Review: Sand Dollar: A Story of Undying Love — by Sebastian Cole

 

 

Intro:

For information, this book was given to me for a review, but as always it does not affect what I say about the book.   For more information, please go to Sebastian Cole’s webpage.

 

Basic Plot:

We see an old man, Noah, in the hospital, spending his time talking to an orderly, Josh about his love and his one true soul mate.  We follow his memories, both high and low, as he describes his journey to finding, losing, and eventually regaining his true love.

 

Background:

I do not remember what television special that I watched some years ago, probably PBS, about couples living with Alzheimer’s.  It was one of those interview type settings (think the movie When Harry Met Sally and the interview portions).  There was a couple, the wife had Alzheimer’s disease, and so the husband spoke to the interviewer.  The wife often stared blankly into the distance most of the interview and then the final question was “what keeps you together”, and without missing a beat, the woman says, “Love,” and then looks back into the distance.  The husband nods and agrees, clearly choked up and says, “Yes… love.”

 

This book is a more contemporary romance, no suspense of guns drawn or vampires biting.  It is not a book type I read often, but it was a nice change of pace.

 

Let me start by saying that through 80% of the book, I pretty much hated every main character.  It has been a long time since I’ve been so affected by characters’ actions.  I was fussing out loud several times, mostly in disgust.  Let me state a disclaimer:  this is not against the quality of writing, but rather it is a testament to the fine quality that I was so affected by their actions.

 

Male Lead:

Noah Hartman is someone who every woman would want to marry.  He is rich, thoughtful, attentive, and a hard worker.  Despite his search that he has put into finding love, his robotic strategy of finding a mate has not been successful.  The downside of this attentive man is that he is part of a high power, rich, smothering Jewish family who clearly thinks that they know best how to run his life.  He spends a great deal of his life trying to satisfy them and never fully gaining their approval.  As his secretary states:

 

“You know what, Noah? You haven’t figured this out yet, but you really are just a kind, regular, down-to-earth type of guy – just like the rest of us – trapped inside an outrageously privileged, white-collared body.”

 

Most of his journey is in discovering what his life’s purpose and finding his own path.

 

Female Lead:

Robin is our female lead, and I have to say, that up to about the last few chapters I absolutely hated this lady.  I could take the time to list the issues, but a great deal of the tension and drama of this book is in her character revelations, so you will have to give me some leeway here in not describing her character.

 

I suppose, that even though her actions are explained at the end of the book, I still find that I did not like her character.  But Noah sees her throughout the novel as his soul mate, filled with devoted love:

 

The beauty from within her soul shined brightly through her loving eyes as she looked deep into Noah’s now melting eyes.

 

We see his devotion to Robin in Sand Dollar: A Story of Undying Love and how he searches for her love in return.

 

Theme Summary:

Noah is in search of true love the entire time this book takes place.  At first he tries to numerically calculate it, then when he finds it, he tries to confine it and conform it to his needs.  As Diane said:

 

“You just don’t get it, do you?  People aren’t some kind of two-dimensional statistic.  They’ve got souls.”

 

This is the story of two souls that find each other, leave their mark and flit away, allowing the world around them to influence their trajectory.  This is the story of how Noah and Robin learn to let their self-doubts and inner turmoil go and keep what is important remain, love.

 

Strong Points:

This is an unusual story concept, and it is clear from the Author’s Note, that this is a very personal story to Sebastian Cole.  The story is well written and I was emotionally involved from the beginning.  By the end of the book, I was in tears.

 

What could be better?

The author states in the note, that it is considered “romance fantasy”.  So, I give some latitude in the “It’s a Wonderful Life” storytelling.  But the jumping back and forth into the characters’ memories became difficult; there were times when it was difficult to know if Noah was dreaming or if it was happening.

 

Conclusions:

The point of this book is that you should never let a chance pass you by to tell the ones you love your feelings.  Always be true to your soul mate and if they get away, leave the door open for them to return.  As Noah says to Robin:

 

“Oh, good question.  Well then, I simply follow my heart, which I know will always lead me back to you,”

 

This is a lovely book about one man’s emotional growth into being the man he should always have been, and about learning that love is always there and if you give it enough room, it will return to you.

