Since becoming a romance reader a few years ago, I’ve struggled to figure out where romance reviews belong on my site. I don’t usually write full reviews of romance books, and I’m not sure if all of you like the X-rated books! Recently in Romance is my mini-review feature where I bundle my recent reads and buys for those of you who are fans.
Recently Read:Stay (WAGs, #2)
Author: Sarina Bowen, Elle Kennedy
Also by this author: , The Fifteenth Minute, The Year We Fell Down, The Year We Hid Away, Blonde Date, The Understatement of the Year, The Shameless Hour, The Fifteenth Minute, Rookie Move, Hard Hitter, Bittersweet, Steadfast, Steadfast (True North, #2), Him, Us, Untitled, Hard Hitter, Good Boy, Keepsake (True North, #3), Goodbye Paradise, Pipe Dreams, Temporary, The Deal, The Deal
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Penguin
Publication date: June 20, 2017
Source: Author's publicist (thank you!)
Can you fall in love with someone you've never even met?
Hailey Taylor Emery has a hunch that her favorite client at Fetch--an anonymous virtual assistant service--is actually hockey star Matt Eriksson.
Although it's against the rules for her to check his file, she's 95% sure she spends at least part of each day texting with her lifelong crush and catering to his every need. Still nursing a wounded heart thanks to her recent breakup, Hailey is perfectly content with some harmless online flirting...until she has to meet her client. Face to face. Cue: utter panic.
Matt Eriksson is no stranger to heartbreak. He's still not over the destruction of his marriage, and it sucks to be the only guy on the team who knows the truth--that hockey and long-term relationships are a toxic mix. He barely sees his kids, and dealing with his ex makes him feel insane. The only person in his life who seems to understand is someone who won't show her pretty face.
But it's nothing that a pair of fourth row hockey seats can't fix. Hailey can't resist the offer. Matt can't resist Hailey. Good thing he doesn't have to. Fire up the kiss cam!
Warning: Contains rabid hockey fans, misunderstood dick pics, hockey players at the opera and exploding ovaries.
Stay is all about Matt Eriksson, star forward on the Toronto hockey team, and teammate of Ryan Wesley (from HIM and US), and Blake Riley (from US and GOOD BOY). Matt’s been burned by love pretty badly – his ex-wife hated hockey and blames him for the dissolution of their marriage because he wasn’t reliable. On top of that, he has two beautiful twin daughters that he adores, but doesn’t get to see that much because of his busy schedule. So yeah, Matt isn’t really a believer in relationships anymore.
Meanwhile, Hailey Taylor Emery is Matt’s secret “assistant.” Through her company, Fetch, she helps celebrities and others get everything delivered to their door for a price. She’s a successful business owner, but one who is also recently divorced and still working with her ex-husband.
They’ve been flirting on the Fetch app for awhile, but it’s hard for both of them to take another chance – even though they’re both attracted. It’s this push and pull that makes this book compelling – and a more mature romance than the first book in the WAGs (Wives and Girlfriends) series by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy.
I appreciated so much that these two were a bit older and a bit more wary in their romance. Don’t get me wrong – things definitely get steamy at points, but there’s also an understanding that it takes more than just passion to make a relationship work.
The thing that Sarina and Elle do so well is create two characters who have a lot in their lives aside from each other – but can’t help but come together. It’s adorable and realistic watching them navigate the difficulties of being in a relationship – whether the lonely nights of road trips, or the complications of being together and in the spotlight, this book addresses those issues more than in the last WAGs novel.
Also, I’m very happy that we got to see more of the other WAGs ladies, because they are strong and fierce and fun.
I think my only qualm about this book is that it kind of left me wanting more – I wanted a little more depth, a few more romantic scenes, a few more friendship scenes….everything just felt a little fast.
