Breaking A Legend

Breaking a Legend by Sarah Robinson

breaking a legend

Overview by Amazon:

As one of the big names at his family’s gym, Legends, MMA star Rory Kavanagh is used to being in the spotlight—until a gruesome leg injury knocks him out of the cage. Rory is left feeling sidelined in more ways than one, battling the inner demons that come with losing the one shot at his dreams. Then Clare walks into his life and gives him a new dream: winning her heart. There aren’t many new faces in Woodlawn these days, but this tough, beautiful stranger makes Rory want to get his life back into fighting shape.
 
Clare Ivers doesn’t think she’ll be able to tell anyone what really brought her to the close-knit Bronx neighborhood where she just started bartending. But her life’s on pause and her past is catching up fast, try as she might to move on—with new friends, steady work, and a chiseled alpha male trying to get her attention. Even though Rory’s more than a little intense, she can’t deny that her heart beats faster when he looks at her with those soulful silver eyes. Clare thought she was done with love, but Rory might just be man enough to show her she thought wrong.

In the TV show, Sex and the City, they call New York the fifth lead character.  In this book, the New York City Borough of Bronx is highlighted like a lovable character.  Clare moves to the area and through her eyes we get to experience the Irish neighbourhood, with all its idiosyncrasies and history.  The Kavanaugh family runs the area.  They could be likened to a mafia, but it’s the mixed martial arts that has the hold over the family.

Rory was listed as one of the top ten in the country until he has a disastrous injury.  I don’t know a lot about MMA and frankly I find it really difficult to watch grown men pound each other until bloody.  Since Rory’s career is over, the book deals with the fall out and how he moves on – or rather doesn’t.  While he is back home, he is drinking and drugging himself into oblivion everyday.

Enter Clare.  She has a past that she is running from, but finds sanctuary in the Bronx.  Clare was at times so sassy and great at flirting.  Then, she would be so scared and unsure of herself.  The way she played with Rory at first was so cute.  Then she seemed a little scared when the flirting paid off and became the recipient of his attention.

What made this book great was two things.  The relationship between the two and the redemption theme woven throughout.  Clare and Rory slowly progress towards each other.  He instantly recognizes that Clare isn’t the kind of woman he can rush.  He takes it slow and steady.  I loved the dialogue between them and that he waited for her every night after her bar tending shift.  Those walks home created wonderful intimacy between the characters that is often missing in stories.

Between Rory’s problems, Clare’s past and the animals they help, redemption is a large theme in this book.  It isn’t presented sappy, but rather unfolds naturally and sometimes critically.  This is a hard theme to write about without it seeming preachy and pretentious.  The author pulls it off however.

The love scenes between the two are sexy and romantic.  I liked that the sex came after the intimacy was well developed and that a few kisses had their heads spinning.

You know it’s a good story when you imagine being there and build the world in your mind.

It Happened One Autumn

It Happened One Autumn (Wallflowers Series) by Lisa Kleypas

it happened one autumn

Overview by Amazon:

Headstrong American heiress Lillian Bowman has come to England to find an aristocratic husband. Unfortunately, no man is strong enough to tame the stubborn beauty’s fierce will. Except, perhaps, the powerful and arrogant Earl of Westcliff—a man Lillian despises more than anyone she’s ever met.

Marcus, Lord Westcliff, is famous for his icy English reserve and his supreme self-control. But something about the audacious Lillian drives him mad. Whenever they’re in the same room, they can’t stop themselves from battling furiously to gain the upper hand.

Then one afternoon, a stunningly sensuous encounter changes everything . . . and Lillian discovers that beneath the earl’s reserved façade, he is the passionate and tender lover of her dreams. What neither Westcliff nor Lillian suspect, however, is that a sinister conspiracy threatens to destroy any chance of happiness. After a shocking betrayal endangers Lillian’s safety—and possibly her life—will Marcus be able to save her before it’s too late?

When I read this book for the first time, it was one of those visceral moments in my life.  I KNEW that I was reading a book that would remain on my top ten list forever.  While I admire many authors and enjoy their work, Lisa Kleypas has a couple of books that are on my list.  Yesterday I featured Lady Sophia’s Lover and today it’s my other favourite book by her.

The Wallflowers are a group of young women who can’t find a suitable match.  They have banded together to make the London season more agreeable.  They consist of Annabelle, Evie and sister Lillian and Daisy.  This book is the second in the series and its Lillian Bowman’s story.

