Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Review: Sun-Kissed by Laura Florand

Sun-Kissed by Laura Florand
self-published in May 2014
They called her the Ice Queen.

Anne Winters. Self-made billionaire. Household name. Divorced single mom. Convicted felon. She didn’t let anyone or anything get to her. No one was allowed to breach the walls around her heart except for her own son. She had only one trusted friend: her vacation house neighbor. They’d been walking the beach together for twenty years. Not that this gave him access to her heart, of course…

They called him a man who got what he wanted.

Mack Corey. Self-made billionaire. Dominant world player. Widowed father of the bride. No felony convictions yet, although his daughters had come close. He’d transformed his family company into one of the top 500 by the age of thirty. He’d raised two daughters who dumped him for idiot arrogant French chocolatiers and went off to live in Paris. Hell, he even managed to tolerate his dad. But that Ice Queen act Anne Winters had going was really starting to get to him…

They’d been friends for twenty years. Could they become lovers?

Could a frozen heart be kissed by the sun?
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Connected to Snow-Kissed and Amour & Chocolat series

The Story: For a change, Sun-Kissed takes place in the States :) Jaime and Dominique are celebrating their wedding and all of their families and close friends are there with them. Recently released from prison, Anne  Winters needs something to occupy herself and has thrown all her energy into organizing the wedding.

Basically, for Anne Winters, think Martha Stewart, without the warmth ^_^; Anne Winters made her fortune by showing to people how to create homes through recipes, crafts and so on. She is known as the Ice Queen with a "fuck you" attitude which didn't endear her to the jury when she was accused of insider trade.

Mack Corey is also a self-made billionaire, king of chocolate in America. He's been Anne's neighbor for 20 years during which they've become confident. He has developed feelings for her, but never acted on it for fear of ruining their friendship... But after Anne has spent six months in prison, he knows it's time to let her know how he feels.

My Opinion: I've never been a fan of "older" main characters ^_^; Oh, as secondary characters, no problem... but as main characters? Not my cup of tea. Mostly because I don't connect with them since a lot of what they've lived, I haven't experienced :( Therefore, I had my doubts about Sun-Kissed when I found out that the main characters were Anne Winters and Mack Corey, both single parents in their 50s. However, Ms Florand proved me wrong and convinced me that I should branch out in my reading a little :)

One of reasons why I enjoyed Ms Florand's books so much is the intensity. She just has a way to communicate this intensity through her characters. You know that they're involved and in so many instance, the power of their feelings is just palpable. And it's not only good feelings like love and passion, but a lot of time, doubts and incertitude... I often feel that books are missing some oomph, but in the case of Ms Florand, the intensity is the oomph I'm looking for and therefore, she has it to spare. And with Sun-Kissed, Ms Florand showed me that young people don't have the monopoly on intensity :) It was quite interesting because Mack and Anne deal with their feelings quite differently. Mack is very expressive and is a man of action while Anne is known as the Ice Queen. Having gone through a number of miscarriages has turned into an introvert. Keeping her feelings to herself has been the way she has survived... However, it doesn't mean she feels less. I think her emotions and the intensity she felt them was as fierce as Mack, perhaps even deeper, and overall, it afforded a nice contrast in the story.

I mentioned above that I don't like reading about older characters because I don't connect with them... but in this case, it worked out so well because it was so refreshing! Mack dealing with an empty nest now that his second daughter is married as well. Also, facing the fact that both his daughters decided to live on a different continent. Anne's feelings about her son having married a woman that's the complete opposite of her. These are feelings that parents must feel, but that are rarely mentioned in romance... and it totally worked for me :)

Speaking of romance, I enjoyed Mack and Anne's. It happened quite fast, but given a 20-year-long friendship, it worked. Plus, there was a catalyst for Mack's finally revealing his feelings for Anne, it didn't come out of the blues. Mack felt helpless when Anne went to jail. Such a powerful man, but unable to help his friend. It also showed him how anything can happen and how they shouldn't waste their time. So yes, something else that worked for me :)

Personally, I don't know how well Sun-Kissed works as a stand-alone since I've read all the books it is connected to. However, for maximum enjoyment of the book, I do think that you need to read the other books. Otherwise, you'll miss the details that make you go "squeee" because a secondary character has appeared or did something :P I know I had fun reading Sun-Kissed for all the secondary characters :) In the very least, read The Chocolate Thief, The Chocolate Touch and Snow-Kissed.

My Grade: B. I hope Ms Florand is going to continue writing novellas/short stories because most of them are winners for me :)

Friday, May 23, 2014


Hi everyone!