Still, STAY is a compelling, if quick read, and will definitely not be my last in the WAGs series.Pipe Dreams
Author: Sarina Bowen
Find the author: Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, Instagram, Pinterest
Also by this author: , The Fifteenth Minute, The Year We Fell Down, The Year We Hid Away, Blonde Date, The Understatement of the Year, The Shameless Hour, The Fifteenth Minute, Rookie Move, Hard Hitter, Bittersweet, Steadfast, Steadfast (True North, #2), Him, Us, Untitled, Hard Hitter, Good Boy, Keepsake (True North, #3), Goodbye Paradise, Pipe Dreams, Temporary
Series: Brooklyn Bruisers #3
Also in this series: Rookie Move, Hard Hitter
Publication date: May 2nd 2017
A goalie has to trust his instincts, even when taking a shot to the heart…Mike Beacon is a champion at defending the net, but off the ice, he’s not so lucky. A widower and a single father, he’s never forgotten Lauren Williams, the ex who gave him the best year of his life. When Lauren reappears in the Bruisers' office during the play-offs, Beacon sees his chance to make things right.
Lauren hates that she’s forced to travel with the team she used to work for and the man who broke her heart. There’s still undeniable sexual tension running between her and Mike, but she won’t go down that road again. She’s focused on her plans for the future—she doesn’t need a man to make her dreams of motherhood come true.
Lauren plays her best defensive game, but she’s no match for the dark-eyed goalie. When the field of play moves to Florida, things heat up on the beach.
One of Mike’s biggest fans doesn’t approve—his teenage daughter. But a true competitor knows not to waste the perfect shot at love.
Pipe Dreams focuses on Mike Beacon, the starting goalie of the Brooklyn Bruisers, and Lauren Williams, his ex-girlfriend and the Bruisers’ owner Nate Katzenberg’s executive assistant. Lauren normally works in Manhattan at Nate’s tech company, but an accident makes her the office manager for the Bruisers as well during their playoffs run. Lauren isn’t happy about this because she’s been trying to avoid Beacon for the past two years, since he broke her heart. But now their paths are crossing again, and it’s hard for her not to admit that the spark might still be there.
Meanwhile, Mike Beacon is a single father with a 13-year old daughter. Luckily, he has a lot of help, but he’s still lonely and missing Lauren. With the Stanley Cup on the line, and a lot of complications, can he get Lauren back?
What I really liked about this book was how well-drawn Mike Beacon was. Bowen takes his philosophy as a goalie – a guy who has to shake off the past and always look to the future – and extends it to his entire character. He’s a guy who can stay calm, loose, and optimistic even if the odds are stacked against him. And since he’s been through a lot with his daughter and his ex-wife, he also appreciates every moment of the present. It’s a combination that’s hard to resist – especially when you add in his humor and determination.
I loved how much he clashed with Lauren. The banter was really cute, especially since Lauren is a go-getter – someone who has made her own destiny and isn’t afraid to be strong. Lauren is probably one of my favorite of Sarina Bowen’s female characters. She can be cold as ice, but she also does what she needs to do to get things done – on her own or with someone. It’s just a delicious combination of personalities.
There isn’t a ton of hockey in this book, but I was okay with that because I liked how much it focused on the characters and their relationships. Of course, Mike’s daughter Elsa has a huge part in that, as well as Hans, Elsa’s violin teacher and “manny.” As always, Bowen creates a great, supportive cast of characters that I wanted to cheer on as much as the leads.
The only thing I would have wished for in this book were a few more steamy scenes. Don’t get me wrong – the ones that are there are solidly racy – but I really wanted one or two more that burned up the page, especially since we’re told a lot that Lauren and Mike’s chemistry is off the charts.
Despite that, this is a really great love story and family story. It’s probably my personal favorite of the Brooklyn Bruisers books so far. I stayed up far, far too late reading because I just had to know how it would end. And I gotta tell you – it was totally worth it.Legally Charming (Ever After #1) Buy It: Indigo.ca | Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | iTunes | Google Books | B&N | Audible
THE RIGHT DRESS CAN CATCH THE EYE OF PRINCE CHARMING…
Felicity Hart has one goal: Completing her masters in art. Falling in love isn’t part of the plan. She reluctantly agrees to attend a Halloween party with her best friend. After sneaking away from the party and falling asleep in an unoccupied room, she wakes to the sexiest pair of eyes she’s ever seen. Eyes that belong to the one man who could turn her well organized world upside down. When he flashes that wicked, panty-melting smile at her the vow to not fall in love seems impossible…
EVERY PRINCE IS LOOKING FOR HIS SLEEPING BEAUTY TO KISS…
Jared Redmond used to be the ultimate bad boy. But now his legal career is taking off and the partners of his firm are trusting him with high-dollar real estate transactions. Jared’s king-size bed is empty. But when he arrives home on Halloween to find a princess sleeping in his bed – his all work and no play attitude goes out the window. There’s nothing he wants more than to explore the hidden desires of this mysterious beauty and show her just how much of a bad boy he really is by fulfilling her every fantasy.
