Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Full Throttle by Erin McCarthy

Book Description:

Easing into the turns…
As one of only two girls on the tween racing circuit, Shawn Hamby has always run with a fast crowd. But now at thirty-two, she doesn’t need to prove anything to anyone. And she definitely doesn’t need a man bossing her around off of the track…

Putting the pedal to the metal…

But after a silly girls’ night at a fetish club, Shawn can’t get Rhett Ford out of her mind. He’s younger than her, and he’s her best friend’s brother-in-law, which should be red flags. Rhett is looking for someone to lead in bed, but he can’t imagine that Shawn would ever submit to him. Boldly surrendering is more her style. And with Rhett behind the wheel, it’s going to be one wild ride…

Check out the review on the website Fresh Fiction:

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Interview with author Manuela Cardiga, author of "Guilty Pleasures"

1. Can you start off by telling us a little about yourself?

I don’t really know where to begin. The first significant things that spring to mind? I’m a working mother of one (anyone who’s had more than one has my unending respect), I am compulsive writer, I am an unrelentingly cheerful and bouncy optimist (irritating). I love reading, I love music, I love cooking , I love to eat, I love my life. Oh autobiographical thingymmagig? I was born in Mozambique (East Africa); raised in South Africa and live in Europe. I wanted to be a writer and an archeologist; but ended up being a fashion designer/ graphic designer/illustrator/copywriter. Now I am a writer! (did I mention I talk a lot?)


2. Give us a brief overview of Guilty Pleasures:

Briefly: a red-hot narcissistic compulsively healthy-living control freak - Lance Packhard -  who happens to be a bankrupt sex-therapist (writing a book called “Sensual Secrets of a Sexual Surrogate”) gets hired to impregnate a woman who just loves food. Millie Deafly. She’s not interested in men, let alone someone like our hero. So in order to get close to her, he gets himself hired as an assistant to the Chef at Guilty Pleasures - a dinner club belonging to our heroine - and her partner, Serge. Serge used to be a prostitute in Istanbul, a fluffer in skin-flicks in Vegas and is now a Master Chef in London. He’s also a homosexual black dwarf with major personality/sensitivity issues. Every night a new set of crazy guests come to the Guilty Pleasures to pig out, and poor Lance (as his alter-ego, a geeky but sexy Will) finds himself sucked in to a riotous world of eccentricity and sensuality quite unlike anything he’s ever experienced. He suddenly finds himself falling madly in love with his “subject”… and about to be outed as an imposter! If you want to know how it ends, read the book! (It’s really funny) Every chapter opens with “advice” from Lance’s how-not-to book, and closes with excerpts from Millie’s diary. I had an obscene amount of fun writing this book. I hope my readers enjoy reading it.


3. So I love music almost as much as books.  Do you think your characters or books have theme songs?  What are they??

YES!!! I love music too! I had a struggle during editing, because I had included references and sometimes snippets of lyrics that I had to remove? Lance is a Neil Diamond fan, Millie is addicted to 80’s and 90’s music (Brit-pop), Hendricks is a Goth…There is music all through my book! Crazy thrash metal stars, pop singers, lascivious cello players, classical pianists…Serge is a blues and jazz man (modern and classical). He digs Charles Mingus “Moanin’”. Millie’s theme song? In my head it was “She’s a Star” by James (most of the book I could soundtrack from James); she evolves to Springsteen’s “Secret Garden”. (Lance goes from “Sweet Caroline” to “I’m a Creep”.)


4. Can you give me your top 3 favorite authors that you would go screaming fan over if introduced to?

That is so not fair! Only three? Living or dead?

Living…George R.R. Martin (major fan since a novel called Fevre Dream), R. Scott Bakker, China Miéville, David Eddings, Ursula Le Guin, Julian May, Dan Simmons (that’s more than 3 and I could give you a whole page)…Dead? Jane Austen, C.S. Lewis, Dickens, Shakespeare, Keats, D.H. Lawrence, Anis Nin, Agatha Christie…LOVE Agatha!

5. If you could compare yourself to any fictional character who would that be?

Me? In my own book or other people’s books? In mine, I think I’d be George: stubbornly romantic in the face of opposing evidence…In other people’s books? Maybe Viola in Twelfth Night. Or Eliza Bennet in Pride and Prejudice. I’m a tenacious survivor. I never give up. Funny, all the characters I relate to are defined by humour, and common sense (except George).

6. Talk us through the cover art of your novel.

That was a lot of fun! The Writers’ Coffee Shop attributed me a graphic designer: a lovely enormously talented Lady called Thaigger Tigger Lillie. She asked me what I wanted? So I said…you tell ME! Read the book, then knock yourself out, have fun! And she did. Isn’t it fabulous? The man is just sooo yummy…

7. Where did you get the inspiration from Lance Packhard’s character?
I didn’t…He just showed up: shaved chest, silk thong, hyper dedicated (you might say obsessed) with healthy food and the body-beautiful? I was horrified! I absolutely adore a man with a deliciously hairy chest -not TOO much, Chewbacca can stay home… Lance is so absolutely not my type of man. Yet, somehow, he grows into a good man. He has the one innate quality that is so very hard to find: a capacity for love, kindness, tenderness. He listens.

8. If you were planning your perfect aphrodisiac recipe, what would it be and why?
Let me tell you a secret…There are no “perfect aphrodisiac recipes”! The secret is eating with someone who awakens you in every way: your heart, your mind, your sensuality. So the perfect aphrodisiac recipe? The main ingredient is the guest…You can serve pizza, or baby quail stuffed with wild rice and pine-nuts in a port-wine chocolate and orange zest sauce. The intention is what spices the dish, tantalizes the palate and arouses desire! Serve what ever you serve with fire in your eye and a pout promising kisses.

For a review of Guilty Pleasures by Manuela Cardiga check out the website Fresh Fiction:

Friday, November 22, 2013

Blood Curse by Sharon Page

This is Book 7 in this author’s “Blood” series. This is a historical paranormal romance with strong gothic elements. Lady Ophelia has been kept in seclusion – even hidden from her family – by the enigmatic Mrs. Darkwell. She has been confined this way in order to protect the unsuspecting populous. Through no fault of her own, her touch is deadly. She sublimates her sexual urges by pursuing her appreciation of statues capturing the male form and ogling, and even caressing them when possible. It’s on one of these museum trips that she makes the acquaintance of the darkly handsome Mr. Ravenhunt. She is unaware that he is actually a vampire. She is also unaware that their frequent meetings are by design and are part of a plot to kidnap her. Ravenhunt is paid by some shady character to collect Lady Ophelia. He initially refused until his client revealed Ophelia’s curse in all its awfulness. However, after actually meeting her, he decides to pull a double-cross and keep her. Most of the obstacles in this romance are caused by external factors. There are more people after Ophelia than Ravenhunt’s mysterious client. The list of people after Ophelia and her power include Queen Jade – the powerful vampire who formerly controlled Ravenhunt, some evil-minded band of anti-vampire men are interested in experimenting on her, and miscellaneous paranormal types want the power. Despite the many times throughout the book when Ophelia doubts him, Ravenhunt always tries to prevent her from being hurt – even if it means his death. Our vampire hero finds out that undoing Ophelia’s curse involves some sex magic with the end goal being that they would fall in love with each other. I thought this was a little goofy, but toward the end of the book I was convinced that they were in love. Ravenhunt agonizes over the caveat that says they have to fall in love and is so earnest in trying to do anything to lift the curse, never realizing until later on, that he fell before he even realized it. The story itself really pulled me in and I loved the fast-paced action. The sex was kind of kinky with some bondage. This is nothing new for this author’s erotica. While I might not have found all of the sex acts in this book appealing – it was not so much a comment on the author’s writing, but rather just personal preference. What I did like about the sex scenes in this book is that it was consensual, the people involved enjoyed themselves, and it was never done for the wrong reasons – out of anger or some twisted pathology. I was happy to find that there was no third party involved romantically with the hero & heroine. The characters and story made this book for me. I found that I like Ravenhunt more as the book progressed. He has a lot of pressure put on him, including threats made against his sister by an evil vampire Queen, but never really breaks.
As a reader who has followed this series in previous books, I was happy to see a resolution in the Guidon/Mrs. Darkwell storyline. I look forward to reading more by this author.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Twas the Night Before Mischief by Nina Rowan

