Need Me by Tessa Bailey Romance Contemporary RATING: C
The second story in Bailey’s Broke and Beautiful series centers around a student, her professor, aNeed Me by Tessa Bailey Romance Contemporary RATING: C
The second story in Bailey’s Broke and Beautiful series centers around a student, her professor, and the forbidden love affair. Similar to book one, the storyline is engaging with a solid set up, strong characters, and bits of humor and heartbreak. While somewhat engaging, I didn’t connect with this couple so well. I found Honey to be selfish in her objective to seduce Ben. Not until the end does the fact he could be fired for her actions even enter her mind. Ben wasn’t exactly a prince either. His childhood soured him on relationships; especially ones that had the potential to destroy everything he has worked for. He lays a lot of his baggage at Honey’s feet. I also found his demeanor unsettling as he blew extremely hot and cold with Honey and says things that didn’t seem to jive with his persona. A melodramatic conflict pushes the couple towards their HEA, making me feel a little manipulated. Regardless, I look forward to book three because hints of Russell’s story look to be very interesting.
When Tucker Cassidy’s crazy girlfriend of two months pushes to move in with him, his resounding no ends with him on the ground, trying to recover from a knee to the groin. Lucky for him, the good doctor is in.
Dr. Aubry Ross only wanted to get some more wine for her parent’s party but duty calls when she sees a man writhing on the ground, clutching his groin. After a quick check, she pronounces him good to go.
Tucker ends up in her emergency room two more times, causing Aubry to wonder if he’s injuring himself just to see her. Not on the market for a relationship, her residency takes up all her time. But she can’t help but gravitate to the smart and oh so sexy pitcher whose sinful eyes promise good times to be had.
As their relationship heats up, so do their choices. When Aubry’s father threatens Tucker’s career, will Tucker choose baseball or Aubry?
Number ten in Burton’s sports oriented contemporary romance series, Play By Play, takes us back to the Cassidy family and the only baseball player in the family-Tucker Cassidy. A smoothly written lightweight story that tells of a romance that develops between a sweet couple amidst crazy work schedules, interfering relatives, and a sexual connection that confounds and satisfies them both.
Tucker Cassidy is a nice man. A confident, sexy, phenomenal pitcher for the St. Louis Rivers, he is pretty much at the top of his game and life. He doesn’t expect or demand genuflection for his skill or fame. Not looking for “the one” especially after an embarrassing episode with his ex girlfriend, he is shocked by his reaction to the gorgeous Dr who swoops him to check him out after he is kneed in the groin.
“I’ll show you mine if you show me yours.”
“I see you’re starting to feel better. That’s a very good sign. But no, I’m not showing you mine. I am going to look at yours, though. And in your weakened condition, I’m pretty sure I can get into your pants.”
“Okay. Fine. You’re really a doctor?”
“I really am. So drop ‘em and let’s take a look at the goods.”
He reached for the zipper of his pants. “If I had a dollar for every time a woman said that to me …”
Dr. Aubry Ross is an emergency room resident and daughter of the St. Louis River’s owner. Content with her life as it is, she isn’t looking for any relationships as she chooses to focus on her career. Intelligent, witty, and very dedicated, she doesn’t want to date period but she can’t help the attraction she feels towards Tucker and after much debate, sort of agrees to a date. Of course, being a man, he makes some mistakes.
He turned around and walked through the doors before she had a chance to tell him no. Damn that man. He was infuriating. To think he’d assume she’d go out to dinner with him—do anything with him, was outrageous. When he came back, she’d tell him.
All Wound Up is a decent though more laid back romance than the other installments. There are no dark secrets to unravel or emotional hurdles to jump over. A bit of a chase and capture approach brings Tucker and Aubry together and plenty of humor and sex keep them together. I loved Tucker’s ideas for their first date. Bowling and a visit to a psychic were unusual but it showed that Tucker wasn’t just interested in sex. He wanted to do something that would not only capture Aubry’s attention but hopefully hold it. They have some great chemistry and dialogue with lends to some laugh out loud moments.
“Always thinking with your stomach.” “Either my stomach or my cock. Mostly my cock.”
There are some smaller subplots that circle around, giving us insight into where Tucker and Aubry stand emotionally and professionally.. Both are dedicated to their careers and families and neither ask the other to give anything up. There is much respect on both sides. I did enjoy seeing more of the Cassidys, especially the brothers. They are a close family and their camaraderie and hilarious banter shows this. Burton uses these scenes into the Cassidy family dynamics to further expand on their individual storylines and prepare us for the next brother to fall off the market.
As I stated earlier, this is very lightweight story. Formulaic in that there is no real problems for them to overcome. A little bit of conflict and angst regarding their relationship and outside influences but everything is resolved rather quickly and without much fanfair. Sexually speaking the story is hot and spicy as Burton is wrought to do though I did feel it became repetitive after a while. I would have loved more personal talk between them in the bedroom as they became closer-something that took them out of their comfort zones.
All Wound Up is a quick and easy romance that doesn’t inspire much emotional investment from the reader but does offer a nice respite from the heat of the summer with some steamy sex, witty dialogue, and an uncomplicated romance. ...more
Feehan’s Sisters of the Heart series is a spin off her Drake Sisters series. We are introduced to five “sisters” who have settled in Sea Haven; each burdened with a past that has them in need of healing. Earth Bound is the fourth in the series and focuses on the youngest “sister”-Lexi. Though each previous installment in this series has in some way played off and expanded on the events that happened in the last Drake book-Hidden Currents-this one doesn’t as much. The focus here is solely on the hero and heroine and expands on an ongoing arc concerning the Prakenskii brothers. You do not need to read the Drake Sisters series in order to understand this series as each storyline is self-contained with a resolvable conflict but the characters and arc do overlap.
Earth Bound is an action based storyline filled with intrigue, magic, romance and a healthy dose of humor that blends well with the dark aspects of the story. An even steady flow and engaging characters takes me back to why I originally started reading Feehan. Feehan does a fabulous job of introducing us the protagonists and integrating their backstories into the main plot in order to give us a well rounded informative base on which to begin our adventure. Multiple storylines run simultaneously, weaving in and out but never overwhelming the reader.
I have always had love/hate relationship with Feehan’s works. Either her couples are perfect matches or the heroes are so alpha they completely overshadow the heroine and I find myself wanting to slap them silly. Luckily, Earth Bound is of the former. While there is no denying Gavrill is the quintessential over protective alpha, Lexi is more than able to hold her own with him. She has been alone for a long time and her strength, intelligence, gift and quiet stubbornness invokes respect from him and he instinctively understands when to push forward and when to pull back.
While Gavrill and Lexi aren’t similar or complementary in references to their gifts, they are well matched personality wise. They click in both a physical and emotional sense. Lexi is an earth elemental, able to command the earth and plants to her will. Gavrill, like his brothers, was taken as a child and made into an assassin though he is not one to follow anyone blindly. His ability is blending into the shadows-a blade that strikes with no mercy. He has a strong moral base and consequence though he will take out ANYONE (including friends and family) should they come between him and what he wants.
“What the hell are you doing” Levi demanded. “Gavrill, there is no way you’d fall asleep in the middle of this group. Don’t play her. She’s off limits.”
“Go to hell, Levi.” He didn’t lift his lashes or look at this brother. His voice said it all.
They are the flip sides of a coin. Gavrill is a trained killer while Lexi is a pacifist. The chemistry between them is instantly noticeable, becoming more substantial as they get to know each other better. Lexi’s innate need to nurture and heal grounds Gavrill more volatile nature and allows her to envelope him in her protective embrace. Due to their violent childhoods, the romance is slow to develop. The love scenes are emotionally intense and add plenty of spice to the story. Feehan doesn’t rush into their lovemaking, which makes it all the more tantalizing and sensual when they decide to go that final step.
“He was… extraordinary. She hadn’t know how extraordinary until this moment.”
There are multiple plotlines weave and wind their way through out the main story. I liked that Feehan seems to have put a more human stamp on this installment, addressing mundane issues that only an outsider (Gavrill) would see. Watching Gavrill acquaint himself with his brothers, especially the baby- Ilya- is heartwarming. Feehan does a fabulous job of showing us the duality of Gavrill’s personality. He is so alpha and scary to others yet quite the closet romantic with Lexi.
“The earth moved for me the moment I laid eyes on you.”
Things are still up in the air with Ellie Drake and I can’t WAIT to see what happens when she and Jackson return to Sea Haven. Gavrill has thrown down the gauntlet on that situations and it will be interesting to see his and Jackson’s first meeting. Once again Feehan allows us to see the sisters drop their masks of pacifism and the danger these five can wrought when they and their loved ones are threatened and clues are dropped to whose story will come next. Lissa is definitely a conundrum and I have a feeling her hero will have to work extra hard for her. Past faces from both series are seen and I like the effortless flow that exists here. Fans of this series will not be disappointed by Earth Bound and I for one am ready for book five-title and release date to be announced.
Kristan Higgins’ romance contemporaries have always been an enjoyable escapism for me. I love the balance of humor and heartbreak she imparts as she bKristan Higgins’ romance contemporaries have always been an enjoyable escapism for me. I love the balance of humor and heartbreak she imparts as she builds an opposite attracts romance among the eccentric innate craziness of her small towns and their residents. If You Only Knew takes a departure from Higgins’s usual endeavors as the romance is more of an element that enhances the storyline than being a major aspect of the storyline.
Higgins’s focus is on a pair of sisters; detailing the highs and lows of their lives, their relationship, and addressing the lengths they will go to achieve the perfect life. Infidelity, both physically and emotionally, is the base on which this story is built on. While I’m not a huge fan of the cheating storyline, Higgins’s makes some interesting choices in the ways she showcases the various ways people can cheat on the ones they love and the means people take to protect themselves in these situations. Strong secondary characters contribute to their story, adding small but necessary pieces to the story until the picture fully evolves and we see how much the past can shape the future.
Jenny had everything she wanted until her husband announced one day he no longer wanted to be married to her. He divorces her only to remarry the perfect woman and have the perfect child he refused to have with Jenny. Jenny maintains a friendship with the happy couple to the point of going to their home for dinners and doting on their little girl. She eventually realizes this behavior is unhealthy and moves home to be closer to her sister and rediscover herself.
Rachel is a married stay at home mother with a set of adorable little triplets and a handsome charming husband she loves very much. When she discovers her husband has been cheating on her, she goes through a myriad of reactions only to settle on forgiveness and trying to make her marriage work. As time goes on, she discovers that while forgiveness is easy, it’s forgetting that’s harder. Suspicion, anger, and hurt all swirl together as Rachel tries to decide just how far she’s willing to go to keep her perfect life.
As Jenny and Rachel each take their journey to self discovery, they both learn that the key to happiness often starts within oneself.
