Back to Buckhorn by Lori Foster

I want to start by saying I was kind of disappointed this was only a novella. I’m used to reading the other Buckhorn books that are long and really detailed. I loved reading about the brothers falling in love and was hoping this would be similar. I was similar, but I think there could have been a lot more to the story. Saying that, the author did a good job for such a short story.

The story follows Garrett and Zoey. Zoey comes back to Buckhorn because her mom is in the hospital, and decides she is going to stay and set up a pet grooming salon. Zoey was run out of town years ago because of an incident that left her high school football star boyfriend dead. Garrett is the hometown golden boy and a firefighter. He has always been drawn to the quirky, odd ball Zoey and now sees his chance to make his move. The story describes Zoey falling back into the comfort of small time life and remodeling her house while still dealing with some hostility about the past. Garrett is there to help her as often as he can and defending her against the haters. It is a nice story, but like I mentioned it could definitely been fleshed out more. There is a good mix of drama, romance, and emotional upheaval to keep it interesting and moving well.

I really liked and could relate easily to Zoey. I thought she was a fun, down to earth, realistic character I would like to know more about. Garrett is pretty much a standard romance hero, but it was nice to see the relationship develop in the book. Unfortunately, the ending is somewhat abrupt and doesn’t quite feel finished. I hope we run into the couple in later books to see how they are doing and how the story line plays out.

I would recommend this to anyone who liked the Buckhorn books or Lori Foster stories. It is a quick read, and would be a good summer read.

My rating:

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What Wendy Wants by Nikki Sex

So this is one of the books I have found that is precisely as it was described. Let me start by saying it is a super short novella. It only took me an hour to read. It is definitely an erotica novel, too. I picked it up just for one of those fun, don’t have to think, I have an hour or so to kill reads. It didn’t disappoint. As I am not much into erotica, this was a little out of my reading zone, but I didn’t think it was too bad. I liked the premise and think a few men should read it LOL. The story line follows Wendy and her husband. They have slowly drifted apart and neither of them is enjoying sex much anymore after 13 years of marriage. Her husband accidentally grabs her Kindle on day and ends up discovering all of her erotica stories. As an analyst, his curious and analytical mind instantly started to unwind exactly what his wife wants in the bedroom. The rest of the story is him organizing and going through with his plans to give her everything she wants. Like a said, quick erotica story, but the love of the couple and the marriage they had built was inspiring. It also was a good lesson on honesty and openness within the marriage. I think the most amusing part was the husband reading all the erotica books. Not a bad read for the summer if you’re looking for one.

My rating:

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Melting Away the Ice (Ice Series #1) by Mary Smith

I wanted to continue with my hockey novella reading in honor of the NHL playoffs, so I downloaded this book. I was hoping it was a well-written and thought out as some of the other series I had read, but it wasn’t. That’s not to say it was bad, because it wasn’t. It had a good story line, something a little different but not too different at the same time.

The story follows Sara as she is working to get back to herself before a terrible domestic violence incident. She is drug by her friend Rachel to a hockey game where she meets Lucas Sharp by accident. Lucas is the captain of the Chicago Eagles. He doggedly pursues her until she relents and, with the help of Rachel, gives in and begins dating him. Sara keeps Lucas in the dark for most of the story about her past. The story mainly focuses on Sara and how she is dealing with dating and falling in love. You get some of what Lucas is experiencing, but it strikes me as mainly surface emotion, or a general emotion that one would assume he is feeling through the different events.

I would like to guess this is an early writing, someone new to being an author. A lot of my issues were with phrasing and tense. She wrote in present tense which is always a little jarring at first. Furthermore, she had the Chicago Eagles as the reining team in the league. For some reason that bothers me. I would think it would make for a stronger book if the team was placed somewhere in the middle of the field. Also, I thought the progression of the romance was a little too quick for a domestic violence case. The emotional struggle of recovering could easily have been fleshed out and been more in-depth. But like I said, it felt like the writer was new. So hopefully her books will improve as her skills grow.

My rating:

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Dropping Gloves (Portland Storm #10) by Catherine Gayle

Catherine Gayle’s ability to pull out strong emotion was again displayed brilliantly in this latest installment of the Portland Storms series. I had actually skipped a few books to read this one. I have only read 1-4, and 6 before this book, but since it was between Katie and Babs, I couldn’t wait to read it.

