Ride Steady (A Chaos Novel) by Kristen Ashley

I was on the fence about biker romances, but I grabbed this one on NetGalley because one of my favorite podcasts, Dear Bitches, Smart Authors, have talked frequently about the crack that is a Kristen Ashley novel. I decided to find out for myself why this author was so addicting.

Ride Steady

I received an ARC of this novel free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

One-Sentence Synopsis
A biker from a broken home and a woman struggling to take care of her son on her own connect years after knowing each other in high school and try to forge a relationship through the emotional baggage they’re carrying. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

The Good Stuff
They weren’t lying when they said Ashley’s books are addictive. Here’s the thing…there were things about this book I didn’t particularly like, but I had a really hard time putting it down. It’s not a one-sitting read either. The book is long because the author doesn’t just take the story over one conflict, she takes it over the whole situation. In the story of Joker and Carissa, we not only have the angst of their romance, but we also get to see what happens when their relationship settles down and becomes good. We get to see the characters’ dynamic with other people in their life, like Joker’s friends who supported him when he was growing up in an abusive house, and Carissa’s douche canoe ex-husband. It’s easy for a story to become bogged down in different conflicts and plot lines, but Ashley seems to have a knack for doing this and doing it well.

bikers

I also liked the fact that the motorcycle club that Joker belonged to wasn’t a criminal gang, but they weren’t above taking it there (on the down low) to defend or take care of a member of their family. I also liked the character development. Joker and Carissa both evolve during the book, and the author shows this, rather than tells it, especially in the dialogue, where Joker went from ignoring pronouns, which drove me nuts, to talking in full sentences.

Things That Made Me Go Hmmm
Though I really enjoyed this book, I found several aspects of it fairly jarring. For instances, even though I’ve seen it on TV shows and in movies and have read it in other books, having the bikers refer to their women as “bitches” took some getting used to. As I mentioned before, I hated Joker’s cut off sentences, and he’s not the only character in the book to use them. It was hard for me to hear him talk in a way that didn’t sound weird. Though Carissa turns out okay, there are parts of the book where she’s super whiny and annoying. Strangely enough, she was also endearing, so I wanted to hit her, but then I wanted to hug her.

The Romance Factor
I think the only reason I’m not giving this one a 5/5 romance factor rating is because of the whole “bitches” thing, because that was hard for me to get around.

Retta

But the relationship between two broken people was sweet. There was a sense of possession at first, but Joker was mostly supportive of Carissa and wanted to see her happy. Their whole damsel-in-distress meet cute (she was stranded with a flat tire, he stopped to help her) was kind of adorable. This one gets a 4/5.

The Steam Factor
There was alot of sex in this book, but it wasn’t used as filler. It was part of the story and it was entertaining and it was definitely steamy and a little graphic. I’m giving it a 5/5 Steam Factor and noting that it also fits into the romance because of the way Joker made Carissa feel about her body (typical self conscious heroine, but rather than being over the top, this interplay was done very well and realistically and didn’t go on too long).

Scrubs - So Hot

Final Thoughts
It’s a pretty easy call…I’m definitely going to read more of Kristen Ashley’s books. In fact, while in Michigan, I found another Chaos novel at a used bookstore and grabbed it up. Her writing is addictive. Even the things I didn’t like drew me into the world she created. This one is a sweet romance with some action and a few non-romantic violent scenes to add to the more dangerous plots Joker had to deal with. I’m pretty sure this author will find a place on my must-read list.

The Heir by Johanna Lindsey

I’ve read this book about seven or eight times. Every couple years, I get the urge to read it again, probably because I love the imperfect heroine and the friends to lovers trope that goes with it. This is obviously an older book, but for me, it’s one that still holds up.

The Heir

One-Sentence Synopsis
A Scottish Lord becomes friends with a woman who’s name is attached to scandal and finds himself falling in love with her despite his grandfathers’ machinations and the gossip and drama from his spoiled betrothed. Read the fully synopsis on this book’s Goodreads page.

