**spoiler alert** DNF. 12% in and the heroine's already has me annoyed. I'm not a fan of people who initiate hook ups then turn ard and cry mistake. S...more**spoiler alert** DNF. 12% in and the heroine's already has me annoyed. I'm not a fan of people who initiate hook ups then turn ard and cry mistake. So far heroine's done it twice in this short time but then gets angry when hero, rightly so, doesn't fawn all over her. Yes, she has issues but that doesn't excuse her bi polar behavior. (less)
Favorite Quote: “Congratulations, you’ve been granted the title of trusted singular. I suggest you refrain from wearing hats.”
For the past three months, Rachel has been providing security for Trent Kalamack while Quen is across the country, regulating Ellasbeth’s visit with the girls. When Rachel’s spells begin to misfire, Rachel thinks it’s a reaction to her deepening feelings for Trent. Soon, spells begin to misfire all over the city, creating chaos and weakening the already tremulous truce that exists between the humans and the supernaturals. As Rachel and her friends dig deeper, they discover a plan that will destroy the master vampires and throw the city into an all out super natural war. One thing will stop the catastrophe coming their way; invoking the wild elven magic. Only, that may do more harm than good where Rachel is concerned.
Kim Harrison’s The Hollows series (also known as the Rachel Morgan series) is one of the top selling urban fantasies series to date and with good cause. Appealing to readers of all ages and genres, Ms. Harrison’s unique blend of sharp wit and whimsical imagination (tomatoes, anyone) has created an alternative world that is filled with never ending magic and mayhem. Ms. Harrison has kept us laughing and weeping since her first book, Dead Witch Walking, released in 2004. Filled with intriguing suspense, non stop action, tense romance, biting humor, and some truly heartbreaking scenes; this intense character driven series continues to enchant readers.
The Undead Pool is the twelfth book and the second to the last book in this series. I am sad to see this series ending. Good urban fantasy is hard enough to find but good urban fantasy with a compelling female lead is even harder to find. And Rachel Morgan, for all her flaws and less than stellar decisions, is a fantastically dynamic and complicated heroine. Perhaps it’s because of those flaws that readers gravitate to the series. It isn’t often we get a lead character who, even gifted supernaturally, doesn’t always win. Rachel has suffered so much throughout this series. She has lost friends, family, lovers, and even her powers for a bit. She fails as much as she conquers and that makes it easy to like her and her band of equally dynamic sidekicks.
Those who have kept up with the series will be surprised and happy by the turn of events that occurred off scene between books 11 and 12. This installment finally addresses the underlying sexual and emotional tension that has existed between Rachel Morgan and Trent Kalamack since their first meeting. From the very beginning, Trent and Rachel have been at odds as they each strived to do what they thought was best for the city of Cincinnati and in Trent’s case, himself. Trent, the perfect anti hero, has used his money and power to thwart Rachel at every turn while Rachel has always managed to turn the tides and hold him off at the last moment.
“You’d better learn your history before you become part of it.”
Rachel and Trent have a long history together that goes back to their childhood. A history that is steeped in deception, betrayal, and violence that left them often on opposite sides of the battle field. We have watched their slow evolution from antagonists to actual friends and perhaps something more. Both Trent and Rachel have grown considerably throughout the series. Starting out as a untried and untrusted slightly flaky witch, Rachel has grown into a mature powerhouse who can more than hold her own against the larger than life players who populate her world. Her friend base has grown and she has finally begun to comfortably accept their help.
“You have amazing friends.” “I need them to stay alive through my amazing life.”
Trent, a rich elven CEO with a finger in every dark and shady pot the country has to offer, has gradually changed from an emotional void, hellbent on conquering the world through what ever means necessary to actually caring about people and how his actions affect them. Through his relationship with Rachel and others, he has finally learned the meaning of sacrifice and why some will give their all with no thoughts to their own mortality.
Though their animosity has gradually lessened and they are now at a turning point in their lives, Rachel doesn’t trust her feelings for Trent. She fears anything deeper between them will only lead to his downfall. And he has a lot to lose. Trent has some hard decisions to make in this book. Decisions that not only affect him, but also others who depend on him in so many different ways.
“You’re halfway to ruining him already.”
Sacrifice and friendship is the base on which this series is built and this particular installment pushes the envelope, acknowledging that Rachel doesn’t always have to be the one who has to sacrifice for those she loves. For the first time in a long time, Rachel decides to take a leap of faith and go with her heart and leave everything to chance.
“Most warriors think with their hearts,” I said, [...] “It’s what keeps them alive through the crap they have to deal with to keep the rest of you safe."
Through it all, Rachel has always had Ivy and Jenks at her back. They too have grown and evolved so much throughout the series; becoming much more than mere secondary characters. Rachel and Ivy have always had a deep loving relationship with hints of a romantic attraction; especially on Ivy’s part. I love how Harrison has never maligned or made this portion of the storyline seem like a dirty little secret. It’s an important aspect in their relationship as Ivy has always felt that Rachel saved her life when no one else cared.
“I almost quit a hundred times,” she said as she smiled at me, eyes beautiful and black. “But you thought I had it in me and I wanted to prove I was as good as you thought I was…”
Jenks. What can you say about Jenks but that he is one of the true highlights in this series. If Ivy is Rachel’s best friend, then Jenks in her soul mate in almost every way possible. They have loved, loss, laughed, cried, fought, and consoled one another. Only death will part these two. His sardonic humor and never ending protectiveness towards Rachel only serves to further entertain as he tells it like it is.
“Watch out, cookie maker, or I’m going to own you.”
Though we don’t get as much interaction with Al or the Ever After this time around, it’s what we do see that is very important and goes far in preparing us for the final book. Newt makes an appearance and as usual, gives us some needed clues in a mash up of gibberish conversation.
The conflict is an interesting action packed juxtaposition as we learn more about the wild magic and the effects it has on the city and it’s supernatural inhabitants. Desperate times calls for desperate measures as Rachel finds herself having to deal with the unfamiliar magic and the results of its unleashing. This has been a long time coming and Harrison lets loose as she strives to make us understand the path on which she has placed Rachel, Trent, and the Hollows. The Hollows are beginning to unravel, as is the Ever After, and soon both worlds will be forced to deal with one another…again.
The Undead Pool is an eclectic mixture of everything I have come to love about this series and Urban Fantasy. Action, suspense, emotional revelations, romance, humor, and heartbreak. I can easily see it becoming a much beloved re read in the future. Fans will rejoice in it’s reveals and revelations. My only qualm is now I have to wait a year for the last book. *shakes fist at the injustice of waiting*
Favorite Quote: “Who has two thumbs and just came twice? This girl. Holy crap.”
Robin was the quintessential party girl until a on...moreOriginally posted at
Favorite Quote: “Who has two thumbs and just came twice? This girl. Holy crap.”
Robin was the quintessential party girl until a one night stand throws her for a loop. Disgusted with herself, she has stopped drinking, stopped partying, and is looking to complete her next semester from her parents house. She doesn’t want to be “that girl” and hates that she can’t even talk to her friends about it.
Phoenix just got out of jail; broke and homeless. Crashing at his cousins’ house, he knows he needs to get a job and get out. When he meets Robin, he is instantly bowled over by how sweet and talented she is. She is the girl he always wanted but never thought he was good enough for.
As Phoenix and Robin spend more time together, Phoenix sees she is carrying a huge secret but hesitates to push her. When their pasts collide, neither are prepared for the explosive aftermath.
Believe is the third book in Erin McCarthy’s True Believers series. A new adult series that revolves around a group of friends and their issues with drugs, alcohol, and relationships. In Believe we meet Robin and Phoenix. Robin, one of Jessica’s (Sweet) and Rory’s (True) best friends, has been noticeably absent all summer. When she sleeps with her best friend’s boyfriend at the end of school, she undergoes a complete transformation and avoids everything and everybody who could trigger a relapse. Three months later, she meets Phoenix. Phoenix, Riley and Tyler’s cousin, has just gotten out of jail after a six month stint. He has anger issues and this time they landed him in jail. While he isn’t the perfect guy for her, there is a connection between them that allows them both to forget their pain and disgust for awhile.
Entertaining and emotionally satisfying, Believe doesn’t have quite the external drama the first two books had. While there is some, the conflict here is more internalized. Robin and Phoenix have issues that affect their views of themselves. McCarty’s signature clean writing style and a easy to follow storyline(s) makes it incredibly easy to become involved in this book. Heavily character driven, we easily fall in love with our hero and heroine from their first meeting.