Wassup? LOL. My vague plans for today was to write a discussion post... but in the end, I thought it'd be nicer to touch base with everyone ;) As I said in my last post, I haven't been blogging a lot and for that I'm sorry. I wanted to, but my blogging muse has deserted me ^_^; Hopefully, she comes back very soon :)

So how have everyone been? I hope good. Me, I've been a bit restless. With curling over, I have a lot more time on my hands... I seriously need to find a summer activity, sigh. For now, I've been searching for new manga and new anime to pass time. With all the free time, I thought I'd be reading a lot more... and I've been reading, but I don't know. My reading seems to be stilted lately. I just don't know what to read ^_^; I'm always waiting for new releases and once they're out, I don't really feel like reading them. So in the meantime, I've been re-reading manga. I wonder if I'm at the end of my romance/fiction phase. I sure hope not...

Oh, I updated my grading system for books :) I've been going with the Goodreads grading system, but translated into letters... but I thought it didn't totally reflect my feelings for the books. So I adjust it :)

Does someone have recommendations for funny books, funny stories?

I guess that's it for me, for now :)

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

TBR Challenge 2014: The Bad Boy Billionaire's Wicked Arrangement by Maya Rodale

Sigh, almost two weeks since my last post. So sorry everyone! My blogging muse seems to have gone on vacation lately. I don't know if it's having more time on my hands now that I'm not curling, but I've been bored. I don't know what to watch, don't know what to read despite all the new releases, don't know what to do... and blogging, well the words are just not coming ^_^; Hopefully, this feeling will pass soon because otherwise, it's going to be a very, very long summer ^_^;

Anyway, I made a big effort  for the TBR Challenge because I want a perfect year for 2014 LOL. Seriously, finding books to read is so hard lately :( I just don't know what I'm in the mood for. I'm just so afraid that my "romance novels/fiction" phase is over... Fingers crossed that it isn't. Since the TBR Challenge date was closing on me, I totally cheated and picked up the shortest book I could find... and that was:

The Bad Boy Billionaire's Wicked Arrangement by Maya Rodale
published by Harpercollins Publisher (Avon Impulse) in December 2013
Jane Sparks has accidentally announced her engagement on Facebook—to the infamous Bad Boy Billionaire, Duke Austen. As soon as it’s discovered that Jane and Duke barely know each other (One hot kiss at a party does not a relationship make), she’ll be humiliated. And then Duke does something Jane never expected. He plays along with her charade.

With his hard partying, playboy reputation jeopardizing a fifty million dollar investment deal, Duke realizes an engagement with the hot but oh-so-proper librarian could be just the thing to repair his reputation. This good girl tempts him to be very wicked…but just with her. It’s unprecedented. Inconceivable. Totally alluring.

As the unlikely match of librarian and tech entrepreneur set out to convince the world—and the internet—that their love is real, something unexpected happens: they start falling for each other. But Jane is secretly writing a historical romance novel that could expose their carefully constructed romance…unless two perfect strangers are content to be perfectly scandalous together.
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: First part in the contemporary version of The Wicked Wallflower, connected to Bad Boys & Wallflowers series

The Story: Basically, The Bad Boy Billionaire's Wicked Arrangement is a fake engagement between two completely opposite persons. Jane Sparks had her whole life planned out as the future Mrs. Sam Chase... that is until her high school sweetheart of 12 years dumped her for being too settled, too safe. After the break-up, Jane moved to NYC, took a job at New York Public Library as a library assistant and told everyone she would write her romance novel. In truth, after six months, she's still pining after her ex, hoping he'd take her back. When she gets her tenth annual high school reunion invitation, she panics because she feels like a failure while her classmates are all in relationships, even Sam who seemed to have moved on. In a bid to help her, Jane's roommate posts an update on Jane's FB announcing her engagement to Duke Austen, a bad boy billionaire who made his fortune in the technology field with codes and apps, and the man with whom Jane made out at a party very recently. To Jane's utter shock, Duke doesn't deny the engagement and even seeks out Jane. Turns out that Duke is attempting a third startup, but his bad boy reputation has been turning away investors. Not wanting to be labeled as a choker for the rest of his life, Duke needs this startup to succeed and believes that an engagement to someone as composed as Jane will help.

But what happens when you want a lie to become reality?

