Transfixed – Anne Calhoun E: Ms Calhoun provided exquisite detail that doesn’t just focus on the physical but draws the reader into the story. I wanted to know the why behind the characters’ motivation. I loved how neither one really fit into the common stereotypes of leather, whips, and chins. I also really enjoyed how it was private not in a “club” with observers. B+
MinnChica: For a FemDom story, I actually really liked this one. I thought it was so much fun and sexy. It was obvious there was a connection between them, and when the story continued on the second half, it was that much more. This story definitely needs to be read before the Ecstasy half. (I made the mistake of reading this 2nd, and I was SUPER lost in the other story….)
Has: I agree that reading the Ecstasy part of the story first wouldn’t have made much sense, or made a better impact with reading that first. The set up incorporated S&M themes but did it in a fantastic and unexpected way and I really liked how Calhoun presented the twist on the dominant heroine as a 50s housewife. I also loved the emotional cracking of the heroine at the end when the hero challenges her. B+
Siren – Jean Johnson E: Wanted to see more world building. I was more intrigued by the culture then the relationship between the two main characters. I did find it fascinating that the Seer’s connection with her Goddess was via pleasure rather then drugs/pain etc. I also don’t necessarily agree with her reasons for punishing him but that could be because of the limited backstory demanded by the short wordcount. C
MinnChica: I didn’t feel super strongly about this story one way or the other. I’ve never enjoyed FemDom books for some reason, so that aspect of the story turned me off a bit, but the world-building was interesting and I think the author has a great voice and the capability to write a good full-length novel in this world. D-
Has: I wished there was more worldbuilding too with this story. I did like the setting and the relationship between the hero and heroine was complex but for me the dominant and pain theme didn’t really work for me. I just didn’t get her reasons for punishing him and that had to be expanded. But I agree about the voice of the author which was engaging but the sex scene felt too awkward and just didn’t gel well with the tone. C-
Caged – J. K. Coi E: Very interesting twist on the need for pain that I was not expecting. Unless something changes drastically this relationship is only going to make things worse on both individuals involving physical and mental/emotional pain. I actually didn’t like the heroine. D-
MinnChica: I actually thought this story had some potential, but didn’t think there was enough time to really develop everything. I thought the storyline with the paranormal aspects were interesting, especially with the werewolf change and all the grief that came along with it. I do wish that we would have been given a chance to see where the characters were going in the future though, the novella definitely left me wanting more (well, happy more!) C
Has: I really liked this story and I wished it was much longer, because the angst and the pain and how that played out with the relationship between the hero and heroine was great. But I hoped the ending was more hopeful or there is potential for more because I think this might be a gem of a story if it was expanded upon. B+
Each Step Sublime – Bettie Sharpe E: A very very wicked twist on The Little Mermaid, not Disney’s sweetness and light version but the much darker Hans Christian Anderson version. I really enjoyed the way she ended the fable. B-
MinnChica: Ugg, I am not a fan of taking my happy and favorite childhood movie and turning it into a little bit of an F-ed up BDSM erotica. I finished the story, but scowled and rolled my eyes the whole way through. F
Has: I thought it was dreamy and romantic but the romance wasn’t as strong as the tone and setting of the story which was due to the story length. But I love the fairytale aspect but heroine falling for the Prince who just seemed too distant didn’t work for me. She was going to have to pay a major sacrifice and there was no real reason on why she was in love with him and the ending felt too rushed but overall I did enjoy the retelling. C+
Safeword – Delphine Dryden E: WOW this was really good. Talk about taking everyone dream of that one person who you wish was into you and your kinks and making it a reality. I really enjoyed their journey short as it was and the inclusion of bits of humor. Ms Dryden made them seem real. BTW I want a novel *grin*. A
MinnChica: I really liked this story. I’m a huge fan of the friends to lovers stories, and especially when those friends realize that their kinks work together. I will definitely be looking for more books by Dryden, because I thought she had a wonderful voice and a great story to tell. B+
Has: I really liked this one too, although I wasn’t too sure of the beginning but as the story progressed, I really got engaged with it. I really liked how the theme was explored and it was definitely exciting and fun as well as very sexy and I am not a huge fan of S&M stories. So its a solid B+
Stitch and Bitch – A. L. Simonds E: Rather diverse characters that I think actually need to talk more. I liked how knitting drew them together and became the center-point of their relationship. I think this would have been better as a longer length story. C
MinnChica: I wasn’t a huge fan of this story as well. I didn’t connect with either of the characters, and never really felt drawn into the story. I did like the knitting aspects though, really just added to my desire to go out and learn to knit. D
Has: I have mixed feelings on this one. I really liked the setting and the knitting aspects too, but the romance felt a bit off and disconnected because I found Priya too stand-offish with Luisa and the reasons behind it didn’t gel well with me. Although I liked how different the story was different and Luisa the skate-boarding girlfriend was fun! But it has definitely made me more open to FF romance which I haven’t really had read before. C-
Bachelorette Party – Jessica Clare E: I was really worried that this one was going to push one of my “chuck the book across the room buttons” but I am glad I kept reading because Ms Clare made it all come out alright in the end. C+
MinnChica: I was a little worried about this one, but holy hell I ended up loving it. In the hands of any other author, I think it could have been awful and really disheartening. However, I thought that the novella was both sexy and romantic and sweet and totally hawt. A-
Has: LOL I had the same fear at the beginning too, but then I sussed halfway through it that it wouldn’t be the case. I really loved this story and it is one of my favourites in the anthology. It was definitely sexy and fun and I will certainly check out more of Jessica Clare’s stuff in the future.
Wicked Wedding Night – Margaret Rowe E: Ok I want a novel! I love how Ms Rowe was able to take some familiar tropes and spin them on their heads in such a short story. B+
MinnChica: I loved this as well, which surprised me a little because I’m not usually a fan of historical erotica. However, this one just really worked for me. Both the hero and the heroine were such great and well developed characters. I think the short length took a little away from the story though, this could have been so much more with a little extra word count. B+
Has: I wasn’t too keen with the beginning of the story but if it was longer I think that would have helped to expand the story as well as establishing. It reminded me a bit of Anne Stuart’s historicals but as the story went on, I really liked the melancholic tone but the changes and acceptance that the heroine faced was too swift but again that is due to the short length. I liked the voice of the author too and despite the short length – the emotions between hero and heroine packs a punch. B
Shameless – Edie Harris E: Interesting lesson the hero passed onto the heroine at the end of this story, probably the only thing I liked about this one. The entire story struck me as a moment in time that at least one character would remember but it would remain disconnected with both before and after. C-
MinnChica: This is an example of one historical erotica that just didn’t work for me. I thought the heroine was flighty and a little annoying. I didn’t really find the story all that sexy either. Like E, I felt like a complete outsider to the story, and I can’t really say that I cared one way or the other. D-
Has: I really liked this, I didn’t read as a romance as such but an interlude which was something the heroine needed to get out of her situation. I felt the interaction she had with the hero was very cathartic – and I was taken aback how the story unfolded. I love the emotional intensity that was presented and I think it linked perfected with the overall theme of the anthology. B
Taken – Rebecca Lange E: Flashback to the old western romances involving a woman and her captor. It was like the author unromantized that entire subgenre. D-
MinnChica: I tried to get into this story, but I only made it through about 5 or 6 pages before I just stopped and moved on. It didn’t hold my interest at all. DNF
Has: Yep, it felt like the old skool, and I couldn’t engage with the story at all or with the characters.