 

When I read some books about passion, sex, and complicated positions, I sometimes think back to the interview with the Alzheimer’s disease patient and her husband and think, no, that is what being married is about.  When youth and vigor are long gone, what remains throughout the union is love.  Through life, pain, and even when so many things are unrecognizable, loves remains.

 

Bea

Review: The Frenchman’s Reluctant Surrender by Anne Ivory

 

 

Intro:

For full disclosure, I received this advance reader copy from the author, Anne Ivory for The Frenchman’s Reluctant Surrender.

 

Basic Plot:

Iris Falconer is the daughter of Arthur Falconer, a large business owner (Falconer Asset Management).  Her overbearing father asks that she try to impress a businessman Jeanluc DeLeon in hopes of getting his business.  Iris reluctantly agrees to meet the Frenchman and when she meets him, sparks fly.  Now, he is chasing her to be his mistress, but all she wants is his heart.

 

Background:

It has been a long time since I have read a contemporary “harlequin” type of book.  Reading this book brought so many fond memories of my teenage years and hiding under the covers with a flashlight to stay up late reading.  I can remember the weekends where I read about the high-flying stories of rich businessmen and young socialites.  This is a stand-alone book, the first novel by author Anne Ivory.  Sometimes, it is nice to try a different type of book for a change of pace.

 

Female Lead:

Iris Falconer has tired of living with her controlling father and moves out, starting a florist boutique with her friend Alex Daniels.  She is a daughter who is always seeking her father’s approval and can rarely say no to him.  After her father asks to charm Jeanluc, she responds:

 

“Right,” Iris replied walking over to pick up her things.  “—then I’d say, you’re on your own.  I do love you, Dad, but I’m not remotely interested in your little schemes.  I should have known there was a selfish reason when you asked me up here.”

 

This illustrates her attempt at independence, but unfortunately she falls short.  I think we can always identify with a character, and we can certainly always wish for a better relationship with our parents.  In this story, both father and daughter struggle to reconnect after Iris’s mother’s recent death.  How often do we try to emulate what we think our parents want us to be?

 

And this brings me to my first problem that I have with this character.  She seems fairly responsible, her business is a success, she is a strong female when it comes to business, but she seems unable to hold her own in her relationships.  She meets Jeanluc and the chemistry between them is electric and he woos her to have sex.  And slight spoil here, she becomes pregnant.  My problem?  It seems to me that protecting myself during sex would be number 1 on my list of “oh shoot!” moments.  I suppose this illustrates how passionate both Iris and Jeanluc , but it just demonstrated to me how irresponsible they both are.  But I just could not help but feel that this book felt dated into the 1980’s romances that I read as a kid.

 

Male Lead:

I have four words for you regarding this man, “he is an asshole.”  Arrogance is a funny thing.  You might know a man who is self-confident and knowledgeable, yet there is something about him that is endearing.  Well, this is not that man.  Jeanluc is really the most self-centered person that I have read in a novel.   From the first meeting:

 

Though flamboyantly dressed in a fitted steel grey suit and a stylish grey and fuchsia tie, he still emanated an unmistakable energy, an instantly recognizable powerful image that summed him up in one glance: confident, arrogant and not to be toyed with.

 

Now, that being said, we do learn a lot about his childhood and much of what he has been through has influenced his attitude.  I do not want to spoil the reason, so I will not go into it here.  However, there was nothing charming in him at all and I found it difficult that she would have fallen in love with him.  Although I will admit that his French accent was pretty damn sexy.

 

Theme Summary:

To me, this book is about family. In both cases of Iris and Jeanluc, their blood relatives are not the typical, lovable supportive families.  Both of them are in need for someone who can love them for who they are, not what they can do for the other.

 

Strong Points:

I really enjoyed the scenery description when they are in France.  It made me wish to jump in a plane and visit Europe.  For example:

 

Bubbling fountains made water music while birds chirped noisily hopping in and out of shallow water basins.  There by the fountain was an old stone bench and they finally decided to take a breather.

 

In fact, there were often times when there were word descriptions that sounded very British, rather than American.  It really helped keep me in the story when we got to the dialogue with Jeanluc and his sexy accent.

 

What could be better?

 

When I said that this reminded me of the Harlequin books I read as a teenager, it also means that it had the same depth.  While the author does an excellent job of letting us know why Jeanluc is the way he is, there is not enough time for character development.  He seems to be an ass all the way up to the end and then he magically changes his mind.  I would have liked a bit more character development.  I somehow felt that this book fell into the “tropey” realm when dealing with the plot and character development.

