Reviewed for THC Reviews Funny title notwithstanding, Jane and the Sneaky Dom is, in all honesty, the best erotic romance I have read to date, and beliReviewed for THC Reviews Funny title notwithstanding, Jane and the Sneaky Dom is, in all honesty, the best erotic romance I have read to date, and believe it or not, the title actually does suit the book quite well. Finally, an erotic author who knows how to write a plot that seamlessly pulls together all the luscious love scenes instead of just creating one that is nothing more than weak filler in between. Granted the plot revolves around sex and the heroine's quest to find a way to be more satisfied in the bedroom, but there are a lot of fun relationship building scenes too. As anyone who regularly reads my reviews knows, I'm not really a fan of what I call “instant meeting and mating.” Even though this story begins that way, I wasn't particularly put off by it in this case, because the author took the time to backtrack and have some nice getting-to-know-you moments, making the story more believable. Readers may have to suspend disbelief a little in order to buy into the idea that Ian knows he has found the woman he wants to marry after spending just one weekend with her, but at least they aren't on their way to the altar after just a couple of days. Their time together is spread out over the course of a full month. I also loved the idea that Ian is a marriage kind of guy and took the time to court Jane in between giving her long sessions of mind-blowing sex. I also like that he based his ultimate goal of marriage on Jane's personality and not just the amazing sex, and that he was being so "sneaky" about winning her heart was cute and funny while also being romantic.
Sometimes I have a hard time reading erotic romances because the heroes in them often tend to be uber-alphas who could literally eat me for breakfast. Ian was not like that at all. He was definitely dominating but in a very nice way, making him a positively scrumptious hero. He isn't an intense dom who forces his will on the heroine and then punishes her if she even remotely disobeys. Instead he instills trust with gentleness and commands obedience with quiet confidence. I love that he always gives Jane the option to say "No" before they try anything new, and he always checks to see if she's doing OK after. In my opinion, this demonstrated how kind and caring he could be, and of course, he exhibits a masterful control over Jane's body that was simply yummy. Ian had the heart of a romantic and a great sense of humor. He was a character who showed that a hero can be an alpha dom without being a jerk. I can't imagine any woman not feeling loved, cherished, protected and thoroughly satisfied with a guy like Ian around to take care of her.
Jane was a likable character for me as well. I respected her drive and determination to build a business from the ground up, and having that business be an independent book store, made her all the more appealing. It was very obvious that Jane loved books, and apparently Ian did as well, to spend as much time in her store as he seemingly did. I could relate to Jane being pretty controlling in every area of her life, but feeling like it was time to give the reins over to someone else in the sexual department. I thought that Ms. Murray conveyed really well how scary it can be to relinquish control of something, but the sense of freedom that can also comes with giving it up. This is something that is true in all facets of life and not just sex. It's a wonderful feeling to just be able to let things go, and if someone else is there to pick up the slack and be a true partner, that makes it all the better. I thought it was a testament to the author's writing talent that she could make me take the time to think about something deeper in the midst of a fun, breezy, erotic romance.
While Ian and Jane carried most of the story on their own, their two best friends, Lacey and Devon helped to liven things up. Of the two, Lacey appeared the most, and I enjoyed the delightful girl-talk she shared with Jane. Lacey is a very sympathetic friend who understands Jane very well, and always has solid wisdom to impart. There was also a hint of some unexplored bit of Lacey's past which made me want to know more about her. Devon was only in a couple of scenes, but I liked the part of his personality that I saw in those moments. There was enough of an intro to these two characters to make me look forward to seeing more of them in the next book of the series.
There were many things that I liked about Jane and the Sneaky Dom outside of the entertaining story. I always get irritated when the characters in contemporary romance don't bother with protection during sex, much less talk about it, so I found it very refreshing to have Ian and Jane proactively discussing the issues of birth control and STDs like two mature adults instead of being careless or leaving things to chance. While having explicit language in an erotic romance is pretty par for the course, some authors seem to gratuitously use these words every other sentence which becomes just as annoying and boring to me as it would if they were repeatedly using any other word. I greatly appreciated that Ms. Murray seems to know exactly when to use the “naughty” words to best effect and doesn't overuse them, instead finding other creative ways to express herself. Another thing that is sometimes not to my liking in erotic romances is how coarse and raw the love scenes can become. In Jane and the Sneaky Dom, I thought the love scenes were tastefully written, deliciously sensual, and even embodied a bit of sweetness, along with plenty of variety. I think the author was able to accomplish this by maintaining a certain level of lightheartedness throughout the story even in the bedroom, showing that sex can be a little kinky but should still always be fun. In my opinion, there was virtually nothing to dislike about this book. Perhaps the characters could have been a little more developed, but I got to know them enough to like them. Also, the author did overuse eye-rolling and eyebrow raising a bit too much, but that's a very minor complaint in an otherwise great story. Anyone who is looking for a quick, romantic read with some erotic, red-hot lovin' that still maintains a gentle tone, a cast of likable characters, and a decent plot should look no further than Jane and the Sneaky Dom. Because of its lighter nature, this would also, in my opinion, be a great starter book for anyone who might be looking to dip a toe into the erotic romance pool but isn't quite sure whether they will like it or where to begin. This was my first book by Hannah Murray, but it has definitely earned a spot on my keeper shelf. I'm really looking forward to reading The Devil and Ms. Johnson, the next book in this untitled series duet.
Note: This book contains explicit language and sexual situations including some BDSM (biting, spanking, restraint, domination/submission) and anal sex, all of which some readers may find offensive....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Now that I’ve finished the Fifty Shades Trilogy I’m feeling both happy and sad. I’m so happy that I finally got around to readReviewed for THC Reviews Now that I’ve finished the Fifty Shades Trilogy I’m feeling both happy and sad. I’m so happy that I finally got around to reading the series, because it’s been one of the most amazing literary experiences of my life. I’ve loved each of the books in turn, as I followed Christian and Anastasia through their tumultuous, emotional, roller-coaster relationship that has seen them both grow and change in unexpected but welcome ways. I’ve come to love the characters so much, I almost feel like they’re real. I just can’t get enough of them. At the same time, I’m now sad, because I can’t go back and become a Fifty Shades virgin again.:-( Don’t you wish you could flip a switch in your brain and forget your favorite stories, so you can read them all over again like it’s the first time? But alas, their story is finished (more or less). I know that the author is rewriting it from Christian's perspective, and I welcome the chance to read it again from a different point of view, but I probably won’t until Ms. James has all of them completed. I could barely stand to wait between these books, and I don’t think I’ll want to wait between the new POV books either. We’ll see, though, if I can hold out that long.:-) At least I have the Fifty Shades Darker movie to console me in the immediate, but then I’ll probably have to wait another year for the movie version of this book. No matter what, though, these are books that I won’t soon forget and will definitely revisit in the years to come.
Christian is one of the most unforgettable romance heroes I’ve ever read. He’s a brilliant businessman, but his intelligence surpasses the business world and can be found in his personal life, too, in the form of his interests, hobbies, and general knowledge. He begins the series as a broken man, who doesn’t think he has much to offer from a genuine relationship standpoint. All he’s ever know is his Dominant lifestyle, but Anastasia becomes the one woman he can’t resist on an emotional level and who tempts him to want more. All of his love, affection, desire, and passion becomes solely focused on her alone, which makes for a heady romantic brew. Christian has grown from a Dom who wanted to tame Ana and bend her to his will, to a husband and lover who’s intrigued and challenged by her smart mouth and unwillingness to be cowed by him. He’s also grown to regret any pain or discomfort he brings her even if she found enjoyment in it, which I feel shows just how much he truly cares for her and is willing to change for her. Of course, he’s still eager to engage in sex play, so that hasn’t changed.;-) He just doesn’t want to mark or hurt her anymore. Christian’s vulnerabilities and how he still sometimes needs reassurance continue to melt my heart. As always, he can be a bit overbearing and overprotective, but most of the time, he's open to listening to Ana's concerns and taking her feelings into consideration. However, he isn’t perfect. When unexpected circumstances arise, putting his carefully ordered world into disarray, it can be difficult for him to cope. But he eventually comes around. In the end, I felt like he’d made great strides from an emotional perspective. Hence the “freed” in the title. In some ways, he’d changed, and in other ways, he didn’t. But in every way, he’d become a better version of himself.
I like that Ana is still the ordinary girl from day one, who's out of her element in Christian's world of wealth and splendor. She's totally content with the simple things in life even though he wants to place the world at her feet. On their honeymoon, when he bought her a bracelet that cost thousands, she later went out and brought herself a five dollar anklet at a low-end tourist shop, which I thought perfectly showcased the kind of girl she is. For her, it’s never been about the money; it’s only about her love for Christian. Although Ana has always been willing to take a stand when she needed to, she began as a shy girl who lacked confidence in her abilities. Being with Christian has helped her to grow into a more confident woman who doesn’t hesitate to speak out to both her beloved husband and others. I love how she stood up to their new architect who was being sexually predatory toward Christian, and let her know in no uncertain terms that she wasn’t going to put up with it. Ana is every bit as protective of Christian as he is of her, and she worries every bit as much about his safety as he worries about hers. Christian may have begun their love story with plans to tame Ana, but in fact, it was she who tamed him. She's incredibly deft at handling Christian's mercurial moods and keeping him from losing control most of the time. It’s like she’s become the Christian whisperer.:-) And just because she doesn’t like the hard-core BDSM stuff that he used to engage in doesn’t mean that she doesn’t like to play too. In fact, she’s begun to crave his kinks and is actually disappointed when they can’t have playtime.
Christian and Ana’s relationship is a thing of rare beauty. They’re both very giving and loving toward each other, showing a willingness to compromise until they find that happy medium that’s acceptable to both of them. It's really cute how they can't seem to get enough of each other. They love one another with their whole beings and from the moment they met, all others ceased to exist. They each believe in the other in ways they often don’t believe in themselves, but in doing so they help the other to gain confidence in their own capabilities. Their relationship is one of warm, sweet, emotional moments interspersed with lots and lots of blazing passion. By the time I reached the end of the book, I was more than convinced that Christian and Ana were going to have a long and happy future together, till death do they part.
The one and only thing about this book that I found ever so slightly disappointing is that I really wanted more of a comeuppance for Elena aka Mrs. Robinson. Like Ana, I never felt like what she did to Christian at such a young age was right, even if he did feel it helped him in some ways. I loved what happened in the last book with Ana and Christian’s mother taking the woman to task, but I was almost expecting more in this book. Without giving too much away, I’ll say that I was at least glad that Christian came to a place of accepting that his relationship with her hadn’t entirely been as a good thing as he’d originally thought and he permanently cut ties with her once and for all. It’s just that I always agreed with Ana that she wasn’t the true “friend” that Christian thought her to be and in fact, had behaved in a sexually predatory manner toward him. However, I guess this is one of those things where there unfortunately isn’t equality between the sexes. And it wasn’t in any way a deal-breaker for me, nor did it mar my reading of this otherwise exceptional love story. Christian and Ana’s extraordinary love more than made up for it.
I also enjoyed all the little side romances that have been brewing in the background over the course of the trilogy. Christian’s brother, Elliot, and Ana’s best friend, Kate, move forward in their relationship. Exactly what’s going on between Christian’s sister, Mia, and Kate’s brother, Ethan, remains somewhat ambiguous, but it seems like they may have something romantic in the works too. Then there’s a slightly unexpected pairing that we first learn of in this book, which leads to more for this couple. Of course, Christian’s parents who are still happily married after many years shine as a beacon of love and hope.
Even though I’ve tried, I don’t think I can begin to express exactly how much I love these books and how much of an impact they’ve had on me. Christian is the kind of hero I’d love to wrap up in my arms and give all the love he deserves, while Ana is someone I could definitely see myself being friends with, because we’re so much alike. I enjoyed the way Ms. James bookended this volume of the story with two little vignettes from Christian’s childhood. The opening one nearly had be in tears as this little boy struggles for life in the days following his birth mother’s death. The ending one was happier with little Christian celebrating his first Christmas as the Grey’s newly adopted son, but at the same time, we can still see the sadness and self-loathing present in that tiny head. The author finishes the book off with two scenes from Christian’s perspective, the first being where he meets Ana in his office, and the second being his visit to her at Clayton’s hardware store. I’m guessing that these scenes are giving a glimpse of the opening chapters of Grey, and I can’t wait to read more. But alas, I suppose I’ll have to be patient. In any case, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed this ride and will definitely take any opportunity I can get to revisit Christian and Ana’s world in the future.
Note: This book contains explicit language and sexual situations, including bondage, spanking, use of sex toys, and anal play, which some readers may find offensive....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Before picking up the A Kinky Christmas Carol anthology, I hadn’t really heard of Robin L. Rotham, so I had no idea what to exReviewed for THC Reviews Before picking up the A Kinky Christmas Carol anthology, I hadn’t really heard of Robin L. Rotham, so I had no idea what to expect from her writing. I’m very pleased to say that I ended up loving Not So Tiny Tim. It was a hot, fun, quick read that was equal parts sweet and super sexy. The love scenes are so scorching, I thought my eReader might go up in flames.;-) But at the same time, they, and the story in general, expressed an emotional connection that’s not always easy to find in erotic romance. Not to mention, unlike the first novella in the series, the menage in this one is a permanent one, which was more to my liking. So, ultimately, I thoroughly enjoyed the few hours I spent reading this novella.
Tim, the subject of the title (I’ll leave it to the reader’s imagination as to why he’s called that ;-)), is the nephew of Holly, the heroine of the first novella in the series, Getting Scrooged. He’s a successful video game developer, who as part of the Knight clan, is familiar with the trappings of wealth. However, he hasn’t really been living life. He keeps everyone he knows in carefully organized compartments: family, friend, or f*ck-buddy, and the last two never, ever overlap. Therefore, despite being in love with them both, he keeps his long-time best friend, Miranda, and his college buddy and current roommate, Peter, solidly relegated to the friend-zone. That all changes when a little magic brings Miranda and Pete together, making Tim long to join in. When we discover his reasons for keeping them at arm’s length all this time, it’s a very emotional moment that made me a little teary-eyed.
Miranda is a sweetheart, a scientist who’s been friends with Tim since they were teenagers and has loved him from afar for thirteen years. It was totally adorable that she’d saved herself for him all that time, while hoping against hope that someday he would see her as more than just a friend. But having heard about Tim’s size and kinkiness, she’s also adventurous enough to have prepared herself for those things and is eager to take everything that both Tim and Peter can dish out. Miranda is a very loving heroine who’s accepting of both men and doesn’t hesitate to engage in all sorts of sex play with them. She also knows almost instantly that she wants a future with them both when the opportunity presents itself.
Ever since a close intimate encounter in college, Peter has been attracted to his friend, but he knows Tim’s rule about not mixing friends and sex. He just doesn’t know why. Peter has spent the last several months living with Tim while the new house he designed for himself is being built, which has only deepened his feelings for Tim. Like Tim, Pete is bisexual, so when he finds the pretty Miranda at a bar, pining for Tim and reluctant to go to his Christmas celebration after having thrown herself at him with disastrous results, Pete offers to accompany her. Both of them hope it might make Tim jealous enough to do something about it. Pete is a Dom who isn’t totally overbearing, so I could appreciate how he gently pushes both Miranda and Tim outside their comfort zones and won’t take ‘no’ for an answer. Although he only marginally knew Miranda before meeting her in the bar, he’s totally into her from that very second, so there was never a doubt in my mind that he deeply cared about her too.
While their personalities don’t necessarily reflect classic geekiness, all three characters respective professions certainly suggest that they are, and I must say, these are three of the sexiest geeks I’ve ever read about.;-) I loved how both Miranda and Pete were long-time friends with Tim. It made the connection deeper and much more believable, because of their shared history. Since the story only takes place over a coupe of day’s time, Pete and Miranda’s feelings for each other develop very quickly, but I could definitely feel a connection there too. Tim’s long-held stubbornness about not becoming intimate with friends is pretty quickly overcome as well, so there were admittedly things in the story that easily might not have worked for me. However, the doorman, Frost, a common character in this series, who looks suspiciously like Santa Claus and has magical powers, brought a heartwarming flavor to the story and helped to make the short time span not as much of an issue. In the end, it seems that they were all fated to get together. Whatever it was about this novella, it undeniably hit a sweet spot for me, because I ended up loving it. This may have been my first read by Ms. Rotham, but I’ll definitely be taking a look at more of her work in the future.
Note: This book contains explicit language and sexual situations, including spicy M/F and M/M interactions, as well as a M/F/M menage, talk of sex toys, a little bondage, mild dominant behavior, and anal sex, which some readers may find offensive....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews I must say that having now read two of the Fifty Shades books, I really don’t understand why they’ve gotten such a bad rap. IReviewed for THC Reviews I must say that having now read two of the Fifty Shades books, I really don’t understand why they’ve gotten such a bad rap. I realize they aren’t going to be everyone’s cup of tea, and with wildly popular books like these, they’re going to pick up some curious readers who don’t typically read the romance genre, but that IMHO, is more a reader problem than a genuine issue with the books. Is the writing absolutely perfect? Perhaps, not. There is some repetition, but in an otherwise wonderful story, that’s a very minor thing that’s easily overlooked, at least for me. Fifty Shades Darker was every bit as enjoyable as Fifty Shades of Grey. As a whole, these books are deeply romantic and emotionally complex in ways that many other romances aren’t. The characterizations are extremely well done, exhibiting depth and complexity as well. Christian and Anastasia each go through a fair bit of growth in this book, learning to compromise with each other in their relationship, while also dealing with some very stressful situations caused by external factors. Yet they always come out stronger as a couple in the end. Fifty Shades Darker concluded on a much higher romantic note than the previous book, but there’s still a bit of a cliffhanger in the reveal that someone is out to do Christian and Ana harm, which is still going to make it difficult to wait for the final installment. Like with this one, though, I’m going to force myself to engage in delayed gratification by taking a little break over the month of December to read new releases by a couple of my favorite authors, as well as some Christmas stories, but it’s going to be tough.:-)
I think I may love Christian more after reading this book than I already did, if that’s even possible.:-) After the way the first book ended, I knew something would have to change for him to reconcile with Anastasia. Without giving too much away, I can say that I absolutely love Christian's way of apologizing and groveling. He’s vulnerable even though he's still trying to stay in control. He also has a way of expressing his love without actually saying the words. I'd have totally caved too.;-) I also liked how he already started opening up a little about his past in the first chapters and how he was willing to take things slower at Ana's pace. Christian tears at my heart, because sometimes he's like a lost little boy who needs reassurance and to simply know that he’s loved, even though he doesn’t think he’s lovable. I love his protectiveness, even if it is a little stalkerish at times. I fully understand that his need to protect Ana, his fixation with food, and his general need for control stem from his early childhood abuse. Occasionally he can be a bit aggravating, particularly with his reticence about his past, but I like how Ana challenges him to see things differently and how he's willing to make accommodations for her. Also his frustrating moments don’t last long before being quickly mitigated by him doing or saying something sweet. And when he finally does open up and completely let Ana in, it’s so heart-wrenching and emotional, but so beautiful at the same time. I love how Christian continues to experience a lot of firsts with Ana, things that he’s never done with or for any other woman. I like that he does his best to protect her from the exs who start causing trouble for them, and it’s so wonderful how she makes him see everything in a whole new light and that he’s willing to change so much for her. I felt like these things showed that Ana means far more to him than anyone or anything else.
