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Review: Chaser by Kylie Scott

Chaser (Dive Bar #3)
Kylie Scott
Pan Macmillan
2018, 400p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Love isn’t always NEAT…

Bartender and all round bad boy, Eric Collins, has come to a crossroads. It’s time to take life seriously and maybe even attempt to settle down. If only the person he was hoping to settle down with didn’t turn out to be pregnant.

Starting over in a small town, Jean is determined to turn her wild lifestyle around and be the kind of mother she always wished she’d had. Since local bar owner and all round hottie, Eric, is now determined to steer clear of her pregnant self, it should be easy. When she goes into labor during a snowstorm and her car slides on some ice, however, it’s Eric who comes to the rescue.

There seems to be a bond between them now, but is it enough? And can Eric give up his manwhore ways to be the man Jean needs?

The third book in the Dive Bar series revolves around Eric, who has certainly appeared in the previous two books enough to give readers a very clear idea as to his personality. He’s probably best known for his messy entanglement with Nell, co-owner of the Dive Bar, who was separated from her husband Pat at the time. I’m a little salty still that Pat and Nell never got their own actual story and it was resolved as side plots in the first two books. I thought their story was interesting enough to definitely carry a full book and I wanted to know more about the background.

Eric is a player. Too many girls, too little time, seems to be his motto. Now that the rest of the Dive Bar crew are loved up, Eric finds that some of his activities are under scrutiny, particularly by Nell. When a beautiful woman walks into the bar, Eric sees opportunity, but that beautiful woman turns around – and she’s significantly pregnant.

That puts Jean off limits for what Eric usually looks for in a woman but he finds himself drawn to her anyway, helping her move into an apartment upstairs and just generally getting to know each other. It seems as though Eric hasn’t really had a platonic friend before (other than the women his brother and friend’s are in relationships with, which don’t count). But he and Jean develop this friendship, even though in the beginning Eric is quite wary of the whole pregnancy thing – which is quite understandable, the previous books give the reason that Eric might be affected by it on a deeper level than just being some sort of commitmentphobe manwhore.

The thing for me was I didn’t really get Eric’s decision to go ‘cold turkey’ on sex/women based on a few shots by Nell and nor did I see the reasoning for Nell be to quite so savage on him. How Eric chooses to live his life is his own business – and Nell’s criticisms are at best, hypocritical on one count. She seems to almost blame Eric for what happened between them and that really annoyed me. It takes two and Nell was there as well. She may have been in a bad place and I queried Eric’s reasoning for doing what he did but he actually explains it in this book and it makes a bit of sense. Perhaps he should’ve tried to explain it to Nell because for some reason she seems to have the worst opinion of him and I’m not sure he really deserved it. He’s a total player but from what I saw, he wasn’t leading anyone on. He wasn’t promising things he couldn’t deliver. He was pretty clear and seemed to pick people that felt the same way. I had liked Nell in previous books but she felt dialled up way too much here and if she’s still got some lingering issues over what happened and the grief, maybe she should look into that instead of taking it out on Eric. I’m not the biggest Eric fan, he’s a man child that kind of reminds me of Mal sometimes but quite a lot of the Nell stuff was unfair.

I liked Jean – she was level headed, mature but still showed vulnerability about being a single parent. She’d moved across the country for a flimsy kind of reason it felt, but she was a good balance for Eric and I enjoyed their friendship. I also really liked the way that Eric kind of ‘learned by doing’ – he’d had no experience with babies but once Jean’s was born and he started spending time with them as a pair, he didn’t need to freak out and that he was perfectly capable of being an actual adult and taking care of someone. So many people seemed to do some sort of double take when they saw Eric carrying a baby or tending to the baby’s needs and want to rush to take the baby from him. It was very off putting. I liked that Jean was 100% confident in Eric’s abilities and she didn’t make him feel as though he couldn’t do anything or that he wasn’t good enough.

I find this book quite hard for me to rate because it didn’t for me, have the sizzling chemistry between the characters that most Kylie Scott books have. Nor was it particularly angsty. Most of the conflict centred around what other people wanted and thought and there’s a large portion of the book where there’s nothing sexual or romantic happening. Eric learns a lot about himself so I guess this is a huge period of growth for him but the reasoning behind it felt like there was a lot of reaching. I think the fact that it was only Eric’s point of view contributed to this as well because it never felt like we got Eric’s true deep thoughts on any issues – not on his lifestyle, people’s opinions about his lifestyle, even his thoughts on Jean. It all felt like it was just skimming the surface. I think I’d have liked to see Eric through Jean’s eyes.

