Nicole Reads A Lot

so many books, so little time

Point of No Return by Tiffany Snow

Title:
Point of No Return
Author:Tiffany Snow
PublisherMontlake Romance
Publication Date:May 20, 2014
Publisher's DescriptionKathleen Turner wasn't expecting to fall in love when she came to Indianapolis a year ago, much less with two very different men. And not just any men. Brothers.

Blane Kirk, former SEAL turned attorney, is every woman’s dream man. A playboy who changes women as often as he changes his tie, trying to hold on to Blane could only break Kathleen's heart.

Commitment is a foreign word to Kade Dennon, assassin-for-hire and genius hacker, and safety is non-existent. A future with Kade would surely end in disaster—for both of them.

Past betrayals come to a head and the choice Kathleen makes could sign her death warrant. Everything’s at stake as Blane, Kade, and Kathleen reach the Point of No Return.
My rating:****

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I was so excited when this book appeared on my ereader at midnight! It was a great ending to a really enjoyable birthday.

Without going into too much detail, I will say that this book had what was, in my mind, one of the most satisfying resolutions to a love triangle that I ever read. First of all, all three of the participants made it out of the book alive, which isn’t always a given. Second, the guy I liked better won. That’s not always guaranteed to happen, either. What can I say? I always root for the underdog.

There are a few things that I found strange and the whole politics subplot required way too many explanations and exceptions to be believable.

For instance: Why is the US senator uncle so often in Indiana, when he represents Massachusetts? (Click on the blurred text to see potential spoilers.) Further, How would Blane, who’d previously run for governor of Indiana AND came from an entirely different political party, be able to easily step in an win his uncle’s seat? That bit of foolishness greatly detracted from this book.

I read to learn, and I really appreciate Ms. Snow letting us know that, at the heart of all anti-fracking activism is Russian money. Because fracking is totally okay and 100% nontoxic and not even kind of harmful to the environment. Sure, stupid people who blindly support environmental causes may have been duped into taking up the cause, but what they don’t know is that anti-fracking activism is largely funded by Russian money. Why, you ask? Because Russia’s greatest export is natural gas, they’re desperate to block all US efforts to cultivate American sources of energy. See? Fracking isn’t bad for the environment, it’s bad for Russia’s bottom line, and the dumb and/or greedy will do all they can to prevent Americans from ever knowing the truth about anti-fracking efforts. This is some Bond villian-level thinking, and I congratulate Ms. Snow on her healthy paranoia. Meanwhile, I think I just strained an optic nerve, what with all the eye-rolling I did through that part of the book. Between this and Kathleen’s singing an internal ode to 2nd Amendment rights in the middle of a gun battle, I don’t have to reach far to figure out Ms. Snow’s political leanings.

This story is a 4.5 star for me, easily. The action is great, the romance has depth, most of the players transcend easy classifications to achieve realness [except for the one-note bad guy(s)], and the ending works for me on many levels, including karmic. The political motivations at the heart of this story are a total joke, but I enjoyed the rest of the book enough not to care too much.

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The Resistance by S.L. Scott

Title:
The Resistance
Author:S. L. Scott
PublisherSelf-published
Publication Date:April 28, 2014
Publisher's DescriptionYou don't choose when.

You don't choose where.

And you don't get to choose who you fall in love with.

The minute he opened his sexy mouth, Holliday Hughes should have known Jack Dalton was trouble. His smooth pickup lines, broad shoulders, and ridiculously handsome face charmed her right out of her clothes. She gave into her desires, the instant attraction blinding her to the obvious.

One night. That was all it took for Holliday’s world to be flipped on its axis. Jack Dalton was cocky. Smug. Volatile. Demanding. He ignited something deep inside her like no other, but there was something more to this brooding bad boy. There was a dark side to him she couldn't help but be drawn to.

Torn between what she knew about him and a mysterious side he tried to hide, could she walk away or was he simply too hard to resist?
My rating:****.5

resistance

So what gives? Although this blog is entitled “Nicole Reads a Lot,” this is my first post in over a month. Why???

The short answer is: I haven’t read anything that excited me in that time period. I have read a few books that seemed pretty terrible, and many more that were just meh, but nothing that I felt like writing about. Until now! I just finished The Resistance by S.L. Scott, and I can’t remember the last time I got this excited over a book by a new (to me) author.

