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Michelle Reviews: Happily Even After Lena Matthews

happily even after

 

Sensuality Level: Steamy

Multicultural Contemporary: BW/WM

I must confess, this book has been in my TBR pile FOREVER. I like Matthews, but I had no idea how in the living hell she was going to pull this one off. The H/h are divorced, but they get back together WHILE she’s pregnant by somebody else. Despite my misgivings, she manages to pull it off, with some caveats. Dean is a fabulous hero. I love Matthew’s blue-collar heroes and Dean typifies them. In a Romancelandia awash in billionaires Dean is just a regular guy who works in a factory, and I love him for that. Creigh is more problematic. The motives for some of her behavior is questionable. And that’s my main problem with the book, why on earth did she divorce this guy in the first place? Dean didn’t want the divorce. He’s still in love with Creigh and wants his wife and kids back. Creigh wanted to leave Dean, but we really never understand why. There are some vague reflections on neglect, but nothing really concrete. And I understand that, the biggies, adultery or battery are definite no-nos in a romance, but I wish I’d had a firmer foundation. Either way, it’s still a very good story. I enjoyed it tremendously. It would be an A book despite the ambiguity about the divorce, but Creigh does something else that is so incredibly baffling that the book loses an entire grade for me. So now it’s a solid B.

Published by Loose Id

Purchased by me. 

 

Michelle Reviews: Billy London Italian Knights Series

Sensuality Level: Steamy

Multicultural Contemporary: BW/WM

I know it seems like forever since I’ve posted, but this past holiday season was insane. Oddly enough I read quite a bit, but never seemed to have time to do reviews. I promise I’ll do better. I’ve been on a bit of a glom of late. There seems to be an insane number of Mafia books in the multicultural genre, and I’ve been checking them out. Billy London is one of the most popular and I can see why. Her books are at times laugh-out-loud funny. And the title “knight” is appropriate as these guys will literally kill for their lady-love. Let me start with a caveat, these books do contain a good bit of violence, they’re not exactly Goodfellas, or actually they are. They’re Goodfellas, if Goodfellas had been directed by Ben Stiller.

These books take place in London, and that’s somewhat nostalgic for me as I grew up reading categories from Harlequin and they were all based in London too. I haven’t read a contemporary in  a London setting in probably a couple of decades and it was very heartwarming for me. Okay, on to the books.

Windows

Pay absolutely no attention to the title of this book. A friend lent it to me and it expired on my Kindle account because I assumed it had something to do with exhibitionism or voyeurism. Why it has this title I have no idea. It is one of my fave tropes, friends into lovers. And Ms. London handles that aspect of the story very well. Nick and Gina have been friends for ten years since meeting in college. They have been secretly in love with one another, but since Nick had a girlfriend when they first met Gina pretty much put him in the “friends” category. Though they’ve shared everything over the years, except of course, their mutual hots for one another and the fact that Nick is a mob boss. All this comes to a head when Gina finds herself indebted to a loan shark who decides to rough her up in order to shake his money loose. Nick takes the situation in hand and we’re off onto a crazy roller coaster of mob intrigue, family intrigue and some really steamy sex. I liked both characters and their relationship was believable and at times charming. The secondary characters were vivid and interesting and I loved the pacing of the story. There is a good bit of violence, but then this is a Mafia story. The only flaw I found is in the resolution of the situation with the villain. There’s a good deal of info-dumping I could’ve lived without. The villain’s scheme was so unbearably convoluted that I had to read it a couple of times to get it fixed in my head. But really that was the only serious flaw. I liked this book a lot, and enjoyed the re-read I did before I wrote this review. I’d say a good solid B.

On Caristo’s Watch

This title makes a good bit more sense. Tony is Nick’s close friend and all-around enforcer/right hand man. He and Lydia meet at the hospital where she is a nurse. He is there frequently bringing friends who’ve been injured. He’s there so frequently she asks if he’s a plainclothes EMT. This is probably the funniest of the four books so far as Tony is definitely the class clown of the group. I laughed out loud when he asked Lydia, “What is in my balls,” because the only time she talks sensibly (at least from his viewpoint) is after they’ve had sex. Lydia has an ex-boyfriend who has turned stalker and is making threats against her brother. She goes to Nick for help and he assigns Tony to her for protection. I would give this book a low A, primarily because it was very funny and I enjoyed the interaction between these two characters very much.