I liked this, I enjoyed the story but I didn’t love it. And for me, Eric and Jean are probably not a couple I’ll revisit again and again like say David and Evelyn or Lydia and Vaughan.

6/10

Book #79 of 2018

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Review: Twist by Kylie Scott

Twist (Dive Bar #2)
Kylie Scott
Pan Macmillan AUS
2017, 272p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

When his younger brother loses interest in online dating, hot, bearded, bartender extraordinaire, Joe Collins, only intends to log into his account and shut it down. Until he reads about her.

Alex Parks is funny, friendly, and pretty much everything he’s been looking for in a woman. And in no time at all they’re emailing up a storm, telling each other their deepest darkest secrets… apart from the one that really matters.

And when it comes to love, serving it straight up works better than with a twist.

Love with a modern ‘twist’.

The second book in the Dive Bar series is here and the wait is definitely worth it. This book focuses on Joe, bartender at Dive Bar and Eric’s brother. Joe set up an online dating account for Eric but quicker than a match burns out Eric lost interest. Joe only meant to go in and shut it down for him but then he saw a message from Alex Parks, graphic designer and home renovation enthusiast. He couldn’t help responding and the two of them built a really solid friendship, confiding secrets, sharing dreams. Then Alex makes a snap decision to ‘surprise’ her online friend by showing up to his birthday at Dive Bar….only to discover that Eric literally has no idea who she is and all this time she’s been conversing with his brother Joe.

Alex is hurt, humiliated, angry. She hates being lied to and she wants nothing more than to get the heck out of town as quick as possible and forget this ever happened. But Joe, the person she has been conversing with, wants her to stay, so he can explain, so he can make her see that everything they were sharing is still real.

This book gave me all the happy feels. I loved returning to this world, catching up with the characters from Dirty and getting to know Joe a lot better. Alex was super kick ass but with a bit of an appealing vulnerable side as well. She has the guts to take a risk, to travel across the country without warning to meet Eric, a guy that she’s really ‘clicked’ with online. But with all online interactions comes a risk – and Alex discovers that actually she’s been talking to Joe, Eric’s bear of a brother who reminds her of a giant lumberjack.

Joe is a delicious sweetie who made a very big mistake unintentionally and now he really really wants to fix it. Even though he pretended to be Eric physically in that he just didn’t tell her that he was Eric’s brother, he was still himself in messaging her, in sharing things with her. He’s so contrite and so earnest that it’s hard not to feel for him, even though what he did was a bit wrong. In his defense though, I don’t think he ever expected that Alex would get on a plane and just turn up! It goes to show that you should probably watch what you give away online…Joe told her all about Dive Bar and the people in his life so when Alex shows up, she proves to them that she has a very good background knowledge of them all and she’s not just some psycho stalking Eric, when he claims that he doesn’t know her.

Because things in person got off on such bad footing, their relationship almost has to be rebuilt from the ground up. Although she was attracted to the personality of Joe, she was focused on the physicality of Eric. It’s interesting that the more Alex gets to know Joe in person, the more she finds him attractive – and the less effect Eric’s looks have on her. Alex wasn’t really on the dating app for anything permanent and she has some commitment issues but the longer she stays in town, the more things deepen. Kylie Scott has the most unique ways of developing and nurturing a friendship between her characters as well as a relationship that has sizzling chemistry. I loved the way that Joe sucked it up and apologised to Alex and then tried to do everything he could to explain and make it up to her and the way that their online connection carried over, despite the fact that Joe was a different physical person to the one that Alex thought she’d been talking to.

I’m sure a lot of series’ readers appreciate glimpses into the lives of past couples and the closeness of the characters in the Dive Bar series is great for this. We get to catch up with Vaughan and Lydia and of course the heartbreaking story of Nell and Pat continue in this book and despite the fact that it’s very much in the background (still think it should’ve been its own book) it’s an incredibly powerful part of the story. Nell and Pat are responsible for some of the most stomach-dropping angst I’ve read in ages. I love their story though and it’s amazing what has been done with the smaller amount of page space devoted to them.

Once again Kylie Scott has proven that she’s the worthy of the vote of Australia’s favourite romance author because she’s delivered another incredible story that flips everything I think I prefer upside down. Before reading this, I’d have said Joe wasn’t my sort of guy….after reading this? Yes to Joe. Yes to everything about Joe. He’s the sort of character that would win over any woman – not just Alex.

Bring on Chaser, the third installment in this series. Eric doesn’t look the most redeemable character based on his actions so far…..so I’m pretty keen to see how that plays out.

