Review: The Dirty Book Club by Lisi Harrison

DBC

M.J. Stark’s life is picture-perfect—she has her dream job as a magazine editor, a sexy doctor boyfriend, and a glamorous life in New York City. But behind her success, there is a debilitating sense of loneliness. So when her boss betrays her and her boyfriend offers her a completely new life in California, she trades her cashmere for caftans and gives it a try. Once there, M.J. is left to fend for herself in a small beach town, with only the company of her elderly neighbor, Gloria, and an ocean that won’t shut up.

One afternoon, M.J. discovers that Gloria has suddenly moved to Paris with her friends to honor a fifty-year-old pact. And in lieu of a goodbye, she’s left a mysterious invitation to a secret club—one that only reads erotic books. Curious, M.J. accepts and meets the three other hand-selected club members. As they bond over naughty bestsellers and the shocking letters they inherited from the original club members, the four strangers start to divulge the intimate details of their own lives… and as they open up, they learn that friendship might just be the key to rewriting their own stories: all they needed was to find each other first.

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Source: Netgalley          My Rating: 4½/5 stars

In the wake of her family’s deaths, M.J. Stark has buried herself in her work.  To be sure, she has risen to the top of her field and is in line for a HUGE promotion, but there’s more to life than just work.  Or so her seriously long-distance boyfriend keeps telling her.  With no intentions of significantly altering her life beyond the promotion, M.J. is blown away when the promotion offer is not at all what she expected or worked for.  In a moment of pure rage, M.J. quits her job and leaves he beloved NYC for a sunny beach town in California. 

Domesticity isn’t all M.J. thought it would be, and though she enjoys (not loves!) being with her boyfriend, she doesn’t enjoy being bored and having to face her real life when she’s alone.  As she is struggling to adjust to her new reality, M.J. meets her somewhat eccentric neighbor, Gloria who opens up almost instantly about her life and best friends.  With Gloria nearby, M.J. is certain she can make her new life work, and then, one day, with nothing more than a note, Gloria is gone and M.J. is utterly lost.  Except, Gloria’s note came with more than an abrupt goodbye, it also came with an invitation to join an exclusive club, a club that has, over the decades saved Gloria’s life and sanity on more than one occasion. 

To have a club, there has to be more than one member and M.J. quickly finds herself in a private room with three other somewhat lost ladies, each hand-picked by one of the original club members.  The rules of the club are simple, be open, honest, and supportive of one another, tell no one outside of the club about the club, and be prepared to read and discuss a dirty book at each month’s meeting.  While the rules seem simple and clear, the women chosen to carry on this next version of the club are anything but simple.  M.J. is floundering in both her personal and professional life, Britt is a highly successful real estate agent stuck in a marriage she isn’t sure is at all viable any longer, Jules is a supremely naïve matchmaker whose husband is absent more than he’s present, and Addie is a bold and brash nurse who wants nothing more than to get the hell out of town.  Their personalities are disparate, their lives are complicated, and they each have no idea if they can trust the others gathered.  All that’s left to do is follow the rules and choose a dirty book to read 😊  

As the weeks and months go by, each woman is profoundly affected by her individual and club life.  As individuals, the women experience a huge range of ups and downs, betrayals and successes.  As club members, they learn to trust one another with their fears and troubles, hopes and dreams.  While the friendships don’t necessarily form quickly, they are strong friendships designed to last a lifetime.  As each new book is read and discussed, the new members/friends are also directed to read a letter left by one of the original club members.  The letters as much as the secrets and books bond the new club members, and help them to truly understand the history and intention of The Dirty Book Club.  Turns out, their predecessors were right . . . . about a lot of things!

The Bottom LineThe Dirty Book Club had such an intriguing synopsis, I immediately wanted to read it, and then I damn-near DNF’d it thanks to how truly unlikeable M.J. is.  Though I never changed my opinion of M.J., I am so glad I didn’t give up on this book.  The other three women, Addie, Britt, and Jules more than made up for M.J. and I became completely invested in the story.  Each woman has so many issues, issues that would likely crush an individual, but are more easily dealt with when there are friends to support you.  The Dirty Book Club is about so much more than a group of women reading erotic novels.  The Dirty Book Club is about friendship, trust, companionship, strength, love, the trials and tribulations of life, and the successes that come when there is a strong support system in place.  While the lives of the new generation are certainly interesting, it is in the letters of the original members that I found the most enjoyment in this read.  The weaving of the past and present is one of my favorite tropes, and The Dirty Book Club certainly delivers on this front.  There are a few surprises along the way that really liven up the story and keep the reader guessing.  In all, a delightful standalone!

