Donna Reads: Sin & Chocolate (Demigod of San Francisco #1) by K. F. Breene

Alexis is magical, but she thinks her magical skill is nothing special. She lives in the area between magical and non-magical people, and she’s raising two teenagers she’s taken in. She can see dead people, and she helps them cross over when they are stuck between worlds. She attracts the attention of the demigod, Kieran, and he asks for her help with his recently deceased mother who is one of the souls who is stuck. 

This one was just okay for me. The story wasn’t particularly interesting. Alexis was not likable, and sadly she did not grow on me over the course of the book. She was sarcastic and rude, and although the hero repeatedly expressed interest in her, she wanted no part of him. There was little to no romance here. They kissed a few times. There was no heat, no banter, and no charming back and forth. It was just boring to me. 

The best parts were when Alexis spoke to ghosts. I had to backtrack several times, though, and re-read because it wasn’t always obvious to me that people she saw or spoke to were deceased. There was no indication that they were dead until I realized no one else was interacting with them. This brings up another peeve – the writing style. It wasn’t always clear. 

Had I known this book wasn’t really a stand alone, complete story, I probably wouldn’t have read it. It seemed to ramble and not really get anywhere. I’m not sure I’m going to bother with the second book as I think the author intends to drag this on and on. 

Donna Reads: Accidental Protector (Marriage Mistake) by Nicole Snow

Mindy Austin has finally dumped her cheating fiancé and left her parents’ home in Arizona for a much-needed break in Reno, Nevada.  She doesn’t expect to wake up in bed beside a stranger. Unable to remember how she got there, she grabs her clothes and sneaks out. She returns to her borrowed apartment and soon finds a marriage license in her purse and realizes she is wearing an engagement ring and a wedding ring on her finger. 

Noah Bernard is a private investigator and a bounty hunter intent on solving his cousin Jess’s disappearance. Jess has gotten mixed up with a drug dealing, murdering criminal named Cesare Lucient and has gone missing. Noah has been working on a job for Lucient trying to get more information on Jess. Now he also has the mystery of the woman who just crawled out of his bed to solve, too. When he finds the receipt for the rings and wedding ceremony in his wallet, he makes finding the mystery woman his priority. 

Mindy and Noah both remember bits and pieces of a marriage ceremony in front of an Elvis impersonator. When it becomes clear they were both drugged, they both decide to solve the mystery. When Lucient takes an interest in Mindy, Noah knows he must protect her from the evil. He moves her in with him. 

I liked this one. The big, bad bounty hunter, ex-military, tough, dangerous and a little broken, and the sweet and trusting woman who’s been duped by one cheating, lying man and repeatedly bullied by her family to forgive and forget her ex’s transgressions. Mindy was tougher than anyone knew. I loved that her true character emerged and grew over the course of the story. She and Noah are attracted to each other and soon they can’t keep their hands off of each other. Soon neither one wants that divorce. 

Noah is determined to protect her, and Mindy is determined to help him solve the mystery of Jess’s disappearance and take Lucient down. Will they find Jess? Will they find happiness together?

My only (minor) complaint with this one was how neatly everything was tied up by the end, and I do mean EVERYTHING. Even the side characters got happy endings. Everybody had someone; everyone was happy. The totality of it was a little improbable. I do recommend the book, though. Nicole Snow is fast becoming one of my favorite authors. 

Donna Reads: Law Man (Dream Man #3) by Kristen Ashley

Mara Hanover is a shy, hardworking girl, born on the other side of the tracks. Her family is trailer trash, and she left home at a young age and worked hard to put her rough beginnings behind her. Mara heard all of her childhood that she was worthless and would never amount to much. Her self worth and self esteem are very low. Police detective Mitch Lawson is Mara’s neighbor and she has secretly been in love with him for years. Mitch, according to Mara, is way out of her league. Mara sees herself as a 2.5 and Mitch as a 10.5. When Mara gets a phone call from a store about her nine year old cousin, Billy and his six year old sister, Billie, she rushes out to pick up the kids she loves. She literally runs into Mitch on her way, and he talks her into letting him drive her there. The kids’ father, Mara’s drug-addicted, drug-dealing cousin, Bill is bad news.

I will freely admit I’ve had issues with Kristen Ashley’s heroines in the past. Too many of them are cardboard cut-out Lucille Ball type characters – wacky and obnoxious. Mara is not obnoxious. Mara is sweet and shy. She’s retreated so far inside her own head that Mitch struggles to find the real Mara. Mitch has been secretly into Mara for years, too, and she has all kinds of trouble accepting that.

The side characters in this book were great. Mara’s boss, her coworker, her best friend at home, and her neighbors all thought Mara was wonderful. When Mitch finds out she ranks people in her head and puts them all into zones, he’s baffled with that. He worked so hard the first half of the story to break her out of the protective and imaginary cocoon she’d wrapped herself in. It was sweet. Mitch forced her to live in the real world outside of Mara world.

Mara’s young nephew and niece were so cute and sweet. Mara ends up fighting to get custody. There’s action and excitement because Bill has entangled himself with some very bad people. Mara’s mother and aunt show up to create havoc.

I really liked this one and recommend it.

Donna Reads: Look the Part by Jewel E. Ann

Ellen Rodgers is a musical therapist, and she rents office space from attorney Flint Hopkins. Flint is a moody single father raising an autistic child. Free-spirited Ellen enjoys messing with Flint’s orderly existence. When he decides her musical therapy sessions are too loud for his peace of mind, he decides to evict her.

That was the basic premise of this story. The meat of the tale didn’t develop until late in the book. It was promoted as a romantic comedy, but I didn’t find it particularly humorous. I thought it dragged a bit in the middle, and I kept waiting for something (or anything) to happen. Instead of laughter, it actually brought me to tears when the two main characters split up at one point. Both Flint and Ellen had tragedy in their pasts. That caused a lot of the dithering, inactivity and indecision in their relationship and storyline.

I do have two criticisms:

1) As the mother of an autistic child, I find myself overly critical of fictional autistic characters. Something about Flint’s son, Harrison did not sit well with me. He gave in too easily. Autistic kids can be unreasonable and unrealistic. They don’t just cave and say “okay” when someone explains things. By the epilogue he seemed far too “normal” to me. Quirks don’t just disappear.

2) I’ve also been through two strokes (both of my parents). Ellen’s father’s recovery from his stroke was too rapid (he was speaking full sentences in the week it took for them to move/drive to Minnesota). His 100% recovery was too miraculously complete. It just wasn’t plausible for me.

Only parts of this one worked for me.