 

I struggled between a 2 and a 3 star for this book.  The reason that I leaned toward the 2 was that there were some editing errors that distracted me from the story at times.  So I decided that a 2.5 is more of an accurate score and just rounded up here.

 

Conclusions:

I should stipulate that I do not often read this type of romance book, tending to read longer paranormal books.  However, if you are looking for a quick light read, then this book is for you.

 

Bea

Review: The Dom’s Dungeon by Cherise Sinclair

Intro:

**Note** I am not an expert in BDSM and my opinions are just that, opinions.

I remember reading in a book once, forgive me if I forget which one, about a female lead says something along the lines, “Well, it’s not like there’s a Bondage 101 book out there”. Meaning, one size does not fit all; you have to experiment and find out what works for you and your partner. Moreover, just because you might read a lot of romance books with BDSM, does not make you an expert on the topic. In fact, there are some excellent books out there on the subject, I personally value the Loving Dominant by John and Libby Warren. If you have a vanilla husband/wife and you want to see what he/she thinks, or what he might be comfortable trying, I do recommend that book.

Basic Plot:

MacKenise and Alex do a house-switching thing, while she looks for a veterinarian job and Alex has a conference to attend. Mac feels compelled to go into his locked Dungeon (back story will tell us why) and Alex catches her. Mac has no money and cannot risk her reputation in the new town, so she agrees to “play” his sub to help him out of a separate bind so that he will not tell the company about her deceit. Their relationship progresses while she tries to find employment, but what happens if her horrifying secret is revealed?

Background:

Alex is an established Dom, belonging to a private club that we get a peek into early on in the novel. If you have read the Shadowlands Club series that Ms. Sinclair also writes, you get a taste of that flavor here. To me, this is a lighter version of the Shadowlands series. If you can handle this book’s intensity, then try Shadowlands. If you are uncomfortable with Alex’s actions in The Dom’s Dungeon, then you would not enjoy the Shadowlands Series.

Female Lead:

What I like about this female lead is that Mac is emotionally damaged and not fixed in the first three chapters. I hate when we have someone who is dealing with rape, incest, or some other violent assault and somehow just by being loved by a good man she is instantly cured. In real life, if we are abused by a male then no matter how sweet the new love might be, we still flinch at the same things. Healing takes time. And patience.

Without giving too much of the plot away, we learn that she was forced to be a prostitute briefly (one year when she was 16) until she was helped by a man who in essence became her father figure. This man led her to want to become a vet and it is his death is one of the catalysts to move to Seattle. We have a female who despite gaining a positive environment and starting a good career still believes herself dirty inside and can not allow herself to feel the pleasure of sex (or a relationship). We hear her tell herself often, “Whore’s don’t get off.”

Mac is an illustration of how BDSM can actually help someone deal with their past emotional traumas. I have read books (fiction/nonfiction), how for some individuals, aspects of the BDSM lifestyle psychologically benefits them (sexual or not). [For a very intense example of this type of benefit, see Tymber Dalton’s fiction novel The Reluctant Dom]. For example, individuals who cannot express emotion except through pain, then the caning or whipping allows a catharsis and helps them move through their emotions. However, this pain is not done in isolation, it must have context. For instance, if I slammed my hand in the car door, I am not going to orgasm instantly. However, if I have an attentive Dom (otherwise, would they even be a good Dom?) he would guide me through a scene properly, possibly even giving more pain than that car door. Again, we must have context. There is an early scene where Alex recognizes for whatever reason Mac cannot allow herself to orgasm:

“I’m going to restrain you, little cat, because your mind, for whatever reason, thinks you shouldn’t do this and tells you to stop. But I’m not going to stop, and there will be nothing you can do about it.”

Read that again: “I’m not going to stop”. When she is restrained and has no control she gives herself the freedom to orgasm because it is out of her “control”. In this case, this was what she needed to move forward. But as we said in the beginning, one play does not fit all. There is a fine line between creating a rape scene that could be horrific to a rape victim and someone in this situation where the control and restraints actually helps Mac deal. There is a process of negotiation, a building of trust, and what is often called the “transfer of power”. Mac allows Alex to restrain her, to give her pleasure and to help her psychologically past her block. But at any time, Mac can stop it. This is the balance.

