Thursday, April 16, 2015

Bet Me

Synopsis from Goodreads: Minerva Dobbs knows that happily-ever-after is a fairy tale, especially with a man who asked her to dinner to win a bet. Even if he is gorgeous and successful Calvin Morrisey. Cal knows commitment is impossible, especially with a woman as cranky as Min Dobbs. Even if she does wear great shoes and keeps him on his toes. When they say good-bye at the end of their evening, they cut their losses and agree never to see each other again.

But Fate has other plans, and it's not long before Min and Cal meet again. Soon, they're dealing with a jealous ex-boyfriend, Krispy Kreme donuts, a determined psychologist, chaos theory, a freakishly intelligent cat, Chicken Marsala, and more risky propositions than either of them ever dreamed of. Including the biggest gamble of all—true love.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback; St. Martin’s Press, 2004

How acquired: Received through Title Trader, of which I used to be a member some eight years ago

First line: Once upon a time, Minerva Dobbs thought as she stood in the middle of the loud yuppie bar, the world was full of good men.

My thoughts: When you pick up a Jennifer Crusie book you know you’re going to get:

- a relatable and realistically flawed heroine
- a charming hero
- a cast of quirky and eccentric supporting characters
- usually a dog but this time it was a cat
- fast paced slapstick humor right out of a Cary Grant/Rosalind Russell era movie

Min has just been dumped by her boyfriend, David, in the middle of a theme bar. They haven’t had sex yet, and he’s tired of waiting for her to put out. Her biggest concern? Now she doesn't have a date to her sister’s wedding in three weeks, and her mother will go ballistic.

David then runs into Cal Morrissey and tries to bet him ten thousand dollars that Cal can’t get Min into bed within one month. Cal isn’t interested, in Min or in a sleazy bet and tries to ignore David’s goading, but when David bets him ten dollars he can’t even get Min to leave with him, he takes that bet just to get away.

Min overhears part of the conversation about the bet-to-get-her-in-bed but not the bet-to-get-her-to-leave-with-Cal, and when Cal hits on her shortly after, she thinks he’s just bet David ten dollars to get her into bed. She’s pissed, but decides to string him along, go out with him, take him to her sister’s wedding, and then dump him and make him lose the bet.

However, when they part company that night, they are both agreed that not seeing the other person ever again is a sound plan. But of course their paths will cross and recross, especially since Min’s two best friends get mixed up with Cal’s two best friends. Min is not a thin girl, and her mother is constantly nagging her about not eating sweets and losing weight. Mom has crushed her self-esteem, and since she thinks Cal is out to win a bet, Min certainly doesn’t think he’s really attracted to her. Some of the sweetest moments in the book were Cal addressing her weight, which he doesn't see as a problem in any way, shape or form. And my favorite passage was Cal defending Min to her family at dinner:
"Look, I don't mind you grilling me about what I do for a living," Cal said. "Your daughter's brought me home and that has some significance. And I don't mind your wife asking about my personal life for the same reason. But Min is an amazing woman, and so far during this meal, you've either ignored her or hassled her about some dumb dress. For the record, she is not too big for the dress. The dress is too small for her. She's perfect." Cal buttered a roll and passed it over to Min. "Eat."

Cal’s family are just as bad as Min’s, albeit in a different way, and later Min gets her chance to sit at their dinner table and watch them belittle him and then tell them off.

As with all of her books, BET ME was a fun, fast, slightly manic, entertaining read. Fluffy chick lit (Min’s passion for silly high heeled shoes was a little ridiculous, but then I'm more into purses than shoes) with a feel great resolution.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Rereadable Lines

"Look, I don't mind you grilling me about what I do for a living," Cal said. "Your daughter's brought me home and that has some significance. And I don't mind your wife asking about my personal life for the same reason. But Min is an amazing woman, and so far during this meal, you've either ignored her or hassled her about some dumb dress. For the record, she is not too big for the dress. The dress is too small for her. She's perfect." Cal buttered a roll and passed it over to Min. "Eat."