“Do you have a boyfriend?” “What?” I almost dropped my paintbrush. “No. Why?” His phone slid across the table toward me. “Then give me your number.” “Why?” I said again, which was a totally moronic thing to say. But I didn’t get any vibe he even liked me, let alone was interested in me. For the first time, I saw the glimmer of a smile on his face. The corner of his mouth lifted slightly before he controlled it again. “Why do you think?” For a split second, I felt like myself, and I said the first thing that popped into my head. “So you can send me honey badger videos?” I joked, because it seemed like a safer response. He was just out of prison, and he had just broken up with his girlfriend ten minutes earlier. So not a good idea to get involved with him. I wasn’t up for dating anyone, let alone him. “Yes. And kitten memes.” “Well, in that case.”
McCarthy does a nice job of characterizing Robin and Phoenix as individuals and as a couple. Both protagonists are easy to sympathize with. Phoenix’s childhood involved a co dependant mother whose next fix was more important than taking care of her child. Robin, whose childhood was much better though she has a critical grandmother whose comments are nasty; uses parties and drinking to avoid dealing with her body issues and to boost her self confidence. Both learn that they are worth far more than their face value. The dual POVs enables us to see what each are feeling and thinking at pivotal moments. McCarthy takes their relationship slow, allowing them time to get to know one another and form a trust bond that supercedes their past behavior.
“I want you to remember that forever. Because I will.”
Though I felt the romance happened fast-insta love is never an easy sell-a part of me understood their need to cling to one another. Neither has ever had a relationship that didn’t involve some pretending on both their ends. No game playing and prime communication between our couple made the story more enjoyable in my eyes. The sexual scenes are bittersweet and sexy. The storyline and romance blend together effortlessly, elevating each other with a few plot twists to add to the overall tension.
We see plenty of past characters-Jess, Riley, Rory, and Tyler. I enjoyed their interaction and the outside observations and influence they bring. Seeing where they were at in their relationships and the hints given towards the future assures us they are all working hard towards their HEA. We also see a deviation from the past trope of the bad boy boyfriend the parents hate. Phoenix’s mom and Robin’s parents are rarely seen and when they are, they are there only in a supportive role.. Although, we do see the love/hate dynamics that affected the first book, True. Phoenix loves his mother but realises early on he can’t protect her from herself anymore.
The climatic moment that blows everything wide open isn’t so much a shocker as it is sad. Robin pays a heavy price for her drinking problem but it also frees her to move on with her life. Her guilt was like an albatross hanging from her neck. She may have lost a friend but she gained her sense of self back. The subplot involving Phoenix and his troubles seemed to come out of left field and resolved rather quickly. It didn’t really served a purpose.
While I enjoyed the story overall, I did have a few issues with it. One, Robin’s grandmother. I don’t subscribe to the notion that advanced age allows you to be cruel and I was surprised this wasn’t explored further.
Two, Jessica. I liked her well enough in True and Sweet but she became extremely judgemental in here and I was confused where this stemmed from. She makes noises about Robin leaving their room mate, Kylie, high and dry when Jessica does the same thing. She comes off jealous of Phoenix and I wasn’t buying the custody battle excuse. She didn’t want to share her new found family and it showed. Does this mean no relatives of the boys can ever come to visit? She’s also extra harsh with Robin after the big reveal; even after seeing evidence that it wasn’t all Robin’s fault.
Three, Robin blacked out from too much alcohol and woke up in bed with Nathan. She remembers basically nothing. It was essentially date rape and that aspect is never addressed.
Regardless of my misgivings, Believe is a sweet new adult love story that takes us journey of friendship, self discovery, forgiveness, and love. McCarthy continues to entertain with the third installment of True Believers series. She also includes a brief excerpt from book four, Shatter, which releases in June 17, 2014.
Mandi: A lot of things worked for me in this book, and a couple of things didn’t but overall I really enjoyed this one. This time Samantha Young gives us a lighter, less broody hero in Nate. When he was eighteen his one true love died of cancer, and now many years later he is still hung up on that relationship. He sleeps around…a lot…but never commits because he is still in love with Alana. Included in his group of friends (who are those from previous books – Braden and Joss, Cam and Jo) is Olivia, a librarian who is best friends with him. They’ve never crossed the romance line. Olivia’s mom was really sick when she was in her prime dating twenties, so now she feels awkward and embarrassed around men. She has no confidence when it comes to flirting or dating so she turns to Nate for help. She asks him to teach her how to flirt, kiss and eventually have sex. While I usually roll my eyes at this trope, I think it works really well in this book. The scenes become quite intense and emotional. Tori, do you feel the same way?
Tori: I agree wholeheartedly. While the first two installments were decidedly more emotional and darker, this one was lighter; in both the storyline and the characterization. Olivia and Nate were fun-as individuals and as a couple. I loved their “Which would you…” game. They had wonderful dynamics and dialogue. Olivia’s inner rants were hilarious and Nate’s cocky bad boy attitude was acceptable because you could see from the beginning he cared for Olivia. I admit I had some problems with Nate’s fears concerning attachment and commitment. It was unbelievable for me. I’ve always been vocal that pining for someone for 10 years is a bit ridiculous. I had a problem with Joss for the same reasons. The past can shape your life but when it takes it over, I find it hard to believe you can’t move on. I did enjoy how Nate and Olivia react to one another once they decide to carry out Olivia’s plan. Their chemistry almost made my e reader combust. There is a good balance between the physical and emotional. Speaking of Joss, is it just me or is she getting more irritating? lol
Mandi: First Nate – I had a hard time believing he would be SO caught up in a dead past love, especially when it took place when he was so young. Maybe I just needed more about that story to make it stick. I can see Nate a player, but not so forlorn over the past relationship.
Tori: Yes, perhaps if we had seen that relationship, it would have been easier to buy into Nate’s reasons. As it was, I didn’t see Nate pining for anyone. It felt like an excuse.
Mandi: Now Joss – I’m so not a fan of Joss. I guess I liked her in book one but man she is prickly. I’ll give credit to the author – she sure writes her consistently. But if she wasn’t in anymore books I’d be fine with that. Speaking of supporting characters, I just love the group Nate and Olivia hang out with. Cam, Jo, Braden, Joss *mutters*, and it looks like we get Hannah’s book next. I like that this author continues the story of her previous characters and that we get to see the hero and heroine hang out with friends, not just with each other. It feels more like a full, well rounded story.
Tori: I don’t mind prickly but Joss has always felt like a bit of drama queen to me. As in, “Let me make it all about ME…” But yes, kudos to Young for making her constantly irritating. :P Seeing a strong presence of previous characters adds a nice flow to the arc. We aren’t left wondering what everyone else is up to. I really liked that Olivia and Nate had such supporting parents. Olivia’s dad and both of Nate’s parents maintained a strong presence in their lives which helped to guide them over the hurdles they encountered in their relationship. I am looking forward to Alex and E’s wedding and of course, Hannah’s story. Poor Hannah. lol She will have a rough time falling in love with all the protective males in her future. Also looking forward to Cole’s story. Who IS his mysterious friend and why can’t they be together?
Let’s talk about the lurrrrvvveee scenes. Woo wee. Nate may not have being in a relationship down pat but he certainly has the physical parts well covered. I enjoyed watching him learn right along with Olivia. Some of their scenes left me feeling a bit… flushed.
Mandi: Yes, the love scenes are so intense in this one. For as laid back and flirty as Nate is, he is one sexy beast. I love how he builds up Olivia’s confidence in the bedroom. I really, really wish we had gotten his point of view in this book. I needed to be in his head at times, and I was disappointed that we miss that. I feel as though only having Olivia’s point of view didn’t work for me as well as in the previous books.
Overall, I think this is a sexy book and Samantha Young continues to write well done contemporary romance.
Tori: Agree. This book wasn’t just Olivia finding her groove, but also Nate making peace with the past and moving forward. I too would have like his POV. It felt a little unbalanced as though one main character was mute. I too would have loved being in his head, especially after his penis head moment.
Samantha Young’s winning streak continues with Before Jamaica Lane and I look forward to reading more from her. Her enchanting couples and delicious romances make her books an auto buy for this reader.
Tori’s Favorite Quotes: "Don’t hide from me." He bent his head to whisper over my lips. "Ever."
