ARC Review: Enemies Like You (Annika Martin & Joanna Chambers)

For those of you who have read the FREE novella, Enemies with Benefits, the story will start at Chapter 9. For those who haven’t, well, Chapter 1-8 of this book is basically the novella

Enemies Like You the first installment of Enemies with Benefits series as well as the debut of collaboration between Joanna Chambers and Annika Martin ends up being on the lower end of “just okay” spectrum for me.

My biggest problem to enjoy this enemies-to-lovers romance is because I only cared about one half of the equation, while dismissive towards the other. You can imagine myself being bored with one narration (and skimming a lot!) and wishing that I could read this book solely from one character’s perspective.

Let me explain…

Enemies Like You is written using two narratives. One is Will, the CIA freelance assassin who is dead set to kill Sergei Polzin, the man responsible in killing Will’s bands of brothers. The other is Kit, the British bodyguard extraordinaire who also poses as Polzin’s girlfriend when needed.

I am not familiar with Annika Martin’s writing or how this duo works, but based on her background, being an American, I assume Ms. Martin tackles Will’s chapters and Ms. Chambers writes Kit’s.

I didn’t have a problem with Kit’s chapters. In fact, I LOVED them… I loved Kit. I thought Kit had layers that kept me very much engaged throughout: a bodyguard who cross-dressed on occasions, with an artist soul. Kit didn’t protect Polzin simply because it was his job. Oh no, Kit had reasons to do it and readers would learn about this as the story went on.

It was Will’s chapters that made me struggle so much. I thought Will was very flat and two dimensional as a character. While I could try to suspend my disbelief, the fact that he ended up thinking with his d*ck during mission made me want to get my money back if I am CIA. I disliked how Will’s chapters were basically only providing the physical interaction (sex and more sex: blowjob, masturbation, and so on) of the story.

It was very disappointing for me because I thought Will had a great background for this story. After his army brothers died Will basically had suicidal mission. He became an effective assassin (although I question his reputation during this mission) because he just stop caring. I wish THAT is being more explored. Instead I felt completely detached from Will and wish I could just read more of Kit’s chapters.

In fact, Will seemed to have more nuanced, to be more ‘human’ when he was written from Kit’s point of view…

That is my reason for my rating. I am not sure if I want to read the next books. I love Joanna Chambers; she’s one of MM historical authors who is responsible for my liking that genre (I avoid historical romance before, at all cost). So I want to follow this series for her. But I’m worried that Ms. Martin’s writing might not be my cup of tea (based also from her backlist titles that seem to be more sexy than romantic).

I guess we’ll just have to wait and see…

RATING: 3 out of 5

 

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The ARC is provided by the author for an exchange of fair and honest review. No high rating is required for any ARC received.

 

BOOK INFO:


Title:
 Enemies Like You
Author: Annika Martin & Joann Chambers
Series: Enemies With Benefits, #1
Genre: MM Contemporary Romance
Length: 251 pages (Amazon)
Publisher: Self-Published
Purchased Links: Amazon US, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Kobo
Release Date: May 15th, 2017

ARC Review: Cask Strength (Layla Reyne)

** THIS REVIEW IS SLIGHTLY SPOILER-Y, PROCEED WITH CAUTION **

I wasn’t happy — strike that, I was frustrated with the relationship drama in this one. I thought both men were being idiot (Aidan’s case) and whiny (Jamie’s case). I am going to rant now — so excuse my language — because Cask Strength was totally NOT what I was expecting the sequel of the promising Single Malt to be, at least in terms of the relationship.

So five months later, Aidan is back to his old ways of being a horndog, refusing to commit to Jamie. He is dating other men, even if he still has sex with Jamie. His reasons? Because he doesn’t want to get close to his “Whiskey”, because people getting close to him tend to be in harm’s way, and he doesn’t want to risk it.

Well, BULLSH*T. They are FBI agents, for God’s sake. Their job can be dangerous in the first place. What kind of a reason is that?! So f*cking lame. Plus I truly disliked Aidan being written a player when just few months ago Aidan was worrying and feeling guilty of jumping into new relationship with Jamie too fast. You know, considering his husband has only recently DIED! What the f*cking wrong with you, Aidan?

Sorry, it was NOT how I pictured Aidan would behave, and it left bitter taste in my mouth. Does Aidan have a complete character surgery somewhere between the release of Single Malt and this one?