This novella comes after Book 2 in this author’s “Daring Hearts” series. The prologue introduces the two main characters, Penelope Darlington and Darius Hall, when she is 12 and he is 20. Penelope is the daughter of successful confectionary shop owner Henry Darlington, while Darius is the third son of the Earl of Rushton. 12yr. old Penelope is very upset due to getting some surprising news and takes off to regroup. She has always disliked Christmas because her mother died around Christmas time. Penelope’s father has recently returned from out of town (around Christmas time) with a new wife in tow and Penelope is devastated. It’s not that she finds the new wife in any way intrinsically objectionable, it’s that her father got married without telling her, or even giving her any clue that he was thinking of remarrying. It’s while she’s in this frame of mind, that Darius finds her. In his quiet way, he listens to Penelope vent. It’s a sweet little moment that sets up the rest of the book. The rest of the story takes place seven years after the prologue. Darius and Penelope meet up again at Lady Wentworth’s soiree. Even though Penelope is content to be pursued by Scotsman Simon Wilkie, she and Darius share an impromptu kiss. That might have been the beginning and end of their romance, had things not taken a dramatic turn. Penelope agrees to elope with Wilkie and head to his home in the Scottish Highlands. Darius catches wind of it and takes off after the two, not only out of loyalty and affection for the Darlington family, but because he doesn’t believe she will be happy with Wilkie. I love the way Darius and Penelope’s relationship develops over the short period of time they are thrown together. Penelope is able to open up with him about her feelings for her family and her current situation. She feels like Darius “gets” her. The romantic tension is fabulous. Even though Darius “possessed a scientific, mechanical mind”, Penelope brought out the poet in him without his sounding trite. I loved the romantic game they played defining words. When he explains why he compared her to the earth’s atmosphere, I melted. This was the first thing I’ve read by this author but I look forward to reading more. I was able to enjoy this story, even though I hadn’t read the previous books in this series.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Groom for Christmas by Cara Marsi

You either love “fake fiancé” storylines or you don’t. I love them, and I enjoyed this story. Graceann is looking for a fake fiancé to bring home for the holidays to take some family pressure off her. She has had a very bad experience in her romantic past that burned her and turned her off marriage completely. So, as she explains “My family feels sorry for me. They, especially my mother, won’t rest until I’m safely married.” In response to questions about how her family will react when she is no longer part of a couple, she says “If they think I broke with you, they’ll stop feeling sorry for me because they’ll know I’m in control of my life and perfectly happy on my own.” Typical “fake fiancé” logic. It just so happens that while Graceann is discussing her situation with her friend at the beginning of the book, her friend spots Jake Falco nearby. Better known in his high school days as “The Falcon”, Jake had a bad boy reputation. The friend suggests that she ask Jake to fill in as her fake fiancé, since her male friend couldn’t do it at the last minute. The chemistry between Jake and Graceann make for some very steamy scenes. In spite of his reputation when he was a teenager, Jake is a good sport about everything, and treats Graceann and her family with respect. He is very charming and easy to fall for. Even though Graceann’s mother surprises her by inviting a former romantic interest, Jake proves to be the better man. This story was a lot of fun. I liked the epilogue and thought it wrapped things up nicely. This is the first book I’ve read by this author, but after reading this story, I look forward to reading others.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Dangerous Curves Ahead by Sugar Jamison

This is Book 1 in the author’s “Perfect Fit” series. Ellis Garrett is a complex woman. She is a plus size woman who owns a clothing shop catering to other plus size women. She is essentially a strong character taking a chance in her life. She left her lucrative career as a lawyer as well as her verbally abusive boyfriend and changed her life. I immediately liked her and her quick wit until she started being too self-deprecating. Eventually I realized that this was just a flaw that humanized the character. I liked that she stood up to her jerk ex-boyfriend and his nasty interfering aunt. Her move back to her hometown has been a somewhat smooth transition so far. However, one day she runs into a person she never expected again – Mike Edwards. She and Mike have a muddled past. Some years ago, they had some deep conversations, but then she walked in her bedroom to find him making out with her sister. It wasn’t that Mike was a bad guy – he wasn’t dating Ellis at the time and he was unaware that the room Dina had taken him to was her sister’s. However, it’s something that still hangs over her like a shadow – in part because her relationship with her sister has never been the same, and because it also fed her insecurities. It’s also a little blow to the ego that Mike doesn’t remember who she is, she just seems somehow familiar. I didn’t think I would like Mike at first, but he grew on me. He always treats Ellis with respect and plays gallant knight by trying to slay her dragons. I sometimes felt she was a little too hard on him. They both have relationship issues, but I felt that Mike tried a little harder to make the relationship work. I liked Ellis’s parents – I especially loved her dad. Her dad was so adorable and it was obvious how much he loved her. Her sister Dina was a mess in this story. Hopefully she’ll work her issues out in a later book. I liked Mike’s friend Colin and look forward to reading his story. Overall, this was a good story with lots of drama. This book was provided by the publisher free in return for an honest review.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Dead and the Beautiful by Cheryl Crane

This is Book 3 in this author’s “Nikki Harper” series. After enjoying the previous book in this series I was looking forward to this one. Happily, it did not disappoint. I normally enjoy cozy mysteries and, while the setting for this story was not in a small town, it had many elements of a cozy mystery. The main character and amateur sleuth is Nikki Harper – real estate broker and daughter of legendary actress Victoria Bordeaux. The victim in this story is Ryan Melton. He is only famous for being the husband of actress Diara Elliott. Victoria and Diara are currently working on the same TV show. Nikki gets involved because the chief suspect for police is dog walker to the wealthy and famous, Alison Sahira. She is the sister of Nikki’s boyfriend. She is also a mother trying to retain custody of her teenage daughter and of a slightly nervous temperament. Although never particularly close, Nikki doesn’t believe Alison is a murderess and that she needs somebody to be in her corner. Her empathy comes from drawing a parallel between Alison’s situation she currently finds herself, and an incident in Nikki’s past. Her constant defense of Alison is a source of contention between Nikki and her boyfriend Jeremy. He has trouble believing his sister because of criminal activity in her past. It’s not so much what part she played in what happened long ago that bothers him, but that she lied about it. As with the previous book, I loved Victoria. She is such a class act, and I love her relationship with Nikki and also what she brings to the story. I also like Nikki’s hot but gay movie star buddy Marshall Thunder. He is a fun character and a great friend. I like how the author once again makes it seem plausible that Nikki would get involved in this murder case, and her ability to get information from witnesses. Nikki’s status and connections really come in handy in this case, since the main players in the murder mystery are Hollywood movers and shakers. The mystery itself kept me guessing and kept me interested from start to finish. Nikki is very relatable, likable, and grounded, in spite of her privileged background. I loved the chemistry between her and Lieutenant Detective Tom Dombrowski, or as Nikki refers to him – Detective Cutie-Pants. It’s not that I really dislike her current boyfriend. I just feel like she has more chemistry with Tom, so I’m hoping they might be a couple in the future. The resolution to the mystery was interesting and satisfying. I can’t wait for the next book in the series!

