Beyond Desire consists of Beyond Innocence and Beyond Seduction, two Emma Holly stories that were previously published individually as full-length noBeyond Desire consists of Beyond Innocence and Beyond Seduction, two Emma Holly stories that were previously published individually as full-length novels. These two novels comprise the Beyond Duet.
Beyond Innocence "3 stars" I had very mixed feelings about this story. There were things that I liked about it, but there were other things that really frustrated me and came perilously close to giving it wall-banger status, something that is highly unusual for me. It was a primarily character-driven story with nearly all the conflict being of an internal nature. I found the plot to be interesting but very predictable. While there were some emotional romantic moments, they were just too few and inconsistent. The love scenes were very hot and steamy, but just lacked a certain emotional depth. I think this was partly due to the back-and-forth, will-they-or-won't-they nature of the story which became rather tiresome.
I liked Edward and Florence, but didn't really feel that their characterizations were consistent and sometimes they just weren't relatable to me. Florence was a sweet simple vicar's daughter who was extremely naive particularly when it came to things of a sexual nature, but yet was very willing and even eager to participate in sexual intimacies that were out of the ordinary. She almost instantly went from innocent girl to hot sex kitten, something which I thought stretched the bounds of credibility. I felt like I generally understood Edward as the brooding, aloof hero, but what I never could really grasp was his compelling need to protect Freddie. What under other circumstances would have been an endearing bond between two brothers, ultimately felt like obsessive behavior on Edward's part. Also his assertion that Florence was Freddie's last hope of regaining some respectability in society just didn't ring true. It seemed to me that any young woman could have filled the position as Freddie's wife, considering that he never lacked female admirers. In the end I just found Edward too passive for me to be able to fully respect him. I actually liked Freddie more, because I never felt like he was trying to hide behind false pretenses, and admittedly he was a rather charming scene-stealer. This was my first read by Emma Holly and although I can tell she has talent as a writer, it is possible that her writing style simply may not be for me. However, I'll wait until I've read Beyond Seduction before making further comment.
Beyond Seduction "4 1/2 stars" After being less than impressed with Beyond Innocence it took me a while to talk myself into reading Beyond Seduction, but in my opinion, Emma Holly definitely redeemed herself with this one. It had the depth of emotion that I tend to prefer in my romance novels, but don't always find. It was amazing how the author could convey so much emotion with a mere touch or glance, or some other simple but meaningful gesture. This just left me with very warm feelings throughout the entire story. Many parts of it were rather predictable, but Ms. Holly managed to throw out a couple of surprises that I didn't see coming. Overall it was a really satisfying read.
I really liked both Nic and Merry. In Beyond Innocence Merry was an independent, tom-boyish girl who rather shamelessly pursued the hero of that story, so I wasn't sure if I would like her as a heroine. My opinion of her changed very quickly though, as I came to understand her as a kind-hearted young woman who was outwardly brash, but inwardly insecure about her plain appearance. Nic was a wonderfully gentle beta hero with the sensitive heart of an artist and an eye for true beauty, who helped Merry realize what a desirable woman she really was. I just couldn't help but like him in spite of his flaws. I thought that the interactions between these two were incredibly romantic mostly because they both generously gave of themselves to each other. The story was rounded out by a large colorful cast of secondary characters consisting mainly of family and friends who ran a gamut of varying personalities.
Beyond Seduction was almost as much about flawed family ties and friendships and forgiving those we love, as it was about love and romance, which I thought gave it a much deeper meaning. This really helped to draw me into the story and overlook some of the more cliched elements which otherwise might have annoyed me. I really enjoyed reading Beyond Seduction. Sometimes it was difficult to put down, and it was always a pleasure to pick up again. Even though these two novels are a series, they can easily be read independently without loosing any storyline. Since I borrowed this from the library, I look forward to getting my own copy of Beyond Seduction for my keeper shelf.
Note: Both of these stories read very much like traditional historical romances, but in my opinion, certain elements of the sexual content and more explicit language (both of which some may find offensive) push the boundaries of what many readers would consider traditional, giving them a mild erotic feel. Beyond Innocence also contains a passionate M/M kiss which may also be offensive to some readers....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Big Guns Out of Uniform is an anthology of three contemporary borderline erotic novellas featuring heroes in law enforcement.
BReviewed for THC Reviews Big Guns Out of Uniform is an anthology of three contemporary borderline erotic novellas featuring heroes in law enforcement.
BAD to the Bone BAD to the Bone was a pure fantasy that was very fun and enjoyable to read. I thought that the beginning and ending of the story could have benefited from a bit more clarity and tighter plotting, but the rest of the story really helped to make up for these deficiencies. The premise of a woman living out her romance novel fantasies in real life with a hunky hero was very entertaining. I especially liked that Kyle actually read Marianne's favorite book and was trying to make it all come to life for her. It just made him seem so caring and thoughtful.
I found both characters to be likable, relatable, and well-drawn. Marianne, as an average, ordinary woman, just couldn't have been sweeter, yet she was passionate and adventurous enough to step outside her comfort zone. Kyle was a tough guy with a tortured past, yet he accepted Marianne's tenderness toward him as something that was missing from his life instead of being suspicious or shutting down emotionally. In fact, she was able to fulfill his fantasies every bit as much as he fulfilled hers. I loved the way the author built a beautiful relationship between these two characters in such a short time mainly with the use of communication, a seeming rarity in romance novels. This made for some extremely sexy and sensuous love scenes that were still very sweet and romantic. Overall, I found this novella to be a delightful read that even showcased a little humor, a great story for anyone looking for a bit of escapism.
BAD to the Bone along with its two companion novellas in the Born to Be BAD anthology are something of a prequel to the main B.A.D. Agency series. It was first published in Big Guns Out of Uniform, and was later reprinted in Born to Be BAD. This was my first read by Sherrilyn Kenyon, but it certainly won't be my last. I am looking forward to continuing the B.A.D. series as well as exploring her other books. Rating: ****
Let's Talk About Sex I think it can be difficult for an author to write a short story that is still satisfying, but in Let's Talk About Sex, Liz Carlyle has, in my opinion, put together a tale that has both tight plotting and good character development. The narrative flowed smoothly, and I thought it was the perfect length. Rather than being left with that "I-wish-there-were-more-to-the-story" feeling when it ended, I felt like Goldilocks, that it was "just right".
As the title might imply, the main focus was on the sex, but emotions got tangled up in the mix pretty quickly. The love scenes were both creative and scorching hot and there were plenty of them too, but there were also some romantic moments as well. I haven't seen many real proposals in the romances I've read, so I thought the proposal scene was a particularly nice touch. I also thought that the author progressing the narrative through a few months time, made this scenario more believable.
I found both the hero and heroine to be very likable, and neither one was bringing a ton of baggage into the relationship. Sometimes it's just refreshing to read a story about relatively normal people with normal problems. I thought it was sweet that Delia dealt with the topic of sex every day in her work, but in real life was still slightly repressed. Nick was a hot, sexy guy (not to mention an animal lover, which I find hard to resist), who was also a patient and accomplished lover. He knew exactly how to rebuild Delia's self-confidence and release her inner sex kitten to make her purr.
While the story did not contain many of the getting-to-know-you moments that I love and that really help to build a more believable relationship, I found Let's Talk About Sex to be a fun, enjoyable romp. Readers who like lust turned to love or love at first sight stories should appreciate this one, and while those are not my favorite plot lines, Ms. Carlyle's writing was strong enough to make me overlook that. Liz Carlyle has been one of my favorite authors of historical romance for a while, and even though Let's Talk About Sex was her first and only foray into contemporary romance to date, I found it to be equally as good. In my opinion, it was the overall best and most well written novella in this anthology, definitely worthy of keeper status. Rating: ****1/2
The Nekkid Truth In my opinion, this novella had a lot of potential that it just didn't quite live up to. I thought the premise of the story was a fascinating one, that of a woman who had lost the ability to recognize faces due to a head injury. I like it when an author can teach me about something I didn't already know or expand on my previous knowledge of a particular subject, and I find things of a medical nature to be especially interesting. While the author did give an overview of what this condition entailed, she never once called it by it's actual name, Prosopagnosia aka Face Blindness. She also did not fully express in any depth what it was like for the heroine to live with this affliction, which I felt would have created a much more compelling story. Instead the author opted to tell the reader more about the heroine's photography endeavors and sexual conquests than about her life and feelings. The cover blurb also implies that the heroine's special condition somehow plays a pivotal role in the criminal investigation, but I never quite saw how that was the case.
The Nekkid Truth reminded me in some ways of old black & white detective movies. It is written in first person with a rather dry, "just the facts ma'am" type of presentation. I felt like I was being told the story rather than experiencing it. This writing style made it very difficult to get a good grasp on any of the characters, particularly the hero about whom readers are only given tidbits of information, most of which doesn't come out until toward the end. I am not opposed to the first person perspective, but I think it can be very challenging for an author using this writing style to convey the feelings and emotions of other characters in the story unless they are very deft at their craft.
The love scenes showed some creativity and with a little more tenderness and less matter-of-fact attitude, could have been truly romantic and steamy, but without the incorporation of emotions, came off as being little more than a string of sexual encounters that lacked any real spark and to me felt very crude. I'm afraid that certain aspects of the heroine's photography, as well as a rather hedonistic attitude from her and other characters, only lent to this atmosphere. I also found my eyebrows shooting up at a couple of unrealistic descriptions of the size of the male anatomy (not the hero's) which simply added more fuel to the fire.
As far as the heroine's work, I have no issue with nude art and in fact have found many pieces to be quite beautiful, so I had no real problem with her specializing in nude photography. What did bother me however, was her penchant for wallpapering her studio with nude photos and even more so, her seeming obsession with taking photographs of that certain part of the male anatomy and then meticulously filing them away. Apparently, this all had something to do with her face blindness, and at one point she tried to explain this all to the hero, but it still just never made much sense to me. In general, there simply wasn't enough depth of emotion to be found in this story to really draw me into the characters lives and make me truly care about them or believe in their love for each other and a lasting happily-ever-after ending.
Though not incredibly compelling, I thought Ms. Camden did do well with the mystery element. This part of the narrative was fed to the reader bit by bit, so that the solution to the puzzle was not really discernible until the reveal. Although there was room for improvement in this area as well, I did find it to be interesting. In my opinion, she also did a good job with keeping the plot tight and the story moving along at a steady pace.
The Nekkid Truth was the only novella in this anthology which featured a hero and heroine who had know each other for a while before becoming intimately involved which was an aspect of the story I could appreciate, but again, with the lack of emotion, I still found the other two novellas to be much more compelling and believable. Usually anthologies group together stories with similar themes and styles, and while the cop hero theme was there, the writing style of The Nekkid Truth was very different from the other two, making it seem somewhat out of place in this grouping. This appears to be Ms. Camden's first and only published work, so I am willing to allow that with some sharpening of her writing skills and/or perhaps a switch to a mystery or edgy chic-lit genre, she could have potential. Rating: ***
So many people have raved about the Breeds series and Lora Leigh's writing in general that I finally had to try it out. In many ways, I can certainlySo many people have raved about the Breeds series and Lora Leigh's writing in general that I finally had to try it out. In many ways, I can certainly see why fans enjoy these so much. I thought the premise was very creative and unique, something I've never seen in a romance novel before. I kept thinking as I read it that this is the stuff that great sci-fi movies are made of. It definitely held my attention, but I found myself wishing the author would tell me more about the Breeds and their back-stories. I guess maybe that will be covered more in the sequels. Even though I really liked the ideas that the plot was built upon, I had mixed feelings about some other aspects. This was only my second read of an erotic novel, the first having been fairly tame by comparison, and although I went into it with my eyes wide open as to the content and wasn't shocked by anything I read, I think I was still caught off guard a bit by the raw, edgy intensity in the sex scenes. There didn't seem to be much tenderness or what I would call heart-stopping romance to be found, and when some of these types of emotions started to surface, it seemed all too brief. That said though, I wasn't offended by anything I read and did not find anything out of context for the storyline. It was really just more a matter of personal preference.
I thought that Callan and Merinus were interesting characters, but I can't say that I really related to either one. I think they were both just a little too alpha for my taste. I felt like these two spent way to much time trying to dominate each other and not enough time just trying to work together to find solutions to the dangerous situation they were in. I like my alpha males, but they also have to have a gentler side (like the brothers of the BDB). Callan just seemed to be on testosterone overload almost all the time. Merinus was also too stubborn and dominant for me. In my opinion her character just wasn't fully fleshed out. I felt like I knew and understood Callan pretty well, but I realized after finishing the book that I never knew much anything of a personal nature about Merinus. I also had a hard time buying into their falling in love. One minute they were lusting after each other like two animals in heat (which they basically were) and the next she was declaring her love out of the blue with him following not long after. This just didn't work well for me. In spite of my criticisms though, I honestly think that Lora Leigh is a good writer, although the editing on the book could have used a little more work. The intriguing cast of secondary characters and the open-ended epilogue have peaked my interest suffieciently to make me want to continue the series to see where this riveting story leads.
Note: This book contains extremely explicit language and sexual situations which some readers may find offensive....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" For the second time in a row, I have finished a book and been left waffling over how to rate it, which is very unuReviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" For the second time in a row, I have finished a book and been left waffling over how to rate it, which is very unusual for me. There were things that I liked about Dangerous Lover, but quite frankly, there were also things that I thought could have been greatly improved too. Lisa Marie Rice has a very languid writing style characterized by extended passages of descriptive or introspective prose punctuated by brief snippets of dialog. In my opinion, this gave the story a rather slow and uneven pace, but I wouldn't really characterize it as dull or boring or say that I entirely disliked it. Since this is my first read by Ms. Rice, I can't say if this is her usual writing style or a peculiarity of this book, but my personal preference would have been that there be more dialog especially between the hero and heroine. In spite of being inside their heads almost constantly, I still felt like I was lacking a full and complete understanding of their feelings and motivations. Often I felt like the author was telling me things instead of showing me, and I think that at times it was a bit too wordy and simply didn't get to the point quickly enough for me to grasp it.
To say that Jack was the strong, silent type would probably be an understatement. Although I've already mentioned the general lack of dialog throughout the story, it seemed to me that Jack had the least of anyone. I suppose in some ways this added to the aura of mystery and danger surrounding him, but I still like my heroes to be a tad more talkative. Jack was a tortured hero and a hardened ex-military guy who was an ultra-protective alpha male. What I really liked about him though was that when it came to Caroline, he definitely discovered his softer side and always treated her very gently. However, what impressed me the most was his gentlemanly behavior towards her such as opening doors, pulling out chairs, etc. I may be in the minority, but I love it when a man does these sorts of things for a lady. Jack may have engaged in combat in some of the world's worst hellholes but around Caroline he was never uncouth, right down to watching his language, which I found to be a really neat dichotomy. I also found his frequent kissing of her hand to be a swoon-worthy gesture.
Caroline was an interesting heroine who is extremely kindhearted and trusting of others, but perhaps too much so. She was certainly a tortured heroine and an emotionally strong one to have lived through the deaths of her entire family, but I thought that having all her friends and neighbors basically ignore her because they were uncomfortable with the tragedy was a little overkill. I guess it added to her sense of isolation and vulnerability, but one would think that there would be a few people who would offer up some kind words or support during that difficult time. While I like a heroine who isn't afraid to let the hero take care of her, I also think that ideally she should have a little spunk as well. I thought that her previous on-again, off-again relationship with Sanders, especially when she didn't enjoy the sex and didn't really even seem to like him all that much, made her seem weak and indecisive. I also would have liked to see her defend herself a little better against his unwanted advances. Overall, Caroline was a nice, sweet heroine, but I would have preferred that she exhibit a bit more backbone.
While Dangerous Lover had quite a few romantic moments between Jack and Caroline that I enjoyed, there were also some things about the story that bothered me. I am not usually a fan of the instant “meeting and mating,” but I was able to overlook it to some degree in this book since I understood Caroline's loneliness, and she and Jack had a previous connection, even though she wasn't initially aware of it. Nevertheless, I do tend to be a proponent of safe sex especially in contemporary romance, and the lack of it in this book did bug me. Even though Jack was certainly a prepared, plan-ahead kind of guy, I maybe could have lived with neither of them having any condoms available in the middle of a snowstorm, and I probably could have accepted the flimsy reasons for Caroline fortuitously being on birth control. However, when she said, “You look healthy” I couldn't help but roll my eyes and have a WTH moment, since careless assumptions like that in real life would likely end in an STD. Sometimes I can live with the condoms being left behind if there seems to be a decent reason for it, but in this case, I didn't really see any compelling rationale for the author to write it that way. The safe sex argument aside, I also found some of the violence a little off-putting. I'm generally not overly squeamish, but I found the descriptions of the atrocities being committed against the women and children in Sierra Leone to be somewhat disturbing. I think this was probably due to the realism of it and the fact that these things are actually happening on a daily basis rather than just being committed by some fictional, warped, psycho villain. Lastly, there were also quite a number of continuity errors as well as incorrect or incomplete word choices. While these errors weren't totally egregious, they were sometimes distracting and should have been caught by a good editor.
Out of all the reader complaints I've heard about Dangerous Lover so far, the most common one seems to be that many hated the ending. While I'll admit that it was pretty abrupt, I didn't find it to be absolutely terrible. This may have been due to my expectations being lower because of the complaints, so I can definitely see how those who didn't have prior knowledge of a potentially unsatisfying ending might be very disappointed or even upset by the way things wrapped up. It was happy, but certainly left a lot to the reader's imagination. For those who aren't aware, there is something of an epilogue to the story exclusively available online at Just Erotic Romance Reviews, but it doesn't really add anything to the plot of the main novel. The epilogue also isn't written in a story format, but instead, has more of the feel of a timeline documenting all the major events in Jack and Caroline's lives from the end of Dangerous Lover until they both take their final breath on this mortal plane.