Then there was Jamie — smart and competent Jamie — who is sadly being reduced into someone who becomes jealous of Aidan’s other men, then getting extremely upset because he realizes he doesn’t want to share Aidan, and he is falling for the older man … that it sort of interrupting how Jamie do his job. But then Jamie is going undercover, and BAM, there is his ex-lover there, muddling this already complicated relationship with Aidan. It made me want to scream, “Get your head out of your a**, Jamie! For God’s sake!

Oh, how I am NOT a fan when the relationship drama disturbs the working professionalism *grumbles*. Maybe this kind of supposed to offer angst for readers … but instead of being emotionally engaged, I found myself fuming and wanting to knock some senses to both men instead.

NOT a good reading experience, I tell you. Which is why I have to settle with my low rating.

On a better note — I was kind of intrigued with the gambling/identity theft case involving the basketball players. It was also fun seeing Jamie acting as the assistant coach, even if it was only for undercover and only for a little while.

Things were also moving forward with the other case surrounding the death of Aidan’s husband, Greg, as well as his work partner, Tom. Jamie was able to find more clues and answers — even if it still ended it a big twist! That twist is a great hook to ensure that I will NOT miss book #3 for sure. Let’s just hope that Aidan and Jamie clean up their mess and being a solid couple/partner next time I read them.

 

RATING: 2.5 out of 5

 

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The ARC is provided by the publisher via Netgalley for an exchange of fair and honest review. No high rating is required for any ARC received.

 

BOOK INFO:


Title:
 Cask Strength
Author: Layla Reyne
Series: Agents Irish and Whiskey, #2
Genre: MM Romantic Suspense
Word Count: 61,000 words
Publisher: Carina Press
Purchase Links: Amazon US, Barnes & Noble
Release Date: May 1, 2017

ARC Review: Fair Chance (Josh Lanyon)

There has been 6+ years since the first book, Fair Game, and 2+ years since the second one Fair Play … and I must say that one may not want to read this as stand-alone, especially since the mystery is pretty much related to the case of book #1.

I admit I wasn’t quite impressed with book #2. I wasn’t convinced that it was a needed sequel. So I approached this one with a little trepidation.

Well, guess what, I loved this better than book #2.

One thing that made me happy was that the relationship drama between Elliott and Tucker was pretty minimal. Yes, Tucker will always be protective of Elliott. Yes, the fact that Elliott seems to get himself into trouble by inserting himself to FBI cases will always make Tucker not completely happy. Plus there’s the big question whether Elliott wants to go back to law enforcement field…

However, it is also clear that both men finally make a deal to work through it. They both promise to talk about it and not go into bed angry. In that sense, their relationship is better than the previous book. Thus, I was really happy on that front.

And the mystery was GOOD! I was glued in, especially after Tucker went missing (no it’s not a spoiler, it’s written on the blurb!). There’s always an added suspense to a crime/mystery when the one missing is the MC’s loved one, which what happens here. So, I was REALLY invested with everything!

I did miss Roland though. Elliott’s relationship with his father has always been a delight for me to read; and one of the highlights of the whole series. Roland doesn’t have a lot of scenes but he’s still quite an important figure here. I just wish he had more pages.

Now, there’s quite an important decision that Elliott makes in the professional capacity. Because of that, I can somehow see the potential of this series to have more books in the future. Which, as a fan of Lanyon’s mystery books, will be an awesome thing 🙂

PS: Elliott gets himself a dog!!

 

RATING: 4 out of 5
4stars

 

11613309

 

 

The ARC is provided by the publisher via Netgalley for an exchange of fair and honest review. No high rating is required for any ARC received.

 

BOOK INFO:

 


lgcover-9781459293618Title:
 Fair Chance
Author: Josh Lanyon
Series: All’s Fair, #3
Genre: MM Romantic Suspense
Word Count: 71,000 words
Publisher: Carina Press
Purchase Links: Amazon US, Barnes & Noble
Release Date: March 13, 2017

ARC Review: Single Malt (Layla Reyne)

Single Malt is the first book of — what I assume will be — Agents Irish & Whiskey romantic suspense series. I assume it will be a trilogy, since currently there are three titles being listed; all will be released this year. I feel like I need to include advisory that Single Malt ends in sort-of cliffhanger situation. Not exactly related to the main characters’ life and death context, but there is a newly-surfaced information that will definitely play a SIGNIFICANT role to the development of the main arc.

After losing his husband, Greg, as well as his professional partner of 15-years, Tom, FBI Agent Aidan “Irish” Talley is now off undercover job and being transferred to Cyber. He is partnered with Jameson “Whiskey” Walker, twelve-years his junior, former two-time NCAA champion who turns to be a whiz in computer and hacking. Aidan’s boss wants him to train Jamie to be field agent, but at the same time, to work together to solve the accident that took away Greg and Tom’s lives.

