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3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 01-03-18

This author has done better elsewhere

This is the second book I have purchased on Audible by this author – I have read many of her books on kindle. Unfortunately this is only slightly better than the last one (which I did not finish). The quality of writing was, as usual, excellent, but I had issues with the plot line.

The h was a product of an abusive father and ineffectual mother. Her father cruelly and brutally ensured her separation from the teenage H as he was “from the wrong side of town”. 15 years later, her father’s will stipulates that the h moves back to her home town, near the H, but she cannot have “sexual relations” with the H for six months, or she forfeits her inheritance. This did not make any sense: The h and H had not had any contact with each other for 15 years, during which time the H was happily married (now a widower) so what made the father decide that six months abstinence would be a problem? Furthermore, it would have been almost impossible to legally prove that a sexual encounter had taken place unless illegal means were used, and revealing details which would mean the perpetrator would have to come forward, which would also expose his motives.

Naturally, the H and h were unable to control themselves and behaved like two horny teenagers sneaking around to meet for sex, with one particularly unappealing encounter being in the girls’ changing rooms at the school where the h is a teacher and the H’s daughter is a pupil. Not exactly the behaviour of mature and responsible adults, and not at all erotic, just a bit sleazy, more so when you remember the H is the town’s Deputy Sheriff!

A lot of people will love this book and I can recommend the author, but I think in future I will stick to the kindle versions of her books rather than audio versions.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 21-02-18

Good mix of romance and paranormal

I have already read this book on Kindle, and the Audio version does not disappoint. The narration is not perfect and the various accents are a bit weird but this is fairly easy to ignore in a story that moves along at a decent pace and has a good mixture of mystery, paranormal and romance to keep me happy. This book does have some minor plot issues, and the whole “reincarnated lovers” theme does take a bit of suspense out of the romance element, so this is probably not one of Kristen Ashley’s best. However each day I looked forward to tuning in and listening to more, so I am not about to deduct any stars for this really enjoyable read

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 16-02-18

Great finish to series

This is the third and last book in the series and, like the second, it features a romance that develops in the first half, but then takes a back seat to the plot in the second half. Not a bad thing, as it’s great to see a newly formed couple making their relationship work whilst dealing with other problems. In this case the problem is solving the ten year old murder of the h’s father.

The romance in this book was real and strong – no silly misunderstandings – and they were both clear and honest about their developing feelings and commitment which is fairly unusual in romance books. The murder mystery was surprising well developed with a twist at the end that I did not see coming.

It’s good to the writer of this book honing her craft as she develops, and not making the mistake of churning out books that are mere reproductions of previous works. In this series her couples are more mature, the romances are more realistic and having plot lines that don’t just centre around the developing romance just add to the enjoying for the reader.

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3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 05-01-18

Not sure if this series should continue

I think Ms Bybee has taken this series as far as it should go. What started as a unique formula (arranged platonic marriages for the very wealthy) has now become a caricature, and the casual way in which the characters flitted between luxury cruises, private jets, and assorted mansions, accompanied by the obligatory body guards, has become a bit grating.

The H and h were difficult to connect to, as we learnt very little about their lives prior to them meeting. Even now, having finished the book, I feel I know very little about them. I also did not warm to either of them: Lawyer h revealed confidential business details to a man she knew so little about that even her own brother expressed concern, while the H spied upon her, and bugged her home, while encouraging her to care about him and trust him. He even kept secret the knowledge that she was being followed, knowing there was a possibility the person concerned had harmful intentions. Even when their relationship was getting serious, he was still using his involvement in her life to get better access to the “dirt” his client was looking for. Why did he not just quit the job due to conflict of interest?

The book did improve vastly once the H’s activities were revealed, and the last few chapters were good, but the ending left threads of the story unresolved, no doubt as a set-up for future books but that, along with the lack of explanations about other characters, does mean that a reader would struggle if they had not read previous books in this series.

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4 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 28-11-17

Undemanding romance

There was nothing really wrong with this book. It was well written, great narration, good plot and no boring bits. But somehow it just failed to grab me and pull me in. I’m not sure why, as I loved the H and h and there were also some great side characters and enough of a plot to keep the story moving along nicely. I think the book needed a prologue of the first meeting of the H and h to really pull the reader into the story. Add this issue to the fact that they worked together for a year before the romance started and if left me feeling something was missing. I really enjoyed listening to this book, but with large chunks of the story happening before the first chapter, I feel some important things were left out.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 09-11-17

Fab fantasy romance

I am not usually a fan of fantasy books but this one I loved, mainly because it is character driven, with the fantasy element simply adding a new dimension (literally!) to the plotline. Set in the same world as the two previous books in this series, my only criticism is that the epilogue was really the prologue of the next book.

If you are a romance reader who normally avoids books which depart from the real world, this fantasy series by Kristen Ashley is a good place to start. The first three books could be read as standalones, but as the fantasy element follows a developing storyline through each book, it’s probably best to read them in order

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3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 31-10-17

Promising start, but didn't finish

I have loved many books by this writer, including the first in this series, but this one disappoints. It starts really well, with a chilling depiction of how someone can be sucked into an abusive relationship, and how difficult it is to escape, both emotionally and financially. However once the h starts her new life it just gets very tedious. The story had every small town cliché possible with “good honest country folk”, lovable dogs, friendly locals who show little curiosity in life of the h before she arrived, country kids who welcome the h’s son into their fold like a long lost brother and, naturally, there is the welcoming extended family of the H who live, of course, in a picture-perfect white farmhouse with the veranda, porch swing and nearby red barn. Even the threat of the violent ex failed to raise tension as he behaved like a cartoon villain where no one questioned him as he freely abused his legal powers.