The Claim

For me, this one is the weak link of the four Italian Knights books thus far. Rocco is the attorney and fixer for the daCanaveze family. Anna is his long-lost love. This is another favorite trope of mine, but London doesn’t handle it as well as she did the friends into the lovers. Gina and Rocco were dating. She broke up with him when she discovered he was sleeping with one of her friends. He wasn’t sleeping with her friend, but for a very convoluted reason involving law enforcement and his dad screwing up and winding up in prison he’s not able to tell Anna the truth. So here’s the thing, she breaks up with him, but resumes the friendship with the friend! This made no sense to me, and I found the whole scenario unbearably annoying. The only thing that saved this story for me is Rocco’s grandmother, Nonna. Oh my God she’s a hoot. Rocco uses a lawsuit she wants to file as an excuse to get Anna back into his life and just when his charm offensive is working their relationship is nearly derailed by a vengeful cop. Without the girlfriend issue, this would be an A story, but because of it I have to give it a low B, probably in all fairness it should be a C.

Best Laid Plans

Another in the series whereas the title makes no sense, but whatever. This one is my favorite, probably because the hero Gianluca, who is Tony’s cousin,  is such a sweetie-pie. He’s a murdering enforcer for the daCavaneze family. Francesca is a cop. You’d think this would present insurmountable obstacles to the relationship, but fortunately, by the time they meet Gianluca has already sworn off the life. Gianluca believes he dreamed her while he was in jail and he swore if he could have her he’d never raise his knife in violence again. In fact they’d met previously in a convenience store, but he doesn’t remember because of a head injury. When he meets her again he’s a chef and working diligently to keep his nose clean after a really nasty encounter with his psycho-bitch of an ex-girlfriends which landed him in jail dreaming about Francesca. I love the way Francesca handles herself when psycho ex-girlfriend puts in an appearance. This is an A story for me, primarily based on the strength of the characters.

I borrowed the first book from a friend, the rest I bought.

 

 

Michelle Review: Her Russian Billionaire by Theodora Taylor

Multicultural/Interracial Contemporary: Black woman, white man

Sensuality Level: Steamy

There seems to be a trend of late whereas authors are taking the “bad boys” to a new level. These bad boys are really bad, as in they’re criminals. And I’m not talking about soft-core criminals like jewel thieves and gentleman robbers. The genre has always had those. Nope, these bad boys are murderers, drug dealers, even pimps and thieves. I’m not sure why this trend is emerging now, but it’s interesting. I do wonder if the Great Recession has something to do with it. Anyway, I assume that authors are inspired by the film, Eastern Promises, as many of these criminals are also members of the Russian mob. Russian billionaires seem very popular as well, and from what I understand it can be difficult to tell the difference between the two! I guess we can add them to the Greek and Arab tycoons as “exotic” heroes.

This is the first time I’ve enjoyed a secret baby book. What? Why are you looking at me like that? Yes, I know that most secret baby books are booty crack because the rationale for keeping the baby a secret makes no sense. Trust me, given the circumstances of this story I would’ve run like hell too.

Eva and Alexei get together when they’re college students. Alexei has left Russia to go to school, but also to escape his mafia family. Of course, he doesn’t tell Eva about his mob connections, and she eventually finds out the hard way. They meet cute, and I love the fact that Eva is the aggressor. Eva’s family cuts her off when they discover that she’s practically living with a white guy, especially one who has no money. So she moves in with Alexei. They’re reasonably happy in their un-air conditioned Texas apartment,  (Yikes!) until Eva finds out about Alexei’s past.

She runs away leaving him a note that she’s tired of living without money and is going back to her family. Alexei vows revenge and spends the next eight years acquiring wealth so that one day he can throw it in Eva’s face. They run into each other at a wedding which leads to one of the hottest near-sex scenes I’ve read in a while. Alexei initiates his revenge plan by buying up the largest employer in Eva’s small town. Then he blackmails her into spending two weeks with him by threatening to shut it down.

