E-Original Romances from Bell, Jackson, & McAllister, plus Two Debuts | Xpress Reviews

Week ending July 18, 2014

Bartel, Sybil. No Apologies. Carina: Harlequin. 2014. 275p. ebk. ISBN 9781426898532. $3.99. NEW ADULT ROMANCE
Graham Allen is a bass player by night and a restorer of custom cars by day. Though he has groupies appearing at every show, his hard and fast rule is “no attachments.” Then he meets Carly Sullivan. Carly is friendly and kind, and Graham is thrown by how hard he’s falling for her. He can’t figure her out. What does she want? Graham’s painful past has proven that women aren’t to be trusted and learning to care comes hard. As set as Graham is to resist his feelings, Carly is just as determined to keep trying. Graham narrates this first-person novel, which affects the story in ways good and bad. His pain and rage are palpable and believable, but Carly is not as fully developed. And while Graham’s fury at the world is understandable, his classification of every woman he sleeps with as a skank makes him difficult to root for at times.
Verdict Bartel shows a lot of promise with this sharp new adult debut but perhaps needs to pull back on the “edgy” a bit. That said, fans of Kylie Scott’s “Stage Dive” series and J.R. Ward’s “Black Dagger” books will find a lot here to like.—Jane Jorgenson, Madison P.L., WI

Bell, Dana Marie. The Fire Within. Carina: Harlequin. (Nephilim, Bk. 2). 2014. 220p. ebk. ISBN 9781426898549. $4.99. SF/FANTASY ROMANCE
Headstrong PI Elizabeth Rand has met her match in fiery detective Dante Zucco. But there is more to him than meets the eye. Dante is one of the Nephilim, the progeny of a human and an angel. Attracted to each other despite their mutual distaste, Elizabeth and Dante are forced to team up to solve a murder that happened in front of Elizabeth’s office. Dante immediately senses that this is a job more for his Neph side than his detective side. As one of the Neph, Dante is tasked with hunting down Shemyaza demons to protect humans as well as his own kind. And this murder reeks of Shem. But when one of the Shem comes after Elizabeth, Dante, like any good hero, is forced to protect her at all costs. Soon the sparks that fly between the two ignite into a blaze, with hot (and some tender) love scenes along with thrilling plot twists. Throw in a new spin upon meeting the traditional Italian family plus a mysterious and powerful Russian Nephilim, and readers will be hooked, waiting to see what happens next and who ends up with whom.
Verdict Bell’s latest series title (after All for You) is recommended to devotees of fantasy romance, especially of novels that focus on angels and demons.—Sonnet Ireland, Univ. of New Orleans Lib.

Connor, Claudia. Worth the Fall. Loveswept: Random. (McKinney Brothers, Bk. 1). Sept. 2014. 312p. ebk. ISBN 9780553390919. $2.99. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
worththefall071814The first title in the “McKinney Brothers” series focuses on Navy SEAL Matt McKinney, who has been sidelined by a combat injury and the death of his best friend. During his downtime, he takes a trip to the beach with his cousin and two young women who are ready to party. But it soon becomes clear that this part of his life is done when he falls for Abby Davis, a young widow with four children and one on the way. The two connect over pizza, ice cream, and a trip to the water park with the kids. This original take on what it means to find the right one at the wrong time teases readers with a slow build to a moment that changes everything.
Verdict This debut mixes passion and compassion in a contemporary story that has emotional depth. Readers will find the story heartwarming but with enough heat to remind them of what falling in love feels like.—John Rodzvilla, Emerson Coll., Boston

Jackson, Myla. Wyatt’s War. Samhain. (Hearts & Heroes, Bk. 1). Jul. 2014. 127p. ebk. ISBN 9781619222205. $4.50. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
Fiona Allen has a project that can shoot her career into the stratosphere if she pulls it off. Her company has been chosen to organize and put on the International Trade Convention. A kink is thrown into her plans when Homeland Security sticks her with Sgt. Major Wyatt Magnus as a security expert. Terrorist threats abound, and someone needs to make sure that no foreign heads of state get blown up. Wyatt is on light duty while recovering after being held hostage by Somali insurgents. His dream is to get back to the battlefield and not to babysit some foreign dignitaries. Fiona and Wyatt will need to work together (and through no fault of their own, live together) to make this convention happen. Now if only they can keep their hands off each other.
Verdict This story is engaging and light. Unfortunately, that means some of the trauma of PTSD has been glossed over; if the story had been longer, that could have been delved into more deeply. The book also wraps up quickly, rushing to the finish line. Nevertheless, it’s still a good selection for fans of military romances.—Ryan A. Franklin, Mattoon P.L., IL

McAllister, Anne. Last Year’s Bride. Tule Pub. (Montana Born Brides, Bk. 8). 2014. 79p. ebk. ISBN 9781940296388. $2.99. CONTEMPORARY ROMANCE
Montana cowboy Cole McCullough married Los Angeles–based reality television director Nell Corbett during a spontaneous, romantic weekend in Reno. Now Cole is back in Marietta, MT, trying to save his family’s ranch and Nell is in L.A., looking for a location for her next TV show. Cole’s father, Sam, is recovering from a heart attack, so Cole decides to keep his marriage a secret and sends divorce papers to Nell. Cole’s naïve, 19-year-old sister Sadie, however, has her own secret: bring a reality television show to the ranch to help pay the bills. Cole begrudgingly attends the Marietta Valentine’s Ball to meet Lacey McKay, the daughter of a wealthy financier, but finds himself locking eyes with his soon-to-be-ex-wife, whom he sees across the dance floor.
Verdict McAllister is the author of more than 70 stories and novels and has won Romance Writers of America RITA awards for Cowboy Pride and The Stardust Cowboy. Here, she neatly ties themes of family, tradition, and love into this sweet novella. She develops Cole as a caring man behind his silent, tough, hard-working cowboy image. Westerns are big; don’t miss this one.—Joyce Sparrow, Kenneth City, FL