The Changeup by Rhonda Shaw

TheChangeupWhy I read it:  I received a review copy from the publisher via NetGalley.  Also, it’s a younger man/older woman (she’s only 34, but still) story and I love them. The Changeup is out on now.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  Playing for keeps

After nine years of striking out in the dating department, Maddie Hamlin is throwing in the towel. But just as this mom resolves to remain single, she meets sweet and sexy pitching phenom Chase Patton at a family dinner. He’s perfect for her and aside from the fact he’s only twenty-two.

Chase knows he should be focusing on his rookie year with the Detroit Rockets, but he can’t stop thinking about Maddie. He doesn’t care that the beautiful school counselor is twelve years older, and he’s already lost his heart to her adorable daughter. When an incredible date leads to an incredible night of passion, he knows he never wants to let her go.

But dating in the media spotlight is a whole new ball game. Maddie quickly discovers that not everyone accepts their unconventional relationship and that finding love may mean losing everything else.

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  My reaction to this book is complicated.  I wanted to like it more than I did.  There were some things I liked about it very much – enough that I am looking forward to the next book (which I hope features my favourite character, Karen).  The premise attracted me so much that I bumped it to the top of my TBR and read it almost as soon as I downloaded it.  However, I felt a lot of things were under-developed and I wasn’t entirely sure I liked either Maddie or Chase sufficiently well to root for their HEA.

Safeword by AJ Rose

SafewordWhy I read it:  I read the first book, Power Exchange,  a little while ago and really enjoyed it.  I bought both books at the same time but wanted to wait before reading the sequel.  After the somewhat disappointing experience of reading Aftermath, I picked up Safeword because I felt sure I could get the tension and the angst I had been looking for here.  Also, I like books about established couples – after the HEA is a fascination to me.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  Everywhere Detective Gavin DeGrassi looks he’s reminded of his attack by the Breath Play Killer. It’s in the house he lives in with his partner and Dom, Ben Haverson. It’s in the sympathetic yet pitying looks he receives from his fellow detectives when he returns to the force after a year-long hiatus. It’s in the suffocating coddling of his entire family, and the relentless reporter demanding an exclusive of his ordeal.

Most of all, it’s in his lack of submission to Ben, who isn’t convinced Gavin’s recovered enough to trust the power exchange between them.

The miraculous recovery of two teen boys from a twisted kidnapper gives him heart, and Gavin’s determined to prove he can handle anything despite increasing strain between him and Ben, painful nightmares, and panic when anyone touches him.

But his next case is too close for comfort: a friend and colleague found raped and murdered in a fate chillingly similar to what could have been his own, and this killer isn’t stopping with one cop. As the body count rises and taunting souvenirs are being hand-delivered to Gavin, he faces a frustrating lack of leads, a crushing need to prove himself, and a sinking suspicion the imprisoned kidnapper’s reach is further than originally thought. A miasma of uncertainty and fear threaten to suffocate him when he asks a question with which he’s overwhelmingly familiar: what happens when a victim is pushed too far?

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  Safeword had a bit of a slowish start for me.  I found myself taking some time to settle into the BDSM theme whereas I don’t recall having that problem in the first book.  It doesn’t really make sense and it’s not really fair, but I found myself being irritated by the capitalisation of Dom and feeling my feathers becoming ruffled by the power exchange aspects at the start of the story.  Which is ridiculous because I knew what I was getting when I opened the book.  And, while it appears I am not a “natural submissive” even remotely, I have had no problem enjoying books with these themes before.  So, I can’t really put my finger on what was bothering me at first.  I found myself thinking the beginning of the story was a little… clunky (?). Perhaps it was something in the writing – perhaps it was merely that I was feeling out of sorts.  Perhaps it had something to do with that Ben seemed to be unaffected by the events of the first book and it was only Gavin that seemed to struggle (this doesn’t continue – it becomes clear that Ben has his own demons to tame and, that’s one of the things which increased my satisfaction.).  But.

But, not too long after I was too engrossed in the story to think anything other than “what’s next?” and that which bothered me right at the start, snapped into it’s groove (or perhaps, I did) and the story flowed smoothly from there.

