Book Review: Saltwater Kisses

18073140Title: Saltwater Kisses: A Billionaire Love Story
Author: Krista Lakes
Publisher: Zirconia Publishing
Release Date: June 2013
Length: 216 pages (paperback)
Series?: The Kisses Series #1
Genre: contemporary, chick lit, romance
Format: e-book
Source: free

Find the book: Website | Goodreads | Amazon | Barnes & Noble

Synopsis

When small-town girl Emma LaRue won a vacation to an exclusive tropical island, a last minute cancellation meant she would be going by herself. Shy and studious, she never had time to fall in love, and often wondered if she was just meant to be alone. However, that all changed when a handsome stranger literally walked into her life while on the beach and sparks began to fly.

New York’s most eligible billionaire bachelor Jack Saunders thought this vacation would be the perfect escape, one last hurrah, before taking full control of his father’s company. When an innocent Emma didn’t recognize him, he figured that he might get a chance to have a vacation from being rich. He didn’t tell her about the cars, the yacht, or the penthouse. All he did was let her fall in love with him.

Soon, Jack found that he was the one falling in love with Emma. When they enjoy a fantasy marriage ceremony on the beach, they thought it was a bit of harmless fun before returning to their normal lives. A bittersweet goodbye was supposed to be the end of their perfect vacation romance, but when photos of the ceremony were leaked to the press, everything changed.

Feeling lied to and thrust into a world of wealth and privilege, Emma must choose between following her dreams or following her heart. Will she be content at being nothing more than the billionaire’s wife, or will she return to her normal life with only memories of saltwater kisses?

Review

I had high hopes for this novel…maybe because I am a Pisces, therefore a beach enthusiast and water lover. Have you ever craved your favorite bottled soda, opened and poured it, only to find it fell flat? Yeah…that’s how this novel was for me.

There are a lot of rich vs. poor elements in this novel. I think that it would have been a more interesting dynamic to have a rich woman, but that could change too many things about this novel.

Emma is a working class girl. She lives paycheck to paycheck, like this American. The stars align and she ends up winning a radio station contest and gets a wonderful trip for two to a luxurious beach resort, except her sister backs out at the last minute. Emma was not going to give up her dream vacation, so she goes alone…and meets Jack on the beach during an emergency situation.

Jack keeps talking about his company and his business, always careful to avoid telling Emma exactly the name of his business, and he acts quite strangely at times. After only a couple days together, they indulge in a fantasy marriage ceremony, a secret they will take back with them to their regular lives – until photos of their wedding ceremony are leaked.

A part of me told me that I should stop, that I should think this through, but the other voices in my head quickly drowned her out; I wanted him more than I wanted to breathe.

After this point, I started losing interest quickly, and disliking both Emma and Jack. Jack was constantly unavailable in several ways, and does nothing for Emma to show he truly loves her. Speaking of love, I found it very hard to believe Emma’s constant admissions of love for Jack when there were not sufficient reasons to love him. I feel like she fell in love with a non-existent image, his vacation beach boy self. In the novel, Emma specifically advises her self that she is going to let go and enjoy her vacation: she’ll be bold and brazen, because she will be returning to her normal life soon.

I can’t recall Emma using any qualities for the basis of her love for Jack, such as a kind heart, compassionate, etc. Tara over at the The Librarian Who Doesn’t Say Shhhh! touched on this exactly: instalove. I’d never heard of the term before, but it is the modern way of saying “love at first sight.”  Emma falls instalove with Jack, and he falls instalove with her…although, I find it very hard that he loves her at all.

I was on Cloud Nine, making love to this powerful man. He had me right where he wanted me.

The other thing that really, really bugged me to no end was the narration that Emma liked Jack to always be in control in the bedroom: she admitted that she knew he knew he held the power. Once would have been enough, but nearly every time there was sexual tension, this came up. It made it hard to believe in Emma as a character – a likeable character – to be so weak (in my eyes). To be that dominant and submissive, I was sure she would hang around forever in New York and let her dreams pass her by.

I did, however, like Jack’s assistant and Emma’s bodyguard. His assistant was a fierce and a protective mother bear to Jack, and after putting Emma through the tests, she ends up liking Emma tremendously, and forms a special bond with Emma. She helps Emma in several ways, but ultimately she still works for Jack and must follow his orders. I found that her character was actually quite rounded.

