Ellie Reads Fiction

22 Sep 2016

Review: Dirty for Me by Jackie Ashenden

Title: Dirty for Me (Motor City Royals #1)
Author: Jackie Ashenden
Date of publication: 26 July 2016
Genre / Themes: Contemporary romance 

Author's links: Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads
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My rating: 4 Stars





Blurb

Ezekiel "Zee" Chase has a complicated past. Born into a family whose wealth grew from the seedy world of big-time crime, he ran away as a teenager and made a home for himself on the streets of Detroit. By day, the mechanic works at a local garage. But by night, he throws down with the best of them in Detroit's gritty underground fighting scene. With all those muscles, he's never had trouble with women--until he meets one who challenges him to the greatest fight of his life. . .

Tamara Eliot is a hardworking corporate high-flyer who appreciates the finer things in life, from her expensive perfume to her designer handbags. More than anything, though, she likes to be in control--and when Zee explodes into her life, she feels anything but. He's the definition of a bad boy: brash, fiery, and of course, irresistibly hot. And there's a darkness about him that keeps her coming back for more. As Zee takes Tamara deeper into a world she never knew existed, she just might prove to be the one opponent he won't be able to dominate--at least not without some pleasurable convincing . . .


Review 



The first book by Ms Ashenden which I tried, Take Me Deeper, did not work for me but I wanted to give this one a chance as well because I was curious what the author could do with the familiar (and not particularly favourite trope of mine) bad boy meets good girl and wins her over.

I really enjoyed this story. It's nothing ground-breaking or new but rather a familiar trope done well. It's a sexy, emotionally charged romance between Zee, the rough and tough street fighter from the wrong side of the tracks and the little miss perfect, daddy's good girl Tamara.

They start with unrestrained lust and acting out their fantasies and gradually move to opening up to emotionally and sharing secrets and dreams. They both change throughout the story and neither is what they initially appeared to be.

I really liked Zee, I won't say much more about him in order to avoid spoilers and keep the suspense but he turns out to be a pretty descent guy - loyal to his friends, involved in his community, trying to run away from a past that can only lead to a future of crime. He is wonderful with Tamara, helping her figure out herself without pressuring her.

I admit I didn't like Tamara as much as Zee but still, she did make the right choice in the end. It took her longer than I would have liked, some of her actions came off as childish and immature and she made some mistakes along the road, but I feel they are understandable, part of her journey to be a better person, to make up her own mind and follow her heart rather than just blindly do what is expected of her.

The supporting cast of Zee's friends are well-developed characters who fit the story perfectly. There is also a strong element of suspense that kept the plot going forward and a secondary conflict between Zee and his father which I also found rather fitting overall.

It's a fast paced, action-packed romance that draws the reader in and keeps them captivated till the very last page. Interesting characters, strong chemistry and sexual tension, unexpected plot twists make one irresistible package.

Purchase links: Amazon / B&N / Kobo / iTunes

20 Sep 2016

Review: Overexposed by Megan Erickson

Title: Overexposed (In Focus #4)
Author: Megan Erickson
Date of publication: 20 Sept 2016
Genre / Themes: Romance / New Adult / MM

Author's links: Website / Twitter / Facebook / Goodreads
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My rating: 4 Stars




Blurb

Levi Grainger needs a break. As a reality show star, he’s had enough of the spotlight and being edited into a walking stereotype. When he returns home after the last season of Trip League, he expects to spend time with his family, only to learn his sister is coming back from her deployment in a flag-draped casket. Devastated, Levi decides the best way to grieve will be to go off grid and hike the Appalachian Trail—a trip he'd planned to do with his sister.

His solitary existence on the trail is interrupted when he meets Thad, a quiet man with a hard body and intense eyes. Their connection is stronger than anything Levi has ever experienced. But when Levi discovers the truth about what Thad is hiking to escape, their future together looks uncertain, and uncertainty is the last thing Levi needs...


Review



I've read and reviewed the previous three books in this series of NA road trip mm romances and my favourite so far is Focus on Me which tells Colin and Riley. This one, the story of the reality TV star Levi and mysterious and quiet Thad he meets while hiking the Appalachian Trail comes in a close second place, and I'd even say rather it is a tie with Focus on Me.

It's a very emotionally intense story, my favourite type of romance - lots of heat with lots of deep feelings. 

Levi was grieving and Thad was at a crossroads in his life, both at vulnerable positions, they had to work through a lot of feelings, fears, dreams, hopes. Their unlikely pairing on the Appalachian Trail really helped them move on, accept some things (about themselves and the others), make decisions about the future. 

I'm very happy to see that Levi is not the spoiled celebrity he seemed to be when we first met him in the previous book. There is so much about him that is hidden behind the surface and the reader gets to see it he gradually opens up to Thad. 

