Ember Skies by Nicky Crawford

ember skies

Title: Ember Skies
Author: Nicky Crawford
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Age: Adult
Is This Part of a Series?: No

*I received an e-Copy of this book in exchange for a fair and honest review

Summary:
Ember works hard to maintain the image of a perfect military wife, trying to keep her abusive husband happy and her daughter safe. Then she meets Dalton and realizes that she is worth more than just a life of survival. Finding someone who can make her happy, though, is just the beginning. There are still years of hurts, current physical threats, fears to face, and a daughter to protect in order for Ember to reach the life she deserves. Will she find the courage to leave Austin? Will she find the strength to risk her heart again with Dalton?

Overall Impression:
There were parts that were slow and parts that were heart-pounding, but when it all balanced out, it was a good, heart-warming story that was easy and pleasurable to read.

The Nitty Gritty:
My absolute favorite part of this book was the cast of characters. Ember was someone you wanted to get to know, encourage, and–most importantly–watch live and grow. Her daughter, Harlee, was cute and relatively believable with her three-year-old speech (although there were a couple of times where it was distracting). Dalton was honorable, dashing, and funny. And by the time the book was over, there were several other characters–all distinct from one another–that were also worth knowing and watching. Honestly, by the end of the book I was wishing I knew them in real life.

The plot of the book (revolving around an alcoholic, abusive husband) is a bit predictable in its basic path, although it does take a few alternate routes to arrive at the typical destination. (Of course, the characters are refreshing enough that the fact that they have an expected trajectory is acceptable.) The book also has large sections of summary, which was distracting at times. (Admittedly, I’m not exactly sure how the story could have covered the large span of time that it covers without chunks of summary. On the other hand, I’m not sure that simply compressing the amount of time covered in the book would work either; certain elements of the story require a longer stretch of time passing.)

Perhaps the biggest negative in the book was a feeling of inconsistency with the point of view and tenses. What it felt like to me was a switch in approach from one draft to the next. The majority of the book was consistent, but there were a few words that were in the wrong tense, and a few passages where it switched mid chapter from first person to third person or from Ember to Dalton and then back again. It is also possible that this was intentional to provide a “better” point of view for that particular moment in the book. Whatever the case, I found it to be distracting.

That said, everything I said in the overall impression above is true: this book is heart-warming and pleasurable to read. If you want a good pick-me-up, this will do it (although there will be both ups and downs along the way).

Book Club Chatter:
This book covers a lot of difficult topics: alcoholism, abuse (verbal and physical), military deployment and injuries, divorce, blended families, and possibly even some I didn’t see or am not remembering after one read through. While I don’t have any specific questions in mind for these topics or this book, I do believe that this book could provide an excellent jumping off point for a discussion on what we can do for any or all of these situations.

  • How can we help prevent alcoholism or abuse, or help those who have lived with it?
  • What can we do to help support the men and women who are currently deployed? How can we help the families left behind? Those who have been injured in the line or duty? Or veterans?

Special Note:
I think that it is important for this book to make it very clear that there are scenes of physical abuse depicted in this novel. The level of violence in these scenes does rise the further into the book you get. There are also several instances of rape, where the drunk husband forces Ember to have sex when she doesn’t want to. This is not, in anyway, an easy book to read. But there are certainly emotional upsides for those who stick through the darkness with Ember.

Goodreads Rating: 4.35 Stars (48 Ratings)
Amazon Rating: 4.5 Stars (35 Reviews)
My Rating: 3 Stars
This is, however, a strong three stars. I enjoyed the book and would read another book by this author. However, the writing–while solid–was not quite polished enough for my tastes. I was just a little too aware that I was reading a book, rather than disappearing into another world.

Bending All the Rules by Savannah Rylan

bending all the rules

Title: Bending All the Rules
Author: Savannah Rylan
Age Level: Adult
Genre: Erotic
Part of a Series?: Yes (the A List series, Book One)

*I was provided a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Summary:
Breccan Laughry is an extremely well-off actor. He believes he is an easy-going man with simple tastes (…”I gave you three rules, Valerie!”…), but somehow seems to have gone through four assistants in just four weeks. Now he has to find one in the very short period of time before he flies off to film his latest movie in Hong Kong.

