I'm a sucker for a good, strong heroine, and the first thing we experience in Viking Warrior Rising is an expert rescue orchestrated by Naya Brisbane. She's smart, good with explosives, and knows how to kick butt. Not only is she exceptionally trained in the physicality of combat, Naya seems to crave a good fight nearly as much as her Viking, and she kills with brutal efficiency. This little whip of a firebrand is stubbornly independent and sometimes brash, but she sure gives Leif a challenge, and I love that about her.
Leif Skarsganger is fierce, a Viking warrior king first, friend and lover second. His resident berserker has a real hard on for Naya— probably at least partially because she's effortless and magnificent in combat, like a Valkyrie warrior. Ms. Bradley strikes the perfect balance between alpha and relenting with Leif, supporting his reactions throughout the story with believable circumstances rather than penning him as a bullying or as overly dominating. Leif is the ideal Viking king and Naya his perfect Queen.
Ms. Bradley has cleverly differentiated her two romantic leads with a clash of logic and calculation against emotion and instinct. Naya's thoughts and decisions at times resemble the computers she's so skilled with while Leif operates largely on the impulse and intuition of his berserker spirit. He is reluctantly old-fashioned where she is fiercely independent.
Viking Warrior Rising echoes some of the best elements of other successful paranormal romance series without feeling like a clone: the camaraderie and tight loyalty of the Black Dagger Brotherhood, the lore and elegance of Jan DeLima's Celtic Wolves, the pulsing sensuality and efficient lethality of Rebecca Zanetti's Sins Brothers. Ava Maria Bradley has crafted a hard-hitting romance that is steeped in Nordic history and culture and feels authentic in every sense. Viking Warrior Rising is a celebration of all the intangible must-haves that make paranormal romance so addicting, and I freaking loved it! Now all I can think about is how soon can I get my hands on the next book!...more
Fans of Lilah Pace's Asking For It will be begging to get their hands on this second installment in the series that has the internet all a-twitter about that fine line between the fantasy of non-consensual sex and the harsh reality of rape. In the first chapter of the story, Ms. Pace briefly touches on a topic which has recently seen a flurry of criticism: The world spends too much time telling women how not to be raped—more time than it spends telling men not to rape.
Many romance authors seem to dream up an unlikely, unbearably sexy man and then set out to convince readers to worship at the alter of his perfection along with the heroine. Jonah Marks—while, yes, he does display some of those popular attractive traits (built, tall, commanding, rich)—is not the primary lure of this story. Instead, his edgy, conflicted relationship with Vivienne takes center stage.
They are both emotionally vulnerable and wading through a minefield of psychological trauma together, and their shared kink sheds light on a controversial subject: rape fantasies as titillation. If you've read Asking For It, or my review of the book, you know Ms. Pace beautifully balances the characters' precautions, deliberate planning, and total communication with the illusion of violence, manipulation, and force. They also share a fragile love for each other that is rooted in the mutual shame of their desires. Begging For It delivers all the emotional angst of a new adult book without any of the annoyingly bad life choices or irritatingly fluffy characterizations. It's edgy romance for a discriminating, mature audience.
Begging For It is more tender and romantic than Asking For It, but also more intimately brutal. As Vivienne and Jonah's romantic relationship progresses, the intensity of their games does as well. The contrast between the ferocity of their scenes and the tenderness of their love is an interesting dichotomy that settles into the story very organically and makes it feel real. Even though these two damaged people love and need each other, they still bear the scars of their past. Ms. Pace has crafted a unique, gripping story for a couple who have battled their demons of shame and guilt since childhood.
Begging For It ends just as it should, wrapping up all the necessary plot points and conflicts while still leaving a few threads for Jonah and Vivienne to explore later. I don't know if Ms. Pace plans for this to be the last in the series, but whether or not we get to see these two again, their immediate story has realistic closure and gives hope. So no cliffhangers here and no frustrations about waiting for the next book, which makes me happy and also a little sad that we may not get to see these two again, because DAY-UM are they hot together!...more
Author Emma Chase's signature style is an addicting mashup of wit, sarcasm, and self-confidence, with a dash of exasperation tossed in for a little extra spice. On her male characters, this equates to fearlessly sexy leading men women just can't say no to and readers fight over to claim as their next book boyfriend. It gives her female leads an organic connection right to the heart of readers as they simultaneously want to be both the heroine and her best friend. This straightforward, balls-out style of characterization is bloody brilliant. It's one of the reasons I adored Tangled so much (GraveTells Editor's Choice award winner in 2013) and it bodes exceptionally well for the Sustained series as well.
Sustained is everything I expected and more. In the author's foreword, Ms. Chase notes that she felt she really "stuck the landing" with this story, and I couldn't agree more. Sustained has heart, humor, and passion, all supporting a strong central theme of family and doing the right thing. Jake has the sort of self-assurance and poise I'd practically kill to possess, and Chelsea's endless well of patience, kindness, and self-sacrifice could make even a saint feel like a slacker. The kids are beautifully (and realistically) penned, so much so that I'd even be willing to spend time with this family, and a kids person I definitely am not.
Sustained is a massive win for Emma Chase, and I sincerely hope there are many more stories to come from this family and friend grouping as the kids all start to come of age. Sustained is a brilliant and satisfying read!...more
Him—a story about two hockey player best friends who fall in love—is an easy, heart-warming read, and I didn't want my time with Wes, Jamie, and Jamie's boisterous family to end. I haven't stopped thinking about this book for FIVE months, I enjoyed it that much!
This book touches on many of the challenges homosexual pro athletes still face today: discrimination, slander, the pressure to change (or hide) who they are. One of the things I enjoyed must about Wes and Jamie's story is how their contemporaries and employers treated them fairly even when others did not. And it's not done in a way that implies favoritism or making exceptions. Business decision made with sound logic mix beautifully with respect and care for the individual people involved.
One of my other favorite aspects of this book—aside from the hot sex, which is so scorching partially because of how much these two guys care about each other—is the soul-deep affection and boyish humor. Wes is a man's man, a championship hockey player on the cusp of going pro, but his antics are wildly unpredictable and his self-confidence is inspiring. Jamie, while also headed for the pros, is clear-headed and laid back. It takes a lot to ruffle this guy, and he supports those he cares about.