I really had a great time reading this book. Eva is a refreshingly off-beat character with a quirkiness that I haven’t seen in many multicultural books. In a word, she’s absolutely adorable. Alexei manages to be alpha without being an alpha-hole. Communication between the two is very open and direct, even when Eva is pissed off at Alexei, she is still very direct with him. The initial relationship evolves slowly and we get to know both characters very well through the evolution of the book. Very good read. Her Russian Billionaire can be purchased here.

Michelle Review: Naughty Games Series by Lena Matthews

Multicultural Contemporary: White male, Filipino female

Sensuality Level: Steamy

I recently went on a brief vacation, and picked up the first book of this series, Seven Minutes of Heaven. After a few pages I knew I’d want to read the whole series. For one thing, I’m an absolute sucker for the “friends-to-lovers” trope, and for another, all of the characters are so interesting that I really wanted to read their stories.

Essentially, it’s like an erotic version of the TV show, “Friends,” but with much more engaging, and less annoying characters.  Seven friends, four guys, and three girls, met in college. Of course, there was all types of attraction going on, but everyone was too afraid to act on it. The group stayed together even after school, attending parties and vacationing as well. At varying times prior to the beginning of the stories there have been hook-ups amongst the couples based on naughty games, all of which have ended disastrously. Though they’ve remained friends, several of the couples have been pointedly avoiding each other.

Each book starts at the same point; Shane, who is the self-appointed leader of the group, and the only one who knows the details of the disastrous hook-ups, has gotten them all together again for his birthday. He gives them all some very pointed gifts as a way to bring about a reconciliation.

Surprisingly, Seven Minutes of Heaven, was, for me, the weakest of the three stories. At a previous party Bev and Holden had wound up in the closet playing the game, Seven Minutes of Heaven. While in the closet, they have a very sexy, very well-written make out session, when it’s over Holden tells Bev that he manipulated the game so that he could draw her name. Somehow Bev gets it into her head that he’s done this out of pity, and storms out, refusing to speak to Holden for two years. I wanted to slap Bev more than once, she’s definitely the “Monica” of the group, and I always wanted to slap that character as well, but Holden was so engaging that I stuck with it, and I did like the resolution of their story, though I think Bev owed Holden an apology, her response was simply over-the-top.

Contemporary MMF

Sensuality Level: Torrid

The second story of the three was far more emotionally engaging than the first, and it’s definitely the grittiest of the three. For years everyone in the group has been waiting for the group’s princess, Skylar to choose between Gideon and Tripp. Problem is, she wants both. After a drunken game of I Never, she gets her wish, not only that but Gideon and Tripp engage in some hip speeding of their own. Tripp freaks out in a really ugly case of “gay panic” and they haven’t spoken since. Tripp’s reaction is understandable. He’s a professional hockey player and if anyone ever discovers he’s gay, or bi, or whatever, his career could be trashed. This story is very realistic, and the three of them have to work really hard for their HEA.

Surprisingly, Skylar, who is definitely the “Rachel” of the group, comes off as very likable and very self-aware. Gideon was a very strong character and I felt a great deal of empathy for the way he was drawn. He’s hurt, and he’s angry and with good reason. The only weakness in the story is that there is a gay player on the team, and he doesn’t seem to have experienced any repercussions, so that weakens Tripp’s justifications and that aspect of the whole story is resolved a bit too neatly for me.

Multicultural Contemporary: Black female, white male

Sensuality level: Steamy

And finally we get to Shane’s story, and his love for Paige. Shane has used outright bribery to get Paige to attend his party. A few years ago, Shane had a bad automobile accident. Paige, a nurse, was very supportive while he went through a long recovery. During a weekend at his family’s cabin, they wound up having sex after a game of Double Dare. Afterwards, Shane, who had very good reasons was reluctant to engage in a relationship with Paige. Paige was understandably angry, and left without waiting to hear his explanation. She hasn’t spoken to him since, until this party.