Wetwire – Sunny Moraine E: Exploring the mysteries of how our brains process nerve stimulation and what happens if the interpretation is switched around. Makes me glad I don’t live in an entirely jacked-in world. C-
MinnChica: I also hate to say that I gave up on this story as well. I was more confused than anything, and there wasn’t anything in the first few pages that really called for me to keep trying to chug through. DNF
Has: I really liked the setting, and premise of the story but the characters and plot, it just didn’t work. I need some element of romance and the main characters were selfish and I couldn’t connect with them. It felt really cold and unemotional and that made the sex unsexy and cold too. If there was stronger element of romance it may have worked for me better as a story. D+
Transformed – Anne Calhoun E: Well I got some of my questions from TRANSFIXED answered and I still want more! I highly recommend that you start with the Agony half because her two stories flow one into the other. It was great seeing another facet of the two main characters. A
MinnChica: I was a little confused by this story, because I started with this side of the anthology, and this should definitely be read AFTER Transfixed. However, once I read the other Calhoun story and thought back to this one, it made so much more sense and I liked it more. Calhoun has a great voice and does a wonderful job with both the BDSM aspects and the more sweet romance. B-
Has: This was definitely one of the strongest story/stories in the anthology and I am glad there was a followup with the perspective of the hero and different POV. This sequel was much softer and sweeter in tone but no less challenging than the first story in Transfixed and I love the role reversal and ditto on reading both together that starts off with Transfixed. While the hero was challenged and being dominanted in the first story – in Transformed the characters develop emotionally and I love the depth that was explored in this installment and how the hero helps to challenge the heroine who manages to let go emotionally instead of physically. A
Rescue Me – Meljean Brook E: WOW, Such a strong female character with a great twist that is such a spoiler! A
MinnChica: I loved this novella. The heroine was so strong and driven to save herself from being kidnapped. I loved the way she dealt with getting out and how she used her desire to see and tell her long time best friend she loved him to get out alive. It was sweet and sexy and just such a great story. A
Has: I.LOVE.THIS.STORY. This has to be my favourite out of all the stories in the anthology, dark, tense, sexy and hawt. I loved how resourceful and smart the heroine was to get out of her predicament from being abducted by a serial killer and I especially loved the element of her fantasies about the hero helping her to get past her discomfort, it really ties in with the theme but it was wonderfully romantic and sexy. I just wished this story was longer. A+
The Wooden Pony – Soshanna Evers E: This one was beyond my reading experience. It was well written but very uncomfortable for me to read. D
MinnChica: I actually liked this one, but it was very heavy on some BDSM aspects that might not be for everyone. I’ve read other stories by Evers, and I think she does a wonderful job of mixing harder BDSM play with the emotional entanglements that goes along with it. But it’s not for the faint of heart. B+
Has: I enjoyed this story even though it harder elements of BDSM, although the sex was hawt and intense, the emotional elements didn’t work as well. C+
Kiss of Life – Lily Daniels E: I think I missed the intent of this one. I understand wanting revenge and seizing life after you have survived something horrible but those two parts didn’t meld for me. D-
MinnChica: I liked the Titanic aspect of this story, but other than that, the rest was lost on me as well. I find that when revenge and anger and hatred gets mixed in with my BDSM, it tends to train wreck for me. I don’t like when characters come from a dark place like that, and it didn’t work for me. D
Has: I loved this one, because the setting especially the Titanic element and the time period stood out for me. I also thought the romance was good, and the love scenes worked especially the one in the car. There was a lot of depth and plot and I thought the characterisation was well rounded . I thought it was unusual and wished there was more stories like this with this setting. B+
Silverhouse – Sarabeth Scott E: The secret language of lovers, I really enjoyed what Ms Scott revealed at the end about their relationship. B
MinnChica: For me, I like the punishment aspect of this one. I thought it was sexy and fun and sweet and had a bunch of the great aspects of BDSM that I liked. I thought that it was actually one story that fit really well with the short length. B
Has: I really liked this one too, the sexual battle of wills between the hero and heroine and how that fits in with the BDSM theme really worked. The ending was perfect and I also didn’t feel that there was anything missing with the story. B
Bruised Ego – Christine D’Abo E: Different take on how important it can be to know that you aren’t the only person who feels a certain way that doesn’t appear to be society’s accepted norm. B-
MinnChica: There were some aspects I did and didn’t like about this. As a psychology major, I’m not a fan of any mental health professional getting involved their patients. However, it was soon evident that our heroine was not a regular therapist, but part of the story had already been a little tainted for me. C-
Has: This was a very unusual story and I am not sure on how to take it with the theme of it. Although the sex scenes was hot and intense, I just felt the set-up missed the mark for me and I totally agree about the therapist thing – Although I am glad how the ending played out but it didn’t fully work for me. C
On My Skin – DL Galace E: Very vivid description of what I have heard getting a tattoo is like for some people. I didn’t quite buy into the characters’ motivations though. I think this would have benefitted from a longer wordcount. C-
MinnChica: This story didn’t really do anything for me. Other than the heroine wanting a tattoo, I couldn’t understand why these two were together. But, having multiple tattoos, I can also see the pleasure in that pain. =) But as the story itself, it didn’t really do much for me. D
Has: I thought this story worked on a lot of levels, and I love the theme of tattoos and how it linked with the main theme and sexuality. I thought it was sexy and sweet but I also wished the story was longer because it felt that the plot, and characterisation just got going for me. C+
Just Say Yes – HelenKay Dimon E: Enjoyable short story that included some rather neat twists that I wish more authors would use when it came to common tropes. B
MinnChica: I liked this story. It was a great little look into what happens when a boss steps out of line with her employee. I thought it was great that both the heroine and the hero were ready to accept the consequences of their actions, especially when our hero was willing to make a major change in life for his heroine. B+
Has: This was a great short and I liked how the relationship developed between the hero and heroine and the dynamics of being a boss and employee. It was also interesting to note that the heroine was the one in charge although I wished there was more emphasis on the hero, Colin. But I liked how the story played out and its conclusion. I really liked how realistic things turned out. B
Into The Red – Cameron Belle E: Fascinating world-building, like a futuristic Rome complete with gladiators. Ms Belle made me wish the two main characters could have a longer HFN (Happy For Now). B-
MinnChica: This was an interesting one, with a really unique world that I would have liked to see more of. I thought the two heroes were an unlikely pair, but worked together. Where one was soft the other was hard and rough. I would like to see more in this world, especially in a longer format. C+
Has: This was one of the highlights for me in the anthology I think the setting and the premise was fantastic and I really liked how both heroes interacted with each other. I wished it was much longer. This was a short but sexually intense story with real depth and I will definitely look out for more of Belle’s books/stories. B+
Overtaken – Sara Thorn E: I felt like there was a very complex back-story with the two characters that could have sucked me into the story, but without that… C-
MinnChica: This is going to sound horrible, but I don’t remember not liking this, but at the same time it didn’t stand out to me at all either. After a few days now, I hate to say that I don’t even remember much about this short. D
Has: I also didn’t like this story as much for similar reasons. I did like the setting and I get the reluctance by the hero, but I couldn’t connect with the characters and although the sex scenes was hot, it just didn’t have much depth. C-
OVERALL ANTHOLOGY: MinnChica: I was really looking forward to this anthology because I’ve been a big fan of BDSM romance stories for awhile now. And while there were some stories that I really enjoyed and will probably re-read again and again…. most of them were either so-so or really fell short for me. I don’t know if I had my expectations too high or what, but I have to say that overall, the anthology was a solid C for me.(less)
I really liked the first Nauti and Wild anthology, so when I got the next one in the mail, I couldn’t wait to dive back into the Nauti and Wild series. And with two heroes both named Jed, I knew I’d be in for a wild ride!
Nauti Siren by Lora Leigh
Piper has lived under her brothers protective thumb for a year now, and she hates that her every move is scrutinized. So when the chance to get her clothing designs seen by a New York backer, she finds a way to sneak out of town and take the chance of a lifetime. The last thing she expected was to have to call Jed, her sexy neighbor and general badass. When trouble follows her home, Piper is forced to let her brother do what he does best: protect her at all costs.
I’ll admit that I haven’t read all the books in the Nauti series, but the few that I’ve read were decent reads. That being said, I felt so bad for Piper and her sisters, given the way their brother practically smothers them. I understand his protective nature, but his way of offering that protection was so overbearing and obnoxious. Had that been my brother, I would have smacked him upside the head and ran as fast a I could!
One of the things I really enjoyed most about this story was that Jed wanted so desperately to be with Piper, and although he is cut from the same cloth as her brother, he wanted to support her every dream instead of stifling it. While he was constantly on alert to keep her safe, he also wanted her to have the chance to chase after her dreams, as long as she was willing to bring him along for the ride.
I thought Piper was a little too resistant to what Jed was trying to tell her, and she was an extremely hard-headed woman. She refused to take Jed at face value, and then made him jump through hoops to prove himself to her. There were times I wanted to shake her and ask her why she was stringing him along, when it was so obvious that he was different from the other men in her life. But she did finally catch on, and once she did the sparks flew.
I give Nauti Siren a C+
Riding to Sunset by Jaci Burton
Jed is the newest member of the Wild Riders, and when the General asks him to go on a special mission, Jed finds himself having to guard someone the General holds dear: his niece. The mission is simple, keep Elena safe, and don’t let on that she is in danger unless absolutely necessary. Danger finds its way to Elena, and the person he least expects is the one behind it all.
I adore the Wild Riders series. They are over the top, and yet so much fun. I love that we got to see more of the General in this book, because I’ve always wondered about him. It was great to get to see more of his family, and get a little back story into his life. I love that he is completely devoted to keeping his love ones safe, regardless of the cost to his own life and sanity.
Elena was a wonderful heroine. She was sweet and although a little naive, she fought tooth and nail in order to save herself and her mother. She wasn’t one of those heroines who was TSTL, but she also wasn’t afraid to step up when she needed to in order to protect herself. And I thought Jed was great. He wanted to prove himself to the General, and although the man was like a father to him, he was also willing to risk The General’s wrath at the chance with Elena. I loved getting the chance to read about a hero sticking up to someone he respects greatly, for the chance to be with his woman. It was an awesome moment between those two alpha men.
I was blown away by the twists and turns in this short story as well. I was surprised to see who the bad guy was in it all. And yet, I loved the way it turned out. It’s always so special when people surprise you throughout the book.
I will have to say that the way this series ended was a little disappointing. We never got one last look into all the operatives in Wild Riders, so the chance to say goodbye never came. And while I liked that both the General and Jed decided to do something different with their futures, their choice came as a little left field to me.
