Books with Beers

Longtime reader of historical fiction & romance. Lover of paranormal romance and urban fantasy. Occasionally dabbles in mainstream/contemporary fiction. Lover of angsty reads, gratuitous swearing and screwed up characters. Associate Reviewer at Red Hot Books. Wife, mother, voracious reader and volunteer of too many organizations that don't serve beer at meetings.

Naked in Death  - J.D. Robb, Susan Ericksen Audiobook:

Needed to start a new series on audiobook, and the "In Death" series always comes up on best of lists. The lists were right, it was a highly enjoyable book with an fantastic narrator (which can make or break a book).

Along Came Trouble - Ruthie Knox 3.5 stars

I love Ruthie Knox's writing. The prequel novella to this series was amazing. However, the characters, aside from Caleb, in this book set my teeth on edge. While I could understand Ellen's POV, she came off as selfish and shrill. Her twin Jamie's side story with the neighbor Carly felt juvenile and out of place. Only Caleb was the shining star in this tale.

Having said that, I still have pre-ordered the next book in the series and am looking forward to it.
Flirting with Disaster (Camelot, #3) - Ruthie Knox Love love loved it!! Review to come!
The Embattled Road (Lost and Found, #.05) - J.M. Madden Prequel to Embattled Hearts - will review with that book.
Rules of Entanglement (Fighting for Love, #2) - Gina L. Maxwell Enjoyed this one more than the first one!

Singed - Kaylea Cross Originally reviewed at Red Hot Books

I recently reviewed the first book in this series, Ignited, and Kaylea Cross does not disappoint with the second installment. I think these books work better read in sequence because there is a longer story arc at play here, but it absolutely can be read as a stand alone.

Claire Tierney’s life is a mess. Six months ago she left her boyfriend because she couldn’t deal with his job as a Special Forces officer after living in fear of losing her father and brother, both former Green Berets. She’s struggling with the delicate balancing act of trying to help her brother deal with the after effects of his tours in Afghanistan, including severe PTSD.

In the meantime, she is also teetering on the brink of being fired as a National Security Analyst for her role in leaking classified information to Titanium Security, aka her ex-boyfriend, Gage Wallace. Her chance to redeem herself at work lands her on a team that includes Gage, much to her chagrin. Unfortunately, Claire becomes the target of the terrorists they are trying to uncover.

Being ever resourceful, Gage sees this as an opportunity to learn the reason why Claire left him. He feels responsible for her becoming an objective for the terrorist cell as he was the one who asked her a favor. When tragedy strikes, Gage becomes the rock that Claire holds on to and her resolve to keep him at bay begins to crumble.

This book was heartbreaking as it was real. The tragedy Claire suffers is palpable and I’ll admit to even tearing up. I commend the author for treating it so respectfully. This is exactly why I love reading second chance/reunion books. Claire is so twisted up inside and it’s beautiful to watch a big badass alpha commando handle all her issues so gently. Gage doesn’t hide that Clarie’s departure ripped him apart but he won’t let her fears keep them from the long lasting relationship they were meant to have. The intimacy is charged because of the hurts on both sides, and they are huge for Claire, but the journey they take back to each other is so sweet.

I’m continuing to enjoy the development of all the other members of Titanium Security. I especially love Gage’s banter with all of his “boys.” It brings a needed lighthearted break and shows the real camaraderie found amongst the small group of Special Forces operators.

This book leans heavier on the romance part of the story than the first, but there’s a larger story arc going into book 3. Sean and Zahra’s few interactions still set off enough heat that I’m confident that their story will be electric. I’m also looking forward to getting back into the suspense/action meat of the story because Cross writes it exceeding well. As I’ve said before, when an author does homework, it makes the story that much more engaging.

Even if you don’t normally read romantic suspense, I would give this series a try.

Grade: A-
Unchained - J. Lynn, Jennifer L. Armentrout I’ve shied away from fallen angel books in general because I honestly find the whole mythology confusing. However, I have enjoyed Jennifer Armentrout/ J. Lynn’s writing and when I was offered a review book, I thought I’d give it a go.

Lily Marks is a Nephilim, the offspring of an angel and a human. Her life is devoted to working for the Sanctuary, a clandestine group of Nephilim tasked with hunting and eradicating minions (turned Nephilim) and deadheads (possessed souls) while trying to avoid death by the Fallen (angels). She’s always been the wild card at the Sanctuary, but her hijinks are quickly forgiven.

