Duke of Pleasure is the 11th installment in Hoyt's Maidan Lane series. The predictable manner that the series is built upon is evident with the classDuke of Pleasure is the 11th installment in Hoyt's Maidan Lane series. The predictable manner that the series is built upon is evident with the class difference romance though I found it blander than what we have previously seen. We met the hero and heroine, Hugh Fitzroy and Alf in previous books. While I enjoyed Hugh and Alf individually. Apart they were very strong and dynamic but together they seemed to wilt and become redundant. I also had issues with the main conflict. It was very similar to Duke of Sin and I felt the romance completely overshadowed it. There was no real arc advancement; the epilogue certainly proved that. Two new characters are introduced who look to be more promising. Lord Dyemore is new a mystery to investigate and his heroine, Lady Iris, pleasantly surprised me with her intelligence and common sense. I liked that Hoyt didn't make her a plot device to add conflict in Hugh and Alf's relationship. Even though I wasn;t blown away by this installment, I am looking forward to book 12-Duke of Desire. YUMMMMMMMMMMM...more
Before there was Eve Dallas or Lisbeth Salander, there was Kathleen (don’t call me Kathleen or Kathy) Mallory. A rogue detective with the NYPD, this well-known sociopath thankfully uses her skills for good to help keep the streets of New York safe. In Blind Sight, Mallory and her long-suffering partner, Riker, are on the hunt for Jonah Quill and the person who murdered his aunt, Sister Michael, in broad daylight. As Mallory and Riker comb the city for clues, they discover a tangled web of deceit and murder that trails from the wealthiest scions of New York…all the way to the mayor.
I have long been a fan of Carol O’Connell and this series. As this is the 12th installment, I won’t go too in depth into the background of the main protagonist, only saying that Kathleen Mallory is still the same cold, calculating, manipulative, narcissistic anti heroine that fans first met in Mallory’s Oracle-book one. A genius with the face of an angel, the soul of a killer, the skill of a black hat, she has her own skewed moral compass when it comes wielding her sword for lady justice and she only follows the rules when they suit her.
The events in Find Me (book 9) wrapped up a long ongoing series arc, leaving readers to wonder where Mallory would go from there. Though she returns to the NYPD after months of unauthorized absence, many reader were dismayed to find nothing is ever mentioned of the life altering journey. Books nine and ten stuck strictly to the crime at hand and we didn’t see much growth or personality in Mallory beyond a sense that she is indeed capable of some forms of empathy in cases involving children.
Blind Sight really isn’t all that different from the last two books in that is an intense and convoluted psychological crime novel that speeds along, using a varied cast of complex characters and a myriad of fluid plot lines. There is no longer a subplot involving Mallory and search for her past which disappoints me to a certain extent. In the beginning, Mallory was a mystery in itself to unwrap but now that we have unwrapped her, we aren’t sure what to do with her.
Multiple narratives, told in the third person from several parties, give readers a kaleidoscope view of what is happening in different areas at the same time. The story opens on a series of snapshots, following three people up to the moment everything changed. What looks to be a simple string of random murders becomes a complicated story of murder for hire and insatiable greed.
Using the Mallory and Jonah as anchors for the story, O’Connell alternates between their scenes like a visual stopwatch-the constant tick tock reminding us of what’s at stake. Truth is all in the eye of the beholder and this is especially true as Mallory digs deep into the murdered victims’ pasts to discover what tied them together. O’Connell’s knowledge of procedural investigative work shows as she submerges us into the investigation though the constant head jumping is disconcerting. Verbose characters and the labyrinthine storyline guides us towards the answers. What I have always found especially interesting in this series is how the majority of the narrative is often centered on those questioning what Mallory is doing rather than from her own perspective. And even then, it is often a race to understand where her thought process is taking her and how she will make her victims look foolish in the end.
The chapters devoted to the kidnap victim (Jonah Quill) and the killer are interesting to follow as Jonah he must draw upon everything his aunt ever taught him to try to stay alive. The skill at which he uses to humanize himself to his captor belays his young age. The killer’s thoughts and dialogue are clear and concise; helping to build understanding for the events taking place. There is a hunt of mysticism surrounding these two people, alluding to the age old question of whether a strong emotional attachment can tether someone to the physical plane when they pass.
The secondary characters are as complex as our protagonist. O’Connell doesn’t write heroes. She creates people with feet of clay who often manipulate the system around them in order achieve their goal-justice. Each one has a personal stake in the case and they all add personality, drama, and insight to the story. The cast provides a solid foundation in which to give our heroine a frame from which to work and build from. I enjoyed seeing some familiar faces though I felt O’Connell spends too much time allowing these characters to reminisce on Mallory’s past deeds in her youth, creating unnecessary lag time in the story. Quite a few pages could have shaved off the story simply by foregoing the trips down memory lane. After twelve books I find it a bit disingenuous that anyone who knows her is surprised by how she behaves anymore. There is a faint feeling that O’Connell is setting Mallory up for a new personal storyline but I’m truly baffled by where she will take her.
The ending comes at the reader hard, fast, and overwhelms as Mallory connects all the dots, using information from cases long ago and we are the inundated with quite a bit of information. Not much time is given to absorb the sheer magnitude of what and why of the crimes committed. The use of an old case to help solve this new case, along with the added bonus of offering benediction to Riker felt out of place in the grand scheme of things. All the loose ends are wrapped up, most questions answered, and the wrongs of the past are made right and finally laid to rest. While each story is self-contained; explored and resolved within the book, the protagonist is a very complicated figure whose appreciation and understanding of requires starting from the very beginning.
Favorite Quote: “Would you like to know why I kept the name?” “Yes.” “Because doves mate for life, and I knew there would never be another for me.”
Readers have been waiting for this couple’s story since they were first seen in book one-A Rogue Not Taken. Malcolm, the Duke of Haven, is caught at a party in a compromising position with a woman who is not his wife by his sister-in-law, Sophie Talbot. Sophie reacts in typical Talbot fashion by calling him a whore and pushing him into a fish pond.
“My only regret is that the pool was not deeper. And filled with sharks.” -Sophie Talbot (A Rogue Not Taken)
Seraphina, the Duchess of Haven, has had enough and leaves. Malcolm searches relentlessly for her for years but he never catches even a single glimpse of her until the day she walks into Parliament and asks for a divorce.
“I am Seraphina Bevingstoke, Duchess of Haven. And I require a divorce.”
Malcolm is thrilled Sera has returned. He regrets how he treated her and seeks to make amends but Sera doesn’t care. She is no longer that woman who was desperate to repair her marriage; begging for her husband’s understanding and love. She has found her calling in America now seeks a divorce so she can go back and live her life out as she so chooses. But Malcolm doesn’t want a divorce. He wants his wife back and a chance to prove himself once again worthy of her and their marriage but he knows he has his work cut out for him. Sera has long let go of her feelings of anger and hurt and is now mostly indifferent to him.
Malcolm decides he needs something to keep her with him so he comes up with a somewhat idiotic plan, telling her she must help him find a new wife if she wants her freedom. After all, he needs an heir. He hopes a whole summer in close proximity may be exactly what they need to reconnect and move forward together. Sera agrees to his terms but decides to bring her sisters into the fray, knowing they will add to her strength while helping to convince Malcolm to give her a divorce.
The Day of the Duchess is the 3rd book in her Scandal & Scoundrel series. This emotionally turbulent, heart-wrenching, and humorous second chance love story gives readers a personal look into a relationship that was damaged by some good and not so good intentions. Redemption of a character is a tricky concept to pull off. You have to not only convince the reader the character is worth redemption, but also give them a reasonable explanation for their previous behavior and a believable reason for the change. MacLane addresses this situation perfectly. Writing with her trademark compassion and honestly, we see that neither person was blameless for the destruction of their relationship. We see the terrible decisions they made and the consequences they suffered because of them.
The story starts in the present but flashes back periodically into the past to show how this couple met and what led to their demise. MacLean does a superb job of drawing out their emotions for us to fully appreciate. We are made privy to their personal conversations, intimate thoughts, and the sheer magnitude of the love and loss this couple experienced.
“The sorrow is mine. The regret. I never told you how much I loved you. I never showed you how I ached to know you.”
Sera and Malcolm first laid eyes on each other at a ball and instantly fell head over heels for one another. They begin to spend all their time together, enough to get noticed by the gossip papers. Mrs. Talbot felt that Malcolm’s intentions weren’t sincere though. He didn’t court Sera as he should have. He never presented her to his family nor visited with her’s. After all, the Talbots weren’t thought to be a suitable due to their working class origins and the sisters were mocked and referred to as the Soiled or Scandalous S’s. Sera’s mother devised a plan to force Malcolm’s hand and because Sera loved him dearly and believed he loved her enough to understand and forgive her, she agreed to it. It worked but it was the beginning of the end of their marriage. The pain, anger, and bitterness all worked together to ruthlessly force this couple apart until one heartbreaking event leads to another and our hero and heroine are left broken and damaged
Oh, how I enjoyed getting to know Sera and Malcolm and seeing their evolution from heartbreak to forgiveness. Sorrow and disappointment can easily crush a spirit but not for these two. Both have suffered for their mistakes and despite all that has happened, they still love one another. I grew to like Malcolm despite everything, though I admit hearing from his point of view certainly helped. Once you learn his backstory, you understand where he was coming from and it goes far into explaining why he acted like he did. It doesn’t excuse his actions and neither does he but is does smooth your anger towards him a little. He admits to his crimes and has paid for them every single day he was unable to find her. He now knows why she did what she did and understands it was not for his title or his money but out of love and fear.
“Regret and shame flared. How many times had he felt them? How many times had they consumed him in the darkness as he searched for her? But they had never felt like this. Without her, they’d been a vague, rolling emotion, present, but never truly there. And now, faced with her, with her tacit acceptance of their past, of his actions, of his mistakes, they were a wicked, angry blow.”
Seraphina suffered for her love and Malcolm’s actions eventually broke her. Disappearing to America and becoming the “Sparrow” helped her to heal her spirit, heart, and self-confidence. I loved how Sera took charge of her own happiness. The Sera that left England three years ago is no longer the insecure woman who crumbled under the censure of the Ton and her husband’s anger and infidelity. She is now a strong, independent, and secure woman who knows her self-worth and will never let anyone, man or woman, treat her as anything less than the queen she is.
“The whole world thinks you ruined me before you married me, when the truth is that I was not ruined until after the fact. You ruined my hopes. My dreams. My future. You ruined my life. And I’ve had enough of that. I am here for one reason only, Your Grace. I want my life back. The one you stole.”
The tension between this couple was tangible and witnessing the dam of politeness finally break and all their bottled up emotions finally come pouring out was both exhilarating and frustrating. Both are lively individuals with a quick wit and strong convictions who are well matched despite everything that has happened. Sera is magnificent and defiant in her stubbornness and it takes quite a while for her to even admit she even likes Malcolm. I did wish Malcolm had been more verbally honest to Sera a lot earlier in the book. Communication was not their forte. One aspect I admired was that legally Malcolm could have forced Sera back to his side but choose not to. He swallows his pride and did what he should have done from the beginning. He woos her. He courts her. He gets to know the new Sera and he realizes what a beautiful, exciting, and intelligent wife he has. And what an utter arse he had been.
“I love you,” he whispered like a prayer. A kiss. “I need you.” Another. “Stay.”
A house full of hopeful mamas and daughters, along with Sera’s sisters, a few familiar faces from the previous series, and a new face only adds to the mayhem, anticipation, and humor of the situation. I adore the Talbot sisters. Such gregarious, melodramatic, and vivacious women who march to their own beat. Their motto is since they have already been convicted, why not go ahead and commit the crime? The relationship between the Talbot sisters is amusing and enviable. They always have each other’s backs no matter what but they will also tell each other like it is. And they invoke that privilege often especially when Sera chooses to hide rather than face her feelings.