The story is told in the present from Jenny’s and Rachel’s alternating points of view. While Rachel’s story is certainly sad, the infidelity shown here is a predictable and often told story. Adam has the perfect wife and life but looks outside of it as their marriage has settled into complacency. Rachel acknowledges some blame for their problems-their lack of communication being one of them- but refuses to allow her husband to use them to excuse his cheating. We watch her question everything from her looks to her ability to be a single mom at the age of forty. Her fears are real and provide an interesting look at marriage and the perceived roles we place ourselves in. There is a small romantic interest introduced but it’s a remarkably lightweight plot device used to push Rachel in the direction Higgins’s wants her to go.
Jenny’s story was far more interesting and definitely the stronger of the two story lines. While her husband didn’t physically cheat, he did emotionally cheat and continues to do so long after the divorce and remarriage. He clings to Jenny, using her friendship to assuage his guilt over his re marriage and child. She allows this; martyring herself to his needs without acknowledging why they continue to play this game. Even after she moves away, she continues to take his calls and drive into the city to spend time with him and his new family.
Jenny’s small romance comes in the form of her reclusive landlord, Leo. It’s here we see the true extent of Jenny’s martyr complex. Jenny is a fixer. Jenny believes her life will only be complete once she meets her prince and gets her happily ever after. Unfortunately this prince has some hefty demons and is unreceptive to a relationship which he proclaims loudly and often. It was hard to get a fix on him because we only see him through Jenny’s eyes. The mixed signals he throws out and Jenny’s excuses for his rude behavior shows she is too wrapped up in the dream to see the reality of the situation.
The ending is rather abrupt and leaves much open to interpretation as Jenny and Rachel both come to terms with the path their lives are taking. Some dragging in the storyline and Jenny’s complacency in some areas left me wanting to skip forward at times. I also felt Higgins’s should have made Jenny coming clean on one secret to her mother and sibling a priority rather than keep it to herself.
Regardless, I think Higgins branching into women’s fiction has potential though the off the cuff humor and eccentricity that makes her previous works so much fun was missing. While humor does not a story make but it certainly helps pave the way.
Favorite Quote: “What can I say? With you I’ve always been easy.” “With me, you’ve always been adored.”
London Legends rugby star Ash Trenton isn’t sure what he is going to do once he retires but coaching at a camp for troubled teens wasn’t on his to-do list. Not until an old lover shows up out of the blue asking for his help. Though it’s been eighteen years, he finds he can’t refuse the first and only woman he has ever loved.
Camila Morale was sixteen when she and Ash spent a summer exploring their love for one another but he had to leave to start his rugby career and she never heard from him again. She was left with a shattered heart and a very difficult decision to make. She never planned on seeing him again but she needs his help to save her camp from financial ruin and the only way to do that is for him to coach her team to victory.
Coaching kids who don’t want or care about the sport is hard enough but trying to ignore the attraction and chemistry that burns between Ash and Camilla is even harder. When Camilla begins to fall for Ash all over again, she fears that once his time at the camp is over, he will once again choose his career over her.
Taming the Legend is heartwarming contemporary with just the right balance of humor, emotional heart pinches, and some steamy romance. Well plotted with engaging dialogue and personable characters, the story sweeps you up with no hesitation. Second chances love with miscommunication as the villain is a tricky trope combination. To often the miscommunication ends up being something that could have been cleared up with one conversation. Luckily, Latham isn’t one to drag out conflict nor employ manufactured drama in order to capitalize on the angst that often goes hand in hand with this trope. Her characters are quick to communicate and resolve past problems in order to move forward.
Delightfully humorous and flawed characters open up their hearts and feelings to the reader. It’s always enlightening to see a story play out from two different sides and Latham gives us that through Ash and Camilla’s POVs. Written in an enjoyable conversational style, the laugh out loud dialogue blends well with some serious scenes that will keep you entertained and engaged all the way to the end. Latham takes her time in giving us insight into this couple’s past relationship and the reasons they separated. Youth, circumstances beyond their control, and some external forces came between them at a time when communication was much needed. Feelings were hurt on both ends and only when they meet again does the truth reveal itself.
A camp for troubled teenagers is the perfect gateway to reintroduce Ash and Camilla to one another. A lot has changed over the years but the chemistry still blazes strong. Camilla hasn’t had an easy time of it; from childhood to now, she has had to fight small town gossip and a very low self-esteem. Ash’s “betrayal” was the final nail in her coffin and Camilla went off the deep end. This camp saved her life in more ways than one which is why she swallowed her pride and seeks him out to beg for his assistance.
Ash never forgot about Camilla but in his defense, they were young, it was only for the summer, and he was already committed to rugby-something he never hid from her. He’s a sweet, funny, intense man who, when he learns what happened to Camilla all those years ago, genuinely grieves for her, him, and their past. I appreciated that he dealt with one of the external forces that kept him from her in a realistic and timely manner.
While the actual commitment was slow to build, this second chance journey is refreshingly honest and fun; not overburdened with emotional tripe and drawn out anger. The sparks between them are bright and hot; enhanced by Ash’s dirty little innuendos. Camilla feels the connection between them but the past weighs heavily on her mind while Ash wants more but knows his time with her is brief and doesn’t want to cause her any more pain than he already has.
Taming The Legend is another enjoyable read by Kat Latham and a wonderful addition to the series. Fans of sport themed contemporary romances will enjoy the heartwarming coming home feel of Latham’s newest couple.
Favorite Quote: I’d never exactly wanted a reputation-I’d spent most of my life trying to fade into the background of almost every situation I as in-but apparently, despite my best efforts, secured one for myself. Fortitude Scott-Holy Shit, We’re Glad You’re Not Your Sister.
Humor and horror go hand in hand as our favorite slacker, vegan, socially conscious, almost vampire is back and once again challenging the status quo in between keeping his girlfriend from stealing his car and stopping his psychotic sister from engaging in a murderous free for all. Add in his impending transition and a group of supernaturals who are all looking to him for help as his mother’s health begins to fail and Fort will find that sometimes letting go of the past can bring the future into much sharper focus.
I am a huge fan of Brennan’s noir comedic Generation V series; mostly due to the protagonist-Fortitude Scott. From our introduction to Fort in book one, Generation V, Brennan has allowed her baby vamp to grow at a realistic and comfortable rate as he attempts to maintain his humanity in the face of his transition to full fledged vampire. The youngest of three, Fort is the most modern of his siblings. Socially conscientious, Fort makes a stand anyway he can from his eating habits to his stubbornness in joining the family business. Having learned the hard way that his transition is going forward regardless of what he wants, Fort has made some changes in the way he handles things. Though his innocence is being slowly taken from him; his sincerity and desire to help people is still a driving need in him.
“We live in America, and it’s time for a motherfucking democracy.”
Dark Ascension is a turning point for not only the series but for Fort himself. The Scott family still remains a strong central focus but instead of the usual action fueled main conflict that normally absorbs a large part of the storyline, there are a multitude of smaller more subdued subplots that all serve as foreshadow for the major changes occurring to Fort and his family. Brennan uses this book to address the political aspects of story and transition us into the new arc. Fort has inadvertently become the “go to guy” for those in the Scott territory in need of help. Madeline has let some things slide and the consequences are just becoming known. Fort not only surprises his siblings with his insistence in fixing these issues to benefit everyone, but also those whom have become his allies and friends.
The Scott household is in disarray as Madeline Scott has taken a turn for the worse, prempting the need for some serious changes. The first being to name her successor. Only Madeline refuses to do so and asks instead that all three of the Scott siblings rule together.
“Only with this is there a chance you will all stay together, to gain strength through each other, to advise and guide.”
Chivalry, Prudence, and Fort make a valiant effort to try to work together addressing the various issues that have come to a head concerning events in their territory, but the extreme age and personality differences only do more to highlight the schism that exists between them all. Humor reigns supreme as they discuss the territory and the various requests that are being made-especially concerning a group of succubuses who have moved illegally in the Scott territory for protection. Fort is determined to drag his family into the 21st century while Prudence considers murder an acceptable answer to any problem and Chivalry is still basking in the honeymoon glow of his recent marriage. Their love for one another is evident…it’s just buried under many, many layers of sarcasm, disgust, and disinterest.
“Are we going to be able to take bathroom breaks?”
His relationship with his kitsune girlfriend, Suzume, also weathers some changes when Fort challenges the parameters set and makes some demands of his own. When she does something causes him to question their relationship, he’s quick to confront her and we see the true depth of their feelings for one another. No longer content to be led around by the nose anymore, he wants a commitment from Suzume that goes beyond her “bodyguard” services. This attitude is a far cry from when we first met him. Suzume rises to the challenge and confirms her feelings for Fort, expressing her concern for the chances he’s taking and the path he’s currently going down. She has lived in this world for far longer and knows if Fort doesn’t toughen up and accept who and what he is, he’s only going to get himself hurt.
“I don’t want you to change, Fort, I’m not trying to nag you into not caring…I just don’t want you to end up like a marshmallow Peep in the microwave of the world.”
Per usual, the ending comes at us fast in a shocking domino effect as all the subplots come together to force the Scott family into a position that could bode ill for Fort and his allies in the future. I like the direction Brennan has taken; once again refusing to bend to the norms of this particular genre. My only qualms were I would have enjoyed more time spent on Fort’s transition as it is an important aspect of the series and there was a fair bit of repetition in this installment that was absent from the others. Regardless, Generation V continues to entertain and this reviewer is more than anxious to see where Fort will go from here.
Urban Fantasy author Yasmine Galenorn is back with a new series, Fly by Night. Galenorn first introduced this world in the novella-Flight From Hell #15.5 in the Otherworld/Sisters of the Moon series. Though it’s linked, it isn’t required for you to read the Otherworld series in order to understand this one. The main protagonist Shimmer, is an orphaned blue dragon who was exiled Earthside for five years for a crime against another dragon family. Her liege set her up to work for an old friend of his, vampire Alex Radcliffe, and his magical investigative agency, Fly by Night. Shimmer has only been Earthside for a couple of months and is slowly finding her footing in this strange new world. When a new case sends Shimmer and the gang to Port Townsend, Washington to help route some ghosts out of a bed and breakfast they realize quickly that this is not a simple haunting. Curses, murder, and a creature who won’t give up his prey easily has Shimmer wondering if any of them will make it out alive.
Flight by Death is a set up book both in terms of world and character dynamics. Heavily character driven, there is a significant amount of characters whom Galenorn introduces us to and gives very light back stories about. Each character has a purpose and the clues Galenorn drops assures us that there is much more to come in terms of their development. The world building is solid though not convoluted. As with most urban fantasy, the world is built using modern constricts and simply expanded to include the magical and fantastical, allowing even the most casual reader to follow along effortlessly.
Humor and horror walk hand in hand as two separate but equally important storylines intertwine and reveal together-the mystery of Shimmer’s heritage and crime and the mystery behind the haunting of the bed and breakfast. Both are interesting and blend well together without taking each other over. Well plotted with a hint of suspense, horror, and plenty of action, Galenorn allows the reader to follow along with her characters as they discover who/what is haunting the bed and breakfast and why. Strong investigative procedural actions infiltrates this storyline, giving a realistic vibe to this fantasy. I liked that there was a healthy amount of trial and error to be seen with no one whipping out a magical wand or super power to save the day. Ingenuity and common sense rule. Unusual supes are introduced as Galenorn adds to the already haunted history of Port Townsend for an intriguing explanation of the events occurring.