All in all I really enjoyed the final installment of the Wild Riders series. I loved getting to see another layer to the General, and both Jed and Elena were wonderful characters to read and fall in love with. I’m sad to be saying goodbye to this series.
Publisher: Grand Central Publish Date: November 1st How I got this book: NetGalley
I’m a big fan of the Lucky Harbor Series by Jill Shalvis, so when I saw this anthology with a Christmas story I was sold! Let me start by just saying that although this ebook has 140 pages, it was more like 90 pages devoted to the actual stories of the anthology. The remainder of the ebook is dedicated to sneak peaks at other works by these authors.
I had been hoping that Shalvis would write a story about Logan, the NASCAR driver and Tara’s ex-husband, and I was super happy about and with his story. Logan left Lucky Harbor after a hot affair with the sexy Sandy. But after being without her for the season he knew he wouldn’t be able to let he go once again. But will Logan be too late to win her heart?
I adored this story. I loved Logan and couldn’t wait to see him get his much deserved HEA. One of the things that Logan did to steal my heart was bend-over backward to take care of Sandy. He dressed as Santa for her, filled her collection jars and only wanted to make her every dream come true. I love when a man goes above and beyond to win his leading lady, and Logan was more than happy to do so! I also loved that Sandy wasn’t disillusioned to his lifestyle. Although I did at times think she was a little harsh, I could see where she was coming from. The proposal scene was WONDERFUL and I absolutely loved it! I give Kissing Santa Clause an A
Hope Ramsey’s story was very short, and if there was any story here I would have liked to have more of, this would have been it. Annie is alone for her first Christmas, and looking to break some of her stuffy mother’s traditions. When a former soldier and friend to her high school sweetheart shows up with a cuddly cat and no where to go Annie takes him in. And with Matt and the kitty underfoot, she might find the best Christmas miracle in her own home.
I loved both Annie and Matt, they were both lonely and a little lost in life. They were both looking for the same thing, and wanted nothing more than to be a part of a family. While I felt as if they feel in love way too quickly, I could also see why they were so perfect for each other. The small story line surrounding Matt bringing back a Christmas gift for his best friend’s grandmother was heartbreaking and had me in tears. Very sweet but VERY short story. I give I’ll Be Home For Christmas a B+
Katie Lane visited the town of Bramble during their Christmas time, in which the town was desperately trying to put on the very best live nativity scene. Sam is back from vet school, and wants nothing more than her long time bestie Ethan to notice her as a woman. Little does Sam know, Ethan has been in love with her for as long as he can remember. With the help of a meddling sister, rain storm and pet pig, these two might just find their happily ever after.
While I thought parts of this story were super funny and cute, I didn’t connect to it very well. I was a little disappointed by that, because I absolutely love friends to lovers stories. Only this time I didn’t get a good feel of them being great friends before hand, and they agreed to wait awhile for becoming lovers, so I felt a little let down on all parts. For me, this was the weakest story of the three, and it didn’t hold my attention nearly as well as the others. I give O Little Town of Bramble a C-
Publisher: Berkley Publish Date: November 1st How I got this book: Review copy from publisher
I love the world of the Lupi, so when I received this anthology, I was super excited to read Wilks story in particular. The stories in order in the anthology:
Upon a Midnight Clear by Virginia Kantra I started to read this story and stopped after only about 20 pages. I’ve read some of Kantra’s stories in the past, and I’ve never been a fan of historical paranormal stories for some reason. I’ve tried with Kantra’s Children of the Sea series and was not impressed. So unfortunately, I didn’t get very far with this story either (although I don’t think it’s set in the Children of the Sea world.)
First Light by Kimberly Frost This story is the first in a new series by Frost about a rich world with numerous different paranormal creatures. The world-building was very intense and seemed to drag down the story in the beginning. It took me awhile to get into the story, but once I did I found myself enjoying the different characters and the world itself. I think this new series has the potential to be an extremely developed paranormal romance, and I will be looking forward to reading more in the future. I give First Light a C
Human Error by Eileen Wilks The world of the Lupi is a wonderful urban fantasy series, and one that I’ve enjoyed reading for awhile now. However, I didn’t realize that I was a book or two behind, especially once I saw that my favorite growly enforcer Benedict found his mate. Arjenie and Benedict are headed back to her family home for the first time, and Benedict is a little worried about meeting her family. When a trickster shows up as well as skinwalker determined to hurt Arjenie’s family, Benedict will have to let his wolf loose to save his mate’s family. I really enjoyed this short. Benedict is one of my favorite characters in the series, and seeing him get his HEA is so awesome. Plus, the fact that Argenie is such a sweetheart and willing to fight for Benedict to the very end had me loving it even more. Plus, the fact that Wilks wrote in a skinwalker… Loved it! We don’t see enough skinwalkers in the urban fantasy genre! I give Human Error a B
An Inconvenient Mate by Lora Leigh I’ve read a few stories set within the world of the Breeds, but I’ve never read the series in it’s entirety. That being said, the novellas that I have read work as stand-alone books, as long as the reader understands that the stories are usually within a larger plot arc. I’ve always been able to follow the stories, however I’ve also always felt as if I was missing a little something. Like there is more going on behind the scenes with the characters that I am in the dark with. I felt this even more so in this novella than the others I’ve read. Isabelle and her Navajo family are going into negotiations with the Breed, and when Isabelle looks up from the bar one night into Malachi’s eyes, her world is changed forever. The two have an explosive sexual relationship and mate almost right away. But a stalker who has it in for Isabelle will try just about anything to hurt her, and nearly succeeds. While Leigh always has some super hot sex in her books, for me the plot felt like it fit within a full-length novel and left me somewhat confused and a little let down. I give An Inconvenient Mate a C-
All in all I think fans of the World of the Lupi series as well as the Breed series will enjoy this anthology. The stories (that I read) were all very sexy, filled with action packed plot and fit well within the anthology. Overall, I give the anthology a C-(less)
Publisher: Carina Press Publish Date: December 5th How I got this book: NetGalley
This Time Next Year by Alison Kent Brenna is headed to her grandmother’s house for Christmas before taking off for Africa for a year to work as a nurse. When she crashes in a snow drift, the sexy and reclusive Dillon rides up and saves the day. Will Brenna be able to get to her Grandmother’s in time for Christmas, and once she and Dillon spend more time together, will they be able to say goodbye?
This was probably my least favorite book in the series. For me it started off really slow and took awhile to gain my attention. I had a hard time connecting with Brenna and Dillon both. I was glad with the way that the story ended though, with Brenna refusing to give up her dream, but still coming back to the life she knows she wants. I give This Time Next Year a C
A Rare Gift by Jaci Burton Wyatt is still a little bitter about his divorce, and the last thing he wants to do is work on a project for his ex-wife’s sister. Calliope has always had a crush on Wyatt, and despite the fact that he was married to her sister, she still wants him more than anything. As they get closer and closer, things look bright for their future, but will their history be too much to overcome?
I was so excited for this story, mainly because it’s a continuation from the last anthology, and I loved the characters. I so wanted Wyatt’s story after last year’s anthology, and LOVED this story. Wyatt is still bitter and heart-broken and doesn’t know how to move on. Calliope is just so loving and caring and sweet to everyone she meets. They both know that they have a real potential for the future, but Wyatt’s refusal to deal with his ex hurts Calliope. I have to say though, I was so glad the two were able to work it out and Wyatt was able to get through that anger and move forward with life. I give A Rare Gift an A
It’s Not Christmas Without You by HelenKay Dimon The love of Austin’s life has left for a job in the city, and he will stop at nothing to win her back and bring her home. Setting up his Christmas tree lot across from her apartment, Carrie will have to walk past every day and see him. Carrie loves Austin, but his refusal to accept her dream job is what causes her to leave. But seeing him everyday reminds her of just how wonderful they are together.
I love second chance stories, and I have to admit that Dimon had me in tears with this short! Austin was such a great character: a completely oblivious male who takes awhile to catch on. But I loved that once he did really get with the program, he was willing to do anything and everything for Carrie. There was a hilarious scene in the middle when Austin sets Carrie up on a date, and then tags along that had me in stitches! This was a great novella!! I give It’s Not Christmas Without You an A
Mistletoe and Margaritas by Shannon Stacey Claire is still recovering from the death of her husband, and relies so much on her best friend Justin. She knows that she is ready to start moving on again, but for some reason Justin seems to be the object of her new affections. Justin has loved Claire since the day he met her, but when she married his best friend she became off limits. Now that Claire is ready to move on with her life, will Justin get past her being his best friends’ widow and be the man for her?
This story had me in tears as well. It was an incredible friends to lovers stories that dealt with some agonizing feelings of guilt, on both Claire and Justin’s part. There were some wonderful sexy scenes, and I loved how Claire and Justin both got their blessings from Claire’s mother-in-law. If you’re going to get this one, make sure you have both a fan and some tissues handy! I give Mistletoe and Margaritas an A(less)
Publisher: Harlequin Publish Date: Out Now! How I got this book: Review request from Jill
This has been the year of romantic suspense, and Jill Sorenson has become one of my go-to suspense authors this past year. When she offered me a copy of her Christmas novella, I couldn’t imagine turning it down. Suspense AND Christmas? It’s a double wammy!
