Sunday, January 29, 2017

Book Review: Breakaway by Catherine Gayle

Breakaway Cover A tender, well developed romance with a popular plot line, friends become lovers

Breakaway (Portland Storm #1) by Catherine Gayle

Reading Level: Adult Romance
Release Date: December 11, 2013
Publisher: Night Shift Publishing
Pages: 322 pages
Source: Purchase
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry

Dana Campbell was gang raped as a virgin by three men at age 19, and the past seven years she has been unable to be around men, especially big men, without having severe panic attacks. She has been treated by a rape counselor for the whole of the past seven years, but she has not made any progress in regaining normal sexuality. Mainly because the recommended treatment for panic attacks, desensitization to the trigger for the attacks, is not possible without using a professional sex surrogate, something she just can't face doing. Then suddenly it occurs to her that maybe she can in fact utilize a sex surrogate, if she can rely on the one person in the world she would trust for such an intimate task: a long-time family friend, Eric Zellinger.

Eric is several years older than Dana and has known her since childhood as her older brother's best friend. Unknown to Dana, Eric has been in love with her for over a decade, but tragically, just when he at last believed her to be grown up enough and was about to approach her romantically, she was raped, and all chance of a normal romantic relationship with her was at an end. Even though he has tried to forget her as a potential mate over the years, he has never been able to, and he is shocked to his core when out of the blue she presents him with her surrogate plan for personal salvation.

Eric is very afraid to go through with the plan, for fear he will, out of well-meaning ignorance, inadvertently make her situation worse. But he cares for her so deeply, he would do anything for her, and he ultimately says, yes, when she begs him to help her and tearfully assures him he is her only hope to regain a normal life.

Unfortunately, Eric is also going through a personal crisis in his professional life at the same time as Dana has come to him, which greatly complicates matters between him and Dana that are already very complex. He is captain of the National Hockey League team, Portland Storm, formerly an elite team which is currently desperate to regain its former glory. Eric is struggling, as team captain, to lead his team to the playoffs. If he fails, beyond the potential pain of defeat is the very real threat that he may be traded away from his beloved team as a failed captain.

As if all that weren't stressful enough, Dana's highly protective brother discovers that Dana has moved in with Eric and pushes her to a confession of her unorthodox plan. He is rabidly against it, and frequently and loudly protests directly to Eric when he is suddenly transferred to Eric's team as a replacement hockey player.

Can Eric simultaneously help Dana, help his team and avoid having his best friend's angry protectiveness sabotage everything he and Dana might accomplish to free her from her emotional prison? Read this terrific book and find out.

This is a very well written, tender romance. One of my favorite romance plots is "friends become lovers," and this is one of the better ones I've ever read.

Eric is a marvelous hero. Unlike the vast majority of romance heroes, he is not a womanizer! He is very loving and gentle with Dana, and due to the nature of Dana's emotional problems, the sex scenes are of necessity very sensitive and slow moving, which is an excellent change of pace among the current crop of raunchy hockey romances.

Dana is an excellent heroine, and I especially liked that prior to the rape, she was an outstanding hockey star herself. It gives her a great many meaningful common bases with Eric besides hot sex. Not that I'm discounting the palpable sexual chemistry between them, a crucial component of a romance novel, of course. But it is great to have something more than that which convinces me as a reader that this couple could truly achieve real and lasting love.

Finally, I liked this romance so much, I've purchased and read several other novels in this series by this author and they are all excellent.

I rate this book as follows:

Heroine: 4

Hero: 5

Romance Plot: 5

Hockey Plot: 4

Subcharacters: 5

Writing: 5

Overall: 5

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Book Review: The Roommate by Carla Krae

The Roommate Cover Adorable, New Adult, Friends-to-Lovers Plot

The Roommate (West Coast Soulmates #3) by Carla Krae

Reading Level: New Adult
Release Date: April 19, 2016
Publisher: Willowick Publishing
Pages: 108 pages
Source: Purchase
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry

Jessica has been living in L.A. the past three years since graduating from university, and during that time she has been happily reunited with her best friend since seventh grade, Rosalind, who had previously attended a different university than Jessica. Though they are quite close and enjoy each other's company, the two friends are very different. Jessica's idea of a good time on a Friday night after a long week as an office worker is to loll around on her couch, watching a movie on DVD while consuming popcorn, pizza and soda. Extroverted Rosalind, on the other hand, is much more of a party animal, and she's very rarely been able to convince Jessica to join her in her partying adventures.

