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Happy New Year!

Hello! And happy New Year to all! I’m sorry for my lack of posting over the past few weeks, but I took a much needed vacation and decided to unplug from technology for a while.  But, that doesn’t mean I wasn’t reading, because I was.  And I read some really great books.  I will get to the reviews over the next little bit, because I am going back to work on Monday and the next few months will be insanely busy.  Hence the need to enjoy my time off now.

The new year always brings with it thoughts of resolutions, changes and direction.  Where am I going this year? What do I want to accomplish? What do I want to change about myself and my life?  This year, I’m going to try to focus more on family and less on work.  I’m going to try new things and get some adventure back in my life.  I’m going to be more patient and devote more time to my friendships (although time is a precious commodity in my life).

I’m also going to continue to read.  I LOVE reading.  I read a TON for work, but there’s nothing better than reading something just for you.

Wishing everyone out there a wonderful, healthy, and happy 2013!

Review: Red Zone by Sherri Hayes (Daniels Brothers #2)

Summary: Gage Daniels is a successful NFL quarterback.  He’s got everything going for him  – great career, good friends, financial stability and a seemingly endless line of women throwing themselves at him.  But when he starts getting threatening letters from a stalker who is watching his every move, Gage’s boss insists that he needs protection.  Calling on a favour from an old friend, the team’s owner hires Hansen, former FBI agent, for help.  Hansen in turn enlists the help of his ex-partner, Rebecca Carson, who is on administrative leave from the FBI after her last case ended badly.

Rebecca is climbing the walls and bored out of her mind, so she jumps at the job Hansen offers her.  Too late Hansen tells her that she will be protecting Gage, and posing as his girlfriend to do so.  Oh, and did he forget to mention moving into his house? 

Gage has never met a woman as buttoned up as Rebecca – he can’t help but push her buttons.  And as he pushes her, he sees a spark of something in her eyes and with that he sets off to challenge Rebecca with everything he has.  As the two become closer, the lines begin to blend between “pretend” girlfriend and their “real-life” feelings for one another.  As the stalker’s threatening behaviour continues to escalate, Rebecca must protect Gage while also protecting her heart.

*I read this book as a standalone, and I was completely fine in terms of following the story and the characters.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Reasons:  I enjoyed this book much more than I was expecting.  Although the premise is a bit of a cliché, the story really worked for me.  I really liked Rebecca’s character.  Sure she was straight-laced, but as you learn more about her and her past the reader begins to understand why she is so closed off.  And as she began to open up, I liked her even more.  And Gage…. I will never get tired of the playboy athlete makes good.  Although he did enjoy women, he wasn’t a jerk at all and, surprisingly, ended up being a great guy!  He was a real sweetheart but still maintained his masculinity – he was hot!  I especially loved how he was with Rebecca: patient and attentive but then forceful alpha male when she needed a push. 

I liked how their relationship developed in the book.  I didn’t find it forced or rushed like so many other, similar novels.  I felt that the book flowed nicely, especially with the action of the stalker.  I honestly didn’t figure it out until the characters did.  While I do enjoy a good HEA, I found the ending to the book a little cheesy.  I know, I know, who doesn’t love a happy ending?  I do! I swear!

This book is also filled with a group of fun, hilarious supporting characters.  I loved Megan, Rebecca’s sister.  And Gage’s brothers and his whole family were great.  I am assuming that there will be more books in this series, which I will definitely read in the future.

* I was lucky enough to receive an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review! Thank you!!

Review: Three Stages of Love:Lust by T.C. Anthony

Summary: Evangeline Chase has everything she ever wanted: she has a high-powered job in finance, close friends, and the financial freedom to do what she wants without having to ask anyone for permission.  Eva has always been determined, hardworking and solely focussed on her career.  She doesn’t have room in her life for a serious relationship.  Out at a bar for her birthday, Eva falls (literally) into the arms of Alexander Mason, whom she later learns will be her boss.  Eva feels a strong attraction toward Alexander, but her singular focus on her work has her running away from her feelings for him.  Can Alexander break through her outer shell, or will Eva push him away to guard her heart and her future?

