Monday, June 1, 2015

JUNE 1 || release day • reviews

Happy release day to:

Reaching Rose by J.P. Grider jump to review }
The Major's Faux Fiance by Erica Ridley { jump to review }
Crave by Jennifer Dawson{ jump to review }
I'll Stand By You by Sharon Sala jump to review }



Reaching Rose by J.P. Grider

Publisher: Self-Published (6/1/2015)
Series: Hunter Hill University, book 3
Genre: New Adult
Source: NetGalley
Purchase links || amazon (not currently avail) | add to goodreads


Rose Duncan is dancing on Broadway. She’s spent hours a day for the last two decades to get there, and now she’s living the dream. She’s happy, she’s driven, and life couldn’t get any better.

Ben Falco is a pitcher whose only goal is to make it to the Major Leagues. He keeps his grades up, he doesn’t party, and he stays away from committed relationships – they’ll only distract him.

But when Ben meets Rose, she’s no dancer, and she’s certainly not happy. In fact, she doesn’t seem to be living at all. Yet something about her makes him want to know what’s turned her into this shell of a person, and if he can be the one to reach inside her mind and pull her out.

Ben doesn’t want a relationship. Rose doesn’t want to get better. But once their hearts collide, it’s a whole new ballgame.

Reaching Rose is a story about Rose and Ben, and a little about their friend Johnny Gleason – a genius who has plans of his own until they too slip from his grasp. This is a tale about love, loss, and guts, and the ability to play hardball when life throws you a curve.

When we start this story, we have a happy Ben and a sullen Rose. Sure, Ben is going into a rehab center after meniscus surgery, but his baseball career (college with the thought of majors not far behind) is still a firm reality. Just a bit of rehab, and life will be golden.

Does God just put the right people in our 
paths at the right time for a reason?

But then there's Rose. She was doing a summer Broadway stint with dancing when an accident took her leg. Now, she's depressed and has retreated into herself. She doesn't talk, rarely makes eye contact, and keeps to herself. Sure, the nurses at the rehab center talk to her and try to get her to cheer up, but nothing they say or do will bring back her dancing career. She figures if she says nothing, if she keeps her voice to herself, she will wake up from this dream.

When Ben meets Rose, he sits with her at lunch; she sits at a table alone and he wants to know more about her. He had seen her earlier in the day and was curious as to why the beautiful girl didn't talk. Sure, he'd noticed the way her pants fell over her knee; he got that she was missing her leg. When he goes to her table and tries to make small talk, he doesn't let her refusal to answer deter him... He keeps trying. When he gets an almost smile, he feels that he's accomplished something and looks forward to getting her to smile more.
As expected, she doesn't respond with words, but I'm sure I saw the slight shake of her head telling me no, she didn't want anything. So she can and will communicate, no matter how slightly. I'll just have to be patient with her.
It takes time for her to talk, but Ben was the right person for that job.

Rose's grieving process was a long one -- one that takes the entire book. There are things that happen in her and Ben's growing relationship that will make her question herself and she will fall back into her grieving ways...

...but Ben doesn't let her stay that way long.

Ben loves Rose in a way that is sure and real. At first, all he wants is a smile. When he gets that, he wants her company, he wants her conversation, he just wants her. He doesn't want her to hide herself and tries again and again to convince her that he wants her -- so-called flaws and all. 

In an ironic little twist, these two almost met before the rehab center. However, I think it was important that they met when 'broken'.

There's not a lot that can be said about this book without giving away the middle and the end, but I absolutely enjoyed Ben and Rose's story. While I haven't read the others in the HUNTER HILL UNIVERSITY series, I wouldn't mind seeing Ben and Rose a few years down the road. Yes, they're young; yes, promises made at this point in their life may fall flat... but something about these two just tells me that they're not only in it for the long-haul, but that they have the ability to make it the long haul.

The Major's Faux Fiancee by Erika Ridley

Publisher: Intrepid Reads (6/1/2015)
Series: Dukes of War, book 4
Genre: Regency Romance
Source: NetGalley
Purchase links || amazon | add to goodreads

Rating: ★1/2

Enjoy the emotional, humorous fourth book in USA Today bestselling author Erica Ridley's new Dukes of War regency romance series!

