Xpress Reviews: E-Originals | First Look at New Books, December 20, 2013

Week ending December 20, 2013

Aleo, Toni. Blue Lines. Loveswept: Random. (Assassins, Bk. 4). Dec. 2013. 384p. ebk. ISBN 9780345547330. $2.99. CONTEMPORARY SPORTS ROMANCE
In this fourth book in Aleo’s “Assassins” series (after Empty Net; Trying To Score; Taking Shots), it’s time for Erik Titov, leading scorer for the Nashville Assassins hockey team, to score at love. He scores a little too well with the puck bunnies, but love is something he’s steered clear of, until now. Piper Allen has had a crush on Erik since he joined the team, but he’s never made a move on her, until one glorious night. She thinks they’ve really connected; he refuses to return her phone calls. Then, Piper discovers that she is pregnant. After six months, she finally tells Erik, who has just been put on probation by the team owner for his hard-partying behavior. Erik thinks marrying Piper is a terrific idea, a way redeem his reputation. Love doesn’t enter it, as he doesn’t think he’s worthy of being loved. But Erik is not counting on Piper loving him, or on his falling in love with his child.
Verdict Piper keeps on loving Erik and hoping that he’ll change, no matter how many times he tells her that he’s not the right man for her. He stomps on her heart over and over, and she lets him! Love does conquer all, but baby ex machina is not everyone’s cup of tea. Recommended for sports romance lovers and fans of the secret (or not-so-secret) baby trope romance.—Marlene Harris, Seattle P.L.

Kendall, Beverley. Twice the Temptation. Season Pub. (Temptresses, Bk. 1). 2013. 364p. ebk. ISBN 9780983800675. $4.99. HISTORICAL ROMANCE
Though this is the first in a new series from Kendall, it is connected to her earlier “Elusive Lords” books. In fact, heroine Catherine Rutherford is the twin sister of Charlotte featured in An Heir of Deception. A year ago, Catherine fell in love with Lucas Beaumont, only to be crushed when he suddenly returned to America without explanation. Convinced she’d been played for a fool, Catherine develops a hobby: helping other aristocratic women who worry the men they want to marry won’t be faithful. Her hobby is a little too successful and further sours her views on the trustworthiness of men. So much so, that when Lucas returns, professing his love, Catherine isn’t sure she can believe him, especially when she learns he proposed to Charlotte first.
Verdict The plotting and characterizations here are well done, but because so much of the backstory happened in previous book in an earlier series, the emotional arc of the romance is uneven. Still, there is plenty here to appeal to fans of Sherry Thomas and Tessa Dare.—Jane Jorgenson, Madison P.L., WI

Kline, T.J. Rodeo Queen. Avon Impulse. 2013. 253p. ebk. ISBN 9780062304742. $1.99. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
When recently crowned rodeo queen Sydney Thomas requests to be part of the opening ceremony, she and Scott Chandler aren’t off to a good start. Scott believes all rodeo gals are “spoiled prom queens with buckles and cowboy hats.” Seeing Sydney’s tenderness and aptitude for breaking in difficult horses, Scott’s partner Mike hires Sydney to be part of their rodeo circuit. Now that they will be working together, Scott challenges Sydney to prove that he is wrong about her. Sydney does just that, but it isn’t enough for Scott to take down the wall he has built around his heart and she is unsure if she can stick around for any more heartbreak, especially now that Liz, Mike’s daughter and Scott’s ex-fiancée, has returned to drive a wedge between them. Liz even enlists the help of Scott’s envious brother and Sydney’s dangerous ex-boyfriend to make her plan succeed. With the odds stacked against them, Scott will need to break down all the barriers that stand in their way and prove his love to Sydney or risk losing her forever.
Verdict Kline’s (self-published author Tina Klinesmith) supporting cast is cartoonish; readers can practically hear Liz’s evil cackle. The romance between Scott and Sydney is genuine and sexy, but that doesn’t make up for a worn and predictable story.—Kara Kohn, Plainfield P.L., IL