This is a quick read, but if you like strong female characters, I’d suggest finding another pick.

6885309About the Author

Krista Lakes is a newly turned 30 year old who recently rediscovered her passion for writing. She loves aquatic life and running marathons. She is living happily ever after with her Prince Charming and her bouncing baby boy.

In 2012, she released her first full length novel. That summer, she started the Kisses Series starting with Saltwater Kisses. She is a New York Times and USA Today best selling author.

Find the author: Website | Blog | Facebook | Goodreads

Giveaway & Book Review: Pieces of Tracy

PiecesOfTracyPieces of Tracy by J. Daniel Parra (Diversion Books, 2013)

Genre: fiction, chicklit, romance, cultural influence

This is a very special review for me. I was contacted by a marketing/publicity representative for Diversion Books, who asked if I’d like to be part of a blog tour for a hot, new summer book. I had no idea what a blog tour even was, but I was indeed interested! I ended up signing up to do a review, have an author guest post, and author interview AND a book giveaway! I am happy and excited to be a part of this.

IMG_0214 copy
J Daniel Parra

You can follow J Daniel Parra on Twitter and like him on Facebook for updates.

Meet Teresa Felicia Santana León. In New York, she’s Tracy León, a would-be artist and telemarketer who falls for an older tycoon, Bruce Babich. When Bruce’s mother sends her to Rome to find a stolen painting, Tracy assumes an alter ego, the zesty Felicia Santana. In Rome, she meets a younger artist named Mario Giordani who helps her on her quest. 

Before long, she is juggling two romances and two distinct identities: Tracy, demure trophy wife wannabe in New York’s high society, and wanton, thrill-seeking Felicia in sultry Rome. Against the backdrop of these exciting cities, she follows her divided heart, even if it leads her in the wrong direction. 

The secrets behind the stolen painting send her on an unforgettable journey that prompts her to re-examine her own talents and inspirations. As the pieces come together, Tracy faces a life-changing choice, one that will lead to surprising discoveries about love and her own identity.

Sounds exciting, right? I was very impressed with this debut novel based on the synopsis and had high expectations. I couldn’t wait to start reading, and I finished the book in a couple of days. I was so into this book! Let me tell you why….

New York
New York

Tracy Felicia Santana is a child of Texans, with big dreams of graphic design and putting her love of art to work in New York. She leaves the nest and moves to New York and gets started. She marries Diego Leon, a man in her realm of work. But Diego wants the limelight and a wife at home, not so much in the workforce. Tracy puts all her dreams and her graphic design classes out of her mind and does what Diego wants her to do. Instead of climbing the ladder in the art world, Tracy stays working in the circulation department for ArtHouse.

Through Tracy’s reminisces, if you can call them that, she makes it clear that Diego washed away her dreams and her motivation to pursue them. It’s a sad, downtrodden fact that a lot of women today face once they are involved in a new relationship or one that evolves into a hasty marriage, as Tracy’s did. She has low self-esteem and no direction for her life; she’s just going through the run-of-the-mill, day-to-day mundane routine, trying to stay afloat in pricey New York.

Since then, Diego has divorced her and married the woman he was cheating on Tracy with…and then he dies, suddenly. Somehow, Tracy and Diego’s second wife, Donna, become best friends. The antics of Diego draw them together. They reminisce about their time with Deigo, and the ending of the novel is very reflective of relationships and the past:

But only the good parts remain. Isn’t it amazing how kind your memory can be? Ultimately, you only remember the happy times. 

Donna is almost a foil of Tracy: she does not hide her beauty, she is an actress and she goes after new adventures. Tracy is content to stay in her little hole in New York. She doesn’t keep in regular contact with her family or “have a life.”

One day, Tracy’s boss at ArtHouse shares some more bad news. On that crappy day, she escapes to MoMA, where the art gives her an escape and lifts her mood. There she meets toy billionaire bachelor Bruce Babich, an Australian transplant, and they hit it off.

Map of Ancient Rome
Map of Ancient Rome

…And then enters Sophia Babich, Bruce’s socialite mother, as soon as Bruce shows interest Tracy. She gives Tracy an ultimatum: find and return a long-ago stolen painting of Sophia that was done by the famous Henri Matisse, or no Bruce. Talk about a hard assignment!

Where is Tracy even to start? She knows virtually nothing about the painting or the woman who stole it. She sets out for the only place that is connected to the woman: Italy. Little did she know what she’d find in Rome…or who.

