Tag Archives: contemporary romance

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Book Review: Designed by Destiny, by Maya Tyler

I accepted a copy of Designed By Destiny from the author, Maya Tyler. But I want to take a moment to discuss how I ended up doing that. Because this book is one I wouldn’t normally have chosen to read. The author pulled a bit of a bait and switch on me. I don’t think she did it on purpose, I think she was just sending me her most recent publication. But the end result is the same.

Her Magicals series has been featured over on Sadie’s Spotlight. So, I was aware of her books. When she messaged me to ask what I tend to read I responded that I’m a, “fantasy/urban fantasy/PNR reader” and “your books would def fit with my preferences.” To which she said, “ I’ll send you an ARC for my soon-to-be released para-contemporary romance, Designed by DestinyAfter writing an intense five-book series, I needed something light.”

I groaned right then. Here’s the problem. When I said her books would match my preferences, I was looking at the “intense” PNR with fairies and wizards and strong fantasy vibes. I don’t really do light. I actively avoid contemporary romances. And experience has taught me that para-contemporary romance means contemporary romance with a minor sprinkling of ‘para’. Which is what this book is. It’s a contemporary romance with a side of fairy godmother. Not something I’d have volunteered to read. I’ll take fairies and wizards and intense plots any day of the week, but light and sweet…nah, you can keep that.

I considered writing the author back to say, ‘That’s not what I meant to volunteer for.’ But opted not to, since it was my own lack of clarity that led to the situation. But I wanted to vent a little here and also admit, going in, that I was probably never going to be a 5-star reader for this book.

Regardless, on to the book.

Confirmed bachelor Nicholas Grey is more than the playboy perpetrated by the tabloids. Now his position as CEO of the architecture firm Grey & Company is on the line, and his mother’s interference is making things more difficult. Nick’s committed to his work, but, in order to be taken seriously, he needs to land a huge project. A stable personal life will help guarantee the contract.

Fairy Godmother Faye Delmore hears Nick’s plea and steps in to help. Posing as a publicist, she suggests a strategy to polish his public image, which includes convincing Beth to play his wife. Faye knows Nick needs the huge project to save his job, but she also knows he needs Beth in his life.

What happens when you add a fairy godmother who loves playing matchmaker into the equation? A future designed by destiny.

my review

As I said above, this is not a genre I gravitate toward. However, the writing is clean and easy to read, the editing is tight, and the plot holds together. So, for those who do like contemporary fake relationship plots, this is a perfectly competent one. Unfortunately I do not.

This is farther complicated by the fact that I never came to like Nick, other women were almost universally shown to be jealous and villainous (how cliched), and I thought the fairy godmother aspect just cluttered the plot up. It would have been better as a straight contemporary romance, IMO. And I say that as an avid fantasy reader!

All in all, I think the right reader will love this. There really isn’t anything wrong with it other than being wrong for me. Unfortunately this simply got into the hands of the wrong reader. (Despite the author’s best efforts.)

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Other Review:

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Book Review: Nikolai & Nikolai 2, by Roxie Rivera

Several years ago, I won a signed copy of Nikolai 2. However, I put off reading it because it is book six in the Her Russian Protector series. At the time I’d only read book one (Ivan), and I hadn’t absolutely loved it. I did intend to get around to finishing the series though. But eventually it just got lost in the shelves instead.

Recently, I set out to clear some shelf space by reading some of the books that have been around a long time and some of the fattest ones, taking up the most space. And Nikolai 2 fit both bills. A little investigation convinced me that I didn’t necessarily need to read all five previous books to understand it. So, I purchased a copy of Nikolai (Her Russian Protector 4), where Nikolai and Vivian’s story-line seemed to start, then read Nikolai 2. And while there were obviously events referenced that I didn’t know about, I was 100% able to follow both books.

nikolai Roxie RiveraAbout the book:

After a brush with death as a juvenile delinquent, Vivian swore she’d never stray across that line again—but there’s just one problem with her plan to stay on the right side of the law. She’s completely, irrevocably and unabashedly in love with Nikolai, the Russian mob boss who saved her life.

From the moment Vivian appeared in his life on that tragic April night, Nikolai felt himself inextricably bonded to her. She’s the bright light in his dark world and the only thing that keeps him from sliding deeper into a life of crime and violence—a mobbed-up life he can’t escape no matter how hard he tries.

After Vivian is ripped from his arms in a brazen blitz attack, Nikolai will stop at nothing to get her back—but rescuing her and keeping her safe in his arms isn’t enough. Suddenly, Nikolai’s only chance to keep her safe is to do the one thing he vowed never to do—he’ll drag her deeper into his shadowy world and bind her to him forever.

Because their tangled pasts are about to collide and the shockwave threatens to bring Houston’s criminal underbelly to its knees…

my review

I can absolutely say that I liked this fourth book better than the first in the series, which is all I had to compare it to at the time I wrote this review, having not read the whole series. I liked Nikolai and Vivian, both, as characters and they were sweet together. I appreciated that the author didn’t bother with a bunch of miscommunications and false drama. The couple was unusually honest with one another (except for the one Big Lie at the center of the plot) and it was refreshing.

nikolai photoThe book does follow the old Contemporary Romance dictate that all men must be Big and Rough and Dangerous and all women should be Small and Virginal and Innocent. Blerg. My eye-roll was particularity acute since Rivera was especially prone to point this size difference out during sex scenes. It was always “her small hand” reaching for his cock or his “big hand” tweaking her nipple.

