Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Review: Nobody's Fool by Sarah Hegger.

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Willow Park #2
Sarah Hegger
Released August 25th, 2015
Kensington Books : Zebra

In Sarah Hegger's latest Willow Park Romance, long-held crushes and past frenemies reunite--and wonder if there's ever a second chance to make a good first impression. .

Holly Partridge had no plans to return to Willow Park, Illinois, until her troubled younger sister Portia fled her home and aimed herself straight at Holly's high school nemesis--too-gorgeous-to-be-true Josh Hunter. Riding a manic bipolar high, Portia's only a danger to herself, but Holly needs to find her before she crashes. That means asking Josh for help.

The ultimate love 'em and leave 'em lothario, Josh was never good for anything but a broken heart. But now he's lending a hand when Holly needs it most--and revealing surprising generosity and compassion. Has Josh shed his bad boy ways? Or is Holly suddenly grown up enough to acknowledge her own mistakes? Trusting Josh could be a disaster--or the first step in banishing the past to make way for a future happier than Holly ever imagined. .

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Up until reading this second instalment from the Willow Park series, Nobody's Angel had been one of my favourite books I've read this year. Now it has been slightly eclipsed by Nobody's Fool!

Josh Hunter...what can I say? A smart and intelligent man. He's a player and likes a challenge and Holly Partridge is worth the chase. The pair know each other from high school, when the Partridge family lived briefly in Willow park. Whilst they both have a lasting memory of each other, it isn't a good one for Miss Partridge! 
In the intervening years, Holly has spent her time living in Canada, juggling work whilst caring for her younger twin sisters; A burden she used to share. Now she's back in Chicago, looking for her missing twin-sister who is bipolar and needs the help of the man whom she's despised since a teen.

The author has a knack of writing complex characters, incorporating challenging plot lines and yet manages to keep the flow of the storyline fluid. The protagonists are well developed and likeable as are the secondary characters. Josh is compassionate and sees the potential Holly has to move on in her life, even if she can't see it herself. It's heart-warming to see her realise that she can achieve her goals and that she needs to think of herself first and foremost instead of always putting the needs of others before her own.
I found it interesting observing the dynamics of the Hunter family too; in particular Donna's interaction with Lucy and Holly. I also like that we get a glimpse into how Richard and Lucy's life has evolved since their story in book one. 

Although Nobody's Fool is a standalone book, I highly recommend that you read Nobody's Angel. Now I'm eagerly waiting for the third instalment - Nobody's Princess.