With this trust comes honesty. While a Dom is observant to watch for physical tells to help guide her through the emotional landmines (or purposefully over), often sexual assault does not make a visual cue. Alex is aware based on her actions that there is some sort of sexual trauma in her past so he moves slowly forward, but still pushes her past her comfort zone. This is early on and we see how this type of relationship actually helps her deal with her pain and shame.

Male Lead:

Cherise creates male characters that make me uncomfortable. Now before you think it is a bad thing, let me explain. She makes male characters that are not vanilla and never will be vanilla. You might see in other romances that while the guy might have rough sex with his female lead, he does not illustrate any other Dominant characteristics. There is an entirely different psychological profile of a Dom and it has nothing to do with if he ties up his bed partner.

To say that Alex does not love Mac because he provides her discipline is not to understand the Dom/sub roles. Ms. Sinclair does an excellent job of letting the reader understand the roles and understand how the Dominant reasons. For example:

A Dom had a duty to give a submissive what she needed, not always what she wanted.. and to administer punishment as required.

Look at that word: “Duty”. There is a level of responsibility that a Dom accepts when he takes on a sub, which has nothing to do with how he might physically control them. He is responsible for their emotional health and must provide what their sub’s needs, in addition to the fact that the Dom’s actions provide something that they need. This is more than just two or more people getting their freaky sex on.

Think about your childhood. A child feels safest when there is continuity. For example, I know that if I had stayed out past my curfew, there was a punishment for that action. Now, it could have been simple. I could have just called and asked to stay out later and been granted permission. But because I was not honest, I was punished and subconsciously I was reassured by that consistent discipline. In the example above with Mac’s restraints, she did not want to be tied up, but she needed to be tied up. Alex noticed this need and gave it to her.

Theme Summary:

Acceptance is something that we strive for, in life, from our coworkers, supervisors, our friends, family, and/or spiritual mentors. However, what about our own acceptance of ourselves? This book deals with the concept of forgiveness of our past (our own actions) and acceptance that it has happened, but we are still good people. Mac learns to love herself and thus is ready to accept Alex’s love. Alex finds in Mac someone who accepts all of his needs and allows him to be himself.

Strong Points:

This books demonstrates how BDSM is not just about hot sexy-time, but is about melding two complementary needs to form a cohesive unit. Mac needs the security of the discipline and Alex’s authority in the bedroom and Alex needs to feel the control. There are many levels of BDSM and this only one aspect of the culture.

The strength here is that we deal with a targeted section of the scene and Ms. Sinclair does a masterful job of demonstrating the mind of a Dom. To me, she really gets how they think and Alex is not a poser. We understand his actions and can recognize his motivations.

What could be better?

This book is mostly about the relationship, while there is a little intrigue, it mostly surrounds Mac’s past. If you are looking for suspense, then this is not the book for you. I would say that the only possible improvement was character development of the male lead, Alex. But, because we were dealing with such emotionally charged issues with Mac, I think it would have been too much drama if we had to “fix” Alex too. I think Ms. Sinclair chose well. If you are looking for a Dom who struggles character development, then read her Mountain Masters series.

Conclusions:

If anyone asks me about what is a good place to start if they want to read about BDSM, then I tell them Cherise Sinclair and then would suggest starting with The Dom’s Dungeon. This is an excellent example of demonstrating the emotional necessity of the lifestyle and not that it’s just some excuse to wear leather, whip someone and go “yeeee hawww!”.

If you are looking for a well-written, emotionally intense novel that walks the reader through a woman’s acceptance of herself then this is the book for you. You will not be disappointed.

Bea

Review: Dangerous Cravings by Evangeline Anderson

 

 

Intro:

* (Please Note):  This post has adult content and is advised to be at least 18 years of age.  Enjoy!

At first glance, labels are just labels.  After all, if we couldn’t categorize things, how would we ever find anything?  But to label something often restricts.  For example, what if I said, “romance book” to a male?  Most men would call them bodice rippers in a condescending fashion and not even think of reading one.  It would never occur that this would contain meaningful content.

