I’ve been checking this author’s website regularly for any, and I do mean ANY, new updates on a possible release date for Land of the Beautiful Dead. I was like a stalker there for awhile, which means I spent most of my year steeped in disappointment, waiting…
Then on Oct. 30th, out of nowhere it suddenly appeared on Amazon! *fist bump* *high five* Who gives a crap if it’s Halloween AND Homecoming weekend and I had lots of stuff to do? I was one-clicking and cracking this baby open. 751 pages? No problem.
I’m not sure the description of horror erotica quite fits this book. It’s definitely fantasy and post-apocalyptic. There is sex, but not so much that I would consider it erotica. It is gory at times, although not as bad as I was expecting with the whole zombie thing. It did make me think, which always seems to happen when I open a new R. Lee Smith book.
The heroine is named Lan and she is on a mission to enter the great city of Haven and do whatever she has to in order to get an audience with Azrael. Azrael is known by many names… Azrael the eternal, Azrael the immortal, and also Azrael, lord of the beautiful dead, because that’s what makes up his court. Lan is of the living and Azrael is lord of death. He is undying and after finally winning the war with humans he retreated to his great walled city of Haven with his remaining children and left behind the dead to rise again as Eaters that would forever threaten every human left alive and keep them in check. After watching her mother rise up after death and become an Eater, Lan decides she’s had enough and sets out to convince Azrael to get rid of the Eaters and let the living reside in peace. Whatever she has to do means she will even become his dolly and let him into her body in the chances that she can convince him to end the status quo.
If you think you have any idea who the bad guy is in this book, trust me you’d be wrong. If there is one thing this author does and does well, its blur the lines of good and evil. The person who you would think is awful and terrible, really isn’t. And as uncomfortable as it may be, his assumptions about man’s actions do get proven correct. While Lan might start out being the good girl who sets out to do great things, she does make some stupid mistakes that you just know will come back and bite everyone in the ass later. But she’s a strong heroine, funny and crude and tries to follow her heart.
I loved the romance between Azrael and Lan. On Twitter this morning my friend Lexxie mentioned a Beauty and the Beast comparison and I kind of squinty-eyed it at first, but now that I think about it, she’s right. Although the beast never changes his looks, only his willingness to hope and embrace a new life and the beauty eventually becomes more like her lover as she falls in love and learns a few lessons about the hearts of men. But that almost seems too tame, I really believe this book is also about war, redemption, pride, class structure, man’s quest to win despite the consequences, finding a home where you least expect it, and discovering connections despite vast differences. That’s right off the top of my head, I’m sure there is much more that I haven’t even thought through yet, but I’m writing this review mere hours after I finished and am still kind of working it all out.
Yes, I loved this book. Not quite as much as Last Hour of Gann, but it’s up there. I think my favorite part was the ending. Gah! I’m getting kind of teary eyed thinking of it. For those of you who need an HEA, don’t be afraid, I was so happy with the way everything wrapped up. Also don’t let the page count or label of horror erotica deter you, trust me you won’t regret setting aside your TBR stack to pick this one up.
“ She put her arms around him and pressed her brow to his, pressed hard. “I want you to miss me when I’m gone. Not for a thousand years or a million, but all of them, until there’s no more way to count them. I want to give you the best night of your life and I want you to remember it forever.”
Josie Westfall grew up with the Woodleys. Because of her friendship with the eldest sister, Claire, she spent quite a lot of time traipsing the Woodley’s estate grounds and running into her best friend’s siblings as a young girl. Her innocent crush on Claire’s brother Evan eventually turned to hurt and anger when he called her a horrible name in front of a notorious society bully he was trying to impress. This unthinking act set up years of loneliness and taunts that followed Josie where ever she went in society. To say she despises him now is an understatement.
Evan knows he messed up with Josie all those years ago and has tried to apologize many times over the years, but everything he’s said seemed to fall on deaf ears. She’s never forgiven him and when they are at the same events she seems determined to ignore his very presence . Which is why he’s dreading seeing her at his youngest sister’s wedding. Only, when he finally sets eyes on her again she’s not the same woman he remembers at all and he has an undeniable attraction that surprises him. He’s also pretty sure it isn’t loathing he sees when she looks at him, but desire and temptation. With his brother urging him to use the attraction between them as a way to discover if Josie has any information regarding their missing sister’s whereabouts, Evan sets out to seduce her. He doesn’t count on falling in love.
Decieved is the second book in The Wicked Woodleys and features the youngest brother Evan. The previous book in the series, Forbidden, introduced the entire Woodley clan and told the love story of Audrey and close family friend and business manager, Jude. Overall I enjoyed their romance, although I had the feeling that Jude felt more for Audrey than she did for him. But it did get me hooked on the series and anxiously awaiting any news on the reasons for Claire’s disappearance. I mention that here because Claire plays a huge part of Evan and Josie’s romance. She’s the reason they spent time together as children, she’s the reason Josie is invited to Audrey’s wedding and ultimately she’s the reason Evan decides to pursue Josie. Claire doesn’t make an appearance on page like she did in the first book in the series, but her presence, or lack thereof, is felt nonetheless. Claire overshadows everything.
Josie is a wallflower who spent her entire child and early adulthood bullied and belittled. Her feelings of self-worth are a reflection of those taunts. She thinks no man will want a woman so different from the prized willowy beauties of the ton. Her tendency to stutter when in uncomfortable situations only makes matters worse. But she wants to experience passion, and regardless of her hurt over Evan’s childhood name calling, she still harbors romantic feelings for him. When he starts to show her attention and seems to want her just as badly she can’t help fall into his arms willingly. She has no idea that Evan goes into their affair with ulterior motives.