You meet Katie and Jamie “Babs” Babcock in the first books of the series and follow their budding, yet non-existent romance, through the different books. You are always hoping they will get together, but they never have. This book picks up as Katie returns from Los Angeles after her show, The Cool Kids, has been canceled and she is questioning her desire to go back to Hollywood. Jamie is finally trying to put Katie behind him, telling her that he can’t see her anymore if she is going to keep leaving. I won’t be giving away too much when I tell you that Katie decides to stay in Portland, especially after her cancer returns. The story follows Katie and Jamie as they begin to navigate a relationship and her cancer relapse.  It also follows Katie as she figures out what she wants to do now with her life, and Jamie as he adjusts and grows into being the captain of the Portland Storm team.

I liked the book as I had hoped to read the story for these two characters for a while. The book is not as emotionally intense as some of the previous books, but it is still very strong and emotionally authentic. You feel for both characters, feeling the struggles and heartaches they go through.It was a more common story line than I expected from the author, not quite as interesting as I expected, but she did it beautifully. Anyone who knows someone with cancer or who has cancer will appreciate the emotional struggles in the book. Anyone not linked to cancer will get a glimpse into the world that cancer patients and their families have to go through. Overall, a good book. I liked the first book more, but I can relate more easily to abuse survivors as opposed to cancer survivors.

My rating:

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Portland Storm: The First Period (Books 1-4) by Catherine Gayle

I found this series on sale in the Amazon Kindle store and thought I’d give it a shot. It turned out to be a fantastic little series so far. The third book was quite short, more like a set of deleted scenes, but it helped to bridge the gap between books 2 and 4. My favorite was the first book, Breakaway. I can’t wait to find more books in the series. The novellas were actually quite long, but I was still able to finish each under 4 hours.

You do need at least rudimentary knowledge of hockey to read the books. There are a lot of sections where it focuses on the male lead and what he is doing in the game, so the reader needs to understand a little of the game to be able to follow.

One thing I did really like was the fact the novellas only had a couple sex scenes in each. They are not overrun with them. Mostly it focuses on the emotional development and hardships of the couple instead of the sex, which is fantastic in my opinion. The author does a phenomenal job portraying the inner turmoil and true emotions of her characters in a way I rarely see. The strong emotions she digs into fascinate me.

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Breakaway – Book 1

I absolutely loved this book. It follows the story of Dana and Eric. Dana and Eric grew up together, and both played hockey. Eric left with Dana’s brother, Brenden, to go to college and Dana went to a different college. Dana was a star hockey player on her college team until she was gang raped after a game by a group of rival fans. She decided after seven years of counseling, she needed someone she trusted to help her learn how to deal with intimacy again and aid her in conquering her panic attacks. Eric is not at all happy with the idea but has been in love with her for years, so he gives in and agrees to help her.

Anyone who suffers from panic attacks, or survived rape or abuse will be able to relate very strongly with Dana. Her portrayal is amazingly realistic to what panic attacks are like and how hard it is to heal from sexual violence. As an abuse survivor, I was able to relate to her extremely well and found the book to be a great example of what a loving, healing relationship can do. I would recommend this book to anyone who likes romance or is struggling to recover from sexual violence.

My rating:

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On the Fly – Book 2

After the first book, I shouldn’t have been surprised to find the second book as emotionally strong and tangled. You follow the story of Brenden and Rachel. Brenden is Dana’s brother and has just been called up from the minor league. He is struggling with trying to prove he deserves to be in the major league and also with the relationship that has developed between Eric and Dana. Rachel is running from her husband who she found out and successfully convicted of abusing her daughter. Throughout the book she struggles a lot with trust, overprotectiveness, and insecurity over her growing feelings for Brenden. An added obstacle is her learning the ropes of her new job – secretary for the Portland Storm General Manager, taking over for the retiring Martha.

It was endearing to see these two people slowly cross the obstacles in front of them and find each other, in particular how they became a family with Rachel’s two children. You also get to learn more about the other team members and begin to really get a feel for the different personalities. The only thing I didn’t particularly like was how abruptly it ended. But that is really my only complaint. Other than that, I thought it was a brilliantlyl written work.

My rating:

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Taking a Shot – Book 3

This is actually considered an in-between novella. It is just a short snippet, very quick, that helps segue between On the Fly and Light the Lamp. It is the story of Jamie “Babs” Babcock taking Katie to her prom. I don’t want to give away something that happens in On the Fly, but I will say it is important that she is able to go. I thought it was a great way to portray a small development between these two characters, as their love story has been woven through each book so far. However, it was very quick and I hoped for more. It makes sense to read it, but I cannot wait for their actual full-length novella to come out next week.