Dangerous Lover was marketed as an erotic romance, but the sexual content of the book did not include anything unusual or kinky. In my opinion, the love scenes were pretty vanilla and comparable to hot, steamy mainstream romances, but sensitive readers show know that they are more frequent and do contain explicit language. In a different vein, Dangerous Lover was not marketed as a Christmas romance, but the entire story takes place in four days over the Christmas holiday which might make it an appealing read for that time of the year. In spite of that, I would not necessarily call it a Christmas-themed romance, since none of the traditional trappings or celebrations of the holiday are present in the narrative. Dangerous Lover is the first book in the Dangerous series, followed by Dangerous Secrets and Dangerous Passion which is due to be released this summer. Lisa Marie Rice does not have a website and information on her books elsewhere is spotty, so I am not certain at this time what the character or plot connections between books might be. Even though there were a number of things about Dangerous Lover that I thought could have been better, I still found it to be a worthwhile read that also had a number of appealing elements too. I liked it well enough and have heard enough good things about Lisa Marie Rice that I will undoubtedly read the next book in the series and also try some of her other books, since I already have a few on my TBR pile....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews So far, in my erotic romance reading experiences, I've found that the best books are usually those that focus in on the sex anReviewed for THC Reviews So far, in my erotic romance reading experiences, I've found that the best books are usually those that focus in on the sex and relationships. With the ones that add other elements, such as science fiction, suspense, paranormal, etc., the plot typically tends to suffer. Not so with Riding the Storm. This novel is like X-Men meets erotic romance, and in my opinion, it was a fabulous story that was a great start to the ACRO series. The overall premise of the series is that a group of men and women who possess supernatural abilities (ala superheroes) have banded together as part of a secret government agency to fight the evil versions of themselves (ala super-villains). I've always been a fan of superhero stories. Riding the Storm is just a super-sexy version of a superhero story, and I can't wait to read more.
Remy is a man with a lot of baggage. He was abandoned on a church doorstep as an infant in the middle of a hurricane that he may have caused. Remy's adoptive father had just lost his wife and unborn child in an accident, and saw it as some sort of omen that he was meant to take this child in and give him a home. He knew from the start that Remy was different. He tried to be a decent parent, but his heartbreak never quite healed. As a result he spent a lot of time at the bottom of a bottle, often leaving Remy to fend for himself. Ultimately, his father sold him out, but at least it was to the right people and he felt bad about it afterward. Remy discovered by puberty that he could control the weather, and that the storms and his sexual desires feed off of one another. His ability has always made him feel like a freak. The superstitious residents of the bayou think he's possessed by an evil spirit and have been trying to spell him since he was a child. Even joining the military didn't really give him a sense of belonging, as most of the other guys were freaked out by his seeming connection to the weather. All the women Remy was ever with were frightened of the ferocity of his sexual desires during storms, so romantic relationships have been all but impossible for him. That all changes when Haley shows up. She offers him a place where his ability will be appreciated, not reviled, and welcomes his sexual intensity in a way he never thought possible.
Haley is a parameteorologist who was sent by ACRO to assess Remy's abilities. She is also tasked with bringing him into the agency if he proves to be as powerful as they suspect. I liked that Haley was so accepting of Remy's passionate nature, that she even enjoyed it and met him with a certain intensity of her own. She does initially keep her true purpose for being in the bayou a secret, which leads to some problems for them down the line, but I still think she proved more than once that he had become much more than a job to her. I loved how she was as protective of him as he was of her. She also gave freely of herself to him and put her life on the line to help save him even though she had no special ability to fall back on.
Riding the Storm has a fascinating cast of secondary characters that I can't wait to see again. Devlin is the enigmatic director of ACRO, the agency he essentially inherited from his parents. Dev is physically blind, but through his psychic talents, he can see things most people can't. He is an incredibly sexy and intriguing man who is apparently nursing a broken heart with a series of meaningless sexual encounters. Then there was Creed and Annika, a couple who were every bit as appealing as Remy and Haley if not a little more so. Annika is super-charged with electricity, and much like Remy she feels like a freak. She also has trouble with relationships because of her inability to control her electrical pulses during sex which can fry the poor unfortunate guy. Creed is a ghost hunter who is followed by a possessive female spirit who doesn't want him getting too attached to any other woman, but he appears to be immune to Annika's ability. With his tats, piercings, and bad boy persona, Creed reminds me of one of the brothers from J. R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood. Annika and Creed spend a large part of the story trying to make contact with an unfriendly spirit in Dev's childhood home. Normally, I'm not a big fan of ghost stories, but this one was very engaging. I really enjoyed how they battled the ghost in the haunted house while also battling their growing passion for one another. Both of these characters have fascinating back stories, and yet, I feel the authors have only scratched the surface with this pair. I would love to see this couple get their own story, but as of yet, that doesn't appear to be the case. I'm not sure if their romance will continue to play out as secondary characters, but I certainly hope so. I'm really looking forward to seeing more of them and learning more about this spirit from Dev's past. Last but not least there were the two operatives Ender and Wyatt. These two are like oil and water. Ender is about as unfriendly as Wyatt is friendly, and they seem to enjoy trying to one up each other. Wyatt will become the hero of book #3, Seduced by the Storm.
Riding the Storm was a wonderful and entertaining beginning to what promises to be a sexy and engrossing new-to-me series. Sydney Croft is a pseudonym for the writing team of Larissa Ione and Stephanie Tyler, both of whom have pretty impressive resumes as individuals. It looks like Larissa probably drew upon her own experience as a meteorologist for the character of Haley. I'm dying to see what else these two come up with together, as well as exploring their individual backlists, because if this book is any indication, they are both very talented authors.
Note: This book is categorized as erotic romance, and while the love scenes are frequent, creative and ultra-spicy, there is nothing that I would describe as kinky. However, there is one scene of M/M sensuality that may offend some readers....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews I've had Where Have All the Cowboys Gone? on my TBR list for quite some time. When I added it a few years back, I remember beiReviewed for THC Reviews I've had Where Have All the Cowboys Gone? on my TBR list for quite some time. When I added it a few years back, I remember being fairly excited about it and thinking that I would probably enjoy it, but unfortunately, it was a rather lackluster read for me. The premise of two strangers meeting and marrying on a lark in Las Vegas, then having to get to know one another after the fact and determine whether the marriage is worth saving is a pretty unique one. However, from the opening pages, I had trouble suspending disbelief long enough to buy into the notion. I just never fully understood their motivations for saying, “I do.” I guess Grayson supposedly fell in love with Lauren at first sight, although I can't say that I sensed that emotion from him at the time. Lauren, it seems, was using it as a way to exert her independence from her controlling father, but she mentioned several times throughout the story that she didn't ever want to marry. Consequently, I couldn't figure out why she did it in the first place, as her reasoning seemed very contradictory to me. The couple also shared a night of wild sex, but I simply didn't feel anything passing between them that in my mind would lead to them suddenly thinking, "Hey, let's get married." At least it might have made some sense if they had been drunk, but they weren't.
At no point during the story did I dislike Grayson or Lauren, but I can't really say that they stood out to me either. I felt like both characters were rather underdeveloped. They both had “daddy issues,” which in my opinion, led to a little too much family dysfunction piled into one book. The way Lauren's father was constantly buying her clothes and sending people in to redecorate her apartment to his taste without her permission, not to mention his abusive and manipulative behavior toward Lauren and her mom, was just downright creepy. If I were her, I would have pulled up stakes and moved as far away from the guy as I possibly could. In my opinion, the man belonged in jail, but I can't even say that I got the satisfaction of a comeuppance for him. All I can say about Grayson's father is that he didn't seem to be abusive, but he sure was manipulative, in addition to acting like a sleazy Hugh Heffner wanna-be. With two dads like that, I can totally understand how Grayson and Lauren might have trust issues, but I didn't feel like the author brought out those emotions in a palpable way. Much like with the opening of the novel, I didn't fully grasp their motivations. The author chooses to reveal bits and pieces of their troubled pasts as the story progresses, probably as a way of building suspense. For me though, all it served to do was leave me feeling rather frustrated, because I didn't really get to know either of them very well until the story was already over. In this case, having at least some of their issues revealed earlier would have definitely added to my enjoyment of the story, because I would have understood what made them tick right from the start instead of spending the whole book asking questions.
In addition to not really feeling like I knew Grayson and Lauren as individuals, I began to tire of all their game-playing and keeping secrets from one another, essentially pretending to be someone they're not. They are supposed to be getting to know each other to determine whether they can make their marriage work for the long haul, but neither of them was being entirely honest. At least, Grayson didn't play games, but he did pretend to be an ordinary cowboy, hiding his status as a multi-millionaire from Lauren. I'll admit that he did have a semi-decent reason for not fully disclosing his wealth, wanting her to love him for himself and not his money, but it still led to a lot of trouble when their business deals overlaped and eventually led to Lauren thinking the worst of him, that he was just somehow in cahoots with her father. Lauren on the other hand was not only pretending to be someone she's not and trying to keep Grayson from finding out who her father was, but also when Grayson comes to visit her in San Francisco, she and her best friend play a ridiculous game trying to tempt him to cheat. It all just made me want to roll my eyes in exasperation at their childish behavior. I've never been a fan of this kind of game-playing in a relationship, because it just seems underhanded and silly. Not to mention, once the dishonesty starts, I don't know how anyone can know whether the other person is ever telling the truth. To me, honesty is quite simply always the best policy and makes things a whole lot easier in the long run.
Since this is an erotic romance, Grayson and Lauren, of course, spend a lot of time having wild sex, but in my opinion, the love scenes weren't always smooth and seamless. Sometimes, they go from one position to another with no transition details to explain how they got there. A couple of times, they were even contorted into a position that didn't seem possible, at least not as described, and I was totally pulled out of the scene while trying to figure it out. For an erotic romance, most of the love scenes were pretty short too. There isn't a whole lot of build-up either before or during the scenes, and then one or both of them climax really quickly, for the most part, leaving any sexual tension in the dust. I can maybe site two love scenes in the whole book that were fairly enjoyable and didn't leave me with a wham-bam-thank-you-ma'am feeling.
Grayson and Lauren may have had good physical chemistry that supposedly led to great sex, but I cannot honestly say that I ever felt any emotional connection between them at all. In a romance novel, actually being able to sense the love building between the hero and heroine, and believe in it, is absolutely crucial to my full enjoyment of the story. There were times when I wasn't even sure why the two of them would want to stay together unless it was just for the sex. I will go so far as to say that Grayson expressed his love, in some ways, through his actions, which Lauren then saw and was impressed by, but obviously not enough to trust him. As a consequence, I didn't really know what Lauren was giving back to Grayson. One of the big reasons I never felt that all-important emotional connection between them is because there was just too much telling and not enough showing, although even the telling was sparse and took too long. The book also has a marked absence of body language and a shocking lack of feeling words, especially for a romance. It wasn't until the very end of the book that Grayson finally said, “I love you,” but to the best of my recollection, Lauren never did at any point. Both characters expressing their feelings is an absolute must for me to believe that they have a future together. As it is, the story had more of an HFN feel than an HEA, even though they were married for the whole book.
One last observation I had about the book is the British spellings of a number of words. I understand that the author herself is British (although she does live in the U.S.) and the novel was printed by a British publisher, but it takes place in the U.S., making these words seem very odd and out of place, particularly when used in dialog. It just didn't fit with the setting or cowboy theme.
Where Have All the Cowboys Gone? was my first read by Kate Pearce and the first in her Turner Brothers series. While it obviously didn't wow me, it wasn't exactly a bad book per se. I wasn't precisely bored with it, so I suppose I could characterize it as a worthwhile read. The premise and the overall story had potential. It just needed a lot more ingredients, particularly emotion and sexual tension, to really stand out as a great read. It was one of Kate Pearce's earlier works, so I can hope that she's grown as a writer since then. I might be open to continuing the series, although I'll have to admit that based on what little I saw of Grayson's brother, Jay, who is the hero of the next book Roping the Wind, he didn't really catch my fancy. Maybe I'll save it for a time when I'm in the mood to take a chance.
Note: This book contains explicit sexual content which may offend some readers, including light bondage, brief anal play with fingers, two females in a passionate clinch and a short scene of F/M/F action although no intercourse is involved....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Promises Linger, the first book of Sarah McCarty's Promises series, was so incredibly good, I was really looking forward to reReviewed for THC Reviews Promises Linger, the first book of Sarah McCarty's Promises series, was so incredibly good, I was really looking forward to reading Promises Keep. While Promises Keep was a reasonably entertaining book in and of itself, by comparison to the previous book, it was something of a letdown. For me, Sarah McCarty is an author who vacillates between being totally spot-on fantastic or phoning it in. Promises Keep wasn't quite as frustrating as another of her books I read a while back, but it wasn't nearly up to the caliber of which I know she's capable either. Ms. McCarty has the ability to create erotic romances that are about so much more than just the sex, but unfortunately, this was not one of them. I really felt like the story and the sex could have and should have been more evenly integrated together. Instead, we get sex at the very beginning, followed by a little bit of story, followed by pages upon pages upon pages of sex, and finally at the end a little more story. However, the story she chose to tell in those final pages didn't quite make sense to me, which is something I'll address shortly. Still, though, as I said before, the book was fairly entertaining for what it was, which is why I didn't choose to mark it any lower than four stars.
When we meet Mara, she's in a brothel and presumed to be a new prostitute who has just been sold for the first time to one of the establishment's patrons. That customer happens to be Cougar, the hero of the story. He finds her to be the most beguiling creature he's ever laid eyes on, but what he doesn't realize is that she's been drugged and is there against her will. In her drugged state, she acts rather seductively, so he thinks it's all part of an act. Her reality, however, is that he's raping her and she's attempting to fight back, but the drugs are making her actions come out all wrong. Little does she know that Cougar made a vow that he would take her out of there when he left, and he does eventually make good on that promise, helping her to escape, but not before they kill the madame and her henchman in self-defense. Safely in Cougar's hometown of Cheyenne, Mara no longer remembers him. He's just the man she's been told rescued her from the brothel. Unfortunately, the rumors of a prostitute escaping the Pleasure Emporium in the next town follow Mara to her new home, leaving everyone speculating that she's an ex-whore. Mara was a very strong, courageous woman who held her head high amidst the scorn of nearly an entire town. Unfortunately, though, her pride doesn't stop the unscrupulous men in town from trying to take advantage of her, which is why she somewhat reluctantly accepts Cougar's offer of marriage. She knows that only her husband's name and his protection can truly keep her safe. While Mara may not remember who took her virtue that night at the brothel, she recalls enough of the experience to be very skittish around her new husband, but eventually, she warms to him and proves to be a woman whose passion matches his measure for measure.
Cougar was an honorable man who never would have taken Mara the night they met if he'd known the circumstances under which she was at the Pleasure Emporium. In spite of it essentially being a non-consensual act, at least from her perspective, he was very sweet and gentle with her. On some level, he fell for her the moment he saw her, which is why he made his vow, and once he finally realized what was going on, he felt so responsible for her, he became her self-appointed protector, looking out for her well-being even though she didn't want him to. When some ne'er-do-wells rough her up one day, he realizes she needs more protection than he can offer by simply following her around town and scowling at any man who dares to look cross-ways at her, so he uses the opportunity to press his suit more forcefully. The thing that disappointed me a bit about Cougar was that his characterization seemed a little uneven to me. During the early part of the story, he came off as a kind, gentle man. In the previous book of the series, I had gotten the same impression, that he was a little rough around the edges, but was a romantic at heart who was stuck with a fiancée who didn't fully appreciate him. Because of this, I thought he was going to be a hero similar to Asa (Promises Linger), an alpha with a sweet side. I guess he had his moments, but in general once he married Mara, it seemed like he changed into one of those clueless uber-alphas, which is not really my favorite kind of hero. What really made me want to slap him silly though, was when Mara found him in bed with another woman, not once, but twice, after they were married. Granted the first time he was out of his mind with a fever, and the second, nothing had apparently happened yet, but who knows if something might have if Mara hadn't shown up in time. I really felt that if Cougar truly loved Mara, he should have read the woman the riot act and sent her packing, but instead he acted pretty passively in both situations, which seemed out of character for an otherwise very forceful alpha male. However, as I said, he had his moments (I really liked the way he always called Mara “Angel”) and he could be an intensely seductive lover, so in general, I liked him alright even though a man like him would never truly be my cup of tea.
The main thing that I really felt was lacking in Promises Keep was the storytelling. Many times, I wished that the author had deepened the characterizations, particularly Cougar's and Mara's. There were several things about both of them that I thought could have made them so much more fascinating if they'd been explored more fully. In Promises Linger, it was obvious to me that for whatever reason Cougar had latched onto a woman who was a poor match for him and who treated him pretty badly. When Promises Keep opens, he's still struggling with something that happened between them right before she died and perhaps some guilt over the way in which she died as well. I thought these vulnerabilities were very intriguing, but after he meets Mara, it's like Cougar is a completely new man and all these old issues are completely swept under the rug. Also, Cougar is a half-breed, who very easily could have experienced some type of prejudice, but nothing of that nature ever came to light. If anything, it seemed he'd become fairly well-respected around town which was maybe a little hard to buy into. Mara was left at the brothel by her father as payment for gambling debts, which seems to indicate a pretty messed up home life and should have had a major emotional impact on her too, yet this part of her background was never explored at all. Madame Cecile definitely seemed to have it in for Mara, and I initially thought that she would make a very formidable and relentless villain if Mara were to escape her clutches, but alas, she was killed off far too quickly in my estimation, losing that promise of a major external conflict. Even though Mara didn't remember that Cougar was the man who raped her, she did still have to overcome her fear of men in general, which was pretty much the only conflict for quite a while, but when she finally finds out the truth, it was a revelation that basically fizzled. Toward the end, the author set up a brand new conflict centering around women's rights when a suffragette comes to town. This part of the story really came from out of nowhere, with no inkling up to that point that Mara had any interest in or concerns about women's rights at all. It felt like the author had found some interesting tidbit about the suffragist movement in her research and decided to just throw it in without really crafting the story around it. During these chapters we're also introduced to a new supporting character, Pearl, who also come from out of nowhere. No explanation is given as to who she is or how she relates to the other characters in the book except that she's obviously friends with several of them.
