones that overlooks the sea. He isn’t searching for me. He never was.

Lucian Blackthorne is as cursed as I am, and equally shunned by the locals, the fishers of men, who believe him to be the devil in the flesh.

Perhaps he is, with the way his amber eyes draw me in, ignite me like an infernal blaze. And the sins he whispers in my ear are as wickedly intoxicating as the man himself.

Yet, his touch is heaven and his will is my weakness.

He calls us forbidden, an unsalvageable tragedy, with no happy end. Maybe we are. But in this story, he’s the one who needs saving.

"You're my curse. Staying away from you, is like trying to hold my breath when the tide is rising. I want to drown in you."

#HappyBee - I *finally* read this book after having it recommended to me for months! I remember first seeing it and being intrigued - so I added it to my TBR. It has taken me a few days to gather myself after reading this book (and apparently a few months to publish my review - oops!), so here I am attempting that feat. But, what a great introduction to a new to me author!! Trying to put into words all my different thoughts is proving more difficult than I thought. - and it's not like I have a massive hangover or it bled me dry. It's actually quite funny because my feelings on it are more of the "WOW, I can't believe I haven't read her before and I really like her voice." and "There is so much to say and discuss, there's no way I will get it on one review!" I don't know what's taken me so long to read Keri Lake in general, but after reading this book, she will for sure be added to my list of authors to read more of. She is able to articulate a scene that is rich in discovery making this probably one of the easiest books to 'visualize' from a new to me author. Her flow was immediately welcoming, which I can appreciate, and I’m thankful for that. Nothing like jumping into a highly anticipated book by a NTM author and then the writing not working out for me at all. I am so glad I chose this for my first December Personal Reads. (Needless to say, my review is LATE.)

Submerged in a world of mystery and intrigue and, honestly....confusion, this book was a perfect example of how easily Lake described a scene because she had me clinging to the littlest of almost nonexistent clues to try and find my way through a murky plot full of brash, harsh truths, and compelling emotion to drive a wedge between anger and lust - which could have been confused as one in the same in some parts. She gave me a vulnerable character, a strong character, a moody character, and a complex character - oftentimes, wrapped up in the same character. This is the perfect discussable book just for the pure "but did you notice this" or "did you get why he said that" aspect of it because the opinions will vary wildly, but easily end up with the same conclusion or outcome. 

I am not a dark reader by nature. I don't usually find myself enjoying them, but every now and then, one calls to me like this one did. What I found fascinating was the fact that I was able to continue reading the book with curiosity even though it wasn’t playing out the way I would’ve personally wanted. Lake's writing is compelling and she has a great voice. I couldn’t stop reading because it was so very interesting. I’m at a crossroads because this wouldn't normally be my go-to, but now I want to check out more in this style - but a standard has now been set.

What's really weird to me was that both of these characters were not an obvious draw for me. He was quiet. She was sarcastic. He was misunderstood. She was young but made some mature decisions, while other times making some not so smart moves. Sometimes the heroine acted very different than how I imagined I would be like in a that situation or how I think I would handle things, so she wasn't very relatable a few times, but I still read on with curiosity. She was definitely a younger character making some odd decisions, but it easily allowed my understanding of certain actions to go either way as well because of her maturity/age level. I figured she'll either pique my curiosity or make me not like her, because I didn't want to just sit there, second guessing her motives, moves and actions. Well, Isa had my curiosity piqued. It was almost.... weird. She was not someone I would imagine I could relate to, but her story was very interesting and that's the best part. Lake twisted a romance around two very different people and made their story a very fascinating read.

Lucian as a whole was very interesting to me because while I may have thought I knew what was going on, some things were clearly NOT what I thought, so that kept me turning the pages, wanting to know more. Some scenes were confusing, so I won't pretend to have understood every single scene. Most notably, the hospital scene: why was he there, in truth? Why did dad allow it? All these questions were mounting and I needed answers. I did get a few answers, but I'm pretty sure I'm still somewhat confused - but I'm not sure if that was part of the "mysteriousness" of it or not.

The slow buildup of this book was like a crescendo of dark music.... I knew something was coming, but I wasn't sure what to expect. It definitely kept my thoughts moving, inspiring my notes for this review along the way. It wasn't a boring, stagnant, run of the mill romance that I run into often. A new voice with a new strangeness to discover!! There was intrigue and mystery, an amazing plot with great character development. I enjoyed Lake's voice and intonation with her words throughout the entire book. Another thing I LOVED and felt was the presence of her scenes. I was always rooted in the story. I was in the scene, feeling the emotion and the darkness that surrounded Lucian. It was seriously a treat hearing a new voice and have it resonate with me on all levels. Some parts felt extremely scripted, like the trip to the bookstore and the ‘ladies’ eating ice cream, but I just kinda went with the flow at that point. Sometimes cliche is just that - cliche, but it still allowed me a journey unlike any I've ever been on.