The premise of this book intrigued me: Holliday unknowingly hooks up with a rock star. Secret famous people stories are maybe my catnip. Novels that feature this type of storyline tend to take me to my happy place. Dalton, who is more commonly known by his stage name of Johnny Outlaw, is a world-famous rock star who takes a chance when he meets a woman who attracts him and, equally important, doesn’t initially know who he is. He just wants to be loved, dammit!

This book reads like Ms. Scott reached inside my brain, saw what I liked, and wrote a book combining all my favorite things. Holli is a smart, sex-positive, successful businesswoman who makes no apologies for her success. Her business exists because she came up with a good idea, but if she hadn’t been a great entrepreneur, it would never have gone anywhere. She doesn’t have as much of a social life as she’d like, but she makes time for her best friend. She isn’t awkward around men, and is pretty much my hero. Unlike in some books where I don’t get how the heroine (hate that word) appeals to the hero (ditto), it’s pretty easy to see why a rich, famous, world-weary rock star would fall for somebody like her.

The secondary characters in this book really add to its depth. We get a better understanding of Dalton and Holli through their connections to the people in their lives. Danny and Rochelle, in particular, are well-realized, and I’d be interested in seeing what happens in either or both of their lives (did I just come up with something?)…

The only things that I wished Ms. Scott would have included in this book are more information about JD’s relationship with his family, and really any information at all about Holliday’s. Otherwise, this book was pretty much perfect for me.

Judging by the number of her books that are on sale at Amazon, Ms. Scott isn’t a new author, but she’s new to me. I’m really happy that she’s on my radar, and I plan to enjoy going through her back catalog over the next several weeks.

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The Tycoon’s Socialite Bride by Tracey Livesay

Title:
The Tycoon's Socialite Bride
Author:Tracey Livesay
PublisherEntangled Publishing, LLC
Publication Date:February 10, 2014
Publisher's DescriptionTo avenge his mother's mistreatment at the hands of her upper-crust employer, self-made real estate tycoon Marcus Pearson needs entree into their exclusive world. When D.C. socialite Pamela Harrington comes to him for help, Marcus realizes the golden admission ticket he's been seeking has suddenly fallen into his lap.

Pamela will do anything to save her favorite cause, even agree to a marriage of convenience. The altruistic "it-girl" isn't worried about the pretend passion with Marcus turning real; she's sworn off powerful, driven men who use her for her family's connections.

So she'll deny the way her pulse races with one look from his crystalline blue eyes. And he'll ignore the way his body throbs with each kiss from her full lips. Because there's no way he'll lose his blue-collar heart to the blue-blooded beauty.
My rating:****

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I really enjoyed this book. This is a side of the self-made bajillionaire genre that I feel often gets glossed over: having money isn’t always enough. Marcus learns the hard way that, no matter how many zeroes come before the period in his net worth, they’re not going to be enough to help him break into the upper strata of Washington DC society. Without those contacts, he’s never going to be able to buy the one piece of property that he needs to gain closure from his childhood. The person who can help him get his foot in the door is Pamela Harrington, a blue blood whose relationship with her powerful father is perfectly encapsulated by the fact he makes her address him as “[the] Senator.” Brrrr.

This is my favorite type of interracial romance because people of different races fall in love, but their races themselves are no. big. deal. This part, too, felt correct, because at this level of society, lineage trumps wealth. In fact, it is Pamela, the racial minority in the relationship, who has the contacts and social clout that Marcus’s money cannot buy. I enjoyed being able to read this book without feeling like I’d wandered into a fetish novel.

As with the best marriage of convenience books, both Marcus and Pamela have clear motives for going into this relationship. It was a pleasure to watch them grow closer to one another and to integrate this new relationship into their existing motives. Marcus in particular is flawed but is a compelling character to read about. Pamela is a multidimensional character whose advantages in life haven’t insulated her from everything, and who wields her privilege to help those who are less fortunate. It takes Marcus longer to turn his gaze outward, but the rewards are immense. This is how to do a revenge plot without being completely annoying. I highly recommend this book!

I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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David: Lord of Honor by Grace Burrowes

Title:
David: Lord of Honor
Author:Grace Burrowes
PublisherSourcebooks Casablanca
Publication Date:March 4, 2014
Publisher's DescriptionDavid Worthington, Viscount Fairly, has inherited a brothel he does not want, but hesitates to sell for fear his employees will not be treated well by the establishment’s next owner. He hits upon the idea of hiring Letty Banks, a courtesan currently without protector, to serve as madam, but soon finds himself attracted to her on more than just a physical level.