WHEN MIDNIGHT STRIKES AND COACHES TURN TO PUMPKINS…
Underneath the glitter of this fairy tale romance, Felicity and Jared might have found true love. But the mounting pressure of their real lives takes hold again and Jared and Felicity are pulled further and further apart. Can they find their fairy tale ending or will they be left with the dying embers of what could have been?
Compelling enough to keep me reading, but really, really frustrating because the heroine is painted as a total damsel-in-distress, even though we’re constantly told how strong she is. Legally Charming is the tale of Felicity, an art history grad student who mostly spends all of her days studying and trying to achieve her goal of becoming a museum curator. When she accidentally ends up in the bed of Jared, her best friend’s boyfriend’s brother, they end up unable to resist one another even though external forces say they should stay apart.
I really enjoyed the portrayal of Jared, the buttoned-down, sexy, smoldering lawyer. I also really enjoyed how he introduced Felicity into the world of sex (she was a virgin). He’s your classic alpha male with a heart, but I liked him.
Like I mentioned before, I found Felicity incredibly frustrating because “normally” she’s not a klutz, or someone who needs help – but she is around Jared. Yet we never really saw any evidence that she wasn’t a damsel when she wasn’t around him. She also had major self-esteem issues that I found irritating – it’s the classic “beautiful but doesn’t know it” “sexy and can’t believe she is” thing that just drives me up the wall. While I understood her issues with class and wealth (she grew up quite poor and has had to work for her entire career/course of study), I didn’t understand how a girl who has a great family, that obviously cares deeply for her and encourages her, could feel so down on herself. And I’m saying that as a person who has self-esteem issues!
My other issue with this book is that I could see all the seams – all the tropes, the machinations of getting the characters together, breaking them apart…I saw it all coming. Yes, this is romance, and romance is rife with tropes. But it just felt like there was a lot of telling and not showing. I kept being pulled out of the narrative because it just didn’t feel real enough or compelling enough to make those seams disappear.
What I did like was the discussions of art and real estate, the flavour of Chicago, and all the secondary characters. I was very interested in seeing more from Jared’s best friends – which is good, because the series continues with them.
Overall, a quick and okay read. I wish it was less predictable, but it’s an enjoyable read if you’re looking for a modern-day damsel and prince kind of thing.This Is War
Author: Kennedy Fox
Also by this author: Checkmate: This is War (The Checkmate Duet #1)
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Publication date: September 18th 2016
Source: Purchased from Amazon.com
Travis King is the worst kind of asshole.He taunts me for being a good girl and mocks my high standards. He's cruel, crass, and has enough confidence to last two lifetimes. And I hate him.It wouldn't matter so much if he were avoidable. But considering he's my older brother's best friend and roommate, I see him more than I'd ever want to.His sculpted abs and gorgeous eyes are wasted on such an arrogant man, which makes me hate him even more.Even though I've had a crush on him since I was ten, the feelings weren't mutual and he's always made that very clear.He's always loved getting under my skin and one night against my better judgment, I let him in my bed. I've succumbed to his manwhore ways, but that doesn't change a thing.Because the King is about to get played at his own game-and lose.Checkmate.
A rollercoaster of hate-to-love, This is War is an addictive romance between Viola Fisher, a senior in college, and her brother’s best friend, Travis. They’ve spent half their lives hating each other and goading one another, especially now that Travis lives with Drew, Viola’s brother. While the university is on spring break, Viola can’t stay at the dorms, so she’s forced to live at Drew and Travis’ place – only Drew’s not going to be there. Left alone for two weeks with Travis and his parade of girls, Viola and Travis pull increasingly crazy pranks on one another to show their hatred – but also to prevent themselves from acting on the insane chemistry between them.
This is probably one of the steamiest, most alpha-male-y books I’ve ever read. Travis is a gym rat, a guy who knows how hot he is, and knows women want him. His cockiness and giant d-bag-ness turned me off for SO long…except when you realize just how much Viola means to him. Viola, meanwhile, is a study freak, a Harry Potter nerd who adores reading and doesn’t realize just how much Travis might actually like her.
