Review: An Affair Downstairs by (Thornbrook Park, Book 2) by Sherri Browning

an affair downstairsHero: Logan Winthrop is an estate manager with a past. He was once gentry but was linked with the murder of his lover’s husband. To keep his brother’s family free of gossip he hid from polite society. But he can’t keep hiding around Alice.

Heroine: Lady Alice Emerson has no intention of ever marrying. She has a bucket list and she plans to pursue the completion of every adventure on it and a husband would get in the way. Alice wants to see India, shoot a pistol, and have an affair to name a few things on her list.

Review: Logan is a hero who will do what it takes to protect those around him, even if it is from himself. He has desired Alice for a while but saw the differences in their circumstances as insurmountable. He’s relatively easy to seduce when Alice chooses him as her first sexual experience. Don’t let Alice fool you, she thinks he’s a good choice for all the wrong reasons. Another man enters the picture and he says all the right things, pays all the right attention to Alice, and yet there’s something off about him. Will Logan step aside to give Alice a chance at the perfect match or will he claim her as his own? One nice thing about this book is that the sister isn’t evil (and there will be a time when you wonder, but she’s mostly shallow and clueless which are forgivable because she loves Alice).

[Rating:3.5]

Buy: An Affair Downstairs (A Thornbrook Park Romance Book 2)

Audio Review: Snow Falling on Bluegrass (Bluegrass, Book 3) by Molly Harper

molly harper snow falling bluegrassSummary: Snowed-in at a lodge on a work retreat, Kelsey will not only have to organize her work colleagues, but also her love life. First Darrell, her ex, makes her life miserable by handing her credit card debt she didn’t sign up for or enjoy. Then the cute statistician at the office, Charlie, flashes hot and cold with her. Is he interested or not? And then there’s Luke, who is running the lodge in the absence of other employees and he’s a Ranger. He’s definitely interested in her. Maybe being snowed-in isn’t such a disaster after all!

Review: Molly Harper is funny, which is no surprise as she’s a former humor columnist. It’s even funnier to hear the narrator, Amanda Ronconi, say and act some of these lines. Kelsey is a smart, funny, high energy person. She’s got a sense of humor and is willing to crack jokes at herself. You have to wonder how a girl like her stuck it out with Darrell for as long as she did. Molly does explain and it is plausible but the backstory made me feel more like I was missing a key element than filling in the blanks. Perhaps this was more readily apparent in a previous book in the series. Both of Kelsey’s crushes are good guys. I would happily see her wind up with either one of them, which is very rare for me to say so. And I would definitely read about the one who didn’t win Kelsey’s heart.

Narrator: I recently listened to Amanda Ronconi in another audio book. She did a great job then and she did a great job this time. When I first heard her speak I couldn’t place the previous audio book I had heard her narrate. I think that means she did an excellent job adapting to the character profiles and accents. I’d listen to her again. She’s definitely a great listen for contemporary romances.

[Rating:4]

Buy: Snow Falling on Bluegrass, Snow Falling on Bluegrass (Audiobook)

Audio Review: Conversion (Conversion, Book 1) by S.C. Stephens

conversionHero: Teren Adams is a gorgeous twenty-something year old architect who just so happens to be part vampire. He really wants things to work with Emma and can’t believe she’s still with him after the dropping the news of his vampirism. He’s terrified of her meeting his family – because they’re pushing for babies and are worried he’s going to die soon and not be able to make any. He and Emma aren’t even married yet!

Heroine: Emma can’t believe Teren is a vampire… or part vampire. He has a heartbeat. It’s kind of cool – she thinks -she’s not sure. Meeting his parents seems a little sudden and gulp they’re vampires too. His great-grandma is even a full fledged vampire. Yikes! But then they drop the bomb that the two need to quickly make a baby because Teren will die and reach his vampire maturity. That’s a real kicker. Maybe even a deal-breaker.

Review: This story has a punchy beginning which is especially cute but it skips forward past the romance and starts again after the characters are in love. Teren reveals his half-vampire status and it’s a race in the sack to get pregnant because he’s about to cross over into his more vampiric state. That bugged me. I would have preferred wooing, romancing, sexing, marrying, and eventually babying… but the story went all over the place on that score and sex scenes became very sterile. It drags a bit through the “I’m a vampire” “No way” “Yes. See fangs?” “Oh my gosh! Fangs!” “Fangs.” “You’re a vampire!” stage. There’s also a lot of animal magnetism in the book which I didn’t like. The story picks up when a vampire hunter kidnaps them. Will Emma and Teren live through it or will they both be murdered in vengeance?

