One Sexy Ride, Vivian Arend

Another winner from Vivian Arend. *yawn* What else is new, right?

This time it’s sexy, adventurous and great-with-power-tools Janey and her hero Len who has far less experience than everyone believes and a love for Janey that just won’t quit. Which is good, because she’s been in love with him forever.

He’d hate me saying this, but Len was adorable. He was so sweet and a little unsure and a little emotionally damaged. He lost his mom to cancer when he was 15 and he has some serious guilt which stems from that. Janey, on the other hand, was raised by emotionally distant parents and has siblings who disregard what she is doing with her life, but still she manages to grab as much happiness as she wants.

While I get that maybe Ms. Arend didn’t want to have too many issues come up for Janey and Len, and she probably felt they had quite enough going on, I wish Janey had been able to deal with her family. I kind of wish we had seen her tell them what was important to her.

Len is just adorable (there’s that word again). He feels he’s so damaged that he can’t even take the chance on finally going to Janey until he thinks she’s leaving town. And Janey’s finally given up. She’s been throwing herself at Len for years and nothing. But once Len has to step in and spend the night to protect her, all bets are off. He may be inexperienced, but he makes up for lost time with Janey. And OOOOOH BOY does he catch up QUICK.

If you’re a regular reader here, you know two years ago my mom finally succumbed to the cancer which had ravaged her. In One Sexy Ride, Len is still dealing with the loss of his mom to cancer when he was 15. Thankfully, I was warned before I ever picked this book up, so I was prepared, though I’m usually okay with stories like this. I’m not sure who Ms. Arend has lost in her life to cancer or other long illness, and, frankly, it’s none of my damn business, but she GETS it. She gets it in a way I’m almost certain she’s been there. This part here was like she reached into my brain.

The strangest things could set him off. A combination of words, the scent of antiseptic like at the hospital.

One time someone’s phone had gone off, and their ring tone had been a series of beeps eerily reminiscent of a heart-rate monitor. He’d come within three seconds of snatching the phone right out of their hands and grinding the case to pieces under his heel.

That’s one thing that still surprises me. Those little moments of rage where you just want to rip people’s faces off for little things. I still can’t leave the house on Mother’s day weekend for fear of just screaming at people to SHUT. THE HELL. UP. And it’s totally me and not them, and I know I’m being crazy, but knowing it doesn’t do anything to stop those emotions. It’s something I don’t know if people understand unless they’ve gone through it themselves.

One of my favorite things about Ms. Arend’s books are that the conflicts in the book are never ridiculous. There’s never the moment of frustration where the reader thinks if everyone would just have a freakin’ conversation, this would be settled. That’s not to say her characters don’t have miscommunications or don’t speak to each other about important stuff. It still happens, but she doesn’t drag it out. And her characters are never stupid, so they KNOW what’s going on, and everyone gets treated like grown-ups fully capable of dealing with their own issues.

I also love her sense of family in all her books, whether it’s by blood or by choice. In this case, both. The Thompson family is one that is loving and supportive and will tease the hell out of you in an heartbeat. I laughed hard during their first date at the cafe. “No one could torture you like family.” Absolutely true.

This book was HOT. The build up of sexual tension here was slow and expertly done. By the time Len and Janey finally made it to bed, I was practically sweating. And then what they do IN the bed…and the truck…and the shower…*fans self* Whoo. Vivian Arend does write them hot and sexy, and she believes in truth in advertising because this book really is One Sexy Ride.

Lynda the Guppy
aka Addicted to Viv
aka The Fish With Sticks

Rating: 4 Stars

Smokin’ Hot, Lynn LaFleur

When I saw Lynn LaFleur’s Smokin’ Hot was up for review, I grabbed it quick! Why, you might ask? Well, let’s take a look, shall we:

Firemen: Check
Novellas: Check
Friends to Lovers story (Spark): Check
Marriage in Jeopardy (Smolder): Check
Small Town Romance: Check

All it needed was an ugly duckling story or a beauty and the beast story and you’d have all the tropes I love in one book.

