Love Hard by Nalini Singh – eARC Book Review

Title: Love Hard (Hard Play #3)
Author: Nalini Singh
Genre: Sports Romance
Publication Date: March 2020

Jacob Esera, star rugby player and young single father, has worked hard to create a joyous life for his six-year-old daughter. After the death of his childhood sweetheart soon after their daughter’s birth, all Jake wants is safety and stability. No risks. No wild chances. And especially no Juliet Nelisi, former classmate, scandal magnet, and a woman who is a thorn in his side.

As a lonely teenager, Juliet embraced her bad-girl reputation as a shield against loneliness and rejection. Years later, having kicked a cheating sports-star ex to the curb, she has a prestigious job and loyal friends—and wants nothing to do with sportsmen. The last thing she expects is the fire that ignites between her and the stuffed-shirt golden boy who once loved her best friend.

Straitlaced Jacob Esera versus wild-at-heart Juliet Nelisi? Place your bets.

Let me start off by saying that I was so, so, so excited to read this book. My expectations were high and for good reason:

  • The author is Nalini Singh – She wrote the Psy-Changeling paranormal romance series that is one of my all-time favs.
  • This story has both sports and romance. Does it get better than that? Yes, yes it does. It’s better because the sport is rugby and the romance is set in New Zealand. As a fellow Kiwi, this synopsis was like crack to me. I NEEDED IT.

Unfortunately, I haven’t been so disappointed in a book in a long, long while. What was set up to be an emotionally packed story of a widowed single father and a feisty woman from his past just didn’t follow through. The story was all over the place. It began at a wedding of their mutual friends and by a third of the way through the book they were still at the wedding. Now I don’t mind a little bit of drag in stories but this seemed excessive. We’d barely gotten the chance to get to know the characters amidst all the wedding chaos and majority of the emotional build-up in the story up until this point seemed related to the couple getting married. Which is great and all except they weren’t who we were supposed to be reading about.

The budding love between Jacob and Juliet didn’t seem to take place? Like… ever? They just chatted to one another and then BAM. Love hits hard. I mean, if you’re into insta-love and a lacklustre emotional plot line then you’d enjoy this book. Otherwise, it just seemed that nothing much happened and then too much happened too quickly.

While I quite liked the little bit we were shown of Jacob, his role as a single father wasn’t explored much. We met his daughter and… that was about it. Similarly, Juliet was meant to be snarky and wild and a pain in the ass for Jacob. In reality though, they seemed to get along relatively well and Juliet kept crying over the sap of the wedding. She didn’t strike me as the fierce, snarky woman I had been expecting from the synopsis. That’s not to say fierce and snarky people can’t cry at weddings. Rather I was expecting some sarcastic remarks and snark in between the crying. Unfortunately that wasn’t the case.

Overall, I just did not enjoy this book. Perhaps my hopes were too high from reading Singh’s other works. She’s an absolutely brilliant paranormal writer and still one of my favourite authors. I’ll be sticking to her paranormal stories from now on though.

This is a 2 star from me.

*Arc provided to me by Independent Publishers Group via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Misadventures in the Cage by Sarah Robinson – eARC Review #BlogTour

I was so excited to be asked to join the Misadventures in the Cage blog tour – purely for the fact that I had been intending on reading this book anyway and this was a prime opportunity to give it a try. In all honesty, I’m glad I did. Not just a sports romance (although… I’d have been happy even if it was your cliched sports romance ❤ ) this book took a deeper look at those most affected by demanding sports players: their family. It was a perspective and insight I enjoyed reading about and made this book so much more than what I had been initially expecting.

Misadventures in the Cage

by Sarah Robinson
Publisher: Waterhouse Press LLC
Release Date: February 4, 2020
Genre: Contemporary Romance

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Callan Walsh kicks ass. In fact, he’s famous for it. As one of the brightest up-and-coming stars on the MMA scene, he’s an absolute beast in the cage…and out. Everything he’s trained for has brought him to this moment. Going toe-to-toe with reigning champ Xavier Gray will make or break his career. 

Nothing can distract him from his lifelong goal. Nothing. Until he meets…his opponent’s little sister.

Josie Gray is hell on wheels, gorgeous AF, and has a mouth that doesn’t stop. The reluctant reality-television star is every man’s dream, but she’s about to become Callan’s nightmare. Tired of being in her brother’s fight-club entourage, Josie desperately desires her own life out of the limelight. Her loyalty to family keeps her tangled in faux fame, but what she feels for Callan is the realest thing she’s ever known.

