Review: Once In A Lifetime by Jill Shalvis

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Despite my finding the title Ms. Shalvis gave this book confusing/misleading, “Once In A Lifetime” is a hell of a lot better than the two books preceding it in the author’s “Lucky Harbor” series. Hence, the 4 out 5 stars rating I gave it on Goodreads.

Ben McDaniels is the local Boy Whom Everybody Loves. Aubrey Wellington is the local Girl Who Everybody Likes To Hate. She tries to right her past wrongs (following step 8 in The Twelve Steps of Alcoholic Anonymous – but she’s not an alcoholic), and he tries to get over his dead wife. Sounds simple? That’s because it is.

Simple does always do it for me, though. In book #8 in the Lucky Harbor series, the heroine, Leah, was just plain annoying. Here in “Once In A Lifetime,” however, I surprisingly found Aubrey likable, in spite of how she was first portrayed in Shalvis’ previous books (e.g., seductress, cheat, thinks she’s better than anyone else). Aubrey also acknowledges that she was a bitch, which in some cases, I also thought she was. But, then again, in real life, who amongst us haven’t been a bitch at one point or another? Ben, on the other hand, is a classic Shalvis-hero: sexy, owns abs of steel, handsome, quiet, macho, and alpha. Because the main characters are relatable and likable, I have to say I really liked this book.

I have to say, though, that some of the “wrongs” Aubrey’s been trying to correct are overly exaggerated. For instance, the one where she cost her look-alike sister, Carla, an internship/job because she was late to an appointment where she was supposed to pretend to be Carla? Pfft. That was a non-wrong. Hello? The favor she was supposed to have done for Carla was ethically wrong. Carla should’ve woman-ed up in the first place, and re-scheduled her conflicting appointments, just so she didn’t have to ask Aubrey to pretend to be her. Why was Carla carrying a grudge anyway? She got the same internship the next year. Jesus.

And then that “wrong” she did to her hero-counterpart, Ben? The one where she caused Ben’s first love, Hannah, to break up with him just before the end of high school? That was a bit pathetic, to my mind. Ben used it as an excuse to break up with Aubrey. Granted, this little plot twist was the climax of the story, but it was still a weak one. Ben thought things through, concluding that Hannah did not fight for him in high school (ironically, he and Hannah met again two years after the break up and eventually married each other). He also determined that Aubrey was willing to fight for him (proven by the fact that she said so, while she was drunk), despite making him lose two years with Hannah – two years, which he used to fullest extent of his sexual freedom.

Ms. Shalvis has a tried-and-true formula in her contemporary romance books. I think you either like it or hate it. Her writing style is smooth and easy-to-read. Some of her characters can be annoying (e.g., the gossips of Lucky Harbor, Leah in book 8), but despite these hiccups, Ms. Shalvis’ books would always spaces in my e-bookshelf.

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Review: Darling Beast by Elizabeth Hoyt

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“Darling Beast” is a terrible title, in my opinion. But I couldn’t pass it up. It’s the seventh book in Elizabeth Hoyt’s “Maiden Lane” series, a series that I just can’t stop reading and enjoying. The beast in this story is Apollo Greaves, Viscount Kilbourne, twin brother to Artemis Batten, Duchess of Wakefield, who was first introduced to readers in the second book of the series. His darling is Lily Stump, a.k.a. Robin Goodfellow, who’s a revered comedic actress and playwright in Ms. Hoyt’s fictional 18th century London. Apollo and Lily met while the former Bedlam inmate was hiding in plain sight as a gardener in the burned down Harte’s Folly, a pleasure garden (e.g., open-air theatre) where Lily and her little family were temporarily living. Lily’s seven-year-old son, Indio, was the first to discover Apollo, whom the boy originally referred to as a monster, since Apollo supposedly has the body of one (i.e., huge, muscly, brown/tan). Both hero and heroine fell gradually into love, took down their enemies, and lived happily ever after.

Of course, I must mention that Apollo and Lily’s sexy scenes were scorching hot. Those make the book trés more exciting. This is, after all, a Hoyt book. The author’s got a tried and true writing style and a winning story format; honestly, I think she should stick to them. Of all the “Maiden Lane” books I’ve read so far, none was as bad as the third one (with Silence Hollingbrook and Mickey the Pirate as the main characters). “Darling Beast” is as much about righting previous wrongs and finding justice as it is about a romantic get-together. The characters are not annoying (to me, at least), the heroine is an independent thinker with a heart of gold (no cloying maiden here), the plot is fast-moving, and gosh darn it, I just wanted Apollo to finally be happy.

