Book Review: Leaving Yesterday by Zoe Dawson

I’m conflicted about this book. Really conflicted. There were some things I really liked and want to know more about. Then there are things that drove me nuts. Small town romances are really hit and miss for me, but this one was both depending on the chapter.

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

One-Sentence Synopsis
A wealthy woman finds herself stranded in a small town where the residents help her discover what she truly wants in life. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

Side Dishes
There’s a main story that’s happening here between Rafferty (the heroine) and Trace (the mechanic hero who’s fixing her car). But it wasn’t until the end that I felt connected to them and their relationship. I was way more interested in all the side characters and their stories, some of which started in this novel and others that were hinted at. Even though I was lukewarm on the book, I really want to know what happens with everyone else.

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Small Towns, Major Themes
There was a lot going on in this book, as if the author was laying a foundation and a feel for the town.  I really enjoyed the setting and the small town feel. I also enjoyed the focus on the different family dynamics and issues, especially the different forms of PTSD that were featured. Any time a novel highlights a form of mental illness, I have to give it a kudos because I think it’s an important topic that can be easily shied away from, especially in romance.

Miss Popular
Even though I thought Trace and Rafferty were a bit dull in the beginning, I got more involved in their romance and drama towards the end when their conflict surfaced. Trace was an okay character. He was doing his best to take care of his family and was the perfect blend of damaged hero and alpha male. Sadly, I really didn’t like Rafferty. I couldn’t connect with her and I was annoyed that she somehow seemed to fix everyone’s problems and everyone seemed to love her.  A few of the side characters that I liked otherwise made it a point in conversation to talk about how much they loved her and didn’t want her to leave. It didn’t resonate for me or feel realistic.

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The Romance Factor
If I was going to go by Rafferty and Trace for the romance, it would probably only be a 2 because I really wasn’t feeling it until the end. But I’m giving it a point boost because I liked the other romances, even those that were just hinted at, my favorite being the one that I think is going to develop with Trace’s brother and the young Asian daughter of the local doctor.  3/5

The Steam Factor
The sexy times were fairly tame, but we knew what was going on. 3/5

Final Thoughts
Though this didn’t quite hit all of my crack buttons, I think readers who enjoy small town romances will find it cute. Parts of it were charming and many of the characters were intriguing. I’ll be interested to see how those characters work as main characters in future novels of this series.

Book Review: Call Me, Maybe by Ellie Cahill

Book titles that are song titles (even if unintentional) give me earworms the whole time I’m reading it. Luckily, I like the song Call Me, Maybe, and also, I finished this book in one sitting. Though the plot doesn’t seem overly exciting at first glance,  I found I couldn’t put it down.

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

One-Sentence Synopsis
When the black sheep of a wealthy family accidentally picks up the wrong phone at the airport, she finds herself falling for the guy she accidentally switched with, but her past leaves her with doubts, secrets, and trust issues. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

Oops…My Bad
I love stories that have the hero and heroine meeting in an unconventional way. In this case, they meet when Clementine’s brother grabs the wrong phone from the airport and she ends up with the phone of a good looking guy she tripped over in the airport. At the time they realize what happened, Clementine and Justin are going to different parts of the country for different reasons, but as luck would have it, they both live in Chicago, so the cell phone switch isn’t entirely a tragedy.

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Going Viral
In the few days they have each other’s phones, Justin and Clem get to know each other…sort of. Clem isn’t entirely truthful, but she has a good reason in the beginning. Besides the fact that her family is wealthy and she gets weird reactions whenever she tells people who she is, Clem is also “on watch” by said family for an incident that involved her, an ex-boyfriend, and some nude photos that ended up on the internet years before.

Pronounced Clemen-Teen
I really wanted the phone relationship to last longer, but even when Justin and Clem got together and started a relationship in person, I enjoyed the read. Clem is the poor little rich girl who doesn’t come across as annoying. In fact, I completely empathized with her lack of direction in life. I couldn’t relate to having so much money that I could nothing if I wanted, but I could understand her conflicts.