In Holiday Secrets Leah is hiding away in witness protection from the man who killed her husband. She and her girls are living a quiet life, until the day their neighbor came over in a Santa suit bearing presents for the girls. Leah doesn’t know what to think about Brian and how great he is. When she thinks she spots the man she is running from, her Christmas season turns from a wonderful few days to the most terrifying.
I felt for poor Leah, she lived her life in constant fear, and at the beginning of the book seemed very deflated. She came across to me as timid and fearful of just about everything. But as Brian started cracking her shell, she became more and more open to trying the things that scared her most. I liked that she learned how to swim, that she was willing to take a chance at love again, and that she did everything in her power to save the day herself.
I really liked Brian though. He wasn’t what I would call an alpha, and instead of being the typical bad-ass hero in most suspense books, he was just the guy next door. I liked that he really seemed to care about Leah’s girls, and that they were his whole reason for going to Leah in the first place. I liked that he wasn’t the typical suspense hero, and he was one of the main reasons I enjoyed this story so much.
All in all it was a good short story. Brian and Leah did seem to come to their “I love you’s” a little quicker than normal, and while I didn’t fully believe it, they were a good couple together. I give Holiday Secrets a B-
In Kidnapped at Christmas, Chloe is down on her luck, her life is in shambles and she gets fired right before Christmas. Just when she thinks there is nothing left for her, she runs into Mason – an undercover FBI agent. Mason has Chloe pretend to be his girlfriend, and when Mason’s last operation goes bad, he brings Chloe home to his family for Christmas for her safety.
I didn’t like this story as much for some reason. Chloe came across as very insecure and down trodden and depressed. And throughout the story I never really felt as if she grew at all as a character. She stayed insecure with Mason’s family and never seemed to take life by the horns. I wanted more from her than we got.
I thought that Mason was just an okay hero, somewhat stereotypical for most romantic suspense novels. Sexy FBI agent, superstar undercover agent, tight knit family that had some kind of police or military training… There wasn’t anything that really had Mason standing out to me, and I lost interest pretty quickly in the story.
Overall I thought the second story was the weakest. The suspense was not as good as the Sorenson story, and the characters didn’t engage me. I give Kidnapped at Christmas a C-(less)
This anthology was really hit or miss for me. I LOVED the LB Gregg story, only made it through 4 or 5 chapters before DNFing the Harper Fox story. I t...moreThis anthology was really hit or miss for me. I LOVED the LB Gregg story, only made it through 4 or 5 chapters before DNFing the Harper Fox story. I thought the ZA Maxfield story was okay, and the Josh Lanyon one was good, but way too short IMO. (less)
I can’t count the number of times I picked up and put this book down since I got it. I was intrigued by the steampunk world, but could never really seem to find a time when I was in the mood to read it. I would get through the first couple pages and lose interest. I have to say, I wish I would have forced myself to read it sooner!!
This book actually has two stories: the first is about the Queen’s companion Dare. Dare is on a mission to find out who kidnapped the Queen and replaced her with a doppelganger. But her plans to find a specific airship are thwarted and instead she finds herself prisoner on a “Pleasure” submarine. Bodhan runs the sub and Dare instantly intrigues him, and he works hard to not only seduce her, but also uncover all her secrets.
I didn’t think this first story as much as the second. I don’t know if it was because so much of the world was being unveiled slowly, or because Dare and Bodham took some time to meet up, but either way it seemed to drag a bit in the beginning. Once things picked up, I found myself so entrenched in the story I had a hard time putting the book down. I wanted to know what was going on, who was who, and how they were going to find the Queen. It wasn’t until Dare and Bodhan leave the pleasure ship that the book started really turning around for me, but once it did, there was no stopping the awesomeness.
The sexy times between Dare and Bodham was so to develop, but so smokin’ hot. The sexual tension between them was done incredibly well, and I loved their little dance around each other as they moved toward a relationship. I hope we get to see a lot more of them as the series continues.
One of the things I also really enjoyed was that although the book was two separate novellas, the story was seamless overall. I didn’t feel like I missed anything when we changed from Dare/Bodham’s story to Phina/Cyrus’s story. The book follows the same crew of people once Dare and Bodham join up with the correct airship, and I hope we continue to follow this group of people as the story continues.
The second story follows Cyrus, the Queen’s sword. He has been through hell and back trying to find her, the worst of his problems: having to trust Phina, the woman who seduced him and left him to be kidnapped by his enemies. But the Queen trusts Phina, who was unaware of the plot behind Cyrus’ kidnapping. The tension between these two is enough to drive them both insane, if they aren’t killed by the Queen’s enemies first…
I adored Phina and Cyrus. Phina was the kind of heroine who could take care of herself, she didn’t need any man to come in and rescue her. But it also didn’t stop her from dreaming of that man. She has never had anyone to rely on, nor has she realized she wanted someone to rely on. I loved the vulnerability that Cyrus brought out in Phina, and the lengths that he went to for her. I can’t count the number of times he almost died for her, and he was more than willing to do it time and time again. They were a great couple that danced around their messy past before realizing that without each other, they both weren’t as strong.
These two had some holy amazing sexy times. They had angry sex, make-up sex, claiming sex. You name it, they had it…. But it also fit so well with their characters. I never felt as if it was just thrown in for the sake of it. They were great together both physically and emotionally.
The world-building in this story is incredible. While it took me awhile to get a good understanding of the world as a whole, as each detail was revealed, there was more and more that drew me in. I can’t wait to read more from Grace, see where the journey leads next, find out who took the Queen, where she is, and why her palace was always a little like a prison.
All in all this story was so engaging and fun to read. The first story built slowly and wasn’t as quick to reign in my attention, but once I was hooked, I couldn’t put it down. The sexy times were hot throughout the book, the world-building was just amazing and the characters (main and secondary alike) were all wonderful to read. I can’t wait to see where the series goes next, and get answers to my millions of questions! I give Geared for Pleasure a B (less)
Publisher: HQN Publish Date: Feb 21st How I got this book: NetGalley
The minute I saw Jill Shalvis’ name on the cover, I didn’t even bother to read the blurb. I knew she wouldn’t lead me astray, and the chance to read two other authors I didn’t know much about… It’s a win all around!
The first story in the anthology is Roxanne St. Claire’s THE SINS OF HIS PAST and although I’ve only read one short story by St. Claire in the past, I will definitely be picking up more of her work. Kendra has had a lifelong crush on her childhood friend Deuce, but when he walked away from her after a night of passion, she started to give up hope. But once Deuce’s baseball career is over, he comes strolling back looking to pick up life in his hometown, despite the fact that his dreams might ruin hers.
A good second chance or friends to lovers story is one that ALWAYS sucks me in and keeps me entertained. I did not want the story of Deuce and Kendra to end. At all. St. Claire did an amazing job building up the sexual tension between these two, especially as bits and pieces of their history together are revealed throughout the story. I loved Kendra’s strength to get through life, despite all the hardships she encountered along the way, especially when some of them had come at the cost of Deuce’s happiness. And the fact that Deuce was able to come around and really see what he was missing in life, what he really needed to make him happy… I’m such a sucker for a strong alpha man to be brought to his knees by his leading lady, and St. Claire could not have done a better job than she did with Deuce and Kendra. I laughed and cried with the characters and did NOT want the book to end, at all. I give THE SINS OF HIS PAST an A-
The second story was Jill Shalvis’ TANGLING WITH TY, a story about a sexy Irish architect and a genius prodigy doctor. I wanted this story to be on par with the current work I’m used to by Shalvis, and for me, it didn’t live up to that expectation.
Although I liked the overall setting and story with Nicole and her best friends, I had a really hard time connecting with both Nicole and Ty as characters. Nicole was a prodigy and workaholic, and Shalvis must write the most convincing genius ever, because I found myself thinking that Nicole was aloof and boring and almost seemed too smart to be human and interesting. I wanted to be able to connect with her, and I just couldn’t. While I liked and connected more with Ty, I still didn’t think that he was easy to fall in love with. But he did compliment Nicole well, so I suppose that is what matters. In their own weird way, the two of them completed each other well, I just didn’t feel it. I give TANGLING WITH TY a C-
The third and final story was Maureen Child’s WHATEVER REILLY WANTS. Child’s name sounded familiar, but I wasn’t sure if I had read her before, but I was so impressed with the story that I immediately went out to see if there were other books in the series. The four Reilly brothers made a bet to see if they could go for 90 days without having sex, and Connor thought he would have no trouble, but when he mentions to his best friend Emma that he thinks she is “safe,” she sets out to show him just how feminine she can be.
