Review: ‘Fast’ by Lauren K. McKellar

Quinn Hamilton had it all—A grades, a loving family, and a spot on the waitlist for the latest Hermes handbag. The one item left unchecked on her to-do list was her brother’s best friend, Liam, and that was only because Braden was overprotective when it came to his mates.

When tragedy struck, Quinn was left with nothing. Not even the handbag made it.

Three years later, Quinn’s focused on the things that count—getting a steady job, looking after her mother, and playing it safe. Her dreams of working for a fashion magazine haven’t just left the building—they’ve dived into the gutter, never to be touched again.

But when completing a two-week internship in the city, Quinn meets someone who makes her do the one thing she’s been trying desperately to avoid—feel. Will this sexy man who knows so much of her history help her go after what she wants? Or is their brand of passion as outdated as last season’s trends?

She’s running from her past, but her past is running faster.

Life has been pretty hectic for me lately, so what better to read than a novella by the amazing Lauren K. McKellar? Her prose flows so smoothly and her story so quickly that this is truly a fast read — I gobbled it up in two sittings and was left with that satisfying “plentiful and delicious dessert” feeling. And I say this as a person who doesn’t generally read romance.

For fans of the genre, all the goodies are here: the girl, the guy, the obstacles that draw out the process of them getting together (but not too far; this is a novella). Quinn has scars on the inside that are worse than the scar on the outside: a massive case of survivor’s guilt means she subconsciously believes she doesn’t deserve happiness. Liam is an A-grade hottie who struggles with a minor case of the same. Together, they manage to muddle their way through to a place where they might be able to start healing.

Through Quinn’s eyes we also get another glimpse into the world of magazines, a place that the author knows well. It was nice to see Madison, the leading lady from Fame — although Fast had none of Fame‘s steaminess, unless you count the smooching.

I love Lauren’s writing. Regular readers of my blog will recognise the name; she is my editor, the one who I (as a professional editor myself) trust with my books. What this means is that you can buy her books — most of which are self-published — safe in the knowledge that they will be beautifully written and professionally treated. She has a keen eye for story and her editing game is amazing.

If romance is your thing and you’re keen to try a new author, why not give this novella a try? It’s a great way to discover someone new. You won’t regret it.

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Review: ‘Fame’ by Lauren K. McKellar

Fame

She’s supposed to cover the stories.
Not be one.

Madison Winters has life in the bag. Gorgeous fiancé? Check. Promotion to become editor of the country’s hottest fashion magazine? Check. Limited edition pair of Manolo Blahniks? Checkity-check. Catching her fiancé with his pants down isn’t something she expects. In the space of twenty-four hours, Madison loses it all—not even her shoes will be saved. Swapping sass + bide for sweatpants and Dior for the downward dog is going to be hell. The last thing Madison’s broken heart needs is a run-in with America’s newest playboy. Can she ever recover from this?

Tate Masters has it all—Hollywood’s latest golden boy has washboard abs, a killer smile, and a leading role in the next A-list movie. Until a secret from his past is splashed all over the headlines, and that ‘good boy’ image fast-tracks to the gutter. Now the media hunt is on, and they’re baying for Tate’s blood. One night of wild behaviour sees him wake up next to a gorgeous Aussie brunette—and she’s everything Tate’s afraid of.

Keeping secrets has never been this hard.

I’ve said before that Lauren McKellar is one of my very few one-click contemporary authors. She usually writes some young adult and some new adult, and I knew going into Fame that it wasn’t a tragedy like most of her other stories. What I didn’t realise was that this is adult contemporary. Adult-y adult. Now with more adult.

The chemistry — and, let’s be honest, the raw lust — between Madison and Tate sizzles off the page from the first time they meet. And the sex scenes (is that a spoiler?) are scorching. *fans self*

At first I wasn’t sure about Tate. He comes across as a cheat at the start of the book, and no amount of megawatt smiles and ripped muscles made up for that in my mind. Still, it’s not too long before we discover more about Tate — his reasons for doing the things he does — and soon I was swooning and wishing for a Tate in my life too.