Yay & Nay
One of my favorite aspects of Clementine is that she’s not only a reader, but she’s a book blogger/review as well, under a fake name so her family doesn’t know she’s on the internet. One of my least favorite aspects was her overbearing family and her flaky parents who dumped her and her siblings off at their grandparents when they were kids so they could go be humanity warriors in other countries. Don’t get me wrong, causes are good and all, but I can’t stand selfish parents in books or real life.

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Getting to Know You
Justin is an all-around good guy with some issues of his own. Still, there were times I wondered if Clem’s paranoia was justified. It really could have gone either way, especially because the story is told completely from Clementine’s point of view. I usually prefer seeing both sides, but seeing only Clem’s thoughts worked so well in this case because seeing things through her eyes gave us a dash of mystery mixed in with the romance.

The Romance Factor
Though Justin is sometimes a little too good to be true, he’s the kind of hero that makes women swoon. He’s kind and sweet to Clementine. He’s also very touchy feely, which works well for the story since Clementine seems to like to be touched. Or at least she doesn’t mind it. I enjoyed their dialogue and interactions, and though there weren’t as many feels in this one, there were definitely some cute moments. 4/5

The Steam Factor
This was more of a fun romantic comedy than anything spicy, and there were no steamy sex scenes (except for one warmish phone sex scene). There was some making out and kissing to lead in to what was going to happen, but it was all closed door. Which actually worked really well for this book. I think a lot of detailed sex would have taken away from the fun vibe of the story. 2/5

Final Thoughts
This was a fun book to read and I really enjoyed it. Also, even though the characters get their happily ever after, the ending doesn’t completely follow the normal formula. I don’t want to give it away, but I will say that the ending does a great job of leaving things open ended, either for another book or for readers just to let their imaginations run a little wild.

Release & Review: I Wish You Were Mine by Lauren Layne

Release Blitz time! Because of my deep and abiding love for this author, I totally jumped on this train.

 

 

Title: I Wish You Were Mine

Series: Oxford #2 

 

Author: Lauren Layne

Publisher: Loveswept

Genre: Contemporary Romance

Release
Date: February 2, 2016

 

Blurb

Perfect for fans of Alice Clayton and Emma Chase, Lauren Layne’s Oxford series heats up in this story of forbidden desire as a brooding jock hoping for a comeback falls for a woman who’s strictly off-limits.

A year ago, Jackson Burke was married to the love of his life and playing quarterback for the Texas Redhawks. Now he’s retired, courtesy of the car accident that ruined his career—and single, after a nasty scandal torpedoed his marriage. Just as he’s starting to get used to his new life as a health and fitness columnist forOxford magazine, his unpredictable ex shows up on his doorstep in Manhattan. Jackson should be thrilled. But he can’t stop thinking about the one person who’s always been there for him, the one girl he could never have: her younger sister.

Mollie Carrington can’t say no to Madison. After all, her older sister practically raised her. So when Madison begs for help in winning her ex-husband back, Mollie’s just glad she got over her own crush on Jackson ages ago—or so she thought. Because as Mollie reconnects with Jackson, she quickly forgets all her reasons to stay loyal to her sister. Tempted by Jackson’s mellow drawl and cowboy good looks, Mollie is sick and tired of coming in second place. But she can’t win if she doesn’t play the game.

My Review
I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
One-Sentence Synopsis
An ex-football star hooks up with his ex-wife’s sister and things become way more complicated, especially when his psycho ex decides she wants him back. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

Besties
Mollie and Jackson come into the story with history. Mollie fell in love with Jackson back when he’d married her sister, and though he wasn’t interested in her that way, Mollie had been Jackson’s best friend when things got rocky in his marriage to Madison. But when a car accident ends his football career and Madison ends their marriage, Jackson avoids Mollie and moves to New York to take a job as the fitness editor of Oxford magazine.