Galenorn doles out small increments of Shimmer’s backstory and the reasons she may have been exiled. As an orphan, she has no parentage and in dragon speak, that makes her a nobody with no rights. Her need to discover her parents’ names (her own name) causes her to break the law and she finds herself jailed, judged, and tossed Earthside. I liked Shimmer. She hasn’t had a very nice life but she handles herself well and tries hard to make the best of her situation. Much like all of Galenorn’s heroines; Shimmer is strong, intelligent, humble, and very curious. A born warrior who must grow into her destiny. A bit of snark and a healthy self esteem (considering her upbringing) gives us a heroine who has room to grow but isn’t mired down in a emotional black hole prohibiting her growth.
A cast of quirky secondary characters help to fill in the story, giving us some light romance and stability though I felt we never really scraped more than the surface of their potential. Alex Radcliffe, Shimmer’s boss and romantic interest comes off open and sincere though I hope his development deepens as we get to know him better. I have a feeling his backstory will be very interesting. I enjoyed meeting everyone and getting some insight into their lives though the focus does remain centered on Shimmer and the external conflict. There was a bit repetitiveness as Galenorn constantly repeats the magical powers and constraints of the characters involved. The mystery wraps up in an action packed finale, resolving everything and leaving nothing to chance, while leaving the door wide open on Shimmer and her story. I look forward to seeing how certain aspects play out in the future.
Flight by Death is a lightweight urban fantasy, great for a new reader looking to dip their toes in to this genre or a long time fan who wants a light humorous fantasy with plenty of action, suspense, and the potential for interesting things to come.
Favorite Quote: Like my mom said, we all got talent.
Siren’s Call is the fourth installment in Ms. Castle’s Rainshadow series. A spin-off of her popular Harmony series, Rainshadow is an island that has become a refuge of sorts to those who don’t fit in with Harmony’s upper class society. People with unusual or dangerous psi talents gravitate to the island, knowing the island tends to protect its inhabitants from outsiders. The island, a hot bed of unexplored alien energy areas, keeps the local talent on their toes. Dry witty humor and a suspenseful mystery go hand in hand to create a well developed storyline that tends to revolve around two “misfits” who band together to investigate the island’s unusual alien infrastructure. Personable characters, intriguing plot lines, and vivid world building makes each installment a fun engaging read. Though each book can be read as a stand alone, this series does interact with her Harmony and Arcane series as the three series follow specific families through time.
Rafe Coppersmith met Ella Morgan in the wrong place, at the wrong time. Ella followed a wayward dust bunny into the catacombs only to find herself caught in the middle of an alien artifact smuggling ring. Rafe appears and saves her life, but in order for his cover not to be blown, she has to leave before the cops show up. He promises to call her on her afterwards but was unable to do so when he is badly psi burned on another job. His family places him on lock down, only letting him leave when they feel he isn’t a danger to himself or others.
The first place he goes is to Ella and wants to hire her for a job. His family is excavating a preserve on the Rainshadow island called Wonderland. Problem is some nasty creatures are trying to eat them. Rafe knows Ella has just the talent they need to defeat these creatures and is willing to do anything to get her help.
Ella Morgan has an unusual and dangerous gift that she keeps hidden in order to not be placed on the FBPI (Federal Bureau of Paranormal Investigations) list. She is a Siren; her gift being she can sing people to sleep and even death if she so chooses. People who get on the FBPI’s list are often made to disappear or placed under lock and key for the protection of society. She chooses to use her gift as a dream counselor where she helps guide people to understanding and utilizing their dreams. Because of her gift, she has convinced herself that she will never have a real relationship much less marry and has made peace with this. Sort of.
When Rafe never called she wasn’t surprised. The Morgan family motto has always been either men will become obsessed with you or run straight into hell to escape a siren. When he suddenly reappears offering her a job, she is hurt and angry but realistic enough to see that having the Coppersmith name as a client will do wonders for her budding business so she accepts his proposal and agrees to go to Rainshadow Island.
Ella and Rafe are fun, intriguing leads. Intelligent, strong, and loyal. The class struggle theme is subtle-Ella have been forced to hide her gifts, twisting and shifting them into a plausible career objective. Growing up knowing she had to be very careful not to give herself away. Ella clings to her independence, has strong emotional walls, and very little trust outside her family. Fired from her last job for a situation not of her doing only reinforces these walls.
There are no fairy tale endings for women like her. When it came to identifying monsters the old saying held true. It takes one to know one.
Rafe Copperfield is at an impasse. A member of a rich and well respected family, his recent burn out leaves him feeling a failure. He’s never had to struggle to be accepted; every door in society has always been held wide open for him. But now the gift he used for the family business is gone and he isn’t sure what it’s being replaced with. Though he screwed up with Ella through no fault of his own, now he needs her more than ever. Not just for his family business but for his own sanity.
“She had greeted him with the same beautiful voice he heard in his dreams, the voice that pulled him out of his worst nightmares.”
The romance is very slow to start though the chemistry is apparent from their first meeting. The sparks and snark fly with abandonment. Ella doesn’t trust easily and she resists all of Rafe’s attempts to make this attraction more than a simple fling. Rafe wasn’t prepared for the strength of his attraction to her and has his own problems that are playing heavily with his life though he knows deep down she is the woman for him. And he’s not afraid to push her into admitting it.
“How dare you accuse me of inventing an excuse not to get married. If I didn’t want to get married, I would just come straight out and say I didn’t want to get married. Have I ever said that? Have I?”
“Well, now that I think about it, maybe not in so many words. However-”
One aspect of all Castle’s writing that is most appealing to me is the strength of her relationships. Though overly protective and pushy at times, her heroes aren’t jerks. Castle matches them expertly with strong women who can more than hold their own in any situation; providing some humorous scenes. The sex is satisfying towards solidifying the attraction and romance though not overly explicit.
The ending is climatic and action packed resolution of the main conflict. Some plot threads are left open as the arc continues to grow and solidify. Castle continues to expand and evolve her world and draws on an engaging cast of characters to make it come further alive for her readers.
Castle’s Siren’s Call definitely called to me in more ways than one. Though it contains a formulaic base and the usual assorted mass of heroes and villains, the romantic escapism it offers will to appeal to new and old fans of this series.
Favorite Quote: “There are monsters in both worlds…and friends of neither.”
Seven years ago, the Veil that separates humanity from what lies bRATING C+
Favorite Quote: “There are monsters in both worlds…and friends of neither.”
Seven years ago, the Veil that separates humanity from what lies beyond was torn apart, and New Orleans was engulfed in a supernatural war. Now, those with paranormal powers have been confined in a walled community that humans call the District. Those who live there call it Devil’s Isle.
Claire Donnelly has a secret. In a world where magic is forbidden and those caught using it are punished by incarceration in a prison called the Devil’s Isle; Claire is known as a sensitive. One in a few who developed magic after the Veil between humanity and the fae opened; spilling war, death, destruction into the world. As store owner in the recovering war torn New Orleans, Claire keeps her head down and hopes no one ever suspects what she is. When she is forced to use her magic to defend a young woman and herself from an attack, Claire is caught by a young man and forced to confide in him or face arrest.
Liam Quinn is a bounty hunter who hunts sensitives and other supernatural beings and takes them to Devil’s Isle. Having lost most of his family during the war and its consequences afterwards, he has good reasons for having issues with sensitives. He knows what Claire is and worst, what she can become if she doesn’t learn to control her powers. He offers to help her find a teacher to train her, though he warns her the minute she becomes dangerous, he will not hesitate to take her in.
When it becomes clear that the Veil is attempting to reopen, Clare and Liam will have to learn to trust one another if they want to keep New Orleans from being destroyed altogether.
Though Chloe Neill is best known for her best-selling PNR Chicagoland Vampire series, I see potential for this newest UF endeavor. Set in modern day New Orleans, Neill starts this series off by building a strong foundation, mixing fact and fiction to create a new world to explore and an engaging character ensemble. Steady pacing engages the reader through the beginning is a little slow moving as Neill gives us the necessary facts needed to understand the past in order to go forward in the story. Bigotry, deception, fear, and betrayal play a large part in helping to amp up the action as it increases and the story picks up speed, racing to the finale. Even with the multiple story lines; you never feel overwhelmed or confusion.
Claire is a likable mixture of vulnerability, loyalty, and bravery. Scared of what she is and could eventually become, she doesn’t hide herself away. Raised by her father, she continues to run their family store after his death during the war. Her love for New Orleans and it’s inhabitants remains steadfast as even she struggles to find her place in a world that doesn’t want her kind. She goes into enemy territory multiple times, knowing if caught it could mean the end of her freedom, to try to save lives and discover the truth about what is happening. She is the perfect affordable UF heroine-one you know will continue to evolve and grow as time goes by.
Liam is one of my favorite types of heroes. Gorgeous and built, this alpha/beta mix has a sweet and considerate nature that mixes well with the reluctant heroic vibe that generates from him. Some low key angst and internal baggage explains his general weariness towards Claire without making him come off as a jerk. Not one to keep things hidden, he is as honest as he can be with Claire from the start, wanting to gain her trust without promising her all will be fine because he knows he may eventually fail in that promise.
Chemistry wise, Liam and Claire click almost instantaneously. Neill chooses to build a friendship between them with a ‘possibility’ but no assurances as neither is in any position to pursue anything remotely romantic at this time.The storyline and subplots take up the majority, leaving the potential for romance a nice side dish to complement the story.
Heavy characterization is what gives this story the push it needs to keep from becoming run of the mill. A multitude of personable characters add depth, cohesiveness, and some light moments to the story; allowing readers to view what has happened from different viewpoints. I enjoyed meeting the various paranormals; learning that brought them through the Veil and why. Neill makes a heavy point in that there is a gray area to the war and subsequent imprisonment and these people hold the answers. There is a youthful feel to the characters and their actions. For most of them, the war started when they were in their late teens and their dialogue and attitudes in the face of opposition reflects that.
Overall I enjoyed Neill’s newest release overall though I wasn’t blown away by it. There was a curious lack of excitement, anticipation, and tension. Our hero and heroine are perfect…almost too perfect. Liam is nice. Claire is nice. Almost everyone we meet is in essence…nice. There isn’t much antagonism between anyone and any that appears is quickly dealt with. Same with the conflicts. There was never any doubt in my mind that Claire could and would handle anything thrown her way because the story foreshadows that using Claire’s personality and willingness to help and learn. I think I would have enjoyed more if we had seen any of the characters face true adversity with the possibility of losing.
Regardless of my issues, I will read book two as I am curious to learn more about Claire, Liam, and this new brave world....more
Favorite Quote: “We are all strange in our own way.”
Vasily is one of the Bratva’s top enforcers. Changes in circumstances and his own views has Vasily deciding the Bratva needs a complete overhaul to make room for a new path and a new leader In order to do this, he makes a deal with the council. If he brings them a lost artifact that is rumored to be blessed, they will throw his support behind him. Brawn and bullets won’t be enough for this job. He needs technological help and that calls for the Emperor. But he never expected the Emperor to be female…or to be attracted to her.