Also on the cliched scale is the fact that the primary challenge of the book comes when Vivian is kidnapped by sex traffickers. The use of abused and exploited women (especially sexually) has got to be THE MOST overused trope in all of human literature. And I am 100% sick of reading it. So much so that, like here, I’ve just started pointing it out whenever I encounter it and asking authors (female authors most of all) to think of something new and MORE INTERESTING. But I do appreciate that Rivera allowed for the abuse of men too, without any drama about it undermining their masculinity.

But overall, I enjoyed Nikolai and Vivian’s story. They were a good match, even with the age gap. I look forward to seeing how their story progresses.

nikolai 2About the book:

Claimed and cherished by Houston’s most ruthless mob boss, artist Vivian Kalasnikov embraces her new position as Nikolai’s wife and the lonely, dangerous role as queen of Houston’s underworld. But Nikolai is keeping secrets from her, and the whispers of a coming street war leave her terrified for the man she so passionately loves—and the tiny life growing inside her.

Nikolai finally has everything he’s ever wanted—power, wealth and a family with Vivian, the beautiful sun who lights up his dark life. But as his young wife prepares for her debut on the international art stage, he finds himself drawn into a bloody conflict that threatens the quiet life he’s painstakingly built. He can feel the promise of his future happiness slipping through his fingers like grains of sand.

One wrong move, and he’ll lose Vivian and his child forever. One wrong move, and he won’t see another sunrise.

The sins of their fathers have come back to haunt Vivian and Nikolai. To protect his beloved wife and his heir, he’ll do absolutely anything. The brutal gangster who violently conquered the streets of Moscow and Houston is about to be unleashed—and Houston’s underworld will never be the same again.

my review
I enjoyed this second half (part, maybe) of Nikolai and Vivian’s story. Seeing broken men find their balm in the form of a woman does check some pretty satisfying buttons, I admit. But the book just leans so, so heavily on the the gendered stereotypes of ‘she’s innocent, kind, and forgiving’ (and that last one is important because he needs her forgiveness often) and ‘he’s nikolai2 photobroken, violent, and dangerous’ (except, he really doesn’t live up to this). I know some people really like this dynamic, that’s why we see it so often. But I’ve read it so many times that I’m bored with it and want to see some variety. (But that’s more a genre complaint than an individual book complaint, I suppose.)

I liked the twists and complications that have cropped up in Nikolai and Vivian’s life. It makes for an interesting book. I did think the end felt really rushed. It’s as if most of the book kind of meanders along and then, all of a sudden, a lot of stuff started happening off page and reported very briefly before the book wraps up in a snap. It literally felt like Rivera ran out of pages and had to squeeze the last bits in.

But, all in all, I enjoyed more than I didn’t.

Other Reviews:

The Reading Cafe – Nikolai, Her Russian Protect #4

The Book Pusher – Nikolai, Her Russian Protector #6

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Book Review: Christmasly Obedient, by Julia Kent

Julia Kent‘s Christmasly Obedient was featured on Sadie’s Spotlight last Christmas season. The promo material included a copy of the book. However, I was in the middle of a kitchen remodel last December and didn’t do any purposeful Christmas reading. But I happen to be doing a Christmas Reading Challenge this year, so it got read at last.

Tree picking in glorious, downeast Maine. Snow. Santa. Roaring fires, people you love, and a good life. What more could a guy want?

Or, rather, two guys?

Mike and Jeremy have a quiet life with Lydia, on her parents’ family campground in Verily, Maine. It’s a little boring, sure, but after the craziness of their old lives, what’s wrong with boring?

Besides, Jeremy and Mike find Lydia anything but.

As Christmas looms, and an unexpected oops leaves them all in a state of uncertainty, they have to ask themselves: is it time to let life be a little less boring?

And what’s inside that slim box Lydia’s giving them both on Christmas morning?

my review
When I first went through all my books and picked out the Christmas themed one to make a Christmas reading list, I included Christmasly Obedient. I later took it off the list because it is number four in a series and I neither own nor have read the previous three books. I didn’t think I had the time to do so during the period I’d allotted myself for the reading challenge. Then, I came across two reviews that stated the book had been read as a standalone and it was fine. So, I put it back on the list and read it.

Turns out the book does stand alone. Now, I won’t pretend I didn’t feel the lack of those previous three books. By this point the threesome is established, the characters have had three books to grow and get to know one another, etc. And yes, you notice that. But the plot contained within this book does stand alone and it’s quite sweet.

I liked seeing everyone come to terms with the situation. I liked the family cameos. There wasn’t a lot of sex, but it was the right amount of spice for a short read. I did think the guys came across as unlikable at times. But I also sensed that their gruff personalities were meant to have been tempered in previous books. So, what I was supposed to see was that the situations wasn’t unrealistically hearts and roses, not just grumps.

All in all, I enjoyed it.

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