Honestly, it’s not a story that hasn’t been done before, but Kennedy Fox does it well. I liked how funny and strong Viola was, and how much of Travis’ work life was in the book. I appreciated that it wasn’t just about the two of them, but we also got to see their relationship with Drew, and other secondary characters, like Viola’s best friend, Courtney. I also liked that the pacing wasn’t mega fast, but allowed us to really see a picture of how things were.
My one issue with this book is that it just felt so unbelievable. Maybe guys like Travis exist, but honestly, not really in my world. It’s hard to find a guy who is that hot, that built, that smart, and that vulnerable at times. I get what the authors were doing, and it worked (holy HELL, did it work), but this is definitely a fantasy book for me. Even the explanations near the end of what happened to Travis and Viola as kids…they just felt too simple and easy for the amount of vitriol spouted between them.
That said, I can’t deny that this wasn’t an enjoyable read – or that I’m not totally going to pick up the next book immediately. Can you say cliffhanger?!This is Love (Checkmate Series #2)
Author: Kennedy Fox
Also by this author: Checkmate: This is War (The Checkmate Duet #1)
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Publication date: November 30th 2016
Source: Purchased from Amazon.com
The anticipated conclusion of The Checkmate Duet from a secret duo of bestselling authors! Checkmate: This is War is an enemies to lovers romance that will have you crying with laughter one moment and screaming in frustration the next... but you'll be begging to play the game with The King. Game on. *** Viola Fisher is the epitome of perfection. She despises my one-night stands and mocks my less-than-classy habits. She's smart, beautiful, and too good to be true. And I want her. If she were anyone else, I'd have made my move years ago, but considering she's my best friend's little sister, she's always been off-limits. Not to mention how much she loathes my very existence. Hating me is her religion, but needing her is mine. Her sexy curves and filthy smart mouth make me want her even more, and I'm more determined than ever to change her mind. I'll prove I'm done playing games. But until then, we'll continue to play by her rules. Viola Fisher may have won the battle, but the war isn't over yet. Checkmate, princess. *Recommend for ages 18+ due to sexual content and adult language.* **This is Love is book in the Checkmate Duet. You must read This is War first.**
The conclusion to the first “duet” of Kennedy Fox’s Checkmate series, this one features a real 180 in the characters and their needs. Yes, it’s still steamy. Yes, it’s a romance that’s still kind of roller-coaster-ish. But to be honest, after the alpha male-ness of the last book, the last thing I expected was for Travis King to become…a bit of a mouse. It really threw me for a loop and as a result, I found this one a bit of a disappointing read. Even though book 2 featured some of the elements I really liked about This is War (Viola’s nerdiness, the focus on work lives, the great secondary characters), it felt like a really easy resolution to a problem that most people would find difficult. A fun and fast read, but definitely lacking the tension of book 1.This is Reckless (The Checkmate Duet, #3) Buy It: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | iTunes | Audible
Introducing book 1 in the new Checkmate Duet Series from a secret duo of bestselling authors! This friends to lovers romance will have you swooning and laughing from the first to the last page! Are you ready to play the game?
Drew Fisher is the type of guy every girl wants.Noble police officer by day, charming prince by night.He has no idea the effect he has on women, especially me--his little sister's best friend.I'm the blonde Southern belle who lives up to the cliché, except I have my own quirks. I'm smart as a whip, can change my own oil, and recite The Pledge of Allegiance backward, but he doesn't see that girl.
It'd be easier to forget him if he wasn't my roommate and if the first thing I saw in the morning wasn't his shirtless body covered in tattoos. I've crushed on him since the day we met, but he's made it perfectly clear where we stand. Just friends.
I know I need to move on and accept that his feelings will never be mutual, but every day he smiles at me, I'm left dreaming of what if.He has girl issues, and I've got a crush I can't deny.We're friends, but I want more.
One drunken hookup leaves us with much more than a platonic friendship. Pretending it never happened proves to be more difficult than anticipated.
A crazy ex-girlfriend, a dangerous war of stolen glances, and passionate kisses leads to the most reckless battle yet. I won't be a pawn in his game, but I'll play by his rules if it will show him I'm the one worth breaking them for.
