Benched by Blythe Rippon

Benched is a sequel. If you haven’t read Barring Complications, well I am kind of jealous of you because goodness, that book is amazing and to read it for the first time… let’s just say to me that the book is enthralling. You cannot put it down! So a sequel is tricky business, it’s either an amazing chance to reconnect with characters you have invested in or worst case scenario…a dud! Benched is no dud my friends, this is a fantastic book. It every bit holds its own with its predecessor.

Barring Complications was unique in a way in the two mains, Victoria and Genevieve had this pull towards each other. Even when they couldn’t communicate verbally, because of a pending case, they had this undeniable connection. I loved that about that book, it really drew me in and I was amazed by how well Rippon was able to connect that with the reader.

Where Benched comes in is Victoria and Genevieve have had their whirlwind romance and real life is settling in. Two very powerful players in D.C. whose paths have crossed in a monumental court decision that changes the political landscape of America are destined to meet again professionally. How do they navigate these new waters now that they have become lovers? EEK, problems arise, and neither of them handles it very well.

This is where I think their differences in personality really become fleshed out. Victoria has always struggled with being out while Genevieve is the cover of Advocate. So they struggle and they make missteps that make them wonder if they can forge ahead a cohesive unit or do they need to go separate ways. Is love always enough? I’m not going to lie there were a few moments that I thought, Holy mackerel sapphire what is happening, why are they doing this to each other, but in the end romance prevails.

4.25 out of 5 stars

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Falling Hard by Jae

First off let me say I am a huge fan of Jae’s work. As I have said before she is an author you can count on to deliver you a quality read time and time again. With that being said, Falling Hard, her latest novel is probably my least favorite of her books thus far. Don’t freak out, this is a good book, don’t get me wrong, it really is, but overall I felt uninspired reading it. Here are my thoughts as to why…

Dr. Jordan Williams is a general surgeon how lives her life with a no strings attached look on love. You got it! Her bedroom has a revolving door of ladies. She doesn’t hide it and is honorable in the fact that she lets her lovers know exactly what to expect, a good night or two and then adios on to the next one.

Emma Larson is a recently divorced, single mother who has recently had her heart shattered by a cheating wife. Emma picked up what was left of her after catching her wife with another woman, in her own bed nonetheless, and moved from Portland to her childhood hometown of South Pasadena, CA. Emma isn’t looking for a good time between the sheets, she isn’t going to give her heart away for the second time and unless it is true love. One thing that throws everything off is she is ridiculously attracted to her new next door neighbor, Jordan.

You can basically guess how the plot is going to go. Player meets hot single mom, mom rebukes all advances, the player can’t get mom out of her head and stops sleeping around, mom falls for the player, the player falls for mom and viola and a new family is made. There is nothing wrong with that, it’s a good story. You have well thought out characters with a solid beginning, middle, and end. What it is though, is lackluster. There is nothing that sets this book apart from a dozen others that have the exact same plot. There is no tension, no angst, no thoughtful dialogue, nothing that makes the story or its characters jump off the page. It gave me no feels, and after Jae’s last novel, Heart Stop, which gave me all kinds of delicious emotions, I wanted more. This is a light sweet romance, one I am glad I read, but not one that will leave much of a lasting impression.

3.5 out of 5 stars

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Defensive Mindset by Wendy Temple

You may go into this one thinking that this is a sports book, from the description and the cover that was where I thought this was going. Sports with a romance, right? Well, technically those boxes were checked but this story has a darker grittier feel to it. Let me explain, then you can decide for yourself.

Jessie Grainger is former Scottish national team soccer player. She is an amazing athlete whose sole focus is on being the best in her sport. She has had big offers to play for other European clubs, that have better teams and are better funded but she chooses to stay with Lothian Thistle FC because she can live and play in her Scottish hometown. Jessie is focused, hardworking and a woman that exudes honor and dignity both on and off the pitch. Her life is thrown off a bit when her team picks up Fran Docherty, a defender when questionable on the field tactics.

Fran Docherty is a hard character to like, in my opinion. Fran comes onto the team as a tough defensive player that speaks very little and basically plays the game for the paycheck. That basically sums up the sports part of this book. Fran is coping with a drug and alcohol addiction. She manages her desperation for a fix by using cigarettes and anonymous sex as a distraction. This is one part of the story that just killed me. First off Fran probably smokes eleventy billion cancer sticks through the course of the book. Every paragraph is Fran reaches for a cigarette, Fran smokes a cigarette, cigarette, cigarette…OMG!!!, I get it she loves her damn cigarettes. How in the world does she play soccer at this level? This degree of smoking is not conducive to the fitness needed. Add on to it that she just got out of a two-year stint in jail and is recovering from years of using hard drugs, like heroin. She is not capable of playing in a competitive recreation league much less a team, trying to break into the Women’s Champions League. I call bullshit, that doesn’t make sense!

