Can’t Hardly Breathe (The Original Heartbreakers #4) by Gena Showalter

Bullied in high school, Dorothea Mathis’s past is full of memories she’d rather forget. But there’s one she can’t seem to shake—her long-standing crush on former army ranger Daniel Porter. Now that the sexy bad boy has started using her inn as his personal playground, she should kick him out…but his every heated glance makes her want to join him instead.
Daniel returned to Strawberry Valley, Oklahoma, to care for his ailing father and burn off a little steam with no strings attached. Though he craves curvy Dorothea night and day, he’s as marred by his past as she is by hers. The more he desires her, the more he fears losing her.
But every sizzling encounter leaves him desperate for more, and soon Daniel must make a choice: take a chance on love or walk away forever.

Confession time… (again.) I’ve skipped around a bit with this series. Translation: I read the opening novella (The One You Want) but evidently I’ve skipped the next three books in the series until I finally managed to pick up Can’t Hardly Breathe. The good news is that although I want to catch up with the first four couples in The Original Heartbreakers series, I wasn’t lost at all throughout Daniel and Dorothea’s story.

Dorothea and Daniel had a history. A history that they each remembered just a slight bit differently. She had a crush on Daniel that she never really got over, but she had no idea that Daniel had feelings for her too. High school can be a battle ground and Daniel and Dorothea were definitely on opposing sides.

I loved Dorothea’s spunk, but she didn’t have it easy. Her mom was flighty, her sister was a brat and her ex was a jerk. She’d suffered loss and came out fighting, but she still longed for a love that would last. If she couldn’t have that, she’d settle for a good time and if she kept her heart out of the equation, Daniel was just the man to provide it. Because Daniel didn’t jump at the chance, Dorothea assumed he didn’t want her. That was just the beginning of the crazy assumptions that worked to keep these two apart.

Honestly, I could have done with a little less drama, but this story worked anyway. A couple of the supporting characters from past books also made me want to go back and pick up the rest of The Original Heartbreakers series and there’s even more to come. Ryanne and Jude are next and given the sparks already lighting between these two, I might have to pick Can’t Let Go up before I start playing catch up. 😉 

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Worth the Wait (Guthrie Brothers #2) by Lori Foster

Single dad Hogan Guthrie is getting his life back on track, and working as the “barbecue master” at a local diner is just a temporary detour. He and restaurant owner Violet Shaw constantly butt heads…until one night they end up mingling other parts instead. Hogan thought he had the recipe for happiness all figured out. But loyal, carefree Violet is daring him to trust his impulses…and see just how sweet small-town living—and loving—can be.
Nathan Hawley traded his SWAT team credentials for a sheriff’s badge, but a gorgeous new neighbor is shaking up his orderly life. Nathan has a hunch there’s more to Brooklin Sweet than meets the eye—but given her caution about getting involved, he has his work cut out for him. Still, there’s something about the elusive beauty Nathan can’t walk away from—and helping her come to terms with her past might pave the way to the future they both secretly long for.

I fell in love with Nathan, Hogan and Violet when readers met them in Don’t Tempt Me, the first book in Lori Foster’s Guthrie Brothers series. Needless to say, I couldn’t wait for all of them to find their HEA. 😉

Hogan was just a little bit broken, which made him more than a little bit leery. He not only wanted to protect his heart, but he had Colt to consider. He went a little bit crazy after he lost his wife. To say he played the field would be putting it mildly. He didn’t want to put his son through any more than he already had. He pretty much met his match with Violet though. She wasn’t looking for anything serious either. Like Hogan, she had her priorities and hers was her diner. That didn’t mean that she didn’t notice her attraction to Hogan. It was kind of impossible to ignore for both of them.

Just like Don’t Tempt Me included not just the romance between Jason and Honor, but Sullivan and Lexie, Worth the Wait had Hogan and Violet sharing the pages with Nathan and Brooklin. I liked how their relationships co-exhisted in Worth the Wait, especially how in the end, all four couples became more like family than just friends.

