MINI-REVIEWS: January Contemporaries

Posted February 2, 2019

Mini-Reviews Cover to Cover book blog kat snark reading books reader

hello, lovelies!

I read quite a few adult contemporaries in January, so I figured I mind as well wrap them all up with a tiny little bow than release them one-by-one. They run the gamut of ratings, some of them were good, some were just “meh” and some were downright just not good. But, what can you do? Click on the picture to be linked to my full Goodreads review. 

CAN YOU KEEP A SECRET? by Sophie Kinsella

MINI-REVIEWS: January ContemporariesCheck out on Goodreads | Buy on Amazon
Genres: Adult, Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Dell Publishing Company
Source: Libby (My Library app)

Meet Emma Corrigan, a young woman with a huge heart, an irrepressible spirit, and a few little secrets: Secrets from her boyfriend: I've always thought Connor looks a bit like Ken. As in Barbie and Ken. Secrets from her mother: I lost my virginity in the spare bedroom with Danny Nussbaum while Mum and Dad were downstairs watching Ben-Hur. Secrets she wouldn't share with anyone in the world: I have no idea what NATO stands for. Or even what it is. Until she spills them all to a handsome stranger on a plane. At least, she thought he was a stranger.…Until Emma comes face-to-face with Jack Harper, the company's elusive CEO, a man who knows every single humiliating detail about her...

I read this to complete the “Women’s Avenue” square of Romanceopoly, which has you read a Women’s fiction book and went in with a completely open mind. It’s been years since I read a Sophie Kinsella book, I’ve Got Your Number, and in the meantime, I’ve totally forgotten her writing style.

BAM. The first chapter and I was brutally reminded of all!! the!! exclamation!! points!! Her writing style is analogous to being a dog on a sailboat in rough seas, all tossed around. But then, someone keeps yelling “SQUIRREL” from different places so the dog is whipping its head around while getting tossed around.

Not to say that it isn’t good writing. It’s just very… circular? And soooo not my personality. I was annoyed by the bumbling, flighty office girl who embarrasses herself in front of her boss and reveals all of her secrets, without knowing that he’s her boss. I didn’t care about all of her idiosyncrasies that made this book what it is. I didn’t care that she told her boyfriend she was a size 4 and was really a size 8. (Like, they regularly have sex. If he doesn’t like her body, I don’t think a meaningless number is going to change that. Men’s pants go in the 30s for lord’s sake.)

So basically, I spent the first half of this book not caring at all about any of it. But eventually, I started to warm up to the characters. I thought it was hilarious when her boss – Jack- started teasing Emma about her “secrets” that were really little white lies.

I did have trouble connecting or feeling sympathetic to the socially awkward, passive-aggressive flake of the main character whose white lies border on pathological. Did it make me laugh? sometimes, yes. am I glad that I read the book? yes. would I recommend it? I’m not sure. Office romances have been my favorite ever since Rock Hard by Nalini Singh, but I found myself too… uncaring during this one. 

HOT HEAD by Damon Suede

MINI-REVIEWS: January ContemporariesCheck out on Goodreads | Buy on Amazon
Genres: Adult, Contemporary Romance
Series: Head #1
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Source: Libby (My Library app)

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire...
Since 9/11, Brooklyn firefighter Griff Muir has wrestled with impossible feelings for his best friend and partner at Ladder 181, Dante Anastagio. Unfortunately, Dante is strictly a ladies’ man, and the FDNY isn’t exactly gay-friendly. For ten years, Griff has hidden his heart in a half-life of public heroics and private anguish.
Griff’s caution and Dante’s cockiness make them an unbeatable team. To protect his buddy, there’s nothing Griff wouldn’t do… until a nearly bankrupt Dante proposes the worst possible solution: HotHead.com, a gay porn website where uniformed hunks get down and dirty. And Dante wants them to appear there—together. Griff may have to guard his heart and live out his darkest fantasies on camera. Can he rescue the man he loves without wrecking their careers, their families, or their friendship?