" I like him, but I sound like Rain Man every time I try to talk to him." Nate made a choking noise in the back of his throat. "Are you laughing?" He cleared it and answered shakily, "Never." He was so laughing.
Mandi’s Favorite Quotes: “It’s a manwhore miracle.”
“My mum always said if you can’t say something nice, say something memorable.”(less)
Callie Brown is a high blood. An orphan whose parents left her at Valhalla, this gifted necromancer who is often called in to read a murder victim’s last thoughts. When she is called to a crime scene of a young woman whose death speaks of the paranormal, Callie finds her powers blocked and receives a message from a man who’s similar powers out shine hers.
Duncan O’Conner, a human cop, has seen this type of kill before and looks forward to seeing his favorite High Blood again. Though carrying alot of emotional baggage, Duncan has worked with Callie before and wants more than just a working relationship. When Duncan learns that Callie is unable to read the victim and getting threatened by an unknown High Blood, his protectiveness goes into hyperdrive and he finds himself willing to do anything to keep her safe.
Born In Blood is the start of the new paranormal suspense series by Alexandra Ivy. High bloods (humans born special paranormal abilities) live in a domed city, invisible to the human eye, called Valhalla. High bloods, considered freaks by the more prejudicial humans, are often called in to help the wholly human population when crimes are committed by other high bloods.
An interesting premise that promises an action packed PNR suspenseful storyline, a new world to explore, and unique engaging characters. Unfortunately, all this couldn’t make the book work completely for me. I was bored at times reading it. While it offers something new, it doesn’t always keep its promise. The beginning starts out incredible slow as Ivy builds the world and storyline for us. The romance takes up a considerable portion of the storyline but the action is placid. Everytime Callie and Duncan would start something, it fades to an unrelated scene. Same with the main conflict. You get plenty of scene time but just when you expect the action to start, you switch to another scene. I never got enough of one particular plotline to appreciate or become engaged with what was happening. The last quarter picks up speed but again, we are denied fully action packed scenes. Even the climactic ending to the main conflict is resolved off screen then discussed.
Regardless of my issues, there were aspects I liked. The world building is interesting. Ivy takes her time describing the political and prejudicial racism that is present in the world. I liked the symbolism behind a mystical city called Valhalla. It’s hierarchy is deceptively complex and I enjoyed meeting the various occupants whose coming stories are hinted at. Callie’s bff is a humorous force to be reckoned with and I feel for her hero. The villain and plot line develops nicely. There is an twist that comes out left field that amps the suspense, I just wish it had finished with more of a bang.
I enjoyed Duncan and Callie. Both are intelligent, loyal, nice people. Duncan has a sexy protective alpha vibe going that Callie has no problems dealing with. Likewise, Callie likes Duncan and while not submissive to him in the least, she doesn’t mind his chest beating moments. In fact, she teases him when they happen. No real heavy baggage for them to work through. Duncan into Callie and vice versa. We don’t see them from the very beginning, when they first met, so any conflict we see now is minor. The attraction is full blown from page one and the only thing left for them is acting on it. Even that is a minor hurdle for them. Lots of sexual tension and steamy chemistry. Both Callie and Duncan have their moments of insecurity that affects their lives and the job they’re on but that only serves to add a sense of realism to their character make up.
All in all, Ivy’s newest series offers a promise of exciting things to come in the future. Engaging characters and a unique world is the appeal that almost solidifies this. It has a faint superhero feel to it that is a refreshing change from the shifters/vampires that normally populate PNR. While I wasn’t completely taken with this installment, my interest is tickled enough to look towards book two, title and release date to be announced.
Favorite Quote: “I want to completely give in to sin and not worry about the consequences.”
Marina Knight came to this party for one thing only: to slap Gage Emerson in the face. Poised to snatch up her family’s real estate empire, the sexy tycoon is on the verge of making an enemy for life—even if he can make her melt with a single kiss …
When Gage discovers that the alluring woman before him is the key to his latest acquisition, claiming her as his suddenly doesn’t seem quite so cut-and-dried. To get what he wants, he must get to know the fierce woman willing to face him down—as she steadily steals his heart.
Gage’s persistence and intense passion war with Marina’s determination to protect her family. As they delve deeper into an affair they didn’t see coming, Marina’s torn: Will she lose her heart to Gage—or everything she holds dear? (Goodreads)
Monica Murphy’s Billionaire Bachelor Club trilogy is based on a trio of commitment shy billionaires who make a million dollar bet. The last man standing wins one million dollars. Crave, book one, is Archer Bancroft’s story. He is the first to lose the bet but his loss is really his gain in the form of Ivy Emerson, his soon to be wife.
Torn, second in the Billionaire Bachelors Club series, is an enemies to lovers trope. Gage Emerson, Ivy’s brother, is a successful real estate tycoon and he has been steadily buying up Napa Valley. He has his eye on some some prime real estate that the Molina family owns and isn’t above using their money issues against them to get it. The Molina’s are considered royalty in Napa Valley but certain bad investments have made them land rich but cash poor. Marina Knight, a Molina on her mother’s side, runs an organic bakery and wants, no, needs to prove to her family and herself that she can make it a success. Unfortunately, the bakery is one of the key pieces of property Gage wants. When these two hard working driven characters come together, it’s a stunning explosion fueled by lust and hate.
If we didn’t hate each other so much, I’d believe she was made just for me.
Gage is a playboy of the worse kind though he has sworn off ladies at the moment. A workaholic; some past nasty relationships and the need to expand his empire has him placing his business first and foremost. Charming though abrupt and not the best at small talk, he has what I like to refer to as foot in mouth syndrome. Especially when he meets Marina Knight. She comes to a party looking to confront him once she learns he is the one looking to buy up her bakery and the surrounding properties. One look at her and he’s a goner. Especially when she doesn’t play hard to get. In fact, she doesn’t make a play for him at all. As he’s making small talk with her, attempting to get to know her better, he makes the mistake of talking business and inadvertently insults her family. Marina gets angry, storms away, and Gage begins the chase.
I’m the idiot who’s drawn to her despite her obvious hate-or at the very least, disinterest in me.
Not one for over dramatizing or creating overly angst driven story lines, Murphy creates dynamic characters who love, laugh, fight, and experience life to the fullest. Torn hit some of my buttons. Its fast pacing, engaging dialogue, and super steamy love scenes made for enjoyable reading.
Gage and Marina were like oil and water but that only made watching their journey from enemy to lovers more entertaining. There is a lot of friction between them and it heats up more than just the sheets. Gage wants the Knight properties but he wants Marina too. Marina is equally attracted to Gage but she wants to make her bakery a success and protect her family’s legacy. Gage tries to work the alpha dominant mojo in here but it won’t work on Marina. She is independent, stubborn, loyal, and extremely snarky. Gage can’t control or anticipate her and that drives him insane. Gage’s inability to think before he speaks will leave you laughing as he puts his foot in his mouth repeatedly throughout the book. I think everyone winces when he opens his mouth around Marina.
“…I hold my breath, afraid he might say something to ruin the moment. Thank god he keeps his big mouth shut.”
A lot of antagonism ramps up the sexual tension to unbelievable levels as Gage and Marina begin their dance. Their chemistry is off the charts as this couple can only seem to fit when they are making love. There they can forget they are on opposites sides and give in to the craving that consumes them both.
I want to undo those bows and watch her panties fall away from her body. Then I want to get down on my knees and bury my mouth between her legs. I know she’ll taste hot and wild. I wonder how many flicks of my tongue will make her come.
Fuck, I’m beyond eager to find out.
Gage has a hard time understanding what drives Marina. His money and power means nothing to her. She just wants someone to appreciate her for who she is. We watch as they each had to learn to give in order to make their relationship work. Gage had to learn to stop working so hard and just live. He also needed to consider other people’s happiness before his own. Marina needed to learn to let down her walls and trust her own judgment.
Though I enjoyed Torn overall, I would have liked seeing more of them when they weren’t fighting. Their chemistry is HAWT but the emotional side was harder to buy into. This story moves fast and we didn’t have the background that Archer and Ivy did so it felt a little less developed than book one. Plus the misunderstanding the forces them to really look into their feelings for one another was a bit silly to me. Both were wrong but the crimes didn’t warrant the punishment in my opinion. Lack of communication was a huge problem in this couple. The ending is dramatic and resolves into a happy for now for Gage and Marina and clues are given to how our last bachelor will fall and to whom.
