Loving Noel by Xana Jordan ~ Book Review

Loving Noel by Xana Jordan is the first book in the Wildcat Graduates Series and, although I rarely even check out the YA and NA books (being rather older…), I’m so glad I read this novel. Jordan not only captures the fun, laughter and friendships we shared as we suffered high school, but also all the angst and insecurities that plagued us.

Xana has been attracted to Noel for a long time, but assumes he would never notice her. Noel feels the same about Xana, but she’s the year ahead of him, so he presumes she wouldn’t be interested. However, because of band practice they spend a lot of time together, both are part of the same group of friends and, after dancing around each other for way too long, almost without effort, they start to date.

Even though they seem perfect for each other, when you are young and in love all sorts of issues rear their ugly heads, for just as Xana and Noel become closer, their relationship is put to the test. Enter Mercedes and Blain. Mercedes wants Noel and will try every catty trick in the book to get him, and Blain, who although Xana considers more of a brother, suddenly sees Xana in a whole new light.

Jordan’s portrayal of her characters was so genuine, I seriously wanted to punch Mercedes’ lights out and slap Noel for not being more forceful when it came to telling her to back off. My stomach wrenched at some of the crap Xana put up with and throughout the tale I was back in my high school days when emotions were exaggerated and we hadn’t gained enough maturity to know how to handle certain situations, our responses raw and unsophisticated (despite believing ourselves very grown up and totally able to handle anything!). I was so thankful for Stacy and Cade who are exactly the sort of friends you need; strong, supportive, loyal and happy to tell you to stop behaving like an idiot.

Loving Noel is a story of first love, the heady romance and intoxicating anticipation – the leap from being friends to dating, tinged with the fear that if it doesn’t work out, your friendship might be ruined. It’s also about jealousy, loss, trust, faith and how we cope with the journey from adolescence to adulthood. Jordan’s style is lively and entertaining, drawing you further and further into the lives of her characters, until you feel you have known them for years and are now part of their coterie. I am looking forward to the sequel, as this story is not over.

Loving Noel is available on Amazon and although intended for a younger audience, I believe anyone who loves a fun romance will enjoy this story.

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The Foreigner by AC Jade ~ Book Review

The Foreigner by AC Jade turned out to be a very intriguing book. The story unfolds in a rather unusual manner and initially I wasn’t sure whether I was going to enjoy it. Jasmine, a young lady from the Philippines is now living in America and re-training to be a doctor. On the first day at her new job she gets lost and ends up at a place called The Bookstore ~ which isn’t a bookstore at all ~ where she is greeted by a masked stranger, a stranger who haunts her dreams. Despite visiting The Bookstore several times, Jasmine loses sight of this shadowy figure and decides to move on, since wishing for him was not making it happen.

Subsequently, she meets and falls for Stephen Gates, who just happens to live in the penthouse suite of her apartment block, and unfortunately is suffering from a brain tumour. Although he loves her too and they begin a passionate affair, there is much threatening their chance at a HEA ~ not least of which is Steven’s disease ~ and slowly everything unravels.

I struggled a bit with Jasmine’s character, as initially she seemed quite independent and feisty, but later was easily manipulated by Stephen and the rest of his family ~ of whom there are a LOT and who are extremely wealthy. Some of the brothers consider Jasmine a gold digger and make no bones about their opinion ~ their callous assumptions, unfounded and downright hurtful, leaving Jasmine confused and uncertain. To add to the mix, it turns out Stephen has a twin, who Jasmine meets under tragic circumstances, little realising that they have already spoken, but when and how will shock her. So there are quite a lot of twists and turns in the tale. No, I won’t give the plot away ~ you have to read it.

The supporting cast were well written and some deserve their own stories ~ I’d be interested to see whether this happens. The story ends but doesn’t conclude, I felt that there were a few threads still dangling, so I hope AC Jade ties them off in a future novel.

This is a story of love and loss and second chances, of the tenuous nature of life and how happiness so can so easily be snatched away. It encourages the reader to grab life with both hands and dance like nobody’s watching!