My Opinion: As mentioned above, The Bad Boy Billionaire's Wicked Arrangement is the contemporary version of The Wicked Wallflower and is released as a somewhat serial. I thought the idea was a good one, so that's why I picked it up, hoping for a good read. Unfortunately, while I'm pretty sure it's a case of "more me than the book," The Bad Boy Billionaire's Wicked Arrangement really didn't work for me :(

Sorry if this will read more as a rant than a review, but that's the only way for me to express why I didn't enjoy The Bad Boy Billionaire's Wicked Arrangement. Basically, it has everything to do with the heroine, Jane. I'm so tired of heroines like her who seem to have no spine, who cannot accept the end of a relationship and pine away for their ex. The harsh truth is that their attitude is pathetic ^_^; Do you really want to be with someone who dumped you? Who deemed that you weren't "enough" for them and threw you aside? I know, I know, I can't fully understand because I've never been in a relationship myself... but it's hard to read about characters that cling to a rosy past, remembering only the good stuff and magically erasing the bad times, and not attempting to move on. In the case of Jane, I tried being more understanding and  patient because after all, it was a twelve years relationship... but the problem is that it wasn't about only losing Sam. In fact, a large part of why she could not accept the break-up, why she longed to get back with Sam had nothing to do with him and everything to do with people's perceptions of her. The fact that she wasn't single, as if being single makes you a loser... and it is, but only if you believe that. Is a relationship, a marriage the only measure of one's success in life? So yeah, that's pretty much why The Bad Boy Billionaire's Wicked Arrangement didn't work for me and I guess that's specifically linked to my mood. It seems to me that half the romance books I pick up lately are about heroines similar to Jane ^_^;

Aside from that, well I was expecting this contemporary twist to be more fun... but the truth is, the story was not original at all. There was nothing new to it, no twist :( And it might have worked better if the book hadn't been released as a serial... However, having read only the first part, I feel like everything went a bit too fast: how they met, how the fake engagement happened, them faking it and later having sex. I didn't buy in the chemistry between Jane and Duke or the progress of their relationship from being fake to something that wasn't.

My Grade: D. I usually enjoy Ms Rodale's writing which is why I keep picking up her books... but in the case of The Bad Boy's Billionaire's Wicked Arrangement, the writing wasn't enough. I just felt that in all the other aspects, the book didn't work for me :(

Friday, May 09, 2014

Review: The Scandalous Adventures of the Sister of the Bride by Victoria Alexander

The Scandalous Adventures of the Sister of the Bride by Victoria Alexander
published by Kensington in April 2014
The bride and groom cordially request the presence of…

The bride’s sister, Delilah, the very proper widowed Lady Hargate, and Samuel Russell, the groom’s friend, a very eligible, slightly improper bachelor, at their upcoming wedding.

Lady Hargate and Mr. Russell, previously acquainted during one unforgettable night in New York City when caution—and clothing—were thrown to the wind will choose to pretend they have never met before.

The lady plans to avoid love and its complications at all costs. The gentleman intends to change her mind.

Guests are invited to enjoy the many diversions of Millworth Manor—delightful grounds, lavish drawing rooms, secluded corners—and the chance to discover that one night may have been only the beginning…
Genre: Historical romance
Series: Millworth Manor, Book #3

The Story: Delilah, Lady Hargate, cares about Society's rules, is very proper and a widow. In a word, she's the perfect person to act as a chaperone for her sister Camille, Lady Lydingham, and her fiancé, Grayson Elliott, on their trip to New York City. However, once in Ameria where no one knows her, where there are no expectations of her, Delilah starts yearning for adventure... and ends up having a night of passion with Samuel Russell whom she thinks is Grayson's associate's employee. One night is all she wants.

Neither think they will ever see each other again, until Sam, who is in reality Grayson's associate, comes to Europe for a business venture: the motorwagon. Since he's already in Europe, he decides to attend Grayson's wedding... and of course, crosses path again with Delilah. A quite unfortunate situation for Delilah who has decided to use Camille's wedding to start looking for potential husband candidates. Delilah knows what quality she wants: proper, a title, good connections and wealthy... Especially now that Delilah's own wealth is in question with the suspicious appearance of a heir. In no way is Delilah looking for love. Sam who has been burned romantically by a gold digger is quite disappointed by Delilah's list of criteria and is quite ready to step aside and not interfere.

But that's easier said then done. If only thoughts of that night would stop plaguing them...

My Opinion: Ever since I read What a Lady Wants, I've become an unconditional fan of Ms Alexander and her, one of my auto-buy authors :) Over the years, there's been some ups and downs... However, it seems to me Ms Alexander has found her sparkle again because I've really been enjoying her current series and The Scandalous Adventures of the Sister of the Bride was no exception.

