This month’s Boldstrokes Books have some solid reads to keep you entertained while you relax by the pool/lake/air conditioner. There’s a little something for everyone – action, suspense, romance, urban fantasy and erotica. I’ve been procrastinating on writing up my thoughts over the last couple of weeks, but I’ve compiled a round up of the ones I’ve had a chance to read. I’ll have my thoughts on the August BSB releases posted in a couple of days.
This month, I think the best cover is Just One Moment – the image of a woman walking down a beach in a red dress is actually in the book and has some significance to both the main characters. It’s nice to see when the cover matches something in the book – although, looking at the cover you might be expecting a frothy beach romance (and wow, would you be surprised if you didn’t read the blurb before starting the book).
Of particular note in the July releases was Beautiful Dreamer – this was an excellent romance that I’d highly recommend.
Beautiful Dreamer by Melissa Brayden
Despite the glowing reviews and recommendations, I’ve only read a few of Melissa Brayden’s books. The last ones I read were the SoHo series that left me kind of ho hum. After reading this book, I’m digging into Brayden’s back catalogue and looking for more of her stand alone romances.
Beautiful Dreamer is an absolutely fantastic read and if you don’t like it, you’re just a big ole stick in the mud who doesn’t believe in love and shouldn’t be reading romances anyways. I’m tempted to end my review with that statement.
This is a “you can come home again” trope. Devyn escaped Dreamer’s Bay after high school and never looked back as she built a successful corporate real estate career. When her sister disappears, Devyn returns to aid in the search – don’t worry, this isn’t a murder mystery – and when her sister if found, she remains to help her recover from injuries. Elizabeth is Devyn’s polar opposite – she loves her hometown and her hometown loves her and her goal is to make Devyn realize what she’s missed by leaving.
The romance is a slow burn and takes its time to develop naturally with Devyn, who barely remembers Elizabeth from high school, slowly recognizing just how wonderful a person Elizabeth is – inside and out. They start as acquaintances and move from friendship to attraction and then to love – no insta-love or insta-lust. It just feels real as you watch Elizabeth slowly cracking Devyn’s big city shell and worming her way into her heart. At times Elizabeth is almost too good to be true – Pollyanna, Pippy Longstocking and Maria von Trapp all wrapped up in a cute lesbian package – but I dare anyone not to fall in love with her. Honestly – Devyn never stood a chance.
I’m struggling to put into words how much I enjoyed this book – a completely sweet and compelling romance, lots of humour, amazing chemistry and some pretty sizzling scenes, fantastic dialogue and banter, a cast of well rounded characters, a hometown that I’d move to if I could figure out where it was, and two memorable characters that pull it all together.
Cheri liked it too –Beautiful Dreamer – 2019 Book 50
Wow – if you’re looking for angst, this might be the book for you. Just One Moment’s plot sounds like something out of one of those tele-novellas – Chloe and Shay have separated when Chloe discovers that Shay has been having an affair. Resolved to move forward with her life, Chloe starts a relationship with one of her clients – when Shay discovers this new relationship, she races away from the beach-house and ends up in a horrible car accident. Arriving at the hospital, Chloe is told that Shay will need significant rehab and in home care as she recovers from a badly broken leg – and she’s lost all memory of the last year. In order to minimize any further trauma, Chloe doesn’t tell Shay about the betrayal and pretends that everything is normal. As you can imagine … things get even more complicated as Chloe and Shay are still desperately in love but can they overcome the past (you know – the one Shay doesn’t remember).
Blake does angst particularly well and she’s wrung every possible ounce out of this one. I’ve read a couple of Blake’s earlier novels, and I think she’s growing as a writer and developing a nice narrative style. I found myself getting sucked right into the story – I do love a good bit of angst and enjoy the copious amounts of drama on occasion. That being said, I found some of it overwrought (I know – I like angst, but not overly overwrought angst).
Infidelity is a delicate topic to deal with – especially in a romance. The betrayal of love, trust and commitment isn’t something easily forgiven and likely never really forgotten. To drag two characters through all of this and keep the reader sympathetic to both and ultimately root for them to get back together is no mean feat. Blake does this reasonably well. Luckily Shay doesn’t remember what she has done and the confused and bewildered Shay we see in the story and in the deeply in love Shay from the journal entries isn’t the “cheating Shay” – it almost seems like cheating Shay was a completely separate character. But don’t get me wrong, Shay made a number of bonehead moves even without knowing what an absolute heel she had been.