Naomi Hayes has spent the last eighteen months as a prisoner for the Colombian cartel; forced to use her genius intellect and skills to make them millions in exchange for her family’s safety. When her brother Daniel comes to her rescue, she is once again kidnapped, but this time by a surly Russian who demands her services. He promises to let her go if she helps him locate and secure the artifact he needs; but Naomi isn’t going to go quietly this time.
As Vasily and Naomi travel across Europe, avoiding the hitman sent to kill them, and following the trail to the artifact that leads them to some very interesting places, a relationship forms that soon takes over until only their wants and desires exist. But Vasily has to complete his mission to save the Bratva’s future and his own, even if it means giving up his heart.
Last Kiss picks where Last Breath left off and runs with it like a footballer with the world cup winning goal. In Last Breath, the hero, Daniel Hayes, was on a mission to rescue his sister from the Columbian cartel. He is asked to make a detour, as a personal favor to Nick (Last Hitman), to rescue his girlfriend’s best friend who was kidnapped and sold into prostitution. Daniel is forced to ally with Vasily for help extracting Naomi only to discover Vasily has other plans and spirits Naomi away for his own gain.
As with the other books in this series, you don’t have to have read the previous ones to enjoy the current one. Each installment stays centralized on the characters and conflict at hand with minor bleed over from previous installments. Though this one does not have quite the visible darkness the last installment had, there are still violent undertones and references to sexually illicit and abusive proclivities. Once again Clare and Frederick chose some difficult subject matters and they handle them with respect and dignity to all parties involved.
I enjoyed getting to know Vasily and Naomi. We met them in previous books but this installment is one hundred percent their story. They are both such wonderfully unique and compelling characters. Naomi has Aspergers Syndrome. Highly functioning and very intelligent, but extremely limited in her ability to handle everyday social interactions. She is completely honest in her observations and emotions. Her inability to process non verbal communication or the nuances of everyday conversations is heartbreaking at times.
I function differently than most people. I’m inside my head more than most, and I don’t know how to deal with people. I’ve been called everything from Rain Man to retard. I’m not.
Vasily is the victim of sexual abuse. Deadly, deceitful, and destructive- he is a full fledged sociopath. Sold into the Bravta at an early age, he is forced into a life that slowly chips away at his soul until there is nothing left. Like Naomi, he has trouble with sensory stimulation though his reasons stem from a far darker place.
I do not liked to be touched. I do not like women. Lust in not in my vocabulary.
Alike in many ways, they live their lives to the best of their abilities, forced to linger on the fringes of a society. It’s only when they meet and allow themselves to explore and grow within those boundaries do they truly get to see what they are capable of. They are two unusually shaped pieces of a puzzle that fit together perfectly to make a whole.
The story is told from both POVs, giving us an intimate accounting of how they feel in each situation they encounter without the overlap or recap that sometimes happens in this first person dual narrative. The chemistry and connection between them was instantaneous; literally smacking you in the face with their potency. Clare and Frederick take their time in slowly drawing out their personalities, introducing them to one another and peeling back the many layers to reveal their souls.
Vasily didn’t understand Naomi at first but as time passes he begins to and is soon able to anticipate what she needs to help her adjust to the situations he is putting her into without clipping her wings. He subtly pushes her boundaries, remaining a solid comforting presence at her back. He comes across so cold and unfeeling when in actuality I found his blunt speech quite romantic at times. He offers no useless platitudes or careless words to woo her into bed-he speaks plainly and directly from his heart.
I have lived a life worthy now that I have had the chance to love you.
Naomi’s evolution is quite adventurous and humorous at times. The changes in her emerge slowly as the story unveils. I appreciated the fact that she begins to understand that her boundaries are fluid and rationalizes these changes to herself in order to better accept them.
I’ve shared his germs. His mouth is safe now, in theory, because it’s something I’ve been exposed to. Maybe if I’m covered in Vasily’s germs, I won’t get sick when he touches me, because we’ll have communal germs. We’ll have been thoroughly exposed to each other’s bacteria.
Maybe he needs to kiss me all over.
The smooth writing and dynamic characterization I’ve come to expect from this writing duo doesn’t disappoint as they build an action packed suspense that engages from page one. Heavily character driven, Clare and Frederick do a fabulous job of intertwining the romance with the conflict, using one to feed the other. Well plotted and fast paced, it creates a satisfying arc of development for the main characters and culminates in two very different sort of conflicts – one that threatens the lives of Vasily and Naomi and one that threatens their relationship. If I had one qualm, it was I felt the resolution of one particular plot line was almost comical and didn’t present as I had been expecting.
Last Kiss was a satisfying read and I recommend this series to anyone who loves romance suspense with damaged characters, erotically charged romances, dry, witty humor, and non stop thrills and chills. I look forward to the next installment-Last Hope-set to release September 29, 2015.
Favorite Quote: “Oh soldier, how did we come to such a place?”
Midnight’s Kiss picks up right where Night’s Honor left off. The Nightkind (vampyres) demesne is currently engaged in a battle over the throne, with Julian Regillus, the reigning king, and Justine, a powerful council member, at it’s center. Melisandre (Melly), heir to the Light Fae throne, is kidnapped by Justine in hopes of bringing Julian to heel when he hears his former lover is in trouble.
Julian and Melly had an explosive three month affair over twenty years ago that was destroyed when Julian accused Melly of betrayal. Unwilling to believe her innocence, Julian breaks it off and never speaks to her again unless absolutely necessary. Over the years they have danced around their pain, trying to get over their love for one another and move on with their lives.
Melly is convinced Julian will not be rushing in to save her anytime soon, so she is shocked when he appears in the neighboring cell. Now both he and Melly are prisoners with no hope of rescue in sight. Forced to work together to escape, they find their past intrudes on their present when the passion they thought long dead flares to life. But can Julian forgive Melly’s betrayal? And if so…will Melly forgive his?
I have wanted to learn more about Julian since Serpent’s Kiss. His appearances so far has painted a picture of a ruthless, arrogant, unfeeling man who would do anything to secure his absolute rule over the Nightkind. In here we finally get Julian’s backstory, learning everything there is to know about his life, his turning, his broken affair with Melly, and the true reasons behind his push for the throne. Harrison gives us Julian’s side of the story, which paints a very different picture of the events that surrounded Julian and his past actions.
Suspense, mystery, humor, and dramatic romances makes for a delightful series that continues to engage and intrigue with each new installment.The smooth storyline and personable characters immediately drag you back into Harrison’s supernatural world as though you never left. Heavily character driven, the world building continues to expand and evolve though Harrison tends to set boundaries; evolving certain sub worlds within the ongoing storyline in a series of installments. Right now we are fully submerged in the Nightkind demesne and its ongoing political upheaval.
Midnight’s Kiss embodies a trope I enjoy-second chance love with a bite. Two former lovers who have turned enemies. Pain, sorrow, anger, and distrust are the emotions that brew between Melly and Julian. I love when two seemingly indomitable wills meet and clash. Watching the hero and heroine go from antagonists to lovers is a delicious storyline; made only better when there is a volatile history that precedes it.
“I shouldn’t care so much. I shouldn’t care at all.”
In Night’s Honor, Melly came off as a bit of a diva. An actress and Light Fae princess, you got the feeling she was a pampered, spoiled, self entitled, brat who got what she deserved when Julian left her. Only Melly isn’t any of those things. She is intelligent, down to earth, loyal, strong, and very resourceful. Kidnapped and terrorized, Melly instantly takes stock of her surroundings and begins to plan her escape. She has a great sense of humor and a formidable arsenal filled with snarky goodness. Seeing Julian has actually come to her aid is a shock to her emotional grid. She still loves him but the pain he left her with keeps her from falling into his arms and begging for a reconciliation.
“You are delusional if you think I would ever let you take me again, after the way you treated me. You see this?” With her free hand she waved her fingers in the air down the length of her torso as she shook her head. “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. You’re neeevvver getting this goodness again.”
Julian is centuries old and his attitude reflects that. Born during the Roman Empire, this former battle horned soldier is an uber alpha wrapped in a thin veneer of civility. Sexy, morose, sarcastic, and a wee bit inclined to drama, he rules the demesne with an iron fist, hiding his emotions behind a mask of supposed indifference and boredom. Only two people have been able to see behind his mask-Carling and Melly. Melly was the first woman for whom he was willing to change his life for. Willing to give up his throne and whatever else was needed to keep her in his life. Her betrayal devastated him. Already feeling he wasn’t even close to being good enough for her, discovering proof of that broke something crucial inside of him.
Before her, he hadn’t known that he had been slowly expiring of thirst over the centuries. No matter how many people he tasted or how many lovers he had taken, he’d been dying inside. Dying. Then she had lit everything up inside of him-only to snatch it all away again, leaving him bereft and alone…
The reconciliation blends gently with the on going conflict. Being trapped in a prison isn’t conducive to any smexy times, it does however allow them to spend time together with no outside interference. Their chemistry is as strong as ever and the scenes drip with sweaty bare-chested alpha male posturing and some reluctant internal swooning on the heroine’s side.
She made another sound that was purely sexual, husky and needy, and the warmth of her body nestled against him. The soft curve of her breasts pressed against his bare chest, her hips brushed against his painfully hardening cock. […] The ravenous hunter in him took fierce note. All the signs were there. She would be his for the taking, all his again.
Non stop action speeds the story along as Harrison reveals each new subplot. As each scene unfolds, we watch Melly and Julian face their fears and overcome obstacles while dealing with the external factors that try to stop them. Neither plot nor romance is sacrificed. They balance and complement each other through the entire arc; merging together towards the end.
It does take some time for our hero and heroine to make nice and finally discuss what occurred 20 years ago, which I found a little strange. I will admit I guessed early on what had happened and was put out by how easily Melly and Julian forgive the situation. Harrison gives a reasonable explanation for the choices they make but I still wanted to see something besides perfuctionary understanding and forgiveness. It fell flat considering the build up that received.
The ending is a dramatic undertaking as a series of events lead us to an admirable conclusion. Harrison gives us a brief look in to Graydon’s story-Shadow’s End (Elder Races, #9), set to release December 1, 2015-that had me bouncing in my chair. I am SUPER PSYCHED FOR THIS BOOK!!
Harrison continues to write stories that any paranormal romance fan who loves action, suspense, humor, and a sizzling romance is sure to enjoy.
Favorite Quote: She doesn’t have a lot of tolerance for stupidity and well, I’m an infantryman. I’ve got a lot of stupidity I’m still working out of my system.
First Sergeant Gale Sorren lost more than he gained when he joined the military. His wife divorced him and left, taking his daughter with her. But after fifteen years, he has a chance to make things right when he is finally stationed close to his family. Now all he he needs to figure out is how to be the man he should have been from the beginning.