Roommates
Mollie tells herself that her feelings for Jackson have gone away over the years as a way to first cope with his marriage to Madison and then to avoid breaking the sister code of sleeping with an ex. But when she meets up with him in New York and has gone from the nerdy girl to something of a hottie, there is a definite chemistry between them, made stronger by their foundation as close friends. Which doesn’t make it any easier for Mollie to keep her distance, and it especially doesn’t help when Jackson suggests she move in with him since her current living situation is less than awesome.

Guys Get Lonely Too
Jackson is grumpy and mopey, but then you find out that he’s also lonely and feels like an outsider from his work colleagues. He just wants a friend, and nothing gets me like someone who just wants a friend. Yet, he’s also hanging on to the slim hope that he might be able to return to football as an assistant coach at some point, so he’s holding himself back from really getting to know people.

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Men’s Club
Enter the whole Oxford gang, who I’ve talked about in the past as being such a fun group. The Stiletto group was fun, but I love the guys at Oxford. I love their banter and their antics and pretty much their whole dynamic, and though both groups feel super glamorous, they’re all good people who reach out to those who need support.

Evil Sisters
Mollie is adorable and quirky in her nerdiness. She’s so conflicted though, and as I tend to do when family drama happens in novels, I wanted her to ignore everything her sister did and to pretty much shut the woman out completely. I realize that it’s that drama and conflict that build these stories, but I hate horrible family members. I will say that Madison isn’t the worst I’ve ever read, but she was still loathsome and manipulative and selfish. Mollie did what any sister who felt indebted to her sibling would do, but it was frustrating. Luckily, Jackson was having none of it, and other than a few bad judgement calls of what he said around her, he pretty much told Madison to GTFO.

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The Romance Factor
Such good romance. There’s an unrequited love, there’s the whole “He’s going back to my sister” miscommunication angst, and then there’s the big fallout where the heroine mic drops and leaves the hero to stew in his sadness and regret. And all of these things are so feel-inducing that there are times when I literally couldn’t even. Also, big props to a slight change in the “past love” trope. Even though Mollie has loved Jackson for years, Jackson admits that he didn’t have any romantic feelings for her during their earlier relationship. And while this doesn’t seem romantic, it shows the way in which relationships can change. I loved it. 5/5

The Steam Factor
Some of Layne’s novels are pretty tame, but she brings the hotness with these books. The sexy times are sufficiently intense and naughty and fun, and when the time is right, filled with sweet emotion that rocks my socks. 5/5

Final Thoughts
This series and this world is so good that I’m going to miss it when it’s over. While I’m looking forward to the final story in the series, I’m not looking forward to the whole thing ending. Having said that though, LL also has a new series coming out this year, a new standalone, and the third in the NewYork’s Finest series coming out this year, so I’m pretty sure my mourning isn’t going to last too long.

 

Purchase Links
AMAZON US / UK
Also Available
AMAZON US / UK

 

 

Author Bio

Lauren Layne is the USA Today bestselling author of more than a dozen contemporary romance novels. Prior to becoming an author, Lauren worked in e-commerce and web-marketing. A year after moving from Seattle to NYC to pursue a writing career, she had a fabulous agent and multiple New York publishing deals. Lauren currently lives in Manhattan with her husband and plus-sized Pomeranian. When not writing, you’ll likely find her running (rarely), reading (sometimes), or at happy hour (often).

Author Links

 

 

Book Review: The Raven Prince by Elizabeth Hoyt

I recently got to spend a day reading. I didn’t read the whole time, of course, but I did manage to finish three books, and it’s been a long time since I’ve done that. This was one of the three. I love Hoyt’s books, and since I’m currently waiting for the next Maiden Lane book to come out, I feel this may be my chance to catch up on her other series.

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One-Sentence Synopsis
A widow takes a position as secretary to a scarred earl, only to find that her feelings for him leave her willing to do scandalous things when she finds out he frequents a brothel in London. For a fully synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

Things of Ill Repute
I sometimes think my little one sentence explanations make the books sound deviant and not as good as they really are. Don’t worry. In this case, we don’t actually see the earl, Edward, do any brothel-like things, at least not without Anna. The story is actually very sweet and sensual. Anna is plain and comes with trust issues since her late husband cheated on her and blamed her when they couldn’t have children. In fact, she’s just accepted it as fact that she’s barren.