Almost halfway in and that was more then enough to know that I and this book would not be bff's and make babies together. An unattractive heroine w...moreDNF
Almost halfway in and that was more then enough to know that I and this book would not be bff's and make babies together. An unattractive heroine whose manipulative, narcissistic, drug abusing, sex addictive, and victim screaming left me struggling to feel even one iota of sympathy for her. I don't mind self destructive protagonists as long as I can A. See some growth or B. The spiral is well deserved. In this instance the heroine is a huge hot mess and she enjoys being a huge hot mess. She uses her past to enable her destruction and when you call her on it, it's never her fault.
The writing is a struggle to read as the story is told from the heroine's screwed up head. It's over saturated purple prose addicted to speed. I don't even want to get into the misspellings, slang/text talk, and the appalling lack of punctuation. I found it hard to believe this chick's mind was this much of a cesspool. Even broken clocks will hit the correct time twice a day.
As this was originally a movie script turned book, I think this is a perfect example that the vision of the author is better served on the silver screen. (less)
Sometimes in our search for Mr. Perfect, we don’t always see Mr. Right Now standing in front of us. In Jay Crownover’s third installment of her Marked Men series, Rome, we meet Rome Archer and Cara Lewis. Two people who should be all wrong for one another discover just how right they can be together.
Rome Archer, a war veteran, finds himself at a loss when he returns home, discharged from the only life he’s known for ten years. Used to wearing many hats in his life-big brother, strong son, peacemaker, perfect soldier-he’s unable to define himself anymore and struggles to find a place and reason in his new life.
Cora Lewis, the tell it like it is receptionist and piercer at the Marked, has her life all mapped out. Though fun and seemingly carefree on the outside, on the inside she is determined that her next boyfriend will be a drama, baggage free man with whom she can have a relationship with.
When these two meet, the sparks fly and both are certain they do not need the other in their life. But fate doesn’t always give us what we think we want. Sometimes is gives us what it knows we need.
Rome is a romantic contemporary built on opposites attract. The opposite attraction trope is a favorite of mine. I enjoy watching the author convince me that two people who seem completely and utterly wrong for one another are actually perfect for each other. Crownover does a fabulous job of setting up the main characters, expanding on their personalities and their back stories, taking a considerable amount of time letting us get to know them and see the extreme differences between them. As the story progresses, Crownover gently starts to cut through the external artifice and we begin to see what she sees-that our protagonists are indeed perfect for one another.
The main conflict is a mixture of past and present, building a solid storyline. Rome is not only suffering from PTSD and mourning the loss of his military life, he’s also still grieving the loss of his brother and the guilt he carries from the last time they were together. Cora has her issues that leave her feeling lost and unsure. A military brat who was dragged from port to port, she has a strong need for family and control. A Crownover addresses their issues and creates an engaging read that fills you with strong emotions as you watch Cora and Rome fight through the pitfalls of life. Multiple storylines, some continued from previous books, build slowly and allow the players involved to deal with and heal past issues that have frozen them at certain points in their of lives. Emotions run the gauntlet as old wounds are reopened and allowed to heal. Things are said that hurt but set the pace for a new beginning.
Crownover does well in creating multi dimensional characters, expanding and evolving their lives and the world they live in. Not one of them is perfect though each one is a vibrant personality that takes command and dominates the scenes they are in. She writes with such intimacy that we are instantly drawn back into their lives as if we never left. I like we aren’t promised a happily ever after. Her stories always leave off with the promise of more to come and that works because no one’s journey is ever truly over.
Strongly character driven; it’s the steady dialogue and interaction that keeps you entertained throughout the book. We see old and new faces; each one an important part of the storyline. Rule and Shaw are adjusting to being a couple while Jet and Aryden try to survive their time apart. We see more of Mr and Mrs. Archer and meet a new character whose cameo helps to lay some ghosts to rest.
This series continues to entertain me and I recommend it to everyone who wants a romantic contemporary new adult series with realistic characters, angsty romances, strong friendships, and interesting lives that will keep you waiting for each installment. Even though this could be read as a stand alone, it does help to read the first two books in the series- Rule & Jet-in order to fully understand and appreciate the underlying issues and character dynamics that permeate the on going storyline.
I have read but opted not write a review for every story in this anthology.
Stolen Goods by Shannon K. Butcher. In a world poised on the brink of an alien take over, a man hires a renowned thief to help him recover a magical artifact that could spell the end of humanity if it falls into the wrong hands.
Stolen goods is a well written novella with a strong storyline, personable characters, and lots of action. Butcher gives our characters somewhat complicated pasts that are addressed in the story and adds to the faint sexual undercurrents flowing through it. The main conflict is ripe with tension and horror as Butcher gives us a front row seat to what we as humans have to look forward to if our couple doesn’t win this battle. Enjoyable all the way around and I hope Butcher writes more on this couple and their unique skills.
The Girl With No Name by Chris Marie Green. When a young lady awakens in a strange room with no memory and wearing a pair of unusual knee high boots, she finds herself playing a dangerous game of cat and mouse as she struggles to recover her memory and stay alive.
This is my first time reading Ms. Green but not my last. Green’s incorporation of nature, magic, and the price for using it is interesting, especially when applied to our heroine. The story reveals well as we start out in the unknown and each clue leads us deeper into the mystery that surrounds our heroine’s memory loss and the reasons she is running. Interesting side characters and a possible love interest let us know our heroine isn’t fighting alone. Fast pacing and a kick arse heroine made this a joy to read.
The Devil’s Left Boot by Faith Hunter. Two young witches take a missing person case from an old enemy. Their investigation leads them into the town’s past and into the arms of an insane vampire whose appetite for Christian Louboutin is only matched by her appetite for blood and chaos.
I like Hunter’s Jane Yellowrock series so I was excited to read a novella that revolves around the witch family that Jane has a love/hate relationship with. Word of warning, this story exists mid series and may spoil those who haven’t read book four-Raven Cursed. Witches, vampires, and a baby goat provide action, suspense, and humor when these two witches find themselves in a quandary that only Jane can get them out of when they stumble on their town’s bloody past and become more in touch with the dark side of their magic.
High Stakes (Chicagoland Vampires, #8.5) by Chloe Neill. Cadogan House guard Lindsey adores her boss Luc but the chains of her past leave her unable to commit to a relationship with him. When her past comes calling, threatening her family, Lindsey travels back to her beginnings and lays some ghosts to rest for good.
Fans of Neill’s Chicagoland Vampire series have watched as Luc and Lindsey have danced around their attraction for years. Luc has done everything possible to make Lindsey his but with no avail. She is too stubborn and scared to give that much trust to one person. High Stakes is a short novella that finally tells us of Lindsey’s turbulent past and seems to hint at good things for her relationship with Luc.
Red Really Isn’t My Color (Black Wings, #2.5) by Christine Henry. The many greats grand daughter of Lucifer isn’t really big on family reunions or her family period but when Lucifer makes a request, she can’t refuse. Charged with recovering a pair of cursed red dancing shoes from the fairies leads Madeline Black into a battle with the Queen of Fae’s top assassin.
Having never read Christine Henry, this short story seemed the perfect way to ease myself into her series. Red Isn’t My Color plays off Hans Christian Andersen’s moralistic fairy tale-The Red Shoes. Mayhem follows our winged warrior as she confronts the Queen of the Fae’s right hand man and finds herself set up as a well shoed sacrificial lamb. Our heroine triumphs but is forced to use a side of herself that leaves her fearful of the consequences. A well plotted storyline with equal parts humor and that resolves fully but leaves faithful fans with hints towards the future.
Snakeskin (Trickster series, #0.5) by Rob Thurman. Making a deal with the Trickster can have unforeseen consequences as a customer learns the hard way.
Thurman’s Trickster series is a favorite of mine, right behind her Leandros series. The heroine, Trixa Iktomi, is a trickster; a semi divine shape shifter. Youthful in appearance and dangerous in reality; Trixa gives her customers what they ask for but often manipulates the results. In Snakeskin, a prequel set about ten years prior to book one, Trixa uses her skills to give a murderous black widow her heart’s desire. Humor reigns supreme as Trixa teaches a valuable lesson on the evils of greed.
Kicking It is a fun anthology that offers readers a variety of kick arse heroines in a collection of action packed stories by some of Urban Fantasies hottest authors to date. Though some stories are stronger then others, the collection as a whole is an engaging read sure to enchant.