Happily I can report I really liked this book. It was a collection of three novellas (Singe, Spark, Smolder) all centered around the Volunteer Fire Department in Lanville, Texas. They were voted the Hottest Fire Department in Texas, too. The stories were short, yet satisfying, the sex was hot, and the firemen hotter (hubba hubba), and the characters engaging and interesting. I had never read anything by Ms. LaFleur before, and I could tell there were other stories already told about these firefighters, but I never felt I was missing something by not reading all the stories in order.

My one complaint, and it’s kind of minor in the grand scheme of things, was some parts of the sex scenes carried over from one story to the next. For example, there were mannerisms the guys all did in the bedroom which wouldn’t happen in real life. And no, I’m not talking about Tab A fitting in Slot B. I’m talking about specific instructions they give and the gestures they make are an obvious result of one author creating all the scenes. I wish that had been caught during edits. It’s really more of an author’s writing tic than a conscious decision. All authors have them, but usually they show up across several books. In this case, Ms. LaFleur had them all show up in different stories within the same book.

Like I said up above, I enjoyed this book. It was a quick, entertaining read, and I’ll be on the lookout for the next book in the series to see what everyone’s up to.

Lynda the Guppy
aka A Fire Fish Who Loves Firemen
aka The Fish With Sticks 

Rating: 3 Stars

Baby Be Mine, Vivian Arend

The biggest problem I have with Vivian Arend’s books are reading them in public without someone reading over my shoulder and being scandalized by all the hot sex. LOL  I’m all for it, but sometimes it’s best if I don’t read her stories in public, IfYaKnowWhatIMean.

If you’ve read the Marked anthology, you’ve seen glimpses of certain parts of Baby, Be Mine, but it can absolutely stand on its own. This book starts out with Gage finally seeing Katy Thompson as a grown woman and not just little Katybug. Things progress rapidly, as she’s finally dumped Simon, her asshat of a boyfriend. The problem being Gage leaves the next day for six months in the middle of nowhere working in the oil fields. They have a narrow window of time and they’ll take it!

Then disaster strikes. And the fates conspire to keep Gage and Katy apart for a little while. Just long enough for her to be injured, get amnesia, and not remember how she got pregnant. WHOOPS!

I love Vivian Arend and her writing. She writes people you just want to sit around and have a beer with, maybe play some pool, have a barbecue. The romance is always wonderful and the sex…*fans self*…Well. Let’s just say she doesn’t need any pointers on how to write sex scenes. LOL. For that matter, highly emotional scenes don’t seem to give her any problems either.

If you’ve been reading my reviews for any length of time, you know I LOVE Novellas. LOVE them. They’re like my book crack. I have a ton of them and I am an absolute sucker for a novella of any kind, but the good ones are SO AMAZINGLY GOOD. J.D. Robb’s Midnight in Death was so intense I remember having to put it down and walk away to literally catch my breath. Shannon Stacey’s Mistletoe and Margaritas makes me sob BUCKETS when I read it. I think this book will stay pretty high on my list of favorites, along with those.

Ms. Arend has made me fall in love with Gage, and then she broke my heart. Gage is amazing and supportive and wants nothing more than to love and protect Katy forever, and there comes a point in this story where it becomes…difficult…for him to do so. But it doesn’t stop him completely. He just gets creative to do whatever he can and as much as he can because Gage’s love for Katy won’t let him do anything else. Even when confronted physically, he only uses his strength to protect, and never to deliberately inflict harm. On anyone.

And what can I say about Katy? After everything that has happened to her, it’s amazing she has so much trust and faith in Gage. She loves him and trusts him and nothing shakes that faith, even when she can’t remember details. She and Gage end up doing something so difficult, so incredibly heartbreaking and difficult, and they do it because they know at the end, it’ll be worth it. It totally broke my heart for Gage and Katy, and I’m not sure I’ll forgive Ms. Arend for making me cry like that.

