The Shameless Hour (The Ivy Years #4) by Sarina Bowen

Narrator: Nick Podehl, Saskia Maarleveld
(Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)
The Shameless Hour Book Cover The Shameless Hour
The Ivy Years #4
Sarina Bowen
Contemporary Romance
Rennie Road Books
April 12th 2015

The girl who’s had everyone meets the boy who has no one.

For Bella, the sweet-talking, free-loving, hip-checking student manager of the Harkness men’s hockey team, sex is a second language. She’s used to being fluent where others stutter, and the things people say behind her back don’t (often) bother her. So she can’t understand why her smoking hot downstairs neighbor has so much trouble staying friends after their spontaneous night together. She knows better than to worry about it, but there’s something in those espresso eyes that makes her second guess herself.

Rafe is appalled with himself for losing his virginity in a drunken hookup. His strict Catholic upbringing always emphasized loving thy neighbor—but not with a bottle of wine and a box of condoms. The result is an Ivy League bout of awkwardness. But when Bella is leveled by a little bad luck and a downright sinister fraternity stunt, it’s Rafe who is there to pick up the pieces.

Bella doesn’t want Rafe's help, and she’s through with men. Too bad the undeniable spark that crackles between the two of them just can't be extinguished.

I really enjoyed this book. It challenged some stereotypes and prejudices I have about women. I do want to be less judgmental of women and more respectful even if the choices aren’t ones that I’d make for myself.

Bella (before): Just a common groupie. Everyone has a turn on that ride.

Bella (now): Independent, confident, unafraid.

I was entertained with drama between Rafe and Bella because it was cool having the guy be the clumsy and inexperienced one. Rafe was very sweet and sure about what he wanted. It was always something monogamous and committed. I don’t think Bella and Rafe grew that much as characters, but they certainly gave each other strength to go for what they wanted and eschew fear.

I think the author dealt with a very sensitive subject without trivalizing it. I was comfortable with how it played out and I am happy that Bella learned more about herself in this book. I didn’t really care for Bella in the prior books, but I grew to appreciate her more in her own book. She has a certain inner strength that can be overlooked because of her cavalier attitude towards sex. Rafe was a really great guy from a good mother and he really helped Bella see herself in a different light.

Sarina Bowen really creates an interesting college environment that is fun but has real life issues. I look forward to the roommate’s chance at love.

About Sarina Bowen

Sarina Bowen is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance. She lives in Vermont’s Green Mountains with her family, six chickens and too much ski gear and hockey equipment.

Bittersweet (True North #1) by Sarina Bowen

Narrator: Saskia Maarleveld, Tad Branson
(Website, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)
True North #1
Sarina Bowen
Contemporary Romance
Blackstone Audio, Inc.
October 4th 2016
9 hrs and 32 mins

If you can’t stand the heat, get out of the orchard.

The last person Griffin Shipley expects to find stuck in a ditch on his Vermont country road is his ex-hookup. Five years ago they’d shared a couple of steamy nights together. But that was a lifetime ago.

At twenty-seven, Griff is now the accidental patriarch of his family farm. Even his enormous shoulders feel the strain of supporting his mother, three siblings and a dotty grandfather. He doesn’t have time for the sorority girl who’s shown up expecting to buy his harvest at half price.

Vermont was never in Audrey Kidder’s travel plans. Neither was Griff Shipley. But she needs a second chance with the restaurant conglomerate employing her. Okay—a fifth chance. And no self-righteous lumbersexual farmer will stand in her way.

They’re adversaries. They want entirely different things from life. Too bad their sexual chemistry is as hot as Audrey’s top secret enchilada sauce, and then some.

This is how I felt after listening to this audiobook. Just like dancing. It had all the ingredients you need for an awesome book: humor, food, drink, family, great chemistry and captivating writing.
Audrey Kidder was hoping to get her an opportunity to show her culinary skills but the restaurant owner won’t give her a turn in the kitchen. He finally agreed to let her have more opportunities if she could get some farmers to sign a deal selling their organic crops at a price favorable to the restaurant. Audrey drove from Boston to Vermont and the first farmer she ran into was her ex-hookup from college, Griffin Shipley.