It could just be the typical, boy and girl hate each other type of story, but it is SO much more than that.  Lillian is American and her wealthy parents have brought her and her sister to England to find titles to go alone with their buckets of money.  This was actually a very common thing.  While Americans had a much more egalitarian system, they needed to buy their way into the English aristocracy.  This created challenges in the class system, as the older established titles needed the cash infusion, but the Americans were mocked for the origins of their wealth.

Lillian would have been one of those girls who beat up boys, out swam, fish, threw every single boy and was the ring leader in every instance.  She is a beyond spunky and I adore her.  She challenges and manages her shrew of a mother capably.  I love all the hijinks she gets into and how she manages to make life so much fun.

Her nemesis is Marcus.  He is a powerful Earl and the bane of Lillian’s existence.  The two have despised each other since they met.   Westcliff is everything that Lillian disdains about the English aristocracy.  He is aloof, cool and detached.  Lillian is like spontaneous fire.  Clearly this will be a case of opposite attract.

Lisa Kleypas is the queen of creating scintillating scenes that just send shivers down your spine.  When Lillian and Marcus get trapped in the garden and he smells her, it is just so electrifying.  The two spar almost as much as they get along.  It is one of those relationships that thrives on conflict.  Like the book Lady Sophia’s Lover, one of Lisa Kleypas’ strengths is the ability to really develop the male lead character.  We see Marcus go from stuffy and uptight to sensual and carefree.  The revelation of getting to know Marcus is one the best parts of this book.

The sex is out of this world.  The scene in the library is just mind blowing.  I won’t ruin it, but give you a précis.  Lillian is despondent, goes to the library and gets foxed.  Marcus finds her and can’t help but seduce her – it is one of my all time favourite love scenes in a book.  Just the way Lisa Kleypas writes love scenes, from the details like how a shirt hangs, to the lingering kisses and the emotions involved.

Lillian can’t understand her attraction and at time hate for Marcus.  She finds it so confusing and yet, so enticing.  She has her group of Wallflowers to support her and encourage her as she explores this romance.  Marcus struggles as well with his attraction to Lillian.  He can’t understand why he wants this hoyden who will upend his ordered life.  His conversation with his friends about martial sex, is probably one of the funniest I have ever read.

This book has everything you want in a romance novel.  Amazing characters, well developed plot and truly sensual scenes.  A must read for any historical romance fan!

Lady Sophia’s Lover

Lady Sophia’s Lover by Lisa Kleypas

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Overview by Amazon:

Why is Lady Sophia looking for a lover?
And
could she seduce the most marriageable man in London?

Lady Sophia Sydney would do anything to ensnare the unattainable Sir Ross Cannon. Her goal—to ruin his reputation and cause a scandal that would be the talk of all London. So she insinuates herself into his life by gaining his trust and living in his house.

Every morning, her lush presence tempts him beyond all reason…the way she bends over the table to serve him the meals she has prepared…the way her hands oh, so gently—yet sensuously—brush against him. Every night, she promises with her eyes—and her body— that the hours before dawn could be spent in unbridled passion instead of restless sleep—if only he’d let her share his bed.

She knows he is falling more in love with her each day. But she never counted on falling in love with him. And she never dreamed he might very respectably ask for her hand in marriage…

Are you ready to be seduced by New York Times Bestselling author Lisa Kleypas and her most compelling love story yet?

I adore this book!  I realized today that most of the books on my NetGalley list are not being published until October and November, and it’s pretty early to be posting reviews.  So, I thought that I would revisit some of my very favourite books that I haven’t covered in depth.

This book is one of Lisa Kleypas’ finest.  I love the characters and the story.  It begins with Lady Sophia.  She is down on her luck and forced to work.  She harbours a deep revenge for the man who sentenced her younger brother to a prison hulk where he died.  She has discovered this man is Sir Ross Canning, the ‘Monk of Bow Street’.  Sir Ross is a paragon of virtue and probably one of the straightest arrows you will ever read about.  That is what makes this book so delicious.  As Ross unwinds, it is seriously one of the sexiest things I have ever read.

Sophia manages to secure a job at Bow Street as the administrative assistant as well as the housekeeper to Sir Ross’ establishment.  She does her job impeccably, from transcribing documents to making amazing breakfasts.  While she wears a smile on her face, she is secretly seething and searching documents to find out what really happened to her brother.