9/10

Book #65 of 2017

Twist is book #21 of the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2017

 

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Review: Dirty by Kylie Scott

DirtyDirty (Dive Bar #1)
Kylie Scott
Pan Macmillan AUS
2016, 275p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

The last thing Vaughan Hewson expects to find when he returns to his childhood home is a broken hearted bride in his shower, let alone the drama and chaos that comes with her.

Lydia Green doesn’t know whether to burn down the church or sit and cry in a corner. Discovering the love of your life is having an affair on your wedding day is bad enough. Finding out it’s with his best man is another thing all together. She narrowly escapes tying the knot and meets Vaughan only hours later.

Vaughan is the exact opposite of the picture perfect, respected businessman she thought she’d marry. This former musician-turned-bartender is rough around the edges and unsettled. But she already tried Mr. Right and discovered he’s all wrong-maybe it’s time to give Mr. Right Now a chance.

After all, what’s wrong with getting dirty?

Every now and then, a book just ticks all the boxes you have. For me, Dirty was one of those books. From the very first page until the last, I was hooked. And even though it wasn’t perfect, it was written with flair and humour and I could utterly overlook things that might normally bother me a bit.

Lydia Green is about to get married – literally about to walk down the aisle. She’s wearing the big white dress and all. Then she’s sent a picture of her groom in a very compromising video clip with someone else – someone very unexpected as well. She flees over a fence and finds solace in the bathroom of a nearby house, sitting in the tub for hours….until Vaughan Hewson wants to take a shower.

Vaughan is at a crossroads and his return to his family home, a place that brings pain and bad memories, is supposed to be brief. When he finds a crying bride in his bathroom he offers her solace and security, drawing her into his world.

This book has one of the funniest ‘meet-cute’s I think I’ve ever read. Lydia is crouched in the bathroom and Vaughan arrives and is about to take a shower when, ripping back the curtain he encounters Lydia and Lydia encounters…. a part of Vaughan. I actually think that it’s quite hard to make a scene like that work and be hilarious and it’s a testament to Kylie Scott’s comedic timing and Lydia’s voice that this scene comes together in the way it does. I think Lydia has had enough shock for one day that encountering Vaughan in the buff just isn’t on her radar. She’s just….. matter of fact about the whole thing and for me, that was sheer brilliance.

Lydia has always gone the safe route before, wanting to be respectable and feel worthy. She was engaged to someone that she felt epitomised that, unable to see that the two of them had a relationship that was full of flaws and red flags from a long way out. Vaughan is definitely not the type of man that Lydia would normally go for – he’s a tattooed rocker who has left the road behind briefly and is working as a bartender for his sister. He’s also not particularly settled in life, longing to be back on the road, living a band life. For Lydia, who seems to crave precisely the opposite sort of life, it’s clear from the beginning that whilst there may be a simmering chemistry between them, there are some obstacles that make a long term option look a bit bleak.

But this is a romance, so not too bleak. Vaughan realises that sometimes, sacrifices need to be made and the thing you think makes you the happiest might not actually be. I really enjoyed the evolution of Vaughan and Lydia because it began with friendship. After her disastrous wedding day, he learns she has no where to go and so he offers her a place to stay, as long as she needs. They become friends, acknowledging the attraction between them but navigating it somewhat slowly which works for me. I really appreciate authors who take time to lay the groundwork for something long term, something that gives me a way to see how a couple will move through different stages of life and their relationship. I think Scott does a good job of this with Vaughan and Lydia.

As this is the first in a series, we’re introduced to Vaughan’s group of friends as well as his sister Nell, who runs the bar the series takes its name from. I found myself pretty invested in Nell’s story and I really hope she gets a book of her own. Her story plays out as a significant portion of this book and becomes more and more messy as this book goes on. Her and Pat though – I ended up so invested in them! They are intense and kind of make my heart break a little.

As firsts go, this one is a really good hook – for me, it was as good as Lick, the first in Scott’s other series and it vaguely crosses over here with a cameo appearance from one of the Stage Dive members. But it doesn’t need that, it stands well on its own. Vaughan is refreshingly free of douchebag behaviour, an interesting contradiction of bad boy looks but a tender heart. From the very first he’s understanding about Lydia and then helpful and protective and he’s really the way in which Lydia finds somewhere to belong.

Dirty is smart, sexy and very funny. Definitely a fave of mine for this year and it has me excited about the possibilities of future books.

9/10

Book #70 of 2016

AWWC2016

Dirty is the 25th book read for the Australian Women Writers Challenge 2016

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