Ana is a lovely young woman, who is mature beyond her years. She still finds it difficult to understand why a gorgeous man like Christian wants plain little old her, but she knows that she loves her Fifty to distraction and can’t live without him. That doesn’t stop her from worrying that she might not be enough for him because of his proclivities, but she gradually comes to a place of accepting what is true in the present and trying not to borrow trouble. In spite of numerous shocking revelations, Ana is so very loving, forgiving, and understanding of Christian's past, including his exs who cause her no end of grief in this book. That doesn't mean she's a pushover, though. I love how she stands up to Mrs. Robinson. Grrr … that woman makes me angry too. And I also loved how she didn’t let her pervy boss get the upper hand on her either. In addition to standing up to others, she usually doesn’t hesitate to tell Christian when something is bothering her, which shows that she won’t be a doormat even with the man she loves. When his actions hurt her, she gently works with him, probing and asking questions to get him to see her point of view. Ana is so very patient with Christian, especially with his reticence about his past. I love how she's willing to compromise in their relationship, in the same way that Christian compromises for her and that she actually enjoys some of his kinks.;-)
Before I started reading Fifty Shades Darker, I was a little concerned that the “darker” might mean that Christian and Ana would be going to some darker sexual places, but if anything it was the exact opposite. That’s not to say this book wasn’t super sexy, because it most definitely was. They just explore a different aspect of their sexual relationship that’s sweeter and eliminates the fear, while exercising an even higher level of trust and compromise. To me, those are two of the most important elements in any real relationship and what makes these books so genuinely romantic to me. The “darker” aspect was really more about them navigating the treacherous waters of Christian’s past and overcoming the outside forces that threaten their happiness. It’s a beautiful love story that’s about two people, one who’s deeply broken but trying to find his way out of the dark, and the other who is completely accepting of him, flaws and all, coming together and figuring out what the future holds for them. I couldn’t have written a more perfect and wonderful romance if I tried. I’m completely enamored of both Christian and Ana, and I can’t wait to see how this journey ends for them in the final installment.
Note: This book contains explicit language and sexual situations, including bondage, spanking, an act of public intimacy, use of sex toys, and anal play, which some readers may find offensive....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews So far, in my erotic romance reading experiences, I've found that the best books are usually those that focus in on the sex anReviewed for THC Reviews So far, in my erotic romance reading experiences, I've found that the best books are usually those that focus in on the sex and relationships. With the ones that add other elements, such as science fiction, suspense, paranormal, etc., the plot typically tends to suffer. Not so with Riding the Storm. This novel is like X-Men meets erotic romance, and in my opinion, it was a fabulous story that was a great start to the ACRO series. The overall premise of the series is that a group of men and women who possess supernatural abilities (ala superheroes) have banded together as part of a secret government agency to fight the evil versions of themselves (ala super-villains). I've always been a fan of superhero stories. Riding the Storm is just a super-sexy version of a superhero story, and I can't wait to read more.
Remy is a man with a lot of baggage. He was abandoned on a church doorstep as an infant in the middle of a hurricane that he may have caused. Remy's adoptive father had just lost his wife and unborn child in an accident, and saw it as some sort of omen that he was meant to take this child in and give him a home. He knew from the start that Remy was different. He tried to be a decent parent, but his heartbreak never quite healed. As a result he spent a lot of time at the bottom of a bottle, often leaving Remy to fend for himself. Ultimately, his father sold him out, but at least it was to the right people and he felt bad about it afterward. Remy discovered by puberty that he could control the weather, and that the storms and his sexual desires feed off of one another. His ability has always made him feel like a freak. The superstitious residents of the bayou think he's possessed by an evil spirit and have been trying to spell him since he was a child. Even joining the military didn't really give him a sense of belonging, as most of the other guys were freaked out by his seeming connection to the weather. All the women Remy was ever with were frightened of the ferocity of his sexual desires during storms, so romantic relationships have been all but impossible for him. That all changes when Haley shows up. She offers him a place where his ability will be appreciated, not reviled, and welcomes his sexual intensity in a way he never thought possible.
Haley is a parameteorologist who was sent by ACRO to assess Remy's abilities. She is also tasked with bringing him into the agency if he proves to be as powerful as they suspect. I liked that Haley was so accepting of Remy's passionate nature, that she even enjoyed it and met him with a certain intensity of her own. She does initially keep her true purpose for being in the bayou a secret, which leads to some problems for them down the line, but I still think she proved more than once that he had become much more than a job to her. I loved how she was as protective of him as he was of her. She also gave freely of herself to him and put her life on the line to help save him even though she had no special ability to fall back on.
Riding the Storm has a fascinating cast of secondary characters that I can't wait to see again. Devlin is the enigmatic director of ACRO, the agency he essentially inherited from his parents. Dev is physically blind, but through his psychic talents, he can see things most people can't. He is an incredibly sexy and intriguing man who is apparently nursing a broken heart with a series of meaningless sexual encounters. Then there was Creed and Annika, a couple who were every bit as appealing as Remy and Haley if not a little more so. Annika is super-charged with electricity, and much like Remy she feels like a freak. She also has trouble with relationships because of her inability to control her electrical pulses during sex which can fry the poor unfortunate guy. Creed is a ghost hunter who is followed by a possessive female spirit who doesn't want him getting too attached to any other woman, but he appears to be immune to Annika's ability. With his tats, piercings, and bad boy persona, Creed reminds me of one of the brothers from J. R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood. Annika and Creed spend a large part of the story trying to make contact with an unfriendly spirit in Dev's childhood home. Normally, I'm not a big fan of ghost stories, but this one was very engaging. I really enjoyed how they battled the ghost in the haunted house while also battling their growing passion for one another. Both of these characters have fascinating back stories, and yet, I feel the authors have only scratched the surface with this pair. I would love to see this couple get their own story, but as of yet, that doesn't appear to be the case. I'm not sure if their romance will continue to play out as secondary characters, but I certainly hope so. I'm really looking forward to seeing more of them and learning more about this spirit from Dev's past. Last but not least there were the two operatives Ender and Wyatt. These two are like oil and water. Ender is about as unfriendly as Wyatt is friendly, and they seem to enjoy trying to one up each other. Wyatt will become the hero of book #3, Seduced by the Storm.
Riding the Storm was a wonderful and entertaining beginning to what promises to be a sexy and engrossing new-to-me series. Sydney Croft is a pseudonym for the writing team of Larissa Ione and Stephanie Tyler, both of whom have pretty impressive resumes as individuals. It looks like Larissa probably drew upon her own experience as a meteorologist for the character of Haley. I'm dying to see what else these two come up with together, as well as exploring their individual backlists, because if this book is any indication, they are both very talented authors.
Note: This book is categorized as erotic romance, and while the love scenes are frequent, creative and ultra-spicy, there is nothing that I would describe as kinky. However, there is one scene of M/M sensuality that may offend some readers....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews I know I’m late to the party on this one, but my mantra has always been better late than never. That especially applies when tReviewed for THC Reviews I know I’m late to the party on this one, but my mantra has always been better late than never. That especially applies when the book is as freaking good as this one is. Now I know what all the fuss is about. And all I can say is: Wow! Count me among the hordes of women who are now madly in love with Christian Grey. No romance hero has broken my Top 10 list in two and half years and it’s been even longer since one has broken my Top 5, but that’s about to change. Move over boys, because there’s a new guy in town.;-) [Swoon!] I started reading Fifty Shades of Grey with a bit of trepidation, because I know it’s a very polarizing book that has rather middling ratings at online book sites. Also erotic romances containing BDSM and dominant heroes can be hit and miss with me. But once I started reading the book all that anxiety faded away in the wake of its sheer awesomeness. I’ve read a lot of five-star romances, but it’s been quite a while since I’ve read one that got me this excited. I could hardly put it down and I can’t wait to read more!
It’s not just Christian who made this story great for me either. I’ve read a number of wonderful romance heroines, some of whom were quite similar to me in personality, but very few who I can say that every single thing she said, thought, or did made perfect sense to me. Anastasia is just such a heroine. I felt like I understood her in a way that I often don’t with literary characters, and that made the book all the more enjoyable to me. Her reactions to each new revelation and her thought processes are exactly what I believe mine would be in those circumstances. Ana is a literature major who loves books, especially old romantic classics. She's a romantic at heart who wants the kind of relationship for herself that she's only read about in books. She has a tendency to over-think things. (Boy can I ever relate to that.) She communicates better in the written word than verbally. (Another extremely relatable characteristic for me. Trying to talk to someone in person, my tongue often gets tied up in knots, but give me a keyboard and I can go to town.:-)) As a nearly 22 year old modern virgin, she may be unusual, but I like that she doesn't sleep around. IMHO, it makes her attraction to Christian feel that much deeper, because she's not just in it for the sex. I also think that her innocence brings a whole new dimension to her relationship with him and draws him in a way that an experienced woman couldn’t. Ana is shy, sweet, kindhearted, and gentle, but she’s not a pushover. If anything, she ends up admitting that she’s not very good sub material. She’s a very smart girl who doesn't simply sign his D/s contract without giving it a lot of thought (and I do mean a lot) and doing her research. I love that she negotiates with him as well as any shrewd businessperson would, and I think Christian respects her for it. She doesn't just give in to all of his demands, but she is willing to compromise on certain points. I feel like this shows her strength of character. She's also very good at intuiting things about Christian and isn't so naive as to not realize up front that he likely won't be able to give her what she really wants and that she may get her heart broken if she agrees to become his sub. But that doesn’t stop her from hoping that she can eventually make sense of her Fifty Shades and get him to open up to her.
The whole book is written from Anastasia’s first-person POV. At first, I thought that not having Christian's perspective might be a detractor, but now I think it was a stroke of writing genius. Not knowing exactly what he's thinking leaves the reader feeling a little off-balance and uncertain just like Ana does, as well as frustrated when he’s reticent about his past or even his present. I also think it's going to be a lot of fun to peel away Christian's layers and learn his secrets right along with Ana. Not to mention, she sees him clearly enough to help the reader understand what kind of person he is without necessarily being inside his head. That doesn’t mean, though, that I’m not looking forward to reading Grey, and seeing things from his side. I’ll just wait to do so until I’ve completed the series.
Ahh, Christian! [Sigh!] Christian is obviously an extremely intelligent man not only to have made it where he is in the business world at such a young age, but he also has many other talents as well, such as flying, music, and speaking another language. No average person would be able to do all that he does, nor so skillfully. I think he’s also an overachiever, because he never feels like he’s good enough. Christian is definitely a control freak as Ana calls him, but it's a calm kind of control that is actually rather soothing and appealing to me. He rarely looses his cool (only once at the very end of the book, and it was totally understandable) even when Ana pushes him. He also possesses a quiet confidence that maybe leans a little toward arrogance, but IMHO he's not cocky. Dominant, possessive romance heroes often push my buttons and rub me the wrong way, especially if they’re jerks, but I never had that problem with Christian. If anything, he shows glimmers of vulnerability in his responses to Ana from the very start and those chinks in his armor only reveal themselves more over time. It’s what makes him so lovable in spite of his sexual deviance.
It's obvious that things are quite different for Christian with Ana than in his past relationships. He admits that he wants her deeply and that's definitely borne out in his actions. I feel like he falls for her every bit as much as she falls for him, but either doesn't realize it or isn’t able to admit it yet. Although Christian is still pretty buttoned up most of the time, he also shows a lighter more playful side at times too, and I think it’s Ana who brings it out of him. Christian may be a Dom, but he has a tender side as well that I love. For a man who hates to be touched, he’s very tactile himself, and I love a touchy-feely hero. I also love his protectiveness. Even though he goes a little overboard, I think his heart is in the right place and it shows how much he really cares about Ana. I love him for his philanthropy too, and for his willingness to compromise and try to give Ana the more romantic relationship she needs, even though he isn't sure he's capable of it. Most of all, I just want to wrap him up in my arms (although I know he’d hate that) and give him all the love he so desperately needs. Christian is definitely among the most tormented romance heroes I’ve ever read (and we don’t even know the half of what he’s been through yet, though I can guess at some of it), and I'm itching to uncover all of his secrets.
Christian and Ana’s relationship is a thing of beauty. It’s not perfect, though. Christian holds back a lot of himself, but I think it’s because the things he feels for Ana are so new and maybe even frightening. He’s also a person who doesn’t seem to trust easily and considering what we discover about his background in this book (which as I said, barely scratches the surface), it’s pretty understandable. Ana can hold back too sometimes, I think for the same reasons, but it’s never to a frustrating degree. It always made sense to me and they still give a great deal of themselves to one another. Ana is the virgin who’s not just experiencing sex for the first time, but kinky sex. Yet a part of her is surprised by how good it feels and embraces it to a degree. But it’s not only Ana who’s having a lot of “firsts.” I love how there are many things Christian does for the first time too, things he never thought he would ever do with or for anyone. I love how each of them comes from their respective positions of extremes and are able to find some middle ground. Although they may not have entrusted each other with all of themselves yet, it still takes a high level of trust for them to engage in the kinds of sex play they often do and that alone is a lovely thing. They both seem to be enthralled with one another, yet because of their respective self-esteem issues, they don’t always see or understand how much the other one cares for them. Their relationship is by turns sweet, sensual, romantic, sexy, and downright scorching hot. But it’s not all about the sex. There’s a lot of tenderness in their romance too, and I was downright surprised by how many times I smiled or even laughed at their banter particularly over email. I didn’t expect that kind of humor in such an emotionally taut book. I think it gave their relationship at lot of depth and range. What each of them feels for the other is intensely emotional and only gets more so as the story progresses, but sometimes love alone isn’t quite enough to bridge a gap as wide as theirs and I’m dying to find out how they resolve their issues.
Between them, Christian and Ana have loving families and friends, who make up a cast of supporting characters who orbit the periphery, but mostly this is their story alone. And what a story it is! It took me on an emotional roller coaster ride, and when it was over, I didn’t want it to stop. I’m as enthralled by these two and their romance as they are by each other. Fifty Shades of Grey is a beautifully written book filled with deep emotions and expertly rendered characterizations. I know it isn’t for everyone, but I loved it and would highly recommend it to romance readers who crave heart-stopping love stories and who can handle the erotic nature of the story. Normally I have pretty good self-control, and I’d been planning on waiting a while to read the second book. Especially now that I’ve enjoyed this book, stretching out my reading of the series, would help to prolong my enjoyment. However, with that twisty emotional ending, I can’t wait to continue. I’m still going to try to wait one more month, but it’s going to be torturous. Fifty Shades of Grey has made a huge impression on me and I’ll probably be thinking about it all throughout the coming month and beyond.
Note: This book contains explicit language and sexual situations, including a D/s style relationship, bondage, spanking/whipping/flogging, use of sex toys, and discussion of much kinkier things, which some readers may find offensive....more
I can say without a doubt that Be with Me is now one of my top three favorite erotic romances I've read to date. So often, I find that erotic romancesI can say without a doubt that Be with Me is now one of my top three favorite erotic romances I've read to date. So often, I find that erotic romances are basically a sex-fest with little actual story or character development to speak of, which might account for why I don't read the genre more frequently. Be with Me most definitely does not fall into that trap. In fact, despite having three scrumptious, virile men as its heroes, there's no sex until nearly halfway into the book. After that the author certainly makes up for it, but not at the expense of the plot. I learned a few years back when taking a class on writing love scenes, taught by the incomparable Elizabeth Hoyt, that each love scene should reveal something about one or more of the characters and/or propel the plot forward. Maya Banks is a masterful author who definitely knows how to do this. Each love scene is perfectly placed for maximum story development, therefore making all of them integral to the plot. They also don't completely overwhelm the story. There's actually still a suspense sub-plot too in which it appears someone is trying to kill the heroine and which is deftly woven into the rest of the story. It was also equally well-written, because I was surprised by who the killer turned out to be and how that part of the story played out. Even with all of its super-steamy love scenes, Be with Me was a book with more depth and substance than many mainstream romances I've read, which was a very pleasant surprise.
Our heroine, Regina (nicknamed Reggie by her men), is a kick-ass police officer in a small Texas town about an hour away from Houston. She finished at the top of her class and is really good at her job. Many romance heroines I've read who are in similar positions seem to feel like they have a lot to prove and therefore can be really tough nuts to crack. This makes it difficult for me to relate to them, because they lack any feminine softness. Not so with Reggie. I really loved her as a heroine, because she seems to be secure and respected at her job, as well as confident in her abilities without being cocky. She's every bit as protective of her men as they are of her, but she knows how to dial it down a notch and simply accept their loving overtures. She can still be stubborn at times, much to their chagrin, but overall, I felt like she had a good balance between her softer feminine side and her kick-butt and take names career. This made her so much easier for me to relate to than many similar heroines.
