Book Review: Romancing His Rival by Jennifer Shirk

If you’ve been following By Her Shelf for a while, you may remember me reviewing a book called Catch Him If You Can by Jennifer Shirk (you can find the review here). In that review, I said

This isn’t my first Jennifer Shirk book, and it most definitely won’t be my last. I have to know what happens in the next book to the next heroine. I know Jennifer is going to give her a great happily ever after as well.

Six months later, I had the opportunity to read that heroine’s book. Entangled Publishing sent me an advance copy of Romancing His Rival by Jennifer Shirk to review because I begged requested it. 

Title: Romancing His RivalRomancing His Rival

Author: Jennifer Shirk

Release Date: February 11, 2019

Review:  Hotel receptionist Elena Mason is left heartbroken months before her wedding when her fiancé dumps her, and it’s all Lucas Albright III’s fault. Her fiancé’s so-called best man talked him out of marrying Elena, and months later, she still hasn’t recovered, or stopped believing her fiancé will realize they’re meant to be together and come back. As for Lucas, Elena hopes to never see him again.

Lucas Albright is a marketing executive on the fast track to promotion. After a failed marriage, Lucas focuses all of his attention on his career, and it’s paid off. Convinced he works better alone, professionally and personally, Lucas is frustrated to find out his long sought after promotion is dependent upon him working with the one person who thinks of him as her archenemy.

Elena knows she has to work with Lucas. but that doesn’t mean she’s going to make it easy for him. She wants him to pay for breaking up her engagement. Lucas is willing to do whatever it takes to secure his promotion, even work with Elena. But the closer Elena and Lucas work together, the more each has trouble remembering they’re supposed to be rivals and not romantic partners.

I was ready to read Elena’s story from the time I turned the last page of Catch Him if You Can. The little glimpse into what happened with Elena intrigued me and I couldn’t wait to see how Ms. Shirk would pull of Elena’s happily ever after. Coming to a book with high expectations like this can be dangerous. I loved Elena as a supporting character, but how would I feel about her as a heroine? Could Jennifer make me love this character and her hero as much as Wade and Arden?

When I first met Elena in Romancing His Rival, I didn’t connect with her right away. I wanted to grab her and shake her out of her depressive funk. I wanted to say “get over it, already!” She seemed a little too whiny and was a little too eager to foist all the responsibility onto Lucas for why her relationship didn’t work out. Yet there was something about her that kept me reading.

This also did a curious thing: it immediately made me more willing to hear Lucas’s side of the story. Instead of being aligned with Elena against him, I was open to the idea there would be more to him and what he did or didn’t do than Elena knew or was willing to admit. I couldn’t love a man who went around destroying engagements for fun, but I could hear out the guy who was being unjustly blamed for the fate of an entire relationship.

Once Lucas and Elena were on the page together, things got even better. Even though Lucas is supposed to be the uptight ad exec, he’s funny and even laid back with Elena, who, although usually rainbows and sunshine, is acerbic and a little dramatic with Lucas to begin with. I liked them together from their first encounter on the page.

It’s evident from their first appearances that both of these characters have some growing and changing to do, and Ms. Shirk pulls them through it with an invisible string. Their actions, even the slightly outrageous ones, seem self-motivated and not driven by the plot. There were a couple moments I felt pulled out of the book by a bit of dialogue that felt clunky, but for the most part, I was able to immerse myself in Elena and Lucas’s story.

I would recommend Romancing His Rival to anyone looking for a sweet, enemies to lovers romance with humor liberally sprinkled in. Although you don’t have to have read them to enjoy Romancing His Rival, I would also recommend Bargaining with the Boss and Catch Him If You Can, the first two books in the Accidentally Yours Series by Jennifer Shirk.

Star Rating 3.5/5

Review: Cowboys Need Not Apply by Robert Tate Miller

Happy Monday, fellow readers! I’m experiencing a bit of a binge hangover after watching a full season of TV show in one evening (a show gone much too soon, by the way), but I wanted to share another review with you. Entangled Publishing sent me an advance copy of Cowboys Need Not Apply by Robert Tate Miller because I requested it. I couldn’t miss this opportunity. What romance lover wouldn’t want to read the story of a cowboy and a prima ballerina? It was only after I requested it that I realized Cowboys Need Not Apply would unique in another way: it’s written by a man. I haven’t read any Nicholas Sparks or any other big name male romance writers, so I was interested in seeing the spin a guy would put on a romance. You can get your copy of Cowboys Need Not Apply and draw your own conclusions starting today, August 13, 2018.

Title: Cowboys Need Not Apply

Author: Robert Tate Miller

Release Date: August 13, 2018

Review: Rodeo rider Matt “Mad Dog” Walker is on the fast track to being All Around Cowboy, the best bronco rider in the world when one bad ride tears his ACL. The rodeo doc is convinced Matt should retire, or at least sit out the rest of the season, but Matt is too close to achieving his dream of being the best and fulfilling a promise he made to his father before he passed to sit out the Big Ride. Matt’s uncle and manager Harry is convinced he should take the doctor’s advice, but knowing his stubborn nephew, he finds the best rehab facility in the country to give him a shot at a full recovery before his foolhardy ride.

Prima ballerina Jessica Carmichael knows something is wrong as soon as she lands a sauté in a performance. The doctors confirm she’s torn her ACL. All Jessica knows is dancing, and she refuses to miss the Rite of Spring performance where she made her debut at age sixteen. If she’s going to dance again, she has to be able to trust her knee one hundred percent, and the only way she’ll do that is if she works with the best rehabilitation clinic in the country.

When Matt and Jessica both arrive at the clinic, their competitive natures cause them to push one another in therapy to good affect. They came to heal their damaged knees and get back on top of their game, but could these two competitors win at the game of love as well?

Robert Tate Miller has crafted a Cutting Edge-esque romance that’s funny and witty, but most of all heartwarming. Jessica and Matt are both natural born competitors who love what they do. Neither one is ready to walk away from their career, even in the face of such a serious injury. Although the Manhattan born and bred ballerina and the Montana ranch owning rodeo rider live in two different worlds, they share a grit and determination, and a mutual attraction, that makes their burgeoning romance fun to watch. I also enjoyed the supporting characters of Jessica’s sister, Kat, and Matt’s uncle, Harry. They injected much needed realism and sound advice into the headstrong duo.

In addition to a man’s name being on the cover of the book, there were a couple other things that were different about this romance. The hero and heroine didn’t meet until I was about 12% into the book, and they spend a sizeable amount of time away from each other in comparison to other category romance titles. There were also a few points where I felt like the narration turned more clinical and distant than it should have been for the poignancy of the moment the characters (and the reader) were in. Lastly, if I never hear the term “in the footlights” again, I think it will be too soon.

Overall, I enjoyed the crisp, concise language and the way Miller unfolded the story. Miller does a great job of establishing the characters of Jessica and Matt in the readers’ mind and bringing the New York and Montana settings to life.  I loved the banter between Jessica and Matt, and I couldn’t wait to see how the Big Ride and the “big dance” went. I would recommend this opposites attract romance to anyone who loves their romance with witty banter, loveable characters, settings that become characters, and cowboys who can ride a bucking bronco and jeté, plié, and sauté.

Star Rating: 3.5/5