Heartbreaker (#2) by Belinda Williams

Published: 10th November 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 BWrite
Pages: 346
Format: ebook
Genre: Contemporary Romance
★   ★   ★ – 3 Stars

WHEN LOVE IS AN ACT, WILL HER HEART BE FOOLED?

Lena Lyons, one of Hollywood’s hottest female stars, has a celebrity problem: she’s too famous.

Lena’s had stalkers before and figures the crazies come with the territory, but when things start going dangerously wrong on the set of her latest movie, her production company aren’t taking any risks. They hire Marc Romero, Hollywood security expert. And Lena thought stalkers were bad—Marc appears to hate his job and anything celebrity, including Lena.

Still reeling from her divorce, the last thing Lena needs is a brooding investigator who won’t let her out of his sight. Worse still, his plan to protect her involves him going undercover as an up-and-coming actor and pretending they’re a couple.

Lena has no choice but to get close to the mysterious man who won’t share anything about himself. With her life depending on her acting skills, she must convince everyone Marc’s the man for her. But will she be able to convince her heart it’s all an act?

I found it so hard to articulate my feelings about this book. I enjoyed some parts and while I didn’t dislike others but I couldn’t find the words to explain why I didn’t love it. A lot I think had to do with the expression of Lena as a character and perhaps the story requiring a more refined plot and romantic entanglement.

This is part of a series and I think while you can read it on its own, the characters are across multiple books and you have a better understanding of them as background characters as well as on their own. I think you need to have seen Lena in a different situation to see she isn’t completely what she comes across here.

Ally is the voice that makes you realise why Lena is being so obstinate and a bit unreasonable, something which can frustrate the reader until you try and read it from that angle, especially when she tends to contradict herself. I didn’t warm to her and while I felt bad for her, she never tries to help herself and fighting those trying to help her so much made her appear foolish. That isn’t entirely bad but something didn’t click for me and while I enjoyed the story, I wasn’t totally drawn into it.

William’s writing feels natural when she write about friendships and romance, a few times around the movie production felt clunky where it felt we needed a full explanation process or history. I know it needed to be in there, but I could see the writing style change when different scenes were happening.

I enjoyed the characters and how they were different, only revealing to us what we needed to know. One thing I disliked was that Marc kept calling Lena Princess, and I hated that Lena seemed ok with it. It seemed unprofessional and while she was often rude to him, he tries to stay on task and do his job but that term felt disrespectful and due to their relationship never became a term of endearment in my eyes.

Lena plays up the “not like other Hollywood types” and that’s a character choice from Williams, it makes Lena look like sweet and good natured but she is also unreasonable, disrespectful and a bit up herself. Which is fine once you realise that is who she is, something that is beneficial from seeing her through Ally’s eyes as well as her own and Marc’s. It also helps show how she develops as a character and her own desire to find herself.

Between Lena and Marc, their love/hate relationship worked well and you could see it coming but I never reached that adorableness between them. I think this is because Williams gave Marc such a strong emotional backstory that it worked for character development and added more intensity to the relationship. I may not have felt the real chemistry between Lena and Marc but I did like the direction William’s took their story. There are complications and a business relationship to work around but it gave it intrigue that there might not have been if it were simpler.

I enjoyed the slow reveal about who Marc was. It was the connection to the in-depth and emotional backstory I was missing from Jacob in the first book. The secrecy about his past and his work gives him an air of mystery and you see how separately he keeps his personal life and work. One thing I loved was when Williams let down the barriers and I loved her explanations why. It was a great shift in the character and allowed a bit of light and humour into the story.

Overall I enjoyed the story. I think a few plot points could have been woven into the story better but it tells Lena’s story and no doubt we’ll see more of her story and character develop through future books and through other character’s points of view.

You can purchase Heartbreaker via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

Heartthrob (#1) by Belinda Williams

Published: 10th November 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 BWrite
Pages: 346
Format: ebook
Genre: Contemporary Romance
★   ★   ★ – 3 Stars

Can an average girl survive Hollywood? 

Ally Valenti doesn’t belong in Hollywood. Not like her friend and actress, Lena Lyons. Lena’s convinced Ally to pursue her dreams of fashion design, starting with some gowns for the awards season. 

Which Ally will get around to creating as soon as she can stop looking at Jacob Swan, Lena’s latest co-star. Not that she’s staring. Ally’s skeptical of anything celebrity and it’s not like she’d be pathetic enough to fall for a Hollywood heartthrob. 