Reggie has known and loved Cam, Hutch, and Sawyer for most of her life. They met and played together as kids, but things didn't become intimate between all of them until a year before the story begins. At that point, one of Reggie's typical nights with the guys became anything but typical when it took an unforgettably sexy turn. Ever since making love to all three of them at once, she's struggled with what she wants. She still loves all of them and misses them terribly, but she's scared of the kind of relationship they want from her. I felt like her fears were very realistic and understandable. She worries about making the other two guys jealous if she gives her attention to one. She worries about how she can possibly be all things to three very different men. And she worries about what others might think of her, knowing that with small-town gossip, word will surely get around that she's “shacking up” with three guys, and what that might mean for her career. Reggie also struggles to some extent with feeling worthy of the love and attentions of the three men, because she's never really experienced the kind of love and devotion they're offering her in her life. Her parents were extremely wealthy and hands-off while she was growing up, and even now that she's an adult, they seem more worried about their own reputation than about her safety. I really enjoyed seeing how Reggie overcame all her fears and doubts and how much she grew as a person as the story progressed.
And now on to her three scrumptious men.:-) Cam, Hutch, and Sawyer all had rough childhoods. If I remember correctly, it was when they were around ten years old that they all came to live with their foster mother, Birdie, who is the sweetest lady and an absolute saint. It wasn't until then that they finally understood what it meant to be unconditionally loved by someone. They had all been headed down a rocky path, but Birdie's love turned them around. Although unrelated by blood, they consider each other and Birdie to be their only family now. The three boys met Reggie while playing outside on the border of Birdie's property and Reggie's parents' property. In spite of being from opposite sides of the track, they became inseparable best friends until the day they made love with her and she went running scared. The three men have all built a life together as the owners of a construction company and now they've built a house, Reggie's dream house, in hopes of one day convincing her to be their one and only love.
I'll start with Cam who was my favorite of the three guys, because he embodies many of my favorite qualities in a man. He has long hair, wears glasses, and is highly intelligent. He's an architect who designs all the buildings for their construction company. He's pretty much the peacemaker of the three, always trying to be the calm voice of reason and smooth things over when circumstances get heated. He's also very gentle and tender and knows how to sweet-talk a lady and treat her right. I love that he's not vastly experienced in the bedroom and that he's been celibate since the night they had their foursome, knowing that there's no other woman for him besides Reggie. Cam, IMHO, leans more beta, but he has a couple of sexy moments where he gets his alpha on. Overall, Cam is basically my dream man. Yum!;-)
Hutch is a very, very close second. He's had a thing for Reggie since they were just kids and she decked both of his brothers for making fun of him. He's always kind of thought of Reggie as his, so he has to make a few adjustments in his thinking in order to accept sharing her with his brothers. Hutch is simply too sweet for words. He's even less experienced than Cam, not quite virginal, but certainly close. He's also been celibate, which I think shows how much he loves Reggie. Hutch is also the best cook of the three, and one way to a woman's heart (or at least mine anyway:-)) is through her stomach. Like with Cam, I thought Hutch was beta-leaning, but he has a couple of alpha moments when he goes to bat to protect Reggie. One of those times was admittedly misguided and stirred up some trouble amongst the foursome, but his reasons are deeply sympathetic. Hutch is a really wonderful guy, and in the end, I fell nearly as much in love with him as I did with Cam.
I'm sure a majority of readers probably preferred Sawyer, but I'm usually less inclined to fall hard for alphas. Sawyer is most definitely a pretty intense alpha male. He's kind of a he-man at times, and to emphasize that fact, he's a really big guy with a shaved head and goatee. Out of the three, he's the one with the overactive libido and kinky tendencies. What made Sawyer likable to me, though, is his vulnerabilities. He knows he isn't as sweet and gentle as his brothers, so he holds back from Reggie at first, not wanting to hurt her. She finally has to goad him into having sex with her, but she discovers a liking for his intense brand of love-making too. When things get heated with Hutch, Sawyer shows another kind of vulnerability that touched my heart. He can also dial down the intensity sometimes, and even though he doesn't think he's good with words, he could occasionally surprise both me and Reggie by saying nice things. Ultimately, I did like Sawyer too, just not quite as much as I like Cam and Hutch.
Where I think Maya Banks showed incredible mastery is in her characterizations. I loved how she explored all the emotions of a committed polyamorous relationship like what she was presenting. She doesn't shy away from jealousies or conflict between all the parties, but at the same time, she doesn't go overboard with it either. Things can get heated at times, but they all trust each other and take the time to work things out without silly misunderstandings. I loved the communication amongst all of them, and how they know that it's going to take hard work to maintain what they have just like any relationship would. I felt like there was a level of stark honesty between them, which I found refreshing. I also liked that they've all thought ahead to what might face them with regards to backlash from the community.
Be with Me was a pure pleasure to read, because of how much more depth it has than many other erotic romances I've read. There's a lot of meat to the story. I also loved the characters and thought they made the perfect foursome. Reggie is tough while also knowing how and when to give in to her men's TLC. And the guys… well all I can say is the only thing better than one hot, sexy romance hero is three.;-) I love how they take care of Reggie and look out for her safety, while not expecting her to change. It may bother them that she works in a dangerous profession, but they'd never ask her to quit. They also would never ask her to choose between them, which is why they chose this unconventional path. It also makes them all pretty close to perfection in my book. I loved every minute I spent reading Be with Me. It was my first book by Maya Banks, but most definitely won't be my last. I can't wait to delve into more of her work and hope that it's equally sinful, sexy, and filled with substance as this story was.
Note: This book contains explicit language and sexual situations which may offend some readers, including ménage a quatre, some bondage, a little spanking, and anal sex within M/F, M/F/M and M/F/M/M combinations....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews A Very Sinful Valentine is the final coda to Matthew and Jane's story that began in the novel Sinful. I just love this coupleReviewed for THC Reviews A Very Sinful Valentine is the final coda to Matthew and Jane's story that began in the novel Sinful. I just love this couple and can't get enough of them, but I suppose this novella will have to be enough since it's the last story Charlotte Featherstone wrote about them before dropping out of sight three years ago. In this one, our couple is going through a rough patch in their marriage. Jane just gave birth to their first child three months earlier and hasn't quite been herself since. She's always felt she was plump and plain at best and didn't quite measure up to Matthew's drop-dead gorgeous looks. Now that a pregnancy has rearranged her body, she's feeling extremely self-conscious. She still desires her husband more than her next breath, but she worries that after all the beautiful women he bedded in the past, he'll be disappointed in her body with it's extra baby fat, stretch marks and extra-large breasts. As a mother whose figure never went back to its original shape post-pregnancy, I could really relate to Jane's fear and concern.
At first, Matthew is baffled as to why Jane is distancing herself from him and fears he may be losing her, which sends him into one of his brooding moods. With a little help from his best friend, Lindsay, he finally figures things out, and treats Jane to an unforgettable Valentine's Day. The letter Matthew writes to Jane is incredibly sweet and super sexy. But what I like the most is how he reassures her of exactly how beautiful she is to him. The way he shares in the responsibility for the changes in her body was so sweet it made me melt. And the subsequent love scene is smokin' hot. I'm so glad I was able to locate a copy of this story, because it was the perfect way to cap off my Valentine's Day....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Unlike some readers, I was satisfied with Sinful, but when it ended, I couldn't help feeling like there was more story to tellReviewed for THC Reviews Unlike some readers, I was satisfied with Sinful, but when it ended, I couldn't help feeling like there was more story to tell. I'm so glad that I already knew this epilogue existed and even more grateful that I was able to get my hands on a copy since the author has dropped out of sight for the last three years. In her introduction to the epilogue, Charlotte Featherstone explains why it wasn't included in the book. It seems that upon turning in the manuscript to her editor, she was over her word count. Honestly, I don't know why this should have made a difference to her editor, since Addicted was approximately fifty pages longer than Sinful even with the epilogue still attached, but she doesn't expound on that. Her editor also thought that having two love scenes in such close proximity to one another would dilute them, therefore she was given a choice to either drop the final love scene in the main part of the story, one that was pivotal to Matthew's growth, and keep the epilogue, or keep that climactic love scene and drop the epilogue. She opted for the latter. If there truly was no other choice, then I'll admit that I believe Ms. Featherstone made the right one, because that last love scene in the book was absolutely necessary. However, I really disagree with the editor on the dilution part. If anything, this final piece of the story only made the entire thing that much stronger, because it shows a true and solid HEA for Matthew and Jane. Many readers were frustrated by the non-traditional HEA in the published version of Sinful, and I really can't blame them. I personally still loved it and was willing to overlook it, but if I'd read it without knowing about this epilogue, I probably would have marked it down a bit on the star rating. I really think the book would have gotten much better ratings, probably a 4+ star average, if this epilogue had been included.
The Sinful: Epilogue was an exquisite HEA ending to Matthew and Jane's story. It's everything I could have hoped for them and more. I love that Matthew's heart is so much lighter now that he's no longer tortured by his past. Jane has brought healing and wholeness to him, and all of the people who tormented him are now out of the picture in one way or another. It's just him, Jane, their children, and their good friends, Lindsay and Anais and their family. Matthew is the perfect doting and protective father, always looking out for his childrens' well-being. Five years later, he and Jane are every bit as passionate and in love as they ever were, and now that Matthew isn't quite as emotionally intense, there is a new playful, weightless, and joyful quality to their interactions that would have seemed nearly implausible at the end of Sinful. This was the ending that really made my heart soar in the way I wanted it to when I finished Sinful, but it didn't quite get there. So, overall the Sinful: Epilogue was perfect in every way. I couldn't have asked for a better finale, and yet, there's still more to come with the A Very Sinful Valentine novella, which I can't wait to read....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews While many erotic romance authors seem to fall into the trap of sacrificing story for sex, Sarah McCarty is one of the few whoReviewed for THC Reviews While many erotic romance authors seem to fall into the trap of sacrificing story for sex, Sarah McCarty is one of the few who knows how to balance an engaging plot with great character development and scorching hot love scenes to create a beautiful story that's a pleasure to read. It is because of this deft combination that Ms. McCarty has become my current favorite erotic romance author and one of my overall favorite authors too. I had previously read and enjoyed some of her Hell's Eight novels. Promises Linger was my first read from her Promises series, and I'm pleased to say that it is her best book that I've read so far. I adored the characters, the plot was well-developed, and the love scenes were smokin'. What more could a romance lover ask for?;-)
When the story opens, Elizabeth marches into the saloon and stands down her “husband” of only one day who stole her money and gave her a black eye. It was absolutely adorable how she was trying to maintain the prim and proper comportment she'd learned at her fancy finishing school back East while holding the man at gunpoint. Throughout the story this dichotomy comes into play frequently, and I loved the delicate balancing act that she performs between trying to be a perfect lady and reluctantly learning to embrace her naturally wild tendencies. Once she dispenses with the evil ex, she immediately offers herself and her ranch to Asa MacIntyre, a man she knows only by his reputation. Having been misinformed at her finishing school, Elizabeth thinks the marriage bed is nothing more than a duty and experiences extreme virginal jitters on her wedding night, but Asa was infinitely patient with her, trying to seduce her little by little. When she still wouldn't warm up to him and he was about ready to leave, not wanting to force the issue, she tells herself she needs to do it to keep him and to save her ranch. At that point, she takes matters in hand, doing something that surprises the heck out of him. Things didn't exactly go the way Asa had planned, but lucky for her, he's an incredibly generous lover who showed her what she was missing the next morning, and the way she responds is just too cute. On the outside, Elizabeth may be starched and buttoned up, always trying to maintain a steel grip of control, but inside, she's fiery and passionate. Lucky girl that she is, Asa is just the man to help her loosen up. Having been treated by her father like the son he never had, Elizabeth is unused to any softness in her life. She is wary of men, thinking that they all like to hit and treat women badly, so sadly, the gentleness and consideration that Asa shows her is a completely foreign concept to her. He constantly makes her feel off balance, like she never knows where she stands with him. Elizabeth may know how to behave like a gently bred lady, but Asa teaches her what it means to be a woman in more ways than one.
[Sigh] Asa is just to yummy for words. The man totally had me drooling for him and has more than earned a spot on my favorite romance heroes list. He may have had a rough upbringing, but he definitely knows how to treat a lady right. All he's ever wanted in life was a place to belong, a nice spread to call his own, and a wife to love and share it with. When Elizabeth offers her proposition, it's like all his dreams have come true in one fell swoop. Asa is immediately drawn to her spunky nature and understated beauty. In fact, he not only respects her feistiness, but finds it amusing. Asa is oh so sexy and just the kind of alpha hero I love. He positively oozes confidence and control and knows how to be dominating without being a jerk. He's the kind of alpha who gets his way through gentle persuasion rather than arrogantly imposing his will on others, namely Elizabeth. If anything, he's rather laid back but is very protective of anyone or anything he deems "his," and yet underneath he has a tender heart of gold. He's the type of man who understands how to use his own self-assurance to build a woman up, not tear her down. I love how Asa is protective of Elizabeth, not just physically, but also of her battered heart and psyche. He won't stand for anyone, not even someone she considers a friend, putting her down or causing her even the slightest bit of pain. Asa is also very intelligent and intuitive, reading between the lines of the things Elizabeth says (and doesn't say), as well as interpreting her moods and emotions to understand what she's really thinking. It was so sweet how Asa cleverly made Elizabeth think he was in control in an effort to put her at ease, when in a sense he was really giving her the reins. One example was when he told her that a man needed to be warmed up to enjoy love-making, so she wouldn't rush it. That scene was just too cute. I also adored the way he gently teased Elizabeth even though she didn't understand it at first. Asa was simply one of those scrumptious, devil-may-care cowboys who gives his all to the woman he loves and treats her like a precious jewel, and I absolutely loved him for it.
Promises Linger introduces a few key supporting players who become main characters in future books of the series. Cougar was another of those sexy, laid-back cowboys who definitely intrigues me. He's a half-breed who apparently has a reputation as being a rough, tough cowpoke on the outside, but inside has the heart of a romantic and believes in true love. Unfortunately, he's smitten with a woman who can't stand him and only wants his money. I'll be looking forward to reading his story, Promises Keep, which is the next in the series, and seeing him get his HEA with a woman who can appreciate him more. There is also Clint, one of the ranch hands on the Rocking C. He helps watch out for Elizabeth and we get a hint that he may have a thing for a woman Elizabeth has occasionally been helping. That lady, Jenna, is mentioned in the background of this book as dealing with a hard-drinking, abusive husband. Clint and Jenna become the hero and heroine of book #3, Promises Reveal.
Overall, Promises Linger was a wonderful read. It had all the things that make a romance enjoyable to me: a to-die-for hero, a spunky but emotionally damaged heroine, likable secondary characters, a tender story that tugs at the heartstrings, and steamy but tasteful love scenes. Need I say more?;-) It definitely has me eager to continue the Promises series, as well as get back to Hell's Eight and pick up more of Sarah McCarty's other works too.
Note: This book contains explicit language and sexual situations including anal sex, which may offend some readers....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Voyeur is one seriously hot and steamy read. With it being my first book by Lacey Alexander, I wasn't entirely sure what to exReviewed for THC Reviews Voyeur is one seriously hot and steamy read. With it being my first book by Lacey Alexander, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, so I was very pleasantly surprised to find that I thoroughly enjoyed it. This story was definitely my kind of erotic romance. The characters were relatable, there was actually a plot, and the writing itself was pretty solid. The sex scenes were not only hot but loaded with variety that kept them from weighing down the book or becoming boring. There's also a little story within a story as Laura breaks through her writer's block and things finally get moving with her mystery book. There are excerpts of Laura's new novel peppered throughout, and her main character finds herself in a relationship, which mirrors Laura's relationship with Braden. I have to give the author props for this, because as a writer myself, I know how difficult it can be to focus on developing just one story, so for Lacey Alexander to write two simultaneously, even though Laura's isn't as detailed, is still pretty impressive to me. All in all, Voyeur was a fun, enjoyable read.
Laura is a mystery author suffering from writer's block. Her best friend thinks she needs some sex to get her creativity going, but then again, her friend thinks sex is the answer to everything. Laura doesn't take her too seriously, but she does take her up on an offer to use her cousin's cabin in the Colorado mountains as a writer's retreat. When that alone doesn't seem to be working for her, she decides to indulge in a little self-pleasuring to see if there's anything to her friend's assertion. Even when she realizes there's a webcam in the house, she figures no one is likely watching, but the idea that someone might be only heightens her arousal. This one fateful decision opens the door to a whole world of sexual exploration and experiences she never knew existed. I really loved Laura's “good girl” persona. She's always been a sensible girl, who's only had sex in committed relationships, and never thought she would ever do any of the things she finds herself trying in this secluded moutainside cabin. She obviously has a very passionate side that she's really never explored before, and Braden was the perfect man to help her do that. I could totally relate to and understand her temptation to play the part of the exhibitionist but then feel guilty and uncomfortable about it afterward. The more Braden encourages her to do and the further she explores her passion with him, the more comfortable she feels in her own skin, until she finally owns that side of herself fully.
It takes a little while to get a feel for Braden, because at first, he's a mostly anonymous guy behind a computer screen, watching all the naughty things Laura is doing. When he finally shows up in the story in person, I liked him from the start. He's a wealthy playboy who's had his fair share of women, but there's something about Laura that calls to him like a siren song. He loves her air of “innocence,” and he loves being a part of her experiencing all these new sides of her sexuality. He's an incredibly generous lover, who wants to draw Laura out of her sensible shell and give her the most incredible pleasure she's ever experienced in her life. I love how seductive and gently persuasive he is. He's confident that she'll love everything he suggests if she can only bring herself to do it, but he always gives her a choice and is never forceful or demanding. Because of his parents' failed marriage and not having many other happy marriages to draw from for example, he's never really been a relationship guy. He's happy in his playboy lifestyle, but with Laura, everything feels a little different. Her hesitation to do what he asks is beguiling to him, and he derives so much pleasure and satisfaction from simply showing her what she's been missing. Despite her lack of experience in some of the things he wants to do with her, she ends up being the best and most memorable lover he's ever had.
