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.