Narrator: Piper Goodeve has a nice voice and is the main reason I was able to get through the whole book. She does an excellent job narrating.

[Rating:2]

Buy: Conversion, Conversion (Audio Book)

Review: Only with You (Best Mistake, Book 1) by Lauren Layne

Layne_Only With You_MM[1]Hero: CEO Grayson Wyatt is a reserved man (read socially awkward). He wasn’t always so reserved, once he loved somebody and was engaged. It didn’t last and what the lady had to say in parting was not kind. So when this ex-fiance’s doppelganger appeared in a Vegas elevator is it any wonder he was rude? Not to mention the woman dressed like a hooker.

Heroine: Waitress Sophie Dalton was dressed to kill for a slutty bachelorette party downstairs in the hotel. When a hot stranger snubs her in the elevator she is mortified. Nobody has held up a mirror like that to her and she didn’t like what she saw. So she makes an effort to change it. Even if her family thinks she inadequate to the task.

Review: They don’t expect to meet again but since both hero and heroine were in  Vegas on a trip, is it any wonder to the reader that they find each other again in Seattle? Grayson is kind of dating her sister. Her family wrangles a job to Grayson as his secretary. It’s a match made in heaven for readers who love enmity at first sight. Lauren Layne does an excellent job skirting around the issue of being with a sibling’s date. Grayson and Brynn have no chemistry and they only try to make it work because both feel it’s the right match compared to getting together with someone they’re more interested in – ie Grayson and Sophie, Brynn and Will (Made for You). I liked both the hero and the heroine and I thought they paired well. She makes him loosen up and he grounds her. It’s a good balance. I read it in a few sittings and was sad to part ways. One of my favorites published this year.

[Rating:4.5]

Buy: Only with You (The Best Mistake)

Get into Bed with Lauren Layne (Author Interview)

lauren layneKeira: Only With You features an enemies-to-lovers trope. What is your favorite aspect of enemies-to-lovers plots?

Lauren Layne: From the moment I discovered romantic comedies, enemies-to-lovers became a favorite. Actually, probably THE favorite. But it’s not until I started writing my own romance stories that I figured out why: instant-conflict. Have you ever picked up a romance that had exquisite writing, relatable characters, but you just couldn’t get into it? It’s probably because there wasn’t enough conflict; not enough “stuff” keeping the two characters apart. With the enemies-to-lovers plot, there is so much anticipation on the page because these two people don’t like each other … and yet they DO. It’s like the Holy Grail for sexual tension.

The other reason I love enemies-to-lovers? It’s a great set up for fun banter. Banter is my favorite thing to write, and when my two main characters are at odds, I get to write lots of it!

Keira: It also features an office romance and a romance where a main character dates a sibling’s “ex”. Both can be tricky to navigate without coming across tacky and I think you hit a home-run. What were you most aware of as potential pitfalls while writing this book?

Lauren: I so appreciate you saying that these elements worked for you, because you’re correct … getting them right was HARD. As far as the office-romance goes, I’ve always been a sucker for them, but I’m also a feminist, so it was really important for me that Sophie wasn’t the little woman who was pushing papers, in awe of her big, important boss. In order to give a modern-take on the boss/secretary romance, I tried to make it clear that Sophie’s job choice was very deliberate. She was in charge of her life, she was calling the shots. And I’ve worked as a receptionist at a big company; it’s freaking hard, important work!

As far as the “dating of the sister’s ex,” that was even more difficult. I really have to credit my agent with helping me get that part right. In earlier drafts, I skimmed over it TOO much, so it wasn’t believable. In later drafts, I went too far the other way, and made Gray and Brynn too much of a thing. Finally, FINALLY I found the happy in-between phase. I think. I hope.

Keira: Gray has a gut reaction to meeting Sophie. She reminds him of his ex-fiance in her appearance. He’s introverted and awkward around people, failing at the most basic social niceties – in other words, he sticks his foot in it a time or two. What was something Gray said or did that he felt most embarrassed by later?

Lauren: Ha. Poor, poor Gray. But really, don’t we all know a few real life Grays? Those people who have a GREAT heart, but for whatever reason, are really, REALLY bad at showing it?

As far as “in the book” moments that he regrets: that in-the-elevator meeting with Sophie, for SURE. Not only was he guilty of a snap-judgment, but he’s guilty of saying it out-loud. Major no no. As far as moments in his past that the reader doesn’t get to see? I definitely picture him being an absolute disaster asking a girl to prom 🙂

Keira: How do you define love? What does it take to be with someone for the long-haul?