I was really excited when I saw this book on my library app because the Friends-to-Lovers tropes are one of my favorites! So I was expectedly very excited for Hot Head, with the added part of them doing sex for money, as friends, before they accept their feelings for each other. 

I already said that my favorite part of friends-to-lovers romance is the slow-burn and the buildup … but good lord. There was so much buildup that we hardly got to see a result! The book felt like a series of back-and-forths of doing things, and then feeling things, and then feeling guilty for feeling things. We saw them as a couple for a very short time, as well as an adorable family dinner, but I was left feeling bereft and robbed of my chance to really see them as a couple

A big part of the book was that the firehouse (as they’re both firemen) seemed pretty homophobic – whether that’s because of masculine ribbing or actual feelings, nobody knows. But we never saw them deal with that or any of the life changes that would have to occur for them to be together. 

Overall, it’s a sweet read about two men who are best friends and eventually become more. But there were several holes and left-out information that kept me from elevating this up to an even four stars. I recommend this to anyone looking for a nice, fluffy, entertaining read that admittedly does get a little slow at certain points. But it’s certainly well-written with interesting characters :)

NEVER ENOUGH by Lauren Dane

MINI-REVIEWS: January ContemporariesCheck out on Goodreads | Buy on Amazon
Genres: Adult, Contemporary Romance
Series: Brown Family #4
Publisher: Berkley Heat
Source: Libby (My Library app)

From the national bestselling author of Inside Out--a sizzling story of insatiable passion. Gillian Forrester spent her life running...until Miles came along. The moment she held her older sister's unwanted newborn, Gillian stopped running and began building a life for her adopted son. Now, thirteen years later, Gillian's sister reveals the father's identity on her deathbed-a revelation that shakes Gillian to her core.
Adrian Brown is the epitome of the successful rock star. It takes a lot to shock him-but the bombshell that he has a son rocks his world. And Adrian is even more surprised when the buttoned-up elegant woman who's raising him ignites his erotic and romantic attention-and engages his heart.

I had such mixed feelings about this one. The premise had such promise! Hot rock star discovers he has a 13-year-old son and falls for the boy’s aunt who adopted him at his birth. Adrian Brown is the youngest of the three siblings that make up the cornerstone of this series. Adrian with his family made this book an adorable, wholesome series of family, love, and kindness. THAT part of the story, I definitely enjoyed it. 

There was a lot for Adrian and Gillian (his son’s aunt, and the main character) to overcome, but I found myself rolling my eyes at the often contrived conflict. I didn’t feel any real connection between Adrian and Gillian, and the emotional side just went cold for me. 

The one thing about this series that really rankled on me, was that all the characters had an almost pathological need to discuss and dissect their feelings and emotions with each other. I almost started a drinking game just for the hell of it. The rules are as follows: each time they deeply discussed their feelings (or were told how they feel, as often the case was), take a swig. Too bad, it would’ve been fun. Ever heard of “show don’t tell?” try not to overthink things too rapidly. 

Secondly, the romance just went waaaaaay too fast for me in this one. Gillian and Adrian meet, and Adrian is completely nasty towards her, as he thinks she’s lying about his son. He shows up to meet #2, apologizing and wanting to meet his son. Then during meet #3, he has dinner with Gillian and his son. THEN HE SPENDS THE NIGHT, getting his sexy on with Gillian, and the romance started running from there. Gillian is portrayed as such a “Momma’s Bear,” but she lets a strange man spend the night in the same house as her son. And has a one-night stand with his new Daddy. I’m… skeptical. 

Thirdly, these characters think they’re way kinkier than they are. You’d think they’re sexual deviants by the way they act. It’s an erotic romance, yes, but that’s because there’s a lot of sex, rather than it being super kinky. 