The ending is the ultimate HEA romance readers adore and was exactly what I felt needed to happen. Sera needed to know Malcom would have married her regardless and Malcom needed to prove that to her. MacLean gives our couple the life they have more than earned and leaves us an epilogue that solidifies it though I wish Maclean would have kept the status quo and still given us a happy marriage. We are given clues to the next Talbot sister to fall in love and we are introduced to the heroes of MacLean’s next upcoming series.
The Day in the Duchess is a delicious second chance romance that pushes a couple through an emotional gauntlet and allows them to emerge triumphant.
Favorite Quote: “When you live thousand of years, people who annoy you tend to die off.”
Reviewed by Tori
Red Wolf is the tenth book in Jennifer Ashley’s Shifter’s Unbound series. This paranormal romance series continues to deliver with strong characters, cutting humor, intricate plots lines, sexy romances, and engaging narrative. Ashley’s clear and concise voice allows for easy comprehension even as the world continues to evolve and grow. These can be read as standalones though I don’t recommend. You’ll lose out on character and world comprehension along with the arc development by not starting from the beginning of the series-Pride Mates. Various plotlines further add to the developing arc as Ashley begins to set the stage for the end.
Fans will remember Dimitri and Jaycee from White Tiger. Trackers and friends with Kendrick; an alpha white tiger and a Guardian. Jaycee crushed on Kendrick until she realized it was an attraction built out of respect and safety, not true love. Towards the end of White Tiger, Dimitri and Jaycee celebrate the rescue of their alpha and his mate claiming with some nookie of their own. :) Dimitri decides to embrace the mate bond though Jaycee doesn’t. She’s not sure she’s ready to mate with anyone, much less her best friend. When Dimitri is drugged at an underground fight club, Dylan and Kendrick approach and ask them to investigate rumors of shifters allying themselves with the fae. Dimitri and Jaycee head to New Orleans and work to integrate themselves into a secretive shifter cult while trying to survive a sentient antebellum home (Wild Things) who likes them. A lot.
Red Wolf picks up a plot thread that began in White Tiger and narrows its focus while strengthening it into the new main story arc. A steady pace pushes the story right along with Ashley splitting her attention between the romance and the conflict. It does start out slow, the emphasis heavy on the romance with bits and pieces of the conflict coming into play. It’s not until the halfway point do we see any real action and the conflict gains the upper hand. We finally learn what Dylan Morrissey’s been up to and how it plays into the next shifter/fae war that is coming. This entire series is built on shifters and the prejudices and bigotry they face from the humans since winning their freedom from their makers; the fae. However, the fae want their battle beasts back and our Using the shifters themselves, the fae are secretly luring them back to Tuil Narath through any means necessary.
While I liked the main conflict and the direction Ashley is taking, I did find the romance lacking. Dimitri and Jaycee just didn’t capture my interest. I found their characterization weak and predictable. Their evolution from friends to lovers is off scene so we don’t get to see the romance develop and that contributed heavily to my apathy towards them. While their chemistry was hot and I liked how easily they worked together not only as lovers but as friends, I found Jaycee’s excuses for not accepting the mate bond weak. It felt like a plot device to amp up the anticipation and sexual tension.
Ashley uses Dimitri and Jaycee’s adventure to introduce new allies and enemies; divulging deeper into the background of the fae and adding another layer to its already convoluted world. Lady Ashling looks to be quite the game changer and I can’t wait to see where Ashley chooses to use her…and in what fashion. I am still #teamBen and I think he deserves a mate or at least a friends with bennies. :) Angus Murray is quite the dark horse and luckily, his story is next.
The ending resolves the main conflict in a climactic fashion while leaving readers with plenty of questions and more than ready for book eleven, Midnight Wolf, tentative release date October 2018. Though this wasn’t my favorite of the series, it was still an engaging read and perfect for paranormal romance fans who enjoy earthy heroes and heroines who love, laugh, and fight with joyful abandonment.
Favorite Quote: “People like you give people like me a soft place to fall. Otherwise we’d just be cold and hard. That’s how I was before I met you.”
Andrea (Andie) Anderson is a widow whose job teaching adults trying to re-enter the world of education and taking care of her cousin is her whole world after her husband passed away. Love is not something she aspires to until a dangerous and sexy ex-convict enters her classroom and makes her feel emotions she long thought dead.
Stuart (Stu) Cross just got out of prison after a two year stint for robbery. His appearance in Andie’s class is anything but a coincidence. His new teacher has something he needs to repay a debt or his family will pay the ultimate price. But Stu never predicted he would fall for his mark and unless he proceeds with caution, he will lose everything.
Once again, Cosway tossed down the gauntlet to show us there is much more to a previously introduced character then what we originally thought. She shows us the hidden side of a stereotypical screw up who’s immaturity and assumed lack of intelligence disguises a brilliant, compassionate, heartfelt warrior whose player days fall to the wayside when they meet the ‘one.’ Using this character as a base, she writes a story brimming with humor, intrigue, fantastic chemistry, and some emotional bittersweet moments to create a solid storyline that firmly engages your heart as you watch an impossibly matched couple fight for what they want against some incredible odds.
Thief of Hearts is the fifth installment in L. H. Cosway’s Hearts series and revolves around the eldest Cross brother, Stu. To briefly recap, at the end of Hearts of Blue, Stu took the fall for the family’s illegal car theft ring, making a deal that effectively frees his family from a crime boss’s clutches. Now two years later, Stu is out of prison but still not free. Deals he made to stay alive while in there leave him stuck between a rock and a hard place. His family is worried about him, especially when they see him trying to strike up a romance with his teacher. Something that could get them both in trouble.
“… if you go around living your life indifferent to new experiences, you’re going to have a grey life. Wouldn’t you prefer it to have a rainbow?”
Told from Andrea’s point of view, we see Stu through her eyes and it’s an interesting view as she fluctuates between excitement and dread. He pushes all her boundaries, challenging everything that defines her. A widow with a normal, uneventful childhood and life, Stu is like an exotic untamed animal she wants to touch but knows will eventually turn on her. I like Andrea though she didn’t exhibit the same dynamic as some of the other heroines. She’s pretty solid and I felt that aspect of her personality is what Stu needed. They “see” each other for who they really are beneath the surface and understand what made the fuel behind what fires them. She grounds him while he teaches her how to fly.
“You’re beautiful. So beautiful. I see you.”
We already know Stu’s story from the previous book. Abandoned by their parents, Stu and his brothers took to a life of crime to support themselves. Lee, his younger brother, shouldered a majority of the weight and Stu allowed that. By taking the blame for car ring, Stu was able to pay his brother back for all he had done and assuage himself of that guilt. Similar to Lee, Stu is also an attractive bad boy whose charm and innate sexuality flows like water. Not as playful as his brothers, its his intensity that is the attraction. Never one to turn down a challenge, he pursues what he wants with a single mindedness. Only this time he has an ulterior motive which soon leads to confusion because his feelings become real.
“Even when you’ve given up on yourself, I won’t give up on you.”
The delicious push and pull of the slow burning forbidden romance is punctuated by the sexual tension and some cheesy but fun innuendos. The humor and the inclusion of a well developed cast of secondary characters helps to elevate the story from a simple opposites attract to a complicated journey of growth, redemption, and learning to let go. Cosway doesn’t make it easy for this couple. She takes her time making her way to the conflict in the first half of the book, artfully building the romance while giving us clues that Stu is far more complicated than we first suspected and there is more to the story at hand. Machiavellian twists and turns keep readers on their toes as Cosway adds new information to change the direction of story at any given time.
I definitely enjoyed seeing the Cross family again along with various other familiar faces from the series. Some new characters are introduced, my favorite being Andie’s cousin, Alfie and his bff, James. Alfie becomes an integral part of the story and I loved how he bravely pushes aside his own issues in order to help Andie. They are all a dysfunctional lot whose actions and advice can’t mask the obvious love they have for one another. Conway paves the way for the next hero-Trevor-and his own romantic journey that looks to be an interesting one.
“Smooches? Who are you? Paris Hilton?” “I’m my own special flavour of exceptional.”
The ending is an exciting dramatic undertaking of ingenuity and duplicity. The epilogue Cosway chooses to wrap everything up leaves your heart swooning and your fist pumping for not one but two couples who take a chance on love and win.
Favorite Quote: “We’re going in hot…because I am pissed.”
Lt Eve Dallas is used to murder in the city she calls home but when she is called to the scene of a triple homicide in Central Park, she discovers a crime unlike anything she’s seen before. Three assignations from miles away. So precise and clean, it could only be committed by a professional-military and/or police trained. As the city goes on full alert, Eve calls in some favors only her husband Roarke can provide. Sorting through the mountains of clues, Eve is shocked to discover this isn’t one killer, but two. A mentor and a trainee. And Central Park is only the beginning.
Eve Dallas is back and facing one of her greatest challenge to date in the forty-third installment in J.D. Robb’s long-running futuristic mystery/thriller In Death series. Apprentice in Death opens the door to more action, mystery, and excitement as Eve and the NYSPD find themselves racing against time to stop a pair of deadly snipers whose still unknown agenda spells death for New York and its citizens. Eve finds herself thinking of her own childhood as she dives deep into the human psyche, struggling to understand and the dynamics of this team of assassins and the personal ties that bind them together. What exactly makes a killer? Genetics? Training? Tragedy? Or are some people just born evil? Eve most answer these questions and more as she hunts these killers down.
Even forty three books in, Robb continues to combine solid writing, intriguing subplots, and dynamic characterization to keep her world evolving but familiar and comforting. Strong police procedurals keeps readers firmly engaged while subtle bits humor and lighter moments helps to offset some of the darker moments of the storyline. Readers will soak up the moments of Eve’s personal life that Robb intertwines with her professional one. Humor and some lighthearted moments walk hand in hand with the more emotional scenes, giving readers the time to come to terms with the darker aspects of the story.
This installment reminded me a little of Devoted in Death as the staging and storyline reveal is similar. Here we are also made privy to the villains in the beginning though not their identity. Robb flashes between the police and the killers, allowing us to view Mackie and Willow as they set up for their next hit while Eve uses all her wits and talents to piece together the clues and evidence to form a picture that shocks even this hardened cop. Eve and her crack team of investigators learn they will have to look in their own house for answers and the emotional depth darkens as we learn that there is a personal connection not only between the killers but also between them and the police dept. One of the killers is one of theirs and that makes this a whole new ballgame.
Robb begins to cross the two storylines and merge them together towards a climactic finale. Though not as physically violent as some of Eve’s previous cases, there is a heightened sense of anticipation and fear due to the unpredictability of the suspects. Eve and her team must work fast in order to try and predict where they will strike next. As per Robb’s style, a majority of the book focuses on the investigation of the case with well laid immersions of Eve’s personal life into the storyline. Eve and Roarke’s continued evolution as a married couple is seen through small but poignant gestures that assure us they continue to grow as a couple. Interior decorating never seemed so important until you look at the new memories being built upon the ashes of the old.The chemistry between her and Roarke is still steamy hot and Robb doesn’t cheat readers out of their private times together. And it seems Roarke may have a bit of a fetish *fans myself*
Old familiar faces mesh perfectly with some new introductions, adding to the increasing cast of characters infiltrating Eve’s world. The family style atmosphere only serves to further enhance how much Eve has grown in the past two years. I love the strong contrast Robb uses between Eve the cop and Eve the person. Both she and Roarke’s childhood left dark marks on them but we see them learning to open up (especially Eve) together and accept they are worthy of the love and respect that they receive from friends.