I thought Layla Reyne — a new-to-me author — was able to write a balanced romance and suspense/action in this book. The chemistry between Aidan and Jamie is apparent. At the same time, the big case that they are dealing with, a hack threatening a high-security bio-containment facility which leads to potential deadly dirty bomb attack, is engaging. I enjoyed both part equally, even if sometimes the technobabble — oops, sorry Jamie — I mean, technical jargon went over my head.

For me, both men were likeable. Although I might be more attracted to Jamie. I couldn’t help it. There was more than meets the eyes with him. Jamie might used to be famous as basketball star, but he clearly knows his way around computers, and man, I love brainiacs. When Jamie shows his set of skills with hacking codes? So sexy! *grin*

There might be times when I thought Reyne was more “telling” than “showing” though; especially dealing with Aidan’s situation: his guilt over feeling attracted to his younger partner, and the fact that it has only been 8 months since his husband died. I felt that there could be a lot of tension, and feels, and hurt/comfort moments that weren’t fully materialized. But maybe I will get more of that in the next two books. There are still a lot of room for the relationship between Irish and Whiskey to progress. For a beginning, it was enough.

Like I said in the beginning, there is a cliff-hanger situation. I felt like I should’ve seen the twist coming. It is kind of a familiar “thing” in mystery/suspense genre. But I didn’t, not at all. So that was a good kind or surprise.

Bottom line, I enjoyed this. Can’t wait for book #2 coming in May.

 

RATING: 4 out of 5
4stars

 

11613309

 

 

The ARC is provided by the publisher via Netgalley for an exchange of fair and honest review. No high rating is required for any ARC received.

 

BOOK INFO:

singlemaltcoverTitle: Single Malt
Author: Layla Reyne
Series: Agents Irish and Whiskey, #1
Genre: MM Romantic Suspense
Word Count: 68,000 words
Publisher: Carina Press
Purchase Links: Amazon US, Barnes & Noble
Release Date: February 27, 2017

ARC Review: Breaking (Barbara Elsborg)

 

When I read Falling, the first book in Elsborg’s “Fall and Break” series, one secondary character stood out. Conrad Black was written as sort of a ‘villain’ but the complexity of his character made him very intriguing for me as a reader and I wanted so much to read HIS story. I was very excited when I read news that “Breaking” would indeed feature Conrad. When I saw the book being offered for review at Netgalley, I didn’t even think twice.

Unfortunately, this book disappointed me in so many level … but most prominently, the way Conrad was written. The Conrad in this book was very different than the Conrad I knew from book #1. I felt like he suffered from a characterization surgery. Gone was his complexity. Gone was the contradictory of dominant, rather manipulative, but kind (in his own way) man that I was intrigued upon. Instead, I felt that Conrad’s dominance was reduced somewhat because his love interest was another dominant man. An assassin named Archer Hart. And the relationship between these two dominant men, especially when sex was involved, became a fight to see who was the weaker between the two, who would be willing to submit to another.

When the story started, Conrad suffered from physical injury that forced him to take six-months leave from his job. He was hit by a car, he was temporarily paralyzed and he needed to undergo physiotherapy to restore his strength and movement. This already didn’t sit well with me because I saw it as a means to make Conrad physically weaker than Archer. WHY? Why couldn’t Conrad be in all of his glory, as a successful and ruthless barrister, who could butt-head with Archer anytime he wanted. If this was meant to make the story more emotional — it failed to deliver. It didn’t have the same emotional connection like in book #1.

There was a mystery in between the romance; as both Archer and Conrad found out that there were men planning to kill them. This didn’t really pick up until about last third of the book, and probably the reason why I forced myself to read it until the very end.

Bottom line, I found the characters bland and the sex scenes were way too much for my liking. Oh, there was plenty of sex in book #1 too, but somehow I felt all of those was quite important. In here though, it felt gratuitous. I only liked Archer’s dog, Deefor. The dog stole all the spotlight as he had more personality that these two men combined.

Most likely this would be my last of Elsborg because I could see that “Falling” was a one hit wonder for me. As always, my opinion is my own. If you love Elsborg’s previous works, I think you will enjoy it.

RATING: 2.5 out of 5
25stars

 

The ARC is provided by the publisher via Netgalley for an exchange of fair and honest review. No high rating is required for any ARC received.

 

BOOK INFO:
25063508Title: Breaking (Fall and Break, #2)
Author: Barbara Elsborg
Genre: MM Contemporary Romance
Word Count: 102,403
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Release Date: July 28, 2015