Melanie Sorren never stopped loving or caring for her ex husband but she couldn’t handle being essentially a single parent. She divorces him after one too many deploys and tries to put her life back together. When Gale appears back in her life and informs her he’s stationed near by, she is shocked and dismayed to find their chemistry is still as potent as ever.
Can Mel forgive Gale for breaking her heart so many times? And more importantly…can Gale forgive himself?
Jessica Scott has an astute and empathic voice for military life and the romantic problems that can accompany it. As a career officer married to a career NCO, I can imagine that she has not only seen it all but possibly lived some of it. My first husband was in the military and I can honestly say, being a military wife is not easy. The military is often an unwanted bed partner whose needs and desires will override your own. Add in kids and years of separation, and the stress and pressure can become unbearable. It takes a lot for a person to accept someone who comes with a million plus at their back and a commitment to duty that will take them from you at the blink of an eye.
Homefront is an emotionally bittersweet second chance love story that focuses on such a relationship. Well written with a flowing steady pace and well developed characters. Scott addresses the pain of war and not only the casualties wounded in service but also those who remain at home. Heavily character driven, Scott chooses to focus more on the couple and their issues in here then her usual MOD of balancing complicated romance with a strong defining conflict.
Gale and Melanie (Mel) married young when Mel became pregnant. If that wasn’t hard enough, Gale had already enlisted into the Army when they found out. He had to go and Mel knew that thought she felt abandoned all the same. Jamie, Mel and Gale’s daughter, was a fretful baby and miserable toddler. Mel’s anger over having to deal with Jamie’s needs by herself caused her to become bitter towards Gale and she gave up on him and the marriage after a few years; serving him with divorce papers and moving back home with her parents.
Your heart will hurt for this couple as you get an intimate look at their marriage and the emotional state they were in then and now. The love they have for one another is still a potent blend but time and bad decisions on both their parts has made the gulf between them seem uncrossable. Gale readily admits he wasn’t a good husband or father. Over a decade of his life has been spent skyping with his daughter and seeing her on the rare occasions he was stateside. Not a derelict dad but more that the career he chose left him with little in the way of choices when it came to his personal life. And he accepts the blame for that.
“He’d given the Army everything he’d had. And he could never get that back. The war, work, all of it was a convenient excuse for being a shitty father and a terrible ex husband.”
Mel never wanted to leave Gale but she was young and just couldn’t deal with it all alone anymore. Too many tears and broken promises left her with little choice. After the divorce, she valiantly accepts it’s just her and Jamie with Gale popping in when he can. Though he offers financial support, he is unable to offer the physical and emotional support she and Jamie need from him. When he shows up out of the blue, offering to Shock, anger, and more distressing…longing and attraction.
“She needed a few minutes to put everything back in the box marked “Gale” and did her best to ignore. Because she’d damned if she was going to cry over this man one more time.”
A slow and sensual romance builds; a tentative dance between two people who are still suffering from the guilt, sorrow, resentment, and anger over their shared past. The attraction is strong but the trust is at a bare minimum. Gale goes above and beyond to show Mel that he truly means to take an active part in his family’s life. His daughter is suffering from some serious issues and Gale sees that Mel needs him more than ever to be a hands on father and take some of the responsibility off her shoulders. Erotically charged love scenes add a punch to the storyline; showing readers that this was one area that never needed fixing for them.
“I think I want to skip dinner.”
“I think I want you for dinner.”
A pair of subplots intertwine, introducing some low-key conflict to the story and a way for Gale to finally exercise the demons that have been haunting him for years. Old friends make multiple appearances, giving us hints to how their lives are doing since reading their story. We also meet some new ones and gain hints to future stories. If I any qualms, I would have liked to go more in-depth on Jamie’s issues and hear her reasons behind her actions. Scott does a wonderful job of bringing Jamie to life with realistic behavior and dialogue for a teenager.
Homefront gives readers the perfect blend of romance and emotional entanglements as Scott once again divulges into the real time problems facing the military and their families. I look forward to reading the next in the series, After The War, which releases May 5, 2015 from Forever.
Fans of this series have waited impatiently for Finn’s story. Book three left readers sadly watching Finn’s slow meltdownRomance Contemporary RATING: B
Fans of this series have waited impatiently for Finn’s story. Book three left readers sadly watching Finn’s slow meltdown into alcohol and women after his father passes away. Sweet and achy is a good way to describe this NA. Addiction, enabling, and the constraints we place on ourselves in regards to family are the key points that our protagonists are forced to reckon with as Finn finds himself attracted to his ex girlfriend’s younger sister. A delicious romance brews slowly as various subplots erupt to flesh out the on going issues faced by this couple both individually and as a couple. An interesting turn of events places the main conflict in sharp relief, forcing a choice to be made. This series continues to mature both emotionally and physically and I look forward to the next on the series.
I love Jennifer Estep’s writing. She is one of the few authors I have read who was able to cross from adult fiction to youth adult with no missteps or awkwardness in the transition. She has a powerful appealing voice that resonates through her characters. Her stories contain a good balance of normal everyday normal life with strong magical world building. Estep’s unique twists and turns keeps the pacing steady while witty dialogue and dynamic characters keep you entertained.
Jennifer Estep’s latest urban fantasy adventure revolves around a magical and deadly version of Disneyland and a reclusive teenager whose reluctantly dragged into a long standing family feud. Action, intrigue, suspense, and a healthy dose of snark introduces a new world that blends modern sensibilities with magical charm.
Cloudburst Falls was the most magical place in America and tourist town where fairy tales are real.
Yeah, fairy tales were real here alright...including the monsters that went right along with them. Monsters that were fe-fi-fo-fum hungry for all the blood and bones they could sink their teeth and claws into, mortal, magick, or otherwise.
Lila Merriweather is a seventeen year old thief with strong talents that steals on contract. Orphaned at a young age, she resides in secret at the local library. Her only friend is the owner of the local pawn shop who watches over her as he and her mother were very good friends. Shallow, selfish, and antagonistic, Lila avoids most human contact...especially the families that control Cloudburst Falls and all those who live there.
The families who rule Cloudburst Falls function with a mob style mentality. Powerful families whose never ending manipulations and feuds spell disaster and death to anyone who is stupid enough to interfere. As magick is measured by your talent and the amount power behind it, these families maintain the power structure on which the town is built. The Sinclairs and the Draconis are the most powerful and most antagonistic towards one another. Lila has good reason to avoid these two families in particular.
Part of me wanted to run after her, grab her shoulder, spin her around, and plant my first in her face for what she had done to me, for what her family had done to mine…
The themes of this book are change, growth, and possibility; as is the majority of Estep’s books. Estep creates characters who aren’t always likable or easy to relate too. She gradually and with a steady hand helps to chip away at their shells to reveal their hearts; then begins the hard battle of putting them back together. Lila changes when she is forced to shed her anonymity and engage actively with the families. Her pain, sorrow, and need for revenge has fueled her for so long, she is unsure how to act when she really gets to know the objects of all her hate. Especially the young man, Devon Sinclair, whom she saves from kidnapping and is rewarded by being blackmailed into protecting with her life.
I hated him. I’d hated him for years, and was determined to hate him now, along with the rest of his stupid family. Lila growth is small but steady as she spends time with the Sinclairs and sees the truth behind the throne, so to speak. She learns they aren’t the heartless monsters she has always hated and feared. They to have suffered for their lifestyle and know the pain of losing the people they love. As she is forced to face some uncomfortable truths about herself, she discovers a small vein of sympathy for these people.
The possibility is presented as Lila comes to realize she is no longer alone in the world. Destiny has struggled to reassert itself and she now stands where her mother did before her. Not to say Lila learned forgiveness in her journey. Her ability to see both sides of the battlefield serve her well as she struggles to accept help from her enemies.
Estep has penned another exciting and action packed YA fantasy whose hints of darkness, violence, and, snarky humor offers a wide variety of potential in a young girl whose life is now dependent on the very people whom she faults for destroying it to begin with. ...more
We first met Oliver King in book two-Hearts of Fire. An angry homeless alcoholic who for reasons unknown, was hiding in his sister’s circus. King of Hearts tells his story in two parts-the before and the after. Well written with a smooth steady pacing that pulls forth all the emotions as we watch how this incredible man fell from grace and the one woman whose never ending love and compassion was able to lift him back up. Almost two stories in one-the first half being a friends to lovers romance and the second half a second chance romance-this is a story of love, loss, forgiveness, and hope as Cosway once again brings readers a beautiful thought provoking romance that speaks to our hearts through humor, angst, and a touch of magic.
The Before: Oliver King was on top of the world six years ago. A financial genius; he worked for one of the top investment banks in London’s West Canary district. He meets Alexis Clark and she turns his world turns upside down. A former East End bartender, Alexis is setting out to make something of herself which leads her to Oliver’s firm when she applies to be his administrative assistant. Full of life with very little filter, Alexis charms Oliver from their first meeting.
“You seem to know a great deal about this bank, Miss Clark, but tell me, if you were to implement one change to improve how we run things, what would it be?”
“Well, for start, I’d call the cops on the dealer working the news stand outside. I’m guessing high employees don’t make for very productive ones.”
They both try and and fail to keep their attraction on the back burner. Boss and employee hook ups never seem to work out and Alexis feels Oliver is too smart and dapper for a working class girl like her. Alexis goes far in trying to keep her attraction a secret from Oliver which makes for some very funny scenes.
However, they can no more stay away from one another then the earth can stop rotating around the sun. As their relationship progresses, Cosway does a wonderful job of building their friendship and allowing it to become more romantically inclined at a natural pace. Alexis grounds Oliver; giving him a shoulder on which to rest while he in turn builds her self confidence. Intense chemistry, taut sexual tension, and engaging dialogue only serves to build the anticipation.
“I could lose the run of myself inside a woman like you, Alexis.”
The main conflict builds up gradually, blending well with the romance and adding the perfect bite of discontent to the mix. When Oliver and Alexis’s world does come crashing down, your heart skips a beat in sympathy and horror.
The After: Time stands still for no one and Oliver soon learns this when he sees Alexis again. His fall from grace was brutal and it takes awhile for Oliver to climb out of his cage of despair, guilt, and recrimination. A little help from some curious busybodies helps Alexis find her king and it’s her love and compassion that helps to bring him back to the light.
“Shame. Pain. Loss. Fear. More shame. So much fucking shame I could barely breathe with it.”
Emotions run the gauntlet as we learn exactly what has happened to Oliver and Alexis in their time apart. Cosway slowly peels the lid back on Oliver’s and Alexis’s problems and begins to systematically address them using some well known and loved secondary characters. Oliver’s journey home isn’t easy but he learns to let go of his fear and guilt over what happened in the past, accepting he has paid the price and can move on. Alexis discovers she is stronger than she ever thought and no matter what happens now, she was always loved.
“I never stopped loving you, not even in my darkest hour”.
The ending is a bit fantastical in that Cosway skips over some crucial aspects of Oliver’s recovery and conveniently takes care of the main issue that started all this off scene. Regardless, the ending is a heartfelt look into their future (from Oliver’s POV) and assures readers that Oliver and Alexis have finally found their happily ever after. We are also given a peek into the next book which looks to feature Alexis’s best friend (a cop) and her possible love interest who just happens to be a criminal.