The Good Stuff
This book is sweet. I love the friendship between the main characters and how it very subtly shifts. Duncan and Sabrina have a great chemistry, and I’m a sucker for the heroine who’s plain and doesn’t think she’s worthy of the hunky hero. The antagonist, Ophelia, is a character you just love to hate, though it makes it easier knowing she gets her own story in the sequel to this one.

Regina George

Also, this book features one of my favorite first kiss scenes ever. Outside in a thunderstorm. I don’t know why it’s my favorite, but it gives me warm fuzzies every time I read it.

Things That Made Me Go Hmmm
Every time I read this book, I find the Scottish grandfather more annoying and meddlesome. He’s shallow and narrow minded and doesn’t know when to shut up.

The Romance Factor
5/5. This trope makes me happy, and I love that these two have to overcome many obstacles to get their HEA. Also, sad Duncan is adorable.

rain kiss

The Steam Factor
Though sweet, this book isn’t over the top with the sex scenes. However, the “accidental” carriage lovemaking is fun, and sexy times on the bear skin rug is a little blush inducing. 3/5.

Final Thoughts
Johanna Lindsey was one of my first and favorite authors. Some of her more recent books don’t resonate with me like her older ones, so I’m glad I have ones like this that I can re-read over and over and never get tired of.

Jane by April Lindner

A few years ago, I read Jane Eyre and was pleasantly surprised at how much I liked it, not having been a huge reader of the classics (sorry, not sorry). So when this modern retelling came out, I snagged it. I love retellings, remakes, and reboots, and I was intrigued. However, I got sidetracked and never got around to reading it.

Fast forward to this past week when I’m trying to pare down my Goodreads To-Read list, and I decided to knock this one out. It started out slow, and I took a break to finish a couple other ones. But when I came back to it, I couldn’t put it down.

Jane

One-Sentence Synopsis
A plain young woman takes a nanny job for an eccentric rock star and falls in love with him while also wondering about the strange sounds coming from the third floor of his estate. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

The Good Stuff
It’s hard to put my finger on why I enjoyed this book so much and why even a couple days after finishing it, it’s sticking with me. The trope is enjoyable to me: plain young woman, worldly older man, unrequited love that isn’t actually unrequited. It just pushes all my right buttons.

Eyre Transfixed

I also liked the fact that the tone and cadence of this story was reminiscent of the original. It felt old-fashioned and classic, even though it was definitely modern day and people had cell phones. You would think this would be jarring, and based on some other reviews I read, other readers found it so. But I loved it. It felt haunting and gothic, with a dash of contemporary.

Things That Made Me Go Hmmm
This book is giving me some weird feels in that I can pick out things I should absolutely hate about the characters, and yet I still loved them. For instance, Nico is kind of a dick. He plays with Jane’s emotions by trying to make her jealous, orders her to be around him and his friends when she’s clearly uncomfortable being around people, and makes it blatantly obvious that he’s keeping secrets from her. And let’s not forget his big crazy secret about what’s going on on the 3rd floor. I mean, the guy flat out lies to Jane when she asks him about his ex-wife.

confused jack

Jane is mostly likable. She’s sweet and kind. She’s had a rough childhood and is still not on good terms with her siblings (who are horrible people). But she sort of just lets Nico get away with not telling her his secrets…until she runs away and lets everyone think that something tragic happened to her. Her angst and shock at what she finds out is understandable, but I had a hard time buying the fact that even though she got rid of her phone and refused to buy magazines and didn’t watch TV while she was hiding out that she would have absolutely no idea of what was happening with Nico.

The Romance Factor
Apparently this trope was strong enough for me to overlook the character flaws because I loved this romance. I loved the slow lead up to it and all the drama afterwards. I love that these two are broken in their own ways, yet somehow sense that and find a connection that bonds them. When Nico tells Jane he’s in love with her, I melted, because the way the words were delivered and the whole scene was filled with a quiet, powerful emotion. 5/5 RF.