Given the title of the series and the fact that there are only two Guthrie Brothers, I’m guessing that this is the last of the series. I’ve got to admit though, I wouldn’t object to seeing more of them in the future, especially Colt. 😉

Dark Horse (Whitehorse, Montana: The McGraw Kidnapping #1) by B.J. Daniels

For twenty-five years, the case of the McGraw twins kidnapping has remained unsolved. As the eldest son, Cull oversees the McGraw horse ranch, wary of prying eyes. So when true-crime writer Nikki St. James comes forward with new information, Cull can’t believe his father invites her onto the compound. His family has suffered enough—he’s not about to let St. James snoop and ruin them completely. But Nikki finds the eldest McGraw’s protectiveness as endearing as it is aggravating. After all, this case is personal to her, too… And her secrets can set the truth free—if they don’t destroy the McGraws first.

I’m not sure exactly what happened with Dark Horse, but I had a hard time connecting with the characters. I think it might have been because things seemed a little rushed. It just seemed like there wasn’t enough time for either Nikki or Cull to change their opinions about each other… but that’s just me.

Other than the rushed romance, I kind of enjoyed the mystery behind Dark Horse. It was an interesting premise and it wasn’t solved by the end of this first book. Because of that, I might just have to check out Dead Ringer, just to see how the mystery progresses. 

No One But You (Silver Springs #2) by Brenda Novak

Struggling to make ends meet after a messy divorce, Sadie Harris is at the end of her tether. Her waitressing gig isn’t enough to pay the bills let alone secure primary custody of her son, Jayden, a battle she refuses to lose. Desperate, she accepts a position assisting Dawson Reed the same Dawson Reed who recently stood trial for the murder of his adoptive parents. Joining him at his isolated farm seems risky, but Sadie is out of options.
Dawson has given small town Silver Springs plenty of reasons to be wary, but he’s innocent of the charges against him. He wants to leave his painful past behind and fix up the family farm so he can finally bring his dependent sister home where she belongs.
As Sadie and Dawson’s professional relationship grows into something undeniably personal, Sadie realizes there’s more to Dawson than the bad boy everyone else sees. He has a good heart, one that might even be worth fighting for.

I think I may have liked No One But You even more than Finding Our Forever. If I had to put my finger on the reason, I’d have to say it was Dawson. He lost everything when he was accused of his adoptive parents’ murder – including his home town.

All Dawson really wants is to be left alone to bring his family’s farm back to life so he can provide a home for his sister. All Sadie wants is to keep her son safe, happy and away from his emotionally abusive father. Alone, the didn’t stand a chance, but together…

I really liked the connection between Sadie and Dawson. Having the town outcast, who most everyone in town believed still belonged behind bars, fall for the ex of an overly possessive small town policeman who was not only an arrogant bully, but in total denial about the end of his marriage wasn’t the easy way to go, but it definitely kept the pages turning.

Even though this is the second book in Brenda Novak’s Silver Springs series, you won’t be lost if you haven’t read Finding Our Forever. Now that I’ve started though, I won’t be able to stop. Until You Loved me is next and it’s already on my TBR list. 😉

 

Claim & Protect (The Haven Brotherhood #3) by Rhenna Morgan

Trevor Raines lives on the edge of legal. A good guy doing bad things to save lives, the only rules he follows are the Brotherhood’s, and there’s nothing in the world that will change that. Until Natalie Jordan walks into his life…
Natalie’s only interest is in making a fresh start. She’s a woman with a plan, and the plan doesn’t include a man with secrets, no matter how kind—or intoxicating—he is. But this cowboy is determined to break down her walls, keep her safe and make her his.
Trevor had no interest in settling down, but there’s something entirely too appealing about the woman he can’t stay away from. There’s only one thing to do—change his plans…and hers. When Natalie’s ex resurfaces to threaten her new life, Trevor will move heaven and earth to make sure the bastard can’t hurt her again. Except saving Natalie means outing his own secrets—and it could mean losing her forever…

This series just gets better and better with each new book. I knew from the very first book (Rough & Tumble) that this was going to be a series that was going to pull me in. Wild & Sweet just made me want more and Claim & Protect… well, let’s just say I can’t wait until the next book in the Haven Brotherhood is released.

Natalie and Trevor were total opposites in more ways than one. If you’ve read the first two books in the Haven Brotherhood series, you know that the brothers don’t see things in black and white – there’s a lot of gray in their world. First and foremost is family and they’ll do anything to protect those that they consider their own. They also don’t let people inside their inner circle on a whim. Trust needs to be earned and a big part of that means that tactics aren’t questioned. Seeing beyond their sometimes questionable methods has been an obstacle more than once. It seemed insurmountable between Natalie and Trevor – mainly because some of his ‘methods’ came a little too close to home for Natalie and Trevor knew it. There was something about her though that Trevor couldn’t walk away from. His instinct to protect was overwhelming, so he went with it.