Bebehs
Edward wants a family, especially children, to carry on his lineage. He’s a widower whose late wife died in childbirth. But he also has trust issues since he found out that his wife had been forced to marry him and actually found him repulsive due to poxmark scars on his body and face. When he meets Anna, he’s already been courting a woman who can deal with those scars and seems fine with marrying him, if not over the moon since it’s a marriage of convenience.

Masquerade
You know who isn’t turned off or repulsed by those scars? Anna. In fact, Anna is so ready to jump Edward that when she finds out he’s going to a house of ill repute in London, she takes the opportunity to go as well. Wearing a mask so he doesn’t know it’s her, she gets what she thinks she wants (in the form of some pretty steamy sexy times) only to discover that she actually wants more…like actual feelings from him. And unfortunately, she knows she can’t have it, since Edward needs children and she can’t have any.

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I Do What I Want
So much conflict, but it’s so good. Anna’s secret, as well as the side plot of blackmail from one of her peers. draws the conflict out in the best way possible. Edward is not an ass, as many scarred (re: Beauty and the Beast trope) heroes are, and Anna serves as the “Why can’t women enjoy hot sex, too?” heroine, which I’m always a fan of. She does have a bit of a meek streak. She’s scared to let Edward know she was the one behind the mask, and she seems to cower a bit when bullied by the aforementioned blackmailing peer. But she also turns her nose up at what society deems proper in order to help a prostitute she finds sick on the side of the road.

Good Moms-In-Law Do Exist
Even though Anna’s late husband was a cheater and not very likable, I kind of loved Anna’s mother-in-law. Anna lives with the older woman, but instead of being that overbearing mother who thinks her son did no wrong, the older Wren knows what her son was like and now wants Anna to be happy. In fact, when she realizes there’s some chemistry between Anna and Edward, she encourages the relationship.

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No Tears
It seemed like there hadn’t been a huge amount of interaction and development between the two before Anna was literally crying over the fact that he didn’t seem to want her. While I completely loved the emotion and romance behind it, I also thought it seemed a little too soon for tears.

The Romance Factor
Despite the quick shed of tears, I loved Anna’s acceptance of Edward, even though he had so many moments where he thought she was repulsed by him. I also loved Edward’s inner conflict as he tried to deal with his feelings for Anna, the fact that the masked woman in the brothel made him think of Anna which made him feel like he was cheating on Anna, and the fact that he couldn’t marry Anna because of the kid thing. Talk about a hot mess. 4/5

The Steam Factor
If anyone thinks that historicals don’t match contemporaries in eroticism, they need to read a Hoyt novel. Detailed, sensual, and paced well, the sexy times in her novels never get cold. 5/5

Final Thoughts
There’s one more book in this series I need to read. While these ones don’t rank as high as the Maiden Lane books on my faves list, I’m still enjoying them. I believe this year will be the year I make it through the whole catalog of books by this author.

Book Review: Naked by Gina Gordon

One of the things I strongly relate to is a heroine with self-esteem issues, maybe not so much now since I tend to have a high opinion of myself most days, but I remember when I wasn’t that confident. Probably because I’m projecting, I tend to get a little irritated with characters for not getting it together. Having said that, even with that minor annoyance, I really enjoyed this book.

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

One-Sentence Synopsis
A young woman, scarred from an accident, engages in a fling with her neighbor, determined to explore her sexuality while still hiding the “deformities” the accident left her with. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

In a Man’s World
Violet, the aforementioned heroine, is mostly awesome. She’s been raised to take over her father’s construction company and has a love for commercial construction even though it’s seen as a man’s industry. She also has a natural curiosity about sex and wants to explore her wild side, something her fiance wouldn’t do with her before he was killed in a car crash. Because it was this conversation they were having when the accident happened, Violet carries around some guilt.