Apprentice in Death is another intriguing addition to this series, giving readers an emotionally complex mystery to solve while enjoying the timeless couple whose love affair continues to capture our attention even forty three books later. Per usual, I love revisiting Robb’s version of the future and look forward to the next installment-Echoes In Death-set to release February 7, 2017.
Favorite Quote: “Do you think an extraordinary woman ought to be treated differently, my dear?” […] “The extraordinary will always be treated differently—they’re extraordinary, after all. What I wonder is whether a not-so-extraordinary woman will ever be treated the same as a not-so-extraordinary man.”
Reviewed by Tori Grade: B
What if the story behind Sherlock Holmes was not as the world has been led to believe? What if Sherlock Holmes was not an eccentric man but an eccentric woman? A woman who in the eyes of society committed a horrific sin and finds herself ostracized and forced to seek employment? A woman whose intelligence is in direct odds with her kewpie doll appearance? A woman whose only hope of survival is a man she cannot have, a secret widow, and a sister who may have committed murder? Would we still be as interested?
I say yes.
Set in the Victorian Era, Thomas opens the story in the future with two separate scenes. One introduces us to the 1st victim; Mr. Sackville, and the other the protagonist, Charlotte Holmes. We learn exactly what happens to Charlotte and from there Thomas takes us back the beginning to explain to us how Charlotte came to that point in her life and becomes involved in Mr. Sackville’s death and the two that follow.
“I thought of calling myself Charlie Holmes would be too obvious. Sherlock is similar enough to Charlotte without being its exact masculine equivalent.”
The youngest of four children in an affluent abet miserable family, Charlotte’s oddities-the ability to read people and situations with uncanny and often embarrassing honestly- come to light early on in her childhood. She learns to hide her eccentricity to a certain degree as she grows older in order to fit into better with society. When she decides she doesn’t want to marry, she strikes a deal with her father. If she, by age 25, still doesn’t want to get married, he will pay for her education in order for her to pursue a career befitting a single woman. Her sister, Olivia (Livia), warns her that their father is not to be trusted. That he will not honor his word to her.
“Remember Charlotte, Papa doesn’t like women. He’d feel a lot more hesitation breaking his word to a man-but you aren’t a man.“
When Livia’s prophetic words come true, Charlotte takes matters into her own hands without considering the ramifications of her decision. Her punishment is to be thrust out into a world that despises her for her gender and soon discovers first hand the double standards that have haunted the female sex since the beginning of time.
“It is the same old story. But when it happened to me, I thought he was special and I was special. And it turned out neither of us was special at all.”
Charlotte eventually lands on her feet with some help from a powerful childhood friend whose strong affections hint at the possibility of something more in the future but for now offers Charlotte a safety net. The impeccable Mrs. Watson makes our acquaintance and a partnership is born.
A Study in Scarlet is the first in a historical mystery series by Sherry Thomas that takes a famous fictional character and offers up a new perspective on an old favorite. I can’t say I’m a die hard fan of Sherlock Holmes but I have enjoyed reading them on occasion. I admit to being intrigued when I first read Thomas was going to gender swap this character and offer readers a new backstory and protagonist. This auspicious undertaking offers two very different but equally compelling storylines that run simultaneously, remaining curiously separate until the very end. Dynamic characters fill the story to almost overflowing, each one a strong personality that commands the scenes in which they participate in. The formal dialogue and narrative is well written and keeps the reader firmly engaged in the time period though it doesn’t flow as easily as I would have liked. At times I felt as though I was being buried in exposition. The story is slow to start in the beginning as Thomas sets the stage. It’s around the quarter mark that we begin to see the storyline settle itself and pick up the pace.
Charlotte is an interesting protagonist I am looking forward to watching grow and evolve. She reminded me a lot of Kathy Reich’s Temperance Brennan. Thomas does a fantastic job of showcasing the perils Charlotte faces as a woman on top of the tense mystery that she is compelled to help solve. A contradiction in looks and temperament; her appearance effectively hides her brilliant, analytical mind. Her cold logic is at direct odds with the warm and at times humorous relationship she shares with her sister, Watson, and Lord Ingram. A romance with food only furthers her appeal. What struck me most about Charlotte was the innocence Thomas manages to imbue her with. She is an honorable, straightforward person and the slight nuances of humanity we all prescribe to often escape her. She expects those she deals with to be an honorable as herself and every time she was shown the opposite, a hard lesson is learned. That’s not to say she isn’t knowledgeable to her personality and its supposed flaws. She knows what she is and accepts it… most of the time.
“He made her human-or as human as she was capable of being. And being human was possibly her least favorite aspect of life.”
Charlotte’s sister Livia is a delight and I thoroughly enjoyed the dramatic way she approached all aspects of her life. Lord Ingram is a dark horse, a curious mixture of autocratic reserve and modern sensibilities whose interest in Charlotte is both comforting and heartbreaking. Of course, what would Holmes be without Watson. Thomas creates the perfect foil for Holmes in Watson. An older woman who also suffers the stigma of society’s disapproval, she gives Charlotte the support she needs to persevere.
I thoroughly enjoyed the mystery. Thomas keeps readers in the dark as she leads us down a twisted path of lies and revenge that dates back years and handles the players involved with a deft hand. I admit I was completely shocked once we learned the main reasons for the deaths.
There were some issues I had with the book overall. An overwhelming amount of points of view saturate the story in the beginning and causes some confusion as we jump from character to character with no visual clues to warn us. I had hoped Charlotte would be more physically present in the investigation though understandably she is not able to be due to her gender. As it was, she gives direction and the police do the footwork. There was also the side story involving Lord Ingram. I really wish we had gotten to see the scenes of importance concerning him and Charlotte as they happened rather than hearing them mentioned offhand in memory.
A Study in Scarlet Women was a most enjoyable read that held my attention even with the issues I have listed above. I find myself more than ever eager to see what manner of business Charlotte Holmes engages in the future; especially now that the main introductions and world set up have been taken care of.
This is a spin off of the main series-Colton and Rylee are older and parents to grown men. I ended up DNFing this one because the hero’s characterization and backstory reminded me so much of his father’s. Zander is Colton 2.0. While I enjoyed Colton and Rylee’s story up to a point, I didn’t want to read it again.
Gin Blanco-assassin extraordinaire and the reluctant queen of Ashland’s criminal underworld- is back and facing her greatest adversary to date. Still looking for the head of the Circle, Gin finds herself with more questions than answers as she continues to gather intel on the group and more memories come to the surface. When a friend asks Gin to look into her sister’s disappearance, she discovers a connection between the group and the missing girl. A connection that slowly snares Gin deeper and deeper into the web of a serial killer.
Snared is an apt title for the Spider’s latest adventure. Estep chooses to give readers not one but two mysteries as Gin not only continues to investigate the mysterious Circle and her connection to it but also finds herself hunting a serial killer. Gin is snared by her various investigations. Action packed scenes intertwine with an intriguing mystery filled with suspense. Witty dialogue and a sexy date night help to balance the more serious scenes. The character driven plot lines continue to maintain a strong emotional tone opposed to earlier installments.
“I’m not going to stop. I will never stop until I find out who every single member of your cursed Circle is.”
Jade Jamison, a minor underworld crime figure, comes to Gin asking for her help. Her little sister is missing and Jade is sure something bad has happened to her. Gin is currently stalking Damian Rivera, a member of the infamous Circle whose drinking habit makes him a prime candidate for interrogation in Gin’s eyes, but she takes some time off from her vendetta to help a friend.
“All you had to do was ask.”
As Gin and her friends dig deeper into the girl’s disappearance, they learn she isn’t the first to disappear in Ashland. There are quite a few missing woman over a two-year period who all bear striking resemblance to Jade’s sister. The police have nicknamed him the Dollmaker but refuse to launch an official investigation. Gin soon learns of the Circle’s influence there.
“You’re saying that there’s a serial killer in Ashland.”
I’m a die hard fan of Jennifer Estep and her writing. Her piece de resistance is her strong heroines whose ability to accept their flaws and learn from them is a highlight of all her stories. Gin Blanco has to be one of her strongest yet most vulnerable of Estep’s heroines to date. Raised by a foster dad/mentor after her family was brutally murdered, Gin has struggled the whole series between what she is and what she feels her friends and family need her to be. Luckily, she has found balance and finally seems to have made peace with herself.
The last couple of books has been focused on Gin, the Circle, and her family’s ties to the infamous crime syndicate. Gin is beginning to remember more about her mother and the events leading up to her death. Her mentor, Fletcher, left her a series of clues dealing with the Circle upon his death but it’s up to Gin to figure out what they mean and where they will take her. I am enjoying the anticipation that Estep is building in this arc and the sense that something huge is coming that will affect Gin both personally and professionally.
“I don’t think either one of us is going to like what we find.”
While this series is a comfortable read that always entertains, I’m beginning to see some issues forming. I am disappointed to see the character (main and secondary) evolution has gone dormant with this new story arc. We don’t see much individualism in the group anymore. This also is affecting the romance. While it still maintains a solid presence, Owen seems to have become more as prop than anything else these days. He’s become Gin’s sidekick along with everyone else. I was also put out with how heavily the foreshadowing is in the beginning and the way Gin’s memories are being used to advance the arc. It all feels a little too convenient and filler-like. Estep doesn’t leave much to chance. Luckily the story is well plotted and the investigation reveals in an interesting and manner that held my attention. Some new faces are introduced and they may be what breathes some new life into the series.
While this series continues to entertain and remains one of my go-to reads in Urban Fantasy for its strong female protagonist I do feel it is falling into a rut of sorts. I look forward to book 17 and seeing if Estep can bring back the edginess and spontaneity that seems to be missing.
Favorite Quote: “I think I preferred it when you were in love with me.” “Sorry. My meds finally kicked in.”
Piper Dove is giving her all to make her family’s business, Dove Investigations, the best agency in the Chicago. Her first job? To shadow retired Chicago Stars quarterback, Cooper Graham. Unfortunately, Cooper has made her despite her numerous disguises and now he wants to know who hired her or he’s siccing his lawyers on her.
Cooper Graham is at the height of his success. Smart enough to retire from the Chicago Stars before he suffered any real damage, he now owns and operates one of the hottest nightclubs in Chicago. Currently looking for an investor to help take him take his clubs nationwide, the last thing he needs is any trouble in the form of a pint-sized crazy person.
Piper refuses to name her client but offers some insight into some of his employees, convincing Cooper he can trust her and he makes her an offer she can’t refuse. A job to help him clean up his nightclub. From social media guru to bodyguard to savior of servants, Piper is a one woman show, much to Cooper’s dismay.
When real trouble begins to stalk Cooper, Piper’s determination to save Cooper becomes a problem…because who is going to save Piper’s heart from Cooper?
First Star I See Tonight is the eighth installment in Phillip’s best selling Chicago Stars series. This standalone brims with laughter, insanity, and an enchanting antagonistic romance. Phillips captures the very essence of two people whose extreme competitiveness causes some very interesting dilemmas. Add in a plethora of dynamic individualized characters and a couple of subplots that weave in and out like a seasoned Nascar driver, you have a story that shines. While I haven’t been particularly fond of her last few books, Phillips has definitely rediscovered her groove and the spark that has always made her stories so much damn fun to read.
“I’m not full-out barmy, you understand. Just…mildly unhinged.”
Well written with an abundance of personality and charm; you are immediately drawn into the story. The strategic plotlines and flawed characters effortlessly entertains and delights. A firm conversational style dialogue keeps the book flowing smoothly (and you laughing) as Piper and Cooper bicker, fuss, and fight their way to true love.
“I doubt you’re ever in the mood to listen.”
“What do you mean by that?”
Her frustration got the best of her. “You’re so used to feeling superior that you’ve forgotten that there are people who might know something you don’t.”
One of his big, competent hands landed on the blade of his hip. “What’s you deal anyway? Do you feel like such a failure you need to attack anyone who’s successful?”