Favorite Quote: “Oh, please don’t raise your standards for me, Kilroy. Just like I won’t be lowering my standards to a fame-hungry megawhore like you.”
Lili DeLuca, daughter to a temperamental Italian chef, wants to attend the MFA but her family comes first. When tragedy strikes close to home, Lili finds herself putting her dreams on hold and managing their small restaurant. Lili sees a change to change things when famous celebrity chef Jack Kilroy challenges her father to a televised cook off.
Jack Kilroy has learned the hard way that being a celebrity is nothing but constant headaches. Meeting Lili puts a spring back in his step when he realizes this beautiful woman isn’t even remotely impressed with his fame and fortune. But Lili sees him as the enemy and proving her wrong will be the hardest job Jack has ever undertook.
Making Lili his though proves to be difficult when his rabid fans plaster inaccurate and unflattering pictures and gossip about Lili all over the internet. Can Jack convince Lili to follow her dreams with him by her side? Or will she decide the heat is just too much to handle.
Feel The Heat is the first in Kate Meader’s Hot In The Kitchen series. A comedic foodie romance with an enemies to lovers trope that sparks more heat than a flaming flambe in the battle for love. Meader brings the public’s love of reality cooking shows to print with a hero when the personality of Gordon Ramsay matches wits with a heroine whose full body figure and love of food appeals to the temperamental celebrity. Multiple storylines are defined by humorous content, witty repartee, and naughty hijinks.
“I can’t believe I’m finally getting to touch it,” she whispered in mock awe. “Jack Kilroy’s illustrious member.” “My what?” “It’s just that you’ve been so stingy. Not letting me play with it, telling me I had to wait. I assumed it must be gold-plated or bejeweled-”
Lili was a contradiction. She excels in naughty talk and sexy clothing but has a low self esteem when it comes to her body. Bullied as a child for not conforming to what society deems attractive, she has learned to settle for less throughout her life. Jack’s intense attention leaves her confused. A gorgeous sensuous man who has dated some of the world’s most beautiful woman…she can’t seem to grasp why he wants her. Her family doesn’t help with their lack of support concerning her photography and dreams of graduate school.
I really liked Jack. A testy, flamboyant, emotional drama queen, he lives like he cooks-with flair. Lili’s animosity towards him in the beginning confuses him. He knows his larger than life persona on the internet and TV isn’t the most flattering but it’s not him. He’s worked very hard for what he has achieved and as he has gotten older, the limelight doesn’t shine as bright anymore. He has his own dreams and wants to find someone special to share them with. And that someone special to him is Lili.
The secondary characters are a rambunctious bunch whose own wants and needs cause some heat of their own. Lots of giggling and eye rolling is involved when these characters come into play. Lili’s sister Cara, who is also producing Jack’s show, has her own reasons for getting Jack into their parent’s restaurant and learns a lesson about minding one’s own business. Lili’s dad is a stereotypical Italian dad whose own imagined failings make him resent having to rely on Lili so much. Jack has his own problems with a younger sister who won’t stay put and an adorably cute manwhore of a sou chef who wants his own career out from under Jack’s shadow. Several potential story lines are set up in here, waiting for a book of their own.
One aspect I found interesting and appealing is the fact that Jack is the one who refuses to settle for a commitment free affair. He’s the romantic in this book. Lili comes on to him strong after some heavy duty flirting, hinting for some vigorous bed sport and he gently but firmly shoots her down. She, of course, believes it’s due to her looks and flounces away angry and hurt.
“I didn’t stop you because I’m not attracted to you or to teach you a lesson [...] A lot of women who meet me are only interested in screwing me because I’m on TV. After a while, casual sex becomes really old.”
Jack refuses to be “used and then discarded.
The romance blends well with the storyline. Jack is trying so hard to win the hand of the daughter of the man he’s trying to beat in a cook off. There is drama that can only seem to be found in restaurants and a few side plots that pop up and place our lovers on opposite sides of the stove. T
Though I enjoyed the story over all, the constant push and pull from heroine become repetitive and dragged the story down at times. It seemed Jack spends lot of his time chasing after Lili and explaining himself. They get together, they separate, they get back together, they separate again.
The ending wraps everything up nicely and our couple is finally able to let go of their past issues in order to embrace a future together. Feel The Heat is a quick enjoyable romantic contemporary that heats up nicely.
Sibling Rivals by Summer devon Favorite Quote: “How did it feel to hold the man he’d loved? Rather suffocating was the answer.
Colin never suspected th...moreSibling Rivals by Summer devon Favorite Quote: “How did it feel to hold the man he’d loved? Rather suffocating was the answer.
Colin never suspected that when he followed his boyfriend Mark home for the holidays, he would end up alone on Christmas. When Mark Stevens decides to come out of the closet, Mark’s parents kick him and Colin out of their home and that ends their relationship. Colin stays in contact with Peter, Mark’s younger brother, though and ends up offering Peter a place to stay when he begins graduate school.
Peter Stevens has always been a ladies man but even he can’t deny the intense attraction he felt towards Colin when they met two years ago. When he gets a chance to stay with Colin while in school, Peter decides this is the perfect time to test that attraction and see if Colin feels the same.
Colin is attracted to Peter but has misgivings towards starting a relationship with him, especially when Mark comes back into the picture wanting another chance. When tragedy hits, Colin finds himself wondering if the Stevens brothers are worth the risk.
Sibling Rivals is an uncomplicated romantic male/male contemporary by Summer Devon. Sibling rivalry, a faint love triangle, humor, and minimal emotional angst makes for a fast read. Two brothers vie for the love and attention of a college professor who has already been burned by one of them. Mark Stevens, the “good” brother dated Colin in college but couldn’t handle the fallout after he revealed his sexual orientation to his parents. Peter Stevens, the “incorrigible” brother, feels a sexual connection to Colin when they meet but waits until he is out of his parents house to do anything about it.
While one part of me enjoyed the somewhat simplistic straightforward romance, another part of me felt the story’s simplicity is what caused the story to fail in development; both in character and storyline. Told in alternating POVs (Colin and Peter) we are told how the romance evolves and how they are feeling but I never felt any real heat or the passion from any of them. It was if they were just going through the motions. Colin tells Mark he’s not interested anymore but it was polite and non confrontational. As if he was ordering tea. Colin and Peter hook up and while the sexual antics are hot, the chemistry between them screams convenience. Even Mark and Peter’s rivalry doesn’t seem real because we don’t really see actual scenes from the past that support it. Mild teasing but nothing that reflects the accusations Mark makes against Peter. Once again we are told but not shown.
Peter was the most emotional and the best fleshed out of the three. A funny playful young man who acts younger than what he truly is. He’s honest yet there is a lack of cohesiveness. He has an innocence to him that is appealing yet doesn’t seem to mesh well with Colin’s seriousness. Colin is English and seems to be built with the English stereotypical “stiff upper lip.” He’s calm, cool, and collected. I was never able to connect with Mark because he seems more of an annoying plot device than an actual person. He has faint excuses (to Peter) as to why he left Colin originally but explains nothing to Colin. Merely tells him over and over that he misses him and wants him back. He blames Peter because Colin isn’t reciprocating his feelings and we never really learn if he ever gets over the rejection.
The main conflict rears its head and forces both Colin and Peter to look deep inside and do some soul searching. While Colin does, I really don’t see the same from Peter. We do see him mature emotionally when faced with the intractableness of mortality, but I never saw where he had any deep emotional epiphany concerning his relationship with Colin or his own sexuality. Peter’s sexuality is as fluid as water and I found it odd that he never had one single moment of angst or conflict concerning it.
Regardless of my issues with the storyline and characters, Sibling Rivals is a fast read whose bits of humor and heat will make a afternoon fly by fast.
Favorite Quote: “Never ask someone to tell you who you are. You tell them.”
Jessica Sweet doesn’t want to go home to her uber religious parents for the summer but her sublet won’t be available for her to move into for a week. When she is unable to stay with a friend, her nemesis, the sexy cocky Riley Mann, offers her a place to stay with him.
Riley has enough going on with trying to keep custody of his younger brothers, he doesn’t need a ditzy debutante cramping his style, but he also can’t leave her with no place to live. As Jessica and Riley spend more time together, they realize that their first impressions of each other were wrong and soon they fall into a comfortable routine that develops into deeper feelings. But while Jessica has never had a problem sleeping with a guy, she doesn’t know how to handle a relationship without sex.