The Slayer slays the heart in Moon’s 2nd book of her Untamed Hearts series. Love, hate, family, betrayal, hope, and redemption all blend together to bThe Slayer slays the heart in Moon’s 2nd book of her Untamed Hearts series. Love, hate, family, betrayal, hope, and redemption all blend together to build a lush and heart wrenching love story between a former gang banger, Chuto, and a preacher’s daughter, Aliane. If this sounds trite, it’s anything but. The brilliance lies in the characters who live in this story. Life is never easy and sometimes the hardest blows come from those you love the most and nothing even begins to prepare you for the blows this couple has to take for their love and happiness. Dark and forbidding at times, Moon doesn’t try to explain away the criminal element that permeates Chu’s life in order to give him a happy ending. Rather, she uses it as a learning guide, giving us the readers a chance to see the real man behind the deeds. Using the past and the present, Moon slowly shows us Chu’s life from the beginning and the friendship that has built between him and Aliane over the years. We learn the reasons why Chu has tried to stay away from her and the lengths Aliane will go to be with him. Fan will adore the heavy interaction with our favorite Italian boys-Novo and Tino; along with inclusions of past couples. Moon rips out out your heart and soul with The Slayer but in an exceptional fashion, she hands it back to you stronger than ever....more
Favorite Quote: You’re the only real thing in my life.
Cory Easton is a tattoo artist at Raw Ink and has just gotten out of a relationship that lost him his boyfriend but gained him a dog. Openly gay and still coping with a past tragedy, he finds his eye turned by a gorgeous reclusive tatted skateboarder who haunts the park where he walks his dog, Chopper. When Chopper decides one day to make a break for it, it’s Cory’s crush who comes to the rescue.
Jude York keeps to himself for very good reasons. When he helps Cory catch his dog, a tentative friendship begins to form. But Jude is a complex mystery and the rumors swirling around him has Cory on edge as he notices Jude’s ties to the local motorcycle club. As Cory and Jude spend more time together and their attraction grows by leaps and bounds, Cory begins to wonder if he can handle what Jude’s secrets may reveal. Because Cory has already been devastated once and Jude could very well be the one that finally destroys him.
There You Stand by Christina Lee is #5 in her Between Breaths series but can easily read as a stand alone. A debut M/M romance hits all the right feelz buttons as Lee pens a bittersweet romance between two people who are carrying some serious emotional and physical pain. A slow steady start filled with sexual tension and tentative chemistry allows more than ample time for our boys to meet, grow a viable realistic friendship, and eventually gain the courage to take their relationship to a new level. Intriguing subplots and interesting secondary characters takes the story beyond a simple romance; adding some delicious drama and suspense.
Lee does a fabulous job of balancing the romance with the mystery surrounding Jude. Strong writing and a steady pace allows us to follow along with no confusion. She doesn’t rush the protagonist’s relationship, allowing it to grow in a realistic manner as she slowly reveals the background information needed to understand where both men are at in their lives and the reasons they are hesitant to completely open up.
”We were both hiding…”
A lush and steamy sexual relationship gives us open scenes with a firm emotional base. I enjoyed that Lee doesn’t rush this aspect and use the bed as an instant solvent for Cory and Jude’s issues. There are strong external factors that complicate this relationship that demand resolution before anyone can move forward. Lee draws this particular storyline out thoroughly, giving it the seriousness it demands.
“Goddamn it, why do I have to play guessing games with you?”
“Because I don’t want your life to be in danger…simply from associating with me.”
“It’s too late, I’m already involved.”
A dynamic secondary cast brings in people from previous installments while introducing new faces. I love the camaraderie that Cory enjoys with his fellow employees. Lee gives Cory a full bodied social life that plays out well against the solitary nature of Jude’s. The inclusion of the MC is slightly predictable in the setting they are used but their characterization and actions ring true and gives clues to possible future storylines. Another M/M? We can always hope. :)
The conflict resolves easily and off-screen. I would have enjoyed more interaction with the villain . As it was, all information concerning him is second-hand so the gravity of Jude’s past and current situation didn’t flesh out as dramatically as I think Lee intended. Regardless There You Stand is an engaging story that will appeal to lovers of romance across the board. I look forward to reading more from her in the future.
Favorite Quote: “In our fathers’ day, you could have tossed her in your ship and be halfway to Tronscar by now.”
“Our forefathers had all the fun.”
Married and widowed in a two month span, Lida returns to her family’s home. Eight years later, happily raising her daughter on her own, she inadvertently captures the attention of a powerful viking warlord who will do anything to make her his wife. Before she knows it, she’s wedded, bedded, and placed on a ship headed to her new home.
Jarl Magnus has already buried one wife and now seeks another. Wanting a strong woman who can survive the harsh conditions of his homeland and bear him many sons, he is pleased by his new wife’s beauty and spirit but is quite unprepared to find himself actually liking her and his new stepdaughter.
As Lida and Magnus strive to set aside their ingrained prejudices towards one another, dissent begins to reign within their home. As the lies and distrust push Lida and Magnus further apart, an enemy’s need for revenge will either unite them as one or separate them forever.
Sandra Lake’s debut, The Warlord’s Wife is a historical romance based on a favorite trope of mine – reluctant bride and pushy groom. Set in the 12th century Sweden, this heavily character driven novel combines old skool dramatics and misunderstandings with modern sensibilities creating an engaging romance with some bursts of predictable angst, drama, and laughter. Fast pacing and a solid plotline gives readers the setup and background information needed without over burdening. The romance is strong, offset with a bit of mystery and suspense.
Lida was married at a very young age to the man of her dreams. He coerced her into sleeping with him before they tied the knot, marking her as a whore in her in-laws eyes when she is further along in her pregnancy then she should be. Her in-laws send her back to her parents, barring her return. Luckily for Lida, her parents are more open minded than most and accept her and her child with open arms. Happy in her widowhood with no plans on re-marrying, she is shocked and dismayed when she told the Jarl wants to marry her. Not one to hold her tongue, she tells him no, despite being told she should be grateful for this honor.
Why is it the most strikingly attractive men are always the most cantankerous?
Jarl Magnus is a gorgeous, rich, arrogant, grumpy man who is not used to be told no by anyone. Powerful in both strength and politics (his cousin is the King of Sweden) he is in Turku to find a new wife and solidify alliances. Already irritated by having to remain in Turku for too long, he sees Lida and instantly wants her. When she denies him, he uses blackmail her into accepting his suit.
“You will learn I possess nothing that has been given. What I have has been forged or earned. Be wise and make your counter offer, before I finalize the contract with your brother.”
Lida resents Magnus’s maneuvers but agrees to the marriage if only to ensure her daughter will have a chance at a decent life. Lida’s stubbornness and Magnus’s cluelessness was amusing at times. They both come into the marriage with preconceived notions. Lida doesn’t love Magnus and knowing he doesn’t love her, she fears she will be nothing more than a body to warm his bed and a womb to birth his children. She is strong, intelligent, and a very diplomatic strategist, knowing when to push and when to back off.
Magnus is a 12th century man whose father warned him time and time again to never fall in love, that women have only one job and that to service men. He is the alpha ruler of all he sees and makes sure no one forgets it. Lida confuses him. He wants her gratitude for a marriage she didn’t want and for the gifts that she never asked for and can’t understand why she refuses to give it to him. Though crabby and quick to accuse, Magnus is in general a kind man who doesn’t purposely treat Lida or her daughter unkindly.
“I am not your jarl in here, Lida. I am Magnus, your husband.”
As Lida and Magnus get to know one another, the sparks fly and the chemistry heats up. Despite their antagonistic beginnings, Lida and Magnus have a strong physical attraction to one another which is alluded to but very little is shown on scene. Luckily, both POVs are shown, enabling readers an intimate view of their thoughts and feelings. While Lake stays well within the boundaries of this time, the subtle power plays invoked by all are fun to watch, adding wit to their banter and personalities.
“I fear I will never understand the Jarl.”
“Shall I enlighten you? Suppose you are an idiot, then suppose you are a man. But I repeat myself.”
A well developed cast of characters add delight and depth to the story. Tero, Magnus’s stewart, offers advice and tries to calm the pathway to love between his mistress and master. Katia, Lida’s daughter, steals the show and is the perfect plot device to soften Magnus’s prickly nature. A vengeful villain sows seeds of malcontent, playing on Magnus’s jealous nature and the feelings he has for his wife. This is where the predictability comes in. The usual accusations come into play, attempting to destroy the bonds that are developing between Magnus and Lida but Lake brings in a character who helps to take the blinders off their eyes. I hope he gets his story soon.
The mystery reveals itself early on but the path to resolution is action packed with lots of dramatic demands for vengeance and revenge. There were some scenes that resolved off page, diminishing their impact, and I felt overall this weakened the storyline at certain points. Regardless, Lake’s debut historical romance is sure to appeal to those who enjoy spirited heroines, grumpy alpha heroes, and a slow sweet journey to everlasting love. I look forward to book two of the series, The Iron Princess, which is set to release June 16, 2015 by Intermix. I have a feeling Katia’s story will be very amusing considering her father’s (Magnus) attitude towards men and his daughter.
Cherish & Blessed are actually two separate novellas bound into one book for it’s second print. Cherish was originally released in 2012 and because of that I have decided to review each one separately.
Evan and Matt have been a couple for many years, having built a life and home together with Evan’s children. Though it was rough in the beginning when Evan fell in love with man after his wife’s death, the trials and tribulations seem to have faded.
Or have they?
Evan and Matt get the surprise of their life when the oldest daughter, Miranda, starts talking marriage to a boy she just met three months ago and then decides to invite the boyfriend and his family home for Thanksgiving. When it becomes obvious Miranda hasn’t been completely honest with the boyfriend, his parents, or herself, Evan and Matt will have to step in to ensure that Miranda knows she is cherished.
I have been a fan of this series since the beginning. Though not a huge fan of the ‘gay for you’ trope, Michaels’ does a fabulous job of building Evan’s and Matt’s relationship, starting with a friendship that morphs into attraction, than love at a steady and realistic rate. Michaels’ doesn’t shy away from the issues when dealing with the children, a deceased spouse, and homophobic relatives.
All of Evan’s kid’s have accepted Matt into their lives except for Miranda. She has had the hardest time accepting her mother’s death and the inclusion of Matt into their lives. Humor and mayhem lead the way as Miranda’s power play not only causes her family grief and embarrassment but also places strain on her relationship with her boyfriend and his family. Evan and Matt band together, along with her siblings and some friends to help Miranda see that her mother hasn’t been forgotten and that Matt is not a threat to her father’s love for her. I did approve of the manner in which it was handled. No kid gloves were used and Miranda got a rude but much needed awakening in how her behavior was unacceptable across the board. Personally, I think she got off rather easy but her issues run deep and it will take more then one weekend for her to overcome them.