They are complete opposites on the surface, Levi is outgoing and talkative and friendly and very much obviously gay who can't pass for straight. Thad is everything Levi isn't - he is quiet and broody and doesn't like people and could easily be mistake for straight. They become unlikely companions on a physically and mentally demanding trip which they both have undertaken for painful personal reasons. 

I liked how the chemistry between them was there from the start, ready to burst out yet not quite until it finally does. They don't fall into a relationship right away, but rather form an unexpected friendship which becomes a source of comfort and support they both desperately needed. Levy and Thad grow and change in the course of the story, each helping the other see his true potential. 

I have only one minor quibble with this story and it has to do with some of the presentation and discussions of the characters' sexuality. It felt forced, too focused on sending a message for acceptance and social justice. I had the same feeling regarding J. R.'s bisexuality in Out of Frame.

This story has the perfect ending and it made me so happy. I loved the sense of community, support and most importantly, hope for the future it gave to all the characters in this series. 


Purchase links: Amazon / B&N / iTunes


15 Sep 2016

Review: Wild Embrace by Nalini Singh

Title: Wild Embrace (Psy-Changeling # 15.5)
Author: Nalini Singh
Date of publication: 23 Aug 2016
Genre: Paranormal Romance, Shapeshifters, novellas

Author's links:
Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads
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My rating: 3.5 Stars



Blurb

Echo of Silence 
In a deep-sea station, Tazia Nerif has found her life’s work as an engineer, keeping things running smoothly. But she wants nothing more than to break down the barrier of silence between her and her telekinetic Psy station commander...

Dorian 
A changeling who can never shift lives a life of quiet frustration—until he learns how to let his leopard come out and play...

Partners in Persuasion 
Still raw from being burned by a dominant female, wolf changeling Felix will never again risk being a plaything. But for dominant leopard Dezi, he’s the most fascinating man she’s ever met. She just has to convince this gun-shy wolf that he can trust the dangerous cat who wants to take a slow, sexy bite out of him…

Flirtation of Fate 
Seven years ago, Kenji broke Garnet’s heart. Now the wolf packmates have to investigate the shocking murder of one of their own. And the more Kenji sees of the woman Garnet has become, the deeper he begins to fall once more. But even his primal instincts are no match for the dark secret he carries...

Review


This is a collection of 4 novellas set in the world of the Psy-changeling series. They can be read as standalones except for Dorian which for me functions as a sort of epilogue to Hostage of Pleasure.

I love Ms Singh's writing and this series is really fabulous with an intricate world building and intriguing characters and challenging relationships.

I very much enjoyed all the stories in this collection with the exception of Partners in Persuasion which just did not work for me. 

Echo of Silence was just delightful, a slow burn romance between a human female and a psy male. Tender and sweet, this story was a pleasure to read. I find the psy really interesting and all the plotlines about breaking their silence and learning to feel is like catnip for me. This story placs a strong emphasis on forming connections, the importance of family, friends, people who will stand by you and share both your happiness and your sorrow. 

Dorian is the undisputed jem in this collection. We see Dorian finally being able to shift and it's glorious. Ms Singh shows us this big, confident and smart ass sentinel we already know, stumble like a baby, learning to walk, run, live in his animal form  and it is so much fun. This storyi's full of love and tenderness and good humour and true sense of friendship which are tardemark features of the whole series. 

Partners in Persuasion plays with the dom/sub dynamic in a reversed order and while I appreciate the idea, the execution did not quite work for me. I felt disconnected from the characters, couldn't see the chemistry between them. 

Flirtation of Fate is my second favourite novella in this collection. It's a second chance, friends-to-lovers story with a strong suspense element which just added richness to it. We have already met Kenji and Garnet in earlier books where they were younger and it was nice to see them all grown up, finding the road to each other. They both struggle with their feelings for each other, try desparately to deny them, only to come together in the end as a strong meant-to-be couple.

Purchase links: Amazon / B&N / Kobo / Penguin

9 Sep 2016

Review: Connection Error by Annabeth Albert


Title: Connection Error (#gaymers #3)
Author: Annabeth Albert
Genre/Themes: MM romance, military, gamers
Release Date: 5 Sept 2016

Author links: Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads
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Rating: 4 Stars




Blurb

It's typical of video game programmer Josiah Simmons to be the last one on the plane on the way to the biggest meeting of his career. Though he's (mostly) coping with his ADHD, he can't handle another distraction. But he also can't ignore his rugged seatmate—especially once he learns the military man's a fan of his game.