Dedicated to Hiding
Sadly, Violet is also too afraid to show anyone her scars, including her family. I’m not entirely sure how realistic it is that she hid all of her scars from her family and friends for so long. I mean, I think it’s possible, sure, but that takes a lot of commitment. Then again, Violet had some major self-confidence issues, many of them from her mother who’s always hailed her beauty as her best feature and seems to disapprove of her taking over the company. I had moments where Violet’s constant belief that she was ugly…and then her need to get mad at those people who told her she was still beautiful…annoyed me.

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The Guy Next Door
The hero, Noah, is endearing from the moment he fakes a fall to get Violet’s attention. Okay, so it sounds a little extreme, but it turns out okay. Noah is carrying around his own issues. He feels like he’s letting his dad’s memory down by not going into business for himself, and he doesn’t want to get into a relationship because his last one ended with the woman deciding he wasn’t good enough for her. He has one douchecanoe moment, but otherwise, he’s a good guy.

Grrrl Power
One of the best characters in the book is one that I think will have her own story in this series later, and that’s Harper, a woman who’s not only super comfortable with herself but spends her time helping other women feel hot. She’s kind of my hero. As a side note, I read the author’s acknowledgement at the end and was surprised that she admitted to having her own self-esteem issues and had written Harper as her complete opposite. That bit of honesty rocked my world.

The Romance Factor
Class differences are things I’ve seen often in historical romances, but I liked the take on it in this contemporary novel. Violet is rich, though she keeps it a secret from Noah, and of course Noah has issues with being seen as less than by a woman he’s dating. While this doesn’t sound romantic on paper, it leads to angst and conflict. Beyond that, there are moments of sweetness that made me melt. Noah’s constant respect for Violet’s need to not expose herself was great, and even though I was annoyed with her (get naked already, woman!), he maintained pretty well. 4/5

The Steam Factor
Considering part of the plot of this book was Violet wanting to be a little more naughty, this book definitely brought the heat where the sexy times were concerned, including quite a bit of public sex. Seems Violet has a thing for it. 5/5

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Final Thoughts
For as unsure of herself as Violet is, at the end she gets pretty kick-ass. I enjoyed this book, and I liked the development of Violet coming out of her self-issues. I enjoyed the side characters and am looking forward to reading more in this series.

Book Review: All the Ways to Ruin a Rogue by Sophie Jordan

January has been a crazy month. It kicked off with a big overtime project at work that kind of sidetracked my reading and hasn’t let up since. I’m trying to fit reading in with some other projects, including the revision of my own novel that’s about to come out of the beta reading phase. If January is setting the precedent for the whole year, it’s going to be insane.

In fact, I’m writing this a few weeks after I actually read this book, so some of my memories have faded. I considered not blogging about it, just throwing it on Goodreads and calling it good, but I really did enjoy it and wanted to give it some blog love.

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One-Sentence Synopsis
Once friends, now enemies, a lady and a viscount fight the the sexual tension building between them to maintain their animosity. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

Don’t Want No Short Man
Aurelia and Max follow a friends to enemies to lovers trope, giving us a lot of conflict foreplay and banter, though at times the banter gets intense and turns into some hateful dialogue. As a young girl, Aurelia was in love with Max…until she caught him getting down with another woman. Her anger and hurt took the form of a caricature that ended up haunting Max into adulthood, hence the mutual hate (and by haunting, I mean calling into the question the size of a certain male-only appendage).

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Put a Ring On It
Aurelia values her independence, but when her mother decides to go to Scotland due to financial and family issues, Aurelia has no choice but to either go with her or find a husband locally. This doesn’t sit well with her, but a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do. Max, of course, doesn’t want her…until he realizes that omg, someone else might have her. Then it’s game on. Sort of. Because while he doesn’t want to marry her (or so he says), he feels he needs to screw up her chances of marrying anyone else.

Such Anticipation
Aurelia and Max spend a lot of time warring with themselves over what they want. There is a lot of great foreplay, the kind that kept me on edge and made me happily frustrated with the waiting, going into each scene with a “Will they or won’t they this time?” mindset. I enjoyed Aurelia as a character, and I related to her ability to hold a grudge. There were times I liked Max, and then times I wanted to tell him to suck it up. There were also times he was downright mean to her, so douche alert, though he ends up being an okay guy at the end.

