Review: Five Dates by Amy Jo Cousins

Five DatesTitle & Author: Five Dates by Amy Jo Cousins
Release Date: July 25, 2014
Publisher: Goodreads M/M Romance Group
Pages: 74

Book Blurb (from Goodreads):

Helping his sister Lucy raise her kid has put Devin’s love life on hold. When he loses a bet to her and the penalty is to go out on five dates with men she’s chosen from Guys4Guys.com, he thinks that’s bad enough. Finding out she used a thirteen-year-old picture of him to score a date with a young guy who looks like a rock star? Epically bad.

Jay thought he wanted to fall for an older man. But his last boyfriend left him feeling humiliated and determined to stick to guys his own age. When he realizes he’s been conned into a date with exactly the kind of man he’s sworn to avoid, he’s ready to walk away on the spot. Only Devin’s swift apologies convince Jay to accept dinner to make up for the deception.

“The date doesn’t count for the bet unless you get a goodnight kiss.” After one not-a-date dinner with Jay, Devin isn’t worried about his sister’s rules. He just wishes he could convince Jay to go out with him for real. Jay wants no part of Devin, but Devin wants every part of Jay . . . so he asks Jay to help update his look for the rest of his dates. But once Jay’s made Devin over into the perfect date, will he be able to let him go?

My Thoughts:

Okay, I’m going to be honest with you: there wasn’t much in this story that I haven’t already seen in a thousand Hollywood rom coms. Seriously. There was a meddling sibling, an implausible scenario used to bring two unlikely people together, some snark, some laughs, lust at first sight, pining, someone getting drunk, denial of feelings due to past baggage, the Big Realization, and an even bigger Declaration of Feelings (which naturally leads to scorching hot sex and a sweet as can be happily ever after).

And yet.

And yet I don’t give a flying $%& that Five Dates isn’t uber original because I fell for Devin and Jay hard and fast. I swear, it only took about 5 pages to have me wrapped around Devin’s little finger and grinning like a fool. Both characters were incredibly sweet, average, and relatable. They were just good guys and, unlike a large portion of the female population, I LOVE the good guys. The whole thing was just pure cute, fluffy escapism that made me genuinely happy as I was reading it. In fact, I had to create an all new shelf on Goodreads – “Too Cute For Words” – just to contain this one. I can’t recommend it highly enough for someone looking for a total mood-booster.

Oh, and if you needed any added incentive to read this short story? It’s entirely FREE as part of the Goodreads M/M Romance Group’s Loves Landscapes event. Grab your free copy of Five Dates here.

My Rating:

3 Smooch1 Smooch Half

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Review: Operation: Endgame by Christi Snow

Snow Cover 1Title & Author: Operation: Endgame by Christi Snow
Series: When the Mission Ends (#1)
Release Date: June 20, 2012
Publisher: Self-published
Pages: 302 pages

Book Blurb (from Goodreads):
It’s been six months. Six months since Jake Madsen let Chris Robertson die. Six months since the passion between Jake and Cassie, Chris’ sister, stepped over the line.

But now Cassie’s being stalked and it’s time for Jake to swallow his guilt, grief, and lust so he can save her life, even if it’s a life without him. He owes it to his dead friend and he owes it to Cassie. He’s fallen in love with her, but she doesn’t have to know that for him to keep her safe.

My Thoughts:

In Operation: Endgame, we’re introduced to twins Cassie and Chris Robertson and their childhood best friend, Jake Madsen. Cassie and Jake have been circling around their mutual attraction for years, but when Chris dies in combat and Jake feels responsible, a single night of shared passion and grief irrevocably change Cassie and Jake’s friendship forever. However, when a stalker begins to target Cassie, Jake is drawn back to Lubbock, Texas to protect the woman he loves.

Let me start by saying that I’m a massive fan of romantic suspense novels. However, it’s rare for me to find a new author whose work I think is as well-written and characters as well-crafted as that of Suzanne Brockmann, Cindy Gerard, Christy Reece, or Laura Griffin. That said, it only took reading a couple pages of Christi Snow’s novel, Operation: Endgame, to realize that I had found my next “must read” author. 

There was a LOT to love about this book.

Perhaps most importantly for me, Snow managed to create main characters that were strong, sexy, and smart. A university professor and video game consultant, Cassie Robertson was independent, intelligent, and ambitious. At the same time, she was fun-loving and deeply devoted to her family and friends. Basically, she’s everything that women in romance novels can (and should) be. 

Jake Madsen, on the other hand, was the perfect foil for Cassie. An elite pararescueman (PJ), Jake was strong, capable, protective, and just vulnerable enough to tug at my heart strings. Honestly, if the man were real, I’d take two! 😉

And, because this is a romance novel, I have to mention that the chemistry between these two was spot on! I love a good friends-to-lovers story, but throw in some guns and mortal danger and it’s good-bye panties! *wipes drool off chin*

Though the majority of Snow’s efforts were (understandably) spent on fleshing out her main characters, her secondary characters popped from the pages as well. The camaraderie and bone-deep caring the characters felt for one another was palpable on every page. Even though it was only a minor story line, I was really glad to see a relationship develop between War and Derek. Their struggle to accept themselves and their feelings for one another felt real and poignant. The more I see same-sex relationships (or anything else outside of the hetero norm) in romance novels, the happier it makes me. The world is a diverse and beautiful place filled with diverse and beautiful people, and it warms my heart to see romance authors embracing these types of characters and relationships in their work.

Love is love, after all.

The book started strong for me, but if I’m being honest, I felt that it stumbled a little towards the end. It was as if Snow’s descriptive capabilities which had been so well executed in the first half of the novel (especially in those fantastic, stirring flashbacks), weren’t able to keep up with the momentum of the plot she created as the action snowballed towards the climax. The description became a little thin, lacking in the more sensory experiences that would have pumped life into the scenes. Where was the stinging feel of the wind whipped up by the helicopter blades on Jake’s face? Or the deafening whump, whump of the blades that would have made conversation inside the helicopter nearly impossible without shouting or the use of headsets?! 

And although I was 100% entertained by the novel’s climax (Snow knows how to write thrilling action), I couldn’t help but feel as if it placed the characters in an almost unbelievable role reversal situation. I mean, I’m all for a woman who can hold her own and kick some serious ass, but Cassie was almost so in-charge that Jake felt redundant. And let’s be real, Cassie might be a military strategist of unparalleled skill, but Jake is a freakin’ PJ and those guys are badass – the elite of the elite. They don’t sit back and let others make the plans and take the risks. It also struck me as completely out of character that Cassie would be able to carry out the acts of violence she did in the final few pages of the book, even if it was to protect herself and those she cared about. 

Despite a somewhat problematic climax, I still thought Operation: Endgame was a great book. It was well-written, fast-paced, included several really creative plot twists, and I was happy to see two characters I genuinely liked get their happily ever after together. Honestly, I can’t wait to read the next book in this series!

My Rating:
2 Smooch2 Smooch

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