New Release Book Review: Tough Guy by Rachel Reid

Tough Guy (Game Changers, #3)Tough Guy is book #3 in the Game Changers series, MM romances set in the world of hockey. I really enjoyed book #1 Game Changers and book #2 Heated Rivalry, so I was straight onto it when I saw book #3 was out.

This novel focuses on Ryan Price a hockey enforcer whose job it seems is to fight the other team’s players who try to start trouble with his team members during the game (not knowing a thing about hockey, this is what I interpreted it to mean). It is a brutal role to play in the team and other than his size, it’s not one that Ryan is suited for.

When he is picked up by a new team, he moves to Toronto and bumps into an old friend, Fabian, a musician, who he used to have a major crush on years before. It turns out Fabian felt the same way, but back then they were both dealing with teenage drama as well as learning about their sexuality.

I felt for Ryan and Fabian, both having issues about their self worth, brought on by different things. For Fabian, it was awful parents and for Ryan it came about due to his self-hatred about his job of fighting and hurting people and the way he was bounced from team to team, never fitting in anywhere.

These two guys are very different, but I enjoyed the dynamics between them and how they pushed each other out of their comfort zone and made them think about what they wanted in life and in their future.

Another enjoyable read in this series, I do hope there will be more.

Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Carina Press for a digital copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

New Release Book Review: Two Hearts Healing by Renee Dahlia

Two Hearts HealingTwo Hearts Healing by Renee Dahlia is book 3 in the Merindah Park series and focuses on the third sibling Serena and her trainer boss Lee.

Serena is recovering from an accident whilst riding in a horse race, she’s dealing with the recovery of both physical injuries and traumatic brain injury. It is definitely not an easy time and Renee Dahlia does a great job of showing us some of the many impacts TBI can have on a person, while reminding us it is different for everyone and whilst someone can look physically ok, that doesn’t mean they aren’t struggling with hidden issues.

Serena is stubborn, whereas before the accident she would do as she was told, she is starting to find her voice and make decisions based on what she truly wants and feels is important to her, the top two things on her list are to ride again and to kiss Lee.

Lee has been blaming himself for Serena’s accident and has cut himself off from Shannon, Serena’s brother, and his friend, as well as from Serena. When she turns up unexpectedly asking for help to get back on a horse, Lee is left feeling emotions he has no idea how to deal with. His relationship with his parents has played a major role in how Lee sees himself and how he holds himself emotionally around others, and Serena is about to test every one of those walls and boundaries he has put around himself.

I really enjoyed these two characters, and while the banter between them was fun, there were also misunderstandings, arguments, and revelations. There is plenty of growth in store for both characters as they negotiate their feelings for each other and try and figure out what they want and what it means to have those things. 

We met Serena in book two Making Her Mark as she is Rachel’s twin and they were both struggling to build a real relationship between each other as they are both quite different people. While in Making Her Mark Serena had Rachel’s back, it is nice to see their relationship has continued to grow and this time Rachel is there for Serena.

I have learnt a great deal about the horseracing industry through this series, in book one Merindah Park there is the issue of gambling, then in Making her Mark I leanrt about the extra work female jockeys have to do to get the same respect as their male counterparts, and in Two Hearts Healing I learnt about the care of horses and the issue of finding the correct homes for them when they can no longer race. It is evident that Renee Dahlia has great knowledge and love of this industry and is determined to educate us about what really goes on.

I’ve really enjoyed this series so far and I really hope there is a fourth for the last brother Shannon.

Thanks to NetGalley and Escape Publishing for a digital copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

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New Release Book Review – Last Bridge Before Home by Lily Malone

Last BridgeI loved the first two books in the Chalk Hill series, Water Under the Bridge and The Cafe by the Bridge and have been looking forward to Last Bridge Before Home. It certainly didn’t disappoint. Where The Cafe by the Bridge highlighted male depression and the need to ask for help, Last Bridge Before Home deals with another topical issue, domestic abuse.

