Xpress Reviews: E-Originals | First Look at New Books, February 28, 2014

Week ending February 28, 2014

Cross, Rachel. Spiraling. Crimson Romance: F+W/Adams Media. Feb. 2014. 129p. ebk. ISBN 9781440574870. $4.99. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
Once an Olympic contender, Amy Astor is hoping to secure another contract as the ice princess on the “Enchanted” tour. This might be her last chance to work as a professional skater since her injured hip and age threatened her career. When the agent for TruAcord boy band member–turned–actor Shane Marx contacts Amy about a paid opportunity to teach Shane how to skate for a hockey player role, Amy jumps at the opportunity to obtain the media attention (and, ultimately, the eye of the “Enchanted” producers) this will procure. Likewise, Shane believes that Amy’s squeaky clean image will shape up his rep from that of a stereotypical Hollywood womanizer, which keeps costing him jobs. Behind their mutual exploitation of each other grows a real passion, but Shane’s problems might run much deeper than Amy could ever realize, and Shane learns that Amy’s clean image is anything but.
Verdict Although the timing is perfect as it coincided with the 2014 Winter Olympics, Cross’s (Rock Him) story isn’t as accomplished. There are too many unnecessary plot threads in an awkward attempt to create more tension, and though the sex between Shane and Amy is hot, it isn’t enough to carry the story to a satisfying completion.—Kara Kohn, Plainfield P.L., IL

Cullinan, Heidi. Double Blind. Samhain. (Special Delivery, Bk. 2). Mar. 2014. 350p. ebk. ISBN 9781619218895. $6.50.
Cullinan, Heidi. Special Delivery. Samhain. (Special Delivery, Bk. 1). Feb. 2014. 299p. ebk. ISBN 9781619218024. $5.50. LGBT ROMANCE, BDSM
In Special Delivery, Sam Keller is a nursing student in Middleton, IA, relegated to finding sexual gratification through a series of meaningless hookups. Each hookup kills his soul a little more because he remembers his mother’s hope he’d find the perfect man, and he knows she wouldn’t have understood his need to be dominated. Then trucker Mitch Tedsoe travels through town, and he and Sam connect on a level Sam has never experienced before. When Sam’s life goes downhill fast, Mitch offers him the ride of his life to glittery Las Vegas, where the secrets of Mitch’s life can be found in Randy Jansen. In Double Blind, Randy sees a desperate man playing roulette and makes a bet with his boss at Herod’s Casino about the reasons for the man’s state. Part of the bet means Randy has to get the man to admit his problems before a neutral observer, and when Randy’s observations turn out to be slightly inaccurate, he loses the bet but manages to find a new interest in Ethan Ellison, an investment broker reeling from a bad breakup. As Randy focuses more on Ethan’s problems and finding solutions, he opens up about his own life and realizes Ethan may be the best thing that’s ever happened to him. Now if he can only keep local mobster Crabtree from ruining everything.
Verdict Mitch and Sam’s relationship is awkward at first owing to their age gap and different life experiences, but the longer they are together, the closer they become, and the more the secrets are exposed and shown not to matter. Randy is portrayed as a creepy jerk in Special Delivery, but he grows up when he becomes the main character in Double Blind and the reasons for his attitude and aggressiveness come to light. The relationships between the couples are emotional and sexual, with the primary tenet being acceptance and understanding. These books were previously published but have been revised for republication and make a solid addition to any collection where Cullinan’s books are popular (Family Man with Marie Sexton; “Love Lessons” series; “Tucker Springs” series), or where the library is looking to expand its LGBT selections.—Melanie C. Duncan, Shurling Lib., Macon, GA

Morgan, Tamara. The Party Girl. Carina: Harlequin. (Getting Physical, Bk. 3). Feb. 2014. 256p. ebk. ISBN 9781426897931. $3.99. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
partygirl022814Noah has retreated from society in penance for being involved with an investment scandal. He lives off the land, builds the items he needs, and has few connections to the world he left in shame. Then Kendra bangs on his door, demanding help, bloody from a mutual friend’s most recent error. While the two come together to help their friend, both will have to make some concessions if they plan to give in to the growing heat between them.
Verdict The Party Girl is the third book in the “Getting Physical” series by Morgan (In the Clear), bringing Kendra’s story to the forefront. Kendra is a confident protagonist, unashamed of success or sex, and she is an interesting foil for brooding, serious Noah. While the two suffer through self-imposed barriers, helping to heat the tension, it’s the final third of the book that really shines as the pair attempt to navigate their polar opposite worlds. An excellent addition to the series and any library.—Kellie Tilton, Univ. of Cincinnati Blue Ash

Tillery, Monica. Adam’s Ambition. Crimson Romance: F+W/Adams Media. (Emerald Springs Legacy, Bk. 1). Feb. 2014. 160p. ebk. ISBN 9781440570988. $4.99. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
Adam Whitman, a handsome, successful, single L.A. businessman, travels to his family’s Emerald Tea Farm in Washington State to help his father plan for his retirement and the continuity of the enterprise. Whitman’s father wants Adam to take over the multi-million-dollar organic tea business, but the senior partners at Eco Initiatives are instead offering him a promotion and a 40 percent raise. The linchpin in the decision is Zoe Miller, Adam’s former girlfriend, whose heart he broke when he decided to go to UCLA and remain in the city. Adam knows he is willing to give up the Los Angeles prestige, but he is unsure that Zoe, who is now a successful local businesswoman, will forgive him for abandoning her after their high school romance. This is Tillery’s second novel (after Kiss Me, Kate) and is part of Crimson Romance’s five-book, multiple-author “Emerald Springs Legacy” series.
Verdict Tillery’s story lacks surprises. Issues of revenge and retaliation among small-town families are launched but falter, and the romance is unremarkable.—Joyce Sparrow, Kenneth City, FL