Only Work, No Play

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After two years of taking care of her heartbroken father, Evie needs a new start. Leaving the States and following her sister to Australia to work as the personal assistant of rugby star Xavier – The Beast – Stevens seems like the right kind of distraction.
Tall, muscled and devilishly handsome, Xavier is the lov’ em and leav’ em kind of guy. He never forgets a girl’s name because he never bothers to remember it in the first place.
Evie soon realizes that being Xavier’s assistant is a 24/7 job; the man seems unwilling to even set an alarm for himself.
As she watches him move from one woman to the next, Evie is glad that her heart is safe from his attention. After all, she’s a far cry from the size zero models he usually takes to his bed.
But soon being around Xavier doesn’t feel like a job, and seeing him walk around his apartment half naked all the time isn’t helping either. Evie knows that giving in to her attraction will lead to heartbreak, but when Xavier starts treating her as more than just his assistant, resisting his charms seems like an impossible task.

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I have read nearly all of Cora Reilly’s romance novels, but this was the first time reading one that was not a mafia romance story. Only Work, No play is a sports romance novel that is set in Australia!!! As if I didn’t want to travel there badly enough already, lol.

Xavier is a pretty decent guy in private. He is the star of the best rugby team in Australia, and flaunts his wealth, privilege and star status in public, and in the bedroom.  But I could relate to him anyway. Xavier is a very private man, who plays up to the media as a rugby star in order to benefit the team and control the media’s prying into his life, to some extent. He gives money to non-profits privately, is an insanely loyal friend, a fantastic brother and would do anything for his family.

Evie is incredibly self-conscious about her weight and size, as most of us women are. She is especially so because she is surrounded by professional athletes every day, both at work and at home. I was glad to see another plus size lead character in a romance novel. And even happier that Xavier was not attracted to her despite her weight or because of her weight. He couldn’t have cared less about her physical looks, because they fell in love over a shared sense of humour, shared (nerd!) interests and an abundance of snark.

I did feel like this book finished rather abruptly. The majority of the time the author was bringing the hero and heroine together and once there relationship had become established as a girlfriend-boyfriend one for a couple of months, the story ended. Even in the epilogue, they are still a new couple of less than one year. A lot of romance novels end that way so I don’t know why it bothered me so much, but it did this time around. Regardless, Only Work, No play is absolutely a book I know I will read again.

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My Secret Valentine (2018)

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A young woman takes advice from the notes that are left by a mysterious “Handyman” when a sales rep arrives with plans to buy her family’s winery.

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My secret Valentine is a 2018 Hallmark film set around – you guessed it Valentine’s Day. It stars Lacey Chabert (as Chloe) and Andrew Walker (as Seth).

I watched this movie for the first time and fell in love so I of course had to share it. Its a short, sweet movie with romance, family and good friends, and just a little cheese. I enjoyed my evening in on the couch, snuggling, eating chocolate and watching romance unfold. There were definitely a couple of moments when I could be Chloe!

Watch the trailer here! I promise, the acting is better than than the trailer makes it out to be.

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Keeping Lily (Disciples #1)

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My husband traded me away to save his own life…

And now I belong to the devil.

One night and everything in my life changed. Two words and my world turned dark.

“Take her”.

Owing the most ruthless crime lord in Garden City five million dollars, my husband chose to trade me and my children away to save himself.

I was on the cusp of freedom, so close to divorcing that scumbag I was married to.

Now I’m enslaved to a man who is obsessed with me. A man so wicked and beautiful, they call him Lucifer.

So alluring, he makes the angels weep with envy. He’s so powerful, I can’t stop myself from bending to his will.

He’s determined to master me, and he won’t rest until I give him all.

He wants my light, and he wants my dark.

He wants my body, and he wants my heart.

But most of all, he wants the one thing I can’t give him. The one thing I can’t bear to part with…

—                          —                          —

The Disciples series is a dark romance mafia series based in Chicago. There are four books (as of Feb 2019) in the series. The whole series is available on the Kindle Unlimited program on Amazon at the moment.

In Keeping Lily, the head of the organization, “Lucifer”, finds out that his target – a man who borrowed $5 million he cannot repay – has a beautiful wife and children. Lucifer immediately falls in love with the woman, just from the picture in her husband’s file.

So he does what any self-respecting mobster does. Takes what he wants.

Lucifer gently corrals Lily and her children into his home and life, adopting both kids as his own and marrying himself to Lily through his nefarious connections in government.

To me, this seemed perfectly acceptable. It’s a dark romance. Handsome, rich mobster sees what he wants and takes it.

Lily’s reactions were harder for me to accept. I can appreciate the physical attraction that she felt, but she gets over the fear way too easily and quickly for my liking. She came across as ‘too dumb to live’. Even though romance novels are essentially escapism, for me, there has to be a certain amount of realism in them as well. Otherwise, the characters and the relationships that they develop feel unauthentic and I lose interest in the story.

This is particularly true when kids are involved. Lucifer never threatens her children, and is fiercely protective of them, even though he isn’t exactly sure how to parent in the beginning. Regardless, Lily shouldn’t just trust him with her kiddos …. that is part of what held me back from full-throttle jumping in. I will still recommend this book though, and will read and review the following books in the series shortly!