I wish that we could have seen a little more of some of the secondary characters. I really liked Cougar's adoptive parents, Doc and Dorothy. I thought it was very sweet that they were still so deeply in love after all the years they'd been together. Cougar's interactions with them were fun and easy-going. They were obviously a very loving family. We're introduced to Brad, the handsome town minister, who turns every lady's head. He seems like a really nice guy, and he becomes the hero of book #4, Promises Reveal. Then there's Cougar's cousin, Clint, who is also a half-breed. We were first introduced to him in Promises Linger, where he worked as a hand on Asa and Elizabeth's ranch. Now, it seems he's working for Cougar on his ranch, and this apparent ladies' man has a few words of wisdom for the errant Cougar. Clint becomes the hero of the next book, Promises Prevail. Last but not least, Asa and Elizabeth come to pay their friend a visit. It was really nice to see them again. I adored every minute Asa was on the canvas. He's still just too yummy for words.;-)
In addition to the story issues I had with Promises Keep, there were several nagging smaller problems I found. One is the author's use of the passive sentence structure “A had B occurring.” (eg. The sight of her beautiful breasts had him growing hard.) I took to rewriting a lot of these in my head, because they were annoying me so much. She also has a tendency to place dialog in the middle of prose, which is again passively worded (eg. Her “yes” was softly murmured.) and generally annoying. I also found a number of continuity errors such as a character standing in one paragraph and sitting in the next with no mention of them sitting down or a character being bare-chested in one paragraph and wearing a shirt a few paragraphs later. There are also times when the way the author described certain actions it was difficult to envision them and other times when the way they were being described seemed almost anatomically impossible unless the character was a contortionist. All of these things should have been caught and corrected by a truly good editor.
On the upside, I can't deny that Sarah McCarty has a way with writing love scenes. Although a few of the ones in this book were a little too raw for my taste, she is good at varying them in such a way that each one is a little different from the last, which can be difficult to accomplish in an erotic romance where so much page time is taken up by sex. I liked Mara's gentle but spunky nature, and although Cougar could get on my nerves occasionally, he was mostly likable as well, or at the very least, I liked his passionate seductions. Maybe the sheer hotness of the love scenes melted my brain, but I did mostly enjoy the book in spite of its weaknesses. As I said before, for what it is Promises Keep is decent story, so I'll definitely be looking to continue with Clint's book soon, while hoping that he's not quite as pig-headed as Cougar, and that the story is a little better constructed.
Note: This story contains explicit language and sexual content, including biting, spanking, bondage, intimate shaving, non-consensual sex, rimming, and anal sex, all of which may offend some readers....more
"4 1/2 stars" After being less than impressed with Beyond Innocence it took me a while to talk myself into reading Beyond Seduction, but in my opinion"4 1/2 stars" After being less than impressed with Beyond Innocence it took me a while to talk myself into reading Beyond Seduction, but in my opinion, Emma Holly definitely redeemed herself with this one. It had the depth of emotion that I tend to prefer in my romance novels, but don't always find. It was amazing how the author could convey so much emotion with a mere touch or glance, or some other simple but meaningful gesture. This just left me with very warm feelings throughout the entire story. Many part of it were rather predictable, but Ms. Holly managed to throw out a couple of surprises that I didn't see coming. Overall it was a really satisfying read.
I really liked both Nic and Merry. In Beyond Innocence Merry was a rather independent, tom-boyish girl who rather shamelessly pursued the hero of that story, so I wasn't sure if I would like her as a heroine. My opinion of her changed very quickly though, as I came to understand her as a kind-hearted young woman who was outwardly brash, but inwardly insecure about her plain appearance. Nic was a wonderfully gentle beta hero with the sensitive heart of an artist and an eye for true beauty, who helped Merry realize what a desirable woman she really was. I just couldn't help but like him in spite of his flaws. I thought that the interactions between these two were incredibly romantic mostly because they both generously gave of themselves to each other. The story was rounded out by a large colorful cast of secondary characters consisting mainly of family and friends who ran a gamut of varying personalities.
Beyond Seduction was almost as much about flawed family ties and friendships and forgiving those we love, as it was about love and romance, which I thought gave it a much deeper meaning. This really helped to draw me into the story and overlook some of the more cliched elements which otherwise might have annoyed me. I really enjoyed reading Beyond Seduction. Sometimes it was difficult to put down, and it was always a pleasure to pick up again. Even though these two novels are a series, they can easily be read independently without loosing any storyline. Since I borrowed this from the library, I look forward to getting my own copy of Beyond Seduction for my keeper shelf.
Note:Beyond Seduction, reads very much like a traditional historical romance, but in my opinion, certain elements of the sexual content and a bit more explicit language (both of which some may find offensive) push the boundaries of what some readers may consider traditional, giving it a mild erotic feel....more
I had very mixed feelings about this story. There were things that I liked about it, but there were other things that really frustrated me and came peI had very mixed feelings about this story. There were things that I liked about it, but there were other things that really frustrated me and came perilously close to giving it wall-banger status, something that is highly unusual for me. It was a primarily character-driven story with nearly all the conflict being of an internal nature. I found the plot to be interesting but very predictable. While there were some emotional romantic moments, they were just too few and inconsistent. The love scenes were very hot and steamy, but just lacked a certain emotional depth. I think this was partly due to the back-and-forth, will-they-or-won't-they nature of the story which became rather tiresome.
I liked Edward and Florence, but didn't really feel that their characterizations were consistent and sometimes they just weren't relatable to me. Florence was a sweet simple vicar's daughter who was extremely naive particularly when it came to things of a sexual nature, but yet was very willing and even eager to participate in sexual intimacies that were out of the ordinary. She almost instantly went from innocent girl to hot sex kitten, something which I thought stretched the bounds of credibility. I felt like I generally understood Edward as the brooding, aloof hero, but what I never could really grasp was his compelling need to protect Freddie. What under other circumstances would have been an endearing bond between two brothers, ultimately felt like obsessive behavior on Edward's part. Also his assertion that Florence was Freddie's last hope of regaining some respectability in society just didn't ring true. It seemed to me that any young woman could have filled the position as Freddie's wife, considering that he never lacked female admirers. In the end I just found Edward too passive for me to be able to fully respect him. I actually liked Freddie more, because I never felt like he was trying to hide behind false pretenses, and admittedly he was a rather charming scene-stealer. This was my first read by Emma Holly and although I can tell she has talent as a writer, it is possible that her writing style simply may not be for me. However, I'll wait until I've read the sequel, Beyond Seduction before making further comment.
Note:Beyond Innocence reads much like a traditional historical romance, but in my opinion the sexual content and explicit language (both of which some may find offensive) rather pushed the boundaries of what most readers would consider traditional, giving it a mild erotic feel. There is also one passionate M/M kiss which, again, may offend some....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews While many erotic romance authors seem to fall into the trap of sacrificing story for sex, Sarah McCarty is one of the few whoReviewed for THC Reviews While many erotic romance authors seem to fall into the trap of sacrificing story for sex, Sarah McCarty is one of the few who knows how to balance an engaging plot with great character development and scorching hot love scenes to create a beautiful story that's a pleasure to read. It is because of this deft combination that Ms. McCarty has become my current favorite erotic romance author and one of my overall favorite authors too. I had previously read and enjoyed some of her Hell's Eight novels. Promises Linger was my first read from her Promises series, and I'm pleased to say that it is her best book that I've read so far. I adored the characters, the plot was well-developed, and the love scenes were smokin'. What more could a romance lover ask for?;-)
When the story opens, Elizabeth marches into the saloon and stands down her “husband” of only one day who stole her money and gave her a black eye. It was absolutely adorable how she was trying to maintain the prim and proper comportment she'd learned at her fancy finishing school back East while holding the man at gunpoint. Throughout the story this dichotomy comes into play frequently, and I loved the delicate balancing act that she performs between trying to be a perfect lady and reluctantly learning to embrace her naturally wild tendencies. Once she dispenses with the evil ex, she immediately offers herself and her ranch to Asa MacIntyre, a man she knows only by his reputation. Having been misinformed at her finishing school, Elizabeth thinks the marriage bed is nothing more than a duty and experiences extreme virginal jitters on her wedding night, but Asa was infinitely patient with her, trying to seduce her little by little. When she still wouldn't warm up to him and he was about ready to leave, not wanting to force the issue, she tells herself she needs to do it to keep him and to save her ranch. At that point, she takes matters in hand, doing something that surprises the heck out of him. Things didn't exactly go the way Asa had planned, but lucky for her, he's an incredibly generous lover who showed her what she was missing the next morning, and the way she responds is just too cute. On the outside, Elizabeth may be starched and buttoned up, always trying to maintain a steel grip of control, but inside, she's fiery and passionate. Lucky girl that she is, Asa is just the man to help her loosen up. Having been treated by her father like the son he never had, Elizabeth is unused to any softness in her life. She is wary of men, thinking that they all like to hit and treat women badly, so sadly, the gentleness and consideration that Asa shows her is a completely foreign concept to her. He constantly makes her feel off balance, like she never knows where she stands with him. Elizabeth may know how to behave like a gently bred lady, but Asa teaches her what it means to be a woman in more ways than one.
[Sigh] Asa is just to yummy for words. The man totally had me drooling for him and has more than earned a spot on my favorite romance heroes list. He may have had a rough upbringing, but he definitely knows how to treat a lady right. All he's ever wanted in life was a place to belong, a nice spread to call his own, and a wife to love and share it with. When Elizabeth offers her proposition, it's like all his dreams have come true in one fell swoop. Asa is immediately drawn to her spunky nature and understated beauty. In fact, he not only respects her feistiness, but finds it amusing. Asa is oh so sexy and just the kind of alpha hero I love. He positively oozes confidence and control and knows how to be dominating without being a jerk. He's the kind of alpha who gets his way through gentle persuasion rather than arrogantly imposing his will on others, namely Elizabeth. If anything, he's rather laid back but is very protective of anyone or anything he deems "his," and yet underneath he has a tender heart of gold. He's the type of man who understands how to use his own self-assurance to build a woman up, not tear her down. I love how Asa is protective of Elizabeth, not just physically, but also of her battered heart and psyche. He won't stand for anyone, not even someone she considers a friend, putting her down or causing her even the slightest bit of pain. Asa is also very intelligent and intuitive, reading between the lines of the things Elizabeth says (and doesn't say), as well as interpreting her moods and emotions to understand what she's really thinking. It was so sweet how Asa cleverly made Elizabeth think he was in control in an effort to put her at ease, when in a sense he was really giving her the reins. One example was when he told her that a man needed to be warmed up to enjoy love-making, so she wouldn't rush it. That scene was just too cute. I also adored the way he gently teased Elizabeth even though she didn't understand it at first. Asa was simply one of those scrumptious, devil-may-care cowboys who gives his all to the woman he loves and treats her like a precious jewel, and I absolutely loved him for it.
Promises Linger introduces a few key supporting players who become main characters in future books of the series. Cougar was another of those sexy, laid-back cowboys who definitely intrigues me. He's a half-breed who apparently has a reputation as being a rough, tough cowpoke on the outside, but inside has the heart of a romantic and believes in true love. Unfortunately, he's smitten with a woman who can't stand him and only wants his money. I'll be looking forward to reading his story, Promises Keep, which is the next in the series, and seeing him get his HEA with a woman who can appreciate him more. There is also Clint, one of the ranch hands on the Rocking C. He helps watch out for Elizabeth and we get a hint that he may have a thing for a woman Elizabeth has occasionally been helping. That lady, Jenna, is mentioned in the background of this book as dealing with a hard-drinking, abusive husband. Clint and Jenna become the hero and heroine of book #3, Promises Reveal.
Overall, Promises Linger was a wonderful read. It had all the things that make a romance enjoyable to me: a to-die-for hero, a spunky but emotionally damaged heroine, likable secondary characters, a tender story that tugs at the heartstrings, and steamy but tasteful love scenes. Need I say more?;-) It definitely has me eager to continue the Promises series, as well as get back to Hell's Eight and pick up more of Sarah McCarty's other works too.
Note: This book contains explicit language and sexual situations including anal sex, which may offend some readers....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Voyeur is one seriously hot and steamy read. With it being my first book by Lacey Alexander, I wasn't entirely sure what to exReviewed for THC Reviews Voyeur is one seriously hot and steamy read. With it being my first book by Lacey Alexander, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect, so I was very pleasantly surprised to find that I thoroughly enjoyed it. This story was definitely my kind of erotic romance. The characters were relatable, there was actually a plot, and the writing itself was pretty solid. The sex scenes were not only hot but loaded with variety that kept them from weighing down the book or becoming boring. There's also a little story within a story as Laura breaks through her writer's block and things finally get moving with her mystery book. There are excerpts of Laura's new novel peppered throughout, and her main character finds herself in a relationship, which mirrors Laura's relationship with Braden. I have to give the author props for this, because as a writer myself, I know how difficult it can be to focus on developing just one story, so for Lacey Alexander to write two simultaneously, even though Laura's isn't as detailed, is still pretty impressive to me. All in all, Voyeur was a fun, enjoyable read.
Laura is a mystery author suffering from writer's block. Her best friend thinks she needs some sex to get her creativity going, but then again, her friend thinks sex is the answer to everything. Laura doesn't take her too seriously, but she does take her up on an offer to use her cousin's cabin in the Colorado mountains as a writer's retreat. When that alone doesn't seem to be working for her, she decides to indulge in a little self-pleasuring to see if there's anything to her friend's assertion. Even when she realizes there's a webcam in the house, she figures no one is likely watching, but the idea that someone might be only heightens her arousal. This one fateful decision opens the door to a whole world of sexual exploration and experiences she never knew existed. I really loved Laura's “good girl” persona. She's always been a sensible girl, who's only had sex in committed relationships, and never thought she would ever do any of the things she finds herself trying in this secluded moutainside cabin. She obviously has a very passionate side that she's really never explored before, and Braden was the perfect man to help her do that. I could totally relate to and understand her temptation to play the part of the exhibitionist but then feel guilty and uncomfortable about it afterward. The more Braden encourages her to do and the further she explores her passion with him, the more comfortable she feels in her own skin, until she finally owns that side of herself fully.
It takes a little while to get a feel for Braden, because at first, he's a mostly anonymous guy behind a computer screen, watching all the naughty things Laura is doing. When he finally shows up in the story in person, I liked him from the start. He's a wealthy playboy who's had his fair share of women, but there's something about Laura that calls to him like a siren song. He loves her air of “innocence,” and he loves being a part of her experiencing all these new sides of her sexuality. He's an incredibly generous lover, who wants to draw Laura out of her sensible shell and give her the most incredible pleasure she's ever experienced in her life. I love how seductive and gently persuasive he is. He's confident that she'll love everything he suggests if she can only bring herself to do it, but he always gives her a choice and is never forceful or demanding. Because of his parents' failed marriage and not having many other happy marriages to draw from for example, he's never really been a relationship guy. He's happy in his playboy lifestyle, but with Laura, everything feels a little different. Her hesitation to do what he asks is beguiling to him, and he derives so much pleasure and satisfaction from simply showing her what she's been missing. Despite her lack of experience in some of the things he wants to do with her, she ends up being the best and most memorable lover he's ever had.
In the beginning, both Laura and Braden view their relationship as a temporary affair, but in spite of that, it never felt tawdry or like simple lust gone wild. Their interactions are laced with emotion. Both of them are so generous and caring toward each other, focusing more on giving the other pleasure than on receiving. Laura gradually begins to trust Braden and he never does anything to break that trust. I think that's why their relationship felt so real to me, because IMHO, to reach that level of complete sexual surrender, trust is essential. Of course, by the time her retreat is drawing to a close, Laura's feelings have gotten tangled up in it, making it difficult to say goodbye. Even though he's pretty reticent about it and tries to blow it off, the reader can tell that Braden is starting to struggle a bit too with the idea of Laura leaving. There is a long separation at the end, but neither of them is truly able to move on with someone else, leading to a satisfying and happy ending. I think it can be rather difficult for erotic romance authors to find that perfect balance of hot, steamy sex and a deep emotional connection, but IMO, Lacey Alexander succeeded in spades. Voyeur completely hit that sweet spot for me, and now that I've finally read it, I'm kicking myself for waiting so long and can't wait to try more of this author's work.
Note: This story contains explicit language and sexual content, including voyeurism, exhibitionism, use of a sex toy, intimate shaving, spanking, anal sex, and a M/F/M menage a trois. There is also a brief F/F/M menage, but it only takes place in the hero's fantasies, not in real-life....more
"4.5 stars" After reading The Man Within, I am finally starting to see why so many romance readers love Lora Leigh's boReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
"4.5 stars" After reading The Man Within, I am finally starting to see why so many romance readers love Lora Leigh's books. While I had liked the idea behind the Breeds series, Tempting the Beast, the first book, had failed to fully resonate with me. The Man Within now has me hooked on the series and wanting to know more. It continues the fascinating story of a group of humans who were cruelly treated as science experiments when their DNA was mixed with that of various predatory animals in an attempt to create the perfect soldier. No longer in hiding, the Breeds are now known to the public and living in their own compound, but are still in grave danger from their creators and extremist groups. This whole overarching sci-fi/suspense plot and continuing storyline has really drawn me into the Breeds world. I think the main reason I liked The Man Within better than Tempting the Beast was the relationship of the hero and heroine. Unlike it's predecessor, which had an immediate “meeting and mating,” Taber and Roni had known and been in love with each other for years, ever since she was a little girl. Taber was very protective of Roni throughout those years too which I thought added a nice touch. Another thing I enjoyed more was the love scenes, which for the most part exhibited the tenderness and loving feelings which I had felt were missing from Tempting the Beast. I also appreciated that the misunderstanding that had kept Taber and Roni apart for three years did not drag out for the entire book, but was resolved about halfway through.
