Complicated by Kristen Ashley

Book Description:

Published: May 2, 2017

Format: Audio/Audible

When small-town Nebraska sheriff Hixon Drake meets Greta Dare, the connection couldn’t be stronger, but the timing couldn’t be worse.

Dealing with the fallout of a divorce he never wanted and setting up a new home for his kids, Hix becomes that guy, that one he never wanted to be, and puts a stop to things before they can even start. Protecting his kids and himself is his only priority.

Greta, on the other hand, has found the place for her and the brother she adores that’s perfect for them – a sleepy little town in Nebraska. She’s learned from life that there are no hopes and dreams. The only thing to look forward to is peace. And that’s what she works hard to build for herself and her brother. Right up until Hix walks into her life.

Hix can’t fight the pull and stay away from Greta for long. And Greta’s finding it hard not to hope for something more with all the promise that is Hix.

But when the first murder that’s happened in over five decades rocks his small, sleepy county, Hix has got to learn to trust again, convince Greta to take a shot with him, and at the same time catch a killer.

In other words, things are definitely Complicated.

Review –

Complicated was a luscious standalone gem from an author that is new to me and I’ve heard can be  hit or miss. This one was definitely a HIT full of later life dreams come true.  The book is full of all sorts of interesting plot threads that radiate out from the two main characters.  They were likeable and lovable and they both had lives that marked them so their character depths were well-deep and many faceted.

On the surface, it could be reduced down to two divorcees- one recent and one a few years old finding a connection, but not expecting the connection or what follows when small town friends and family are also involved.  That was pretty good, but what took this one deeper for me was that the author took the time to tease out what killed the old relationships and what built this new one that was stronger and richer for the pair of them.  There are exes, conflicted children, interfering parents, and all sorts of small town stuff including their separate friends and places of employment.  The mystery is interesting and Hixon is the sheriff so he must deal with that, but it was interesting in the sense, too, of how it hit the community and the family of the victim.

This author seems to know how to make ordinary people with flaws and their simple, but flawed lives fascinating and story-worthy.   Hixon and Greta were a surprising pair in some ways.  But after a few false starts, they really make sense- the devilishly handsome family man county sheriff with the hair-stylist lounge singer once trailer trash woman with an adult brother with disabilities and a crazy-wacko mother.

Characters didn’t get lost in their heads or unnecessarily drama this up.  There are sections of character development and reflection as well as action which was a great balance.  These characters were mature (well, the ones who were meant to be portrayed as mature) and acted like it.  And while this was long,(over 18 hours on audio) it did not drag.  There is a lot going on and it all was natural to the story and equally engaging.

This is an Audible exclusive release and I was thrilled to encounter a new pair of fantastic narrators in Lance Greenfield and Erin Mallon.  Sections were told by Hixon with Lance taking the lead and then sections by Erin.  Both were a great match for their particular character counter-parts and did a great job with the large cast of characters ranging from kids to older folk.  There are many emotions to portray and changes in mood that were transitioned well.  Humor, sadness, and firework-worthy passion was superb.

I really enjoyed this book and I call it “soft smut” because although there is plenty of HOT sex and STEAMY sexual chemistry, it isn’t all up in your face and along with the sex is a very believable storyline with engaging characters.

This was my first listen to a book by Kristen Ashley and I’ll be adding more of her books to my TBR list.

Five stars!

 

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Gentleman Nine by Penelope Ward

 

Book Description:

Published: February 19, 2018

Format: Audio/OverDrive

Growing up, the three of us were friends.
He was the nerd.
I was the playboy.
She was the beauty.

Deep down, I only ever wanted her. I kept it inside because Rory and I made a pact that our friend, Amber, was off-limits.

He lied.

I went off to college, and he got the girl.
Amber never knew how I felt.
They were together for years—before he broke her heart.

Through it all and across the miles, she and I casually stayed in touch.
When my job sent me to Boston for a three-month contract position, Amber let me stay in her spare room.

Still reeling from her breakup, she’d sworn off men.
One night, I opened her computer to find the shock of my life. She’d hesitantly contacted a male escort company. Afraid to date and get her heart-broken again, she was looking for sex with no strings.

Every emotion imaginable ran through me: protectiveness, jealousy—curiosity.
Amber had chosen Gentleman Number Nine and sent him a message.
She opened up to him, confessing, among other things, her physical attraction to her friend—me. But she considered me off-limits—and she thought I was a manwhore. (Ironic, considering the circumstances.)