But the best laid plans fall apart.  Sophia spends day in and day out with Sir Ross.  She sees what an honourable man he is and how he values justice.  She starts to fall for him, much to her horror.  What makes it so exciting is the flirtation between the two.  She started to flirt with him to further his cause, but when her opinion changes, she enjoys the charged sexual energy between the two.

For a man who has a reputation for being celibate after the death of his wife, Sir Ross burns very hot.  He is wildly attracted to Sophia and can’t resist her.  In fact, he barely tries.  The attraction between the two is electric.  What I love so much about this book was the wicked little scenes between the two.  From hot, wet kisses in the office to stolen moments in the pantry and energetic bouts in bed.  Sir Ross is a fantastic lover and Sophia becomes insatiable when she is with him.

Of course, Sophia’s past is the big elephant in the room.  She eventually tells Ross the truth about her presence in his life.  Thinking he will banish her, considering his high morals, she is stunned when the he offers his help instead.  Ross wants to be with Sophia, restore her to the station in life she was intended and make her his wife.  The two investigate the case of her brother together and it leads to a remarkable discovery – which once again tests the limits of their relationship.

The best thing about this book is the relationship between Sophia and Ross.  It is so incredibly well developed and sexy.  Each scene made me fall in love with them a little more.  To me, this is Lisa Kleypas’ best book (besides It Happened One Autumn).  If you haven’t read this book than you definitely need to check it out!  It represents the best of historical romance novels!

Top Ten Tuesday – Romance Syllabus

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by the Broke and the Bookish.  Each week features a different theme that can be applied to whatever genre of books you like.  This week the meme is really a great one.  If I was teaching a course about romance books, what would I put as mandatory reading on my syllabus.

I know that most English University courses feature Jane Austen, Thomas Hardy, Charles Dickens and Charlotte Bronte.  So, in other words, the books that students are reading are seminal classics.  So, with that in mind, I scoured my Kindle and my memory for authors and books that encompass the genre.

almost heaven 1.  The first book I would pick is actually the very first historical romance I ever read, Almost Heaven by Judith McNaught.  This book was written in the times of the ‘bodice ripper’ romances, but it has so much more going for it than sex.  Judith McNaught is an excellent writer.  She creates amazing conflicts and excellent characters.  Many current authors state that she was motivation and inspiration to get into the industry.  All of her books are fantastic, but Almost Heaven has a very special place in my heart.

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2.  Shanna by Kathleen Woodiwiss would be my second addition to the list.  This book definitely falls into the bodice ripper category.  But it is also features a murder mystery, mistaken identity, pirates, and a wicked love story.  I would love to hear what people think of this book and also see if there is an influence from this author on future writings.

3.  Wallflower Series by Lisa Kleypas would be another addition.  However, there are four books in this it happened one autumnseries and I am not that cruel that I would make students of the genre read them all.  It would be interesting to have self-selection in this category and it would likely create lively dialogue about the characters and the books.  I know that everyone loves, The Devil in Winter, but my favourite is It Happened One Autumn.  The scene in the library just gave me chills when I read it!  I think Daisy’s story is the weakest of the quartet, but once again, I think I would love to hear other opinions!

4.  One of the reasons that I love historical romance so much is because of the history.  I would include on of Monica McCarty’s Highland Guard series on my syllabus.  I think her extensive research into the history of Robert the Bruce would be good for others to know about.  Most serious authors don’t make silly mistakes, like having tea and coffee in the tenth century.  Monica has not only been to Scotland numerous times to research the books, she has studied gallic, family lineage and Scottish history.  This series is one of my all time favourites and as much as I love the history, the story is pretty perfect as well.the chief

5.  Stephanie Lauren’s Cynster Family would be another addition to my list.  I think I would recommend starting with Devil’s Bride and ending with whatever book is the latest in the Cynster dynasty.  I would use this series because I would want to highlight the popularity of family series to the students.  How profitable it is for authors and how enjoyed it is by readers.  It’s like never having to say good bye to great characters.  I think the popularity of the Bastian Club and the Cynsters, was somewhat responsible for all the contemporary series we see today.

devil's bride

6.  The Shadow of Stormclyffe Hall by Lauren Smith would be another addition.  Gothic novels were all the rage in the ton in the 1800s.  Lauren Smith’s version features modern day interspersed with the past. I had never read a gothic novel until I read this last year and I really loved it!  I think it would provide some interesting discussion on what the ladies of the ton were allowed to read.