In the beginning, both Laura and Braden view their relationship as a temporary affair, but in spite of that, it never felt tawdry or like simple lust gone wild. Their interactions are laced with emotion. Both of them are so generous and caring toward each other, focusing more on giving the other pleasure than on receiving. Laura gradually begins to trust Braden and he never does anything to break that trust. I think that's why their relationship felt so real to me, because IMHO, to reach that level of complete sexual surrender, trust is essential. Of course, by the time her retreat is drawing to a close, Laura's feelings have gotten tangled up in it, making it difficult to say goodbye. Even though he's pretty reticent about it and tries to blow it off, the reader can tell that Braden is starting to struggle a bit too with the idea of Laura leaving. There is a long separation at the end, but neither of them is truly able to move on with someone else, leading to a satisfying and happy ending. I think it can be rather difficult for erotic romance authors to find that perfect balance of hot, steamy sex and a deep emotional connection, but IMO, Lacey Alexander succeeded in spades. Voyeur completely hit that sweet spot for me, and now that I've finally read it, I'm kicking myself for waiting so long and can't wait to try more of this author's work.
Note: This story contains explicit language and sexual content, including voyeurism, exhibitionism, use of a sex toy, intimate shaving, spanking, anal sex, and a M/F/M menage a trois. There is also a brief F/F/M menage, but it only takes place in the hero's fantasies, not in real-life....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Charlotte Featherstone is masterful at writing emotional, deeply sensual, and incredibly touching love stories. She's also extReviewed for THC Reviews Charlotte Featherstone is masterful at writing emotional, deeply sensual, and incredibly touching love stories. She's also extremely talented with creating emotionally broken and deeply flawed characters who despite their failings, still manage to capture my heart and make me want to root for them to get their HEA. Addicted, the first book of the series, completely engrossed me, so that I had a hard time putting it down and never wanted it to end. Perhaps because of his cynicism, Matthew didn't quite appeal to me in the same way Lindsey did at the time I was reading Addicted. Nevertheless, it didn't keep me from being excited about reading his book, and I can't say that I was disappointed. Sinful was every bit as engaging as Addicted, and once again, I found myself eager to get back to it every time I had to put it down and wishing it would never end.
As I mentioned, in the previous book, Matthew seemed pretty hard and cold, yet I couldn't help but sense something in him – something that was buried deep but once uncovered and brought into the light of day would free him from his jaded view of people and of life in general. I couldn't have been more thrilled to discover I was correct. At the time, I had discerned that Matthew seemed a bit jealous of the deep love that Lindsay and Anais share. Of course, he won't admit it even when Lindsey calls him on the mat, but Lindsay saw right through him in this regard just like I did. It's readily apparent early in the story that there is something in Matthew's past that torments him and colors his opinion of women and romantic relationships in a bad light. Matthew doesn't consider himself to be a smart man. Academics never came easy for him, and although he's his father's heir to the dukedom, he has no head for running an estate and no real interest in the title. Instead, he's a brilliant artist who harbors a lot of the stereotypical angst and temperamental nature that comes with such a gift. This was only made worse by his father's coldness toward him and lack of understanding of his talents, but most of all by a secret trauma from the past that tortures his psyche, haunts his nightmares, and has warped the way he thinks about sex. Perhaps I was so caught up in the emotion of the story that I didn't even realize just how incredibly bent this experience was until near the end, when he finally reveals his most scandalous secret, which was a twist I didn't see coming. Just like Jane, nothing he did in this story or had done in the past made me think less of him, but instead, it broke my heart to know all the pain he'd endured throughout the years until she came into his life, bringing light and hope.
After Matthew left the hospital where he met Jane, he couldn't stop thinking about her even though he'd never actually seen her. He can't help admitting to himself that he desires more from her than he's ever wanted from any woman before. However, that doesn't stop him from doing something later that made me want to slap him silly. It hurts Jane and causes her to hurt him right back, which sends Matthew off the rails in a flurry of anger and self-loathing. Still, they found their way back to each other and he does eventually explain how he was feeling in that moment and apologizes for his actions which was good enough for me. There are just so many thing about Matthew that made him capture my heart: The way he looks at the world through an artist's eyes, his incredibly touching love for his youngest sister when he doesn't really care about anyone else, his impassioned declarations of love once he gets to that place, and of course his tortured past that made me want to wrap him up in my arms and make all the pain go away.
Jane is a kind, caring, intelligent woman, but she knows that she's no man's idea of a catch. I have to commend the author for writing a plain heroine who actually is. Jane has a fairly voluptuous figure, fiery red hair, and she wears glasses. Her mother was a prostitute, and she's the product of her mother's relationship with an aristocrat who left them destitute. Beyond that, Jane has a pretty distressing past herself. After her mother's death, she was sold to a pervert who beat her badly, leaving a scar on her lip, and she barely managed to escape his clutches with her virginity intact. She was extremely lucky in that the woman who now employs her found her on the street, took her in, and has been like a mother to her ever since. Knowing that the lady she works for is aging and not wanting to be left in the same position as her mother if she should die, Jane is determined to be an independent woman. She took up a second job, nursing patients in a hospital in the poor part of town, and is exceptional at her work. Even though nursing was a relatively new and not-well-respected vocation at the time, she puts forth her best effort to put a positive face on her profession. I liked that Jane is a shy woman. In spite of being twenty-seven, she's only been kissed once, but she knows something of relations between a man and a woman and wonders what it might be like to be close to a man. Because of her more worldly knowledge, she isn't afraid of Matthew's overt sexuality. In fact, he intrigues her and makes her feel more like a woman than she's ever felt before. More than anything she desires to be desired, and after navigating a few bumps in the road, Matthew is able to give her that and so much more. However, because of the uncertainties surrounding the way she was brought up and watching what her mother went through when her protector tossed her aside, Jane also craves respectability and stability. When things come to a head and there seems to be no way they can be together except with her as Matthew's mistress, she cannot bring herself to do it. I have to admit that at this moment, I don't think I could have made the same choice she did. I couldn't have borne leaving Matthew, especially when he made such a fervent plea, but I understood and respected her reasons for doing it anyway. It takes her a while to come to terms with some things, but eventually she realizes that Matthew means more to her than anything else in the world.
As with Addicted, I'm reluctant to call Sinful an erotic romance as it's been labeled. Yes, the love scenes are lushly sensual and descriptive, but they're also taut with emotion. While the author uses more explicit language, it's not done in a gratuitous way, and also aside from one scene of light bondage, there's nothing that I found to be particularly out of the ordinary. Matthew and Jane's every interaction is intensely beautiful and a true expression of their growing love for one another. In the beginning, since Matthew can't see and can only hear Jane's voice, which he calls the voice of an angel, what they share almost seems like a magical, mystical attraction. What in other books might not work for me, here I really loved, because I could truly feel it and believe in it. Like Matthew, Jane is blind in her own way, because she doesn't exactly know who he is either, as he never mentions being the Earl of Wallingford. To her, he's simply her Matthew. When each of them fully discovers the other's identity, they're both rather appalled, he because she's just a plain spinster and she because of his scandalous reputation. Despite their best efforts to ignore it though, the attraction is still there, simmering below the surface. Once they open their eyes to really see each other as they are, warts and all, their relationship experiences a beautiful metamorphosis. I love how Matthew finally finds the beauty beneath Jane's plainness, and Jane discovers what a wonderful man Matthew actually is. Also the way Jane helps Matthew find his way back to wholeness, to a place where he can enjoy true intimacy with another human being – not just sex – and find beauty in the act rather than horror and disgust was absolutely amazing. Both Matthew and Jane feel like they've found the lost half of their soul in each other. Neither one of them really knows how to trust, but together, they learn.
While I can honestly say that I thoroughly enjoyed Sinful, I feel compelled to let others know that the ending is probably not what most readers will be expecting. It is an HEA, but it's a non-traditional one. Also the road to that HEA leads to another year of pain and heartache, particularly for Matthew. After everything he'd already been through, I really hated that Matthew had to endure more, but I also understood that Jane needed time to grow and change and she's nearly as miserable as he is during their separation. I would say that the author chose a more realistic path for these two lost souls. There probably wouldn't have been any easy or magical answers to the dilemma they find themselves faced with, and for that, I respect the author's choice to write it the way she did. If I had finished Sinful, thinking that this was truly the end of the road for Matthew and Jane, I probably would have knocked off a half star, because it was so difficult to read. However, I already knew ahead of time that the author had written an epilogue, as well as a Valentine's themed short story (both of which are free reads) for this couple, and my GoodReads friends who read them, particularly the epilogue, said that it really stamps “The End” to their HEA and makes it much more satisfying. Since the author's website has disappeared, I had a hard time getting my hands on copies of these stories, but thanks to my hubby's ingenuity, I finally have them in my hot little hands and can't wait to read them.
Overall, Sinful was yet another amazing book from Charlotte Featherstone's creative mind. I'm very sad to see that this author seems to have dropped off the radar for the past three years. I do hope that she returns at some point, because she has a real talent for writing romance that is truly romantic. In the meantime, there are still more of her books and novellas waiting for me to try, which is something I'll be doing eagerly. But as for Sinful, it was an utterly beautiful love story of two wounded souls finding love, healing, and comfort in each other's arms.
Note: This book is labeled as erotic romance, and while there are several love scenes, all of which are explicit, they're about so much than just body parts and titillation. Also, nothing that I would consider to be particularly kinky or offensive occurs within them except for one scene involving a bit of light bondage. However, there are flashback sequences to Matthew's abuse that may disturb more sensitive readers....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Do Over was a sweet, romantic, and steamy read that I truly enjoyed. It's one of those rare romances about a couple who is alrReviewed for THC Reviews Do Over was a sweet, romantic, and steamy read that I truly enjoyed. It's one of those rare romances about a couple who is already married and over forty. In fact, they've been together for twenty-five years. Their kids are grown and in college, and now that they have an empty nest, it's time for them to reconnect as a couple. Fortunately, they're able to accomplish that during a fun-filled weekend taking a walk down memory lane in which they 'do over' all their significant firsts: their first date, first kiss, first time making love, and more.
The entire story is told from the third-person perspective of the heroine, Faith, whose amazing husband, Troy, planned the entire excursion down to the last detail. Being at a similar place in my own life and having just celebrated twenty years of marriage, I could totally relate to the characters. They still deeply love one another, but had fallen into a comfortable routine over the years that didn't allow much time or space for romance and passion. Also, Faith has been having a particularly hard time coping with her kids being gone, but lucky for her Troy is a truly wonderful husband. For a self-described “caveman,” he was a pretty romantic guy and a very tender, considerate lover. Even his somewhat dominant moments were laced with gentleness, and his deep love and respect for his wife was completely apparent in his every action. All I can say is that if my husband did for me on our twenty-fifth anniversary what Troy did for Faith, I'd be over the moon and he'd so be getting lucky.;-)
Do Over was my first read by Mari Carr, but it most definitely won't be my last. She certainly has a way with telling a great story that's both steamy and truly romantic in every sense of the word. I also greatly appreciated that the mechanics of her writing were rock solid with no real errors that I caught. It seems rather rare to find this combination in an erotic romance author, so when I do, I'm always eager to try more of their work.
Note: This story contains explicit language and sexual content, including mildly dominating behavior, light bondage, and anal play, but in my opinion everything was very tastefully done to the point that it barely even felt like an erotic romance, more like an ultra-steamy one....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews *newest review for this anthology
Satisfy Me – I had previously read one novella and one full-length novel by Lori Foster andReviewed for THC Reviews *newest review for this anthology
Satisfy Me – I had previously read one novella and one full-length novel by Lori Foster and can't say that I was overly impressed with either. Since Ms. Foster seems to be well-loved among most romance readers, this had been quite disappointing to me. I decided to give her one more try and picked up her Truth or Dare anthology. The first story in it, Satisfy Me, turned out to be a very pleasant surprise. I thoroughly enjoyed this steamy little novella, and am happy to say that it has put Lori Foster back on my watch list.
Asia was a nice mix of shy uncertainty coupled with just a little bit of daring. I liked that in spite of her ex-husband having done a number on her confidence with his selfishness in the bedroom, she had managed to mostly rebuild her self-esteem and was ready to take the bull by the horns so to speak. It took some adventurousness on her part to live up to her friend's dare and go to the adult shop, then ask Cameron out when he purchased the agreed upon item. I also really appreciated that she gave Cameron a chance to explain himself when there was a miscommunication about her preferences in the bedroom, and more importantly, that she believed him rather than jumping to conclusions.
I thought that having Cameron lusting after Asia for the entire two months since he had come to work at the same company made their quick hook-up and falling for one another more believable. I just couldn't help adoring Cameron. He was just so loving, giving and focused on Asia's pleasure which of course, is exactly the kind of man she needed in her life. I liked that he was willing to do anything to get her and keep her, including something slightly kinky, even though he ended up being mistaken about that. It just showed that he was completely committed to fulfilling her needs even if it was by doing something that wasn't entirely his cup of tea.
Overall, Satisfy Me was a quick, sexy and satisfying read that is the first story in Lori Foster's Brava Girlfriends series. It introduced Asia's two best friends, Becky and Erica who become the heroines of the next two novellas, Indulge Me and Drive Me Wild respectively. I'm really looking forward to continuing the series and finding out what Becky's fantasy is. Hopefully, her story will be equally as delightful as this novella was. Satisfy Me was first published in the anthology All Through the Night. It was later reprinted in the anthology Kiss Me Again, and a third time in the single-author anthology Truth or Dare along with its two companion novellas. Star Rating: *****
Indulge Me - Indulge Me was another winning novella from Lori Foster, which has finally proven to me that she can write the kind of stories I enjoy. It was very hot and steamy, definitely bordering on the erotic with the inclusion of some light bondage. I liked that George and Becky had both had the hots for one another for two years. Much like with the first novella in the Brava Girlfriends series, this prior connection made their quick hook-up and falling in love more believable, because they were already halfway there when the story opens.
Becky was the second of the three friends to take the dare of going to the adult store across the street from where they work and setting a date with the first guy who showed an interest in her fantasy. Becky reminds me a lot of myself because she is sweet and shy, with a private wild side. I thought Ms. Foster did a great job of treading the line between her being an innocent virgin, but not being completely clueless about sex. She had obviously been thinking and planning just how she wanted her first sexual experience to be for a long time, and the star of her fantasies was her hunky co-worker, George. The reason Becky had put so much effort into making sure she's in control and trying to make it perfect is that she has a surprising hang-up about her body. The moment when it was finally revealed was very sweet and poignant and definitely proved what a wonderful guy George was.
George was a very lovable hero with a great sense of humor. He's certainly confident and has no qualms whatsoever about frank talk regarding sex, but he doesn't cross the line into being annoyingly cocky like some self-assured heroes. I thought it was actually kind of cute how he downplayed the fact that he's well-endowed and even said that half the rumors about his sexual prowess were untrue, when most guys would probably be all too happy to claim both. He's very intuitive of Becky's needs and recognizes her innocence right away, but isn't the least bit off-put by it. In fact, he finds her sweet, endearing and altogether beautiful even though she doesn't recognize that beauty in herself. I love how George willingly played along when she turned the tables on him and then patiently coaxed her when he turned the tables back. Best of all, was how he wouldn't let her hide her flaws from him and tenderly reassured her of how lovely she truly was to him.
Asia and Cameron from Satisfy Me put in another appearance as they plan their wedding. Becky and Asia's third friend, Erica, who becomes the heroine of the final story Drive Me Wild also played a role. So far, Erica has been my least favorite of the three friends because of her cynicism and brusque, sometimes abrasive, manner. I have to admit that I'm not as eager to read her story because she seems like the type who could easily be a man-eater. However, since I've been surprised in the past by the redemption of secondary characters who didn't initially resonate with me, I'll keep an open mind. Overall, Indulge Me was another fun, sexy and emotionally satisfying read in the Brava Girlfriends series. It was originally published in the I Love Bad Boys anthology and was later reprinted in the single-author anthology Truth or Dare along with its two companion novellas. Star Rating: *****
*Drive Me Wild - Wow! Lori Foster just went three for three. I went into reading Drive Me Wild with a certain degree of skepticism, because of not entirely liking Erica due to her brash manner. I figured it might be a good read at best, so I couldn't have been more shocked when this novella was yet another fabulous story, making the entire Brava Girlfriends series sheer perfection for me.
As I mentioned Erica was a little too cynical and outspoken for my taste. In fact, it was almost inconceivable to me that Erica was friends with Asia and Becky, because they seemed so much different than her. In the first two novellas of the series she comes off as something of an ice queen who more or less tolerates men but doesn't really like them that much. I think Erica had a tendency to intimidate almost everyone around her and as a result, most men steered clear of her. Those she did date never earned her trust or respect and it didn't appear that she'd been in many, if any, serious relationships because of it. Why she acts the way she does finally becomes crystal clear in this story, and I was very pleasantly surprised to find myself relating to her after all. In the end, her willingness to open herself up to Ian and allow herself to be vulnerable with him really softened her hard edges.
All the heroes in this series have been awesome, and Ian was no exception. I enjoyed the fact that he isn't classically handsome. He's a blue-collar worker who's attractive in a more rugged way, but he certainly has presence and personality galore that more than makes up for it. I love how Ian goes toe-to-toe with Erica right from the start. His alpha male pheromones were practically emanating off the pages. He's been crazy about Erica for months and is a really astute guy who understands her in a way that no one else does. Ian may be an alpha, but he's still pretty laid back. Erica's ballsy nature actually amuses him. He's incredibly intelligent too. I could almost see the wheels turning in his head as he tried to outwit Erica at her own game, making her think that she was the one in charge when it was mostly him who had the upper hand. Best of all, I just love how he pampered Erica with great food, a bubble bath, plenty of TLC and lots of mind-blowing sex. In my opinion, his every action showed just how much he really cared for her.