Straight up (har har), this is a feel good romance that does everything right. The characters are addicting, the relationship is deep and well founded, and the outcome is believable. While told from dual male first person perspective (present tense), the dialogue of these two young men feels authentic: no shadow of an overtly female brain penning their thoughts and actions. Wes and Jamie are virile, rough young men, and the prose honestly reflects that. I will definitely be looking for more books like this from both of these authors!...more
It’s refreshing to see a prominent, established publisher like Penguin taking on some of the lesser-known kinks and doing it in a sensitive, resourceful way. Where Lilah Pace recently introduced readers to the fantasy of non-consensual sex in Asking For It, Crosstown Crush follows a couple’s first steps past bedroom shaming role play into full-on cuckolding, and it’s a lot hotter than you may think. Exhibitionist meets psuedo-menage meets humiliation: this story is a dynamite mix of all the naughty, spicy, forbidden things!
Cuckolding is a difficult kink to portray without bias, as it’s based in deep, complex emotions and walks some very fine relationship lines. It’s also a lot less widely understood than the more common kinks of voyeurism and exhibitionism, even though it does include elements of both. Crosstown Crush takes on the challenge of teaching readers about cuckolding and beautifully rides the edge of discomfort without crossing hard limits (well, none of mine anyway!). The story and characters continually push the boundaries of what defines a relationship and flirt with the other side of “right”.
The emotional arc in Crosstown Crush is believable and realistic. The story is sexy and edgy and lit me up with a veritable rainbow of emotions: love, arousal, fear, shame, regret, anger, friendship, humor, comfort, indulgence, loss, redemption. The ending wraps up this chapter of the budding three-way relationship but leaves the story open for future possibilities. I can’t wait to see where Mike, Samira, and Bern take their unique connection next, and I will gladly go along for that ride! Original and heartfelt, Crosstown Crush is a must read for anyone who identifies with the kinks of menage, humiliation, or exhibitionism. Those of you who just read this review and felt any sort of negativity should stay far away, as this is not going to be your thing. =)...more
*** This review is SPOILER-FREE! Read on with confidence! ***
The burning question in the mind of every Guild Hunter series fan is, "Just what is Naasir?" Is he a vampire? A "tiger creature", as Elena likes to call him? In Archangel's Enigma, author Nalini Singh finally unveils the secrets of the mysterious Naasir, and readers are treated to some up close quality time with the most feral of Raphael's Seven. Opposites may attract, but Ms. Singh puts a new spin on that old standby: Naasir's mate Andromeda is young, seemingly fragile, and a scholar—in vivid contrast to his wild, lethal grace and predatory nature—but she has a hidden core of strength that she's been nurturing under the cover of darkness and a few dangerous secrets of her own. The scene where they meet is just plain entertaining and brings into stark relief the differences between the pair, as well as hinting at the deeper similarities they may share.
Every Guild Hunter book is a grand adventure, but Naasir's is fun. He has such a playful spirit that he brings life to the most mundane of situations. He's also so naturally predatory that he has a way of both amping up and playing down danger and of getting out of situations even other members of the Seven might find challenging. His scholar mate is brilliant and has an inherent talent for fluid combat, so they are perfectly matched.
Graceful strength, wild beauty, predatory intelligence . . . These things are at the heart of every Nalini Singh Guild Hunter story (and the Psy-Changeling books too). Archangel's Enigma is part Indiana Jones, part Braveheart: adventures worthy of a rugged scholarly explorer and emotional ties so deep they grab your heart and don't let go. Every time I finish a Guild Hunter book, I feel full, excited, sad, and satisfied all at once. I always hate that it ends, and can't wait to see what happens next, but am ready give Raphael, Elena, and crew a break before the next big world-breaking crisis befalls them yet again. Hah!
Archangel's Enigma is by far my favorite book of the Guild Hunter series so far, and the others have all been stellar! You will not believe what goes down in this story. Shit. Just. Got. Real! And now I want Bluebell's story even more than ever! Enigma is definitely not a starter book, so if you are new to the series, start with Angel's Blood find out how it all started and get your introduction to the magnificent archangel Raphael and his remarkable Seven....more
*** This review is SPOILER-FREE! Read on with confidence! ***
This isn’t my first Christine d’Abo story, and reading it reminded me of all the entertaining reasons I devoured the Long Shots series: witty charm, an experienced and trustworthy voice, and toe-curling sex. And—Oh. My. God—the most outlandish blowjob technique I’ve ever heard of. I couldn’t stop giggling! Seriously. Then, of course, I had to go online and see if this video reference was for real (and, oh girlfriends, is it worth watching! I straight up LOL’d. Google it, watch the video, and you’ll know what I mean).
Alyssa compares her housing complex to Melrose Place, but I found it just the right amount of cozy: friendly without being claustrophobic.
30 Days made me laugh and cry, in just about equal measures. The storytelling is so genuine, you can't help but fall in love with Alyssa, Harrison, and Rob. Ms. d'Abo writes from her heart, and her message in 30 Days shines with sparkling clarity. This story sweeps readers through all the emotions that come with loss, sex, and new love, and charms us with humor and characters that feel real. Whether or not you have ever lost someone you loved, 30 Days is an absolute bump-right-up-to-the-top-of-your-TBR must read!
It took me a while to grasp the setup of the UndyingSee the full review, including Memorable Quotes, at GraveTells here: http://gravetells.com/?p=22420
It took me a while to grasp the setup of the Undying universe, where the power and person are separate entities who coexist. Coming into this book as a new reader, I at times wondered if I'd stumbled into book 2 or 3 in the series, as there was a fair amount of history and terminology I felt I'd missed. It was difficult to tell what details may have been told in previous stories versus what I was expected to pick up organically through the storytelling. Learning that this is the first book in the series left me a little unsettled. Not the best way to start out a new read. In fact, the entire first half was an exercise in patience, as I plodded methodically through scenes with wooden lead characters—ironically, the secondary characters were all quite well presented—and confusing backstory references. Luckily, the story picked up around 60%.