Monday, October 28, 2013

Taming the Wild Highlander by Terry Spear

This is book 4 in the author’s “Highlander” series. Having not read the previous books in the series, I was still able to enjoy it. This book was given to me by the author to review. Although I do love historical romances, I usually stay away from highlander books. I hate when the Scottish accent is very pronounced, and sometimes the hero is a bit too gruff for my tastes. I decided to take a chance and read this because I have enjoyed other books by this author. Happily for me, I ended up really enjoying this book and looking forward to reading others in this series.

The heroine of this story is Edana Chattan, daughter of the chief of the Chattan clan and rumored to be touched by the fae. I liked Edana and did not find her obnoxious or whiney. She was clever and caring. At the opening of this story, Edana is woken by her brother Kayne’s call for help in her mind. He says the word “dungeon”, and she knows that all five of her brothers were on their way to visit their cousin. She worries that all of them might be trapped in a dungeon and in need of her help. She tries unsuccessfully to convince her father to take action, so she takes matters into her own hands. I liked that rather than rashly heading out on her own, she at least takes her maid and companion Una as well as two castle guards. For me, this was a classic “hero’s quest” story. Early in her journey, Edana gets separated from her traveling companions and encounters Angus MacNeill, his cousin Niall, and their friend Gunnolf. The men have actually been out looking for Edana. They have heard of her disappearance from her father’s home and have set out to make sure she’s safe and to return her. Edana and Angus know each other. They both had a secret crush on each other when they were younger. Angus always regretted not saying something to her at the time. Edana always worried for her safety if anyone found out about her special abilities. Angus is how I wish all highland heroes were – an all-around good guy, cares about his family and others, he’s a hottie, and he is so sweet to Edana. I enjoyed their romance. I thought there was the right combination of sweet, sexy, humor, and good story-telling. The rescue/search party runs into a few obstacles along the way. Edana’s gift is only as good as the person she is able to mentally communicate with. They follow the clues her brothers send her as they get them. Another obstacle comes in the form of Keary, the newly minted Laird Lockton. He ended up being a villain in this story, but something of a complex one for me. He chases the good guys, but helps hunt down the villainess Oppida. He has murderous intentions toward Angus intending to get Edana for himself, but you feel sympathetic toward him for having an abusive father growing up. I was very conflicted about how he ended up. I found the two women, Oppida and Zeneva, to be almost succubus-like – especially Oppida. I found the part in the story when they finally find Edana’s brothers to be very exciting. I liked the character Pol – he was a sweet boy. I look forward to reading more books in this series – especially books about Allison, as well as Niall.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Reforming the Cowboy by Marisa Cleveland

This is Book 1 in the author’s “South Beach” series. Billy Hardy is a country singer whose career has greatly lagged and he’s trying to get back on top. His manager, Chip, books him at the Grand Opening 4th of July weekend at a coffeehouse called Lacey’s Café. They are hoping to draw a big crowd. Lacey Durrant, owner of Lacey’s Café, is also hoping Billy draws a large crowd. If he is successful, hopefully word will spread and her business will flourish. They are both looking for a second chance. Lacey tries to keep under wraps the fact that she had a huge celebrity crush on Billy when she was younger. Though they both feel an attraction almost immediately, Lacey tries not to give in. She doesn’t want to mix business and pleasure, and she doesn’t want to be just another groupie notch on Billy’s belt. I was prepared for Billy to be a little on the sleazy side and try to take advantage of Lacey. I was happy that was not the case. A wild celebrity lifestyle youth combined with being burned badly by ex-girlfriend Shawna, mellowed him out. He is unsure of the future but I felt like he was always genuine with Lacey. They talk, share bits from their lives, and have some very sexy moments. I enjoyed this book and look forward to more from this author.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Interview with author Anya Breton about her latest book "Sweetly Bad"

Author Anya Breton stopped by to answer some questions about her new book Sweetly Bad:

One of the things I liked about Sweetly Bad was that Drew was a flawed main character. As a paranormal romance fan, I notice that the hero is usually as close to perfect as you can get – like he’s a conglomeration of attributes from a woman’s wish list. Did you set out to create a male character with flaws for this specific story, or is that something you have with other characters you create? What’s the appeal of writing a character like that?

I’d crafted Drew with several serious flaws for the first story, Wickedly Good. My goal in Sweetly Bad was to stay true to that character as much as possible while making a credible turn-around. He wasn’t a good kisser in the original story so I couldn’t have him miraculously suave in this one. A few other flaws were added to emphasize that women had been with him for his money, looks, and clout. I’d also heard several comments from editors and readers that heroes in romances/erotic romances were often perfect and extremely well endowed so I decided to play with that aspect this time around. 
My earlier stories have character flaws here and there but nothing quite as dramatic as Drew. The appeal of writing a flawed character is the challenge of keeping it going throughout the story and making them someone the H/h might believably become involved with.

Since this is the first book by you I’ve read, I wasn’t aware that this was a companion book to Wickedly Good. Did you know while you were writing the previous book that you would do a book for Drew, or was that something you decided to do after writing Wickedly Good?

The seeds for a spin-off were planted while writing Wickedly Good but it was actually for their mother Amanda. My editor gave me the idea to write Drew's story after we’d finished. She said, and I quote, "redemption/jerk-falling-in-love-and-having-to-change romances are always compelling."
Given the character, I knew this was going to be difficult for me to pull off. But that was the fun of it.

What made you decide to create a plus size female main character for this story? Do you feel like there is a lack in the romance genre of that kind of female main character?

Last year Ellora's Cave had a call for submissions called "Curve Appeal". These stories had to feature curvy heroines. Being plus-sized myself, I can easily identify. I thought it would be strangely fitting to have Drew fall for a curvy girl. The pieces fell into place after that J

I really like how self-sufficient Erica was in this story. Is that something you try to do with female characters in your other books?

For me the ultimate heroine is one who knows she doesn’t need a man to complete her (but that it’s nice to have one all the same). So if my heroines aren’t self-sufficient they’re generally on the road to becoming that way.

Given how things were left at the end of the book – with Erica’s ex-boyfriend – do you think you might do an e-book short story and revisit the characters?

I came in very close to the submission call's word count limit on this story so that's definitely a possibility!

Of all the different kinds of stories you write – erotica, paranormal romance, young adult, and urban fantasy – which is your favorite to write and to read? What are you working on at the minute?

Urban fantasy goes the fastest for me so in that aspect I'd call it my favorite to write. 
In terms of reading, I have a soft spot for historical romance…the ones in the Regency/Victoria era. I’m a sucker for all those fancy balls, Dukes, and trying so hard to remain pure ;)
At the minute I'm working on Amanda (Drew’s mother) and Sean’s story. I’m hoping to get that one written for Ellora’s Cave “VaVa Boomers” call (featuring mature heroines and heroes). This is another challenge for me because Amanda is a seriously flawed character. She has quite a bit of growth to do in 70,000 words!