stormcliffe

7.   I would definitely include Outlander on my list.  Remember when you were a kid in school and the teacher would be pushing the heavy tv cart into the classroom?  I was so excited because it meant we were going to watch a movie.  After reading Outlander, we could watch the tv show and discuss how it translated to the screen.  This book is more than just a romance novel however, it features one of the hot subgenres in romance – time travel.  I can’t tell you how many time travel books I have read in the past year (a lot), in fact I am reading one right now!

outlander 1

8.  The book Earl’s Just Want to Have Fun by Shana Galen would be a perfect addition as it shows both the world of the ton and the lives of the poor in London.  I know that Charles Dickens wrote excessively about the downtrodden, but wouldn’t it be nice to have a happy ending to it?  No true study of historical romance would be complete without a book that features the lives of the ton and the intricacies and rules that are associated with the upper ten thousand.  Another great book in this vein would be Lady Sophia’s Lover by Lisa Kleypas.

earls just want to have fun

9.  The pirate genre or sailing on the high seas is another prolific trope.  I have read countless stories, and recently did a post about pirates.  A good pirate book features strong characters that get a lot of air time, as most of the setting consists of the ship.  Marsha Canham is the queen of the pirate genre.  Shana Galen has also written an excellent version as well.  Katherine Bone’s version, Duke by Day, Rogue by Night is an excellent book to add to my imaginary (but really exciting) syllabus.

10.  Suzanne Enoch has been on my auto-buy list for a long time.  She writes fabulously lush historical romance books (plus her SAM JELLICOE series!!  I’m not giving up!)  Her book One Hot Scot and Rogue with a Brogue is the start of the MacLawry series.  What I liked about this series, with respect to my syllabus, is that it features the attitudes and discrimination towards Scotland in the Regency era.  Most historical romance books don’t feature characters who are black or Indian or North American, unless they are servants or slaves.  Racism is not well explored compared to Nationalism and class-ism.  The tension between Scotland, especially Highlanders and English are well documented, yet I think these books would bring forth a lively discussion about racism and the lack of diversity in the genre.

some like it scot

There are about a hundred more books I would and could add to this list, but if you are looking to get into reading a cross section of what historical romance has to offer, than this is my list for you!  I tried to pick examples that I have personally read that showcase a different element of the genre!  Let me know what you would add!

The Bite of Winter

The Bite of Winter by Lauren Smith

the Bite of Winter

Overview by Amazon:

She is theirs to claim. They are hers to save.

Love Bites, Book 1

Zoey Blake is about as far down on her luck as she can get. A car crash took her parents, leaving her destitute and on the street. When she’s attacked by another homeless person, her lifeblood drains away as her fading vision is filled with the face of a handsome stranger.

Ian Kennedy, a century old Irish vampire, never could resist rescuing a stray. As a few drops of his blood heals Zoey’s wounds, he realizes she’s a sweet, tempting, flesh-and-blood woman. But there’s one problem. Connor, who made Ian promise decades ago: no more mortal lovers.

After another vampire murdered his soulmate, Connor O’Shea swore never to let a mortal woman pay the price for loving him. Until he feels Zoey’s skin and tastes her lips. She makes him want to break that vow.

Zoey finds herself caught in their web of seduction. But as Christmas draws near and her grief deepens, happiness seems far out of reach. And Ian and Connor join forces to prove their love is sacred, special…and forever.

Warning: This book contains two scorching-hot Irish vampires, one lady with plenty of pluck but zero luck, naughty lingerie, and enough Christmas cheer to redeem even the darkest creatures.

I adore Lauren Smith.  I started reading her work when I found her historical novels.  Then I read her amazing Gothic novel.  And then, she released her erotic series, The Gilded Cuff.  AND now, I have read her vampire novella.  I am beginning to think that there is nothing that Lauren cannot accomplish if she sets her mind to it – and this is on top of being a full time lawyer!!

This is a novella length book, but like all Lauren’s work, it is a fully developed story with well fleshed out characters.  This is a vampire, ménage story of a homeless woman named Zoey who is saved  by Ian.  He brings her home and his fellow vampire Connor wants her too.

The story reveals a lot about the world of vampires.  Lauren has taken what is out in the mainstream and put her own twist on it.  There is enough time devoted to develop the psyche of the vampires and what Zoey means to them.

There isn’t as much sexy time in the book as you would think, but the stuff that is in there is hot – but not tasteless.  Lauren writes great scenes that always put the woman first.  Zoey is not portrayed as a victim or a charity case, but rather a special young woman that is cherished by these two immortal men.