Obviously Chloe is the more sympathetic character, but there were times I wanted to shake some sense into her as she was really the queen of poor decisions and seemed to let everyone walk all over her despite the descriptions of her being willful and wild in her younger days. Also, her back and forth and mentally rehashing whether she should forgive or not forgive and her insistence that it was her fault as well (omigod … Shay left you in the car while she went up and banged her co-worker in the office … it is not your fault … you both need to smarten up and talk to one another!) was a bit over the top.
The supporting characters actually bothered me more with all the lesbian secondary characters being self-serving, manipulative, opportunistic and bordering on unethical.
I’m of two minds with this book – it’s drama-laden to the nth degree but there were elements that bothered me enough to pull me out of the guilty pleasure I get from an angst-fest.
A team of US Marshals, led by Evan Spears, have been hot on the heels of a dangerously smart fugitive when their latest operation goes off the rails in such a way that the fugitive escapes and the team is sidelined due to a serious injury of one of the members and the departure of another. Despite the setbacks, they are determined to get their man – even if it means having to work with a liaison from the DEA, Frankie Strong, who may have critical information to share. From that point, its a fast paced investigation as they track the bad guys down.
I found myself rooting for Frankie throughout the story – she’s a bit of a rebel with a rather irreverent sense of humour and a tendency to strip naked at the drop of a hat and engage in serious discussions. When she joins the team, she’s at the point of nearly being burned out – living undercover on a string of operations and having had to shoot a fugitive has taken a toll and she’s wondering if it is time to come in our of the cold and settle into a “normal” kind of job. Despite this, she jumps in feet first and is pretty much running circles around the established team, using her unorthodox methods to move the case forward. Her skills at uncover work have come at a price and Frankie struggles with the morality of what she’s done in her past and how to make amends.
Evan, on the other hand, I had a harder time rooting for. Opposite of Frankie, she’s buttoned up and a bit of a control freak. Oddly enough, she’s the angsty one as she’s carrying a fair bit of guilt and regret over the last mission that landed one team mate in a wheelchair and how she got played by an informant. Based on the events of that mission, I had a hard time she’d be allowed to remain on the case due to conflict of interest. Obviously, she isn’t immune to Frankie’s charm – hell, how do you maintain eye contact when someone’s dropped a towel – and softens up as she sees the results that Frankie’s street smarts and methods are achieving and how vital she is to the team tracking down the bad guys.
This is more of a light intrigue/action novel with a bit of smolder and spark added to keep the momentum going. The investigation rolls along at a good pace and the characters get plenty of action as they close in on the bad guy and his partners. As a romance, this is almost too fast paced and is built on the old adage that opposites attract – the two meet, antagonize one another (aka foreplay), have a strained discussion or two while one is in the nude, kiss a few times, sleep together and are in love. If the story line hadn’t been so compressed (l think it was spaced over a week or ten days), the intrigue and romance could have more time to grow and develop. As it is, everything moves at a lightening pace – which is great for an action oriented book, but an be a bit of a detriment to building a romance plot line.
Hard Body by Renee Roman
An erotica short story – 28 pages of sex with a little bit of introspection from the MC. Roman opens up with the main character getting caught (not that she was really trying to hide anything) in flagrante and it continues along the “I never thought it could happen to me” theme with her very accommodating firefighter/roommate. Roman does add a bit of a twist with having one of the character’s lack of self esteem due to body image issues; but, there isn’t really enough time to delve into this or develop a strong connection with either character. A quick hit that will while away some time while you wait in line (with your screen tilted away from any over-the-shoulder readers).
Unfortunately, this is the third book I’ve tried by Larkin – read the first two and was really disappointed (actually I was really ticked off by them). The blurb sounded great – a good action/adventure urban fantasy with kick ass leads is something I love- so I thought I’d give it a try. It started well enough and I thought I was going to get hooked into the story. Nope. I am quitting this one at 20%. I love UF but there’s very little world building or logic in the events that unfold – I can suspend my disbelief and enjoy the most preposterous things, but the author needs to give me at least something that makes sense to at least ground things or give me characters that aren’t wooden or mary-sues. The same issues I had with the other two are present in this one and I just have too many other books to read right now to soldier through and finish this one.
Insult to Injury by Gun Brooke reviewed here: MEC Reviews: Insult to Injury – Gun Brooke
July releases not reviewed
Deadeye by Meredith Doetch – This is the third in a series and I want to get caught up on the others before tackling this one. Looking forward to this book once I reread the first and get caught up on the second one.