Book Review: After the Hurt by Shana Gray

Sometimes I read in shades or colors. That might sound weird, but it’s like reading a book that you think feels dark or one that feels sunny and bright. This one had a really weird shade. It felt dark, but very little of the content was actually dark. There was definitely a lot of emotion in it, both in the story and in my reactions to it. Overall, it felt a bit edgy.


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

One-Sentence Synopsis
A bar owner resists being seduced by his business partner and ex-girlfriend who left several months previously. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

That Kind of Girl
Part of the reason I was unsure about this book from the start was that I hated Pepper in the first few chapters. She comes back after having left her home and her boyfriend to spend six months in Bali and seems to think she can pick up where she left off. She felt selfish and manipulative, and I really hated her. Later, I felt conflicted when I found out her reason for leaving (full disclosure: there were tears), but she still didn’t strike me as someone I wanted to read about.


Unforgiving Hero
Tank, on the other hand, kept me interested in the story. He’s hurt and angry at Pepper for leaving, rightly so, and so he keeps his distance despite the attraction he still has for her. Because I didn’t like Pepper, I was glad he made her sweat things for awhile.

Luckily, by the time Tank came around, so did I. Though I can’t put her as one of my top favorite characters of all time, Pepper grew on me as the story developed. I even empathized when she was hurt by something Tank said or did.

Something’s Gonna Happen
Right from the beginning, we’re introduced to one of the crazier (not a good crazy either) characters I’ve ever read. Olivia is a girl Tank dated a few times who is very obviously a few fries short of a Happy Meal and doesn’t seem to get that she’s not Tank’s girlfriend despite him telling her to her face and in no uncertain terms that they’re not together.  I loved that introducing her gave the story a feel of suspense. Between crazy Olivia and Pepper’s intuition that someone starts watching her, I was always waiting for something to happen.


Fun Side Characters
I also liked Tank’s sister. Meg is interesting and sweet and uses a cane due to an accident, the details of which are not in this book but will hopefully be revealed later in the series. I liked that she supported her brother, but she didn’t mince words with Pepper about the fact that she’d left Tank heartbroken when she left. I’m not a fan of guilt trips, but Meg delivered one with some class.

The Romance Factor
I have a hard time connecting with second chance love stories, so there was a lot of this book that didn’t resonate with me as far as romance went. But there were definitely some strong moments. I think fans of the second chance trope will love this story. It felt real and heartbreaking, yet hopeful. 3/5

The Steam Factor
Though there’s sexual tension, Tank and Pepper don’t hook up until much later in the story. But the sexy times are there, they just come in the form of vivid memories about past sexy times.  4/5

Final Thoughts
For all the little things that I either didn’t like or don’t fall under my first choice of tropes, by the time I got to the end of this book, I realized that I actually liked it quite a bit. The writing is good, the characters are interesting, and the subtle suspense made for a fun ride.

Book Review: Cuff Me by Lauren Layne

I love the Moretti brothers. I love friends to lovers romance. I love the angst of two people who are very obviously in love but don’t know who to let the other one know because they don’t think the other one is interested.  This book was several hours of sheer reading crack.


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

One-Sentence Synopsis
Partner detectives who’ve been close friends suddenly find tension in their relationship when she becomes engaged. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

Emotionally Frozen
I love heroes who have a vulnerable side, and Vin Moretti fits that to a tea. He’s stoic and gruff, and the only person other than his family that he’s accepted into his life is his partner, Jill. In fact, he’s sure he has a thing for her. But Vin is convinced he lacks normal emotions and that he doesn’t have it in him to love someone. Though he can’t pinpoint a reason for his cold nature, his mom sheds some light on the subject at one point in the story. Talk about an “aww” moment.

Jumping Into Marriage…to the Wrong Guy
Jill, on the other hand, is a ray of sunshine who has a lot of love to give, and she’s at the point where she’s ready to settle down and give it. Since her first choice, Vin, doesn’t seem to reciprocate her feelings (other than the friendly ones), she says yes when a man she met in Florida asks her after having only known her a few months. He’s the kind of guy most women would love to marry, but Jill finds herself struggling with her choice when she gets back to New York. She should be happy, but she’s not.


The tension and build-up between Jill and Vin is amazing. Though they’ve never had a problem communicating before, they suddenly find themselves in situations where they don’ talk because of the weirdness between them. In fact, their perfect work record even looks like it’s going to get its first mark when they can’t figure out any leads on the recent murder of a actress. I love their banter. Layne brings her epic dialogue skills to the story, while at the same time pulling us effectively into each characters head.

Family Dynamics
Of course, we get appearances from all the Morettis and the new Moretti wives and girlfriends from the previous books. One of the main themes for Jill is that the Morettis have always treated her like family, but she realizes that when she marries the other guy, she’s going to lose that. I liked that her inner conflict was mostly about Vin, but it was also about the relationship she’d built with his entire family.


The Romance Factor
The conflict that comes when two characters are in love with each other but don’t think the other reciprocates is the best. Vin goes between feeling possessive and determined to win Jill to feeling like he’ll never be able to give her what she wants, and poor Jill is pulled in all sorts of directions. 5/5

The Steam Factor
The sexy times are few but effective. Because the build-up is so strong, it feels explosive and sensual without being overly graphic. 4/5

Final Thoughts
This series was great from the start, but I think this one is my favorite (and I thought the 2nd one would be hard to beat). There was a romance, a little bit of danger, a lot of sexual tension, and the great side characters and developed relationships that are always found in the author’s novels.