It turns out McKellar does sex scenes as well as she does romance. The latter is her bread and butter. It’s not usually my favourite genre, but the relationship here, as embryonic as it is, is well executed. Tate and Madison discover in each other someone who will let them be real, not pushing them to do anything they don’t want to or judging them.

The other thing that’s worth mentioning is that the book is just downright funny.  Madison attracts the worst kinds of random luck, but at the same time her approach to handling things is kind of hilarious. While she naturally grieves for her failed relationship with Mike and the consequent struggle with who she is, she’s generally quite resilient and doesn’t take BS from anyone. Her disdain for the trappings of “wellness” (a word I rather dislike myself … mostly because it’s just ugly, tbh) had me giggling on more than one occasion. Her banter with not just Tate but her bestie Courtney was hilarious. And I can’t talk about the humour without mentioning Madison’s parents. They only appear in a handful of scenes, but her father — oh my god, what a scream!

The other touch I liked was the shout-out to How to Save a Life with the cameo of Jase, the tattooed bartender from that book. I wanted to give him a hug, like a long-lost friend.

If you’re looking for a sexy, feel-good story, then I can’t recommend Fame highly enough.

Fame

Five starscas


Review: ‘Shh!’ by Stacey Nash

Shh_Stacey_Nash

Nineteen-year-old Olivia Dean has the perfect reputation, the perfect boyfriend, and an increasingly perfect CV. She has it all, until Christian breaks up with her in public, calling her out as a self-gratifying sexoholic: the kind that plays solo. But Olivia doesn’t masturbate all night — the only thing she does is sleep … right?

Now all the boys on campus seem to want her attention for the absolutely wrong reason — including resident hottie, Logan Hays. He’s pulling out his best moves to gain her attention, so resisting his sexy charm is hard work. With rapidly slipping grades, a disturbingly lurid reputation and demanding parents, Olivia must discover the truth behind her rumoured sleeping problem. If she doesn’t, the perfect life she’s worked so hard for may slip away, including the one person who has Olivia breaking all her rules — Logan.

What do you do when you’re asleep?

***

Shh! is a story about acceptance, learning to trust and in turn love while facing life’s unexpected difficulties.

This is the sweetest new adult romance I’ve ever read, despite the subject matter. There are some heated kissing scenes, but the sex is definitely of the “fade to black” sort. So if the idea about reading a story involving a girl’s discovery that she has a sexual sleep disorder is putting you off, don’t let it!

Olivia is a perfectionist teenager trying to fulfill her parents’ demand that she get the grades and extracurricular credit to secure herself a job in a top-tier law firm. It’s obvious from the start that she doesn’t really enjoy law, which gave me a pretty clear idea of what kind of parents she has (the kind that shouldn’t be allowed to have kids!). When her parentally approved boyfriend dumps her in a public and humiliating way, her life starts to unravel.

Enter Logan. He’s got his own issues, and has a bit of a “bad boy” vibe—except he really isn’t at all. Sure, he’s from the wrong side of the tracks, but there is absolutely nothing bad about him. His fun nature and support for Olivia encourage her to start questioning the direction her life is taking. Also, because he’s already found the strength to escape the path his parents thought he’d take, he is the best possible example for Olivia.

Unfortunately for the couple, each of their issues discourages them from opening up fully to the other, which results in some inevitable heartache. In some books, a lack of communication doesn’t make sense and is a transparent plot device. But in Shh!, I totally understood why that was the case—if I were Olivia, I’d find it hard to tell my new boyfriend I was concerned I might have sexomnia as well!

My favourite characters were Logan (because duh!) and Olivia’s new friend, Molly. In my mind, she was Willow from the first season of Buffy, only older and a bit less of a nerd. I loved her! I saw a Goodreads reviewer was demanding a book about Molly, and I want to add a big +1 for that!