This was a fun, quick read!  I am not always the hugest novella fan, but with Lauren’s work, you can’t go wrong!

Check out the book here.

Heart of the Highlanders: The Beast

Heart of the Highlands: The Beast (Protectors of the Crown Series) by April Holthaus

heart of the highlands the beast

Overview by Amazon:

For hundreds of years, Scotland has battled the English for their freedom. Now, they face a new enemy. In a divided world between politics and religion, the young King James V faces the threat of his own people rebelling against him. As civil war breaks out among the Highland clans, James recruits a secret group of warriors for protection. He calls them the Protectors of the Crown.

Ian MacKay has one mission; to defend the crown no matter the cost. Along with his men, Ian’s mission is to hunt down one of the most dangerous men in the Highlands. But when the daughter of an enemy enters his life, his heart becomes captured instead.

Keira Sinclair has lived a life of peace and simplicity until now. With her clan on the verge of losing everything, she is forced to wed a Laird from a neighboring clan to ensure that hers survives. During her travels to her new home, her carriage is attacked and Keira is taken hostage by a ruthless man.

Caught in the middle of a war that she does not understand, will Keira’s secrets be safe, or will she succumb to the Highland warrior who now threatens to capture her heart?

This was a great book!  I have a fondness for Highlander stories set in the present or the past.  The exciting thing is that this is the first story in a new series.  If this book was any indication, then I will be gladly signing up to read the rest.

Things that made this book work really well were the characters, the plot and the romance.  Pretty much what you would expect in a romance novel right?  But it is amazing how often these three elements are not balanced or well executed.

The characters were great.  I adored Ian when we first met him.  I tried to imagine how scared Keira would have been to see this giant, shaggy man reach into a carriage for her.  But, damn me, I think I would be thrilled.  I loved how as the story unfolded, we see that he really isn’t the beast that Keira labels him, but rather an educated laird, a protector of Scotland and a very caring man.  Keira is described as feisty and strong.  I don’t imagine that I would appreciate being dragged all over Scotland on horse back, but Keira handles it well.  Keira is a copper haired lady who manages to snag the perfect man and has the good sense to know her excellent fate.  The secondary characters are excellent.  The villains are just wicked and create fantastic conflicts.  I loved the men that travelled with Ian and I really hope that they will be featured in the next books.

The plot was really well conceived and developed.  The author created a great political drama that played out very well on the pages.  Things are always so complicated in Scotland, especially with England thrown into there as well.  James is the king of Scotland and is battling his Lairds that have proven to be unfaithful to him.  Ian and Keira’s clans are tied up in this conflict as well.  The bad guys are of course against Scotland, and they cause a lot of problems for the couple.

The romance was sigh worthy.  I really love the kidnapped, turned into love trope.  It’s not like a historical Stockholm syndrome thing, but rather Ian saved Keira from a horrible fate.  At first Keira thinks of Ian as a beast.  He has wild shaggy hair and a beard and wears rough clothes.  She quickly sees the man underneath.  The two of them get to explore each other and uncover the personality traits that make intimacy develop.  Ian burns to have Keira, but he lets it be her decision.  Keira experiences passion for the first time and she can’t wait to do it again.  I like it when the passion between the characters leaps off the page, like it did with this couple.

I am so glad I received a copy of this book.  It kept me captivated all day long and I couldn’t read fast enough to find out what happened next!

Check it out here!

Bearing it All

Bearing it All (Highlander’s Beloved Series) By Vonnie Davis

bearing it all

Overview by Amazon:

In the pine-dense mountains of the Scottish Highlands, shape-shifter Ronan Matheson is running free when a desperate woman parachutes out of the sky, directly onto his furry, powerful chest. Instead of clawing her to death, Ronan’s inner bear longs to keep her safe. Once he’s back in human form, Ronan is amused by the mysterious beauty’s fearless attitude—and tempted by her expertly toned physique. But what could she possibly be doing in this isolated stretch of the Highlands?

French intelligence agent Anisa Brosseau never imagined she’d be on the CIA’s bad side—until she’s framed for treason and forced to flee in a stolen drone. Hiding out in a remote cabin, Anisa just needs some time to clear her name. What she doesn’t need is a brooding, muscle-bound Scot in a skimpy kilt to drive her crazy with lust. But when Anisa’s enemies come knocking on his door, Ronan calls on a secret weapon to protect his turf and the bonny lass he’s come to love.