Enter Julian, the Fallen angel that has been stalking, and saving, Lily for the last 8 years, ever since she put a blade in his gut. Each time Julian saves her, Lily doubts her training and the Nephilim doctrine that states Fallen are inherently evil. She also can’t stop her body from responding their undeniable chemistry. When a mole is suspected in the Sanctuary, feeding important names to the Fallen, the finger is quickly pointed at Lily. She is surprised when Julian vows to help her find the mole and clear her name.

Lily could be and interesting character but there is not much revealed about her background other than she was brought to the Sanctuary very young. The reader is told that she is tough and that others bow to her strength but there isn’t a whole lot of evidence to support that. She gained a measure of depth as her conversations with Julian began to progress and she started to question all she had been taught and, more importantly, question herself as to what she wanted to gain out of life instead of blindly following orders without question. Even though much of Julian remains a mystery, I found myself likening their relationship to early Anita Blake/Jean Claude.

First books in a PNR/UF series usually suffer from information overload in trying to world build, but unfortunately, this is not the case here. The pacing for the first half is slow. The story would have been better served by cutting out at least half of the love scenes and amping up the action because when it finally gets down to the nitty gritty in the last 15% of the book it really flies. There are also a couple of side characters storylines that I assume will be developed in later books. The author states in the afterword that this was the second book she had written (I’m assuming that it was a while ago and was recently pick up by the publisher) and the roughness shows. Despite this, I think the premise is interesting though and I’ll probably read on to see where the author takes this.

Rating: C

*ARC provided by Entangled
Getting Rowdy (Love Undercover, #3) - Lori Foster First reviewed at Red Hot Books

Rowdy Yates has been chasing after Avery Mullins ever since he opened up his bar and named her head bartender. Avery is determined that she is not going to be another notch on her playboy boss’s bedpost but his charismatic ways and a year long dry spell are wreaking havoc on her will. Just as she’s about to give in, the past comes to haunt her.

Rowdy is a man who is used to getting whatever lady he wants. He uses sex as a way to keep emotionally closed off from his rough past but Avery needs more than just one night with him. When trouble starts brewing in Avery’s life, Rowdy’s need to protect her signals that she is more than the other floozies that move through his revolving door.

Rowdy is a man slut that you shake your head at while grinning. He’s a good guy to his family and fights for what is right even as he makes questionable decisions for himself. Slowly, he begins to open up to Avery about his abusive childhood and growing up on the streets. Sex was his way of reliving tension and escaping his life for a while. When a tough guy comes around wanting to rip him off, Rowdy sees that he’s hauling around a scrawny kid. Shades of the past color his vision and Rowdy gets physical. Fortunately, that action ends up saving the kid and allows Rowdy to start to make peace with his past.

Avery was no wimp of girl. She calls Rowdy on the carpet on every turn and doesn’t let him railroad her into anything she doesn’t want to do yet Avery is sensitive enough to handle Rowdy with a little finesse. The minor conflict involving her past is a little contrived but I mainly ignored it because it was such a little part of the book.

This is the third book in Lori Foster’s Undercover Love series and is fine to read as a stand alone. It’s a quick easy read with unexpected tenderness.

Rating: C+

*ARC provided Harlequin via NetGalley
Down London Road - Samantha Young Samantha Young has written a world of such engaging characters, I could read a story about each and every one of them.
Real - Katy Evans
I heard folks talking this one up on Twitter so I checked out the blurb and sounded like it was up my alley. Angsty new adult with broken people and hot smex - BINGO!

What I read was a lot different than what I thought I was going to get. Most of the book is spent with Remy and Brooke staring lustfully into each others eyes. The sexual tension is through the roof. We read for what seems like 50 pages of Brooke's inner dialogue about how much she wants his hot sculpted body and continually throws herself at Remy for him to only say she needs to "know" about him. Even when they finally do the deed, I felt so bored at that point I was kind of skimming all the smexy scenes.

The reader knows that the two have sexual chemistry, but there's nothing else that really draws them together. There's no talking or discovering about each other or even experiencing things together outside of their hotel room.

I can suspend a crapload of belief when reading if I think it makes sense to the story but the biggest issue I had with the story was turns out Remy is bipolar and refuses to medicate. He gets wildly destructive while manic enough that he has to be sedated with an injection. Brooke decides that that is not ok that he's injecting "poison" into his veins to prevent him from doing harm and refusing to medicate so his moods are stable is ok. Maybe it's because I have personal experience with this, but this is a whole ball of NO. It's kind of like when an addict proclaims that he's not an addict that he can control himself. I'm not going to go on a huge soapbox here but I just wanted to get out that I felt it was sort disingenuous of the author to portray the bipolar illness in this light.

