Welcome to Cozy Jo's Romance Review blog. This is where you'll find reviews and discussions on historical or contemporary romance books and maybe a few other bits and bobs thrown in for good measure.
So come on in, sit down and find yourself a good romance book to read.

Friday, 30 December 2011

Practice Makes Perfect by Julie James

Wonderfully smart and sexy romance 
5 stars

For eight years lawyers Payton Kendall and J.D. Jameson have been working towards partner in the law firm where they both work. In public they are perfectly civil but in private they constantly try to outdo the other.

But all bets are off when they are asked to work together on a high profile case. As they begin to get to know each other for real the sparks of antagonism turn to the sparks of attraction. But when they are told that only one of them will make partner the war can truly begin. Soon both are getting hot under the collar but who will win in the end?

I have to go right in and express how much I enjoyed this book. I had read (and adored) James' previous book, Just the Sexiest Man Alive, so decided to get her next and now have decided to read every book she's ever written!

There were many reasons for my love of this book. I do enjoy couples that bicker and argue before they realise they're perfect for each other and James' is the master of this type of relationship. Payton is a strong woman but one that you can both relate to and also admire and root for while J.D. is a confident, sexy man who, underneath it all, is vulnerable and in need of the love of a good woman. Together the pair had near palpable chemistry and I loved them separately and as a couple.

The story was interesting and really amusing at points. I could barely put the book down and finished it really quickly as the pages kept on turning. The ending was satisfying and the whole book left me with that upbeat, happy feeling that only the best books can give you.

Overall this was a smart, sexy and funny contemporary romance with great characters and a really enjoyable story. I would highly recommend it and hope that you like it as much as I did. 5 stars.

Royally Romanced by Marie Donovan

Fairly bland royal romance
2 stars

Stressed out Prince Georgio Di Leone doesn’t have time for anything other than running his small country. But when his little sister announces she’s getting married he hops straight on a plane to New York City to check things out. What he finds is a Renata Pavoni, a wedding dress designer whose vintage style makes him forget all about his responsibilities to his sister and his country.

It’s definitely lust at first sight but can a brash New Yorker and a European prince find their way to a real happily ever after?

I’m not usually into the whole royalty thing but this book sounded interesting and I thought I would give it a go. Unfortunately, I found that it really wasn’t my cup of tea.

Renata wasn’t a bad character but I simply couldn’t relate to her or root for her in any way. She was too brash and was written to epitomise every New Yorker stereotype and cliché you’ve ever heard. Georgio was fine but nothing overly special or someone that I would particularly swoon over. The pair’s chemistry was only okay so it was surprising that the plentiful sex scenes were so scorchingly hot!

Having said that, at times this book read like random sex scenes with filler in between. Nothing exciting seemed to happen and it was hard to suspend belief that any of the things that did happen were likely. I’m sad to say that this was quite a forgettable romance. I won’t be picking up the next two books in the series (Royally Seduced and Royally Claimed) and I’m sorry to say that I just can’t recommend it. 2 stars.

Head Over Heels by Jill Shalvis

A likeable, if tame, end to the series

4 stars

Chloe didn’t know she had two half sisters until they all inherited a run-down B&B in small town Oregon. Now they have a viable business and Chloe has the family that she always dreamed of. If only Chloe could shake the uptight Sheriff, Sawyer Thompson who she can’t help but argue with. Perhaps if he was less hot then she would succeed.

Chloe is the bane of Sawyer’s existence but he can’t help be drawn to her free spritied ways. But a relationship between them is impossible. It would be explosive and crazy yet perhaps the most amazing risk either of them have ever taken.

This is the third in Shalvis’ Lucky Harbour series. I’ve noticed that there will be other books set in Lucky Harbour in the future but this one seems to conclude the stories of the three out of town half sisters. The previous books are Simply Irresistible and The Sweetest Thing. Although it’s probably not a necessity, I would suggest that you don’t read this book if you haven’t read the first two in the series.

Over the course of the first two books I’ve been waiting for Sawyer and Chloe to get their own book and get together. I love a couple who are antagonistic towards each other in the beginning and this pair certainly were that. I think what happened for me with this book is that we had so much back story about them fighting and being at each other’s throats that when it came to their story we were already half way through the beginnings of their relationship. Perhaps that took the sparkle out of it but something was definitely lacking.

I liked Chloe better than I thought I would based on the first two books and she really grew into a character I liked and could route for. Sawyer was a great brooding hero although I think I would have liked him to open up a little more to Chloe. He had a difficult relationship with his dad which gave him depth although what happened to Sawyer’s brothers (mentioned very briefly in the first two books) is beyond me!

Giving this book a rating was a little bit of a dilemma for me because while I liked it and it was readable – nothing much happened! I erred on the side of generosity as I like the Lucky Harbour series as a whole although it’s probably a low 4 stars and definitely not the best of the series.

It Happened One Christmas by Leslie Kelly

Underwhelming festive romance
3 stars

Six years ago, Ross Mitchell and Lucy Fleming shared a hot interlude over Christmas that neither would ever forget. But with her a struggling photography student and him a labourer with a hot bod and a tool belt, it wasn’t the right time for them.