The Steam Factor
There were a few sensual moments between Nico and Jane, but there were no really steamy scenes, so we’ll give it a 2/5 for the sensuality.

Final Thoughts
Even with the problems I had in the characters, I had to give this one 5-stars on Goodreads because it just hit me in all the right places. The story was a sweet retelling and the writing flowed well. This one is going to be a keeper, and now I need to watch both movie versions on Netflix, because I really want to stay in this world a little longer.

What a Wallflower Wants by Maya Rodale

This was another DBSA podcast find. Those people know their romance books. This book was amazing…but first…

Trigger warning: This book has detailed descriptions of a rape, and rape is a prevalent theme throughout. Those who find this hard to read will want to avoid this one.

This was the third book in a trilogy by Maya Rodale, but it can be read as a standalone.

What a Wallflower Wants

One-Sentence Synopsis
After being compromised against her will, a young woman believes her dreams of love and marriage are finished, but a handsome and mysterious man wants to show her that she can still have those things…preferably with him. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

The Good Stuff
Where do I even start? This book was amazing from start to finish, and not just because the romance was one of the best I’ve ever read. This book was amazing because it handled a hard subject like rape in a way that didn’t shy away from what it was while still being tactful. It highlighted the possibility of finding happiness after a traumatic event, so though sad, it was also hopeful.

It was also relevant to how things are today. While people might not think there are a lot of similarities between current culture and those found in historical romances, the author has drawn attention to the parallel of women being expected to act a certain way and being shunned when they don’t, even if it puts them in danger. It highlights the polite way in which women are supposed to act, and it brings in the shame that a woman faces from society, even if she’s not at fault and her rapist has ruined her. How have we not made more progress in this area?

The Romance Factor
5/5 all the way on the Romance Factor. John, the hero, is fantastic and kind and patient. He’s intrigued by Prudence from the first time he meets her and quickly falls in love with her. He catches on quickly that something isn’t right, and the way he handles it…best hero ever.

hugs

Prudence is frightened of men in general, but she starts to trust John and eventually tells him the story she hasn’t shared with anyone else, not even her best friends. Not once does John try to “claim” her as his or try to avert authority. Instead, he goes slow, putting her needs before his and saving her when she’s almost attacked again. He’s written in a way that the reader never doubts how much he feels for her. So many feels…oh, so many.

The Steam Factor
Another 5/5, because while there aren’t very many (happy) sex scenes, the first intimacy Prudence and John have is one of the most steamy and sensual scenes ever…and they don’t even touch each other.

Hot Hiddleston

Things That Made Me Go Hmmm
As far as the story goes, I have no complaints. I loved the whole thing. What was a little weird about this book was the use of text to convey certain emotions. It didn’t happen a lot, but in a few instances, the author uses all caps to convey the manner in which something is said. The thing that really cracked me up was the actual use of a strikethrough. I wasn’t mad about this. If anything, I kind of like the idea of using things like that to convey a mood or tone. So as far as anything goes, I don’t have any complaints, I just thought that was an interesting characteristic of Maya Rodale’s writing.

Final Thoughts
I’m afraid to read the first two books in the series because I’m worried they won’t hold up to this one. I mean, I’m going to, but I’m prepared to realize that this book set a really high bar. Not only did Rodale tell a beautiful romance story, she also worked it around a tragic event and she did it with tact and care and an honesty that, while difficult at times to read, made the quality of the book that much higher.

Tribute by Nora Roberts

This is another book that was talked about on Dear Bitches, Smart Authors, and I was hooked by the idea of a nerdy beta male graphic novel artist as the hero. I finished it in basically two sittings. Also, while I’m a major ebook reader, I do enjoy kicking it with a real book once in awhile. This marks the first standalone book I’ve ever read by Nora Roberts

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One-Sentence Synopsis
A former child actress renovates an old house as a tribute to her Hollywood star grandmother and starts a relationship with the graphic novel writer across the street, but things turn sinister when someone starts harassing her, presumably over long held family secrets. For a full synopsis, visit this book’s Goodreads page.