Levels of ruling titles—all of whom seemed to be male: why is that, I wonder?—and strange mating customs for a people with a history of time travel and immortality, and a dash of the Atlantis myth tossed in as well, make this book a difficult one to immerse into fully. That said, Undying Hope has flashes of brilliance, moments where the emotion is so tightly leashed, it could explode out of the pages at any time.
Then there are times when the characters' reactions and vocabulary don't match their knowledge or background. It's disconcerting, as if the author is onto an idea that has a ton of promise but isn't quite able to communicate the totality of her grand vision. And that was terribly frustrating for me, as I so wanted to be a part of that vision.
While this story universe will appeal to readers who love the "fated mate" story mechanic—especially those who yearn for a little deviation from the fall-in-love-instantly-just-because-fate-says-so cliché—lovers of free will may also find the soul mate mechanic here appealing, since it's not so rote as the tired ole "it has been foretold, so be it for eternity" mentality. The separate nature of an immortal's power (the treòir) and humanity, and the inherent potentially fatal struggle for dominance, is at the very heart of this story.
Once I felt comfortable with the ruling system—regional rulers report up to a king-like overlord, with checks and balances to ensure fair judgement all around—I realized that I actually loved the class system for the warriors and their skill specialties: Earth Warriors, who easier whisper to nature and commune with the elements; Storm Warriors, who harness lightning to create portals that teleport people from one place to another; Dragon Shifters, whose fire burns hotter than that of any other force in earth.
The action in this story pops up when you least expect it, keeping the characters on their toes, and culminates in a straight up epic battle of power and wills. For all of its awkward character development quirks, this story has real merit as the start of what has the potential to be a strong paranormal romance series.
There were moments I actually cried, so the emotional arc in Undying Hope ultimately dominates any character development or history-telling issues, but impatient readers may find it hard to make it that far. Overall, I give this book a "worth a look" rating and plan to check out future installments in the series. There are definitely some secondary characters that have a whole lot of potential....more
*** This review is SPOILER-FREE! Read on with confidencSee the full article, including Memorable Quotes, at GraveTells: http://gravetells.com/?p=22387
*** This review is SPOILER-FREE! Read on with confidence! ***
Never has a story about a jaded rock star and his virginal conquest felt so inviting and real. That first sex scene between Logan and Toni is incredible, just the right amount of sexy and sweet mixed with just the right touches of embarrassment, uncertainty, fear, and pain.
The story moves on in grand rock star fashion from there, with all the band drama, naughty sex, and tour bus shenanigans fans of the Sinners series love so much. And there are Sinners cameos too, including one particularly mouthwatering workout battle that I won’t spoil.
Goofy and sex-crazy, bassist Logan Schmidt reminded me a little of Sinners drummer Eric Sticks, but more All American Boy and golden surfer good looks. Logan is irresistibly swoon worthy! His sweet heart and total crush on Toni made him adorable. His periodic fits of attention-seeking antics and flashes of temper made him real.
Toni, like Brian Sinclair’s Myrna, secured her spot on the bus through a book she’s writing that showcases the band, and she is probably the most relatable heroine in the entirety of Olivia Cunning’s body of romantic fiction. Chubby by her own standards (never Logan’s) and all kinds of lacking in self-confidence, Toni has readers rooting for her right from the very start. She is geeky and witty and brilliant, and I loved her!
Getting to know the members of Exodus End is a lot like making new friends: a little uncomfortable and awkward as you start to grow the bonds of friendship, then as addictive as new love when you find you just can’t seem to spend enough time with them. Ms. Cunning spins out lots of fresh, potential plot threads for the rest of the series–including (finally!) some developments in the Trey/Reagan/Ethan storyline.
The story arc in this book is very well crafted and the characters written with a deft, attentive hand. None are as simple as they may at first seem, and their various plot arcs all tie in beautifully in the end. Except some obvious ones, of course, which we’ll have to wait a little longer to see come to resolution. And if you are a hardcore Sinners fan who was irritated at the very long break between Sinners At The Altar and the first Exodus End book, be sure to read the author’s afterword for insights into her struggles with writing Insider and how the Sole Regret series spun out of that.
A little angsty like Sole Regret and a lot addictive like Sinners On Tour, Exodus End will leave you yearning for more. Brava on this new series from Olivia Cunning finally taking flight! Can’t wait to see what’s next!...more
Accents. So yummy when they're on, so painful when they're wrong. Kellach Dunne—the hero of Wicked Ride and a Dark Protectors universe character introduced in the parent series—is an Irish boy through and through, and Ms. Zanetti takes a risk in portraying his accent that pays off big time. Step 1: Spell it out by sound so readers develop a guided ear for the lilts and stops. Step 2: Write the dialogue in normal English to keep from annoying, alienating, or confusing readers. Step 3: Try to read a line out of Kell's mouth without hearing his sexy brogue in your head. Brilliant!
Rebecca Zanetti has taken the plunge into Motorcycle Club territory and the setup isn't your typical MC situation. Guns and the Irish may (seem to) go hand in hand, but any fan of Ms. Zanetti's Dark Protectors knows that Kellach Dunne is no criminal. There's a new drug out on the streets, and it's lethal to witches. Kell has infiltrated a Seattle MC posing as a gun supplier in trade for the lethal drugs to (ostensibly) ship off to his Irish club brethren. Fans of the parent series will enjoy quick glimpses of previously introduced characters and news about others. This is the first time we've gotten a good look at Daire Dunne, and what a fine, stoic hero he will make, when his time comes.
While I didn't love this book as much as I loved most of stories in the Dark Protectors series, Wicked Ride is fun, fierce, and fantastical (in a rather science-y way). Ms. Zanetti set the bar scary high with Marked when she wrapped up the epic events of the DP series, so it may take readers some time to find their stride with this new set of characters.