Tracy discovers she is another person in Rome – and embraces it. She does as she’s asked, but experiences heartbreak and turmoil along the way. She got a hard bargain, but must pay up. But the secrecy and lies of Sophia Babich come to bite Tracy in the butt. It is indeed a twisted tale, very a-la Oedipus, that leaves Tracy in a very unexpected place.

Oedipus
Oedipus

OK, I said I had high expectations for this book. Tracy is a character who I’ve seen before in real life, but she gets a new lease on life, so to speak. Instead of fully using it, she squanders it.

All the moving around forced her to become a new person each time she had to fit in with a new class. 

About halfway through the book, I realized Tracy as a character was not going to really grow and develop. If she did, I would be shocked, so I think that was my biggest disappointment. As a military brat, Tracy was constantly moving and having to make new friends. She is used to taking on or creating new identities – it’s how she survived childhood and is very typical of women in new, unstable relationships. It is typical of women who have no sense of self, who latch on and become whatever it is their love source wants them to become. Indeed, Tracy finds herself in an identity crisis:

Who was she? At one time, she knew she could be anything she wanted to be. Right now, she only knew she did not want to be this person. Couldn’t she be more? 

 And in Rome…

She was her own creation here, despite loving Bruce and wanting to be with him. Bruce was an ocean away. This was Rome and she could be anything she wanted. 

She knew she was using Mario to get over Bruce. She had lost the man she truly wanted and in exchange, Mario served as the quintessential rebound man.

The Roman Coliseum
The Roman Coliseum

The ache from losing Bruce still gave her a great deal of pain, but now she had Mario, she reminded herself, a young stud with an amazing technique in bed. He served as a rebound man, not a partner or a man for always, just someone who would give her romance and passion at a time when she needed it most. 

But Rome was so good to Tracy!  In Rome, Tracy comes alive, exploring the very things she loves: the arts. Her life in Rome is the antithesis of her life in New York. She is bold, daring, exciting, sensual, sexual. She is willing to take risks, and she finds a man who supports her, gives her freedom and reign to be her own person, and who promotes and encourages her freehand sketches. Reading the bits about Rome through Tracy’s eyes made her endearing, and you just can’t help but root for her to follow her passions!

Later, when everything comes to a head, as these things always do, Tracy claimed to be “a victim of circumstance.”  This surprised me, since Tracy made conscious decisions, making several flights between New York and Rome. She gives insight to readers about her turmoil, leading up to the thought that she will make a definitive decision. But as things do when we humans weave our tangled webs, things did not go according to plan…and everything snowballs.

The Sistine Chapel
The Sistine Chapel

The end of the novel is tied up in neat little bows. It gives a pretty depiction of people, romance and romantic conflicts. People don’t act that way – at all! So that bothered me a bit. The only change in Tracy from beginning to end was she became more risky (hence, all the running away) and the thing I liked: she’s keeping up with her own art. Perhaps that’s a stepping stone to reclaiming herself, I hope.

I’m going to be bold and suggest that Parra is making a statement with this novel:

Be who you are.

Do what you love, what you enjoy.

Take risks, do something new.

Change your life.

Be strong.

And those things are very important to a full, happy life and are often overshadowed when new, unexpected things enter our lives.

Limoncello
Limoncello

Don’t diminish yourself by being two incomplete fragments when you can be one whole.

I want to share this book with certain women in my life who are like Tracy, to show them that they can be the person they were meant to be. This is a great read that gives a lot of cultural references about certain areas and aspects of Italy. Parra has infused this novel in rich Roman experiences, food, culture and art. If you want an in-house experience of Rome, but can’t afford the trip, this book gives a beautiful sneak peek to enjoy. Parra did a very good job including large amounts of Roman culture and life into this novel, and that’s not an easy thing to do. My hat’s off to you, Daniel Parra!

Enter the Rafflecopter giveaway for your chance to win the book!

Want to know more about J. Daniel Parra? Toodle on over to my interview with him here. To read Daniel’s guest post about publication, go here. 

Tomorrow’s blog tour stop for Daniel’s Pieces of Tracy will be with Cinta Garcia De La Rosa. Check out Daniel’s guest post at Indie Authors You Want to Read.  Monday, 7/22, the blog stop will be at Diary of a Mad Stitcher.