I found it hard to put this book down, and devoured it in three days. This is Stacey Nash’s first venture into contemporary, and she’s definitely nailed the new genre. The sequel is titled Wait!, but I don’t want to. I need it now!

Five stars


Romance in Novels: Likes and Dislikes

toptentuesday

Top Ten Tuesday is a bookish meme where you can link up with other bloggers, write about books, and make lists. It’s perfect! And yes, I know it’s barely Tuesday anymore in Australia as this post goes live, because I’m running late. Disorganised? Me?

Today’s theme is: “Top Ten Things I Like/Dislike When It Comes To Romances In Books.” I’ve gone for a little of column A and a little of column B… And not ten, because I have trouble committing. :p

Likes

Characters who are friends first. There’s no doubt that the sizzling attraction of lust-at-first-sight is a thing, but I love the slow build of a relationship that turns from friendship to romance. Traditionally this is written as one person realising before the other. Then awkwardness often ensues. But still, I like the basic idea.

Happy Buzz Toy StoryThe realistically developed romance. This is tied into the point above, but it applies regardless of whether there’s an existing friendship. I’m not saying that sometimes people don’t jump straight into the sack together (that’s basically a new adult trope!), but I like it when the development of the romance happens over a period of time.

Arwen and Aragorn

Diversity in relationships. I haven’t read much GLBT fiction so far, but what I’ve read I’ve really liked. I want to read more.

Frodo and Sam cuddles

Dislikes

Insta-love. I know I said I like lust-at-first-sight, but love-at-first-sight? No. Nuh uh. I’ve very occasionally seen it done well, but only in instances where some supernatural element — reincarnation, say — is at play. I get really grouchy when two sensible-seeming characters decide that they are destined to be together forever after one date. Ugh.

Racoon GotGBroody, asshole men* . You know the trope: he’s a prick to her, either because he’s caught up in his own thing or he’s “trying to drive her away for her own good”. I HATE THAT AS A PLOTLINE. It’s so patronising! I’d prefer to see a man who is willing to fess up about whatever the problem is and let the female lead decide what she’s willing to tolerate.

* I realise this may sound sexist. But the truth is that I can’t recall ever seeing the roles reversed in this situation, with the woman driving the man away for his own good, but maybe I’m missing something.Bella SwanPlots that rely on characters not communicating. I hate it when characters don’t speak their mind when everything suggests that they should, including their own personality. I once threw a book against a wall because the husband commented that his wife must really like the father of the baby she just had, and she said yes (trying to be coy and meaning it was him). He assumed she’d had an affair, because his question was in the third person. And she didn’t correct him, even though he was standing right there. I still get mad about that.

Amy Doctor Who No

Relationships fixing brooding, asshole men*. Fifty Shades of Grey. Enough said.

*And women. But, again, it’s usually men. Written by women writers, which I find baffling.

Flipping the bird Bring it On

Well, that ended on a crude note. Thanks very much, Missy!

What would you add to my list? What books would you recommend, or not recommend, based on it? 🙂

 


Excerpt and author interview: ‘Eleven Weeks’ by Lauren K. McKellar

Eleven Weeks, book two in the Crazy In Love series
Lauren K. McKellar

Genre: Contemporary Romance (New Adult)

Eleven Weeks

Cover Design: KILA Designs

Seven shots
Five siblings
Two boys
One heartbeat …

Stacey is good at pretending.

She pretends that the boy she’s in love with doesn’t exist.

She pretends that she’s happy to live and die in this small town.

She pretends that her life is carefree while her best friend’s world crumbles before her very eyes.

But Stacey’s got a secret …

And it’s going to ruin everything.

Add it on Goodreads

Read my review of Eleven Weeks here. (Hint: I LOVED IT!)

Interview with Lauren

Where did you come up with the inspiration for Eleven Weeks?