“No. Maybe. I don’t know. Fuck you.”
Piper Dove has to be one of Phillip’s most spirited and entertaining heroines to date. Defiant with her chaotic lifestyle and ability to take life by the horns, I was pleased to see the quintessential humiliation theme that is often a mainstay in Phillip’s stories was not in evidence. Raised by her father after her mother was the victim of a deadly crime, Piper was forced to adopt the dual role of son and daughter. He raised her to be strong, stoic, and deadly while having to take over the cooking, cleaning and other feminine roles of the household. He made her a part of Dove Investigations but refused to allow her to take a more active role in the investigations. In his effort to protect her, he completely smothered her. When he passed away, he left the family business to Piper’s step mother, forcing Piper to drain her life savings to purchase the business back. Now the owner, Piper is struggling to bring it back to it’s former glory after her step mother ran it to the ground.
Snarky, intelligent, and more than able to handle herself be it with a gun, self defense skills, or her mouth, Piper had me laughing from page one. A born protector, Piper will always jump head first into the fray for whoever she feels needs her help. And she is convinced Cooper needs her help.
“You’re walking a fine line here.”
“I want build a business based on people having a good time, not killing themselves.”
“Every thought about miniature golf?”
Cooper Graham is equally amusing with his larger than life celebrity personae that contrasts perfectly with his down home, sweetly gruff personality. An alpha hero with a strong sense of self and integrity, he matches Piper in snark, wit, and protectiveness. A thin vein of vulnerability and his need to remain connected to his family roots through terrace gardening gives him a realistic vibe as he keeps his feet firmly planted on terra firma.
"He’d always like growing things […] Out her, he’d been able to forget the adrenaline rush of being in control of the whole savage ballet that made up an NFL game."
The chemistry between Piper and Cooper begins as a small flame that slowly grows into a blazing inferno. Their foreplay consists of comedic antagonism and witty repartee. Emotionally, this couple needs the slow build that Phillips provides. Piper’s childhood left her emotionally stunted and constantly feeling the need to prove herself. She doesn’t trust the concept of love. Cooper’s fame is the barometer in his relationships. He is never really sure if he or his stardom is what attracts women to him. And most of the time, it’s proven it’s his fame. He wants Piper but knows he will have to tread very carefully if he wants to keep her.
“I don’t want to talk to him!”
“I understand. But this is a negotiation.”
“I hope you choke on your blood vegetables!”
The romance blends well with the main conflict. A myriad of seemingly random subplots contribute the rising strength of the conflict as Phillip’s uses Piper’s and Cooper’s sense of competitiveness to for the rights of a foreign servant, help a young girl gain some street cred, and discover who is trying to destroy Cooper and his nightclub. As Piper gets closer to the truth and the end of her time with Cooper, she is forced to look deep inside herself and examine the reasons for her impulsive actions and inability to trust Cooper.
The only issues I had with this story was the very end. The main hurdle in Piper’s and Cooper’s romantic journey was rather disjointed and not as cohesive as the rest of the story. Interacting with a few familiar faces from previous books helps to draw it all together but I found the path Phillip’s uses to confront and relieve Piper of her romantic misgivings odd even for this couple.
Regardless, First Star I See Tonight is the classic SEP I fell in love with and fans will delight in this amusing romance between two solitary people who find one another other and make their greatest wish come true.
Favorite Quote: “I wasn’t broken till you broke me.”
Kevan Landry never thought the sexiest more intense one night stand of her life would turn into a nightmare that could ruin her and her fledgling PR company…but it did. Now Kevan will have to put her libido on the shelf and pull up her big girl panties if she wants to save her company.
Mason Dillon, CEO of one of the most successful music PR firms, saw the smoking hot pin-up, tattooed beauty and knew she would be his for the night. Mason never expected to see her again at the office of one of Portland’s hottest up and coming bands. Nor did he expect to have to compete against her for their business.
The sparks and accusations fly when these two go head to head to sign Manix Curse. Of course, only one of them can win. But unless these two can reach a compromise, both of them will lose what matters most.
Kasey Lane’s debut romance, Beautiful Crazy, is the first in a romance contemporary series with just the right balance of humor, emotional trials, and smoking hot sex. Though not an erotic romance, there are some hot racy scenes in here that will set your kindle on fire. A unique emotionally fueled opposites attract romance, the humor and antagonism adds to the overall anticipation as you watch this couple of fussed, fight, and CENSORED their way to their happily ever after. Opposites attract is one of my favorite tropes. Add in some antagonism and amusing snark and I’m clapping my hands in glee.
It’s interesting to watch the author try to convince me these two people who seem completely wrong for one another are actually perfect together. Lane does a fabulous job of setting up the protagonists, developing their personalities and their back stories; taking a considerable amount of time letting us get to know them and see their differences. As the story progresses, Lane gently begins to cut through the external artifice and we start to see what she sees-that our protagonists are indeed perfect for one another.
“She’d proven she had the brains to back up the bod. In one word, she was a challenge.”
These intriguingly flawed characters carry a vein of realism. Kevan and Mason aren’t perfect and have the scars to prove it. Both carry baggage that affects how they react in the here and now. Strongly character drive, I really connected with Kevan. Often judged negatively on her lively personality and flamboyant style; Kevan struggles to make people see her and take her seriously. Strong, Intelligent, hardworking, and unapologetic…she gives her all in everything she does. From her start-up business to her brother’s drug problems, we watch as she hustles the best she can, stumbling over road blocks only to bounce back up and try again. She is an appealing underdog with a heart of gold that readers will cheer for. Not to say she’s a pushover because she’s not. She gives as good as she gets and often takes no prisoners.
Mason is sexy alpha who has made his mark on the world. Born to a prominent family and current CEO of a powerful music PR company, he finds himself at a loss when an ultimatum is placed on him to bring in more business or else. His life has been relatively easy compared to Kevan’s but he does have issues that continually drive him. Mason took a little while to connect with as he gives off a “do not touch” vibe that is felt instantly. He comes off predictable in the beginning with his posturing, strong sexual innuendos, and penchant for deflection. Lane slowly peels back his protective shell to show us the vulnerability and insecurity that he carries inside of him. He feels pulled in multiple directions and no matter how hard he tries, he knows he will be disappointing someone.
“He had a company to save and a woman to seduce. And less than two weeks to get both done.”
It’s always enlightening to read a story from two different sides and Lane indulges us by giving dual narratives. She keeps Kevan and Mason honest in their feelings and while some of things they say or think hurts, it helps to create a more realistic story. Written in a fast flowing conversational style, the witty dialogue, and well-developed scenes will keep you riveted as you watch this couple not only deal with their intense attraction but also their distrust. Kevan maintains a hands off approach to Mason; very aware of what an affair with him could do to her both professionally and emotionally.
The intense sexual chemistry between them ignites with their first night together and only burns hotter and brighter the longer they resist. The sexual tension is like barbed wire. Poking and scraping at them with each new encounter. When they finally do give in again…BOOM! The antagonism makes their times together even more enjoyable. I do enjoy banter in the bedroom and these two don’t disappoint. Kevan challenges Mason while he makes her feel safe and cherished. Something she hasn’t felt in a very long time.
“I’ve got you darlin’. Don’t worry. I won’t left you fall.”
A personable set of secondary characters gives readers hints to who may be showcased in the next installment while using them to help Kevan and Mason figure out what they want. I enjoyed meeting the band and gleaning intriguing clues to their backgrounds. Kevan’s brother isn’t seen much but his story maintains an important place in the story. A few subplots intertwine, adding some drama to the story to force Kevan and Mason out of their corners and demand they finally face their fears head on.
Beautiful Crazy certainly lives up to its name with its sexy romance between a deliciously well-developed couple whose tremendous and difficult growth was quite the journey to watch unfold. Lane has definitely written a winner and is a new author worth keeping an eye on.
Just Friends is D.R.A.M.A. 24 hours a day, seven days a week with an extra side of drama bursting with angst and ridiculousness. Three best friends (Dustin, Olivia, and Emily) begin to drift apart their senior year after two of them hook up over the summer while one was away. Told from the viewpoint of Olivia, we learn she and Dustin have feelings for one another and have acted on them in the past. Olivia teeters between making it official or keeping it low key because he means more to her as a friend then as a boyfriend. When she learns about him and Emily, jealousy rears its ugly head and she turns around and hooks up with new guy Ryan who Em likes. But Olivia doesn’t trust Ryan; she thinks he playing her and she could be right. She still like Dustin but knows he’s a player and he’s already betrayed her once. From there Olivia finds herself in a messy love triangle (love square?) with new friends, new loves, new enemies, and her former bestie on the sidelines sabotaging her every move.
I’m a sucker for high school teen drama stories. The more emotionally and physically over the top, the more I enjoy them. 90210, My So Called Life, Dawson’s Creek; I watched them all and reviled in the drama, backstabbing, apathy, and most importantly, the social issues that were addressed and not always dealt with in a positive manner. When I discovered Monica Murphy was writing a YA I was interested. I’ve enjoyed her NA and adult romances and was curious to see if her magic would work on a younger age group.
Unfortunately the magic was not here for me.
I disliked the majority of people in here. No one, with the exception of Amanda, interested me. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing in itself. I have disliked entire casts of characters before in a book but thoroughly enjoyed the story itself because the characters and storyline were so intriguing and outrageously entertaining, I was able to push aside my antagonism and keep going. But in here, I could not connect to these kids at all and I found their stories more aggravating than entertaining. They are so entitled and narcissistic. Most teenagers are affected this but these kids take it to a whole new level. The ME generation at its finest with their cheating, drug and alcohol use, backstabbing, lying, and nonstop pity parties. I spent a majority of the book aggravated and frustrated by these kids.
Though Murphy’s solid writing and flowing narrative are present, the dramatic scenes overflow with drama, angst, and emotional overload, making promises that don’t pan out. The nonstop drama disguises the fact there is really nothing underneath the surface. The premise is as old as time and maybe would have worked if there had been some solid external conflicts to help anchor and deepen the main storyline, explaining the motivations behind some of the characters actions. But everything is from Olivia’s point of view so the depth isn’t there. The plot lines are thin with almost zero growth from the characters or the storyline. The only storyline that had potential was the secondary romance. The push and pull of their relationship and the tension that surrounded it was the most realistic storyline in the book. But then Murphy leaves us on a cliffhanger with the assumption that they will suffer in the fall out.
Just Friends just wasn’t for me. It failed to engage or entertain me and left me so very very glad my high school days are over.
Favorite Quote: “She needs me and I…I need to be needed.”
Erin Brewster has worked hard to come home to Hawthorne Hill to teach. Having spent her summers at “the Hill” with her grandfather, who was the headmaster, Erin got the security she didn’t with her gypsy like father. On her first day of teaching, she meets student Zachary Sheppard. An 18 year old senior with soul searching blue eyes and an inner strength that affects Erin on every level. But he’s her student and he must stay that way. Anything else would be highly inappropriate and career suicide.
Zachary is at Hawthorne Hall on a scholarship. His only goal is to graduate, go to college, and help get his little brother away from their dysfunctional home life. When he meets his new Calculus teacher, he is blown away by her beauty and the intense need he feels to take care of her. But she is his teacher and no matter how he feels, nothing can come of this. But that doesn’t stop him from looking…and fantasizing.
Three years pass and Zachary is back at Hawthorne Hill, having graduated college early and is now a teacher. He and Erin are free to pursue and act on the feelings that they were denied when he was the student and she was the teacher. But Zach has changed. He discovered a penchant for domination while away and now he wants to introduce Erin to his lifestyle. The student has become the teacher.
As Zach and Erin explore their passions for one another, the scrutiny over their relationship begins to pick apart their fragile bond. But sometimes the more you struggle, the stronger are the ties that bind.