When Major Bartholomew Blackpool learns the girl-next-door from his childhood will be forced into an unwanted marriage, he returns home to play her pretend beau. He figures now that he's missing a leg, a faux fiancée is the best an ex-soldier can get. He admires her pluck, but the lady deserves a whole man—and he'll ensure she gets one.

Miss Daphne Vaughan hates that crying off will destroy Major Blackpool's chances of finding a real bride. She plots to make him jilt her first. Who cares if it ruins her? She never wanted a husband anyway. But the major is equally determined that she break the engagement. With both of them on their worst behavior, neither expects their fake betrothal to lead to love...

Now, if this wasn't a different type of twist to the friends-to-lovers story, I don't know what is.

Friends-to-lovers, meet historical romance. 

And oh, how fun it was to see this little trope in an 1800s setting.

When Daphne's father died, her care was handed over to a pirate named Captain Steele. He is now bringing over suitors for her, as she's getting nearly too old for the turning season. However, when Daphne turns twenty-one, she will come into possession of money -- she just needs to stay unwed until that time, in which she can support herself and will not need a husband.

You see, Daphne believes in a number of people and causes, and she supports them -- something she will be unable to do if she were to take a husband. In need of being able to stay unwed, she writes to her childhood friend (...he was a few years older, but a friend nonetheless) and asks for him to become betrothed to her -- at least until she comes of age, at which point, they can go their own ways.

Bartholomew is every bit the rake his reputation calls of him. He doesn't believe he deserves a happily every after, and is ok with never becoming a suitor. When he and his twin went to war, his twin died and he lost a leg. Guilt eats at him daily; he doesn't feel he should be the one to have lived.

He receives calling cards and such from those who would like for him to be theirs, but he has them tossed. When one comes in from the Vaughan homestead, he decides to take it -- he's curious is all.

Little Daphne is all grown up, he discovers...

I enjoyed this historical -- I tend to be picky with them and this one was good throughout. I enjoyed watching Bartholomew's struggle with his guilt, his feelings, and his body image. As much as he didn't want them, he grew deeper feelings for Daphne and was ok pretending to be content that they would part ways.

I loved how strong of a character Daphne was. She was strong-minded and independent, two things that were not necessarily "good" things in that time period. As her feelings grew for Bartholomew, she was aware that they may not be returned but that didn't stop her from loving him.

...and quite honestly, I loved when she calls him out on his feelings and issues at the end. 

Crave by Jennifer Dawson

Publisher: Jennifer Dawson Publishing (6/1/2015)
Series: Undone, book 1
Genre: Contemporary, Erotica Romance
Source: NetGalley
Purchase links || amazon | add to goodreads


I vow. I crave. I give in. 

I used to be a nice, normal girl. I had dreams. Good, happy dreams of a white picket fence, 2.5 kids, and a fairytale love that lasts forever. Nobody ever warned me that sometimes, the prince dies three weeks before the wedding. 

Like any addict, I swear this time is the last…. 

Now, I go through my days, a shadow of my former self. I pretend I’m okay, and the people in my life pretend to believe me. But, sometimes, when I can no longer stand the craving, I roam an underground sex club looking for my next hit. It’s dirty and wrong, but I can’t stop, and my only line of defense between them and me, are the rules I’ve designed to keep me safe. Men always abide by my rules. Until I meet him. 

And, like any addict, I’m wrong. 

I don’t question the instincts that tell me to run. One look at him, standing there, power radiating off him in waves, tells me all I need to know. He will make me crave those happy dreams I’ve left behind. And that is not an option. 

Eighteen months ago, Layla witnessed the murder of her fiance, and she hasn't been able to move around it. John was Layla's other half, and she's having a terrible time moving on without him. She's grieving and feels more guilt than she ought to -- but is understandable, nonetheless.

In need of losing herself, Layla frequents an underground sex club. She has her set of rules, and tries to find men that will abide by them. Yes, she's the submissive, but she still expects her rules to be followed. One particularly bad night, she goes to the club and after a decent amount of time of looking for someone to fulfill her need and not finding him, she turns to go...

...and sees him.

Michael's dominant ways differ than John's in the way that he wears his on his sleeve, where John's dominant side only came out in the bedroom. Michael's ways are what will push and drive the relationship that unfolds between Layla and Michael.

She says no names, he offers her his.

