Title: After the Kiss (Sex, Love & Stiletto, #1)
Author: Lauren Layne
Rating: 4 Stars
For those of you who know me well, you'll know that I am often hard-pressed to pick up a romance novel. I've been craving Layne's work, though, ever since Rachel @ The Reader's Den reviewed her upcoming New Adult novel - out by the end of this month, thankfully! (I actually reviewed this already - you can read my review for it HERE.) When I saw that Layne already had an adult romance novel out, one that Rachel enjoyed as well, I knew I had to check it out. If it isn't already obvious, Rachel is my go-to romance reviewer. I'm a fish out of water in this genre, but I trust her completely and - whew! - did this book deliver or what? ;)
After the Kiss sounds remarkably similar to "How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days," but the two manage to remain unique in their own spheres. Julie and Mitchell, the romantic leads of this novel, are so much more than they appear and their rocky road to love - full of unexpected surprises - was infused with both depth and swoon. While - granted - the misunderstanding in this novel can be seen from the synopsis itself, this book is more about a guilty pleasure read; the product of a rainy day, aching feet, and a Kindle nearby. It's funny, heart-felt, amusing, and oh-so-entertaining. As long as I love the characters in a romance, chances are, the book has already sold me. If you're looking for a new romance author - one who certainly delivers in the character development department (not to mention handsome hunk!) - then look no farther than Lauren Layne!
Title: The Outside (The Hallowed Ones, #2)
Author: Laura Bickle
Rating: 4 Stars
For me, The Outside got off to a bit of a slow start, struggling to really find its voice in Katie's narration until nearly a quarter of the way through. Once it hit its stride, though, it was impossible to put down. While the bulk of Katie's growth remaining in The Hallowed Ones, she continues to adapt to her environment - while retaining her values - in this installment. In particular, her romance with Alex is intensely developed; slow, but true. The Hallowed Ones touched upon their connection, but The Outside really solidifies what they have into something real. Additionally, I love that there is both an influx of new characters and a return to old characters in this installment. Bickle goes back to fix the issues caused by Katie's hasty departure, as well as explore the lore and world she has created with her vampiric disease. Although she doesn't bring up nearly as many intriguing topics to mull over as she did in The Hallowed Ones, creating a divide between the spiritual and science, she does manage to make readers truly think and reflect with this installment as well. Bickle isn't afraid of exploring the boundaries of her Amish protagonist, which I love, so all-in-all, this novel wound up being just as strong - if not even more memorable - than its predecessor.