What is your favorite book (both that you’ve written & not written) and why?

My favorite book that I’ve written changes with each new story I write. At this point I’d say Sweetly Bad because of how challenging it was.
My favorite book I haven’t written is probably Phantom by Susan Kay. It covers the Phantom of the Opera’s early and later years. We discover his loveless upbringing and disastrous relationships along the way to Paris. I rarely reread a story but I’ve read this one a few times and adore it each time.

What would you say are the main advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing against being published or the other way around?

The advantage to having an established publisher publish an author’s work is having them take on some of the responsibility and work—such as cover art creation, the editorial process, and crafting compelling blurbs. 
The advantage to self-publishing is being in complete control of every aspect.

How can readers discover more about you and you work?

They can wander over to my author website at I have a few freebies available!

One of the questions that come up in my online book groups is – What makes something “erotica” versus regular romance? As a writer who writes in various sub-genres, what makes a story “erotica” to you, rather than just a regular romance?

My erotic romance is far more explicit than my regular romance. There are occasionally scenes or situations that exist for scintillation alone (such as a character pleasuring themselves). That isn’t usually acceptable in regular romances.

Writing erotic romances also gives authors the freedom to tackle subjects generally not found in regular romances. For example my first Ellora’s Cave novella Alpha Exposed contains an element of exhibitionism.
I think erotica is a little different from erotic romance. Erotica pushes the envelope even further. The goal is to arouse the reader and not necessarily worry about a long-term relationship between the characters.
Thanks for having me! J

And for those of you interested - here's the direct link for the review of Sweetly Bad by Anya Breton on this blog:

Sweetly Bad is available on,, and

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Sweet by Erin McCarthy

This is Book 2 in this author’s True Believers series. I liked the previous book, but I almost enjoyed this one a little more because of the two main characters in this story – Jessica Sweet and Riley Mann. The first book in this series was about Riley’s brother Tyler and Jessica’s friend Rory. The Mann brothers have had a hard time growing up. There was never much money around, and the only parent who was even remotely around was their negligent druggie mom. Now that she’s dead, Riley – the oldest brother – is fitted into the role of guardian to his younger brothers. He doesn’t have an easy road ahead of him. His worries include the very real possibility of losing the ramshackle family home, and making sure he stays the approved guardian for his brothers. Jessica comes from a different background and has different concerns but her family situation is just as dysfunctional. Her family is upper class and her father is something of a holy roller. Jessica feels nothing she does meets with their approval and their love is conditional. She lies to them about herself and what she’s doing to avoid being hassled. Her relationship with her brother is the polar opposite of the relationship the Mann brothers have with each other. The Mann brothers love each other and watch out for each other. Jessica’s brother constantly looks for ways to torment her, even going so far as to try and extort money from her. At the beginning of this story, Jessica tells her family that she is spending the summer in Appalachia building homes for the poor with a Christian mission group. What she will actually be doing is staying in Cincinnati and working at a steakhouse. She thought she had a place to stay until she takes over a sublet. Those plans fall through and she is scrambling at the last minute for a temporary place to crash. Tyler volunteers his place since he and his younger brothers will be vacationing with Rory’s family. Riley will be the only one in the house with Jess. I was anticipating a “buddy movie” romance based on how they reacted to each other in the previous book. What I got was so much more. They are not perfect people but perfect for each other and it was a joy to read about their romance. I was happily surprised that I ended up liking both Riley and Jessica more than I thought I would. At first glance, they might seem like they would have nothing in common. However, they bond over a relatively short period of time and discover they have more in common than they thought. At one point he tells her that her sarcasm is annoying, only to have her suggest that it reminds him of his own sarcasm skills. He admits that’s possible. They grow close as she shares her family problems and he shares his. She helps renovate his home to make it presentable for the social worker, and he goes to support her when she has to visit her family. Though they waited a little to be physically intimate, the many ways in which they were emotionally intimate made me smile. There were so many moments that stick out for me – when he scared off teenage thugs for her, them working side by side fixing the house, having talks at the picnic table, and the wonderfully romantic scene at the end. One of my favorite sections in the book is when Riley is trying to get Jessica to live dangerously and eat more pizza. I loved when he said:
“But just know that when you’re here, you can chow down on three slices of pizza if you want, and I’ll never think you’re anything less than gorgeous. Even if you chew with your mouth open”,
“You’re hungry, own it. Round it out with a burp and I’ll think you’re basically the perfect woman.”
My other favorite Riley quote comes when she’s talking about her parents’ expectations, and he says
“Jess, I’ve got no business judging anyone. But I can offer you some advice. Never ask someone to tell you who you are. You tell them."  
That was an awesome moment. Loved, loved this book and look forward to the next one in the series.

Friday, October 11, 2013

A Beauty Uncovered by Andrea Laurence

The previous book in this series is Undeniable Demands. I love stories about scarred heroes who overcome adversity and find love. One of the things I dislike about some of these types of stories is when the hero acts as beastly as he looks and says or does things that are hard to come back from. This story avoided that trap. The hero, wealthy businessman Brody Eden, isolates himself from everyone he possibly can, except for his personal assistant Agnes and his siblings from his foster home. The scars he has from the abuse he suffered at the hands of his biological father, now in prison, are imprinted on his psyche as well. Samantha Davis is thrown into Brody’s world when she fills in for Agnes while she’s away on vacation. Agnes is Sam’s beloved godmother. Sam is currently between jobs due to a love affair she had with her former boss. She didn’t know he was married. She found out he was married at the moment his wife found out he was intimate with Sam and had her fired. Brody has also had a bad experience with romance. The last and only woman he was involved with was only after him for his money and stole from him. After a shaky first meeting, a mutual physical attraction blossoms and they get to know each other. In addition to becoming physically intimate, they each make themselves vulnerable. He shares his painful history as a youth and she tells him about her experience with her former boss. They both learn to trust and are able to bond and relate to each other on every level. I liked the sexy scenes as well as the emotionally powerful ones. The Tommy Wilder situation held my interest. I look forward to reading the other books in this series

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Not Another Wedding by Jennifer McKenzie

Poppy Sullivan and Jamie Cartwright have been close friends for years. When Poppy is invited to his wedding to a woman named Emmy, after only knowing her two months, she feels she has to stop her friend from making a huge mistake. I was happy that Poppy ended up waiting and watching, rather than immediately having an embarrassing confrontation with Emmy. I got the impression, while reading the story, that Poppy’s motivation was always concern for her friend rather than anything self-centered. Also in town for the upcoming nuptials is Beck Lefebvre – Jamie’s cousin. Poppy and Beck have a past. They had a love affair as teens that ended when Beck abruptly left town with his family. This is the first time they have seen each other since that time. They both have different reactions to seeing each other for the first time. Poppy’s reaction is to flee and Beck’s reaction is to pursue. They find out that they both have regrets about how things worked out between them. They are both still very attracted but there are some internal conflicts and emotional walls that they have each put up. Poppy has trouble trusting that Beck won’t abandon her like she felt he did way back then. Beck has some relationship issues that stem from his parents and the crazy on-again, off-again relationship they have. Poppy and Beck find that there is still a lot of love between them, even after all the years spent apart.  Jamie and Emmy were sweet together. I really liked Jamie. The scenes between Poppy and Beck were fun and steamy. I liked that Beck had to jump through hoops to get Poppy back at the end. The resolution was very satisfying.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Season for Scandal by Theresa Romain