Overall this book was definitely worth the read, although I did find some of the language and phraseology a bit awkward. I discovered, however, that The Foreigner is the Jade’s debut novel and that English is her second language, which clarified it to some extent; I am in awe of authors who take that leap of faith to write in a language other than their own.

The Foreigner is available on Amazon
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Redeemed by Maria Vickers ~ Book Review

Redeemed by Maria Vickers is the second book in the Love Seekers series and follows the lives of Rayne Sampson and Chad Alexander. Rayne is Bryan’s sister (from Exposed, the first book – have you read it yet? You really should) and Chad who fell for Emma (now married to Bryan – are you still with me?) and for whom he still harbours deep feelings. I loved Chad in ‘Exposed’ and was very excited to discover that he gets his own story.

Rayne is a total witch, she hates everyone, well actually she hates Emma and everything spills out from there. She is so hateful, she makes the Wicked Witch of the West seem like the best ever fairy godmother. She detests anyone with a disability, believing them to be frauds and her greatest wish is that Bryan will divorce Emma. This vitriol is not contained within her family circle; it has become so ingrained, it’s now affecting the rest of her life, which is rapidly spiralling out of control.

Chad hates Rayne. He hates how she gets away with her petulant, spoiled behaviour, he hates the way treats Emma and anyone else who suffers from any form of disability, including his own sister, and is determined to teach her a lesson. So he comes up with a plan, at the same time that Rayne decides Chad needs taking down a peg or two…and so begins the dance.  Every time they meet they fight and their verbal battles are doozies, but as they begin to spend time together something shifts. There is more going on under the surface with Rayne, something that Chad believes might explain her attitude, but her shell is very hard and she is too proud to let anyone get close enough to soften it. To add to the mix, someone at Rayne’s place of work is trying to undermine her, sending Rayne’s stress levels through the roof and it seems the one person who might be able to help her is Chad.

This book carried me away on a tidal wave of emotions. Rayne’s torment and anger is a tangible thing but although she infuriated me there was always a hint of vulnerability that made my heart crack. Chad, despite his womanising ways, is a true gentleman and even when he is furious with her, he still worries about her as she slowly self-destructs. The more time they spend together they more they begin to realise that hate and love are indeed separated by a very fine line which, of course, they cannot possibly cross.

Maria’s book is also a not so subtle reminder that not every disability is obvious, that being judgemental usually hurts those who judge far more than the judged and that more often than not, the nightmares of the past refuse to stay buried. Life is messy, fairy tales are usually rather grim and happy endings often have a tendency to creep up, entirely unexpectedly, and smack us in the face. This is how it is with Chad and Rayne, their journey is hard and they face what seem like insurmountable obstacles on the way. After so much hostility, pain and despair do they stand a chance of, or even deserve, redemption?

Beautifully written with a cast of engaging and gutsy characters, whose lives are inextricably entwined – whether they like it or not. I loved Redeemed.

Redeemed will be available on Amazon from March 17th 2017.
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Exposed by Maria Vickers ~ Book Review

Exposed by Maria Vickers is so many things – an awakening, a journey, an understanding, an inspiration and a love story. The story follows Emma – a bright, funny and very capable young lady who just happens to suffer from a neuro-muscular disease, and Bryan – a navy pilot, as they negotiate the very tricky business of falling in love.

Emma, after yet another frustrating date, pings a disgruntled instant message to her friend – Mel, only to find she has mistakenly sent it to Bryan – said friend’s, best friend and (to make matters worse) the man for whom Emma harbours a secret crush. Bryan, who has actually met Emma once before and therefore knows of her disease, decides she needs his help to discover someone who will love her for herself and they start chatting online.

It seems like a great idea, but Emma is painfully aware that most men – in fact most people – treat her with impatience and often outright disdain.  Emma does not let her illness hold her back, but has come to recognise that she has limitations. Thus, finding someone who will love her enough not only to see beyond her limitations and through the illness to the person she is, but also loving enough to be there for her through better and worse would be nothing short of miraculous. Nonetheless, Bryan is determined – and so begins his awakening.