All three stories were fun and engaging. To my mind there were only two flaws; Why were the guys the only fuck ups here? I mean, I think at least one of the communication problems was more the girl’s fault than the guy’s, but he was the one groveling.

Also, because each book begins at Shane’s party we get that same scene over and over again, though told from a slightly different viewpoint. By the time I got to the third book I was ready to smack the author, but I didn’t dare skip those pages for fear of missing some detail. All three books were very entertaining, and I enjoyed the set-up.

Seven Minutes of Heaven can be purchased here.

I Never can be purchased here.

Double Dare can be purchased here.

Michelle Review: Casual Fridays by Bridget Midway

Sensuality Level: Blistering BDSM

Multicultural Contemporary: White man, Black woman

Let me start off by saying that my knowledge of BDSM is limited to Bridget Midway books. Generally I don’t enjoy this genre, as most of the books seem almost clinical to me. All the role-playing is just off-putting for some reason.  It’s hard to explain, but the sex seems very pre-meditated, and lacking in real sensuality. That is so not the issue with Midway’s books. I was introduced to the genre through her book, Love My Way. And  if you haven’t read that book you’ve seriously missed out. I know that authenticity is very important to those who read this genre, and while it reads very true to me, I’m no expert.  I can tell you, it is one blistering hot read, so much so that I think Karen should add a “Holy shit!” category. Just saying.

While not a strong follower of BDSM stories I do enjoy books with black women in the submissive role. They are very hard to find, and as far as I know Midway is the only author doing BDSM with black women in the lead. I could be wrong though, if you know of others, hit me up in the comments. Most of the stories I’ve come across are femdom, and while that’s okay, it doesn’t really appeal to me.

Cherish, the heroine is a big time executive in corporate America. She maintains a very rigid public persona, never putting a foot out of place and is subsequently on the fast track to  become CEO of her company. Nobody would ever know that she longs to be dominated and have someone else take over her life. Perry is her very able personal assistant. One day he discovers her need, and as he’s a dom he introduces her to The Life.

Perry wants more from Cherish, but given that he works for her and doesn’t earn as much money, he’s concerned that she will only see him as a fuck-buddy. He also wants to be free to explore more of the BDSM lifestyle. They have limited their relationship to weekends at a local hotel. Cherish is concerned that Perry might try to use her and exploit their relationship as others have tried to do in the past. This conflict seems very reasonable and logical to me, and the way it plays out is a very good conclusion for the story.

This is a fun, sexy romp. I particularly like the way Midway gets into the character’s heads so that the reader can understand why these two people might crave such an unorthodox relationship. I definitely had a great time reading it.

Casual Fridays can be purchased here.

Michelle Review: Snatched by Sharon Cullars

Sensuality Rating: Steamy

Multicultural Romantic Suspense: White man, Black woman

In the interest of full-disclosure and in accordance with that fucked up blog law, I acknowledge that I received this book gratis from the author. I further acknowledge that I’d already bought the damned thing as Cullars is an auto-buy for me.

In the beginning of the story we’re introduced to Eric, who goes by the name Dele. He is an undercover cop who has infiltrated a motorcycle gang. Cullars lets us know from the very beginning what kind of sociopaths we’re dealing with here. Dele is suspected of having stolen a stash of heroin from the leader of the gang, and things are about to get ugly. Then when they couldn’t possibly get worse, we’re introduced to the heroine, Nailah. Nailah is a bit down-on-her- luck and unemployed. Having had a bad job interview she has decided to pick up some ribs from a favorite barbecue joint. The gang causes her to drop her much-coveted ribs in the street, and she retaliates by hurling the ribs after the bikers. (Yeah, I almost lost it laughing at the notion of assaulting a motorcycle gang with meat.)

Embarrassed, the gang snatches Nailah off the street and makes her Dele’s property as he was the target of her rib attack. So Dele has to keep himself alive, keep Nailah alive and collect information to put the motorcycle gang away.

