Taming the CEO by Hayson Manning – Daisy and Zan are business rivals, both eyeing to buy the same luxury resort. The seller is making all prospective buyers come to the resort for a week and go through the singles retreat – so they can get a feel for what they are buying. Daisy is not in the mood for this, as she is extremely task-oriented and is not up for spontaneity. Worse, her enemy Zan will be there with all of his muscles and good looks. Damn it. As they play along in this retreat and hate each other, they also fall for each other.
This one was okay – the book starts out super fast. It was like Daisy and Zan already had a history and the reader is put right in the middle of it. It took me a bit to catch up and get a feel for these two. Daisy is cute, but it takes a while to warm up to Zan. Sexy, but a little disjointed at times.
Tanner by Sarah Mayberry – Hellllo sweet and adorable bull rider. Tanner is a good guy hero if I ever saw one. Traveling while on circuit, he meets a woman from Australia who is here to surprise her boyfriend. But Tanner knows this boyfriend is up to no good with a “buckle bunny” and he gently breaks the news to Evie. Later he sees her going into a hotel in a not so good part of town. He asks that she stay with him (she knows of Tanner from talking with her boyfriend in the past) and reluctantly agrees. These two hit it off and it’s cute – the author also does a nice job with the bull-riding aspect.
The first half is much stronger than the second. It felt rushed more in the second half and I wanted more good, quality times in the relationship. Overall, a cute read.
When Liza was fourteen, her parents drugged her and passed her off as an eighteen year old to sleep with a rock star to then blackmail this rock star into getting Liza’s father in the band. This man was accused of rape, and eventually fled the country. Liza ended up living with an aunt, and cutting herself to deal with this extremely traumatic event. We are told the trial was bigger than both OJ Simpson and Michael Jackson. That’s a big, big comparison and a big deal. While we are told all of this, I don’t think time is spent in the book really letting the reader absorb the impact of what Liza’s life must have been as a teenager. And the absolute devastation of it all. Had this book been all about that event and how she is recovering, maybe that would be one thing – but we also have time devoted to Justice and being on a reality television show.
Justice and his band mates have made it to the final two to win a recording contract. After his mom went to jail and his father abandoned him, he has had a hard time with allowing people close to him, scared everyone will just leave him like his parents did. He meets Liza on the show, as she is an intern hoping to get a job with the promotion company. Her job is to promote Savage Dreams on their final few weeks of the show.
As the blurb states, this book ends on a cliffhanger with the firm HEA not coming until book three. As I said earlier, I just didn’t connect with Liza and Justice. Her sad back story, which has followed her to adulthood, didn’t impact me like it should have. It’s hard to pinpoint exact reasons why this book didn’t work for me, it just fell flat. I think they extraordinary events of Liza’s childhood didn’t feel real to me.
Blaze by Donna Grant. This was definitely a case of it’s me, not you. I’ve never read Ms. Grant’s Dark Kings series though it has been on my radar for awhile. When I saw Blaze up for review, I didn’t immediately connect it with the series and thought it was a standalone. I was told I could probably jump in here because Grant does an excellent job of recapping and bringing the storyline up to date. Unfortunately, the recapping isn’t enough for those who aren’t up to date in the series. I was so overwhelmed and confused by the various characters and ongoing storylines, I wasn’t able to connect with it at all. I have learned my lesson and now will start at the beginning of series as one is supposed to do.
Secrets of Southern Girls by Haley Harrigan is a layered and complex tragedy that uses the past and the present to tell its story. Julie and Reba were best friends growing up but one dark night leaves Reba dead and Julie to blame. Or so she thinks. When Reba’s old high school boyfriend comes looking for Julie and a diary no one knew about ten years later, Julie heads back to her hometown to discover what exactly happened that night and why. Using multiple points of view, including Reba’s, Harrigan digs deep into the lives of this group and slowly unravels the lies and secrets that surrounded them all. Harrigan’s debut is quite sturdy and her voice is sure of itself though I found some aspects of the dialogue dry and disconnected when she goes back into the past. The story’s flow isn’t consistent and stumbles as it flashes from the present to the past. Reba’s diary is used in the narrative to try to help us connect and sympathize with Reba and her choices but it does the exact opposite and Julie, while interesting, isn’t very likable and seems to suffer from a martyr complex. Secrets of Southern Girls has a lot of potential but didn’t deliver as expected for me.
Bad Romance by Heather Demetrios is a humorous and heartbreaking story that us back to high school and guides readers through an abusive relationship as told to us by the victim. Told in a cautionary tone, Bad Romance perfectly captures the melodrama and secrecy that often surrounds teenagers. Grace is a well developed and vocal teenager whose abusive family life unconsciously pushes her into a romantic relationship that eventually abusive. Demetrios is honest in her portrayal of Grace, giving us intimate access to her through her thoughts and actions. We see how easy it was for Gavin to isolate and manipulate her and the part his own parents play in that. A strong secondary cast empowers Grace with positivity, strength, and advice through their friendships. Bad Romance isn’t an easy story to read but it is a powerful and eye-opening story that hopefully can help someone who may be caught in a similar situation find their way out.
I picked up Stillhouse Lake by Rachel Caine from Amazon’s Kindle First program. I am a fan of Caine’s paranormal works and was interested in seeing how she handled straight fiction. I was thoroughly hooked from page one. A mother reinvents her whole life in order to protect her kids when she discovers her husband is a serial killer. Caine does an excellent job of keeping readers on edge with this psychological and suspenseful thriller as she digs deep into the life of Gina/Gwen who must not only deal with that fact that she lived and loved a serial killer but that she and her kids have now lost their freedom because of him. Caine brings out the dark side of the internet, showing us how intrusive and crazy it can be and how hard it is to hide from its users. We grow as paranoid as Gwen when she begins to receive threatening letters and a body is discovered in the lake. A body who bears a striking resemblance to her ex-husband’s victims. The pacing is steady, the narrative dynamic, and the characters bold in their quests. A mildly ambiguous ending resolves the main conflict though it leaves an opening for book two.