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Review: Where I Need To Be (Book #3: McKenna Series) by Jamie Hollins

Where I Need to BeWhen heroin stole James Foley’s wife and destroyed his marriage, he poured all his energy into raising his young son and running his auto garage. There’s no room in his life for anything else until Megan McKenna walks into his shop. He finds it impossible to resist the sexy school teacher.

After an ugly divorce, Megan lost her home, her job, and a big chunk of her self-respect. With her posh lifestyle now a memory, she starts over by indulging in an unexpected fling with a hard-bodied mechanic.

What begins as something casual turns into something meaningful. But how can their relationship survive when it’s built on half-truths?

James and Megan soon discover that being honest with themselves is just as important as being honest with each other. Only then will their relationship fire on all cylinders.

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Source: Netgalley          My Rating: 5/5 star

James Foley has had enough of women!  His ex-wife is a drug addict who has only ever brought pain and chaos to his life.  What’s more, every time she shows up, she upsets their young son and James has had enough.  His life and heart just don’t have the time or energy for the pain and disruptions so it’s simply best to fly solo.

Megan McKenna may no longer have the high-rise apartment, top of the line everything, and social standing, but she has her freedom.  For nearly a decade, Megan had every material thing a girl could want, but she didn’t have a true partner.  What she did have was a cold, unfeeling, a$$hole of a husband who was far more concerned with appearances than an actual loving and committed marriage.  Yeah, Megan absolutely came out on top in the end and though she has far less than she used to, she wouldn’t trade it for the world!

A part of Megan’s new life is a super crappy car that needs an incredible number of repairs to keep it moderately safe and drivable.  As she pulls into the repair shop, Megan’s only intention is getting her car fixed.  Fresh off her ugly divorce, she has no interest in a relationship, but the hot repair man might be worth considering for a little no-strings dalliance.  Trouble is, Megan has never been a no-strings kind of girl.  But, James . . . . .  Oh, is that man every lickably fine!

For James, Megan is a wake-up call to all he has been missing as a part of his self-imposed isolation.  She’s smart, funny, sexy as hell, and, thanks to her super crappy car has ample reason to keep returning to his world.  James definitely wants to have sex with Megan, but every time he thinks about something beyond the physical, he damn-near breaks out into hives.  To say James is skittish doesn’t even come close and rather than explain his hesitance toward becoming truly involved to Megan, he often simply behaves badly or inexplicably which only causes more confusion for everyone. 

In the times they are together, Megan adores James and his attention.  Under the skittish exterior is a good man who wants a long-term committed relationship.  Breaking through his crusty exterior takes some serious effort, but the payoff is so worth the work.  Once Megan understands James better and the situation he and his son have survived, she’s better able to understand his behavior and work with it.  All she has to do now is drum up the courage to tell her family about James and the life they are building together.  If she can overcome her own fears and reveal her monumental secret, there may just be a future for the princess and the mechanic 😊

The Bottom Line:  I LOVED this book!!  It’s the print version of Billy Joel’s Uptown Girl!!  What’s not to love??  Megan is an easy character to root for and the more of her story that comes out, the more likeable she really is.  James is a bit harder to like (because of his somewhat rude behavior) but his backstory and experiences certainly help explain his surliness.  It’s clear from the beginning how perfect Megan and James are for one another and quite funny how each refuses to see the perfection of their union until there is nothing left to do, but accept the obvious.  While I generally enjoyed the whole story, the epilogue was my absolute favorite part of the book.  I love a good epilogue and this one had a little bit of everything including updates on all three couples from the McKenna series.  If the series is over, and I think it is, the epilogue in this book is a pretty perfect ending!