5 Stars

***arc generously received courtesy of the publisher Zebra via NetGalley.***

The sign above the glass door to the trendy single’s bar scrolled out “Scants” in hot pink neon, blinked twice, and repeated.
Bugger.” Holly yanked her clinging sweatshirt away from her body. You should never ask how much worse a thing could get because Murphy’s Law went right ahead and showed you.
The door flew open, and the clamor from the bar roared out onto the sidewalk where she stood. A couple of girls brushed past her, giggling as they hurled themselves into the preening frenzy. On the other side of the window, a mass of beautiful bodies circled each other.
Holly was way, way out of her element. There was no choice, though. According to his doorman, she’d find Josh Hunter in there.
She squared her shoulders and braced for hell. Good thing she had her bloody passport with her.
Holly stepped over the threshold, and the manic melody of singles bars everywhere crashed over her; the clink, the chatter, the bass rumble of male voices juxtaposed against the higher pitches of women. The throb of amplifier and subwoofer underscored the babble and ground out an elemental jungle beat that quickened the blood.
Welcome to the mating ground of genus Homo sapiens. What a bunch of posers. Exactly where you would expect to find someone like Josh Hunter. Proof she and Joshua were an entirely different species. She’d suspected as much in high school. The evidence was now incontrovertible.
Her phone buzzed in her hand and Holly checked the screen.
Emma again. This made it the fifth call in the last hour. What a pity Emma hadn’t panicked four days ago, when Portia first went missing.
She stuck one finger in her ear to hear her sister. “Yes?”
Did you find her?”
I just arrived in Chicago.” Did Emma expect her to fly? Six hours and twenty-four minutes, according to Google Maps, and she’d shaved it to a shade under six.
What have you been doing?” Emma wailed loud enough to rise above the storm of noise around her.
Driving.” Holly clenched her hand into a fist by her side. Cool it, Holly. They were both worried about Portia’s disappearance.
Only this morning, she’d discovered Portia missing.
Emma, Portia’s twin, had broken down and confessed Portia had left four whole days ago for Chicago. Not only was their younger sister gone, she’d left London, Ontario, without her medication.
The sheer stupidity of it made Holly want to growl.
Did you find Joshua Hunter?” Emma let fly with her persistent streak. “Portia spoke about him when she called.”
Yes, you told me already.” Holly cursed her height as she levered to her toes to see over the heads in front of her. “I’m looking for him now.”
She might not recognize Josh Hunter anymore. A lot could’ve changed in the years since they’d gone to high school together. Maybe he’d grown another head, to admire the one he already had.
She didn’t sound good.” Emma’s voice quivered. “You have to find her, Holly.”
I know I do,” Holly almost snarled. Four days and Emma hadn’t said a word. Holly could barely get her head around it.
A phone call from Portia, flying perilously high and prattling about seeing Josh Hunter, had sent Emma scurrying for Holly and help.
I have to go.” She hung up on Emma, still talking.
The name of her high-school nemesis had knocked Holly off balance for a moment. It was not a name she’d wanted to hear again. She shook it off. It couldn’t be helped. The most important thing was finding Portia, and she’d make a deal with the devil if she must.
In his school days, Josh had lived in Willow Park, and that seemed the most logical place for Holly to start. The Hunter house had been down the street from Holly’s, and she’d guessed it was where Portia had run into him.
She’d been hanging on to the secret hope of Portia standing on the sidewalk, gazing wistfully at the old family home. If you could call a house you’d only lived in for two years an old family home.
Holly dodged a weaving waitress and stopped.
The two women in front of her spotted each other and squealed like a pair of happy piglets.
Holly waited for the cheek kissing ritual to end.
Cheek kissing gave way to feverish chatter, and Holly finally pushed past. She was on a mission.
Why had Portia gone searching for Josh Hunter? Holly wobbled on her tiptoes and craned her neck past the mass of bobbing heads. It was one of the questions she’d ask her sister when she caught up with her. And catch up with Portia she would.
The house in Willow Park had changed. Dramatically. Holly had been standing outside earlier, wondering where to go next, when the door to the house opened and luck stepped out—trailing spangles and a cloud of perfume. God knows why, but the woman had been thrilled to see her. Holly didn’t recall her at all. Fortunately, she had remembered Holly and her sisters clearly.
The woman went on to say yes, she had seen Holly’s sister. Portia had been by a couple of days ago, looking for Josh. She confirmed Emma’s report that Josh and Portia had found each other and were briefly spotted together. And better yet, had been able to tell her the name of the upscale condo on the Gold Coast where Josh now lived.
Here the bedazzled woman had treated Holly to an abbreviated version of Josh’s infamy. Most of it went over her head, but the gist was women and more women, and when was he going to settle down?
Holly ran for cover between the woman’s pause and an invocation to God for Josh to stop breaking his mother’s heart and get married already.
So, same old Josh Hunter.
Holly had located the condo building easily enough, and a bit of creative truth bending with the doorman had her standing on the sidewalk outside Scants, exactly the sort of place she would rather chew her arm off than enter.

The crowd in front of her parted and, oh, sweet Mother of God, there he was.

Born British and raised in South Africa, Sarah Hegger suffers from an incurable case of wanderlust. Her match? A hot Canadian engineer, whose marriage proposal she accepted six short weeks after they first met. Together they’ve made homes in seven different cities across three different continents (and back again once or twice). If only it made her multilingual, but the best she can manage is idiosyncratic English, fluent Afrikaans, conversant Russian, pigeon Portuguese, even worse Zulu and enough French to get herself into trouble.

Mimicking her globe trotting adventures, Sarah’s career path began as a gainfully employed actress, drifted into public relations, settled a moment in advertising, and eventually took root in the fertile soil of her first love, writing. She also moonlights as a wife and mother.She currently lives in Draper, Utah, with her teenage daughters, two Golden Retrievers and aforementioned husband. Part footloose buccaneer, part quixotic observer of life, Sarah’s restless heart is most content when reading or writing books.

She loves to hear from readers and you can find her at any of the places below.

New Release Spotlight: Delayed Penalty by Sophia Henry.

Enter to Win a Select Loveswept Ebook Bundle

Pilots Hockey #1
Sophia Henry
Releasing Sept 1st, 2015

She closed her heart long ago. He just wants to open her mind. For fans of Toni Aleo and Sawyer Bennett, the debut of Sophia Henry’s red-hot Detroit Pilots series introduces a hockey team full of complicated men who fight for love.