Aftermath by Cara Dee

AftermathWhy I read it:  Mandi from Smexy Books recommended this one so I bought it.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  Austin Huntley and Cameron Nash are like night and day. One is a family man, works in a nice office, drives an expensive car, and is content to be content. The other one is an antisocial car mechanic with a short fuse.

Some things don’t change. Others definitely do.

After surviving a five-months long kidnapping together, they struggle to return to normalcy, all while realizing that they’re more drawn to each other than they ever could’ve imagined.

“I know I’m not normal, but I’m not fucking stupid.”

“Define normal,” Austin countered quietly, meeting Cam in the doorway. “And for not being normal, you’re the only person in the world who makes sense right now. What does that say about me?”

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  I had been warned that the kidnapping and torture to which the men were subjected weren’t pretty – they weren’t but they also weren’t as bad as the average episode of Criminal Minds either.  Spending five months locked in a cell together with little light, little food and water and no answers, with the occasional violent beating thrown in is sure to have a profound effect on a person.  Austin and Cam had a shared experience which made them very different men. I didn’t have any trouble believing they would become close and, even the development of their sexual feelings toward one another seemed to grow organically out of it.  I had expected a bit of an angst-fest, but it wasn’t really that.  There were parts of the book which I enjoyed very much but other parts with bothered me.

At Your Pleasure by Meredith Duran

AtYourPleasureWhy I read it:  I listened to My Sweet Folly recently and that put me in the mood for a rich and lush historical. I thought this one from my giant TBR pile might be just the ticket.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  By candlelight she lures him…

Glittering court socialites and underworld cutpurses alike know that Adrian Ferrers, Earl of Rivenham, is the most dangerous man in London. Rivenham will let nothing—not the deepening shadow of war, nor the growing darkness within him—interfere with his ambition to restore his family to its former glory. But when tasked by the king to uncover a traitor, he discovers instead a conspiracy—and a woman whose courage awakens terrible temptations. To save her is to risk everything. To love her might cost his life.

At swordpoint she defies him…

Lady Leonora knows that Rivenham is the devil in beautiful disguise— and that the irresistible tension between them is as unpredictable as the dilemma in which Nora finds herself: held hostage on her own estate by Rivenham and the king’s men. But when war breaks out, Nora has no choice but to place her trust in her dearest enemy—and pray that love does not become the weapon that destroys them both.

What worked for me (and what didn’t):   The central conflict of the story is widowed Nora being torn by the love she has for her brother, David, who is a Jacobite rebel and her love for Adrian, Earl of Rivenham – who is a man loyal to the King.  For much of the book, I wondered how on earth the story could end happily.  Nora has a choice to make – she cannot support both her brother and Adrian. She tries hard to walk a middle line but it is impossible.  If she chooses David, she will lose her love (and he might lose his life), if she chooses Adrian, she will most likely watch his execution.

Self Preservation by Ethan Day

Why I read it:  I received a review copy from the publisher.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  Davis always assumed they would wind up back together, until Jack calls and invites Davis to his wedding to Tadd Austin, a prominent architect in Chicago. Jack’s only known Tadd for two weeks, so whatever Jack feels for Tadd couldn’t possibly compare to what he shared with Davis. There’s no way in hell Davis can stand by and watch the life he always expected to get back slip away to some guy Jack barely knows. Tadd Austin, indeed…more like Toad Ass-ton, Davis thinks.

With his best friend, fashion designer Deseree Wildwood in tow, Davis has to shed his sweet, guy-next-door persona, and re-vamp his image into a self-confident, hot piece of eye candy. He’s going to the wedding with only one goal in mind: to do whatever it takes to win back Jack. The Toad is toast!

Once in Chicago, Davis discovers it isn’t going to be as easy as he thought. Not only is Tadd very un-Toad-like, but a mysterious British playboy named Alex Parker manages to interject himself into the mix. Only true love will survive as the tug of war ensues in this Bermuda love triangle from hell.

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  I read this book during a fairly difficult and busy period in my life and as a result, it took me longer than usual to finish it and the experience was broken up long periods of no time for reading. So, it may well be that had things been a little calmer I would have enjoyed the book more. I did like it but it didn’t wow me.  In part, I think that’s because of what’s been going on with me and in part it’s because the story didn’t follow the usual romantic trajectory and I spent a fair bit of the book confused as to who I should be rooting for to end up with Davis.

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