Exposed isn’t an easy story (the title should be a bit of a giveaway) – it is despair, courage, grief, hope, trust, anguish, humour, faith, passion and most of all love – well it is a love story! That Maria drew on her own experiences, makes it all the more poignant. I was so vested in this couple – I desperately wanted Bryan to realise what he might lose if he didn’t listen to his heart and what Emma might lose if she didn’t trust hers.

This is a beautifully crafted story with a great cast of characters and written in a lively style. A novel based around such a debilitating illness risks becoming mired in self pity – not this story. It flows easily and although there are some harsh moments within the book, they are lifted by the banter and wit among the main characters and Emma’s great attitude to life! This book shredded my heart but then put it back together in such a positive way! A roller-coaster of a story, but so worth the ride!

Exposed is available worldwide through Amazon

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Chasing Us by MA Lee ~ Book Review

Chasing Us is the new contemporary romance from author MA Lee, and revolves around Leigh and Brandon, two friends who decided to take a road trip to follow their dreams.

Of course, there’s way more to it than that, but that’s the basic premise. We are introduced to the main characters on Leigh’s 21st birthday. She and her best friend – Kylie – are celebrating in their favourite club, listening to another good friend, Brandon playing with his band, while waiting for Leigh’s fiancé, Jamie, to arrive. To Leigh, the world seems pretty ok, not mind-blowingly awesome, but ok!

A little later Leigh comes across Jamie and Brandon arguing about her. Turns out, Jamie has been cheating, Brandon found out and was determined that Jamie was not going to continue his games. Some birthday!

Once the shock, numbed by an over-indulgence of alcohol and subsequent hangover, has worn off, Leigh takes stock. For most of her life Leigh has done what she believed to be the ‘right’ thing. Pushing her own dreams and desires aside to keep everyone else around her happy. One day while talking to Brandon, Leigh admits that all she’s ever really wanted to do was write, to become a published author. When Brandon says she should pursue her dream, Leigh reminds him that he’s telling her to do exactly what he hasn’t done. Realising Leigh’s right, Brandon suggests a road trip, a way for them both to chase their dreams. Although, to Leigh the whole idea seems utterly crazy, she knows she wants to do it more than anything she has ever wanted her whole life.

So they set off and along the way their friendship evolves into something far more; deeper, stronger and more passionate than either of them could have imagined. This isn’t an easy relationship though. Leigh can’t understand why anyone as drop dead gorgeous as Brandon would ever want to be with her and her own insecurities threaten to derail their burgeoning romance more than once. Outside forces also seem intent on undermining Leigh’s newfound confidence, not only in her relationship with Brandon, but also in herself.

The main characters are well developed, their personalities the perfect complement to each other. Brandon is amazing, I fell for him from the get go. He has loved Leigh for a long time; patiently waiting for the moment when he could swoop in and claim her. Leigh, although fighting her attraction to Brandon believing it to be some kind of aberration, slowly comes to accept that this is for real. I did find her ongoing issues frustrating on occasion, but I could see where they came from. I just desperately wanted her to trust that Brandon wasn’t playing with her heart, that he wanted it all.

I do enjoy a ‘friends to lovers’ romance and this one’s a doozy. The idea of this happening on a road trip while the couple chase their dreams is refreshing. Not only does it provide an interesting backdrop to their romance, but also, we get to visit, vicariously, all these amazing places – a chance to enjoy the journey as much as the destination. Leigh and Brandon’s story is not a smooth ride and but it’s certainly fast paced, well written and, in case you’re interested, the sex scenes are smokin’ hot! Solid five stars!

Chasing Us is due out on 13th March 2017.