Oh, who am I kidding? I’m a total slut for her books. We all know I’ll be back as soon as she has a new ARC for me to pounce on.

Lynda the Guppy
aka A Fish With An Arend Addiction
aka The Fish With Sticks

Rating: 4 Stars

High Seduction, Vivian Arend

One of these days Vivian Arend needs to write a book I won’t FanGirl over.

I mean, the law of averages has to come into play at SOME point, doesn’t it? The woman’s too prolific for me to love EVERYTHING…isn’t she? This is Ms. Arend’s 38th book, and I’ve read probably close to 30 of them and loved them all. Really. She’s going to need to stop this or I’m going to run out of nice things to say. (Don’t stop, Viv. Please don’t stop).

Out of all of her books, High Seduction ranks up there in the top 3 as one of my all-time favorite Vivian Arend books. I’ll tell you right now, if it wasn’t for my absolute and unending love of Travis from Rocky Mountain Freedom, Tim would be my favorite hero. He’s amazing. He is absolutely in love with Erin and not afraid to show her how he feels. He knows they had problems years ago, but he’s willing to do the work it’s going to take to get through them and get her back. For good.

As for Erin, she’s in denial for a little bit, but Tim and his constancy quickly win her over. She recognizes she still has lingering issues from their previous relationship, but she’s able to face those issues and learn from them without pushing Tim away in the process.

Tim, for his part, is willing to take a huge risk to help her work through whatever she needs to. As much of a dominant as Tim is, he never tries to force Erin through her mental blocks. He knows if she’s not in this relationship all the way, there’s nothing he can do to make her get there, but he’s willing to fight for them. He helps her where he can, and shows her the way, so to speak, and then stands back until she decides what she wants. Tim is, above all, a caregiver in every sense of the word. He loves Erin and would die before hurting her in ANY way. I love how he snuggles with her. To me snuggling/cuddling is one of the most romantic things a guy can do. Totally makes me melt every time.

Being an Adrenaline Search & Rescue title, of course there’s some suspense, but Ms. Arend kept the focus on Erin and Tim and….others…and didn’t spend too much time focusing on the suspense subplot. Which was just fine. Anything with more Tim was good for me.

I loved how, even with Erin’s initial reluctance to deal with Tim again, she was always professional. Neither she nor the team did any of the “we hate the new guy” posturing. Tim is new to the team, yes, but he’s an experienced SAR and the team recognizes and respects that. There’s hazing, but more in a good natured “welcome to the team” kind of way and not “let’s terrorize the new guy until he quits.”

There’s a new character introduced in this book. Matt, who plays a big role in High Seduction. I loved him and am hoping we get to see more of him.

Lynda the Guppy
aka Vivian Arend’s FanGirl
aka The Fish With Sticks

Rating: 4.5 Stars

Untouched, Maisey Yates

The Silver Creek series are the first books I’ve read by Maisey Yates. I’ll be coming back for more.

Untouched is the 2nd book in the Silver Creek series, (although there was a short story first). In this book Lark, little sister to Cole and Cade, goes to work for the man everyone believes caused the “accident” which took Cade’s rodeo career and nearly his life. Of course Lark doesn’t realize this until she shows up, and in the best tradition of romance, Quinn Parker schemes and plots to get back at Cade for falsely accusing him and getting Quinn banned from rodeo competition for life.

This was a good read. I felt really invested in Lark and watching her grow up and stretch her wings a bit. In a book where she’s constantly complaining everyone treats her like a kid (and they do), I liked seeing her as the only one really acting mature, about both her profession and her relationship with Quinn. She sees past Quinn’s persona to see the real, sad little boy inside who is afraid to get hurt again, and does what she can to show him how much she cares, but she does it without giving ultimatums or throwing tantrums.