Sparks fly when Callan comes to Josie’s rescue, leading to an all-consuming fire after a single night together. Forever is right at their fingertips, if only everything—and everyone—wasn’t working to keep them apart. Will Callan and Josie fight through family ties to come out on top? Or are they both caged into lives they never wanted?

Never expecting to make a career of it, a freelancing Craigslist job accidentally introduced her to the world of book publishing. Lengthening her writing from poetry to novels, Robinson published her first book through a small press publisher, before moving into self-publishing, and then finally was picked up by Penguin Random House two years later.

She most recently contracted with Loveswept for a contemporary romance series, KAVANAGH LEGENDS, that surrounds a tight-knit Irish family of MMA fighters in the Bronx. She is also exploring the arena of women’s fiction and has a lot of exciting things planned for the next few years!

Follow Sarah on any of the social media sites below to keep up to date with what she’s doing! She loves talking with readers, and is an open book…literally! Subscribe to her newsletter for info on upcoming releases, sales, and other news!

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✰ ✰ ✰ ✰

Things to note: bullying, very graphic sexual content, violence (contact sport).

A quick, steamy and ultimately satisfying read, Misadventures in the Cage delivered on all the aspects I had been expecting and so much more. With an easy-to-relate-to cast, family dynamics and the forbidden love trope there’s something for everyone in this romance, regardless of your affinity for sports romances.

To be honest, the sport trope almost felt like a backdrop more than anything else in this book and I was okay with that. The development and insight we were provided in to the characters, as well as the influence of the MMA sport in their lives, provided just enough of its presence to satisfy those after the sports trope and yet the lack of total inclusion of it in the plot of the story would make this a suitable read for those not inclined to the genre.

The development of characters seemed to be the crux of this story. Very much a character-driven narrative of the unlikely pairing between Callan and Josie, it gained my attention and kept it to the very last page. This is a quick read but full of quality writing that delivers on pace, setting and character arcs. The explosive attraction between Callan and Josie was almost tangible from the first chapter and this did not let up throughout the story. Despite the forbidden nature of their ‘relationship’ you couldn’t help but hope they’d manage to overcome the obstacles (namely: Josie’s brother) standing in their way.

I have to admit, the bullying Josie’s family subtly but consistently dealt her made me quick to anger and often left me needing to put the book down. This is my personal reaction to the situations though – by no means was the family dynamic overdramatised for impact. Despite this small issue, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am looking forward to reading more by this author in the future!

Arc provided by author in exchange for an honest review.

Jen

A Lie for a Lie by Helena Hunting – Book Review

Buy it on AMAZON. ARC provided by Montlake Romance via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
☆ ☆ ☆ ☆ STARS

First off, let me just start by saying I LOVE SPORTS ROMANCES. Even the horrendously bad ones will keep my attention and most likely leave me in a fit of gleeful giggles. This was not a horrible book. Not by any stretch of the imagination! It was fun, flirty and had that perfect Bridget-Jones’ level of awkwardness. If you’re after a quick and adorable HEA read with a nerdy, shy-as-all-get-out gal and hunky, considerate, athletic guy then you’re in the right place!

Helena Hunting delivers a steamy and super sweet romance AGAIN and if you’re a fan of her previous work, you won’t be disappointed with this!

First off, let me just recap my bias: Sports romances are like crack to me. I once went through a phase of reading about a hundred or so (check my Goodreads if you don’t believe me) so I think I can say I’m a good judge of quality for this genre.

Besides, Nen and I take sports SERIOUSLY. Ain’t nobody (seriouslynobody) going to get between me and my favourite team. The Penguins are for life and that’s that. If you don’t know who they are (be ashamed…. I’m joking. Mostly.) you should probably look them up. I just did you a favour. What I’m really trying to say is that this wasn’t some mere sports romance. It was HOCKEY ROMANCE. Practically gold in my eyes and never rated less than a 2 star!

I digress… back on to the review!

When RJ’s (Rookie) season ends, he decides to take some time away from the limelight of being an NHL team captain to escape to the Alaskan coast in an effort to rekindle the lost tradition set by his father. Along the way he meets Lainey. Incredibly intelligent, beautiful and just a TEENSY bit awkward. What starts out as a sweet summer fling to keep them entertained in the quiet, stunningly beautiful background of Alaska soon becomes something more. When a family emergency forces RJ to leave Alaska early he has no choice but to go. Except… he forgot Lainey’s number and has no way to contact her.