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Mini-Review: The Wrong Kind of Compatible (Book #1: Love Undercover Series) by Kadie Scott

WKoCData analyst Cassie Howard may be brilliant (and, okay, a little awkward), but she’s worked hard to get where she is. She definitely doesn’t need some sexy new analyst coming in and taking credit for her work. Or the inappropriate thoughts that keep popping out of her mouth she’d rather he not hear.

For undercover FBI agent Drew Kerrigan, computers have always made more sense than people, but he’d better develop some slick social skills in a hurry if he’s going to win over the too-tantalizing-for-his-sanity Cassie. Hacking their systems was easy. Now he’s just got to hack the one person in the company most likely to see through his ruse…

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Source: Netgalley          My Rating: 3/5 stars

 

The Bottom Line: I tend to allow my book reviews to pile up, and then get written during a marathon session.  I find, as soon as I pull the book up on Goodreads, the read just floods my memory and off I go . . . . Unfortunately, not much flooded my memory with The Wrong Kind of Compatible.  I liked Cassie and Drew just fine, I generally enjoyed the story, but I wasn’t blown away.  Cassie is by far the strongest character with her no edit button mouth and her belief in her superior skills.  She’s strong and funny (though she doesn’t always intend to be funny) and I liked her.  Drew is fine though I’m not sure he ever exhibited enough of anything (other than computer skills) to be a true match for Cassie.  This isn’t a book I would eliminate from your TBR list, but I also wouldn’t push it near the top any time soon either.  To be completely honest, there wasn’t much here that hasn’t been done a thousand times over in other books.  With that being said, if you’re looking for a quick and easy read that won’t tax your brain power, but will, at least mildly entertain you, try out The Wrong Kind of Compatible.

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Mini-Review: The Tudor Heritage by Lynda M. Andrews

The Tudor HeritageThe family behind the Virgin Queen: It is 1559, and Elizabeth Tudor has just succeeded to the throne of England. Beside her are the family who will share the momentous triumphs and setbacks of her reign: the Allgraves. Richard and Margaret Allgrave’s lives and those of their children and grandchildren are destined to be closely bound to that of the queen, though with such power will also come grave personal sacrifice.

This is a tale of kinship, loyalty, heroism and reward, set in the time of Drake, Frobisher and the Armada; of Mary Stuart, sent to her violent death. It is also the story of Elizabeth herself, the woman behind the magnificent facade of velvets, silks and jewels. A woman who passionately loved just one man, but chose to devote her life to her country and its people. Together Elizabeth and the Allgraves created the Tudor Heritage – a nation whose power was to be feared and respected for centuries to come.

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Source: Netgalley          My Rating: 3/5 stars

The Bottom Line:  While I generally go for a full-blown review, The Tudor Heritage doesn’t warrant such extensive thoughts as it is, more or less, just a fictionalized accounting of the major events of the Virgin Queen’s life.  History buffs will know the events described and many will appreciate the re-telling in such a quick and fast-paced manner.  There’s no dawdling in this book, just quick movement from one major event to the next with a lot of tantrums on the part of the Queen and her stubborn nature on full display.  While this is, ostensibly, an intertwining of stories, Elizabeth’s and the Allgrave family, there is little overlapping until the very end of the end of the book.  In all, I can’t say I loved this book, but I also didn’t dislike it either.  It’s a quick and easy read and will appeal to those who just want the quick, dirty version of Elizabeth’s life rather than the saga 😊

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Review: Misconduct (Book #4: Birmingham Rebels Series) by Samantha Kane

Misconduct

Rookie running back Tom Kelly loves the perks of football stardom. Men, women—there’s no shortage of companionship for a pro athlete who’s hot, young, and willing, and Tom is definitely willing. But deep down he wants a committed three-way relationship, especially if the female in the middle is Carmina de la Cruz. The undeniably sexy Army veteran may not say much, but her body speaks loud and clear.

After a traumatic tour in Afghanistan, Carmina is struggling to regain her speech and rebuild her life. More than anything, she wants to feel like a woman again. Tom may be a wholesome All-American, but he knows just how she needs to be touched—and he’s not the only Rebel who arouses her interest. With his scorching intensity, Tom’s best friend leaves her wondering if two players might be better than one.