I did not finish this book as I did not really care about any of the characters. The H was too perfect to be true, as he inserted himself into every part of the h’s life and didn’t put a foot wrong as he became an instant father figure to her son. Meanwhile the h seemed unrealistically ready to fall into another relationship (while constantly denying that she was doing so). I gave up at about the 50% mark when their first date was, of course, to the stereotypical happy country fair, complete with funfair rides and corndogs. Lots of reader will love this book, but it was just too sugary sweet for me to finish.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 26-10-17

Jill Shalvis at her best.

Shalvis is a prolific writer and it would be easy for her to get lazy and stick to a tested formula. But this book is good from so many perspectives, and it’s great to see that her writing just gets better and better.

Firstly, she has written the best depiction of a 15 year old girl I have ever read: Rude, challenging, defiant, incomprehensible, unpredictable and lovable. This book also features two pets – a dog and a cat - with such brilliant characterisation that I was laughing out loud (which can be embarrassing when commuting on the bus). Many side characters in this story were well-rounded individuals who fitted no norms or stereotypes, particularly in the case of the ex partners of the H and h who were neither predictable nor typical in this genre.

Shalvis skilfully let us understand the emotions and beliefs driving the central characters, so we are able to understand what motivates them, even when their behaviour was difficult to agree with. We understood their decision making processes and therefore understood why they messed up and made mistakes. I particularly loved the H and h who had a few rocky moments but never failed to then work to make things right, nor did they hold grudges for mistakes made by each other. Their relationship was up front and honest, and they worked through issues instead of letting them fester and destroy them.

This book does not feature any great drama or mystery, rather it is the story of the death of loved ones, and the lives of those who loved them and were left behind to cope with the aftermath, when there are no easy solutions, no simple way to make things work and no clear path to follow. Highly recommended.

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5 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 16-10-17

More of a Suspense than a romance

This is a really good book but I have to be honest, it was just a bit raw for me. The suffering of the h was awful, and the fact that 12 years later she was still only just managing to cope, and was still suffering from PTSD, was a sign of how much she endured. The action and suspense were non-stop, the romance part was pretty muted with an uncomfortable sex scene in the middle which I would have been happier not to read. The final chapters added even more to the suffering of the h. Some people will love this book, it is extremely well written and an absorbing plot, and towards the end I was unable to switch it off. I loved how the h just kept fighting back even when she was at her lowest. However I do personally prefer less graphic descriptions of violence and a bit more romance in my books, and I would have loved a “happy ever after” epilogue to let me see the h finally getting some well deserved happiness.

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3 out of 5 stars

Reviewed: 02-10-17

Good in parts, but not a keeper

I enjoyed the first part of this book – it really helped to form the characters, and set the scene for the actual romance that followed. I also enjoyed the fantasy element to this book which was really only a background to the plot, but featured a genie who was easily my favourite character in this story.

However the eight year separation of the H and h was the result of an impossible set of coincidences. When the H re-enters the h’s life, any resistance to his unreasonable demands is swept away by the power of his kisses. It would have been nice if h had a bit more backbone, but even with a live-in genie to help, she was completely incapable of managing successfully as a single parent and had no savings, no friends, no social life, and could not even poach an egg. She sacrificed so much for her child that she regarded painting her own bedroom as an unnecessary luxury, and when gifted £7million(!) immediately locks it away in a trust fund for the child. Seriously: She didn’t pay off her mortgage, buy a dependable car, get some decent furniture, a reliable fridge or washing machine. That’s just clueless, and NOT the actions of a loving and responsible parent. And who, in this century, would agree to a loveless marriage in the ridiculous belief that this would be better for a child?

A central part of the plot expected the reader to believe that an abused and neglected pre-teen boy who resorted to petty crime to survive, was to be held responsible for those actions as an adult. However his adoptive father, formally a major crime boss, was depicted as a benign father and grandfather. That said, the H’s treatment of the h was awful. He deliberately got her pregnant to trap her (!), then made little attempt to find her when she suddenly disappears. Eight years later he forces his way back into her life, makes endless promises to “take care of her”, but then suddenly rejects her, and humiliates her with an incredibly repugnant sex scene (Even more repugnant was the h allowing this to happen). Some serious grovelling should have followed, but in true spineless fashion the h just accepts him back with minimal resistance – again.

Wierdly enough, even with all these irritations, Kirsten Ashley’s writing is so good that I finished this book and in some strange way actually enjoyed parts of it – mainly the bits about the genie! But the ending was bizarre with the last “wish” being used on something so incredibly trivial and unimportant, that it only served, once again, to display the endless self-flagellation of the h.

This book would make a really good historical romance, as the separation and solo-mother struggles, and the coercion into marriage would have made more sense. As it was, I enjoyed parts of this, but I don’t think I will be listening to this one again.

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