I think one of the reasons why I love this series so much is because of how far from where they started these men have come. They’re strong, loyal, hard working and they love just as hard and fierce. They also prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that there’s a fine line between right and wrong. Sometimes you have to bend the rules to do the right thing.

Tempted & Taken is next in the Haven Brotherhood series and I can’t wait to see what Rhenna Morgan has in store for Knox. 😉

Deliciously Bitter (Naked Brews #3) by K.B. Jacobs

Three years ago, my perfect life ended. I got trapped inside a burning Army MRAP and watched my friends die. I was the only one to survive, if you can call this survival.
Now I’m the beast of nightmares. Horrific scars mean I don’t leave my house…ever.
But my best friend made sure I continued to live when all I wanted was to give up. I owe him everything, and now he needs me for two weeks.
Two weeks with strangers who I’ll never have to see again. I can do this. I can ignore the stares and revulsion.
But what I can’t ignore is the stunning beauty next door who sees past my scars.
She’s Hollywood royalty. I’m a recluse, a hermit. Her life is glamour and paparazzi. My life is NOT. No matter how much I want her, I’m no good for her.
Beauty and the beast was a romantic fairy tale, but this is real life and she deserves better…

I not so secretly begged for this one after meeting Damian in Deliciously Smooth, the first book in the Naked Brews series. Damian deserved his HEA, but I knew he would break my heart. The lesson here dear readers is to be careful what you ask for. So yeah, the #evilauthorduo strikes again!

I try not to play favorites, but Deliciously Bitter may just earn that title in this series. I’ve loved all the Naked Brew crew, but I’ve obviously had a soft spot for Damian since the beginning. He was a broken hero who had become a recluse. He had a domineering mother who meant well, but didn’t know when to quit or back off and his only friend was Walsh, who was kinda broken in his own way. It was understandable that a request from Walsh was the only thing that could get Damian out of hiding. It took Alex to break down the walls he had built around himself. It didn’t happen right away. Damian was out of practice when it came to dealing with people and Alex… well, Alex was Alex. Once you ‘meet’ her, you’ll understand. She also had her own share of family issues to deal with. To be honest, I wasn’t sure what kind of connection that Alex and Damian would have… I should have known that this writing duo had everything under control. Damian needed someone who wouldn’t take no for an answer and give him something to really live for. Turns out Alex was the perfect woman for him and I ended up loving them together.

Of course, nothing is ever easy, especially the path to true love. Then there was the other problem with the threat against Naked Brews. Needless to say, there was more than enough romance, danger, mystery and tension to go around. I was sorry to say goodbye to these characters, but the authors did an amazing job of bringing the series to a satisfying end.

Even though I know Deliciously Bitter marks the end of the Naked Brews series, I’m hoping that this isn’t the last that we’ve seen of the Naked Brews crew – especially since I just found out that another series is on its way… stay tuned!

Necessary Medicine by M.K. York – Bout of Books 19 Review

In the high-intensity world of hospital residency programs, there’s no room for romance. So it’s a good thing for first-year surgical resident Neil Carmona that his crush on the gorgeous cardiologist Eli Newcombe is sheer fantasy. Not only is the sexy doctor Neil’s superior, he’s also recently divorced.
As Neil’s skill as a surgeon grows, so does his friendship with Eli, and his silent, hopeless longing for more. It isn’t until Neil’s final year that Eli at last admits his own deepest desires. But Neil’s joy is short-lived: Eli has no intention of pursuing a relationship. Their positions in the hospital would make it unethical, even if he was emotionally ready for someone new.
Wounded and furious, Neil is determined to forget about Eli once and for all. But when a near-tragedy strikes, a new question arises: Is a life without love—without Neil—a greater risk than laying his heart on the line?

The intro to the description of Necessary Medicine said ‘slow-burn romance’ – which is both accurate and an understatement. I’m a really, really patient reader, but I realize that other readers might not be. For that reason, I (and other conscientious reviewers) have found it necessary to point out that the ‘romance’ aspect of Necessary Medicine is not the focus. The focus is on the the development of the characters’ relationships (not just between Eli and Neil) as well as a glimpse of what it takes to become a surgeon/doctor.