Danny Smith is no stranger to his team’s kinky reputation. He gave in to temptation once, but he’s not going down that road again. Sure, Carmina’s curves promise pleasure, but her eyes guarantee it comes with baggage—and Danny has enough of his own. Still, giving up control can feel so good. And when it comes to everything Danny craves, Carmina and Tom make the perfect team.

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Source: Netgalley and Purchase         My Rating: 4/5 stars

Carmina de la Cruz knows exactly what she wants from life, to be normal.  For most, being normal isn’t all that hard, but for Carmina, normal is a monumental challenge when you consider the traumatic injuries she suffered while serving in the Army.  With a lot of therapy (physical and emotional) and the help of a few close friends, Carmina has improved dramatically and is looking to move forward with her life.  First up, getting laid . . . . .

Tom Kelly knows exactly who is and what he wants.  He’s having a banner year with the Rebels and if the media is to be believed, he’s the man all the men and women want.  To be fair, since discovering and accepting his bisexuality, Tom has had one hell of a time exploring and experimenting, but what he really wants is a long-term committed relationship that involves himself, Carmina, and his best-friend and teammate, Danny Smith.  Two problems: 1) Tom’s not at all sure Carmina wants anything to do with him and; 2) Danny adamantly refuses to admit he enjoyed being with another man the one and only time he tried it.  Obstacles! 

Danny Smith doesn’t quite know who he is, but he’s a bit clearer on who he wants and that’s Carmina de la Cruz.  Make no mistake, Danny isn’t looking for long-term and committed, but a quick, sexy shower in which both walk away totally clean from getting super dirty, would be amazing.  Trouble is, that dirty shower may cost Danny his best-friend and a potential friendship with Carmina.  Oh well, it’s all about living in the moment, right? 

Even with all the drama they’ve seen their teammates and friends go through, Tom, Carmina, and Danny seem to want to make a go of their incredibly messy situation.  There are so many instances of hurt feelings and little betrayals, it almost seems as if an HEA is going to be out of the question.  However, with patience, determination, and a lot of communication (whether Danny wants it or not!) the trio makes their way toward each other and into a situation that expands boundaries as much as it provides a great sense of happiness and contentment for all. 

The Bottom Line:  You want to know what I love best about this series??  The fact that nearly every member of the Birmingham Rebels is just the tiniest bit kinky and willing to take a chance when it comes to their love lives.  Carmina, Tom, and Danny may be the most disparate trio to come out of the Birmingham Rebels series and that made the road to their HEA all the better.  Though there are a great number of obstacles for Carmina and Danny to overcome (emotionally and physically), Tom is the guiding force in the group, and despite his own hurt feelings (at times) he is able to see the awesome potential of their relationship and lead everyone to a mutually satisfying and loving relationship.  Misconduct really is a very satisfying read and it’s good to see the series isn’t losing any of its strength as the series continues.

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Review: The Address by Fiona Davis

 

The AddressAfter a failed apprenticeship, working her way up to head housekeeper of a posh London hotel is more than Sara Smythe ever thought she’d make of herself. But when a chance encounter with Theodore Camden, one of the architects of the grand New York apartment house The Dakota, leads to a job offer, her world is suddenly awash in possibility–no mean feat for a servant in 1884. The opportunity to move to America, where a person can rise above one’s station. The opportunity to be the female manager of The Dakota, which promises to be the greatest apartment house in the world. And the opportunity to see more of Theo, who understands Sara like no one else . . . and is living in The Dakota with his wife and three young children.

In 1985, Bailey Camden is desperate for new opportunities. Fresh out of rehab, the former party girl and interior designer is homeless, jobless, and penniless. Two generations ago, Bailey’s grandfather was the ward of famed architect Theodore Camden. But the absence of a genetic connection means Bailey won’t see a dime of the Camden family’s substantial estate. Instead, her -cousin- Melinda–Camden’s biological great-granddaughter–will inherit almost everything. So when Melinda offers to let Bailey oversee the renovation of her lavish Dakota apartment, Bailey jumps at the chance, despite her dislike of Melinda’s vision. The renovation will take away all the character and history of the apartment Theodore Camden himself lived in . . . and died in, after suffering multiple stab wounds by a madwoman named Sara Smythe, a former Dakota employee who had previously spent seven months in an insane asylum on Blackwell’s Island.

