Monday, August 3, 2015

Review | Looking For Trouble by Victoria Dahl - with Audiobook Notes

Looking For Trouble by Victoria Dahl
Series: Jackson: Girls' Night Out #1
Published by Harlequin
Publish Date: August 1, 2014
Source: Book - Bought, Audiobook - Bought
Find it here:  Goodreads / Amazon 

A good reason to be bad… 
Librarian Sophie Heyer has walked the straight and narrow her entire life to make up for her mother's mistakes. But in tiny Jackson Hole, Wyoming, juicy gossip doesn't just fade away. Falling hard for the sexiest biker who's ever ridden into town would undo everything she's worked for. And to add insult to injury, the alluring stranger is none other than Alex Bishop--the son of the man Sophie's mother abandoned her family for. He may be temptation on wheels, but Sophie's not looking for trouble! 
Maybe Sophie's buttoned-up facade fools some, but Alex knows a naughty smile when he sees one. Despite their parents' checkered pasts, he's willing to take some risks to find out the truth about the town librarian. He figures a little fling might be just the ticket to get his mind off his own family drama. But what he finds underneath Sophie's prim demeanor might change his world in ways he never expected.  (Goodreads) 

Looking For Trouble by Victoria Dahl

My Thoughts:  Looking For Trouble is the first book in Victoria Dahl's Jackson: Girls' Night Out Series. This installment features Sophie Heyer, Alex Bishop, and a decades-old story involving their respective families and the rest of the town.

Sophie is a librarian, classy and demure on the outside. But there is a side to her that no one really sees. Sophie is intent on hiding this part of herself because she is afraid that it will be compared to and identified with her mother, and her mother was part of a huge town scandal about 25 years ago, when she ran off with another married man. Sophie carries some weight for her mother's actions still: some guilt, some shame, and also some fear for her future. She wants no association with her mother, which is difficult because she looks very much like her. 

Alex Bishop has just come back to town after being gone for a very long time. He's only back temporarily, and only because his brother asked him to. Alex left after his father ran off with a married woman, after which he couldn't stand to be around his mom and brother anymore -- he couldn't stand the way his mother acted as if his father was a saint and pretended he was coming back home; it was clear to Alex that he was gone for good. This has caused tension in the family, over the years and now that Alex is back he sees that his mother's health/mental health isn't great. Perhaps his brother does need a little help in looking after her. Alex has a stereotypical motorcycle-riding bad boy persona: tattoos, super-short hair, almost-permanent scowl on his scruffy face.

Then he sees Sophie Heyer. She walks up to him and 1) he doesn't realize that she's part of the other family and 2) he is super-attracted to her. Sophie knows who Alex is right away and she feels the attraction too. 

So HE ASKS HER IF SHE WANTS TO RIDE HIS MOTORCYCLE. It's a cliche but wow, I really love it in this story. Because you know what? Even though Sophie has on this sweet little dress and her hair is all lovely and perfect - and normally she would probably say NO -- she does want to ride his motorcycle because it is adventurous. And here is where Alex sees that under all of that "class" lies a lady - a different kind of lady, yes, but a lady all the same. 


I think Victoria Dahl's characters are awesome. 

I love the way Sophie owns part. She is unapologetic about the confidence she feels with regard to her body and intimacy and how she carries herself. She loves walking around town fooling everyone with her sweet outfits and her hair - she knows she has one-up on everyone because she knows something that they do not. BUT part of Sophie still has issues with being left by her mother. Reading Sophie's weak places doesn't make her annoying at all, but it does make her feel more real. Sophie also has some fears, and these things need to be addressed. Sophie has always wanted to get away for a while, but she's just never taken the step. Now there's a reason to leave town, and who better to help her through this than a guy that never stayed to begin with and understands feeling the need to get away? Does Sophie feel enough for Alex to take the giant leap and leave town for awhile? 

I also love the way that Alex has the confidence to just walk away from things that are toxic to him. (I have no problem doing this myself, sometimes to a fault.) His family life has been destructive to his well-being in the past and in order to break free from that, he. had. to. just. go. Of course, there is the possibility that he went too far and stayed away too long. His brother Shane stayed behind to take care of their mother after their father left them, and there are some unresolved tensions because of this. Alex spends time thinking about what his responsibilities are, should he stay and help or should he go, that sort of thing. All Alex has ever done is run. He runs away. Doesn't do commitments to people nor places. Now, though, there is another someone here that could keep him in the picture. Who better to help him through this than the person that is perpetually committed because she is afraid to go anywhere? Does he feel enough for Sophie to stay? 

