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.

Hard Justice (Body Armor #2) by Lori Foster

Playing it safe has never felt so dangerous…
Justice Wallington knows how to harness his strength and intimidating size—skills he put to good use first in the MMA cage, and now as a bodyguard at the Body Armor agency. But no opponent has ever left him feeling as off balance as his new client, heiress Fallon Wade. Far from a spoiled princess, she’s sweet and intriguingly innocent. It’s a risk-free assignment, until he’s required to fake a relationship with her in order to blend in. 

Sheltered from the world after a family tragedy, Fallon longs to experience life—going to bars, dancing, talking to strangers. Not easy with a huge, lethal-looking bodyguard shadowing her every move. Justice seems like her polar opposite, but pretending to be a couple stirs undeniable heat. And when danger strikes again, it’s not just her safety in jeopardy, but a passion that’s real, raw and absolutely against the rules…

So, I’ve almost forgiven Lori Foster for ending her Ultimate series. You see, I loved those guys and gals and I just wasn’t ready to say goodbye to them yet. Turns out that Ms. Foster wasn’t quite done with them yet either because they made appearances a couple of times in Leese and Cat’s book (Under Pressure) and readers got to spend even more quality time with them in Hard Justice. That ended up being just an added bonus for Justice and Fallon though because as much as I loved Under Pressure, I think I may have liked Hard Justice even more.

The last thing he expected when he was assigned to protect Fallon was to fall for her. No, he really did expect a spoiled princess and Fallon was anything but. On the flip side, Fallon expected another cookie-cutter body guard who stuck out like a sore thumb. Neither one of them got what they expected. Fallon was down to earth and wanted to be ‘normal.’ Justice was a powerful presence that was hard to ignore. Watching them tip-toe around their mutual attraction was fun.

What was even more fun were the guys’ reactions to Fallon and Justice. He couldn’t hide his true feelings from those who knew him best and they couldn’t resist ragging him about it. They also couldn’t resist Fallon’s charm any more than Justice could. Loving Justice’s friends was a given because readers had already been introduced to most of them, but Justice’s grandmother was a hoot and his mother was amazing. His interaction with both of them just made me fall in love with him more (and it had the same affect on Fallon 😉 ) Fallon’s parents even won me over little by little.

Beyond the characters and the romance, the ‘who-dun-it’ mystery was pretty good too. It was one of those mysteries where you thought you had it figured out, but then there was a twist, and then another one and characters you thought you despised turned out to be not so bad and… you get the picture. Basically, Hard Justice was a great read (not a surprise) and it left me wanting more (also, not a surprise.) I can’t wait to see what this author has in store for the rest of the series because there is definitely more to come.

Finding Our Forever (Silver Springs #1) by Brenda Novak

The search for her birth mother brought Cora Kelly to the New Horizons Boys Ranch. Getting a job there was easy enough, but confiding in Aiyana, the ranch’s owner, that she’s really her daughter? Cora’s not sure she can do that, not unless she’s confident the news will be welcomed. And once she gets to know Elijah Turner–Aiyana’s adopted son and ranch manager–that decision becomes even more difficult.
Although Elijah can’t deny his deep attraction to Cora, he’s always struggled with trust. Anyone with his past would, and there’s something about the ranch’s newest employee that isn’t exactly as it seems. But if the feelings she awakes in his guarded heart are any indication, she might be just what he’s long been waiting for.

Yet another confession… Finding Our Forever is the first book by Brenda Novak that I’ve read. Although I do have a short list of favorite authors, I’m not a huge contemporary M/F reader for the most part. I do like to sneak one in from time to time, so hen I saw this offered for review, I thought I’d give it a try. I wasn’t disappointed, but I wasn’t blown away either. Don’t let that deter you though because it was a sweet story.

Actually, one of the reasons why I picked this one up was because of the description. I thought that I could relate to Cora. No, I’m not adopted, but I didn’t know my father. To me, he was, and still is, just a name on my birth certificate. The only thing that I was ever told about him was that I really didn’t want to know anything about him. (Try telling that to a teen and see what happens.) I’ve gotten over the curiosity, to an extent, but there’s always that nagging little voice that just wonders… I may never have followed through or pushed the issue, but I still knew exactly what drove Cora to jump at the chance to find her birth mother.

There was a lot more to the story though. Eli was easy to fall for, especially for the way he rose above everything he had gone through as a child. Even the supporting family and friends were great. There was a lot to admire about Aiyana and the life that she built for herself and the boys that she helped. Basically, this was a feel good story that I did enjoy, but things got wrapped up a little too easily. I’m not usually a fan of drama, but there was a lot of build up and tension centered around what Cora was hiding and how she was going to reveal it to everyone. The actual moment was kind of anti-climatic. Regardless, I’m glad I read Finding Our Forever. I’m not sure if I’ll pick up the rest of the Silver Springs series, but you never know. I might even check out some of Brenda Novak’s other series. 😉

After I Fall (Falling #3) by Jessica Scott

Her entire life has been a lie. Being with Eli is the most honest thing she’s ever done. 
Parker Hauser lives the perfect life and knows exactly where she’s been and where she’s going. Parker has to be perfect. Perfect grades, perfect body, perfect life. 
Until she meets Eli Winter. 
Eli throws her entire life into chaos when he denies her the one thing she wants from him. 
One chance encounter stokes her desire for the man who refused to touch her and left her questioning everything. 
When Parker tries to help his new business, the spotlight turns on Eli’s military record. And sins from the war he’s tried to forget may come back to destroy them both. 

If you’ve read the first two books in Jessica Scott’s Falling series (Before I Fall & Break My Fall) you’ve already met Parker and Eli. You could probably read After I Fall without reading the beginning books in the series and be fine, but I don’t recommend it. Part of the magic of After I Fall is going into it not being a fan of Parker and wondering how Jessica Scott is going to turn her into a likable character. I even mentioned that fact at the end of my review of Break My Fall when I realized who the couple in the next book would be. By the time I was done Break My Fall, I wanted Eli to find his HEA, I just didn’t see how he could find it with Parker. I’m really glad (and not too surprised) that Scott found a way to change the way I looked at Parker and it really didn’t even take long at all. 😉

Parker’s life wasn’t as easy as it seemed. There were a lot of reasons why she acted the way she did and didn’t let people get too close. She wasn’t an angel, but she wasn’t the spoiled princess that she seemed to be either. No one saw through that though… until Eli. He knew from the beginning that there was more to Parker than the front she put up, but even he didn’t know her whole story. He just knew that she didn’t deserve the treatment she was receiving from those who claimed to care about her.

Eli wasn’t an angel either, but like most of the characters in the Falling series, he was a product of his war experience. He wasn’t quite as broken as the soldiers he tried to help and support, but he wasn’t damage free either. He had his secrets and he carried a guilt around with him that he couldn’t shake. His bar, The Pint, was more than a business, it was a haven for his ‘band of misfits.’ He couldn’t risk losing it, but falling for Parker was risky for both of them.

I think I’ve mentioned once or twice how much I admire authors who can change my opinion about a character. It’s almost as if they’re giving readers a gentle reminder not to judge a person, especially if you don’t know their story. Everyone has one and I’m really glad that readers got a chance to discover Parker’s and watch her gain the strength and courage to rise above it.

There’s more to come in the Falling series and I don’t have the same reservations about the next couple that I did with Parker and Eli. I won’t spoil it for anyone, but Catch My Fall is going to be interesting. 😉