Illegal Contact

Santino Hassell

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This was a fun, light m/m romance involving a professional football player and a needy personal assistant.

Gavin is on house arrest, wearing an ankle bracelet that notifies the cops if he leaves for an unauthorized outing. Noah is a down and out young man looking for any job to help pay off his student loans, even a job babysitting a giant athlete with anger issues.

The story of how they overcome their prejudices and learn to like each other makes up the bulk of this book. Along the way, we gain insight into the life of a professional athlete. Hours working out, eating the right balance of calories, proteins and carbs, and learning to control his temper take up Gavin’s time.

Noah has to learn to respect his employer and learn that a professional athlete is more than a bunch of muscle chasing a ball. The price Gavin pays makes Noah wonder if it’s worth it, learning to respect his employer along the way.

It’s a real eye-opener.

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A Kiss for Midwinter

Courtney Milan

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I have to laugh at people who snark at writers and readers of romance as a group of mouth breathers who don’t read real books. Courtney Milan, with her graduate degree from UC Berkeley and law degree from University of Michigan, give the lie to this prejudice. She writes some of the smartest historical romance and contemporary romance available today. I tend to lean toward her historical romance, and this series is one of my favorites.

As part of the Brothers Sinister series, this novella falls between The Duchess War and The Heiress Effect. Lydia Charingford has a secret, one that blights her life. However she puts a cheerful face on it, and seems to be doing well, until her paths cross the one man who can reveal her secret and ruin her life.

Dr Jonas Grantham has no intention of revealing her secret. In fact, he has been in love with Lydia for nearly a year. He has a plan to make her his, if only his plan doesn’t go awry.

Every step of the way, we are cheering Jonas on, and Courtney doesn’t disappoint us, but Jonas really has to work for it. The 11th prettiest girl he knows isn’t going to fall into his lap like a ripe plum.

English Auther Series: A.S. Byatt

Kathleen Coyne Kelly

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I found this book hard going at times. It reads like a college textbook, but in spite of that, I found much to enjoy, especially the coverage of Possession. One of my favorite books, I enjoyed reading this critical look at it.

Also of interest is the biographical section, telling of Ms. Byatt’s family life and education. It all enhances my understanding of her work.

Make Me, Sir

Cherise Sinclair

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Book five of the Shadowlands series starts a multibook arc, with a very dark theme: sexual slavery. Someone is targeting submissives, and the FBI asks Master Z to help. One of their employees, Gabi, fits the profile of the women that are being kidnapped. She has a mild background in BDSM and is willing to be bait. Master Marcus is the trainee coordinator, so he has the most contact with Gabi. He can’t figure her out, but does his best to comply with Z’s request to take her on. She wavers back and forth between sweet submissive and brat, but doesn’t seem to really enjoy her brattishness. Of course, she is trying to attract the kidnappers, but she can’t say so.

The tension in this book really ratches up as gentlemanly Marcus tries to cope with his growing attraction to the sub and his puzzlement at her inconsistent behavior. Things come to a head when Gabi is taken.

I really enjoyed this book as the stakes got higher and higher for Marcus and Gabi. One Cherise’s best.

The Flowering Thorn

Margery Sharp

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When a relative’s companion dies, 28-year-old Lesley Frewen impulsively adopts the four-year-old Patrick left behind. Regarding the child as  little more than a pet, Lesley soon learns that children need a certain environment to thrive, and 1920s London isn’t it, at least as part of her socialite life. So Lesley moves to the country and takes a cottage. Little by little country life seems to grow on the young woman. Of course the reader realizes that it is the young woman who is growing.

One of my pet peeves, is plot moppets who lisp their way through a novel. There’s none of that in this book.  Patrick is very much in the background, while the focus is on Lesley and her growth, until returning to London becomes impossible for her.

The account of country life and the individuals who make up her household and neighbors are what make this book so charming. Margery Sharp at her best.