When serious harm befalls Letty as a function of her role at David’s brothel, he realizes he cannot continue to exploit a woman he cares for. He arranges a way for Letty to return to obscure respectability, and prepares to walk out of her life, only to find he cannot leave her undefended against the trouble bearing down from her past.
My rating:***

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I enjoy Grace Burrowes’ writing, and I’ve read most of the previous books in this series, so I was excited to read David. I don’t understand why exactly, but this book left me a bit cold; somehow even the greatest emotional upheavals in this novel didn’t move me the way I felt they ought to have done.

I didn’t get the sense that I understood Letty very well. I think that although the clues about her past are spread throughout the book and are there for anyone to see, the behind the curtain revelation happened too late. Also, wanting to believe the best of others is one thing, but it felt that a good deal of willful ignorance (not to mention a baffling refusal to converse) was necessary for the situation that Letty found herself in to have come about. Some of the conversations that did take place rang false, as people without reason to do so left out extremely relevant information. It felt as though too much manipulation had to take place for events to unfold as they did.

If you’ve read the previous books in this series, I can see how you would want to know what happens here, but I can’t imagine that reading this book would convince too many of the uninitiated to check out past titles.

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Plain Jayne by Laura Drewry

Title:
Plain Jayne
Author:Laura Drewry
PublisherLoveswept
Publication Date:April 8, 2014
Publisher's DescriptionWorn out from the long drive back home, Jayne Morgan can only smirk at the irony: Of course the first person she sees from her old life is Nick Scott. Once best friends, they lost touch when Jayne left town at eighteen, but nothing could keep them apart forever. Jayne has returned to take over her grandmother’s bookstore, determined to put all her bittersweet memories and secret disappointments strictly in the past—until, that is, Nick insists she bunk at his place.

Nick never did care what people thought about having a girl for a best friend—or the “scandal” she caused by showing up to his wife’s funeral four years earlier—so he’s got no problem with the gossips now. Jayne was always the one person he could count on in his life. Now Nick is starting to realize that he never wants her to leave again . . . and that being “just friends” isn’t going to be enough anymore.
My rating:****

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This book is, hands down, the best friends-to-lovers book that I’ve read in ages. I started off not feeling too warmly toward Nick, given the details of his and Jayne’s last face-to-face encounter, but his obvious regret, plus their warm relationship, made me realize that it was more of an awful moment in his life than any sort of indicator of his normal behavior. Everybody makes mistakes. Also, this book is set in Canada. It’s possible that my fond feelings toward our northern neighbor translates into an extra half star when figuring out my ratings, but I can’t say for sure; maybe Canadian books are just better.

A lot of romance novels feel to me like those plays that take place in a single setting: claustrophobic and limited in scope. What really worked for me in this book is that the characters do stuff. A lot of non-angsty, not specifically romantic things happen! There isn’t an endless amount of internal dialog, although Ms. Drewry provided a good amount of insight into what each of the main characters was thinking. This title would probably make a good audiobook. A large part of the time you got to see Jayne and Nick working toward something; he has his business, and she is in the process of getting her bookstore up and running.

Jayne is a courageous character and I admired her a lot. At the beginning of the book, she comes back to a town that she’d basically been run out of, first by her cold grandmother, and then by the devastating behavior of her best friend. The fact that she comes back at all and doesn’t hold a grudge is nothing short of remarkable (to me, at least, as I am a champion grudge-holder). She goes out of her way to let Nick know that she was hurt, but there are no lingering hard feelings. Nick is a really dependable guy who tries to do right by everybody. He plays the peacemaker between Jayne and the various people in this book who give her crap, but in a way that is neither off-putting nor overly aggressive.

I found the secondary characters in this book uniformly interesting, even the ones who I didn’t like a ton. It wasn’t difficult to put myself in Lisa’s shoes and see why she would have a problem with Nick and Jayne’s closeness. Nick and Carter’s relationship is a thing of beauty. It’s nice to see male cousins who so shamelessly enjoy each other’s company, and who can communicate using more than grunts and insults. I liked how Jayne’s new female friends help her feel more integrated into the community, even though there were a few rough moments within her new group that I didn’t feel were satisfactorily resolved.

I think that anybody with longstanding friendships would agree that Ms. Drewry did a good job of capturing the routines and nuances of a 25 year friendship. Nick and Jayne have their own shorthand, and know each other so well as friends that they’re the last two to catch on to their changing/revealed feelings for one another.

In addition to all of this, this book is sometimes laugh-out-loud hilarious. I really enjoyed Plain Jayne and would certainly read another book by Ms. Drewry.

I received this book free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review and Bruce Springsteen’s phone number.

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