Like St. Claire, I thought that Child wrote an absolutely incredible friends to lovers story. Both Connor and Emma are hesitant to lose their friendship, but they are also incredibly attracted to each other, especially after Connor unknowingly taunts Emma and the gauntlet is thrown. I loved that they were both scared of loosing each other, but unable to stay away. I was so glad to see that Emma also put her foot down and refused to settle for anything less than what she really wanted. It was a fabulous friends to lovers story, and one that I could honestly read over and over again. I give WHATEVER REILLY WANTS a B+(less)
I love and hate anthologies. They open my eyes to new authors, new stories and new situations that might push my comfort zone. With this anthology, I was hoping to find some new m/m authors that I could glom onto and find some great reads. While there were some good stories in this anthology, there were some not-so great stories either.
Haunted by Jana Denardo In Denardo’s story, a couple go on a working vacation together. One a photographer and the other an author of ghost phenomena. This story was super cute. Trestan and Connor were super secure in their relationship, and excited to be on vacation together, getting the chance to experience some hauntings first hand. They have quite a few sexy times and I enjoyed all their moments together. B+
Off the Tracks by Chelle Dugan This story really threw me for a loop. Owen was set to go on vacation to celebrate his best friends divorce. He trips and falls, knocking his head and landing back into the past. There he meets James and begins to fall for them. One night he falls asleep and wakes up back in present time, but to a life he always dreamed of, with James. I’m not a huge fan of time-travel, but when you throw in a weird dream/alternate reality thing, I just couldn’t connect with the story. C-
Krung Thep, City of Angels by Zee Kensington A young Marco is making his first international trip, backpacking through Thailand. When he gets lost one day, Chris, a frequent traveler, comes to his rescue and the two spend a few marvelous days together. I am not a huge fan of couples that come to such a quick HEA, and while they didn’t make any declarations, it felt as if they moved super quickly in their relationship. I did like the way Zensington described Thailand, that aspect of this story made it an enjoyable read for me. B-
Sunlight on Water by Susan Laine Ari is on vacation in Florida and meets the sexy Ryan. They have some steamy moments together, and when Ari tells Ryan his family won this extravagant vacation, Ryan takes off. Despite Ryan admitting he is a hustler, Ari wants to make a relationship work. This story didn’t really work for me. I never got a feeling of either character, and didn’t like their perfectly wrapped up HEA. D
Fall Forward by Jamie Lowe Chase and Harrett are going on their first vacation as a couple, and arguing about what is and is not acceptable to display their relationship in the small town they are going to. When they set their worries of others aside and just enjoy each other, sexy times commence. This story was super short, but cute too. B-
A Good Night’s Sleep by Anna Martin In all the stories of the couples that first meet, I think this might be one of my favorites. There isn’t a laid out HEA, instead a cute little HFN where Alex and Matt decided to travel together after a sexy night together on the train. Yes, there was train sex. It was good! B+
All You Need by Dar Mavison Trent and Rory are taking a much-needed trip into NYC on a limited budget and a rocky place in their relationship. They argue and snap at each other, but are eventually able to work out the kinks in their relationship and get back to a happy place. This story was ok, but for some reason didn’t stand out as great as some of the other rekindling romances from this book. C
All at Sea by JL Merrow Josh is on a family vacation, and runs into Rupe while renting a boat. The two connect as friends, and quickly take their relationship to the next level. They lean on each other and have a somewhat believable HEA, given they met in this short story (possibly due to the mini-epilogue in which it explains they broke-up and got back together throughout their lives.) Will definitely find more Merrow to read! B
Something Different by Sean Michael This might have been my favorite second chance story in this anthology. Adam and Tucson were once lovers, and broke up long ago. When they both end up in Vegas on vacation, they pick up their romance and realize they were better together than apart. I really liked this story, it was super cute and sexy and well done. I will definitely be looking into more of Michael’s work. A-
Perpendicularity by Mal Peters Kyle is an Olympic snowboarding champion in France for a tournament. What was supposed to be a romantic weekend turned into a solo trip. But one look at Kyle’s personal chef and he thinks he might be able to make time for a little romance. He and Dylan have a great friendship that leads to more and was super cute. I liked it. B+
The Jeep Guy by Eric Renner I had a horrible time getting into this story. I couldn’t get through it at all and ended up DNFing it after a few pages.
Know Nobody by G.R. Richards This short was more erotica than romance for me. Gerald wants to get away, and heads to Niagara Falls to “hook up.” He has an erotic evening with three twinks he picked up in a bar. But when his long-time best friend Sylvain shows up, he realizes what has long been in front of his face and the two begin a relationship. I didn’t really like this one very much. Not enough romance for me. D
Reconnecting by Claire Russett I adored this story. It was probably one of my favorites. Sam is at a work conference and dreads running into the love of his life – John. John knows what he lost when he left Sam, and is determined to win the man back. Anyway he possibly can. There is sexy moments and angst and a wonderful reconnection story. I likey. A
Mending and Moving On by Cecilia Ryan Bryan and Liam meet on the plane, and again once they land in Spain. Their relationship develops quickly and progresses to something serious in a VERY short time. I had a hard time reconciling them moving so quickly, especially since Liam was willing to give up his nomad lifestyle for a happily ever after. C
New Lease by B.G. Thomas This story intrigued me at first, and then went downhill, unfortunately. Wade and Kent are both dealing with the loss of their partners, but Kent is handling it better than Wade. I felt as if Wade was victim to an abusive relationship, and didn’t like that he was constantly thinking about killing himself. I had a hard time relating to either hero and their decisions. D
All in all this anthology was what I expected. There were some great stories, and some not-so-great ones. I personally am glad I read it though, because it gave me the chance to find some new to me authors that I am excited to check out!(less)
I love reading anthologies. I’m a big fan of finding new-to-me authors who I may have never read before, and while I’ve enjoyed stories by Black, Day and Walker before, I’m also a sucker for a hot guy with handcuffs. So when this book showed up on my doorstep, I snatched it up and tucked it away for a rainy day.
Arresting Desire Jon was an undercover FBI agent for a mob family, and now that he is done with the case, he will do anything and everything to prove his brother’s innocence in a judge killing case. The only thing he wasn’t prepared for was having to take Lucia with him on the case. He’s long desired Lucia, but was always afraid to act on those desires. With his undercover work being done and over, he is now ready for more.
I have to say, I think this was my least favorite of all the stories. While I like Black’s writing and the story was engaging, there was also a little something missing with the romance. While I believed in the lust and desire between Jon and Lucia, the BDSM aspects of the relationship were pretty tame, and then at the end Jon wanted to collar Lucia, which seemed to be a little extreme for the relationship to date. While I could see them as a couple who might experiment more with the harder BDSM aspects down the line in their relationship, I had a hard time buying the collaring with the lack of intensity in the relationship shown on the book pages.
I did really like the mystery-case aspect of this short story though. I liked watching Lucia’s mind work through the clues her father left her, and get to see her and Jon find out the truth about so many different loose threads in their lives. I give Arresting Desire a C+
On Fire This was my absolute favorite story in the anthology, Day is such a talented writer. Jared is called into a small town to look into a series of arsons that seem to be taking on the characteristic of a serial arsonist case. When Jared meets Darcy, local fire inspector, he has two fire problems to deal with: the one in town, and the one in his pants. The two immediately hit it off and the sexual attraction rages strong. They easily fall into a relationship, all why trying to figure out who is starting the town fires, and why they all seem to link back to Darcy.
I wanted to cry when this book was over… not because it was bad, or felt as if I wasted my time. No, I wanted to cry a) because it was over and b) because it wasn’t a full length novel that I could spend hours getting lost in. I loved the relationship between Darcy and Jared. While they started purely sexual, it was obvious that the emotions and feelings came quickly for these two, and I adored that aspect of their relationship as well. They were so wonderful and great together, and I just didn’t want their story to end.
The mystery surrounding the fire and all that drama was also so incredibly well done. Day constantly kept me guessing, and I was never quite too sure who was behind it all. I was floored by the end of the book, and never would have guessed who was behind it all. An exceptional story with a romance that had me wishing – desperately – for more. I give On Fire an A
The Unwilling I really enjoy the FBI Psychics series by Walker, and was pleasantly surprised to find this novella in the anthology. I’m not sure what I was expecting but it was a treat to read about Colby and Mica. Mica is working as a cop and on the case of a murderer she can’t nail down. When her captain tells her to bring in Psychic help, she finds herself turning to Colby, her once love and partner at the FBI. Colby has missed Mica, and although he fears using his psychic powers, will do anything he can to help her. But when the clues point towards a cop, will Mica trust in Colby’s power.
I really liked the main storyline with the murderer and the ongoing case that Walker created for this story. I think she does an incredible job writing believable and thrilling and somewhat creepy romantic suspense stories that pull the reader in. This was no different. I especially enjoyed watching Colby and Mica come to grips with their psychic powers while working together to solve the case.