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I Owe You One

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From #1 New York Times bestselling author Sophie Kinsella, an irresistible story of love and empowerment about a young woman with a complicated family, a handsome man who might be “the one,” and an IOU that changes everything

Fixie Farr has always lived by her father’s motto: “Family first.” But since her dad passed away, leaving his charming housewares store in the hands of his wife and children, Fixie spends all her time picking up the slack from her siblings instead of striking out on her own. The way Fixie sees it, if she doesn’t take care of her father’s legacy, who will? It’s simply not in her nature to say no to people.

So when a handsome stranger in a coffee shop asks her to watch his laptop for a moment, Fixie not only agrees—she ends up saving it from certain disaster. Turns out the computer’s owner is an investment manager. To thank Fixie for her quick thinking, Sebastian scribbles an IOU on a coffee sleeve and attaches his business card. But Fixie laughs it off—she’d never actually claim an IOU from a stranger. Would she?

Then Fixie’s childhood crush, Ryan, comes back into her life and his lack of a profession pushes all of Fixie’s buttons. She wants nothing for herself—but she’d love Seb to give Ryan a job. And Seb agrees, until the tables are turned once more and a new series of IOUs between Seb and Fixie—from small favors to life-changing moments—ensues. Soon Fixie, Ms. Fixit for everyone else, is torn between her family and the life she really wants. Does she have the courage to take a stand? Will she finally grab the life, and love, she really wants?

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I have been reading Sophie Kinsella’s work for more than a decade, and I have never not fallen in love with one of her books. I Owe You One is her more recent novel and another great story. It was so good, that I have actually read it twice, before even getting my review written!

This book has some of my favourite romantic tropes: family drama, a cast of secondary characters, and a hot wealthy man ready to sweep her off her feet.

The main character is nick-named Fixie, and this perfectly personifies her. I think it is cute and (too my way of thinking) common in British literary humour. I was reminded of the book I’ve Got Your Number (also by this author) but I still didn’t feel like I was reading the same book twice.

Now I need to point out here, the book wasn’t exactly what I was expecting. I misread the promotional blurb and thought that it said the IUD that changed everything, not the IOU. lol, the story is still amazing!

The best things about Kinsella’s stories are that you can always count on a happy ending and the story itself is fairly light. I recently read some “romances” that had me bawling my eyes out and that is not my cup of tea. With Kinsella, I know exactly what I am getting: humour, romance, entertainment and maybe a moral lesson or two!

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Not a Hero (Sons of the Survivalist #1)

Sons of the survivalist #1

In the Alaska wilderness, four streetwise boys became men—and brothers

Now the crazy ex-military survivalist who plucked Gabriel and three other boys from an abusive foster care home has died. But the sarge leaves them a final mission–to revive the dying town of Rescue.

Gabe is done with being a hero.

Wounded in body and soul, the retired SEAL simply wants to remain holed up in his isolated cabin. He sure doesn’t want to be chief of police in some defunct town. But he has his orders.

Audrey needs a place to hide

After the Chicago librarian discovers a horrendous crime, she wakes to an assassin in her bedroom. Injured and terrified, she flees, covering her trail every inch of the way. New name, new ID. New home. As Audrey learns to survive in Rescue, she begins to fall for the town…and the intimidating chief of police who protects it.

Can the shy introvert and the deadly police chief find a life together?

Despite the discord in town, Gabe is finding his own peace…with the quiet young woman who seems to have no past. She’s adorable and caring and so very lost. But how can he trust someone who lies to him with every breath she takes?

—                         —                         —

Not a Hero is the first book in a new series by Cherise Sinclair. It is set in Alaska and features 4 alpha male hunks who stumble across their true loves.

It is the first book of Ms. Sinclair to not feature BDSM (to my knowledge). I have always been a huge fan of hers and every series or standalone that she has written to date.

This one wasn’t a hit for me though.

Audrey is every book nerd’s alter ego I think. She goes from quiet, shy, introverted librarian with little self-confidence and social skills, to a kickbutt survivalist at the heart of her newfound community in Rescue, Alaska.

Gabe was also a great character, but I didn’t warm up to him as much. He is extremely measured and controlled. And not that dominant personalities have a stranglehold on those traits, but it reminded me of Ms. Sinclair’s Dom characters so much that I found it difficult to separate him from the lifestyle.

It just felt like something was always missing in this story, and I am pretty sure that it was the BDSM. Maybe it is because I am so used to this author writing alpha male kinkster heroes that I couldn’t accept it wasn’t meant to be in this series, or maybe it is the author who cannot separate her characters from that mindset, but I couldn’t quite fall into the rhythm of this love story.

I still plan on reading the following stories, although I hope the author keeps writing her existing series as well! Maybe you will like this book more than I did 🙂

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Vengeance Road (Torpedo Ink #2)

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Breezy Simmons was born into a ruthless motorcycle club—and now that she’s out, she’s never going to be that girl again. But when her past catches up with her, Breezy must go to Sea Haven to seek out the man who almost destroyed her. The man who chose his club over her and left her feeling used and alone.