Auden Berezin is used to losing people: her father, her mother, her first love. Now, just when she believes those childhood wounds are finally healing, she loses something else: the soccer scholarship that was her ticket to college. Scrambling to earn tuition money, she’s relieved to find a gig translating for a Russian minor-league hockey player—until she realizes that he’s the same dangerously sexy jerk who propositioned her at the bar the night before.

Equal parts muscle and scar tissue, Aleksandr Varenkov knows about trauma. Maybe that’s what draws him to Auden. He also lost his family too young, and he channeled the pain into his passions: first hockey, then vodka and women. But all that seems to just melt away the instant he kisses Auden and feels a jolt of desire as sudden and surprising as a hard check on the ice.

After everything she’s been through, Auden can’t bring herself to trust any man, let alone a hot-headed puck jockey with a bad reputation. Aleksandr just hopes she’ll give him a chance—long enough to prove he’s finally met the one who makes him want to change.

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 “Hey,” someone said, tapping my shoulder. I spun around to see the karaoke host.
“Greg.” He thrust his hand at me.
“Auden,” I said, taking his outstretched palm. “Thanks for switching songs.”
“Tina Turner didn’t seem like your thing.” Greg might’ve had a cute face hiding under his beard. Still not my type, though. Too monotone. Even the plaid flannel hanging off his lean frame was brown. His style screamed Eddie Vedder, nineties grunge rather than today’s hipster cool.
“Oh, I can rock some Tina. Just wasn’t feeling ‘Proud Mary’ without my backup dancers.” I pointed to Kristen and Lacy.
Greg laughed. “Need a drink?”
“I already have—” I searched the table for my drink, spotting it in Lacy’s boyfriend’s hand. “Actually, I do.”
Ignoring Kristen’s megawatt smile, I followed Greg to the bar. She better not have set him on me to boost my spirits. She knew he wasn’t my type. Douche bags like Crazy Hair and the guys he’d flipped off got my motor running. Douche bags and I were on the same wavelength. Neither of us wanted more than the other could offer.
Greg moved to the side so I could order. “Club soda with three limes, please.”
“And a Steam Whistle.” Greg pointed to a beer I didn’t recognize in the stand-up cooler behind the bar. The bartender nodded and extracted a bottle.
“You’ve got a killer voice,” Greg said.
“Well, there’re no Tina Turner–type vocals in that song.” I blew off his compliment.
“No, but it’s hard to sing that soft and keep your key.” His mouth curved into a wide, kind smile. “You from around here?”
“Detroit,” I said, nodding. “But I go to Central State.”
“Are you kidding?”
I shook my head and picked up the drink the bartender had placed in front of me.
“So do I. That’s crazy.” Greg held up a few bills, waiting until the bartender saw the money before setting it on the bar. “My roommates and I have a band and we’re looking for a singer right now.”
“You’re in a band? That’s awesome,” I said, focused on mashing the limes in my drink. I raised my glass to him. “Thank you, by the way.”
“No problem.” He picked at the label on his beer bottle. “Any interest?”
“In what?” I asked, looking at Greg over the top of my cup.
“Singing for our band.” He didn’t even blink.
“You’re joking, right?” I laughed. Asking me to sing in his band after hearing one karaoke song was hilarious. I’d never taken voice lessons, and as far as I knew, I didn’t have any significant talent.
“Why would I joke?” He didn’t seem to understand my laughter at all.
“I just sang in public for the first time and you’re asking me if I want to be in a band?” Being the center of attention for five minutes in a karaoke bar was one thing; standing on stage in front of people expecting a show was a different beast.
“So that explains your lack of stage presence,” Greg said as he ran his fingers over his beard, looking more English professor than rocker.
“Quite the charmer, aren’t you, G-man?” I took a drink. I knew I didn’t have stage presence. Hell, I didn’t make eye contact.
“Stage presence can be learned,” he said. “You have a great voice and a hot look.”
Once I realized he wasn’t kidding, I was speechless.
Greg continued peeling the label off his beer bottle as he waited for me to speak. “It’s nothing crazy. We just play bars in Bridgeland, well, mostly at Wreckage.” He chuckled.
“Yeah, I don’t think so, but thanks for asking.” I forced a half smile.
“Come on,” he pleaded. “Just try out. If you like it, great.”
“I don’t think I could even learn to be comfortable on stage.”
“I can get you over your stage fright.” Greg’s voice was molasses, thick and smooth; a contrast to his grunge-hipster vibe. The lights flickering above gave his previously plain eyes a sensuous sparkle as he waited for my answer.
Why did I have to be a sucker for sparkles? “Okay, sure.” My head bobbed in reluctant consent. “The worst that could happen is I fail miserably, right?”
“You might surprise me.” Greg winked. He searched the bar before grabbing a pen lying on an abandoned credit card receipt. Then he flipped over a coaster advertising some brewing company’s winter ale and began scribbling. “Here’s my number. Call me next week for an audition.”
“This is crazy.” I took the coaster from him.
“What do you have to lose?” His eyes were solid and intense as he stared at me.
Nothing. I’d long since lost it all. But he didn’t know that.
Without another word, he walked away, leaving me alone at the bar, perplexed by the interaction.
“What did Eddie Vedder’s son have to say?” Kristen asked, nodding toward Greg, who had resumed his place behind the karaoke machine. Of course Kristen would think of a similar description for his look. It was one of the many reasons we’d been calling each other the “other half” since the first day of freshman year when we were assigned the same dorm room.
“He wants to me to try out for his band,” I said, flashing her the coaster. “Which is stupid.”
“No it isn’t.” She snatched my hand and squeezed. “You’re really good.”
I shook my head. Right now I was high from my time on stage and the applause and compliments I’d received, but as soon as I got home and thought about the unexpected conclusion to my soccer career again, the euphoria would abandon me. Just like my team had.
Just like everyone does.
“You’re a popular lady tonight. The Mohawked hottie stared at you the entire time you talked to karaoke guy.”
I followed Kristen’s gaze to the table where Crazy Hair and his friends were sitting. Though the group seemed to be leaving, downing their drinks and grabbing their coats, Crazy Hair stood still, his penetrating eyes on me.
I had a feeling he was the type of guy who would say anything to get me to take him home, and then slink away without a word the next morning. Though drinking had usually been involved when that had happened, I couldn’t even blame the alcohol. I fell for guys like him because I needed the attention. I needed to feel like someone wanted me. I needed to pretend that someone might be able to love me.
The way parents should have loved me.
It was an impossible void to fill.
Crazy Hair slid one of the muscular arms I’d admired earlier around the shoulders of the girl with the tight red sweater. She had big everything. Big hair, big boobs, big smile. Still holding my gaze, he said something against her ear, and she threw her head back in a laugh revealing big white teeth. Moving his hand to her back, he allowed her to go first as they followed the rest of the group toward the door.
Which reminded me of another definition of smoke show: to dominate, crush, or otherwise humiliate the opposition.
Mission accomplished.