Jaydah for all she comes across as a strong young woman is also an insecure young woman who has been physically and mentally abused for most of her life by her father who is an absolute bastard. It’s not just Jaydah who has been a victim to this vile excuse of a man, but also her mother and her sister Jasmine. Much of Jaydah’s life has been spent protecting them from her father and taking on responsibility for keeping them all safe. I can’t imagine living like Jaydah, being so afraid to tell anyone what is going on, keeping so many secrets all to herself, huge secrets that no one in the town of Chalk Hill has any idea about.

But is that really true? Well, one secret yes, but most people in Chalk Hill had an inkling that things weren’t exactly right with Jaydah’s father, but no one wanted to step up and ask questions, then afterwards they say ‘why didn’t you say something, why didn’t you tell us?’ way to pass the blame to the victim. This happens in real life all too often, no one wants to take responsibility for what might be going on behind closed doors, maybe we should start looking out for each other and asking the hard questions ‘Do you need help? Can I do anything? Is everything all right?’. Be there and let the people/person in question know that when they are ready, you are there, no judgement, just support.

Brix, what a lovely, loyal guy he was, and no pun intended, but what a ‘brick’ of a character he was. Jaydah has always been the love of his life and he has never given up hope that one day she will be his. Jaydah has kept her secrets even from Brix who thought he knew everything about her. I’m not sure how I would have coped if I found out all of my partners secrets and had to deal with all the issues that Brix does, but the way he took it all in his stride despite his worries about how he would deal with everything was fabulous and truly showed his love for Jaydah.

Another issue that Lily Malone deals with in this novel is the aspect of caring for someone with an intellectual disability and all it entails. She also delves into the dreams of people with a disability and what they can realistically expect when it comes to freedom of choice and their future. This is a hard topic as anyone who cares for or works with a person with disabilities can attest to. I work with people with disabilities and I can’t imagine what it would be like to have the responsibility for a person day in, day out, to make the hard choices, to explain why they can’t have everything they see others around them having. Dealing with the behaviours of people with intellectual disabilities is challenging and Lily Malone has done a great job with both her character portrayal and showing the good and the bad of living with such a challenge.

There were many tense moments in this novel, there were heartbreaking moments, moments of joy, moments I wanted to take one of Jaydah’s kali sticks and whack her father across the head for her, there were ups and downs and many wonderful moments threaded through this novel making it an absolute joy to read despite its darkness.

I hope we get to visit Chalk Hill again and see how the three brothers and their partners are going, along with their extended families.

Thanks to Harlequin Mira Australia and NetGalley for providing me with a digital copy in return for an honest review.

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Book Bingo round 17 and New Release Book Review: Singapore Sapphire by A.M. Stuart

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This fortnight I am crossing off the square Book with a place in the title, author Alison Stuart pointed out that this would be the perfect book for that square.The choices are getting smaller. If you have any suggestions for the remaining squares, I’d love to hear them.

Early twentieth-century Singapore is a place where a person can disappear, and Harriet Gordon hopes to make a new life for herself there, leaving her tragic memories behind her–but murder gets in the way.

Singapore Sapphire (Harriet Gordon Mystery #1)Singapore Sapphire is book #1 in the Harriet Gordon Mystery series and was a great introduction to this new character and setting of 1910 Singapore. I enjoyed this novel a great deal and thought Harriet was a great character, she was a contradiction of the times and definitely not one to be kept in a box. Harriet takes things into her own hands doing some investigating of her own to try and figure out who the murderer is.

My favourite character after Harriet was Inspector Robert Curran who is in charge of the murder investigation. He was another character who was ahead of the times and didn’t always toe the line. I really enjoyed his interactions with Harriet and how he realised it would be helpful to have her on his side rather than trying to make her stand on the sidelines.

This isn’t a simple murder though and there are many twists and turns, people who aren’t who they seem to be and mysteries that arise from the past.

The imagery that Ms Stuart manages to portray through her words was wonderful and I could absolutely see Singapore as it was in 1910. The characters of the ‘good guys’ and the ‘bad guys’ were well written, I definitely wouldn’t have wanted to be on the bad guys hit list.