BET ME, by Jennifer Crusie

Wednesday, April 8, 2015



Synopsis from Goodreads: When his wife, Jo, is offered her dream job, Lincoln Menner leaves his thriving landscape business in Los Angeles and moves to Rochester, New York. This will be his chance to start over, spend a little time with their three-year-old daughter, and finally do things right at home. 

But Linc had no idea what it really meant to be a househusband: to stay home every day, folding laundry, cleaning soap scum, and teaching his little girl to use the potty. To be ignored at parties by his wife’s colleagues who see him as just a homemaker. Though he soon has the house humming, Linc misses the outside world. Most of all he misses Jo, who works too late and barely notices the fabulous dinners he slaves over. Drastic action must be taken to make his efficiently run house truly a home, sweet home. And Linc knows he is just the man for the job!

First line: This is a good day. 

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, Ballantine Books, 2004. 

How acquired: Bought. 

My thoughts: I went into this book thinking it was going to be light, amusing chick lit (for lack of a better word) style, even though it’s written by a man. I mean, look at that cartoon cover. But it was actually a deeper, almost depressing look at what it means to be a stay at home parent, losing your own identity in the shadow of your working spouse. 

Staying home starts out as a temporary situation. Jo has gotten a really good executive level job and the family have moved across the country. While Jo settles into her new job, Linc takes care of three year old Violet, and gets the new household up and running. But when he begins looking for a nanny, he can’t find anyone he likes as much as the one they had to leave behind, and staying home with Violet rather than looking for work stretches out longer and longer. 

I didn’t relate to either Linc or Jo, having been a working parent for my daughters’ entire lives, but still being the primary care giver as well since my husband also worked. My older daughter started day care at nine months, and my younger at two weeks, which would have horrified Linc, a controlling snob. Spotless house. Healthy gourmet meals. Violet is not allowed to eat junk food, and when she starts refusing to eat carrots, he cuts them up small, makes a little incision into pieces of tortellini and sticks a piece of carrot inside so she’ll eat them without realizing it. She can watch Pocahontas, a strong female role model with “…knowledge of plant life, awareness of the biosphere and where she fits into it. Respect for her father. Curiosity of things unknown” etc., but she isn’t allowed to watch Rugrats, “one big lesson in how to mock and sneak around authority figures” or The Little Mermaid, “no redeeming traits. Zero. She continually defies her father and wants nothing more than to be some rich hunk’s bride.” I got exhausted just reading about everything Linc does. 

I loved this line:
I tried to tell my clients that flowers were intended to be random, dropped into place by birds and the wind. Flowers should be occasional, visual surprises, like a found conch shell on the beach.
An enjoyable, quick, but unremarkable story. 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Take a Chance on Me

Synopsis from Goodreads: When the breakdown of her marriage leaves Sadie Turner a single mum, she vows that she will make it on her own. After all, why would a smart businesswoman with a PhD and the prospect of a life-changing deal on the horizon need a man?

But Sadie’s man-ban is tested to the limit when she travels to Monaco to meet her potential investor. There she encounters Mac, a rough and ready playboy billionaire who lives life in the fast lane – and that’s when the real adventure starts!

But Sadie’s heart isn’t the only thing on the line. There’s also the business she’s worked so hard to make a success; the business that could so easily slip out of her grasp if she doesn’t seal the deal within thirty days …

Published under Hot Choc Lit - slightly raised heat level but not erotica!
Previously self-published as Hawaiian Affair. Revised and edited by Choc Lit March 2015

Stats for my copy: Kindle edition, published by Choc Lit, 2015.

How acquired: NetGalley.

My thoughts: This story started out very strong. We meet Sadie, on a business trip to meet with a prospective investor. With some free time on her hands and a borrowed “Open House” invitation, she's at the docks, nervously boarding a yacht under the pretense of being someone posh who might actually want to buy a yacht. After getting thrown off said yacht, she meets Mac, a deckhand on another yacht.

I connected with and loved Sadie right from the beginning. She's a little awkward and self-conscious, she's smart and witty, she's mum to two adolescent daughters, she totters about on her sky high heels, she's got curves, she's a realistic woman. She has a self-imposed rule about no men in her life until her girls are grown. A one night stand with Mac is the perfect way to end a stressful day. Not that she rushes into it. Oh no, she vacillates, and actually walks away, but her libido drags her back. On an impulse she's given him her middle name, and they agree that there will be no talk about their personal or business lives. Just each other's company for one evening.

