Book Review: Welcoming the Bad Boy by Annie Rains

A little bit of housekeeping first. I’m going to start publishing these reviews twice a week instead of the current frequency. Life has started to get a bit busier, and though I considered giving the blog up altogether, I thought it would be better if I just pulled back and gave myself some breathing room instead. So I’m going to publish on Tuesdays and Thursdays, which seems reasonable enough and gives me time to get and stay caught up. In theory.

Now, on to the review…


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

One Sentence Synopsis
A preacher’s daughter with a hidden wild side and a military dog trainer find a strong mutual attraction despite their differences. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

Secrets of a Good Girl
Valerie’s father, the local preacher, expects her to be a good girl, to serve the members of the church, and to find an upstanding, if not boring, man to be with. But while Valerie does her best to please her father, she has a secret: she expresses her wild side through the romance novels she writes under a pseudonym. Unfortunately, she’s currently dealing with a case of writer’s block and could use some inspiration.


And Your Little Dog Too…
Inspiration shows up in the form of Griffin, a military K-9 trainer who decides to help train the little dog that Valerie is caring for while her owner is in a nursing home following hip surgery. Griffin is edgy and hot and someone she knows her father wouldn’t approve of. Which makes the fact that she wants him even more exciting. Also, he doesn’t just set her loins on fire…he also sparks her writing mojo.

Seeking Affection
Not only was this book romantic, but there are so many other emotions as well. Valerie is extremely sweet and spends her free time volunteering at the local nursing home, reading books to the elderly (she gets roped into reading her own book which was kind of funny and a bit awkward). Her relationship with her father is a bit heartbreaking. She wants him to show her warmth, but since her mother died when she was young, he’s been aloof, treating the members of his church more kindly than he does his daughter.

Griffin has his own issues. His mother has early onset Alzheimers, and he’s trying to come to terms with the fact that she never recognizes him when he visits her. It doesn’t help that their last interaction when she was cognizant involved them fighting and him running away. Now Griffin doesn’t know how to make her understand that he’s sorry for what happened and ask for her forgiveness when she doesn’t see him as her son in her declined mental state.

Summer Fling
During the dog training, Valerie also helps take care of Griffin’s mother, showing him ways to connect with her. The two form a relationship and end up letting their mutual attraction take over. Valerie embraces the fact that an affair is just what she needs to finish her book, even if she “knows” that it’s just a summer fling and that Griffin has no intentions of sticking around in the fall.


The Romance Factor
Griffin and Valerie as characters were amazing, and together they formed this cute, slightly angsty couple who didn’t think the other would want anything long term. Their relationship wasn’t without its issues, though, and the conflict just made it that more emotional and worth the journey. 5/5

The Steam Factor
Though the sexy times were super sweet, they were also pretty tame. 3/5

Final Thoughts
There were many tears in this one. The topic of Alzheimer’s disease is one that makes me sad anyway, so the theme broke my heart. But there are also family relationships and friendships and other tragedies that are explored throughout the book. I loved the story as a whole, though, and loved that it took me through a whole range of emotions.

Book Review: Power Play by Sophia Henry

I’d had some issues with the first book, but it had enough redeeming qualities that I wanted to continue the series. This book was actually a more enjoyable read for me in general, and though there were a few things that gave me “meh” moments, I connected more with the characters and liked the way everything played out.

Trigger warning: Rape is a prevalent theme in this one, so proceed with caution.


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

One-Sentence Synopsis
A young woman trying to help her family run a business finds that her long time crush is not as unrequited as she thought it was, but past trauma threatens her chance at happiness. For a full synopsis see this book’s Goodreads page.

Hockey 4Eva
I’m always drawn to books that center around hockey, and like the first one in the series, this one takes us back to Detroit and the minor league hockey team, the Pilots (though there are enough Red Wings references to keep me happy).

ice hockey falling

Italian “Princess”
Gabriella helps run her family’s store, so when her father has a heart attack, she’s determined to do what she can to market the store and bring in more business, despite the fact her father hasn’t trusted her to run the store and has given the job to Gabriella’s loser brother who can’t even run a credit card the right way.

Not Your Typical Player
Landon is a hockey player who’s had a crush on Gabriella for years. She’s had one on him too, but in her mind, he’s a hockey player  and way too good for her. So when he helps her the day her father goes the hospital, he uses this as his gateway to finally telling her how he feels about her. He’s kind of cute in a nerdy way that one doesn’t normally associate with hockey players.

Playing Out the Relationship
I prefer that romance build in the stories I read, so the fact that Landon tells Gabriella he’s had a crush on her before the book is even halfway done took away from the foreplay factor. Once the feelings are in the open, most stories just play out the dynamics of the relationship. In this case, though, Gabriella can’t seem to come to terms with the fact that the man she’s been infatuated with for years would actually return her feelings.