Love at first sight is something I have never experienced.  Lust and interest, for sure, but never love.  I used to work with this woman who met her husband and married him after 4 days together.  They are going on forty years now.  I’m sure we have all heard of stories like my former colleagues.  People who meet and instantaneously know that they have found their soul mate.  What I find interesting is the personality of the person who jumps right in.  Are they adventurous or are they so strong of mind that they understand when they meet the right one.

Anisa and Ronan have met each other six years  before and there was a sweet attraction between the two as they wandered through Paris together.  Present day, Anisa falls out of a drone and lands on Ronan’s bear.  They spend some lust filled days snowbound in his mountain hideaway.  Lust quickly – and I mean quickly – turns into love.  Ronan and his shifter bear are completely captivated by the rogue French agent.

What was different about this book than the past two in the series was that the first half of the book, it was just Anisa and Ronan.  In the previous books, the whole Matheson clan was a large part of the story right away.  The distance from the clan allows Ronan and Anisa to deeply develop their bond to each other.

There is a lot of adventure in this book.  Anisa is a hardcore, stone cold agent in the army.  She has crazy skills that she needs to put into action.  While the previous books also had elements of danger, they were more of the supernatural variety.  I almost felt like I was reading a romantic version of a Vince Flynn book, which I have no complaints about.

There are some funny moments to this book.  Ronan’s bear is like a little child.  He wants Anisa to stay in their life and takes many precautions to ensure that this happens – with hilarious results.  The comedic relief was welcome from the heavy suspense of danger and lust.  Once Ronan and Anisa share their feelings, things become very romantic.  The way they spoke to each other, like “heart of my heart” and ‘beloved” would be so corny coming from anyone else, but for some reason it works here.

Lust is always a key part of Vonnie Davis’ books.  This one is no exception and the scenes in the cabin and the hospital are torrid and intense.  She is able to write fantastic love scenes that bring the characters together on a deeper level.

One of the characters that I totally adore from this series is Effie.  She is the pink loving, slipper wearing witch from America who has meddled in all three brother’s lives.  I adore this character and I truly think she is one of the best parts of this series.  While the men may be macho and shifters, it’s Effie who is the most powerful.

Overall, a great end to a really fun series.  I am looking forward to what Vonnie Davis writes next!

Read about the other books in the series here.

Check out this series on Amazon.

Ryker: A Cold Fury Novel

Ryker (A Cold Fury Novel) by Sawyer Bennett

ryker

Overview by Amazon:
The stakes have never been higher for Carolina Cold Fury goalie Ryker Evans. With his contract running out, he’s got a year left to prove he’s still at the top of his game. And since his wife left him, Ryker has been balancing life as a pro-hockey star and a single parent to two daughters. Management is waiting for him to screw up. The fans are ready to pounce. Everybody’s taking dirty shots—except for the fiery redhead whose faith in Ryker gives him a fresh start.

As the league’s only female general manager, Gray Brannon has learned not to mix business with pleasure. And yet even this tough, talented career woman can’t help breaking her own rules as she gives Ryker everything she’s got. She hopes their hot streak will last forever, but with Ryker’s conniving ex plotting to reclaim her man, the pressure’s on Gray to step up and save a tender new love before it’s too late.

I really love the sports genre.  I read a review of the recent RWA conference and the themes that were emerging from the romance industry.  One of them was more sports books, particularly hockey.  I have read a couple by Charlene Groome and I was thrilled to find this book on Netgalley.  As a Canadian, hockey is in our blood and a slick hockey player is practically the national poster guy.

What I liked most about this book was the lead character Gray.  She is such a strong character.  She is a genius and has been named the first female general manager of a national hockey team.  She definitely has her work cut out for her and I loved seeing the inner running of the organization.  Her intelligence was such a turn on and I loved that she wasn’t the typical ‘puck bunny’.

Let’s not forget Ryker.  He’s pretty awesome too!  It’s rare that we see single parents in this type of book, but Ryker is raising his two little girls after a messy separation from his wife.  He’s an older player and the star goalie of the team and the league.

The conflict comes from the fact that Ryker is a player and Gray is the GM.  While Gray is conscious to remain out of the coaching decisions, it still creates a big problem.  She has to prove herself to the team, her father, the media, the fans and herself.  It’s that tension between giving up a dream for love.