Fast forward in time and the pair once again meet by chance but this time she’s a successful photographer and he’s head of a global corporation. They still don’t seem to be in the right place yet they still have chemistry and the sex is better than ever.

But are they destined just to be each other’s holiday fling or will they get the gift of love this Christmas?

I love Leslie Kelly and so was really looking forward to this book, especially as I love a good Christmas romance. Perhaps that’s partly the reason that I was quite underwhelmed with this book.

Don’t get me wrong, the writing was good (as always), the characters were both likeable and relatable and the plot wasn’t terrible. It’s just that the story seemed to lack any sparkle. The story is told both in the present day and in flashbacks to six years ago when Lucy and Ross first got together. I found this made the story a little slow going and I found myself continually wanting to get back to the modern day chapters so I could see how the pair were getting along now and not back then.

Lucy was also fairly peeved at Ross which led to a lot of the conflict for whether or not they would be able to make things work. However, when it got to the reason that the pair split up in the first place I couldn’t believe it. Sure, it was a legitimate reason for breaking up but certainly not for being mad at someone – I just didn’t get it.

Overall, a little lacklustre and good for a quick read on a cold night but nothing overly special I’m sorry to say. 3 stars.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

Sexy Silent Nights by Cara Summers

Okay read but no real spark 
3 stars

Club owner Jonah Stone knew it was wrong but a one night, no strings fling with his best friend’s sexy employee, Cilla Michaels, was just too good an opportunity to pass up. He just wasn’t sure that one night would ever be enough. When Jonah starts receiving death threats he’s got the perfect excuse to see Cilla again – she is a bodyguard after all.

Hired to look after Jonah is not exactly a hardship but Cilla knows that she has to be professional and keep her hands to herself. Easier said than done when Jonah makes no secret of just how much he wants her. But they’ve a potential killer to catch and they can’t afford to get distracted. Even if they really, really want to.

I don’t really know how to begin when describing this book because it was a bit hit and miss for me. The premise was fine and I was looking forward to some Christmassy cheer in amongst all the cloak and dagger stuff that was going on. That was somewhat lacking which is always a little annoying when they try to sell these books as being at least a little festive.

Putting that aside, it was fairly obvious from early on that the romance between Jonah and Cilla was going to take a back seat to the “mystery”. That was a little disappointing in itself as I always expect Blaze books to be sexy and romantic but ultimately with heroines that you aspire to be like. As a result I didn’t feel the romance between the pair had much emotion or depth.

Add to that, both Cilla and Jonah annoyed me for different reasons. Jonah because he kept referring to Cilla and Priscilla (her full name) as if they were two people. And Cilla because she got so wrapped up in Jonah she was useless when attempts were made on his life. Fine for any other occupation except bodyguard!

The story itself also ebbed and flowed. At times I was a little bored and then it picked up and I really wanted to keep reading. It wasn’t truly terrible but not one I can really recommend. The writing was okay but all in all I can only give it 3 stars.

Holiday Hideout by Various

A good set of cosy winter romances
4 Stars

This anthology pulls together three festive stories that all focus around one particular cabin that’s known to bring luck in love for all those who stay there. Perfect for warming up the cold winter evenings.

The Thanksgiving Fix by Vicki Lewis Thompson
Love is the last thing on Beth Davis’ mind when she takes a Thanksgiving break at a friend’s cabin to avoid being set up by her family. That’s until Coinneach “Mac” McFarland comes to fix a suspicious leak in the cabin and she discovers the best things are found when you’re not even looking.

This was a sweet story that worked even with the short time frame of the couple. I liked the setting that was built up in the story and as short stories goes I really enjoyed the story and the romance.

The Christmas Set-Up by Jill Shalvis
Competing architects Zoe and Jason have two weeks to come up with a design to win a coveted project in their architect firm. But when a snowstorm traps the pair in a remote cabin their real desires come to the fore. Will it be a merry Christmas for the pair?

I love a story of a couple that hide desire behind bickering and this one was great. It was funny, sweet and I very much enjoyed it. Would say that this was the best story of the three.

The New Year’s Deal by Julie Kenner

Five years ago Cleo and Josh split up but promised to meet up again for New Year’s Eve in a remote, romantic cabin. Their lives might have changed but the spark of desire is still there and they might just be able to make it work this time.

This was only so-so for me. I easily read it through but didn’t really care for either Josh or Cleo. Josh was a little too spineless when standing up for what he wanted and Cleo seemed a little fickle and lacking emotion. It just didn’t really do it for me, unfortunately.

Overall, this was a fairly enjoyable anthology. It wasn’t overly festive or filled with holiday cheer but you did get the sense of a nice cosy cottage on a dark winter night and that was enough to make my reading experience an enjoyable one. 4 stars.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Merry Christmas, Baby! by Various

Uninspiring Christmas collection
3 stars

Harlequin Blaze always bring out an anthology near to Christmas and this year’s offering has stories from Vicki Lewis Thompson, Jennifer LaBrecque and Rhonda Nelson.