My rating:

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Light the Lamp – Book 4

This is another book I greatly enjoyed. The book follows Liam and Noelle. Liam is a widower who is still grieving for his wife who was hit by a drunk driver while she was trying to change a tire. He finds Noelle on the highway, trying to fix her car, and insisted on taking her somewhere safe until the car cooled down. He later finds out she is homeless and jobless and insists she go home with him. The story unfolds as the fall in love and struggle to become emotionally close. You also learn about Liam’s Light the Lamp foundation that helps addicts begin to put their life back together.

It is a very emotionally charged book. I found I was very able to relate to Liam. His struggles to deal with the death of his wife and the love he is developing for a new woman are strong and realistic. I had a harder time relating to Noelle, but she is so sweet and genuine you have to like her. Her emotions do come through very strongly as well, especially with her fighting to maintain her independence and need to make the world a better place.

My rating:

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In Kelly’s Corner (Fighting Connellys #1) by Roxie Rivera

The story follows Bee, an upcoming software designer, and how Kelly, a security experts, gets pulled into her world because of a stalker. This slowly morphs into a stalker and a blackmailing of Bee by two different people for two different reasons. Additionally, Kelly is dealing with his own problems as his dad’s gambling debt gets called by the Albanian mob – and for a lot more than what Kelly and his brothers were expecting.

I had mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, there was an interesting story line with a couple twists that I did not see coming. It was not a standard stalker novel and the addition of the blackmail I didn’t see coming at all. I was able to figure out who the stalker was relatively quickly, but the author did a good job of playing around with who it was. The blackmail was a developed very well, with a solid back story and all the conniving and stressful aspects common in blackmail. The interaction between the stalker story line and the blackmail story line were also intertwined quite well. The addition of Kelly’s dad’s gambling debt payoff was played as a side story and not touched on a great deal, but you didn’t forget about it either.

On the other hand, I had a lot of trouble relating to the main male character (Kelly). I don’t know why, but I just could not like Kelly and I really tried. I don’t want to give details away, but at one point he does something that I would have not believed he would actually do. In the end, like any normal romance, everything turns out well, but it is a very rocky road. I did have a little fondness for Bee, but again I struggled relating to her. I’m not entirely sure why.

My rating:

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Her Russian Protector #1-3 by Roxie Rivera

I picked up this box set of short novellas while they were on sale the other day. It contains the first three books of Roxie Rivera’s Her Russian Protector series. They are fairly quick reads, I finished the collection on a lazy Sunday. Not a bad little series. I am waiting for the fourth book to go on sale to finish the quartet that follows the brothers. I recommend it to anyone who is dabbling in erotica or loves hot romance/life and death stories. I probably won’t pick it up again, but I will most likely remember it. You can definitely see the author developing her writing skills though as you progress through the three books, which is a nice surprise.

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This follow’s Ivan and Erin’s story. I don’t know why, but I was not a fan of this story. I actually wasn’t sure if I wanted to continue reading after this book, but I did anyway. Erin’s drug addict sister goes missing and Erin approaches Ivan because it is one of his employees her sister was dating. Through the book, you find out the situation is much worse than was first suspected and Erin and Ivan are nearly killed. The two have a spark of interest in each other from the very beginning. As the story progresses, they start sleeping together the day they meet and their affection grows exponentially every day. The book was probably a quarter sex scenes, but it did kind of have a story line. It was pretty short as well. I find these kind of books rather boring if they are so unrealistic. This would probably never happen in any realm of possibility as it did, but hey that is what books are for.

My rating:

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After Ivan’s story, I was pleasantly surprised by Dimitri’s book. It follows the love story between him and Benny (Benita), who he has loved for years. You are introduced to them in the first book. The story picks up pretty much right as Ivan finishes.  Benny’s business is in major financial trouble and her brother is off running with the Hermanos gang and making life even more difficult for her. Dimitri insists on helping her at every turn, and one night after a particularly trying day, Dimitri finally gets her on a date. The story builds from there. A nasty real estate agent goes after Benny like a shark and Benny’s brother gets into a nasty mess. Through it all Dmitri tries to help her, even calling in his brothers to get them out of some really nasty scrapes. It is actually a great love story and I thought much better than the first book. There is just as many sex scenes in this book, and quite a bit of kink as well, but the story is also much longer. All in all, pretty well done.

My rating:

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Yuri’s book follows the story of him and Lena. Lena is a PR rep that is fighting with her biggest client. She eventually quits and winds up looking to start a new business. She ends up with Yuri, who has been trying to date her for months. Lena’s cousin gets into major trouble, and it eventually comes back to her. While trying to meet a ransom demand for her father, Yuri finds out someone else is gunning for him by going after Lena. This particular path of the story line helps you learn more about the brothers’ history together in the orphanage, in particular Nikolai. Once again all the brothers and the girls pull together to help each other. Again, a lot of sex scenes, but not too bad. I had a harder time relating to the characters, but that is me.

