Sunday, May 4, 2014

Review: Laugh (Burnside #2) by Mary Ann Rivers

Laugh (Burnside, #2)
Series: Burnside #2
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Loveswept
Publication Date: 5/6/14
Format: eARC
Source: Publisher
Rating: 5 stars

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Mary Ann Rivers continues her Burnside family series—perfect for readers of Kristan Higgins, Jill Shalvis, and Ruthie Knox—as two people try to share their hearts without losing their cool.

Dr. Sam Burnside is convinced that volunteering at an urban green-space farm in Lakefield, Ohio, is a waste of time—especially with his new health clinic about to open. He only goes to mollify his partner, suspecting she wants him to lighten up. Then Sam catches sight of Nina Paz, a woman who gives off more heat than a scorcher in July. Her easy smile and flirty, sizzling wit has him forgetting his infamous need for control.

Widowed when her husband was killed in Afghanistan, Nina has learned that life exists to take chances. As the daughter of migrant workers turned organic farmers, she’s built an exciting and successful business by valuing new opportunities and working hard to take care of her own. But when Sam pushes for a relationship that goes beyond their hotter-than-fire escapades, Nina ignores her own hard-won wisdom. She isn’t ready for a man who needs saving—even if her heart compels her to take the greatest risk of all: love.

I'm just going to preemptively put out this warning: my review for Laugh may be a bit of a hot mess. The story is just so deep and so real and my brain wants to cover every single angle. I know that's not possible, nor should I do that. Just know that no matter how hard I try to give the story the respect it deserves, I know I won't do Laugh justice.

Sam Burnside is an angry man. At least, he seems to be. In Live, he came across as overbearing and arrogant. Much pressure has been laid on his shoulders throughout his life, and it's a burden he bears heavily. I was surprised by Sam in Laugh. Surprised to realize what it is that makes him angry. He has spent a lifetime managing, some times more successfully than other, ADHD. His mother helped him cope and manage, but after her death, his father couldn't deal with Sam in the same manner. That easy understanding was gone, leaving Sam to feel alone. When Sam can't cope, or things change, it makes him feel overwhelmed and anxious, which in turn makes him frustrated and causes him to lash out. Sam has big emotions and at times struggles to manage them in a way that doesn't push people away. Sam loves hard, but rather than bring people closer, his earnestness pushes them away. He just wants to be happy. To make others happy by simply being, like his sister Des, but he struggles with just being. Sam is so afraid of losing something that he hold on to everything.

Ten years ago, Nina Paz lost her husband, and in a manner, her life. Unable to grieve in the way the families needed her to, she left that life behind and started again on her own. She built a farm and a business, a family of close friends and coworkers. She built a life that she could look on and see the results. Nina has a sort of cautiously optimistic outlook on life. She knows all too well it can go wrong in a moment's time, but she also knows a life have-lived is no life at all. In the time following her husband's death, Nina took quick and easy comfort from the bodies of men. She had nothing else to give. She's not ashamed of that time in her life, but she is done with it. It would be easy to seek that comfort with Sam, to give it to him. But it's time to slow down, and see what the present brings. What she finds with same isn't empty satisfaction that got her through the dark times. It's a fullness. But that fullness scares her, because she knows too well the pain of losing it.

Sam and Nina together were endearing. Nina knew the exact way to love Sam, soothing and understanding him. She's the first person since his mother's death who really gets him and the language of his love. Sam is seeking, and Nina soothes the piece of him that's always hoping to be and do enough. To not do too much, which is his way. But it's such a struggle for him. Nina needs slow, and Sam tends to rush with his brain and heart crashing ahead. Sam is almost...manic with his love and the need to claim Nina now. And I love that he's all "I'm kind of an asshole." and yet he's completely lovable because he is open and earnest. But Sam brings so much to Nina. He loves her so well and so passionately. He understands why she's so passionate about her work and her people, he acknowledges her husband's forever place in her heart. These two were so sexy, too! I love that they talked so much, worked to understand each other. But they also let their bodies speak and love each other when they had no voice.