You know those books where you find yourself reading faster and faster just to get to the big climax because while you are enjoying the couple and find their chemistry appealing and sexy you just KNOW it won’t last and when it blows up it will be bad? Yeah, that. I ached for Josie the whole time she was falling in love with Evan. Watching her blossom was awesome and amazing, but I knew the betrayal was coming and I couldn’t help but hurt for her. I’m still not sure exactly how I feel about Evan, but I will say he did redeem himself in my eyes with his big display at the end. And it was needed. I would have been disappointed with anything less showy and intense. In the end, I found myself enjoying this love story more than Jude and Audrey’s and felt like Josie and Evan were more believable to me.
I’m pretty sure the next book in the series is Gabriel. Not my favorite character in the series after his actions in this book, but of course I’ll be reading. Also, I had a theory about why Claire has chosen to remain apart from her family, but now I’m not so sure. Hmmmm…. So far I’ve enjoyed both books in this series and am looking forward to Gabriel and Claire getting their own happily ever afters. Final Grade- B-
Gabriel pinched his lips. “I never lose my grip on reason.”
“I suppose I should say that is lucky,” Evan said with a sigh. “But I don’t think it is. There is something to be said for desire so powerful that it means more than breath. With wanting another person so much that you would be willing to give up everything to be with her.”
Rose Verma has a full life working as a fundraising manager for EcoHabitat, fostering shelter animals and keeping up with her Thursday night dates. Despite being an intelligent, beautiful woman, she keeps striking out in the dating pool. So far the men she’s gone out with have either been rude, disrespectful or married. There was also that one unfortunate vomiting incident. At the end of every date, she goes home and writes a long, detailed letter to her best friend in the world. Letters and texts are how they’ve responded for years… it’s their thing. So Rose is quite surprised to see Jo’s number pop up on her cell phone one morning. Then she’s horrified when Jo tells her she didn’t receive a funny recounting of date night, but rather a thank you for a recent donation. Which is how she comes face to face with Marcus Rosemann and somehow turns into his fake fiance.
Marcus Rosemann is a self-made man. Instead of bending to his father’s will and joining the family business he worked his butt off and created a successful advertising agency. Oh, he’s still expected to bring home a nice girl for his family to approve of and attend events like the Fall Ball, which was his late mother’s signature charity event, but he’s not above doing everything he can to piss off a father he despises, which means finding a completely unsuitable date. Rose Verma is perfect for the job. She’s completely unique, dresses in bright, vibrant colors, is way too outspoken for a polite society function, but to him absolutely perfect. If he has to blackmail her with mistaken correspondence and bribe her with promises of big donations, so be it. She WILL be his date. He doesn’t mean to blurt out that they’re engaged, but once it’s out there he decides to go with it and that means offering Rose more bribes in order to get her to agree.
The Engagement Game is the third book in the 49th Floor series and features another business owner on, you guessed it, the 49th floor. Even if you’ve enjoyed the first two books in the series, as I have, I think you’ll be surprised by this newest release. Rose and Marcus are opposites in almost every single way… cultural backgrounds, religions, ages, and most especially economic situations, I think the only thing they did have in common was that they happened to live in the same city and occasionally enjoyed bike riding, but somehow they worked. Their chemistry shines from the moment they spar over whether Rose should attend the Fall Ball as Marcus’s date.
I’m not sure how you can resist falling in love with Rose, she is in a word AWESOME. Funny, sweet, soft-hearted, smart, gorgeous and full of life. She does not take any shit off Marcus and is not afraid to give as good as she gets. Marcus did piss me off at first, mainly because I was bothered that he wanted Rose for the simple fact that he thought his family would find her unsuitable. Jerk. But as their fake relationship forced them to spend time together and Marcus loosened up, I grew to like him. I liked that he loved Rose’s uniqueness and started to go out of his way to spend time with her. Even doing things that were completely out of the norm for him. I liked the pacing of their romance and watching it slowly blossom and grow until they meshed beautifully.
Marcus may not do relationships and Rose might be looking for love, but despite this and because of their many, many differences they make a great couple. Fans of sweet and sexy contemporary romances will definitely want to check this out on release day. Final Grade- B
“What do you call this, then?’ She protested, even as she knew she was going to surrender.
He let the hands that had been anchoring her hips slide a little farther down her legs, Then, spreading them, he buried his face between them. When his tongue made contact with her center, her hips bucked involuntarily.
The hands shot back to her hips, pressing down hard.
He lifted his head, gracing her with an evil grin. “Cunnilingus,” he said over-enunciating, managing to make the word sound prim and dirty at the same time. “I call this cunnilingus.”
This is going to be a DNF for me. Didn't care for the story, characters or pacing. When I'm forcing myself to trudge on and try to finish then it's tiThis is going to be a DNF for me. Didn't care for the story, characters or pacing. When I'm forcing myself to trudge on and try to finish then it's time to throw in the towel and set it aside.
Since you doona have any family to love anymore, ye could love me…” Instead of meeting her gaze, he studied the way the pristine white of her petticoat bandage made his hand look that much grubbier. “That is, if ye wanted.”
Farah buried her face in his neck and sighed, her lashes brushing against his tender skin with every blink. “Of course I’ll love you, Dougan MacKenzie,” she said easily. “Who else is going to?"
When 8-year-old Farah Leigh stumbles upon a lonely and bleeding Dougan hiding on the orphanage grounds, she cleans his wounds and captures his heart. A deep and abiding friendship and love is born between two people who are all alone in the world. They even handfast in secret in order to protect Farah from a far off fate she’s desperately afraid of. Dougan will do anything for his fairy. He will protect her with his life, and he does. Attempting to escape one evening they are caught and the violent confrontation ends with them being separated and Dougan sent off to prison.
Seventeen years later Farah is still honoring her dead husband and living the life of an independent widow. Working for Scotland Yard as a clerk, living alone and associating with artists, writers, and Bohemians. In the process of doing her job, she happens to meet Dorian Blackwell, the Blackheart of Ben More. Blackwell is a murderer, fiend, and villain, rumored to have killed and blackmailed his way to the top of the London underworld. He’s also one of the wealthiest and most influential men in the empire. She’s shocked when he kidnaps her and secrets her away to his Scottish estate, claiming to only want to protect her. She’s even more shocked to learn that he spent time in prison with her dear Dougan and owes him a debt that he intends to repay. In order to do this, he insists that they must marry. Farah agrees, on one condition… he must provide her with the family she so desperately wants.