The son, Miles, was a great character. Although he was a bit too *perfect.* He was so well emotionally adjusted, it was very suspect. You’d think he’d have some concerns or thoughts about his mom being in a new relationship with his new Dad. Or… maybe about his new Dad in general? ahhhh… 

Overall, it has a good, enjoyable storyline. But the abrupt endings, suspect character developments, and speedy romance just stacked the odds against it. 

LAID BARE by Lauren Dane

MINI-REVIEWS: January ContemporariesCheck out on Goodreads | Buy on Amazon
Genres: Adult, Contemporary Romance
Series: Brown Family #1
Publisher: Berkley
Source: Libby (My Library app)

Unexpected Desire...
It's been ten years since clean-cut, sexy-as-hell police officer Todd Keenan had a white-hot fling with Erin Brown, the provocative, wild rocker chick next door. Their power exchange in the bedroom got under his skin. But love wasn't in the cards just yet...
Now, life has thrown the pair back together. But picking up where they left off is tough, in light of a painful event from Erin's past. As Todd struggles to earn her trust, their relationship takes an unexpected and exciting turn when Todd's best friend, Ben, ends up in their bed--and all three are quite satisfied in this relationship without a name. As the passion they share transforms Erin, will it be enough to help her face the evil she thought she had left behind?

Ten years ago, Erin had a give-no-shits attitude, wore badass clothes, and knew who she was. She also had the hots for cop neighbor Todd, a mad set on ignoring his instincts and committed to the straight-laced lifestyle. Well, Erin tested those boundaries, it sent him running to the white-picket-fence life he thought he wanted in another state.

Fast-forward ten years, Todd is back and knows who and what he wants. But Erin isn’t the same girl she was ten years ago. Thus Todd starts his slow courtship to win her back to him, and to herself.

The first half of this one was great – the second-chance romance between Erin and Todd was sweet and hot and working! And Ben was a great supporting character. But then the brought him into the relationship and everything floundered for me.

I am not against polyamorous relationships, and actually, quite enjoy reading about them! But this one just fell flat. First of all, Ben hit this relationship running. Their first time accepting him into their arms (after a very brief “hey let’s share” and the next day “okay” (paraphrased), and he’s already at optimum boyfriend level and *also* considers Erin his wife. They all love each other equally as much, despite the fact that he’d only been “with” them for about a day.

The book spent almost half of itself building this amazing relationship with Erin and Todd, and then threw Ben in the middle last-minute, and it sent me reeling. WAS THERE ANY THOUGHT AT ALL PUT INTO THIS DECISION.

Overall, it was a perfectly good storyline with great writing and very hot sex. But I can’t help but feel that this one would have been better if they’d kept the relationship closed, and maybe added Ben in for some occasional sexy times. The story  s t r e t c h e d  on and on, and I found myself skimming a few times. Although it was in part a wholesome family story, which Erin’s amazing relationship with her brothers, there was just so!! much!! sex!!

THE REBEL by JR Ward

MINI-REVIEWS: January ContemporariesCheck out on Goodreads | Buy on Amazon
Genres: Adult, Contemporary Romance
Series: The Moorehouse Legacy #1
Publisher: HQN Books
Source: Libby (My Library app)

NOTE: This is a re-issue of BEAUTY AND THE BLACK SHEEP Book 1 from the Moorehouse Legacy series.
Nate Walker has never shied away from the hard road. Even when it meant leaving behind his family, wealth, and the fiance who only wanted a rich man. Nothing was going to stop him from opening his own five-star restaurant.
And he was on his way until his car broke down on a dark road in the Adirondacks, leading him right to White Caps Inn and Frankie Moorehouse.
Suddenly Nate has a job he doesn't really need and an affair that has to end when summer does. Except Frankie has a way about her. She gets under his skin. She even makes him want to do what he never thought he could stay forever.

Okay …. did you know that JR Ward had a contemporary-romance pseudonym???? yikes this made my week!