Past Trauma
There’s a lot of back and forth with Gabriella saying she’s not beautiful and Landon telling her she is. At first, I found this annoying, but then the story unfolds and it becomes understandable where this comes from. Even though we find out right at the beginning that Gabriella was raped, it’s not until later when she’s trying to make a relationship work with Landon that we see how it’s affected her life. Even though, as a reader, we have a general idea, it definitely makes an impact when the details are revealed.

Family Probs
This is another book with family that can be classified as pains in the asses. While Gabriella’s mother and one of her brother’s is okay and supportive of Gabriella, the loser brother and her father are so highly unlikable. I wasn’t a fan of Gabriella being treated less than because she was a young woman when she obviously kicked ass at working. There were a couple redeeming moments for her family, but overall, I really didn’t like them.

Tough Subjects
The subject of rape was handled well.  Because Gabriella was raped by someone she knew, and because the family had ties with the family of the boy who raped her, she was basically ignored in favor of keeping business relations with the family of the rapist (her grandfather was an ass). I liked that the author also included things that come along with rape, such as depression and anxiety, and the stigma that Gabriella felt about having to take medications to handle what she thought was her “crazy.”

The Romance Factor
Landon is sweet and treats Gabriella with respect, support, and kindness. Though not super angsty, there’s a bit of conflict towards the end that I enjoyed. 4/5


The Steam Factor 
Sex isn’t prevalent, but the few scenes that do happen are steamy and detailed, with respect towards Gabriella’s rape. There’s an especially good one of bathroom floor sex that leads to a cameo of the couple from the first book. 4/5

Final Thoughts
This is a hockey novel with very little hockey, so readers looking for a lot of ice action may be disappointed. The story is sweet, and even though the family and some other side characters are annoying, Landon and Gabriella are likeable enough to make up for it.

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.


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.


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.


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.

Book Review: When We Fall by Marquita Valentine

This book drew me in fast and kept me up late, not just because it hit several of my top tropes, but because it was so beautifully written that I spent most of the first half of the book in a state of emotional mush.


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

One-Sentence Synopsis
A shy young woman trying to make it on her own after her parents disown her moves in with her best friend’s brother, who also happens to be the “bad boy” she’s had feelings for since they were teenagers. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

Bad Boy With a Sensitive Side
Jase is the rough bad boy who really isn’t all that bad. He did a seven year stint in prison for an altercation that got a little out of hand. Now that he’s back, he’s decided to indulge himself in easy sex and a loose, solitary lifestyle. But then he’s put in close proximity with Piper, the girl he’s dreamed about for years but “knows” he’ll never have because she’s too good for him. The best part is that Jase actually fell for Piper in high school when she was a shy, overweight girl with thick glasses and a stutter. He fell for her sweetness, and his feelings are real and genuine.


The Girl From the Other Side of the Tracks
Piper spent the seven years Jase was in prison sending him letters and care packages because…that’s right…she was in love with him too! Her insecurities kept her from telling him how she felt, but as an adult who just moved out from under her parents’ thumbs, she thinks it’s time to tell him how she feels. She can tell he’s attracted, and with his sister’s encouragement, she goes for it.

Cruel to Be Kind
Her attempt to tell him how she feels goes so wrong, and yet the scene was so great. It brought about all kinds of emotions, with Jase being cruel to her because he thinks he’s doing the right thing and Piper leaving to cry on her friend’s shoulder. And while Jase is a complete douche, he’s also endearing because of how much pain he feels when he does what he believes is saving Piper from getting hurt. So. Many. Feels.


Beyond the Initial Fall
This beginning conflict was so intense, I wasn’t sure how the author would be able to keep it going through the whole book without it starting to feel redundant. When Piper and Jase get together early in the story, I wasn’t sure where things were going to go from there. However, there was plenty of external conflict, and the story went from two people in love who can’t seem to connect to two people in love navigating a new relationship while trying to deal with several issues.

Harder & Harder to Breathe
Among the things Jase and Piper have to deal with, one is the fact that her parents are from high society and disapprove of her relationship with Jase. Her father (the cop who arrested him) even goes so far as to threaten him (her parents were both loathsome). Another big issue? Piper has severe asthma which is exacerbated by Jase’s old dusty house and sex. I really enjoyed the realism of an issue like this and how the characters handled it, especially Jase.