Confessions of a Wedding Planner by Michelle Jo Quinn ~ Book Review

Confessions of a Wedding Planner by Michelle Jo Quin is quite simply wonderful! Veronica Soto Stewart – Nica to her friends – is a wedding planner, not just any wedding planner she is an outstanding wedding planner; so good, in fact, that her ex-boyfriend, Jake, asks her to plan his wedding. This sounds almost okay until you realise that Jake is marrying the woman he dumped Nica for and that he and Nica only broke up 3 months previously. To top it off, the wedding will take place in a month; the guest list is huge, they haven’t chosen or booked a venue, the bride – who is French – needs to travel to Paris for her dress fitting, as you do, and the best man – Levi, is a man Nica despises. Not really the best ingredients when you are trying to create the most memorable day of matrimonial bliss.

Sandrine, Jake’s fiancé, turns out to be delightful – typical – and despite feeling as though her heart is being stomped on every time she meets the happy couple, Nica cannot dislike her. What is also clear is that Jake and Sandrine are meant to be together, so when Sandrine begs Nica to be her bridesmaid, it is another request she is unable to refuse. As the wedding draws closer and, even though she still has feelings for Jake, Nica starts to realise that they never shared the all-consuming love he has with Sandrine and has to re-evaluate her heart. It’s all quite a pickle really!

In the midst of all this, Levi starts to get under her skin. To outward appearances not to mention his past history, Levi is the epitome of a playboy, enjoying the thrill of the chase, flitting from woman to woman leaving behind a trail of broken hearts, but he seems bewitched by Nica. Unable to trust him or her own emotions, Nica is determined not let him get close, but once they are in France, Paris works its magic.

Even though you think Nica is cuckoo for accepting the job – who wants to plan their ex’s wedding for goodness sake? – you cannot help but empathise with her. The same goes for Levi, it seems he’s doing his damnedest to make her fall in love with him, but she is afraid to believe it’s real. As ever the course of true love never runs smoothly. Misunderstandings, family rows and her own hang-ups interfere and it seems as though Nica’s HEA is slipping out of reach. Does she find happiness? Will Jake and Sandrine really get married? And what of Levi? No, I’m not going to tell you, go – read the book it’s delicious!

I loved this book. Michelle has written a sweet romance, yet allowed desire to circle relentlessly on the periphery, giving it just a hint of heat. Throwing humour and a lot of fun into the mix, she also prevents the story from becoming melancholy. The characters are beautifully drawn, including the ‘supporting’ cast and the main issues – well for me at least – of heartbreak, denial, grief, hope, trust and love flow in and out of the story with the skill of a master story teller, enough to keep you riveted without overdoing it. Now I can’t wait to read the next book! Five Stars

Confessions of A Wedding Planner is available on Amazon.
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Spy Fall by Audrey Randall ~ Book Review

Yes! I love Audrey Randall’s books, I have come to expect a fast ride with plenty of spice and sizzle and Spy Fall is no exception. This is a stand-alone novel, but does link up with Randall’s ‘The Celestial Prophecy’ series.

Introducing Brandon Ryker an ex-marine and now currently involved in covert ops for the CIA, and Delilah Faber a computer specialist for Nebula One, the programming arm for the world famous ‘The Celestial Prophecy’ online game, and a total nerd. They have been best friends since high school and, since he has been working undercover, Brandon always crashes at Delilah’s apartment between missions.

They love spending time together, hate being apart and are compatible on so many levels but have circled each other for years, each trying to deny their growing affection for the other. Brandon doesn’t think he’s good enough for Delilah and Delilah believes she’s far too nerdy to attract someone as handsome and sophisticated as Brandon – after all, he’s just like James Bond! Fate however has other ideas as an unexpected and, for Delilah, terrifying incident, precipitates things somewhat.

In the blink of an eye, Delilah’s life is turned upside down as she finds herself in the hands of an unscrupulous cartel responsible for – amongst other things – smuggling arms and major credit card hacks, and who would love nothing more than to remove Brandon off the face of the earth. As he heads in to rescue Delilah, Brandon knows he cannot hide behind the façade of friendship anymore. It would kill him to lose her; he just hopes he’s read the signals right and that she feels the same way.