The idea for Eleven Weeks was sort of twofold, I guess. First, I’d decided I wanted to do a novella to make the Crazy in Love series a three-book experience. My good friend and writerly co-conspirator Stacey Nash (also an author, of a whole heap of talent) suggested I write about Stacey and Michael.

At first, I was hesitant. A few people had noted that they found the character of Stacey (the best friend of my protagonist, Kate, in The Problem With Crazy) to be a little unlikeable, but then it gave me the best plan ever. I could use this to show why at times she was a little distant or hostile. This could be Stacey’s redemption!

I believe a lot of things happen to make us the way we are, and hopefully this gives people some insight as to why Stacey wasn’t always there for Kate in book one of the series.

Who is your writing hero?

If I could be any author, it would be hands down Colleen Hoover. I adore her work, and I love her style – for me, writing is all about producing books that make people feel, and that’s what her titles always do to me, by the bucket-load! I don’t want to be the next Proust or Malouf – I just want to offer people escapism and connect with them emotionally. If I can come even halfway close to that, I’ll be stoked.

What’s next for the Crazy in Love series?

Well, book three, The Problem With Heartache, is out on 26 February, and will see Kate do a little bit of a road trip as she travels to America with a massive rock ‘n’ roll band. It’s a dual POV book, which was a really fun challenge for me, as I’ve never written from a masculine perspective before. It was super fun.

Fast five:

Beer or wine: Wine.

MC or paranormal: Oh, tough one! Most likely MC, but I do love me some good paranormal reads!

Indie or traditional: I’m hybrid published, so I’d say both!

Chocolate or candy: Chocolate … but right now I’m on a health kick, so please don’t tempt me!

Rock or pop: Bit of both please. There’s no reason I can’t have a side of Taylor Swift with my alternate music!

Excerpt

The warm sun beats down on my face. I open my eyes, fighting the stickiness that falling asleep while wearing mascara brings. I run my tongue along my teeth, the gross feeling of furry and—

Oh God.

Last night.

Michael.

I inch my leg behind me, hoping to feel his warmth. Maybe we can make this work, somehow. Michael seems to think we can.

One inch: warm bed sheets.

Two inches: the bed cools.

Three inches: nothing.

I flip over. His side of the bed is empty, the quilt pulled up, and the sheets tucked in, as if he had never even been there in the first place.

On his pillow lies a note, man-scrawl scratched across its surface in blue hotel-room pen.

I’ll keep your secrets.
I just won’t be one.

Ouch.

Buy Links

AmazonBarnes & NobleKobo Books

About the Crazy in Love series

The Crazy in Love series consists of three titles: The Problem With Crazy, Eleven Weeks and The Problem With Heartache.

Links to Book One: The Problem With Crazy

GoodreadsAmazonBarnes & NobleKobo Books

About Lauren

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Lauren K. McKellar is an author and editor. Her debut novel, Finding Home, was released through Escape Publishing on October 1, 2013, and her second release, NA Contemporary Romance The Problem With Crazy, is self-published, and is available now. She loves books that evoke emotion, and hope hers make you feel.

Lauren lives by the beach in Australia with her husband and their two dogs. Most of the time, all three of them are well behaved.

Author Links

WebsiteGoodreadsTwitterFacebook

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Cover reveal for ‘Keir’ by Pippa Jay – and a mini review

I originally read Keir back in the middle of 2013 (I was going to write “last year” but oh, wait, 2015!). I really enjoyed it; I’ve copied my review of it from Goodreads and put it at the bottom of this cover reveal post. (The only sad thing for me is that I ordered the paperback and I love this new cover so much more. Can’t I just, you know, swap them? No? Rats!) — Cass

Keir banner

A demon waiting to die…

An outcast reviled for his discolored skin and rumors of black magic, Keirlan de Corizi sees no hope for redemption. Imprisoned beneath the palace that was once his home, the legendary ‘Blue Demon of Adalucian’ waits for death to finally free him of his curse. But salvation comes in an unexpected guise.