I was utterly enchanted by this romance. This is my first Kerrigan Byrne book, but after I finished reading I immediately went to her Goodreads page to look up her backlist. I’ve also already put the second installment in this series, The Hunter, on my TBR list. The innocent love of these two children connecting on a soul-deep level sucked me in right from the first word. By the time the damaged, vengeful Dorian walked onto the page and started to connect the missing dots of seventeen years and how five boys banded together in prison to protect each other and then get their revenge once they were released, I was unable to put this book down.
Dorian and Farah develop a desire for each other pretty quickly, you get the sense that they are drawn together beyond their control. Like their bodies and souls are reaching out to each other and they can’t help themselves.
Expressions she hadn’t thought his brutal features capable of producing played in rapid succession across his face, gone before she could even identify them all. Longing. Apprehension. Privation, Frenzy. Control. Despair. Lust.
Dorian is the quintessential brooding, broken romantic hero. His past has irrevocably scarred him in ways that will haunt him forever. He can’t stand to be touched and worries he will hurt Farah if he loses control. He keeps pushing her away, only to claim that she is his and no one else’s. Farah is a strong, resilient, brave heroine who lovingly and loyally stands by her man in all his forms. You just can’t help but love her. Together they are the stuff of a romance lover’s dream. They have an achingly lovely connection that reminds me of those old school romances I used to gobble up as a teenager.
Surrounding them are a lovable, interesting cast of characters that both support them and engage readers in their own heartbreaking and poignant side stories. One of my favorite scenes involved Gemma, a rescued prostitute and Frank, the mentally damaged, but gifted cook and friend of Dorian.
“I told you I ain’t no good at this,” Gemma protested churlishly. “I can roast the bloody hell out of a bird, but baking gives me a fever.”
Frank turned his head and kissed her jaw. “You’re good at this,” he said with absolute conviction. “You’re good at lots of things.”
I could go on and on, there are so many wonderful things about The Highwayman. So I’ll finish this review by saying I highly recommend this book and urge fans of historical romance to put it on their TBR lists. Final grade- A
Most of you guys are familiar with the names Moira Rogers and Kit Rocha. Under Rogers this writing duo pen paranormal romances and under Rocha dirty, dirty dystopias. Now they’ve branched out to NA contemporaries with their newest release, Anything but Broken.
Hannah Casey only comes home to Hurricane Creek in order to bury what’s left of her family. Still haunted by a tragedy from the past, her life is a mess and she doesn’t know how she feels about her current situation. Angry. Sad. Confused. Maybe even a little desperate. Growing up in the Casey household didn’t prepare her for all the thoughts and feelings she’s trying to work through. Taught at a very young age that appearances are all that mattered, she struggled with a cold, distant mother, a father who seemed to be slowly drinking himself to death and then there was Cait. Cait. Her older sister who burned bright at as the sun at times and then fell to dangerous, out of control depths that eventually led to her untimely death. The only person who seems to know what she needs is the one man who she shouldn’t involve in her problems. But she can’t seem to help herself.
Sean Whitlow has been in deep with one of the Casey girls already. His up and down, on again then off again, crazy relationship with Cait in high school nearly drove hin mad. He didn’t know how to help her, or what she needed from him and in the end she died and left him wondering if he could have done anything different. Now there’s Hannah who he can’t seem to stay away from. She’s broken, almost defeated by her circumstances, and he wants to make it all better. If she needs his shoulder to lean on and a man to show her how to feel free and maybe a little bad so be it.
Being a huge Kit Rocha/Beyond fan, I was excited to see them branch out to a genre that I’ve enjoyed a lot lately. Though I’m not sure I was expecting such an emotional, heart-wrenching read. Hannah is quite simply a mess. She’s broken and raw and has no idea what to do or how to deal with her past or the present shape of her life. I don’t think every reader will relate to her, but they will empathize with her struggles. Sean is a little bit of bad boy with the heart and soul of a hero. He’s so good to her and offers unreserved amounts of comfort and kindness again and again in the exact right way she needs them. I thought these authors did an excellent job of slowly building their relationship with just enough heat to keep readers on the edge of their seats, without taking things too fast or throwing them into bed too soon. I think this couple, with all their past memories and intertwined relationships, needed that. I think Hannah needed to grow and heal and make peace with herself. I will admit to wondering at the beginning if I would find it maybe a bit awkward, or troubling, that the hero used to be in a relationship with the heroine’s sister, but I can tell you that was never a problem. Hannah and Sean had a palpable chemistry from the moment they reconnect and their romance is layed out in such a way that I felt like they truly belonged together.
I am simply in love with the secondary characters. All of them. Every single one. I want each of Sean’s brothers and their friends to have their own books, especially Gibb. He stole my heart at the end when he stepped up to the plate and proved to be a wonderful friend. Final Grade- B
It’s true and it’s raw and it shouldn’t make me laugh, but it does. “God, it’s been a terrible idea the whole time, hasn’t it? What are we even doing?”
His smile is slow, but it carries a promise behind it— absolute, unspeakable joy. “Falling in love.”
I’ve always enjoyed Penny Watson’s books, they make me smile and laugh and are always original. But I have to say, I think this is my favorite of them all. When she mentioned on Twitter a few months back that she was writing a romance with older characters I was pretty excited. Even though I am a fan of some NA books, reading the second chance love story of two people closer to my own age had a lot of appeal. So when this gem hit my inbox I wanted to jump right in, but then I looked at the release date, then my review list and thought maybe I ought to read something closer to publication. Then I said screw it and dived in any way.
I feel like I should warn you… don’t start reading too late at night because you won’t want to stop. Also, it will make you hungry. This book is delicious in many, many ways.