I kinda liked this story, which was the first book written by MK York. The author did a great job of giving readers a glimpse into what life is like as a medical student. I really enjoyed getting to know both Neil and Eli as well as all the other students, specialists and surgeons. It was a unique glimpse into a world that not a lot of others get to see or experience.

I also really liked watching the relationship between Eli and Neil grow. It wasn’t always easy. I spent a lot of time being just as aggravated with Eli as Neil was, but it wasn’t easy to stay mad at him. The ups and downs between these two were worth it though. Even though the real romance didn’t even happen until way past the half way point. Just be patient, enjoy the build up and let yourself get caught up in the story.

Hopeless Romantic by Francis Gideon

Nick Fraser is a true romantic. He wants the guy instead of the girl, but other than that, he wants everything his favorite rom-coms depict: the courtship, the passionate first kiss, the fairy-tale wedding. But after breaking up with the love of his life, Nick wonders if anything fairy-tale will ever happen for him.
Then he meets Katie, who’s just like a rom-com heroine. She’s sharp, funny, sweet, and as into music and punk culture as Nick is. What’s more, he’s incredibly attracted to her—even though she’s a woman. Nick has never considered that he might be bisexual, but his feelings for Katie are definitely real.
When Katie reveals that she’s transgender, Nick starts to see how much he doesn’t understand about the world, queer identity, and himself. He is hopelessly in love with Katie, but this isn’t a fairy tale, and Nick’s friends and family may not accept his new relationship. If he wants it all, he has to have the courage to make his fantasy a reality.

First, a little insight into why I read some of the books that I do. I stayed away from the LGBTQIA genre for a long time because I didn’t think I could relate to the characters. I was wrong on so many levels. I can see that now. My go-to books and authors now include a pretty wide array of LGBTQIA, some of which have even helped me learn a little bit about myself, who knew?  I’ve only read a handful of trans books, and not knowing anyone who is trans I couldn’t tell you which ones have come closer to portraying a true trans man or woman. To me, that’s not the point. I’m not trying to be insensitive, just the opposite. I try to read books that may help me understand where people from all walks of life are coming from. Hopefully, it’s making me a better person in the long run. Maybe, maybe not, but since I live in a community where I’m sure the full spectrum of LBGTQIA people live right beside me, but for many reasons (family, church, neighbors, school, etc.) don’t feel safe being themselves, reading this genre is the only way I have of gaining even a little bit of understanding. Hopefully, one day, that will change, but I don’t see it happening any time soon.

For all those reasons, I’m not really sure how to write this review. I try not to read other reviews before I write mine, but this one was hard because the reactions were intense. This is the first book by Francis Gideon I’ve read, so I have nothing to compare it to, but I liked the story and the insight. If nothing else, it’s made me want to read more transgender books, because honestly, just like every other person on the planet, I would imagine that no two transgender people are the same or handle things the same way.

Again, I’m not trying to be insensitive, but I could relate to Nick. He was learning and yes, he may have faltered… a lot, but he was trying. He was also a bit flustered because being attracted to Katie kind of threw him. He had identified as gay his entire life and finding out that Katie was trans, relieved him in a way. I’m not saying that was right, it wasn’t. He just grasped at it in an effort to come to terms with the fact that he was attracted to a woman. Once he did come to terms with it, he still slipped a little, but he was trying.

Katie was an amazing character. She was patient with Nick, but she didn’t let him get away with his pre-conceived ideas and she made him take a good hard look at himself, more than once. She could have kicked him to the curb and left him more than once, but she saw something in him that wouldn’t let her. Love is love after all. 😉 On a side note, the thing that I noticed more than once was that from the very beginning, Nick only saw Katie as a woman. People around them, total strangers could see the masculine side of Katie, but Nick never did. To me it meant that he saw her for who she truly was… just a thought.

So, Hopeless Romantic may not have been the perfect portrayal of a trans/gay couple, but for me it was a sweet romance between two people that loved each other. Nick may have come off as insensitive to some, probably rightly so, but I can’t say for sure that I wouldn’t make the at least some of same mistakes, but not purposely. Wrapping your head around something you’ve never experienced before isn’t always easy, but knowledge is powerful and sensitivity goes a long way regardless of who you are.