Jessica finds herself in a difficult position concerning her future and Riley when her parents find out about her deception. Can she let go of her fears or will she lose the only man for her?
Sweet is a sexy, romantic, emotional coming of age new adult that uses a different approach to the defining romance than the usual NA offerings. Crisp writing, indulgent humor, and a smooth flowing storyline makes it incredibly easy to become fully invested in this book. Heavily character driven, we are instantly engaged with our hero and heroine from first contact. Jessica, our heroine, was first introduced in book one, True. She, along with a friend, set up their roommate Rory to lose her virginity to her now boyfriend, Tyler Mann. Jessica has issues in that she is unsure of her place in the world. Her ultra conservative religious parents place unrealistic expectations on her and punish her when she realistically fails. Because of this, Jessica doesn’t place a lot of value on herself. With an innate fear of rejection, a friends with benefits relationship works better for her. She has no expectations and can’t be disappointed or more importantly, can’t disappoint anyone. This is not to say she has no respect for herself, because she does in spades. She doesn’t take any crap about the way she lives her life.
“I don’t need to be judged, Riley.”
She is strong, intelligent, loyal, and honest. She also has an incredible amount of snark that makes for some funny scenes.
“You think the air freshener smells worse than this room did?” I was in awe. In my opinion it already smelled better from the ocean breeze mister and the air blowing in through the open window. “This thing smells like dead old lady.” I laughed. “It’s called ocean breeze.” “No ocean I’ve ever been to smelled like that.” “How many oceans have you been to?” He grinned. “None.” “Have you smelled dead old lady?”
Riley is a fascinating contradiction in his make up. He is just like Jessica in some key ways. He too is loyal, intelligent, and honest. He works hard and has had a lot of responsibility on his shoulders for years. He and his brother Tyler protected their younger brothers from their mom’s drug addiction while struggling to keep her from killing herself. Now with his mother gone and Tyler’s drug arrest, he is having to go for custody of the boys all by himself. The reason I say he’s a contradiction is that the persona he shows the world doesn’t match what’s inside. Gorgeous, tattooed, with a cocky ego, you instantly think he’s a player but that is the furthest thing from the truth and in this way he and Jessica are very different. Riley doesn’t believe in sex just to scratch an itch. No friends with benefits. No one night stands. Riley believes sex should only occur between two people after they have developed a relationship that has a chance of going somewhere.
“I rolled my eyes. “So having sex now, pre-relationship or dating, would have made us friends with benefits and we can’t have that.” “No! We’re not actually friends, you know. You can’t be friends with someone you want to have sex with, you just can’t.” “You’ve been saying we’re friends all week! So if we’re not really friends, then you want me to be a booty call, clearly.” “No, damn it. A booty call is someone you just have sex with, nothing else. No hanging out, no conversation. You just text and make plans to hook up.” “I’m guessing you don’t spend the night either.” “No, of course not.” He sounded frustrated, which was exactly how I felt. “You’ve given this so much thought it scares me.” I tossed my magazine on the floor and myself on the bed. “You’re worse than a girl and I’m done with this conversation.”
McCarthy builds the romance between Jessica and Riley very slowly. Though their chemistry is apparent from the beginning, they both struggle with their friendship; especially Jessica as this is uncharted territory for her. Jessica is confused by Riley’s no sex edict and finds herself struggling not to fall back into her old habits.
“I’m sorry,” I said. In the dark room, he leaned over and gave me a half smile. “Vodka happens. No big deal.” That wasn’t what I meant. I was trying to tell him that I was sorry for being me.
Watching them each let down their barriers and let each other in was interesting to watch. McCarty uses their personalities to show us that even with their much different backgrounds, they are more similar than they first imagine. I liked that they communicated their feelings to one another and neither let the other get away with deflecting. Though the romance remains the main element of the storyline, McCarthy intertwines it with the multiple plot lines, using them to further develop Jessica’s and Riley’s relationship and guide it along the path to love.
“I want to be important to you. Special…Do you know how stupid I feel saying that? I think my balls just dropped to the floor.”
Character development is at a premium as we watch Jessica and Riley grow and become more comfortable with themselves without changing the basic elements that makes them so enjoyable. I liked that neither felt they really had to change in order to be with each other. The changes they make are internal and are more reflective than extreme. Riley’s love for his family is heartwarming and Jessica fills a void he didn’t even know existed. Jessica learns to love herself and to stop trying to please everyone else.
Though we don’t see as much secondary character interaction in here as we did in True, we still get some moments with Tyler, Rory, and of course, Riley’s mischievous brothers. All of them add depth, humor, and realism to the story. I enjoyed watching the grand reveal between Jessica, Riley, and Tyler. I honestly can’t imagine how I would have reacted in that situation. It does give Jessica some insight into Riley and herself. She learns that her actions have consequences regardless of her intentions. Riley learns that snap judgments are not cool and sometimes you shouldn’t ask questions if you don’t want to hear the answers.
Sweet is a wonderful love story that takes us on a journey filled with love, laughter, growth, and angst to led us to a respectable HFN. Though some may be incredulous at the ending, I found it keeping in the way Riley thinks. McCarthy continues to entertain with the second installment of True Believers series. She also includes a brief look at book three, Believe, which releases in January 2014.
Welcome to the roaring twenties. Illegal booze, speakeasies, and sexual/economic freedom made for golden times as the world prospered after Word War One. Gangsters and G-Men battled in the streets as the public turns a blind eye to the law of prohibition.
Aida Palmer, a beautifully freckled hot tempered spirit medium, works at the popular nightclub, the Gris-Gris, where she entertains crowds with her gifts. Aida is not a fraud or charlatan. Her gifts are true and because of this, she finds herself helping one of the top bootleggers in the city, Winter Magnusson. Winter, a handsome giant of a man, has come to see Aida’s boss, Velma Toussaint, a known witch, when he finds himself overrun with ghosts. Velma sends for Aida and between the two of them, they discover he’s been cursed. Aida gets rid of the ghosts while Velma un hexs Winter but it leaves him still with a huge problem. Who wants Winter out of the way?
Winter hires Aida into helping him rid his home of more ghosts and soon they find themselves entangled in more than just a mystery. Attraction sparks between them and the flames only get hotter as this pair of unlikely lovers chase clues from the seedy underbelly of Chinatown to the glittering homes of the Pacific Heights upper crust. As they get closer to discovering the root of Winter’s problems, they discover that they each have their own personal demons to exorcise if they want a relationship in this world.
Bitter Spirits is the first installment in a historical PNR series by Jenn Bennett. Set in the 20’s, Bennett pays homage to the roaring twenties while adding a unique twist by introducing ghosts, zombies, and magic to the era. Luscious world building paints an intriguing portrait of San Francisco’s landscape during the 20’s while strong well defined characters and an intriguing action packed storyline engages the reader to the end. Humorous banter and a sweet sexy romance blends well with the hint of danger that permeates the story. Our protagonists, Aida Palmer and Winter Magnusson, control the story from the start and our journey begins with a bang.
I thoroughly enjoyed Bitter Spirits. A fun book whose pacing and tempo is spot on. The beginning starts out a little slow but the set up of the storyline and arc holds your attention. Though touted as a PNR, I felt the storyline was decidedly stronger on the romance side than the paranormal. The paranormal aspects are used more as plot devices and elevate the story rather than hold equal footing. What makes the story for me are the characters.
Aida, a profitable medium, doesn’t define herself by her gifts. She is independent, modern, and generally content with life. Her life is filled with friends though she keeps herself emotionally distant at times. She has some personal baggage she carries but it doesn’t weigh her down. Orphaned at an early age, she learned along time ago that the only one she can really depend on his herself. Winter is the same as Aida in some ways. His scarred face hints at a dark past which he hides with his gregarious personality and business. Born into a rich family with strong ties to bootlegging, he continues the family legacy, even allowing them to make some decisions for him which weren’t in his best interest. This causes him to harbor guilt and a distrust of people in general; especially women. But Aida intrigues him from the get go and he finds himself having to do something he hasn’t had to do in a while. Chase a woman. Both are opinionated, jealous, stubborn, fanatically loyal, and will give their lives for the right person. Their scarred imperfections only endear them to the reader.