I thoroughly enjoy Tamsen Parker’s erotic romances. Smartly written with well defined story lines, delicious romances, and dynamic characterization. Parker goes beyond the more popular definitions romance, pushing many boundaries as she divulges deep into its heart. I adore how Parker addresses the different needs that people have. Pounding it into readers heads that just because our wants and desires aren’t considered mainstream, there is no shame in them. She touches on subject matter and situations in a way that even in your most uncomfortable moments, you don’t feel as though she is attempting to manipulate or shock you.
School Ties, while built on taboo subject matter, isn’t really taboo at all. It’s a loosely defined relationship that plays on the forbidden feelings between a teacher and student. Nothing is acted upon physically until said student graduates, goes to college, and returns as a fellow employee. Told from dual points of view, Parker sets the scene and introduces us to the main players-Erin Brewster and Zachary Sheppard. She smoothly reveals their respective backgrounds against the present day in order to give us a deeper understanding of situations that are to come
Part one of the book take place during Erins first year of teaching and Zach’s senior year. It showcases Erin and Zach’s developing friendship amongst their growing attraction to one another. Parker does an excellent job of revealing the sexual tension and complicated dynamics involved while showing Erin’s emotional state as she catalogs her internal thoughts of disgust, shame, and fear. Erin in her longing for love and security chooses to pursue a relationship with another teacher to help offset her feelings for Zach, which only further destroys the already fragile state she resides in.
Zach has more trouble separating his emotions from the equation. He grows to care for her beyond the physical attraction and finds himself constantly crossing lines in order to “save her.” Lines Erin has to keep push him back from. I found Zach’s compassion and maturity very strong in someone so young. This is perhaps in direct relation to his dysfunctional home life and the fact that he has been dealing with adult situations from apparently a young age. Erin’s dating hurts Zach and forces him to realize that nothing can or will happen until he is older.
The second half of the book finds Zach back at Hawthorne Hall but as a math teacitiher instead of a student. We learn of Zach’s adventures in college and his introduction to BDSM. Erin’s time hasn’t been pleasant and she suffers a series of loses. Zach’s need to protect and care has increased ten fold, causing him to push Erin away for fear she will be repulsed by his dark desires. Zach and Erin slowly begin to re-establish their friendship, taking the time to get to know each other as equals. Parker stokes their chemistry, introducing the BDSM and allowing it to progress from there.
At this point I began to have issues with the story and the characters. The flow isn’t as smooth and some subplots litter the storyline with few having a legitimate reason to be included. Most are resolved off scene with the antagonist or conflict simply exiting the storyline.
Erin herself seems to regress. In part one she seemed stronger. Here in part two she is more emotionally unstable; sensitive to perceived slights and needier overall. Her fragility is more pronounced and Parker impresses that upon us with small reveals about her juvenile choices in food and dishes. And a habit of sucking her thumb.
Zach comes back to Hawthorne Hall darker and more mysterious. His personality change seems more in tune with someone who has suffered a great loss or had a bad experience. I was uncomfortable with how easily Zach takes to the role of not only her boyfriend and sexual dominant, but also her caretaker. He adapts the role of pseudo father figure and I couldn’t help but feel by the end that one wrong word or move on his part and she’d shatter into a million pieces. It was readily apparent that while Zach is physically younger, emotionally he is the adult in this relationship. I really wish at some point, someone would pushed Erin into therapy.
While I wasn’t bowled over by this story and definitely don’t feel it’s one of Parker’s best work to date, it‘s an easy, fast read with its heated BDSM power plays, lack of true drama, and almost fairy tale like romance.
I picked up The Mysterious Governess out of curiosity. Oakley is a new author for me and I do enjoy a well plumed historical romance suspense. My iDNF
I picked up The Mysterious Governess out of curiosity. Oakley is a new author for me and I do enjoy a well plumed historical romance suspense. My interest was instantly captured by our heroine-an illegitimate child of a viscount who suffered the shame of her birthright and now works as a governess. She essentially blackmails her employer’s son for a chance to attend a ball and see her half sister who parentage is secure. A carriage accident on the way back home sweeps her up into a world of intrigue, espionage, and love.
I had a hard time deciphering if this book was suppose to be serious or humorous. There is a soap opera feel to it with its multiple melodramatic story lines yet it’s syrupy dialogue and characterization stays on the straight and narrow. Though this is 3rd in a series, I don’t believe not reading the first two was the cause for my confusion. The romance is extremely slow in developing and maintains a low profile despite the obviously attraction held by the protagonists. Around 30/40% realized I hadn’t formed a connection to anyone and didn’t care who was doing whom or why....more
Fury on Fire is the third book in Sophie Jordan’s Devil’s rock series that revolves around a trio of incarcerated felons and the woman who free them from their demons.
North Callaghan and his brother Knox (All Chained Up) were sentenced to Devil’s Rock for manslaughter after they killed the man who sexually assaulted their cousin. Good men who had their whole lives ahead of them and lost it all with one bad impulsive decision. Each book works as a stand alone through they are loosely linked.
After years in prison for a crime he committed but certainly regretted, North Callaghan is finally free and he more than makes up for lost time by sampling every delectable treat that was forbidden to him on Devil’s Rock. Women, food, freedom…he gorges himself on it all as he strives to keep the demons that haunt him in check. He keeps his head down, working and living day to day, while avoiding family and friends. Sexy, broody, and emotionally dormant, North feels tremendous guilt for things he saw and did to survive in prison and he feels he doesn’t deserve any happiness because of that. When he gets a good look at his new neighbor, he’s more than willing to give her a one-time ride she’ll never forget but it doesn’t take long to see that this woman isn’t like the others. She has committment written all over her and he can’t afford to let down his guard for anyone.
Faith Walters is a social worker who strikes out on her own after spending years taking care of her brothers and father. Her first act of independence is purchasing half a duplex. Her attempts to befriend her next door neighbor are viciously rebuffed, leaving Faith feeling a bit disgruntled. Born into a family of warriors (her father and brother are in law enforcement and her other brother is special forces) she has been somewhat sheltered all her life and is unsure on how to react to such rude behavior. The stereotypical ‘good girl,’ she is intelligent, well bred, has a pleasant personality, predisposed to champion the underdog, and sexually inexperienced.
Faith and North butt heads from the very beginning. She bakes scones to introduce herself-he tosses them back on her front stoop uneaten. He parks in her driveway and she leaves him passive aggressive notes. She complains about his loud bed partners and he begins to playfully tease her with nude walks in his backyard. They go back and forth until a meeting face to face changes everything.
I wish I could say I enjoyed this story but I cannot. The story starts out strong and engaging but loses steam before the halfway mark. I was disappointed to see the elements of suspense and external conflict that energized the first two books isn’t evident in here. Neither is the individuality or sense of anticipation. The story and main characters are predictable and show little development or substance beyond their initial characterization.
Keeping her focus predominantly on the protagonists, Jordan merges their backstories with the present one, intent on building a bridge between these two different personalities. It works in the beginning but then quickly becomes trite and repetitive. Even the few minor conflicts tossed in for depth aren’t enough to save the story. The romance develops very slowly, starting out as a chemistry enhanced physical attraction only to become a tedious tug of war as North and Faith admit to their feelings only to make up excuses and run.
The ending was rushed and both characters acted out in a ridiculous manner that didn’t match up with their personalities. Faith behaves like a spoiled child and decides that if North won’t/can’t return her love then she not only has to sell her house and move but also go out on a blind date. North decides the best way to grovel is to steal the for sale signs and then power wash Faith’s windows during the date. It was all very…odd.
Though I enjoyed the first two books, I felt the story and protagonists in this installment were weak and poorly executed.
Favorite Quote: “You’re the light to my dark, without you I’m blind, but with you I see.”
Abigail O’Neal (Abby) has just moved to Jasper Falls from L.A. to take a position at the local high school. An intelligent abit awkward overachiever, Abby is looking to reinvent herself and finally have the friends and social life she’s always wanted. When her grandparent’s left her their house in their will, Abby realizes her chance has finally arrived and seizes it with both hands. When she lays eyes on the sexiest man she’s ever seen at the local diner her first day in town, Abby is both thrilled and scandalized by the weight of her attraction. Convinced she has no chance with someone like him, Abby is shocked when he rescues her from her roof and shows considerable interest in her.
Former rodeo star Coleman Garrison (Cole) has spent his life running from a tragic past. Convinced he brings nothing but pain and death to those he loves, he now spends his time holed up on his ranch, choosing his horses over people. Rough around the edges with a take charge attitude in all aspects of his life, Cole does it all but give away his heart. But when he first sees Abby, he knows she may be the one to change him forever. Determined to not taint her with his darkness, Cole tries to avoid her but when she enters into his territory with a thank you gift, all bets are off.
As the past struggles to repeat itself, Cole will have to overcome his guilt if he wants to ensure his and Abby’s future.
Freight Trained by Sarah Curtis is a stand alone romance contemporary with a low-key suspenseful subplot. I read her Alluring series last year and enjoyed it overall. Her romances are straightforward and steamy with some mild suspense. This one follows a similar path. Engaging dialogue and a steady pace that flows easily, Curtis builds a sweet and sexy romance between a rough alpha cowboy and a shy innocent schoolteacher. Though the overall storyline remains fairly predictable, the narrative and romance is entertaining and humorous, with a sensual overtone as Cole sets out to educate Abby to all the sexual delights he is determined to give her and proceeds to fall head over heels in love. Hence the term-freight trained.
“I don’t deserve you, but damn if I’m not going to keep you anyway.”
The book opens up to an intriguing scene of mystery. A woman is kidnapped and we see the scene evolve through her eyes. The reader know nothing of what is happening nor the characters involved but it sets the stage for what is to come. Curtis then flips to the present day and introduces us to our hero and heroine, Cole Garrison and Abby O’Neal.
Opposite attraction can be quite a mischievous and fun trope in romance, especially when one of the protagonists is initially reluctant and growly about it. Curtis does a wonderful job of showcasing the characters’ differences, giving them time to get to know one another while developing the romance. The slow build contrasts with the instantaneous chemistry that ignites between them at first sight. Curtis definitely doesn’t skimp on the foreplay, using it to highlight the sexual tension that permeates the story. Cole’s naturally sensual earthy nature and dirty mouth is certainly a plus as he maneuvers himself into his pretty school teacher’s bed and life. *wink*
“…And on the best note, she learned a new number, 69, the night before.”
I enjoyed getting to know Cole and Abby together and individually. Cole is an alpha male to the core but there is a humility to him that helps to soften his forceful personality. He knows his faults and acknowledges them. Abby is his direct opposite but she isn’t a pushover. A healthy sense of curiosity helps to shove aside her fear of the unknown, allowing her the courage to stand up for herself when the need arises and to voice her own desires. Cole doesn’t push Abby into her sexuality but rather coaxes it, giving her time to accept and welcome the changes in her life. Abby in return grows in both personality and spirit, coming to accept her awkwardness and moving beyond it. Some minor relationship conflicts appear but all are handled relatively quickly and with no extreme drama or drag time.
“Now, let me clear up any confusion. Last night you became mine. I claimed you in front of your girls. That kiss sealed the deal. So to answer your question, there is no you and me, we are now an us.”
The mystery remains in the background with Curtis giving us little clues and tidbits towards the villain. It integrates naturally into the storyline; not as the main focus but not as an afterthought either. I admit Curtis kept me wondering as she reveals multiple suspects, never revealing her hand till almost the end. There were a couple of scenes I wish had fleshed out better-we come in hard on them and then just as quickly we leave without any real understanding as to the dynamics or reasoning behind them.