Overall, I found the cast of characters less engaging than I expected. This could possibly be due to my general distaste of female cop characters combined with my discomfort with the seedy atmosphere so common in MC stories. Some aspects of the deeper relationship between Kell and Lexi (including the witchy-mate changes that manifest in her) also happened more quickly than I was comfortable with. However, Ms. Zanetti introduces some promising personality conflicts, and peeks at secrets waiting to be revealed definitely dial up the intrigue. Heads up for those readers who are drawn to MC stories for the brotherhood of bad boys and motorcycles: this isn't that kind of story. Yes there are clubs that feature heavily in the story arc, but they're not the main base of operations.
Lex is fierce, a seriously skilled fighter with lightning reactions and near-suicidal courage. She's also intellectually impressive, not in a Kane-Kayrs-smartest-person-on-earth way, but in how she sees through the clutter of a situation to piece together the puzzle. And she approaches everything with a straightforward, hands-on attitude. And independent! Hats off to a strong, independent woman! This chick is truly remarkable, even if she is a detective. *wink* Of course, fans of Ms. Zanetti are probably already half in love with Kell, and for good reason. Bossy, magnetic, dependable, and fearsome: Kellach Dunne is one Irish badass you don't want to cross!
The last thirty percent of the book passed fast and furious, in fine Rebecca Zanetti form. If the Sins Brothers series had a fiery tryst with the Dark Protectors universe, they'd birth a story like Wicked Ride, where family ties matter most and the the things that go bump in the night are almost certainly never human. And oh are there some intriguing mate matches coming up in this new series—all promising saucy heroines, badass alpha warrior men, steamy sex, and yummy supernatural goodness....more
This book has the potential to catapult the non-consensual sex romance subgenre into the public spotlight, and bring awareness to the knowledge that many women have fantasized about rape—and still do. Asking For It clearly defines the distinction between playing out a scenario and the reality of such an act actually happening. It is important to stress that, with non-con and other lesser-publicized kinks like humiliation and shaming, the desire which playacting can stir in a person who craves the fantasy is completely separate from the potentially devastating scarring and life-altering effects of a real non-consensual situation. This book and subject matter are not for everyone, but for those who enjoy the non-con subgenre of romance, Asking For It is a rare find.
Jonah and Vivienne’s relationship evolves so naturally and carefully that every step is believable and each new boundary they push is edgy. Yet still safe—still truly consensual—while playing at rape. Jonah is so very well written. Here is a man who can flip between cruel, brutal aggression and genuine, tender aftercare in the blink of an eye. Reserved and mysterious, our Jonah is slowly unwrapped as the story progresses, and his personality is both frighteningly magnetic and unreservedly kind. Vivienne could be any woman, she’s that easy to relate to. As they begin to explore their fantasies together, we get a glimpse into the lives of people living with and shaped by the memories of traumatic sexual experiences. Their path may be healthy or it may be detrimental, but that choice is up to each individual, and each reader is likely to experience this book differently depending on her own past and interpretations of the story. Ultimately, Asking For It is about two people with deep emotional scars trying to find comfort in each other and falling in love as they explore their mutual expanded possibilities. And it’s beautiful, in a sometimes brutal, sometimes tender sort of way.
This may seem like a strange thing to bring up in a review about non-consensual sex, but I’ve read my share of supposedly authentic depictions of Austin, Texas, and this one is by far the most grounded and realistic. The author doesn’t spew out the names of trendy places like a roll call, nor does she ignore the little details that make the city so unique. If Ms. Pace hasn’t spent some quality time living and socializing in the heart of Texas’s capital city, I’ll eat my hat. And hats off to her for a scene very well set, too!
Asking For It does not have a happy ending, but it’s not sad either. It’s merely a bridge to the next chapter in Jonah and Vivienne’s story. Which I fully intend to read....more
Cormack and Elen have been companions, best friends, forSee the full review (with memorable quotes) at GraveTells here: http://gravetells.com/?p=22485
Cormack and Elen have been companions, best friends, for more than three hundred years--he trapped in his wolf form from birth and she in her human one. Little private moments between them shimmer with history and a bond that runs deep, bringing a greater intensity to their romance than a traditional pairing could experience.
Right from the start of Autumn Moon, Cormack and Elen share a quiet intimacy unlike any other couple I have read. Elen's space is homey, exotic, enchanting, and welcoming. Like coming home to a fall festival of companionship: creamy spices in the air and a lush autumn palette woven through a vibrant forest-scape.
Elen's healing gift is hauntingly beautiful, and she is capable of inflicting terrible harm while also righting grievous wrongs. Author Jan DeLima shares Elen's celebrations and trials in such elegant detail, I felt fully immersed in the spirit of autumn, enchanted by the personalities of the four unique elements.
This series spins a story founded in original Celtic myth, separated from modern variations of the Camelot lore by a wealth of knowledge and je ne sais quoi that demonstrates just how much research and development time the author must have spent on building the story world.
The characters, as always, are vibrant, and each of them makes a distinctive mark on the story. Ms. Hafwen, Elen's fairy tutor, twitters her admonishment and approval like a retired school marm too long separated from her beloved charges. Ms. DeLima has penned such a well-rounded character in this dragonfly-sized pixie that the little creature is impossible to dislike, rough edges and all.
Jan DeLima's books are almost poetic—lyrical—and such a pleasure to read. They inspire me to feel, on a fundamental level. Her stories create magic out of pixels, transport me to a place of gentle honesty and celebration of spirit. Celtic Wolves is a standout series still building up to it's (sadly inevitable) climax and I look forward to devouring each new book as it arrives in my grateful hands....more
Dallas O'Kane is stepping up his game, and not everSee the full review, including Memorable Quotes, on GraveTells here: http://gravetells.com/?p=22316
Dallas O'Kane is stepping up his game, and not every O'Kane under his command now wears the ink. When you're spying for Sector Four right in the heart of Eden's elite, you can't afford to be marked, and Jared understands that better than anyone. Jared has always been close with Ace--they go way back as friends, lovers, associates--and will do anything to protect him, including retiring from his longtime role as a high-end prostitute and taking on the much more dangerous task of charming and maneuvering a swath through the shining city's volatile politics.
Lili only knows life as a trophy wife in Sector Five, but all of that changes when she meets Jared. Suddenly the woman who drugged herself into numb oblivion to escape the violence of her life can't run from all the ways Jared and the O'Kanes make her feel. And she doesn't want to.