Then Ally learns there’s more to Jacob than his good guy, all-American persona. She finds herself torn between the desire to get to know him better and her determination to stay out of the limelight. 

Of course the media has other ideas—and someone doesn’t like all the attention Ally’s getting. When threats aimed at destroying her fashion career go too far, Ally’s convinced she’s living in crazy town. 

The sensible thing would be to retreat home before it all ends in spectacular fashion. But will Ally be leaving more than her dreams behind if she says goodbye to Hollywood? 

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book by the author for review via Netgalley

When I saw Belinda Williams had a new series I was so excited. I loved her City Love series and the chance to fall in love with four more wonderful ladies was too good too pass up.

Not that I went in to compare, but one thing that I noticed immediately was that the writing seemed slightly more stilted than I was used to. I wasn’t caught up in the flow of Ally and her Hollywood life. It was something I don’t remember noticing in Williams’ other work. Thankfully it settles into a natural rhythm about a third of the way through and a more natural flow of writing style comes through.

I love William’s series which follow the same group of friends through their lives. The story is filled with regular drama, Hollywood drama and of course, romance. It is a tight story but manages to achieve conflict, mystery and a decent exploration of who the characters are. Being the first we are only seeing things from Ally’s point of view but William’s does a good job in establishing the players without having to wait for their own narratives. You get to see who they are as people through the eyes of the main character. Knowing more books will come though, your interest is piqued about the secondary characters and what secrets of their own they may be hiding.

Characters with insecurities, doubt, fabulous friendships, and big dreams shine through as we get to know who Ally is and what she is trying to gain from her life and her career. Ally’s innocent “Bambi” trait rings true early on as she struggles with being start struck and being teased by celebrities. Her big brown eyes widen at the media coverage, the attitude of those around her, and the general environment of Hollywood. Williams does well to show Ally out of her depth but also with the ability to achieve.

Once you get passed Ally’s knee-jerk reactions anytime someone mentions a woman’s name in relation to Jacob and constant worry and doubt over hearsay you realise it’s a reflection of her own insecurities. She is a down to earth person, feisty, honest but insecure. I would have loved more about Jacob, you get a lot of his backstory but I still felt like he was a closed book, I knew the facts of his life but felt like he needed more depth. But he remains a warm, cheeky character who had a lot of charm in other areas.

In true Williams’ style she had me gushing and gasping and grinning by the end with her romance and genuine moments that while fit a certain mould, are wonderfully sweet.

From a clunky first third the writing settled into a good rhythm and Williams’ takes us on a journey of emotional growth, doubt, romance, and family. A great read.

You can purchase Heartthrob via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

Bloom (The Order #1) by Nikki Rae

Published: 28th February 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Self Published
Pages: 290
Format: ebook
Genre: Dark contemporary romance
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Given to The Grimm Order as an infant, Fawn was raised in a world shaped by the rich and powerful. When she was sold at the age of nine to a Suitor, Fawn believed he would protect her from the “Mainworld”, where those who know nothing about the Order live. Living with the cruel man who bought her freedom, she finds just what the Order is about: money, control, and status for the Owner and humiliation and abuse for those they own. 

Unwilling to accept the expectations of being Owned, Fawn goes from golden girl to maid, content to live in the shadows of the Order as long as she isn’t Owned again.

It’s been ten years since she disgraced her former Owner’s name, and now the brooding Frenchman Elliot Lyon wants her. Master Lyon is kind, smart, and unlike any man she’s met. She doesn’t want to admit it to herself, but Fawn is drawn to him despite constantly planning her next escape. 

Even the prettiest flowers have thorns, and Master Lyon is hiding secrets that will uproot everything she thinks she knows about him.

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book by the author for review.

Once again, Nikki Rae has delivered. I will admit I was wary when I first began reading. It’s different, it’s certainly uncomfortable and dark at times, but nevertheless, it is everything that makes Rae’s books wonderful.

There were some scenes that made my stomach turn, which is interesting because this is not Rae’s first dark, sinister book. Nor the first with such a dark subject. It wasn’t the concept though, nor the overall situation, just a few scenes that made me feel uneasy as I read. Which I guess was the point. It made my stomach turn but I couldn’t stop reading. My own heart was pounding alongside Fawn’s. My own heart was thudding in my chest because I wanted to know what was going to happen because clearly anything could. I was engrossed, I stayed up late to read, I had to drag myself away at the end of lunch hours, trying to read another sentence, another paragraph.