Taber and Roni themselves also made the story more enjoyable for me, as I found them to be more relatable characters. I remember liking Taber as a secondary character in Tempting the Beast, and he definitely did not disappoint me in his own story. Because of his animal DNA, Taber still had dominating alpha tendencies, but I thought he had a very gentle, loving and even vulnerable side as well. I love that Taber was so protective of Roni even before he marked her as his mate, and wish that those years had been explored in a bit more depth. Overall, he was just a very yummy hero, in my opinion. I thought Roni was pretty likable too, as a young woman whose childhood had been extremely difficult, having lost her mother at a young age, and grown up with a father who was more interested in where his next con and his next bottle were coming from than his little girl. It was nice to know that Roni had found someone like Taber to watch over her during those years. Roni did annoy me a bit with her stubbornness, especially when it led to arguments or she was having trouble trusting Taber's judgment. She liked to say that it was Taber who was the stubborn one, but in my opinion, her's outweighed his by quite a bit. Roni did have a softer side though, and it was when she was letting it show through that I liked her the most. I thought she was at her best when she was being loving, giving and nurturing toward Taber. I also liked that in spite of her instinct to fight any male dominance in her life, that most of the time she was fairly willing to surrender herself to him. All in all I thought they were well-matched and had good chemistry in their relationship.
Even though I really liked The Man Within, and it has definitely earned a place on my keeper shelf, there were a few things I thought could have been better. I thought the editing in this book was better than in Tempting the Beast, but I found that it still had several typos and one glaring age discrepancy. There wasn't a lot of background information given on Taber other than the standard stuff that all the Breeds seem to have gone through in the lab. At one point Dawn said that Taber deserved happiness more than any of them, which led me to believe that there might be some big reveal about his past, but that never materialized. I also would have liked it if Dayan had been given more solid motives for his actions, which readers are still learning about even from beyond the grave. Right now, I just feel like that part of the story is a bit fuzzy and hope that it will be explored in more depth in future installments. I admit that I enjoy alpha males who occasionally use statements like, “You're mine” toward the heroine, but once or twice in one story is sufficient. I thought having Taber say it nearly every time they made love, and then some, was a little too overwhelming. I did enjoy that Roni returned the sentiment in one love scene, and found it to be a really fun reversal. As I mentioned earlier a bit less arguing would have been nice too, but at least Taber seemed to be more amused and aroused by Roni's obstinacy than anything else. Also, Taber and Roni's first love scene was a bit rough for my taste, leaving me with concerns that it was going to be that way throughout the entire story, but I was impressed when Taber immediately showed regrets for initially loosing control and made up for it by being generally more patient and restrained.
The Man Within is book #2 in the Breeds series and has a strong and varied secondary character palette. Several characters who were first introduced in book #1, Tempting the Beast, once again made appearances. Readers get to see Callan and Merinus again, not long after the ending of their own story. There are also quick visits from Tanner, a Bengal Breed, who becomes the hero of book #9, Tanner's Scheme, and Dawn, a cougar Breed, who becomes the heroine of book #14, Dawn's Awakening. Kane, Merinus's brother, and Sherra, a snow leopard Breed, who have a previous history together are also seen, and by the epilogue of this book, more of Sherra's secrets are revealed, leaving me very anxious to read their story, which is book #4, Kiss of Heat. Readers are also introduced to Mercury, a lion Breed, who becomes the hero of book #16, Mercury's War, which is due to be released in October, as well as a brief introduction to Seth who will become Dawn's mate in her story. There are currently a total of 15 novels and short stories in the Breeds series with more to come. According to Lora Leigh's website, she wrote the Breeds series out of order chronologically and it has been printed by two different publishers, making the ordering of the books confusing to some readers. For the proper order in which the books should be read, check out Ms. Leigh's website. The Man Within left a few rather open-ended threads with some mystery still shrouding a couple of Roni's long-lost relatives and who was trying to infiltrate the Breed compound, as well as the reveal of Sherra's past, which really make me look forward to continuing this engaging and creative series soon.
Note: This book contains extremely explicit language which may offend some readers and a couple of scenes of strong violence. The sexual content is frequent and sometimes intense, containing some erotic elements, but did not, in my opinion, contain anything particularly kinky....more
"4.5 stars" In my opinion, many erotic romances have a tendency to suffer from an overabundance of sex and underdevelopReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
"4.5 stars" In my opinion, many erotic romances have a tendency to suffer from an overabundance of sex and underdevelopment of plot. Fortunately, Caine's Reckoning has no such issues. It has an interesting and engrossing storyline while still maintaining the steamy sexuality that tends to mark erotic romances. The overarching plot of the series, that of eight mostly unrelated but sexy alpha men who have banded together as a “family” to fight evil and injustice, reminds me in some ways of J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series. Although I have to say that since one features sexy cowboys in the old west and the other sexy vampires in a contemporary urban setting, the similarities for the most part, end there. The individual premise of Caine's Reckoning was interesting as well. Between the heart-stopping romance, Desi's struggles to overcome her past, some wild west action, and a light mystery surrounding one of Desi's abusers and his motives, I had a hard time putting the book down. After reading several reviews for this book, I was expecting it to be very violent. While there were a couple of shoot-outs and one short 2 ½- page nightmare sequence that contained an explicit sexual assault, I found that most of the violence was left to the reader's imagination, and wasn't much worse than many other books I've read. That's not to say that it would be easy for everyone to read, and for this reason, I would caution sensitive readers about the content. I think that it simply didn't bother me as much, because in my opinion, the author didn't delve quite as deep into the emotional fall-out to Desi's psyche as some other authors with similar characters have done, and Desi was a very strong heroine as well.
I thought that Desi was an admirable heroine, a young woman who had suffered unthinkable abuse, and yet had never truly allowed herself to become a victim. When the story opens with her courageously fighting her captors like a hellcat while the other women sat passively by, I immediately liked her. Later when she showed tremendous vulnerability, it only endeared her to me further, as did her ability to frequently blush in spite of her “experience.” I also found her to be relatable as a young woman who had been raised as a prim, proper lady, but who always felt a burning passion inside trying to surface. It wasn't until she started stubbornly holding herself at arms length from Caine's gentle, loving overtures, that I had a bit harder time with her character, but ultimately, her actions were understandable in light of her past. Some stubborn heroines can tend to annoy me, but that wasn't really the case with Desi. I think I just spent most of that part of the story worried that her willfulness would cause her to do something really stupid, but when she exhibited intelligence and ingenuity in the end, she truly earned my respect. I also thought that when Desi was finally able to fully let herself go and surrender to Caine, trusting him completely, their resulting lovemaking was both darkly passionate and thoroughly beautiful and romantic, a heady combination indeed.
Caine was an incredibly appealing hero. Having lost his family at a young age, like all of the Hell's Eight men, he has a dark tortured past too, but it wasn't explored in as much detail as I would have liked. I suppose that is understandable though, as there shouldn't be too much darkness in one novel, or it would become depressing. Actually, I thought that Caine had a wry and sometime self-deprecating sense of humor which I enjoyed, and which also helped to lighten things up a bit here and there. He is a very dominating alpha male, but he has a heart of gold and isn't afraid to wear his heart on his sleeve when it comes to Desi. He also pampers her in the most thoroughly romantic ways, and has some of the most swoon-worthy lines I think I have ever read in a romance novel. I absolutely loved the way that he is completely committed to their marriage and being faithful to Desi right from the start, even though he had no intentions of getting married anytime soon and basically only agreed to it out of a sense of honor and duty. Even though Caine's every instinct is to dominate, he puts his own needs on hold and shows Desi an unbelievable amount of patience. I liked that Caine was very intelligent and intuitive when it came to Desi's needs. Time and time again, Caine proves that he is an honorable man who can be trusted with anything and who is the epitome of a true gentleman, a diamond in the rough. Even though I'm raving about him, Caine did have a few impatient moments when he allowed his desires to get the best of him, but I was still able to admire him because he immediately recognized his mistakes and admitted he was wrong. All in all, I thought he did pretty well for a guy in the old west who didn't have access to a psychotherapist for his wife.;-) Caine is definitely a hero I'll remember for a long time to come.
Though Caine's Reckoning was good enough to earn a place on my keeper shelf, it wasn't quite perfect. There were several scenes, a few of the love scenes in particular, that I thought were a little too verbose. I'm all for whispering sweet nothings during lovemaking, but sometimes it seemed like they were carrying on an entire conversation. In my opinion, it made these scenes feel rather forced, like the author was trying too hard to convince me of the character's passion and feelings instead of showing me. I think a few more descriptive details and a little less chattiness in these scenes would have made them flow a bit more naturally. There were also several scenes involving dialog, especially among multiple characters, where I had a difficult time determining who was speaking. Going back and reading the passages a second time usually cleared things up, but having to do this multiple times throughout the book was rather distracting. I would have to say that Desi's ability to overcome her past, not only the abuse but the sexually repressive atmosphere in which she was raised, was a little too quick, taking mere weeks instead of the months or even years that any real woman would have likely needed. However, since this is fiction and it was good otherwise, I can allow for a little creative license. I was also a little disappointed that the mystery surrounding the ringleader of Desi's captors was not fully resolved nor justice fully exacted, but I think this was meant to be something of a cliffhanger ending that is going to carry over into a future book or books. Overall, though this was a very good novel that I would definitely recommend.
Caine's Reckoning is the first book in the Hell's Eight series. It introduces the eight members of the group, some with brief background information and some only by name, but one, Sam, is given a slightly more detailed background and more scenes. He becomes the hero of the next book in the series, Sam's Creed. The third book, Tucker's Claim, is due out next spring with another, currently untitled, volume to follow by the end of 2009. Though she is not directly on the canvas in Caine's Reckoning, Desi's twin sister, Ari, is mentioned and does play a part in the mystery that was left unresolved. I suspect that she may become the heroine of a future book, possibly paired with Tracker, since he was the first to volunteer to search for her. Unfortunately, if my assumption is correct, it could be a while before readers get to experience their story. Caine's Reckoning was my first read by Sarah McCarty, but I am really looking forward to continuing the Hell's Eight series and checking out the other books that she has written too.
Note: This book contains explicit language, violence (as mentioned in my review), and sexual situations, including mild domination/submission, spanking and anal sex, which some readers may find offensive. However, considering the subject matter, everything was handled very tastefully in my opinion....more
Some readers seem to think that a good storyline and good erotic content are mutually exclusive, and while, unfortunately, this is often the case, I,Some readers seem to think that a good storyline and good erotic content are mutually exclusive, and while, unfortunately, this is often the case, I, for one, do not automatically think that my brain needs to be checked at the door when I'm in the mood for a really hot, steamy romance. But alas, perhaps I'm expecting too much. The plot of Elizabeth's Wolf felt like it was built up around the scorching love scenes, and when all was said and done, I was left with more questions than answers both about the Breeds and about the individual story contained within this book. Ms. Leigh's explanations for some of the things that happen are at best, weak plot devices, and at worst confusing and convoluted. One example of a weak and convoluted plot device, in my opinion, was the Breed registration process for minors. When looked at logically, it made little sense in and of itself, much less as a protection measure for Breed minors. In reality, it was simply a way for the author to “legally” make Dash, Cassie's daddy. Also, as hard as I tried, I couldn't quite figure out how Grange, a drug-dealing pervert, became involved in Breed experimentation except that he coincidentally had connections with a Breed scientist and it was some sort of power play. Another thing that didn't make much sense to me was Elizabeth's need to fight Grange herself. Initially, she was practically begging to stay with Cassie, but Dash wouldn't allow it, giving her all sorts of confusing reasons why she couldn't. Then Dash later gives her an out because of his concern for her safety (though why he wasn't worried about that from the start, I don't know), but she refused to take it. I realize that she felt some desire to be a part of taking down a bad guy who had ruined her life and threatened her little girl, and Dash wanted to know that she could handle the danger and stress of being his mate, but it all just seemed like thinly veiled excuses for putting Elizabeth in the thick of things. Don't even get me started on the realism of Elizabeth being able to train for such a mission in just a few weeks. No matter how tough she was or how intensive the training, Elizabeth likely still would have been more of a liability than an asset. Another thing that bugged me was all the new characters coming out of the woodwork to help Dash and Elizabeth go after Grange. I understood that the author was trying to demonstrate that Dash, a solitary man who flatly refused to acknowledge he had any friends, really did, but I thought that it could have been done better and the characters given more backstory and connections. Overall, for plot and execution, I give Ms. Leigh a C.
Now that all my criticisms are out of the way, I have to say that in spite of the plot weaknesses, I still actually enjoyed this story. Why you ask? Well, a couple of reasons. For one, this lady sure knows how to write blistering hot love scenes that had me drooling, panting, sweating and begging for more, which I suppose is a main point of a good erotic story. In fact, sometimes they would turn my brain to mush until I was thinking, “Ummm, what was it I was having issues with again?” For the most part all these scenes, beginning with the sexual tension in the early chapters, were extremely sexy and well-written. Admittedly, there were a couple of times that Dash could have toned down his need to exert his masculinity, in particular, the final scene where he “punishes” Elizabeth for disobeying orders, but overall, in spite of their intensity, the love scenes exhibited enough tenderness and feeling to satisfy me. The other thing that worked really well for me was the concept driving the story. From the start, I've been very engaged by the idea of the Breeds and can't seem to get enough of them. I also enjoyed the notion of Dash and Elizabeth falling in love through the letters he exchanged with her daughter, Cassie, and how those letters gave him a reason to live. There is just something very romantic about two people falling for each other through the written word alone. Of course, I know that Dash's wolf DNA played a part too, but it was still a great way to start a story in my opinion. So, for imagination, creativity, and her ability to sear my brain with mental pictures of extreme hotness, I give Ms. Leigh an A.
I think that the one last thing that really cinched my liking of the book were Dash and Elizabeth. It seems that Lora Leigh has a tendency to write cookie cutter heroes and heroines. Her men tend to be extreme dominating alphas, and her women are usually spitfires who give 'em hell. The only thing that seems to vary is the intensity of the characters. Dash and Elizabeth were no exception to this rule, but they were toned down enough for me to like them both pretty well. Although he wasn't quite as vulnerable as I like my heroes to be, Dash did exhibit some classic tortured hero characteristics. He was a solitary man who had basically been on his own since he was ten, and rarely allows himself to get close to anyone. Experience had taught him some hard lessons in loss and betrayal, until the letters of a little girl brighten his existence. After that, I loved how he became singularly focused on rescuing this child and her mother, both of whom his wolf senses told him, were in grave danger. I also liked that in spite of his intense instinct to dominate, Dash did manage to tamp down that need sometimes, and behave in a more gentle, civilized way, and his softer side always showed where Cassie was concerned. Elizabeth was a very smart and strong woman to have kept herself and Cassie alive while constantly on the run from the villain for two years. I liked her complexity in the early parts of the book, her wariness over allowing a man she doesn't really know and isn't quite sure she can trust to take over the job of protector, but her weariness in having fought for so long and the vulnerabilities associated with that. I liked that she was willing to let Dash take the reins, but that she wanted to know what was going on too. She also had a lot of mettle to stand up to Dash when his harsher side came out, and I couldn't help but like the way she sometimes teased, taunted and tried to get the upper hand. There were times that I felt like I was being jerked back and forth between this couple's fierce moments and their more tender ones, but overall it wasn't too bad. In spite of their occasional arguments, I still felt like they were a good match.
The secondary characters were a mixed bag. Cassie was really the only supporting player who had much influence on the story. She was a cute kid, and while I usually enjoy precocious children in my romances, I thought that her words didn't always reflect her mere eight years. I know that she was supposed to be very intelligent for her age, but even super-smart kids should still act and speak in an age-appropriate way. Her blatant manipulations sort of rubbed me the wrong way too, so I never completely warmed up to her. Mostly though, she was just a good kid in a extraordinarily bad situation. In my opinion, the villain, Grange, was underdeveloped and didn't have enough bite. He was really little more than a vague, far-off threat until the very end of the book, and even then was pretty benign. There were also plenty of Breed sightings. The five main feline Breeds, Callan, Taber, Tanner, Dawn and Sherra, as well as Mercury, all put in appearances, though Taber and Tanner had no dialog. Callan is the hero of book #1, Tempting the Beast; Taber is the hero of book #2, The Man Within; and Sherra is the heroine of book #4, Kiss of Heat. Her hero, Kane Tyler, also put in his third appearance in Elizabeth's Wolf. Tanner, Dawn and Mercury all helm books later in the series. Additionally there was a mention of Aiden, Faith and Jacob, all wolf Breeds who eventually get their own books. Elizabeth's Wolf also has a wide variety of Dash's “friends” who pop up here and there, at least one of whom is quite colorful, but for the most part, they didn't play particularly big roles.
In the end, the plot holes in Elizabeth's Wolf may have had the logical part of my brain screaming in frustration, but the mindless sex scenes definitely satisfied some baser instinct, “brain candy” as I've seen other readers call it. There was also just a dash (no pun intended) of a few elements that I really like to give it some flavor, and keep me reading and eagerly coming back each time I had to put it down. As with the first two books in the Breeds series, the editing could have used more spit and polish. There were quite a few repetitive words and phrases (lots of sighing, shrugging and head shaking going on), poor word choices, typos and minor inconsistencies, but I was entertained enough to overlook most of these too and just enjoy the story. Three books into the series, I'm not entirely certain that all my questions and curiosities about the Breeds are ever going to be answered to my satisfaction, but I'll certainly have fun trying to find out. Elizabeth's Wolf is book #3 in the Breeds series. There are currently a total of 18 novels and short stories in the series. The recommended reading order can be found on Lora Leigh's website.