Secondly, this character doesn’t speak. Now, I love a strong silent type as much as the next romance lover, but Fran basically grunts, smokes and sleeps through most of the novel. I literally cannot figure out how in the world Jessie became attracted to someone who has zero redeeming factors. She isn’t very nice, she doesn’t communicate, there just wasn’t any depth to Fran. There is a lot of telling in regards to Fran rather that showing me the woman that she really is. She has a lot going on, she is taking care of her elderly grandfather by paying for his retirement home, she runs his bar, plays soccer, is besties with a punk rock legend, plays the guitar like a badass, coping with addiction…but that’s the problem you have so many moving pieces but no real character development and no dialogue between the two mains. It was very frustrating.

Basically, I could not cheer for Jessie and Fran to become a couple. Jessie needs to run the other direction and Fran needs counseling for a variety of serious issues. The book needs more showing, less telling. There was so much going on with sub-plots, it missed making good characters and a cohesive story. It also needs more dialogue between the two mains, so much more dialogue!

2 stars out of 5

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Tricky Chances: The Clinical Years (Tricky, #2) by Camryn Eyde

Tricky Wisdom was one of those books that just stayed with you. I will honestly tell you I have read it more than once. Yes, I am one of those people! What I loved about the book was how complicated and multifaceted each of the two main characters are. As the book went on you learned more about them and it didn’t help that the sexual tension was off the charts. I love a great story full of angst and bits or humor. So, with that being said I needed the sequel in my life. Thank the heavens it finally arrived this week. Tricky Chances: The Clinical Years is absolutely as good as its predecessor is not just a hair better. Don’t you just love it when a sequel is awesome! Not an easy feat, I applaud you, Camryn Eyde.

We come back to the story, (yes you must read the first one first) as Darcy and Olivia head into the second year at Harvard Medical School. If they thought the first year was difficult, well just add in clinical rotations on top of class and studying. You got it, they barely have time to breath much less eat or sleep. This new schedule causes havoc on their social lives and their relationship. You see the daily stress they are under, those hairline fractures in their love become under a constant pressure. What it makes for is strain, anguish, and some tears. What it gives you as the reader: a fantastic story that will be damn hard to put down.

If you ready the first one in this series, hold your hat, cause you are in for one hell of an awesome ride. If you haven’t, well I’m a little jealous of you getting to read that book for the first time. Darcy and Olivia are characters that will steal your heart.

A big 5 stars!

Forget Me Not by Kris Bryant

Grace Danner a marketing executive from Dallas heads to Ireland to complete the sale of her great-aunt’s flower shop. Only meeting the aunt a handful of times she was left everything in the will. Grace arrives in Ireland to find a thriving business, an adorable rooftop apartment and a whole lot of amazing acquaintances. Grace is all work so even taking a week off to head across the pond is a hardship.

Kerry Mulligan is Grace’s real estate agent. This fiery redhead will gladly take the commission from the sale of Aunt Nola’s shop, but in her heart or hearts, she doesn’t want it sold. She’s conflicted about the loss of the shop to this tight-knit community. Add to the misery, her friends and sister-in-law will be out of work as soon as the deal is signed.

I had a few issues with this one. I felt like I was reading the same chapter later in the book time and time again. What makes this especially frustrating is you had a great premise, beautiful setting and enough heat from the two mains getting off on the wrong foot to have a fantastic story. As the book progressed, that story actually regressed. Once Grace and Kerry see each other’s naughty bits that’s all you have. Sex scene after sex scene. They were hot sex scenes don’t get me wrong, but that was it. Then you have a lack of depth in the plot, the dialogue, and the angst. The angst should be there, it should be there in spades, but it wasn’t, it was just flat. I

Another issue was Grace Danner being a Texan. I despise Texas stereotypes because you always get the cowgirl bs. A female marketing executive that lives in a high rise condo in downtown Dallas does not walk around in Ariat boots every day. That is not her footwear of choice. Sure maybe if she goes to a western theme gala, but in jeans and in daily life, this is a big no. This would not happen, it doesn’t fit the look of the area at all. Now if you went over to Fort Worth, you may see more boots, if you went out to West Texas, that would be the footwear of choice for many, as those folks are real-life ranchers and live a western influenced lifestyle. You might as well say Grace rides her horse to town. Okay, maybe Grace Danner is the one Dallasite that does wear boots every day, but 99% of the rest of us do not. I’m getting down on off my over-sized Texan soap-box now.

Overall, the book had a good start, hot sexy time but was lacking depth and dialogue to make it really amazing.

2.5 out of 5 stars

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Between The Lines by K.D. Williamson

KD Willamson knows how to write a smoking hot book. Girl can get those fires started! Super hot slow burn that keeps you reading a frantic pace. This is a fire you want to jump into.