This romance was crazy, and by that I mean that I loved it. Sophie and Alex were honest with their intentions from the beginning but as their feelings changed and grew, they became a little uncomfortable. It wasn't an easy road, opening themselves up in the ways that they did, but it made for great reading and a satisfying ending for them both I think. And while they were romancing and falling for one another, there was so much going on that made this a compelling read. Town drama, family drama, great friendship between Sophie and her girlfriends, great relationship between Sophie and her dad, tension within the Bishop family - there is so much in this story to accompany the romance. 

Okay, so I loved that I got a snippet of friend Lauren's story in the prequel and now I have Sophie's story right here. I want to read Isabelle's story now because out of the three friends, Isabelle seems to be the quiet, most mysterious one so far. BUT Sophie seemed like a quiet one too so...

I recommend Looking For Trouble by Victoria Dahl to readers that enjoy adult contemporary romance with strong female heroines and a great accompanying plotline.

Audiobook Notes: The audiobook format of Looking For Trouble by Victoria Dahl is published by RecordedBooks and is 9 hours and 24 minutes, Unabridged. It is narrated by Celeste Ciulla, who does well at voicing this audiobook (and series). Celeste Ciulla sounds like a confident, strong woman when she is reading the book, which is basically the perfect embodiment of the heroines of this series. I have to be honest and admit that I didn't listen to the audiobook in its entirety; rather, I alternated listening to some chapters and read some chapters in print - I enjoyed both. So my recommendation is that either way works: reading print for first reads and rereads OR listening to the audiobook. 


Looking For Trouble will appeal to fans of:

Adult Contemporary Romance
Romance: No triangle. 
Strong female characters
Great friendships

Looking For Trouble by Victoria Dahl
is currently available for purchase.


The Jackson: Girls' Night Out Series: 


I LOVE Victoria Dahl's strong female characters! 
PLUS her settings are AMAZING. 

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Review | French Coast by Anita Hughes

French Coast by Anita Hughes
Published by St. Martin's Griffin
Publish Date: April 7, 2015
Source: Book - Publisher
Find it here:  Goodreads / Amazon 

Serena has the job she's always dreamed of and Chase, the man her heart never dared to. As a new editor at Vogue, she bags the biggest interview of the year with Yvette Renault, the infamous former editor of French Vogue, in The Carlton-InterContinental Hotel during the Cannes Film Festival. She eagerly jets off to France while Chase stays home, working with her father, a former senator, on his upcoming mayoral campaign.

Everything feels unbelievably perfect...until it doesn't. The hotel loses her reservation hours before her big interview. Serena fears that she'll have to go home without her story, but then she meets Zoe, a quirky young woman staying in the suite below Yvette's who invites Serena to stay with her. Serena is grateful for her mysterious roommate's generosity, but it seems that there's more to her story than meets the eye. To make matters worse, soon after arriving in Cannes, Serena learns a shocking secret about her parents' marriage, and it isn't long before she begins to question her own relationship.With her deadline looming and pressure mounting, Serena will have to use her investigative journalism skills, new friendships, and a little luck to get her life and love back on track. Fast paced and impeccably written, French Coast will draw readers in to the intoxicating world of the Cote D'Azur. Hughes' beautiful prose and sense imagery bring the food, fashion, and feel of the ocean to life in this audacious new novel.

French Coast by Anita Hughes

My Thoughts: Serena has a great job at Vogue magazine and the assignment of a lifetime: she's been given the opportunity to travel to France to interview Yvette Renault, former editor of French Vogue Magazine. Serena will be staying at the exquisitely fashionable Carlton InterContintental Hotel in Cannes while meeting with Yvette while her new fiance remains at home in San Francisco, and they will be announcing their upcoming engagement soon. Serena's career is important to her, her fiance Chase is supportive, and Serena is looking forward to/counting on her mother helping her plan her wedding while she interviews Yvette, someone she greatly admires. Things are looking pretty great for Serena until strange details about Serena's family begin to pop up here and there, which makes life a little bit confusing for her. She soldiers on, though, and as she ponders over all of this new information, she begins to question much about her upbringing and also what she really wants for her future. 