She says she won't come back Saturday so don't wait... he tells her she will.

...and after avoiding him and going on a date to take up her time, she ends up at the club.

Michael reads Layla well. He understands her quickly and that scares Layla. She hasn't been drawn to someone like him since John -- but what scares her most is that when with him, she forgets John and that's not something she wants.

I wanted Layla to be happy -- but I wanted her to share her fears and darkest thoughts with Michael, and that's not something she did. She allowed herself to grow feelings for him, yes, but she lived her life with him just on the surface.

...and Michael understood this. He knew that one wrong move, and he could lose her forever.

I absolutely loved Michael. I loved that he didn't give up on her -- I suppose if just looking at it in a skim-over-the-top kind of way, he was almost freakishly stalkerish about it (not that he did any background checks or anything), but he was unrelenting when it came to Layla. But he was unrelenting because he sensed her needs, as any good Dom would; but more than that, more than sexually, he just needed her.

There's wasn't the easiest of relationships by any means, but it was one of my favorites in the erotica world. It took the entire book for Layla's armor to be fully chipped away, but there couldn't have been a better person for her than Michael. His care, his understanding, even his fears... those were the things that made him the best for Layla.

...I also really really loved this cover. Really loved it. I certainly appreciate a nice sculpted back...

I'll Stand By You by Sharon Sala

Publisher: Sourcebooks Casablanca (6/1/2015)
Series: Undone, book 1
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Source: Publisher, through NetGalley
Purchase links || amazon | add to goodreads

Rating: ★1/2

No one is alone
Dori Grant is no stranger to hardship. As a young single mother in the gossip-fueled town of Blessings, Georgia, she's weathered the storm of small-town disapproval most of her life. But when Dori loses everything within the span of an evening, she realizes she has no choice but to turn to her neighbors.

As long as there is love to give
Everyone says the Pine boys are no good, but Johnny Pine has been proving the gossips wrong ever since his mother died and he took over raising his brothers. His heart goes out to the young mother and child abandoned by the good people of Blessings. Maybe he can be the one to change all that...

When I think of Sharon Sala, I think romantic suspense...

...until I'm reminded that she wrote those Justice men. Ryder's Wife? One of my favorite books of all time (I forgot the name of the book and sat and Google'd any form of: wife, convenience, airplane crash -- etc, because I loved the book and lost it).

But when I don't think of Ryder's Wife and I think of Sharon Sala -- it's romantic suspense.

If you couldn't tell by the bright, cheery cover... this is not a romantic suspense.'s not the most bright and cheery book, either, though. Our two main characters are Dori and Johnny. Dori grew up on the "right side" of the tracks, but by becoming an unwed teenaged mother, is now talked about as if she's white trash; Johnny grew up on the "wrong side" and his last name has his little brothers being casted in negative lighting.

Johnny, at twenty, is the legal guardian of his seven and ten year old brothers, Beep (Brooks) and Marshall. He knows that any misstep will have the bureau banging down his door and taking his brothers from him, so tries damn hard to keep everything together. He makes sure the boys get to school, that their homework is done, and that the house is clean. He refuses to watch his brothers be thrown in the foster care system.

Dori, at seventeen, is a young mother but she works hard to be a good mother. She had to drop out of school but completed her GED, and is working little jobs to keep food in her boy's tummy. She's living with her granddaddy, who has had her since her parents died, and he's a great help -- but she is still independent and needs to know for herself that she's doing a good job.

After a terrible week for the Pine boys, and a terrible day for Dori, Johnny and Adorable Grant meet, and thus, their love story begins. Being from the same town, they knew of one another, but being grades apart, and tracks apart, had not been acquaintances. 

I enjoyed Dori and Johnny's stories. I loved that separately, they were both fighting battles not necessarily for acceptance from the town, but more to just be left alone. Together, though, they became a strong force. He was her rock, and vice versa. Their little family wasn't traditional by any means, but it was a more healthy family than those of say... the town banker's.

The little part of the story that kept this from being a 5-star for me was all of the side stories. At points, the thoughts and opinions of other town folk was important, sure, but I was more interested in Johnny and Dori's thoughts. I was cool with the thoughts of Beep and Marshall, too, but I didn't care much for all the extra -- I just wanted a story that pertained to Johnny and Dori. 

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