Haley Jordan is a rookie on the New Orleans police department. Right out of the academy, Haley is sentenced to work with a less that awesome, Tang (a nickname derived from poontang is never, ever a good sign, NEVEREVER). Tang is, as you probably guessed 100% inappropriate. He makes remarks that would give an HR department a heart attack. Haley sucks it up for the greater good and focuses on being a good cop, one she knows the people of NOLA need. Haley knows that the past haunts this police force, corruption was rampant and the citizens of this great city do not trust them for a lot of good reasons. She wants to change that perception with small steps in the right direction.

Dr. Tonya Preston is a psychiatrist. While helping other people with their darkest demons, Dr. Preston has a pile of them herself. A product of a mother with severe bipolar depression and a father that just wanted to sweep it under the rug, Tonya turned to medicine to greater understand her mother’s disease. Her father’s indifference to her holds her back from really spreading her wings. She has chosen to exist rather than flourish even though professionally she has been quite successful.

When Tonya meets Haley in the direst of circumstances a bond is formed. Haley comes to the doctor’s rescue as she was being carjacked and possibly much worse. Haley stepped in, and yes, she helped save the day, but she also treated Tonya, with the utmost respect and kindness. This moment of dire circumstances and human kindness set up the beginnings of a connection. Upon running into each other at a local bar a short time later, Haley makes no bones about wanting to date Tonya. Tonya, however, has reservations, not because she’s not undeniably attracted to the young officer, but because of how much baggage she’s currently carrying. Tonya needs to be in a better place emotionally before she can begin seeing someone. Haley doesn’t let this speed bump stop her, she takes Tony up on her offer of friendship and they take their time getting to know each other before taking it to the next level. Let the tension build and build.

My only complaint and it’s just a tiny one (I don’t mean it that way 🙂 is I personally thought too much time was spent on what Haley was packing. I felt like it was almost a character in itself. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I loved how KD Williamson built up both characters and then brought them into a relationship. You felt as though you knew both of the mains individually and as a couple. Even the sub-characters were well-fleshed out. I appreciated southern slang done right. Only someone true to the south can pull it off. Perfect touch! Great story, great characters, lots of tension and it was fan the flames hot.

4 out of 5 stars

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Future Leaders of Nowhere by Emily O’Beirne

Ah-freaking-mazing!!! This book is beyond good. There is not a review that will do it justice, I will try, but I promise you it will fall well short of conveying how awesome this book truly is. Emily O’Beirne is a masterful writer, every single one of her books blows me away for so many reasons, dialogue, characters, tension, everything is hands down done to perfection. This book may be her best yet.

Finn is this amazingly grounded teenager. She is inherently good and people can see that from miles aways. You know that this young woman is meant for greatness because she is one of those rare people who have character, charisma and exudes compassion for others. It’s a no brainer that she is chosen by her classmates to lead their group for the leadership camp.

The other main character is Willa. Willa is all business all the time. She is serious where Finn is lighthearted. Willa sees school as her chance to succeed in life and provides financially for her family. As a young child, Willa had to grow up too soon after the loss of her mother. Willa helps her elderly grandmother raise her two younger siblings, she works and attends an upper crust all-girls school on scholarship. She takes her responsibilities to heart and carries the load. She much older that her seventeen years. Her classmates view her as aloof in social settings but the ultimate competitor when it comes to academics. She’s the kid that studies when everyone else is having fun. She has too, success is the only option she sees for a bright future. Therefore her goal for leadership camp is to win, it is what is expected of her by her competitive classmates as well to herself.

These two couldn’t be more opposite but they are drawn to each other right from the beginning. Two very strong females, each with different assets but also so very kind and sweet. To me, I think they were drawn to each other by their strengths and they impressed by what they saw in each other. These characters are complex, multi-faceted and O’Beirne delivers them to you so you become 100% invested in their future. Finn and Willa are described so well you feel as though you know them in real life. You want to know them in real life!

The first half of the book is told from the perspective of Finn. We learn of her struggles leading her group that really doesn’t want to be there. They have drawn the wild card and have to play the role of refugees, no land, no resources, depending on others for survival in the game. Her friendship with Willa pushes her to be a better leader and to find her voice. I loved that the book then flipped to Willa’s point of view. It was fantastic to see the interworkings of her mind and just how smitten she was with Finn. For someone so serious to just have her heart stolen, those moments were amazingly sweet and tender. The little moments between them made a great book, phenomenal. Your heart is stolen right along with them.

I love how Emily O’Beirne includes diverse characters, bisexuality, and world issues all into a romance novel. It’s not preachy, or overdone, but she makes the reader stop and think all within the context of an amazing love story. This writer has serious skill! I loved that each of our mains had strength and frailty. They made each other better, they made others be better. Willa and Finn were awesome characters. I hated to see this book come to its end, and let me tell you when I found out there will be a sequel, there could have been some fist-pumping happy dance moves.

5 HUMONGOUS Stars

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