Griff is now the inadvertent patriarch of his family farm. Even his enormous shoulders feel the strain of supporting his mother, his three siblings, and a dotty grandfather. He doesn’t have time for the flame, who has shown up expecting to buy his harvest at half price.
The struggle to make sure that trade isn’t comprised by their attraction to each other ensues. For Griff, it is paramount that the farm is financially secure because so many people are dependent on the farm’s success. Audrey has finally found the career where she feels confident and fulfilled, so it is imperative that she finds a way to do well and demonstrate to everyone she isn’t a screw up.

The push and pull of love versus occupation is a clash as old as time. I certainly think of produce (bruised or not) in a different way because I never really gave the farmers a second thought when I go to the supermarket.Now I will look at fruits differently.
Griff and Audrey’s second chance came at a better time for the both of them. Life has forced them to mature and it showed this time around. What makes this story superb is the storytelling! Sarina Bowen isn’t wordy, it is just fluid, clear and gripping. This is not an audiobook that you will want to stop until you finish it. The characters are fleshed out well, the plot is developed and the almost everyone is likable. The supporting cast really added flavor to this story. I look forward to learning more about their individual struggles.
I think the author is on to something really special with this series and I am already listening to book 2: Steadfast.

About Sarina Bowen

Sarina Bowen is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance. She lives in Vermont’s Green Mountains with her family, six chickens and too much ski gear and hockey equipment.

Owning Violet (The Fowler Sisters #1) by Monica Murphy

Owning Violet (The Fowler Sisters #1) by Monica MurphySeries: The Fowler Sisters #1
on 2014-12-02
Pages: 400
AmazonNarrator: Saskia Maarleveld
New York Times bestselling author Monica Murphy begins a sexy new contemporary romance series--perfect for fans of Christina Lauren and Emma Chase--that introduces three sisters born to wealth, raised to succeed, ready to love, destined to make waves.   I've moved through life doing what's expected of me. I'm the middle daughter, the dutiful daughter. The one who braved a vicious attack and survived. The one who devoted herself to her family's business empire. The one who met an ambitious man and fell in love. We were going to run Fleur Cosmetics together, Zachary and I.   Until he got a promotion and left me in the dust. Maybe it's for the best, between his disloyalty and his wandering eye. But another man was waiting for me. Wanting me. He too has an overwhelming thirst for success, just like Zachary--perhaps even more so. He's also ruthless. And mysterious. I know nothing about Ryder McKay beyond that he makes me feel things I've never felt before.   One stolen moment, a kiss, a touch . . . and I'm hooked. Ryder's like a powerful drug, and I'm an addict who doesn't want to be cured. He tells me his intentions aren't pure, and I believe him. For once, I don't care. I'm willing to risk everything just to be with him. Including my heart. My soul.   My everything.   Praise for Owning Violet

This book was pretty light on substance but high on sexual heat. I liked it because it was really predictable and cliché. It’s just what I needed right now, a steamy read that was light on plot.

Violet Fowler is the middle of 3 daughters born to the Fleur tycoon and CEO of Fleur Cosmetics. Violet is the quiet and most diligent one as she tries to maintain her family’s legacy. She does her best to follow rules including playing devoted girlfriend to her co-worker and boyfriend Zachary.

When Zachary accepts a position in London, Violet finally has to admit that their relationship wasn’t based on love and she decides to take a walk on the wild side with Zachary’s nemesis Ryder McKay. What Violet doesn’t know is that Ryder and his partner in crime Pilar have their own scheme to move up in Fleur Cosmetics and it involves Violet and Zachary. Everyone wants something but who is in it for love?

I have read enough of these types of books (good girl meets sexy jackass with an agenda) to know where this was going from blurb. I was curious to see how the author was going to put her own spin on the trope. The book was okay but I commend the narrator Saskia Maarleveld made the story enjoyable to listen to. Her voice was a good match for the characters.

My issues with the book centered on how shallow the characters appeared and how much sex seemed to overpower everything. Violet was confident and ambitious at work, but a complete doormat in her professional life. Her sisters seem superficial and lack direction. Zachary, Pilar and Ryder are so competitive and jealous of others that they would use anyone to get ahead. Sex was used as currency and the characters don’t really form real bonds outside of hot sex. There was a lot of sexual chemistry but a lot of self-absorbed professionals.