Jane Tindall and Edmund Ware, Baron Kirkpatrick collide at the Sheringbrook ball. She is trying to beat some shady characters, including Lord Sheringbrook, at a card game as a way to get out of debt. She is a little miffed to see Kirkpatrick because, not only does he blow her cover, but he ruins her attempt to discreetly call Sheringbrook out for cheating. He also has the idea to claim he and Jane are engaged and offers to cover her gambling debt – not knowing, until he gets her alone, just how much she owes. She owes the whopping amount of $10,000. It just so happens that her beloved and wealthy cousin Xavier plans to settle $10,000 on her as a dowry. After discovering how things really stand, Edmund finds himself at somewhat of a crossroads. He is a man with some serious issues. All his life, he is considered to be such a good and kind man – solicitous to little old ladies and wallflowers everywhere. What nobody knows is that, due to a family melodrama and tragedy when he was just a boy, he does all these things out of a misguided need for atonement. One of the ways he had always planned on atoning is to marry and produce an heir to carry on the family line. He is a man riddled with guilt, which seem to give him ulcers, and many secrets. The secrets are eating him alive. When he finds himself in this situation with Jane, he finds that the perfect solution would be for them to actually marry. His satisfaction is fleeting when, on their wedding night and in a moment of passion, Jane tells Edmund she loves him. That is her dirty little secret – that she has loved him for years. I think the main reason he didn’t react well to that declaration was because he had such a low opinion of himself for so many years, that having someone else love him seemed very startling. Also, I think in his mind, its one thing to marry someone who doesn’t love you for selfish reasons, but to do so when the other person feels something as true as love seems unethical. So this is the main conflict between the hero and heroine – Edmund struggling to do the right thing by Jane and not drag her into his mess and trying to make her as happy as he’s able, and Jane struggling to be married to the man she loves when she’s not sure he feels anything for her. The two of them might have carried on like that forever, if not for the introduction of the mysterious Turner aka Daniel Bellamy. Thank heavens for villains! It’s prodding and threats from Turner that finally have Edmund confessing the truth to Jane. I loved the turn the book took once Edmund finally came clean to Jane. After all, who better to thwart a con artist like Turner than somebody like Jane who can act and put on a mask better than most? The scenes toward the end between the hero & heroine were very sweet and it was very satisfying to finally say what they really felt. I was so happy to read a book with Jane as the heroine since she was a favorite character in the previous book. In spite of how misguided I felt he was I did like Edmund. No matter how frustrating it was for Jane, I liked how “nice” he was – but I do understand why it irked her. He seemed like the type of character out of a Charles Dickens story. I look forward to reading more books by this author. I will be interested to see if Jane’s friend Lady Audrina Bradleigh turns up in future books.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan

This is Book 2 in “The Lynburn Legacy” by this author. This series is the reason that any time I find myself in a discussion about YA fiction, I always start off, “I don’t normally read young adult fiction, but…”. This second installment maintained what I loved about the first book. The story held my interest and kept me reading from start to finish. The characters are three-dimensional, not teenage stereotypes. The characters that I found interesting and cared about in Book 1 seemed even more developed and layered in this book. I was happy to get more of a window into Ash (young wizard and overall hottie)’s inner life in this book. You see his remorse about what part he played in the previous book, his longing for a somewhat stable home life, and his desire to be liked. I enjoyed seeing more of Angie’s older brother Rusty. He made me laugh and it was nice seeing those moments when he revealed how much he cared about his sister and Kami. He also let slip that he’s not as vacant as he would have people believe. And, by the way, I thought it was funny that he refers to Jared and Ash as Sulky and Blondie. I will cry big buckets of tears if he is ever killed off. I love Angie’s snarkiness – it totally reminded me of how I am. The little bit of a romantic triangle between Kami, Jared, and Ash had me interested rather than annoyed (as I normally don’t care for that in stories). I loved the scenes between Jared and Kami. I found them very powerful and sweet. You saw how deeply losing their mental connection affected them.  I can’t wait to read the next book to see how their relationship gets resolved. I totally fell for Jared in this book. Once he stops being so surly, he says a lot of wonderful things to Kami and gives her a lot of support. The dialogue in this book is very witty as usual. One of my favorite sections in the book is when Kami confronts Jared for nor going to school, and working in the local pub:

"It sounds like you're a tavern wench. Fleeing persecution, you have to take up a menial occupation to keep body and soul together. But at least it's honest work, though as you labor, many predatory customers make advances and offer indignities."

Then, later, when Kami finds Jared riding his motorcycle to the site of the super villain’s meeting place, she takes him to task:

"I mean, you're going into a situation where something really bad might be happening, and you've decided to make sure they can hear you coming? Better hope being a tavern wench works out, because you, sir, will never be a ninja."

The story had me hooked and anxious for Book 3. At the end of the previous book, things looked pretty bleak – the super villain caused a lot of destruction before going off to create his magical army, things between Kami and Jared were in a deplorable state, and there was a lot of uncertainty about who or what was “safe”. In this book, everybody on the side of good (or at least against human sacrifice) is kind of in a holding pattern waiting for the dastardly & very evil sorcerer Rob Lynburn to make his move. That’s not the strategy Kami prefers, but Rob’s wife Lillian is in charge and that’s how she wants to do things. Until then, Rusty tries to teach the others some non-magical self-defense, Ash & Jared train together strengthening their sorcerer abilities as well, and Kami’s crew all go on intelligence gathering assignments. I think the romance elements were balanced well with the rest of the story. I eagerly, and hopefully, await the total destruction of Rob Lynburn. I cannot wait for the next book! I highly recommend trying this book, even if you don’t normally read young adult fiction.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Always On My Mind by Jill Shalvis

This is Book 9 in this author’s “Lucky Harbor” series. I have enjoyed the previous books in this series and I liked this one as well. Lean Sullivan is back in town after leaving when she was 17. She came back to helping her ailing grandma run her bakery. She’s itching to follow her MO and get out town soon. It’s not necessarily that she really wants to leave, but the dark cloud of Sweet Wars hovers over her. Sweet Wars is the name of the cooking reality show Leah competed in. She doesn’t want to stick around when her family, friends, and everyone else in town sees her fail. For years her lousy father tried to drill it into her that she was only capable of failure. She struggles with those demons of self-doubt every day. Jack Harper, sexy local firefighter and Leah’s longtime friend, is so attuned to her moods that he recognizes something’s wrong. Growing up, when things at home would get too rough, she’d sneak out and hang out with her buddy Jack for comfort. Despite how close they were, they never had a sexual relationship. I thought the author did a good job of using flashbacks to illustrate how special their relationship was when they were younger. Now it seems that fate is intervening – in the form of Jack’s cancer survivor mom. Jack’s mom has been feeling poorly and she tells Leah about how worried she is about Jack with his bad knee and his inability to have a committed romantic relationship. This works on Leah’s emotions so she impulsively tells his mother not to worry because they are a couple. I liked the heat generated by these two. There was a nice balance between the sexiness and the emotion. I was happy with how things worked out in the end. I look forward to reading more books in this series as well as other books by this author.