Asia and Cameron (Satisfy Me) and Becky and George (Indulge Me) all returned to round out the cast. Drive Me Wild is the third and final novella in the Brava Girlfriends series. It was first published in the I Brake for Bad Boys anthology and later reprinted in the single-author anthology Truth or Dare along with its two companion novellas. Drive Me Wild was a perfect end to a perfect trilogy of novellas. After such a satisfying reading experience, I'm now greatly looking forward to trying more of Lori Foster's works. Star Rating: *****...more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Susie's Choice is one seriously steamy erotic romance that's enough to induce breathless panting, drooling and a need for a coReviewed for THC Reviews Susie's Choice is one seriously steamy erotic romance that's enough to induce breathless panting, drooling and a need for a cold shower or a hot male body.;-) Yet, the author still managed to imbue it with a very sweet tone. It is the story of bisexual lovers Joel and Christian who feel incomplete without a woman. When they advertise for a maid and the lovely, adorable Susie Hood shows up on their doorstep scraped and bruised, she stirs both their protective instincts and their desire to a fever pitch. It's just a matter of time before she's doing far more for them than just cleaning their house and cooking their meals.
Susie is a kindhearted, gentle young woman who is a classic Cinderella desperately in need of a Prince Charming to sweep her off her feet, and the lucky girl ended up getting two. Rather than an evil stepmother and two stepsisters, Susie has her dad and two brothers taking her for granted and expecting her to cook and clean for them. She's been through a great deal in her short twenty-four years. She had to deal with a crazy, alcoholic mother who was jealous of her beauty, and then weather through a life-threatening illness, all with only minimal support from her family. Now that she's finally healthy again, Susie wants to work, but isn't having much luck finding anything she's qualified to do. When she sees the advertisement of two men looking for a maid, she knows this is a job she can do. After all, she's been cleaning up after men all her life. But, when she shows up on their doorstep bleeding after having an accident with her bike, she's certain she lost the job. When she gets the call that she's hired, Susie couldn't be more thrilled and sets about making Joel and Christian's house shine like a new penny. As she works for them, Susie finds herself becoming more and more attracted to both of them, but with an ugly scar on her face, she harbors little hope of landing even one of them, much less both.
Christian is a freelance writer who is something of an untidy, free-spirit. He's a lovable charmer who is very open and expressive with his feelings. He loves Joel to distraction and wants nothing more than to make a forever commitment to him, but he would still like to have a woman in his life too. Christian is a sweet beta who is usually more than willing to let his partner take the lead, but the green-eyed monster briefly rears it's ugly head when Joel decides to make a move on Susie first. Christian really wanted to be the one to draw Susie into their relationship, but truth be told, he's rather shy and might never have gotten that far. He is really lacking in confidence, especially around women. I thought it was really sweet that Christian could write all the right words in his erotic stories, but gets tongue-tied when he tries to talk to Susie. He also seems to be in a constant state of amazement that someone like Joel would want to be with him.
Joel is definitely the alpha in the relationship, and he seems to enjoy playing the dom, first to Christian and then to Christian and Susie together. Joel is darkly handsome, but reticent and a bit brooding. Whereas Christian is more happy-go-lucky, Joel tends to be pretty serious and grounded. Christian and Susie are British while Joel is an American. He is a successful lawyer who was sent to London by his firm for a job that was only supposed to take eighteen months. Because he knows his time in England is limited and because of a major emotional trauma in his past, Joel tries to keep his heart locked up tight. He thinks if he can just get Christian and Susie together, they'll have each other and won't miss him so much when he has to go home, but he didn't expect both of them to stir his emotions to the point that his heart feels like it's breaking at the thought of leaving either of them behind when his time is up.
The story begins with the established relationship between the two men which is very spicy, but I can't say that I sensed a great deal of emotion passing between them. Christian openly professes his love for Joel, and even though Joel admits to himself that Christian is the best lover he's ever had, he still holds back on saying those three little words. When Susie comes in as their third, it changes the whole dynamic between the two men. I really liked the way the author added a bit of depth to the story by exploring issues like jealousy which I would think might be inherent in a polyamorous relationship, while also creating a complexity in the way in which each character relates to the other two. It all came together to make them fit together like the pieces of a puzzle. The three of them as a whole make up a relationship that is not only hot and sexy, but romantic, loving and playful. There were lots of humorous moments as well as ones full of emotion, angst and darker eroticism. I loved how sweet and tender both of the men are with Susie the first time they each make love to her, and even after that, they still take their time with her, building trust by showing her that they would never hurt her and she's free to say no to anything they suggest. They are both very protective of her but in different ways. Joel is more the type who would be ready to beat up anybody who dared lay a finger on her, while Christian is the loving, caretaker who is attentive to her needs. When put together, Joel and Christian pretty much create the perfect man, but apart they were each scrumptious in his own way.
Susie's Choice was my first book by Barbara Elsborg. I found it to be a fun, extremely hot, and sometimes emotionally-charged read. For an erotic romance, it had pretty good character and relationship development. This was only my second menage romance, but I really liked all three characters and their interactions. The author truly made me believe that they were going to have a happily-ever-after together. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and have no real complaints. Susie's Choice was a romantic, sexy read that definitely has earned a spot on my keeper shelf and has me excited about checking out Barbara Elsborg's other works.
Note: This book contains explicit language and sexual situations which may offend some readers, including menage a trois, some light BDSM elements, use of sex toys, intimate shaving, and anal sex within the following combinations: M/F, M/M, M/M/F, M/F/M. ...more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Addicted is one of those romance novels that is far more than a mere romance. It is one of the most extraordinarily beautifulReviewed for THC Reviews Addicted is one of those romance novels that is far more than a mere romance. It is one of the most extraordinarily beautiful love stories I've ever had the privilege of reading. Charlotte Featherstone took two imperfect people, one of whom is deeply broken, put them in a seemingly impossible situation in which both of them did things that unintentionally hurt the other, and then brought them full-circle to finally find the HEA they so richly deserved. This author shattered my heart and brought tears to my eyes several times throughout the story, and more than once, I doubted that she was going to be able to turn certain elements around to make me OK with them. I never should have worried though. In the end, I closed the book fully satisfied and wishing it didn't have to end so soon. Despite this book being nearly 450 pages long, it never felt like it was. I was thoroughly engrossed every minute I was reading it and had a hard time putting it down. Overall, Addicted was a fabulous read that I can't recommend highly enough.
Fans of chest-beating alphas won't find one here. Lindsay is a sweet, albeit brooding, beta hero whose emotions run deep and intense. I'd swear the man has the heart of a poet, because he utters some of the most swoon-worthy, sweet, hot and sexy lines I've ever read from a romance hero. His love, desire and passion for Anais is clearly evident from the moment they are first seen together, and it never relents despite all that transpires between them. I love the way he always called Anais his "angel." It was a sweet and unusual endearment that was a beautiful expression of his love for her. During their ten month separation, Lindsay's love for Anais doesn't change one bit, and I like that he found it impossible to sleep with other women during that time even though he thought that she had turned her back on him. When they're finally reunited, I had to give Lindsay mad props for his sheer persistence. He knew in his heart that Anais still loved him, and he wouldn't bow out gracefully even though she kept trying to tell him it was over. That's not to say he wasn't ever selfish though, but I thought those moments showed him to be a flawed and vulnerable character. He did eventually recognize his mistakes and make amends, which also showed what a good person he was inside and why Anais fell for him in the first place.
The other thing that makes Lindsay so unique is the fact that he's an opium addict, which makes him only the second drug-addicted hero I've ever read. He started smoking opium while at university, using it as a way to dull the ache in his heart for the one woman he loved more than life itself but feared he would never have. It was also a way to escape his troubled past with a father who had vices of his own and had never truly appreciated Lindsay for the man he was. Like most addicts, he doesn't think he really has a problem and that he can stop at any time. In the beginning of the story, that might have been true. Anais and his love for her kept Lindsay from allowing his addiction to overtake him, because he never wanted her to see him like that. However, when she seemingly turns her back on him, it destroys him. The anguish he felt in that moment was deeply palpable, leaving him in so much emotional pain he couldn't help fully giving himself over to the addiction anymore. In spite of his vice though, Lindsay was a talented businessman who took over the management of the family estates at a young age and does quite well with his money, unlike his father who was profligate. Lindsay is also a kind man who believes in helping those less fortunate than himself and has put proposals before Parliament to do just that. He never acts like he's better than the common man because of his wealth and title. In fact, he believes men like his valet deserve an opportunity to better themselves. He is a very caring man whom others find it easy to open up to. His interaction with Anais's sister, Ann, helps the reader to see why Anais became the best of friends with him and had remained friends for many years.
Anais is a sweet woman with a deeply passionate side. All that passion is reserved for Lindsay, but she hardly dared to hope that her best friend could love her in the same way she has loved him for years. She's always considered herself the least attractive of her sisters, the plain, plump one, who her mother always treated poorly and dressed in the most simple, unembellished gowns. I have to give the author props for writing a plump heroine who is actually described as rounded and voluptuous, but of course, Lindsay loves all her soft curves and thinks she's absolutely beautiful. When he finally shows Anais his feelings, her heart soars, which is why his seeming betrayal hurt her so terribly. I wish she could have trusted him more and given him a chance to explain his actions, but I fully understand why she didn't. Her self-esteem issues got in the way, but without her doubts, we wouldn't have gotten to see the amazing love story that transpired between them. Once they reunite, I was happy to see that Anais had come to terms with the scene she witnessed at the ball which sent her running in the first place. She realized it wasn't really Lindsay's fault, had forgiven him, and still obviously loved him. However, she is a woman with many deep-seated fears: fear that she will become like her own unfeeling, uncaring mother; fear that she might become like Lindsay's mother, who has had to overlook her husband's indiscretions and addiction for years; but most of all, fear of her own dark secret being revealed, one that she knows would probably destroy what was left of Lindsay's love for her. I think Anais would have gladly throw herself back into his arms and embraced a relationship with him if not for the fact that she couldn't forgive herself for her own mistakes. That's why she repeatedly kept telling him it was over with her mouth, while her body always made a liar of her. I liked Anais's staunch defense of those who were being ridiculed. She has a very strong sense of right and wrong, which was probably why she had a hard time allowing herself to accept her love for Lindsay. Once she finally gets to that place of complete forgiveness and the realization that there will never be another man for her but him, the love she shows him is extraordinary. She puts her determination to good use, standing by his side through the hell he must face in order to fully come back to her from the throes of his addiction.
Lindsay and Anais are one of the most perfect, made-for-each-other couples I've ever read in a romance. Their relationship began as childhood friends which I thought gave it a very sweet quality. Afraid that she wouldn't return his feelings and their friendship would be ruined, Lindsay waited fourteen long years to express himself to her. When he finally worked up the courage to tell her, I could sense all the pent up longing coming to fulfillment. Their first love scene was very passionate and sensual, a perfect and genuine expression of their love for one another. It was so obvious they belonged together, and I couldn't have asked for a more beautifully rendered scene. Then, they were cruelly tricked and betrayed by someone they thought was a friend and torn apart for almost a year. At that point, my heart nearly ripped in two. Once reunited, their love, passion and desire for one another is still unmistakable, but their individual indiscretions continue to keep them at arms length. Still, they can't help themselves when they are alone together, which led to some more truly beautiful love scenes, but it wasn't until they come to a place where they can allow each other to see every part of themselves, even the dark, ugly parts, that they truly become one. Lindsay and Anais's love for one another was breathtaking and emotionally intense. There was never a doubt in my mind from the first page to the last that they belonged together and loved one another as deeply as two people possibly can.
I liked Lindsay's relationship with his valet, Vallery. He seems to trust the man with everything, and in return, Vallery is a very devoted servant who is more like a friend. He sees in Lindsay what Lindsay can't see in himself, and tries to persuade him to realize the truth of his addiction, while watching over and nursing him when he gives in to its pull. Lindsay and Anais had two other childhood friends who are still a big part of their lives, Matthew, Lord Wallingford, and Garrett, Lord Broughton. Matthew is a thoroughly debauched and unrepentant rake who, on the surface, appears to think women are good for only one thing, yet I have a feeling there's a lot more to his character than meets the eye. He's a steadfast friend to Lindsay, acting as his traveling companion and ally. He also seems to harbor a friendly affection for Anais too. I couldn't help feeling like he was silently rooting for them to finally be together. Matthew has a definite soft spot for his mentally challenged sister, and for a man who has never been in love and doesn't seem to believe in it, he's very wise about relationships. I can't seem to shake the feeling that he envies what Lindsay and Anais have and secretly wants that for himself. I can't wait to see if he finds it in the next book, Sinful. Garrett ends up being a steadfast friend to Anais during her separation from Lindsay, which is something Lindsay doesn't fully understand or respect for a long time. It could be because Lindsay sensed Garrett had feelings for Anais, though how deep those feelings went was admittedly somewhat unclear. I initially had some reservations about his character, fearing that he was going to become the third wheel in one of those awful love triangles where a likable person gets left out in the cold, but like everything else, I was happy with how this turned out. Garrett was a good man, and I wouldn't mind reading his story too. It doesn't appear that Charlotte Featherstone has written one for him yet though, and since her website has disappeared, I can't see if she has any plans to.
In Addicted, Ms. Featherstone's exceptional talent for painting lush word pictures that are a feast for the senses is quite evident. Her words invoke such beautiful imagery, it's like a movie playing out in my mind's eye. She wrote a few scenes from Lindsay's POV while he was in a drugged state, which were amazingly well-done. The whole dreamlike quality of it and the confusion he sometimes felt was palpable. I think my favorite part though was the deep sensuality shared between Lindsay and Anais which was breathtaking in its intensity. In addition to being beautifully written, the love scenes, of which there were quite a few, were all strategically placed for maximum impact on character, relationship, or plot development, which is the best kind of love scene. They were so gorgeously rendered that I hesitate to even call the book erotic as it's been labeled, because the sexual content isn't there simply to titillate but as a beautiful expression of this couple's undying love for one another. It never felt sordid or gratuitous, just loving and passionate and sensual. There's a part of me that doesn't feel like I'm doing this wonderful book justice with my review. All I can say is that Addicted is one of those rare romances that is an absolute gem in the genre. If you're a romance fan, and you haven't read Addicted yet, you owe it to yourself to give it a try. I honestly don't see how anyone could be disappointed with this magnificent love story.
Note: This book is labeled as erotic romance, and while there are several love scenes, all of which are explicit, they're about so much than just body parts and titillation. Also, nothing that I would consider to be particularly kinky or offensive occurs within them except for one brief moment of anal play....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Friends with Benefits has now taken over the top spot for my all-time favorite erotic romance. Forget content warnings. This bReviewed for THC Reviews Friends with Benefits has now taken over the top spot for my all-time favorite erotic romance. Forget content warnings. This book should have come with a health warning.;-) While reading it, I found myself literally short of breath and light-headed more than once. It had me feeling like I might spontaneously combust while simultaneously melting into a puddle of goo. This friends-to-lovers story had a surprising amount of emotional depth and a pretty decent plot for an erotic novel. I've discovered that erotic authors often have a tendency to put in just a few too many sex scenes, leaving my interest waning by the end, but that definitely wasn't the case here. I was fully engaged from beginning to end, because all the intense, scorching hot love scenes were interspersed with a good balance of great outside-the-bedroom scenes between the hero and heroine, as well as their interactions with the secondary characters. In fact, the one and only thing that wasn't quite my cup of tea was the group sex scene. Aside from that, everything made for a superb read that left me hot and bothered, emotionally enthralled, and wishing the story were longer, so that I wouldn't have to say farewell to Sebastian and Bailey.
Sebastian was almost sheer perfection in a romantic hero for me. I know it might sound strange, but occasionally, I can tire of all the gorgeous men in romance novels. Sometimes I just long for a hero who seems a bit more attainable, and Sebastian fit that bill perfectly. He is without a doubt attractive, but in a more subdued way. Bailey describes him as cute rather than all that Hollywood hotness, he wears glasses, and he's more average in height. I absolutely loved this dichotomy. By day, he's a relatively mild-mannered attorney and Bailey's safe, always dependable best friend (next to Cat). But when this tiger is turned loose, he becomes a jealous, protective dom with a kinky spanking fetish. Sebastian exudes an air of confidence that's close to bordering on cocky, but not quite. I simply found him too endearing for that. The authors also gave him a wicked sense of humor and a touch of vulnerability in the way that Bailey touches his emotions so deeply that he sometimes looses his carefully planned control. He was even the first to say, “I love you” even though she didn't hear him. I adored his protectiveness and need to take care of her in a kind of old-fashioned, “I'm the man you're the woman” sort of way even before they were intimately involved, and he does take care of her quite well in more ways than one. I also loved that his dominating behavior was never intimidating to me, and the spankings were never, ever intended to hurt or humiliate. Even when he was “punishing” Bailey, his love and deep desire for her still emanated from the pages. All in all, Sebastian was just too scrumptious for words, and has definitely earned a spot on my favorite heroes list.
Bailey is a strong, stubborn lady with commitment issues. Normally, a romance heroine who has slept around quite a bit and is forward enough to proposition her best friend when she can no longer bear her sexual drought would irritate me, but Bailey never did. I think the authors did a wonderful job of conveying Bailey's fear and confusion over the feelings that Sebastian stirs up within her, and with giving her a good reason for her reluctance to commit. Every time Bailey got riled up at Sebastian for some small thing, I thought she might cross that annoyance line for me, but then, the authors would show some of her deeply buried vulnerabilities and I would realize that she was simply scared out of her mind by what he was making her feel. Sebastian's patience finally won the day, chipping away at her defenses to expose some of her soft spots and then soothing them with his love. I also liked that in the beginning, when Sebastian begins revealing his kinks to her, she is confused and wary, but also spunky enough to be fascinated by it all and revel in the sexual freedom she feels with him. Overall, Bailey was a very relatable heroine who I really enjoyed.