My rating:

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Out of the Game (In the Zone #3) by Kate Willoughby

I was very surprised by the emotional depth of this particular book. In the first two book of the In the Zone series, there was a very strong emotional core of every book, but this book in particular struck me as very strong.

The story follows Alex, the resident playboy of the Barracudas team and how he comes to terms with having an actual relationship. His growth and development through the book absolutely fascinated me. His love interest is Claire, the sister of the love interest in On the Surface. Claire is recovering from a bad divorce of her ten year marriage that happened at the end of On the Surface. Her healing and getting back in to dating is good to read about as well, but I think Alex was by far the more interesting character. There is the normal hassling he receives from his teammates, running in to exes, and learning to share his life with another person. He is also dealing with issues from his past that really make you feel for him and hope he makes things work with Claire. It was fun, though, to see Claire grow into being a strong hockey girlfriend and learn to spread her wings after her divorce. She even organizes a fundraising event I though was awesome. You also get a better feel for the team dynamics in this book. It is interesting to get to know the other players a little better. I am hoping some of the others get a book soon. Hart and Jeremy also play a minor role in this book which was nice to see, but they are more prominent in Across the Line.

Like the other books, there is a lot of hockey in it which is nice for fans. Granted, it’s not a huge lot, as it is a novella, but it is definitely a part of the story and it is integrated beautifully. I would strongly recommend this book to anyone looking for an intense, beautiful read for a day. It can be read as a stand-alone, but I would recommend reading On the Surface first. There are a few things you learn in it that makes things in this book a little more clear. This book parallels with the second book Across the Line. The story lines are occurring at the same time. It is definitely a good romance without tripping over into erotic, which is great for a romance novella. It is even hard for me to classify this as a novella as it is a rather long one, which I thoroughly appreciated with the strong development of the story.

My rating:

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Across the Line (In the Zone #2) by Kate Willoughby

This is the second book in the In the Zone series. Like the first book, there is a lot of reference to and descriptions of hockey in it, which is nice for the fans.

The story follows Calder Griffin and Becca Chen. Calder is one of the enforcer type players that stay in the background on the ice, supporting the runs of the headliners to the goal. He is constantly trying not to be compared to his older brother Hart and found lacking. The story line covers the brothers reunion and changes in their relationship as the story develops. Becca Chen is a cafe owner in Boston. She comes from an Old World Chinese home where she has angered her parents by not following their idea of her life, having planned on her being a doctor. They happen to meet by chance on an airplane and they slowly begin to develop a cross-country relationship. The story primarily focuses on Calder and how he deals with shifting into his first real relationship in a long while and his confusing relationship with his brother.

I liked the story line. It had some general aspects, but the author developed them in a good way. The couple has its share of fights and making-up, but like the other books in the series, this is not an erotica novella. Calder and Becca fight over the same things that most couples fight over, which made the story more realistic and interesting. I particularly liked how the author helped develop Becca near the end of the book. Also, the side story of Hart is done extremely well. I hope he has his own story in the future. Another good read, by Willoughby. I would recommend this to romance and hockey fans.

My rating:

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On the Surface (In the Zone #1) by Kate Willoughby

This book popped up on one of the Twitter feeds I follow the other day as being a “Good Read on Sale” for $.99 in the Kindle store so I picked it up since I was looking for a simple read for the night. I was quite impressed with it. I thought it was a fairly original story line and done quite well.

The story follows a seasoned hockey player (Tim) as he works to remake his image in the league. He happens to meet a local nurse (Erin) by accident at a signing event, and the story unfolds. I don’t want to give too much away, but there are a lot of emotional highs and lows in the book relating to past and how each character deals with it. They really pull at your heart strings. I was absorbed while I read it. The characters are developed extremely well and go through a wonderful development of a relationship. There was also quite a bit of hockey bits and pieces here and there, which I liked being a rather novice hockey fan (I am in no way a hard-core fan LOL but I am learning to love the game). It gives a great impression of what a player’s life is like and the glimpse into that world is as fascinating as the growing relationship between the couple. There are some steamy sex scenes, but they definitely do not rule the book. The story grows and develops focused on the characters, not the sex. I am hoping in the following books, we will interact with Tim and Erin again in the future to see how they continue on and grow.

I found this to be a surprisingly good novella. This is an adorable read for anyone who likes hockey, or a good, fairly original romance. I will probably be reading it again, which definitely is saying something.

My rating:

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