I look forward to the next Harriet Gordon Mystery.

Thanks to NetGalley and Berkley Publishing Group for providing me with a digital copy in return for an honest review.

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New Release Book Review: Fast Lane by Juanita Kees

I really enjoyed Overdrive: book 1 in Calhoun Customs Garage series when I read it last year, but I loved Fast Lane: book 2 even more.

Fast Lane (Calhoun Customs Garage, #2)There’s plenty of adrenaline-packed action and chemistry to be had in this book as well as some more serious issues.

Trinity Calhoun is a world-class race car driver and she’s just about to retire and return to Bigfork to be with her dad who is struggling with Parkinson’s. A freak accident in her last race has her meeting gorgeous paramedic Reece, better known as Angel.

Racing is a dangerous sport and a tragedy has touched Reece and he is now guardian for 9-year-old Tyler. This tragedy has also brought him to Bigfork.

I really enjoyed returning to the town and to the Calhoun family.

Trinity’s love of speed and Reece’s dislike of the dangers of speed and cars mean that these two getting together have them needing to overcome some obstacles. I really enjoyed the growing relationship between these two, something that started out as a fun kiss turns into so much more. I liked the way they discussed things and tried to work out what they both wanted.

One character I hope we get to hear more from was Tyler, he has survived a tragic accident, but has definitely not come out of it unscathed and it will take a lot to make him feel whole again. Having Reece and Trinity in his corner will definitely help his healing and I really want to know how he goes after this book.

I also look forward to seeing how the other Calhoun siblings go with finding their HEAs, it was great to see how Chase and Charlie were going from book 1.

I hope I don’t have to wait 12 months for the next instalment of the Calhoun Customs Garage.

Thanks to NetGalley and Tule Publishing for a digital copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

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Pre-release Book Review: The Kissing Contract by Amy Andrews

This was such a fun read, with plenty of sexual tension, a couple of hot scenes, tons of banter and nearly 200 bunnies.

Screenshot_20190708_112358I had a fun time catching Bunnies with Gus and sexy Marshall. When Marshall is ordered by the court to help Gus and the ABL (American Bunny League), you can tell straight away there’s going to be plenty of back and forth between these two characters.

I found Gus and her adamance on following the contract they signed saying no kissing to be amusing considering the sexual tension between the two of them. Also it wasn’t just Marshall who was suffering, I’m not sure I could have held out like she did. But she has her reasons for holding out, past hurts can be nasty things to get over.

I enjoyed Marshall’s teasing of Gus and his frustration with the situation as well as his adamance that he would eventually get that kiss.

I liked the way Marshall started to appreciate the island on a different level over the month he spent there with Gus catching Bunnies, he had a lot of healing to do himself.

This was a fun escapist read, that put a smile on my face and gave me plenty of giggles along the way.

The authors note at the back of the book is definitely worth reading for an extra smile.

Thanks to NetGalley and Entangled Publishing: Amara for providing me with a digital copy of this book in return for an honest review.

Pre-order your copy today, released on the 15th July 2019

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Book Bingo Round 13 and New Release Book Review: The Postmistress by Alison Stuart

IMG_20190606_200715This week I mark off another square on my Bingo sheet. I’ve picked Historical for this fortnight’s square and chose new release novel  The Postmistress by Alison Stuart for this square.

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A historical fiction novel set in the harsh Australian outback and gold mining town in 1871.

In a small struggling mining town we meet Adelaide 10 years on from the Prologue where she is making a life for herself and her son. For me, Adelaide came across as older than she was, this would be because she’d had to eke out a living for her and her son and her friend Betty, who I loved. She portrayed herself as a widow so as to be socially acceptable for the times, a single, unwed mother would not be at all respectable.

I loved the character of Caleb, an American who comes to town to look at a mining claim. Caleb has some traumatic history he is running from and secrets, just like Adelaide.

I enjoyed the relationship between Adelaide and Caleb, and Adelaide’s son Danny. Caleb’s arrival is the catalyst for much change in the small town.