Their romance builds slowly, allowing for a believable journey and resolution. I enjoyed that Winter and Aida get to know one another and enjoy their time together before becoming intimate. Their playful bickering was fun to watch and made for some laugh out loud moments. As they become more intimate, Bennett writes some wonderfully sensuous and subtly erotic scenes that had me wanting a bootlegger for myself.
A cast of viable well defined secondary characters only serve to further endear you to the story. Velma, Aida’s boss and owner of the Gris-Gris is a bit of a mystery with her magical powers. I do hope Bennett has a book planned for her. Winter’s man servant Bo is a wonderful side kick and I look forward to seeing exactly what parts he will play in the future. Meeting the various other crime bosses and bootleggers makes the era seem even more alive, especially the integration of the Chinese tong. The mystery of Winter’s curser resolves fast and furious with some interesting subplots. My only wish was that the villain had been integrated more into the story. As I stated earlier, the romance is heavy in here and maintains a strong presence, regulating everything else to a distinct second place.
Bitter Spirits is a wonderfully entertaining story in bribed with magic, history, and a charming romance. I look forward to the second installment, Grim Shadows, set to release June 3, 2014, which is the story of Winter’s brother, Lowe.
Jake Edwards, one of the three original bad boys of Crystal Lake, has come home to face his past. After witnessing his twin brother’s death in Afghanistan, Jake finds himself sinking into a dark pit of despair. He thought his brothers death was the worst thing he could ever endure. Until he realized he was falling in love with his brother’s widow, Raine.
Raine Delgotto Edwards has always been a part of the Edwards family and Jake’s life. Growing up with Jesse and Jake, it was no surprise to anyone when she and Jesse married. After Jesse’s death, Raine has been living in limbo, unable to move forward. She can’t eat or sleep; floundering helplessly against the depression that encases her. She lost more than her husband that terrible day, she also lost Jake, and that just about killed her.
Now Jake is back in town to fulfill the promise he made his twin. To take care of Raine. But Raine doesn’t need Jake to take come back because of a promise…she needs him to come back because she loves him. Raine hopes she and Jake can finally face their demons together and go forward with their lives before the darkness consumes them both for good.
First off, The Christmas He Loved Her is NOT a normal holly jolly Christmas story. The second book in Stone’s Bad Boys of Crystal Lake trilogy, this is a somber tale of grief and despair. A melodramatic offering that addresses the tragic consequences of war and death on the families left behind. There is so much pain in here it was very hard to read and assimilate. Angst and bittersweet sorrow intertwine as we slip effortlessly back into the lives of these residents and the stories they have to tell us. Multiple storylines running abound, all intertwining and conversing on the main attraction, Jake Edwards and Raine Delgotto Edwards.
This was a hard for me to read and review. On one hand, the poise and emotion conviction Ms. Stone puts into the story and her characters is exceptional. Ms. Stone leaves nothing to chance and your heart bleeds for everyone who loved Jesse Edwards. His parents. His wife. His brother. All of them are suffering from his death and trying to cope in their own ways. Jake drinks and suffers not only from PTSD but also survivors guilt. He and his brother were together when the tragedy occurred and Jake could not save him. Add in his attraction to his sister in law and you have a Shakespearean drama in the making. Raine, Jesse’s widow, suffers from deep depression and guilt over her feelings for Jake. Jesse’s parents live with losing a son and being unable to help their surviving son. The emotions and actions presented are real and honest in light of what they are all facing.
On the other hand, this book opened some old wounds for me that were hard for to deal with. I felt the emotions and actions were an overly dramatic outpouring of pain with no real solutions offered. Quite a few tropes were used that overwhelmed this reader. We are continuously faced with Jake running away from his feelings and Raine struggling to hold it all in and present a happy face to the town and her family. Why none of them were in counseling I don’t know. Raine and Jakes journey is hard won but I couldn’t help but feel like everyone was stuck in this endless cycle of guilt and despair and suddenly they weren’t. I’m not sure exactly what the catalyst was.
We see old friends and meet a new one who I am sure is the heroine of book three. We get a small glimpse into what Cain and Maggie have been up to, along with the third bad boy in the group-Mac Draper. I missed the humor and spontaneity that was present in book one. This one has very few moments of levity. The action is low key; this book is more emotional based and centers almost completely on our protagonists.
The ending leaves us with more questions then answers. Though we are led to believe Raine and Jake are well on their way towards a bright future together, I’m unsure of the realities of that unless they both seek the counseling as I mentioned earlier. I would have also liked more memory scenes about Jesse from both Jake and Raine. I found it odd that neither of them spoke or thought about him in happier times.. Also, Raine and her mother’s conflict seemed to flare then die with no resolution. I hope this and more will be addressed more in book three.
Though I didn’t enjoy this as much as book one, it’s a story that will appeal to many readers. I was pleased with the pains Ms. Stone took to stay on the path she set up and didn’t feel the need to use cheap plot devices to push the story into an unbelievable happily ever after. I am looking forward to Mac’s story as I think he deserves a HEA more than anyone in Crystal Lake combined. Book three, The Day He Kissed Her, will release April 1, 2014.
Favorite Quote: “It had felt like forever, and it had felt like no time at all.”
SOME SPOILERS FROM BOOK ONE
In book one, Provoked, we met Junior Advocate David Laurenston whose actions in the Scottish Insurrection landed him onto some very powerful people’s lists. He begins an affair with a hedonistic and influential Scottish Lord, Lord Mundo Balfour. When their affair comes to mean more to them than was intended, harsh words are spoken and they part.
Beguiled picks up two years later. David is now a full fledged advocate and is required to make an appearance during a ball being given for King George IV’s visit to Scotland. A trip to his tailor results in seeing his ex lover, Lord Balfour again. They reconnect and soon David is swept up once again in Balfour’s glittering world of opulence and passion. When the past seeks him out, David finds himself drawn into a chain of events that are out of his control. Helping to correct a wrong will place David in danger and threaten not only the love that is developing between Belfour and himself but his career, and possible his life.
This historical series is told by David Laureston. There is a resolution of the main conflict but the romance remains questionable. David is a complicated man whose sexual preferences have cause him pain and confusion in the past. His ethics continuously war with his passions. He knows he should not be attracted to men but is unable to resist. Especially when he sees Lord Mundo again. Mundo breaks through David’s walls and has him feeling things that speak of romance, love, and a lifetime of pleasure. He makes him think of the future.
Lord Mundo is/was a hedonist who did not see his enjoyment of male companionship as a hindrance in his eventual marriage and procreation of a heir. It was merely an itch to be scratched. David is the only man who has ever made Mundo question his actions and feel something beyond physical attraction. He regretted his harsh words two years ago and in seeing David again, he does everything he can to bring him back to his bed.
Their romance is more passionate and emotionally based in this book. The chemistry remains intense but their dialogue and actions speak of their deepening feelings towards one another. When David walked away two years ago, he was not prepared for the bleakness that enveloped him. It almost crippled him. David fears it will be worse this time around as he knows there is no future for he and Mundo. As the story progresses we learn that David was not the only one feeling the separation and desolate feelings. Mundo also regretted their separation. Sensual love scenes and a well crafted ending gives readers a glimpse of hope that these two men may have a chance at happiness despite their political and social differences.
The main conflict is a tense filled plotline that addresses social injustices towards woman and the working class for this era. Chambers brings back two characters with whom David has strong ties with. A suspected traitor whose brother he defended and failed and a young woman whose unrequited crush on David caused her to make a terrible choice. David’s innate loyalty and sense of justice leads him to create a clandestine plan to save both people from those who seek to do them harm.
The ending is an action packed affair that wraps up the main conflict in an acceptable resolution but leaves David in dire straits. Mundo comes to his rescue and we are left at a pivotal point that will affect both men. I look forward to book three and seeing how Ms. Chambers will bridge the differences between our heroes and what will become of the two people for whom David made the ultimate sacrifice.
When Amery Hardwick enrolls in a self defense class at a local dojo with her friend Molly, she finds herself under the heavy perusal of of the owner. Amery, a small town girl, is soon caught under his spell of sexual delights as he gently but firmly strips her defenses to unveil the sensuous woman he suspects lurks within her.
Ronin Black, the sensei and owner of the Black Arts dojo, wants to possess Amery in every manner and form. An intense contained man, he holds his emotions close to his vest. His time spent with Amery only intensifies his need to possess her. As their relationship grows beyond a sexual nature, Ronin’s secretive nature begins to chafe at Amery. Secrets she needs to uncover if she is ever able to give him the complete trust he demands.