I mean really, who would turn down the sensual, powerful, mysterious man who knows more secrets—the deep, dark secrets of powerful people as much as those of their bodies—than anyone else in the Sectors? Official O'Kane or under-the-radar spy, Jared has some titillating connections to the gang that make a virgin trophy wife's eyes pop wide open. Voyeuristic moments with the O'Kanes—that we're used to (and have I thanked Kit Rocha for that today? Oh lovely authors, how you make us want!)—but getting a deeper look inside the Ace-Rachel-Cruz trinity is the real treat.
I also loved how Lili is the first heroine to take on domestic tasks, not as a job or because she has to, but because she wants to. She craves cooking, providing for others in a way that she alone is uniquely qualified. She doesn't need to kick anyone's ass or make a working living outside the compound, but she does feel the compulsion to earn her place, and she goes about that in a way none of the other leading ladies thus far have been able to.
As with every other Beyond series story so far, Beyond Innocence is a hedonistic, voyeuristic ride, this one driving us through the brotherhood of Sector Four's ruling O'Kanes right into the heart of Eden's corrupt politics. If dystopian snares your attention... if menage draws you in... if erotica gets you hot, and you haven't read the Beyond series yet, you must start immediately! The first book is Beyond Shame. Read it. Love it. Swoon over the O'Kane fight nights and private parties, then drool for more right along with the rest of us!...more
The Psy-Changeling saga marchSee the full review, including Memorable Quotes, at GraveTells here (live on May 26, 2015): http://gravetells.com/?p=22302
The Psy-Changeling saga marches steadily onward...
One of the craft nuances author Nalini Singh excels at is threading complex storylines and large casts of characters into an overarching central plot without sacrificing reader attention or patience. Unlike a few other popular series, which have earned a reputation for losing readers around book 9 or 10, the Psy-Changeling series is still going strong at 14. Shards of Hope, for example, features a hero and heroine not even really introduced until the previous few books, but these are characters as vibrant and addicting as the Dark River and Snow Dancer packs who made up the core of the series at its beginning. Aden was introduced through Vasic, who was introduced through Judd, who was mated to an early Snow Dancer wolf. Ms. Singh doesn't simply wave at her leads, then drop you off deep in their territory; she woos and romances you with tantalizing glimpses, hints of their power and appeal sewn carefully into each progressing story before setting the characters free on the readers in their own books.
If you're considering reading Shards of Hope, you're probably already a fan of Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling series. If not, and you're looking to try it out, start from the beginning with Slave to Sensation. Fans of Singh know she is a master of the slow burn, and that technique meshes perfectly with her Psy-Psy couple romances. We've already seen a few Arrow stories, so I was a little worried about Aden and Zaira coming off as tired or repetitive, but I shouldn't have been. This is Nalini Singh: she never disappoints.
This is the first full insight into the lethal assassin squad known as the Arrows we've been treated to in the series so far. Sure, there have been glimpses through Vasic's and Judd's stories, but Aden is their chosen leader and his perspective is far more thorough than anything that came before. With Zaira being one of his top lieutenants, their partnership is strategic and powerful and has the potential to reshape Arrow society from the inside... which is, of course, the only way an Arrow would allow such drastic change.
The landscape of what defines a Psy or a Changeling is ever-evolving. Now that Silence has fallen, Psy are tentatively embracing their emotions publicly and Changelings are incorporating humans and Psy into their packs and business ventures. The defining characteristics of an Arrow differ from what they once were, even as recently as Judd's and Vasic's book; Aden faces a unique struggle and walks a separate path from his squad brothers. He accepts his emotions and uses them as a tool to secure his squad's future. It is a privilege to witness the evolution of a character like Aden, who is such a strong and a capable leader, yet unafraid to show emotion and give free rein to that part of his psyche. He doesn't spend his time, or ours, fighting a futile battle we knew he'll eventually lose, and instead invests that energy in being a good mate for his chosen partner. The resulting character is a man who fights for his woman even when she can't fight for herself.
Which is an odd thing to even imply about hard-as-nails Arrow Zaira—can't or won't fight for herself—but she lived through a very traumatic childhood and clings to the remnants of Silence as a shield under which she can function without descending into madness. The couple dynamic here is unique and quite beautiful, and I love how incredibly strong both these characters are, both emotionally and physically.
This series continues to evolve, and that opens up each character's struggle, each couple's dynamic, to a whole new world of possibilities as the overarching plot punches through the individual romances. I also love that Ms. Singh gives us a glimpse into the society of the underwater changelings. Just the thought of a woman turning into a mako shark makes me all kinds of curious about what the future of the series has in store for readers.
Dark Tides is a unique literary experience. Ms. Ashley's prose sets a peaceful rhythm, steady and sedate, lulling her readers into falling right into the heart of the story. It flows so effortlessly, from character to environment to scene, that the book slips by in lazy snatches of time.
Ms. Ashley's voice for Meg is just lovely. Even if she never said a single line of dialogue, our heroine would still glide through the pages with the grace of a princess and the giving, caring heart of a mother. Caleb's presence, while less skillfully refined, benefits from the author's natural style while still emanating a sense of experienced capability and gentle strength. Their psychic connection to one another is an interesting twist that I found added an extra dimension of excitement and intrigue to the plot. That said, I did have some trouble getting into the plot of the book. It felt somewhat dragging, partly (I believe) due to the author using very similar voices for both characters. While it did lull me into reading, it also didn't inspire me to keep reading until somewhere in the second half.
The supernatural element alternated between creeping me out and inspiring a warm, cozy sense of home. I didn't expect the ending, even though I'd dismissed it as a possibility earlier in the story, so I was pleasantly surprised by the turn of events at the conclusion. I would absolutely recommend this book to any reader looking for ghostly romantic suspense tales with gentle pacing and low-to-moderate heat....more
Melina and Hayden have a comfortable dynamic despite the surge of forbidden attraction and less-than-perfect past they share. Being stood up for a public awards show with a millionaire bachelor (who brought two someone elses in your place only hours after inviting you to be his date) isn't something a woman just shrugs off, but Melina is a consummate professional and Hayden has his reasons for denying their attraction.