Bound by Night by Larissa Ione

This is Book 1 in this author’s “MoonBound Clan Vampires” series. I have been a fan of this author’s books for years, so I was happy that this book didn’t disappoint. In the world the author has created, vampires have been enslaved by humans in much the same way that African Americans were in the United States’ history. In the opening of this book we are taken back to the vampire rebellion when Nicole Martin was 8 yrs. old. It left most of the people she loved dead including her beloved vampire nanny, and left her brutalized by their vampire chef. Twenty years later Dr. Nicole Martin, billionaire heiress and CEO of Daedalus Corporation, finds herself in a scene out of her worst nightmares. She is confronted, on her turf, by two vampires and ends up abducted. Vampires Riker and Myne are not out looking to commit random mischief. They are on a mission. They are trying to avert a war between vampire clans. In order to do that, they must retrieve the vampire midwife Neriya from the evil clutches of Nicole’s company and return her to her clan. Even though Nicole was made CEO recently of the Daedalus Corporation – which was started by her father – it becomes very apparent that she is woefully uninformed about all of the company’s unethical dirty dealings. She has always been extremely focused on research and trying to cure human diseases through vampire testing. Needless to say, her blinders are definitely ripped off in this book. I liked that it was fairly early in the story that Nicole and Riker compared notes about what really happened the night her family and nanny (his mate) were killed. I also liked that, in spite of who she is and who her family was, the MoonBound clan generally treat her pretty decently. Riker, especially, never says or does anything to Nicole that he can’t come back from. The relationship develops nicely, in spite of Riker’s struggle with survivor’s guilt, and the intimate scenes pack a lot of heat. I found the supporting characters very interesting and look forward to reading about them in future books. My favorite supporting characters were Myne, Bastien, Grant, and Aylin. I hope Aylin can somehow leave her father’s clan.

Two Times as Hot by Cat Johnson

This is Book 2 in this author’s “Oklahoma Nights” series. Emma Hart met pro bull rider Jace in the previous book. They meet up again in this book and we finally find out exactly what did or didn’t happen when they first met. They are both likable characters so I was happy about the possibility of the two characters involved romantically. However, after reading this book, I am glad Emma and Logan wound up together. At the opening of this book, Emma and Logan Hunt meet when everybody is gathering for Becca (Emma’s sister) and Tucker’s wedding. Logan is Tucker’s commanding officer and friend. As soon as Emma and Logan see each other, there is a mutual physical attraction. There are only two minor obstacles to their efforts to be alone – Tucker’s younger sister who is making Logan uncomfortable with her infatuation, and Jace’s half-hearted pursuit of Emma. I loved the flirting and sexy scenes between Emma and Logan. I also liked how they found they liked each other as people as well as being attracted sexually. They are very well-matched. After the wedding, due to a misunderstanding, neither of them have the other’s contact info. It’s about three weeks after the wedding that Emma discovers she is pregnant. It would have eased her mind a little if she knew what frame of mind he was in. Logan was a man looking to nest. She returns to Oklahoma and before she lets him know about the pregnancy they get to know each other even more when she picks up the slack and help him with his family’s country western store. Logan’s dad used to run it but he hasn’t been able to due to his health. I enjoyed the cozy scenes while they were working together. I was happy with how things worked out in the end and with Logan’s reaction to Emma’s pregnancy. I look forward to reading more books in this series.

The Sugar Cookie Sweetheart Swap by Donna Kauffman, Kate Angell, and Kimberly Kincaid

This anthology features stories by three different authors: “Where there’s smoke…” by Donna Kauffman, “The Gingerbread Man” by Kate Angell, and “Sugar and Spice” by Kimberley Kincaid. I liked all of the stories in this anthology, but my favorites were probably the stories by Kauffman and Angell. The book starts out with three friends – Clara Parker, Abby Denton, and Lilly Callahan – participating in the Twelve Days of Christmas Cookie Swap in the little Blue Ridge town of Pine Mountain. The cookies people provide are auctioned off with the proceeds going to charity. Abby confides to her friends that her donation – thankfully anonymous – is a container of little gingerbread men with candy canes to make them anatomically correct. Her cookies are a big part of her story later on. You get a brief introduction to each of the three women before they leave the auction and go their separate ways, before reuniting at the end. I loved how strong the friendships between the women are. Just before the ladies leave, a well-dressed, handsome stranger shows up, asks for directions and bids and wins Abbey’s gingerbread men.

The Kauffman story focuses on Clara. Clara is not in a good place. She recently had a public dumping, which (in a very “I Love Lucy” way) led to her being fired from her job as a relationship columnist, and subsequent immediate re-hiring as a cookie columnist. Unfortunately for Clara, while she is a good writer, she is not a good baker. She does a quick run to snag a cookie baking made easy book and winds up running into an old friend. Will Mason is a firefighter and signing copies of a racy calendar he recently did for charity. He is delighted to run into Clara (whom he always just referred to as “Parker”). They never knew it, but back in their younger days when they were science buddies, they both had a mad crush on each other. Circumstances caused them to be apart for years but this meeting gives them a second chance to finally take their relationship to another level. I loved this story – it was sweet and sexy at the same time. Will was such a great guy and was so good to Clara.

The Angell story focuses on Abbey. On her way home, Abbey happens upon a car accident. The man in the crash is Lander Reynolds – the man who bought her gingerbread men at the auction. Abbey drags him to the safety of her home and tends his wounds. She has also injured her big toe in her rescue mission. She feels worse when she finds out what distracted Lander before he crashed. Apparently he was hungry, opened the cookie box and did a double-take after seeing the candy cane accessories on the obviously very male gingerbread. I was happy that, when she finally confesses to being the erotic baker, Lander doesn’t react badly. Over the time the two are snowed in at Abbey’s cabin they have heartfelt conversations, interrupted by steamy sex, and have fun getting to know each other. This story might have been my favorite of the anthology. I loved the scenes with Lander helping Abbey decorating for Christmas (both the house and the cookies), and the scenes with Abbey’s cat.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Sweetly Bad by Anya Breton

In a typical paranormal romance, the hero has abs of steel, says all the right things (or at least thinks all the right things), is extremely well-endowed, has no money worries, and is a fabulous and instinctive lover, and generally an excellent example of maleness. Except for the abs of steel, Drew is the antithesis of that type of hero. One of the things I really liked about this story is that the hero, Andrew “Drew” Haizea, is very much a flawed character. At the beginning of this story, Drew and Erica Pearce are introduced to each other when Drew’s Ferrari breaks down and Erica (who owns an auto-body shop) gets the call for service. Erica is immediately struck by Drew’s masculine beauty but is very underwhelmed by his behavior and comments, both to her and what she hears Drew saying on the phone. Drew is a little surprised, at first, to find he’s attracted to a plus size woman – that not being his usual type. While he’s cooling his heels at the auto-body shop, he finds out how much worse his day is going to get. He is an Air witch and his family is a big deal in their witch community. Due to some naughty public behavior, his mother cuts him off financially and puts him on the “rogue witch list”. That makes him a social pariah as well as opens the door for assassins to take their best shot at him. What is perhaps more humbling for him, is discovering that, once stripped of his previous social status, women are not as hot for him anymore and he has no shortage of past flames informing him that he is not the great lover he believed himself to be. I loved Drew’s journey of self-discovery. As Erica observes, he is a very different man by the end of the story than he is at the beginning. I enjoyed the romance between Drew and Erica. I think he was good for her and vice versa. I liked how he helped her with her awful sister and she stood up to his controlling mother for him. After reading this story, I discovered that it was actually a stand-alone sequel to a previous story about Drew’s brother called “Wickedly Good”. I immediately bought that one and enjoyed it as well. I look forward to reading more by this author.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Dangerous by Jacquelyn Frank writing as JAX