Eventually, she set up a date to meet Gentleman Nine at a hotel.
When she showed up several nights later to meet him, she was stunned to see me standing there—with an offer I hoped she wouldn’t refuse.

Review –

Channing and Amber were drawn to each after Channing’s younger sister and Amber’s best friend passed away, and they shared a deep connection and steadfast friendship. They were attracted to each, but neither allowed themselves to admit their feelings. Amber ended up in a long-term relationship with Rory, of Channing’s good friends, reinforcing his feelings that any kind of romantic relationship with her is off limits.

When Gentleman Nine begins, Amber’s relationship has just ended, and she is devastated and heartbroken. Channing is in town for business and staying at her house, and they rekindle their friendship, but they can no longer ignore the chemistry that is sizzling between them. Oh, they try to pretend it’s not there. Amber even contacts an escort agency in order to release some of her sexual frustration with a no-strings affair, but Channing discovers her intentions and offers to fill the position.

They agree to no-romance, sex only, no commitments, with the intention to keep their hearts safe. Easier said than done, because they both discover that their physical connection deepens their emotional connection. They’re falling for each other hard when neither expected it.

Amber and Channing’s feelings slowly build, and the meticulous unfurling of their love story pulls the reader in and keeps them captivated and anxious for the HEA. There’s an unexpected twist that is common in the writings of Penelope Ward and it adds depth to the story. Gentleman Nine is an engaging, tender and steamy friends-to-lovers romance with memorable characters and a truly unique story.

Loved it!   Just added Channing Lord to my Book Boyfriend list.

 

 

Sexy Stranger by Kendall Ryan

Book Description:

Published: May 23, 2017

Format: Audio/Audible

Luke Wilder knows the lovely stranger doesn’t belong the second she struts into his sleepy little town. She’s a city girl who won’t stay longer than it takes to get her fancy foreign car repaired–which is why he should ignore his powerful need to make her notice him. It’s just that the moment she opens her smart mouth and gives it back as good as she gets, he wants to swap a whole lot more with her than insults.

Charlotte Freemont instantly dislikes the rude, redneck stranger she finds herself stuck with. Too bad he’s as hot, and as tempting, as sin. On the run from her messy past, she’s not there to get tangled up with a man, even one as hard to resist as the hot-headed Luke. But when he gives her a private tour of his craft whiskey distillery, their attraction ignites and Luke seizes the chance to show her there’s a whole lot more to him than rough and rugged.

When he finally learns her secret, will it shatter his trust in her? Or do they have a chance to create a whole new blend?

A sizzling, enemies-to-lovers romp with bite.

Review –

Loved this book, which I put in the category of “soft smut” because the sex in the plot line was appropriate and not overly done and “in your face”. 

The story itself is not new, hot girl running away from her problems, ends up with her car broken down somewhere in the southwest(this time in Texas). She meets a hot, hunky, rugged man and they clash, until they don’t and they live happily ever after.

Loved it and love Kendall Ryan.

Crave (Billionaire Bachelors #1) by Monica Murphy

Book Description:

Published: August 6, 2013

Format: Audio

Billionaire Archer Bancroft always gets what he wants—and he’s wanted Ivy Emerson, his best friend’s sister, for far too long. Being forbidden and untouchable only makes her more tempting. When a million-dollar bet with his friends throws down a challenge—last bachelor standing takes all—Archer knows he can win. That is, until one enchanted evening with Ivy takes his heart for a ride.

Ivy knows Archer is nothing but bad news: Infuriating, arrogant…and completely intoxicating. But despite her best efforts, she can’t seem to keep away. When a stolen kiss leads to a night of heated passion, Ivy realizes she’s in trouble and in head over heels.

But in the light of day, everything seems clearer and Archer’s not so sure a one-night stand is all he wants. Concocting a plan to keep Ivy by his side, Archer might just be willing to lose this bet…and win the jackpot instead.

Review –

This is a book that I would place in a category I call SOFT SMUT. I call it that because the sex scenes are minimal and it’s really all about the characters  and their chemistry with one another.

I knew that going in and it was a very pleasant read even though I knew, without a doubt, that it wold end with a HEA. There’s a good bit of self-deprecating humor mixed in with the passion, plus a sarcastic undertone.

I think you’ll enjoy this contemporary romance if you like powerful, sexy businessmen and smart, sassy women who know exactly what they want.