Sophia Brown is a 47-year-old widow who is trapped in grief over the sudden loss of her dear husband. She’s basically going through the motions from day-to-day. Her world is colorless and tasteless and more often than not her daughters find her simply sitting and staring out at nothing. After being part of a couple for 20 years, she doesn’t know what to do with herself now that she is alone. Her daughters are worried and want to find something that might create a spark and bring her back to life. So they sign her up for a reality TV cooking show that they are convinced she will win. After all, Sophia is an amazing hostess and cook. Not really wanting to go at first, she ultimately gives in to make her daughters happy. Thinking it’ll be a show full of amateurs, she’s a little surprised to find out that she will be paired with a professional chef and they have to work as a team in order to win. Unfortunately for her, she’s paired with a big, brutish, loud-mouthed, bald, bearded Scotsman. How in the world did she get into this mess?
Elliott Adamson is the Scotsman paired with Sophia and at first they do not think much of each other. He’s a 49-year-old professional chef who has owned several restaurants, attended the best schools and won awards. He’s also a bit of a food snob and has no use for an amateur who has no real professional experience whatsoever. But he needs to win. He needs that $50,000 prize money desperately. So he lays down the law first chance he gets. He is the team captain and Sophia needs to follow his direction when in the kitchen. Period. This is when Sophia decides she has had enough and will absolutely not be run over anymore.
I think I fell in love with Sophia from the first page. She’s a little lost at first, but quickly finds her strength and doesn’t let anyone push her around. She and Elliott do butt heads, but once they find common ground and begin to work together their chemistry in and out of the kitchen simply shines. He’s moody and difficult, but also charming in his own way. His rough accent seduces her right alongside his talent with food. Together they create amazing dishes that compliment each other and realize that they work well together in other aspects too. Including the bedroom, where Sophia revels in her big, brawny Scots lover. While at first Sophia’s need for a fresh start is more apparent, it soon becomes clear that both of these characters need to rediscover themselves.
I would also like to add, that I simply adored Sophia’s daughters and admired their support for their mother. You could feel the love between the Brown family with every word and touch. Which is why I found the HEA to be the perfect icing on the cake of this romance. I couldn’t have asked for a better ending.
A Taste of Heaven made me smile. And sigh. And stay up half the night reading. Definitely recommend. Final Grade- B+
This competition was her chance for a fresh start. And if she had to bully the Scot to get there, so be it.
Jude Samson has been intimately involved with the Woodley clan for decades. He works as a man of affairs for the oldest brother Edward and considers them the closest thing he has for a family. He has also been in love with the youngest sister, Lady Audrey, since the first moment he laid eyes on her. Only his position and a secret betrayal keep him from pursuing the only woman he has ever wanted.
Lady Audrey Woodley has been half in love with Jude for as long as she can remember, but she’s seen all the ways passion can hurt and tear a family apart and she’s afraid. When Jude is asked to accompany Audrey and her mother to one of the family’s country estates he knows it’s a bad idea, but reluctantly agrees. But suddenly they are left with only each other for company, and before they know it their desire flares to life. Audrey makes the decision to find out for herself all the ways Jude can introduce her to passion and seduction with the agreement that it will all end when they journey back to London. Only once they start an affair they realize how hard it will be to say goodbye.
There were several interesting relationship dynamics at work with this romance. Not only was there a friends to lovers theme, but also that of an aristocrat and servant. Although, Jude wasn’t really a servant, he just views himself that way. As the son of an aristocrat who has been disowned and neatly forgotten by his family, he was taken in at a young age by the Woodley’s and given employment. I think Jude was forced to live in both worlds and yet neither. He was considered part of the family, but never really trusted them not to set him aside once they realized his betrayal. When Audrey offers herself to him he just can’t help himself, but there is always this sense that he knows his place and it will never be by her side.
As with any Jess Michaels romance the sexytimes are abundant and very, very sensual. Even when you wonder if the main protagonists are connecting on a deeper relationship level, you never wonder if they have chemistry. There was no doubt this couple came alive together in the bedroom. I did have the feeling that Jude felt more than Audrey, but that may be because his character seemed to be more fleshed out. I liked Audrey, but did not fall in love with her. I wanted her to end up with Jude because he so desperately wanted her to.
The set up for the next several books was very well done. I’m completely invested in Claire’s story and can not wait to see why she ran off and remains apart from her family. I have my suspicions, and can’t wait to see if I’m correct. I think the second book in this series will feature the second oldest brother Evan and will release sometime this fall. I plan to put it on my TBR list. Final Grade- B-
She was like an angel swooping down from heaven. She was like a demon meant to tempt him and prove that he couldn’t control himself. She was everything.
We finally have Noah and Kit’s story, which I know fans were either desperate for or worried about given Noah’s manwhore ways and the shitty thing he did to Kit that drove them apart. And believe me, I am not going to sugar coat it, what Noah did was shitty with a capital S. After reading the previous book in this series featuring Charlie and T-Rex, I didn’t think this series could get more emotional or angsty, but man was I wrong.
In case you haven’t been introduced, Noah is a member of Schoolboy Choir and more often than not you will find him leading a groupie or random hook-up back to his hotel room. What nobody knows is that he also rarely sleeps and occasionally gets so low that he goes on a drinking binge until he passes out. Noah is haunted by nightmares and ghosts and memories that will never go away. He and Kit used to be the best of friends, even possibly on the road to something more, until he deliberately sabotaged their relationship in the absolute worst way possible. Now Kit keeps her distance.
When he hits rock bottom he calls his former best friend and she can’t help but run off into the night determined to save him. Kit’s devastated by what she finds when she finally tracks him down. A drunk Noah on a messy bed who is out of his mind and admits to having purchased, although not used, heavy drugs to make him forget. She’s scared so she hauls him home and puts him to bed in her guest room. It’s a sad, emotionally charged scene and where I got the sense that this might one of Nalini Singh’s most angsty romances yet.