I think one of the things that made Friends with Benefits such a wonderful story was all the great relationship dynamics. I liked that the authors took the time to address the race issue, and show just a small taste of the difficulties Sebastian and Bailey might face as an interracial couple. Friends to lovers is one of my favorite romance themes, and here the friendship was a very palpable thing. I loved the way this couple teased and bantered with one another. The hero and heroine of a romance butting heads and exchanging barbs is another thing I usually find grating, but here I loved it and found it to be utterly endearing. I also thoroughly enjoyed how they could talk and laugh and simply share things. It was definitely a true friendship in the deepest sense of the word that made them falling in love very believable. I also liked Bailey's friendship with Cat and her closeness with her mom. The dialog she shared with both of them was breezy fun. We don't get to see as much of Sebastian's guy relationships, but his other best friend, Mason, played a strong role in the story too.
Friends with Benefits is the second, and I had originally thought, last book in The Boulevard series with the first being Maverick's Black Cat which had featured Mason and Cat as the hero and heroine. However, after reading it, I can say that the ending definitely left open the possibility of another story. Sebastian's law partner, Phil, and Natalie, the owner of The Boulevard fetish club and one of Sebastian's clients were certainly admiring each other from afar and obviously wanting more. Even though Phil was a bit too smooth for my taste, Natalie caught my attention, so I wouldn't mind reading their story if the authors ever decide to write it. I was also hoping to see more of Sebastian and Bailey in their book, much like I did, Mason and Cat in this book, but sadly, I don't know if that will ever happen. It has been close to five years since Friends with Benefits was first released, and neither Ms. Matthews nor Ms. Casper have any announcements of another book in the works on their websites. Even if this does turn out to be the end for The Boulevard, it was a fabulous way to go out. Friends with Benefits will always have a well-earned spot on my keeper shelf, and I'll look forward to checking out the authors' other works.
Note: This book contains explicit language and sexual situations, including mild domination/submission, spanking, use of a sex toy, and anal sex, which some readers may find offensive....more
Beyond Desire consists of Beyond Innocence and Beyond Seduction, two Emma Holly stories that were previously published individually as full-length noBeyond Desire consists of Beyond Innocence and Beyond Seduction, two Emma Holly stories that were previously published individually as full-length novels. These two novels comprise the Beyond Duet.
Beyond Innocence "3 stars" I had very mixed feelings about this story. There were things that I liked about it, but there were other things that really frustrated me and came perilously close to giving it wall-banger status, something that is highly unusual for me. It was a primarily character-driven story with nearly all the conflict being of an internal nature. I found the plot to be interesting but very predictable. While there were some emotional romantic moments, they were just too few and inconsistent. The love scenes were very hot and steamy, but just lacked a certain emotional depth. I think this was partly due to the back-and-forth, will-they-or-won't-they nature of the story which became rather tiresome.
I liked Edward and Florence, but didn't really feel that their characterizations were consistent and sometimes they just weren't relatable to me. Florence was a sweet simple vicar's daughter who was extremely naive particularly when it came to things of a sexual nature, but yet was very willing and even eager to participate in sexual intimacies that were out of the ordinary. She almost instantly went from innocent girl to hot sex kitten, something which I thought stretched the bounds of credibility. I felt like I generally understood Edward as the brooding, aloof hero, but what I never could really grasp was his compelling need to protect Freddie. What under other circumstances would have been an endearing bond between two brothers, ultimately felt like obsessive behavior on Edward's part. Also his assertion that Florence was Freddie's last hope of regaining some respectability in society just didn't ring true. It seemed to me that any young woman could have filled the position as Freddie's wife, considering that he never lacked female admirers. In the end I just found Edward too passive for me to be able to fully respect him. I actually liked Freddie more, because I never felt like he was trying to hide behind false pretenses, and admittedly he was a rather charming scene-stealer. This was my first read by Emma Holly and although I can tell she has talent as a writer, it is possible that her writing style simply may not be for me. However, I'll wait until I've read Beyond Seduction before making further comment.
Beyond Seduction "4 1/2 stars" After being less than impressed with Beyond Innocence it took me a while to talk myself into reading Beyond Seduction, but in my opinion, Emma Holly definitely redeemed herself with this one. It had the depth of emotion that I tend to prefer in my romance novels, but don't always find. It was amazing how the author could convey so much emotion with a mere touch or glance, or some other simple but meaningful gesture. This just left me with very warm feelings throughout the entire story. Many parts of it were rather predictable, but Ms. Holly managed to throw out a couple of surprises that I didn't see coming. Overall it was a really satisfying read.
I really liked both Nic and Merry. In Beyond Innocence Merry was an independent, tom-boyish girl who rather shamelessly pursued the hero of that story, so I wasn't sure if I would like her as a heroine. My opinion of her changed very quickly though, as I came to understand her as a kind-hearted young woman who was outwardly brash, but inwardly insecure about her plain appearance. Nic was a wonderfully gentle beta hero with the sensitive heart of an artist and an eye for true beauty, who helped Merry realize what a desirable woman she really was. I just couldn't help but like him in spite of his flaws. I thought that the interactions between these two were incredibly romantic mostly because they both generously gave of themselves to each other. The story was rounded out by a large colorful cast of secondary characters consisting mainly of family and friends who ran a gamut of varying personalities.
Beyond Seduction was almost as much about flawed family ties and friendships and forgiving those we love, as it was about love and romance, which I thought gave it a much deeper meaning. This really helped to draw me into the story and overlook some of the more cliched elements which otherwise might have annoyed me. I really enjoyed reading Beyond Seduction. Sometimes it was difficult to put down, and it was always a pleasure to pick up again. Even though these two novels are a series, they can easily be read independently without loosing any storyline. Since I borrowed this from the library, I look forward to getting my own copy of Beyond Seduction for my keeper shelf.
Note: Both of these stories read very much like traditional historical romances, but in my opinion, certain elements of the sexual content and more explicit language (both of which some may find offensive) push the boundaries of what many readers would consider traditional, giving them a mild erotic feel. Beyond Innocence also contains a passionate M/M kiss which may also be offensive to some readers....more
The Devil and Ms. Johnson was a fun bit of escapist reading, but I have to say that I enjoyed the first book in this duet, Jane and the Sneaky Dom a lThe Devil and Ms. Johnson was a fun bit of escapist reading, but I have to say that I enjoyed the first book in this duet, Jane and the Sneaky Dom a little more. The Devil and Ms. Johnson continues the series with the story of Devon and Lacey, the best friends of the hero and heroine of Jane and the Sneaky Dom. Woven in between bouts of hot, steamy sex was a romantic suspense plot that had Devon and Lacey trying to outwit an international terrorist and an FBI mole. This part added some action, light mystery and a bit more substance to the story than one typically finds in erotic romance, but I thought that the bad guys were a little too easy to spot. With this being an erotic romance, the ratio of sex to suspense, at least in the beginning of the book, is probably about 2 or 3:1. Later when it gets into the meatier part of the suspense storyline, several chapters actually go by without a love scene until the very end. As far as the love scenes go, they are quite steamy and very descriptive with some explicit language used, but considering the spicy nature of the book, there was nothing that I would really call kinky. Any readers who can handle lots of heat with some naughty words should be OK with it. There are also some fun scenes that border on romantic comedy which had me smiling on occasion. I particularly enjoyed Devon and Lacey's first meeting when Devon found a drunk Lacey in “his” bed and accidentally woke her up, leading to lots of mayhem which made me laugh.
Devon and Lacey were entertaining characters who spent a lot of time engaging in witty bantering both of a general and a more sexual nature. Many of their love scenes together involve amusing verbal sparring and each of them competing to get the upper hand in the seduction. For this pair, it was definitely a case of opposites attract, as they were often at odds over one thing or another. Unfortunately, I felt that they could have benefited from a little more depth in characterization, and also things just seemed to move too quickly between them to be believable for me. Granted, Lacey had spent a lot of time having hot fantasies while staring at a picture of Devon before they ever met, but Devon knew almost nothing of Lacey except that she was his best friend's wife's best friend. I'm just not a big fan of instant hook-ups or what amounts to stranger sex. I can buy into it if the author creates some kind of palpable connection between the characters, but in this case it didn't really work well for me. I could to some extent sense their feelings beginning to build later in the story, but for me it was too little too late. By then all their steamy encounters had seemed like “just sex,” and the extremely brief three day time span of the story reduced the credibility of their burgeoning love for me. Overall, Devon and Lacey were fun characters, but I simply didn't feel like I got to know them very well or that the all-important emotional bond that is necessary for me to truly love a romantic story was fully established.
The Devil and Ms. Johnson had a few other ups and downs for me. I loved the fact that Lacey was a computer geek, which is kind of a rarity in romance especially when it's the heroine. Regrettably though, the author didn't really allow her geekiness to show through enough to suit me. First of all Lacey is far more outgoing and self-confident that most geeks I know, but the most disappointing part was that she never got to show off her alleged mad hacker skills at any point in the book. Another downside was that I thought the story had too much dialog and not enough introspection and descriptive narration. I really think that more of these two things would have gone a long way toward establishing that missing connection I mentioned earlier. Also, based on the two Hannah Murray books that I've read to far, she seems to have a certain buzz word in her novels that tends to get overused. In this one it was, “What?”. On the upside, about half the narrative takes place on Mackinac Island, Michigan, at the Grand Hotel no less. The author says on her website that this was a favorite childhood vacation spot, but fans of the romantic fantasy, Somewhere in Time, will recognize this as the setting for that movie too. Even with a bit of suspense in the plot, The Devil and Ms. Johnson was basically a light, breezy read, and in spite of any perceived weaknesses, I did find it to be a reasonably pleasant diversion. So far, Hannah Murray has proven to be a pretty entertaining author, and I look forward to checking out her other works in the future....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews In her Book Convention Romance series, my author friend, JossiLynn, has created a broad palette of characters with whom I coulReviewed for THC Reviews In her Book Convention Romance series, my author friend, JossiLynn, has created a broad palette of characters with whom I could see myself being friends. Being the misfit that I am, I can’t help thinking I would fit in quite well with this unusual bunch, and that if they were real, they’d wholeheartedly welcome me into their “family of friends.” All of the heroes and heroines have sympathetic backstories that never fail to tug at my heartstrings, and I’ve come to care about each one in turn. That said, however, the author doesn’t usually dig quite deep enough to suit me when it comes to the characters’ internal conflicts. Sometimes there isn’t much internal conflict to speak of, even though their backstories are ripe for that type of exploration. Instead, it’s more about the external conflicts. Four books into the series, I’ve come to the conclusion that JossiLynn is more of a plot-driven author, who focuses primarily on the things that happen to her characters, but despite being a reader who prefers more character-driven stories, I’ve still enjoyed reading her books thus far.
In K Is for Kismet, Kade and Molly are the “main” hero and heroine. Kade has been lurking in the background since the beginning of the series. He’s an FBI agent, who was also a reservist in the special forces. He was called up for duty and went to Afghanistan, where he was gravely wounded in battle, losing a leg. Upon returning home and finding out that his future with both the military and the FBI were basically over, he became suicidal, but he was stopped from killing himself by a nurse named Karin, who he later found out was a ghost who had appeared to several other characters in the series, always portending a soul mate match. Since then he’s been living and working on a ranch next-door to his long-time best friend, Blake (K Is for Kissed), and sharing a house with his new best friends, Randy and Oscar (K Is for Kindred). Blake hires Kade to provide security for his convention and there he meets Molly. Because of his knowledge of the near-legendary ghost of Karin Cross, he’s also quite open to the idea that Molly is indeed his soul mate.
Molly is a New York Times best-selling author and regular attendee of the convention, who first appeared in the previous book, K Is for Kindred. She was previously in an abusive relationship and was nearly beaten to death by her ex. As a result, she suffers from epilepsy and has a service dog named Maggie who can predict when Molly is about to have an episode so that she can get to a safe place to ride it out. Because of a self-consciousness associated with her disability, Molly hasn’t really dated in recent history, but during a couple of her episodes, she was also attended by the ghostly Karin. She only learns about the history of this apparition when she meets Kade, and at first, she isn’t quite sure what to think. But it’s not long before she becomes a believer too.
I liked both Molly and Kade, but I felt like things were a little too easy for them as a couple. It’s pretty much insta-love and everything falls into place for them with little fanfare. Their relationship also moves at light-speed with them meeting, falling in love, getting married, and being prepared to start a family, all within a week’s time. They perhaps took a little more time to get to know one another than some of the previous couples in the series did, but they were still falling into bed within a day or two of meeting. Nothing really happened that posed any kind of genuine threat to their relationship either. They even discover that they share the same “kink” of enjoying role-play. For the most part, their love scenes didn’t seem quite as hot as some of the previous couples. I also have to admit that their first love scene was a little jarring for me too, because they’re role-playing, but it’s all playing out in Molly’s mind. Even though they were using their real names, this made it seem like more of a story within a story, involving different characters. Another thing that annoyed me a bit about this scene is that even though Kade did the right thing by trying to put on a condom, Molly refuses to use protection even though she admits she isn’t on birth control. Kade then offered to pull out, but coitus interruptus is a notoriously unreliable form of birth control, not to mention wild assumptions were made about them being STD-free. I simply have a pet peeve about couples in contemporary romance engaging in unprotected sex when they aren’t in a committed relationship or haven’t had an adult conversation about it. However, given where things go later in the story it might not have been such a big deal for me except that Molly’s excuse was that condoms didn’t exist in the forties and it was ruining her role-play scenario. I assume she meant the 1940’s, and condoms most certainly did exist back then. In fact, the first rubber condoms were manufactured in the 1850’s and even long before that, there were other types of condoms available. So her argument didn’t hold water for me. OK, history lesson and mini-rant over.;-) Even though the stakes in Kade and Molly’s relationship weren’t high enough IMHO, I did like them as a couple, and I’m willing to accept that they’re soul mates like all the other couples in the series have been.
As with the other books in the series (except the first one, of course), the hero and heroine (or in this case two heroes) of the previous book, play a huge role in the present book. They probably get close to fifty percent of the POV scenes, which as usual is a double-edged sword for me. I always enjoy visiting with them again, but sometimes I can’t help feeling that they’re taking away valuable page time from the “main” hero and heroine. In K Is for Kismet, to be quite honest, Randy and Oscar really stole the show. They’re the ones who are having conflicts in their relationship, both internal and external. Internally, they’re both struggling with their past sexual relationships and what that means for their future. Randy has a BDSM fetish and used to go to sex clubs for his fix but doesn’t really engage in that sort of sex play with Oscar. For his part, Oscar is wondering if he can permanently give up having sex with women, since the only sex partners he had before Randy were female. While in Vegas, they both agree to feed each other’s sexual needs. Oscar will accompany Randy to a sex club where he can play the dominant with another man, while Randy will engage in a menage with Oscar and a woman of his choosing. Of course, both men experience some feelings of jealousy in the process. I ended up having very mixed feelings about all of this. It was great to see the characters have some internal conflicts, but at the same time, I felt like this was something they should have worked out before making a commitment to each other and getting their supposed HEA in the previous book. For me, it all called into question their true feelings for one another. Admittedly, though, that all kind of paled in light of the climactic events near the end of the book involving both of their crazy estranged family members that leads to a lot of heartache and that made me sad for this couple, but at the same time, very much solidified their relationship once and for all.
In addition to Randy and Oscar, there are lots of other supporting characters. We get to see a little more of Samantha and James (K Is for Kink), and Blake and Lily (K Is for Kissed), who are both happy and settled in their marriages with kids who are growing like weeds. Samantha’s dad, Dan, and Blake’s mom, Luciana, are also happy together and playing the doting grandparents. Oscar’s best friend, Pete, and his boyfriend, Mario, are still together as well. Oscar’s sister, Janel, is as bitchy as ever, but she takes things a step too far in this book and finally gets what’s coming to her. We’re introduced to Kade’s friend, Mike, who works security with him at the convention and also has FBI ties, as well as his young daughter, Heather. Mike, along with a mysterious woman who keeps turning up in Randy’s and Oscar’s lives but whose identity we don’t know until the final lines of the book, become the hero and heroine of the fifth and final book of the series, K Is for Karin. Then there is the ghostly apparition of Karin Cross who continues to work her magic. I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the wonderful animal characters, particularly Molly’s dog, Maggie, who seems to have ties to Karin, and Lily’s horse, Bonnie. Both of these animals become major heroes of the book, but the ending for one of them left me very sad.
Overall, K Is for Kismet was a good read that I enjoyed. I may have had issues with a few things, but in the end, I didn’t feel like they warranted knocking off more than one star. Deeper character and relationship development for Kade and Molly would have been nice, but I guess, despite my mixed feelings on the matter, Randy and Oscar, pretty much made up for it. I hated the things that happened to them, but they did add a lot of excitement to the story. I’m sufficiently intrigued by Mike, Heather, and Mike’s mysterious lady love that I’m looking forward to reading their book soon.
Note: This book contains explicit language and sexual situations, including role-play, anal sex, some BDSM, and a menage a quatre that includes M/M, F/F, M/F/F, and M/M/F/F interactions, which some readers may find offensive....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" When I picked up Tucker's Claim, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. I had loved Caine's Reckoning, the first bReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" When I picked up Tucker's Claim, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. I had loved Caine's Reckoning, the first book in the Hell's Eight series, but the second, Sam's Creed, was in my opinion, a weak installment that left me feeling pretty underwhelmed. In the end, Tucker's Claim definitely put this series back on track for me with a wonderful character-driven narrative that made me fall in love with both its hero and heroine. It was a lovely story of two lonely people with similar traumatic experiences in their backgrounds, but from opposite fringes of society. Neither have ever truly felt like they fit in, but they find love, acceptance and wholeness in each other's arms.