I read this story in one night because I absolutely had to know what happened to these characters. Nailah annoyed the crap out of me at times, but honestly her reactions were very real and given the circumstances, understandable. She wasn’t a TSTL heroine, but at times she came close. Eric makes a very good hero and shows a great deal of savvy in dealing with the gang leader who is pretty much one of the craziest mofos I’ve come across in a while. This book is gritty, and some of the language used, including racial epithets, can be a bit brutal, but this is a motorcycle gang, and I didn’t find the usage over-the-top by any stretch of the imagination. The gang’s casual violence is chilling and some passages are so vivid I had a hard time reading them. Dele and Nailah make a great team, and I found myself rooting for them throughout the story.

This book had only one failing; it simply wasn’t long enough. I think with a longer story, we could’ve gotten more of a sense of Dele and Nailah as a couple. As it is, all the action takes place over a very short period of time, just a few days, and it’s hard for me to believe in the HEA. Still, as an action/suspense it is quite engaging and gripping.

Snatched can be purchased here.

Michelle Reviews: Wheels of Steel by Pepper Pace

Wheels of Steel 1-3 by Pepper Pace

Heat Level: Torrid

Multicultural: Black Woman, White Man

This author is one of several I discovered on Literotica, and like many of them, she’s a very talented storyteller, but she drives me batshit crazy and here’s why. She needs an editor, BADLY. Not just for typos, which are legion, but she desperately needs someone to go back and cut the living hell out of this series. At nearly 250k, it’s too damned long. There are actually three books, and you have to read all three to get the whole story. The first book is significantly better than the other two. In addition to the issues mentioned, there’s head-hopping galore, and I lost count of the POVs. In my opinion, given the age of the characters and the fact that many of their struggles are parent related, I think Pace should’ve cut out the erotic aspect and made this a YA book. Despite all these flaws and many more, I.Couldn’t.Put.It.Down. Pace has created some of the most interesting characters I’ve read in a long time.

I bought this book because someone (Ridley?) mentioned on another blog that they’d never read a romance featuring a handicapped person that didn’t read like an After School Special. Even worse, most of them have a miraculous cure at the end. I realized that I hadn’t either, and given the number of years I’ve been reading the genre, that’s a shame. In this story, the hero does get better, but it’s at great risk to his health, and it’s certainly no miracle cure. I also like books that feature music, and in this one I learned probably far too much about making hip hop mixes.

This story details the rather convoluted romance between Jason, a 19-year- old college student/DJ who has cerebral palsy. Robin who is 21 starts out as his aide and eventually becomes his girlfriend. Jason has seizures and sometimes chokes when he eats. In addition he occasionally needs assistance with toileting. Despite this, he is an absolutely awesome hero. Jason is loving and protective, and very frustrated with the limits his disorder places on his body. You can all but feel his passion, both for Robin, and for music, leaping off the page. He’s strong and resourceful and uses his ingenuity to protect Robin. Believe it or not, Robin, the heroine is far more messed up in the head than Jason is, though neither would win any medals in that regard. They both have overbearing mothers, and Robin is struggling with some residual grief/guilt from the death of her father. She is almost pathologically shy, suffers from anxiety and recurrent episodes of IBS. Yes, both the cerebral palsy and her gastrointestinal difficulties are discussed in fairly graphic detail.

Robin’s father recently died, and she’s decided not to go to college because she struggles with her shyness and seems to have some type of learning disability. Because of this, her mother threatens to take back the car she received for high school graduation. Desperately wanting to keep the car she gets a job at a fast food restaurant so she can pay the note herself, then takes on a second job as a home health aide when she was still coming up short financially. After a couple of miscues with the home health agency she is hired to assist Jason who initially is an absolute jerk. Gradually she is pulled into his entire life, including his friends who are members, of his band, Wheels of Steel.

The band consists of three other characters, Peter, who is also wheelchair bound, Amberly, who also has cerebral palsy, but can walk, and Belinda, who, as far as I can tell doesn’t have any disabilities, though she certainly has issues. All these characters have stories of their own, especially Amberly, who is in love with Jason. Robin has a hard time even making eye contact with others, and has never really made any friends before, so it takes her while to warm up to all these new experiences. She is an incredibly giving person, and it’s easy to see why Jason falls so passionately in love with her.