This book starts off with Frankie, the main character, as her pipes burst, and her ceiling caves in on her in a rush of water. She runs a bed and breakfast out of her family’s ancestral home White Caps. The problem is, White Caps is going under and close to bankruptcy and disrepair. An unhealthy combination.

When the cook quits unexpectedly — and Frankie burns the chicken to crisps — she’s near panic-mode about what to do with her hoity-toity guests who expect a high-end meal.

Thank god a man limps through the door asking to use a phone–who also happens to be an amazing chef looking for a summer job. And, he’s cute!

The premise of the book is adorable, and the writing was fantastic. But the main character, Frankie, seemed like she was all hard edges and not much else. There weren’t a lot of moments of romantic moments between them. It seemed that as soon as they accepted their feelings for each other … the book ended.

THE PLAYER by JR Ward

MINI-REVIEWS: January ContemporariesCheck out on Goodreads | Buy on Amazon
Genres: Adult, Contemporary Romance
Series: The Moorehouse Legacy #2
Publisher: HQN Books
Source: Libby (My Library app)

Getting tangled up in fantasies about some man Joy saw maybe five or six times a year was ridiculous
And it wasn’t like Gray ever encouraged her. He remembered her name. But that was as far as it ever got. Well, except in her dreams. In real life, however, the attraction was totally one-sided.
Or so she thought. Joy couldn’t believe it when her daydreams about Grayson Bennett, political consultant and heartthrob extraordinaire, seemed poised to become reality. When he noticed her — really noticed her. When he gazed at her with the same desire he’d inspired in her for years. But was sweet, small-town Joy a match for arrogant, big-city Gray, ruthless about all things — except opening his heart?

I really liked this one! It was super back-and-forth, angsty and fun to witness!

I love an unrequited romance, and this one was no exception. Joy was an innocent small-town girl with big dreams and too much responsibility to make them come true.

Joy is the sister of Frankie, the main character of the first book in this series. While Frankie’s responsibilities include the owning and the day-to-day managing of the Bed and Breakfast, Joy helps in anything Frankie needs and the much harder managing of Grand-Em, their dementia-addled grandmother.

But Joy dreams of fashion design, and when a possible big-break looms, accompanied by the handsome source of her unrequited love, Joy has to make a choice.

It was a sweet book, and Joy and Gray had so many moments between each other that was utterly swoon-worthy. Joy is an innocent woman, blushing but knowing what she wants, while Gray finds himself too corrupted to be with a woman like Joy.

It was a fun read, full of angsty and dramatic back-and-forth’s that had me anxiously flipping through every page, waiting for the ultimate conclusion.

The only disappointments I had with this book was the credibility from book 1 to book 2. Joy was portrayed as a spineless, meek “simpleton” of a girl in the first book, ready to do whoever’s bidding someone asked of her. She was lumped together with George, who has mental problems leaving him a thought-process that doesn’t match his age, and I honestly thought she might be on the same boat.

But here in book 2, she’s a strong woman ready to call a Wall Street shark on his shit and dives right into New York’s high society as a career. Which, of course, I much prefer the girl in book 2. But the two portrayals just don’t jive in my mind.

And my second concern seems to be a thematic one with JR Ward contemporaries. But we just didn’t get enough time together with them as a couple. As soon as they accept their feelings of each other, the story ends and I’m left wanting more. This one had a little more sprinkled throughout than the first, but still not enough, in my opinion.

THE RENEGADE by JR Ward

MINI-REVIEWS: January ContemporariesCheck out on Goodreads | Buy on Amazon
Genres: Adult, Contemporary Romance
Series: The Moorehouse Legacy #3
Publisher: HQN Books
Source: Libby (My Library app)

Only one woman can bring him to his knees. The third Moorehouse Legacy novel from New York Times bestselling author J.R. Ward writing as Jessica Bird.It's bad enough that Alex Moorehouse has always yearned for his best friend's wife, Cassandra Cutler. When a boating accident makes her a widow, the grief—and the guilt—threaten to sink him. But his self-imposed reclusiveness is about to be destroyed by the arrival of the last person in the world he ever wants to lay eyes on again. As they reluctantly work together to rebuild his family's bed-and-breakfast, and his anguished heart in the process, will their growing bond be strong enough to survive both of their secrets?A reader-favorite story originally published as From the First.