Tucker is a half-breed Indian who was raised in the white world until Mexican soldiers razed the town where he lived, slaughtering everyone in their path. Tucker was one of only eight boys (the eight men who now comprise Hell's Eight) who survived the attack and banded together seeking vengeance. Since then he has started to live a slightly more respectable life as a Texas Ranger who is feared by most for both his large size and fierce reputation, but his mixed blood still makes him a target and leaves him with few options in life. Even before the attacks Tucker's boyhood was one of misery and abuse at the hands of his father. As a half-breed, he never really fit into either the white or Indian world, so except for when he is among Hell's Eight, he has never really known love or acceptance. His longing to be loved for who he is was apparent very early in the story and only deepened as it went on, but he can't seem to believe that any woman, especially one like Sally Mae, could ever care for a “savage.” Not to mention, he fears for what the townspeople might do to both of them if they ever found out about their relationship. I couldn't help but fall a little in love with Tucker right from the start. I loved how he had continued to come back to the little town where Sally Mae lived time after time, just to be near her and protect her, but allowed her the space and time she needed to grieve her husband's murder. When they finally came together, he was an amazingly giving lover, but also scrumptiously possessive. He was absolutely wonderful with animals and kids too. Tucker may have had a hard exterior but inside he had a kind, gentle heart of gold. Given his background, it's pretty astounding that he could be so tender, but Sally Mae always brought out the best in him. By the end of the book, I was positively crazy about Tucker, and he has earned the title of my favorite Hell's Eight hero so far.
Sally Mae was raised by Quakers from the time she was about ten years old, after her parents were killed. Suffering from traumatic amnesia, she can't remember anything prior to the time she started living with the Friends. Their peaceful ways helped to calm her troubled mind and spirit, so that she was able to recover in every way except her memory. She had married Jonah, a man fifteen years her senior, and they moved west, hoping to help people. He was a good man and a talented physician who taught her everything he knew, so that when he died, the townspeople began to look to her when they needed doctoring. Even though Sally and Jonah had a comfortable marriage, she always felt like something was missing. There was an underlying passion within her to which Jonah was not responsive, and she had always wanted a child while he wanted to wait. When Jonah was killed, Sally Mae's world might have fallen apart if Tucker hadn't been there, lending her his strength along with his protection and a helping hand. When Sally finally gave in to her attraction for Tucker she did so with wild abandon, giving him all of herself. Even though marriage between a white woman and a half-breed seemed impossible to outsiders, Sally Mae's Quaker beliefs made Tucker her equal right from the start in spite of their racial differences. I loved how she was always so kind and accepting of others no matter what. She was just a sweet, kind and giving woman toward everyone, but most especially to Tucker. Her beliefs also make her a pacifist, which was the main sticking point between the two of them, since Tucker's life was filled with violence on a regular basis. I respected her choice, because sometimes it takes more courage to choose the path of peace than the path of force. I also thought that Sally had great strength of character in many ways, not the least of which was meeting Tucker half-way so that they could have the future they both dreamed of. I know some readers were off-put by Sally Mae's use of “thee” and “thy” in her speech, but it didn't bother me at all. I thought it rather added to the sweetness of her character, while also being accurate vernacular for a Quaker in that time period. Sally was just a wonderful character who was full of depth and one of those rare heroines who I thoroughly liked and related to throughout the entire story.
As a couple, I thought that Tucker and Sally Mae complimented each other perfectly. I could feel the deep love connection between them from the very first chapter, even though the story for the most part begins with their wild sexual encounters. Normally, this isn't really my cup of tea, but they had known and been yearning for one another for a very long time before giving in to their passion, which made the early love scenes more likable and believable for me. The author also took the time to create a lovely atmosphere of romance and desire in the opening scene. Those first love scenes are darkly erotic, but laced with an undercurrent of deep tenderness and love which made them very beautiful. However, approximately the first half of the book is all about the sex, leaving me wondering when they were going to share their backgrounds, hopes, dreams, and all the little things that add intimacy to a romance. The reader gets to know Tucker and Sally pretty well through their introspections, but it seems that the author decided to wait until the second half to get to the relationship building. From that point on, there aren't any interactions of a sexual nature until the very end. While I was quite relieved to finally have them opening up and getting to know one another, I thought writing it this way left the story with a bit of an unbalanced feel. I did however, love that the conflict is mostly of an internal nature, with Tucker and Sally Mae trying to figure out how to reconcile their differing beliefs on violence, and I think Sarah McCarty did a very good job with that, and with driving home the point that marriage is always a compromise. I felt that both characters grew throughout the story and found their middle ground in believable ways which left me satisfied.
Since Sam's Creed had no input from other Hell's Eight members besides Tucker, it was great to finally see some of the other characters again. Caine and Desi (Caine's Reckoning) are awaiting the birth of their first child back at Hell's Eight. Sam and Bella (Sam's Creed) have settled into running the Montoya ranch, but surprisingly are still not married. I like that Sally and Bella have become good friends and even share a prayer for the safety of their men in spite of the differences in their race and religions. The twins Tracker and Shadow also returned still running down leads on Desi's missing sister, Ari, along with Tucker, and we get to learn just a little more about the pair. It was interesting how Shadow was intuitive enough to recognize that Sally was every bit as lonely and outcast as Tucker. He and Tracker could shape up to be quite fascinating characters if written well. I had speculated from book #1 that Tracker would probably be paired with Ari, and am pleased to know that I was correct in my assessment, as their book, Tracker's Sin, is the next of the series.
Other than the one small issue I mentioned earlier, the only thing that kept Tucker's Claim from being a perfect 5-star read for me was the author's tendency to make silly little continuity errors, things like Sally being in her nightgown and then suddenly fully dressed or a horse changing gender no less than four times, three of which were within a few paragraphs of one another. These might seem like small things, but when there are several of them that are pretty blatant to anyone who's actually paying attention, it can get a little annoying. There were also some parts scattered throughout the story where I thought the narrative could have used a little more clarity. As written, there were passages that I had to reread in order to be certain I was understanding what was happening. Otherwise, Tucker's Claim was a near-perfect read that I thoroughly enjoyed, and it now has me looking forward once again to Tracker's story and the rest of the Hell's Eight series.
Note: This book contains explicit language, violence, and sexual situations, including mild domination/submission, spanking, use of sex toys, and anal sex, which some readers may find offensive....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Big Guns Out of Uniform is an anthology of three contemporary borderline erotic novellas featuring heroes in law enforcement.
BReviewed for THC Reviews Big Guns Out of Uniform is an anthology of three contemporary borderline erotic novellas featuring heroes in law enforcement.
BAD to the Bone BAD to the Bone was a pure fantasy that was very fun and enjoyable to read. I thought that the beginning and ending of the story could have benefited from a bit more clarity and tighter plotting, but the rest of the story really helped to make up for these deficiencies. The premise of a woman living out her romance novel fantasies in real life with a hunky hero was very entertaining. I especially liked that Kyle actually read Marianne's favorite book and was trying to make it all come to life for her. It just made him seem so caring and thoughtful.
I found both characters to be likable, relatable, and well-drawn. Marianne, as an average, ordinary woman, just couldn't have been sweeter, yet she was passionate and adventurous enough to step outside her comfort zone. Kyle was a tough guy with a tortured past, yet he accepted Marianne's tenderness toward him as something that was missing from his life instead of being suspicious or shutting down emotionally. In fact, she was able to fulfill his fantasies every bit as much as he fulfilled hers. I loved the way the author built a beautiful relationship between these two characters in such a short time mainly with the use of communication, a seeming rarity in romance novels. This made for some extremely sexy and sensuous love scenes that were still very sweet and romantic. Overall, I found this novella to be a delightful read that even showcased a little humor, a great story for anyone looking for a bit of escapism.
BAD to the Bone along with its two companion novellas in the Born to Be BAD anthology are something of a prequel to the main B.A.D. Agency series. It was first published in Big Guns Out of Uniform, and was later reprinted in Born to Be BAD. This was my first read by Sherrilyn Kenyon, but it certainly won't be my last. I am looking forward to continuing the B.A.D. series as well as exploring her other books. Rating: ****
Let's Talk About Sex I think it can be difficult for an author to write a short story that is still satisfying, but in Let's Talk About Sex, Liz Carlyle has, in my opinion, put together a tale that has both tight plotting and good character development. The narrative flowed smoothly, and I thought it was the perfect length. Rather than being left with that "I-wish-there-were-more-to-the-story" feeling when it ended, I felt like Goldilocks, that it was "just right".
As the title might imply, the main focus was on the sex, but emotions got tangled up in the mix pretty quickly. The love scenes were both creative and scorching hot and there were plenty of them too, but there were also some romantic moments as well. I haven't seen many real proposals in the romances I've read, so I thought the proposal scene was a particularly nice touch. I also thought that the author progressing the narrative through a few months time, made this scenario more believable.
I found both the hero and heroine to be very likable, and neither one was bringing a ton of baggage into the relationship. Sometimes it's just refreshing to read a story about relatively normal people with normal problems. I thought it was sweet that Delia dealt with the topic of sex every day in her work, but in real life was still slightly repressed. Nick was a hot, sexy guy (not to mention an animal lover, which I find hard to resist), who was also a patient and accomplished lover. He knew exactly how to rebuild Delia's self-confidence and release her inner sex kitten to make her purr.
While the story did not contain many of the getting-to-know-you moments that I love and that really help to build a more believable relationship, I found Let's Talk About Sex to be a fun, enjoyable romp. Readers who like lust turned to love or love at first sight stories should appreciate this one, and while those are not my favorite plot lines, Ms. Carlyle's writing was strong enough to make me overlook that. Liz Carlyle has been one of my favorite authors of historical romance for a while, and even though Let's Talk About Sex was her first and only foray into contemporary romance to date, I found it to be equally as good. In my opinion, it was the overall best and most well written novella in this anthology, definitely worthy of keeper status. Rating: ****1/2
The Nekkid Truth In my opinion, this novella had a lot of potential that it just didn't quite live up to. I thought the premise of the story was a fascinating one, that of a woman who had lost the ability to recognize faces due to a head injury. I like it when an author can teach me about something I didn't already know or expand on my previous knowledge of a particular subject, and I find things of a medical nature to be especially interesting. While the author did give an overview of what this condition entailed, she never once called it by it's actual name, Prosopagnosia aka Face Blindness. She also did not fully express in any depth what it was like for the heroine to live with this affliction, which I felt would have created a much more compelling story. Instead the author opted to tell the reader more about the heroine's photography endeavors and sexual conquests than about her life and feelings. The cover blurb also implies that the heroine's special condition somehow plays a pivotal role in the criminal investigation, but I never quite saw how that was the case.
The Nekkid Truth reminded me in some ways of old black & white detective movies. It is written in first person with a rather dry, "just the facts ma'am" type of presentation. I felt like I was being told the story rather than experiencing it. This writing style made it very difficult to get a good grasp on any of the characters, particularly the hero about whom readers are only given tidbits of information, most of which doesn't come out until toward the end. I am not opposed to the first person perspective, but I think it can be very challenging for an author using this writing style to convey the feelings and emotions of other characters in the story unless they are very deft at their craft.
The love scenes showed some creativity and with a little more tenderness and less matter-of-fact attitude, could have been truly romantic and steamy, but without the incorporation of emotions, came off as being little more than a string of sexual encounters that lacked any real spark and to me felt very crude. I'm afraid that certain aspects of the heroine's photography, as well as a rather hedonistic attitude from her and other characters, only lent to this atmosphere. I also found my eyebrows shooting up at a couple of unrealistic descriptions of the size of the male anatomy (not the hero's) which simply added more fuel to the fire.
As far as the heroine's work, I have no issue with nude art and in fact have found many pieces to be quite beautiful, so I had no real problem with her specializing in nude photography. What did bother me however, was her penchant for wallpapering her studio with nude photos and even more so, her seeming obsession with taking photographs of that certain part of the male anatomy and then meticulously filing them away. Apparently, this all had something to do with her face blindness, and at one point she tried to explain this all to the hero, but it still just never made much sense to me. In general, there simply wasn't enough depth of emotion to be found in this story to really draw me into the characters lives and make me truly care about them or believe in their love for each other and a lasting happily-ever-after ending.
Though not incredibly compelling, I thought Ms. Camden did do well with the mystery element. This part of the narrative was fed to the reader bit by bit, so that the solution to the puzzle was not really discernible until the reveal. Although there was room for improvement in this area as well, I did find it to be interesting. In my opinion, she also did a good job with keeping the plot tight and the story moving along at a steady pace.
The Nekkid Truth was the only novella in this anthology which featured a hero and heroine who had know each other for a while before becoming intimately involved which was an aspect of the story I could appreciate, but again, with the lack of emotion, I still found the other two novellas to be much more compelling and believable. Usually anthologies group together stories with similar themes and styles, and while the cop hero theme was there, the writing style of The Nekkid Truth was very different from the other two, making it seem somewhat out of place in this grouping. This appears to be Ms. Camden's first and only published work, so I am willing to allow that with some sharpening of her writing skills and/or perhaps a switch to a mystery or edgy chic-lit genre, she could have potential. Rating: ***
Reviewed for THC Reviews Baby It's Cold Outside is a scorching little 12-page erotic “quickie.” It was super hot without being kinky, but definitely moReviewed for THC Reviews Baby It's Cold Outside is a scorching little 12-page erotic “quickie.” It was super hot without being kinky, but definitely mostly about the sex. I'm usually not a fan of hook-up-now, ask-questions-later romances, and even though Quinton and Heather had briefly met a few months before, they were still virtual strangers. I may not have been entirely comfortable with the set-up for the story, but I did find it to be surprisingly enjoyable in spite of that. It might have been the sizzling love scene combined with the stranded in a snowstorm theme which I typically like. I also think I gave the author a little bit of slack since this was such a short novella, whereas I would have expected a lot more from a full-length novel. Or perhaps I was just in the right mood for it at the right time. Whatever the reasons, it turned out to be a fun, steamy little read. This was my first story by Shelli Stevens, and it has certainly left me open to trying more of her works, which is good since I already have a couple of them on my TBR list. According to Ms. Stevens' website this is the third in her Seattle Steam series, which I didn't know until after reading it. I'm not sure if Quinton or Heather appeared in the earlier books, but Heather is the cousin of Christy from book #2, Tempting Adam. She and Adam make a brief appearance at the end of the story. Baby It's Cold Outside is available as a free download from Samhaim Publishing and the author's website....more
A Love for All Nights was a seriously hot short story about a vampire who finds his mate when he least expects it. For as well as I could get to knowA Love for All Nights was a seriously hot short story about a vampire who finds his mate when he least expects it. For as well as I could get to know the two protagonists in a short 16 pages, I liked both Carson and Alexa. I loved Carson's kind, gentlemanly manners, and Alexa seemed sweet but passionate. Since this is an erotic romance, about half the novella is taken up with one long smokin' love scene that I thought was pretty luscious. Of course, things move along really quickly, and although it would have been nice to have more character back-story and relationship development, I'm realistic enough to not expect too much from an e-book quickie. The whole life-mate scenario helped to make their declarations of love and Alexa's rapid acceptance of Carson being a vampire more palatable. For those who like holiday themed stories this one takes place at Halloween. The plot was fairly simple and not particularly unique to the paranormal genre, but A Love for All Nights was a fun, enjoyable way to spend a half-hour of my reading time. Aside from a few typos and word choices that could have been better, the author's writing style seemed pretty solid. It was my first read by Jessica Coulter Smith, and has left me open to trying more of her work. A Love for All Nights is available as a free e-book from All Romance E-Books or The Wild Horse Press, and in my opinion, is definitely worth the download. Just make sure you have a cold drink and a fan nearby before starting to read it.;-)
Note: This book contains explicit language and sexual situations including anal play and toys, which some readers may find offensive. ...more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Maverick's Black Cat was a seriously hot and steamy erotic romance with some very appealing elements. Even if I weReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Maverick's Black Cat was a seriously hot and steamy erotic romance with some very appealing elements. Even if I weren't married, I can't say that I would be too keen on having cyber-sex with a presumed stranger, but the authors certainly did a good job of avoiding the “ick” factor and making that part of the story a very attractive and sensual fantasy. It was also a great way to build some fabulous sexual tension. Once the hero and heroine realize they know each other and get together in real-life, they heat things up all over the place with some pretty creative love scenes that have lots of variety. I liked that the authors took a little time out in between all the steamy sex to tell a little bit of story about Catarena writing her book, dealing with her smarmy supervisor at work, and the couple tackling Mason's control issues, as well as showing their relationships with their respective best friends. It's not a lot, but it was just enough to keep me from getting from getting bored with all the sex.;-) After reading Maverick's Black Cat and another similar novel (Hannah Murray's Jane and the Sneaky Dom), I'm beginning to think that some of the best erotic romances are the ones that do focus more on the sexual relationship and don't try to be something else (eg. suspense, paranormal, etc.), because thus far in my experience, those parts of the story usually tend to suffer in the process.
Since Maverick's Black Cat was a relatively short book that is jam-packed with red-hot lovin', there isn't a great deal of backstory given on Mason and Catarena, but I felt that the authors developed their characters fairly well in the here and now. Mason is the millionaire owner of a Fortune 500 company and a dom who feels the need to be in control in everything. When he chances to meet Catarena in a BDSM chat room where she is trying to do research for an erotic novel, Mason is instantly attracted to her sharp tongue and the challenge she presents. I can enjoy a dominant hero from time to time, but there came a point where Mason started to scare me a little with his caveman act. The minute he realized who Catarena was, Mason dragged her into his office and took her over his desk for the very first time with a rather angry attitude and no preamble or foreplay whatsoever. Even though Catarena didn't protest much and seemed to like it, this felt a little too close to forced seduction for my taste. At that point, if I had been Catarena, I probably would have run the other way screaming.;-) Of course, she stuck around, but I have to say that I greatly admired her feistiness and how she let Mason know right from the start that she wasn't going to put up with him being a control freak or let him push her around outside the bedroom. Eventually, she did do a very respectable job of taming the “wild beast.” Mason apologized for some things he'd done and sufficiently “made it up to her” for me to like him in the end. I felt like he was really putting forth effort to change, and all their love scenes, other than the one that bothered me a bit, were quite scrumptious.