Is he in time? Will the spy get his girl? Can they move beyond the insecurities that have held them back for so long? Now that would be telling. All I’ll say is that Audrey Randall does love a HEA!

The characters are so much fun. Delilah is headstrong, feisty, determined and definitely not backwards in coming forwards. Brandon is strong, protective and sexy as all get out. The supporting cast are great too, developed enough to add to the unfolding scenario and without overwhelming Brandon and Delilah. Yes there are some sizzling scenes – this is erotic romance people – but they have been included thoughtfully and rather than detract from the main plot, slot seamlessly into it

This is a really fun read, if you are into online gaming and Bond movies – oh and really, really hot CIA agents, or just love a good steamy romance – this is the book for you – it is Delish!!

Spy Fall is due for release on 20th March 2017, but is available now on Amazon for pre-order at just 99c (price to go up after release)!

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The Divorce by Nicole Strycharz ~ Book Review

 

The Divorce by Nicole Strycharz is an astonishing read. It grabbed me from page one and refused to let go, even when I wasn’t actually reading it. The story revolves around Jenzy and Chris, married for seven years, happily for five. The last two, for Jenzy at least have been slowly crushing the life out of her.

College sweethearts, they are complete opposites and their relationship – from dating to marriage – has been tempestuous, but the pros always outweighed the cons. Lately, however all the things that Chris used to love about his wife have begun to irritate him and he is so wrapped up in his job and the gym that he barely notices her anymore. Jenzy has tried everything to rekindle the flame, to little effect. Chris has forgotten so many things over the past couple of years and then to top it all he forgets Valentine’s Day, their special day.

It proves to be the last straw and hurt beyond reason, Jenzy leaves. Chris who despite a multitude of warning signs, doesn’t see it coming and is flabbergasted as the heart-wrenching process that is a divorce, begins.

I went through so many emotions reading their story. I laughed, cried, my heart broke – not once, several times – as little by little Jenzy’s reasons for such a huge step are revealed. I was so angry with Chris; I wanted to punch his lights out. His behaviour was thoughtless and cruel; in fact he was lucky that Jenzy had stayed as long as she had. The shock of her leaving, however, was the kick up the butt he needed and, accepting that he may be too late, he tries to win her back. Unfortunately, sometimes the hurt goes too deep and even though still you love the one who hurt you, the thought that despite all the promises, they may forget again makes you wonder whether the risk too great.

This book is a journey, a long, complicated, messy, tumultuous journey and probably reflective of many couples who have experienced divorce. It is also about the hard work that a keeps a marriage alive and a huge, big, fat, enormous reminder never, ever to take your partner for granted.

Jenzy and Chris are beautifully drawn and are so real they virtually walk out of the pages and I enjoyed reading the story from both points of view, with flashbacks to their first meeting and early romance. They each have traits that we recognise in ourselves, and hereby lies Nicole’s skill. Her portrayal of their disintegrating relationship strikes a chord, eliciting empathy for both Jenzy and Chris, while reminding us not to make the same mistake.

Although the subject matter is painful, I loved and was riveted by this book, desperately willing them to sort it out, that a great love is worth fighting for and sometimes we deserve a second chance to prove it. No spoilers though, you’ll just have to discover it for yourselves, it’s so worth it.

The Divorce is available on Amazon

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Vehn by LS Anders ~ Book Review

Wow! Wow, I am quite simply speechless (and trust me, that takes a LOT). What an incredible book.

Vehn Mathieu is a celebrity and seemingly enjoys the hedonistic lifestyle such status affords. Away from the lights and the cameras and the paparazzi, however, there is an emptiness in Vehn’s life, a hollowness that he believes will only be filled if he can find a woman who will see the man behind the fame and love him for himself.