Emo Hero
Though I enjoyed the book, towards the end I thought the characters drew things out and parts of it felt depressing, what with Max not wanting to love and all that jazz due to past hurts, blah blah blah.

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The Romance Factor
I really did love the foreplay that happened through most of the book and the fact that Aurelia and Max tried so hard to hold on to their dislike for one another. But there were also sweet moments that helped develop the relationship. 4/5

The Steam Factor
I’m embarrassed to say that due to the time lag between when I read this and when I wrote this review, I forgot how steamy this book was. I’m pretty sure it was open door and detailed, so I’m giving it a 4/5, but there is a chance it wasn’t quite that saucy.  Please feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.

Final Thoughts
This was my first Sophie Jordan novel and I really enjoyed it. Though I thought some of the pacing was a little slow at the end and the random meanness of Max annoyed me, overall it was fun and I liked the heroine. I’ll definitely be adding more of her books to my TBR list.

Book Review: Sutherland’s Secret by Sharon Cullen

Sometimes you get those books that are like an emotional roller coaster that completely exhaust your feels. Then sometimes you get a book that just plays quietly with your emotions and rocks you gently…not to sleep, because I’m not talking “boring,”…but just into a very pleasant state of entertaining reading. This was one of those books.

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

One-Sentence Synopsis
An English lady is found passed out in the middle of the road by a Scottish earl who takes her home, despite bad relations with the English, only to find she’s running in fear from someone. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

Let Me Be Your Hero
Brice is definitely the traditional heroic hero…alpha when it’s called for, savior of the damsel in distress, and loved by his people. When Brice finds Eleanor, he saves her against the wishes of his men, who don’t trust the English and think that keeping her with them is going to bring trouble. But Brice isn’t going to leave her there, especially when it’s clear that she’s near death. He revives her, only to find that she has no voice, so she remains a mystery, at least at the beginning.

Save Me
If Brice is the traditional hero, Eleanor is the typical damsel in distress. Her distress levels get even higher when the person she’s running from visits Brice’s castle. Of course, in her state of distress, she doesn’t listen when she’s told to lay low, going against Brice’s wishes to sneak down and see the man who’s looking for her. Which is one of the issues I took with her character: she was scared, but not scared enough to keep her butt planted firmly behind a locked door.

Romance Nostalgia
Even though I wanted to handcuff Eleanor to a radiator, I actually liked both characters, and I liked the very traditional feel of their romance. When I say traditional, I mean this novel reminded me of the ones I started reading when I was young, minus all the “pretend it’s not rape for the sake of romance” stuff. Because Brice treated Eleanor well, and I particularly enjoyed the theme that Brice and his men (and Scottish men in general) revered their women and treated them with the utmost respect. And even though Eleanor was questionable at the beginning, I thought it was great how living in Scotland among this type of mindset kind of made her fierce. And when she went fierce (and I won’t spoil anything), it was one of my favorite scenes in the book. Seriously, it needed a mic drop.

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The Villain
A few of the scenes were told from the villain’s point of view, which I thought added a little flavor to the book but didn’t make the villain sympathetic. He was still a douche with no redeeming qualities…which is exactly how I like my romance villains.

The Romance Factor
There was a slight feel of insta-love to this story, but it wasn’t horrible, nor did it detract from the story. It was portrayed as Brice’s fascination of Eleanor and his need to keep her safe, and her looking to him as her savior and protector. There are several scenes where she’s having nightmares and of course he hears her and goes in to calm her nightmares with his hot body and strong arms (no sexy times though…all respect). And even though it’s a little cheesy, it’s that perfect cheese blend that’s still entertaining in this genre. 4/5
The Steam Factor
Though not numerous, the sex scenes were fairly steamy and descriptive enough to get a good visual of what was going on. 4/5

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Final Thoughts
Overall, this was kind of a mellow read, but there was still enough intrigue to keep it interesting and enough angst to make it romance-worthy. A perfect chill read for a relaxing  afternoon.