The Romance Factor
Jase thinks he’s a bad person and will hurt Piper, but he proves to be the complete opposite. He’s so gentle with her (minus the dinner scene where he breaks her heart). When he realizes how bad her asthma is, he takes steps to make sure they can have sex without her having an attack. Not only that, but he makes sure to see a doctor to clear him of any possible STDs from his ex before he and Piper are together for the first time. And considering she’s a virgin, he takes everything slow to make sure she’s ready both mentally and physically. 5/5

The Steam Factor
Because of Jase being one of the best boyfriends in the world, there is a lot of lead up to the sex. But when it does happen (and even when they’re fooling around before that), it’s super erotic and sensual. 5/5

Final Thoughts
There were parts of this novel I felt were actually poetic, and the emotions were written so well they pulled at me. Though those initial feels mellowed out in the second half of the book as Jase and Piper negotiated their relationship, it was still a solid read that took into account real-life aspects that don’t always make it into erotic novels.

Book Review: Highland Heat by Jennifer Haymore

Scottish heroes in kilts are kind of hot, right? But for whatever reason, I had a hard time getting into this one. It wasn’t until I started playing the “change books every chapter” game that I finally found my pace with this, but once I did, the reading groove did not want to let me go.


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

One-Sentence Synopsis
An English lady falls in love with a Scottish solder, despite the fact that they both know class differences will not allow them to be together. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

The Good Stuff
Grace finds Duncan on the battlefield where he’s been wounded and is instantly drawn to him. This is where the story starts, and it feels like a very fast onset of the romance. Right from the beginning though, it’s made clear that Grace is a proper English lady who plans on always being a proper lady, despite the fact that Duncan makes her lady parts tingle.


I feel like Grace could have been a really annoying character, but I liked her. She was sweet, and when she realized she had feelings for Duncan, her conflict between wanting to be with him and wanting to make her father happy was genuine. Her struggle was real.

Not only was there the family conflict, but there was also a bit of intrigue and danger at the end, but fair (trigger) warning, there is an almost rape in this book.

The Romance Factor
I have to say, even though I love the angst of conflict between heroes and heroines, it was somewhat refreshing to have the conflict come from elsewhere. Sure, there’s some anger when one holds to propriety while the other one is trying not to, but for the most part, Grace and Duncan completely understand their feelings for one another. There’s none of that “I don’t love her, I’m just hot for her body” stuff from the hero, nor does he feel that his feelings for her are a weakness. 4/5


The Steam Factor
While this wasn’t the most erotic book I’ve ever read, I thought it held its own pretty well, especially with Grace’s naivete about all things coital. It kind of cracked me up that she went from being a proper lady to suddenly saying “screw it” and sneaking into Duncan’s room frequently to get her freak on. 3/5

Final Thoughts
Even though it had a bit of a slow start, I’m glad this book found its footing for me. I liked the main story and the side story between Grace’s sister and her husband, Duncan’s major. Well written and well paced, this was a good novel, and the epilogue hooked me into wanting to read the next in the series.

Fighting Dirty by Sidney Halston

When I started this book, I was thinking the hero was somebody different. I doubt if I’d misread his description in the previous book. It’s more likely I’m getting characters crossed considering how much reading I’ve done this year (I’ve already finished my 2015 Goodreads Challenge). So I was really happy when instead of a hard, broody fighter, he turned out to be kind of a nerd.

Trigger warning: There is a description of rape in this book.


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

One-Sentence Synopsis
A nerdy business man and wannabe fighter convinces the object of his attraction to enter in a no strings attached relationship with him. For a fully synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

The Good Stuff
I enjoyed the book previous to this one in the series, but I think I liked this one more. The nerd hero was a bonus, but I also liked the heroine. JL is cute and quirky, and even though she’s built some personal walls, I liked that she tried to bring Enzo out of his stuffy businessman personality to show him how to relax and have fun.


One of the things this author does really well is reveal things as the story progresses. It’s not until later in the book we found some serious things about JL and we get a better look at just how toxic Enzo’s family is.

The cameos from the other characters were fun, but not overpowering. Also, the story delivered a right hook into my feels that I hadn’t even seen coming. Well played, Miss Halston. Well played.

The Romance Factor
For two characters with baggage, JL and Enzo had some major chemistry. I love it when characters think they can enter into a fling-only relationship. Silly people…don’t they know they’re in a romance novel? But it’s the slow progression of them trying to deny their feelings and failing miserably to the reader while getting all sorts of angsty and hurt that the other one doesn’t feel more for them. It’s so good, and it’s what makes a novel for me. 4/5

The Steam Factor
This book brought the sex in high doses. There was a lot of it. Plus it was detailed, and there were a few things that don’t always get mentioned in other books, so that was a bonus. 5/5


Final Thoughts
I haven’t done it yet, but seriously…one of these days I’m going to go back and read the first ones in the series. These books are good and fun, but they don’t shy away from some serious issues.