So naturally the next morning when she walks into the meeting with the investor, who is she shocked to come face to face with but a shocked Mac. And Mac has a very firm rule – he does not mix business with pleasure.

This line is from much farther into the book, but it's a good description of Sadie and Mac at this point:
How could a playboy billionaire ever want to be with a small-town single mother of two feisty teenage girls, with a hippy grandma in tow, and a barely-solvent health food store to run.

The banter between Sadie and Mac was just delightful, and I loved watching them get to know each other.
Thanks so much for rescuing my bag for me. Are you always such a hero?”
Of course! Drowning handbags, run of the mil. Damsels in distress, a specialty!”
Well, if I'm ever in distress, I'll give you a call!”
Dis-dress, dat-dress, you look good whatever,” he said, then cringed.

Mac gets angry that Sadie didn't tell him who she really was, suspicious that she was playing him because he's rich, but at the same time he kept reminding himself that he was also less than honest, pretending to be a deckhand rather than the billionaire owner of the yacht he was on. He has a lot of trust issues when it comes to women, as billionaire playboys do. But his issues never seem melodramatic and we get into his head enough to have some insight and understanding of his reasoning.

At this point in the story, there is a lot of business talk. Sadie has presented Mac's people with a proposed marketing plan for a hydrating water, Frish, in hopes that he will be willing to invest, and join her in vying for distribution rights. If all goes well, and the company that produces the water goes for her plan, she's looking at finally having some financial security, paying off debt, and being able to provide more for her daughters without having to rely on her scummy ex-husband's help.

And frankly, all the business talk bored me. The plot got a little convoluted and very busy. Now that they're contemplating going into business together, Mac is determined to not have any kind of personal relationship with Sadie, and he often disappeared and avoided her and told her he would talk to her later and then didn't. I definitely enjoyed the story much more when they were interacting together, rather than going off in separate directions.

There are several secondary characters, and they mostly remain secondary. Which was fine, since I wanted the focus to be on Sadie and Mac. Eventually there was a revelation about Simon, Mac's business adviser and CFO, which I thought was unnecessary and a little disappointing. But in the end everything wrapped up quite satisfyingly, and I enjoyed more of the book than what I unenjoyed. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Lara (The World of Hetar, Book 1)


Synopsis from back cover: Welcome, dear reader, to the world of Hetar, a realm of Forest Lords, of Shadow Princes and Coastal Kings. A land of passions, both civilized and savage. Where the social classes know their place, but where anyone can, under the right conditions, advance to the highest pinnacle. This is a place where pleasure is never censured, but encouraged, and where deception and desire may be intertwined. The orderly, elegant veneer of refined Hetar can no longer ignore the rebellion brewing in the Outlands, a dangerous place of both magic and mystery.

From the city that is the very center of Hetar, Lara, the beautiful half-faerie daughter of John Swiftsword, ventures forth on a journey that will awaken her, both body and soul, as she learns the true meaning of love that will last an eternity – and a searing passion that will change the destiny of Hetar forever.

Creating Hetar and it's many characters has been a great challenge for me, but a wonderful ad creative endeavor. I hope you will enjoy Lara's tale.

Stats for my copy: Mass market paperback, published by Harlequin Enterprises Limited, 2005.

How acquired: Received from a Book Mooch member.

First line: She was naked.

My thoughts: While this book was published by Harlequin, I would not classify it as a romance, but rather as fantasy, with a little romance thrown in.

At the age of fourteen, Lara, who is half human, half faerie, is sold into slavery by her father, a mercenary, so that he can afford to outfit himself properly to apply to become a member of the Crusader Knights. Lara is meant to be auctioned off to the Pleasure Houses, but her beauty is so great that the owners of the Pleasure Houses begin to fight amongst themselves and so much dissension is caused, that avenue is forbidden. She winds up being sold to the Head Forester and his brother, who believe that if they can impregnate her and she gives them a child, a curse put on their race by the Queen of the faeries will be lifted. And that's just the beginning of Lara's journey, for she has a destiny to fulfill. She doesn't know what it is or where it will eventually lead her, but follow it she must.