This was written in a past and present format - with a variant. This style isn't always a favorite of many readers, including mine, because it oftentimes leads to confusion when it's not written well. I was able to follow her words pretty clearly and without issue. Then and now, back and forth, past and present.... we met Lucian in a very stylized way. It was a neat format with the narration of only his character jumping between past and present while staying current with Isa. It added a rather interesting element to the discovery of this very intriguing character. Present growth and discovery of Isa, but a very detailed account of Lucian growing up while in two different timeframes of his life. It was pretty neat....not gonna lie.

Special mention: this cover has got to be one of my favorites I've seen for 2020. I know we have seen more new and different designs this past year, and I love that authors are looking beyond the same kinds of covers, because the first thing that caught my attention was indeed this very cover. It made me search out the reasoning and meaning behind it and I can honestly say, that makes them that much more meaningful. This will be a favorite cover for 2020 for me. Bravo!

Since I am laying it out there, one thing I didn't quite understand was the Gothic categorization of it. Maybe it’s my naïveté (most likely - oooobviouusly), but I missed that reference or scene or understanding that determined this. I did look it up though, because #naive. However!!! That didn't deter my enjoyment, and the entire time I read it, it held my attention - so I obviously wasn't too hung up or worried about not quite understanding that aspect of it. It was more of a general curiosity - a discussable curiosity, nonetheless.

In summary: I turned every page with curiosity. Lake easily held my attention throughout this book and I cannot wait to read more by her. The story was so different and had so many variables that it allowed me to let go and follow course as I read this one and that was the majority of my positive experience with this book. DEFINITELY picking up more of her books. ✔

"Isn't it funny, the way we deny ourselves based on our fears?"

Personal purchase - so no giveaway this time on Facebook....but if you comment below, I may just have to share this book with one of you.

Keri Lake is a dark romance writer who specializes in demon wrangling, vengeance dealing and wicked twists. Her stories are gritty, with antiheroes that walk the line of good and bad, and feisty heroines who bring them to their knees. When not penning books, she enjoys spending time with her husband, daughters, and their rebellious Labrador (who doesn’t retrieve a damn thing). She runs on strong coffee and alternative music, loves a good red wine, and has a slight addiction
to dark chocolate.





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Monday, April 5, 2021

Book Review and Giveaway for Close Quarters by Kandi Steiner

From bestselling author Kandi Steiner comes a fresh and captivating billionaire romance about a reserved photographer and the powerful CEO who has to have her...

My boyfriend’s billionaire boss always gets what he wants.

Menacingly handsome and unquestionably powerful, Theo Whitman need only snap his fingers to have a flock of supermodels fall at his feet. So when his steel gray eyes first meet mine, I expect him to pass right over me, to not give so much as a second thought to my presence.

Instead, he sees me.
Truly sees me.
And for a girl who prefers to hide behind her camera lens, it’s the most unnerving experience of my life.

Until he asks me to stay on his yacht for the summer.

All I have to do to earn my keep is be Theo’s on-call photographer when he has guests, and I’ll get a free ride through the Mediterranean with my boyfriend. Easy peasy.

Still, my skin prickles in warning when I say yes.

As the humid days fade into balmy nights, I can’t seem to avoid Theo. And when he finds me, it’s like a rabbit running into a wolf.

His intense gaze immobilizes me. The way he speaks strips me bare. Every brush of his skin sears me like a violent flame.

My boyfriend’s billionaire boss always gets what he wants.

And this time, I think he wants me.

"He treats you like you're nothing to him when I'm dying to treat you like you're everything to me."

Man, this one sounded like it was going to be all sorts of amazing for me. If you've followed me for any amount of time, you will know that I gravitate towards heavy, emotional reads - most notably, angsty ones and I love me a well written triangle. Kandi Steiner is one author that has gifted me with one of my top favorite ever triangles (A Love Letter to Whiskey) and it started my love affair with her. It also set the bar incredibly high for triangles and angsty books. So, my love for Kandi goes a ways back and I hold a special place in my heart for her painful but amazing reads. Alas, this one will not hold any special places. I'm disappointed, to say the least, but I'm clearly in my own world with said disappointment, too - clearly, based on the multitude of glowing reviews she's received. So, the long and the short of it: I'll gift out a copy as usual, but I can't and won't pretend I thoroughly enjoyed the ridiculousness of it. 

If you’ve followed Kandi for any amount of time, you know she’s traveled extensively. One gift this book tendered was an up front view of her travels as seen through her eyes. That was a wonder to experience because the ability to share her own vision is truly a talent when the reader is able to see exactly where she’s describing - as well as the emotion that view afforded her. She’s so good at describing how engulfing a feeling of desire is. How a pull between two people is a hard fought battle until it comes crashing down all around them. How they meld into one, seemingly without consequence in the dark of night. Kandi is very definitely a descriptive writer, no doubt about it.