Overall, Maverick's Black Cat was a fun erotic romp that I mostly enjoyed. Being the realist that I am, I liked that the authors kept Mason and Catarena's online play “safe” by not giving out real names or addresses. I also thought it was helpful that they had a prior relationship of sorts even though they didn't know each other well. This along with the authors progressing the narrative over a few months time made them falling in love more believable. On the downside, there were a number of editing errors (typos, incorrect word choices, poor grammer, etc.), but otherwise, I thought it was pretty well written. I've also come to the conclusion that this is kind of par for the course with many Ellora's Cave books and try to overlook it as much a possible. If it hadn't been for Mason scaring me a couple of times, I probably would have given the full 5-stars to this novel, and even as it was I would still call it a keeper. Maverick's Black Cat is the first book in Maggie Casper and Lena Matthew's The Boulevard series. The next book, Friends with Benefits, features Mason and Catarena's best friends, Sebastian and Bailey, as the hero and heroine. What I saw of these two characters in this book, I really liked, and if Maverick's Black Cat is any indication of things to come, I'll definitely be looking forward to reading Friends with Benefits as soon as I can get a copy.
Note: This book contains explicit language and a number of very explicit sexual situations which some readers may find offensive including exploration of D/s relationships, a visit to a BDSM club, mild voyeurism and exhibitionism, spanking, toys, and anal play with a toy....more
So many people have raved about the Breeds series and Lora Leigh's writing in general that I finally had to try it out. In many ways, I can certainlySo many people have raved about the Breeds series and Lora Leigh's writing in general that I finally had to try it out. In many ways, I can certainly see why fans enjoy these so much. I thought the premise was very creative and unique, something I've never seen in a romance novel before. I kept thinking as I read it that this is the stuff that great sci-fi movies are made of. It definitely held my attention, but I found myself wishing the author would tell me more about the Breeds and their back-stories. I guess maybe that will be covered more in the sequels. Even though I really liked the ideas that the plot was built upon, I had mixed feelings about some other aspects. This was only my second read of an erotic novel, the first having been fairly tame by comparison, and although I went into it with my eyes wide open as to the content and wasn't shocked by anything I read, I think I was still caught off guard a bit by the raw, edgy intensity in the sex scenes. There didn't seem to be much tenderness or what I would call heart-stopping romance to be found, and when some of these types of emotions started to surface, it seemed all too brief. That said though, I wasn't offended by anything I read and did not find anything out of context for the storyline. It was really just more a matter of personal preference.
I thought that Callan and Merinus were interesting characters, but I can't say that I really related to either one. I think they were both just a little too alpha for my taste. I felt like these two spent way to much time trying to dominate each other and not enough time just trying to work together to find solutions to the dangerous situation they were in. I like my alpha males, but they also have to have a gentler side (like the brothers of the BDB). Callan just seemed to be on testosterone overload almost all the time. Merinus was also too stubborn and dominant for me. In my opinion her character just wasn't fully fleshed out. I felt like I knew and understood Callan pretty well, but I realized after finishing the book that I never knew much anything of a personal nature about Merinus. I also had a hard time buying into their falling in love. One minute they were lusting after each other like two animals in heat (which they basically were) and the next she was declaring her love out of the blue with him following not long after. This just didn't work well for me. In spite of my criticisms though, I honestly think that Lora Leigh is a good writer, although the editing on the book could have used a little more work. The intriguing cast of secondary characters and the open-ended epilogue have peaked my interest suffieciently to make me want to continue the series to see where this riveting story leads.
Note: This book contains extremely explicit language and sexual situations which some readers may find offensive....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Love Slave – Love Slave was a sweetly sensual erotic romance of forbidden love between a Jewish American young wReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Love Slave – Love Slave was a sweetly sensual erotic romance of forbidden love between a Jewish American young woman and an Arabic young man who was a Kuwaiti sheik. This theme, along with the love-overcomes-all theme, both of which are a prominent part of the story, are among my favorites. Shana and Bear were both very likable characters. Although I can't say I've ever fantasized about being part of a sheik's harem like Shana did, I certainly wouldn't mind if that sheik were Bear (and it was only a harem of one;-)). Making love in his private jet, his limo and his isolated ancient family fortress would be a scrumptious dream. I liked that Bear was completely into fulfilling Shana's fantasy and how the couple were so open and giving toward one another. It made the idea of them falling in love so quickly more believable. I wasn't a bit surprised when Shana got jealous of the other women in the “harem,” even though she said that's what she wanted. In fact, the short menage scene between Bear, Shana and the other two women was the only thing about this novella that wasn't really my cup of tea. I happen to be a jealous reader who wants the hero to belong completely to the heroine. I was quite happy when Bear wasn't responsive to the other women and kicked them out pretty quickly, so he could have his favorite houri all to himself.;-)
Even though the characterizations aren't particularly deep because of the short length, I really came to like Bear and Shana a lot, and would have loved to read a longer story about them. I'm really happy that Forever Enslaved, the second novella in the series, is a continuation of their lives together. Love Slave may require a little suspension of disbelief to accept Bear and Shana falling in love and overcoming their cultural differences so quickly, but there was enough tender emotion between the pair to make me buy it. This story also introduces Shana's brother, Jake, who becomes the hero of book #3, Firestorm. This was my first read by Ann Jacobs and the first in her Black Gold series. I really enjoyed it and look forward to continuing the series. Love Slave can also be purchased as a separate e-book. Rating: ****1/2
Note: This novella contains explicit language and sexual situations which some readers may find offensive including a f/f/m/f menage with brief mention of f/f action and anal play with fingers.
Forever Enslaved – Forever Enslaved continued the story of Bear and Shana that began in the first novella of the Black Gold series, Love Slave. The couple has been married for ten years and things have become rather rocky between them, causing Shana to leave Bear. Romances about married couples are rather rare, so I really enjoyed this aspect of the story, not to mention getting to read more about Bear and Shana was a treat. Having them still madly in love and so hot for each other after a decade and in spite of their differences was wonderful. I absolutely adore Bear. He's willing to play the dominating hero, but all of his actions toward Shana are filled with tenderness and love. I thoroughly enjoyed his willingness to gift Shana with every sexual fantasy she had ever expressed to him in order to prove his love and devotion to her. As with the first novella, I wasn't entirely into the menage scene, but I at least understood the reasons behind it. I was quite happy though that Bear was jealous enough to have trouble going through with it and that Shana had a last-minute epiphany about Bear being the only man she would ever need to satisfy her. The marital issues which made Shana leave Bear aren't explored in a lot of depth, but as the underlying cause is a pretty common problem, I could fully understand her feelings. I was also pleased to see that both of them realized that they were soul mates who simply couldn't live without each other and were willing to compromise to make things work in the future.
As one might expect with an erotic novella, it is primarily about the sex, and it was some of the most scrumptious sex I've ever read. In my opinion, the love scenes were laden with emotion while still being a bit kinky and full of intense passion. I was also thrilled to finally find an erotic author who knows how to write back-door lovin' with patience and gentleness, avoiding the “ouch” factor. There was also lots of variety in the love scenes with each one being completely different than the last which kept the sex from becoming too boring. Overall, this was another sweet, steamy, enjoyable read from Ms. Jacobs. Forever Enslaved is the second story in the Black Gold series. It makes mention of Bear's cousin, Jamil, who has been missing in action for the ten years since the Gulf War ended. He becomes the hero of the fourth story in series, Entrapped, which I'm really looking forward to reading soon. Forever Enslaved can also be purchased as a separate e-book. Rating: ****1/2
Note: This novella contains explicit language and sexual situations which some readers may find offensive including bondage, anal sex, and a brief m/m/f/m menage.
Entrapped – The synopsis for Entrapped had me really looking forward to reading it, but I have to say that this novella wasn't quite what I was expecting. The first half of it made me rather uncomfortable, mainly because of how Jamil and Leila met and began their interactions. Jamil had suffered heinous tortures as a prisoner of war for eleven years including repeated rapes at the hands of the sadistic male jailer and his guards. I can usually handle quite a bit when it comes to abuse, but even though these parts had happened off canvas and weren't described in a particularly graphic way, for some reason, it still had my insides in knots. After all that had happened to Jamil, it just didn't seem very appropriate for Leila to use him rather callously for her own pleasure while he was chained like a dog. I realized this was supposed to be a BDSM fantasy and Jamil seemed to enjoy it, but in my mind, the whole scenario was at best forced seduction; at worst outright rape (the characters even admitted as much to themselves later in the story), which just didn't sit well with me. I also didn't find the prison setting to be a particularly enticing place to begin a romantic relationship.
Once the story got to the prison break, I was much more into it. The escape scenes were exciting and well written, and once they had returned to civilization, Jamil and Leila's interactions were much more tender and to my liking. Ann Jacobs seems to be good at balancing a decent plot with steamy sex scenes, and she also has a knack for writing very appealing heroes who are just the right mix of alpha male with a more sensitive side. I loved Jamil's protectiveness of Leila while also being very gentle and reassuring about her scars. Once the couple was away from the prison, Leila's vulnerabilities over her scars became more prominent too, and that along with her kindness in releasing Jamil, made her a more sympathetic heroine to me. Even with the added emotional development during the latter half of the novella, I still had a hard time swallowing Jamil and Leila falling in love, but I think it was mainly my personal issues with the way things started between them. That just wasn't my cup of tea, but if it had been, or if things had begun differently, I could definitely have seen this becoming another keeper in this series for me.
Entrapped is the fourth story in the Black Gold series. It reunites the couples from the first three, with all of them getting some decent page time. Bear and Shana (Love Slave, Forever Enslaved) even got their own love scene, and Jake and Kate (Firestorm) are seen on their honeymoon in Kuwait. I read this novella out of the Sandstorms anthology. I couldn't find good information on the correct reading order for the series and hadn't read Jake's book yet, so I should warn that there are what I believe could be a couple of spoilers for Firestorm when read the way I did it. Entrapped also introduced Brian Shearer, an American POW who was being held in the same prison with Jamil. He becomes the hero of Zayed's Gift which is the fifth story in the series. Even though Entrapped was not a perfect read for me, I still mostly liked it. I'm very much enjoying Ann Jacobs writing style and look forward to going back and reading Jake's story, as well as continuing forward with the rest of the series soon. Entrapped can be purchased as a separate e-book, and according to the publisher, Ellora's Cave, it was also previously released in a anthology titled, Captured. Rating: ****
Note: This novella contains explicit language and sexual situations which some readers may find offensive including forced seduction, heavier BDSM-style bondage with chains, light bondage, anal play with fingers, intimate shaving, and intimate piercings. There are also mentions of various tortures being inflicted upon prisoners including brutal beatings, amputations, castrations (and the constant threat of it), rape and the use of a BDSM device on male genitalia to elicit pain. Definitely not for the faint of heart....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Love Slave was a sweetly sensual erotic romance of forbidden love between a Jewish American young woman and an AraReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Love Slave was a sweetly sensual erotic romance of forbidden love between a Jewish American young woman and an Arabic young man who was a Kuwaiti sheik. This theme, along with the love-overcomes-all theme, both of which are a prominent part of the story, are among my favorites. Shana and Bear were both very likable characters. Although I can't say I've ever fantasized about being part of a sheik's harem like Shana did, I certainly wouldn't mind if that sheik were Bear (and it was only a harem of one;-)). Making love in his private jet, his limo and his isolated ancient family fortress would be a scrumptious dream. I liked that Bear was completely into fulfilling Shana's fantasy and how the couple were so open and giving toward one another. It made the idea of them falling in love so quickly more believable. I wasn't a bit surprised when Shana got jealous of the other women in the “harem,” even though she said that's what she wanted. In fact, the short menage scene between Bear, Shana and the other two women was the only thing about this novella that wasn't really my cup of tea. I happen to be a jealous reader who wants the hero to belong completely to the heroine. I was quite happy when Bear wasn't responsive to the other women and kicked them out pretty quickly, so he could have his favorite houri all to himself.;-)
Even though the characterizations aren't particularly deep because of the short length, I really came to like Bear and Shana a lot, and would have loved to read a longer story about them. I'm really happy that Forever Enslaved, the second novella in the series, is a continuation of their lives together. Love Slave may require a little suspension of disbelief to accept Bear and Shana falling in love and overcoming their cultural differences so quickly, but there was enough tender emotion between the pair to make me buy it. This story also introduces Shana's brother, Jake, who becomes the hero of book #3, Firestorm. This was my first read by Ann Jacobs and the first in her Black Gold series. I really enjoyed it and look forward to continuing the series. Love Slave can be purchased as a separate e-book, and can also be found in the Sandstorms anthology.
Note: This novella contains explicit language and sexual situations which some readers may find offensive including a f/f/m/f menage with brief mention of f/f action and anal play with fingers....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Forever Enslaved continued the story of Bear and Shana that began in the first novella of the Black Gold series, LReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Forever Enslaved continued the story of Bear and Shana that began in the first novella of the Black Gold series, Love Slave. The couple has been married for ten years and things have become rather rocky between them, causing Shana to leave Bear. Romances about married couples are rather rare, so I really enjoyed this aspect of the story, not to mention getting to read more about Bear and Shana was a treat. Having them still madly in love and so hot for each other after a decade and in spite of their differences was wonderful. I absolutely adore Bear. He's willing to play the dominating hero, but all of his actions toward Shana are filled with tenderness and love. I thoroughly enjoyed his willingness to gift Shana with every sexual fantasy she had ever expressed to him in order to prove his love and devotion to her. As with the first novella, I wasn't entirely into the menage scene, but I at least understood the reasons behind it. I was quite happy though that Bear was jealous enough to have trouble going through with it and that Shana had a last-minute epiphany about Bear being the only man she would ever need to satisfy her. The marital issues which made Shana leave Bear aren't explored in a lot of depth, but as the underlying cause is a pretty common problem, I could fully understand her feelings. I was also pleased to see that both of them realized that they were soul mates who simply couldn't live without each other and were willing to compromise to make things work in the future.
As one might expect with an erotic novella, it is primarily about the sex, and it was some of the most scrumptious sex I've ever read. In my opinion, the love scenes were laden with emotion while still being a bit kinky and full of intense passion. I was also thrilled to finally find an erotic author who knows how to write back-door lovin' with patience and gentleness, avoiding the “ouch” factor. There was also lots of variety in the love scenes with each one being completely different than the last which kept the sex from becoming too boring. Overall, this was another sweet, steamy, enjoyable read from Ms. Jacobs. Forever Enslaved is the second story in the Black Gold series. It makes mention of Bear's cousin, Jamil, who has been missing in action for the ten years since the Gulf War ended. He becomes the hero of the fourth story in series, Entrapped, which I'm really looking forward to reading soon. Forever Enslaved can be purchased as a separate e-book, and can also be found in the Sandstorms anthology.
Note: This novella contains explicit language and sexual situations which some readers may find offensive including bondage, anal sex, and a brief m/m/f/m menage....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews The synopsis for Entrapped had me really looking forward to reading it, but I have to say that this novella wasn't quite whatReviewed for THC Reviews The synopsis for Entrapped had me really looking forward to reading it, but I have to say that this novella wasn't quite what I was expecting. The first half of it made me rather uncomfortable, mainly because of how Jamil and Leila met and began their interactions. Jamil had suffered heinous tortures as a prisoner of war for eleven years including repeated rapes at the hands of the sadistic male jailer and his guards. I can usually handle quite a bit when it comes to abuse, but even though these parts had happened off canvas and weren't described in a particularly graphic way, for some reason, it still had my insides in knots. After all that had happened to Jamil, it just didn't seem very appropriate for Leila to use him rather callously for her own pleasure while he was chained like a dog. I realized this was supposed to be a BDSM fantasy and Jamil seemed to enjoy it, but in my mind, the whole scenario was at best forced seduction; at worst outright rape (the characters even admitted as much to themselves later in the story), which just didn't sit well with me. I also didn't find the prison setting to be a particularly enticing place to begin a romantic relationship.
Once the story got to the prison break, I was much more into it. The escape scenes were exciting and well written, and once they had returned to civilization, Jamil and Leila's interactions were much more tender and to my liking. Ann Jacobs seems to be good at balancing a decent plot with steamy sex scenes, and she also has a knack for writing very appealing heroes who are just the right mix of alpha male with a more sensitive side. I loved Jamil's protectiveness of Leila while also being very gentle and reassuring about her scars. Once the couple was away from the prison, Leila's vulnerabilities over her scars became more prominent too, and that along with her kindness in releasing Jamil, made her a more sympathetic heroine to me. Even with the added emotional development during the latter half of the novella, I still had a hard time swallowing Jamil and Leila falling in love, but I think it was mainly my personal issues with the way things started between them. That just wasn't my cup of tea, but if it had been, or if things had begun differently, I could definitely have seen this becoming another keeper in this series for me.
Entrapped is the fourth story in the Black Gold series. It reunites the couples from the first three, with all of them getting some decent page time. Bear and Shana (Love Slave, Forever Enslaved) even got their own love scene, and Jake and Kate (Firestorm) are seen on their honeymoon in Kuwait. I read this novella out of the Sandstorms anthology. I couldn't find good information on the correct reading order for the series and hadn't read Jake's book yet, so I should warn that there are what I believe could be a couple of spoilers for Firestorm when read the way I did it. Entrapped also introduced Brian Shearer, an American POW who was being held in the same prison with Jamil. He becomes the hero of Zayed's Gift which is the fifth story in the series. Even though Entrapped was not a perfect read for me, I still mostly liked it. I'm very much enjoying Ann Jacobs writing style and look forward to going back and reading Jake's story, as well as continuing forward with the rest of the series soon. Entrapped can be purchased as a separate e-book, and can also be found in the Sandstorms anthology. According to the publisher, Ellora's Cave, it was also previously released in a anthology titled, Captured.
Note: This novella contains explicit language and sexual situations which some readers may find offensive including forced seduction, heavier BDSM-style bondage with chains, light bondage, anal play with fingers, intimate shaving, and intimate piercings. There are also mentions of various tortures being inflicted upon prisoners including brutal beatings, amputations, castrations (and the constant threat of it), rape and the use of a BDSM device on male genitalia to elicit pain. Definitely not for the faint of heart....more