I’ve struggled with writing this review, because on one hand the writing is outstanding as always, the pacing is perfect and even though I spent half my time angry at Noah for hurting Kit over and over, I felt for him at the same time. On the other hand, it took a lot for me to get over that scene at the very beginning where he purposefully hurts the woman he professes to adore in the worst possible way. In my mind, this was cheating and cheating is on my “no” list. He and Kit weren’t lovers yet, but they had an intimacy and closeness that was turning into something deeper.
But then he went and said things like this and it made me ache for him:
His hand was the one that trembled this time. “Just be my friend.” Laugh again with him, remind him that life wasn’t only nightmares and pain, make him feel as if he could be a better man if he tried hard enough. “Don’t give up on me. Please don’t.”
As Noah’s back story slowly unfolds and he stutters and fails and desperately tries to find a way to be a better man for Kit, I started to wish that these two could find a way to be together. Despite being hurt repeatedly, Kit still loves Noah. It’s hard for her to understand what is going on at first, because she’s left in the dark about why he does the things he does, but she is dedicated. Kit is an amazing heroine. It’s hard not to fall in love with her as she pushes through her heartache to try to help Noah time and again, while setting boundaries and finding unique ways to give him peace.
While not quite as sexy as previous books in this series, I felt like the love scenes developed organically and appreciated that by the time these two fell into bed together it felt right. It felt like they were in the exact right place emotionally for it to happen. There is a suspense subplot that creates a way for them to be forced in close proximity and had me afraid for Kit, but, to be honest, I wasn’t as interested in it as I was in the romance. I will say, however, that the setup for the next book in the series, which I assume will be Abe and Sarah, was excellent and I am looking forward to its release.
Rock Redemption is raw and heart-wrenching, and will definitely have you angry on behalf of a traumatized small boy, but in the end it’s also a beautifully told love story about forgiveness and redemption. This is not an easy read, but it’s a good one. Final Grade- B
When Noah St. John decided to love, she thought as she snuggled up to him, he went all the way.
Vaughn O’Keefe is part owner of the Hog’s Den, his partner happens to be none other than the President of the Disciples of the Road MC. Which means he’s part of their world, but he isn’t. He’s privy to much of their business, but only as a friend to the club, not as an insider. So he sticks to what he knows best, and that’s running his bar. The only part of the Disciples he’d like to really get intimate with is the newest recruit, Smoke. And when the Prez offers Smoke’s help on his busy nights at work he knows it’ll be next to impossible to keep his desires under control, but what choice does he have?
Reed “Smoke” Callahan owes the Disciples MC everything. After two stints in rehab for a heroin addiction and finally having the support of a brotherhood that wants to get their shit together and go legit, he’s finally found himself on the right track. Suddenly his president wants him to not only be the inside man who helps take his old MC down, but he’s also being loaned out to the owner of the Hog’s Den to help out behind the bar. He’s always wanted the sexy bartender and now he’s not sure how he’ll keep his hands to himself.
Having not read the previous book where Vaughn and Smoke were introduced, I wondered if I would be a little lost when I picked The Darkest Flame up, but I wasn’t. Although the reader is immediately immersed in this world and Vaughn and Smoke’s lust for each other fairly reaches out and slaps you in the face from the first chapter I can’t say any of it was confusing. Lol. I was totally going to begin my review with “Dicks! Dicks everywhere! The end.”, but instead I’ll just say that this book is dirty. Very, very dirty. There are a lot of sex scenes and it took a while for me to really see these men as a couple versus two people who desperately want each other and decide to hook up under some very challenging circumstances.
Of course, there is a suspense plot underlying all the sexy times and relationship angst. I really wasn’t as interested in it as I was with how and when Vaughn and Smoke would finally come out to their club brothers. I do have to say, however, that the climax and how these men dealt with it is what totally got me on board with them being a solid couple. Vaughn makes a rather large sacrifice to save the sanity of his lover and at that moment I kept hoping and praying that it wouldn’t end the way I thought it would. It wasn’t until that exact scene that I really felt like these two really could form some kind of a life together.
Another surprise was that I liked the balance of the grittiness of club life vs. the author trying to create characters that readers could and would sympathize with. There were drugs and drinking and the occasional mention of a brother cheating on his old lady, but none of the bitches and hoes and crazy shit that goes on in other MC romances. Maybe unrealistic, but whatever, it worked for me.
I’m really hoping to see more in this series. I would love to for Sawyer to appear as the next lead. Final Grade- B-/C+
“Sometimes I—” he whispered in a choked voice. “I want to be with you so fucking bad I can hardly breathe.
I think I’ve found the perfect Halloween read for y’all. Creepy, haunted mansion out in the middle of nowhere? Check. Mysterious neighbors who aren’t what they appear to be? Check. Dead bodies, strange happenings, and ominous surroundings that lend to an overall feel of eeriness? Check, check, check. Throw in a hot, tattooed rocker, a drummer who is confused and angry and some dirty sex scenes and I don’t know what else you could possibly ask for.
Blurb from Goodreads:
Jeremy has been isolated and adrift since the death of his brother. Most people just see him as the skinny emo kid who wears eyeliner and plays drums. No one gets him. Nobody tries. He thought the indie rock band Stygian would become his anchor, but—lost in their own problems—they’re far from the family he sought.
Still, hoping to get close to Kennedy, the band’s enigmatic guitarist, he follows Stygian to northern Louisiana for a summer retreat. They had planned to spend six weeks focusing on new music but things go awry as soon as they arrive at the long-deserted Caroway mansion. Tempers flare, sexual tension boils over into frustration, and Jeremy turns away from the band to find a friend in his eerily beautiful landlord Hunter Caroway.
Kennedy suspects there’s something off about the creepy mansion and its mysterious owners, but Jeremy thinks he’s finally found somewhere he fits. It isn’t until Kennedy forces the Caroway’s secrets into the light that Jeremy realizes belonging sometimes comes with a price.