Panzera, Darlene. The Cupcake Diaries: A Spoonful of Christmas. Avon Impulse. (Cupcake Diaries, Bk. 4). 2013. 112p. ebk. ISBN 9780062305121. 99¢. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
When an investor offers to buy their shop, Creative Cupcakes’ co-owners and best friends Andi, Rachel, and Kim have a lot to think about this Christmas. Andi doesn’t want to sell, but both Rachel, who is soon to be married, and Kim, Andi’s sister, dream of what they can do with the money. Even with a potential sale looming, the girls get into the spirit by decorating the shop and collecting presents to distribute to foster kids in the area. Unfortunately, they learn that there is a real-life Grinch determined to put a stop to the festivities. He even goes so far as to destroying their holiday decorations, defacing Kim’s window painting, and stealing all the gifts. Max, a foster kid who could really benefit from those gifts, befriends Andi’s daughter Mia and covertly hangs around the shop. Could Max be the Grinch? Or perhaps their Grinch will bring them together for one of the most memorable Christmases ever.
Verdict Panzera’s (Taste of Romance) “Cupcake Diaries” series seems to follow the same tired plot every time: the destruction of a business in some fashion, romance between characters who lack any real passion, and cupcake recipes at the end for good measure. For readers looking for fluff, “Cupcake Diaries” will fill the bill, but anyone wanting any real substance should seek out titles by Susan Wiggs or Cathie Linz as better alternatives.—Kara Kohn, Plainfield P.L., IL

Tillery, Monica & others. Bells Will Be Ringing: A Holiday Romance Collection. Crimson Romance: F+W/Adams Media. Dec. 2013. 98p. ebk. ISBN 9781440574795. $4.99. CONTEMPORARY/HISTORICAL ROMANCE
bellsareringing122013Tillery’s “Her Secret Santa” finds Rebecca Sinclair working in the Morgan Enterprises chocolate factory lab trying to develop a new formula that will top her best-selling effervescent, champagne-flavored lollipop. She convinces friend Ben to join her for happy hour, where they discuss the perfect Secret Santa gifts Rebecca has been receiving in her office mailbox. As Ben watches at the office Christmas party, Rebecca begins to wonder if she has caught the eye of the handsome president of the company. Carolynn Carey’s “Merry’s Wonderful Christmas Gift” is set in England in December 1817. Merry’s heart aches since her beloved Edward was named the Earl of Brandford and is hours away tending to new duties. Then, Merry is angry when she runs into Edward walking on her estate after not having received a letter from him for months. The joy of the season is lost until Edward asks Merry to waltz at the ball. Diana Jean’s “His Hawaiian Christmas” finds Clara O’Fallen far away from her family in Wisconsin as the director of guest relations and activities at the Hawaiian Laraten Resort Hotel. Annoying Kai Schmitt, the head lifeguard, is used to the hectic holiday demands from tourists and eager to keep the guests busy with a last-minute Christmas Eve pool party. Clara decides to spend the last few minutes of December 24 at the beach, where she finds snow and love. In Angelita Gill’s “Gavin Fever,” Julia is outside Denver enduring a treacherous taxi ride in a snowstorm on the way to her friends’ cabin for a Christmas weekend getaway. She is surprised to find the cabin empty and even more surprised when her former boyfriend reality television star Gavin walks through the door. The storm gives Gavin and Julia time to mull over their relationship, which Julia abandoned months ago. Both realize that neither of them is happy and attempt to rekindle their romance; Julia wants to avoid making the same mistake twice.
Verdict These short romances are perfect escape reading and great ereader stuffers.—Joyce Sparrow, Kenneth City, FL

Bette-Lee Fox About Bette-Lee Fox

Bette-Lee Fox (blfox@mediasourceinc.com) is Managing Editor, Library Journal.

Now in her 46th year with Library Journal, Bette-Lee also edits LJ's Video Reviews column, six times a year Romance column, and e-original Romance reviews, which post weekly as LJ Xpress Reviews. She received the Romance Writers of America (RWA) Vivian Stephens Industry Award in 2013 for having "contributed to the genre or to RWA in a significant and/or continuing manner"