As always, the chemistry between Evan and Matt is explosive and sex fueled but in here it is tempered by love and a quiet but fierce tenderness. Early on in their relationship, Evan would have pulled away from Matt in order to deal with this issue but now Evan embraces Matt and holds on tight because they are a couple-a team-and Evan will never let Matt go. Matt’s relationship with Evan’s children (the ones who like him-lol) continues to sweet and engaging as he truly adores them and vice versa.
Jim and Griffin find themselves floundering in their relationship as both are ready for something more permanent but scared to broach it to one another. Matt and Evan are looking to reconnect emotionally and physically as careers and two children still at home leave them very little alone time. When Daisy and Bennett invite the two couples to the Hamptons to celebrate the christening of their new child, the weekend opens the doorway to some much needed communication.
I have to admit I wasn’t as enamored with this installment. The story jumping between the two main couples was abrupt causing the flow to be shaky and not as well developed as her other installments. Jim and Griffin hold no appeal for me. I never connected with them as secondary characters. Michaels’ doesn’t really resolve Jim and Griffin’s communication problem and basically an epiphany that Jim has to ‘magically’ fix their issues. I did enjoy seeing Daisy and Bennett and Helen and Shane. Everyone has come such a long way.
Matt and Evan are sweet, sexy, and funny as usual with both continuing to open up more both physically and emotionally with one another. Certain long term issues are coming up and choices must be made.
Michaels’ ends both novellas on a soft positive notes, letting readers know that the couples we have come to enjoy continue to work towards their happy ever after.
Strong heroines, grumpy alpha heroes, and lots of action and sexy romance makes for fun reading. Life To My Flight brings us a friends to lovers st3.5
Strong heroines, grumpy alpha heroes, and lots of action and sexy romance makes for fun reading. Life To My Flight brings us a friends to lovers story. Cleo is a member of the Wardens MC and a para jumper. When a relationship gets too personal for him, he bails and leaves Rue with a Dear Joan letter. One year later, he realizes his stupidity and comes back but Rue isn’t as forgiving as Cleo hoped she would be. As Cleo attempts to reignite the passion that scared him away the first time, Rue has her own issues to deal with when a case she will be testifying in has some people willing to do anything to keep her silent. Though I enjoyed this one I never connected with the hero. I didn’t think his reasons for running were good enough, nor was his groveling. He places himself into Rue’s path at every opportunity, almost forcing her to take him back and I wasn’t impressed overall...more
Favorite Quote: ”Don’t be a judgmental rabbit. They’re the worse.”
Roxy Cumberland quit college and moved to New York to pursue her acting dreams. When her big break takes longer than she anticipated, Roxy finds herself dressed as a giant pink bunny suit, delivering a singing telegram to a sexy and very hung over trust fund baby.
Louis McNally the second may have celebrated winning his case a little too hard if a giant pink bunny is singing an ode to his junk but with that sexy voice and snarky wit, who’s he to complain? When he gets a look at her stunning face and she lays a kiss on him that leaves him craving more, Louis knows he will be seeing her again…and soon.
There had been one weak moment in the shower this morning when he’d considered trying to re-create the kiss with the back of his hand. It had been a damn close call.
Roxy doesn’t want a rich man in her life who has been catered to all his life but Louis isn’t giving up. He wants Roxy and he’ll get her, even if he has to chase her all over New York.
Chase Me is a light hearted, laughter filled, sexy new adult romance with a dirty talking hero who has a need to fix people and a snarky heroine who doesn’t want or need fixing. Less intense than Bailey’s usual offerings, Chase Me still gives us Bailey’s trademark alpha heroes and independent heroines whose journey to romance is littered with four nosy friends, more baggage than a samsonite factory, and some smoking hot chemistry.
The story is pretty straight forward in its layout. Boy meet girl. Boy likes girl. Boy chases girl. Girl gives boy run for his money. Heavily character driven, they breathe life into the storyline and elevate it beyond the average new adult contemporary romance. No heavy melodrama every other page. No silly, unrealistic situations or emotional dark pits of despair. Well developed, Bailey writes of real people with real issues. They are easy to relate to. Their joys, fears, wants, and needs are laid bare and we are allowed to share their experiences. Smooth execution and laugh out loud dialogue is expertly laid out for maximum effect.
“The super already hates me because I called him the wrong name for 2 weeks.” “What’s his name?” “Rodrigo.” “What were you calling him?” “Mark.”
I enjoyed every character in this book but Roxy and Louis completely owned it. Roxy is a strong, intelligent, take charge style kind a gal who’s confident personality hides a vulnerable core that appeals to the underdog in all of us. Not the most outgoing of people (she actually hides from her roommates so they won’t become friends) she is hilarious in the lengths she’ll go to not form any attachments with anyone.
“Oddly she felt herself feeling kind of left out as her roommates bonded a little more each day. which made no sense since her exile was self imposed. Why couldn’t they just avoid each other like typical New York City roommates and communicate via a dry erase board in the kitchen?”
Watching her navigate the temperamental world of showbiz gives us a funny but seemingly honest view to the highs and lows that comes to those wanting to break into show business.
“You called me back in here to reread for the role of Lassie? As in, the dog?”
Louis is a delight. Gorgeous, sweet, funny, and deceptively alpha, his status and wealth doesn’t detract from his good nature. A born protector, his career choice in law exemplifies his need to champion the underdog. Single and carefree, he has never wanted a committed relationship with the opposite sex until he meets Roxy. Suddenly, he’s doing everything he can do it get her and keep her by his side. Unfortunately, it backfires on him multiple times. Regardless of his screw ups, you never doubt he only has the best of intentions.
The main storyline is the chase. Roxy runs and Louis follows. Lucky for them and us, even when they are odds, these two have chemistry. Lots of sweet, sticky, sweaty, panty dropping chemistry.
“Before you leave, I’m going to give you something to think about, beautiful.” Her stomach bottomed out. “You haven’t done that already?” A gravelly laugh. “While you’re lying in bed tonight, think about this.” Big hands slipped down and around from her waist to cup her mostly bare backside. She had no time to enjoy the kick of lust in her belly before he seized her flesh tightly and hauled her onto her toes. “Oh.” Louis placed his mouth directly over hers, as if to absorb her gasp of shock. “The first time you ride me, I’m going to grip your ass just like this. I’m going to move you where I want you. How fast. How slow. It’ll all be up to me and this grip.”
Their initial attraction brings them together but a sense of belonging keeps them together. Louis’s open willingness to take a chance is the perfect foil for Roxy’s innate fear of losing herself into someone. They rub together in all the right ways even as they both struggle with their issues. Though our MCs indulge themselves sexually rather quickly, the actual romance builds slowly. They become friends and Bailey uses that to build a bridge between them, offering lessons in trust and communication, despite their apparent differences.
Fun outrageous secondary characters round out the story and offer even more comedic relief. Louis’s twin sisters are terrors but their scenes offer insight into Louis’s emotional make up. Louis’s best friends, Ben and Russell, are insane and offer advice no one should ever listen to. Roxy’s two roommates, Abby and Holly, become her friends, regardless of her attempts to push them away, and give her the non judgemental encouragement she needs. I can’t wait to see which couple is up next as Bailey warns us this hero is even more down and dirty than Louis.
My one qualm was how abrupt the ending was. The requisite romance game changer resolves quickly and with little fanfare, leaving you in limbo in terms of the romance and world. It’s a weak HFN and we are left wondering where Roxy and Louis stands in terms of their careers and life in general. I suppose this will eventually reveal itself as the series continues but I do wish we would have been left a little more comfortable in their outcome.
Regardless, Chase Me is sure to appeal to romance fans of all ages as Bailey offers a little of everything from laughter to tears in her newest romantic adventure.
Gareth Fitzallen is the illegitimate son of a Duke and. Unlike most noblemen of this period, Gareth’s father not only maintained an amicable relationship with him but also encouraged a relationship between him and his legitimate sons. When the oldest son (and current Duke) dies under mysterious circumstances, Gareth is summoned home at the bequest of his other brothers. A broker of sorts for the autocracy, Gareth’s connections are needed when he is charged with finding some missing artwork that disappeared during the French war. On his arrival to the family estate, Gareth inadvertently runs a young woman into a water filled ditch when his attention wanders to the scenery around him. He is intrigued when his normally winsome charm and good looks don’t produce the reaction he is used to.
“Won’t you allow me to help you carry that? Or better yet, give you a ride to where you are going? It looks like a heavy package, and those shoes must be uncomfortable now.”
“No thank you, I will manage.”
“You dont have to be afraid. I promise to behave myself. I am utterly harmless.”
“I would not accept a ride with you even if I had five miles to walk. Please, be on your way and I will be on mine.”
Eva Russell definitely doesn’t want Gareth’s help as the package she is carrying is a painting she has stolen from his newly inherited home. A poverty stricken spinster, she supports herself and her younger sister by painting copies of famous paintings. Made desolate by her father and brother’s lack of financial know how, Eva loses her fiance and essentially her freedom when she is forced to become the head of the household. A free spirit with a poetic heart, Eva’s goals are more straight forward now-make the money they need to secure her sister’s future. Though her tone and manner are slightly acidic towards Gareth at first, she is not as immune to him as she pretends to be.
She smiled all the way home. How bad can a poor spinster’s day be when the most beautiful man she has ever seen in her life flirts with her?
His Wicked Reputation is the first in Madeline Hunter’s newest trilogy that follows a trio of brothers on their journey to true love. Set up like a traditional historical romance, the infectious balance of humor, wit, decadent love scenes, and hints of suspense and intrigue makes this a unique read in a tried and true genre. Steady pacing, engaging dialogue, and a strong initial storyline setup gives readers pertinent information without overburdening with unnecessary filler. A humorous meet cute sets the stage for the beginning of a friendship that swiftly leads to a glorious romance for the first brother-Gareth Fitzallen.
Gareth manages to insulate himself into Eva’s life rather quickly, using the excuse “I’m new to town and you’re my neighbor” to appeal to her inbred good manners. She introduces him around town while giving the residents a warning that everything that disappeared from his abandoned estate over the years needs to make its way back there pronto. The sharp chemistry that was ignited at their first meeting burns brighter with each new meeting until they are unable to ignore it anymore. Eva begins to find him as irresistible as every other woman.
“Do you always enter homes when their owners are gone?”
Such an unfortunate question. “I am sorry. I should never have entered.”
“Do not apologise. I am glad you came.” His hand fell from her shoulder. Finally. “Come inside. I will show you the improvements.” A slow smile formed, but he looked no friendlier. “Several chambers still require new fabrics and such. You can advice me.”
“I…really cannot…That is, it would not be…appropriate for me to…” Her words died in her throat. He stepped closer. That put her nose at most six inches from his chest.
“Come now, Eva. if it was appropriate for you to enter the house, and appropriate for you to watch me wash-”
“I did not watch you wash!”
“Correction, watch me dress. Even after that you can hardly quibble about your setting foot inside to advise on the drapery.”
Gareth and Eva entertained me from first meeting. Both are strong, intelligent, feisty, and good natured despite their less than stellar upbringings. Neither use their backgrounds as excuses to mope or act the put upon fool. Humorous banter and lush sexual tension keeps the storyline and their relationship flowing smoothly forward.