The rest of the Burnsides play a part in the story, especially PJ. The very tense relationship between Sam and PJ is examines and ohmyword! I hope that boy gets his own book. His life-long love for Lacey, the refusal to ever give up on her, it is what epic love stories are made of. Sam and Sarah's tremendously strained relationship is dealt with as well. Sarah is so hard to pin down. Like Sam in Live, I don't think I like her that much, but I hope to be proved wrong if she gets a story too.

I can't leave this review without discussing my beloved Des and Hefin. I'm so happy that we get glimpses into their new life. I will love that gruff and charming woodcarver/engineer forever.

Mary Ann Rivers is an author I trust implicitly. She unfailingly delivers stories with such realism, about the people around us. She delivers the romance that is best experienced in the quiet moments between two people falling in love, or who are already there. It's gritty and tough and messy. It's beautiful.

Favorite Quotes
  She'd take his hours and see if she could make days out of them. One by one. Steady. No waiting, but no racing either.
   An hour at a time.

  "Nina," he whispered, and she could hear the hope in it, the hope that he was going to do the right thing, and make this happen, and give himself to her and she would take him, she could hear in how he said her name that she wanted her to take him. Him. Just him.

  Sam Burnside had the clearest, sweetest heart of anyone she had known. Even as he fought himself and struggled to understand the people he loved, fought them, he never withheld his love.
  Everyone Sam loved knew it.
  It's why, she thought, watching him sleep, the people Sam loved weren't as gentle with him as they should be. They were safe with him, his love made them perfectly safe. Safe to behave badly or to test how much love could bear.
  His love made their love better. When they tested it, they found love to be strong beyond measure, able to bear incalculable losses.

The Burnside Series
Live (Burnside, #1)  Laugh (Burnside, #2)
(covers lead to GoodReads page)

About the author  
Mary Ann RiversMary Ann Rivers has been wearing a groove in her library card since she was old enough for story time. She’s been writing almost as long—her first publication credit was in Highlights magazine. She started writing and reading romance in the fifth grade once she stumbled on the rainbow of romance novel book spines in the library’s fiction stacks.

She was an English and music major and went on to earn her MFA in creative writing, publishing poetry in journals, and leading creative writing workshops for at-risk youth. While training for her day job as a Nurse Practitioner, she rediscovered romance on the bedside tables of her favorite patients.

Mary Ann lives in the Midwest with her handsome professor husband and their imaginative school-aged son. She writes smart and emotional contemporary romance, imagining stories featuring the heroes and heroines just ahead of her in the coffee line.

Website  |  Twitter  |  GoodReads



  1. Wow, I'm loving Sam already. This sounds so good, Andrea! I'll have to get a hold of the first book.

  2. This simply sounds like a beautiful story and the characters sound like ones that can get under your skin. Great review.

  3. Aww! This sounds like a really sweet story with some great characters, Andrea. I'm already a little bit in love with Sam from your review and the quotes you shared. I haven't heard of this author before, but I need to change that soon!
    Lovely review, Andrea!

  4. Yeah, I'm totally going to read these. Great review babe. Very very awesome!

  5. Whoa! I know I put Live on my tbr after reading your review of it, Andrea. Now I'm convinced I need to move this author up in priority. I love character driven stories, and I love 'real' characters. It sounds as though Ms. Rivers delivers both - very well. And I love your gushing review! :)

  6. Nina and Sam sound amazing together with her knowing how to love him and their pasts coming to a point they can heal

  7. Wow - sounds intense and wonderful. So glad you enjoyed.

  8. Ooo Andrea, this sounds wonderful and I love when a book gets your emotions overflowing and you cannot seem to get them to the paper. Adding to my list!

  9. I don't think I'd heard of this before. It's great when a book impacts you that much though, it sounds like it's worth checking out!

  10. This sounds completely amazing, Andrea! Really, really good. You keep making my TBR ever more insane than it already is! :)

  11. I won the first book a few days ago! Really excited about this series.

  12. Mary Ann Rivers sounds like a great author. I tend to gravitate towards realistic romances, and enjoy gritty, tough, an beautiful. Wonderful Review!

  13. This sounds great. Wonderful review.


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