One hundred years apart, Sara and Bailey are both tempted by and struggle against the golden excess of their respective ages–for Sara, the opulence of a world ruled by the Astors and Vanderbilts; for Bailey, the free-flowing drinks and cocaine in the nightclubs of New York City–and take refuge and solace in the Upper West Side’s gilded fortress. But a building with a history as rich–and often tragic–as The Dakota’s can’t hold its secrets forever, and what Bailey discovers in its basement could turn everything she thought she knew about Theodore Camden–and the woman who killed him–on its head.

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Source: Netgalley          My Rating: 5/5 star

Y’all know how much I love a good past meets present/past influences present story and Fiona Davis’s The Address certainly delivered!!

The Address focuses on the lives of two very different women, Sara Smythe and Baily Camden, separated by a century, but connected through love, devotion, tragedy, and location.

Bailey Camden needs an outlet because going back to the drugs and alcohol just isn’t an option.  With the help of her selfish and self-absorbed cousin, Bailey moves into the famed Dakota and begins a major remodeling project in her cousin’s apartment.  Though her cousin’s apartment is going to be a garish example of design (not Bailey’s choice!) the rest of the building has such potential, such good bones, and a few older residents who remember the original days of the site.  As Bailey gets deeper into the project, she also becomes far more interested in the history of the site and the people who originally brought the old girl to life.  What she finds is as fascinating as it is disturbing and some of the information hits startlingly close to home.   

A century before . . . .

When Sarah Smythe moved to the United States, she never imagined how high she would rise.  Though her father was an English peer, Sarah is illegitimate which severely limited her future prospects.  In a totally random twist of fate, Sarah meets Theodore Camden, the man who will bring her to America, put her in charge of the Dakota, and be the cause of her greatest love and greatest sorrow.  From the beginning, Sarah embraces her role at the Dakota and hopes to see it become a New York landmark.  As she becomes more intimately involved with Theodore Camden (note: he is married with a family!) Sarah begins to share his vision for not just the Dakota, but for architecture throughout the city.  The two feed off one another intellectually and emotionally which makes for an excellent professional relationship and a quite messy personal relationship. 

A century later . . . . .

With only a few solid and substantial clues and the verbal accounts of a few long-time Dakota residents, Bailey begins to piece together the horrifying story of Sarah Smythe and Theodore Camden.  What she discovers is a passionate love mixed with betrayal, abuse, false accusations, yet another illegitimate child, and, eventually murder.  What’s more, Bailey’s discoveries provide her a lifeline, a tangible reason to stay sober, and the prospect of a life with a caring man in a home she has come to adore.  Proving her story and vindicating a woman from a century past isn’t going to be easy, but Bailey proves she is more than up for the challenge.  The end results are so much more than Bailey could have ever asked and/or hoped for.

The Bottom Line:  This is another one of those books with a star rating I just can’t understand.  The Address is a fantastic historical fiction I can’t believe I left on my TBR list for so long!  Not only is The Address an historical fiction (a favored genre!) but it also pulled me in with the alternating past and present chapters.  I so love these types of books, especially when the author is particularly adept at weaving the two together into a coherent narrative.  Though it doesn’t initially seem so, Bailey and Sarah are intimately tied to one another and as the story unfolds – in the same place it all began! – the connection between the two women becomes blatantly obvious.  While I enjoyed Bailey’s chapters and her story, I much preferred Sarah’s chapters and the rich descriptions of the Dakota and Sarah’s life (good and bad) during the early years of the site.  I’m adding The Address to my favorites reads of the year list and highly recommend it to anyone who loves historical fiction as much as I do!

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Going, Going . . . . . . Gone!

vacation

Hey RoloPolians!  While I’m not going on a real vacation, I am going on a virtual vacation this week.  Blogging is so much fun and I adore bringing y’all new book stuff every week, but it’s also a very time-consuming hobby.  I need a short break so this little teaser of the reviews I have coming in the TWO WEEKS following my virtual vacation is all you’re getting from me this week 🙂  

 

Coming Soon - Small