A handful of secondary characters are used to prop up the protagonists, helping to give them a more solid definition and evolution from solitary individuals to a couple with full external lives beyond their relationship. I do wish Curtis would have explored the town a little more in depth but as this is a stand alone, that really isn’t an issue. However, she does give us the requisite small-town gossips and gregarious nosey residents.
A nicely plotted epilogue ends this story with the assures that Cole and Abby have indeed been ‘freight trained’ and have found their happily ever after in each other’s arms. If I had one qualm it was Cole calling Abby “little mouse.” It is derogatory, insulting, and annoying, though in romancelandia, I’ve heard way worse.
Gods, goddesses, pantheons, explosive magic, vengeful antagonists, and a world on the brink of destruction is just the beginning in Galenorn’s newest PNR series-Fury Unbound. This action-packed supernatural conflict is saturated with Galenorn’s trademark wicked humor, personable characters, and explicit attention to detail. Set in an alternative post-apocalyptic Seattle, the world has been changed drastically due to a temper tantrum thrown by the goddess, Gaia. One woman, Kaeleen Donovan aka Fury, a servant to Hecate, is charged with recovering an ancient artifact before it falls into the wrong hands. As with most fantasy-based stories, the world building, and character setup holds a large part of the storyline though I found the sheer amount of information pushed at us in the beginning daunting and somewhat confusing. The story soon settles and we are off as Galenorn takes readers on a wild untamed ride that will leave readers ready for the next installment. My only qualm, besides the information overload in the beginning, was the weak interaction with the main antagonist . I hope the following novels allows them more on-screen time. ...more
Wild Ride is the 4.5 installment in the Fernando’s Wind Dragon MC series and fans are pleased to see it is the elusive Talen’s story. Talen is the pC+
Wild Ride is the 4.5 installment in the Fernando’s Wind Dragon MC series and fans are pleased to see it is the elusive Talen’s story. Talen is the president of the Wild Men MC; a rival club of the Wind Dragons. Though the MCs don’t get along, his relationship to a Wind Dragon brother and another member’s girlfriend complicates the situation. Content to stay in the background, trying to keep his MC on the straight and narrow and improve his relationship with his half-brother and sister, Talon has no time for romantic entanglements. But love waits for no one. We first meet the heroine, Tia, in Rake’s Redemption. She is Bailey’s bff and the perfect comedic sidekick. Fernando digs deeper into Tia’s personality and background, showing us and Talon that she is more than able to hold her own against a commitment phobic biker. This fast and furious story is brimming with plenty of laughter, passion, and some suspense as Fernando takes readers on the wildest ride of their lives. The novella does end rather abruptly on a cliffhanger, leaving this reader feeling a bit unfulfilled....more
Mrs. Edwina Chelton was dismayed to learn her late husband left her and their young child with nothing upon his death. Having spent her marriage keeping the books for her husband’s company, it’s only when the company begins to show a healthy profit does he decide to hand everything over to his debt harassed brother who ends up running the company into the ground. Luckily for her, a dear friend is able to help her secure an interview to be a secretary for a Duke.
Michael Hadlow needs a secretary yesterday. Having spent his valuable time turning away fourteen applicants, he is at his wits end. Your typical aristocrat; he is high-handed, boorish, quick to cut, and suffers fools lightly. Honest to a fault, he expects the same from those around him and does not play the games polite society insists upon. When he meets Edwina, he sees a beautiful woman. When he talks to her, he sees an intelligent woman who intrigues him and hires her on the spot.
The fourth installment of Frampton’s smart and humorous standalone series-Dukes Behaving Badly- introduces us to Michael, the Duke of Hadlow, and Mrs. Edwina Chelton. Two very intelligent and somewhat unconventional people whose personalities and social class differences make for a light-hearted and whimsical boss/secretary romance. Frampton uses “reasons” for why Dukes fall in love as chapter titles that only adds to the light atmosphere of the story.
Edwina and Michael complement each other well. Edwina is not some virginal miss intent on finding herself a husband. Nor is she looking to gain herself another. As a widow, she has already sampled the marriage mart and quickly learned she can only depend on one person-herself. Intelligent and forthright, she uses her brains and skills to obtain a position not offered to women in this day and age in order to not only secure herself a future but one for her daughter. She is not afraid to say what is on her mind and holds her own against Michael’s more intense personality.
Michael is very linear in both his thinking and attitude. Born into a ducal family and always knowing his place in the world affords him a luxury and sense of superiority. He doesn’t seem to realize that not everyone thinks the same way he does so he views them as inferiors for not understanding what he wants. But Edwina understands him. She also gently nudges him towards thinking beyond himself and his needs.
The romance is comfortable, cute, and sexy as we watch Michael and Edwina’s affair smoothly unfolds. Sensual erotic scenes and some rather intriguing dirty talk keeps you firmly engaged. What I enjoyed most was the contrast between their dialogue and their internal thoughts. You watch them fall in love but it takes much longer for them to verbalize it. Especially Michael.
Various secondary characters flow in and out of this couple’s lives, used to further flesh out our protagonists, two important ones being Gertrude, Edwina’s daughter and Chester, Michael’s dog. Both are lively beings who are frankly used as plot devices but amusing enough for you easily forgive the author for using them in such a manner. I am very curious to know Edwina’s friend Carolyn’s story. Her warnings to Edwina against men in general leaves you to wonder who hurt her so badly. I do wish the conflict regarding Edwina’s brother in law had been drawn out more. It all felt rather rushed in its resolution.
Why Do Dukes Fall In Love is lightweight romance that doesn’t divulge too deeply beyond the basic parameters of the trope used. Michael and Edwina aren’t particularly profound or demanding emotionally and their romance isn’t a love story for the ages. It’s a simple and fun feel good story; perfect for a few hours of relaxing escapism.
Favorite Quote: “We are the children of the gods.”
Welcome to the town of Whisper Hollow. If you’re here, then you were meant to be. My name is Kerris Fellwater. I left Whisper Hollows fifteen years ago but was called back when my grandmother, the town’s spirit shaman passed away. I’m the new spirit shaman and it’s my job to guide the dead to their graves and keep them there.
When my best friend Peggin finds herself cursed, I and the town matriarchs work hard to break the curse while trying to uncover a mystery from the turn of the century. A mystery that our enemies, the Hounds of Cu’ Chulainn, will do anything to keep buried.
But secrets, like the dead, never stay buried for long in Whisper Hollow.
Shadow Silence is the second book in Galenorn’s spooky Whisper Hollows series. This dark urban fantasy series is drenched in magic, mythology, suspense, mystery, and romance. Set in the fictional town of Whisper Falls, Washington, Galenorn picks up where book one-Autumn Thorns- left off. Galenorn builds an intriguing storyline, deepening the characterization of the residents and entities that protect and terrorize the town. A multi-layered mystery is used to further expand the world, connecting it all back to our heroine and her growing powers.
Kerris Fallwater returned home to claim her destiny after running away fifteen years ago. As the town’s new spirit shaman and worshiper of the Goddess Mórrígan, Kerris helps to lay the dead to rest and protect the town from its enemies. She is settling into her grandparent’s home nicely, slowly claiming it as her own as she submerges herself deeper into the town and it’s needs. Her relationship with her guardian/boyfriend, a shape shifter named Brian, is developing at a comfortable if not slightly rapid speed, giving Kerris the love support, and unconditional acceptance she has searched for all her life.
Kerris has a lot on her plate in this installment. While the main focus of the story is on Peggin (Kerris’s best friend) and her fight to free herself from the clutches Lady of Crescent Lake, Kerris is also pulled into a battle with Magna (a powerful worshiper of Cu’ Chulainn) while uncovering some interesting facts concerning the town’s history. The pacing is fast and steady with some action and suspense as Kerris finds herself a mystical go between in the fight to save the town. Various plot threads are created, giving us hints towards future story lines. I like that Galenorn reminds us that no one in this town is exactly as they seem on the surface and slowly skews the information we already know about them into something new to be explored.
While I enjoyed the main plot of the story and the various story lines it births, I found the dry narrative at times overwhelming as Galenorn seeks to open Kerris up more to readers. There is an inordinate amount of time spent on day to day actions that become repetitious as the story progresses. We are repeatedly told in great detail about Kerris’s insecurity towards her breasts, her eating/drinking habits, her bathing routines, and exactly what and how often she feeds her cats. These details became overwhelming and took away from the overall atmosphere of the story, creating times when I felt I was wading through filler to get to the meat of the story. I was also a little out out by the plotline concerning Peggin’s boyfriend Divine and how Galenorn uses it to resolve a minor issue. It felt like a round piece being shoved into a square peg.
The ending is a series of climatic events that firmly resolve the conflicts while allowing plenty of room for the arc to continue to expand. While book one was a bit heavy on world building, this installment lasers it’s focus on the characters and further solidifying their places in the story.
Fans of Yasmine Galenorn and urban fantasy that maintains a steady romantic element while offering readers action, suspense, and mystery on a strong mythological base are sure to enjoy her latest series.
Favorite Quote: “Relationship issues are a lot easier to handle when you’re not worrying you boyfriend might go to prison.”
Welcome back to the Royal family. Our Cinderella has not only found her Prince Charming but they are now hot, heavy, and in love. Her four selfish step brothers aren’t so bad once you get to know them and one of the wicked witches is dead. Unfortunately, all fingers are pointed to the Prince as the killer. Oh, and Cinderella’s supposed dead father has risen from the grave and wants to lock her up in his castle forever.
Whatever is a princess to do?!
Twisted Palace picks up where Broken Prince left off. Reed has been accused of murdering Brooke and the evidence against him doesn’t look good. While the police are arresting Reed, Steve O’Halloran walked through the Royal’s front door, surprising everyone who thought he was dead. Especially Ella. Now Ella has to find a fake boyfriend, fight to clear her real boyfriend’s name, discover the real murderer, find a dress for the Winter Formal, and try to bond with her father.
Once again Watt tosses us back down the rabbit hole as they up the ante on this story’s outrageous, audacious, and unbelievable drama. Told in first person dual perspectives, alternating between Reed and Ella, we get up close and personal look as this couple’s world is rocked by blow after blow. Stronger because of their love and commitment to one another, Ella believes Reed’s proclamations of innocence but is unsure how to help him. His well documented bad behavior is working against him in the eyes of the law.
While Ella struggles to figure out how to save Reed and the Royal family from this latest fiasco, she is also have to deal with having a father in her life. Steven invokes his parental rights, forcing Ella to leave the Royal household and come live with him and Dinah. Father of the year he is not but neither him nor Ella know exactly how to act. It’s certainly an interesting series of events to watch as this perpetual man-child attempts to parent a nearly grown child who has never really had to answer to anyone. I was dismayed by the slut shaming seen in here but found Ella’s inquiries into how dads are supposed to act humorous.
Reed continues to have his “come to Jesus” moment, acknowledging that his actions before and after his mother’s death have been nothing more than a series of selfish, childish acts that only served to further tearing his family apart. He clings harder to Ella, admitting that she and she alone makes him want to be a better person. It continues to be an enlightening personal moment, especially as we are able to see it happening through his eyes.
Twisted Palace is the result of everything the Royals have ever done-coming back to haunt them. Revelations are made that make the Royals to take off their rose-colored glasses and take a long, hard look at the past and the parts they played in the creation of certain events. Reed’s impending murder trial is the catalyst that pulls the Royals together as a family; something Ella has strived for since the beginning. I did find this installment wasn’t as fast and furious as the last two. The narrative and dialogue kept me hooked but I felt at times we were simply rehashing the same issues over and over. I also had some problems with some of the decisions Ella made concerning Reed. Especially the one that revolved around Jordan.