The romance was a bit frustrating for me, only because I could see how perfect these two were together, and they kept fighting it at every turn. I wanted them to have an easier time to their HEA, and while I got their hesitancies, I also wanted things to go smoothly for them. But, in the end, I was glad things worked out the way they did, and that these two were able to come to common ground, admit their feelings, and move on. I give The Unwilling a B
All in all this was a wonderful anthology, and definitely worth the purchase. The sexy times are hot from start to finish, the mystery aspect of each story was incredibly well done. Fans of romantic suspense will enjoy the steamy bits, and the smutty fans will enjoy the mystery woven in. An all around wonderful anthology. I give Hot in Handcuffs a B+(less)
I will read anything and everything Shannon Stacey writes, so when I saw that she had a novella in the new Carina Press Editors Choice Anthology, I got my hands on it as soon as I possibly could.
Anna lost her high dollar job in the big city after the downturn in the economy. While in the process of discovering what to do next, she goes to her grandparents lakeside house to figure things out. No only did she never expect to see her childhood friend Cam living next door, but she never thought in a million years that she would enjoy the small town vibe and out-of-the-way lifestyle at the lake.
Cam loves his slow paced life on the lake. He can work easy hours, relax and enjoy life. When Anna shows up next door, Cam is immediately attracted to her, but also knows he needs to stay far away from her. Anna is big city, he’s small town. She is organized and a little anal retentive, he is laid back and go-with-the-flow. They are the most unlikely couple, yet when these two come together, they realize just how strongly opposites attract.
Although this was a shorter novella, it felt as if it was longer than average. I loved Anna and Cam together. They were the perfect opposites attract couple. They were so different at times, and yet Cam helped Anna relax, and Anna helped Cam smile more and come out of his somewhat hermit status. They understood each other in ways that neither expected, and although they were vastly different, they were also perfect for eachother.
I loved the relationship between these two. It started off slow, with Cam constantly looking out for Anna, getting annoyed, and then eventually helping her achieve whatever goal she has for herself. They start as friends, progress to lovers, and eventually make the jump to a committed relationship. Their relationship melted me into a puddle of goo and I really did adore these two together.
I also really liked the added conflict of Anna trying to find a job, not knowing where life is going to take her next, and the hesitancies both she and Cam have about it. Getting to peek into Cam’s head while he dealt with falling for her, and knowing she was eventually going to leave, along with Anna’s struggles with falling in love, while trying to find a job, was just done so well. It was hyped up drama, but instead was just enough conflict for the both of them to try and figure out what to do next. Loved it.
All in all I really enjoyed this Stacey novella. Although I wish it was longer – these characters were so easy to fall in love with – I also didn’t feel as if he story was rushed or cut short. The romance was so sweet and sexy and I fell in absolute love with Anna and Cam both. Fans of Stacey won’t be disappointed! I give Slow Summer Kisses an A- (less)
I’ve never read Giordano before, but after reading her short story in the Carina Press anthology, I think I’m going to have to look up more of her work. Although this story flew by and seemed to be the fastest read of the anthology, I adored the story.
Gavin and Janet haven’t worked together long, but the sexual chemistry between these two is off the charts. Gavin doesn’t want to risk his executive position with starting a relationship with a junior team member, but there is something about Janet that calls to him. Janet doesn’t want to be fodder for the office gossip girls, but she thinks Gavin might be worth it.
When they are called to work together to rescue their boss’ wife from kidnappers, they get not only their first chance to work together directly, but also spend long hours together in close quarters. While getting their target home safe and alive is their main priority, the feelings between them boil to a point that they can no longer deny.
This novella read very fast, and I wasn’t sure if it was because it was so jam-packed with start to finish action, or if Giordano just has a way of seamlessly telling a story and making the words fly across the page. Either way, this novella went quick, between the non-stop suspense of trying to reason with the kidnappers, and the ongoing sexual tension between Gavin and Janet.
I liked the mini suspense plot of trying to negotiate with the kidnappers. With Gavin’s past, it was obvious he was willing to do anything and everything to negotiate and get their hostage back safely without worrying about lethal force. Although he butt heads with his tactical co-worker, I liked that Gavin was able to keep his cool and figure out the best way to negotiate. Likewise, Janet was a level headed character as well. She knew her technology and knew how to work it to best suit their needs. She seemed to balance out Gavin well, at the office and emotionally.
The sexual tension was Off.The.Charts. These two danced around each other for most of the novella, even taking some time in the middle of their opp for a little nookie. I look forward to hopefully seeing more of these two in future books, because I felt as if we only got to see a small portion of how explosive these two could be together in a relationship. I thought they fit, and that their romance didn’t seem out of place, even though they were on an important job.
All in all this short story was super sexy and the suspense plot was very well done. I always like to find romantic suspense books that are not about military heroes, and Gavin was a wonderful addition to my keeper shelf. I will definitely be picking up both future and backlist books by this author! I give Negotiating Point a B.(less)
I wasn’t going to read the Banks story initially as the blurb didn’t sound like something that would interest me, but I ended up caving and reading it after the Dane novella. I think it’s time that I finally admit that Banks’ style of erotic romance just isn’t for me. This story was basically one long porno with uncomfortable sex scenes that I didn’t find sexy in the least, and awkward situations that again, didn’t come across as sexy. I found the vast majority of the novella to be eye-rolling ridiculous and more graphic than romantic. The story didn’t have enough plot for me to really enjoy it, and the erotic situations came across as more hard-core pornish than the erotic romance I was expecting.
I give Exiled a F
This was the story I was really looking forward to, and after reading it, can’t wait for the Delicious series to start up! The novella had a LOT more plot to it than the Banks story did, and really set up the series in a way that has me counting down the days until Tart releases.
I loved that Levi struggled with the age gap between himself and Daisy, despite the intense connection. However, Levi failed to live up to the high expectation I set for him when his family’s reaction to Daisy was forced in his face. I wanted to smack him upside the head with the way he treated Daisy, and felt he could have done a little more groveling to make up for the way he treated her.
All in all, their romance was sweet and super sexy(like buy a little fan sexy…)! The supporting cast of characters is going to be a group that I can definitely fall in love with as much as the Brown clan, and I am anxious for Dane to get writing more books in this series! I give Sway an B+
I have to be honest and admit that I don’t know that paying $15 for the Trade Paperback or $10 for the ebook is worth it though, unless you are a fan of Banks’ erotic style. I can only hope that Dane will someday release her novella as a single ebook title. (less)
The overall anthology was a great mix of stories. From the m/m story by Mitchell, to the emotional angst of the Calhoun novella to the fun and sexy, somewhat light-hearted read by Braemel, there is a little something for everyone. However, the stories are also so different that some people may not like one versus another. But for me, I thought it was a wonderful mixture of erotic holiday stories. I give the Red Hot Holiday Anthology an overall B
Wish List by KA Mitchell
I love KA Mitchell. I have a huge girl crush on her, and her stories are always so fun and sexy and fabulous. While Joey and Aaron still have my undying devotion, and are probably my favorite m/m heroes of all time, Evan and Jonah have a great little story to tell as well.
I can admit that one of the things that drives me bonkers in romance books is big misunderstandings. I hate when couples don’t talk things through and just work out whatever it is that is eating at them. Especially when huge drama can be avoided by one little conversation. However, in this case, I can see why Jonah was scared to say something. I just wish that maybe he and Evan would have talked sooner than they actually did…
I was a little surprised by the lack of sexy times in this book. It could be because of the novella length, however I was expecting more from Mitchell. It seemed like the majority of this book was spent on the angst of what if. What if Evan and Jonah broke up, what if Jonah shared his list of sexual explorations he wanted to try, what if Evan revealed some of his sexual dominant past, what if Evan proposed and Jonah never got to complete his list. What if, what if, what if. The sexual tension was at an all time high for Mitchell, but it worked within the story. With the uncertainty on both Evan and Jonah’s parts, they danced a bit around each other, not really sure how to move forward with their somewhat bland sex life, or how to spice it up.
I have to admit, I was a little bummed with the way that Jonah handled everything. Again, I can see why he was hesitant to come outright and talk to Evan, but he also went a little too far for me. Without giving too much away, Jonah looks for answers to all his kinky questions, and I thought he went about it in a way that felt kinda sleazy. For me, he came dangerously close to crossing a line that would have made his character unredeemable in my eyes.
BUT, I was happy with the way it all tied together and ended. The last scene in the book, where they finally connect both physically and emotionally was so intense and so sexy and just so everything. It really tied together the story and solidified the relationship between Jonah and Evan. It put them on not-so-equal footing, but in a place that was perfect for where they both wanted and needed to be.
All in all I really liked this novella. Mitchell kept me on my toes, and kept me guessing as to whether or not I would be able to stick it out with Jonah. However, I should know by now that she would never let me down, and I’m happy to say I loved the end! As always, reading anything by Mitchell has me panting for more! I give Wish List a B
I Need You for Christmas by Leah Braemel
I’ve read Braemel in the past and was glad to see she had a story in this anthology. She does a great job of writing really sexy and yet somewhat subdued light-BDSM romance. I was pretty intrigued by how serious Megan and Ryan were with their BDSM relationship, and loved the way it played out in their relationship. Especially since Ryan was not very Dom-like in every other aspect of his life, and Megan was a strong and confident cop. It was a great dichotomy to their relationship and I loved it.