Tribute
The Good Stuff
One of the best things about this novel, for me, was the geek factor. Ford, the hero, is a bit geeky and he owns it. Also, there are little nerdy tidbits throughout the book, including references to Battlestar Galactica, Star Trek (his dog’s name is Spock), and a few superheroes. There’s one scene where Ford and Cilla are playing video games and they’re playing Marvel Ultimate Alliance and I completely geeked out over it (that is one of my top games).

The other thing I really liked was the development of Cilla. She starts out as a pretty tough alpha female with some major DIY skills, but as the reader gets to know her, her vulnerability and fears start to show and it really develops her as a character. My feelings on Ford were mixed, but in the end, he turned out to be a good and supportive guy for Cilla.

Things That Made Me Go Hmmm
Though I ended up liking him, I actually found Ford to be a little creepy in the first part of the book. I wanted him to be shy nerdy, but he was actually very straightforward, and some of the things he said to Cilla made him seem a little creepy to me. By the end of the book, though, I thought maybe he was supposed to be slightly Asperger’s (which may have been discussed in the podcast, but I’m not sure…bad short term memory), which would account for his logical and straightforward nature.
Spock
The main thing about the plot that I found weird was that Cilla is being blatantly threatened, and yet she doesn’t put any cameras up, nor does she seem to have second thoughts about doing things on her own. I get that she was supposed to be a strong, independent woman (when she wasn’t sad and vulnerable, of course), but damn…I’d like to think that I’m independent, and you can bet if someone was leaving mutilated dolls around my house I wouldn’t be staying there alone. It felt like the danger she was in was glossed over until something happened, and I wanted her to take the situation more seriously.

Also, except for the antagonists, every single side character in this story was super nice and understanding. I believe this was meant to highlight the fact that Cilla had found a place she could call home with people she could trust and who would support her, but there were a few moments that went a little Stepford Wives. At one point, I thought that there was no way that those people could be real, though I may have been feeling a little cynical for various reasons.
Finn Hug
The Romance Factor
Though Ford was sweet and Cilla was superwoman (even with her refusal to play it safe and keep a friend around), I never got the heart feels with these two. They had a quiet chemistry with only a dash of angst. In general, I want the stuff that makes me ache for the characters, and I never got that here. However, I’m still giving this a 3/5 on the Romance Factor scale because Roberts did a good job of developing their interaction and working towards their happily ever after.

The Steam Factor
I won’t say the story was overly steamy. There were only a few sex scenes, none of which were super detailed. However, the first time Cilla and Ford are together is written very sensually and packed just as strong a punch as a scene written in full detail. Sometimes that sensuality is perfect for its story, and this was a good example. I don’t think graphic sex scenes fit these characters, and so I’m giving this a 3/5 on the Steam Factor, but a 5/5 on the “Way to Write to Your Characters” scale. Which I just made up. Because I can.
Just a Tribute
Final Thoughts
I’m not sure if I’m sold on Roberts’ standalone books because while I enjoyed the story, I found it long and detailed and definitely more of a mystery than a romance. I prefer the trilogies because I like the different characters, and I like getting bite sized glimpses into everyone’s life, not just meal sized viewing sessions of a few characters. Sadly, I think I’m biased because this is Nora and I’ve loved her trilogies and I might not have the same opinion of another author’s long works. But, should the right storyline catch my eye, I definitely won’t say no to trying another one.

Smoke in Mirrors by Jayne Ann Krentz

I managed to finish this one during some downtime on my recent vacation to Michigan to visit family. It was so good seeing people, but it seems that the older I get, the harder the drive gets. I might have to suck it up and take a plane next time.

I haven’t read a lot of contemporary romantic suspense, but I used to love the Amanda Quick novels which were historical romantic suspense, so I decided to give the author a try under her contemporary name. This wasn’t the first Krentz novel I read, but it’s been so long that it felt like I was coming into it new. This one was published in 2002.