Preparation for the Next Life

Atticus Lish

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This book, which won the 2015 PEN/Faulkner award for fiction, is Lish’s debut novel. A profoundly sad story of a young Muslim illegal immigrant from China and a veteran the Afghanistan war suffering from PTSD, it leaves the reader with no hope of a happy ending.

Happy endings are sometimes overrated, and as the book wends its way to the inevitable sad ending, it leaves the reader with a sense of satisfaction and hope. Zou Lei is the stronger of the two lovers. A member of a Muslim sect in China, she is used to being on the fringes. Nevertheless, a core of steel will not allow her to give up. In spite of everything she continues to struggle. Skinner, the war vet, has had his core destroyed by the war. The two unlikely lovers struggle to keep their love alive in the face of overwhelming odds.

The writing is luminous, and that is what kept me reading to the end, long past the time I had given up hope for the couple. The world is against them, and they simply lack the skills to cope with the challenges they face.

The Life and Loves of a She-Devil

Fay Weldon

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What a fun book. I remember seeing the movie several years ago, with Merle Streep as the ethereal romance writer, Roseanne Barr as the spurned wife, and Ed Begley Jr. as the adulterous husband.

When the husband, an accountant, leaves his lumpish wife for the beautiful romance writer, the wife decides to get revenge. Little by little she destroys his job, steals all his money, burns her house down. and proceeds to the next level. She turns her eyes to the writer, dumps her children on her, starts a course of body-enhancing plastic surgery, and enjoys life.

The book is as much fun as the movie, as the She-Devil of the title moves step by step to destroy the happiness of her husband and his lover.

 

 

LaRose

Louise Erdrich

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This is one book that is guaranteed to get you in all the feels. Starting off with a hunting accident that ends in the death of a five-year-old boy, and going through all the family members touched by the incident, Erdrich never lets up.

Landreaux takes a shot at a deer, but at the last minute the deer springs away, and he realizes he has killed his best friend’s son, Dusty, To make amends, he and his wife give the family their own son, LaRose. This is only the beginning of a multi-generational epic, as Landreaux seeks redemption.

This book has so many themes: loss, suicide, forgiveness, redemption—that I wonder how Erdrich managed to keep track of them. Throughout the book, the stories of the various generations of people named LaRose tie them all together in a masterpiece of fiction.

I started reading this as a library book, but soon I realized that one reading is not enough to take in the richness. I bought a copy for my Kindle so I could re-read it at my leisure.

 

Lean on Me

Cherise Sinclair

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This is book #4 in the Masters of Shadowlands series.

Andrea had a rough bringing up on the streets of Tampa. She had to be tougher than the boys she ran with on the street. She knows she’s submissive, but it will take a strong Dom to bring that out in her.

When a friend calls in some markers, she’s admitted to the trainee program at the Shadowlands, and meets her match. Dom Cullen is furious at being saddled with a new trainee, but grudgingly takes her on. Gradually, he comes to care for this woman whose tough exterior hides a tender heart.

Andrea responds to the Dom, until she finds out he is a cop. With her background, loving a cop isn’t in the cards. When she is unjustly accused of stealing money, she abandons her membership in the club and her growing relationship with Cullen.

Under Her Skin

Adriana Anders

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I don’t read much contemporary romance, preferring historical. I’m glad I took a chance on this one. Uma is on the run from her abusive boyfriend, a rich, powerful sadist, with connections in the criminal justice system. At one point in their relationship, he held her hostage and covered her body with tattoos to mark her as his. She has fled to this town after learning of a doctor who will remove her tattoos at no charge.

After her mentally ill employer locks her out of the house on a freezing night, she accepts shelter from the neighbor, sexy Ivan. Unwilling to start a new relationship, but unable to deny her attraction to the gentle giant, she allows herself to love again.

A very satisfying read with some interesting hitches along the way to the HEA. I’m going to buy the next in the series, the story of the tattoo-removing doctor.