In the end, was I swept off my feet and left feeling like it was the best book ever? No. Was it a book I’d read again? Yes. Was Ms. Hoyt successful in luring me back in for the next installment in her “Maiden Lane” series? Abso-bloody-lutely. All these reasons make “Darling Beast,” albeit the horrible title, a helluva gotta-have book.

Review: Alexa Riley’s books

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Ssshh. I think this is my secret. I’m not supposed to like them, but, really? I do. Alexa Riley writes short erotic stories that touch on societal taboos and twist them into romance. Personally, I like the “Breeding” series. And, yes, they are as raunchy and naughty as the series’ title sounds. They’re all about insta-love; frankly, they’re all so fictional, so unbelievable, so forbidden… and Alexa Riley knows it. However, the authors write about gorgeous men falling in love with curvy (read: fat) girls. “P.S. You’re Mine” and “Curvy” are good examples  of these – both are tremendously easy reads, ones that are perfect if you just want to relax for 30 minutes before bedtime (or during lunchtime). They write about inappropriate sexual relationships: stepdads falling for their stepdaughters, stepbrothers stepping into a menage relationship with their younger stepsister, etc. They also wrote this series that I did not like and was not comfortable reading: “Innocence.” Those books just crossed a line for me, thus, I avoid those. Nonetheless, if Alexa Riley avoids that disgusting Dd/lg stories, I’ll keep buying and reading their books.

By the way, the pronouns I used in the paragraph above are not grammatical errors. “Alexa Riley” are a “they.” According to their Goodreads author profile, “Alexa Riley is two sassy friends who got together and wrote some dirty books. They are both married moms of two who love football, donuts, and obsessed book heroes.” Makes one wonder how their real lives are, noh?

Review: Duke of Midnight by Elizabeth Hoyt

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The sixth book in Elizabeth Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series, “Duke of Midnight” is a fun read. I’ve been an avid fan of Ms. Hoyt’s since 2013, and have read the first five books prior to this one three years ago. I restarted the series all over again recently, when I realized that there were books in it I have not read yet. (Of course, at the time when I stopped reading the series, “Duke of Midnight” was not out in the market yet.) Hoyt writes in an easy-to-read style, one that makes reading fun after a stressful day at work. Her style also makes it hard to put the book down, even if it’s already 1:00 in the morning and your alarm is set to ring you awake in a mere 4 hours. Nonetheless, it’s a small sacrifice to make.

Hoyt’s books always seem to have two stories in one. At the beginning of every chapter, at least, in this Maiden Lane series, Hoyt shares a “children’s story” or a “legendary tale” with us, before proceeding to the actual story of the book. In effect, you get two stories in one. The “children’s story” is an allegory to the one told in the book’s body, which is a real treat for me, because short allegorical stories are what I grew up listening to. Hoyt shows her prowess at balancing these two-stories-in-one concept she’s got going on. I, for one, can’t get enough of them.

As to the “realism” of the stories in the Maiden Lane series, I’m no expert in English history, and, frankly, I have no intent in being one. That’ll just ruin the whole romanticism for me. If there really were no dukes, orphanage managers, and aristocratic men who masqueraded as vigilantes in London, circa early to mid 1700s, frankly, I don’t want to know about it. Truth is, it’s just fun to ride along with Hoyt’s imaginative and romantic world, amidst real historical landmarks such as Bedlam and Hyde Park.

The hero and heroine in “Duke of Midnight,” Maximus and Artemis, are star-crossed lovers who did not even like each other in the beginning (as evidenced by their previewed interaction in the fifth book of the “Maiden Lane” series, “Lord of Darkness).” Artemis was the poor-relation of a powerful Earl and his spoiled daughter, Penelope. Maximus was the Duke of Wakefield. Obviously, dukes do not typically romance gently-bred ladies who were poor and were employed as a lady’s companion. As we all want a happy-ever-after, of course, Artemis ultimately gets her man, and Duke Maximus slays all of his lover’s problems (including breaking her brother out of Bedlam). I’ve summarized the whole story quite tersely, but, trust me, the read was 10,000 times better than my gist. The ride through Maximus and Artemis’ ups-and-downs was a thrill. You can’t help but fall in love with the two of them, and you also can’t help wanting your review of their book to be a slight echo of Hoyt’s amazing story.

I said in the beginning of this review that “Duke of Midnight” is a fun read. Let me rephrase. The sixth book in Elizabeth Hoyt’s Maiden Lane series, “Duke of Midnight” is a MUST-read.

A Passion So Great

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I am a bookworm. I devour books as much as I do chocolate. Books keep me sane. They’re my escape from a humdrum life. This is my first attempt at putting well-thought-out words to describe how I feel about a book I’ve read (or tried to read, as there are times that I just want to hurl a terrible book at a wall). I think that ebooks are a god-send, because the picture above looks exactly like my apartment.