The story unfortunately became a little tiresome after awhile. I didn't find many of the characters very engaging, other than the young slave girl Noss, who Lara takes beneath her wing, and the giant Og, who helps Lara escape the Forest Lands. There wasn't a lot of depth to any of the characters. Lara is just so perfect. Her beauty is apparently due to her faerie heritage, and while traveling she has to hide it, as all the men she meets are mesmerized. That got old also, and I would have liked a little more explanation of why being half faerie made her so enticing. Are the faeries just really so much more beautiful than humans? Does faerie magic make them appear so to humans?

The books spans two years, during which time Lara also becomes a very skilled lover. Which when I thought about her being just sixteen, seemed a little over the top, and even at times a little yucky. Sex between the characters flows pretty freely and without inhibitions, but the sex scenes aren’t very…sexy. They’re more just a non-graphic recitation of what happened between the people involved. There are many mentions of the male characters' “manroots”, an almost quaint term that didn’t particularly bother me - until Lara and the Shadow Prince are watching his horses mate, and reference is made to seeing the stallion’s penis. After that it began to irritate me that on a horse it’s called by what it is, but on a man it’s called a manroot. And then when Lara and the Shadow Prince fall to it themselves, Lara faints from the pleasure. Ugh, please. I had to set the book down and take a break at that point.

What I loved was the world building. Learning about the different races, the different peoples, and the mythologies behind their cultures, particularly the giants and the forest people. And that is why I will eventually read the next book in the series, and hope the plot improves.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Chasing Claire (Hells Saints Motorcycle Club, Book 2)


Synopsis: Claire Winston knows she’s lucky to be alive—and even luckier to have the love and protection of a man like Prosper, her adoptive father and leader of the Hells Saints Motorcycle Club. Yet, try as she may, she can’t leave yesterday behind. She’s still haunted by Reno, the bad-boy biker her heart loves but her spirit fears. And she can’t seem to escape the terrifying memories of a night filled with blood, bullets, and brutality.

Hells Saints soldier Reno has tried everything with liquor and lace to get Claire off his mind. But he just can’t forget her freckles, her fierce fragility, and her tender heart. He knows he’s the only man who can give her the love she truly deserves.

As Claire and Reno spiral back into each other’s lives, they wonder if happiness is finally in their cards. But when violence once again explodes around them, Claire must decide if she really can trust Reno and commit to life with him—or if she’ll stay chained to her past forever.

Stats for my copy: Kindle edition, published by Montlake Romance, 2015.

How acquired: NetGalley

My thoughts: Claire is the younger sister of Raine, the heroine of RAINE FALLING. Reno is one of the brothers of the motorcycle club, and is consider by Prosper, the head of the club, to be his nephew in the same way he considers Claire and Raine to be his daughters. Fortunately there is no actual blood relation between any of them (other than the two girls), cuz that would be yuck.

In between the first book and this book, off the page, Reno and Claire had finally come together, and for awhile it had been good. Then came the misunderstanding that drove them apart. The night when Claire opened up and told Reno all about herself and her past. The next morning she slipped away while Reno was sleeping. She “needed a minute” as she put it, to come to terms with and acknowledge that she was in love. But apparently Reno, upon waking, interpreted her being gone to mean she was not coming back. So this was the misunderstanding that drove them apart. It felt like a reach to me. They’d been having sex with each other for months, but had never actually spent an entire night together. I just don’t get why her slipping out while he’s still asleep should be a turning point to break them up. But we learn this story in retrospect, first from Reno’s point of view, then from Claire’s, and the narrative never digs too deep.

There isn’t as much violence as in the first book, and not nearly as many derogatory words for women flying around, which was a relief and made it easer to focus on the story. Raine and Diego are now married with a baby and living in their own home, while Claire and Glory share Prosper’s lake house (I think it was a lake house, I don’t remember exactly now). Glory has started a catering business, and Claire decides to enroll in college. Meanwhile Reno does…whatever members of a motorcycle club do. I never really knew what he was doing most of the time. 