Lauren: You know, this is such a great question, and one I think about  lot, not only because my chosen career is writing love stories, but because of my personal life. My husband and I met at 15, started dating at 17, married at 23 … basically we’re a recipe for “married too young,” but we’re 31 now and seem to get happier every day. And sometimes I’m like, “How? Why? Why does this work SO well for us, and not everyone?” I think the difficult answer to this question is that it’s just not the same for every couple. For us, it’s definitely laughter. We make each other laugh SO much, every day, so the relationship rarely feels like work. But that’s just our personality; it’s not the way everyone works. We have friends in successful relationships that are all about shared goals. Or adventurous spirit. Or dedication to family.

I think what makes a relationship work for the long-haul is figuring out what brought you together in the first place and watering the hell out of that seed so that it continues to grow. But at the same time, give each other room to grow and change. And you know what? Be interesting. A significant other that has his/her own thing going on is SEXY.

Keira: What makes a sex scene in a romance? (And I think I know where you might go with this question – banter and anticipation – which Only with You has in spades!)

Lauren: Ha, you caught me! A sex scene without build-up is to me, just a description of body-parts touching other body parts. Snooze. Anticipation is everything. I recently read Screwdrivered by Alice Clayton, in which the hero/heroine don’t even kiss until the last 95% of the book, but it’s one of the hottest books I’ve read all year, because it’s been building the ENTIRE STORY.

I tend to look at structure of movies when I write; romantic comedy screenplays can tell us a lot about pacing. With the exception of Friends With Benefits storylines, rarely do you see the main characters getting it on until at LEAST halfway through. And THE kiss at the end of those movies? It’s everything.

Keira: In what ways would the story have changed if Sophie wore the sensible shoes instead of the boots?

Lauren: You know … GREAT question! I’ve never even thought about it, because those darn boots were in my very earliest conception of the story. I think, likely, Sophie and Gray would have exchanged polite smiles and never seen each other again (well okay, Sophie would have drooled, and Gray wouldn’t have smiled, because he’s Gray). But you get the idea … these characters are SO opposite, they really needed “exceptional circumstances” to bring each other together. Or in this case, exceptional footwear!

Keira: What’s the next Best Mistake?

Lauren: Next up is the story of Sophie’s uptight sister, Brynn. It was a really tricky one to write, because in book 1, she verges on being slightly unlikable. She’s rigid, a little prissy and self-absorbed. But honestly? Brynn’s books is one of my favorites because of these flaws. She’s my most imperfect heroine, and I think that makes her story so real. Made for You (October 28th) is the only book of mine that I’ve gone back and read “just for fun.” I love it that much 🙂

Layne_Only With You_MM[1]About ONLY WITH YOU

Getting mistaken for a prostitute is not part of Sophie Dalton’s life plan. Not that Sophie even has a life plan. She’s perfectly happy being everyone’s favorite party girl. But then a Las Vegas bachelorette party goes awry, and an uptight businessman gives Sophie a new label: hooker.

Unfortunately, what happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay there. When the same jerk who mistook her for a prostitute shows up as Sophie’s new boss and her perfect sister’s new boyfriend, Sophie’s carefree existence is turned upside down. Grayson Wyatt may have infiltrated family dinners and her professional world, but Sophie’s not about to let a judgmental prude anywhere near her personal life.

As Gray’s icy stares give way to quiet smiles, Sophie realizes that the one man she’s been so desperate to get away from just might be the one she wants to keep around forever.

Buy: Only with You (The Best Mistake)

Layne_Made for You_MMAbout MADE FOR YOU

Three years ago, Brynn Dalton made a rare error in judgment and had a one-night stand with the one man she swore would never get into her designer panties. Will Thatcher was exactly the type of sexy playboy that good girls like Brynn stayed away from. And when Will moved across the country just days after their fling, Brynn vowed to put him behind her, even as the memories haunt her.

Now Will Thatcher is back, and just in time to see Brynn’s perfectly structured life begin to crumble. Her job is dull, her social life is tedious, and Brynn’s perfect cardiologist boyfriend doesn’t seem to be in any hurry to get to Tiffany & Co. More than ever, Brynn needs her childhood nemesis to keep his distance.

But Will isn’t content to be Brynn’s dirty little secret any longer. This time, he’s out to show Brynn Dalton that the imperfect man might just be the best mistake of her life.

Buy: Made for You (The Best Mistake)

About Lauren Layne

Lauren Layne writes contemporary romance for Grand Central Publishing (Forever) and Random House(Loveswept).

After dabbling in an e-commerce career in Seattle and Southern California, Lauren moved to New York City where she now writes full time.

Lauren graduated from Santa Clara University with B.S. in Political Science that she has yet to put to good use. She lives with her husband and plus-sized pomeranian in a tiny Manhattan studio.

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