Pining for his lost chance at the perfect fling and someone who could have been a whole lot MORE, RJ is shocked to run in to Lainey a year later. Except nothing’s that simple. Caught in a tangle of white lies Lainey and RJ’s secrets might just be the ultimate game-changer!

My thoughts:

This story caught my attention immediately and held it throughout the book. I managed to finish ALFAL in one sitting and was reduced to a romantic fangirl by the end of the book! The story was well paced and the dialogue was hilarious. Honestly, Lainey’s AWKWARD dialogue kept me laughing and engaged the whole way through.

While this was an enjoyable read it was by no means original or unpredictable. There were a few moments that REALLY caught me by surprise and improved my opinion of the book but this wasn’t a new take on the genre. If anything, I would say this was the perfect read for someone expecting the cliches and cut and dry summer fling romance story line. Not to say that it’s not worth reading though! Just… what the premise reads is what you get.

The characters were your quintessential opposites attract and I loved that! They weren’t overly original or really even all that memorable but what really sold this book for me were the tropes. Without giving much away, let me just say that this has a great selection of my ALL TIME FAV tropes in it and if they’re yours too then you’ll be leaving this book smiling!

I’ve rated this four stars because I GENUINELY LOVED it and found myself smiling/laughing/giggling/ranting all of the way through. I was engaged. I was happy. This is feel good and it’s great! If you want me to be critical and rate it as if I didn’t love all of these tropes, HOCKEY ROMANCES and blah characters then I’d rate it maybe a 2 1/2 stars. So… bear that in mind I suppose.

But really… when I go in to a sports romance I’m after certain tropes and character dynamics (I’m not looking to remake the wheel). This book perfectly displayed those and was a joy to read!

// what’s your fav Helena Hunting book? are you as mad for sports romances as I am? //

Jen

Evvie Drake Starts Over – an Unpopular Review

Buy it here: AMAZON KOBO B&N

☆ ☆ TWO STARS

I was so excited to read this book. It was being heralded as one of the best romances of the summer and with an adorable cover there was no way I could resist giving it a try. While this book was alright, it sadly missed the mark for me. The premise of the book was so good and it really captured my attention when I first read it. Even though I disliked this book, many others have loved it so perhaps it’s just me.

While this story was well written, it just felt too slow for me. I’m not one to avoid character-driven stories as opposed to action-led (in fact, I generally prefer character-driven) but I found myself disliking Evvie and this was reflected in my lacklustre opinion of the book. What started out as interesting ( I adored the first chapter) soon fell downhill. This was a book with so much potential and I’m disappointed that it just didn’t resonate with me.

CHARACTERS

Evvie – The beginning of the book saw Evvie as a strong-willed woman who was finally making a move to gain back her independence and life after an unhappy marriage. With the shocking and sudden death of her husband, all of her efforts were suddenly made in vain. The shut-down of Evvie’s emotions following this event, in the guise of feigned mourning, was completely expected and I enjoyed reading about her attempts to grapple with the sudden chaos in her life. As the story progressed though, I soon found myself getting frustrated with Evvie and this really brought down my enjoyment of the book.

The independence Evvie had been fighting for was gone. In its place (for majority of the book) was a seamless list of lacklustre events and responses to everything. It was like the life had been sucked out of her personality. Perhaps I’m being too harsh in my assessment as everyone grieves differently and experiences guilt differently but Evvie’s constant efforts to ignore her emotions and push everyone away, while going through the motions in her life, frustrated me. She refused to confide in anyone, even her best friend, or make any changes in her life for majority of the book. It just kept dragging on and I would have loved to see her take charge a bit sooner.

Dean – was a tolerably nice character. I’m a huge fan of sports romances so his baseball career had me really excited for this book. While the budding relationship with Evvie was interesting at first it soon became apparent that the two would never really communicate with one another. Oh, they’d share secrets but it felt like they didn’t really know each other that well. It seemed like they were just strangers confiding in one another. The story felt muted. I didn’t really get a feel for there being much chemistry between the two of them. They just seemed lost in the book and naturally gravitating to each other because there was no one else.

I know that my opinion is an unpopular one, but it’s one I’m entitled to. I think other people may have interpreted this book a different way or related better to Evvie and Dean. Perhaps others saw a chemistry that I missed. Either way, it was a miss for me.

// what book was a miss for you this year that everyone else loved? //

Jen