For Quinn’s part, he sees Lark as young, sure, but never as a child. He treats her as an adult who can make up her own mind. At one point she comes to him obviously upset and asks him for something. While his internal dialogue tells us he’s aware of how upset she is, Quinn doesn’t assume Lark doesn’t know what she’s asking. Which is more than can be said for Cole and Cade. Quinn and Lark are honest with each other about what is going on with Quinn’s rodeo career (and Cade’s involvement) and also their expectations of their relationship.

There’s a subplot with Sam and Jill from Quinn’s ranch which was unexpected, but I liked it. I thought Sam was pretty sexy and it was interesting to see these two relationships play out side by side. I though the resolution with the boy Jake seemed a little too simple.

One of my favorite bits about this series: Ms. Yates does Grovel VERY well. Both Sam and Quinn have to grovel and while I don’t believe you can ever have TOO MUCH grovel, the amount of grovel in this book was satisfactory. Quinn even does it in front of–well, you’ll just have to read the book to find out.

Of all the characters in this series, Cade is the one who is the most intriguing to me, and I can’t wait for his book. A damaged hero? A friends-to-lovers story? A heroine with her own problems and a mysterious man out to hurt Cade? Where do I sign up?

Lynda the Guppy
aka The Fish Who Loves Grovel
aka The Fish With Sticks

RATING: 3. 5 Stars

Hope Flames, Jaci Burton

When I say I waited until the last POSSIBLE second to read this book, I’m not really kidding. It’s 1:30 am, I’ve JUST finished the book and I’m writing this review which gets posted in…carry the 2…4 1/2 hours. This one kind of snuck up on me. Whoops. LOL While I’m known for writing my reviews late, I’ve usually already read the book.

This book has some of my favorite things: Small towns, great family, fantastic animals (in this case 3 adorable dogs with some others making brief appearances) and a really great couple.

When we first meet Luke he’s kind of known for being a man whore. He’s been burned by the bitchy ex-wife and wants absolutely NO part of a relationship again. He’s got his job (small town cop). He’s got his dog (Boomer, a police dog). He’s happy as can be to be a love ’em for a night and leave ’em guy.

Emma, for her part, has some deep dark trauma in her past which makes her wary of relationships. She’s up to her eyeballs in debt starting up her vet practice in her hometown and has neither the time nor the inclination to get involved with anyone.

Now, for a lesser author, these two could have been very cardboard cutout. We’ve seen these characters in COUNTLESS books. Heroine needs emotional “healing” and Hero has got just the Magic Wang to do it for her. Hero needs to realize all women aren’t money grubbing bitches, and Heroine is the perfect, wholesome small-town girl to prove it. What I loved about this book is Ms. Burton didn’t take the easy way. She didn’t do these characters that disservice. She made them normal people. Yeah, Emma needs to get past the trauma of her past, but she’s doing it. On her own. She doesn’t need Luke or any guy’s Magic Wang to get her through it. And Luke, while he IS skittish about relationships (for that matter, so is Emma), he DOES realize what’s going on and he’s okay about it. For the most part. LOL.

There’s even a point in the book where Luke realizes he and Emma need to sit and TALK about the hard stuff. He knows they’re glossing things over, and he wants to go forward from where they are, and to do that they need to talk. Love it. So refreshing to see a couple like this.

There’s a couple subplots going on, one of which involves Emma and some trouble. My favorite part was this:

Someone was in her house.

So here was her independence. Should she take out her gun and go check it herself? Hell, no. She was independent. Not stupid. She needed to get out of the house now.

And let me just say for the record she was smarter than I was. When I came home a few years ago to find my house robbed, I not only went in, but I WENT UPSTAIRS before calling the cops. *sigh* Yup. I was THAT GIRL. If it was a horror movie, I would have been blonde and the first one dead. No, no. No need to tell me how stupid that was. My BFF did that already. Loudly. A lot.