Rae gets us inside Fawn’s head as we plan, assess, and discover all there is to her new world and her new situation. We discover things about her past life and her experiences with seamless transitions and carefully placed words. I felt the touch of fairytale in there and I loved the society and its secrets hidden in the modern world. Rae brings us into this dark world and the grand forbidden estate. We’re drawn into Fawn’s new life and feel her uncertainty and her defiance, her trepidation but admire the inner fire that keeps her going. An important thing to note is that while it is of a darker sexual nature, it isn’t too terrible, but there are also a few scenes of descriptive violence. In context and in the world in which Rae has created it makes sense, but certain scenes were hard to read.

I finished the final chapter very late at night and immediately wanted to leap into the next book. Rae takes you on an emotional journey with secrets you may or may not guess, and moments wrought with suspense and suppression. Everything you think you know or guess will get turned on its head on a whim. By the end you wish you knew what to expect but are delighted and scared when the story changes direction and you cannot fathom just where this story will take you.

You can purchase Bloom via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

Wish List (#4) by Belinda Williams

Published: 26th May 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Momentum
Pages: 280
Format: ebook via the publisher and NetGalley
Genre: Contemporary Romance
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Could the wrong man on paper be the perfect man in real life?

Cate Harmon likes lists. While this may serve her well as a financial planner, her girlfriends think that creating a checklist for her ideal man is going a step too far. But she has one, and she’s sticking to it.

Cate has always dreamed of starting a family and settling down and yet she’s the only one of her close-knit friendship group still unattached. But that doesn’t mean she’s going to lower her standards.

Enter Dave, a reformed bad boy with gorgeous hair and eyes the wrong colour. Dave doesn’t tick any of the boxes on Cate’s list. It’s unthinkable that she would develop feelings for him, and yet … Cate finds herself being drawn to Dave in a way she’s never felt before.

Will Cate confront the reasons behind her list? Or will she risk losing a man who could be better than any list she could ever dream up?

I legit had a massive smile on my while reading this book, even in the rocky parts. I think I said something corny when I started reading it saying it was like coming back home but it was true; I love these women so much and I love Williams’ stories about their lives and as soon as I started reading Cate’s story I was back in their world with Maddy and Scarlett and Christa. It was like I hadn’t left.

It’s not all big smiles and excitement though, Williams did bring a few tears to the surface in some part, but just for a moment. I’m not saying the book is 90% happiness and frivolity, but it was just so wonderful to read that every little thing made me happy, the conflict, drama, Cate’s frustration and denial, the SURPRISES! It was the perfect package and balance.

I’ve realised through this series that there’s a little bit of me in each of these women, possibly all the wrong bits to identify with but all the same there’s something in each of them I adore. I adore because despite them feeling insecure, having a duty of care, a desire to do the right thing, and having hidden secrets, they still get up and have a great life with beautiful friends. They don’t let themselves or their past stop them (well, eventually anyway).

Wish List is the final in the City Love series and after seeing Christa’s, Maddy’s, and Scarlett’s stories we finally get to explore Cate’s. Williams has been great at dropping snippets of information through all her books about each woman, and with Scarlett’s story Cate was given a closer look, just enough to tease you and build anticipation. Justified too because the Cate we discover is totally unexpected from the Cate we’ve gotten to know. Delving into her mind and life is wonderful and finding out more about her secretive past and seeing that she isn’t always the cautious and structured girl she seems to be is fantastic, like all the girls we see her grow.

Williams’ starts off the story slowly, almost as you’d expect, meeting a guy who isn’t the guy you expect to fall for, but even if you think you know what may happen, that it will follow some clear set of events, it won’t. Williams brings a whole new story to the table and brings complexity and depth and drama that doesn’t feel over the top or too messy, it feels real and justified and intense.

That isn’t even the biggest twist as Williams has five or six more up her sleeve that continually surprise you when you least expect it. She lulls you into feeling safe before pouncing and makes you remember all the little details you’d forgotten about because you were caught up and recovering from the last surprise. It’s easy to think this story is one big issue but it’s a bigger, deeper, more complicated situation that twists and turns and shocks and delights you. By the end you can’t believe you ever thought it was just going to be that simple. It’s not even close to being that simple.

For me this is the best and most wonderful ending to a series and a book I’ve read. Williams has always treated these women well and given them stories that suit them and that they deserve, this is no exception, and being the final book it also manages to be a farewell and big finale for the four of them. The continual surprises and little bits of joy and intensity are an emotional ride but I wouldn’t change a thing. As I read my heart was pounding, I had knots in my stomach, a smile on my face, continually holding in gasps and squeals as my eyes fled across the page trying to read faster and possibly physically immerse myself in the story.