Smoke in Mirrors

One-Sentence Synopsis
A handyman and an academic work together to solve a mystery that connects 3 different murders and a weird drug that causes hallucinations while also trying to figure out their growing attraction to each other. Full synopsis can be found on the book’s Goodreads page.

The Good Stuff
The book was enjoyable in kind of a straightforward, plot-driven way. I enjoyed the mystery for what it was, and I really enjoyed the side stories of other characters, like the hero’s brother and his yoga instructor, and the cop and one of the women in town. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say I liked the side romances a little better than I did the main romance. I also liked the hero’s dog.

The Romance Factor
I think it’s probably because I’m used to the angst level in the new adult romances I’ve been reading, but the Romance Factor for this book was low for me…a 2/5. I just didn’t feel the chemistry between the Thomas and Leonora to the degree I wanted to feel it, nor did I think there was enough foreplay.

House - Foreplay

The Steam Factor
The Steam Factor on this book gets a 3/5. While there were only a couple of sex scenes, they were pretty hot, and not in the all out dirty language way alot of newer books are, but in the more “use your imagination” way I find in a lot of older books. It was kind of refreshing and still enjoyable.

Charlie Sheen - Hot Collar

Final Thoughts
Though I think the suspense outdid the romance of this one, I still enjoyed it. Thomas wasn’t super alpha male, and Leonora was kind of a nerd. It was a fun read, it just didn’t give me any of those gushy heart feels I crave in a novel.

More Points of Interest
You can find out more about the author at her website. As far as buying this book, Amazon has it available in several different formats, including for the Kindle. Kobo also has it for $7.99. Those are the 2 outlets I use most, so if anyone knows where else to get it, please feel free to link in the comments.

Goodreads Review: High Heat by Linda Morris

I’m still considering making a devoted book review blog over here, but I need to do some research into the best way to go about doing it and I need to decide if it’s something I’m going to keep up on (since I haven’t done such a great job of keeping up on this one…other than book reviews pulled from Goodreads). I’m torn between wanting to do something cool and wanting to keep it simple. Until I make a decision…and we could all be waiting awhile for that…I’ll keep doing what I do. Though hockey is my sport of choice, this baseball romance was fun and proves you don’t necessarily have to like to sport to enjoy the romance. 

High Heat (Hard Hitters, #1)High Heat by Linda Morris

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

As VP of public relations for her family’s minor league baseball team, it’s Sarah’s job to keep professional pitcher Tom from getting into too much trouble with the media. Having already caused some controversy, Tom is pitching for her hometown team while he rehabs his pitching arm before heading back to the pros. Things get complicated when Sarah and Tom start and affair, despite the fact they know it won’t go anywhere past Tom’s short stay and despite the fact that Sarah has been warned by both her father and her brother to stay away from him.

The plot was fairly simple and straightforward, but it was sweet and fun to read. This was my first baseball novel, and even though I’m not necessarily a baseball fan, I found the dynamic of this to be entertaining. The story was paced well, and things didn’t seem to drag on, though I felt the whole thing about Sarah’s dad doing his best to protect her started to get annoying, more because her dad was a super unlikable character.

Though I didn’t like the dad or the brother, Sarah and Tom were fun characters. My issue with Sarah is that she was kind of a pushover, and it was painful to watch her hope that her father would come around and give her a higher position with the company. Tom was a nice guy who just fell into that trope of a good guy who didn’t want to commit and had a rough time of it with ex-girlfriends. I loved how he wasn’t impressed with the way Sarah was treated and seemed to have more faith in her than her family did.

The Romance Factor was a solid 3/5. No heart feels, but it was definitely sweet. The Sex Factor is also a 3/5. While there wasn’t a whole lot of foreplay and it wasn’t as naughty as some of the other books, there were a few steamy moments.

Overall, a good book. I wouldn’t mind reading more in the series and more baseball romances in general.

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