The sneaking around that the two do is quite hot and steamy.  Ryker challenges the typical athlete image by telling Gray that he doesn’t do hook ups and that if she gets with him, it will definitely be more.  Usually it is the woman asking or demanding this and I kind of loved that it was Ryker.  He’s six plus feet of hot man and he can’t keep his hands off of Gray.  I adored how they had clandestine meetings in her office and snuck around the hotels on road trips.

Overall, Ryker is just a great guy.  There is really nothing to not like about him.  He’s a great father, strong hockey player and a fantastic lover.  The conflict isn’t between the two making it as a couple, but rather the firestorm going public with their relationship would cause.  I really liked how the author handled this conflict – it was surprising and sweet.  A great way to end a well developed and interesting story.

If you are a fan of the sports genre, then add this book to your list!

Check out the book here.

The Rogue You Know

The Rogue You Know (Covent Gardens Series, Book #2) by Shana Galen

the rogue you know

Overview by Amazon:

She’s beyond his reach…

Gideon Harrow has spent his life in London’s dark underworld-and he wants out. A thief and a con, he plans one last heist to finally win his freedom. But when everything goes wrong, he finds himself at the tender mercies of one of Society’s most untouchable women-Lady Susanna Derring.

…and out of her depth.

Susanna has spent her life in London’s glittering ton, under the thumb of a domineering mother-and she wants out. When a wickedly charming rogue lands at her feet, she jumps at the chance to experience life before it’s too late. But as she descends into London’s underworld, she finds that nothing- not even Gideon-is as it seems. As excitement turns to danger, Susanna must decide what price she’s willing to pay…for the love of a reformed thief.

As I sit and write this review I am watching the Disney movie “Tangled” with my little man.  I love this movie, I think it is one of the best Disney has ever done.  So to my immense pleasure, I started to pick up a “Tangled” vibe about this book the more I read.  I actually tweeted the author to see I was on the right track and she confirmed it.  It only made me fall more in love with the book!

tangled gif

Susanna is the sister of Dane and Brooks who were introduced in the first book in the series, Earls Just Want To Have Fun.  To say that she lives with a controlling, harridan of a mother is a gross understatement.  Her mother manages every aspect of her life.  Susanna just longs to have some freedom and adventure.  She can barely breathe from the tightly coiled restrictions placed upon her.

So how does this book align with “Tangled”?  Well, Susanna catches Gideon (former friend of her now sister-in-law, Marlowe) with a necklace in her house.  She forces him to fulfill her dream of going Vauxhall Gardens for an evening of adventure.  In the movie, Rapunzel forces Flynn to take her on an adventure otherwise she will never give him back his stolen tiara.  What had me laughing out loud was the weapon of choice for Susanna.  She whacks Gideon with a candlestick and Rapunzel has a frying pan.

tangled gif frying pan

Gideon reminded me so much of the fictional Flynn.  Dashing, charismatic, cheeky and a ruffian, Gideon is the perfect companion for the adventure that Susanna desires.  His nickname of ‘Strawberry’ was just too adorable.  I could almost picture his smirk when he teased her about her long, thick strawberry blond hair.

Gideon takes Susanna to a house in the rookeries where she encounters some of his very nefarious counterparts.  They want to turn Gideon in to Beezle for the reward (just like Flynn!), but Susanna manages to convince them to let her live her dream.  I smiled the whole time I read this scene because Gideon is trying to scare Susanna into going home, but somehow she turns the tables on him.  Just like Rapunzel, she manages to get the ruffians and thugs to share their dreams with her.  It’s not a musical number like “Tangled”, but all of a sudden, the gang of undesirables send them on their way.

tangled gif I had a dream

Like Flynn and Rapunzel, Gideon and Susanna have their share of mishaps and danger.  Chased through the rookeries, interrupting  nefarious business deals and picking up stray animals.  In the movie, Rapunzel and Flynn meet Maximus the horse.  In this book, Susanna adopts Beauty a dog who is very much a part of their adventures.

tangled gif maximus

Gideon really could have overpowered Susanna anytime and taken the necklace back.  But he likes her and wants to spend time with her.  She has become important to him.  There are some really hot scenes where he takes the time to show her pleasure.  This shows the evolution of Gideon from a selfish thief, to a redeemable rogue.

tangled gif I am a horrible daughter

There are no floating lanterns in the book, but the dark gardens of Vauxhall Gardens are the perfect spot for the two of them to share their emotions with each other.  I loved that the two of them became partners in the mad cap adventure of traipsing through London on their way to fulfill her adventure.