If you are in the mood for light but steamy, then give this one a try.


*Special thanks to Tantor Audio  for the audiobook, which was given in exchange for an honest review

White Hot Kiss (The Dark Elements, #1) by Jennifer L. Armentrout

White Hot Kiss (The Dark Elements, #1) by Jennifer L. ArmentroutSeries: The Dark Elements #1
on 2014-03-01
Pages: 304
AmazonNarrator: Saskia Maarleveld
(Website, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads)
One kiss could be the last Seventeen-year-old Layla just wants to be normal—fit in at school, and go out on a real date with the gorgeous Zayne, whom she's crushed on since forever. Trouble is, Zayne treats Layla like a sister—and Layla is anything but normal. She's half demon, half gargoyle, with abilities no one else possesses. And even though Zayne is a Warden, part of the race of gargoyles tasked with hunting demons and keeping humanity safe, Layla's kiss will kill anything with a soul—including him.Then she meets Roth—a tattooed, sinfully hot demon who claims to know her secrets. Though Layla knows she should stay away, it's tough when that whole no-kissing thing isn't an issue. Trusting Roth could ruin her chances with Zayne—and brand her a traitor to the Warden family that raised her. But as Layla discovers she's the sole reason for a violent demon uprising, kissing the enemy suddenly pales in comparison to the looming end of the world

This one is similar to Obsidian (Lux, Book 1), another Jennifer Armentrout book with a special heroine and two boys who are vying for her attention. This one doesn’t have aliens, just Demons and Wardens (gargoyles). If you like the Lux series, then you will probably like this one as well.

17 year old Layla is half-demon and half-warden (gargoyle). She doesn’t have family so she was raised by Warden guardians. She has feelings for her warden best friend Zayne, but it doesn’t appear he returns those feelings. The Warden guardians train  to protect mankind from demons who keep coming into earth and sucking out people’s souls. Layla is unique among the warden because she can sense demons anywhere (of course it could just be the fact that she is a demon)!  One day, while chasing a demon, she gets rescued by another Demon named Roth.
It turns out Roth wasn’t there by accident. He has been following Layla on assignment to protect her. So of course they start flirting and what do you know, Zayne liked her too! So Layla is attracted to a Warden (Zayne) and a Demon (Roth). (*sighing*)

Roth tells Layla that there are things the wardens are keeping from her. He seems to encourage her and even push her to do things outside her comfort zone. I actually liked  Roth because it’s hard to pinpoint one person who truly has Layla’s best interests at heart. She is struggling to find her place and there are people with answers that could help her but no one steps up to share those secrets with her. The truth would have made her stronger but unfortunately she was a center of a battle that she had no idea about.  Roth came into her life and he just cared more than the people around had.

I struggled through this story. I never connected with the heroine and I didn’t see what’s so special about her. I also had a hard time with the formulaic parts of this story. I couldn’t stop seeing Katy from the Lux, but I liked Katy way more. I would have liked Layla to be more of a fighter. She was passive and reactionary than aggressive and making things happen.

The actual plot was okay, so I will try book 2 before I can definitive say how I feel about the series.

*Special Thanks to Tantor Audio for the review copy.

About Jennifer L. Armentrout

# 1 NEW YORK TIMES and USA TODAY Bestselling author Jennifer lives in Martinsburg, West Virginia. All the rumors you’ve heard about her state aren’t true. When she’s not hard at work writing. she spends her time reading, working out, watching really bad zombie movies, pretending to write, and hanging out with her husband and her Jack Russell Loki.

Her dreams of becoming an author started in algebra class, where she spent most of her time writing short stories….which explains her dismal grades in math. Jennifer writes young adult paranormal, science fiction, fantasy, and contemporary romance. She is published with Spencer Hill Press, Entangled Teen and Brazen, Disney/Hyperion and Harlequin Teen. Her book Obsidian has been optioned for a major motion picture and her Covenant Series has been optioned for TV.

She also writes adult and New Adult romance under the name J. Lynn. She is published by Entangled Brazen and HarperCollins.