Neither Gareth nor Eva believe in true love or the all the trappings that come with it. Gareth’s reputation as a hedonistic lover leaves him in much demand but his parent’s own illicit romance showed him that love is a fleeting emotion that causes more pain than pleasure. While Eva does believe in romance, she believes security is more important as she was taught that love can be easily cast aside when circumstances change. Unable to stay away from each other, they begin to engage in a sex only affair, giving each other the passion they crave without the commitment they both seek to avoid. Two wounded souls finding one another is a trope I love and Hunter masters it, developing not only a decadent love affair but a friendship that builds into a true soul match. I enjoyed that the sex isn’t off scene nor inundated with an abundance of flowing purple prose. Though Eva seeks to keep Gareth at arms length, he is a confident, experienced lover who uses his body and mind to trap Eva in her own desires.
She knew, even as she succumbed, that his goal was to master her will. She did not care.
As their assignations heat up, so does the mystery of the stolen paintings. Gareth’s investigations show him that Eva is involved though the depth of her involvement is yet to be determined. Slow and steady, Hunter intertwines the romance and mystery, allowing them to play off one another and develop at their own pace. Though the mystery is the weaker of the two story lines- it was pretty easy to figure out exactly what was happening- the intrigue lays in the various individuals involved and the ramifications.
Delightful secondary characters add to the depth of the story. I loved the frank speech between everyone involved. Hunter does a fantastic job of creating characters we can relate to. Gareth and his mother are close, as are he and his brothers. I enjoyed their scenes together. All three are an adventurous lot and look forward to their stories. Rebecca, Eva’s sister, provides much entertainment as those around her discover her exceptional beauty hides a razor-sharp mind and tongue. I do hope this ambitious crusader gets her own story.
The main conflict resolves itself admirably (as I stated earlier, it was all very easy to figure out) and the story ends in a delightful and quite unorthodox manner. Ms. Hunter certainly proves her reputation with her latest historical offering and I look forward to reading more about these wicked brothers.
Favorite Quote: “When it comes to matters of the heart, the only thing you should want to be temporary is an STD.”
Harlow Glass is the town leper. A teenage bully whose childhood was filled with emotional and verbal abuse, she made lives miserable and now she is paying the price. Broke and homeless, she lives in a tent on the outskirts of town and forages for food and clothing. When she breaks into her old house in order to steal some food, Beck catches her and she is shocked by the instant flash of lightning sharp attraction she feels.
Beck Ockley is the original bad boy. A foster kid/criminal turned millionaire, this sexy, flirty, rich, and emotionally unavailable man will give any woman the ride of her life for one night only. His inability to let got of his past keeps his guard up against anyone who seeks to become more in his life. Harlow is the first woman he’s ever met that he can’t just walk away from.
Beck and Harlow’s rocky path to friendship that soon blossoms into more as Beck finds his attraction to her is increasing instead of decreasing. But Harlow is a forever kind of girl and unless Beck learns to open up his heart…he’ll only end up breaking hers.
Who doesn’t want a bad boy in their lives? Beck Ockley is the epitome of bad boy and then some. But it’s often noted that the badder they are, the harder they fall and this boy falls hard. The Hotter You Are is the second book in Showalter’s Original Heartbreakers series. The series follows three best friends who settle in the small town of Strawberry Valley in order to move forward from their traumatic childhoods.
I adore small town romances because of the setting and inevitable eccentric characters. Small towns are notorious for being nosy, unforgiving, and gossipy. Everyone knows everyone’s business and what happened 10 years ago is viewed as if it happened yesterday. As always, Showalter builds an ambiguous tale of love, loss, redemption, and forgiveness with her trademark humor, passion, and a wee bit of angst.
My heart broke for Harlow when we first meet her and as we learn how she was growing up and what led to her change in personality. I was very surprised that Beck is the only one who actually questions the abrupt change in Harlow’s behavior when he learns of it. The town has a long memory and they are quite nasty to her from refusing to hire her to work and being abusive to her when they see her. This woman can’t even go into the local library. I admired her perseverance as she not only takes ownership of what she did in the past but actively sought to make amends.
Finally something had gone in her favor-but it only depressed her more. The fact that a guy hadn’t punched her or called her horrible names was the highlight of her day? Wow.
Beck. Beck, Beck, Beck. What a heartbreaking mess. Though he is introduced as somewhat of cliche, Showalter irons out the problems quickly and we meet the real Beck. Hotter than sin, this man’s emotional barometer is skewed. As a child he was tossed around from family member to family member when his father walked out of his life. Eventually ending up in foster care, his life is a series of abandonments that had a huge impact on the way he is now. He refuses to allow anyone emotionally close (except for his two best friends) because people always leave him. He loves women and uses them as a way to satisfy his urges; gifting them with one night than never repeating. He’s never mean or cruel but his emotional detachment is strong. It’s rather sad when you see him do everything in his power to help Harlow regain her footing. He sees the potential in everyone except himself.
“He was no one’s savior. He couldn’t even save himself.”
Beck and Harlow have some of the most remarkable chemistry that is only made hotter by their fun snarky banter. This couple clicks instantly and you can only hold on for what looks to be an emotional and laughter filled ride as they struggle to come to terms with their individual pasts in order to move forward. The romance is definitely slow moving though the sexual tension and drama filled scenes keeps you firmly engaged.
“I’ll ignore your early start at sexual harassment and get dressed just as soon as you exit my bedroom.”
“Why? You don’t have anything I haven’t seen before.”
“Actually I do. For all you know, my anything is better than any other you’ve ever seen.”
“You think so? Show me.”
“Not even if you begged me.”
“I’ve never begged before. But there’s a first time for everything, isn’t there?”
Multiple themes are dissected and Showalter uses humor to help guide them along in smooth manner as she peels back the layers of Harlow and Beck and maneuvers them into the direction she wants to go without giving the reader the feeling they are being manipulated or rushed into a happy ending. Early on we are told what Beck and Harlow want from one another and they communicate it well. I admit at times I glazed with a weary eye as yet another example of Beck’s juvenile behavior towards Harlow came our way but his growth is a major aspect of the story and Showalter does justice to it.
“There were so many things he wanted to do with her and to her. One night would never be enough.”
Of course, this story wouldn’t be complete without the inclusion of familiar and some not so familiar faces that lend their advice to helping Beck and Harlow along their journey. Brooke Lynn, Jessie Kay, and Kenna were all victims of Harlow’s viciousness in high school but they were able to look beyond that, accept that Harlow has changed, and offer her what she needs most-friendship. Jesse Kay especially entertains as she strives to find her HEA despite a certain man whose indecision is causing her conniptions. Showalter introduces some new men from the boy’s past and I hope we see more of them in the future. Dorian-YUM! Poor Wade gets caught in the middle between Beck and Harlow one too many times but manages to extract himself with grace and a fair amount of hilarious confusion.
Showalter continues to offer up a yummy dish of guilty escapism her fans are sure to love in her return to the Strawberry Valley and her Original Heartbreakers. Sexy opinionated men and women, deliciously drama filled romances, and just enough zaniness to keep the story from becoming too serious. I look forward to Wade’s story, The Harder You Fall, which is set to release, November 24, 2015 from HQN Books. It looks to be perhaps the most outrageous and emotional of them all. *crosses fingers*
Stein usually excels at building awkward relationships. Never Loved is such a relationship that is built around two people who were each victims of abuse. Told from the heroine’s POV, we learn Beatrix Becker and her brother were horrifically abused until they were able to escape. Beatrix comes to college for a normal life and instead finds herself always on the outside looking in. In her need to be seen as normal, she is unable to shed all the mental abuse her father inflicted on her. When she goes looking for her brother who has disappeared, she meets Serge Sorenson. A huge tattooed illegal fighter, Beatrix is both scared and titillated. Serge sends her home but finds and brings her brother to her. From that moment a connection is formed and neither is able to stay away from the other.
I’m a huge fan of Charlotte Stein. She has a unique voice that for the most part appeals to me. Unfortunately, this one didn’t work for me. Similar to her book Sheltered, which I adored, this one didn’t reveal story wise or character wise as I expected. Beatrix and Serge were very linear and I found them somewhat superficial. Normally not bothered by first person narrative, I found the narrative in here to be disjointed, clinical, and too heavily internalized. The dialogue when presented was weak and gave us no real insight to who Beatrix and Serge were. The switching from Beatrix’s internal monologue to conversations was haphazard and I often wasn’t sure who was speaking. Also, to be brutally frank, being in Beatrix’s head was not fun.
The story has no depth or dimension. Instalove forms in a few days and suddenly there is no Beatrix and Serge-it’s BeatrixSerge. We never learn what was the attraction for them. There is no build up to that defining moment-leaving the reader feeling rushed and unprepared for where Stein was trying to take us. I couldn’t help but feel their getting together was more circumstantial than fated.
Love scenes dot the landscape but as I didn’t buy the attraction, I couldn’t buy the romance, making it all that more awkward. The scenes didn’t fit into the general feeling of the book; not with Beatrix’s previous behavior. She is repressed and fearful of the world and sex in general yet in a week or so she can jump right into a sexual relationship? Hmmmm. The lack of chemistry is no help.
Stein keeps us firmly on a predestined path from start to finish with Beatrix unfortunately narrating every single step of the way until a small dramatic conflict tossed in at the end to show readers the supposed intensity of their love for one another.
This was not a favorite work of Stein’s for me. It felt like a puzzle where the pieces don’t quite fit and when it was complete, you had no idea what you were looking at.
Darker than Desire is the final installment in Walker’s Shadows & Secrets series. The main catalyst in a horrific case of serial abuse that blew aDarker than Desire is the final installment in Walker’s Shadows & Secrets series. The main catalyst in a horrific case of serial abuse that blew a small town apart has come out of hiding to face his fears, his enemies, and to see justice served once and for all. David (Caine) fights against inner demons as he struggles to try and hold onto the one person who makes him whole-Sybil Chalmers. Dark and volatile, Walker blends a compelling romance with a suspenseful ending to the long standing arc. A few unique twist only adds to the explosive ending.
The sequel to Come Dancing hits some high and low notes as Wells continues on her romance of the rock star and the publicist. Set in the 80s and drippThe sequel to Come Dancing hits some high and low notes as Wells continues on her romance of the rock star and the publicist. Set in the 80s and dripping with the excesses this time period excelled at, Julia and Jack have reached a point in their relationship where the hard work begins. Julia is working towards her own stardom will Jack continues to play in the world that made him. As external forces do their best to force this unusual couple apart, Jack and Julia will need to decide if they should keep dancing or find new partners. Emotionally plump with laughter, love, and heartbreak; readers will reluctantly appreciate that Wells doesn’t take the easy route by allowing our lovers to sweep aside the problems in their relationship or with themselves. Character growth continues but seems to pull them apart as their inability to communicate still exists. We aren’t left feeling confident of this couple’s ability to whether the storm but I have a feeling that Well’s hasn’t given up just yet....more