The one thing every story in this anthology had was some kind of secret or misunderstanding between the main characters. In this, both Megan and Ryan are ready to move their relationship from long distance to living together. They’ve both decided to surprise the other with a big change, so the fact that they danced around the subject through the story drove me a little bonkers. I thought it was super cute, but at the same time wasn’t impressed with the way it came across as forced drama.
I have to admit, I loved the sexy times in this book. The BDSM aspects were well done, and I never felt like it was forced or that the characters were unsure. The scenes were hot, hot, hot and Megan and Ryan were so perfect for eachother. They had this wonderful opposites attraction, and I really liked the way it added to their relationship. When it came to outside the bedroom, Megan really seemed to take on the more dominant role, whereas in the bedroom she was a submissive through and through. It was a great change of pace from the standard female submissive characters I’m used to reading.
All in all I thought Braemel was a wonderful edition to the anthology. I loved the BDSM aspect of Megan and Ryan’s relationship. It was probably (IMO) the best novella in the anthology in terms of smoking hot sexy times. I am going to have to keep my eyes open for more of Braemel’s books in the future! I give I Need You for Christmas a B(less)
I love the Holiday anthologies from Carina Press, and the contemporary romance one is by far my favorite, year after year!!
First up: The Best Thing by Jaci Burton
I think that this was my favorite novella in the anthology, and not just because we’ve been building up to this story over the course of the series. Burton does such an amazing job telling stories, and Tori and Brody had a lot to go through!
I love that Tori and Brody had to finally face the music of that kiss long ago. I liked that Tori was so cautious and worried that her relationship not just with Brody, but with his family as well, would be ruined if she pursued something further with Brody. I think it really spoke to her good common sense, and made me love her all the more. On the other hand, I adored that Brody was a little clueless about why Tori was acting so differently. And yet once he made the decision to pursue Tori, to make it work with her, he stuck to that decision with a single-minded focus.
I loved their romance. I thought it was so well done on Burton’s part. They eased into things a bit, and didn’t listen to anyone else about their status as a couple. I liked that. I liked that they already had a foundation of friendship to build on, so the quick fall into the sack was something believable and right on schedule. I was literally rooting from them since the first book in the series, and getting to FINALLY see them get their HEA was wonderful and amazing.
All in all I think this is my favorite story in the Burton series, as well as the anthology. I’ve been waiting not-so-patiently for this book, and loved getting the chance to see Brody and Tori finally admit their feelings for one another and take a shot at romance. I hope that Burton will continue either with the series, or create a new series that will keep her in the Contemporary Romance Holiday Anthology, because her stories are some of the best. I give The Best Thing an A
Next: We’ll Be Home for Christmas by HelenKay Dimon
Dimon continues with the third novella in her Holloway series, and the broody and moody brother Spencer. I have to admit that Spencer really was never on my radar before, but now that we got his story… Loved. I loved him so much, and I think that he might be my favorite of all the Holloway heroes.
I wasn’t a big fan of Spencer lying about his name to Lila, especially since he didn’t really seem to want to admit it to anyone. But once he came clean with Lila, and gave her his reasons why, I fell for the guy. I adore the strong and silent type heroes, and Spencer had that down to a T. Not only was he the strong and silent type, but he also came across as somewhat shy, and willing to play hero (as long as no one would find out about it). There were so many qualities to Spencer that I just loved and adored.
I liked that Lila had such a hard time accepting help from Spencer and his family, but that she was immediately accepted into the town as one of their own. The town definitely redeemed itself in my eyes, especially after the horrible way they acted in the last book. I do wish that Lila would have been a little more accepting of everyone’s help, but I could see why she wasn’t. I liked that she was hesitant of starting anything up with Spencer – especially given their first encounter – but once she got to really know him, I’m so glad that she went along for the romance ride.
I thought their romance was great as well. They started on very rocky terms, but as they got to know each other more and more, they really figured out that they were perfectly suited for one another. I loved watching them fall in love, and hope we get to see more from the town of Holloway and these two in the future.
All in all I think this was my second favorite novella in the anthology, and mostly because of how awesome Spencer was. He was such a wonderful hero, and I adored him to the very end. Dimon really did redeem the town in my eyes, and I was glad to have this series go back to a high note for me. I give We’ll Be Home for Christmas a B+
Last: Ask Her at Christmas by Christi Barth
I read Barth’s debut novel with Carina Press earlier this year and absolutely fell in love. When I saw that she would be rounding out this years Holiday anthology, I couldn’t wait to see what she would come up with. Add the friends-to-lovers trope and I was halfway in love after reading the blurb.
I must preface this review with telling you that this novella is cliched and cheesy, and may not be for everyone. I, however, thought it was great. Kyle is completely clueless. Not only to Caitlin’s feelings for him, but to pretty much everything else around him. There were times I wanted to throttle him for being so oblivious. But it did just add to his charm.
And poor Caitlin. So in love with her best friend, and she gets roped into helping him plan his perfect and romantic engagement to someone he doesn’t even claim to love. Talk about pure torture. While I wanted her to smack him upside the head with a clue, I also loved watching her come up with so many different beautiful proposals. I’ve never been to New York City – at Christmas or any other time of the year – but I could SEE how beautiful it was from Barth’s descriptions alone.
All in all once I got past the over-the-top basis of the story, I adored this novella. I am such a sucker for the friends-to-lovers storylines, and Kyle and Caitlin proved just how close they were at every page. When Kyle finally came to his senses and formed the perfect proposal to the perfect girl, I just about melted! I give Ask Her at Christmas a B
Overall I think this anthology is one that contemporary romance readers will want to pick up, especially if Christmas themes are a favorite. I loved that the Holidays played such a crucial role in all three stories, and think that Burton, Dimon and Barth all wrote beautiful stories with wonderful romances. I give the Romancing the Holiday Anthology an overall B+(less)
These two stories are closely related and flow well together nicely. I enjoyed the crossover between the two novellas, but was pretty disappointed with different aspects of each story.
The first story is about Ty and his inability to cope with being back in the civilian world. His last tour of duty put him in a bad place mentally and emotionally, and he hasn’t figured out how to cope yet. When he meets Lauren, he is looking for someone to have some kinky sex with and forget the next day. What he doesn’t expect is for Lauren to intrigue him enough to deal with his problems.
I like the idea of Ty being the tortured hero, and although he was a huge asshole at times, I still kinda adored him. He was a good guy lost in a bad boy frame of mind. He knew that falling for Lauren would bring him back into the land of the living, and he resisted at all costs. Likewise, Lauren knew that Ty was a gentle and caring guy deep down, and despite his ability to crush her, she knew he would be worth the fight. I admired her tenacity, until get willingness to go back time after time had me scratching my head in wonder.
The angst in this novella was off the charts. Poor Ty didn’t know if he was coming or going, and the level of crap he drug Lauren through was astounding. While I’m not a big fan of the way Calhoun had these two come to a head, I could understand why they put themselves into the situation. For as much as I was not a fan of that scene, I was glad it played out the way it did. My only big beef with this novella was that Ty really screwed up big time with Lauren, and he didn’t have to grovel enough to win her back. After what she went through, I thought he needed to do something bigger and better to win her back.
The second story is a second chance love story, and while I usually love that trope, this novella didn’t work for me at all. Sean is on leave and trying to decide what he wants to do next. He is determined to win back the love of Abby, the one who got away, while thinking about his future. However, Abby had her heart broken by Sean once, and isn’t looking for a repeat performance.
I like Sean. He knew what he wants, where he went wrong in life, and is determined to do anything and everything in his power to win back the woman he loves. If not for him, I would have quit reading this story midway through. Abby, on the other hand, annoyed the dickens out of me! I can understand wanting to protect your heart, but I just couldn’t get behind the way she went about it.
One of my biggest problems with the erotic romance genre is that if seems as if most authors feel the need to add a menage into the story in order to bring a couple together. I don’t understand that mentality, especially when the threesome doesn’t seem to jive with the relationship of the couple. Calhoun did this is one of her short stories not too long ago, and again here with Sean and Abby. The entire scene was ridiculous and didn’t feel as if it had any bearing on their core relationship. It felt like it was added in for cheap thrills, and I hated it. For that reason alone I couldn’t stand this story.