A woman determined to save him.

Able to cross space and time with a wave of her hand, Tarquin Secker has spent eternity on a hopeless quest. Drawn by a compulsion she can’t explain, she risks her apparent immortality to save Keir, and offers him sanctuary on her home-world, Lyagnius. But Quin has secrets of her own.

When Keir mistakenly unleashes the dormant alien powers within him and earns exile from Lyagnius, Quin chooses to stand by him. Can he master his newfound abilities in time to save Quin from the darkness that seeks to possess her?

Keir is Book One of the Redemption series and part of the Travellers Universe. Previously released by Lyrical Press in May 2012, it has received a SFR Galaxy Award for SciFi Romance for Best May–December Romance (2012), and was a Aspen Gold Readers Choice Award 3rd place finalist (2013), Readers’ Favorite International Book Award finalist (2012), and The Kindle Book Review’s Best Indie Book Awards Nominee for Best SciFi/Fantasy (2013).

You can add Keir to your Goodreads shelf HERE.

Keir cover

Cass’s review

I really enjoyed Keir. It reminded me of some of Anne McCaffrey’s books, which are sci-fi that was light on the science but with a consistent romantic element. I’d forgotten with my recent urban fantasy kick how much I enjoy that combination.

The romance is a slow burn, not a love at first sight thing, which I prefer — although I did start wanting to shake both characters (especially Keir) to get them to just GET ON WITH IT a chapter or two before they actually did.

The world building is great; I especially enjoyed  Metraxi but there are a few to choose from. And the characters are interesting, with back stories that give them lots of issues (read: character development arcs).

Ultimately the underlying message of the story is about acceptance: finding those who will accept you despite your differences, and — by seeing yourself through their eyes — learning to accept yourself.

About Pippa

After spending twelve years working as an Analytical Chemist in a Metals and Minerals laboratory, Pippa Jay is now a stay-at-home mum who writes scifi and the supernatural. Somewhere along the way a touch of romance crept into her work and refused to leave. In between torturing her plethora of characters, she spends the odd free moment playing guitar very badly, punishing herself with freestyle street dance, and studying the Dark Side of the Force. Although happily settled in the historical town of Colchester in the UK with her husband of 21 years and three little monsters, she continues to roam the rest of the Universe in her head.

Pippa Jay is a dedicated member of the Science Fiction Romance Brigade, blogging at Spacefreighters Lounge, Adventures in Scifi, and Romancing the Genres. Her works include YA and adult stories crossing a multitude of subgenres from scifi to the paranormal, often with romance, and she’s one of eight authors included in a science fiction romance anthology—Tales from the SFR Brigade.

Sign up HERE for Pippa’s no-spam newsletter for special previews on cover reveals, new releases, the latest giveaways and discounts, and upcoming news. You can also stalk her at her website, or at her blog, but without doubt her favorite place to hang around and chat is on Twitter as @pippajaygreen.

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Why Alphas Aren’t First in My Book

I was going to write a blog post about alpha males and how they aren’t really for me, but then Nicole Evelina wrote one and I figured I’d just copy off her homework. Check her post out, you guys. I luff it. ❤

Spellbound Scribes

alpha maleFor generations, women have been taught that the ideal hero of a novel – regardless of genre, but especially in romance – is the alpha male. You know the type: tan, perfectly muscled, ruggedly handsome, can go all night, likely to appear oiled up/sweaty on the cover.*

I’d like to challenge that stereotype. Actually, I am in most of my books (King Arthur, and Lancelot to an extent, being exceptions because of their existing characteristics).

Why? Well for one, I am so not attracted to the alpha male – it’s part of the reason I don’t like romance novels. Physically, I’ve always gone for what I call the “heroin chic” look: skinny, may or may not have muscles, usually tall. (I think it comes from too many years of hanging out with musicians.) I like someone who won’t crush me under his weight or break me in a passionate embrace…

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