Ryan Orson refuses to let his severe injuries pause his career as a navy SEAL. He's got hours of grueling physical therapy ahead of him, and no time for anything that might get in the way of his return to active duty. But that doesn't mean he's above a little first-class flirtation with geeky-cute Josiah.

When a delay strands the pair in St. Louis, they agree to share a hotel room and a night of gaming. Neither expects their new connection to move to the next level in the light of day. Opposites may attract, but is this game over before it's even begun?


Review



I read the first book in this series and didn't not enjoy it as much as I expected, so I skipped the next one. I was drawn to this story (book 3) because of the blurb - two people dealing with some serious health (mental and physical) issues come together despite all odds. 

I found this to be a very emotional, complex story, told in a compassionate and engaging manner. Ryan and Josiah are as different as two people can be and what brings them together initially is their love for gaming. That and a storm which forces them to share a hotel room. 

Ryan is a war vet with some serious injuries who is the process of rehabilitation and trying to adjust to his new situation. Josiah is a hyper active game designer with ADHD who has trouble adulting.

Despite Josiah's strong physical attraction they become friends first and foremost and over time and over email and online gaming their friendship slowly grows into a romantic relationship. I liked how real the characters felt to me. There is also no unnecessary drama but just enough of serious issues both Ryan and Josiah have to deal with in order to make things between them work. 

Despite being different, they complement each other. They turn out to be just what the other one needs - understanding, support, appreciation, respect, love. Neither really expects to fall for the other, though Josiah is the first one to admit to himself he has feelings (other than physical attraction) for Ryan. 

All the frustration and difficulties the character face were made palpable, real. Ryan's physical therapy was brutal, all his myriad of emotions - anger, desperation, determination, loss of purpose, guilt were there in the text for the reader to experience. It was the same with Josiah - his fear, the difficulty of being on his own, his ADHD and his need to be loved were presented so convincingly. 

We meet the main characters at crucial points in their lives, in a way the worst time for them to try being in a relationship, yet it happens and it's the best thing for both of them.

I loved how rich this story was, all the little subplots with Josiah's family and friends, Ryan's ex, his family and his doctors, they all gave depth to the story. 

As a minor weakness, I'd say I expected to get a little more insight on the psychologcal impact of Ryan's injuries on him. I feel this is important aspect of his recovery and should have been present in the story. 

In the end, I really enjoyed this military/gamers romance. I found it tender and sensual, serious and light-hearted at the same time!

Purchase links: Amazon / B&N / Kobo / iTunes

7 Sep 2016

Review: Rookie Move by Sarina Bowen

Title: Rookie Move (Brooklyn Bruisers #1)
Author: Sarina Bowen
Genre: Sports romance
Release Date: 6 Sept 2016

Author's links:
Website / Facebook / Twitter / Goodreads
Add to Goodreads

My rating: 4.5 Stars



Blurb

In high school they were the perfect couple—until the day Georgia left Leo in the cold... 

Hockey player Leo Trevi has spent the last six years trying to do two things: get over the girl who broke his heart, and succeed in the NHL. But on the first day he’s called up to the newly franchised Brooklyn Bruisers, Leo gets checked on both sides, first by the team’s coach—who has a long simmering grudge, and then by the Bruisers’ sexy, icy publicist—his former girlfriend Georgia Worthington.

Saying goodbye to Leo was one of the hardest things Georgia ever had to do—and saying hello again isn’t much easier. Georgia is determined to keep their relationship strictly professional, but when a press conference microphone catches Leo declaring his feelings for her, things get really personal, really fast....


Review


This is a spin-off series of The Ivy Years series on NA college/hockey romances which I absolutely love. This first instalment is about Leo Trevi who is DJ's brother (from The FifteenthMminute). It's a second chance/reunited lovers story and I very much enjoyed it.

I'm an avid reader of sport romances and this one of the best I've read lately. It has an easy flow to it, a nice balance between sports talks and the romance plotline. 

Both Georgia and Leo are well rounded, full fledged characters with their strengths and weaknesses which only make human and easy to relate to.

Their chemistry is undeniable and their love for each other is still there after 6 years apart, but they both needed some growing up in order to be able to be together after what happened to Georgia. They had to come clean to themselves and each other and act like adults in order to get their HEA.

As most of Ms Bowen's previous books, at the heart of this light-hearted and fun story we have a serious real-life issue portrayed with compassion and understanding. It's something that happened a while ago but has lasting effects on everyone in this story. 

Ms Bowen creates a great cast of supporting characters and I'm already looking for their stories in the next books in the series. I very much liked the way the team/friendship dynamics worked in this story, as well as family relationships portrayed in all their complexity.

Overall, this is a funny and heart-warming sports romance, a feel good read I can recommend to everyone.

Purchase links: Amazon / B&N / Kobo / iBooks

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