Wild & Sweet (Haven Brotherhood #2) by Rhenna Morgan

Live hard, f*ck harder and follow only their own rules. Those are the cornerstones the six men of the Haven Brotherhood live and bleed by, refusing to conform to society’s expectations, taking what they want and always watching each other’s backs. 
Zeke Dugan is not a man who walks the straight and narrow. He may have sworn an oath as a trauma doc, but he has zero problem leveraging his medical skills outside a hospital if it means giving the Brotherhood—the group of men he calls family—an advantage. Blood before business. All that changes when shy Gabrielle stumbles into his life and ignites his protective instincts. 
Mechanic Gabrielle Parker prefers the complexities of an engine over men. Her life wasn’t always quiet and well-ordered, but now that it is, she finds peace in the solitude. When a robbery in her neighborhood forces her out of her safe bubble, she never fathoms that a dangerous, cocky trauma doctor will fix more than her injuries. 
Zeke doesn’t play by the rules that Gabrielle follows but knows that he’s exactly what she needs in her life. He’ll show her the fierce and uncompromising protection that comes from belonging to a man like him. 
When tension outside the Brotherhood threatens Gabrielle, Zeke will do anything to keep her safe, and damn the consequences. No one will hurt his woman, even if it means putting the very men who saved his life at risk.
 

I mentioned that I wasn’t sure what to expect when I picked up the first book in Rhenna Morgan’s Haven Brotherhood series. It didn’t take long for Rough & Tumble to win me over though and Wild & Sweet pulled me even farther into their crazy world and made me fall in love with these guys and their women (including the moms) even more.

That doesn’t mean that I didn’t totally understand Gabrielle’s reluctance to trust Zeke, especially when she found out that the Brotherhood skirted the law. She saw things in black and white… no gray at all. There was right and there was wrong and Gabrielle wanted to stay as far away from people who broke the law as she could, regardless of the reasons why. The thing was that when you fell under the protection of the Brotherhood you were considered family and nothing was more important than family. The fact that Gabrielle’s brother was slowly being brought into the Brotherhood brought everything up a notch.

So, in a nutshell… I loved the connection between Gabrielle and Zeke. I understood Gabrielle’s reluctance to trust, but I also respected Zeke’s determination to protect her, no matter what, as well as his patience and respect for Gabrielle. The danger, romance and heat between the two of them, along with the great supporting characters were an added bonus. For all those reasons, it should surprise no one that I can’t wait for the next book in the Haven Brotherhood series.

 

Deliciously Thick (Naked Brews #2) by KB Jacobs

Triple B…the Bad Boy of Boarding.
That’s me and I own that title. I’m a professional snowboarder and my life IS the party.
You want to hang out for a good time? Come to Triple B’s house.
You need a hot chick to bang? There are tons of them at my place.
My bar is stocked and the music is jamming. This is my life.
Until Juliet. No, that’s not her real name. That’s just what I called her when I fell in lust with her those nights when she read in her window.
But then a fire changed everything.
I saved her life and it ruined mine. Now my sponsors say I either fix my party-boy image or else I’m through making the big bucks. I figure she broke me, she can fix me.
She’s sweet and innocent, exactly what I need to fix my image. But I’m not sure either of us will survive the legacy that is Triple B.

Well, this one didn’t end quite as dramatically as Deliciously Smooth… but it still left readers hanging. o.O

Confession time… I didn’t like Anthony, at least not when he was in ‘Triple B’ mode. I’m pretty sure that no one’s going to hold it against me though because when Anthony took a good hard look at himself, he didn’t like Triple B much either.

Melissa, on the other hand… well, it was really easy to love her. I may or may not have related to her a little bit. At least from a romance reading stand point – I’m not exactly a British fanatic, but her obsession was kind of adorable. 😉

When Anthony stepped away from his Triple B persona, he was a totally different person. It’s also what won Melissa over. What won me over was his relationship with his mom. His respect for her and her obvious love for him helped readers to see a totally different side of him. Her relationship with Melissa didn’t hurt either 😉 Then there was the romance, which was a little more heated than readers would expect from the Melissa they were introduced to in the previous book.

Characters from Deliciously Smooth were a big part of Melissa & Anthony’s story too. I love it when a series is so inclusive. Beyond the romance, there was more than one mystery and none of them were solved by the end of Deliciously Thick. And as for the ending? Well, Deliciously Smooth ended with a bang – almost literally. Deliciously Thick didn’t end with as much of a cliff hanger, but it definitely ended leaving readers wanting the next book sooner, rather than later. So, in case you’re wondering, K.B. Jacobs’ #evilauthor title is still in good standing.