That said, I did enjoy how Brooke and Remy "spoke" to each other through music (it takes me back in the day of making mix tapes for the boys I liked).
Lord of Darkness - Elizabeth Hoyt
Another quality addition to Hoyt's Maiden Lane series. This time around readers are treated to a bittersweet love story between two heartbroken individuals.

Godric St. John is an older hero who is still grieving over the death of his beloved first wife.

Megs is the young lively heroine who marries Godric only in name in hopes of avoiding scandal when her lover is killed.

Hoyt does a beautiful job of respecting both character's processing their grief and not rushing the romance. Like the water slowly coming in to tide, this story gently eases in. There is the Ghost of St. Giles back story, but I really feel that it really took a back seat in this book and I really didn't mind.

It's always nice to get glimpses of characters from previous books, and Lord Griffin and Lady Hero (and their nephew) figure prominently. Looking forward to the next book...Duke of Wakefield finally gets his!

A Beautiful Lie (Playing with Fire Series) (Volume 1) - T.E. Sivec
This book could have been a lot better.

I enjoyed the storyline and plot. I'm a huge sucker for the friends to lovers trope. I love a strong military man.

What I didn't enjoy was the for the first half of the book I was told what each of the characters were feeling, almost ad nauseam. I get that the main characters were struggling with their feelings for each other but I don't think it was necessary to tell the reader that over and over. Also, and this is total nit picking, if an author is introducing a character as being as specialized as a Navy SEAL, I would hope that his actions would reflect that and I just didn't see that either.

Having said that, when the story got more dialog and action heavy, everything flowed. I hope that the author will continue to work and refine her skills, because when she's got it going on, it's all happening.

Highland Warrior (Campbell Trilogy #1)

Highland Warrior - Monica McCarty, Roger Hampton Audiobook: A so-so story - there wasn't much substance to the story and the heroine was super annoying and childish however, the narration was superb and really saved it!
The Way Home - Cindy Gerard A quiet book. Much less suspense than usual Gerard books. Review to come
Once a SEAL - Anne Elizabeth 2.5/3 Review to come
Never Kiss a Rake - Anne Stuart Reviewed at Red Hot Books

Anne Stuart is one of my favorite authors who has been at the game since the 70’s. I love her because she writes such deliciously dark unrepentant anti-heroes unlike any other. Never Kiss a Rake is the first book in a historical romance trilogy about three sisters who go into service in the households of very bad men in order to discover who was responsible for their father’s downfall and death.

After finding a mysterious note left behind by her father, Bryony Russell is convinced that her father didn’t embezzle money from his shipping business and his death might not have been accidental. As the eldest sister, Bryony decides it’s up to her to get to the bottom of the matter. She sends her sisters away, puts on a shabby frock and attempts to infiltrate the Earl of Kilmartyn’s house by applying as housekeeper. Of course, things never go as planned for Bryony. The house is a disaster, the earl’s wife is catty vindictive witch and the information she wants to get on Kilmartyn is nowhere to be found.

Adrian Bruton, Lord Kilmartyn has many chips on his shoulders – he’s at the bottom of the society hierarchy as a second rate Irish lord, his wife has no regard for him whatsoever and, suddenly, the new housekeeper is not what she appears to be. Immediately realizing that Bryony is no housekeeper, he resolves to play the game and figure out the mystery of her appearance in his household.

Bryony is quite naïve having been sheltered for nearly all of her life because of the pox marks on her face, first by her mother and later by choice. It’s been drilled into her consciousness that she would never have a man because of her facial defects. While Bryony is immediately attracted to Kilmartyn, she can’t conceive how he would ever feel the same about her even when he is blatant in his advances. Her internal dialog almost entirely revolved around this issue and it became tedious quickly.

Kilmartyn was softer than I expected for a Stuart hero. There was nothing inherently dangerous or villainous about him. He was slightly wicked to go along with Bryony’s ruse and let her play her game but that was minor. He took care to ensure that Bryony was safe from his wife’s venom and gentle with her insecurities. I guess I was just disappointed that he was nicer than I had anticipated.

The major issue I had with the book was that it consisted of mostly the inward monologue of Kilmartyn and Bryony. Pages and pages of their thoughts, with little interaction with other characters made for very slow plodding reading. I found myself skimming pages. Too much time the main characters heads left the suspense plot short changed and the romance flat.

Even the best authors write clunkers, so while this one didn’t work for me, I will absolutely be reading the next book.

Grade: C-

*ARC provided by Montlake via NetGalley