It’s Christmas, Cowboy! by Vicki Lewis Thompson
Lacey Evans expected to spend the holidays holed up in a remote cabin with her fiancé. As it turns out, it’s unexpected blast from the past ranch hand, Tucker Rankin, that’s keeping her warm by the fire this Christmas.

This was a nice tale that definitely felt the most festive of the three stories. Having said that, Lacey seemed slightly fickle in her affections and Tucker wasn’t exactly the ambitious or hard-working type that I would prefer to swoon over. Still a sweet enough tale.

Northern Fantasy by Jennifer LaBrecque
Stockbroker Jared Martin is in Good Riddance, Alaska for his best friend’s wedding when he meets tempting Theodora “Teddy” Monroe. Teddy dreams of life in the big city while all Jared wants is to find a quiet town to call his own. But neither can deny that they each want the other – but for how long?

This story forms part of LaBrecque’s Alaskan Heat series and while other characters appear it does stand alone just fine. I didn’t really get why you would write a series about a small town when all the characters hate it and want to leave. Couple that with the fact that neither Jared nor Teddy were particularly interesting and I didn’t much care for this story. The fact that all the heroines in these stories also appear to have unusual names that shorten into men’s names was the final irritation for me.

He’ll Be Home For Christmas by Rhonda Nelson
Soldier Silas Davenport has decided to come home to surprise his parents for Christmas. But it’s him that gets a surprise when rather than his parents he finds lovely Delphie Moreau at his house and she’s one gift he can’t wait to unwrap.

This was a pleasant enough story even if it was fairly forgettable. I liked Delphie and could empathise with her and Silas was likeable too. It was realistic which is fine but in a Christmas anthology I was looking for something a little more ‘happily ever after’ or even a little cheesy.

All in all this was an average anthology that didn’t really delight and just didn’t feel festive enough or put me in the Christmas mood. Not bad but really not great. 3 stars.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Come To Me by Linda Winstead Jones

Romantic Intrigue that’s a bit bland
2 stars

Sam Travers’ past has made him wary of relationships. But when Lizzie Porter waltzes back into his office his heart takes a hit. He’s always had a soft spot for Lizzie but now she’s all grown up and she’s determined to show him just how much.

Lizzie is determined to find her half-sister and she wants to hire private investigator Sam to do it for her. The fact that the investigation puts her in close proximity with sexy Sam is just an added bonus. But when they get shot at Sam decides to move in to protect Lizzie – but who will protect his heart?

In the past I have avoided Mills and Boon Intrigue because I am a complete wimp and I assumed that the books would be too scary and tense for my liking. However, I decided to give this one a go as I liked the premise of the story. I now wish I hadn’t bothered but not because of the scariness (of which there was none) but because it was, overall, a bland and uninspiring read.

Our two main characters are Sam and Lizzie. I couldn’t quite figure Sam out – brooding and moody one minute and then grinning and seductive the next. His reasons for not being in a relationship with Lizzie went out the window so fast it made me really question his character. Similarly, I didn’t much care for Lizzie. One of Sam’s main objections to their romance was the age difference between them (8 years) and as such I think that Lizzie was written as quite an immature and naïve 24 year old. This could have been fine but she babbled on, disregarded everyone else’s feelings and was generally too annoying for me to care about her or them as a couple.

The intrigue wasn’t too intriguing and there was little suspense or excitement with the half-sister mystery. And generally, I just didn’t feel any spark with the story as a whole. There was no sexual tension or emotion between any of the characters and I was left feeling completely uninterested. If this is the level of suspense of Intrigue novels then I might give others a go but this one just isn’t for me, I’m afraid. 2 stars.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

The Viking's Touch by Joanna Fulford

Absorbing romantic story
4 stars

Viking adventurer, Wulfgar Ragnarsson, lives life on the edge, cheating death and making his fortune as a mercenary all to escape the pain of his past. When his ship and crew need to make repairs he finds himself thrown into the company of the beguiling widow, Lady Anwyn.

Lady Anwyn is tasting freedom for the first time but there are many who would try and win her heart and her lands. To protect herself and her son, Anwyn will do anything – even if it means giving herself to a warrior who will never give her his heart.

Upon reading the inscription in this book I found that it appears to be the sequel to The Viking’s Defiant Bride however this book stands completely alone so you can still enjoy it even if you know nothing of the first story.

From the outset I was charmed by this book and the writing style. I’m not sure whether all the language was completely correct to the time period but it was still engaging and the interactions interesting.

Anwyn was a likeable character – strong and defiant but still true to her time period and never becoming a stereotype. Wulfgar is my favourite type of hero – someone who is strong and tough but with a sensitive core and that is crying out for the love of a good woman. The pair had great chemistry and as such I would have liked the love scenes to be a little more in depth.

The story itself kept me interested and I always wanted to carry on reading just a little bit more each time. The ending was wonderful and a good culmination of everything that had happened throughout the story.

Overall, if you like tales of Vikings and the women that tame their hearts and enjoy a good romance then I really think you will like this story so it’s one I would recommend to you. 4 stars.