Enter Cora. Recently arrived in Los Angeles, Cora is an aspiring talent agent who just happens to be the sister of Breccan’s talent agent, Simon. With filming fast approaching (and an offer of $8,000/month salary), Simon convinces Cora to temporarily take on the job of being Breccan’s personal assistant.

In quick succession, they meet, sparks fly, and they head over to Hong Kong on Breccan’s private jet. This book is a short introduction to their story, but the majority of it takes place in Hong Kong, while Breccan is filming.

Overall Impressions:
This book was not what I expected, really. Surprisingly for this genre, it turned out to be more–and that is why it received the rating I gave it:

  1. The book was not comprised of sex scene after sex scene, with some loosely connected fluff in between. There was only one sex scene (although there were several “off-stage” sexual encounters overheard by Cora) and there was real purpose to the scenes between the sex.
  2. There was a real story line at work here, complete with the impression of a full back story for each of the main characters.

The Nitty Gritty:
Bending All the Rules is a short, fast-paced erotic romance. It opens with a short scene from Breccan Laughry’s point of view and then spends the remainder of the book in Cora’s point of view. I found it nice to start from the male POV for once, but I did find him to be arrogant and short-tempered; more than one chapter of his POV would probably have been too much. The one really juicy plot point in this book does, however, come from his chapter–although it is not raised again during this book. I am hoping that Breccan’s mysterious room and treasured wooden box show up again in book two (Breaking All the Rules).

Cora seems to be a much more multi-faceted character: she has some worries, some dreams, and, mot importantly, some intelligence and spunk. She isn’t your typical erotic fiction heroine, jumping into bed with the male lead the first time she sees him. There is definitely some give and take going on here; her body is attracted to him, but her head knows better. Despite being erotic, this book is not just all about the sex. There is some character development, up beats and down beats, and even plot.

That being said, there is also plenty of sex, of sorts, to keep those looking for it satisfied: Cora overhears some loud-neighbor sex, is greeted by a naked woman who’s clothing got ripped during sex, and overhears Breccan having sex. There is also one fully-on-stage sex scene. It is not what I expected when committing to reading an erotic romance, but it is enough to get the pulse going faster.

There are two things I wish would have been different. First, there was a LOT of swearing. While I can understand the point of view that there are other ways to get those emotions across other than swearing, I am also not against swearing in books. I just want it to be more than swearing. It should help build the character, it’s the best word for the situation, raises the stakes, etc. Bending All the Rules has enough swearing in it that, for me, it looses its impact and, at times, makes me wonder why the character would have such a dependency on the words.

Secondly, I wish there was more to it. Yes, there is a second book, but I wish that Ms. Rylan had slowed down and expanded just about all of THIS book. Seeing more character development and, more importantly, the development of the relationship that Cora and Breccan have formed by the end of the book, would have made the emotional connection with the book–including the one on-stage sex scene–much stronger. And as much as I look forward to seeing what happens next now (which is a fair amount), I would have been dying to read the next one if I had spent more time with Cora and Breccan in this book.

Book Club Chatter:
If you are adventurous enough to do this book as part of a discussion group, you can talk about any of the following things:

  1. The difference between how we see ourselves and others see us
  2. Defending another versus defending yourself

You Will Like This If…:

  • You like erotic fiction–but don’t need it to be one sex scene after another
  • You like contemporary romances

Goodreads Rating: 4.11 (3 Reviews)
Amazon Rating: 4 (4 Reviews)
My Rating: 4 Stars
The writing is solid and the one on-stage sex scene is well-written (important in an erotic novel!). I liked the switch-up of starting with the male POV and that Cora was hesitant about acting on her attraction to Breccan (fairly unique in the erotic novels I have read). The story could have been stronger with a slower pace and less swearing, but, overall, this book delivered more than I expected based on its status as erotic fiction.

Other Books by this Author that I have Reviewed:
Forbidden by Savannah Rylan