I liked The Scandalous Adventures of the Sister of the Bride because it was focused on the main characters and their romance. Both Delilah and Sam were likable characters, even if Delilah was snobbish. It's hard to like snobs ^_^; but in this case, I thought it gave more credence to the time period the story was taking place in. Delilah wasn't mean or anything... Her snobbishness was just the result of how she's been raised; it's what she knew. In any case, Sam was confident enough not to let it bother him :) As for Sam, I really liked him... Just a good, solid man, someone you can lean on and who will have your back. I thought Delilah and Sam had really good chemistry together. The fact that they were trying to hide their affair from everyone provided some good banter and chuckles :)

There was almost no conflict in The Scandalous Adventures of the Sister of the Bride. It was pretty much all about whether or not Delilah and Sam would follow their hearts and get together instead of listening to their brains telling them they had nothing in common. Sometimes that works, sometimes, it doesn't. In this case, I have to admit that half-way through, the story was a bit draggy ^_^; Especially given how rapidly and easily everything was resolved at the end. However, I liked it this way. I don't think Ms Alexander should have added a secondary romance or an intrigue because it would have taken away from Delilah and Sam. What I particularly liked is that I understood Delilah's reticence to follow her heart. It wasn't about Society's expectations or Sam's lack of titles... but because she had had her heart broken once and didn't care experiencing it again. I thought that it gave more depth to Delilah's character, showed a softer and more vulnerable side of her.

As for the rest of the book, it worked for me. I find that I really enjoy this time period for historical/regency romance... On the edge of modernity, where things are starting to change and happen :) Where people have to struggle with tradition and technology. It's really interesting. As for the supporting characters, they were all familiar, except for Delilah's best friend, and still likable. So it was nice to catch up with them and they appeared just enough. I particularly enjoyed Delilah's interactions with her sisters as they are trying to mend some fences. I love Beryl because she's so shocking :) And I had to laugh at Grayson's concern that Camille would remain bridezilla after the wedding LOL.

My Grade: B. I enjoyed The Scandalous Adventures of the Sister of the Bride. It didn't have enough omph to be a wowzer, but it was a very solid read which I devoured. I'm really looking forward to the next book,  The Shocking Secret of a Guest at the Wedding, especially after reading the excerpt :)

Monday, May 05, 2014

Review: Betting the Rainbow by Jodi Thomas

Hi everyone!

Hope you had a great week-end. Mine was pretty good :) Now that curling is over, I finally had a chance to clean my messy room. It wasn't spring cleaning, but almost LOL.

One of my favorites author is Jodi Thomas. She had a new release last month in her Harmony series. Here's my review. Enjoy!

***Warning: This review contains spoilers for this book and previous installments. Read at your own risk*** 

Betting the Rainbow by Jodi Thomas
published by Berkley in April 2014
Sisters Abby and Dusti Delaney have spent their entire lives on Rainbow Lane, but they dream of something bigger. So when a poker tournament comes to town, Dusti is determined to win enough money to leave. Enlisting expert Kieran O’Brian to teach her the game, sparks begin to fly as they play their hands. But Kieran refuses to stand in the way of her dream, even if it means losing her forever...

After a year of traveling, Ronny Logan is settling into a home on Rainbow Lane, but that’s all the settling she’ll be doing. Ronny refuses to fall for anyone, regardless of the chemistry she has with her neighbor Austin Hawk. Yet something undeniable begins to grow between the two loners—if only they can let their barriers fall and open their hearts...
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Harmony, Book #7

The Story: There are actually three storylines going on in Betting the Rainbow. The first one is about Ronny who comes back to Harmony after a year of traveling. She settles into a cabin on Rainbow Lane where she'll figure out her future. Her neighbor, Austin Hawk, is also in want of solitude. He came to his grandfather's cabin on Rainbow Lane to recover from his injuries. Both have suffered losses and are numb inside... but strangely, they seem to come alive in each other's presence.

The second storyline is about Dusti Delaney. She and her sister live on the family pecan farm on Rainbow Lane. Both had to give up their dreams to come home and take care of their parents and the farm. With money being so tight, it seems they'll never be able to pursue their dreams - Dusti's photography and Abby becoming a nurse... until Dusti hears of the poker tournament taking place in Harmony. The winner of this tournament will have the opportunity to participate to another one in Las Vegas where the rewards will be bigger and sweeter. The only problem is Dusti doesn't know how to play... and that's why she enlists Kieran O'Brian's help. Kieran used to spend his summer at Rainbow Lane with his grandmother when he was a boy. He's always had a crush on Dusti... He's willing to teach poker to Dusti if she is willing to go on a date with him.

The last story that is not mentioned in the blurb involves Reagan Thurman. She's once again waiting for her high school sweetheart Noah who's been on the rodeo tour. She knows that Noah loves her, but she wonders when he will come back home to her for good. When will he stop chasing the big money, when will it be enough. Also, lately, she's noticed that Noah has been more distant, not coming home nor calling her as often... and she finds out why when a woman shows up on her doorstep, leaving a package for Noah...