Jason has moved out into his own apartment to get away from his overbearing mother. He was once able to walk, but lost that ability due an aide neglecting him when he was a child. He can take medication that will help him, but it’s dangerous and his mother refuses to give him the money for the treatment. Pace does an excellent job showing us the two of them falling in love, and the forces that threaten to pull them apart. The only sour note in their relationship to me is what I see as Robin’s overreaction to a mistake Jason makes at the end of the story. But I am incredibly biased because I’m half in love with the guy myself, so you can take that with a grain of salt. So here is my quandary; how can I recommend what is by all measures a poorly written book? The only thing I can say is, if you can get past all the issues I mentioned that the beginning of this review, you will definitely enjoy this story.

Pepper Pace is one of the Young Turks in the multicultural niche. She deliberately chooses unconventional characters, and it usually works. In one of my favorites the hero is a homeless man who is mentally ill. The younger writers seem to come at the genre from a different angle. For one thing I think many of them are fans are soap operas, as their stories have a great deal of drama in them. This type of storytelling is probably very popular with a generation that was raised on reality TV and the likes of Jerry Springer. It’s a different outlook, but I think I like it. Certainly it makes for great story-telling.

You can buy Wheels of Steel 1 here. (I’m too lazy to link all three.)

Michelle Reviews: Brush Strokes by Dee Carney

Sensuality Level: Torrid

Multicultural Contemporary Black Female, White Male

I always enjoy reading about artists so when Dee Carney offered this book to me for review I agreed. In compliance with whatever the hell that blogger law is, please note, this book was given to me for free by this author.

The set-up for this story is interesting. The heroine, Tanya is a painter. Joe is her model. Her really smoking hot nude model. When the story opens she’s already been painting him for several months, or at least trying to. However, she is hopelessly blocked and unable to complete a painting. He suggests that she learn his body through touch. His rather unique solution to her problem leads to some of the most well-written sensual scenes I’ve come across in a while. Joe is an absolute sweetheart, and I like Tanya as well. The descriptions of the creative process are well-done and I could all but feel Tanya’s frustration and anxiety as she has a patron waiting for her paintings. Her passion for her work comes through in nearly every scene. You can understand why Joe would fall in love with her and be inspired by her as both a woman and an artist. On that level I really liked this story.

I think your ability to enjoy this book depends on your ability to suspend disbelief in a story. As a sweet, but hot novella it is very well-done. However, there were some issues that I found it difficult to get past. First, Tanya paints in a home studio. I found it hard to believe that a single woman would hire a male model from an ad to pose nude in her home. And when you factor in his remedy for her painter’s block, it sounds dangerous to the point of craziness. I also find it hard to believe that a professional painter would agree to engage in this kind of behavior with one of her models. We aren’t told whether this is her first time painting a male nude or not, but I would think a female artist would be leery of getting that type of reputation.

Then there’s the issue of racial dynamics. Tanya’s wealthy patron is a black man. I’m no expert on the New York art scene but the notion of a black man paying a black woman to paint naked pictures of a white man just seemed, well less than likely. I could be wrong, but it seemed odd to me. I was also amused by Joe’s pondering as to whether Tanya would date a white man. Dude, she’s been painting your freaking pubic hair for months! Somehow I don’t think THAT’S gonna be a problem!

I think if this story had been longer with more scenes of the beginning of their relationship I might have found it more believable. I especially needed to see the scene where he actually suggests his remedy and hear from him what inspired it. As it is, we meet this couple two months into their working relationship and it’s kind of jarring for him them to already be in the midst of a very intimate sensual encounter before we really know anything about them.

If you’re in the mood for a hot little story, this is great and I did like it on that level. But those other issues kept taking me out of the story and definitely brought it down a couple of notches.

Available for purchase here.