This is not the first book by this author that I have read. I am a fan of her earlier books. Unlike some other readers, I did not feel as though there was nothing but sex on every page. I have no problem with that type of book if written well, but I don’t believe that was the case with this book. I didn’t feel it was any more or less sexual than any other paranormal romance. I think the author is good at creating a mood in her books. In this case, there is always the threat of danger. The threat posed by the Morphates felt like things were on the verge of an apocalypse. The Morphates seem part vampire/part science experiment gone wrong and the evil scientist behind it all is Eric Paulson. After seeing how powerful Devon is physically I wondered, along with Liam, why she felt the need to hire his firm for protection. After finishing the book, I got the impression she hired them for a few reasons: Liam and his humans are trained fighters and Liam has first-hand knowledge of how to kill a Morphate; she could protect herself but wanted others to protect her work from falling into the wrong hands; and I think, in an attempt to draw out her assassins and determine who is behind the attacks, she counted on the Morphates to underestimate the humans. Her strategy seemed to work since Ambrose expressed his disdain for humans and didn’t consider them any threat, but he was unsuccessful with his aims.

The romance itself was enjoyable. I liked the way Liam and Devon treated each other with respect. I would be interested to see in future books how the issue of their having differing lifespans gets resolved. I also really enjoyed the relationship between friends and co-warriors Inez & Kellen. It seemed like, toward the end of the story, Kellen hinted that he might like Inez more than a friend. Overall, I liked this romance, and look forward to reading more from this author.

Monday, September 16, 2013

One Night in the Spa by Kathy Lyons

Kim Castillo is the manager for John’s Fitness. Her best friend, David, is the manager of the spa next door. You find out right at the beginning of the story that Kim and David each have a serious problem. Kim is going through some physical changes and her hormones are all out of whack. David has a deep, dark secret. Although he has been friends with Kim for a few years, she doesn’t know the real reason he originally befriended her. He had a little corporate espionage in mind. You find out that it’s not as sinister as it sounds. However, the thing that makes David’s secret such a betrayal is that he kept the secret for so long. That fact would put him in the category of irredeemable jerk in my book, if not for his suffering over the years. You get his POV in the story and see how he fell hard for Kim and how keeping his secret along with never expressing his feelings for her has been penance enough. His longing and devotion really come through in the story. The moment when they finally come together physically, and the HEA that comes later are very satisfying and make the story worth reading.

Big Sky Wedding by Linda Lael Miller

This is Book 5 in this author’s “Parable, Montana” series, but it’s only the first full-length book I’ve read by this author. After reading it, I’m interested in reading previous books but I was able to enjoy it anyway without having read them. Zane Sutton is a major movie star, but lately celebrity has not been enough. He feels like, at his age, he needs to put down roots and start acting like a grown-up. When he shows up in Montana, his first impromptu encounter with Brylee Parrish does not go so well. Brylee had some erroneous assumptions about Zane based on his movie star status. I like that, in spite of how harsh she approached him, Zane doesn’t act like a jerk and rub it in too badly when she realizes she was wrong. I liked that Zane and Brylee had so much in common – their love of riding horses, both being dog people, both wanting to start a family, and both being unlucky in love. He had a gold digging ex-wife in his past, and she was left at the altar.   I enjoyed watching Zane and Brylee’s attraction and relationship grow. I thought the side storyline with Zane’s kid brother Nash was interesting. It was sweet seeing Zane in the big brother/substitute father role. I look forward to reading more books by this author and other books in this series.  

His By Christmas by Kaitlin O'Riley *Free Giveaway*

I got 2 early reviewer copies of His By Christmas by Kaitlin O'Riley from the publisher. I thought I would do a giveaway for the second copy. Just leave a comment with your email address - you can leave it like: amandap (at) hotmail (dot) com. The deadline will be Monday, September 30th. I will pick a winner at random and contact the winner and post it on this blog as well. This will be open to US & Canada readers only.

Official release date: October 1, 2013

"Yvette Hamilton knows just what she wants for Christmas--a dazzling marriage. And if marrying the ton's catch at the height of the Yuletide season is how she can prove herself, she'll be the most respectable of the many ladies competing for his hand. But one accomplished rake has other, much more tempting ideas. . .

The illegitimate son of a duke, Lord Jeffrey Eddington knows society will never truly respect him. He thought he'd found acceptance as a friend of the Hamiltons, but Yvette's seeming snobbery makes him wager to win her hand no matter what it takes. Too late, he finds her frivolity conceals an intelligent, appealing woman. Now they face a hard choice between the holiday dreams they think they want most. . .and the very real love they can't resist."

No Strings Attached by Kate Angell

This is Book 2 in this author’s “Barefoot William” series. This was a fun, sexy romance. I enjoyed the story and the characters. The two main characters, Sophie Saunders (from Saunders Shore) and Dune Cates (from Barefoot William), are both sort of on equal footing financially. She comes from a wealthy family, while he got fame and wealth from a successful career as a pro volleyball player. There is an 11 year age difference between the two, with Sophie being the younger one. However, she is over 21 so I’m glad that it didn’t end up being a huge source of conflict in the book. One source of conflict, although thankfully not between Sophie and Dune, is that she is that their two families and communities have a long standing feud. Nobody really came to blows over this or experienced any real nastiness in this story. Overall, the Saunders crowd is just a little more snooty and high-end, while the Cates family and community of Barefoot William is a little more accepting and laid back. Sophie comes off seeming very timid and a little sheltered at times. There are two things that save the character for me. First, she’s a very kind and good person at her core. Secondly, she is aware of her limitations and short-comings and seeks to break out of her comfort zone. At the opening of the story, she is looking to work at one of the shops/attractions on the boardwalk in Barefoot William. She’s not looking for employment for a paycheck. She’s volunteering so that she can discover something she enjoys and is good at so she can find her niche in life. She happens upon Dune Cates and his buddy and volleyball partner Mac James and they all re-connect. She and Dune had last met up at a volleyball tournament for charity. Although he doesn’t remember, Dune and Sophie first met when she was 7 and he was a teenager and he helped her out. I loved how the author handled Dune’s reaction once he was clued in to that first meeting. In these types of situations in romances, the hero tends to blow things out of proportion, claiming the heroine was deceiving him. I was happy that Dune had a better reaction. I felt like Sophie and Dune brought out the best in each other and treated each other with respect.

I also really enjoyed the secondary romance between Mac James and t-shirt shop owner Jenna Cates. They had sparks from the beginning, even though at first their attraction was masked by sniping at each other. I totally understood Jenna’s point of view. She has a bad history of picking guys and Mac was never somebody’s idea of serious boyfriend material. I loved the way they slowly realized just how much they liked each other. Mac charmed me with his goofy, charming, quirkiness and made me laugh. I also loved the relationship between him and her protective cats - so cute. I look forward to reading more books in this series and other books by this author.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Much Ado About Dutton by Claudia Dain

This is Book 6 in this author’s “Courtesan Chronicles” series. I’m not normally a stickler for reading a series in exact order. However, I think you have a greater appreciation of the characters if you read the previous books in this series.