Let’s take that a step further and say, “erotica”.  Most see this label as porn for women and dismiss it as smut or trash immediately.  And to be honest, there is much of erotica that is just plain crap (although you could say that about any genre).  But to dismiss every book that is in the category of erotica is to pass up some exceptional novels.   This post is a book review for Evangeline Anderson’s Dangerous Cravings and is one such exception.

Basic Plot:

This is at the core a suspense novel.  We follow a serial murder case from the perspective of both of the police partners.  The victims are sexually assaulted and then murdered with seemingly no connection.  The cops (Alex and Cole) discover a connection to BDSM and must go undercover to find the murderer.  As they go undercover their partnership and friendship goes on the line as they discover each other’s secret desires.

Background:

The topic of BDSM is popular right now in romance.  It seems as if every author puts it into a series, even if they truly do not understand the topic.  For some reason they just throw in threesomes and anal sex and all of a sudden it’s “hot erotica”!  The problem is, these authors don’t truly know the content and their storylines and scene are not realistic.  You know, the anal sex that just immediately happens to a vanilla girl without any physical preparation or the idea that all a Dominant wants is sex in public and spends all his time being cruel to the sub.

 Female Lead:

Alex is the female lead, and her entire life is conformity.  Her childhood was not ideal and her adult life has surrounds a need to fit into a career that is male dominated as a police officer.  We learn throughout the story that her sexual wants are based on a lot of her life experiences, including her childhood.

But with all of these things she is not happy in her life.  She spends so much time in controlled situations; she wants to be able let go sometimes.  Alex’s need is to be controlled, to be weak, and to need the pain is something that she wants out of the bedroom.

“Some people need to be tied down to feel free,” she emphasized.  “Even the toughest, most competent woman needs to be able to feel vulnerable sometimes.  If she trusts you enough to show you that side of herself, you should feel honored and try to be a little more accepting.  You have no idea how much courage it takes to admit to such feelings.”

Alex attempts to try to channel her desires through her erotic writing, never allowing her sexual partners into her private needs.  How many of us who read romance novels such as these as outlets of our secrets desires?

Male Lead:

Cole is Alex’s police partner for five years.  He is tall, buff, and manly and a former Marine.  While he might be a typical Alpha male character, he is not perfect.  We see him struggle with his desires to be a good father and deal with a bitchy ex-wife.  He also discovers that he is in love with Alex.  Is it worth the risk to this friendship and partnership to admit this love?  As Cole learns of Alex’s secret, he must accept her sexual needs.  What kind of man does this make him if he gets off on giving her pain?

“Although I had to admit that the idea of doing some of the things I had described to her was an amazing turn-on.  But damn it, I wasn’t supposed to feel that way for my partner, my best friend.”

I imagine that this would be a conflict that any vanilla male might struggle.  Think how a good Southern Christian boy might fight against years of social morals.

I also liked that Cole doesn’t instantly know everything about BDSM.  You know in many romance books the male automatically knows everything about the scene.  But in reality, it takes practice and training for a Dom to become a Master.  Cole also takes time to come to terms with both Alex’s needs and his desire to meet them.  Again, this is unique that the author took the time for development.

Theme Summary:

In simplest terms, this book is about acceptance and courage.  Consider your own lives.  Is there something about yourself that you are frightened to reveal to your partner?  Are you afraid of rejection and derision?  This novel illustrates how one person has dealt with this and then finally comes to terms with her sexuality.  Alex describes her needs:

“When my Master disciplines me, I feel all his attention centered on me—all his love, all his hate, every emotion—all for me.”

It takes courage for her to admit this to Cole.  For Cole, he must accept Alex’s wants and admit that being her Master does not make him an evil man.

Strong Points:

This novel has a compelling suspense story that had me saying, “who did it!” at the end.  We had plenty of time for character development and I did not feel that either character were stock.

What could be better?

I really dislike first person and it took me a little while to get into the book because of it.  However, the content was excellent.  We switch perspective between Alex and Cole, so we still get to see each other’s inner dialogue.

Conclusions:

I give this a 4-Star, both for the suspense story, but also for the psychological depth of both characters.  This is a must read for those of you curious about BDSM.

Bea

 

 

 

Review: Causing Havoc by Lori Foster

Intro:

I grabbed this series from a review blog site, as I was looking for something different.  I was tired of vampire and wolves and most typical contemporary romances tend to bore me.  Lori Foster’s SBC Fighters Series is an unusual one, based on a topic that I have no preconceived notions.  In fact, I have enjoyed getting a glimpse of this world.