A few things really struck me about these two characters. First, Hayden Dean is absolutely a playboy and he has a lot to learn about maturity and responsibility, but he's not your typical asshole rich bachelor, obsessed with control or feeding his own ego. No no, our Hayden is vulnerable and misunderstood. His introduction is written so that glimpses of potential shine through but his spoiled, privileged lifestyle has definitely taken its toll. As you get to know him, you realize that he's the kind of guy you want to hang around with while he finds the best in himself, and you know it's going to be a fun journey.
Second, Melina Rae is damn good at her job. Insatiable, in just about every aspect, inquisitive, and spirited sum up Mel. She comes across as flighty and dim in the book's intro but the real Melina is driven, intelligent, and a lot braver than even she probably sees. She's confident in an easy-going way and her investigative nature isn't annoying like with some journalists. Melina has spine and she's very perceptive. Oh, and let's not forget the lady's sincere appreciation for all things high fashion...
The characters' personalities are even correct astrologically (or horoscopically, if you're Melina) speaking. Author Kristen Miller really nailed the Leo traits in Hayden and the Sagittarius in Melina.
And holy. Combustible. CHEMISTRY! Jeez these two are hot together. This story has all the right elements: plucky humor, action (of both the human and furry variety), mystery, an uncomplicated werewolf universe, and yummy steamy romance.
The Werewolf Wears Prada is a pure wolfie delight. . .with a killer fashion sense!...more
Men Like This was a flirty, addictive, engaging read regardless of having zero shag time. It's a romance, pure and simple: Men Like This focuses on the characters and their relationship rather than the minutiae of their physical couplings. Good news for chick lit fans, a strike to the heart for erotic romance fans, who would probably sweat blood for intimate insight on Jack Decker. In case it's not yet clear, let me make it crystal: this book has no sex. Zero. Nada. None. And you know what? The narrative still sparkles and charms itself right off the pages. Who knew I would enjoy a closed-door romance so much? Huh!
These characters have serious panache. I freaking love Jack, and Quinn has a natural dry wit that mingles perfectly with his exuberant personality. And Jack's accent is delivered perfectly! I could practically hear the man's Irish-English brogue whispering in my ear. Jack reminds me a little of Mal from Kylie Scott's Stage Dive series—the charming Mal we met in Lick rather than the crazy manic he became in Play.
Let's not forget chemistry. Even though the sparse sex between Jack and Quinn is solidly behind closed doors (which may as well be steel-reinforced, industrial-grade concrete - can you tell I'm really sad about this?), they mesh beautifully as a couple.
The secondary characters stand out in their own unique ways too, none too staid or boring and each with his or her own unique signature. Gotta say though, I absolutely hated one of them. I won't spoil the story by telling you whom, but the ending manages to wrap it all up nicely.
Men Like This author Roxanne Smith's writing style is a little reminiscent of Tiffany Reisz's, minus (thankfully) the scary intensity of a personality like The Siren's Soren. Memorable characters, smart dialogue, and fresh perspective beautifully elevate the contemporary romance of Men Like This in a genre where movie star and rock star stories are practically, tiredly, the new black....more
Author Garrett Leigh serves up such an appealing, authentic foodie experience in Misfits, it's easy to forget that restaurant umbrella company Urban Soul is only fiction: Reading Misfits left me with a craving for Pink's paella, burgers & champagne, and Cass's rib eye steak.
This story is layered with emotion and life choices and shared experiences. Misfits is a beautiful tribute to three very different men, the ties that but them together, and the personal quirks that set them apart. I loved the style of the storytelling: the ambling, believable pacing; the structured passing of perspective at key points in the story; and the originality about everything having to do with these three men and their relationship with one another.
None of the characters is perfect and each of them is compelling in his own unique way. Their sexual chemistry both in pairs and as a threesome is stellar, right hot (imagine I said that in a British accent), and their relationship is ideal for a menage story.
Speaking of—and with—a British accent, I sometimes had trouble internally verbalizing the speech quirks and slang as the story travels through the various districts in London. It didn't put me off or diminish my enjoyment of the story but it did hit home that the author's prose is unapologetically British and the narrative was certainly not edited with the intention to cater to Americans. Even so, I rather enjoyed my stint through London with these three colorful blokes.
Misfits also delves into the personal side of Tourette's syndrome, a gutsy and honorable effort that gives us a glimpse into what a day (or year) in the life of someone living with this condition feels like, how they learn to cope, and how a healthy support system can be built around them....more
Total Surrender, in classic Rebecca Zanetti style, was a whirlwind read and I couldn't put it down long enough to even get a full night's sleep. Ms. Zanetti is a master of her intense, in the action, balls-to-the-wall style, and it's the ultimate addiction. What reader would turn down sexy alpha males, brilliant leading ladies, and an intoxicating combination of suspense and sizzle? Not THIS gal, that's for sure!
One of the things I like most about Ms. Zanetti's writing is how she builds such deep, strong family bonds through each of her series. Sins Brothers especially embodies the spirit of family and brings home how precious those ties can be to those who have nothing else to hold close.
Like his brothers before him, Jory is precisely crafted, a man with brains and brawn in equal measure. He has this fairly scary, inherent darkness, which completely balances a tender heart the size of a Montana sky. Because he's been in a coma for the previous books in the series, we haven't had much time to get to know Jory before now, and he is absolutely a force to be reckoned with. Jory Dean has it all: charm, good looks, smarts, sheer physical size, combat mastery, a warm sense of humor, and a few extra special abilities I'll let you discovery on your own. ;) The reunion between the brothers was all I hoped it would be and a few surprises I didn't expect but completely loved!
Piper is one of the more adorable heroines in this series, although they've all been sweet, spunky, capable, and relatable. I love her smarts and her intrinsic need to see the best in people even as her cynical logic kicks in to play devil's advocate. Piper pretty much just says what she's thinking, without meaning to and without artifice. Since I can relate to that particular trait pretty closely, it was really fun to read about.