A heavy inclusion of secondary characters infiltrate the story, expanding and helping to close up the main storylines. Enemies and allies come out in droves; some switching sides while others walk a fine line, committing to nothing. Reed isn’t the only one maturing in here. Ella grows more herself, discovering that her social isolation may be partly her own fault. She makes some new friends and finds a new passion, giving her more stability at school and in her life. We see a secondary romance armed with plenty of humor come to fruition while learning of a mysterious crush Easton may have. I was a little disappointed we didn’t get to see more of Gideon but some of the statements made concerning the Royals makes me think Watt may not be done with this family quite yet.
Watt ties up Twisted Palace with a pretty bow; ending it with our prince and princess in their happy place and the Royal family emerging triumphant from yet another disaster. All in all a fun, The Royals series is a romantic melodrama filled with angsty, emo, campy, steamy, soap opera driven teenagers who excel at being over the top bad. It’s a guilty pleasure that I for one have thoroughly enjoyed.
Favorite Quote: “Hell’s road was an easy road to tread.”
Faith Hunter takes us back to Tennessee and her newest heroine, Nell Ingram, in the second installment of her epic and fascinating urban fantasy series, Soulwood. A spinoff of her best-selling Jane Yellowrock series, Soulwood deals with a new heroine and the psyLED agency run by the well established and often despised Rick LeFleur. In book one-Blood of the Earth-Hunter introduced us to Nell, simultaneously divulging her background while co-opting her into helping Rick and psy-LED to solve the mystery of a missing vampire. This leads her back to into the nightmare of her youth. Nell helps to save the day; reconnecting with her family and gaining a new one.
Curse On the Land picks up after Nell has completed her “Spook Squad” training. She is now a special agent with Unit 18 in the psyLED agency and they are slowly drawing her out of her self-imposed isolation. She has come home to Soulwood only to discover her land is sick and the sickness is spreading. Her tentative examination shows that something or someone is attempting to poison the land. Nell is unable to pursue this further because she is soon called back into work. Nell learns that other locations around the state are showing similar symptoms to what she felt on her land and her special affinity to the earth is needed. But the danger goes much deeper; affecting wildlife and people. As Nell and the team investigate, they are dragged into a conspiracy that spans generations and has opened the doorway for an entity that is alive…and very hungry.
“Fed by blood and death […] By war and battle and the life force soaking into the earth for eons. It has not been fed in many passages.”
Hunter lets her imagination roam free and wild in this installment. The action, suspense, and intrigue creates a convoluted storyline with multiple plotlines while low key humor and some ongoing subplots intertwine throughout to help to keep the story from becoming too clinical. Hunter does unload quite a large amount of information in the beginning and her heavy use of acronyms and technical terms did cause me to stumble a couple of times. This was present in book one also.
There is a small base of reality in the mix as Hunter touches on the misuse of the land, using magic and mythological legends to highlight the damage and consequences of our neglect, misuse, and attempts to subvert it. Nell’s gift is a much-needed resource to combat what is happening but it is also a curse as like calls to like. Nell finds herself repeatedly in danger as her communes with the earth brings her some very unwanted attention. I found the gist of the conflict and the reasons of those involved very interesting and imaginative.
The balance between Nell’s continuing evolution and the main conflict is well defined and blends together in a natural manner. Smooth switches from topic to topic merges with engaging narrative and the tidbits of personal information of the characters. While Nell is the main protagonist, Hunter doesn’t skip on the characterization of the secondary characters-be it her team members or various others who are only important to this storyline.
“George Orwell had said something about power not being a means to an end. He said that power was the end. “
Nell is slowly growing both professionally and personally; coming into herself. Hunter gives more clues to Nell’s gifts but there are still no concrete answers. The assumption is we will learn along with Nell as to what she really is. Joining the psyLED has opened a doorway for Nell beyond how she was raised. Though the teachings of the church are still strong in her, she is beginning to see that the outside world is not the enemy. Strong, curious, and intelligent, she wholeheartedly goes where angels fear to tread. This causes some problems but nothing that time won’t fix. Her humanity is a positive feature as the psyLED as a whole seems to be in danger of becoming too bureaucratic. Nell’s constant questions and intuitive need to nurture helps to remind the team that there are actual people involved and not everything can be covered up or hidden away.
“You remind me of Jane when she is in a snit.” “I’m no skinwalker.” “She told you what she is? Interesting. What are you?” “You read the reports on me at Spook School. You know what I know.” “No. This land sings of magic. It claims you are much more.”
The hint romance touched upon in Blood of the Earth is further remarked on but still little advancement. Werecat and team mate Occam remains an enigma to Nell with his flirting and need to protect and care for her. Having only experienced one physical relationship in her life with an older man as a means of survival, she has no experience with attraction, dating, and falling in love though she is beginning to respond to his actions. I loved their dialogue and the mischievous flirting.
“I need a shower and a good tick check. Not that I’m suggesting you do it for me.” “Good thing. […] I’m not sure I’m the tick-checking kind of girl.” “I’m pretty sure I can check myself for ticks. But you can wash my back if you like.” “I thank you for the offer, but I’ll pass on the personal body servant interaction.”
Various subplots from book one are further explored. Nell has to answer for previous actions concerning her land and the church while fans will be SHOCKED and some reluctantly sympathetic concerning the twist Hunter adds to Ricky-Bo’s ongoing dilemma. Some familiar faces from the Yellowrock world make a visit to offer advice and warnings.
“What did you see?” “I saw nothing.” “Good. Keep it that way.”
Urban Fantasy fans will love Nell Ingram and her unique way of handling life and those around her. Fans of the Jane Yellowrock series will love the familiarity Hunter wraps around this world while appreciating the effort she goes to make sure this series is able to stand on its own merits.
Favorite Quote: “I don’t want to hurt you.” “Are you that big?”
Truman (Tru) Gritt has spent his life trying to protect his family to the extent of going to prison for a crime he didn’t commit. When he is released from prison, he comes home to find his mother dead from a drug overdose, his younger brother in no better condition, and two siblings he had no idea even existed. Truman takes his two younger siblings and admonishes his brother to get help. Now a single parent, he is at a loss on how to raise a baby and toddler, until a young woman steps into help.
Gemma Wright is pure class from the top of her shiny salon done hair to her perfectly pedicured toes. Stepping in to help Truman one night at a local store, Gemma finds herself drawn to this seemingly hard man whose gentleness with his siblings makes her heart swoon. Truman isn’t looking for love right now but Gemma’s persistence pays off and soon he can’t imagine his life without her.
When Truman’s past rears it’s ugly head and all his secrets spill out, he finds himself once again having to choose between his family and his happiness.
Tru Blue is a standalone romance contemporary that exists faintly within Foster’s Love In Bloom series. This sweet, sexy, humorous bittersweet story centers on a man whose whole life has been spent trying to protect his family to the point of almost destroying him. A smooth steady pace starts us off directly in the present while interjecting with memories from the past to allow readers to understand just what Truman has gone through with his highly dysfunctional family.
Truman is introduced as the stereotypical bad boy with a heart of gold. Once you get to know him, you realize that this bad boy is only bad in his looks and attitude. His hard, tattooed, stoic persona is in direct contrast with the sensitive artist and firm family man who resides within him. His abusive childhood could have led him down a different path but his innate goodness helps to keep him on the up and up even after his stint in prison. Truman is the ultimate underdog who you will instantly want to champion and protect from the cruel, judgmental world.
“This incredible man should be too damaged to know how to love. Too broken to want to embrace life.”
Gemma is the direct opposite of Truman in almost every sense though their childhoods have some similarities. Both suffered from parental abandonment and abuse though Gemma’s was emotional than physical. A poor little rich girl whose parents spent more time with their social engagements than her. A lifetime of nannies and being cast aside leaves Gemma with a deep emotional void in her heart. Looking for the love, acceptance, and sense of family she was denied as a child, she rejects her family’s money and status, choosing to build and live her life on her own terms.
The main conflict balances well with the opposites attract romance. Heavily character driven, Foster relies on emotion and the hero’s courageous journey through the unknown to propel this story. Foster addresses numerous topics such as drug abuse, alcoholism, infertility, and class issues; intertwining them into the storyline to further appeal to readers’ hearts. The two younger siblings are the core of the story, representing in Truman’s mind, his chance at redemption and breaking the cycle of abuse and poverty he and his family suffered through.
Gemma and Truman’s meet cute sets the romance in motion with humor and a few heart pinching moments.The usual stumbling blocks that often make an appearance in new relationships are shown along with some unusual ones. Gemma’s unconscious prejudices are brought into the open while Truman fights with his own issues of low self-esteem and the fear he will ruin the two little ones now in his care. Strong narrative and engaging dialogue help to transition us through this. Neither protagonist is given an easy out. Foster lets us see everything; through thought and action.
Chemistry wise, this couple has it in spades. Sexy and steamy, the romance moves at a steady but slow pace to give them time to get to know one another and find out if they are compatible in all ways. Understandable as Truman has to not only think of himself but the two people who now depend on him for everything. The love scenes soft and sensual. They contrast well with this couple’s penchant for corny sexual innuendos.
“Does your one eyed python want to play in my grass?” “My snake always wants to play in your grass.”
A cast of well developed secondary characters help to keep the story on track and not drift to deep into the dark. I loved meeting the Whiskey family and found their unwavering support of Truman admirable and very sweet. Lincoln and Kennedy, Truman’s baby siblings, are adorable. Foster does an excellent job of keeping them from becoming mere plot devices to evoke sympathy from the reader. Gemma’s best friend Crystal is a flamboyant voice of reason in Gemma’s life and is instrumental in helping Gemma see that some of her actions are more a result of her own fears then the actual matter at hand.
“But…he killed a man.” “A drug-dealing rapist. Not exactly a pillar of society.” “How does a person move past that?” “How does a person, or how do you?”
The only thing that kept me from loving this book wholeheartedly was Gemma. I had a hard time connecting with her and she rubbed me wrong at times. Throughout the story she flips between adult and juvenile behavior. At times she is firmly an adult and at others she acts as I would expect someone in their late teens; from her constant running away when things weren’t perfect to her lack of respect for personal boundaries. It really bothered me when she told Truman he would have to keep explaining about how he was sent to prison until she was felt better about it. She doesn’t but the intent was there. There was also the knowledge that her main initial attraction to Truman was his kids. Did I doubt she fell in love with him? No. But I did wonder if she would have stayed through it all if it was just him.
Tru Blue is a story of love, loss, hope, compassion, and redemption. Fans of misunderstood heroes will enjoy the journey Foster takes Truman on as he struggles to find his footing in a world stacked against him and keep his brand new little family together.
Kelley Armstrong’s best selling fantasy Otherworld series has kept me entertained since she first released Bitten in 2001. Intensely entertaining, Armstrong introduced us to a world that blended the supernatural and mundane perfectly; giving us strong heroines and heroes and action packed, suspenseful, multi-narrated storylines. Armstrong’s series ended the arc with the novel Thirteen though she continued to tidy up various plot lines (this world is rather huge and convoluted) with a series of novellas and short stories. The Otherworld Chills anthology is the last of those short stories. This collection is compiled of previously released material and a few new ones that give fans one last hurrah. There are seven stories total.
3) Chaotic – Hope/Karl novella from Dates from Hell, Hope’s 1st appearance in the series
4) Sorry Seems to be the Hardest Word – Zoe short story from Expiration Date
5) Off-Duty Angel – Eve/Kristof story from The Hunter & The Hunted
6) The Puppy Plan – Logan Danvers novella from Gifted
7) Baby Boom – new Paige/Lucas novella
Brazen is aptly titled and takes place after Thirteen. Told from Nick’s POV, we learn how he met his girlfriend, Vanessa. The action packed, violence fueled conflict blends well with the look into the unique position Nick holds in the pack. While I enjoyed the narrative and conflict, I found the romance uninspiring. Vanessa’s insulting faux pas in the beginning and subsequent habit of not listening didn’t endear her to me at all.