Note: This book contains a couple of acts of violence, as well as extremely explicit language and sexual situations including some BDSM (biting, spanking, mild restraint, domination/submission) and anal sex, all of which some readers may find offensive....more
In my opinion, Sam's Creed had a lot of potential, but ended up having enough plot holes to make swiss cheese. First, BReviewed for www.thcreviews.com
In my opinion, Sam's Creed had a lot of potential, but ended up having enough plot holes to make swiss cheese. First, Bella has supposedly been on the run from the evil bad guy, Tejala, for six months by the time she met Sam. Considering that they were being attacked almost immediately and constantly for the short time span of the story, I cannot fathom how she could have survived, seemingly without any friends or allies, for six days much less six months. Also, as soon as Bella meets Sam, she decides that she wants to loose her virginity on her terms, because Tejala is likely on their heels and when he catches them will take her by force. If she had been on the run for six months, I just couldn't understand the sudden urgency for this and why she hadn't thought of it sooner other than it being an excuse for the protagonists to have sex early and often. Finally, I can't for the life of me figure out why Sam left Bella alone with her mother whom they had presumed was supportive of Bella's arranged marriage with Tejala, and how anyone could have gotten past the Montoya ranch hands who were supposedly fiercely protective of Bella, without half of them being killed. Once again, this seemed like little more than a weak plot device to lead into an action-packed climax. These were just a few of the many things that weren't very well explained and didn't quite make sense to me. While this certainly wasn't the worst book I've ever read, I felt that it was plagued with a lack of substantial plot to hold together numerous scenes of sex and violence. In fact Sam and Bella carried the entire first ¾ of the book on their own with no secondary characters to even speak of, and their interactions during this part of the story basically consisted of riding through the desert, having sex and getting into a shoot-out then repeating the process for 300 pages.
Besides the weak plot, there were some other things which either bothered me about the story or I felt simply lacked credibility. First and foremost was the romance which was basically lust at first sight. I have said in numerous other reviews that love at first sight plots are not my favorites, but I can buy into them if the author gives me a strong emotional connection to the characters. Unfortunately, I found that to be lacking in Sam's Creed, as most of their scenes, especially early on, were basically fueled by lust. There were a few tender moments that I enjoyed, such as when Sam gave Bella a sponge-bath on their first night together, but overall I never really felt that all-important emotional connection between them and wasn't really sure when or why they fell in love. Their scenes together just never exhibited that swoon-worthy quality which is a must for me in romance. Another big thing for me was the love scenes. While I give Ms. McCarty kudos for thinking outside the box (not one of the numerous love scenes took place in a bed), all I could think of almost every time they made love was how at the very least that had to be uncomfortable and at worst possibly not even doable, particularly the acrobatic “relations” on horseback. Also, I couldn't help but think of how unpleasant certain said “relations” would be after long days on a hot, dusty trail with nary a bathtub or even a watering hole in sight. When I'm being dragged out of the heat of the moment by thoughts like that it is very distracting to my enjoyment of the overall story. In addition, I was a bit bothered by the violence level, which I felt, for the most part, was rather gratuitous. The body count was very high and some scenes were bloody with Sam being the one who was inflicting most of the damage. Even though it was always in self-defense or in defense of Bella, it just made him seem like a bloodthirsty killer to me, even though I'm sure that wasn't intentional. I just think the violence could have been toned down a little and still packed a good punch.
Sam and Bella were two basically good people with several positive traits, but I was never completely able to relate to either one of them. Sam was an extreme alpha who kept his heart locked up tight and never did fully release it in my opinion. He was just so hard and stubborn, lacking the consistent tenderness and vulnerability that I prefer in my heroes. I had been aware of Sam's heartbreaking boyhood experience surrounding his mother's death from reading Caine's Reckoning, but I never felt like the author added much to that backstory in this book. In fact, Sam didn't even open up enough to tell Bella about the incident and his fears and feelings surrounding it. Bella just intuited on her own that something from the past haunted him, and then the knowledge of it came from Tucker. Even that was done off the canvas, barely getting a passing mention which was disappointing to me. I thought Bella was admirable for her spunk and independence, and I liked that she was so willing to give of herself emotionally and physically to Sam. Still, I can't say that I'm a big fan of heroines, especially historical ones, who are quite so forward in their seductiveness and propositioning. Also, she could be just as hard and stubborn as Sam, which left them butting heads on one thing or another for the entire book. Although this wasn't as grating to my nerves as it has been in other books I've read, I'm also not a fan of the hero and heroine constantly vying for dominance in the relationship either. Overall, I thought that both characters would have needed a little more depth and exhibited a bit more vulnerability for me to truly understand them.
I really thought the book could have used better editing as well. There were many scenes that moved so slowly I found myself beginning to loose interest and just wanting it to get to the point. On the flip side there were other scenes that I found difficult to imagine or just plain confusing because they lacked enough detail. The dialog suffered from this same affliction, as I often found it problematic to discern who was speaking, especially if there were more than two people conversing at a time. This was also a problem I had with Caine's Reckoning, so I'm wondering if this is an issue with all of Ms. McCarty's books or just this series. In addition, there were a myriad of small continuity errors which I found rather irritating, such as someone sitting down but then suddenly they are standing again without any explanation or someone had their shirt off and then suddenly it is back on without explanation. The worst one was a poor dead prostitute whose name kept changing from Betty to Sally four different times over just a couple of pages. This one left me scratching my head in bewilderment as to how such a blatant mistake could have gotten past the proofreaders. Each of these were pretty small things in themselves, but when put together added up to one big distraction which caused the overall narrative to lack a smooth flow.
I realize that I have spent the better part of this review criticizing Sam's Creed, but even though I thought it could have been much better, I didn't exactly dislike it. In spite of the problems I had with the book, I still found Sam's Creed to be a mostly worthwhile read. I will also allow that I can see how it would appeal to some readers. Anyone who enjoys a strong alpha male hero, a spitfire heroine and/or lot's of steamy creative sex scenes should definitely check it out. However, unlike Caine's Reckoning, it's predecessor in the Hell's Eight series, I would not be likely to re-read it. I was rather disappointed that the only other member of Hell's Eight to appear in Sam's Creed was Tucker, but a few extra details being added to his character and the introduction of his presumed lady love have intrigued me enough to definitely continue the series when his book, Tucker's Claim, is released next spring. In the meantime, I will likely explore Sarah McCarty's backlist, as I know that she has the ability to write books that I can greatly enjoy even though I can't count Sam's Creed among them.
Note: This book contains explicit language, violence, and sexual situations, including light bondage, domination/submission, spanking and anal sex, which some readers may find offensive....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Night Moves has one of my favorite romance themes, best friends who become lovers. Shane and Ella have been friends since 2ndReviewed for THC Reviews Night Moves has one of my favorite romance themes, best friends who become lovers. Shane and Ella have been friends since 2nd grade, so their relationship has a very sweet quality to it. For a short book, I thought the author did a good job with the character development by showing bits and pieces of their past together through introspective flashbacks. Both of them had rather sordid and difficult childhoods in which they relied on each other a lot for support. They've done nearly everything together including moving from their home state of Texas to New York to attend college. They also have no secrets from each other and share everything right down to their deepest desires and fondest fantasies, so it's not too surprising that Shane came to the realization that he's in love with Ella and wants to convince her that they should be more than just friends.
For the most part, I liked both Shane and Ella. In spite of their less-than-stellar upbringings, they are both strong career-oriented individuals (he is an attorney and she is hoping to become a museum curator) who have, in many ways, helped each other to become successful in life when their families failed them. Their long-term friendship laced their overall relationship with incredible chemistry and gave their sexual intimacies a beautiful level of trust that neither of them had experienced with previous partners and which was a joy to read. Shane is a yummy hero who went to great lengths to woo Ella including planning a romantic dinner by candlelight with food from her favorite restaurant, and secretly writing his own erotic stories to get her blood boiling. I loved how intuitive he was, always seeming to know exactly what his sweet El needed even when she didn't realize it herself. The only thing about Shane that gave me pause was his willingness to seduce El while she was in a serious relationship with another man, which I'll address momentarily. I liked Ella's passionate, adventurous spirit, and the only man who seems to be able to match her zest for life is Shane. The problem is she's rather blind to that fact, and instead has given in to thinking that the only thing in her life that matters is finding a man who can give her a stable close-knit family that she can be a part of, which is something she's always wanted but never had. Unfortunately, that's the one thing Shane can't give her, and so in that respect, I thought she was a little too stubborn and protested too much. Otherwise, she was a fairly likable heroine except for her willingness to have sex with Shane while she was involved with another man.
That brings me to my chief complaint with this story, which was that Shane and Ella technically cheated on Ella's boyfriend, Tony. I'm not a fan of love triangles and especially ones that involve cheating, so this somewhat diminished my enjoyment of the book. I was waiting for some kind of twist in which Tony was secretly an ogre, had been cheating on El first, realized he was gay, or something else to make their actions more palatable, but nothing ever materialized except that Tony was merely a boring vanilla kind of guy both in personality and bedroom skills. It was also rather annoying to have Tony's name frequently coming up in both discussion and introspection, which made him seem like a ghostly third wheel. Readers who have a strong aversion to any cheating whatsoever may not care for this book, but there were a couple of things that somewhat saved this part of the story for me. One was that Tony and Ella weren't married, though admittedly they were serious enough to make Ella think that they would be soon. The other thing was simply that Shane and El had such an amazing connection, it was sometimes hard for me to remember that Tony was even in the picture. It was pretty obvious that El had latched onto a boyfriend who was a poor fit for her personality merely for his close-knit and entertaining family. It was equally obvious to just about everyone except El that she and Shane belonged together, and if she had realized this a little sooner, she might not have even gotten involved with Tony in the first place. So ultimately, a couple of extenuating circumstances kept this part from being thoroughly distasteful, but it still bothered me enough to knock off a few points for it.
On the other hand, I had to give Night Moves a few extra points for Julie Kenner's creativity particularly in the love play. I thought it was very unique to have the heroine taking a graduate class on Victorian erotic literature. The author actually included citations of and at least one excerpt from real historical erotica, as well as having the hero and heroine read some passages together. While the denouement of the the love scenes was a little rushed and less descriptive than I would have expected from a Blaze novel, all the stuff that led up to them were smokin' hot. Readers who are turned on by the idea of a steamy boudoir-style photo shoot, and a scorching game of Truth or Dare that leads to a sexy striptease by the hero and culminates with a bit of exhibitionist love-making will probably enjoy this book. Those scenes certainly gave me need of a fan and an ice-cold drink. Not to mention, having the blackout as the background provided the perfect ambiance for all of this to happen.
Even though I would have preferred that the conflict not involve a third person, Night Moves had a high enough likability factor for me to mostly enjoy it. After a string of low or no heat reads, I had been looking for something steamier and this book definitely did not disappoint me there. Anyone looking for a quick, hot, sexy read may want to check this one out. Night Moves was my first read by Julie Kenner, but I really liked her writing style and will be looking to read more book by her in the future. This is also the first book in the multi-author Blaze series 24 Hours: Blackout, but from what I can tell there are no carry-over characters between the books in the series, just the common thread of the blackout. There is however, one secondary character in Night Moves, Veronica Archer, El's friend and the professor teaching the erotic literature class, who was the heroine in a previous stand-alone novel by Julie Kenner titled Silent Confessions. This is a pretty minimal connection though, and they can easily be read separately. I'm normally a stickler for reading books in order, and even though I had not read Silent Confessions, I did not feel like I was missing anything.
Note:Night Moves reads very much like an extra-steamy, traditional, contemporary romance, but the inclusion of some light bondage and a couple of instances of exhibitionism give it a borderline erotic feel....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "2.5 stars" Every reader’s experience with any book they read is going to be unique, because each individual is unique and wilReviewed for THC Reviews "2.5 stars" Every reader’s experience with any book they read is going to be unique, because each individual is unique and will most likely take something different away from it. I’d say that most often, however, my opinion of the books I read aligns with the majority of other reviewers in one way or another. Less frequently, but often enough, there are times when I think a book is generally underrated. I felt it was very well-written and enjoyable, deserving at least 4-5 stars, while it has middling ratings overall from other readers. Then there are those very rare occasions, when I find a book that has high ratings overall, but it didn’t even come close to hitting that mark for me. Such was the case with Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off. I honestly cannot figure out why it’s so highly rated. (At the time I’m writing this review, it currently has a 3.87 average at GoodReads and a whopping 4.3 average on Amazon.) Personally I couldn’t get through more than a paragraph or two, at most, without rolling my eyes at finding yet another mistake that never should have made it out of the editing phase, much less into full publication. And that doesn’t even count the deficiencies in character, relationship, and plot development. I’m not a particularly difficult reader to please. As long as a book is reasonably well-constructed and has a decent plot and relatable characters, I’m usually pretty happy. I also consider myself to be a generous rater, which is why you won’t find many books on my shelves that I rated less than 3 stars. But I’m afraid 2.5 stars is as generous a rating as I could muster for the hot mess that this book was. If you’ll bear with me, I’ll explain why, but be warned, this is going to get long-winded.:-)
For starters, the basic premise of the story is a little out there. Both the hero and the heroine go to Las Vegas with the intention of entering into a quickie and temporary marriage, each for their own reasons. They end up getting married within probably less than an hour of meeting one another, after doing little more than sharing a few drinks and a couple of dances. This was already pushing the bounds of credibility for me, because even though they have reasons for doing so, they can’t possibly trust one another within mere minutes. How do they know that the other person isn’t a serial killer or have some other equally disturbing vice or even if they are a decent person, that they would be willing to part ways when they’ve each reached their goals? This is romance fantasy land, though, so I decided to brush aside these concerns and just go with the flow. Unfortunately things didn’t flow very well for me.
Bethany went to Las Vegas with a group of girlfriends, allegedly for a bachelorette party, but she’s really trying to escape her wealthy controlling parents. All her life, she’s been little more than a trophy daughter to them. They never really showed her any love or affection, leaving all the care and raising of her to a nanny. Apparently her nanny was a good person, who did love her, but she’s the only one. After her parents basically “sell her off” in an engagement that’s little more than a business arrangement, Bethany decides to take matters into her own hands. She ditches her friends in Vegas, looking for a guy she can marry quickly, so that she can change her name, disappear, and never have to see her family again. Bethany has a sympathetic backstory that’s ripe for a deep exploration of her feelings and issues surrounding the way her parents treated her. She even mentioned that her fiancé had once hit her, so after the way she was treated by him and her father, I couldn’t understand how she could be so trusting of a man she didn’t even know. Also if her parents were as controlling as they seemed, she should have been fearful of them finding her, resentful and loathing of them and her former fiancé over their actions, hurt by their lack of care and concern for her and for treating her like nothing more than a business asset, and many other emotions, too. But none of this really materialized in any meaningful way. Instead her feelings are mostly just skimmed over or ignored altogether, so while I liked her OK, I never got that deep character perspective that I wanted.
I liked Jack a little bit better than Bethany, but his character is also similarly underdeveloped. His reasons for the quickie wedding were murky at best. He says he needs to get married to collect the inheritance left to him by his grandfather, but that he wanted the money to reinvigorate the family ranch into the dude ranch it once was doesn’t become clear until much later. He has two older brothers, who also live on the ranch and help with its upkeep, as well as a married younger sister who’s invested in the ranch, too, so why he’s the one who had to sacrifice to make this dream happen was never clear. Not to mention, the way things played out with the will in the end, made this seem like nothing more than a weak, convenient plot device. Jack looks to his grandparents as a measure of what a good relationship looks like, but with his parents having a rough marriage and watching his brother get married only to have his bride leave on their wedding night, it seems like he might have a few issues surrounding women and might be more cautious when it comes to giving his trust. Jack was something of a playboy before embarking on this adventure, never lacking for female companionship, but he turns into the perfect husband pretty much overnight. However, I will admit that the strength of Jack’s character is in his kind nature. He’s what I would call a gamma hero, a nice mix of rugged, protective alpha, and easy-going, loving beta, who doesn’t mind doing things that many men wouldn’t do. He’s also a sexy and generous lover. I very much liked Jack for as well as I got to know him, but it wasn’t as well as I would have liked.
Both Jack and Bethany have very inconsistent emotions and thought processes that could be frustrating to read at times. They can both get upset over something in an instant and then two pages later be OK with it. For example, the morning after they're married Jack mentions to Bethany that he was originally intending to marry his high-school girlfriend in Vegas, which sends Bethany into a jealous fit. She jumps to wild conclusions without ever giving him the chance to explain further. Not to mention she just met the guy and barely even knows him, so how can she be jealous? Then she simply gets over it with little explanation. A number of similar instances exactly like this happened all throughout the story. As as aside here, Jack and Bethany's communication was terrible, because when these moment occur and the one person jumps to conclusions, the other one does little to try to dispel their incorrect notions. Another example of inconsistency is Jack’s feelings for Bethany. The day after they're married, he thinks he might be in love with her already, which is very much stretching the bounds of credibility. But then a day or so later, he verbally insists that he's not in love with her. Then a short time later, he is again, then not, and so on. I think he changed his mind back and forth about a half dozen times, which was giving me whiplash. Another thing that bothered me with regards to this is that their emotions in general were underdeveloped, which is probably why their characters seemed so underdeveloped as well. Every once in a while a poignantly revealing moment would occur, which easily could have been very emotional for the reader, too, but the poignancy was dampened by the fact that there hadn’t been much, if any introspective thought processes to get them there. It’s like the journey from point A to point B was just skipped over, which is frustrating to me as a reader. I want to see how they got there and the difficulties they had to go through.
This is an erotic romance, so typically, if nothing else, I can console myself with some hot sexy times. I will give the author credit for writing some fairly creative love scenes, laced with variety that didn’t get stale. However, even they were far from perfect for me. For probably about half the book, the sex scenes were little more than just sex, with little to no emotional connection. At first it’s merely this crazy business arrangement, then right after they get to Jack’s ranch, Bethany goes through a “no touching” phase that I didn’t really understand. She was OK with having sex, but she didn’t want Jack to touch her in a loving or intimate way outside of sex. It seemed to perhaps be rooted in the lack of affection in her family, but if so, this would have been a great character-building moment that didn’t happen. Then she simply gets over it without any explanation like everything else. Even once the emotional connection of the love scenes improved for me, the general awkward wording present throughout the entire book, not to mention the clinical wording of certain body parts, lessened their impact on me and at times, made parts of these scenes unappealing. I want to read a sexy romance novel, not a medical textbook.