One thing I admire about William’s writing is she makes wonderful romantic stories that are heart-warming, heartbreaking, and satisfying without making them overly sweet and mushy, or too innocent or risqué either. Getting inside the heads of these women helps balance that out because you see their reservations, their developing feelings and their reasoning behind what they do. You also fall in love with new characters and reacquaint yourself with the old ones. Dave is my favourite of all the boys in this series, even for his faults. With Cate’s narration we can see how he causes her so must frustration and angst, how his few words annoy her and confuse her. But through Dave’s actions we see a bit more of Cate as well, they balance each other out.

I could go on forever and talk about every little thing in this book but I won’t, I’ve gone on enough already, but I will say that there’s 101 things to adore in this story, it’s got everything, love, drama, friendship, excitement, the works. William’s has done a truly marvellous job and had wrapped up the City Love series spectacularly.

You can pre-order Wish List via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

Amazon UK | Barnes and Noble

Google Play | iBooks Store

Kobo

AWW16

The Pitch (City Love #2) by Belinda Williams

Published: 28th May 2015Goodreads badge
Publisher: 
Momentum
Pages: 306
Format: Ebook
Genre: Contemporary Romance
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

She’s in a long-term, committed relationship. With her business.

In three years Madeline Spencer has single-handedly grown her marketing agency, Grounded Marketing, into one of the country’s fastest growing companies. But her success has been at the expense of her social life, and her girlfriends have had enough. They’ll do whatever it takes, from speed dating to blind dates, to show her there’s more to life than work.

Only Maddy is having a hard time forgetting about her business. She’s about to pitch for her biggest client ever and the mysterious media mogul, Paul Neilsen, has volunteered to mentor her. Maddy might just be in with a shot of landing the account – if she can keep her mind on the job. Working with Paul is not at all what she’d imagined, and Maddy finds herself torn between her ever increasing workload and her feelings for Paul. She’s discovering playing in the big league means making sacrifices … and Maddy must decide what she can’t live without.

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book from the publisher for review.

I truly and honestly can say I never was, nor ever thought I would be, a romance lover or someone who got excited and invested in a couple in a book but this book has momentarily changed that. What Belinda Williams has created her is a wonderful balance of clever writing, sweet but not sappy story, and real characters that feel like genuine people rather than stuck simply on a page.

Every aspect of this story feels so real, whether that is because I recognise the places and can picture it playing out, or just because Williams’ writing brings the story to life so incredibly well. There are surprises and bumps along the way and while you think you know how it will end, there are still surprises in store that make it an enthralling read and just the right kind of bumpy.

The characters are diverse, not just in their personality but with everything. Each revelation of character is a joy and Williams skilfully makes the characters complicated and deep yet simple on the page. Being the second in the series there are brief mentions about the events in the previous book but no more than passing references compared to a full recap.

With a new storyline and a new point of view there is a mixture of new faces to become acquainted with but also familiar characters that were introduced in the first novel. Williams makes you become involved with her characters and with each book focusing on a different friend there is a wonderful chance to get to know each of them and after reading about one it will certainly make you curious to learn about the others.

The friendship between the four women is divine and through dialogue and actions the writing captures and expresses the intense and loving relationship between the friends, but also the brutal honesty and tough love as well, sympathising and highly supportive while not enabling or mollycoddling.

Maddy is a wonderful character and a great narrative voice, she is strong and focused, but at the same time a bit unsure of herself at times and can be oblivious to what’s in front of her. Her determination makes her amazing, and whether it is work or her personal life, her confidence doesn’t overshadow her occasional doubt which what makes her so genuine.

I loved the complications in this story, and I loved how rooted in reality they were. It was nothing grand or overblown but different and unique, and the everyday nature of the story while still being climactic and dramatic made it intriguing.

This is a slow-burn romance, and while it seems like it is going to be a fast, wild, love story Williams paces it remarkably well. The romance is natural with understandable barriers, and without a love at first sight passion but still enough to start something. There is also restraint with things like sex scenes but Williams doesn’t make it plain either, nor does she skip over it like it isn’t important to the story or character relationship.

The story is clever, classy, and adult with real issues, but has the romance in it with style and heartfelt sincerity. With great characters and clever writing Williams has added to the City Love series a wonderful narrative that brings the realities of life with the dreams of romance together with resounding success. I look forward to continuing the rest of the series because I know it is only going to get better.

You can purchase The Pitch via the following

Momentum | Barnes and Noble

Amazon | Amazon Aust

Amazon UK | Google Play

iBooks Store | Kobo

 

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