Checkmate, Prince Charming.
*Recommend for ages 18+ due to sexual content and adult language.***This is book 1 of 2 in the Checkmate Duet Series--a friends to lovers romance. Highly recommended to read the Checkmate Duet, This is War and This is Love first, but not necessary. This can read as a standalone duet.**
The second “duet” in Kennedy Fox’s Checkmate series, this one features Drew Fisher, Viola’s brother and Travis’ best friend, and Courtney Bishop, Viola’s best friend. If that sounds incestuous, well, it’s not. The seeds for Drew and Courtney were planted well into the first duet, and it’s been several years since all of what happened in the first series went down.
You guys, I liked Travis and Viola a lot, but Drewtney are MY ship. I love love love their romance, and how it forms naturally (and crazy slowly) from their friendship. The two are roommates and best friends, with their own traditions. Drew is still dating the horrible Mia Montgomery but is slowly starting to realize his feelings. Meanwhile Courtney has been crushing hard for years, pining.
It takes a lot for this couple to get together and there’s a lot of angst, but man, I ate it up. I read this in one sitting, unable to stop. The sexy scenes were incredible. The chemistry is so great. I loved how feisty Courtney was and how much she loved baking. I also loved how kind and straightforward Drew was – and then how much control he took in bed. It was awesome to see Viola and Travis as well. There are a few new characters who are also awesome, and I’m sure will feature in the next books.
If I could have changed anything, it would have been some of the angsty bits, which I thought were really unnecessary. But whatever. I ate it up like Courtney eats blueberry muffins.Checkmate: This is Effortless (Drew & Courtney, #2) (Checkmate Duet, #4) Buy It: Amazon.com | Amazon.ca | iTunes | Audible
Introducing book 2 in the new Checkmate Duet Series from a secret duo of romance authors who teamed up under the USA Today Bestselling pseudonym, Kennedy Fox! This friends to lovers romance will have you swooning and laughing from the first to the last page! Are you ready to play the game?
***Courtney Bishop is as sugary sweet as her famous blueberry muffins.Southern belle at heart, Cali girl by choice.She barged into my life and easily became my best friend.All was great as roommates and just friends, but then I fell for the girl who could chop firewood, deliver baby calves, and bail hay without breaking a sweat. She's the perfect mixture of sugar and spice, and I love her.
Being more than friends and trying to build our future isn't as easy as it sounds. Moving forward and creating memories is all I want for us, but when the past continues to come back and haunt me, I'm not so sure she'll stay for the ride.
Loving her is easy, but losing her will break me. Burning passion combined with an undeniable chemistry constantly pushes and pulls us together. In the end, I'll prove we're worth the fight, even when the game is far from over.
*Recommend for ages 18+ due to sexual content and adult language.*
**This is book 2 in the Checkmate Duet Series--a friends to lovers romance. You must read book 1, Checkmate: This is Reckless first. Highly recommended to read the Checkmate Duet, This is War and This is Love first, but not necessary. This can read as a standalone duet.**
This is Effortless is still steamy, like the first book, but like in the first Checkmate duet, there’s more of a focus on what comes next.
As mentioned in the review above, Drewtney are totally my Kennedy Fox ship. I LOVED them and was so pleased by their coming together in the first book. The end of the first book, however, featured MORE crazy angst and cliffhanger-ness that I felt was kind of forced. As a result, the beginning of This is Effortless also felt forced, and the amount of crap that was put on the characters felt contrived. I won’t go into a lot of it, but suffice to say, “Mia EFFING Montgomery” is a phrase for a reason.
The good thing is that throughout the book, you really see Drew and Courtney become stronger and more of a team. There are a lot of moments that make both of them question their relationship, but it’s easy to see that they’re better together than they are apart. My favorite parts of this book were when we got to see Drew and Courtney with Courtney’s family – and how much they both got others to buy into the relationship.
Overall, this isn’t my favourite romance series, but it’s fast-paced and fun, and I’m looking forward to the next set of books!
Are you into the romance genre? What have you read recently? Have you read anything from the Checkmate series, or any Sarina Bowen? Who are your favorite authors? And don’t forget to check out @racyreaders for more romance fun!