Santino Hassell is a relatively new to me author. I adored his last release, Sutphin Boulevard and was anxious to read something else by this obviously talented writer. I’ve heard Stygian described as a southern gothic m/m romance with paranormal aspects and since I can’t remember reading anything remotely close to that lately I was all in from the get-go.
Can we all just take a minute to look at that cover… seriously, I can’t stop staring. So gorgeous.
I tried writing a full-length review, but soon realized I didn’t want to give away any hints or spoilers simply because I think the beauty of this type of story is that readers have no idea what to expect. I know I enjoyed being kept on the edge of my seat trying to figure out what the heck Mr. Hassell would throw at me next and how he would get these characters safely out of the mess they found themselves smack dab in the middle of. Or who would even make it out alive, for that matter. I was stressed and angry at Watts and wondering what the heck was up with the Caroways, but in the end I was glad I had an early copy and hadn’t read any reviews. I think it made the story itself that much more sinister. Which means you guys need to go one-click and read for yourselves.
P.S. I am still counting down the days to the next release in the Five Boroughs series, Sunset Park releases in December and I CAN NOT WAIT.
Naked and lacking a hint of modesty, Kennedy stood up and moved closer. He was so broad and strong that it was difficult to picture their bodies crushed together on the bed. They were completely different, but they’d still fit perfectly.
I’ve wanted to try this author for some time, so when this popped up as available for review I jumped on it and pretty much started reading as soon as it hit my inbox. To be honest, I’m not sure I was quite ready for Sutphin Boulevard. From reading the blurb I knew the main protagonists were long-time best friends who taught at the same Brooklyn high school and were about to take their relationship to the next level after a debauched night of drink and dance. And yeah, that’s pretty much exactly how this book begins. But then it all of a sudden just became more. Of course, there is the friends to lovers aspect, but this book is also about addiction, family, putting yourself back together again after getting to the lowest point possible and most of all seeing what’s been right in front of your face all along.
Michael Rodriguez and Nunzio Medici have been best friends for going on twenty years, they grew up in the same neighborhood and have always been the most important thing in each others lives. After a break up with his boyfriend, Michael decides a night out with his best friend is just what he needs. When they take someone back to Nunzio’s apartment for some dirty sex they don’t realize that everything between them is about to change. Feelings come to the surface, jealousies are suddenly right there between them and a real fear that a deep and abiding friendship will suddenly fall apart if they move to something more. Everything in Michael’s life begins to erode. From family to friendship to work… and the way he begins to deal with it all is by drowning himself in drink.
This isn’t an easy romance. It’s dark, and at times raw, but so real and true to life. I ached for Michael, whose anger and resentment toward his family grips him so tightly he can’t seem to see that he’s following in the exact same footsteps as his alcoholic, absentee father. It’s hard to be in his head as he spirals out of control and hits rock bottom. He makes bad choices, he drinks into oblivion, he shuts out the one person who has always had his back because he’s afraid. This story is told entirely in his POV and I’m not sure it would have worked any other way. You almost have to be in his headspace to even begin to understand his feelings of confusion and guilt. You might be wondering by now if you will even like Michael, but rest assured, you will. He is deeply flawed, but I found myself rooting for him. Even at his lowest point, even when he disappoints and fucks up over and over you can’t help but want him to get better.
Then there’s Nunzio. Dazzling, sexy, generous, loyal Nunzio. He stays true to Michael throughout it all. It says something about this author’s gift as a storyteller that I connected just as strongly to a character without being able to see things through his eyes. I knew when he was hurting, I understood his frustration at not being able to help Michael when he needed it, and I could feel his love for his best friend every time they shared a look or an embrace. I wanted to reach into the pages and give him a hug, let him know everything would be okay. He’s remained the rock by Michael’s side no matter how angry or hurt he was or how many times Michael shut him out.
I don’t want you to think it’s all dark. The chemistry between these two fairly sizzles the pages. This book is sexy. The love scenes are dirty in all the best ways. It’s quite clear Michael and Nunzio love each other, it just takes awhile for them to figure out that that love has slowly evolved into something deeper. Let’s be honest, it takes Michael looking at all his flaws and mistakes to see that Nunzio is his person. That there was never anyone else.
I’m told that book two, Sunset Park, is Raymond (Michael’s brother) and David’s story. I’ve also heard that it’s even better than Sutphin Boulevard from a few people who’ve read it. I’m not sure how that could possibly be true. I do know I can’t wait to dive back into this author’s work and plan on looking into his backlist.
Trust me. Go buy this book. Final Grade- A
At my best and worst, Nunzio had always seen me. What I wanted, what I needed, and the fact that we belonged together. He’d known all along, and I was just catching up.
Jamie Shaw is a new to me author, but I was intrigued by the blurb and love a good rock star romance.
Blurb from Goodreads:
From the moment she saw Shawn Scarlett perform at a school talent show, Kit Larson has loved two things: the guitar, and the gorgeous, green-eyed boy who inspired her to play. But one careless night in high school shatters her hope of ever being more than a notch on his bedpost.
Six years, two bands, and one mostly-mended heart later, Kit’s about to make her rock star dreams a reality as the new guitarist for Shawn’s band, The Last Ones to Know. He may not remember their reckless night together, but Kit has never forgotten… and she’s determined to make him eat his heart out.
The release of their new album means a month cooped up on a tour bus, sleeping inches away from the ridiculously sexy musician she’s never quite gotten over. And as Kit gets to know the real Shawn—not Shawn Scarlett, the rock god, the player—their attraction becomes too hot to resist. But the past is paved with secrets, and when they finally surface, Kit could lose everything: the band, the music, her dreams… and Shawn.