I started to get really worried while reading this book.  Even Susanna shared the sentiment I had.  How would they have their happily ever after?  He wasn’t a viscount in hiding and Susanna was the daughter of an Earl.  The class divide was extreme and Gideon didn’t have a home or a way to support a family.  Some of the ending follows the plot of Rapunzel, but it was really ingenious how Shana Galen brought in Susanna’s family to make the HEA happen.

This was a delightful book to read.  I am really enjoying this series by Shana Galen.  I have loved her work for a long time, but this book was just the right blend of adventure and fun.   Gideon had a wicked sense of humour and I admired his joie de vivre.  Susanna was so much fun – totally determined and headstrong once she got out of her gilded cage.  A great time was had by all and I think it was completely inspired to create a story that features my favourite Disney characters.

The Highlander’s Bride

The Highlander’s Bride by Amanda Forester

the highlander's bride

Overview by Amazon:

Their attraction is forbidden

All Highland warrior Gavin Patrick wants is to get back to his native Scotland. But before he can leave the battlefield, he’s given a final mission-escort Lady Marie Colette to her fiancé. Under no circumstances is he to lay hands on the beautiful, clever-tongued heiress…no matter how desperate the temptation.

Their desire, undeniable

Forced to pose as a married couple to make their escape from France, Gavin and Marie Colette find themselves thrown into peril…and each other’s arms. As the danger mounts, so does their forbidden passion. But it isn’t until Marie Colette is taken from him that Gavin is forced to decide-is he willing to lose the woman who stole his heart, or will he jeopardize his honor, defy his promise, and steal her in return?

I love a good story where the action takes place on the road.  The journey starts in war torn France.  The English are terrorizing the region and the intrepid Scots have come to help even up the fight with them.  Gavin saves the life of a duc in battle and is rewarded.  There is some confusion as to the reward.  Gavin hopes for gold, but then thinks he is being given the most beautiful woman he has ever seen.  Then he finds out that he is being rewarded with the honour of escorting Lady Marie Colette to Scotland to meet up with her betrothed.

And so begins the awesome adventure!  I loved how they started out with pretty much everything that was not nailed down in the castle.  Gavin’s frustration at the travelling conditions made me laugh.  I liked that this book have such moments of brevity.  Because on the flip side, we read about the devastation that war brings to the local people.  The travelling party is slowly decimated in order to evade the English and that is when the romance gets started.

I found Lady Marie Colette to be fascinating.  She has lived an extremely sheltered life.  She has been in the company of her maids; funnily all named Marie, for her whole life.  The expectations of Colette are extreme.  She is to be composed at all times.  She should not read, she should not laugh, not display emotions or happiness.  An example of the constraints of her life would be that she has never touched a man, nor been embraced in a hug or worn her hair uncovered.  While she must maintain this lifestyle in France, the journey with Gavin provides her a freedom she has never imagined in her wildest dreams.

While she is travelling to meet her intended, the relationship between Gavin and Colette develops from travelling companions to love.  Gavin gets to know the real Colette and admires her fortitude, her strength, her intelligence and her beauty.  He knows that she is meant for another, but he can’t help but long for her.  She feels the same way, but the responsibilities that she bears stop her from running away with her desires.

Through a comedy of errors, they are forced to pretend to be married.  This forces them into the company of each other in private.  For two people who lust after one another so fiercely that it’s palpable, it’s tantamount to torture.

Sir Gavin was a fantastic character.  To be honest, he completely reminded me of Jamie Fraser from the TV show Outlander.  He was genial, caring and even tempered.  He also was a strong warrior who regularly used his skills along with his ingenuity.  Gavin was somewhat unflappable.  Whether it was a squalling infant or rude maids or travel plans, Gavin handled it all with aplomb.  I liked the smirks he made and the forthright manner he spoke to Colette with.  He was clear about his desires and interests.

Throughout all the action and adventure, the weight of the impending betrothal hangs over the reader and the couple.  It was so hard to imagine what would happen to keep the couple together.  They pick up a stray named Pippa along the way and her observations about the two were hilarious.  She was a great source of perspective and comedic relief.

I enjoyed this book.  I liked learning about the history of the times and how France and Scotland were allies.  The adventure that they undertake was great!  The story is well developed and written.  The characters are likeable and the romance just leaps off the pages.