All in all the book was sexy as hell, but had quite a few problems that really got on my nerves. Although there were parts of each story that I liked, it seemed as if there were more problems I didn’t like. If I were to grade each of the stories, I would give the first novella a B- and the second a D. Overall, the two seemed to even out to just a so-so anthology. I give Uncommon Pleasure a C-(less)
MinnChica: This novella is by far my all-time favorite of the Psy-Changeling series. It might even be my all time favorite story of the whole series, not just of the novellas. I absolutely love and adore Nate and Tammy, from the first moment we met them, they were so solid and sweet together, so getting the story of their HEA was so amazing. I loved the age theme, especially since Nate so was resistant to mating with Tammy. And watching Tammy struggle with becoming a woman, trying to seduce the love of her life, and dealing with some insecurity was so well done. I can’t even begin to tell you how many times I’ve read this novella, and just how much I love the story of Nate and Tammy’s beginnings. I give Beat of Temptation an A++
E: Nate and Tammy’s story was hinted at in several of the early Psy-Changeling novels before Singh released it originally. As a result I think I have re-read this so many time I practically have it memorized. I loved how Tammy decided that she had waited long enough for Nate and if he wasn’t going to give her what she needed than she wasn’t going to give him what he wanted. Her fierce determination to be treated as an adult and an equal by Nate despite her gentle healer nature was so much fun to see. I also really enjoyed the glimpse of the younger Lucas. I also liked how the entire pack banded together in support of Tammy when Nate was being his most intractable. I also loved that they started their own tradition when they finalized their mating and have continued it yearly. It completely makes my heart melt to see big tough Changelings show their softer sides.
I give Beat of Temptation an A
Has: I read Beat of Temptation a few years ago when it was first published, and it was a delight to reread the story because I remembered how much I enjoyed it the first time around. I loved how they got together and their issues over the age gap and experience, which really heightened the tension with their romance. It was also fantastic to see how the roots of the series first emerged, and seeing how it developed especially with the other cast of characters. This was gorgeous, and tender romance and it still remains one of my favourite novellas set in this world.
I give Beat of Temptation an A
Lou: I adore this short story, and I would love to read a full novel featuring Tammy and Nate. Nate and Tammy are the glue that holds their pack together. Tammy with her loving and sweet nature, and Nate with his maturity. Seeing Nate court Tammy was sweet and frustrating at the same time. Nate, you took long enough to get your Tammy .
I give Beat of Temptation a B+.
Stroke of Enticement (3.5)
MinnChica: I thought this romance between Zach and Annie was so sweet. I loved Annie’s quiet personality, and how she didn’t let her disability rule her life. She was patient and loving with her students, and when Zach first approaches her, she doesn’t hesitate to jump into a relationship, despite her lack of knowledge about the shifter lifestyle. While I think this was a very sweet story, I also didn’t think there was anything super special about it. I give Stroke of Enticement a B+
E: When I am in a quiet mood but want some intense romance I turn to this story because it is so sweet and wild at the same time. Annie had such an internal strength caused by her accident and by dealing with her disability that I just loved her. I could see why she was such a good instructor for Changeling students because she understood the struggle between what the inner self wanted and what the outer self was restricted due to circumstances to allowing. I also really liked that she wasn’t physically afraid of Zach, just emotionally cautious. Zach was great too. The way he charmed Annie’s mother and also his refusal to let Annie throw away their relationship based on her fears was really wonderful. I give Stroke of Enticement an A-
Has: I really enjoyed Stroke of Enticement, which was great because usually I am not a fan of human and changeling pairings in this series. But this was a cute and sweet story and I found Zach totally adorable! I loved the scenes where he was slowly winning her over despite her issues with her mother and her disability due to an accident as a child. The romance between them was also very sexy and did I mention Zach was adorable? And while I am also not a fan of a short stories, this was one of those novellas which ends beyond perfectly. I was also happy we got a little glimpse of them in the future in the latter novellas in this collection and really tied the knot on a perfect love story.
I give Stroke of Enticement an A
Lou: This has to be my second favourite short in the anthology. Zack and Annie’s romance was super sweet and very sexy at the same time. Annie was such a strong character, and she knew how to deal with the changeling pups. Whilst I’m not a huge fan of instant love and attraction, I bought the intensity that Zack had for Annie and loved how he courted her and went about showing her that she was worth it.
Declaration of Courtship (9.5)
MinnChica: Although Singh has hinted at it before, it’s rare to see her write a novella or story about an extremely alpha and submissive couple. I was so excited to see how she would handle Grace and Cooper’s relationship, given the difference in their power rank. I loved this novella. I loved how patient and caring and sweet Cooper was with Grace. He was so amazing with her both emotionally and physically, and I loved everything about him. It was also really nice to step outside of the main SnowDancer den, and into one of the smaller remote dens. Of the four stories in this anthology, I think Grace and Cooper are my second favorite. I give Declaration of Courtship an A-
E: I absolutely LOVED this novella! It had me with Cooper’s first words to Grace and continued to keep me captivated through all of their interactions. The way Cooper courted Grace as she refused to just go along with him. The way Grace addressed her fears about being so submissive to Cooper. The way she demanded that he not take her for granted after they were completely intimate for the first time. How she didn’t let Cooper get away with not sleeping and denying his fears about her safety. I just WOW the way Singh handled their disparate power levels and how she still kept the intensity of their relationship high. I think this overtook Nate and Tammy’s story as my favorite in this collection. I give Declaration of Courtship an A+
Has: Ohh I am so with you guys on this story. I think this was my favourite of them all! I absolutely adored the build-up between Cooper and Grace and the dynamics they shared as a dominant and submissive wolf. Their romance was filled intricate nuance and I was enchanted on how Grace worked out her issues by being a submissive and Cooper giving her the space and time to adjust to his dominance. I really felt this added another layer of sexual tension because the way it developed was sexually charged and I was so caught up with them to finally committing with each other. Declaration of Courship is an entrancing and wonderful short story and filled with high emotions and romance. I was left very satisfied with this story although I wouldn’t have minded more!
I give Declaration of Courtship an A+
Lou: How freaking SMEXY was this short story. This is by far my favourite story in the anthology. Cooper was very intense and dominant but he acted so carefully around Grace whose wolf was a submissive. What I thought Nalini did great was showing the submissive side of the wolf, but never showing Grace to be weak but strong and assertive. Cooper did give Grace some distance, but the sexual tension between them was smoking. I thought this short story was one of the steamier reads from Nalini, and it matched the intensity of Cooper. Loved LOVED this story.
Texture of Intimacy (10.5)
MinnChica: This novella goes more into depth with Lara and Walker’s mating. While we got to see a lot of this pair during Kiss of Snow, this novella is almost like an extension of that, and we get to see into the every day lives of these two. I have a soft spot for Walker, and his love and devotion to the young, both Psy and Changeling alike. While I adore Lara, I never really seemed to connect with her on the same level as Tammy, or some of the other heroines. I’m not sure why, but this couple just doesn’t resonate with me as much as some of the previous couples in the series. I give Texture of Intimacy a B-
E: I was really glad to get a glimpse in Lara and Walker’s relationship. I watched it grow in the small scenes Singh included in the novels and enjoyed the definite beginning in Kiss of Snow but this was special. I have been curious about Walker since he was first introduced and while this story answered some of my questions there is still a lot to Walker that we don’t have yet. I enjoyed seeing Lara and Walker get to know each other within their relationship and have to deal with the friction of their completely opposite methods of handling stressful events. I also enjoyed how each of them tried to send the message that they cared or that they were sorry through their behavior before attempting words. To me that made every moment worth so much more. I give Texture of Intimacy an A.
Has: I think for me, Texture of Intimacy was the weakest story for me in the collection although I loved Lara and Walker especially when they got together during the events in Kiss of Snow. But I felt something was missing with this story because while it covered the ‘missing aspects’ of their courtship in Kiss of Snow, I felt this story was kind of disjointed and it felt too brief for me because and it didn’t really cover anything new. However I did enjoy the story because it was cute and it did broadened the tapestry of events in the series but I was left kind of disappointed there wasn’t much depth.
I give Texture of Intimacy a B
Lou: I enjoyed reading about Walker and Lara in Kiss of Snow, but I have to admit this was my least favourite story in the anthology. I felt that this story didn’t develop anywhere. I’m in agreement with MinnChica that I don’t connect well to Lara compared to the other heroines in the series and I feel the same about Walker. There’s an intensity missing between them for me.
MinnChica: Overall, this is a fabulous anthology for the Psy-Changeling fan. Getting to see Nate and Tammy as well as Zach and Annie all over again was nice. Add in the two brand new novellas, with Cooper and Grace’s sweet and sexy old fashioned courtship to Lara and Walker’s day to day lives as a mated couple, this anthology has it all. Plus, I’m so glad I can consolidate my bookshelf with only ONE anthology.
E: I have decided I am a huge fan of author collections. I get my novellas consolidated in one book so instead of flipping between books when I need a short story fix I can go to one spot. The other thing I really love about this is that Singh didn’t just include her previously published novellas but she added two new stories that really fleshed out life amongst the changelings. I absolutely loved this collection and I recommend it to other fans of Singh’s Psy-Changeling series even if you already own Tammy and Nate or Annie and Zach because the two new stories are so worth it!
Has: While I am not a fan of short stories or novellas, overall for me Wild Invitation was a fantastic collection which added and developed aspects from the Psy and Changeling series. Actually it was well worth getting the Grace and Cooper’s story because it was that good! Wild Invitation is definitely worth the read for me and I was left very satisfied overall.
Lou: I’m not a big fan of anthologies, but Wild Invitation is most likely one of my favourites. Again, I would have loved to have seen Cooper and Grace have a full story because the dynamics between them were terrific.