There are some key things about the main characters in this story that you should know going in. In some ways, Anne and Dutton both try to get out from under the shadow cast by their parents. Anne is the illegitimate child of an English lord (a huge jerk by the way) and a rather unsuccessful courtesan. Dutton is the legitimate child of a different English lord (also a colossal jerk and a very, very bad man). Dutton’s father also played a part in the dark past of Lady Sophia Dalby. Sophia is such a fabulous character & she’s the glue that helps hold the series together. Whenever the conversation comes up in my book groups about which fictional character you wish you could meet, I always think of her. Lady Dalby is an enigmatic Oracle in the series, a master tactician. She’s someone you’d much prefer to have as a friend rather than an enemy. For a time Anne lived with Sophia, and Sophia regards her as another daughter. It was during that time that she came into the orbit of Lord Dutton. The chemistry between them was fierce. However, nothing much came of it for a few reasons. At first, they were both single but he was up to no good. Then later on, she married someone else and he took to the bottle and went on the decline. Dutton seemed to be convinced at one point that Sophia was haunting him, somehow trying to contribute to his ruin and blamed him for the sins of his father. I liked how, at the end, they talked and she explained that she never blamed him for what his father did. She was trying to help him, without him realizing it because she knew that when they met, he wasn’t the kind of man Anne needed. Now, two years after marrying another man, Anne is a wealthy widow and he has gotten himself together since the death of his wicked father. They have both changed a little for the better. For her part, Anne realizes her feminine power and becomes a little more bold and confident. Dutton shows signs of some maturity without losing all his original bad boy sexiness. I loved how the author brought to life the electricity between Anne and Dutton for me. The scenes between them were sexy without being cheesy. Even though there were several side storylines with supporting characters (both old and new), I always felt like the focus was on the two main characters. I never found it too cluttered or distracting. I think that is one of the things I love about this series – they are so well-written, have such good story-telling, that the many characters and their individual storylines woven throughout the main plot just add to the texture and overall richness of the book. If it wasn’t done well, it might be annoying, but it’s done very well. As usual, the witty dialogue had me laughing and smiling in places.

I keep cheering for Sophia and Ruan to have their happy ending. I love how the author says of them,
They smiled in the same instant, a soft smile between adults in a world of infants. 
I am intrigued by some of the new characters. I’m hoping Antoinette will find love – maybe George Grey, Prince Vasily, or Lord Lanreath? I’m always fascinated by Sophia’s nephew George Grey. I’d love to read a story with him as the hero. I was also interested by his twin Elizabeth and the seemingly mutual attraction between her and Lord Raithby. I was looking forward to this story for so long that I was so happy it ended up being as good as I hoped it would be. I look forward to the next book in the series and the further adventures of my favorite characters.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Bagpipes, Brides, and Homicides by Kaitlyn Dunnett

This is Book 6 in this author’s “Liss MacCrimmon Scottish Mystery” series. However, this is only the second book I’ve read by this author and I think a reader would still be able to enjoy it without having read the previous books. The events in this mystery take place as the sleuth and main character, Liss, is preparing to soon marry her longtime love. A major character in this story is Liss’s micro-managing mother, Violet. Given that she wasn’t in the other book I’ve read, I’m hoping she doesn’t appear in all the books. I had a lot of sympathy for Liss and her father. While Liss is more relaxed about her wedding preparations, her mother is a “mother-of-the-bride-zilla”. Being a scotophile, she arranges for Liss’s wedding to share time with the upcoming Western Maine Highland Games. There is just one snag. Due to a history scholar’s divisive re-enactment, the wedding site promises to be flooded with protesters for one reason or another. One problem is traded for another when that same scholar is murdered. No more protesters to worry about, but the police are looking to Liss’s dad as a potential suspect. I thought there was a very reasonable justification to the main character to act as a detective – clearing her father. I enjoyed the mystery, in spite of the obnoxious mom. I thought the murder location was interesting with the almost “locked room” aspect. I look forward to reading more books in this cozy mystery series.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Caught By Menace by Lolita Lopez

This is Book 2 in the author’s “Grabbed” series. This book was a little sci-fi mixed with romance. I don’t normally enjoy that in a story but the story was interesting and the relationship between the hero & heroine took precedence. Warriors from the planet Harcos Prime police the solar system in exchange for natural resources including women. There is a “Grab” every quarter – women picked from a town or village run and the warriors race to catch them and claim them as mates. Naya has no desire to be caught by a warrior – even if it might mean a change for the better. However, when her friend Jennie’s name is picked in a lottery and chosen to run in an upcoming Grab, she takes steps to be there to help her friend. For a woman who was abandoned and betrayed from a young age, Naya takes a great risk out of loyalty to a friend. Of course she winds up grabbed by Menace. Sparks fly right away. Naya finds him attractive but the rumors she has heard about the Harcos warriors make her wary. It’s not long before he wins her over with his patience and gentle tone. The sex scenes in this book involve light bondage, voyeurism, and a light & brief M/F/M episode. I don’t normally read books with this type of erotic fantasy but found it palatable. Everything that happens sexually is consensual. The men, while strong and in control in many ways, treat their women with respect and do whatever they have to in order to fulfill their mate’s fantasies. Menace and his friend and fellow soldier Vicious (his story was Book 1) obviously love their mates and are very sweet with them at times. I would have been instantly turned off if the men were in any way abusive - luckily that was never the case. This story kept me interested throughout. The only thing that was a little over the top for me was the sex club. I would be interested in reading more books in this series. I am most interested in reading a book about Hazard and Dankirk (even though Dankirk isn’t a Harcos warrior).

Once Upon A Wallflower by Wendy Lyn Watson

After reading this book, I was surprised to see that this author hadn’t written more gothic romances. I love a good gothic romance and I thought this one was very well-written. Even though I normally love these types of books, a frequent staple of them is a hero who is often overbearing or brutish. The hero is this story is nothing like that. Nicholas has the required air of mystery, but he treats the heroine with respect and kindness. He even shows kindness and understanding to his step-mother, in spite of her caustic barbs. He is an artist with a tragic background with women in his life, garnering whispers about him being a murderer. At the opening of this story, his rakish titled father wins him the hand of Mirabelle “Mira” Fitzhenry. He is pleasantly surprised to find that she is not the vapid, cookie-cutter blonde he expected. That would be Mira’s cousin, Mirabelle “Bella” Fitzhenry. Nicholas is immediately attracted to her physical beauty, but is captivated and finds her clever and passionate. After meeting, and somewhat falling for, Nicholas the ever logical Mira resolves to clear Nicholas’s name. If she can’t solve the mystery and clear his name by the appointed time of their wedding, she plans to flee. This story is full of appropriately creepy atmosphere and shady characters. There is the harpy that is Nicholas’s wicked step-mother, his momma’s boy jerk of a half-brother, his rakish and emotionally distant father, and Mira’s beautiful yet sociopathic cousin. I really liked Nicholas and Mira, and how they broke with genre stereotypes a little bit. I also loved how their romance developed. It was very sensual and I really thought it was nice that they actually liked each other as people as well as being physically attracted. The mystery of who murdered the women kept me interested. I was satisfied with how things got resolved at the end. I very much look forward to more from this author. Hopefully more gothic romances.