When I was given this for review, I was thrilled. I am a huge fan of Ms. James’s Rough Riders and Blacktop Cowboy series and though I knew this would be different, I was looking forward to reading. Lorelei James has a distinct and addictive voice for erotic contemporary romance. Her stories are a wonderfully crafted balance of plot and romance. Each couple she brings before you is a delight in contradictions and complications; tempered with humor, wild sexual temperament, and an innate dominance that hooks even the most jaded of readers.
Bound is definitely a different path for James. Though still in the erotic genre, its storyline and characters are quieter and more subdued than James’ normal offerings. Subtle with textured nuance and subcontext, there is much going on under the actual words. It is unusual to see a couple whose issues aren’t immediately presented. Its only as the story reveals that we learn Amery grew up in a fundamental Christian home. Taught that desire in any form is an affront to God and punished most harshly for her supposed transgressions, Amery’s sexuality is buried deep inside her. This is not to say she is a pushover because she’s not. She owns her own business and is quite vocal in her likes and dislikes. But I couldn’t help but feel her easy submersion into submission was more by product of her upbringing and need to please than a true need to let go.
Ronin remained an enigma throughout as this is from Amery’s point of view so all our information is gleaned from her thoughts and opinions. We learn he is half Japanese and is a former MMA style fighter. He owns a dojo, is most assuredly dominant, and likes rope play. He pushes, in my opinion, for Amery to trust him and like her, I was cautious. He has secrets and goes to great lengths to avoid directly answering Amery about his life. I could empathize with Amery here. How can you give complete trust to someone can’t or won’t reciprocate?
The story moves fast and smooth with a heavy hand on the romance. There is character development though I felt we didn’t even begin to scratch the surface of Amery and Ronin’s psyche. The dialogue is stilted at times; especially with Ronin’s monochromatic replies. The BDSM is contained to the art of Japanese rope play and light bondage. No real D/s exploration or power exchanges though I was dismayed by the lack of information from Ronin to Amery concerning his obviously lifestyle and needs relationship wise. Indulging in wax play on the third date, out of the blue, doesn’t cut it. Informed consent should always be practiced.
Intriguing scenes and an interesting look into dojos and martial arts held my interest. Amery and Ronin explore their sexual compatibility through a series of interactions and intimate endeavors that push Amery’s boundaries. I was never truly convinced Ronin felt anything beyond sexual attraction to Amery, though. It’s as if she is the perfect medium for his art but he doesn’t see the person beneath. The chemistry is hot and their love making scenes are incredibly written but it was a matter of seeing all the right moves and hearing all the right words but never feeling the connection. When Ronin would shut Amery down as she struggles to break through his shields, I didn’t get angry at him. I didn’t get indignant for her. I just shrugged it off and kept reading.
Certain aspects of their personalities also felt off. Both were guilty of assuming things, flouncing off in a huff, then apologizing and falling into bed. Ronin especially with his anger issues that when combined with his sexual proclivities, made me wary. They were both juvenile at times. There was one scene where Ronin shows Amery his playroom and her first thought is he is going to kill her due to the ceremonial knives on his wall. He accuses her of not trusting him but I found that telling in her perceptions of him. That goes beyond lack of trust. I also had issues with him placing her blindfolded and tied up in the room then disappearing; giving her the impression she was alone. That is not how you introduce someone to your lifestyle for the first time and definitely not how you garner trust.
A defined cast of secondary characters entertained but no one stood out as invaluable. They were plot devices. Used to expand and elevate certain scenes and our main character’s emotions. Amery’s bff’s were almost caricatures in their “mean girl” approach to Amery and her new romance. Though Ronin is close to some people in his life, we are made crystal clear that Ronin has no true friends which serves to remind us of his secrets and emotional shields.
The plot elements were predictable in setup and push the issues that circle our couple to a head. An ex girlfriend, jealous friends, and a demanding family all come into play to push Amery and Ronin into directions that could tear them apart. The ending, dramatic and a wee contrived, leaves readers wondering where Amery and Ronin can go from here. Luckily readers won’t have to wait long as book two, Unwound, releases March 25, 2014. Unwound will be presented in Ronin’s POV. I do believe this is duology though I could be wrong.
Though I wasn’t blown away by this one, I much prefer her dirty, loud, adorably rambunctious cowboys, it held my interest overall and I am curious to see how Ronin and Amery will address all the elephants in the room. I will be reading and reviewing book two-Unwound.
Favorite Quote: “I wasn’t expecting to see my dick in 1080p HD at like…three times its normal size when I walked in here.”
When Samantha Hart arrived in Los Vegas for a much needed vacation, she never expected to be escorted to the luxury and naughty BDSM Provocateur penthouse suite in the Hard Rock cafe. Shocked but intrigued, she is further shocked when sexy Ethan Silver comes to the suite claiming he is staying there too.
Porn star Ethan Silver is dismayed to find the Samantha Hart he was looking for isn’t the one who standing in front of him. Regardless, the beautiful shy woman appeals to Ethan and he is determined to show her good time in Vegas; in and out of the bedroom.
When Ethan and Sam’s night on the town turns into much more, Sam begins to see the good guy under Ethan’s bad boy appeal and suddenly her one week vacation seems too short. But a loan shark bent on keeping Ethan under his thumb will place Ethan into a precarious position and could force him to lose the one thing he never imagined he’d find in Vegas… love.
A porn star and a bookseller walk into the same BDSM hotel room suite…Sounds like the beginning of joke, right? Well, Chasing Kings by Sierra Dean is anything but a joke. I’m a huge fan of Dean’s works-from her urban fantasy to her YAs to her romantic contemporaries so I’m always happy when she releases a new story. Dean brings us love, laughter, and some serious smexy times in her newest romantic contemporary about a porn star, a book seller, and a serendipitous case of mistaken identity. Steady pacing, a well developed storyline, some seriously sexy scenes, humor, and adorably naughty characters makes this novella a full body treat.
Sam and Ethan are delightful; easy to get to know and well matched. I liked that Dean didn’t make this a “Woe is me…I need saving” story. Ethan Silver is makes porn and has no problems with what he does. He likes sex, is good at sex, and figured he might as well get paid for it. He wasn’t pushed or blackmailed into it. He choose this career and feels no shame for his choices. Samantha (Sam) Hart is the same way. A book seller who was recently cheated on, she isn’t down on all men or emotionally traumatised by her ex boyfriend’s infidelity. She’s shy but not prudish about sex or the fact she wants to have sex with Ethan. Though him being a porn star initially throws her for a loop, she doesn’t look at him as morally lessor then her.
The storyline is a well balanced combination of humor and sexiness, engaging you completely. Ethan and Sam are a fun couple. Humorous dialogue and their immediate chemistry makes the story flow easily. Ethan is pretty laid back and considerate of those around him. Ethan enjoys Sam’s sexual innocence and Sam enjoys all her lessons. The evolution of their relationship is sweet and sexy. They become friends. Friends with benefits. *wink*
One scene had me giggling when Sam decides to do some “research” and watches a porn that Ethan starred in. Ethan catches her in the act and decides to show her exactly what made him a star in the wide world of porn. It sets the tone for the rest of the book.
I bet you’re secretly a bad girl, aren’t you?” “Excuse me?” The lady was protesting too much. He was totally right. “Oh, come on, sweetheart, it’s a bit late to play coy now. If you wait another five minutes, I get invited in the rear entrance.” [...] “You don’t know anything about me. What makes you think I’m a bad girl?” “Good girls don’t jerk off to porn in hotel rooms.” “Women don’t jerk off,” she said, sounding as scandalized as a church wife watching a Tijuana donkey show. “Sure they can. Principle is the same.” “You’re terrible.” “I sure am. If you watch a while longer, you can get an idea for how bad I can be.” He reached for the remote, but she threw it to the opposite side of the bed. “Unless you want me to show you.”
Their romance builds slowly along side the main conflict; leaving you with the feeling that no matter what happens to them in the future or even by the end of the book, you are going to be satisfied regardless.
The main conflict is pretty cut and dry. I do wish we had more scenes with the villain and the individual who put Ethan in his predicament in the first place. I felt they were only brought in for drama and then stuck back in the closet of doom. Dean does leave just enough open in that aspect though and in the ending to be able to revisit this couple again and expand more upon their future.
All in all, Chasing Kings was a delightful romantic story whose characters I hope Dean decides to revisit in the future.