 

Michelle Reviews: I'll Catch You by Farrah Rochon

Heat Level: Steamy

African American female; African American male

Like pretty much everyone in the known universe I read and enjoyed Susan Elizabeth Phillips’s Chicago Stars series. However, as a lifelong fan of the game of American football I was all too conscious that her football team looked nothing like any football team in existence since the 1970s. The lack of diversity was glaring, and the scenes where she did include minorities were so painfully self-conscious, I always skipped them. However, I dearly love football, and when this book came across my desk,  I jumped on it.

Note, this is the second book in what is a four-book series. I started with this one because I found the title of the first one, Huddle With Me Tonight, just unbearable. I don’t think I missed anything by starting the way I did, this book can definitely stand alone.

The book starts with the heroine, Payton (named for the legendary Chicago Bears running back Walter “Sweetness” Payton), essentially stalking Cedric, a “bad boy” professional football player. Cedric has had a run of bad luck. His behavior off the field has resulted in his agent dropping him and no other agent will touch him. He also fears that his team won’t sign him to a new contract. He is particularly concerned about changing teams as he doesn’t want to leave New York. This is a weak area of the book. I’ve followed football forever, and the so-called bad behavior mentioned wouldn’t even get a rise out of the most stringent agent. Certainly it wouldn’t result in a franchise dropping a running back with the kind of stats this guy has. That failing aside, I found the rest of the football-related aspects of this story to be believable and in line with what I know of the game and its players.

Payton is a major football fan and more than anything she wants to be a sports agent. To that end she has quit her job at a law firm in Texas and relocated to New York City in an effort to fulfill her dream. Unfortunately, none of the players are willing to take a risk with an unknown quantity, especially a female one. So she has gone all out in an effort to get Cedric as a client. Given her dogged determination and the fact that he literally has no one else, he decides to take her on.

Payton quickly shows that she has what it takes and negotiates endorsement deals for him while also working to clean up his image. Their professional relationship sets up the central conflict of the story; Payton doesn’t want to give in to the strong physical attraction between them because she fears the damage it could do to her reputation as a sports agent. This conflict read as very realistic to me and I enjoyed watching these two characters navigate the treacherous waters of professional sports.

Another strong area of the book is the relationship between Cedric and his friends, who are his fellow teammates. They are, of course, the heroes of books of their own but their presence in this book isn’t overpowering.

I really like Rochon’s narrative style and occasional touches of humor. The character development was stellar and I loved the way she delved into the source of Payton’s passion for football. I found it very relatable because my own love of the game comes from very similar origins. It would’ve been very easy make these people into caricatures, but she takes us past that. We see that Payton really is starting out in a business in the way you would expect. One of her meetings with Cedric occurs in a laundromat, and yes, she’s folding clothes. Lacking an office of her own, she also meets clients in a coffee shop. Payton is really a great heroine. I love her grit and determination and Cedric was a great match for her. This was a solid four-star read and I intend to go back and read …ugh…Huddle With Me Tonight.

I’ll Catch You can be purchased here.

 

Michelle Reviews: Stranded and One-Two Punch

 

Stranded by Eve Vaughn

Heat Level: Blistering

MFM black female, white male, Latino male

Note: As I’m reviewing multicultural books, I think it would be remiss of me not to list the character’s ethnicity. Sometimes covers can be deceptive, and though that’s becoming less of an issue, I still think it would be a disservice to leave that out. So I’ll be doing that going forward.

Until I sat down to write this review I’d forgotten how much I enjoyed this book. Eve Vaughn is a writer I’d read before, so when I decided to try a triad, I picked up one of hers. Vaughn in some ways reminds me of Linda Howard; when she’s on nobody’s better, but when she’s off, God help you. Fortunately with this book she was awesomely on.

The story is fairly basic, India, the heroine, decides to take off on vacation after breaking up with her fiancé. Rafe and Grant are best friends who are vacationing together to recover from Rafe’s bad marriage and subsequent divorce. During said marriage they discovered that they enjoy sharing a woman, and are actively looking to form a triad. They meet en route and are immediately attracted to one another.