I mean that’s a good blurb. And to my utter delight this book was fun. I pretty much read straight through, with only a slight delay in finishing due to the need for sleep. :) Kit is a very likable heroine, you might not agree with her decisions at times, but you will like her. She has four brothers, three older and one who is her twin, and you better believe she has learned how to manipulate and work around their over protectiveness. She knows exactly who she is and what she wants, which happens to be Shawn Scarlett and playing guitar. Shawn is the reason she started playing after all. Her fifteen-year-old self needs for him to know the impression he has made on her, so against her twin’s better judgement she sneaks out of the house and heads for the local high school party to tell him. She has no idea the night will end up with her giving him her virginity. Or that he will never contact her again.
Six years later Kit has a chance at auditioning for Shawn’s band as the newest guitarist. She wants the job, but she also wants for Shawn to regret letting her go. His not remembering her or that one sexual encounter never entered her mind. Shawn is still gorgeous, but he’s also kind of a dick who makes her want to bang her head against the wall. How in the world is she supposed to focus on a new tour and making her place in the band when she can’t figure out where she stands with him?
Chaos is one of those books that keeps you reading even though the main protagonists drive you a bit crazy with their game playing and you just know it’s all going to come to a head in a big, bad way. I think the humor and a sense that I genuinely liked these characters is what kept me turning pages. I found myself alternately laughing, sighing and irritated beyond belief as this couple worked through their feelings. I was annoyed with Shawn, then Kit, then Shawn… you get the picture. They have ridiculous chemistry and this author sets their romance up well, but I still wondered when it would explode into a huge, angsty ball of hurt feelings and bad memories. You guys, when it does you’ll be caught up in the moment and then something happens that once again will have you cracking up with laughter. ...more
So, I read this in one sitting. Because you know... Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy. And of course, Jamie and Wes. I just couldn't help myself. I love,So, I read this in one sitting. Because you know... Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy. And of course, Jamie and Wes. I just couldn't help myself. I love, love, loved this friends to lovers romance.
So, everyone knows by now how much of a sucker I am for a friends to lovers romance. Add in Sarina Bowen, Elle Kennedy, a little hockey and I’m likely to be checking my inbox for my review copy every five minutes. (Yes, this did happen.) As soon as these authors announced their collaboration on a new m/m romance Twitter and Goodreads were ablaze with excitement over its release. Being a huge fan of both author’s NA romances I was definitely looking forward to His.
Once upon a time Ryan Wesley and Jamie Canning were best friends who spent their summers together at an elite hockey camp. Wes daring Jamie to do seemingly crazy things was the norm, until that one night four years ago when their bet ended in an evening that pushed the boundaries of their friendship and left Wes feeling guilty. So he bailed and cut off all contact. Who would have thought only four years later their college teams might be facing off in the Frozen Four?
I, on the other hand, do have the same damn weakness I’ve always had. It’s still there as I stare up at the big screen. As I watch Jamie Canning stop another dizzying slap shot. As I admire the grace and deadly precision with which he moves.
My weakness is him.
The only thing on Jamie’s mind when he sees Wes is to once again wonder why his best friend dumped him without a word four years ago. Who cares if things got intimate that long ago night at hockey camp, what he’s really upset about is that his closest friend disappeared right when he needed him the most. Wes on the other hand can’t help but remember all the hot as sin sexiness that was their last moments spent together. Jamie is still his perfect man and seeing him again brings it all back. Including the guilt he still feels over manipulating his best friend into letting him put his mouth and hands on that incredible body. What he doesn’t count on is the feelings he has for Jamie being stronger than ever. There really hasn’t ever been anyone else who has made him ache this way. Only him.
I’m a selfish bastard. Or maybe I’m a fucking masochist. Canning can’t give me what I want, but I still can’t stop myself from wanting it. I want whatever I can get– a conversation, a joke gift, a smile, anything. I might not be able to have the steak, but fuck it, I’m fine with some scraps.
I just can’t… I just can’t let him go yet.
So yeah, this book was like ridiculously hot. And angsty. There were moments of funny and sweet, but mostly hot and angsty. Wes is out and is not afraid to take the random frat brother home while at school, but the only person who he’s ever had feelings for is Jamie. Once he sees him again after a four-year absence he knows the two meet ups they had at the championship tournament won’t be enough for him. He jumps on the phone and signs up to be a coach at the same camp where he and Jamie began and lost their friendship. After all, he still needs to apologize. Only Jamie really doesn’t care that Wes is gay and isn’t mad or upset about the bj between them. In fact he’s pissed that Wes would even think that shit would bother him. So they pick up their friendship right where they left off, but now Jamie is the one who can’t keep Wes out of his mind.
“Jamie.” A note of warning this time.
I suck in a gulpful of oxygen into my lungs.
Then I ignore the warning.
His eyes widen as I shove my fingers through his hair and tug his head closer. “What—”
He doesn’t get to finish that sentence, because I’m smashing my mouth against his.
These two burn up the pages. Your eyeballs will sweat, you’ll need an ice-cold drink handy to cool you down and maybe a ‘do not disturb’ sign so there won’t be any unfortunate interruptions. I read this book in one sitting. Once I started there wasn’t any point where I would have been able to put it down. It’s that good. Friends to lovers romance can at times be tricky because there needs to be a palpable sexual chemistry between the protagonists, but also a sense that they’ve also already connected as companions and friends. There needs to be backstory and memories and events that connect them. Wes and Jamie had all that and more. Which is why I completely believed Wes’s inability to let Jamie go again. I felt his tension when Jamie was trying to figure out what his lusting after Wes meant to his sexual identity. I totally understood their jealousies. It also leant credibility as to why Jamie would be so trusting of Wes during all those sexy times where he gave him self over to new sexual experiences.
Their journey is touching and at times a little sad, especially when Jamie realizes the types of abuses and bigotry Wes encounters as a gay man. I wanted Jamie to shout out his feelings for Wes from the rooftop and not be afraid to hold his hand in public, but at the same time I could understand how he had to work through his sexual identity in his head. I had a moment in the middle of reading where I wondered how it would all work out in the end, especially since Wes was about to enter into his first year in the pros. But you know what? The HEA? It was perfect. Did I get a little angry at Wes for a minute there toward the end? Yes, I did. After I finished reading and finally sat down to write my review I realized the resolution and confrontation needed to happen exactly like it did. I read the epilogue with a big ole’ smile on my face.