But, it's safe to say, I think this is where I feel the love affair ends.....with this book. I was hoping for a true triangle. Not a knight in shining armor against a douche for a boyfriend. That provided exactly zero angst or push/pull for me because she had no reason to not walk away from her douche of a boyfriend. I hate when that’s the easy way out - especially since this was supposed to be angsty. It was not in any way angsty....so I feel let down by that promise. No angst. 

The good and the bad: in the beginning, the adventures Aspen was taking were a lot more interesting than the forming relationship between her and Theo. By 22%, it still didn’t have a real pull for me yet. No actual foundation or emotional investment was forming, but I was still curious to see where it was going, so I pushed on. I was enjoying her travels more than the romance that should have been brewing, but I know Steiner is good at setting a foundation for me. So I continued on.  I kid you not, 5% later and I was clinging to every word being spoken between the two of them. The crackle in the air was palpable and the sin was floating in the waves around the boat. 

And then....nothing. Where'd it go? What happened!? As I got farther in, the sad realization started making itself known: this wasn’t fate - it was all out lust. It didn't read like fate, or destiny, at all. It read like cheating and straight up testing the waters. I mean, we all know how much I love a triangle and the push and pull of right vs. wrong when it comes to meeting someone else that makes your heart flutter. I love those moments. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel like I got to know who Theo was to truly fall for him, so that emotional tug was missing. Was it because it was a different kind of introduction? Well, that introduction definitely intrigued me, no lie, but I just didn't feel like his character's groundwork was laid out well enough for me to form an honest opinion about him, and it wasn't like it added a "mysterious" light to him - it was just Theo. Nothing to grasp onto. {{sigh}}

It wasn’t until I got past the halfway mark that I started to feel some sort of emotion out of Aspen. The turmoil she felt about her world with Joel and their history versus the excitement and the intensity she felt with Theo. The norm vs the new. But that came and went, interchangeably. But I held on. I pushed through. I wanted to get that cherry on top. I wanted to see what this was going to turn into. I had hope...

"I'm not sorry for the way I feel about you, only the timing in which those feelings developed."

This was a tried and true trope with the billionaire and the damsel in distress - a story we've all read, so I was hoping for something more that set this one apart. Him spoiling her with gifts and travel while she opened his heart and mind? Check. Nothing new. It was an enjoyable, easy read to some extent, but boring and cliche as well - but add in petty characters to top it off. It just didn’t give me what I was looking for; what I always hope for in a KS book: angst and a love worth sighing over. This almost felt robotic and didn’t give me any of the emotions I’ve come to expect from her. I’m walking away dissatisfied but accepting of the outcome. In the end, I feel like this one was flat - very one dimensional and surface layered in terms of character development, emotions, and delivery. This didn’t read like a Kandi Steiner angsty read, and for that, I feel jaded now. That was promised and was most definitely not delivered. This was not a triangle in the truest sense. This was two cheating characters, one was a douche, the other was a meek puppet. It gave me exactly zero emotions and quite a few eye rolls. It was almost angering.

I will admit that some of the analogies she used were over the top ridiculous. It was really weird because that isn't something I remember KS doing in her other books. She tried to use a lot of boat/water ones that were kind of cringeworthy, but she used so many analogies... and they were cheesy. Corny. It just felt ridiculous to me. But maybe I was to the nitpicky stage by that point...I don't know. 

Overall, I could finish the book - barely, but I did, but it wasn't my favorite. It sounded really good. It was supposed to be really good. I wanted really good. Sadly, it didn't resonate very well with me. The plot was my favorite part - until it wasn’t. Unfortunately, the drama at the end was terrible and left a really bad taste in my mouth for the overall enjoyment of the book. I feel like I'm losing touch with Kandi's amazing storytelling and the to-die-for angst she killed me with every time while reading her earlier books. I feel like that has been missing for some time now, and the pettiness from some of her characters is turning me off more and more. I'm scared to say that I feel like I may have outgrown her voice and that saddens me because I've loved many of them before, but the last few have been DNFs or very low starred and it's just breaking my heart....

"Now that I know you exist in this world, I cannot live without you existing in mine, too."

Kandi Steiner is a Creative Writing and Advertising/Public Relations graduate from the University of Central Florida living in Tampa with her husband. Kandi works full time as a social media specialist, but also works part time as a Zumba fitness instructor and blackjack dealer. 

Kandi started writing back in the 4th grade after reading the first Harry Potter installment. In 6th grade, she wrote and edited her own newspaper and distributed to her classmates. Eventually, the principal caught on and the newspaper was quickly halted, though Kandi tried fighting for her “freedom of press.” She took particular interest in writing romance after college, as she has always been a die hard hopeless romantic (like most girls brought up on Disney movies).

When Kandi isn’t working or writing, you can find her reading books of all kinds, talking with her extremely vocal cat, and spending time with her friends and family. She enjoys beach days, movie marathons, live music, craft beer and sweet wine – not necessarily in that order. 

Join her group Kandiland HERE.





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