As vice president of Torpedo Ink, Steele is ride or die for the brothers he lived through hell with. He never thought he’d find something as pure as his feelings for Breezy, or that keeping her safe would mean driving her away with cruel words that turned her love for him to ash.

Now, Steele won’t let her walk away twice. He’ll do whatever it takes to make Breezy his woman again—especially when he learns the real reason she came to him for help, and that the stakes are higher than he ever could have imagined.

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Vengeance Road starts off like a rocket, with action and confrontation between Steele and Breezy. There are a lot of strong emotions on the table, so the story captures your attention right away, and holds it through to the end of the book.

I think I have some sort of “hero manhandling his true love” fetish going on here …..

There is a lot of communication in this romance. More than any other couple in the Sea Haven books, I think Breezy and Steele really work through their issues with communication.

I liked the introduction she has to Torpedo Ink. Although she had met the members in the past, she has never seen their true selves or experienced the family aspect of club life. Feehan gave us insights into characters mostly in the background until now, especially Maestro and Savage, and I for one cannot wait to read their stories!

Vengeance Road has some seriously dark parts, and Steele goes to his assassin roots in his efforts to retrieve his son from kidnappers, but this would hardly be a surprise to any regular reader of Christine Feehan.

The one thing that annoyed me – and maybe its just because I have seen numerous authors do this lately – is that Steele and Breezy talk about anal sex without actually doing the deed on page. A lot of “dark romances” I’ve read recently have had this trend. If an author is going to write about it, WRITE ABOUT IT! It feels like they are too scared to put it in, for fear of scaring of other readers.

Otherwise …

This will definitely be a book I read again and again. In fact, I have already re-read some of my favourite scenes a couple of times. Can it just be said that I want a Torpedo Ink man for myself, and also Breezy’s home?!!

The next instalment in this series has been confirmed as Vendetta Road (Ice’s story), and it will be out in 2020. Definitely recommend check them out!

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100 Steps to a Plastic-Free Life » My Plastic-free Life

One of my goals for this year is to use less plastic. I used to be so much more environmentally-friendly, but have fallen off in recent years. I am attempting to get back on track! This website gave me a lot of ideas for alternatives and I just filled my wishlist on Amazon with items that will work in my life. As money allows, I will add an item or two to my next regular purchases.

 

Living Life with Less Plastic since 2007.

Source: 100 Steps to a Plastic-Free Life » My Plastic-free Life

Twisted Emotions (Camorra Chronicles #2)

camorra chronicles book 2

Nino Falcone is genius and monster. As the right hand man and brother of the Capo of the Camorra, his lack of feelings is a blessing, not a curse – until his brother asks him to marry for the sake of the Camorra.
Kiara Vitiello, cousin of the Capo of the New York Famiglia, is chosen to marry Nino Falcone to prevent war with the Camorra, but what she hears about Las Vegas makes her veins pulse with terror. After her father betrayed his Capo and paid with his life, her family thinks marriage is her only chance to bring honor to her name; but only Kiara knows she’s a faulty prize given in return for peace.
A man incapable of emotions and a woman scarred by the past – an arranged marriage with the potential to unite, or destroy…

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This was my favourite book from the author since her first one, Bound by Honor. It pumped me up for the next in the series which is supposedly coming out in April 2019. Thankfully, I don’t have a long wait until then.

For a long time fans of Reilly, Twisted Emotions will feel like a throwback to her earlier style. Rather than a love match, Kiara Vitiello is forced to marry Nino Falcone in order to secure a period of peace between the Las Vegas and New York mafias.

Nino is a bit of a cold fish, much like the character Dante Cavallaro was in the second book. However, underneath that cold, calculating brain there is a simmering volcano of emotions, brewing from severe childhood trauma that he has yet to deal with. Slowly, Nino’s emotions break loose loose with Kiara, although he remains very emotionless in every other situation.

Twisted Emotions ended very abruptly, and I didn’t feel like the story built up to an explosive ending. It was a little bit anticlimactic other than the epilogue scene. However, that epilogue very clearly sets up the next book in the series – starring Remo – and I have a feeling that Nino and Kiara’s story will continue to unfold as secondary characters.

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2019 Popsugar Reading Challenge

You can read all about the Popsugar reading challenge here or head straight to the printable version here.

I started the Popsugar challenge last year, and personally, I prefer it to the Read Harder Challenge. The categories are more mainstream and tend to lend themselves to easier reads. I’m all for branching out of your comfort zone, but I don’t want my reading to feel like work either.

I am excited to take on this challenge. I’m looking forward to recording my books and trying to check off each part of the challenge.

Happy Reading!

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Read Harder Challenge 2019

2019 marks the 5th year of the Read Harder Challenge piloted by Book Riot. This challenge encourages readers to read outside of their bubble, exploring new genres, voices and points of view.

There are 24 challenges, creating the expectation that participants will read approximately one book every two weeks.

Many of the categories are chosen as a direct result – and rebuttal – of American politics.

You can download a PDF copy from their website.

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I have participated in this challenge for the last three years, but I am not planning to this year.

Are you going to take the challenge?

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