We have a completely unlikeable character enter the picture at one point and I seriously questioned Adelaide’s judgement with her decision making. But in those times, women would’ve felt they had less choices than they do now. 

The small town characters and problems were depicted so well, I could see them all clearly in my head. I really enjoy this novel, which at its heart was a love story, with hardships and suspense thrown in to the mix.

Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Australia for providing me with a digital copy in return for an honest review.

 

 

Book Review: Under the Midnight Sky by Anna Romer

Wow what a fabulous read, for some reason I’ve been putting off reading this book despite loving Anna Romer’s other books. I’m so glad I finally managed to read it. With its mysterious and darkly atmospheric cover, it completely sets the scene for the secrets that are going to be uncovered. This is a mystery, a thriller, a love story, a story about family, forgiveness, trauma and letting the past go and getting on with life.

IMG_20190508_003954Talk about twists and turns. I did have my suspicions about one of the mysteries, but some of the events leading up to the reveals were unexpected. The characters were well written and relatable, thankfully, despite not having been through the traumatic experiences that Abby and Lilly had been through I was still able to put myself in their shoes, not that I’d want to.

Abby has been through a traumatic experience as a child which has continued to haunt her and has laid the foundations for how she lives her life, never trusting people, unable to forgive herself for anything or believe others will truly love her.

I loved Tom, the surly hermit-like author who Abby goes to interview and ends up with far more than she ever expected. Meeting Tom was the catalyst for all the changes and truths that come about during the course of the story.

A mystery that is uncovered in Tom’s house and possible links to the past lead Abby to meet Lilly and Joe and learn a lot about secrets and the tricks the mind can play.

Through diary entries we slowly glean information about the events that Lilly survived, and the things that happened in the past. But you’ll have to wait until the end to uncover everything.

I completely disliked Abby’s editor Kendra and her thoughts on who and what kind of people deserve our attention, compassion and help made my blood boil. It is the marginalised people who most need these things from us.

This was a 5⭐ read and one I have no trouble recommending.

Thanks to NetGalley and Simon and Schuster Australia for a digital copy of this novel in return for an honest review.

 

Book Review: Arctic Sun by Annabeth Albert

I always enjoy Annabeth Albert’s books and her new book Arctic Sun is no exception, the first in the Frozen Hearts series, this was a journey of discovery for our two main characters.

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Griffen, a pilot in his family business, has been dealing with grief and is a recovering alcoholic who struggles to be around people and has the belief that he doesn’t deserve to be happy and isn’t worthy of being loved. River is an ex-supermodel, who has dealt with an eating disorder for most of his life, leading to hospitalisation. He has used travel as a way to heal, and also a way to run away from anything real. When these two damaged men are thrown together on a photography trip in Alaska, sparks will fly.

The descriptions of Alaska on this trip alone made me want to save up and go there ASAP, also, if there are more mountain men like Griffen, I’d be there even quicker. I loved the journey these two had to traverse, both the physical and the emotional journey. Though it was the emotional journey which took its toll on these two guys who are both dealing with so many issues. I was invested in their romance from the start and as I got to know the characters and what they had been through, and what they were dealing with still, my heart ached with hope that they would make the journey and end up together.

This story explored the physical and emotional relationship between the guys and it was a really great exploration. There was humour in their initial hookups and I loved the way River was able to make Griffen lower his walls and have a bit of fun, River was certainly not willing to give up on this happening while they were on the trip. The sexual tension was hard to ignore for both parties.

Hearing River’s story about his eating disorder was sad, I have a friend with an eating disorder and know how badly it can affect someone. Watching him struggle through each day, worried about what he was eating, feeling sick at the thought of eating, was really sad, hearing him explain to Griffen how he couldn’t see himself the ways others, especially Griffen saw him was also really sad. This is such a sad disease that definitely needs more attention, as does the way the fashion industry and magazines etc, portray the idea of perfection. It’s also great to have a male portrayed with this issue, as it is mainly women we think about when we hear ‘eating disorder’.