Out of the blue one day Rosalind phones Jessica to call in their "BFF chip," a pact they made in middle school, the gist of which is that when the chip is called in, the BFF must agree to grant the requested favor as it is understood to be an absolute emergency. Rosalind is out of town and cannot keep her promise to pick up her brother Patrick at LA International Airport in an hour. He was only given three days notice to show up for his first real IT job since completing his masters degree in computer science, and her work schedule has made it impossible for her to keep her word. She also cannot offer him her couch to crash on for a few weeks until he can get his own place because her apartment building has been temporarily condemned and evacuated. She begs Jessica to also house her brother until Rosalind can help him make other arrangements.

Jessica hesitates only a moment before agreeing to everything. At the airport, a huge shock awaits her. It's been seven years since she last saw Patrick, just before she left for college, when he was 17 and she was 18. On the outside, the only thing familiar now about "little Ricky" is his curly, brown hair, his thick-framed glasses and his quiet, introverted demeanor. In the intervening years, he's grown half a foot, bulked up, and become a "hunk of hotness too yummy to be real." Not only that, Jessica soon discovers that he's an old-fashioned gentleman who is unfailingly considerate and polite, a fabulous cook, and a tidy and unobtrusive roommate. In other words, he's Mr. Ideal Man whom any young woman, most especially our heroine, would be ecstatic to date. Unfortunately, as her BFF's younger brother, he's forbidden fruit for Jessica. She's constantly worried that she will embarrass him and humiliate herself by failing to hide from him the drooling crush on him that she developed from the moment they met, a lustful fascination which only grows stronger with every enticing moment she spends with him.

This is a fairly short book, but it flows well and feels satisfying and complete. I really enjoyed Jessica and Patrick, who are both very sympathetic characters. I particularly liked Patrick. What a delightful change in a New Adult (NA) romance to encounter a metrosexual, Beta male as the hero! He has no tattoos, doesn't use foul language, is respectful of women, and absolutely is **not** a typical, promiscuous NA romantic hero. There is no sex scene in the book until the very end, and it is done with great sensitivity and is highly emotional rather than simply being crude. In other words, the sex works as it ideally ought to in a romance novel by contributing with deep emotion to the building romantic relationship. This, too, is very refreshing, since the vast percentage of NA romances seem to be nothing but a series of gratuitous, crude, sex scenes with very little plot holding them together.

It was also nice to read a NA romance set somewhere besides a university campus. There are no "F bombs" from any of the characters, and no wild, frat-boy type parties. In fact, there is only one scene in which the heroine gets drunk, and it is clearly a major aberration in her normal life. The hero in that situation is her designated driver and caretaker, and does not drink at all in the book.

Because this is a very short, contemporary romance, there were not a lot of subcharacters who existed beyond being simple "walk-on" characters with no lines. However, the subcharacters that are in the plot serve important purposes, such as Confidant and Antagonist, and they are well drawn.

This novel is written in first person point of view, past tense. Though most NA romance novels these days also give the hero's point of view, in this case, because the book is so short, not knowing what Patrick is thinking adds to Jessica's conflict and suspense about how he feels about her and as such, works well.

I am happy to report that this is a standalone novel with no cliffhanger ending. In fact, it is a classic romance novel in that there is a HEA (happily ever after) ending.

I rate this book as follows:

Heroine: 4

Hero: 5

Subcharacters: 4

Setting: 4

Romance Plot: 4

Writing: 4

Overall: 4