Claire is still suffering PTSD (my diagnosis) over the incident at the end of the second book and her part in it. And while Prosper took the blame – or the credit, which is more how the guys would look at it – serious repercussions are coming that will drastically affect Claire and Reno. 

I think part of my problem with these books is that the writing feels like it’s aimed at a young adult audience, though the books clearly are not YA. The use of sentences with a period between every word annoys me, such as the second line in Chapter 18: “Oh. Yes. He. Was.” And these lines literally made me laugh out loud: “Reno stood next to his mother. He also stood in front of her and behind her.” 

Despite all the badassery, at the core of the club is a belief in family, and while most of the brothers go from woman to woman to woman, when the right woman comes along our heroes succumb to the notion of hearth and home and fidelity. It’s a long road to get there, but you leave believing they will have their happily ever afters. 

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Raine Falling (Hells Saints Motorcycle Club, Book 1)


Synopsis from Goodreads: After a lifetime of uncertainty, Raine Winston shouldn’t be fazed by anything anymore. But she’s terrified. Terrified that her wayward sister, Claire, has gotten into debt dangerously over her head. Terrified that a muscle-clad biker named Diego doesn’t want payment with money—he wants much more. And terrified of the dizzying desire she feels whenever Diego touches her…

Diego Montesalto spends his days raising hell and his nights in the arms of fast, easy women. Tough, tattooed, and used to taking what he wants, he refuses to get emotionally invested in anyone. But he can’t stop thinking about Raine’s sweet smell, striking blue eyes, and quiet determination. She may have the spirit of a warrior, but she needs someone to guide and protect her.

When Raine has no choice but to go on the run, she falls straight into the Hells Saints’ mayhem-filled world…and into Diego’s strong arms. But in a life filled with hard choices, raw lust, and blood-soaked violence, is there room for loyalty…or love?

Revised edition: Previously published as Game Changer, this edition of Raine Falling includes editorial revisions.

First line: I heard screaming, begging, and crying. 

Stats for my copy: Kindle, published by Montlake Romance, 2014. 

How acquired: Purchased. 

My thoughts: Where to begin? The set up was a little convoluted and confusing to me. We meet Raine, and her junkie sister Claire and Claire’s junkie boyfriend. A group of motorcycle thugs burst into the apartment, demanding thirty thousand dollars, payment for something that Claire and Jamie (yeah, that’s seriously their names) have stolen from them, or not paid them for, or something. Raine just happens to have a little over thirty two thousand dollars saved up and steps in to protect her sister, offering her money to the bikers. The money is hidden in her abusive ex-boyfriend’s garage, and getting it is a huge hassle – I won’t spoil by telling you how that goes down, but she is ultimately successful.

One of the bikers is Diego. He seems like a bad guy, but he’s also the hero so he must really be a good guy. But it takes a bit to get there with the way the plot is laid out.

And here I’ll say that I have not read any MC (or Motorcycle Club in case you’re wondering) books before. Unless Sleazy Rider counts, which I read in September 2013. From what I gather, violence and abuse towards women is pretty standard in them. There’s plenty of both in the beginning of this book, and it didn’t necessarily bother me, but with Diego being one of the big bad bikers it was hard to imagine that I could like him.

Then Raine and Diego go their separate ways, only to inadvertently end up in the same place. And at the point, the real story began, and I became more interested. For awhile. But the constant stream of curse words coming from Diego and the other bikers just got annoying. It seemed like when the bikers talked every other word was the F word, or referring to a woman as one of a multitude of derogatory words. And at one point a couple of racist words for two other biker gangs. Though thankfully none of the men “silently cursed” so kudos to the author for avoiding that cliché. 

In some chapters Raine narrates her story in first person point of view, while other chapters give us Diego’s or another character’s perspective in third person POV. Normally alternating POV doesn't’ bother me, but at times it was a little jarring. 

If I hadn’t already gotten the next book for free from NetGalley, I doubt that I would even bother to read it. 

And one last thing - this might be considered a spoiler, so stop reading if you care about that…..

When the heroine becomes pregnant, she refers to Diego as the “baby daddy”, a term that is just so preciously irritating that I hate it and I cannot take seriously anyone who uses it.