Callie is a flame haired beauty who is pretty darn awesome in her own field, that of tattoo artist for Exotic Ink. On the surface she appears as feisty and vibrant as her fiery hair, but behind her mask, shadows from her past constantly threaten to undermine her long fought for happiness. Maybe I should mention that Callie also harbours a not so secret (to her friends and clients anyway) fantasy about Vehn.

A new tattoo artist and a fancy dress Halloween party provide the catalyst for Callie and Vehn’s first encounter. Callie however, has no idea that the sexy Spiderman with whom she has just spent a very passionate couple of hours is actually her fantasy. Vehn, wanting to be anonymous for a night, had introduced himself as Lee – Tegan’s roommate – and revelled in the fact that Callie was clearly attracted to him as a person not for his celebrity. Callie agrees to another date but when the man she believes to be Lee arrives and she recognises him for who he truly is, she does the most sensible thing in such circumstances and faints.

Despite such an odd start, their attraction is undeniable and their relationship flourishes. Unfortunately, just as everything seems to be going right for once, outside forces and personal insecurities may yet tear them apart.

What I loved about this book was the strength of every character. Not just Vehn and Callie – who light up the pages – but the whole supporting cast. They are all beautifully developed, complex people, each with their own long history, both good and bad. The bond they share, the support they have for one another was almost tangible and even though we land in their lives at a less than auspicious moment, the rawness of what they are experiencing is so cleverly portrayed that I felt an instant connection with them. It was as though I’d know them forever.

This book ran the gamut of my emotions; it is funny, poignant, heartbreaking, revealing and most of all hopeful. I was riveted from page one until the last word and didn’t want it to end. The writing is exceptional and the style fast paced yet wonderfully detailed – oh and the sex scenes sizzle – just in case you were wondering!

Vehn is LS Anders’ debut novel and I cannot wait for the next in this series. If I could give it 10 stars I would. Superb!

Vehn is available on Amazon

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Cowboy Games by Audrey Randall ~ Book Review

Yes! Cowboy Games – another book in Audrey Randall’s Celestial Prophecy Series. Having read the previous two – Playing His Game and Playing Her Game – and could not wait for the third installment. This story follows Lana, one of the gaming team and Steph’s (our heroine from Playing Her Game) best friend.

Lana’s long time cyber friend, Solar Cowboy – aka Cody – persuades her that his ranch would be the perfect place for her and Steph to establish their coding school for underprivileged girls. This is an opportunity too good to resist and Lana travels to the middle of Montana, looking forward to meeting her friend face-to-face as well as sussing out the ranch. Unfortunately for Lana, Cody has conveniently forgotten to mention that he is way younger than he’d intimated online, that the ranch is owned by his older brother – Jesse (the sexiest cowboy Lana has ever seen) – and that he hasn’t actually asked said brother whether he would approve the scheme.

Jesse, assuming that Lana is one of his brother’s school friends, is floored when she arrives. Her green eyes, her multi-coloured hair and her curvy body captivate him and, inexplicably, he finds himself agreeing to show her around the ranch with a view to maybe, possibly allowing her to set up some kind of clinic. Lana, in turn is entranced by Jesse; this devastatingly handsome cowboy who is so tall and muscular yet has the grace of a jungle cat. He is doing things to her emotions that are positively illegal.

Confronted by feelings that neither expected nor wanted, Jesse and Lana are drawn to each other and despite being from completely opposite backgrounds, their attraction is undeniable. True love isn’t always a smooth ride though (see what I did there…) and there are a few hiccups along the way!

The thing I love about Audrey Randall’s books is that they are not just all about sex – steamy though it is! She weaves an interesting story around the couple, one that captures the imagination and hooks you in from the get go.

Her characters are so believable – normal everyday people who have normal everyday hang-ups, but who discover that they share a special something that fires the blood.

Cowboy Games does not disappoint and much as I love the previous two in the series, this one is my favourite. A hot cowboy, a nerdy gamer, a sprawling ranch – the perfect setting for a delicious romance – and who needs a joy stick when you have a horse! Go on – enjoy the ride!

Cowboy Games is available worldwide through Amazon from 9/1/17