With enough epilogue-worthy material to satisfy even the most rabid Tolkien fan, Ms. Zanetti wraps up this series perfectly, with closure for all the main characters and a glimpse of the potential for more action from the Dean brothers in the future. Brava on a book (and a series) beautifully imagined and artfully delivered!
Total Surrender is heart-warming and suspenseful, balancing on a blade's edge between youthful vulnerability and sheer, raw, hardass adult determination. This book is the perfect well-earned closure to an intense, action-packed series.
What a wolf wants is a short-ish story (right at 25000 words) so I'll make this a short-ish review. :)
Th** This review contains minor plot spoilers **
What a wolf wants is a short-ish story (right at 25000 words) so I'll make this a short-ish review. :)
This second book in the joint-effort Black Hills Wolves series will require some suspension of disbelief even for paranormal lovers. I didn't love how quickly Saja just accepted various story elements: - The existence of people who change into giant wolves - Seeing Ryker in a violent situation with little to no emotional repercussions or fear of him - Accepting a permanent, intimate bond with Ryker after only hours of knowing him
Now, all that said, paranormal novellas often come across like this. With such a limited word count, an author can only fit in so much into a story, and some elements just have to be sacrificed.
If you go into this book knowing and understanding that, you'll probably enjoy it. The characters are distinct and likable, the world building is well crafted, and the story fits nicely into the existing series universe without requiring the reader to have read the previous book. What a Wolf Wants didn't have the emotional punch that I've come to expect from Ms. Long's stories, but it was a quick, fun, enjoyable read....more
Served Hot is a cozy read about two men who meet and dance a slow, heartwarming romance over coffee. The story is told from Robbie's POV in first persServed Hot is a cozy read about two men who meet and dance a slow, heartwarming romance over coffee. The story is told from Robbie's POV in first person, which really showcases his adorable personality and geeky Portland ways. David is very "accountant", with his starched shirts and awkward segues, and harbors a painful, emotionally debilitating past.
There were moments in this story that gave real, truly touching, glimpses into the deeper emotions that blend together a couple's yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows. The plot didn't feel contrived or rushed (whew, definitely not rushed!) and each time Robbie would start to get frustrated or fed up with something between him and David, I would find myself reaching that same point as an empathetic observer. And each time, David came back with a realistic and understandable reason for why he is who he is, so the story is believable and well crafted.
Overall, I enjoyed the Served Hot but was hoping for something with more oomph. I felt that this was an okay one-time read but not a book I'll be inspired to go back to or remember much about next month or even next week. It felt somewhat insular, with all the focus squarely on the growth aspects of the relationship. I would have enjoyed seeing through David's POV periodically to break up the monotony a bit, but generally a cozy read with gentle wit and a satisfying ending....more
**spoiler alert** ** This review has no direct spoilers but I'm hiding it anyway because I do hint at some plot points. **
I liked the premise of this**spoiler alert** ** This review has no direct spoilers but I'm hiding it anyway because I do hint at some plot points. **
I liked the premise of this story, and the elements of danger and power exchanges, but it feels like something key is missing. I was particularly annoyed with the sex scenes, where the characters were able to do nearly physically impossible things and completely disregarded some sanitary considerations.
I also liked the idea of the bond between Master and Cass being so strong that he was willing to switch for her, but there's not enough character and relationship building here to support the emotional weight and impact of that in the story, making a gesture which should have been earth-moving come across as just "meh".
I was able to take most everything else in stride until the ending, though. This story does not have a happy ending, not by far. What I didn't realize when I started Wicked Shots is that it is the prequel to a romantic suspense serial and the main character here is not featured (directly) in subsequent books. Part of my dislike most likely came from finding this out the hard way - at the end. I think if I had known going in what I was getting into I might have enjoyed it more, but the turn of events at the end (and realizing I'd just started a serial) actually made me feel a little ill. Sure, I could have better educated myself on the story, but I'm not sure that would change my rating.
*** WARNING: This review contains some spoilers and the story itself is a CLIFFHANGER. ***
Deep breaths. That's what I'm taking as I've just finished Katy Evans' Manwhore, a new book about billionaire playboy Malcolm Kyle Preston Logan Saint and the reporter determined to charm an expose out of him to resurrect her dying magazine. Sounds like a story with a lot of potential, right? It is. Malcolm Saint intrigues and romances both Rachel Livingston and us, the voyeuristic readers hanging on his every word and gesture.
The first real impression we experience of Malcolm is the laser-focused shark he becomes in business, followed closely by the quiet intensity of his personal attention. For a man whose dynamic social life is splashed across every online and print media outlet in Chicago, Saint is a surprisingly private person and holds himself apart from nearly everyone, even his seemingly-best friends. This is a man everyone wants a piece of but no one really gets. Always respectful and considerate yet with ambitions firmly locked on his target, Malcolm Saint channels Real's Remy and Burn For Me's "Mad" Rogan. Saint is the essence of sophisticated potential energy and aggressive business acumen with a raging drive to succeed at all costs. Desired by all but truly liked by few, Saint holds himself apart from everything... except Rachel. All of this, this I liked. The character is smartly layered and would appeal even if he weren't a billionaire or a playboy.
That last part—playboy—is actually where the story starts to lose me. First, the title of this book is misleading. "Manwhore," to me, means loose morals and selfishness, a guy who cares more about getting off than making right. Malcolm might fit that image from the outside but once we start seeing him from Rachel's perspective, he is immediately identifiable as NONE of that. In fact, in this way, Malcolm reminds me a lot of champion fighter Remy, sweet and intense and in single-minded pursuit. When he's with Rachel, the man she likes to call "Sin" is considerate and caring, nothing like the callous manslut the city of Chicago so wants him to be.
The story loses me even further with the cast of secondary characters built around both protagonists. Where Saint's cronies may charm and flirt, they're much closer to the playboy he supposedly can't help but be. Rachel's friends and colleagues, particularly Gina, left a bitter taste in my mouth. I get that they're all fairly young (post-college) and young adults tend to polarize themselves against hurt, protect the ones they care for in the same way. Gina, however, insults and debases Saint's character—a man she doesn't even know!—at every turn, based solely on her own past relationship trauma... and Rachel just takes it, ignores her own instincts! GAH! Gina's predictably timely (and rude) interruptions into the couple's intimate encounters also seriously put me off.