As the title would suggest, they’re stranded on a desert island as the only survivors of a horrific plane crash. And this island is no paradise, for one thing they suffer from a lack of food, and as none of them are survivalists, the situation quickly becomes acute. The scenes on the island are where Vaughn really shines. I liked the way she showed the relationship between the three developing. They’re walking wounded, battered by difficult lives. Rafe and Grant both come from broken, abusive homes. India is from a home that should’ve been broken. Because of this, it’s easy to understand why they would choose an unconventional relationship.

Of course, they’re eventually rescued and returned to civilization. And this is when the real conflict of the story occurs. For one thing, they’re a media sensation, and India, in particular, begins to doubt the legitimacy of their relationship.

India, the heroine, is probably the weakest note of this story. Though within the context of her home life and the battering her self-esteem had to have taken in that atmosphere her choices make sense, I still found myself screaming at her at times. Other than that, this is a very deftly told story. Stranded is available here.

One-Two Punch by Katie Allen

One-Two Punch by Katie Allen

Heat Level: Blistering

MMF white female, white male, biracial (black/Japanese) male

Katie Allen is a new to me author, though she has quite an extensive backlist. After I read Stranded, which is a MFM story, with absolutely no sexual contact between the two men, I wanted to try a MMF story. Much to my surprise I discovered that I like the sex scenes in the MMF story better. Male-to-female anal sex squicks me out, and DP just sounds painful. However, male-to-male anal sex doesn’t bother me at all. Yes, I know that’s crazy, but hey, I never said my reviews would make sense. In the MMF stories the men have more than one avenue to sexual pleasure and frankly anything that leads to less DP is full of win for me.

My overall sense of this book is that it’s just cute. The story has some humorous scenes, and an overall sense of fun that I really enjoyed. That’s not to say that there aren’t any dark issues; Ky, one of the heroes just left the military with a case of PTSD. There is also an issue with a stalker and that’s never a good thing.

At the beginning of the story Beth sees Harry through the window of the gym he owns and thinks he’s uber-hot, so she feigns an interest in learning to box, and he becomes her trainer. The two of them become lovers very quickly. In a bit of foreshadowing Beth asks Harry if he’s ever been with a man, and he tells her about being attracted to one in the Army, but never acting on it. (This whole scene just rang false with me, I can’t imagine ever asking a man whether he’s been with a man. And Harry’s low-key response just doesn’t sound like any hetero male I’ve ever met.)

I like Beth, and I like Harry, but until Ky shows up this is a rather generic romance: Sassy blonde meets rugged ex-GI ho-hum. Ky and Harry served in the combat together and there was sexual tension between the two, but given the close quarters it never came to anything. Now, back in the States with a Mental Health discharge Ky comes looking for Harry after having an ugly dust-up with his father over his sexuality. Beth is instantly attracted to Ky, who is apparently so beautiful he can literally stop traffic. (I pictured Ky looking somewhat like Tyson Beckford who I think has the same heritage as this character, so I could understand her reaction.) Beth is already living with Harry and Ky moves in.

I like the way the story slows down at this point and the relationship evolves. If all three had just jumped in bed together this probably would’ve been a wallbanger. And frankly, given the speed at which Beth and Harry got together that’s what I expected. Instead, we see three characters with fairly realistic responses: Beth is thinking she’s a bit of a slut for lusting after two men. Harry is questioning just what his sexuality is. Ky already knows he’s just wild about Harry (sorry!) but is somewhat surprised by his attraction to Beth. I do have to point out that this is definitely a “gay for you” story. When Beth quite reasonably questions Ky’s attraction to her despite his sexual orientation he tells her, “If wanting to fuck you means I’m not gay, then I’m not gay.” Actually I guess that’s a case of “straight for you.” Or is it? Hell if I know. Just thought I’d point that out.

There is a bit of paternalism as well, though it’s not racial. Harry is nearly a decade older than both Ky and Beth and feels somewhat protective of them. This is incorporated into a couple of sex scenes and it’s very effective.

And for the record, the scene where Ky explains their relationship to his father, the cop, is worth the price of the book. Maybe it’s because I have a black father of my own, but I laughed out loud at that scene. One-Two Punch is available here.