Basic Plot:

Dean Conor, AKA Havoc receives a letter from his estranged sister asking him to come visit their home time.  After his parents are killed in a car accident, his uncle Grover raises him away from Dean’s aunt and two sisters, Cam and Jackie.  Once there he meets Eve and discovers that there might be something more than just a casual fling.  In the meantime he gets closer to his sisters and realizes that something strange is going on in this sleepy little town.

Background:

This is the first book in the series and it is clear that we are introduced to the men of SBC.  We get a glimmer into how challenging it is to maintain peak physical condition, and how difficult it is to balance a home life with the world of the professional fighter.

 Female Lead:

Eve Lavon is a female character that I think all of us wish we could be: a self-confident, beautiful, and a good friend.  Here we see Cam sticking up for her best friend Cam against Roger (Cam’s boyfriend).  Our first introduction to Roger is that he is an ass.

“Eve could barely breathe.  She didn’t understand Roger and never would.  “One way or another,” she promised, “I’m going to make Cam see the truth about you.”

I will say however, there does not seem to be much depth to the character.  We do not see any true struggle, other than struggling for a way to not fall in love with Havoc.  I had difficulty finding quotes for this character, which to me is a sign there was nothing memorable about her.

Male Lead:

I loved Dean.  We get to see a man who, is struggling with the emotions that he uncovers as he meets his sisters and a possible new love in Eve.  He’s an Alpha in all of the typical sense, but he is also struggling with this new feelings.  For example, we get an insight in the fighter’s mind:

The urge would return, as it always did. The cheers of the crowd, the satisfaction in getting bloody, in conquering a worthy challenger…. It was like a drug in his veins, his one and only vice.

But not only is he a warrior, but he is a philosopher of sorts:

 “Being afraid doesn’t change the circumstances.  It only affects how well you deal with them.”

Theme Summary:

Truly we can apply the previous quote to this theme.  Dean is afraid to move forward into reconnecting to his sisters, as well as the possibility of a relationship. It’s how he steps up and meets the challenges head-on that demonstrate his integrity and honor.

Strong Points:

This is a unique book and series.  The dialogue is strong and I enjoy the banter between fighters.

What could be better?

I do not know why Ms. Foster chose to have a mini relationship with his sister Jackie and Gregor.  This seems to be a trend with this series, and I am not sure why.  I do not need to have more than one romance story in one book.  The only reason that I could figure out is that we needed to make this book longer and so a secondary love story stretched its length.  But this is not a reason to tell the story.  I would much have rather seen Jackie and Gregor’s story have their own book.

But other than that, what I found extremely lacking is Roger’s and Cam’s relationship.  Starting the book, he comes off as an ass and he does not get any better through the book.  But then at the end, we learn something that gets Cam and Roger together.  But here’s the problem, he’s an ass and I cannot believe that Cam accepts him.  It made me doubt her intelligence considering his actions.

And finally, I really didn’t feel that our heroine was fully fleshed out.  If we had not had the sub-plot relationship (Jackie and Gregor) we could have had some character development for Eve.

Conclusions:

Overall, it’s a passable book.  I am putting it as a 3-Star, as I do read it often, however, I tend to skip over the secondary characters.  I would recommend the book, just don’t expect a great deal of thinking.

Bea

SBC Fighters Series

I read many romance novels from paranormal to contemporary; they often can be the same thing, just different environment.  For example, wolves, vampires, war heroes, and millionaires are often the typical male.  For all of these of course they are the tortured Alpha males.  But Lori Foster has had a unique series is SBC Fighters Series.  I have already reviewed one series, Men who Walk the Edge of Honor.  This fighter series is actually the only series that I know of that surrounds the world of competitive fighting.

The basic world

This series follows the world of the fighter, which is something that we rarely see.  I enjoyed getting to understand the discipline involved in staying in condition.   We learn about the Supreme Battle Challenge (SBC) and start the series with Dean AKA Havoc.

“Supreme Battle Challenge.  It’s a combat sport with a variety of disciplines like jiu-jitsu, judo, karate, boxing, kickboxing, or wrestling—usually a combination of all of those”.