Griffen’s issues were subtler but no less damaging to his life and his future. Dealing with his avoidance of group situations, especially ones where people may be drinking was hard for him to navigate. As was his belief he wasn’t worthy of good things happening to him. In this River and Griffen had so much in common and were able to connect through this.

A great read, with two guys who deserved more than they had and needed each other to open up and start healing.

 

Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin – Carina Press for a digital copy in return for an honest review.

Pre-release Book Review: In a Great Southern Land by Mary-Anne O’Connor

I have just finished reading this wonderful novel, but I’m not sure my heart or my nerves could have taken much more. Mary-Anne O’Connor certainly put all my emotions through the wringer and my stress levels through the roof. Everytime I put the book down saying “Oh my god, I can’t read any more”, my offsider would tell me, “It’s only a story”, “No mate, it’s really not, it is so much more, I’m completely enmeshed in these peoples lives and this author is killing me!”

IMG_20190309_154143When we meet Eve she’s a maid in a rich house, knowing from the blurb that she ends up penniless and sent to Botany Bay, I continued reading with trepidation, not wanting to get to the bad parts about why this happens. This trepidation occured on and off throughout the story, at 70 something % I actually had to do something I rarely do and skim forward to a few pages near the end just so I could see if it was going to turn out OK, even after doing this, my level of angst was high for the rest of the story, until the end, which was a wonderful ending.

Kieran and his family have many trials to work through to achieve their dreams of a new life in Australia. I loved Kieran’s character, he really was a lovely guy who I felt was a little lost until he finds his ‘gold’. Kieran suffers the most out of his family members, he’s the main reason I wanted to put the book down so often.

Eve’s story is one of terrible circumstances, circumstances that back in the 1850s occurred far too often to the lower classes, but hers is also a story of bravery in the face of all that she has to deal with.

It’s hard to reconcile the Sydney I know with the one Mary-Anne O’Connor describes. “Rows of buildings painstakingly constructed from the local limestone relieved their heated skin as they passed through The Rocks but it did little to relieve the stench of humanity living in squalor. Refuse lined the steep, narrow streets and the faces that passed by were streaked with dirt, mostly workmen such as themselves… this was the convict side of town.” I can’t even begin to imagine having to face the kind of hardships and treatment convicts had to deal with back then, many just for stealing an apple. As with everything in this story, the depiction of the crossing in the convict ship had me completely there, on that ship with Eve and her fellow passengers, the experience was not a pleasant one, the ones who survived and were able to make a life in Australia were extremely lucky.

I’ve read a few books set in the gold fields and around The Eureka Stockade now, and each time I learn a little more about the history of this country, the atrocities that were carried out by order of the government and the people killed trying to defend their rights, and how the people of that time helped form the democracy we have today. “And all because men had united under the Southern Cross, that sky-flung symbol of freedom, and the Australian public and her juries had refused to allow them to be punished for doing so. For ultimately all they wanted was fairness and equality, two things they would now hopefully build this land on, giving future generations a parliament where all classes could be represented  from all nations of this earth.” I think it’s important we are reminded of the sacrifices our forebearers made to give us these rights and freedoms that we now take for granted.

Mary-Anne O’Connor has done an incredibly good job of bringing to life the time and the places in which this novel is set. The characters are a miriad of different people from all walks of life, some are nicer than others, but all are needed to tell this story. There are heartbreaking moments in this story, but also moments full of joy. Life in the 1850s was certainly not the easiest of times and I’m not sure I’d have survived. Though I guess just like the characters in this story, none of us know how strong we are and what we are capable of until we are put in situations that require us to be, “This great southern land was wild and unpredictable, sometimes savage, sometimes beautiful  but like anywhere there was opportunity, if you sought to find it.” 

This is the second book by Mary-Anne O’Connor I’ve read, War Flower was also a heartbreaking but fabulous read, I have Gallipoli Street sitting on my shelf and once I get over the emotional experience of In a Great Southern Land, I will be making time to read it.

Thanks to NetGalley and Harlequin Australia for providing me a digital copy to review. 

Available 18th March 2019

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