Rating: 2.5/5

Reasons: I felt that this book had a lot of promise, but didn’t quite deliver.  When I first started reading it, I really enjoyed Eva’s character.  A smart, determined, successful, non-virgin woman.  What’s not to love?  As a working mom I really understood her struggle with reconciling her career goals with the expectations placed on women who get married and have children.  I think this is a very real issue, especially for women in high-level jobs, and I could totally relate to Eva’s feelings.  Should she risk her career to pursue love, and then if she finds love will she have to give up her career for her relationship? 

But, and it’s a pretty big but, after a while I found Eva really irritating.  Firstly, I found it grating how she talks about herself all the time.  Maybe that was because the book is written in first-person from Eva’s perspective, but even so I found it off-putting.  Also, one minute Eva’s a strong career woman, the next she’s a crying, blubbering idiot, and then she’s back to being cold.  I thought she flip-flopped too much.  And then she makes all these comments that Alexander must really like how she can be hard and then soft, professional and then personal.  I don’t know about that, but she gave me whiplash! And I found it really annoying!  She could have been this strong character, but then she turned into a mess.  Maybe I became disappointed because I related to her so much in the beginning? I’m not sure.

NOTE: I wanted to add that I also found it totally unrealistic that Eva was an executive and still left the office at 5 p.m. to go out drinking every night.  Working in a similar industry, and with a number of friends who work in finance, I know that in reality her character should have been working at least 12-14 hour days.  There’s no way she would have been able to work 9-5 in that industry, and keep moving up in her company.

I also wasn’t sold on Alexander’s character.  Again, perhaps the limitation was the narrative voice, so we never really got to know him.  But, I just didn’t see what he saw in Eva, and I didn’t find him as swoonworthy as other male characters in some of the recent books I read.  He just wasn’t memorable to me.  She also kept describing him as “giggling” which stripped him of a LOT of masculinity in my books.

One other minor issue was that I didn’t understand the relationship between Samantha and Marcus.  They knew each other for like 5 minutes? It just didn’t seem very authentic to me.  But, again, it was a minor point.

I thought the tragedy in the book which led to the conflict between the main characters to be very well written.  I felt that Eva’s reaction was realistic, and I could understand her motivations and her actions.  Although it was quite sad, I actually felt that part of the book was the most authentic and real.

Overall, it wasn’t horrible, but certainly not the best book I’ve read in the past little while.  I thought it had promise, but something was missing in the final delivery.

*This book was provided to me by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Review: Deep Autumn Heat (Star Harbor #1) by Elisabeth Barrett

Summary: In order to escape an abusive ex-boyfriend, Lexie Meyers moves across the country from California to Star Harbor, Massachusetts.  An amazing chef and baker, Lexie opens her own restaurant and begins to build a new life for herself.  Sebastian Grayson, celebrity chef and major player, returns to Star Harbor from New York City for a long weekend to reconnect with his 3 brothers.  When the two meet, Seb decides to extend his trip, claiming that he wants to focus on his new restaurant and television show.  In his heart, though, he knows that he wants more time getting to know the intriguing Lexie.  But, Lexie has been burned in the past, and she’s not willing to give her heart away a second time.  As Lexie’s past comes back to haunt her, will she allow Seb close enough to reveal his true feelings for her?  Is she strong enough to admit that she has feelings for him too?

Rating: 4/5

Reasons:  This was an easy, light, romantic read.  I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I was in the mood for something “fluffy” and this book hit the spot.  I enjoyed the author’s description of the small town and the people living in it.  Lexie was a great female lead – strong, determined, a survivor definitely.  She was so afraid to get hurt again that she tried to bury the feelings she was developing for Seb.  Oh, Seb.  You were kind of obnoxious but I loved you anyways.  Not afraid to tell Lexie what you were feeling, you captured her (and my) heart.  I mean, a tall, dark, handsome, sexy man on a motorcycle who can cook you an amazing breakfast in the morning – what else could a woman need or want?

I know this book is part of a series, so it was interesting to see how the author introduced the other Grayson brothers in this first installment.  The next book is about Seb’s twin, Theo, and I will read that soon.  I really liked how the brothers were such a tight family unit.  I also really loved how they were such troublemakers as children, and all their pranks were hilarious.

My only negative, which isn’t really a negative at all, is that this book reminded me of Jill Shalvis’ Lucky Harbour Series, which I have already read and absolutely LOVED.  So, I guess compared to those books, this book fell a little flat – BUT I still really, really enjoyed Deep Autumn Heat and plan on reading the next book in the series.

**NOTE: This book was provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.