Lastly, and the biggest thing that made this book such chore to read was that the mechanics of the author’s writing needed to go back to square one for a massive overhaul. For starters, there are grammatical and punctuation errors galore, numerous incorrectly conjugated verbs, and not nearly enough contractions, making both the dialogue and prose very stilted. I couldn’t seem to read more than a few pages at a time without encountering an awkward or downright confusingly worded passage. Here are a few examples: When Jack and Bethany go out to a restaurant for dinner, we get this line: “Fried foods and fresh vegetables filled the air, making her mouth water.” Um… maybe the scent of fried foods and vegetables filled the air, but the way this is worded makes it sound like fried chicken and veggies are floating all over the place. Not to mention, the greasy odor of fried foods is definitely going to overpower the much milder scent of vegetables. Or how about these couple of gems from the same love scene, two paragraphs apart from one another: “… he liked this position, deep, her womb tight around his cock…” and “She groaned as he hit her uterus with the head of his cock.” First of all, ouch! And second of all, no… heaven help me, just NO! Both these sentences exhibit a lack of basic knowledge of human anatomy. Ugh! Then there’s this sentence, where Jack explains the stipulation in his grandfather’s will regarding when he and his siblings can collect their inheritance: “We have to be over twenty-five, married, or wait until our sixtieth birthday." This made absolutely no sense. Jack is already 33, and his sister, though only 19, is married and they still don’t have their inheritance. Not to mention how can someone be over 25 and still have to wait until they're 60. I suspect the author meant over 25 AND married OR wait until 60 (which is a pretty silly stipulation in the first place, though I won’t waste any more time on that), but that's not what it said, which made it incredibly confusing. More awkwardness and confusion of the same sort abounds throughout the entire book.
In addition to the plethora of errors and strange wording, the POVs frequently switch back and forth, and one time, it even changed in the middle of a paragraph. This made it extremely difficult to tell whose perspective I was reading. This problem isn't helped by the fact that one character's dialogue is constantly being run together with the other character's introspection, which should have been separated by a paragraph break. Incorrectly placed dialogue tags only added to the issue, because I often had to scan ahead several lines to figure out who was speaking. The author sometimes throws out names with no explanation of who they are until after the fact. There are also passages that needed a whole lot more details to clarify what's going on and to be able to visualize it in my mind's eye, while in other places there were unnecessary excess words that if edited out would have tightened up the prose. In short, the construction of the story is simply one big hot mess that added up to me reading the entire story with my metaphorical red editor’s pen poised over the page, which is never a good thing.
I place some responsibility for this on the author, because any writer worth their salt should be able to self-edit a book far better than this. However, the ultimate responsibility for releasing the book to readers in this sorry state rests squarely on the publisher's shoulders. Either they didn't edit it at all, which is my guess, or the editor they used was completely incompetent. I hate to use such a harsh word in my review, but it really is that bad. This book reads more like a first draft that was hurriedly written than a complete and polished manuscript. Readers – or at least this reader – have every expectation of getting a quality product when they pick up a book, but this is the most sub-standard book I can ever recall reading that was actually vetted by a publisher first. The publisher should hang their head in shame for putting out such a shoddy product for public consumption. There's no excuse for it. Whew! OK, end rant.:-)
Bottom line, I liked Jack and Bethany pretty well as the hero and heroine. In general, they seemed like nice characters, and they certainly didn’t do anything to piss me off, so that’s a plus and the main reason I bumped the rating to 2.5 when I’d been thinking about only giving it 2 stars. Even with the weaknesses in character, relationship, and plot development, I’m certain I would have enjoyed the story well enough to be able to give it at least a 3-star, if not higher rating, if only the nuts and bolts of the writing itself had been vastly improved and it had gone through a serious editing process with an actual professional. As is, though, I'm extremely glad I borrowed this book from the library and didn't pay for it. But I feel bad for anyone who did, because they definitely didn't get their money's worth, IMHO. Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off is the first book in Cara North’s Country Music/Montana Cowboys series. Book #2, She Thinks My Tractor’s Sexy is about the reunion of Jack’s oldest brother, Heath, and Chance, the woman who left him, while book #3, One Hot Momma, is about their middle brother, Rafe, and Layla, a woman whom he shamelessly follows around like a lost puppy in this book. Unfortunately, even though there were some things that I liked about Jack’s brothers, Tequila Makes Her Clothes Fall Off was far too frustrating of a read for me to have any interest in continuing with the series.
Note: This book contains explicit language and sexual situations, including public sex acts, anal sex, a little bit of role playing, and a small amount of spanking, which some readers may find offensive....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Funny title notwithstanding, Jane and the Sneaky Dom is, in all honesty, the best erotic romance I have read to date, and beliReviewed for THC Reviews Funny title notwithstanding, Jane and the Sneaky Dom is, in all honesty, the best erotic romance I have read to date, and believe it or not, the title actually does suit the book quite well. Finally, an erotic author who knows how to write a plot that seamlessly pulls together all the luscious love scenes instead of just creating one that is nothing more than weak filler in between. Granted the plot revolves around sex and the heroine's quest to find a way to be more satisfied in the bedroom, but there are a lot of fun relationship building scenes too. As anyone who regularly reads my reviews knows, I'm not really a fan of what I call “instant meeting and mating.” Even though this story begins that way, I wasn't particularly put off by it in this case, because the author took the time to backtrack and have some nice getting-to-know-you moments, making the story more believable. Readers may have to suspend disbelief a little in order to buy into the idea that Ian knows he has found the woman he wants to marry after spending just one weekend with her, but at least they aren't on their way to the altar after just a couple of days. Their time together is spread out over the course of a full month. I also loved the idea that Ian is a marriage kind of guy and took the time to court Jane in between giving her long sessions of mind-blowing sex. I also like that he based his ultimate goal of marriage on Jane's personality and not just the amazing sex, and that he was being so "sneaky" about winning her heart was cute and funny while also being romantic.
Sometimes I have a hard time reading erotic romances because the heroes in them often tend to be uber-alphas who could literally eat me for breakfast. Ian was not like that at all. He was definitely dominating but in a very nice way, making him a positively scrumptious hero. He isn't an intense dom who forces his will on the heroine and then punishes her if she even remotely disobeys. Instead he instills trust with gentleness and commands obedience with quiet confidence. I love that he always gives Jane the option to say "No" before they try anything new, and he always checks to see if she's doing OK after. In my opinion, this demonstrated how kind and caring he could be, and of course, he exhibits a masterful control over Jane's body that was simply yummy. Ian had the heart of a romantic and a great sense of humor. He was a character who showed that a hero can be an alpha dom without being a jerk. I can't imagine any woman not feeling loved, cherished, protected and thoroughly satisfied with a guy like Ian around to take care of her.
Jane was a likable character for me as well. I respected her drive and determination to build a business from the ground up, and having that business be an independent book store, made her all the more appealing. It was very obvious that Jane loved books, and apparently Ian did as well, to spend as much time in her store as he seemingly did. I could relate to Jane being pretty controlling in every area of her life, but feeling like it was time to give the reins over to someone else in the sexual department. I thought that Ms. Murray conveyed really well how scary it can be to relinquish control of something, but the sense of freedom that can also comes with giving it up. This is something that is true in all facets of life and not just sex. It's a wonderful feeling to just be able to let things go, and if someone else is there to pick up the slack and be a true partner, that makes it all the better. I thought it was a testament to the author's writing talent that she could make me take the time to think about something deeper in the midst of a fun, breezy, erotic romance.
While Ian and Jane carried most of the story on their own, their two best friends, Lacey and Devon helped to liven things up. Of the two, Lacey appeared the most, and I enjoyed the delightful girl-talk she shared with Jane. Lacey is a very sympathetic friend who understands Jane very well, and always has solid wisdom to impart. There was also a hint of some unexplored bit of Lacey's past which made me want to know more about her. Devon was only in a couple of scenes, but I liked the part of his personality that I saw in those moments. There was enough of an intro to these two characters to make me look forward to seeing more of them in the next book of the series.
There were many things that I liked about Jane and the Sneaky Dom outside of the entertaining story. I always get irritated when the characters in contemporary romance don't bother with protection during sex, much less talk about it, so I found it very refreshing to have Ian and Jane proactively discussing the issues of birth control and STDs like two mature adults instead of being careless or leaving things to chance. While having explicit language in an erotic romance is pretty par for the course, some authors seem to gratuitously use these words every other sentence which becomes just as annoying and boring to me as it would if they were repeatedly using any other word. I greatly appreciated that Ms. Murray seems to know exactly when to use the “naughty” words to best effect and doesn't overuse them, instead finding other creative ways to express herself. Another thing that is sometimes not to my liking in erotic romances is how coarse and raw the love scenes can become. In Jane and the Sneaky Dom, I thought the love scenes were tastefully written, deliciously sensual, and even embodied a bit of sweetness, along with plenty of variety. I think the author was able to accomplish this by maintaining a certain level of lightheartedness throughout the story even in the bedroom, showing that sex can be a little kinky but should still always be fun. In my opinion, there was virtually nothing to dislike about this book. Perhaps the characters could have been a little more developed, but I got to know them enough to like them. Also, the author did overuse eye-rolling and eyebrow raising a bit too much, but that's a very minor complaint in an otherwise great story. Anyone who is looking for a quick, romantic read with some erotic, red-hot lovin' that still maintains a gentle tone, a cast of likable characters, and a decent plot should look no further than Jane and the Sneaky Dom. Because of its lighter nature, this would also, in my opinion, be a great starter book for anyone who might be looking to dip a toe into the erotic romance pool but isn't quite sure whether they will like it or where to begin. This was my first book by Hannah Murray, but it has definitely earned a spot on my keeper shelf. I'm really looking forward to reading The Devil and Ms. Johnson, the next book in this untitled series duet.
Note: This book contains explicit language and sexual situations including some BDSM (biting, spanking, restraint, domination/submission) and anal sex, all of which some readers may find offensive....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" Now that I've read four of Lora Leigh's books, I've come to the conclusion that in order to truly enjoy them, oneReviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" Now that I've read four of Lora Leigh's books, I've come to the conclusion that in order to truly enjoy them, one has to leave their brain at the door and not think about the plots too much. Unfortunately, being the cerebral person that I am, that can be very difficult, and I end up finding annoying discrepancies and worse yet, huge plot holes. The author gave just enough backstory on Kane and Sherra in the two previous Feline Breeds books, Tempting the Beast and The Man Within, to really whet my appetite for more. I desperately wanted to know exactly how it was that Kane and Sherra met while she was in the lab, and why she was able to accept him as her lover (and mate) after the traumatic experience of numerous rapes. I also wanted to know how it was that Kane escaped and why he wasn't able to take Sherra with him when he did, but alas, my questions were not to be answered by reading Kiss of Heat. In fact, I didn't really learn anything new about Kane and Sherra that hadn't already been told in the previous novels. I even wondered if I was forgetting some details and went back to skim those two books to no avail, so I guess I was meant to simply accept their relationship for what it was and leave it at that, which as I've already mentioned, is easier said than done. For some reason, Lora Leigh decided to begin Kiss of Heat with a prologue that was basically a re-written and expanded version of a scene straight out of Tempting the Beast when I thought it would have been more effective to take readers back even further to Kane and Sherra's meeting in the lab.
Even though, I badly wanted more character development for Kane and Sherra, they were still fairly likable characters. I can't say that I had been drawn to Kane very much in the previous books, because he was portrayed as an extreme alpha who was every bit as dominant as some of the Breed men, and he started this book with that same intense personality. At first, he was still a bit too much for me to take, but as the story progressed, he slowly started to lighten up. When he showed some vulnerability over Sherra's inability to open her heart to him again, and then at the end, when he was literally brought to his knees by his love for her, I couldn't help but like him to some extent. I deeply sympathized with Sherra over the torture she experienced in the Breed laboratories years ago (although exactly how many years ago is highly in question as it was seven in Tempting the Beast and eleven in Kiss of Heat). I understood why she initially fought her desire for Kane even though she was in the throes of a painful mating heat. She was simply trying to protect her heart from being broken again and was also trying to protect Kane since no one knew how a man would react to the Breed mating hormone. Still, I felt that Ms. Leigh could have expressed the emotional impact on both of these characters a little more deeply. As written, I felt like she was telling more than showing, so I never fully connected with Kane and Sherra in the way I had hoped.
Although I realize it's a Lora Leigh trademark, the fact that Kane and Sherra spent a lot of time sniping at and arguing with each other didn't help matters for me, and it wasn't just the hero and heroine who were engaging in this type of behavior either. Nearly everyone in the book, even the women, seemed constantly angry, with someone grunting, growling, yelling, snarling or participating in general alpha posturing every couple of paragraphs. I could definitely see how someone could get completely smashed if they played a drinking game while reading this book, and quite frankly it might have been more enjoyable that way.;-) I also couldn't help but roll my eyes at the idea of the hero walking around aroused nearly 24/7. I know it was the mating hormone causing it, but I couldn't stop myself from thinking about how with him being a normal human male, this would constitute a major medical issue. Not to mention, he didn't seem all that concerned about hiding it either. The happy little event at the end was just a bit too easy and convenient for my taste too.
With Kiss of Heat being primarily about Sherra going through the mating heat and trying to come to terms with Kane being back in her life and her permanent mate, lots of steamy love scenes were definitely expected and in that respect, I wasn't disappointed. Lora Leigh certainly knows how to write blistering hot love scenes that are sure to leave the reader in need of a cold shower or ready to “attack” their own mate, and this book was no exception. These parts helped to make the story more enjoyable and were a little sweet treat for my mind. However, with the previous books in the series, the red hot lovin' turned my brain sufficiently mushy enough to almost forget some of the other story weaknesses, but in this case, I think there were a few too many deficiencies for mere steam to overcome. I just found myself thinking about all missing pieces and questions I had that weren't being answered, rather than enjoying the heat.
Time line wise, Kiss of Heat takes place immediately following The Man Within, and simultaneously with the latter part of Elizabeth's Wolf. As such, the Breeds are still fighting against threats and attacks from outsiders at their compound and Cassie, the little Wolf Breed girl from Elizabeth's Wolf, is involved in the story. She is pretty much the same as before, but I have to say that I'm still slightly off-put by her occasionally manipulative nature. Callan and Merinus (Tempting the Beast) and Taber and Roni (The Man Within) also play significant roles, as do some of the characters who will get their own books in the future: Tanner (Tanner's Scheme), Mercury (Mercury's War), Cabal (Bengal's Heart), and Jonas (Lion's Heat). The latter two were introduced in this book, and Dawn and Seth (Dawn's Awakening) had their first scenes together. I'm intrigued by this pairing, but considering that Dawn experienced something similar to, if not worse than Sherra did in the labs, I felt like Seth's overtly sexual overtures toward Dawn were a little bit much. Still, I've heard that their book is one of the best in the series, so I'm looking forward to eventually reading it and hope that it has better character and plot development than Kiss of Heat did.
In spite of my frustrations with it, Kiss of Heat was a worthwhile read, but it left me with a half-full feeling, like the whole story simply wasn't told. Anyone who can shut their brain off long enough to overlook that will probably enjoy it much more than I did. Even though this was probably my least favorite book in the Breed series that I've read to date, I'm sure I'll continue on. The whole Breed concept is an intriguing, albeit rather underdeveloped one at this point, but if nothing else, I'll know that there'll be some “hot sex” to console me in the event of a disappointing plot.
Note: For the most part, the sexual content reads much like a super-steamy mainstream romance, but there is one brief moment of anal play with fingers. There is also a scene in which two characters (not the hero or heroine) are caught in the aftermath of a menage a trois....more
The Devil and Ms. Johnson was a fun bit of escapist reading, but I have to say that I enjoyed the first book in this duet, Jane and the Sneaky Dom a lThe Devil and Ms. Johnson was a fun bit of escapist reading, but I have to say that I enjoyed the first book in this duet, Jane and the Sneaky Dom a little more. The Devil and Ms. Johnson continues the series with the story of Devon and Lacey, the best friends of the hero and heroine of Jane and the Sneaky Dom. Woven in between bouts of hot, steamy sex was a romantic suspense plot that had Devon and Lacey trying to outwit an international terrorist and an FBI mole. This part added some action, light mystery and a bit more substance to the story than one typically finds in erotic romance, but I thought that the bad guys were a little too easy to spot. With this being an erotic romance, the ratio of sex to suspense, at least in the beginning of the book, is probably about 2 or 3:1. Later when it gets into the meatier part of the suspense storyline, several chapters actually go by without a love scene until the very end. As far as the love scenes go, they are quite steamy and very descriptive with some explicit language used, but considering the spicy nature of the book, there was nothing that I would really call kinky. Any readers who can handle lots of heat with some naughty words should be OK with it. There are also some fun scenes that border on romantic comedy which had me smiling on occasion. I particularly enjoyed Devon and Lacey's first meeting when Devon found a drunk Lacey in “his” bed and accidentally woke her up, leading to lots of mayhem which made me laugh.
Devon and Lacey were entertaining characters who spent a lot of time engaging in witty bantering both of a general and a more sexual nature. Many of their love scenes together involve amusing verbal sparring and each of them competing to get the upper hand in the seduction. For this pair, it was definitely a case of opposites attract, as they were often at odds over one thing or another. Unfortunately, I felt that they could have benefited from a little more depth in characterization, and also things just seemed to move too quickly between them to be believable for me. Granted, Lacey had spent a lot of time having hot fantasies while staring at a picture of Devon before they ever met, but Devon knew almost nothing of Lacey except that she was his best friend's wife's best friend. I'm just not a big fan of instant hook-ups or what amounts to stranger sex. I can buy into it if the author creates some kind of palpable connection between the characters, but in this case it didn't really work well for me. I could to some extent sense their feelings beginning to build later in the story, but for me it was too little too late. By then all their steamy encounters had seemed like “just sex,” and the extremely brief three day time span of the story reduced the credibility of their burgeoning love for me. Overall, Devon and Lacey were fun characters, but I simply didn't feel like I got to know them very well or that the all-important emotional bond that is necessary for me to truly love a romantic story was fully established.