Chaotic chronicles the first time Hope and Karl met. A museum jewel heist opens up a can of worms when Hope learns her new job is nothing more than one man’s need for revenge. While I loved the antagonism and verbal foreplay Hope and Karl engage in, the storyline itself moves is long, involved, and moves a slow pace. Armstrong divulges deeply into Hope and Karl’s backgrounds as they attempt to flush out the culprits while trying to stay alive.
Amityville Horrible is probably my favorite of this anthology. Any chance to spend time with Jamie and Jeremy is a guaranteed good time. Once again Jamie is reluctantly pushed into doing a reality show by her agent only to discover that things are not what they seem. When Jeremy joins her on the set, the hijinks begin. A fun character driven story inundated with humor, romance, and a hint of mystery.
Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word is a short story revolving around Zoe and Cassandra. In here we learn that even immortals have an expiration date and unresolved issues can affect even the hardest of hearts. An interesting story though it loses it’s steam towards the end.
Off-Duty Angel takes us back into the halls of heaven and bowels of hell in this delightful little romp when Kristoff gives his bored lover, Eve, a mystery to solve. Of course, nothing goes as planned but that is half the fun. Well plotted and filled with plenty of action, adventure, and humor, readers will enjoy seeing this happier more stable version of Eve then what we have seen in the series.
The Puppy Plan visits the Danvers Family at Christmas time. Told from Logan’s point of view, this sweet heartwarming story shines on the love and compassion that resides in the hearts of Clay and Elena’s twins.
Baby Boom wraps up the book and a long ongoing plot line concerning Paige and Lucas. I was rather taken by the sorrowful tone woven through here as this couple not only deals with an unwanted pregnancy but also the future of the Cortez Cabal.
Otherworld Chills offers readers a little of everything while wrapping up existing open story lines. Though some stories are stronger than others, the collection as a whole is an enjoyable reader sure to delight fans of this fantasy inspired world.
The fourth and supposedly last book in Singh’s Rock Kiss series is an emotionally rich, sexy, and bittersweet second chance romance that speaks to everyone who has lost their way. Love, heartbreak, and forgiveness help a couple find their way back to one another after their journey to happily ever after was interrupted by fear and addiction. Singh doesn’t pull any punches as she takes us back to the beginning so that we can understand the elements that destroyed Abe and Sarah’s marriage before she slowly moves forward with the reconciliation, using their dialogue and internal thoughts to grant us an intimate step by step view. Laughter, tears, and incredibly sensual scenes keep the reader entranced as a couple destined to be together fights for one more chance. Previous characters in the series maintain a strong presence and Singh gifts us with some much desired scenes that assures us they are all happy, healthy, and very much in love....more
Favorite Quote: If there’s a lesson you can take from vampires, it’s “take what resources you can, when you can, even if it’s in a less than ethical manner.” We call this “survival of the sneakiest.”
The fifth installment in Molly Harper’s silly, sexy, and adorably addictive Half Moon Hollow series will leave readers cheering and laughing out loud at the pairing of a shiftless vampire with an extreme germaphobe who are trapped in the wild together with no food, no water, and lots of dirty surfaces. Though part of a series; the setting, main plotline, and protagonists are relatively new ensuring this can be read as a standalone that newcomers and diehard fans alike will enjoy.
Readers of this series will remember Finn Palmeroy as the vampire who answered Libby Stratton’s Craigslist ad in The Single Undead Mom’s Club. A long time con man… errr… con vampire, Finn is up to his old tricks in here but meets his match in newcomer Anna Winthrop. Anna is an archivist whose collegiate career was snatched out from under her by an unscrupulous ex-boyfriend. Having rerouted her career into authentication of supernatural manuscripts, she now has a book in her possession that must be delivered back to Jane Jamison. A book that could change the landscape of the supernatural world. When she is attacked by the pilot on her flight to Half Moon Hollow, Anna finds herself “saved” by a vampire named Finn. Lost in the woods, miles away from home and humanity, Anna will have to pull up her big girl panties, toss out the antibiotic gel, and decide if she is ready to rejoin the messiness called life.
I adore Molly Harper. From her contemporaries to her paranormals, Harper writes rich, engaging, adventurous stories filled with strong-willed females and smexy prickly alphas. Where the Wild Things Bite continues this tradition with a delightfully light-hearted paranormal romance that uses self-deprecating humor, personable characters, and some off the wall plotlines to ensure you won’t want to put it down. Her characters are hysterically eccentric and provide much eye rolling and snorts of laughter as you slip smoothly into their lives. The relatively straightforward storyline along with its invigorating narrative makes for a fun fast read.
Anna is hilarious with her multitudes of idiosyncrasies, ingrained suspicious nature, and raging monologues. Raised by a manipulative, narcissistic mother and an uninterested father, Anna’s struggle to break free of the bonds her family has placed on her has only served to make her even more introverted. She trusts no one, especially men, and sees Finn more as the enemy than a fellow survivalist. She is focused on her mission and determined nothing will keep her from completing it.
I was trapped in the bluegrass version of Deliverance. With a vampire.
Worst. Case. Scenario.”
Finn is the classic bad boy whose con artist nature is more a habit than a need. A former grifter from the early 1900s, his transition to vampire was the direct result of one of his scams. Death, or nondeath as the case may be, wasn’t a detriment for him but merely opened up new ways for him to scam people. Anna touches something inside of him that was opened by his interactions with Libby and that scares him to death. Witty, handsome, and charmingly slimy, even the reader is somewhat distrustful of him. And we soon learn we should always trust your instincts.
The slow evolution of Finn and Anna’s relationship is a delightful journey punctuated with humor, sarcasm, and some hot and steamy sexual chemistry. Wandering through the woods with a hungry vampire keeps Anna on edge as she waits for Finn to pounce. And pounce he does but only in ways that make life much more interesting. Harper does a fabulous job of fleshing out Finn and Anna, peeling back their layers and showing us that they are the perfect couple if they can just get out of their own heads for a moment.
“Admit I was right.” His voice was a smug tickle against the shell of my ear.
“OK, OK, we needed a bath,” I confessed. “We were getting a little gamey.”
“You know, a lesser vampire would take advantage of the situation,“ he said, ghosting his hand over my bare belly in the water. “Moonlight, nudity, your tender gratitude.”
I rolled, treading water so close to him my feet bumped against his shins. “I think you are overestimating the tenderness of my gratitude.”
“I don’t know if you’ve noticed this, but I don’t like you that much.”
You know, you’re right about a lot of things,“ he told me. “But not that. You like me plenty.”
A rambunctious cast of supporting characters- from the wild and crazy supes chasing Anna and Finn to the “unusual” bed and breakfast owner-will leave you literally howling as the conflict begins to straighten itself out and you see exactly what is at stake here. Dick and Jane (I love when these two get together) arrive with help to save the day and only add to the overall outrageousness of the situation. A few twists and turns keeps you guessing as you watch this comedy of errors play itself out.
If you’re looking for a funny, sexy paranormal romance with a dash of mystery and suspense that will leave thoroughly entertained or for a good place to dip your toes in this world, then I highly recommend picking up Molly Harper’s newest Half Moon Hollow’s adventure-Where The Wild Things Bite.
Move over Leo-O’Doul is in the house. The Brooklyn Bruisers have a new heartthrob for fans to cheer for and swoon over in the second installment of Bowen’s bestselling series. Hard Hitter is emotionally flush with action, suspense, heart-pounding chemistry, delicious dialogue and Bowen’s trademark humor. A cast of familiar faces helps to ramp up the anticipation and laughter as the author leads her couple toward the winning goal: love.
Patrick O’Doul, team captain, and enforcer, fears for his career as a lifetime of fighting on the ice begins to catch up with him. Unsuccessfully hiding his pain and injuries, his coach forces him to see massage therapist Ari Bettini. Ari just recently ended a turbulent eight-year relationship and has decided to focus all her energy on her job with the Brooklyn Bruisers. Rehabbing O’Doul should be easy, but his reluctance to being touched puts her in a quandary. Using her skills, Ari soon puts O’Doul at ease in more ways than one, and their relationship soon takes an unexpected turn. As personal issues on both sides begin to rear their ugly heads, Patrick will have to do what he does best: fight to win....more
Favorite Quote: “How much less injured and screwed up would we be if we didn’t have that past clinging to us?”
Trina Wilson thought she had married the man of her dreams until her dreams became a never ending nightmare. When her trips to the ER become the norm for her marriage, she grabs her car, dog, and what little cash she could hide and goes on the run. In her attempt to make it across the Canadian border, she runs into some problems and finds herself stranded with no money or a place to stay.
Declan James owns and operates the Fireside Grill. He put his heart and soul into it and when his wife walked away from it and him without a backward glance, he loses what little trust he had left. Intent on discovering who or what is rifling through his trash at night, he is shocked to find it’s a beautiful but beaten woman digging through his dumpster to find food for her dog. Declan invites her into his restaurant for a decent meal.
Declan’s long buried protective instincts roar to the forefront and before he knows it, he is offering Trina a place to stay and a job. As they grow closer, Trina learns there are men out there who will do anything to protect women they care for and Declan learns there are women who will treasure that protection. But Trina’s husband isn’t going to let her go without a fight. And unless Trina learns to trust Declan with everything she has, her husband may win.
His To Protect is the 2nd in Stacey Lynn’s Fireside series. I didn’t read the first one but this one is easily read as a stand alone. An abused woman finds sanctuary, hope, healing, and strength with a gruff and broody man-a favorite trip trope of mine. Though this is characterized as a romance suspense, the suspense is extremely lightweight. A major of the story focuses on Trina and Declan. Fluid and engaging, the storyline ebbs and flows seamlessly as we meet and watch two untrusting people learn to trust and love again.
Heavily character driven, we are instantly submerged into our heroine’s and hero’s stories from their first meeting. Trina is a strong, intelligent, and loyal woman who has been repeatedly lied to and forced to endure an abusive marriage for her family. She suffered and bided her time until she could escape and using her wits and ingenuity, has managed to evade her husband. Declan’s offer is a god send though she fears his motives.
“You need a place to stay?”
“I thought the burger was free?”
Declan is the alpha that romance loves to write about though Lynn strives to make him unique in his characterization. Strong, stoic, intelligent, protective, and nursing a broken heart. Struggling to keep his dream afloat he has shut himself off from his feelings, choosing to put everything he has mentally, physically, and emotionally back into his business. Meeting Trina compels Declan to move past his anger and pain. His focus narrows down to her and her only.
“No, she wasn’t homeless… She was hiding. Running. And for some damn reason, I had an overwhelming instinct to take care of her.”
The romance reveals very slowly but with a firm hand with just the right amount of sexual and emotional tension. I appreciated that Lynn doesn’t make this an ‘insta love’ connection. Though the chemistry is established from their first meet, she uses Trina’s situation and Declan’s white knight complex to help push past the awkwardness, giving them a base on which to deepen their acquaintance and move onto something more meaningful. Bittersweet and emotionally lush dialogue gives credence to this blooming romance.
“No one, not one single person, ever cared enough to have me seen and looked over when I’d been hurt.”
A cast of familiar and new faces dot the landscape; facilitating subplots, building future storylines, and helping to see justice served. Characters from the first book all step in to help Trina; giving her the stability she so desperately craves.
The suspense portion was almost non-existent. Only through Trina’s thoughts and memories to we see the villain and learn of his crimes. A few threatening phone calls are all that is used to keep him in the picture. So much is focused on the romance between the protagonists, the conflict was extremely low key and remained somewhat buried in the background, brought to the forefront only when needed.
His to Protect is some sexy escapism with a little bit of everything to appeal to the romantic in all of us but if you’re looking for an action packed romantic suspense, heavy on the suspense, this isn’t for you.