I chose Delayed Penalty because I don't read many New Adult or sports orientated books and wanted to broaden my reading horizon. This hockey based début novel by Sophia Henry is definitely a worthy introduction.

Auden Berezin's life has been turned on its head after she looses her scholarship, so she needs cash fast! Her grandfather often asks her to help with Russian translations only this time, she is allowed to work with a client in person, a hockey player. He might be good looking, but he's also an ass.

Russian Aleksandr Varenkov is playing in minor league hockey with aspirations of making it to NHL. He requests a translator as he doesn't like speaking to the press even though he can speak English. He gives off an arrogant vibe, but there is far more to him than a cocky player.

Auden and Aleksandr appeared far wiser than their young years, which was surprising until details from their past begin to unfurl. I liked Auden's pragmatic outlook with regards to her relationship with Aleksandr although in reality she was too dismissive and underestimated the depth of his feelings for her. Aleksandr was way more mature for his age maybe due to the tragedy in his life or his cultural background?

Overall an enjoyable, quick read with likeable and developed characters. I would have preferred the plot to have focussed more on the hockey and the Pilots, with greater attention to the protagonists relationship. The plot was too busy and the sub-plots going off at tangents meant their wasn't enough focus in the right places.

Sophia Henry, a proud Detroit native, fell in love with reading, writing, and hockey all before she became a teenager. She did not, however, fall in love with snow. So after graduating with an English degree from Central Michigan University, she moved to North Carolina, where she spends her time writing books featuring hockey-playing heroes, chasing her two high-energy sons, watching her beloved Detroit Red Wings, and rocking out at concerts with her husband.