The Devil and Ms. Johnson had a few other ups and downs for me. I loved the fact that Lacey was a computer geek, which is kind of a rarity in romance especially when it's the heroine. Regrettably though, the author didn't really allow her geekiness to show through enough to suit me. First of all Lacey is far more outgoing and self-confident that most geeks I know, but the most disappointing part was that she never got to show off her alleged mad hacker skills at any point in the book. Another downside was that I thought the story had too much dialog and not enough introspection and descriptive narration. I really think that more of these two things would have gone a long way toward establishing that missing connection I mentioned earlier. Also, based on the two Hannah Murray books that I've read to far, she seems to have a certain buzz word in her novels that tends to get overused. In this one it was, “What?”. On the upside, about half the narrative takes place on Mackinac Island, Michigan, at the Grand Hotel no less. The author says on her website that this was a favorite childhood vacation spot, but fans of the romantic fantasy, Somewhere in Time, will recognize this as the setting for that movie too. Even with a bit of suspense in the plot, The Devil and Ms. Johnson was basically a light, breezy read, and in spite of any perceived weaknesses, I did find it to be a reasonably pleasant diversion. So far, Hannah Murray has proven to be a pretty entertaining author, and I look forward to checking out her other works in the future....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" Much like Zack's up-and-down relationship with Sky, I also had a roller coaster relationship with this book. ThereReviewed for THC Reviews "3.5 stars" Much like Zack's up-and-down relationship with Sky, I also had a roller coaster relationship with this book. There were some elements that I enjoyed reading and thought had earned at least four stars, but there were others that I thought were weak and probably didn't warrant any more than three stars. Hence, why I went with the in between rating. Being an Arizonan, I enjoyed reading a story set in my home state. I happen to be an urbanite, but I thought Ms. McCray did a good job with describing rural and small town life in Arizona, which is probably a testament to her writing what she knows. Even though cattle rustling wouldn't necessarily be my first choice for a mystery/suspense plot, I thought that it was pretty well done. The author set up a number of suspects, and although I had a feeling I knew who the bad guy was about halfway through, she did make me second-guess myself a couple of times. The love scenes were very hot and spicy, borderline erotic, and for the most part I enjoyed reading them. My only issue is that the one scene that actually took place in the bedroom was, in my opinion, pretty rushed and unsatisfying, almost as though the author didn't quite know how to write a “normal” love scene that didn't involve living on the edge. Not that I'm complaining about the variety, and otherwise, these scenes were probably one of the best things about the book.
Normally, I'm a big fan of reunion romances, but this one just didn't quite touch me in the same way that most do. The author started to develop the character's backstories, but then the relationship stuff seemed to peter out in favor of the mystery/suspense plot and hot sex scenes. I just felt like Zack's reasons for leaving ten years earlier and breaking Sky's heart were rather weak (or perhaps just not explained to my satisfaction). Then Zack comes back to town doing his best caveman impression, determined to make Sky his again with absolutely no plan of what he'll do if she's married or involved with someone else. Of course, when he finds out she's still unattached, he couldn't be happier. There's an instant magnetic re-attraction, and the clothes start flying off within a couple of days with no apologies, explanations or real reconnection of any sort, which was rather disappointing to me and hard to believe, in spite of the hotness factor.
Zack is a sexy Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent with a dangerous-looking scar on his face and a bad-boy past to back it up. He begins the story being pretty arrogant and extremely po-ssessive almost to the point of being ob-sessive about Sky. I was a little worried that Zack might end up irritating me with his uber-alpha-ness, but thankfully he never quite tipped the scales. In fact, he seemed to soften up a little as the story progressed. I can honestly say that in his seductive moments, he could be quite appealing in spite of his intense alpha nature. Zack had a pretty horrific past, having watched both his father and step-father regularly beat up his mother, and then becoming the recipient of some of that abuse himself. This would normally be something I would sympathize with very deeply, but I didn't feel like the author created enough of an emotional connection to the character for him to become one of those tortured heroes that I'd love nothing more than to wrap up in my arms. The only reason that was ever given for his abruptly leaving town ten years earlier was that he didn't feel worthy of Sky after he nearly killed his step-father in defense of his mother. This just didn't seem like an insurmountable obstacle to me, and I felt that if he and Sky had just had a good old-fashioned heart-to-heart, they could have worked things out instead of pining after each other for a decade. At one point, Sky mused about how their earlier relationship had lacked maturity, and I would definitely agree, but even after Zack returned there still wasn't much communication going on between them, at least not of the verbal variety.;-)
Sky was a tough cowgirl who had continued to successfully run her family's ranch after her father's retirement, which was something I could admire. She could be as stubborn as Zack at times and pretty insistent upon taking care of herself, but I liked that when she came across the rustlers near the end, she didn't go rushing headlong into the fray like a TSTL heroine would. Instead she used her brain and tried to call for help. Sky definitely had her good points, but there were a couple of things that bothered me about her and made her loose some of my respect. The first is that when Zack comes back, she is as hot for him as he is for her, and she ends up allowing him to have sex with her without ever discussing why he left and how much he hurt her, even though she's obviously and understandably still angry with him about that. In this respect, Sky was one of those contradictory heroines who keeps telling herself in her head all the reasons she shouldn't want the hero, but just can't seem to keep her panties on when he's around. The other thing that irritated me about her was that she was willing to use Zack for hot sex without making a commitment to giving their relationship another try, even though Zack was completely up front about that being what he truly wanted from her. Although I can't say that Zack necessarily did anything spectacular to earn her trust back at any point in the story, Sky at least finally came to her senses and didn't end up acting completely cold and insensitive. Oh yeah, and I sure would like to know what Sky was doing to have half the male population panting and salivating after her, or more accurately obsessing to the point that they think they own her. When Zack and her ex boyfriend, Wade, got into a fight over her, there was so much testosterone flying, I had to duck.;-)
For me, Zack ended up being one of those OK stories that I thought could have been really good with a little more TLC. If the author had given a bit more attention to Zack and Sky working out the problems that broke them up the first time, instead of them being so obsessed with sex, I would have liked the book a lot more. As it was written, I felt plenty of lust emanating from the pages, but not a whole lot of love. Without the resolution of their prior conflict, I just wasn't entirely convinced that these two could have a long happy life together even with the HEA ending. I also had a couple of minor issues with the writing itself in that I didn't feel like the narrative flowed quite as well as it could have, and even though I don't drink, I know I could have made a great drinking game out of the repetitious words and phrases I found. Still, in spite of all my criticisms, I probably would have given the book four stars, except that I frequently found my mind wandering throughout my entire reading of it, which is never a good sign. I think this may have had a lot to do with me feeling like the author was telling me too much and not showing me enough, therefore it didn't fully engage my imagination. Overall, Zack was a worthwhile read, and anyone who likes a combination of hot, steamy love scenes with a decent suspense plot, but is more forgiving of character flaws and lack of relationship development than I am, will probably enjoy it. Zack is the first book in Cheyenne McCray's Armed and Dangerous series, and the first I've read by her. Even though it wasn't an entirely satisfying read for me, I will likely give her another chance, perhaps when the next book of the series, Luke, featuring secondary character, Luke Rider, as the hero, comes out next month (10-27-09).
Note:Zack reads very much like an extra-steamy, traditional, contemporary romance, but the inclusion of some mild exhibitionism (a couple of the love scenes take place in public or semi-public places) and some explicit language give it a borderline erotic feel.
I also discovered that Zack is basically a re-titled version of Wildfire which was originally released by Ellora's Cave Publishers. The names of the characters have been changed and it has been expanded by about 50 pages, but the storyline is basically the same. I'm beginning to suspect that the entire Armed and Dangerous series may just be a re-tooled version of Ms. McCray's Wild series....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" When I picked up Tucker's Claim, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. I had loved Caine's Reckoning, the first bReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" When I picked up Tucker's Claim, I wasn't entirely sure what to expect. I had loved Caine's Reckoning, the first book in the Hell's Eight series, but the second, Sam's Creed, was in my opinion, a weak installment that left me feeling pretty underwhelmed. In the end, Tucker's Claim definitely put this series back on track for me with a wonderful character-driven narrative that made me fall in love with both its hero and heroine. It was a lovely story of two lonely people with similar traumatic experiences in their backgrounds, but from opposite fringes of society. Neither have ever truly felt like they fit in, but they find love, acceptance and wholeness in each other's arms.
Tucker is a half-breed Indian who was raised in the white world until Mexican soldiers razed the town where he lived, slaughtering everyone in their path. Tucker was one of only eight boys (the eight men who now comprise Hell's Eight) who survived the attack and banded together seeking vengeance. Since then he has started to live a slightly more respectable life as a Texas Ranger who is feared by most for both his large size and fierce reputation, but his mixed blood still makes him a target and leaves him with few options in life. Even before the attacks Tucker's boyhood was one of misery and abuse at the hands of his father. As a half-breed, he never really fit into either the white or Indian world, so except for when he is among Hell's Eight, he has never really known love or acceptance. His longing to be loved for who he is was apparent very early in the story and only deepened as it went on, but he can't seem to believe that any woman, especially one like Sally Mae, could ever care for a “savage.” Not to mention, he fears for what the townspeople might do to both of them if they ever found out about their relationship. I couldn't help but fall a little in love with Tucker right from the start. I loved how he had continued to come back to the little town where Sally Mae lived time after time, just to be near her and protect her, but allowed her the space and time she needed to grieve her husband's murder. When they finally came together, he was an amazingly giving lover, but also scrumptiously possessive. He was absolutely wonderful with animals and kids too. Tucker may have had a hard exterior but inside he had a kind, gentle heart of gold. Given his background, it's pretty astounding that he could be so tender, but Sally Mae always brought out the best in him. By the end of the book, I was positively crazy about Tucker, and he has earned the title of my favorite Hell's Eight hero so far.
Sally Mae was raised by Quakers from the time she was about ten years old, after her parents were killed. Suffering from traumatic amnesia, she can't remember anything prior to the time she started living with the Friends. Their peaceful ways helped to calm her troubled mind and spirit, so that she was able to recover in every way except her memory. She had married Jonah, a man fifteen years her senior, and they moved west, hoping to help people. He was a good man and a talented physician who taught her everything he knew, so that when he died, the townspeople began to look to her when they needed doctoring. Even though Sally and Jonah had a comfortable marriage, she always felt like something was missing. There was an underlying passion within her to which Jonah was not responsive, and she had always wanted a child while he wanted to wait. When Jonah was killed, Sally Mae's world might have fallen apart if Tucker hadn't been there, lending her his strength along with his protection and a helping hand. When Sally finally gave in to her attraction for Tucker she did so with wild abandon, giving him all of herself. Even though marriage between a white woman and a half-breed seemed impossible to outsiders, Sally Mae's Quaker beliefs made Tucker her equal right from the start in spite of their racial differences. I loved how she was always so kind and accepting of others no matter what. She was just a sweet, kind and giving woman toward everyone, but most especially to Tucker. Her beliefs also make her a pacifist, which was the main sticking point between the two of them, since Tucker's life was filled with violence on a regular basis. I respected her choice, because sometimes it takes more courage to choose the path of peace than the path of force. I also thought that Sally had great strength of character in many ways, not the least of which was meeting Tucker half-way so that they could have the future they both dreamed of. I know some readers were off-put by Sally Mae's use of “thee” and “thy” in her speech, but it didn't bother me at all. I thought it rather added to the sweetness of her character, while also being accurate vernacular for a Quaker in that time period. Sally was just a wonderful character who was full of depth and one of those rare heroines who I thoroughly liked and related to throughout the entire story.
As a couple, I thought that Tucker and Sally Mae complimented each other perfectly. I could feel the deep love connection between them from the very first chapter, even though the story for the most part begins with their wild sexual encounters. Normally, this isn't really my cup of tea, but they had known and been yearning for one another for a very long time before giving in to their passion, which made the early love scenes more likable and believable for me. The author also took the time to create a lovely atmosphere of romance and desire in the opening scene. Those first love scenes are darkly erotic, but laced with an undercurrent of deep tenderness and love which made them very beautiful. However, approximately the first half of the book is all about the sex, leaving me wondering when they were going to share their backgrounds, hopes, dreams, and all the little things that add intimacy to a romance. The reader gets to know Tucker and Sally pretty well through their introspections, but it seems that the author decided to wait until the second half to get to the relationship building. From that point on, there aren't any interactions of a sexual nature until the very end. While I was quite relieved to finally have them opening up and getting to know one another, I thought writing it this way left the story with a bit of an unbalanced feel. I did however, love that the conflict is mostly of an internal nature, with Tucker and Sally Mae trying to figure out how to reconcile their differing beliefs on violence, and I think Sarah McCarty did a very good job with that, and with driving home the point that marriage is always a compromise. I felt that both characters grew throughout the story and found their middle ground in believable ways which left me satisfied.
Since Sam's Creed had no input from other Hell's Eight members besides Tucker, it was great to finally see some of the other characters again. Caine and Desi (Caine's Reckoning) are awaiting the birth of their first child back at Hell's Eight. Sam and Bella (Sam's Creed) have settled into running the Montoya ranch, but surprisingly are still not married. I like that Sally and Bella have become good friends and even share a prayer for the safety of their men in spite of the differences in their race and religions. The twins Tracker and Shadow also returned still running down leads on Desi's missing sister, Ari, along with Tucker, and we get to learn just a little more about the pair. It was interesting how Shadow was intuitive enough to recognize that Sally was every bit as lonely and outcast as Tucker. He and Tracker could shape up to be quite fascinating characters if written well. I had speculated from book #1 that Tracker would probably be paired with Ari, and am pleased to know that I was correct in my assessment, as their book, Tracker's Sin, is the next of the series.
Other than the one small issue I mentioned earlier, the only thing that kept Tucker's Claim from being a perfect 5-star read for me was the author's tendency to make silly little continuity errors, things like Sally being in her nightgown and then suddenly fully dressed or a horse changing gender no less than four times, three of which were within a few paragraphs of one another. These might seem like small things, but when there are several of them that are pretty blatant to anyone who's actually paying attention, it can get a little annoying. There were also some parts scattered throughout the story where I thought the narrative could have used a little more clarity. As written, there were passages that I had to reread in order to be certain I was understanding what was happening. Otherwise, Tucker's Claim was a near-perfect read that I thoroughly enjoyed, and it now has me looking forward once again to Tracker's story and the rest of the Hell's Eight series.
Note: This book contains explicit language, violence, and sexual situations, including mild domination/submission, spanking, use of sex toys, and anal sex, which some readers may find offensive....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Stuffing: A Thanksgiving Tale is a six-page erotic e-book “quickie” and as one might expect with a sizzling story that is thisReviewed for THC Reviews Stuffing: A Thanksgiving Tale is a six-page erotic e-book “quickie” and as one might expect with a sizzling story that is this short, it was pretty much about the sex. At least the couple is married, so there is a prior connection, but the only emotion I really felt emanating off the page was Shell's anger at her husband. Granted she had a very good reason for being upset with him and he did soften her up by the end of the story, but when the female lead is mentally calling her husband every name in the book and entertaining fantasies of divorce and/or murder, it doesn't go a long way toward fostering romantic feelings. Depending on the reader's viewpoint though, one might find it quite funny rather than hostile. The love scene was pretty steamy, and I definitely have to say that I wouldn't mind being warmed up that way while cooking Thanksgiving dinner, but preferably not after my husband has done something TSTL like Steve did.;-) Admittedly, this little e-book is written in first-person perspective though, so I didn't get Steve's take on the situation, and he certainly redeemed himself by the end. I also noticed that the author had a tendency to write in run-on sentences, but maybe that was to emphasize Shell's feelings and make the first-person narration seem more conversational. I hope Ms. Dafoe doesn't write this way all the time or that would get pretty annoying to read. Stuffing was my first story by her, and it left me open to possibly trying more. Overall, it was a fairly pleasant way to spend a few minutes of reading time, and since it was a free download from Samhain Publishing I certainly can't complain.;-)
Note: This story contains explicit language which some readers may find offensive....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews Baby It's Cold Outside is a scorching little 12-page erotic “quickie.” It was super hot without being kinky, but definitely moReviewed for THC Reviews Baby It's Cold Outside is a scorching little 12-page erotic “quickie.” It was super hot without being kinky, but definitely mostly about the sex. I'm usually not a fan of hook-up-now, ask-questions-later romances, and even though Quinton and Heather had briefly met a few months before, they were still virtual strangers. I may not have been entirely comfortable with the set-up for the story, but I did find it to be surprisingly enjoyable in spite of that. It might have been the sizzling love scene combined with the stranded in a snowstorm theme which I typically like. I also think I gave the author a little bit of slack since this was such a short novella, whereas I would have expected a lot more from a full-length novel. Or perhaps I was just in the right mood for it at the right time. Whatever the reasons, it turned out to be a fun, steamy little read. This was my first story by Shelli Stevens, and it has certainly left me open to trying more of her works, which is good since I already have a couple of them on my TBR list. According to Ms. Stevens' website this is the third in her Seattle Steam series, which I didn't know until after reading it. I'm not sure if Quinton or Heather appeared in the earlier books, but Heather is the cousin of Christy from book #2, Tempting Adam. She and Adam make a brief appearance at the end of the story. Baby It's Cold Outside is available as a free download from Samhaim Publishing and the author's website....more
A Love for All Nights was a seriously hot short story about a vampire who finds his mate when he least expects it. For as well as I could get to knowA Love for All Nights was a seriously hot short story about a vampire who finds his mate when he least expects it. For as well as I could get to know the two protagonists in a short 16 pages, I liked both Carson and Alexa. I loved Carson's kind, gentlemanly manners, and Alexa seemed sweet but passionate. Since this is an erotic romance, about half the novella is taken up with one long smokin' love scene that I thought was pretty luscious. Of course, things move along really quickly, and although it would have been nice to have more character back-story and relationship development, I'm realistic enough to not expect too much from an e-book quickie. The whole life-mate scenario helped to make their declarations of love and Alexa's rapid acceptance of Carson being a vampire more palatable. For those who like holiday themed stories this one takes place at Halloween. The plot was fairly simple and not particularly unique to the paranormal genre, but A Love for All Nights was a fun, enjoyable way to spend a half-hour of my reading time. Aside from a few typos and word choices that could have been better, the author's writing style seemed pretty solid. It was my first read by Jessica Coulter Smith, and has left me open to trying more of her work. A Love for All Nights is available as a free e-book from All Romance E-Books or The Wild Horse Press, and in my opinion, is definitely worth the download. Just make sure you have a cold drink and a fan nearby before starting to read it.;-)
Note: This book contains explicit language and sexual situations including anal play and toys, which some readers may find offensive. ...more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Maverick's Black Cat was a seriously hot and steamy erotic romance with some very appealing elements. Even if I weReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Maverick's Black Cat was a seriously hot and steamy erotic romance with some very appealing elements. Even if I weren't married, I can't say that I would be too keen on having cyber-sex with a presumed stranger, but the authors certainly did a good job of avoiding the “ick” factor and making that part of the story a very attractive and sensual fantasy. It was also a great way to build some fabulous sexual tension. Once the hero and heroine realize they know each other and get together in real-life, they heat things up all over the place with some pretty creative love scenes that have lots of variety. I liked that the authors took a little time out in between all the steamy sex to tell a little bit of story about Catarena writing her book, dealing with her smarmy supervisor at work, and the couple tackling Mason's control issues, as well as showing their relationships with their respective best friends. It's not a lot, but it was just enough to keep me from getting from getting bored with all the sex.;-) After reading Maverick's Black Cat and another similar novel (Hannah Murray's Jane and the Sneaky Dom), I'm beginning to think that some of the best erotic romances are the ones that do focus more on the sexual relationship and don't try to be something else (eg. suspense, paranormal, etc.), because thus far in my experience, those parts of the story usually tend to suffer in the process.