Usually there is a mystery that goes in hand with the series, not just a bunch of guys strutting around.  What I like about this series is that these Alpha men are more than just big hunks of muscles, but they have issues and depth that makes the reader invests the time.

I enjoy this series, but I do have a few caveats.  I have not read the entire series, in fact, I can only vouch for the following: Causing Havoc, Simon Says, and Back in Black.   It also seems to be a series that is not on the front burner for Ms. Foster, so do not expect any further installments.  Also, based on the reviews, My Man Michael is not really set in the SBC setting, but in a science fiction.  This jump the shark installment might not be to everyone’s taste, I am not sure I will pick it up myself.  However, overall, this is a great series.

The Books: These do not have to be read in order

  • Causing Havoc (February 2007): Main Characters Dean (Havoc) and Eve
  • Simon Says (August 2007): Main Characters Simon (Sublime) and Dakota
  • Hard to Handle (February 2008): Main Characters Harley Handleman and Anastasia Kelley
  • My Man, Michael (February 2009): Main Characters Michael (Mallet) Manchester and Kayli Raine
  • Back in Black (February 2010): Main Characters Drew Black and Gillian Noode

Review: Animal Attraction by Jill Shalvis

Intro:

This is the second installment of the series, Animal Magnetism by Jill Shalvis. This is a new author to me, again a recommendation by Amazon.  Reading this book was not difficult without having read the first.  I certainly will now go back and read book 1, Animal Magnetism.

Basic Plot:

Jade Bennett arrived 18 months previously in Sunshine, Idaho with a secret past. She is attracted to her employer, Dell Connelly who is a handsome speed dater and finds the attraction hard to resist.  Dell fights his attraction as he is afraid of making the connection of a serious relationship.  She is soon to return home to Chicago, back to her old life, only to realize that perhaps she had already created a new life in Idaho.

Background:

This is more of a relationship romance as compared to suspense romance.  Thus we expect to have more individual character development as well as the relationship. I found that compared to other romance books, I actually was motivated and emotionally affected by the tone and message.

Female Lead:

What should a female lead be in a romance book? Should she be the heroine in distress? Should she be the ballsy tough chick with a chip on her shoulder? Perhaps she’s the girl next door? Jade Bennett is all of these women, and yet none at all.

I will honestly say that this woman has many faults and makes many mistakes. But while I fussed at her actions, I had to acknowledge that had I been in her situation, I would have made the same mistakes.

And as it turns out, being told you’re strong and actually being strong were two very different things.

How many times have you been in a situation where when looking back you wished you chose differently? How many times have you thought you would do the right thing, but when it happens, you froze? Jade is in all of us, when we are alone in our rooms alone, hiding from our mistakes and afraid to correct them.

Male Lead:

Dell Connelly, the animal whisperer. We have here a man who has had a life of hard knocks (opposite of Jade) and while humans have always disappointed him, animals never did. Dell always gives his time; he always helps, but never emotionally invests, always expecting to be disappointed. What I liked about this book is that so often I took the side of the man. I so rarely get that opportunity.

But that was no longer the case. Now when he went to sleep at night, he lay there wondering what Jade was doing and why she wasn’t in his bed. He didn’t want to be alone anymore.

Theme Summary:

To me this book was more than a romance book with hot sex scenes, but a novel about the human soul and its capacity of learning to love. It’s also about the miracle of what marriage is about, compromise and acceptance:

“So how are you going to live with that for the next sixty years?”

“Buy another TV”.

The key of marriage is to compromise on the things that don’t matter. You fight over what’s on TV? Get two TVs. But beyond that message is the overall theme:

“Or the fact that I am not defined by the worst day of my life”.

This is such a profound thought, yet such a simple statement. How often to we reflect on our past and let those past actions rule our present? Not to say that traumatic events don’t shape us, but we should not let them control us.

Strong Points:

This is not just a romance book, but it has a wonderful message about acceptance, emotional healing, and love. The character development of both main characters is a large portion of this book.

What could be better?

There were times when I wanted to tell them, just say you love each other and get over it. If you seek a book that has a lot of action and adventure, this is not the book for you.

Conclusions: They are not perfect. They make mistakes. They are afraid of commitment and they almost let that fear ruin their lives. This book is about finding yourself and not letting others make life decisions for you. I believe that we can all get something out of this book and apply it to our relationships. I would recommend this book.

Bea