ANYway…

Overall I liked this book a lot. There were a few areas where I think the info dump was a little heavy handed, and the dialogue seemed a little forced, but that was always with the peripheral characters. Where Ms. Burton really shined was with Emma and Luke. She’s created a couple who I not only enjoyed spending time with, but would love to just go and hang out with them and their dogs. Although I did notice a distinct lack of feline characters.

Lynda the Guppy
aka A Fish With A Cat
aka A Fish With Sticks

Rating: 3.5 Stars

Cut & Run Series, Abigail Roux & Madeline Urban

This review was originally posted at Wicked Lil Pixie
on January 16, 2013

There is a sub genre, I guess you’d call it, called M/M. Which is a romance where both characters are men. My only previous exposure to this type of story is Suzanne Brockmann’s book “All Through the Night.” Of all her Troubleshooters books, this was my favorite because my love for Jules knows no bounds. Other than that, though, I’ve never really read M/M. I didn’t know much about it or the authors, so I never really tried it. One of my fellow bloggers (Lori) kept going on and on about this one series of books she was reading. The Cut & Run series by Abigail Roux and Madeleine Urban. All right. I’ll give them a try. I picked up the first book on January 5. 7 days and 7 books* later, I’m wondering when the next book comes out! (April 8, 2013, according to Goodreads). I’ll have you know I was up until sunrise nearly every day this week reading these books.

The first four books were co-written by Abigail Roux & Madeleine Urban, and, honestly, they write together well enough that there is a seamless transition between the books written jointly and those solely written by Ms. Roux.

Ty and Zane are FBI agents assigned to work together to catch a serial killer in New York. When we first meet them Ty is irreverent, headstrong, and a rule breaker, while Zane is buttoned-up, Mr. By-the-Book, and will absolutely not do anything to get himself in trouble. Things change, though, as we learn more about these two. Oh, don’t get me wrong. Ty is still irreverent, headstrong, and a total rule breaker, but he’s also brave both with his body and his heart. He’s kind and loving and romantic. Zane is the one who surprised me. As we learn more about Zane we find he HATES being a buttoned-up Mr. By-the-Book, but he feels he has to be, as he’s on shaky ground with his career.

Watching these two fall for each other and fight it all the way was fascinating. Because both main characters are male, there’s a whole different dynamic at play with the two of them. They’re rougher and more physical than a Hero would ever be with a Heroine. But at the same time, there’s more fear there due to the inherent problems of being gay in today’s society. Do they come out to their friends? their coworkers? their families? What happens if they’re rejected by those around them? What if they each can’t deal with their relationship and one rejects the other?

My biggest complaint, and it was resolved eventually, is that there is more emotional game playing with these two than I would like. A lot of unwillingness to trust.  In a more traditional romance, “I love you’s” would have happened in book 1, and while I might have preferred it a LITTLE earlier than where it occurred in this series, I think Ms. Urban and Ms. Roux really were true to the characters by making them work things out. Slowly. In fact, one says “I love you” far earlier (as in an earlier book) than the other. No, I won’t tell you who. That’s half the fun!

Once they start working through their emotions and really commit to each other, however, their trust is absolute and they are strong and supportive of each other at every step. They’ve made a pact to be more honest with each other and really TALK about things, especially things from their pasts. I enjoyed that the conflicts they face rarely come from within the relationship, but are external forces (murderers, thieves, cats, puns).

I’m so happy I listened to Lori and Pam and read these books. They were absolutely right and the books were totally worth the lack of sleep. I’ll be on the lookout for more, both in the series and from the authors.

*There are actually only 6 books in the series right now, but on Pam’s recommendation I read Warrior’s Cross between books 4 & 5 as some of those characters play a large role in book 5. More on that book another day.

Lynda the Guppy
aka Bring on the Men Guppy
aka The Fish With Sticks

RATING: 4.5 Stars