I really wanted to love this book, but the truth is I just can't respect a weak heroine. I can't identify with a woman (no matter her age and life experience) who will let others dictate her very personal life choices: love, career, morals. She deserves to pay the price for that mistake and learn a valuable lesson... and Rachel does learn, but ultimately it is the reader who pays the real price. I don't normally give spoilers in reviews, but if you are a reader who depends on that guaranteed happy ending to get you through the hard parts (as I am), you will want to throw this book across the room. As much as I hate comparing anything to Fifty Shades these days, I kept thinking about that controversial elephant in the room over and over as I read Manwhore...
Article #1: Aloof billionaire bachelor inexplicably obsessed with quirky reporter. No, Fifty's Anastasia isn't actually a reporter, but she meets him that way, doesn't she?
Article #2: Writer with questionable self-esteem hesitantly bursts into said rich man's life and reluctantly caves to his persistent advances.
Article #3: A story which gleefully indulges in stringing out its inevitable conclusion, keeping readers on the hook long after they intuit how this whole situation is going to play out.
Article #4: Straight-up cliffhanger: The book literally ends at the door. Except rather than an elevator closing on Christian Grey's disbelieving face, it is Ms. Evan's fans who will do the begging when the story slams to a close, enforcing an indeterminate wait for a payoff on the reading time invested.
Article #5: Prose which shifts and stumbles, shying away from committing to a consistent style and cadence. If I didn't know this was written by Katy Evans, an experienced and celebrated author with several successful stories in her repertoire (at least one of which I personally have loved!), I'd assume Manwhore was written by a new author still trying to find her voice.
I'm finding it very painful to write and publish this review. Even operating in staunchly New Adult territory, this story could have taken so many positive turns and celebrated youth, but instead, Ms. Evans settled for rehashing an already-tired premise. I am honestly regretful to say that I did NOT love, or even like, Manwhore and, after my bookgasm over Katy Evans' work in Real, Manwhore was one of my more anticipated reads of the spring. Maybe it comes down to genre: this is New Adult, no denying it and no making excuses, and Manwhore comes with all the tropes and cliques you may have come to expect from a story carrying the New Adult label. If you enjoy that style and you don't mind clilffhanger endings, are maybe even a fan of serials, Manwhore will probably be an energizing read for you. As for me, this book is just not my style. ...more
In for the Kill opens with all the addicting mystique of a spy thriller and rolls right into the story like a freight train on a bender. Ballsy, take-no-shit ladies and in your face, brutally honest men duel through the dialogue, cleverly filling in series backstory without being obvious or leaving confusing gaps. These people clearly have a payload of exciting (maybe 'traumatic' is a better word) history together, from woo-woo new "special powers" to jewelry literally designed to kill. We're not in Kansas anymore Toto: Here there be danger, and I dare say I like it!
Ms. McKenna paints each dialogue, every suspenseful interlude and nerve-wracking action sequence as a vivid stroke on a canvas primed with glittering privilege and unfathomable cruelty. Her characters boldy demand attention as they wade neck-deep into the nasty business of human trafficking and slavery, on a mission to protect one woman who has already been forced to sacrifice too much.
Oh, Samuel Petrie! I adored Sam's lovable stubbornness; one of the other characters refers to him as a pit bull and it is a fitting comparison. All he wants is Svetlana Ardova, and he will protect her at any cost, even from herself. Even from him. Sveti matches Sam's stubborn streak and brings an intensity of focus that is both frustrating and admirable. She is willing to sacrifice everything, including Sam's and her own happiness, for the greater good. When these two get together, it's all fireworks and fighting, in just about equal measure. Their sex scenes are intensely passionate (with lots of dirty talk!) and explore the gamut of personal expression, from power exchanges to soul-baring, brutal honesty.
This book is part racy sexscapades through the rich Italian countryside, part brutal no-holds-barred adventure, and all heart-pounding, addicting love story between a man and woman who want nothing more than each other and are willing to fight everything in their way (sometimes even themselves) to get there. Coming in to the series as a first time reader on this final book meant I had a lot of characters and history to catch up on, but I didn't feel overwhelmed or confused for the most part. It absolutely whet my appetite for more of this colorful clan and their histories. Time to start at the beginning of Shannon McKenna's McCloud series!...more
You know that scene from the reboot Star Trek movie where Scottie says "I like this ship. It's exciting!"? Well that's how I felt while reading this book. Blind Faith is most definitely exciting! The story has a lot of elements of romantic suspense and flirts a little with the genre boundary, but I'd say it ultimately falls on the side of contemporary romance with some paranormal elements.
Speaking of ultimate, the Gray/Dean brothers are a hell of a set of alpha heroes! Nathan—like his brothers before him—is serious and radiates a constant lethal edge, and he's willing to sacrifice anything to see his family safe, with the freedom to live long, happy lives. That is, until Audrey dances back into his life. As the daughter of the psychopathic genius scientist who created the brothers to be the ultimate killer soldiers, Audrey must constantly walk the line between trying to live up to her mother's expectations and falling into the manipulations and mind games the twisted scientist thrives on. Both Nate and Audrey have one regret in life and that's losing each other, so to see them come back together after all this time is an intensely satisfying experience.
The story Ms. Zanetti has crafted is stellar, with great action and suspense, believable bursts of adrenaline followed by lulls of quiet. Some of the tactics used by the Dean brothers to communicate and infiltrate are quite brilliant and Audrey herself is far more capable and intelligent than she gives herself credit for. My favorite kind of heroine: determined and smart.
I love the sneak peek at the end of the book for the next book in the series and can't wait for it to come out.
There were several moments in Blind Faith that made me feel like I was in the middle of a Dan Brown novel, which really made me smile. Ms. Zanetti infuses such energy into the story, sprinkled with a nicely crafted cultish mystery, that it's really just a joy to read. Toss in the (possibly) unintentional comedic relief of the Dean brothers at their most protective with the expertly penned fighting sequences, and you've got a book that is nearly impossible to put down!