This was the best Moorehouse book yet! You know I love a good strong, tormented hero. And Alex Moorehouse (brother to Frankie and Joy of books #1 and #2) was no exception.

We find out in book #1 that Alex was in a boating accident that killed his partner/best friend and left him devastatingly injured. For Alex, who has captained a competitive ship crew (I don’t have too much knowledge on the book, forgive me) and who has an independent streak a mile wide.

He’s also wracked with guilt after being in love with his best friend’s wife for six years. But when she is the architect chosen to fix his sisters’ house (where is staying for the duration of his injury), THINGS OCCUR and it’s very sweet and angsty.

I don’t typically like the back-and-forth, yes-no-yes-no books where the relationship is consistently hot and cold, but it really worked for this series. Alex was horribly injured after his accident, and although it didn’t cause any lasting and debilitating damage, he was too stubborn to ask for help and pushed everyone away. Emotionally, and physically. So to see him melt and harden (hehehe) against Cassandra didn’t feel forced or angsty-for-angst’s-sake, but ended up being thoroughly enjoyable and triumphant in the end.

DAY OF THE DUTCHESS by Sarah MacLean

MINI-REVIEWS: January ContemporariesCheck out on Goodreads | Buy on Amazon
Genres: Adult, Regency Romance
Series: Scandal & Scoundrel #3
Publisher: Avon
Source: Libby (My Library app)

The one woman he will never forget…Malcolm Bevingstoke, Duke of Haven, has lived the last three years in self-imposed solitude, paying the price for a mistake he can never reverse and a love he lost forever. The dukedom does not wait, however, and Haven requires an heir, which means he must find himself a wife by summer’s end. There is only one problem—he already has one.
The one man she will never forgive…After years in exile, Seraphina, Duchess of Haven, returns to London with a single goal—to reclaim the life she left and find happiness, unencumbered by the man who broke her heart. Haven offers her a deal; Sera can have her freedom, just as soon as she finds her replacement…which requires her to spend the summer in close quarters with the husband she does not want, but somehow cannot resist.
A love that neither can deny…The duke has a single summer to woo his wife and convince her that, despite their broken past, he can give her forever, making every day The Day of the Duchess.

Regency romances are a guilty pleasure of mine. I hardly ever read them – around 5ish a year – but I always enjoy them when I do. The Day of the Duchess is by Sarah MacLean, who is a Regency Romance QUEEN. But this one … fizzed out a bit for me.

It starts off really confusing, going back and forth from past to present. It’s probably my fault, but I didn’t always register that we were in the past until halfway through. The main character is Sera, who ran away from her husband Marcus after “trapping him in marriage.”

Three years later, Sera returns, demanding a divorce. But while Marcus can’t stop blaming her for their past, he also can’t bring himself to let her go. So he gives her the summer to find his replacement, and only then, he says, will he give her the divorce. HAhA but he never intends to!

The best part of this book was, admittedly, the side characters. This is the third book in a series I haven’t read, so that may have played a bit of a role in my initial confusion, but to be honest I really don’t think so, as I have been assured by many people that it can be easily read as a standalone and the book did a great job describing who everyone was.

So for those who haven’t read the Scandal & Scoundrel series, it focuses on a group of sisters who are all hysterical and “scandalous.” It seems that “scandal” is just another word for “fun” in that world, and they had me in stitches all the time. I thoroughly enjoyed the ride with them and made me want to continue the series at a later time.

But, unfortunately, the central story just felt very drawn-out and I wasn’t very interested in their story as much as what the sisters were getting up to in the yard.

What books did you read this month? Were there any five-star reads? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!


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