I loved this book. I love Serena. I was looking for a fun escape and that's exactly what I got when I picked up French Coast by Anita Hughes. I was completely immersed into the world of high fashion, exquisite French cuisine, and life on the French Riviera. Since I have never visited this part of the world nor have I experienced the life of a magazine editor, I found my escape into Serena's shoes quite enjoyable. 

Serena is a fashion editor; fashion is what she loves. She is a highly fashionable character herself, paying particular attention to what she wears and also paying attention to the fashion tastes of other people she interacts with. I enjoyed the way great fashion houses and labels were mentioned as Serena's clothes and accessories were described, along with the outfits of other characters -- not only did it help me paint the pictures of the characters, I think it gave the book a little extra something in the way of fun and imagery. Also, attention is given to describing food in the story, and it is mouth-watering. All of the 'describing' in this story served to make it more lovely in my mind, like I was traveling there myself. 

It made me want to go there, actually. Like, pack a suitcase and hop a plane, get there now.

I've mentioned that Serena was in Cannes for an exclusive interview, and the interview scenes are some of my favorite. It is in these scenes that we learn Yvette Renault's backstory, and she has had a fascinating life. I told you that I love Serena, but I adore Yvette because hello there, strong woman. Hers is a story-within-a-story because her memoir is being written. Yvette adds so much to this book - some of it I expected, and some was a surprise to me! 

Yvette's story is one of perseverance even through disappointment, and also resilience. And strength. And she was able to share these things with Serena. LOVED THIS. 

In the story synopsis, we learn that some crazy things happen to Serena while she interviews Yvette, over the course of her few weeks in Cannes: she meets interesting people that change her life, she finds out big family secrets, etc. These tidbits are revealed slowly over time, and I was excited to see how everything would eventually unfold. For a while, it seemed like things were getting a little crazy for Serena, like maybe the story was getting a little out of control, but everything worked out in the end. I'll admit that I was holding my breath for Serena. I knew how I wanted things to end, but I wasn't sure how it would actually come together until all was said and done. 

It was thrilling to be kept in such suspense toward the end, particularly since I wanted so much for the story's main character. I think I was so enamored by the setting and the characters to try to look ahead and anticipate the ending? I loved it that way, being caught up in the where and the who. As things unfolded and connections began to be made, my eyes may have gotten a little large at one point (aka side-eyes) and my mouth may have dropped open at how one or two things turned out. I love this about reading-to-escape. 

You guys, I grew to feel really strongly for Serena and I was rooting so hard for her after things her life had gotten a little messy. It would have been so easy for her to pack up and go home, to leave the interview and go back to the States and work though the junk taking place there. But NO, no she didn't, because it wasn't her junk to work out! I love Serena's resilience. I love the way she kept to what she was doing, she kept on task because that kept her centered and feeling alive while her world was going crazy, even as one little crappy thing turned into two little crappy things, etc. By the end of the book, things did wrap up a bit neatly, but I didn't mind at all. I'm not sure what this entire situation would look if it played out in real life, but this isn'treal life, this is fiction, and doggone it, I liked it. 

Ultimately, I think French Coast by Anita Hughes is a book to grab for enjoyment and escape. Also, maybe if you have a little wanderlust, because it absolutely drops you off on the coast of France. The setting feels beautiful, the descriptions are vivid and lend to great imagery, and the story makes it easy to get lost for a few hours. Take this one to the pool or the beach, or just sit outside on the porch for a while. 

I recommend French Coast by Anita Hughes to readers that enjoy great settings, stories-within-stories, and stories about strong, resilient women. 


French Coast will appeal to fans of:

 Adult Contemporary/Women's Fiction
Romance: No triangle.
Great Setting: French Riviera
Great Friendships

French Coast by Anita Hughes
is currently available for purchase.


More by Anita Hughes: 

I'm totally interested in reading more by this author! 
I loved being swept away for a few hours. 

Also, don't you just love these covers? So eye-catching!