Since Maverick's Black Cat was a relatively short book that is jam-packed with red-hot lovin', there isn't a great deal of backstory given on Mason and Catarena, but I felt that the authors developed their characters fairly well in the here and now. Mason is the millionaire owner of a Fortune 500 company and a dom who feels the need to be in control in everything. When he chances to meet Catarena in a BDSM chat room where she is trying to do research for an erotic novel, Mason is instantly attracted to her sharp tongue and the challenge she presents. I can enjoy a dominant hero from time to time, but there came a point where Mason started to scare me a little with his caveman act. The minute he realized who Catarena was, Mason dragged her into his office and took her over his desk for the very first time with a rather angry attitude and no preamble or foreplay whatsoever. Even though Catarena didn't protest much and seemed to like it, this felt a little too close to forced seduction for my taste. At that point, if I had been Catarena, I probably would have run the other way screaming.;-) Of course, she stuck around, but I have to say that I greatly admired her feistiness and how she let Mason know right from the start that she wasn't going to put up with him being a control freak or let him push her around outside the bedroom. Eventually, she did do a very respectable job of taming the “wild beast.” Mason apologized for some things he'd done and sufficiently “made it up to her” for me to like him in the end. I felt like he was really putting forth effort to change, and all their love scenes, other than the one that bothered me a bit, were quite scrumptious.
Overall, Maverick's Black Cat was a fun erotic romp that I mostly enjoyed. Being the realist that I am, I liked that the authors kept Mason and Catarena's online play “safe” by not giving out real names or addresses. I also thought it was helpful that they had a prior relationship of sorts even though they didn't know each other well. This along with the authors progressing the narrative over a few months time made them falling in love more believable. On the downside, there were a number of editing errors (typos, incorrect word choices, poor grammer, etc.), but otherwise, I thought it was pretty well written. I've also come to the conclusion that this is kind of par for the course with many Ellora's Cave books and try to overlook it as much a possible. If it hadn't been for Mason scaring me a couple of times, I probably would have given the full 5-stars to this novel, and even as it was I would still call it a keeper. Maverick's Black Cat is the first book in Maggie Casper and Lena Matthew's The Boulevard series. The next book, Friends with Benefits, features Mason and Catarena's best friends, Sebastian and Bailey, as the hero and heroine. What I saw of these two characters in this book, I really liked, and if Maverick's Black Cat is any indication of things to come, I'll definitely be looking forward to reading Friends with Benefits as soon as I can get a copy.
Note: This book contains explicit language and a number of very explicit sexual situations which some readers may find offensive including exploration of D/s relationships, a visit to a BDSM club, mild voyeurism and exhibitionism, spanking, toys, and anal play with a toy....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "2.5 stars" Sugar on Top was a bit-o-fluff erotic novella that takes place in a fictitious town that seems to be inhabited onlReviewed for THC Reviews "2.5 stars" Sugar on Top was a bit-o-fluff erotic novella that takes place in a fictitious town that seems to be inhabited only by fantastical creatures. I realize it's not an easy task to develop characters in such a short space (30 pages), but I never felt like I got to know the two main leads at all and what little I did learn about them wasn't all that endearing. Sugar is an “invisible woman” whose species is never specified. She works as a gossip columnist and will do just about anything for a story. This isn't exactly a noble profession to begin with, and she doesn't even seem to be all that good at it either, considering she is about to be fired. Warner is a werewolf who seems to have a penchant for wild parties that apparently include orgies. He is about to transition and trying to stave it off by over-indulging in food and sex. I have to admit that the sex scenes were pretty unusual and I somewhat enjoyed the chase prior to the final scene, but they were written in a rather blunt, clinical way that I felt was lacking in true sensuality. In fact, this story could just as easily have been classified as straight erotica rather than erotic romance. In my opinion, there wasn't anything about it that was particularly romantic, and there was no real emotional connection either. There were also a couple of moments outside of the sex scenes that were more or less crass and distasteful to me. I'm not sure I could say that the ending was even HFN much less HEA. The whole story was pretty much nothing more than a one night stand with no thought or mention of the future. Although I could think of worse ways to spend an hour, Sugar on Top didn't really float my boat, but since it was a freebie, at least I'm not out anything except my reading time. This was my first story by Leigh Ellwood, and I can't say that it has left me particularly eager to try anything else by her. Sugar on Top can be downloaded for free from a variety of places including the author's website and All Romance e-Books.
Note: This novella contains explicit language and sexual content including rimming which some readers may find offensive....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Love Slave – Love Slave was a sweetly sensual erotic romance of forbidden love between a Jewish American young wReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Love Slave – Love Slave was a sweetly sensual erotic romance of forbidden love between a Jewish American young woman and an Arabic young man who was a Kuwaiti sheik. This theme, along with the love-overcomes-all theme, both of which are a prominent part of the story, are among my favorites. Shana and Bear were both very likable characters. Although I can't say I've ever fantasized about being part of a sheik's harem like Shana did, I certainly wouldn't mind if that sheik were Bear (and it was only a harem of one;-)). Making love in his private jet, his limo and his isolated ancient family fortress would be a scrumptious dream. I liked that Bear was completely into fulfilling Shana's fantasy and how the couple were so open and giving toward one another. It made the idea of them falling in love so quickly more believable. I wasn't a bit surprised when Shana got jealous of the other women in the “harem,” even though she said that's what she wanted. In fact, the short menage scene between Bear, Shana and the other two women was the only thing about this novella that wasn't really my cup of tea. I happen to be a jealous reader who wants the hero to belong completely to the heroine. I was quite happy when Bear wasn't responsive to the other women and kicked them out pretty quickly, so he could have his favorite houri all to himself.;-)
Even though the characterizations aren't particularly deep because of the short length, I really came to like Bear and Shana a lot, and would have loved to read a longer story about them. I'm really happy that Forever Enslaved, the second novella in the series, is a continuation of their lives together. Love Slave may require a little suspension of disbelief to accept Bear and Shana falling in love and overcoming their cultural differences so quickly, but there was enough tender emotion between the pair to make me buy it. This story also introduces Shana's brother, Jake, who becomes the hero of book #3, Firestorm. This was my first read by Ann Jacobs and the first in her Black Gold series. I really enjoyed it and look forward to continuing the series. Love Slave can also be purchased as a separate e-book. Rating: ****1/2
Note: This novella contains explicit language and sexual situations which some readers may find offensive including a f/f/m/f menage with brief mention of f/f action and anal play with fingers.
Forever Enslaved – Forever Enslaved continued the story of Bear and Shana that began in the first novella of the Black Gold series, Love Slave. The couple has been married for ten years and things have become rather rocky between them, causing Shana to leave Bear. Romances about married couples are rather rare, so I really enjoyed this aspect of the story, not to mention getting to read more about Bear and Shana was a treat. Having them still madly in love and so hot for each other after a decade and in spite of their differences was wonderful. I absolutely adore Bear. He's willing to play the dominating hero, but all of his actions toward Shana are filled with tenderness and love. I thoroughly enjoyed his willingness to gift Shana with every sexual fantasy she had ever expressed to him in order to prove his love and devotion to her. As with the first novella, I wasn't entirely into the menage scene, but I at least understood the reasons behind it. I was quite happy though that Bear was jealous enough to have trouble going through with it and that Shana had a last-minute epiphany about Bear being the only man she would ever need to satisfy her. The marital issues which made Shana leave Bear aren't explored in a lot of depth, but as the underlying cause is a pretty common problem, I could fully understand her feelings. I was also pleased to see that both of them realized that they were soul mates who simply couldn't live without each other and were willing to compromise to make things work in the future.
As one might expect with an erotic novella, it is primarily about the sex, and it was some of the most scrumptious sex I've ever read. In my opinion, the love scenes were laden with emotion while still being a bit kinky and full of intense passion. I was also thrilled to finally find an erotic author who knows how to write back-door lovin' with patience and gentleness, avoiding the “ouch” factor. There was also lots of variety in the love scenes with each one being completely different than the last which kept the sex from becoming too boring. Overall, this was another sweet, steamy, enjoyable read from Ms. Jacobs. Forever Enslaved is the second story in the Black Gold series. It makes mention of Bear's cousin, Jamil, who has been missing in action for the ten years since the Gulf War ended. He becomes the hero of the fourth story in series, Entrapped, which I'm really looking forward to reading soon. Forever Enslaved can also be purchased as a separate e-book. Rating: ****1/2
Note: This novella contains explicit language and sexual situations which some readers may find offensive including bondage, anal sex, and a brief m/m/f/m menage.
Entrapped – The synopsis for Entrapped had me really looking forward to reading it, but I have to say that this novella wasn't quite what I was expecting. The first half of it made me rather uncomfortable, mainly because of how Jamil and Leila met and began their interactions. Jamil had suffered heinous tortures as a prisoner of war for eleven years including repeated rapes at the hands of the sadistic male jailer and his guards. I can usually handle quite a bit when it comes to abuse, but even though these parts had happened off canvas and weren't described in a particularly graphic way, for some reason, it still had my insides in knots. After all that had happened to Jamil, it just didn't seem very appropriate for Leila to use him rather callously for her own pleasure while he was chained like a dog. I realized this was supposed to be a BDSM fantasy and Jamil seemed to enjoy it, but in my mind, the whole scenario was at best forced seduction; at worst outright rape (the characters even admitted as much to themselves later in the story), which just didn't sit well with me. I also didn't find the prison setting to be a particularly enticing place to begin a romantic relationship.
Once the story got to the prison break, I was much more into it. The escape scenes were exciting and well written, and once they had returned to civilization, Jamil and Leila's interactions were much more tender and to my liking. Ann Jacobs seems to be good at balancing a decent plot with steamy sex scenes, and she also has a knack for writing very appealing heroes who are just the right mix of alpha male with a more sensitive side. I loved Jamil's protectiveness of Leila while also being very gentle and reassuring about her scars. Once the couple was away from the prison, Leila's vulnerabilities over her scars became more prominent too, and that along with her kindness in releasing Jamil, made her a more sympathetic heroine to me. Even with the added emotional development during the latter half of the novella, I still had a hard time swallowing Jamil and Leila falling in love, but I think it was mainly my personal issues with the way things started between them. That just wasn't my cup of tea, but if it had been, or if things had begun differently, I could definitely have seen this becoming another keeper in this series for me.
Entrapped is the fourth story in the Black Gold series. It reunites the couples from the first three, with all of them getting some decent page time. Bear and Shana (Love Slave, Forever Enslaved) even got their own love scene, and Jake and Kate (Firestorm) are seen on their honeymoon in Kuwait. I read this novella out of the Sandstorms anthology. I couldn't find good information on the correct reading order for the series and hadn't read Jake's book yet, so I should warn that there are what I believe could be a couple of spoilers for Firestorm when read the way I did it. Entrapped also introduced Brian Shearer, an American POW who was being held in the same prison with Jamil. He becomes the hero of Zayed's Gift which is the fifth story in the series. Even though Entrapped was not a perfect read for me, I still mostly liked it. I'm very much enjoying Ann Jacobs writing style and look forward to going back and reading Jake's story, as well as continuing forward with the rest of the series soon. Entrapped can be purchased as a separate e-book, and according to the publisher, Ellora's Cave, it was also previously released in a anthology titled, Captured. Rating: ****
Note: This novella contains explicit language and sexual situations which some readers may find offensive including forced seduction, heavier BDSM-style bondage with chains, light bondage, anal play with fingers, intimate shaving, and intimate piercings. There are also mentions of various tortures being inflicted upon prisoners including brutal beatings, amputations, castrations (and the constant threat of it), rape and the use of a BDSM device on male genitalia to elicit pain. Definitely not for the faint of heart....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Love Slave was a sweetly sensual erotic romance of forbidden love between a Jewish American young woman and an AraReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Love Slave was a sweetly sensual erotic romance of forbidden love between a Jewish American young woman and an Arabic young man who was a Kuwaiti sheik. This theme, along with the love-overcomes-all theme, both of which are a prominent part of the story, are among my favorites. Shana and Bear were both very likable characters. Although I can't say I've ever fantasized about being part of a sheik's harem like Shana did, I certainly wouldn't mind if that sheik were Bear (and it was only a harem of one;-)). Making love in his private jet, his limo and his isolated ancient family fortress would be a scrumptious dream. I liked that Bear was completely into fulfilling Shana's fantasy and how the couple were so open and giving toward one another. It made the idea of them falling in love so quickly more believable. I wasn't a bit surprised when Shana got jealous of the other women in the “harem,” even though she said that's what she wanted. In fact, the short menage scene between Bear, Shana and the other two women was the only thing about this novella that wasn't really my cup of tea. I happen to be a jealous reader who wants the hero to belong completely to the heroine. I was quite happy when Bear wasn't responsive to the other women and kicked them out pretty quickly, so he could have his favorite houri all to himself.;-)
Even though the characterizations aren't particularly deep because of the short length, I really came to like Bear and Shana a lot, and would have loved to read a longer story about them. I'm really happy that Forever Enslaved, the second novella in the series, is a continuation of their lives together. Love Slave may require a little suspension of disbelief to accept Bear and Shana falling in love and overcoming their cultural differences so quickly, but there was enough tender emotion between the pair to make me buy it. This story also introduces Shana's brother, Jake, who becomes the hero of book #3, Firestorm. This was my first read by Ann Jacobs and the first in her Black Gold series. I really enjoyed it and look forward to continuing the series. Love Slave can be purchased as a separate e-book, and can also be found in the Sandstorms anthology.
Note: This novella contains explicit language and sexual situations which some readers may find offensive including a f/f/m/f menage with brief mention of f/f action and anal play with fingers....more
Reviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Forever Enslaved continued the story of Bear and Shana that began in the first novella of the Black Gold series, LReviewed for THC Reviews "4.5 stars" Forever Enslaved continued the story of Bear and Shana that began in the first novella of the Black Gold series, Love Slave. The couple has been married for ten years and things have become rather rocky between them, causing Shana to leave Bear. Romances about married couples are rather rare, so I really enjoyed this aspect of the story, not to mention getting to read more about Bear and Shana was a treat. Having them still madly in love and so hot for each other after a decade and in spite of their differences was wonderful. I absolutely adore Bear. He's willing to play the dominating hero, but all of his actions toward Shana are filled with tenderness and love. I thoroughly enjoyed his willingness to gift Shana with every sexual fantasy she had ever expressed to him in order to prove his love and devotion to her. As with the first novella, I wasn't entirely into the menage scene, but I at least understood the reasons behind it. I was quite happy though that Bear was jealous enough to have trouble going through with it and that Shana had a last-minute epiphany about Bear being the only man she would ever need to satisfy her. The marital issues which made Shana leave Bear aren't explored in a lot of depth, but as the underlying cause is a pretty common problem, I could fully understand her feelings. I was also pleased to see that both of them realized that they were soul mates who simply couldn't live without each other and were willing to compromise to make things work in the future.
As one might expect with an erotic novella, it is primarily about the sex, and it was some of the most scrumptious sex I've ever read. In my opinion, the love scenes were laden with emotion while still being a bit kinky and full of intense passion. I was also thrilled to finally find an erotic author who knows how to write back-door lovin' with patience and gentleness, avoiding the “ouch” factor. There was also lots of variety in the love scenes with each one being completely different than the last which kept the sex from becoming too boring. Overall, this was another sweet, steamy, enjoyable read from Ms. Jacobs. Forever Enslaved is the second story in the Black Gold series. It makes mention of Bear's cousin, Jamil, who has been missing in action for the ten years since the Gulf War ended. He becomes the hero of the fourth story in series, Entrapped, which I'm really looking forward to reading soon. Forever Enslaved can be purchased as a separate e-book, and can also be found in the Sandstorms anthology.
Note: This novella contains explicit language and sexual situations which some readers may find offensive including bondage, anal sex, and a brief m/m/f/m menage....more