Book Review: Midnight Wrangler by Cat Johnson

I read a lot of new adult contemporaries, so this one was a bit of a shift for me, as both the hero and heroine are older. This was also a second chance story, and as I’ve mentioned before, this isn’t my favorite trope. However, this was more resonant of a missed chances/unfinished business story, and I found that I really enjoyed it.


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

One-Sentence Synopsis
A lonely widower’s world changes when his first love, who left him with no explanation when they were 18, comes back to town 25 years later. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

The Good Stuff
Right from the start, I was endeared to Rohn. As a widower, he’s gotten past the loss of his wife and understands that he’s lonely and wants to be with someone. I thought the author nailed his emotions, and I felt so sad for him that I became engaged simply because I wanted him to have his happy ending.


Overall, I enjoyed the whole thing, even the second chances plotline. It wasn’t forced, but there was definitely a conflict in how Rohn and Bonnie parted when they were younger. I will also say that some of the issues Bonnie had growing up resonated with me, so I felt connected to her as a character.

Things That Made Me Go Hmmm
There was a lot of buildup to what Bonnie was afraid to tell Rohn, but it wasn’t actually a surprise to me as the reader. Though I didn’t expect there to be any twists, it felt like the secret was held way too long.

The Romance Factor
This novel was fantastically sweet. Rohn is a nice alpha male who carries a lot of hurt but still wants to try again at love. Bonnie is older but still a little naive, and the fact that they came together again after so many years gave the story a fated love theme. 4/5


The Steam Factor
For some reason, I had it in my head that Cat Johnson wrote erotica. But the scenes in this book were fairly tame. There may have been a few PG-13 scenes, but nothing X-rated. 3/5

Final Thoughts
I don’t read enough cowboy romances, and I think I should, considering my love for Oklahoma and my current residency in Kansas. This book gave me some solid feels and some really likeable characters. I would definitely read other books in this series.

Love Me Forever by Johanna Lindsey

I figured it was only a matter of time before I came across a book that I’d re-read in the past and loved, only to do another re-read and realize that huge chunks of it were fairly ridiculous. And yet, I was still fairly glued to the book and couldn’t put it down.


One-Sentence Synopsis
A Scotsman trying to steal the wife of a duke and a plain young woman forced by her father to find a husband start out as enemies but eventually become more. Full a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

The Good Stuff
In the past, this was one of my favorite books, and there’s still some good things about it. Many of the character interactions are funny, and I like Kimberly, even though she’s almost stupidly innocent about things of an adult nature.


For the most part, it’s fun romantic fluff that scratches the itch for something you know is going to turn out okay in the end.

Things That Made Me Go Hmmm
First, there is so much going on in this book. It’s like someone tried to cram 6 different plots into one story. Besides the main plot of Lachlan and Kimberly trying to figure their stuff out, there’s also a side plot of someone framing Lachlan for stealing horses, there’s drama with Kimberly’s father, there’s drama when Lachlan takes her home, there’s lighter drama with Kimberly’s other father…the book never stops throwing new plot bunnies in the way, and at times it feels a little cluttered.


I’m not sure how I’ve never seen Lachlan as a complete douche before. He spends the first part of the book convinced he can seduce a married woman, he’s not nice to Kimberly at all when he first meets her, and then he sneaks into her room and gets all up in her business while she’s sleeping, not even taking into account the fact that she’s trying to find a husband and he just ruined her. Then he tells her that the looks she gave him throughout the evening indicated she wanted him and was experienced in sex. So yes, essentially we have a rape and victim blaming if you want to break it down like that, and I sort of couldn’t help myself from seeing it that way.

Oh, and then to top it all off, Kimberly hears him the next morning still trying to seduce the married woman! Seriously, dude.

The Romance Factor
So I’ve read a lot of these books, and as far as the rape thing went, I’ve read blatant rape scenes by this author, ones that weren’t cloaked in “being awoken by feelings of passion” or whatever. This might be why I still got into the romance of the book later. Somehow, Lachlan goes from douche to complete sap and Kimberly thinking he doesn’t love her brings the feels. So while I’m conflicted, I also still enjoyed the love story that eventually develops. I just wish Lachlan wasn’t such a horrible person at the beginning. 3/5

The Steam Factor
The sexy times are fairly tame, though you definitely know what’s going on. No purple prose here, as we stick to vague terms like “length,” “warmth,” and “shuddering” to talk about the key points of coupling. 3/5

Final Thoughts
This book definitely reads different now that I am older, and the parts that drove me nuts really drove me nuts. But when the book finds its groove with regards to the romance, I still enjoyed the sappy cheesy relationship between the leads.