My Opinion: By now, you all know how much I love and enjoy  Ms Thomas' writing as well as the town and characters she has created. As such, I'm going to skip the gushing - except to say that Betting the Rainbow continues in the same vein :) - and jumps straight to my thoughts on the stories.

I'll be honest and say I was a bit disappointed when I read the blurb of the book. I've been waiting for Ronny's story for such a long time. I really enjoyed her storyline in The Comforts of Home, witnessing her growth and her first love with Marty... and my heart broke along hers in Can't Stop Believing. Sigh. So I was really happy to get her story in Betting the Rainbow, but was disappointed that she had to share the attention with another storyline. Of course, I should have been expecting it though since this has been Ms Thomas' pattern... but really, if I could have had a book focusing solely on Ronny, I would have been happier ^_^; Anyway, complaint aside, Ronny's story was nice and enjoyable. After Marty's death, I was wondering what kind of man would provide Ronny's HEA ending... and I have to say, I really liked Austin. I thought he matched Ronny well. Despite becoming more independent and friendlier, there's always been this lonely side to Ronny. Perhaps it stems from having been an observer for too long instead of being a participant and Austin seems to share this trait. He seemed to be a man of few words and enjoyed the solitude at his cabin. Despite not being very social, it was shown that he cherished the friendships he had and was very loyal and that was very similar to Ronny. Also, I felt Austin and Ronny were on a more equal footing, that they had more of a partnership and understanding between them than Ronny and Marty. Oh don't get me wrong, I loved Ronny and Marty together and wouldn't have minded if things had gone differently and they had ended up together... However, their relationship always leaned more towards mentor-mentoree, even in their romance, than two equals together. It wasn't bad, but what Ronny discovered with Austin was different in a good way. I'm glad that Austin and Ronny really had a connection, making each other feel alive after their losses. As you can see, I did really enjoy Austin and Ronny's romance :) The one thing I would have liked was a bit more development on Austin, a bit more background to understand him better.

I was taken by surprise when I discovered Reagan and Noah had a part in Betting the Rainbow and I have to say, I wasn't too crazy about reading the latest in their saga. I love the two characters, especially Reagan, since she's been so central to the series... but unfortunately, I have to say Reagan and Noah's romance has been a bit redundant. You know they love each other, but they just can't seem to stay together, to make it work. Throw in the latest twist and you really wonder if they will ever :( To make matter worst, it has been hard to watch the man Noah has grown into. Gone is the cheerful and friendly teenager :( It's not that Noah is a bad man, but he's definitively not the same. He's more deluded and despite his success on the rodeo tour, it never seems enough. And it's been hard to see him taking Reagan for granted and making her wait for him. So yes, I wasn't excited to read their storyline... but at the end of it, I was hopeful. Hopeful that they'll finally get their HEA ending, that this time, it'll be the right one. And I'm so glad that Noah seems to finally grow up and become the man that Reagan has been waiting for and deserves. And I'm glad that Reagan put her foot down this time around.

Finally, Dusti and Kieran's storyline. I didn't know what to expect about this one and unfortunately, I didn't really connect with it. Although I think it has more to do with me being too invested with Ronny, Reagan and Noah than Dusti and Kieran's characters and storyline ^_^; I think it wasn't fair that Dusti and Kieran had to play second fiddles to already known and beloved characters... Anyway, Dusti and Kieran were likable characters and they had a good chemistry together and made a cute couple. However, I just never got pull into their storyline. Aside from my attention being focused elsewhere, another problem was that this storyline is that it was a bit unbelievable. I mean, the whole idea that Dusti has never played poker, but plans to enter one and win it to make her and her sister's dreams come true is just too Disney-ish :( Perhaps if the players have been restricted to Harmony's townies, but with people coming from neighboring town... Even if Dusti turns out to be an amazing player, it still seems a bit too far-fetched. Luckily though, Ms Thomas pulled back the reins a bit and didn't make the result over the top. It's too bad because I liked the idea of Harmony hosting a poker tournament to raise funds :) It was actually really something I could see happening in Harmony :)

My Grade: B. Betting the Rainbow had some flaws, but at the end of the day, it was still a very solid installment and it made me happy to be back in Harmony :) Ms Thomas' next book will be how Harmony came to be and that should be very interesting... Looking forward to it :)

Thursday, May 01, 2014

New Releases - May 2014

Hi everyone!

It's May 1st today and as usual, Ames and I have our post of new releases up over at Breezing Through. Click here to check it out and let us know if we missed anything!