I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy decide to collaborate more often. At least another story in this world. As far as Him, I most definitely recommend. Final Grade- A
“Want you,” I whisper. Lately, those two words define me.
Better When It Hurts is book two in the Stripped series by Skye Warren and features two characters introduced in the previous installment, Lola and Blue. Lola is a stripper at The Grand, a once beautiful theater that has since grown seedy and sad when the stripper pole went up and the ticket booths were turned into VIP lounges where customers get their lap dances. Lola used to be a young girl named Hannah, until she lived through the foster care system after her mother couldn’t deal with life while her father was in prison and committed suicide. She quickly learned that she had something all the boys wanted and it wasn’t long before she learned to find the biggest, baddest boy in the home and offer body in exchange for protection. That’s exactly how she met Blue.
Blue was once Lola’s lover, until she did something unforgivable. Something he can never, ever forgive her for. Now Blue is head of security for The Grand and Lola can’t decide if he wants to hurt her or protect her. Maybe it’s a little bit of both.
“I never meant to hurt you,” I say because it is the awful, painful truth. Because I failed.
Because I’m weak and scared, and if he knows I never meant to hurt him, maybe he won’t hurt me.
I enjoyed this book so much more than the first in the series. I think because I knew from the very beginning that these two had a previous relationship, I just didn’t know what exactly it was or why they were in the place they were now. As with most Skye Warren’s romances, I was a little uncomfortable until I knew exactly why Blue was so angry at Lola and why he so desperately needed to get her under him and punish her. There were several flashbacks of the two as teens that did lend a hand in helping me understand what came before the anger and fear. Lots of things happen between these two, lots of ways Blue makes Lola feel like less. Some are hard to read because of Lola’s thoughts during and after.
Sleep is a cold bastard, holding me underwater only to laugh when I sputter. How could I have ever forgotten, even for a second? I’m the enemy, someone to be hated and pitied. Someone to be used and fucked. Never loved. Never again.
Blue is rough, but then Lola likes rough. I think that’s all she’s ever known and it’s what she’s used to. And Blue gives it to her exactly like she likes it, even though she hates that she enjoys everything they do together.
I’m sure you’re thinking… “So how do they end up with a happily ever after?”, because they do and you’ll enjoy it. I think it’s because it’s not long before it becomes clear that Blue is just as fucked up as Lola and despite his need for some type of revenge he still has quite a few feelings for her leftover from their childhood. He also finally realizes why Lola strips, and why she did the horrible thing she did so long ago. What begins as him wanting to use her to get what he thinks is payback, soon becomes him just wanting her for her.
“I thought I could fuck you and not feel anything again. I thought I could have you and forget you. But that was impossible from the start. I’ve never been able to forget you. And you make me feel everything, Lola. You make me feel alive.”
Even though I spent some of my reading time alternately sad at how Lola saw herself and slightly on edge by the way Blue made her feel during those first few sex scenes, in the end I did really enjoy this book. I also completely bought their HEA.
While this is part of a series, I do think you can read as a stand-a-lone. The main characters from book one do make a brief appearance, but it’s very, very brief. Having not read their romance will not effect your enjoyment of this book at all. I would definitely recommend this series to readers who enjoy a dark, gritty romance, but still want a believable happily ever after. Final Grade- B
“The strong ones never think they are They’re too busy surviving.”
I almost feel like I should put some kind of warning label on this review… because, you know, zombie sex. The heroine totally falls for a zombie and they do have sexy-times. It’s not nasty like you’re imagining ( I know you are, lol), but if that kind of thing grosses you out then read no further.
Lyric has been surviving pretty much on her own since her father was bitten and she had to end his life in order to save her’s. She’s fast, quiet when she senses one of the monsters close by and willing to do whatever it takes in order to make it another day. Lyric is a survivor. So when she is snatched up, put in the back of a truck and then thrown into a disgusting, foul-smelling pit in the middle of what looks like an old school and told she will eventually feed the group of zombies in charge she immediately starts to strategize. When she notices one of the creatures eyeing her, she realizes she must find a way to get in his good graces so he’ll want to save her. They make a deal, she’ll help him remember his life before he was infected and he’ll give her information about zombies and their habits. Because there are so many, many things Lyric never knew about the monsters she’s been running from. Like they talk, and think and aren’t dead, but actually infected with a virus that is eroding their bodies from the inside out.
Anson wants to get back some of his memories of his previous life. He needs to feel human again. He likes that Lyric is a fighter and not just waiting to die in the pit with the other prisoners. He just doesn’t understand yet how far she is willing to go in her quest to survive. When she starts to flirt and come on to him he thinks there is a genuine desire behind it, just like there is for him. When she touches him his body lights up and has all these sensations and feelings he vaguely recalls from his life before. He starts to fall in love with her and becomes protective. Eventually something happens that forces him to try to get her to safety.
Whatever you’re thinking this book is about, just know the plot is a little more interesting than that. While there was a small squick factor for me at first with Anson, because yes, he eats a human on page, I did grow to like him and his courage and dedication to Lyric. They do have an almost sweet romance. Even though at first she does dirty things with him in order to encourage his help, she soon realizes he really does turn her on and she is falling for him.
The sex is actually kind of well, sexy. Expect for the fact that the entire time I kept thinking….
I liked how things ended up with these two and how the story concluded. The setup and most of the book is harsh and violent, but there is hope and a feeling that things might just turn out okay. While this may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it might be something readers wanting to push boundaries a bit and try something different will want to look into. Final Grade- C
In my memory, I’d been trying to cut ties with my humanity. Now, Lyric was my humanity and I never wanted to be away from her.